Anonymous Chronicle Up to 1234

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Syriac Text: J. –B. Chabot (ed.), Anonymi auctoris chronicon ad annum Christi 1234 pertinens. Praemissum est chronicon anonymum ad A.D. 819 pertinens (vol. 1; Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Scriptores Syri Series tertia; tomus 14, 1920). Translated by Mark Steven Francois.

94 (ܨܕ) – Vol. 1, p. 227-228 (PDF 126-125)


Concerning the origin of the kingdom of the Muslims[1] and concerning Muhammad, their leader, the one who by them was called a prophet and apostle of God.

In the year 933 of the Greeks,[2] and 12 of Heraclius,[3] and 33 of Khusro,[4] a man whose name was Muhammad, from the tribe of the Qurayshites, went out into the land of Yathrib[5] and he said concerning himself that he is a prophet.

It is fitting, therefore, to make known the general reputation of all of the Muslims,[6] who are called Arabs. Based on the general reputation of Arabia, which is the land of their dwelling, it is prosperous. It is situated, approximately, from north to south from the Euphrates River to the Arabian Sea[7] and from west to east from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf.[8] They are called by many names, as it were, based on the tribes of their ancestors.

Therefore[9] that Muhammad of whom we have been speaking, when he was in the age and stature of youthfulness, began to go up and down from Yathrib, his city, to Palestine in the business of buying and selling. And while he was occupied in that place, he saw [people who held to] the confession of one God and it was pleasing in his eyes.[10] And when he went down to the members of his tribe, he set this confession before them. And when he had persuaded a few, they joined him.

And along with this he also praised the goodness of that land of Palestine before them when he said, “It is because of the confession in that one God which is given by them that the land is good and prosperous like this.” And he added, “If you listen to me, God will also give you a good land that flows with milk and honey.”

And because he wanted to confirm his word, he led his company of those who had been persuaded by him and he began to go up to the land of Palestine and he seized, robbed, and plundered. And he returned while the ones who were led astray were unharmed. And he did not fall short of his promise which he made to them.

From that time on the love of possessions caused the work to become a custom. And they began to go up again, plundering and returning. And when those who had still not joined him saw those who were subject to him, that they were supplied abundantly with many riches, from that time on they were drawn without force to be subject to him.

And after these things, when the men who were with him increased and his army was great, he no longer gave them permission to plunder. When he had settled down in glory in Yathrib, his city, and when they were sent out again, that which was in Palestine was not sufficient for them to remain there alone but they also journeyed afar, openly killing, robbing, destroying, and plundering.

But this was not enough for them. But the ones who brought up tribute – they worked and were put under tribute. And so little by little they were strengthened and they spread abroad and became great until they subdued almost all of the land of the Romans and also the kingdom of the Persians beneath their hands. And so from that time their principality became an established kingdom. And so in the course of time, little by little, from one man to another, those who ruled over it became governors. And it became very powerful just as it was pleasing to God, who wanted to chastise us because of our sins.

95 (ܨܗ) – Vol. 1, p. 228-230 (PDF 125-123)

Concerning their doctrine and laws. Since we have spoken up to this point about the cause and the beginning and the movement of Muhammad, the first king of the Arabs, let us now move on to speak about the laws and commandments that he said were given to him by God, which he set down for them. He taught them as follows:

That they should confess one God, the creator of all things, without being called Father, Son, or Spirit, but deity, a single person[11] and a single substance;[12] that “he is not begotten and that he does not beget”; and that he does not have a spouse.[13]

He accepts Moses and his writing and he accepts the Gospel[14] – except for this: that he does not acknowledge that the Messiah was crucified.

Concerning the Messiah he thought that he was a righteous and honourable human being among the prophet and that he was born from a virgin without intercourse –like Adam who was created from the earth by the word of God. But he does not accept that he was crucified but that he performed miracles and raised the dead. And when the Jews stretched out their hands [to seized him], another man was made to be like him in his appearance and they crucified him – but he, the Messiah, while alive, was taken up to the fourth heaven. And there he will remain until the end and then he will come to the earth for a second time. And he will judge mankind on the day of the resurrection by the command of God.

They also acknowledge the resurrection and punishment for actions. He acknowledges a Paradise that is apprehended by the senses and very material: with food, drink, and intercourse with beautiful concubines. And the material that is laid[15] on the beds is made of gold and the carpets are made of aqarulion[16] and panazion.[17] And there are rivers of milk and honey.

They also acknowledge an end to the torment of each one who is tormented according to the sins which he committed – then he goes out from there to Paradise. The one who resides there is also allowed to be married, each one to as many free-born women he wants, legally. And it is lawful for him [to be married] to as many maidservants as he wants. And a man [is allowed] to divorce his wife and give her a certificate of divorce according to the law of Moses.

He also teaches that they should pray five times per day after being washed before prayer as an absolute necessity. The fast is 30 days per year, the fixed month which is called Ramadan, when they fast during the daytime but are permitted to eat during the entire night.

They perform the circumcision on the males and females who are among them.

During the time of prayer their worship is directed toward the south.

He was also entrusted with that book which he, that is Muhammad, said was poured out on his mind by God through an angel. And he brought it forth through his tongue to be heard by people. And they call it a holy book.

(More translation will be added as the translation progresses)

[1] Syr. ܛܝܝ̈ܐ. This word originally referred to Arabs from the Tay tribe. This term eventually came to be used to simply mean “Arab” or “Muslim”. See CSD, 172.

[2] I.e. 621/22 CE. This refers to the Seleucid calendar, which begins in 311/10 BCE. When calculating dates based on this calendar it is important to remember that there is no year zero.

[3] Heraclius was emperor of the Roman Empire (i.e. the Byzantine Empire) from 610 to 641 CE. For the reign of Heraclius see Walter E. Kaegi, Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), and Beae Dignas and Engelbert Winter, Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity: Neighbours and Rival (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 45.

[4] Khusro II ruled the Sasanian Empire (i.e. Persia) from 590 to 628 CE. See Dignas and Winter, Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity, 42.

[5] I.e. Medina.

[6] Syr. ܛܝܝ̈ܐ. See note 1 above.

[7] Syr. ܠܝܡܐ ܬܛܡܢܝܐ, “the southern sea.”

[8] Syr. ܠܥܘܒܐ ܕܝܡܐ ܗܿܘ ܕܦܪ̈ܣܝܐ, “the gulf of the sea of the Persians.”

[9] I.e. because the land is prosperous.

[10] Lit. “He saw the confession of the one God.” The words in brackets have been added to clarify that Muhammad did not see this confession but he saw people in Palestine who made this confession.

[11] ܦܪܨܘܦܐ.

[12] Syr. ܩܢܘܡܐ.

[13] Syr. ܫܘܬܦܐ, “partner, companion”. Clearly this refers to Mary.

[14] I.e. a written account of the life of Jesus.

[15] Syr. ܡܐܓܣܐ. Based on the context of this passage, this word has to refer to something that is placed on a bed or a couch.

[16] Syr. ܐܩܪܘܠܝܘܢ. Some kind of fabric.

[17] Syr. ܦܐܢܐܙܝܘܢ. Some kind of fabric.