Although most Americans don’t realize it, Benjamin Franklin quoted Prophet Muhammad SAW in 1764 as an example for Christians to follow. How he came to learn about the teachings of Prophet Muhammad is not known. However, the fact that he actually quoted the Prophet (SAW) shows the range the diversity and openmindedness his knowledge on topics of religion, politics, and law.
In 1763, American colonists were involved in a war with the Native Americans. As settlers moved westward, they encountered more and more hostility from Native Americans, creating hatred between the Natives and the colonists. However, some Natives were peaceful and refused to engage in war. They sought refuge in the homes of the Quakers and other sympathizers who were willing to protect their lives.
One group of discontent colonists referred to as the Paxton Boys captured several peaceful Natives and killed them after taking them as captives. The Paxton Boys then marched into Philadephia demanding that anyone harboring Native Americans hand them over at once. Benjamin Franklin was appointed by William Penn to hear the Paxton Boys’ case. Rather than sympathize with them, Franklin was disgusted by their behavior and wrote a document chastizing them for their inhumane treatment of war captives.
Being the satirist that he was, Benjamin Franklin used examples of how Muslims treated their war captives. He knew that examples of Muslims showing humanity to their enemies did not fit the colonists’ view of Muslims. The colonists thought that anyone who did not accept Christianity was barbaric and a heathen. After hearing Franklin’s response to their requests, The Paxton Boys had no choice to return to their homes in shame.
Benjamin Franklin’s quotes of Muslims treating their war captives with humanity can be found in the document, A Narrative of the Late Massacres. In this document, Franklin writes:
Thus much for the Sentiments of the ancient Heathens. As for the Turks,5 it is recorded in the Life of Mahomet, the Founder of their Religion, That Khaled, one of his Captains, having divided a Number of Prisoners between himself and those that were with him, he commanded the Hands of his own Prisoners to be tied behind them, and then, in a most cruel and brutal Manner, put them to the Sword; but he could not prevail on his Men to massacre their Captives, because in Fight they had laid down their Arms, submitted, and demanded Protection. Mahomet, when the Account was brought to him, applauded the Men for their Humanity; but said to Khaled, with great Indignation, Oh Khaled, thou Butcher, cease to molest me with thy Wickedness. If thou possessedst a Heap of Gold as large as Mount Obod, and shouldst expend it all in God’s Cause, thy Merit would not efface the Guilt incurred by the Murder of the meanest of those poor Captives (Franklin, 1906).
Benjamin Franklin went on to give three more examples of how Muslims have continued to practice the protection of their war captives. The last example he gave was of a Moor who lived in Spain. The Moor was sitting in his garden when a Spanish Cavelier jumped over his garden gate and into the garden of the Moor unexpectedly. The Spanish Cavelier explained that he was running from some other Moors who were his enemies and he begged for protection. The Moor gave him a peach to eat from his garden and locked the Cavelier in his garden apartment, explaining that he would take him to safety in the morning. Just as he returned to his home, some people came knocking on his door. Some fellow Moors explained that his son had been killed by a Spanish Cavelier and that they were in pursuit of his killer. The Moor realized that the Cavelier in his garden apartment was his son’s killer. However, in the morning, the Moor took the Cavelier to safety. When they departed, the Moor said, “You are indeed guilty of my Son’s Blood, but God is just and good, and I thank him that I am innocent of yours, and that my Faith given is preserved.”
- Why did Benjamin Franklin choose to quote the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)?
- Summarize the story behind the hadith (quote from the Prophet) that Franklin quoted.
- Why did Benjamin Franklin refer to Muslims as heathens? Do you think that he really thought they were heathans? What makes you think that did not?
- Why didn’t the Muslim Moor turn in his son’s killer?