Although the Islamic Hadith are sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, many of them probably come from some decades after his time, and they are a goldmine of information on religious debate and interchange in these years. I have been posting about one apocalyptic section of a collection that is known as the Turmoil and Portents, or more fully, “Pertaining To Turmoil And Portents Of The Last Hour” (Kitab Al-Fitan Wa Ashrat As-Sa’Ah). In particular, I have raised the question of whether we see in these texts Christian influence, presumably mediated through recent converts from that faith.
These Hadith are in the news presently because ISIS/Daesh is inspired by an apocalyptic saying concerning the Syrian city of Dabiq. Oddly, though, the next two Hadith after that in the series present Muhammad as making a surprising statement about Christians. The saying appears in two closely related forms. In the first, Muhammad makes a statement about a coming Christian majority, which leads his listeners to try and understand just what virtues the Christians might have:
Book 041, Number 6925:
Mustaurid al-Qurashi reported: I heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The Last Hour would come (when) the Romans would form a majority amongst people. ‘Amr said to him (Mustaurid Qurashi): See what you are saying? He said: I say what I heard from Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him). Thereupon he said: If you say that, it is a fact for they have four qualities. They have the patience to undergo a trial and immediately restore themselves to sanity after trouble and attack again after flight. They (have the quality) of being good to the destitute and the orphans, to the weak and, fifthly, the good quality in them is that they put resistance against the oppression of kings.
Mustaurid Qurashi reported: I heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The Last Hour would come when the Romans would form a majority amongst people. This reached ‘Amr b. al-‘As and he said: What are these hadith which are being transmitted from you and which you claim to have heard from Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him)? Mustaurid said to him: I stated only that which I heard from Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him). Thereupon ‘Amr said: If you state this (it is true), for they have the power of tolerance amongst people at the time of turmoil and restore themselves to sanity after trouble, and are good amongst people so far as the destitute and the weak are concerned.
Note that in the second saying, these last remarks stem from ‘Amr rather than Muhammad himself, but even so, we are looking at very early Islamic times.
Whatever their origins, these words represent a striking tribute to the “Romans.” The praise of Christian charity and good works is notable.
PLEASE NOTE – I HAVE EDITED AND CLARIFIED THIS TEXT IN LIGHT OF HELPFUL COMMENTS. SEE BELOW.