“I respect him and I love him,” gushed Rice University sociology lecturer Craig Considine about Islam’s prophet Muhammad during a March 8 webinar for Islamabad, Pakistan’s National University of Modern Languages. Such unscholarly, puerile infatuation characterizes Considine’s seemingly never-ending promotion of his debunked book, The Humanity of Muhammad: A Christian View (2020).
Considine’s publisher, Blue Dome Press, is affiliated with exiled Turkish spiritual leader Fethullah Gülen’s global Hizmet empire, for which Considine has made numerous book presentations. This enterprise better fits his apologetical work than the rigorous university or scholarly presses normally used by university professors at elite institutions like Rice.
Uncritically “inspired” by Muhammad, Considine described his book as a “labor of love” and noted he wrote in the preface that the “motivation of this book is to honor Muhammad.” The book is a “contribution to the growing body of knowledge on one of humanity’s most important people ever, Prophet Muhammad, peace be with him,” he said. Considine, a self-proclaimed “Islamic apologist,” thereby conflated the Islamic “peace be upon him” honorific for Muhammad with the Christian peace greeting “peace be with you” — typical of his religious syncretism.
Considine related his epiphany as an individual of Irish-Catholic ancestry attending high school in the Boston suburb of Needham, Massachusetts, when Al-Qaeda attacked America on September 11, 2001. He first encountered a Muslim as an 18-year-old sophomore at American University in Pakistani Muslim anthropology professor Akbar Ahmed’s class “The World of Islam.” Thereafter Considine became Ahmed’s acolyte.
Ahmed “really moved me,” Considine has noted, by citing a canonical saying, or hadith, from Muhammad that the scholar’s ink is more important than martyrs’ blood. Yet this supposed example of Islam’s “wealth of appreciation for knowledge” has weak authentication in Islamic tradition. He also conveniently ignores that Islamic scholars have historically justified jihadist violence.
Then again, skepticism is not Considine’s strong suit, as he noted his debt to John Andrew Morrow’s 2013 book The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. Morrow and Considine claim that these seventh-century covenants between Muhammad and various Middle Eastern Christian communities demonstrate Islamic tolerance. But reputable scholars with far more linguistic knowledge than Considine, a former sports management major with three years of college Arabic, have dismissed these covenants as utter frauds.
Farcical as well is Considine’s history of Muhammad’s interaction in the years 630–31 with the Christian community in the Najran region of southern Arabia, which for Considine exemplifies “energetic engagement with religious diversity.” While showing “hospitality,” Muhammad and the Najran Christians supposedly had a “very thorough and dynamic dialogue” about “Christology, or the nature of Jesus,” during which “they could disagree in a civil and calm manner.” In reality, Islamic accounts uniformly portray the Najran Christians as just another non-Muslim community that humiliatingly submitted to dhimmi oppression before Muhammad’s caliph successors expelled them from Arabia.
Considine has similarly fantasized about Muhammad’s first polity in Medina under what is often lauded as his Charter of Medina in 622. “Muhammad was embarking on a revolutionary concept of a state,” the “civic nation bounded by laws,” Considine enthused, with protection for rights including “freedom of conscience.” In reality, this charter, with distinctly unprogressive elements like blood-money provisions, was little more than an alliance led by Muhammad among Medina’s various tribes. It quickly fell apart due to bloody conflict between him and Medina’s Jewish population.
Despite Islamic doctrine’s long history of justifying enslavement of non-Muslims, particularly Africans, a factor that has contributed to Arab racism, Considine continually insists upon seeing “antiracism” in Islam. “We know just by a simple reading of the Quran that God commanded Muhammad to spread this idea of racial equality,” he said, paraphrasing Quran 49:13. Considine likewise is fond of using obscure references to Muhammad’s 632 farewell sermon to stress that he valued “piety and good action” (taqwa), not skin color, meanwhile ignoring numerous racist hadith attributed to Muhammad.
While race may be irrelevant to Islamic doctrine, taqwa traditionally does not treat Muslims and infidels equally. Yet Considine preaches that the “Quran fundamentally recognizes and appreciates the value of every human life.” According to Muhammad, “a person should not be limited in society based on their gender, their race, or their religion,” a claim that would surprise non-Muslim dhimmis, such as Jews, throughout history. Rather than jihad conquests, Considine sees in Islam an American Dream of Horatio Alger–like “social mobility,” where “liberation is an ongoing process” and people “continue to rise and reach their potential based on their God-given talent.”
Despite the widespread failure of liberalism to take root in Muslim-majority countries, Considine has concluded that these beliefs are not an “American or Western creation.” Unlike the 622 Medina Charter, the “American Constitution wasn’t founded until 1776,” he said, confusing the 1776 Declaration of Independence with the United States Constitution, ratified in 1789. On “International Women’s Day, one of the most important days in our calendar,” he rejoiced that Islam allows for women “basic rights” like divorce, without mentioning that Islamic divorce typically favors men over women.
Muhammad represents for Considine the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam (“repair the world”), yet Considine is a rabid supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. His Twitter feed and lectures pulse with falsehoods against an “apartheid” Israel that is guilty of “crimes against humanity,” including “ethnic cleansing.”
For his hagiographical representation of Muhammad, Considine faces “a lot of backlash.” Some Muslims “do not see Muhammad as the kind of person I have kind of framed him to be” and reject what they consider to be Considine’s impious leveling equation of Muhammad with the Christian Jesus. Similarly, some Christians have said that the “heretic” Considine has “gone too far” by calling Muhammad a prophet.
Yet Considine’s popularity cannot be denied. He boasts almost 200,000 followers on Twitter and over 142,000 on Facebook. That so many fall for his presentation of Muhammad as a cosmopolitan peace activist — from a perch at Rice University, no less — demonstrates widespread gullibility in an age of declining educational standards and woke sentimentalism. Students are cheated by modern educationists of a solid curriculum and indoctrinated to reject Western civilization while embracing its historical antagonists thanks to Considine’s approach, which confirms his fans’ biases and sense of moral superiority. Given academe’s hostility to the rigorous critique of all things Islamic, this intellectually impoverished status quo will continue until the public demands better of its universities.
Andrew E. Harrod is a Campus Watch Fellow, freelance researcher, and writer who holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a J.D. from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project. Follow him on Twitter at @AEHarrod.