Tu Huan, an 8th century Chinese Islamophobe

VaeVictis returns with a brief essay on Tu Huan (or Du Huan), a Chinese travel writer who lived in the 8th century. When consulting fragments of Tu Huan’s accounts about his travels among the Arabs, it’s interesting to note that although Islam is mentioned, Mohammed seems to be absent. This supports the thesis put forward by Norbert Pressburg (see two separate reviews) and Robert Spencer that Mohammed and the full Islamic religion were not invented until after the Arab conquests were largely complete.

Tu Huan, an 8th century Chinese Islamophobe
by VaeVictis

The book Seeing Islam as Others Saw It, by Robert Hoyland, is a massive compendium of sources and commentary on early Islam from the perspectives of non-Muslims of the time. The author does a commendable job gathering wide ranging sources from Latin, Persian, Greek, Arabic, Armenian and Hebrew tradition, consolidating them within a single volume. From this bounty of sources the reader routinely encounters descriptions of the violence and devastation that accompanied the early Muslim conquests and the suffering imposed on the conquered.

Considering how overwhelming the evidence from these diverse and culturally ‘rich’ sources are, it should be apparent to even the most jaded modern academic that Islam’s origins were unabashedly built on a foundation of violence. The sources are unanimous whether they be Christian, Jew or ‘fire worshipping’ Zoroastrians.[1] Yet I suspect this rather obvious conclusion will not soon be taught in the hallowed halls of Uppsala University.

Perhaps most interesting are a number of Chinese writings including entries from imperial court histories such as the Chiu T’ang shu (Old T’ang History) and the Hsin T’ang shu (New T’ang History). These histories in turn borrow passages from the writings of Tu Huan, a Chinese prisoner of war imprisoned for over a decade in Iraq after his capture in the Battle of Talas, which was fought between the Abbasid Caliphate and the T’ang Dynasty.[2] Tu Huan’s writings, like those of his fellow Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, reveal in uncensored terms the nature of Islam:

Every seven days the king comes out to perform religious services; he mounts a high pulpit and preaches the law to the multitudes. He says: “Human life is very difficult, the path of righteousness is not easy, and adultery is wrong. To rob or steal, in the slightest way to deceive people with words, to make oneself secure by endangering others, to cheat the poor or oppress the lowly — there is no sin greater than one of these. All who are killed in battle against the enemies [of Islam] will achieve paradise. Kill the enemies and you will receive happiness beyond measure.”[3]

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1.   Zoroastrians do not actually worship fire in practice — it is a primary component of their rituals and they were often stereotyped as such. I have used it to emphasize the exotic nature of their religious beliefs in light of their agreement with Christian and Jewish sources on the nature of the Muslim conquests.
2.   The Battle of Talas marked “the permanent loss of Central Asia as a part of the Buddhist world and the Chinese cultural zone.” Quoted from Lewis, Mark Edward, China’s Cosmopolitan Empire, Harvard University Press, 2012, p 158
3.   Quoted from Hoyland, Robert G., Seeing Islam as Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam, p 246f

Previous posts by VaeVictis:

2012   Jul   23   Las Navas de Tolosa
    Nov   3   Hijra in Reverse: The Duty to Emigrate

9 thoughts on “Tu Huan, an 8th century Chinese Islamophobe

  1. Also Tom Holland’s book – again, no sign of the so-called “prophet” of Islam for donkeys years after he was supposed to have existed.

  2. The texts in Hoyland’s book are amazing. The concern of followers of other religions with the devastation wrought by islam shows us why we should pivot our understanding of the world into pre-Islam and post-Islam. Emmet Scott’s work is a start in this Copernican revolution in history.

    Hoyland has texts from christians shortly after the rise of islam, with the christians questioning why it is that their god is allowing the armies of islam to defeat them. For years now, I have not been able to grasp the blindness of historians to the (entirely negative) effect islam had on the world for 1000 years. A few years back, I saw a world authority on the Crusades saying “it is incomprehensible” how the christian church could come to justify Holy War. Incomprehensible? After 100s of attacks/invasions/massacres by muslims? It was as if this professor of history thought that islam had grown up in a pagan desert society, cut off from the world, and had remained in the Arabian peninsula for the last 1300 years.

    Hoyland’s book also reveals that among a small niche of historians, they have known for decades that there are good reasons to question whether or not Mohammed ever existed. Thus, the work of Tom Holland etc. in this area is just exposing something which has obviously been quietly discussed in the groves of academe.

    • I would love to get Hoyland’s book only shelf, its an angle which has hardly been explored and its easy to relate to the subject in the book,seeing as many of us today are recording our initial impressions of the Muslims migrating into our communities. The price is a bit steep unfortunately, surprisingly this includes the kindle version.

      I never liked the title of Pressburg’s book. There is no way Prophet Muhammed or anyone writing in his name would offer 72 grapes to a Muslim warrior willing to die. This once again insults the intelligence of the Arab warlords who were quite clever empire builders, when it came to controlling the population, the tribe, the family, and the individual.I’m not concerned about their feelings, but Islam is continually underestimated.

  3. So very interesting. Back in those days it seems Muslims didn’t need to put on the taquiya so thick. Violence and the constant threat of it probably did the trick.

    Tu Huan’s recollection of the king’s speech begins with the standard religious morality from any true religion – work hard, be a decent person, don’t sin – then the text jerks into conquest mode: ‘All who are killed in battle against the enemies of Islam will achieve paradise. Kill the enemies and you will receive happiness beyond measure.’

    History is of course seen by the cobbling together of a great number of factual events. With Islam though you have an example, maybe the best ever, of hagiographical propaganda. Though altogether a sloppy mess, as propaganda it has the right elements to function well. Possibly the most important aspect of Koranic propaganda is the proclamation that history is complete by Islam’s takeover as an expression of its penultimacy.

  4. A recorded 8th Century first hand account of Islam and its practises would certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons in academia. The only problem I can foresee is the ready acceptance of such an account without the usual denials and remonstrations we are all now so familiar with from the closed minds of the collectivist academics.

    Another aspect to Islam that is seldom pushed, is the demonstrable evidence that the Allah of the Qu’ran is really the old Arab Moon God who is systematically represented as a crescent Moon on Mosques. Also, Ramadan begins at the start of a new Crescent Moon. Too, it is incumbent on the Muslim when praying five times a day to look toward Mecca in which the K’abah houses a meteorite sent by Allah (The Moon God) to the Muslims.

    In effect, Islam is not a religion in the true sense of the meaning and is more akin to paganism (Devil worship). So, it is any wonder why Mohammed had to be invented and the Atheists/Collectivists pander to Islam?

  5. Joe: a point of order about “Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited” – this actually starts the rot at Khusru II Aparvez’s invasion of Syria. (With which I agree. We should have no problem praising Zoroastrianism whilst at the same time condemning Khusru II as, perhaps, the most self-destructive man in Persian history.) Mostly, yes, Emmet Scott is anti-Islam (with which I also agree, since it’s lasted a lot longer than Khusru did).

    VaeVictis: Thanks for this essay. Hoyland’s “Seeing Islam” is going to be valuable for generations as a guide to the primary sources.

    Note that Hoyland is himself *not* a revisionist; for instance his book’s closing appendices try (and, IMO, fail) to salvage the Islamic qibla toward Mecca. Also his presentation of the Jewish material is incomplete; and he has next to nothing on the Mandaean material. I might add that he is facing a debunking about Theophilus (google around for “Maria Conterno” on the topic), but that affects more his later work than the summary he offers in this book.

  6. Very interesting and informative. But a much greater and wider effort is needed in pushing back this perhaps final threat to western civilization. Awakening the intellectuals is very important, as they have the talent to formulate what the “dumbed down” cant see. For the rest, a greater organization is needed and all options are to be made useful and encouraged. Our only alternative is to wait for the sword to slice each and one of our throats. Have a good day…..

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