Caution: Bad Source on Wikipedia

While I’ve relied on Wikipedia articles for reasons I have already stated, ALWAYS remember that Wikipedia is only as good as its citations. Be aware that the articles surrounding Muhammad’s ministry are inundated with a particular source:

The Sealed Nectar, by Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri, is dense with information and details, but it is not an academic work. Rather instead, it is pious literature, highly dogmatic, and researched only to the extent of using traditional resources without open evaluation. It’s translation into English is also quite flawed. Mubarakpuri is not transparent between when he is summarizing data from traditional records and when he is summarizing his own views. Any statement that cites The Sealed Nectar on Wikipedia should be held highly suspect as it’s likely to be citing a segment of Mubarakpuri’s opinion.

I would rather see traditional sources be cited directly if we’re to rely on traditional narrative to reconstruct the history around Muhammad. And if not direct data, then it’s important to always state such as someone’s opinions on the data, and for those cited opinions to have be openly evaluated and tested in the work cited. This is important because Islamic tradition includes a very, very large catalog of writings and records, and not all records are in agreement over details with each other. It’s not bad that Mubarakpuri relies on traditional Islamic literature; that is an available body of material and should be factored into any Islamic history. What is bad is that he does not reveal what evaluations he made in choosing sources, the background of which items of that literature he selects, and which ones he leaves out and why he did so. It isn’t bad that his bank of resources is not comprehensive of all Islamic literature (that is an inhuman scope), but that he does not acknowledge this and explain his limits. It is not bad that Mubarakpuri writes his opinions (why else write?), but that he does not make distinctions between his opinions and summaries of the data. Indeed, he does not even allow that his opinions get treated with any less authority than the Quran.

For example, when discussing Muhammad’s household, Mubarakpuri writes:

Discussing polygamy –in my opinion– is not a necessity; since a person who is familiar with the Europeans, and indecent practices, sufferings, wickedness, their sorrows and distresses, the horrible crimes they commit in this respect as well as the trials, the disasters that they are involved in, and which emanate directly from their deregard of the principle of polygamy form a good reason (to justify the soundness of polygamy). The distored picture of life in Europe with the ill-practices featuring it, could truthfully justify the existence and practice of polygamy. In this, there are Divine signs for all people possessed of lucid mind.

Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar, Dar-us-Salam Publications (1979), p. 491.

More egregious and long-form is Mubarakpuri’s section on the Jews of Medina, which is solid with anti-Jewish tropes: they were racists, full of hatred but too cowardly to act upon it, conquered their neighbors through fraud and usury, monopolized markets, incited wars in order to profit from selling weapons to both sides. To show you that I am not exaggerating, here is a long, continuous block of content from the 1996 Dar-us-Salam Publications edition, and note that there are no citations to historical works for any of this. It’s purely Mubarakpuri’s summation presented authoritatively.

Religiously, they showed no zeal; their most obvious religious commodity was fortunetelling, witchcraft and the secret arts (blowing on knots), for which they used to attach to themselves advantages of science and spiritual precedence.
They excelled at the arts of earning money and trading. They in fact monopolized trading in cereals, dates, wine, clothes, export and import. For the services they offered to the Arabs, the latter paid heavily. Usury was a common practice amongst them, lending the Arab notables great sums to be squandered on mercenary poets, and in vanity avenues, and in return seizing their fertile land given as surety.
They were very good at corrupting and scheming. They used to sow seeds of discord between adjacent tribes and entice each one to hatch plots against the other with the natural corollary of continual exhaustive bloody fighting. Whenever they felt that fire of hatred was about to subside, they would nourish it with new means of perpetuity so that they could always have the upper hand, and at the same time gain heavy interest rates on loans spent on inter-tribal warfare.
Three famous tribes of Jews constituted the demographic presence in Yathrib (now Madinah): Banu Qainuqua’, allies of Al-Khazraj tribe, Banu An-Nadir and Banu Quraizah who allied Al-Aws and inhabited the suburbs of Madinah.
Naturally they held the new changes with abhorrence and were terribly hateful to them, simply because the Messenger of Allah was of a different race, and this point was in itself too repugnant for them to reconcile with. Second, Islam came to bring about a spirit of rapport, to terminate the state of enmity and hatred, and to establish a social regime based on denunciation of the prohibited and promotion of the allowed. Adherence to these canons of life implied paving the way for an Arab unity that could work to the prejudice of the Jews and their interests at both the social and economic levels; the Arab tribes would then try to restore their wealth and land misappropriated by the Jews through usurious practices.
The Jews of course deeply considered all these things ever since they had known that the Islamic Call would try to settle in Yathrib, and it was no surprise to discover that they harboured the most enmity and hatred to Islam and the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم even though they did not have the courage to uncover their feelings in the beginning.

Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar. Dar-as-Salam Publications, 1996. Page 184-185.
You know the type.

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