Petrus Alphonsi's Portrayal of Islam in 'Dialogue Against the Jews'
Petrus Alphonsi was one of the more renowned Jewish converts to Christianity in medieval times, living in the eleventh and twelfth centuries CE. In turn, his most well-known work is the ‘Dialogue Against the Jews,’ presented as a fictional dialogue between a Jew called Moses and a Christian called Petrus. The work, as its name suggests, is presented as a refutation of Judaism and is primarily as such. However, the fifth section (titulus/'titular') is a section intended for the refutation of Islam. In this post I intend to present this section in full open access translation.
In this section, Moses grants that Petrus might refute Judaism, but then poses the question of why Petrus chose Christianity instead of Islam, asking Petrus to allow him to take the position of advocate for Islam, during which he provides in broad outline the religion’s beliefs and laws. Petrus then effectively responds point by point, concluding that it is not reasonable to believe that Islam is true. He ends by praying to God to keep him free from the error of Islam.
While the dialogue is fictional, that the name of the protagonist is Petrus is of course intended as a reference to the author himself, and likewise in this section of the dialogue we have hints of Alphonsi’s life. The fictional Moses notes that Petrus had direct contact and engagement with Muslims from his youth (referring to his upbringing in Spain), and also knew the Arabic language and had familiarity with their writings. It was on the basis of this background that Alphonsi could discuss Islam and refute it in considerably more detail and accuracy than many other medieval Latin accounts of Islam prior to and contemporary with the Dialogue.
From Alphonsi’s work, we know that he is familiar with most of the basic beliefs and practices of Islam, such as belief in one God and that Muhammad is His Prophet, the five daily prayers, the pilgrimage to Mecca, fasting in the month of Ramadan, as well as Islamic views on marriage, divorce, ownership of slave women, dietary restrictions and some judicial punishments. Alphonsi also has direct knowledge of the Qur’an, as shown by the multiple instances of quotation, partial paraphrase and reference to the book’s contents. In this regard he is even familiar with the controversial idea of ‘abrogation’ whereby verses supposedly revealed later ‘cancel out’ earlier verses (thus, the contrast of Qur’anic exhortations against compulsion in religion versus the command for open warfare until people believe or pay a poll-tax).
Moreover, Alphonsi is aware of details concerning the life of Muhammad, such as his marriage to Khadija and work as a businessman, his marriages to Aisha and Zainab bint Jahsh (the latter referenced in Qur’an 33:37), and battles he fought in. Other details, however, seem to represent distortions of accounts from Islamic sources: thus, Alphonsi claims that Muhammad was assisted in the invention of his religion by two heretic Jews (probably based on Abdullah bin al-Salam and Ka’ab al-Ahbar, who were Jewish converts to Islam) and one heretic Christian (probably based on Bahira), all of whom tailored the religion to suit the beliefs of the heretics at the time. Alphonsi also supplies an interesting account of the origins of the Ka’aba in Mecca and idol worship in it prior to the time of Muhammad, and how Muhammad supposedly based the pilgrimage rituals on the idolatrous practices. Specifically, Alphonsi ties the Ka’aba to idol worship of Saturn and Mars.
As for Alphonsi’s refutation of Islam, it can be summarised as follows:
. How Muhammad devised his religion shows that it was built on deception and heresy.
. He performed no miracles: the stories of miracles attributed to him have no reliable basis in the Qur’an, and he ought to have performed a miracle as he brought a new law.
. A true prophet is also characterised by moral goodness and truth in his pronouncements. Muhammad did not have these qualities: rather he indulged in theft, excess libido and moral turpitude, and he sought to bring people over to his religion by force. Moreover, he told lies such as denying Christ’s crucifixion.
. If he had been a prophet, he would not have been defeated in battle, and he would have known in advance in instances when he committed to battle how the matter would turn out for him.
. Various Islamic practices and beliefs have no basis in reason or God’s law. For instance, the five prayers per day is simply an arbitrary middle way between the Jews and the Christians, while external ablution for prayer is unnecessary. The Ramadan practices, which prescribe fasting by day but effectively allow unlimited gluttony and sex by night, do not act as a real restraint on desire. The Islamic conception of Paradise is illogical as the conception is materialistic in nature whereas once the soul is separated from the body, it has no need for delights of this world.
I would like to dedicate this translation, overview and commentary to Professor David Cook of Rice University, a fine scholar of Islam.
Below is my full translation with some annotations I have added. The Latin text used can be found here. I welcome any suggestions for amendments.
Concerning the law of the Saracens that should be done away, and their pronouncements’ stupidity, which must be refuted
Moses: Up to this point, you have brought out and proven with the most evident reasons how inane and infirm the faith of the Judaic people was in all things, and how irrational and unwelcome to God their obedience was, and why you have abandoned the faith of the same people, and you have shown so far in what great error I have remained. But as you have abandoned your paternal faith, I wonder why you have chosen the faith of the Christians and not rather that of the Saracens, with whom you always had dealings and with whom you were raised? For it is pleasing to me, just as I can infer any obstacles in the Hebraic sect and likewise this sect, that thus also you should bring forth an account regarding this sect, by which it can be done away with, just as you do regarding ours. For as I have said, you always had dealings with them and you were raised with them, you read their books, you understand their language, so thus allow me to adopt their point of view and say that you should have chosen indeed this religion above the others, as it is agreed that is more decent and suitable for the rest of people.
Certainly their law is abundant, preserving many mandates concerning the delights of the present life, in which the greatest divine love is shown to have been around them, and equally it promises ineffable joys for its followers. Of course if you were to look into the root of this law, you will find that it has been established on a basis of unshakeable reason. Concerning the fact that God has loved them, and did not want them to be burdened with many precepts, but He spared them, the indication is that He has ordered them to pray only five times a day. In addition, before they should pray, in order to have perfect cleanliness, they wash in the most fitting manner their posterior, private parts, hands, arms, face, mouth, nostrils, ears, eyes, fingers, and finally their feet. After they do this, they pronounce in public voice and profess that there is one God, who has no one similar or equal, and that Mahometh is His Prophet. Furthermore, they fast for a whole month in the year. However, while fasting, they eat at night, and abstain in the day such that from that hour of the day in which they will be able to distinguish a black thread from a white thread through their sight, all the way till sunset, no one dares to eat, drink or defile himself through intercourse with his wife. However, after sunset, all the way to the dawn of the following day, it is always permitted for them to eat, drink, and have intercourse with their own wives, as much as each person wants. But if one is weighed down with infirmity or is travelling, then as long as the illness or journey lasts, he is permitted to feed on and make use of whatever things he wants, such however that what he has fallen short in fulfilling on account of the necessity of illness or travel, he must afterwards make amends for whenever it is possible.
Moreover, once per year, all are ordered for the sake of recognition alone to go to the house of God, which is to be seen in Mecca, and there they are ordered to adore it and circumambulate it while wearing clothing that is not sewn together, and according to what the law prescribes, they are to throw stones backwards through the space between their thighs in order to stone the devil. As for this house, they say that when Adam was exiled from Paradise, he built it for the Lord, and that it was a place of praise for all his sons until Abraham came to it. As for Abraham the faithful servant of God, he strengthened it and renovated it and established vows in it for the Lord, and offered sacrifices, and left it for his son called Ishmael after his death. It remained a house of prayer for him and all his sons through the many cycles of years, until Mahometh was born. When he was born, God promised the same inheritance to him and all his generations, as they say. Moreover, they are ordered to rob, take captive, kill and persecute and destroy in all ways the adversaries of God and their prophet, unless they willingly come to their senses and are converted to their faith, or pay the imposed poll tax of servitude.[i]
Furthermore, all meat has been permitted for them, except the meat and blood of the pig as well as the animal that has died by itself to be fed upon. They also reject whatever has been consecrated in the name of anything except God. Besides this, it is permitted for them to have four legitimate wives at the same time, and whichever one is repudiated, it is always permitted to accept another, such however, that it cannot go beyond the number of four. Moreover, the following is observed in divorce: that all the way up to three times, the man can repudiate her and it is permitted to take the same woman back again. As for purchased slave girls and female captives, it will be permitted to have as many as one wants, but also the man will have the free power to sell the same women and buy them again, such however, that, after he makes a girl pregnant, in no way can he bind her to the yoke of servitude to another person. Moreover, it is granted for them to have wives from their own kinship so that the blood-related offspring should come forth, and the bond of friendship among them may grow even stronger. Concerning possessions that are to be restored, the judges among them are such as you yourself have best known to be among the Hebrews, that the claimant is to prove with witnesses, and the denier can exculpate himself once by an oath. However, they do not accept any witnesses unless they are very suitable and approved persons, whom they can also believe without an oath.
Furthermore, in certain other aspects they preserve the custom of Mosaic law, that he who spills the blood of a man, must be afflicted with the same punishment, and whoever is caught in adultery, must be equally stoned with the female adulterer. As for the one who commits fornication with any other woman, he will be subject to 80 lashes. The punishment for theft has been proclaimed as such, that on the first and second occasion he is to sustain 80 lashes, but the third time, he is to lose his hand, and the fourth time, his foot, and whoever takes a limb away from any man, must recompense with worthy price. Therefore these universal precepts have been put forth by God, lest if there should be excessive liberal license to commit whatever deeds one likes, there would quickly arise the ruin of all people. They are always ordered to abstain from wine, because it is the tinder and nursery of all sin. These are the particular mandates of the law, because it would take a long time to dwell on particulars.
And so God promised to Himself and those believing in His faithful prophet Mahometh, and fulfilling the mandates of His law: Paradise, that is, the garden of delights, watered with overflowing waters, in which they will have perpetual residences. The shade of the trees will protect them, and they will not be afflicted with cold or heat. They will feed on all kinds of fruits and foods. Whatever anyone’s appetite will suggest, he will immediately find that thing in his presence. They will be put on silk clothes of all colours. They will recline in their delights, and the angels will walk among them with vessels of gold and silver, serving as cupbearers, offering milk in the golden vessels, and wine in the silver ones, and saying: Eat and drink in all delight, and what God has promised you, behold how it has been fulfilled. They will be united with virgins, whom neither human nor demonic contact has violated, and they are rather outstanding in form on account of the splendour of hyacinth and coral. These good things will be given to the believers, but to those who disbelieve in God and His Prophet Mahometh, there will be infernal punishment without end. But however many sins anyone has committed and also believes on the death of his death in God and Mahometh, he will be saved on the Day of Judgement through Mahometh’s intervention. These things are so and so many other things, which would take a long time to enumerate, although you nonetheless have known their writings from the time when you were a boy, and considering they are held in the greatest esteem by all the people of the Saracens, why have you rather followed the Christian religion instead of the Musalmitic[ii] one, when you intend to enjoy the felicity of a better present life and a future one equally?
Petrus: Although the coherence of your speech has very much décor and sweetness, and among those who think the greatest good is the delights of the body, it is able to win no less good will than if Mahometh himself were present, nonetheless it is amazing that you expect this from me, that you have insisted on arguing in persuasion of that, in which you have believed that I cannot be deceived in any way. For you know full well that it has not been unknown to me who Mahometh was, how he feigned himself to be a prophet through clever dissimulation, and who was his counsellor to devise this. But one thing, I think, remains uncertain to you, that the very doctrine of Mahometh which they say is the same one I would deem to be inane. While therefore you hear his life and morals explained by my narration, then you will be able to discern easily that I know or do not know about that which is true.
Moses: I eagerly await to hear from you.
Petrus: Mahometh therefore, after he was orphaned of both his parents, was still in the years of boyhood under the care of his uncle Panephus[iii], and was at the time in service to the cult of idols along with the entire people of the Arabs, as he himself testifies in his Alcoran, where he says that God said to him: You were an orphan, and I took you up when you were in error, and I guided you, oh poor man, and I made you rich. But after some interval of years, as a merchant working for some very noble widow called Chadigia,[iv] he gained hold of the mind of his mistress in a short time, such that through the right of marriage he gained control over all his affairs and equally the affairs of his mistress. Through her wealth he transformed from a very poor man into a very rich one, and thus he devolved into such great arrogance of mind, that he promised that the kingdom of the Arabs would be his to hope for, if he had no fear of his fellow tribesmen, because they did not consider him to be a king, as they had been both equals of his and his superiors.
Nonetheless, as he considered he way by which he could be made king, he wanted to fabricate himself as a prophet, relying of course on that wit of eloquence, which he had undertaken among various nations while he toiled for conducting business negotiation, and this was also because at that time the majority were soldiers and farmers, and almost all were idolaters, except some who held heretically to the law of Moses in accordance with the Samaritans, and other Christians who were Nestorians and Jacobites. As for the Jacobites, they are heretics, named after a certain Jacob, as they preach circumcision, and believe that Christ is not God, but only a just man conceived from the Holy Spirit, and that he was born from a virgin, but was not crucified, nor did he die. Also there was in that time, in the region of Antioch, a certain archdeacon who was a friend of Mahometh. This Jacobite was called to a council and damned. Saddened by the shame of his damnation, he fled from the region, and came to Mahomet. Therefore, Mahometh relied on the counsel of this man and brought into effect that which he contemplated and could not however fulfil through himself. There were also two Jews from the heretics of that Arabia whom we have mentioned. They were called Obadiah and Cahbalahabar. These people also joined Mahometh, and provided their help to complement his stupidity. So these three men each modified the law of Mahometh according to his own heresy and claimed that he was saying such things from God, which both the Jewish heretics and the Christian heretics who were in Arabia believed to be true. But those who did not want to believe willingly nonetheless believed by force and the fear of the sword. Indeed from this man we do not know of any prophecy or miracles we have heard concerning Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, who, as we find in writings, performed many miracles.
Moses: We believe in the majority of the prophets, from whom we find no miracles, like Jeremiah, Obadiah, Amos, Hosea and others.
Petrus: But in them no miracles are to be sought, because they neither introduced some new aspect of law, nor did they in any way contradict the Mosaic doctrine, and we know that those things they preached have been fulfilled in part.
Moses: There is no doubt that Noah and the Patriarchs gave new mandates from divine revelation, like those of sacrifices, the meats to be eaten, circumcision and other rites. Why therefore has faith been shown to them by posterity in the absence of the light of the miracles?
Petrus: But they are correctly believed, because that prophet attests to them, about whose testimony no one doubts: namely, Moses. Therefore how is Mahomet to be accepted among the prophets, when he is not comparable by any probability to any of the prophets?
Moses: Why do you say a prophet demonstrated with no probability, when you frequently hear that he was distinguished in a sufficient way by miracles? Surely that brute bovine animal- namely, Doregele[v]- called him a prophet? Surely the moon entered through both of his sleeves, proceeding from his breast restored, and this indicated he was a prophet who performed miracles? Surely testament to this is the fact that through the touch of that man’s hand, he provided a drink of milk flowing from the breast of a sheep for all the people? Indeed it was wondrous, that when he called the fig tree to come to him, that tree did come to him, and he himself ate from its fruit, and the sheep’s shoulder that had been poisoned for him spoke with him after it was placed on a small dish, and said: Do not eat, because I have been poisoned.
Petrus: Frivolous are the things which you pursue, nor are they to be proven worthy of faith per the judgement of all of your people, even as Mahometh himself in his Alcoran reported no such thing, but rather entirely prohibited to be believed to be true whatever had not been written about him in Alcoran. Concerning all things, he said, many have told many lies, so lest that should befall me, let only that which is proven supported by the authority of Alcoran be held to be true regarding me. When he wants to show why he did not perform a miracle, he introduces the Lord as speaking to him, saying: The Lord has said to me: therefore I do not permit you to perform miracles, because, I fear that you will be contracted as other prophets on the subject of miracles. Therefore he is shown to have performed no sign of power by his own testimony.
By what other indications is he demonstrated to be a true prophet? For the indications of a true prophet are uprightness of life, display of miracles, firm truth in all pronouncements. The goodness of life was violence in Mahometh, through which he forcibly made himself be proclaimed prophet of God, as he rejoiced in theft and rapacity. He burned so much with the fire of lust, that he did not feel ashamed to defile another person’s marital bed in adultery as though the Lord were ordering it, just as one reads regarding Zanab the daughter of Las,[vi] the wife of Zet.[vii] The Lord, he said, has ordered you, Zet, to dismiss your wife. After she was dismissed, he immediately joined with her. The disgrace of his wife Iassa[viii] has revealed more evidently how this man’s prophethood amounted to nothing, for when she was caught in adultery, he conversely affirmed through a false message of Gabriel that she was not caught according to the testimony of many people.[ix] He said this because he did not want to dismiss her. Concerning the potency of that man’s vice, one notably reads that he praised God for his lust, because it supposedly was 40 times more abundant in him beyond the ordinary human measure.[x] He also praised himself, on the grounds that the sweet odour and beauty of women were of the greatest delight to him by God’s gift. Concerning miracles it has already been said.
As for the wars which he claimed that he engaged in by God’s command and promise of victory, the fact that his teeth were smashed in a war, and that his face was struck, and also the great massacre and flight of his men: these things attest to the truth.[xi] If the angel of the Lord were guarding him as you say, these things would hardly happen to him, contrary to what we read about Elijah and Elisha, whom the Lord always snatched away from their enemies. Also if he were such as he says, victory would always follow him, as was the case with Moses, Joshua and David, whom victory always accompanied as they waged battles by divine command. But if he were a true prophet, as you say, he would know as he committed to battles whether matters would turn out badly for him. How therefore, after I have laid aside my law, do you say that I should rather follow that man’s law instead of the Christian one?
Moses: This account certainly, how it seems to be true to the one who has examined with perception.
Petrus: As you have said above that I have read their books, know their language, was always raised among the Saracens, it is therefore not suitable that I should follow their law.
Moses: As I believed it to be good, I thus said you should accept it.
Petrus: You also said that the root of their law has been built on the foundation of unshaken reason, hence let us run into the field of another disputation, comparing words with words, mandates with mandates, if we can find it well founded.
Moses: Go ahead.
Petrus: As you say Mahumet orders that one must pray five times a day, he thus did so, because by the counsel of his teachers he wanted his law to be made a middle ground between the Jews and the Christians, and not by his own honesty, nor by the assistance of God. For the Jews according to their law pray three times a day, while the Christians do so seven times a day, but this man imposed neither three nor seven times, but five times as a limit to praying in between both. As for your praise for the fact that they perform ablution of their hands, arms and rest of the limbs of the body before they should pray, this does not pertain to prayer. Indeed being cleansed pertains to prayer, intrinsically speaking, not extrinsically. In fact, cleanliness from ablution of the limbs was a practice of the worshippers of the star Venus, who prepared themselves in the manner of a woman when they wanted to pray to her. So as he became king at the time of the point of Venus, he commanded these things. You say that at the time of prayer they proclaim in public voice. This is not suitable for prayer. It is only that he cannot impose any other new feature.
As you say, he ordered them to fast over the course of a whole month on the grounds that they are restraining the vices of the flesh, as it is the beginning of repentance. But tell me, I beseech, what is the use in fasting for the day, and eating three times or four times by night, and enjoying all the meats and the best foods, and engaging in intercourse with women? These things do not weaken but rather strengthen the flesh. As for the fact that you say that once per year they go to the house of God, which is in Mecca, for the sake of recognition, and there they pray in that place which they say belonged to Adam and Abraham: they have no authority to support this, but they devise it as some seeming invention. For before that man had preached the law, this house was full of idols. But if you, oh Moses, knew what sort of house that was, and what secret was in there, and why Mahometh went there, and ordered to do those things which are found in his law, you would from there be truly amazed.
Moses: Therefore I ask you to indicate to me that which you say. For although I preach this law to you, I do not know why he ordered the performance of that journey there and the rest of the things which the law commands.
Petrus: Indeed I wanted to indicate it to you in brief, but now I have been asked, I will show openly. The sons of Lot, Amon and Moab, dedicated this house in honour of God, and two idols were worshipped there by the same people, one made from white stone, the other from black stone. Indeed the name of that one made from black stone was Mercury, while the name of the other was Chamos. The one that is made of black stone, was erected in honour of Saturn, while the one made of white stone erected in honour of Mars. Twice a year their worshipers would ascend to them to adore them, indeed to Mars when the Sun enters into the first degree of the ram, because the ram is Mars’ honour. On its departure, stones were thrown, as was custom. As for Saturn, they would come to it when the sun enters into the first degree of the balance, because the balance is the honour of Saturn. The fact that they burned incense nude and with their hades shaved: this rite is celebrated all the way up to today in India, as I have said. As for Arabs, they adored these idols with Amon and Moab. As for Mahometh, he came after a long time and was not able to do away with the old custom, but, as though with some sort of custom changed, he permitted them to circumambulate the house when they are covered in clothes not sewn together. But lest he should seem to be ordering sacrifice to the idols, he constructed a statue of Saturn in the wall, in the corner of the house, so that its face should not appear, so only the back was placed facing the outside. As for the other idol of Mars, as it was sculpted from all sides, he sent it underneath the ground and had a stone to be placed over it. As for the men who gather to adore there, he ordered them to kiss these stones, and with their heads lowered and shaved, to throw stones backwards between their legs. So lowering themselves, they bare their backsides, because it is the sign of the original law. Therefore, tell me, Moses, with what intention did he order these things, if not that as I say?
Moses: I told you I did not know the intention, because nowhere did I find it written, nonetheless I know concerning the throwing of stones, that they say they do these things to put the demons to flight. In their books I saw it written that a certain Bomar[xii] of the ten companions of Mahometh thus began to kiss the stones. He said: I say to you stones, I know that you cannot help or harm, but I follow Mahometh’s custom as he did this.
Petrus: As you have mentioned putting demons to flight through throwing stones: the reason does not appear to be logical, because one cannot in any way put to flight easily that which is not perceived by any corporeal sense. Rather, demons are put to flight by the divine name.
Moses: As I have heard certain people claiming to have seen, heard and spoken with demons, I am surprised you say perception in the non-corporeal sense.
Petrus: Although the angels cannot be perceived in the corporeal sense, nonetheless they are visible to those who follow God’s mandates. Similarly the devil appears visible to his friends.
Moses: I indeed would wish to know this: by what instruction or by what art I could see them and speak with them.
Petrus: Why do you desire to know what which hardly pertains to you?
Moses: Not in order to perform these things, but I only would like to know.
Petrus: How do you wish to learn that which would increase your error?
Moses: You have corrected me well, thanks be to God. I have learned sense in your words.
Petrus: Now enough has been said, so let us return to the original discussion. Regarding the fact that Mahometh ordered to rob, take captive and kill the adversaries of God, until they should either wish to believe or pay the tribute tax, this is not from the works of God, as He did not order any of the prophets to compel anyone to believe. But Mahomet ordered this out of greed for money, and so as to destroy his own enemies.
However, as you have known, this should not be the case, but rather if anyone should wish to convert any person, he should do this not through violence, but with diligence and sweetness, as Mahometh himself testifies in his Alcoran, under the persona of the Lord saying this in the following way: If your Lord God were willing, the peoples of the whole world would believe. Why therefore do you compel them to believe? For no one believes except by the will of God.[xiii]
In another place, he said: to you peoples the truth of God has already come. He who believes, does so for his own sake, whereas he who errs, does so for his own sake, and I am not a bailiff over you. But follow, God says, that which is revealed to you, and wait until God should judge, as He is the judge over all.[xiv]
Also in the same place, he said: if the Lord your God willed, He would place all under one law.[xv]
Also in another place he pretends as if God is speaking to him, where He said: There should be no violence in the law. Already the truth and justice are apparent. He who wills, let him believe by his own will.[xvi]
Also in Alcoran: Oh unbelievers, I do not worship that which you worship, not do you worship the One whom I worship, nor do I adore the one whom you adore: to me is my law, and to you is your divergent law.[xvii]
And in another place he says: Do not argue with the peoples of another law, except with soft words.[xviii]
Why therefore did he order to rob, take captive and compel the peoples to believe by force, as he claims that all these things are the paths of God? Tell me, Moses, why therefore you order to believe the law that contradicts itself.
Moses: The book of Alcoran is such, that also the later order does away with the first one.
Petrus: Alcoran was not written by Mahometh’s hand, for if he were able to do this, he would have been ordered to do that. Rather, after his death, his companions who had been with him composed Alcoran: each, I should say, declaring his own reading. Hence we do not know what was the previous and what was the later order. As for the fact that Mahometh ordered to rob, take captive and kill the peoples, he did so because the Arabs who remained in the desert ignorant of God, delighted in taking plunder, and so that they above all should believe.
Moses: I think that what you say is true.
Petrus: As for the fact that you say that all meat has been permitted except the meat and blood of the pig, and the animal that has died by itself to be fed upon, all meat has also been permitted to us. We disagree on this only: that is, the meat of the pig. So Mahometh did this so that we Christians should differ in that from his law. As for the fact that you have said concerning the wives that it is permitted to take four and accept another after repudiating any of them, this is not commanded by any reason, for it has not been commanded to take a wife except for the purpose of having children. As for the fact that they can have as many purchased slave girls and captive women as they like, indeed what great adultery this is to us, because many times the father buys one defiled by his son, and on the contrary the son or brother buys one corrupted by the father.
Moses: Your words are believed to be true. As there was such disagreement among these precepts, why did Mahometh, who seems so wise, order this to be done?
Petrus: Mahometh very much loved women, and he was excessively wanton. As he himself professed, the force of wantonness of 40 men was within him. In addition, as above all the Arabs were very wanton, he satisfied their will so that they should believe. As for the fact you have said they can have wives from their own kinship, that was a custom for all at that time, so that the bond of friendship should be strong among them. Concerning the judgements you earlier mentioned, certainly they agree in certain aspects with the law of Moses, and in certain aspects they differ, because Mahometh made his law be somewhat divergent from the law of Moses. They are ordered to abstain always from wine, so that the inebriated companions should not by chance expose the ruin of the people. Those things you have mentioned regarding Paradise are to be passed over, because they cannot be approved by reason. Indeed when the soul is separated from the body and the four elements are separated from each other, man will have no use for worldly things, as we have earlier outlined in the third section, where we spoke about the resurrection of the dead. The wise hardly believes in a Paradise of this sort, nor is he deceived by such word. However, the men of the time of Mahometh, without law, without scripture, unaware of all that is good, seeking extravagance besides military service and agriculture, and given to gluttony, could easily be preached to according to their own will. For if Mahometh were doing otherwise, he would not persuade them to believe in his law.
Moses: Without God’s assistance, surely such a great people would not believe in him.
Petrus: If he had accomplished all these things with God’s help, he would not have been defeated many times, nor, as we have said, would his teeth have cracked in war. Like the rest of the kings, he was defeated, and sometimes he won. But after his death all wanted to abandon his law. For he had said that his body was going to be carried to heaven on the third day. However, when they realised he was a liar, and saw that his body was becoming putrid, the body was unburied and the greatest part receded.[xix] However, Alius the son of Abitharius[xx], one of the ten companions of Mahometh, gained control of the realm after his death. He preached in a persuasive manner, cleverly advised the peoples to believe, and said that they did not understand Mahometh’s words well. Mahometh, he said, did not say that he would be elevated to heaven before his burial or in the sight of men. Rather he said that after the burial of the body, the angels would carry him to heaven without the knowledge of all, hence, as they did not immediately bury him, so he began to become putrid, so that he should be buried immediately. So through this he managed to keep the people for a short time in their original error.
Two brothers who were scribes of Mahometh, called Hazan and Hozain,[xxi] were intensely wasting away their bodies through fasting and vigils, and almost came to the point of death. However, their father often advised his sons, not to wear out their bodies through such long wasting away. As he considered them to be foolish, and that they had already come to the door of death on account of excess toil, he exposed the matter for what it was regarding Mahometh. So as they discovered from their father about that man’s wickedness, they began to eat and drink wine, and just as previously they remained firmly in his law, thus finally they began to let go of the law, though not entirely. But some part of the people followed these men in custom.
Therefore, in all ways, oh Moses, we can recognise that he is not a true prophet, and that his words were not true. Although we pass over many things that we can say about him, nonetheless let us insert one thing that we and you believe: namely, he denies Christ, whom we equally believe to have died and to have been crucified. For he himself says: They did not kill Christ nor did they crucify him, but it seemed so to them.[xxii] Not only will you find that he is a liar in this, but review all the books and sayings of the prophets, and you will find that he lied in all those things that he said about them. How therefore do you urge me to believe that liar, when you find him deceptive in all things? I beseech the piety of the Omnipotent God, that He should free me from that man’s error and bring about the perfection of the law which I have begun to fulfil. Amen.
[iii] Abu Talib, though it seems that the author here is using one of the first names attributed to him: Abd al-Manaf.
[iv] Khadija, the first wife of Muhammad.
[v] Probably Buraq, the beast that carried Muhammad during the Night Journey.
[vi] Zainab bint Jahsh.
[vii] Zayd bin Haritha.
[ix] Cf. Qur’an 24:11-21.
[x] Cf. The tradition of ‘al-Kafeet’ and Muhammad’s reputed sexual prowess, also referenced in Álvaro of Córdoba’s Indiculus Luminosus, which, like Alphonsi’s work, also draws a connection between Muhammad and Venus.
[xi] Referring to the defeat of Muhammad and the Muslims at the Battle of Uhud.
[xii] Probably Omar.
[xiii] Cf. Qur’an 10:99.
[xiv] Cf. Qur’an 6:104-107.
[xv] Cf. Qur’an 11:118.
[xvi] Cf. Qur’an 2:256.
[xvii] Cf. Qur’an 109.
[xviii] Cf. Qur’an 29:46.
[xix] For the story of Muhammad’s supposedly false prediction of the elevation of his body to heaven following his death, cf. (for example) the biography of Muhammad contained in Eulogius of Córdoba’s work.
[xx] Probably Ali bin Abi Talib, though it is generally held that he was the fourth caliph after Muhammad’s death. The claim of mass apostasy from Islam following Muhammad’s death has some basis in Islamic tradition: the so-called ‘Apostasy’ Wars). It is interesting that Alphonsi does not mention these wars as a means to quell the mass apostasy.
[xxi] Probably Hasan and Hussein.
[xxii] Cf. Qur’an 4:157.