Myth #5 - Mohammed was a Prophet from Allah

Myth #5

Mohammed was a Prophet from Allah

“Hero-worship is strongest where there is least regard for human freedom.”
- Herbert Spencer, Social Statistics

For more than a billion Muslims the world over, Mohammed is the epitomé of prophethood. He is viewed as the "seal of the prophets", bringing the final revelation of Allah to man. Indeed, he is called al-insan al-kamil, the perfect man. Most view Mohammed as a sinless saint, the perfection of how humanity ought to conduct itself. This man's life and way of conducting himself are held up as models for humanity, and their emulation is encouraged in every generation. But who was this Mohammed, what is the true testimony about him, and did he really fulfill the role of a prophet from God?

Rethinking the Value of the Traditions About Mohammed

Before exploring in detail what the Muslim traditions teach about Mohammed, the question of whether Mohammed actually existed as a historical person, at least as he is depicted in the traditions, must be raised. Practically the only available knowledge about the life and history of Mohammed comes from the traditional Muslim sources, the ahadith, the sunnat, and the sirat, or biographies of Mohammed. The primary deficiency in the traditional Western study of Islam has been its uncritical over-reliance upon these traditions and historiography as the means of examining Islam in what Renan, the early Orientalist, called "the clear light of history". Scholars have long recognized that the various ahadith and other traditional materials, such as the historical records of battles in the Arab conquest and the biographical materials concerning Mohammed, are often quite contradictory, and rarely can be put together into a logical, coherent order of events. Further, the materials making up the ahadith and the biographies are very late, often as much as two centuries after the fact and were often blatantly polemical in their outlook. This suggests that the reason for the conflicting details in so many of these sources is due to their being "spun" (or even invented) by factionalists among the Muslims, each trying to bolster their own particular view or party by laying claim to some saying or action of the prophet. Schacht has expressed an opinion which has become increasingly commonplace in the studies of Islam when he stated,

"I should like to present some ideas on what, I think, is a necessary revaluation of Islamic traditions in the light of our present knowledge; but am at a loss whether to call my conclusions something new and unprecedented, or something old and well known. No one could have been more surprised than I was by the results which the evidence of the texts has forced upon me during the last ten years or so; but looking back I cannot see what other result could possibly be consistent with the very foundations of our historical and critical study of the first two or three centuries of Islam. One of these foundations, I may take it for granted, is Goldziher's discovery that the traditions from the Prophet and from his Companions do not contain more or less authentic information on the earliest period of Islam to which they claim to belong, but reflect opinions held during the first two and a half centuries after the hijra."1

Schacht thus affirms the unreliability of the Muslim traditions for use as primary source materials when studying the events surrounding the rise of Islam. Far from being a clear and reliable record of early Islam, these traditions are often inauthentic and contrived. Indeed, Schact’s further statements are even more severe,

"We must therefore abandon the gratuitous assumption that there existed originally an authentic core of information going back to the time of the Prophet...."2

"Every legal tradition from the Prophet, until the contrary is proved, must be taken not as an authentic or essentially authentic, even if slightly obscured, statement valid for his time or the time of the Companions, but as the fictitious expression of a legal doctrine formulated at a later date....We shall not meet any legal tradition from the Prophet which can positively be considered authentic."3

Schact’s perceptions were quite needed, for instead of reflecting historical fact, these traditional materials reflect later opinions and redacted accounts of Muslims who were applying their later standards and beliefs onto an earlier generation. This understanding corrects the earlier and erroneous tendency among scholars of Islam to accept the traditional material absolutely at face value. Daniel Pipes has compared the use of these materials by Western scholars who attempt to determine the "authentic" history of Islam to a similar, though hypothetical, situation where we, in the 21st century, would try to determine the makeup of the Constitution, solely on the basis of the ideas and interpretations of various modern factions in America, which would obviously give conflicting accounts and emphases.4

As noted earlier, nearly the only source for direct information concerning Mohammed (as well as a host of other topics concerning early Islam) are the ahadith. The material in works such as that of Ibn Ishaq, his redactor Ibn Hisham, and other early biographies of Mohammed (sirat) largely draw from the ahadith as their sources. The ahadith are said to have been transmitted orally from the time of Mohammed and the Companions via chains of authority, conveyed to later generations through series of trustworthy Muslims who passed down what they had heard about Mohammed and the early Muslims. This process is known as isnad, and the determination of an "authentic" hadith by Muslim scholars has traditionally been made by judging the isnad, the persons making up the chain of authority for the hadith, on a number of factors such as reliability and reputation (hence, making it a somewhat subjective exercise).

This method in which the ahadith were transmitted and recorded is less than inspiring in its capacity to accurately transmit information. Muir, after noting that even respectable and accepted traditions contain much that is "exaggerated and fabulous", quotes Gustav Weil saying this about the reliability of the oral traditions and transmission of traditions,

"Reliance upon oral traditions, at a time when they were transmitted by memory alone, and every day produced new divisions among the professors of Islam, opened up a wide field for fabrication and distortion. There was nothing easier, when required to defend any religious or political system, than to appeal to an oral tradition of the Prophet."5

He further notes,

"....the terms in which the evidence was given; whereas tradition purely oral is affected by the character and habits, the associations and the prejudices, of each witness in the chain of repetition. No precaution could hinder the commingling in oral tradition of mistaken or fabricated matter with what at the first may have been trustworthy evidence. The floodgates of error, exaggeration, and fiction were thrown open."6

Also, the independence of the witnesses in the isnad has likely been overestimated by past scholars of Islam. Noting that the process of isnad as a means of transmitting information about Mohammed and early Islam evolved many decades after the facts they purport to transmit, Juynboll expresses a studied trepidation about the authority and authenticity of these traditions.

"In my view, before the institution of the isnad came into existence roughly three quarters of a century after the prophet's death, the ahadith and the qisas (mostly legendary stories) were transmitted in a haphazard fashion if at all, and mostly anonymously. Since the isnad came into being, names of older authorities were supplied where the new isnad precepts required such. Often the names of well-known historical personalities were chosen but more often the names of fictitious people were offered to fill the gaps in isnads which were as yet far from perfect...The overall majority of allegedly the most ancient traditions is likely to have originated at the earliest in the course of the last few decades of the first century [ed. note - Islamic century] (700s-720s), when for the first time the need for traditions became generally felt. The isnad as institution had just come into being and slowly but gradually the concept of sunnat an-nabi began to eclipse the Sunna of a region or of a (group of) person(s)."7

Thus, Juynboll argues from the evidence for a process of standardization (isnad) that began in the dusk of the first Islamic century. This process arose out of a recognized need on the part of the community within the Arab religion to establish a solid basis upon which to ground their traditional beliefs and to bring order to the very haphazard system of commandments, stories, personal examples, and doctrines, each claiming authority. Wansbrough goes even further, recognizing the supplying of isnad for statements or examples attributed to Mohammed and his Companions as a formal innovation datable only to the very beginning of the third Islamic century (200 AH/815 AD)8, pushing the origins of formal isnad back another century. Indeed, Cragg notes that the more formally organized and "scientifically" established a tradition in the ahadith is, the more likely it is to have been severely redacted and/or deliberately invented. He says,

"This science being so meticulous that it is fair (even if somewhat paradoxical) to suspect that the more complete and formally satisfactory the attestation claimed to be, the more likely it was that the tradition was of late and deliberate origin. The developed requirements of acceptability that the tradition boasted simply did not exist in the early, more haphazard and spontaneous days."9

Goldziher was the first modern western scholar of Islam to recognize the spurious nature of the hadithic records, when his thorough examination of them (practically the first undertaken by a Western scholar) uncovered the astounding regularity with which the traditions contradicted each other, and whose numbers seemed to balloon with each succeeding generation. Goldziher succinctly summarized his findings,

"In the absence of authentic evidence it would indeed be rash to attempt the most tentative opinion as to which parts of the Hadith are the oldest original material, or even as to which of them date back to the generations immediately following the Prophet's death. Closer acquaintance with the vast stock of Hadiths induces skeptical caution rather than optimistic trust regarding the material brought together in the carefully compiled collections. We are unlikely to have even as much confidence as Dozy regarding a large part of the Hadith, but will probably consider by far the greater part of it as the result of the religious, historical, and social development of Islam during the first two centuries. The Hadith will not serve as a document for the history of the infancy of Islam, but rather as a reflection of the tendencies that appeared in the community during the maturer stages of its development. It contains invaluable evidence for the evolution of Islam during the years when it was forming itself into an organized whole from powerful mutually opposed forces."10

This point is recognized and repeated by more modern scholars on the subject of Islamic tradition. Among them, Crone states about the Sira of Ibn Ishaq (which was ultimately based upon the traditional hadithic materials),

"The work is late: written not by a grandchild, but by a great grandchild of the Prophet's generation, it gives us the view for which classical Islam had settled. And written by a member of the ulama, the scholars who had by then emerged as the classical bearers of the Islamic tradition, the picture which it offers is also one-sided: how the Umayyad caliphs remembered the Prophet we shall never know. That it is unhistorical is only what one would expect, but it has an extraordinary capacity to resist internal criticism...characteristic of the entire Islamic tradition, and most pronounced in the Koran: one can take the picture presented or one can leave it, but one cannot work with it." 11

She further concludes about the hadithic traditions,

"But above all the tradition is marked by high entropy. Unsurprisingly, it is full of contradictions, confusions, inconsistencies, and anomalies, and if these could be ordered a certain meaning might emerge. But the debris is dejectingly resistant to internal criticism, and because it cannot be ordered, nothing much can be proved or disproved. There is nothing, within the Islamic traditions, that one can do with Baladhuri's statement that the kiblah (direction of prayer) in the first Kufan mosque was to the west (opposite direction to Mecca): either it is false or else it is odd, but why it should be there and what it means God only knows. It is similarly odd that Umar (second caliph) is known as the Faruq (Redeemer), that there are so many Fatimas, that Ali (Muhammad's cousin) is sometimes Muhammad's brother, and that there is so much pointless information...It is a tradition in which information means nothing and leads nowhere; it just happens to be there and lends itself to little but arrangement by majority and minority opinion."12

The process of isnad is also highly suspect, and was shown on several counts by Goldziher to yield seeming authenticity to mutually contradictory ahadith. Cook has shown a number of ways in which the isnads could spread in ways that would falsely appear to give greater authenticity to them13. Indeed, that the ahadith and other traditional materials are most likely forgeries developed over time in the Muslim community to "fill out" for itself and it's prophet a sense of history has been shown as both plausible14 and likely15. Noth and Conrad have noted formal elements in many accounts in the Muslim traditions that are so stereotyped that they can easily be transported from one account to the next, and that suggests that they are not so much accurate history as a literary artifice of symbolic value16.

Concerning the reliability of the sirat biographical material of Ibn Ishaq (from whom most of the later biographers obtained their material), Conrad writes,

"Ibn Ishaq's numerous students and their successors took what they received from the master and redacted and transmitted it in different ways. Witness, for example, the differences between Ibn Hisham, the quotations of al-Tabari, the recension of Yunus ibn Bukayr, and that of Muhammed ibn Salama al-Harrani. As different lines of transmission represent potentially different redactions, efforts to reconstruct the original form of a text cannot simply combine quotations from different lines of transmission, as if Ibn Ishaq's students and successors were making no changes of their own....Transmitters did not limit themselves to passing on what they had received from their teachers, but rather laid claim to the role of adapting and revising their materials as they saw fit, not just by the well-known means of the collective isnad, but also by rearranging, abbreviating, expanding, and recasting."17

Finally, it must be understood that the sheer magnitude of hadithic traditions existed just for the reasons given above - the need to provide a common basis for belief and practice among the community in the Arab religion and the need for the scholarly and clerical class in this society to provide legitimization for itself and the "orthodox" system that they were evolving and enforcing. Crone discusses the large numbers of ahadith at length, pointing out that what was sifted out and handed down was what later Islamic jurists interpreted Mohammed as having said, filtered through the lenses of their own biases and opinions,

"The chances of authentic material surviving at their hands is exceedingly small. Indeed, in purely statistical terms it is minute. Bukhari is said to have examined a total of 600,000 traditions attributed to the Prophet; he preserved some 7,000 (including repetitions), or in other words dismissed some 593,000 as inauthentic. If Ibn Hanbal examined a similar number of traditions, he must have rejected about 570,000, his collection containing some 30,000 (again including repetitions). Of Ibn Hanbal's traditions, 1,710 (including repetitions) are transmitted by the Companion Ibn Abbas. Yet, less than fifty years earlier one scholar estimated that Ibn Abbas had only heard nine traditions from the Prophet, while another thought that the correct figure might be ten. If Ibn Abbas has heard ten traditions from the Prophet in the years around 800, but over a thousand by 850, how many had he heard in 700, or 632? Even if we accept that ten of Ibn Abbas' traditions are authentic, how do we identify them in the pool of 1,710? We do not even know whether they are to be found in this pool, as opposed to that of the 530,000 traditions dismissed on the ground that their chain of authorities were faulty. Under such circumstances it is scarcely justified to presume Hadith to be authentic until the contrary has been proven."18

Essentially, she is making the point that the huge number of ahadith that were available to al-Bukhari and Ibn Hanbal to sift through, all presenting themselves as authentic (though most recognizably not), was the result of a process of hadithic inflation. Huge numbers of ahadith were being created and added to the compilations of these traditions, such that while Islamic scholars in 800 AD recognized a mere ten (or nine) ahadith as transmitted from the Companion Ibn Abbas, a mere fifty years later, this number has increased to 1,710. This expansion in the number of ahadith was most likely due to the redactions and inventions discussed above.

Due to the extreme unreliability of these biographical materials concerning Mohammed, and the ahadith upon which the large portion of this biography is based, the quest for Mohammed must be directed away from polemical and often self-serving traditional accounts and towards the evidences provided by archaeology and from the accounts of observers who were closer to the fact than the later Muslim biographers and tradition-makers. We must understand that there is actually very little real evidence for Mohammed, at least as a "prophet" and religious leader. Concurrently, practically everything in the traditional account of the rise of Islam which has been pieced together from the Muslim traditions is not substantiated by evidential facts.

Along with the problems introduced by invention and false ascription, the likelihood that many early Muslim traditions where handed down orally for at least a century contributes to the unreliability of these accounts when they were finally written down. The bewildering array of inconsistencies and repetitions which plague traditional Muslim accounts concerning just about everything having to do with early Islamic history can be attributed to the natural evolution of stories passes mouth to mouth via oral tradition, in an even looser fashion than that proposed by the traditional appeal to isnad authority. Cook, discussing the general solidification and "filling out" of biographical details appearing between the works of Ibn Ishaq (d. 767) and al-Waqidi (d. 822), says this,

"The most interesting hypothesis which has been advanced, and one which accounts rather well for this and other effects, is that the eighth-century authors drew much of their material directly from the specialist story-tellers of early Islam, the qussas. We should then think in terms of a common repertoire of material in circulation among the story-tellers, rather than of hard and fast lines of individual transmission. If, as is plausible, we assume that this story-telling remained a living source for the authors of scholarly biographies as late as the time of Waqidi, we can readily explain Waqidi's superior knowledge as a reflection of the continuing evolution of this oral tradition.

"Story-telling is an art, not a science, and signs of the art are commonplace in the biography of Muhammad. For example, one element in the repertoire was clearly a story of a frightening encounter between the woman who suckled Muhammad and some person or persons whose spiritual expertise enabled them to divine his future greatness. Whether the encounter is with Jews, Ethiopian Christians, or an Arab soothsayer, is nevertheless a point which varies from one version of the story to another. Similar floating anecdotes occur later in Muhammad's life. The details again are trivial, but the overall implications are not. We have seen what half a century of story-telling could achieve between Ibn Ishaq and Waqidi, at a time when we know that much material had already been committed to writing. What the same process may have brought about in the century before Ibn Ishaq is something we can only guess at."19

Oral transmission of biographical details, even in a later period when the sirat were already being written down, still saw the addition and changing of historical and biographical material. As Cook suggests, the logical question is, "If this is so, then how much more extensive were the changes to the biographical material due to oral transmission in the pre-sirat age when these had not been written down?"

Analytical scholarship recognizes the contradictory and often pointless nature of the hadithic material. Further, it is observed that this material was collected within the milieu of intersectarian rivalries and scholastic quarrels. The evidences provided by contemporary sources in the first part of the 7th century, as well as the tangible, physical artifacts of both Arab and non-Arab from the period under scrutiny, paint a picture in which there was no prophet named Mohammed (or indeed, a religion called Islam) for many decades into the "Islamic" period.

From evidence unearthed in the sands of Palestine and other areas of Al-Shams (an Arabic term for the Syria-Palestine region), it appears that when the desert Arabs began to infiltrate Syria and the surrounding regions in force beginning in the first decade of the 7th century, they were still largely pagan, though many had adopted some form of Christianity, Judaism, or Abrahamism. The religion of the Arabs that eventually became Islam developed over the next century or so after the Arab takeover of Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. Further, this development initially began in these regions, and was later given a redacted origin in the Hijaz, where Mecca and Medina are located.

Bashear, using a logical enough argument, questions the Hijazi origins of Islam,

"The proposition that Arabia could have constituted the source of the vast material power required to effect such changes in world affairs within so short a span of time is, to say the least, a thesis calling for proof and substantiation rather than a secure foundation upon which we can build. One may observe, for example, that in spite of all its twentieth-century oil wealth, Arabia still does not possess such material and spiritual might. And at least as extraordinary is the disappearance of most past legacies in a wide area of the utmost diversity in languages, ethnicities, cultures, and religions. One of the most important developments in contemporary scholarship is the mounting evidence that these were not simply and suddenly swallowed up by Arabian Islam in the early seventh century, but this is precisely the picture that the Arabic historical sources of the third/ninth century present."20

Bashear is right, of course. The power and wealth necessary to overwhelm a host of settled civilizations and convert them as thoroughly as Arab Islam did requires the resources of a wealthy land - which Syria and the regions round about it that had been gradually infiltrated by the Arabs would have had. Bashear further notes the gradual development of the now well-known Arab-Islamic polity,

"....the first/seventh century witnessed two parallel, albeit initially separate processes: the rise of the Arab polity on the one hand, and the beginnings of a religious movement that eventually crystallized into Islam. It was only in the beginning of the second/eighth century and throughout it, and for reasons that have yet to be explained, that the two processes were fused, resulting in the birth of Arabian Islam as we know it, i.e. in the Islamization of the Arab polity and Arabization of the new religion."21

Essentially, the Arab religion only began to be "Arabian" in its specific character, suggesting that its Arabization was the result of redaction in its history and focus occurring decades after Islam "officially" appeared. For instance, from the evidence at hand, it is highly doubtful that, initially at least, Mecca existed as a center of any importance; certainly it was nothing like what is depicted in the Qur'an. The Roman geographer Ptolemy is often cited as an early witness to Mecca, through his description of a city called Macoraba22. However, as has been pointed out, "Macoraba" is of a different linguistic root than Mecca23. Crone, further, demonstrates that Ptolemy's Macoraba cannot be identified with Mecca, and that if Ptolemy did refer to anything like Mecca, it would have been to a town in Arabia Petraea named Moka24, far to the north of Mecca. This identification with the Mecca of Islamic tradition is, obviously, extremely tenuous at best.

Mecca as the center of caravan trade presented in the Islamic tradition, was practically unknown by contemporaries. Whereas Arabia (a term which can include the deserts east of Al-Shams) was of political and ecclesiastical importance in the 6th century, there is no mention of the Quraysh or the trading center of Mecca in any way, in any literature from the time, even though Greek and Latin authors had written extensively about the trade which supplied them with the spices and other goods of southern Arabia, and which is assumed in Muslim tradition to have come through Mecca25. Crone points out that in sources contemporary with the maturation of the Arab religion (late 7th - 8th centuries), there seems to be some confusion as to where Mecca even was. She notes that the Continuatio Byzantia Arabica gives a location for Mecca between Ur and Harran, placing it not in the Hijaz, but on the edge of Mesopotamia26. This may belie an apparent Abrahamic influence in the Arabic religion during this time (as the patriarch was associated with both cities in the biblical records). She also notes that Jacob of Edessa knew of the Ka'bah to which the Arabs prayed, but placed it not in today's Mecca, but at a point close to the Moka mentioned by Ptolemy, which is far north of Mecca. Indeed, it is possible that this Ka'bah to which these Arabs were directing their prayers, located as it was in the old Nabataean territory, may well have been the same ka'bah in the area of Petra dedicated to Dushara that Epiphanius observed was given reverence in the 4th century AD, as noted in Chapter 2. As such, in the early years of the Arab conquest and the development of the Arab religion, the center of the Arabs' religious devotion appears to have been directed towards a point in the desert south of Palestine, and Mecca as a great religious center and home of the prophet of the final revelation seems to have been relatively unknown. As Bashear notes, Mecca as the cultic center of Islam appears to be late, and was the result of a deliberate attempt to build "an Arabian-Hijazi version of Judaeo-Christian 'prophetology'" centered around Abraham's supposed connection with the site, and around the redacted story of Abraham's attempted sacrifice of his son Ishmael27.

Another evidence for the Syrian origin of the Arab religion lies in the disposition of the religious milieu in which the Arabs of Al-Shams existed versus the Hijaz. There is no archaeological evidence to support the contention in the Qur'an that Mecca and the Hijaz were huge centers of pre-Islamic Jahiliyya paganism. Indeed, there has not been found any solid evidence of permanent Arab settlement in the region of the Hijaz in the 6th and early 7th centuries28. There is, however, evidence for exactly the type of pagan centers, practices, and sanctuaries that are described in the Qur'an and the Muslim traditions - in Syria-Palestine. Various pagan sites have been unearthed in this region that conform to what is recorded in the Qur'an. One of the most prominent is a site at Sede Boqer in the Negev desert (between Palestine and the Sinai peninsula). There were Jahiliyya-type pagan sites at Sede Boqer all the way up to 160-170 AH (roughly 780-790s AD)29, even though the Traditional account claims this region would have been thoroughly under the control of Islam for over a century and a half. Evidence from over thirty sites in the Negev and surrounding areas give evidence to active and thriving pagan cult centers even into the reign of the Umayyad Caliph Hisham (724-743 AD)30. This suggests to us that the reaction to paganism which is so evident in Muslim polemic works, not the least of which would be the Qur'an, exists not because of interaction which the early Muslims had in the Hijaz and Mecca, but because of what they confronted in Al-Shams.

Further, there is evidence that what is called "Classical Arabic" (the language of the Qur'an) did not originate in the Arabian peninsula, but arose instead among the Arabs of Al-Shams31. Classical Arabic adapted an Aramaic (22 letter) script which is actually not very suitable for transcribing Arabic. This is despite the presence among peninsular Arabian tribes of South Arabian scripts with 28 or 29 letters which would be more suitable for Classical Arabic (with which any hypothetical Meccans in a busy caravan town would have been very familiar). The fact that a more unwieldy script was chosen suggests that the reason was due to the availability of the Aramaic-based scripts, in turn suggesting a more northerly origin for Classical Arabic than in the Hijaz. In fact, there is no epigraphic or other evidence for Classical Arabic in the Hijaz region until the reign of Mu'awiyah in the 660s AD. This late appearance, coupled with the fact that when Classical Arabic appeared in the Hijaz it did so fully developed (with no long history of evolution), indicates that it was introduced from outside, perhaps by a colonization effort into the region instituted by Mu'awiyah. The traces of development of Classical Arabic from precursors are instead found in Syria, where an early form of this language written in a proto-Kufic script has been found at a number of sites dating to the 6th century, including on the lentils of church doors32. It would seem that far from originating in the Hijaz, Islam (or at least a proto-Islamic Arabic monotheism) was introduced into the area by colonists or other occupants, as evidenced by the scripts and language they used. The later adoption of the Hijaz as the framework within which the Muslim traditional accounts took place may be the result of a desire among the later ulama to redact a more "Arabian" feel and origin for their religion, moving its place of birth into the peninsula from whence the Arabs had originally came. Indeed, Goldziher was perhaps the first scholar on record to note that the Muslim consecration of various locations found in the Hijaz began with the Abbasid dynasty (starting in 750 AD)33.

The question of Syrian origins for the religious system that evolved into Islam perhaps raises an objection in the mind of the reader because the Arabs are from Arabia, and not Syria. There is a common misconception, however, as to what “Arabia” is, and the view of it as the entirety of the peninsula we now call by that term was developed by Greek geographers during the Hellenistic era, and perpetuated by Roman writers. Native Middle Easterners in ancient times did not hold this conception of “Arabia”. Instead, the term referred to several regions in or around Syria and Palestine, and people living in these areas were referred to by a number of distinct though related terms (Arabs, Hagarenes, Ishmaelites). “Arabia”, as conceived of by the majority of ancient sources from the Babylonians to the Byzantines, generally described three regions: the desert areas south of Palestine and east of Egypt (Sinai, the Negev desert, and the region east of the Nile delta between ancient Pelusium and Lake Sirbonis), the desert areas east of Palestine and Syria, and the desert and grazing regions to the west and south of Mesopotamia34. In each of these regions, people called by the name “Arabs” had penetrated and were permanent fixtures in the populations of these areas, even as early as the 8th century BC. Certain groups of Arabs were even settled in strategic locations by empire-builders as far back as the Assyrian and Persian Empires, to serve as allies and border guards against foreign enemies of the empires35. Even into the late Roman/early Byzantine period, various Arab tribes were used as foederati (allies and protectors of peripheral regions) by the Empire. These tribes were settled near, or in certain cases within, the borders of the Empire, and often wielded power far beyond their local regions36. Graf has also noted the intimate presence of Arab tribal groups settled well within the borders of the Empire and who performed various policing and protection roles 37.

The common misconception is that the first Muslim empire arose as a result of a vast influx of aroused Arab tribes who came pouring into the eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire, overwhelming stout defenses by the power of Allah, and establishing Islam in its place. This is not the case. Arabs were found all over in the eastern provinces of the Empire for centuries before the rise of Islam. Further, Nevo and Koren have made a good case that the power of the Byzantine Empire in its eastern provinces was practically on its last leg anywise, and their proposal that the Romans had given up on making any serious defense of their troublesome eastern provinces, or at least were unable to do so even if they did desire to defend them38, fits well with the evidences of history in the early part of the 7th century. The Persian Emperor Chosroe II was able to overrun Armenia and Mesopotamia in 606, and then took Syria and Palestine in 60739. The following year, the Persians were even able to advance into Asia Minor as far as the northwestern coast, - and this was aided by the fact that many cities and even whole provinces surrendered to them, viewing the Persians as liberators from the rule of the cruel Emperor Phocas, who then ruled the Byzantine Empire. Losing them to Heraclitus, the new Emperor who gained the throne in 610, the Persians again retook Syria and Palestine in 613, and invaded Egypt in 619. Everywhere the Persians went, they found disaffected provincials, often of Monophysite or Nestorian persuasion (and hence, antagonistic to the Chalcedonian orthodoxy in Constantinople), who were more than willing to cooperate with the invaders, just as they would be later when the Arab power arose. The conditions for the Empire in the east were so bad that by 619, Heraclitus contemplated abandoning the east entirely and rebuilding his military base of operations in North Africa. In the ensuing war, which raged until 630 when Heraclitus managed to regain control of Syria and Palestine, the Byzantines and Persians exhausted each other completely. The extended period of Persian control over al-Shams, it is further said, “broke the back” of Roman control permanently 40. The Roman power in the East was in turmoil41, and the Imperial forces defending Jerusalem against the Persians had only been able to muster token resistance42.

In light of all this, it cannot plausibly be said that the Byzantine state in the east was powerful, or even defensible. How would it be possible that only six years after Heraclitus’ reconquest, the Byzantine position in this region would be such as to allow them to wield huge, powerful (and expensive) armies such as are reported in the Islamic traditions, armies requiring a strong tax base and centralized government for organization and support? This is especially unlikely since the Empire in the middle part of the 7th century was at the same time facing severe threats on other fronts as well (such as the Avars in Europe, who even managed to besiege Constantinople on a few occasions). When the Arabs arose (many from within the Empire) and threw out the Byzantines, they did so in the context of establishing their bases of operation within Syria and the desert regions to the East. Indeed, the first historically documented Arab dynasty, the Umayyads, were centered in Damascus, not Mecca. Their conquests were not against mighty armies of a powerful Byzantine Empire, but against local, untrained, and unorganized militias often hastily gathered together by local rulers or religious authorities. The Byzantine Empire in the east presented no organized opposition to the Arab revolutionaries/invaders. One example of this fact has been noted in Egypt, which the Muslims took (according to the traditional history) in 641 AD,

"Finally, we should recall that, for Egypt at least, the arrival of the Muslims seems to have resulted in the establishment of a centralized government where there really had not been one before. The Byzantine regime in Egypt on the eve of the Islamic conquest had been marked by decentralization so thorough that it converted the country into 'a number of unconnected provinces or eparchies, each under a governor enjoying both civil and military power. There was no central authority...'"43

This seems to suggest that, in Egypt at least, the thesis proposed by Koren and Nevo that the Byzantines had largely abandoned the eastern provinces has some validity to it, implying that the Muslim history of great battles against overwhelming odds that showed the truth of Islam because Allah stepped in and gave them victory, are largely untrue. The picture is undoubtedly very similar for the other eastern provinces that were likewise ravaged and rebellious against Byzantine orthodoxy and authority. It is within this political context, and the religious milieu of rampant Christian heterodoxy, that the Arab domination of the Near East first began, and it is within them that we must look for the truth about the rise and evolution of the Arab religion which became Islam.

As was seen earlier, the origins of the Arab religious writings that eventually became the Qur’an appear to be traceable to Syriac, a widely used dialect of Aramaic that had become the religious language for much of the Near East by the time of the rise of Islam. In light of this, the appearance of Arab groups throughout Syria-Palestine, Sinai, and the Hauran (the desert region to the East of Syria) for centuries prior to the rise of Islam is significant because these Arab groups did not use either the classical Arabic script nor the classical Arabic language (as it is understood today). The Nabataeans throughout their period as a distinct people (which did not necessarily end with the termination of their political independence in 106 AD) used an Aramaic-style script, and their language (at least for official purposes) seems to have been a dialect of Aramaic44, though it is possible that it was some medial form between Aramaic and Arabic. Healey indicates that Nabataean Aramaic, while written in an Aramaic script, contains a number of borrowed words that are Arabic in character, though he notes that their usages are more closely related to Lihyanic than to classical Arabic45. The scribes and engravers themselves were likely responsible for these Arabisms “creeping in” to the chancellery Aramaic of the epigraphs, reflecting the fact that the Nabataeans used a form of Arabic in everyday life46, but he notes that the dialect indicated in these lexical intrusions appears to be a more developed form of Arabic than classical Arabic47! Other dialects associated with Arabian groups in Syria and Northern Arabia, such as Thamudic, Safaitic, and Lihyanic, are also medial between Arabic and Aramaic in character, both in form and script. Several references to an “Arabic language” from pre-Islamic sources give little indication as to the specifics of this language, and Retsö points out that the one reference in which the form of the language is discernable, found in the Talmud, indicates it to be “somewhere between what we would call Arabic and Aramaic”48. He further postulates that the quranic insistence upon claiming to be revealed in “clear” or “pure” Arabic may not be so much a linguistic statement as it is a sociological one. Hence, the claim to Arabicity made by the Qur’an need not be viewed as a statement of purity of language, as Muslims claim today, but rather that it is in the “language of the Arabs”, so as to distinguish it from the non-Arab peoples among whom the Arabs were in the gradual process of settling. This need only mean, however, that it was in some particular dialect of Aramaic used by the Arabian tribes, not that it was in what we term today to be classical Arabic - a language which appears to have fully developed and spread only after the beginning of the Islamic period. As a result of all this, the suggestion that the Arabian holy writings originally appeared in Syriac (or some other closely related Aramaic dialect) as postulated by Luxenberg and hinted at by earlier writers, is certainly plausible, and in light of the other evidences discussed in this chapter appears quite likely. It falls right into line with the rest of the evidence that suggests a Syrian, rather than Meccan, origin for Islam.

The Need For a Prophet

The picture which the epigraphic and numismatic evidences in Syria-Palestine and Iraq paint is one of gradual development of an Arab monotheism from an indeterminate stage, to a stage in which the prophet Mohammed was introduced (referred to as the "Mohammedan" stage), to the final crystallization of the Arab monotheism into the Islam that is still with us today. The development of the Arab religion from indeterminate monotheism to Mohammedanism to Islam, on the basis of the religious declarations and statements made on coins and in the epigraphy, can be generally traced. As noted above, paganism remained a factor (and seems not to have been suppressed until well into the 8th century) among the Arabs and their subject peoples for quite some time after the Arab conquests. However, for several centuries previous to the Arab Empire, monotheistic forces had been at work among the Arabs. The 5th century ecclesiastical historian Sozomenus, described the "Saracens" as Abrahamists, who circumcised their sons, abstained from pork, and otherwise engaged in many Jewish rites and customs49. Various sects of Christianity, as well as Judaism and the Judaeo-Christian groups, had also converted a number of Arabs to their beliefs. Hence, when the Arabs obtained mastery over the region, monotheism was a known quantity for them. Among the Arabs who were higher on the social and political ladder, an indeterminate monotheism seems to have developed which blended elements from these various belief systems, while asserting a distinctly Arab character for itself.

This indeterminate monotheism, however, gradually developed into a belief system centered about a Chosen One/prophet who could serve as a figurehead and prophetic pedigree for the Arab monotheism. With the caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685-705 AD) we have the rise of what is referred to by Nevo and Koren as "Mohammedanism", the stage in Arab religious development where this Chosen One/prophet was felt to be needed, and this need acted upon, and from which Mohammed as a religious figure arose. Mohammedanism was an intermediary stage in the development of the Arab religion. As the Arabs came in contact with established religions in the Empire which they had obtained, the theological ideas of these religions gradually were adopted into the Arab religion. One of these was the messianic idea, the need for a chosen one (akin to the "anointed one"), an Arabic parallel to the Jewish and Christian prophets, who would provide both religious uniformity and a "pedigree" of respectability to the Arabs, who almost certainly felt the lack of this in the presence of so many groups who could point back to their progenitors with pride. The Abrahamism which tinged the early monotheism of the Arabs before, during, and into the first few years after the acquisition of their Empire, was a starting point, but one which still placed the Arabs into an inferior position to the Jews, owing to the fact that the Arabs were traced back to Abraham through the rejected son Ishmael, rather than the son of promise, Isaac. The national prophet built by Abd al-Malik and enhanced in later generations by the traditions of the ahadith and the sirat, rectified this deficiency50. It was Abd al-Malik who moved the Arab religion from indeterminate monotheism to Mohammedanism, when he introduced the prophet role for Mohammed. The Arab religion needed a messianic-style prophet of the model had for Jesus/Messiah to the Christians and Jews, hence the introduction of a tradition which filled this need.

How and where did Malik come up with the prophetic role for Mohammed? It is possible that Mohammed was an historical person, after a fashion. The evidence of contemporary chronicles and other literary sources suggest the existence of an Arab king named "Mohammed" at the time of the Arab conquests of Al-Shams. Nevo and Koren demonstrate a number of contemporary and near-contemporary Syriac literary sources (roughly the length of the 7th century) which discuss the Arab conquest of Palestine and Syria51. These sources mention Mohammed as a king of the Arabs, and provide generally correlating dates for his rulership, but do not mention him as any sort of Arab "prophet". Nor do they indicate any idea that an Arab religion "Islam" existed. Indeed, this evidence is silent concerning any particularly religious aspect to his person. Brock, likewise, has pointed out that the 7th century Syriac sources, if they even refer to Mohammed, very rarely if ever do so as a prophet or apostle, but rather simply as a king of the Arabs, and that the Syriac writers viewed the takeover as an Arab, not a Muslim, invasion52. Brock further suggests that, initially at least, the Christians among whom the Arabs were settling were not even aware of a religion called "Islam". Indeed, the literary evidence from a number of 7th century sources such as the Syriac authors and the Armenian writer Sebeos suggest that these writers were not aware of any planned invasion by the Arabs, and that only after some time was the realization had that there had been a takeover by the infiltrating Arabs, rather than just the typical raiding behavior which had gone on for centuries. The accounts of the great battles in which the Muslim mujaheddin crushed their Byzantine opponents appear, as far as the evidence is concerned, to be fictitious. Further, these accounts provide no evidence for any of the early caliphs in the Muslim traditions until Mu'awiyah I (661-680 AD)53. Even after the time of Mu’awiyah, evidences at hand seem to suggest that there was no distinctive religion of “Islam” as yet present. Mochiri reports a Sassanian-style coin (an Arab coin minted in Iran using the old Sassanian form) dating from the time of the caliph Yazid (680-683 AD), the son of Mu'awiyah, that contained no distinctively Islamic elements whatsoever, not even the usual bismallah which characterizes the Sassanian-style coins from the latter half of the first Islamic century54. From the contemporary sources of various types, there seem to be no correlations with the accounts given in the traditional Muslim historiography. Far from Mohammed being a uniter of the Arabs under the banner of Islam, the accounts given by those who were eye-witnesses to the Arab conquests in the region suggest that the Arab invasions were haphazard and fitful until the 650s, when Mu'awiyah succeeded in uniting the Arabs into one state55.

As such, it appears likely that, rather than being a great leader and prophet, the Mohammed who was later expanded was merely one of many Arab chieftains moving his flocks and his tribe into the Syria-Palestine area, out of the Eastern deserts. The later details of the exploits of Mohammed and the very early caliphs such as Umar and Uthman, appear to be more of the same invention of traditions that has been noted above.

Abd al-Malik's contribution to the development of the Arab religion was to take an obscure, barely known chieftain and turn him into a prophet and harbinger of a new religion and a new social order - Mohammedanism. No longer were the Arabs merely worshipping their al-ilah, but he now had a messenger and apostle to bring his words to man. That this development in Arab theology was a late one is shown by the evidence at hand. The first evidence for this Arab prophet Mohammed dates to 71 AH (690 AD), with the first known inscriptions bearing his name and his title of "rasulullah" (messenger of god) on coins and then later in the important Dome of the Rock inscriptions. Before this, there is no evidence in any epigraphy, papyri, or other written (and thus tangible) sources to suggest that the Arabs accepted or understood there to have been an Arab messenger from Allah. It seems strange that the Arabs, if stirred up by a mighty prophet-warrior as the Traditional account suggests, would wait over seven decades to start declaring the position, or even the name, of this man. Yet, this is exactly the picture which the evidence paints, as has been noted by a growing body of scholars of Islam,

"It is a striking fact that such documentary evidence as survives from the Sufyanid period [661-684] makes no mention of the messenger of God at all. The papyri do not refer to him. The Arabic inscriptions of the Arab-Sassanian coins only invoke Allah, not his rasul; and the Arab-Byzantine bronze coins on which Muhammad appears as rasul Allah, previously dated to the Sufyanid period, have now been placed in that of the Marwanids [684-750]. Even the two surviving pre-Marwanid tombstones fail to mention the rasul, though both mention Allah; and the same is true of Mu'awiya's inscription at Ta'if. In the Sufyanid period, apparently, the Prophet had no publicly acknowledged role."56

Also, many of the Traditional details of Mohammed's life were taken from the life of Mohammed bin al-Hanafiyyah, a prophet-like figure put forward by a losing faction in one of the early Arab civil wars57. Bashear hints that this Mohammed might have been the Mohammed, but this is not likely. Rather, he provided, as the idealized "prophet of Allah", a template upon which later Muslims built the biography of the prophet Mohammed. Further, Mohammed appears very little in the Qur'an, and in a way not particularly suggestive of being a specific person, but rather a generalized "chosen one" style of prophet, which really could refer to anyone. The many appearances of terms referring to "God's Prophet" or "the messenger" are merely assumed to be referring to Mohammed. Indeed, many English translations of the Qur'an even insert his name in parentheses to strengthen the mental association, yet there is little to specifically suggest that these are about Mohammed, other than to rely upon the a priori assumption that these statements are speaking of him. Nevo and Koren have also noted that in Arabic literature, the root hmd (from which comes the name "Mohammed") was first used as a title for the prophetic figure, only later did it specifically become his name around the first few years of the 8th century, being linked to the Judaeo-Christian style prophet being introduced by Abd al-Malik58. The root itself means not so much "one who is praised" (the traditional understanding, developed later and attached to Mohammed), but "chosen one", thus clarifying the early messianic role for the Arab prophet. The term “muhammed” appears four times in the Qur’an, and in each case the use is accompanied by no personal information, even though the Qur’an elsewhere takes great pains to emphasis the kinship affiliation of other prophets with the people to whom they were sent. This suggests that the references to Mohammed entered the developing Arab scriptures before their prophet had been provided with a biography, and perhaps even before “Mohammed” was understood to be his name, rather than just his title.

This seems to find support from a piece of evidence contemporary with this process of developing a prophet for Islam. In John of Damascus' Haeresies, he wrote,

"So until the times of Heraclius they [the Arabs] were plain idolators. From that time till now a false prophet appeared among them, surnamed Muhammad, who, having happened upon the Old and the New Testament and apparently having conversed, in like manner, with an Arian monk, put together his own heresy...."59

Notice that John identifies "Mohammed" as the surname for this Arabian prophet. This suggests that "Mohammed" originally was not the personal name for this prophet at all, but that the term was instead titular or descriptive, likely a laqab (the part of an Arabic name that gives a description of its bearer).

It was not until al-Walid (705-715 AD), the son of Abd al-Malik, that "Islam" as a distinct entity stood out as the religion of the Arabs. Walid pursued a much more hostile policy towards the various Christian sects in the Arab Empire than previous caliphs had done, starting with his confiscation of St. John's Church in Damascus and its conversion into a masjid (an Islamic house of prayer) at the start of his reign, an act designed to indicate his official policy of intolerance towards these sects. The earliest appearance of the term "Islam" is on the Dome of the Rock inscription, dated at 72 AH (691 AD), used by Abd al-Malik. However, it has been well-argued that the manner in which this term is used by Abd al-Malik and his immediate successors differs in spirit and intent from the way it was used in later Arab religion. The term "Muslim", denoting one submitted to Islam, does not appear in any Arabic texts, official or otherwise, prior to the rise of the Abbasids (~750 AD).

It is important to emphasize again that the portrait of Islam’s early development is based upon tangible evidences that can be observed from a number of different sources. It is this emphasis on the necessity for evidence to support historical assertions (as against the tangled and contradictory set of redacted traditions) that sets many of the “new” school of scholars in Islamic studies apart from their predecessors. One such scholar, who was at the forefront of the new demand for real evidence in the study of Islam, was John Wansbrough, who was seen earlier in the discussion about the historicity of the Qur’an. Mojadeddi had this to say about Wansbrough,

"If there is one methodological principle which sets Wansbrough's work apart from that of his opponents, it is his uncompromising demand for literary evidence to support historical claims. Although it may be commonplace in the general discipline of historical studies, it is still the exception in the study of early Islam. This is largely due to the implications of the fact that no surviving Muslim texts can be dated earlier than about 800 CE. Whilst this problem was recognized before Wansbrough, his scholarship, for many, has become inextricably linked to it, on account of the seriousness with which he takes it into consideration. Most scholars have chosen to work around the problem, usually by pointing to the likelihood that ninth-century texts contain 'authentic cores' of much earlier origin. The fact that Wansbrough has not opted for this approach is largely due to his appreciation of literature; he recognizes that, without knowledge of the original context of the earlier material, it is hazardous to estimate its historical value."60

In his article, Mojaddedi discusses Wansbrough's development of the thesis (both prior to and through his own contributions) that Islam did not appear in vacuo as a novel religious revelation, but evolved in the "sectarian milieu" of 6th-7th century Semitic religious development in the Near East and as it was particularly influenced by Christianity, Judaism, and Judaeo-Christianity. He then commends Wansbrough’s particular approach to the specific study of the origins of Islam,

"As Hawting points out, Wansbrough's suggestion that Islam, in its completed form, emerged in the Fertile Crescent over about a couple of centuries, has the advantage of locating the religion's origins as part of the continuity of Middle Eastern history. It is in this regard similar to Carl Becker's framework for the emergence of Islam as 'the end-product of social and cultural changes which had been taking place in the Middle East even before the Arab conquests' (p.31)61. According to Becker's approach, Islam gradually evolved through the interaction of the Arab conquerors with their subjects. Such a process would account for the obvious relation between Islam and Jewish and Christian traditions, without recourse to dubious theories about trade routes and Arabian monotheists."62

A Call for Open Inquiry About the Traditions

As one can imagine, the theses presented above are in many ways quite radical, for they overturn a number of dearly-held yet poorly-supported assumptions about Islamic history and the reliability of traditional Muslim sources. Muslims themselves, as we would expect, tend to view such criticisms as satanic attempts by infidels to attack Islam. Typically, little effort is made by Muslims to critically interact with the challenges to the traditional historiography. Instead, such objections are dismissed out-of-hand without any reasoned discussion on the part of Muslim apologists. What is disturbing, however, is that many times, the responses to such challenges from within the Western academic community are not that much different. Above, I alluded to the fact that the academic study of Islam has been hampered by an over-reliance upon the traditional Muslim sources - the sunnat, the ahadith, the various sirat about the prophet Mohammed, and so forth. These sources, while being contradictory and in many cases nonsensical, nevertheless do present a relatively systematic view of what is usually seen to be the history of the rise of Islam - Renan’s supposedly “clear light of history”. Scholars, like everyone else, can grow to be very comfortable with beliefs that “work” - that seem to come together nicely, and present a comprehensible picture of a subject. The drive for this is especially strong in Islamic studies. This is because you have the Muslim traditions, which present a ready-made picture of what happened back then. Working together with this is the fact that apart from these traditional sources, the evidences bearing on this time period in the Near East are comparatively scant, and thus difficult to systematize and draw conclusions from. It is satisfying to have a completed picture, and saying that the traditional sources are unreliable, and need to be either confirmed or else overturned by tangible evidences from literary, epigraphic, and archaeological sources rocks the boat. An example of the offense which challenging the traditions can cause is shown in the vitriolic criticisms made in a review of Patricia Crone’s book Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam appearing in a respected academic journal,

"How does one deal with such a book as this, calculated to attract publicity by shocking Islamists through the strange theories it advances on pre-Islamic Mecca, novel theories to be sure, but founded upon misinterpretations, misunderstandings of sources, even, at times, on incorrect translations of Arabic? Add to this the author's arrogant style! Yet, being nicely printed and with the imprimatur of Princeton University Press, this diatribe might easily attract the credulous attention of those not well informed on Islam and its origins in the Arabian setting. The simplest course open to the reviewer seems to be to re-examine the sources cited by Dr. Crone to support her contentious and often fallacious notions and attempt to arrive at what they actually do say."63

Serjeant continues this dismissive and polemical style throughout the review. Note that his is a textbook example of the Islamic studies scholar who, finding the traditional views about Islam challenged, responds with vitriol, insulting attacks, and “poisoning the well“ tactics. Surely, an academic disagreement can be conducted without recourse to accusing the one with whom you disagree of being arrogant, uninformed, and a publicity hound? In response to the review, Crone prepared a solid and thoughtful defense of her work which, while not always directly addressing Serjeant, deals with some of the endemic problems with modern Islamic studies that lead to such defenses of the traditional history,

"A great many Muslim scholars still cannot believe that Western scholars study the rise of Islam for purely historical reasons, nor does it lend itself easily to historical treatment, for if events are written up to convey religious messages, one cannot simply ignore the messages and use the shells as straightforward facts. Islamicists are however sorely tempted to do just that, for the sources are numerous, voluminous, and endlessly repetitive, their overall effect being akin to brainwashing, and it is hard to study them year in and year out without being affected by the reverence with which the supposed facts are presented. Western Islamicists frequently sound like Muslims, usually of the Sunni variety, not only in the sense that they accept Sunni information, but also in that they revere it in a manner incompatible with the question mark to which they have in principle committed themselves. This is a compliment to the strength of Sunnism, but it does not do the modern study of its origins and development any good.

“Nor does the current politicization of Islamic studies do it any good. This problem is undoubtedly more acute on the other side of the Atlantic than it is in Europe, Arabist scholarship of the old-fashioned kind being particularly well and alive in Germany (with impressive results). But old-fashioned Arabists all too easily find themselves at one with politicized Islamists when it comes to rejecting scholarship that seeks to get behind the normative patterns so as to explain their formation rather than to forever restate them; for if the former are trained on one such pattern, the latter approve of the Islamicists tendency to assimilate all of them, being apparently convinced that modern Islamicist scholarship should fulfill the traditional role of underpinning Muslim values (or secularized versions thereof)."64

Crone has hit the nail on the head. Scholars investigating the origins and nature of Islam all too often begin to lose their objective view of their subject matter, and begin to empathize with it instead. They become hesitant to truly challenge the assumptions behind the material they study, to objectively analyze it apart from the reverence which Muslims themselves hold for the material. In the end, many in the field end up acting as if their purpose were to defend Islam from “attacks”, rather than come to independent conclusions about it based upon unbiased investigation. Responding to a similar assault upon another of her books (Roman, Provincial, and Islamic Law) by Hallaq65 which appeared the same year as Serjeant‘s criticism, Crone further says,

"...but I have simply refused to treat the Arabs as an exception to the normal rules of history, and something is badly wrong in Islamic studies if I have to justify this procedure. I am happy to report that normally justification is unnecessary: numerous reviewers, both critical and appreciative, have understood my books in the spirit in which they were written, and mercifully such reviewers are to be found on the other side of the Atlantic too. But the unholy alliance between conservative Arabists and politicized Islamicists is nonetheless deplorable, and one hopes that its unholiness will eventually dissolve it."66

Perhaps the trend in some circles in Islamic Studies towards treating Islam as if it were an exceptional case that must be approached differently from other subjects is due to the fact that Muslims themselves are very adept at adopting a victim mentality, which will naturally win them supporters among educated and sympathetic Westerners. This sympathy leads many to assume that criticism of Islam is made by those who “hate Islam” or are “Islamophobic”. Indeed, there are probably many who will read this very book and assume that I “hate Muslims” because I criticize Islam on a number of different grounds. This attitude, however, is supremely anti-intellectual. If one cannot criticize Islam because one might appear to be “Islamophobic”, and if Muslims themselves or their defenders will not rise to the occasion to rationally defend their system but instead try to suppress all criticism of it, then we are back in the Dark Ages already. One ought certainly feel free to disagree with the “radical” approach to Islam studies, so long as one is willing to deal with the subject rationally. For example, Donner, who is generally more conservative and reliant upon the traditional historiography, nevertheless makes this statement,

"Frankly, I am unconvinced of the validity of the historiographical skepticism proposed of late by the radical source critics, and by the historical reinterpretations based, in part, on the skeptical attitude toward the literary sources. It is clear, however, that the revisionist approach raises some unsettling, and mighty important, questions that, sooner or later, historians of early Islam must confront openly and fairly."67

Exactly. Even if one disagrees with the approach taken by Wansbrough, Crone, and others (for whatever reason), the fact remains that their methodology and conclusions are based upon tangible evidences and need to be taken seriously. It is foolish to dismiss them because they do not say what some perhaps want them to say. So, let us dispense with accusations of perfidy, and simply be content to draw conclusions about Islam and its claims based upon the evidences at hand.

What did Mohammed as a Prophet Represent?

It would be the expectation of most people that a person who was a prophet of God would be a person of high moral integrity, one who served and lived for his God. Throughout the Bible, for instance, we see example after example of men who were God-called prophets and who, despite their human failings, were men of great faithfulness to the Lord and who had placed their full faith and trust in Him. We see men like John the Baptist, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, and many others who met the expectations of faithfulness and holy living before God. Islam teaches and makes the same claims for the man whom it considers to be the final prophet of Allah, Mohammed.

"Such was our Holy Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him). He was a prodigy of extraordinary merits, a paragon of virtue and goodness, a symbol of truth and veracity, a great apostle of God, His messenger to the entire world. His life and thought, his truth and straightforwardness, his piety and goodness, his character and morals, his ideology and achievements - all stand as unimpeachable proofs of his prophethood. Any human being who studies his life and teachings without bias will testify that verily he was the True Prophet of God and the Qur'an - the Book he gave to mankind - the true book of God. No unbiased and serious seeker of truth can escape this conclusion." 68

We would therefore expect that an examination of the life and teachings that are traditionally ascribed to Mohammed would back up this very laudatory view of the man. So, what do these traditional teachings that are attributed to Mohammed indicate about this man's character? Does he really fit the qualifications for a man whom a holy God would use to serve as His prophet? God wants for servants people who will keep themselves clean and pure in His sight. "Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the LORD." (Isaiah 52:11).

We must understand, from what has been seen above, that what we are looking at when we speak of the traits, characteristics, and actions of Mohammed are the idealized beliefs of the early Muslims who produced the biographical details in the ahadith that were incorporated into the biographies of Mohammed. These details do little to enlighten us as to the actual nature of the real person Mohammed (the early Arab chieftain). Rather, they help to show what the ideals and values of these early Muslims were, mores based upon the 7th-8th century culture of the Arabs, and what they viewed as traits of manliness or goodness or right order.

Mohammed's Sexual Excesses

In studying the life of Mohammed in an unbiased, factual way free of blind adoration for him, we see that Mohammed did not fit the description of a man keeping himself pure before God. In fact, his whole life is depicted as being that of a man living to fulfill his lusts and desires, living a self-centered life at the expense of those who got in his way. This is perhaps most clearly shown in his manifested weakness for women. The Qur'an in Surah 4:3 limits a man to four wives, but Mohammed went well beyond this limit. Mohammed took to himself 16 wives through formal marriage. In addition, he kept two women as slave-concubines, and had four devout Muslim women who "gave" themselves to him as acts of devotion. The "canonical" list of Mohammed's women is given below:

Dashti provides a further list of other women who were either full wives, concubines, or devotees of Mohammed, drawn from the Traditions69:

Some notes ought to be made concerning some of these women. His first wife, Khadijah, was his employer while he was still a caravan driver. She was his senior by 15 years, and many indications seem to show that she proposed to him, unusual for Arabian society at the time, but less so when the man was in an inferior social and economic situation to the woman70. His seventh wife, Zaynab bint Jahsh was originally the wife of his adopted son, Zayd. However, Mohammed became smitten with Zaynab, and Zayd offered to divorce her so that she could marry Mohammed. This was carried out, and caused great scandal among the early Muslim followers until Mohammed had a timely revelation.

"Behold! Thou didst say to one who had received the grace of Allah and thy favor: "Retain thou thy wife, and fear Allah." But thou didst hide in thy heart that which Allah was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear Allah. Then when Zaid had dissolved with her, We joined her in marriage to thee: in order that there may be no difficulty to the Believers in marriage with the wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have dissolved with them. And Allah's command must be fulfilled." (Surah 33:37)

Poof! Problem solved, and it suddenly became acceptable for men to marry the ex-wives of their sons. Interestingly, it is in this same surah that Mohammed was given a special exemption from the four-wives limit imposed earlier (Surah 33:50).

Mohammed’s twelfth woman, Mary, was a Coptic Christian who was given to Mohammed as a gift from the ruler of Egypt. Bravely refusing to renounce her Coptic Christianity and accept Islam, she refused to marry him, and instead remained his slave. Perhaps most disturbing of all of Mohammed's relations with women is his taking of his third wife, Ayesha. She was six years of age when he "married" her, nine when he consummated the relationship, and she remained his favorite wife throughout the rest of his life71. When he died at the age of 62, she was a mere 18 years old. This episode in Mohammed's life points to very distressing pedophilic tendencies in the man which cannot simply be dismissed on the basis of cultural arguments.

Mohammed's actions give every indication that he was a man driven by his lust for women. The traditions at one point brag about Mohammed's near-mythological sexual capacities, stating that he had the prowess of 40 men, and that in Paradise, he would have that of 8072. Likewise, the traditions record that Mohammed, despite being a prophet, and therefore one who should be on a higher, more spiritual level, nevertheless loved perfume and women more than anything else from the worldly life, and that Mohammed could be recognized when he went out by the perfume he wore73.

Also, Mohammed advocated marrying women for their wealth, beauty, and also as a means of converting women to Islam. "A woman can be married for religion, her fortune, or her beauty. So marry one for the religion." 74 Apparently "love" or "God's will" do not factor into the equation. This also tellingly reveals the reason why so many Muslim men marry non-Muslim women in the West. It's easier to influence a woman towards Islam when a man is married to her, as she seeks to please her husband, and in part explains the greatly unequal rates of conversion to Islam by Western women versus Western men.

Of course, no exposition of Mohammed's perverse attitude towards sexuality would be complete without a look at his version of "Paradise" that would make Hugh Hefner blush with shame. Muslim men are promised 72 young virgins for perpetual enjoyment. For the sake of propriety, I will not include the quotes, but this all is easily seen in the Qur'an, in Suwar 37:40-48, 44:51-55, 52:17-20, 55:56-58, 70-77, 56:7-40, and 78:30-34. Additionally, sodomy with young boys plays a role in the Muslim paradise (Suwar 52:24, 56:17, and 76:19) with these boys being described using much the same language as was employed to describe the virgins. Of course, Islam's paradise has plenty of wine, wealth, and food for the enjoyment of those who have passed on. Mohammed was a man for whom the fulfillment of bodily pleasures was of paramount, and some would say, consuming importance.

Mohammed's Greed for Wealth

In addition to a lust for women, Mohammed also had a lust for wealth. This first seems to have manifested itself early in his life. After growing up in the fashion of many young Meccan boys, as a poor shepherd, when he was 25 years of age, Mohammed followed the advice of his uncle Abu Talib and hired on as a caravanserai in the employ of a rich widow named Khadijah (his future first wife). He accompanied her caravan as far as Syria, and apparently did such a good job of making money for her that upon his return to Mecca, she extended a proposal of marriage to him. He accepted, despite the fact that she was at least fifteen years his senior, and had been married twice before. Her great personal wealth and position as owner of a prosperous caravan likely did much to overcome his natural aversion to what would have been severe drawbacks for marriage in Arabian culture at the time.

This claim, that Mohammed had a greed for wealth, is confirmed by his actions later in life, many of which were carried out with the assistance and acceptance of his Muslim followers. In 623 AD, Mohammed's career in caravan piracy began. Late in that year, several of his Muslim followers, acting upon his orders, ambushed and looted a small Meccan caravan. In this raid, one Meccan was killed, two others taken as slaves, and a sizeable amount of booty captured 75. Emboldened by this success, Mohammed next personally led a raid on the main caravan of the Meccan Quraysh tribe, returning from Syria. In this raid, he led 305 men and was engaged in battle at Badr by a Meccan force of 800-900, with the outcome being a Muslim triumph. While this Muslim victory was a comparatively small fracas, it is heralded as one of the greatest victories in history by many Muslim historians. The Muslims considered it a miracle from Allah, and viewed it as giving sanction to their piracy. Practically speaking, the victory did provide them with much booty in the form of slaves, horses, camels, and military equipment, which were to prove useful in the years to come.

Because of this battle, and their piracy, Mohammed and the Muslims became a stench in the nostrils of the Meccans and others with commercial interests in the region. Thus, in 625, the Meccans sent an army numbering about 3,000 against Medina, the city to which Mohammed and the Muslims had fled when they escaped from Mecca several years before. Mohammed elected to meet this army on the field of battle, and the Muslims were seriously defeated, with Mohammed himself being wounded and sent fleeing from the battlefield. Because of internal dissentions, the Meccans failed to follow up on their advantage and pursue the Muslims. Two years later, though, they returned and attempted to lay siege to Medina. Being forewarned of the Meccan return, Mohammed acted upon the advice of a Persian friend and ordered a ditch dug around the more weakly defended quarters of Medina as protection. This tactic, previously unknown in Arabia, hindered the Meccans and their allies, who lifted the siege and departed 76.

After this "victory" Mohammed and the Muslims became encouraged, and stepped up their raiding behavior. Many Bedouin tribes were drawn to the Muslim circle by the military victories and prospects of treasure, adding their strength to Mohammed's. It was at this time that Mohammed finished the expulsion of many Jewish tribes from Medina, and expropriated their lands and properties for himself and his followers.

Victory over Mecca was finally obtained in 630 AD. Using an insignificant incident to provoke a clash of arms, Mohammed led his followers against Mecca, this just a year after Mohammed had signed a ten year peace treaty with that city. The Meccans, who recognized the solidification of Mohammed's power and the ascendancy of his arms, folded with barely a fight, and the Muslims entered victoriously into the city. As a result of these years of piracy, Mohammed had amassed great personal wealth and power, and Arab tribes from all over the peninsula flocked to him.

During the course of all this fighting and raiding, Mohammed and his Muslim followers developed a love for fighting and loot which came from the life of piracy.

"When he was at the head of a robber community (in Medina) it is probable that the demoralizing influence began to be felt; it was then that men who had never broken an oath learned that they might evade their obligations, and that men to whom the blood of the clansmen had been as their own began to shed it with impunity in the cause of God; and that lying and treachery, in the cause of Islam, received divine approval, hesitation to perjure oneself in that cause being represented as a weakness. It was then, too, that Moslems became distinguished by the obscenity of their language. It was then, too, that the coveting of goods and wives (possessed by unbelievers) was avowed without discouragement from the prophet." 77

What honor these men had from their previous upbringing in the culture of Arabic tradition, what morality they may have engendered from their traditional raising, slowly eroded as the sin in their lives increased and increased. As they became increasingly hardened in their hearts, and their consciences seared, crimes that would before have been unthinkable to them gradually became commonplace.

Islam as a vehicle to wealth and power is clearly demonstrated. Mohammed himself received, by "divine" decree, a fifth of all booty captured in war,

"It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: If you come to a township (which has surrendered without a formal war) and stay therein, you have a share (that will be in the form of an award) in (the properties obtained from) it. If a township disobeys Allah and His Messenger (and actually fights against the Muslims) one-fifth of the booty seized therefrom is for Allah and His Apostle and the rest is for you." 78

The rest, of course, went to the Muslim followers who took part in battle. Hence, it was good money to be in the business of warfare as a Muslim. After conquest, Islam was further strengthened by the "three choices" option imposed upon conquered peoples. Subject nations were offered one of three choices: Accept Islam and become members of Dar es-Salaam; pay the jizyah, the unbeliever's tax; or death 79. Either way, Islam benefited materially. Unbelievers either became Muslims and contributed to the enhancement of Islamic warmaking, booty-gathering, and social strength; or they became direct sources of revenue for Islamic states; or else they ceased to be "in the way" of Islam's expansion. Mohammed and his religion's attraction to wealth truly bears witness to the Biblical record found in I Timothy 6:10, "For the love of money is the root of all evil...".

Mohammed's Penchant for Violence

As was alluded to above, the lifestyle of looting and pillaging took men who were already accustomed to violence and hardship, and made them even more wicked and depraved in their violent deeds. The violence which we see in Islam and which will be explored in greater detail later, did not arise without a source. It comes from the pattern established by Mohammed and the early Muslim leadership. It was from their example that Muslims learned the ways of violence, murder, and subjugation.

Mohammed was a violent man. As with other pagan war leaders of his day, it was not merely enough to defeat and control an enemy. After defeating one Jewish town, Mohammed ordered the beheading of all the adult males in the place, numbering anywhere from 700-1000 individuals. The women and children were sold into slavery, and the town looted 80. Muslim tradition also recounts that upon taking Mecca, Mohammed ordered the death of a poetess of the city, Asma bint Marwan, who had ridiculed him and who had pointed out that some of the material in the Qur'an had actually been stolen from her father, also a poet, and used by Mohammed. The traditions relate this story as follows,

“When the Apostle heard what she had said he said, 'Who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?' 'Umayr b. 'Adiy al-Khatmi who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning he came to the Apostle and told him what he had done and he said, 'You have helped God and His Apostle, O 'Umayr!' When he asked if he would bear any evil consequences the Apostle said, 'Two goats won't butt their heads about her,' so 'Umayr went back to his people.“81

Thus, this "prophet" ordered the death of a woman because of personal vendetta and to protect himself from charges of plagiarism! Also, another "rascal" who Mohammed ordered to be killed was a poet named Abu 'Afak, who had criticized the "apostle's" murder of a man named al-Harith b. Suwayd b. Samit, and who had mocked the language of Mohammed's revelations. Abu 'Afak was killed by Salim b. 'Umayr in a similar fashion to Asma bt. Marwan82

. Mohammed one time ordered the death of an old man who mocked the Muslim pride in their dirty foreheads. Muslims in Mohammed's day were proud of their method of prayer, placing their foreheads directly in the dirt. The elderly man, mockingly suggesting that there was more to prayer than mere outward form (having a dirty forehead), took some dirt, spread it on his own forehead, and stated that this was good enough for him. The old man was later murdered as an unbeliever83. Certain of the ahadith relate that Mohammed ordered opponents and those with whom he had personal grudges to be killed 84. One example in particular shows Mohammed’s penchant for wickedness as he pressed his revenge. The traditions record the fate of a certain Arabian Jew of the tribe of the Bene Nadir named Ka'b ibnu'l Ashraf who was believed to have been conspiring against Mohammed’s life, as well as singing insulting songs about Muslim women. For these offences,

"It has been narrated on the authority of Jabir that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Who will kill Ka'b b. Ashraf? He has maligned Allah, the Exalted, and His Messenger. Muhammad b. Maslama said: Messenger of Allah, do you wish that I should kill him? He said: Yes. He said: Permit me to talk (to him in the way I deem fit). He said: Talk (as you like). So, Muhammad b. Maslama came to Ka'b and talked to him, referred to the old friendship between them and said: This man (i.e. the Holy Prophet) has made up his mind to collect charity (from us) and this has put us to a great hardship. When be heard this, Ka'b said: By God, you will be put to more trouble by him. Muhammad b. Maslama said: No doubt, now we have become his followers and we do not like to forsake him until we see what turn his affairs will take. I want that you should give me a loan. He said: What will you mortgage? He said: What do you want? He said: Pledge me your women. He said: You are the most handsome of the Arabs; should we pledge our women to you? He said: Pledge me your children. He said: The son of one of us may abuse us saying that he was pledged for two wasqs of dates, but we can pledge you (cur) weapons. He said: All right. Then Muhammad b. Maslama promised that he would come to him with Harith, Abu 'Abs b. Jabr and Abbad b. Bishr. So they came and called upon him at night. He came down to them. Sufyan says that all the narrators except 'Amr have stated that his wife said: I hear a voice which sounds like the voice of murder. He said: It is only Muhammad b. Maslama and his foster-brother, Abu Na'ila. When a gentleman is called at night even it to be pierced with a spear, he should respond to the call. Muhammad said to his companions: As he comes down, I will extend my hands towards his head and when I hold him fast, you should do your job. So when he came down and he was holding his cloak under his arm, they said to him: We sense from you a very fine smell. He said: Yes, I have with me a mistress who is the most scented of the women of Arabia. He said: Allow me to smell (the scent on your head). He said: Yes, you may smell. So he caught it and smelt. Then he said: Allow me to do so (once again). He then held his head fast and said to his companions: Do your job. And they killed him." 85

Ibn Hisham, the early Muslim biographer and redactor of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat, relates another aspect of this story in which young Ibn Maslama and a group of his friends carried out his great service to Allah with Mohammed‘s prodding,

“All that is incumbent upon you is that you should try. ‘He said: 'O Apostle of God, we shall have to tell lies.’ He answered: ‘Say what you like, for you are free in the matter'....Then, he sent them off, saying ‘Go in God's name; O God help them.’ After having seized the locks of Ka'b he said: "'Smite the enemy of Allah'. Accordingly they smote him. Their swords came in collision with one another and effected nothing. Muhammad ibn Maslama said: 'Then I recalled to mind my dagger when I saw that our swords were useless, and I seized it. The enemy of Allah cried out with such a cry, that around us there remained not a stronghold on which a fire was not kindled. Then I stuck it into his abdomen, then I pressed upon it till it reached his genitals, and the enemy of Allah fell.’ In the grappling with the swords one of the companions was wounded. They carried him back to Mohammed who was - "standing praying. We saluted him, and he came out to us. We informed him of the killing of the enemy of Allah. He spat upon our comrade's wound, and went back." The laconic end of the story goes like this: ‘Our attack upon God's enemy cast terror among the Jews, and there was no Jew in Medina who did not fear for his life.’ “86

Ibn Ishaq further elaborates this point, noting that Mohammed used this as an excuse to stir up his Muslim followers against the Jews,

“the Apostle of Allah said, 'Kill any Jew that falls into your power.' “87

Thus, it may be seen from where the foundation of anti-Semitism was laid in Islam. Mohammed’s personal dislike for the Jews resulted in the condemnation of this group to death, a point which to this day still bears its evil fruit in the attitudes and behavior of orthodox Islam. This particular point of anti-Semitism, further, was just one symptom of the chronically violent and revengeful nature of Mohammed.

In Contrast - The Goodness and Purity of Christ

Having examined the life of Mohammed, it can be pretty clearly seen that he could not be a man of God, at least not of a holy God who demands that His servants keep themselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27). In contrast, though, we can see the testimony of the goodness, upright character, and perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was more than a prophet, but was indeed the sinless Son of God. No record anywhere, either biblical or secular, has ever recorded a single misdeed committed by the Lord.

The scribes and Pharisees and other socio-political leaders of the Jews in Jesus' day could find no fault in Him. Despite the very public nature of His ministry, which lasted for three years, during which time He was under the watchful eye of all those leaders who hated Him and wanted to destroy Him, these enemies of Christ were still completely unable to lay anything to His charge. He asked them, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" (John 8:46). All they could do was mock and insult him, which has always been the last resort of those who know they have not a leg to stand on against an enemy. When the religious leaders of the Jews captured the Lord in the garden of Gethsemane and took Him before the chief priest, Jesus said, "..If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?" (John 18:23) Jesus spoke no evil, nor could these enemies of the Lord find any truthful accusation to make against Him. Instead, they had to try to falsely accuse Him on trumped up charges.

"Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none...." (Matthew 26:59-60)

They could find no false witnesses who could produce (quite literally) any evidence against the Lord's character, righteousness, or truthfulness. As the Bible records in Mark 14:56, "For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together." Their "witnesses" against the Lord could not even get their own stories straight, and their lack of truth was exposed immediately!

The secular authorities found no fault in the Lord Jesus either, there was nothing which Herod or Pilate could lay to His account. After being questioned by Herod, who could make no judgment on Him, Jesus was sent to the Roman governor Pilate. After being questioned, Pilate pronounced his own judgment on the matter of Jesus. "Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man." (Luke 23:4)

Even the man who betrayed the Lord Jesus, this being Judas, acknowledged the purity of the Lord. "Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood..." (Matthew 27:3-4) After realizing that Jesus was condemned to die, Judas realized the magnitude of his crime, that he had just handed over the most innocent man who had ever walked the earth, one who had done nothing to deserve death or punishment.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was recognized as speaking with authority by those who heard Him and saw His miracles and His purity. "And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak." (Mark 7:36-37) Also, "And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes." (Mark 1:22) The Lord Jesus Christ was so gracious in word, so powerful in deed, and so righteous in life, that He was the standard which put the religious leaders and self-righteous Pharisees to shame. Jesus spoke as one with authority, which He indeed was, as He is God Incarnate. His sinless perfection demonstrates His character as Very God. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." (James 1:13). Christ was, is, and always will be sinless, as He was, is, and always will be God, which cannot sin. Christ endured 40 days of temptation in the desert under the duress of hunger and solitude, from Satan the master tempter himself, and passed this test with flying colors. Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 record in-depth the temptation of and successful resistance to that temptation by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even the Qur'an bears witness to the sinless perfection of Christ. In Surah 19:19, the angel speaks to Mary concerning her son to be born, Jesus. "He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son" (Pickthal translation). Muslims, both from the record of their own book, and from the record of the holy Scriptures of the Bible, which they are bound by the Qur'an to accept, must acknowledge and admit the sinless, perfect purity of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Thus, we see between Islam's Mohammed and the Lord Jesus Christ a sharp contrast. On the one hand, Mohammed, a man who killed, fornicated, coveted, and betrayed the trust of those with whom he had made a pact of peace. On the other hand, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom nobody, not even His bitterest enemies, could lay a charge to His account. While Mohammed went out to make war, Jesus Christ came from God to make peace, peace between sinful man and the holy God. "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ..." (II Corinthians 5:18). The record is clear, and the observer can clearly see which it was that was of God, this being Jesus Christ.

End Notes

(1) - J. Schacht, "A Revaluation of Islamic Traditions", Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, (1949), Part 3, p. 143
(2) - Ibid., pp. 146-147; cited by R. Talmon, 'Schacht's theory in the light of recent discoveries concerning and the origins of Arabic grammar', in Studia Islamica, Vol. 65 (1987), p. 35, n. 12
(3) - J. Schacht, Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, p. 149
(4) - D. Pipes, "Who Was the Prophet Mohammed?", Jerusalem Post, 12 May 2000, reprinted at
(5) - W. Muir, The Life of Mahomet, p. xli
(6) - Ibid, p. xlvi
(7) - G.H.A. Juynboll, Muslim Tradition, pp. 5, 72-73
(8) - J. Wansbrough, Quranic Studies, p. 179
(9) - A.K. Cragg, Encyclopaedia Britannica: Macropaedia, 15th Ed. (1998), Vol. 22, p. 11
(10) - I. Goldziher, Muhammedanische Studien, Vol. 2, pp. 18-19
(11) - P. Crone, Slaves on Horses, p. 4
(12) - Ibid., p. 12
(13) - See, for instance, M. Cook, Early Muslim Dogma: A Source-Critical Study, pp. 109-110, whereby the attribution of primary witness to what is really a secondary one can give the false impression of two independent witnesses to a saying, when in fact only one would be a witness, and the other dependent upon the first as a source. This would give unwarranted credibility to the tradition.
(14) - See A. Noth and L.I. Conrad, The Early Arabic Historical Tradition: A Source-Critical Study, p. 24
(15) - See Schacht, op. cit., esp. his statements of pp. 4-5
(16) - Noth and Conrad, op. cit., p. 19
(17) - L.I. Conrad, "Recovering Lost Texts: Some Methodological Issues", Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 113 (1993), No. 2, p. 260
(18) - P. Crone, Roman, Provincial, and Islamic Law, p.33
(19) - M. Cook, Muhammad, pp. 66-67
(20) - S. Bashear, Arabs and Others in Early Islam, p. 113
(21) - Ibid., p. 116
(22) - Claudius Ptolemaeus, Geography, Eds. H. Humbach and S. Ziegler, Bk. 6, Ch. 7.32
(23) - See D.S. Margoliuth, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, eds. J. Hastings and J.A. Selbie, Vol. 8, p.511
(24) - P. Crone, Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, p. 136
(25) - Ibid., p. 134
(26) - Ibid., p. 137, n. 21
(27) - S. Bashear, "Abraham's Sacrifice of His Son and Related Issues", Der Islam, Vol. 67 (1990), p. 277
(28) - Y.D. Nevo and J. Koren, "Methodological Approaches to Islamic Studies", Der Islam, Vol. 68 (1991), pp. 101-102; citing the general results of archaeological reports in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, Al-Abhath: Journal of the Centre for Arab and Middle East Studies (American University of Beirut), and Al-Atlal: Journal of Saudian Arabian Studies, as well as F.V. Winnett and J.L. Harding, Inscriptions in Fifty Safaitic Cairns
(29) - Ibid., p. 102
(30) - Y.D. Nevo and J. Koren, "The Origins of the Muslim Descriptions of the Jahili Meccan Sanctuary", Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 49, No. 1 (Jan. 1990), p. 26
(31) - Y.D. Nevo and J. Koren, "Methodological Approaches to Islamic Studies", Der Islam, Vol. 68 (1991), pp. 103-106; also Y.D. Nevo and J. Koren, "The Origins of the Muslim Descriptions of the Jahili Meccan Sanctuary", Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 49, No. 1 (Jan. 1990), p. 24
(32) - See A. Grohman, Arabische Paläographie, Folio 2, Part 2, pp. 16-17
(33) - Goldziher, op. cit., pp. 279-281
(34) - See especially J. Retsö, The Arabs in Antiquity: Their History from the Assyrians to the Umayyads, Chs. 9-12, 14-15
(35) - Ibid., pp. 159, 246-247
(36) - E.g. see Graf’s discussion of the Thamudian Arabs as allies and foederati of Rome during the centuries before the rise of Islam in D.F. Graf, “Qura cArabiyya and the Provincia Arabia”, Géographie historique au Proche Orient, Actes de la Table Ronde de Valbonne, 16-18 Septembre 1985, Notes et Monographies Techniques 23, eds. P.-L. Gatier, B. Helly, and J.-P. Rey-Coquais, pp. 178-181
(37) - See D.F. Graf, “The Saracens and the Defense of the Arabian Frontier”, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 229, pp. 1-26
(38) - See the discussion and critique of the Traditional History in Y.D. Nevo and J. Koren, Crossroads to Islam, pp. 87-168
(39) - J.W. Barker, Justinian and the Later Roman Empire , p. 230
(40) - C. Foss, “The Persians in the Roman Near East”, Journal Of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series, Vol. 13, Part 2 - July 2003, p. 170
(41) - Ibid., p. 151
(42) - Ibid., pp. 152-153
(43) - F.M. Donner, "The Formation of the Islamic State", Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 106 (1986), No.2, p. 294, citing H.I. Bell, "The Administration of Egypt under the Umayyad Khalifs", Byzantinische Zeitschrift 28(1928), p. 278
(44) - Retsö, op. cit., pp. 380-381
(45) - J.F. Healey, “Lexical Loans in Early Syriac: A Comparison with Nabataean Aramaic”, Studi Epigrafici e Linguistici Sul Vicino Orientale Antico, Vol. 12 (1995), p. 79
(46) - Ibid., p. 77
(47) - Ibid., p. 79
(48) - Retsö, op. cit., p. 591
(49) - Sozomenus, Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 6, Ch. 38.3
(50) - Nevo and Koren, op. cit., pp. 255-256
(51) - See ibid., pp. 129-135
(52) - S.P. Brock, "Syriac Views of Early Islam", in Studies on the First Century of Islamic Society, ed. G.H.A. Juynboll, p. 14
(53) - Y.D. Nevo and J. Koren, "Methodological Approaches to Islamic Studies", Der Islam, Vol. 68 (1991), pp. 99-100
(54) - M.I. Mochiri, “A Sassanian-Style Coin of Yazid B. Mu’awiya”, Journal Of the Royal Asiatic Society. no. 2, 1982, pp. 137-140, esp. p. 138
(55) - See e.g. John Bar Penkaye, Bk. 15, p. 8, trans. R. Abramowski in Dionysius von Tellmahre: zur Geschichte der Kirche unter dem Islam; also Sebeos, Histoire d'Héraclius par l'Évêque Sebeos, Ch. 38, trans. F. Macler
(56) - P. Crone and M. Hinds, God's Caliph: Religious Authority in the First Centuries of Islam, pp. 24-25
(57) - Y. Nevo and J. Koren, Crossroads to Islam, p. 281; citing S. Bashear, Muqaddimah fi al-Tar‘ikh al-akhar
(58) - Ibid., pp. 264-265
(59) - R. Hoyland, Seeing Islam as Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam, p. 486
(60) - J.A. Mojaddedi, "Taking Islam Seriously: The Legacy of John Wansbrough", Journal of Semitic Studies, Vol. 45 (Spring 2000), pp. 103-104
(61) - This citation is from C.H. Becker, "The Expansion of the Saracens", in The Rise of Saracens and the Foundation of the Western Empire, Cambridge Mediaeval History, Vol. 2, pp. 331-332; Becker discusses the gradual infiltration of the Arabs into the borderlands of the two world empires, and points out that Islam was not actually that important for this process.
(62) - Mojaddedi, op. cit., p. 107
(63) - R.B. Serjeant, "Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam: Misconceptions and Flawed Polemics", review article appearing in Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 110 (1990), No. 3, p. 472
(64) - P. Crone, "Serjeant and Meccan Trade", Arabica Vol. 39 (1992), No. 2, p. 239
(65) - See W.B. Hallaq, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 110 (1990), No. 1, pp. 80, 91
(66) - Crone, op. cit., p. 240
(67) - Donner, op. cit., p. 285
(68) - S.A.A. Maudadi, Towards Understanding Islam, p. 78
(69) - A. Dashti, Twenty Three Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammed, pp. 123-125
(70) - S.N. Fisher, The Middle East, a History. p. 30
(71) - Sunan Ibn-i-Majah, Vol. 3, Bk. 9, Nos. 1876 and 1877
(72) - Ibn Sa'd, Kitab al-tabaqat al-kabir, Vol. 1, pp. 438-439
(73) - Ibid., pp. 469-470
(74) - Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7, Bk. 62, No. 27
(75) - Fisher, op. cit., p. 38
(76) - Ibid., p. 39
(77) - D.S. Margoliouth, Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, p.149
(78) - Sahih Muslim, Bk. 19, No. 4346
(79) - Sunan Ibn-i-Majah, Vol. 4, Bk. 24, No. 2858
(80) - Dashti, op. cit., pp. 88-91
(81) - A. Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, p. 676
(82) - Ibid., p. 675
(83) - Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 2, Bk. 19, No. 173
(84) - See e.g. Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 3, Bk. 29, No. 72; Vol. 3, Bk. 45, No. 687; Vol. 3, Bk. 48, No. 829
(85) - Sahih Muslim, Bk. 19, No. 4436
(86) - Guillaume, op. cit., p. 367
(87) - Ibid., p. 369

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