2015-03-26

Did Muhammad Exist? A revisionist look at Islam’s Origins

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

A criticism of the view that Muhammad did not exist

Excerpts from an interview published in

Spiegel Online International  

Dispute among Islam Scholars: Did Muhammad Ever Really Live?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: There is a group of prominent German Islamic scholars, who are becoming increasingly aggressive about questioning whether the existence of the Prophet is even historically accurate. The theory got its most recent backing from the University of Münster’s Professor Muhammad Sven Kalisch, who is in charge of training teachers for Islamic education at the secondary-school level. The Ministry of Education of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is now planning to calm the waters by appointing an additional professor of Islamic pedagogy. Are we witnessing a split into two camps?

Marx: I don’t see it that way. But we should note that what we have from Kalisch at the moment are only the things he has allegedly said. From them, it sounds like he has decided to back the thesis of Professor Karl-Heinz Ohlig, which Ohlig publicized three years ago in his book “Dark Beginnings” (“Die dunklen Anfänge”). There, Ohlig posits that the Koran is a Christian text and that Muhammad probably never lived. But this group, which also includes the numismatist Volker Popp and some others, is very small. I’d say that their position isn’t really within the realm of accepted scholarship.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why?

Marx: There are far too many pieces of evidence that make Ohlig’s thesis that the Prophet never lived untenable. In the 14 centuries of polemics between Christians and Muslims, this issue has never made an appearance. Even in Syrian-Aramaic sources, however, there is some documentation about the prophet from an earlier time.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your scholarship focuses on the early period of Islam and the Koran. What is the evidentiary situation? How could we prove that the Prophet lived?

Marx: You have to be a bit delicate about it. In general, when it comes to history, you can’t point to any scientific proof. How would we, for example, prove the existence of Charlemagne? We can’t conduct any experiments; we have to work with evidence. And, for this issue, the evidentiary thread is the Koran. In this case, the evidentiary situation is better than it is for any other religion. We know of manuscripts of the Koran and Islamic inscriptions already 40-50 years after the Prophet died. It would be hard to explain the Koran, if you took the prophet out of the equation. Ohlig claims that Islam was actually a Christian sect up until the Umayyad Caliphate, that is, the eighth century. In this case, I run into this massive issue: It doesn’t match up with the text of the Koran. Why isn’t Christ a more central figure in the Koran, then? You hear about Abraham, Moses and Noah much more frequently.

. . . .

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In other words, if the Prophet did not live, in order to explain the literature, there must have been an enormous conspiracy.

Marx: Precisely. . . .

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are you saying that Ohlig and his fellow combatants are either demagogues or pseudo-scholars?

Marx: It’s not for me to make that type of judgment. But that’s what it seems like to me. . . . .

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Muhammad Sven Kalisch operates in a sort of border region, that is, between science and theology. And, then, he’s supposed to be training religion teachers, too. The Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany (KRM) isn’t going to support him anymore because they believe that Kalisch is questioning fundamental elements of the Islamic faith. Is it conceivable that a person can be a Muslim and at the same time say that the Prophet might not have even ever lived?

Marx: That’s hard to imagine. . . .

. . . .

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Could we ever see the thesis — that the Prophet Muhammad might not have ever lived — brought up as a matter of discussion in an Islamic university?

Marx: I wouldn’t know where.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: As a researcher, how do you steer clear of this tense issue? You use what is a completely critical-historical approach. As long as your findings don’t contradict mainstream Muslim theology, it’s no problem. But what happens when it does?

Marx: Well, then it would probably be a problem. But we’re still a good way off from that situation. Don’t forget that what we’re doing here is basic research. The Koran deserves to be studied in a serious, scientific manner. I think it’s essential that we take these steps with Muslims. . . .

Interview conducted by Yassin Musharbash

In 2013 I read Tom Holland’s history of the rise of Islam, In the Shadow of the Sword, in which he argues in a most readable narrative that the astonishing spread of Arab conquests in the seventh century had more to do a series of tragic forces, in particular the Bubonic Plague, weakening the neighbouring Byzantine and Persian empires, than it did with the might of Arab arms. Moreover, those Arab conquests were not motivated by the Islamic faith; rather, the Islamic faith did not emerge until some decades after those conquests. I posted about Holland’s views at:

Since then I have been wanting to read more about the historical questions surrounding early Islam. Holland cited the works of several scholars I had hoped to engage with before I read Robert Spencer’s book Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins, (But I distracted myself by reading another of Holland’s historical works instead.) Meanwhile Spencer’s book fell my way so I grabbed it.

Happily it turned out to be much more interesting as a historical exploration than I had expected. The most troubling flaw was Spencer’s rather poorly informed and stereotypical views of the nature of religions generally and Islam in particular as experienced in today’s world: he contrasts Christianity as an essentially peaceful religion ever since its origins with Islam as an essentially war-making and killing machine because of its historical origins. Some readers will love that summary and others will be dismayed by it (I am among the latter). Nonetheless, despite this botched conclusion much of the book is quite interesting and informative. How much of its information I will come to revise as I learn more I don’t know, so here I am writing up some general points that appear to be the views of a minority of Islamic scholars.

Anyone familiar with the arguments for and against the historicity of Jesus will recognize some of the terrain here. Evidence cited over the years for the historicity of Muhammad has included:

  • the rich and vivid detail in the Islamic records of his life
  • the documenting of negative (embarrassing) features of his biography
  • the implausibility of anyone making up a character making such grandiose claims
  • only the personal inspiration of such a person could explain why so many others were motivated to found a vast empire in his name
  • how else can we explain the founding of a religion that went on to boast more than a billion adherents

Similar arguments have been made for the historicity of Jesus yet as we know not one of them truly withstands scrutiny.

But before I write more about the doubts raised about the traditional story of Islam’s origins I ought to make clear what scholars who dispute this minority view say about it.

Patricia Crone is professor of Islamic history at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. She writes:

True, on Arabic coins and inscriptions, and in papyri and other documentary evidence in the language, Mohammed only appears in the 680s, some fifty years after his death (whatever its exact date). This is the ground on which some, notably Yehuda D Nevo and Judith Koren, have questioned his existence. But few would accept the implied premise that history has to be reconstructed on the sole basis of documentary evidence (i.e. information which has not been handed down from one generation to the next, but rather been inscribed on stone or metal or dug up from the ground and thus preserved in its original form). The evidence that a prophet was active among the Arabs in the early decades of the 7th century, on the eve of the Arab conquest of the middle east, must be said to be exceptionally good.

Everything else about Mohammed is more uncertain, but we can still say a fair amount with reasonable assurance. Most importantly, we can be reasonably sure that the Qur’an is a collection of utterances that he made in the belief that they had been revealed to him by God. The book may not preserve all the messages he claimed to have received, and he is not responsible for the arrangement in which we have them. They were collected after his death – how long after is controversial. But that he uttered all or most of them is difficult to doubt. Those who deny the existence of an Arabian prophet dispute it, of course, but it causes too many problems with later evidence, and indeed with the Qur’an itself, for the attempt to be persuasive.

For my own views on Crone’s argument about historicity see my post on historical method.

For further criticism see also, of course, the interview excerpts I have placed in the side-box.

I mentioned previously several other historians who have questioned the conventional story of Islam’s origins in my posts on Tom Holland’s book; here are a few of many more names listed by Spencer:

Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921): Lateness of earliest biographical sources on Muhammad along with tendency to invent stories to support later political and religious positions made it impossible to treat the biographies as historically reliable. Spencer lists many names of scholars who have raised questions about Muhammad’s historicity but I list only a few here;

Henri Lammens (1862-1937): Questioned the traditional dates associated with Muhammad; noted the “artificial character and absence of critical sense” in the earliest biographies of Muhammad.

Joseph Schacht (1902-1969): Impossible to extract authentic core of historical material from the earliest texts. Many documents claiming to be early were in fact composed much later.

John Wansbrough (1928-2002): Doubted the historical value of early Islamic texts. Qur’an was developed for political purposes to establish Islam’s origins in Arabia and to give the Arabian empire a distinctive religion.

Patricia Crone and Michael Cook: Noted lateness and unreliability of most early Islamic sources; reviewed archaeological, philological sources, coins from seventh and eighth centuries. Posited that Islam arose within and then split from Judaism. Argued the Arabic setting (including Mecca) was at a late date and for political purposes read back into the history of Islam’s origins. Later, however, Crone wrote that the evidence for Muhammad’s existence is “exceptionally good” (see the quotation above).

Günter Lüling: Qur’an originated as a Christian document; reflects theology of non-Trinitarian Christianity that influenced Islam.

Christoph Luxenberg (pseudonym): Qur’an shows signs of a Christian substratum; Syriac, not Arabic, resolves many difficulties in the text.

So what are the main points that prompt questions about the historicity of Muhammad and suggest that Islam emerged as a major religion some decades after the Arab conquests? Robert Spencer lists the following:

  • The first record of Muhammad’s death in 632 appears more than a century after that date.
  • There is a mid-630s Christian reference to a living Arab prophet “armed with a sword”.
  • Those conquered by the Arabs in the seventh century never mention Islam, Muhammad or the Qur’an until much later. They refer to their conquerors as Ishmaelites, Saracens, Muhajirun and Hagarians but never as Muslims.
  • The coins and inscriptions of the Arab conquerors do not mention Islam or the Qur’an for the first sixty years after their conquests. Mentions of Muhammad are ambiguous: does it refer to a name or an honorific? Twice the name appears with a cross.
  • The Qur’an in its present form was not distributed until the 650s according to the orthodox account. The Qur’an is not mentioned by the Arabs, Christians or Jews in the region until the early eighth century.
  • The Arabs constructed a public building with an inscription headed by a cross during the reign of caliph Muawiya (661-680).
  • Coins and inscriptions indicating Islamic beliefs, and the first mentions of Muhammad as a prophet of Islam, emerge in the reign of caliph Abd al-Malik in the 690s.
  • At the same time Arabic (the language of the Qur’an according to tradition) superseded Syrian and Greek as the dominant language of the empire.
  • Abd al-Malik claimed to have been the one to have collected the Qur’an sayings into the one volume contradicting Islamic tradition that this had been accomplished forty years earlier by caliph Uthman.
  • At the same period (690s) the governor of Iraq Hajjaj ibn Yusuf edited the Qur’an and distributed it to various provinces, according to multiple hadiths — also something the traditional account attributes much earlier to Uthman.
  • Some Islamic traditions date certain practices such as the recitation of the Qur’an during mosque prayers from the directives of Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, not to the earliest period of Islamic history.
  • The first complete biography of Muhammad appeared 125 years after the traditional date of the prophet’s death. This biographical material proliferated after the Umayyad dynasty was replaced by the Abbasids. The new dynasty accused the Umayyads of being most irreligious. The new biographical details of Muhammad emerged at this time.
  • Mecca (the supposed birth place of Muhammad and Islam) in the centre of Arabia was never a centre for trade and pilgrimage as claimed by canonical Islamic accounts.

There are many textual oddities in the Qur’an and Spencer discusses some arguments of scholars who have suggested that these remain problematic only if we accept the traditional account that they were originally composed in Arabic. They can apparently be resolved if we hypothesize Syriac and Christian sources behind them.

One curiosity in the Qur’an is its repeated emphasis on how clear is its meaning yet in fact it has been said that one in five passages are very definitely anything but clear. Again, some scholars have argued that this is an indication of a text that has been cobbled together ultimately from non-Arabic and non-Islamic sources and an editor attempting damage control by denying the problematic result.

If not from Muhammad then how did Islam originate?

The Byzantine (Roman) empire was held together through Christianity and the Persian empire by Zoroastrianism. However, the peoples ruled by the Arabs adhered to a wide variety of religions: Nestorians and Jacobites, Zoroastrians.

The realm of political theology, then, offers the most plausible explanation for the creation of Islam, Muhammad, and the Qur’an. The Arab Empire controlled and needed to unify huge expanses of territory where different religions predominated. . . . . 

But at first, the Arab Empire did not have a compelling political theology to compete with those it supplanted and to solidify its conquests. The earliest Arab rulers appear to have been adherents of Hagarism, a monotheistic religion centered around Abraham and Ishmael.  They frowned upon the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. . . .

This umbrella monotheistic movement saw itself as encompassing the true forms of the two great previous monotheistic movements, Judaism and Christianity.

Spencer, Robert (2014-04-08). Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins (Kindle Locations 2666-3668; 3673-3678). Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Kindle Edition.

Spencer cites the evidence of early Arab coins bearing crosses and early accusations that the Arabian prophet was making common cause with the Jews to suggest that early Islam had a positive attitude towards Christians and Jews. The concern, he suggests, was to unify the empire and to create a religion building on the foundations of existing religious interests to accomplish this.

But how could one explain stories about Muhammad emerging late in the day? Would that not look suspicious?

The answer was to blame the Umayyads. They were impious. They were irreligious. Although they were the sons and immediate heirs of those who had known Muhammad, they were indifferent to this legacy and let the great message of the Seal of the Prophets fall by the wayside. Now the Abbasids had come along and—Muhammad emerged! His teachings would be taught throughout the empire. His Qur’an would sound from every mosque. His faithful would be called to prayer from every minaret.

Spencer, Robert (2014-04-08). Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins (Kindle Locations 3732-3736). Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Kindle Edition.

Yes, okay. But surely something would have been preserved of Muhammad no matter how impious the Umayyads were. And what about the inconsistencies in the Qur’an?

The late appearance of the biographical material about Muhammad, the fact that no one had heard of or spoken of Muhammad for decades after the Arab conquests began, the changes in the religion of the Arab Empire, the inconsistencies in the Qur’an—all of this needed to be explained. The hadiths pinning blame on the Umayyads helped, but other explanations would have been necessary, too. A common justification emerged in the hadiths: It was all part of the divine plan. Allah caused even Muhammad to forget portions of the Qur’an. He left the collection of that divine book up to people who lost parts of it—hence its late editing and the existence of variants. It was all in his plan and thus should not disturb the faith of the pious.

Spencer, Robert (2014-04-08). Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins (Kindle Locations 3736-3741). Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Kindle Edition.

Can we draw a comparison here with the argument that the first evangelist had to explain why his story of Jesus (the Gospel of Mark) was only being written so long after Jesus had left the scene and why no-one had heard about such details before? That argument suggests that the reason the disciples were depicted as so completely uncomprehending in the Gospel of Mark, and why the gospel originally ended at 16:8 with the women witnesses fleeing in such fear that they told no-one what they had just seen, was to plausibly explain why no-one had heard that newly composed story of Jesus before. The blindness and fear of Jesus’ first followers was all part of the divine plan.

Revisiting the criterion of embarrassment

Another interesting comparison with the Christ Myth debate is to see how ostensibly embarrassing details about the founder figure are addressed. Most of us are aware that it has become something of a truism among scholars of early Christianity to argue that “no one would make up stories about Jesus or his disciples that would appear embarrassing so the existence of such stories indicates they really happened.”

The same point is sometimes made with respect to Muhammad.

Why would anyone invent a hero and then invest him with weaknesses?

Spencer, Robert (2014-04-08). Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins (Kindle Locations 1926-1927). Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Kindle Edition.

One such incident is the early Islamic account of how Muhammad came to marry his former daughter-in-law, Zaynab.

The Zaynab incident depicts Muhammad as a rogue prophet, enslaved to his lust, and stooping to construct a flimsy excuse (the prohibition of adoption) in order to exonerate himself.

Spencer, Robert (2014-04-08). Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins (Kindle Locations 1989-1991). Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Kindle Edition.

The story as I read it goes like this:

Muhammad’s adopted son, Zayd, was married to the stunningly beautiful Zaynab. One day Muhammad visited his adopted son Zayd’s house when he was out, saw Zaynab in semi-undress, and fell in love with her. Her husband disliked her and offered to divorce her so Muhammad could marry her.

Muhammad refused, saying, “Keep thy wife to thyself, and fear God.”

However, it was Allah’s will that Muhammad marry Zaynab! This was a point of extreme embarrassment in the narrative, not because Muhammad was lusting after his son-in-law’s wife but because he was resisting the will of Allah.

Muhammad did finally resolve to perform Allah’s will.

The story of Muhammad’s marriage to his former daughter-in-law appears to betray embarrassment about, and provide a justification for, a negative episode in Muhammad’s life. But it may actually be something else.

The Qur’an’s allusive and fragmented reference to the incident concludes with the affirmation that

“Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but the Messenger of God, and the Seal of the Prophets; God has knowledge of everything” (33:40).

Spencer, Robert (2014-04-08). Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins (Kindle Locations 2050-2052). Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Kindle Edition. (My bolding)

What does that concluding remark have to do with the story? Perhaps nothing; perhaps everything.

In the Qur’an all the prophets were related to one another. The prophetic office appears to have been passed down from father to son. Thus of the sons of Abraham, David and Solomon, Job and Joseph, Moses and Aaron, Zachariah and John, were all related prophets. If Muhammad were to have a son to carry on his name after his death then that son, in this case Zayd, would have been a prophet. (No other sons of Muhammad survived childhood.)

In that case Muhammad would no longer be “the Seal of the Prophets”.

In the story Allah disregarded the the sonship status of Zayd.

What appears to be an embarrassing incident in Muhammad’s life may instead have originated as a story to eliminate the possibility of anyone else (in particular any descendants of Zayd) from claiming to be a rival voice among the later followers of Muhammad. The rule was set that adopted sons were not to be considered as having any of the rights of natural sons. Adopted sonship was not to be recognized at all.

In this way potential rival political claimants could be rendered illegitimate.

Thus in order to ensure the centrality of Muhammad in Islamic tradition, and to establish religious orthodoxy that held the empire together, stories had to be invented emphasizing that Muhammad had neither natural nor adopted sons. This was because a son of Muhammad could potentially become a rallying figure for a rival political faction. . . .

Spencer, Robert (2014-04-08). Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins (Kindle Locations 2092f). Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Kindle Edition.

There was another advantage to deligitimizing an adopted son. The rule was a blow against Islam’s chief rival, Christianity, with its adoptionist teachings justifying the status of both Jesus and gentile converts.

–oo0oo– 

For another review of a book challenging the historicity of Muhammad see The Emergence of Islam: No Prophet Named Muhammad? —

“To shed light on the dark beginnings of Islam” is the call of Karl-Heinz Ohlig, editor of the volume “Early Islam”. Its authors claim to be able to trace the actual emergence of Islam through recourse to “contemporary sources”. Daniel Birnstiel has read the book. . . . 

 

127 Comments

  • Joss
    2015-03-26 11:34:48 UTC - 11:34 | Permalink

    The two coins Spencer and others talk about are depictions of the Byzantine Fortuna Augustorum, i.e. the “angel” (with veiled head?), wings (cf. esp. the broad “shoulders”), cross on globe in her left hand, staff or alternatively corona in her right hand. (Spencer writes that the coins from Palaestina and Syria show some ruler, but that’s not true; it’s the imperial Fortuna.) There are several Byzantine examples from the 6th and 7th century. But in combination with the term “muhammad”, it does shed an interesting (i.e. Christian) light on the origin of the name “Mohammed” in relation to the “prophet” of “Islam” who might have been just a literary figure, a founding myth like King Arthur.

    • Joss
      2015-03-27 21:18:47 UTC - 21:18 | Permalink

      Victoria Augustorum, not Fortuna Augustorum (see below with images).

  • buttle
    2015-03-26 12:18:59 UTC - 12:18 | Permalink

    Ah, lusting after someone’s naked wife, how original, that’s the myth of David and Bathsheba all aver again! Now adapted with a reversed ending to serve a political purpose… Doesn’t Spencer explicitly mention it?

  • john dauria
    2015-03-26 12:25:26 UTC - 12:25 | Permalink

    HI.
    noticeable in the quotation of Patricia Crone, defending the state of evidence of M, she mentions artefacts of the archaeological sort but omits written sources……..possibly intentionally or not.
    They have b/c so tarnished re historicity attempts with JC and minimalism that it is overlooked that they can be just as good as those sorts of artefacts, for eg. if a purported eye witness has his a/c substantiated in what can be one [or more] of very many ways.
    It is just these verifiable a/c s do not exist [for JC or M]
    [ Currently wading thro Memory Mavens]

    • Tim Widowfield
      2015-03-26 15:22:06 UTC - 15:22 | Permalink

      I got lost in your abbreviations. What do you mean by b/c and a/c?

  • Lowen Gartner
    2015-03-26 16:10:48 UTC - 16:10 | Permalink

    “The most troubling flaw was Spencer’s rather poorly informed and stereotypical views of the nature of religions generally and Islam in particular as experienced in today’s world: he contrasts Christianity as an essentially peaceful religion ever since its origins with Islam as an essentially war-making and killing machine because of its historical origins. Some readers will love that summary and others will be dismayed by it (I am among the latter).”

    I know this is a deviation from the main point, but you brought it up. I have no opinion as I am not informed enough to have one. I know the religion can be used to motivate masses for evil. I know that those seeking power will use the tools they have. What I don’t know is can we say that one religion is inherently more violent than another…but I suspect we can. The Jain religion seems less violent than those of Western monotheism. One person pointed out to me (I don’t know if it is true) that while the Old Testament is full of violence, it is written as history – not as what adherents should do in the future. Where the Koran, the calls to violence are not written as history, but perpetual instruction (along with conflicting messages of love and peace). Christianity can be further separated from the Old Testament by the New Testament which seems neither to have a history of God inviting mass violence nor encouraging it in the future. If this is correct, is it not a difference?

    Of course the next question is “so what”? If we concede that the Koran’s violence is prescriptive and the Bible is not what do we do differently from a matter international policy and individual relationships? Would there be a different US policy toward SA if one concluded Islam is inherently more violent? It seems to me that the point is moot. That some in Islam today use the voilent urgings they find in the Koran to justify their actions. And that no amount of violence from the outside will change it (it will probably encourage it). It seems regardless of whether the question can be answered as to which religion is more violent, that the state of the world today requires major reform of Islam, and it has to come from the inside and has to be led by Saudi Arabia.

    I am sure you are aware of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her new book Heretic: Islam Needs Reformation. http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2015/03/24/ayaan-hirsi-ali-on-her-new-book-heretic-islam-needs-reformation-now-n1975446 I haven’t read it. But I saw her on the Daily Show yesterday and Jon Stewart (who I usually admire) wouldn’t let her talk and get trying to make her point that there is nothing inherently wrong with Islam.

    In the end, I would like to see a religion-free world. But to the extent that we will not be, it seems beneficial to reform each and all of them to embrace enlightened values and at this point, it seems like Islam has further to go than Christianity and Judaism (excluding Zionists, but that’s another story).

    • Lowen Gartner
      2015-03-26 16:15:10 UTC - 16:15 | Permalink

      “wouldn’t let her talk and get trying to make her point that there is nothing inherently wrong with Islam” should have read “wouldn’t let her talk and kept trying to get her to make his point that there is nothing inherently wrong with Islam”. A point she clearly disagrees with – hence the title of her book.

    • Thomas Hennigan
      2016-12-08 16:47:58 UTC - 16:47 | Permalink

      You state : “In the end, I would like to see a religion-free world. But to the extent that we will not be, it seems beneficial to reform each and all of them to embrace enlightened values and at this point”. Well, it would seem that what you want is a world bereft of human beings, because it is clear from the whole history of humanity that religion of one form or another is never absent, and that it is, in fact, an essential part of the human being’s nature. If you think that so called “liberal values” are a real substitute for what you understand what religion is, have a loot at how the French Revolution quickly turned into the Reign of Terror. All humans have one form or religion or another and it is whatever they dedicate themselves to with their whole heart soul and mind, be it money, power or pleasure or whatever else.
      Christianity is not separated from the Old Testament, but it reinterprets it putting the person of Jesus Christ at its center and at the center of creation itself (See Col 1,15-20; Jn 1,1-4). Besides, the application of the historical-critical and cultural critique to the Bible explains much of the violence found in the Old Testament, for instance, that in the Book of Joshua. The Biblical writers tend to derive everything from the first cause, God, and don’t necessarily take into account the secondary or human causes of events. Before giving a judgment on the Bible, one needs to study it critically and a better understanding can be achieved. In any case, the principal mystery of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. On that, it stands of falls. N.T. Wright has provided a very detailed and in many ways the definitive study on the ressurrection. ,

      • Neil Godfrey
        2016-12-09 03:31:53 UTC - 03:31 | Permalink

        N.T. Wright’s method of argument is fallacious and an embarrassment to a field of study that wants to be taken seriously in the real world. It can only find credibility in the eyes of believers, no-one else.

  • 2015-03-26 19:42:17 UTC - 19:42 | Permalink

    I am not an expert in the history of Islam, and the references that have been compiled regarding the external references to the Arab invaders might indeed be in need of a nuanced understanding that I do not possess.

    Nonetheless, there are some notices of interest (632 CE being the traditional date of Muhammad’s death):

    In the year 945, indiction 7, on Friday 7 February (634) at the ninth hour, there was a battle between the Romans and the Arabs of Muhammad (tayyaye d-Mhmt) in Palestine twelve miles east of Gaza. The Romans fled, leaving behind the patrician bryrdn, whom the Arabs killed. Some 4000 poor villagers of Palestine were killed there, Christians, Jews and Samaritans. The Arabs ravaged the whole region. (Thomas the Presbyter, Chronicle, pp. 147-148 [p. 120] ~ suggested date of writing ca. 640 CE)

    “Although [the Arabs] were convinced of their close relationship, they were unable to get a consensus from their multitude, for they were divided from each other by religion. In that period a certain one of them, a man of the sons of Ishmael named Muhammad, became prominent [t’ankangar]. A sermon about the Way of Truth, supposedly at God’s command, was revealed to them, and [Muhammad] taught them to recognize the God of Abraham, especially since he was informed and knowledgeable about Mosaic history. Because the command had come from on High, he ordered them all to assemble together and to unite in faith. Abandoning the reverence of vain things, they turned toward the living God, who had appeared to their father–Abraham. Muhammad legislated that they were not to eat carrion, not to drink wine, not to speak falsehoods, and not to commit adultery.” [suggested date of writing ca. 660s CE ~ “Sebeos concludes with Mu’awiya’s ascendancy in the first Arab civil war (656-61), and the above points would suggest that the author was writing very soon after this date.”]

    “Then God raised up against them the sons of Ishmael, [numerous] as the sand on the sea shore, whose leader (mdabbrana) was Muhammad (mhmd). Neither walls nor gates, armour nor shield, withstood them, and they gained control over the entire land of the Persians.” [A Chronicler of Khuzistan, suggested date of writing ca. 660s CE ~ “In either case, one would not wish to date the text’s completion later than the 660s. The title declares the finishing point to be ‘the end of the Persian kingdom,’ and certainly there is no clear reference to any event after 652. If, as seems likely, the narrative on the siege of Shush and Shustar derives from eyewitness testimony, then one would not wish to place its composition, given its vividness, much more than two decades after the event. It is not stated that Elias of Merv was already dead, but it is perhaps implied, and this probably occurred not long after 659, when he witnessed Isho’yahb’s demise.”]

    [Hoyland’s description:] Secondly, though the coming of the Arabs is conceived of in Biblical terms and as part of God’s dispensation, John does use a number of non-scriptural notions. For example, he presents Muhammad as a guide (mhaddyana) and instructor (tar’a), as a result of whose teaching the Arabs “held to the worship of the one God in accordance with the customs of ancient law.” John also makes him out to be a legislator, observing of the Arabs that “they kept to the tradition of Muhammad . . . to such an extent that they inflicted the death penalty on anyone who was seen to act brazenly against his laws (namosawh).” The term “tradition” (mashlmanuta) implies something handed down, but one doubts that a fixed corpus of rulings from Muhammad is meant. Most likely John is simply relaying the message given out by the Muslims themselves, that they adhere to and enforce the example of their Prophet. [John bar Penkaye, writing 687]

    All references taken from Robert G. Hoyland’s 1997 book Seeing Islam as Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam.

    While I suppose that a little industry could find different interpretations or different datings for these references, thus casting doubt on them, it is a long walk from there to a statement like the one found above, in summary of Spencer: “Those conquered by the Arabs in the seventh century never mention Islam, Muhammad or the Qur’an until much later. They refer to their conquerors as Ishmaelites, Saracens, Muhajirun and Hagarians but never as Muslims.” However, the Qur’an bit seems to be correct, and it is also true that there were several names in use and not “Muslim.” But the name Muhammad (Mhmd or Mhmt) does seem to be found in these references.

    • 2015-03-26 20:03:40 UTC - 20:03 | Permalink

      I noticed that the previously-posted summary of Tom Holland, on Vridar, has a quote that refers to the same account of Thomas the Presbyter, along with the slightly earlier Doctrina Jacobi.

      “Someone by the name of Muhammad does certainly appear to have intruded upon the consciousness of his near-contemporaries. One Christian source describes “a false prophet” leading the Saracens in an invasion of Palestine. This was written in AD 634 — just two years after the traditional date of Muhammad’s death. Another, written six years later, refers to him by name.” (p. 41)

      I placed the quotes from Hoyland’s book online (on September 11, 2003):

      http://www.christianorigins.com/islamrefs.html

      If the external references mean anything, to this untrained eye, they might suggest that the traditional dating of the death of Muhammad is wrong and that some kind of historical Muhammad led the attack in 634 CE. Not that this reference from Thomas the Presbyter does much more than simply place a name on someone who must have existed anyway, from the references to the invasion of Palestine (as warriors tend to have warlords).

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-03-27 05:22:44 UTC - 05:22 | Permalink

      Thanks for these references, Peter. I’d like to learn more about what those who question the historicity of Muhammad make of these (scholars that they are I have no doubt they are aware of them) but I’ll quote here Spencer’s response to the first one listed. (Spencer is not a professional scholar but he does engage with the scholarship.)

      Your first citation:

      Nonetheless, there are some notices of interest (632 CE being the traditional date of Muhammad’s death):

      In the year 945, indiction 7, on Friday 7 February (634) at the ninth hour, there was a battle between the Romans and the Arabs of Muhammad (tayyaye d-Mhmt) in Palestine twelve miles east of Gaza. The Romans fled, leaving behind the patrician bryrdn, whom the Arabs killed. Some 4000 poor villagers of Palestine were killed there, Christians, Jews and Samaritans. The Arabs ravaged the whole region. (Thomas the Presbyter, Chronicle, pp. 147-148 [p. 120] ~ suggested date of writing ca. 640 CE)

      Spencer cites Hoyland’s Seeing Islam on this detail and comments as follows:

      One apparent mention of his name can be found in a diverse collection of writings in Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic common in the region at the time) that are generally attributed to a Christian priest named Thomas and dated to the early 640s. But some evidence indicates that these writings were revised in the middle of the eighth century, and so this may not be an early reference to Muhammad at all.5 Nonetheless, Thomas refers to “a battle between the Romans and the tayyaye d-Mhmt” east of Gaza in 634.6 The tayyaye, or Taiyaye, were nomads; other early chroniclers use this word to refer to the conquerors. Thus one historian, Robert G. Hoyland, has translated tayyaye d-Mhmt as “the Arabs of Muhammad”; this translation and similar ones are relatively common. Syriac, however, distinguishes between t and d, so it is not certain (although it is possible) that by Mhmt, Thomas meant Mhmd—Muhammad. Even if “Arabs of Muhammad” is a perfectly reasonable translation of tayyaye d-Mhmt, we are still a long way from the prophet of Islam, the polygamous warrior prophet, recipient of the Qur’an, wielder of the sword against the infidels. Nothing in the writings or other records of either the Arabians or the people they conquered dating from the mid-seventh century mentions any element of his biography: At the height of the Arabian conquests, the non-Muslim sources are as silent as the Muslim ones are about the prophet and holy book that were supposed to have inspired those conquests.

      Thomas may also have meant to use the word Mhmt not as a proper name but as a title, the “praised one” or the “chosen one,” with no certain referent. In any case, the Muhammad to which Thomas refers does not with any certainty share anything with the prophet of Islam except the name itself.

      Spencer, Robert (2014-04-08). Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins (Kindle Locations 490-504). Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Kindle Edition.

      And the footnotes 5 and 6:

      5 Historian Robert G. Hoyland notes that the first editor of this text suggested that it had begun as a continuation of Eusebius’s ecclesiastical history and was then updated a century after it was first written: “A mid-seventh century Jacobite author had written a continuation of Eusebius and…this had been revised almost a century later when the lists of synods and caliphs and so on were added” (Hoyland, Seeing Islam, 119).

      6 Thomas the Presbyter, Chronicle, 147–48 (quoted in Hoyland, Seeing Islam, 120).

      Spencer, Robert (2014-04-08). Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins (Kindle Locations 3865-3870). Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Kindle Edition.

      • Mark Erickson
        2015-03-27 15:09:17 UTC - 15:09 | Permalink

        mrquestioner’s link argues against Spencer on these points: http://www.iandavidmorris.com/misspelling-muhammad-why-robert-spencer-is-wrong-about-thomas-presbyter/

        Some very familiar sounding arguments:

        “Palmer goes on to explain that the author of the earlier text shows no awareness of Heraclius’ death in 641, or of anything that happened thereafter, so we can take it that 640-ish is the date of composition.”

        The formatting / punctuation is hard to understand for this, but I think these are Hoyland’s words:

        “This is the first explicit reference to Muhammad in a non-Muslim source, and its very precise dating” – 4 February was indeed a Friday – “inspires confidence that it ultimately derives from first-hand knowledge.”

        What’s the Arabic for oy vey!

      • Mark Erickson
        2015-03-27 15:17:38 UTC - 15:17 | Permalink

        I should have said that the link argues well against Spencer on footnotes 5 and 6, but introduced some howlers I had to quote.

      • 2015-03-27 18:39:50 UTC - 18:39 | Permalink

        About Spencer’s comments here.

        “Even if “Arabs of Muhammad” is a perfectly reasonable translation of tayyaye d-Mhmt, we are still a long way from the prophet of Islam, the polygamous warrior prophet, recipient of the Qur’an, wielder of the sword against the infidels.”

        Quite right, and as I wrote:

        “If the external references mean anything, to this untrained eye, they might suggest that the traditional dating of the death of Muhammad is wrong and that some kind of historical Muhammad led the attack in 634 CE. Not that this reference from Thomas the Presbyter does much more than simply place a name on someone who must have existed anyway, from the references to the invasion of Palestine (as warriors tend to have warlords).”

        About this:

        “But some evidence indicates that these writings were revised in the middle of the eighth century, and so this may not be an early reference to Muhammad at all.”

        It depends on equivocal use of the word “revised” or “updated” (which are chosen because they paint the picture that this author wants):

        (from http://www.iandavidmorris.com/misspelling-muhammad-why-robert-spencer-is-wrong-about-thomas-presbyter/ – linked by Mark Erickson)
        “That does sound problematic. But if Spencer had read Hoyland more carefully, he would have seen that the “list of synods and caliphs and so on” was the last folio of the manuscript, which looks like an addendum. The mention of Muhammad belongs to the earlier bulk of the text, which does not have any tell-tale signs of later editing.”

        And Palmer (West-Syrian Chronicles, 5):

        “…the last folio of the manuscript stands apart from the rest. This is a list of caliphs, translated from the Arabic… Nothing else in the manuscript need have been written after AD 640. Indeed, the scribe marked the last folio off as a new beginning by placing the rubric: ‘It is finished’ at the end of what preceded it.”

        And on this:

        “has translated tayyaye d-Mhmt as “the Arabs of Muhammad”; this translation and similar ones are relatively common. Syriac, however, distinguishes between t and d, so it is not certain (although it is possible) that by Mhmt, Thomas meant Mhmd—Muhammad.”

        The blogger again comments:

        “Quite a few reasons, it turns out. It might simply be that the pronunciation Muhammad was uncomfortably foreign, even if the phonemes were individually native. My own name is a good example of this phenomenon: one by one the phonemes that make up Ian are pretty common, but their combination is pretty rare outside of English. I’ve been Éon in France, Eien in Germany, Eeenee in Egypt (no, I don’t know either) and Yan absolutely everywhere. In my name it’s the vowels that are twisted; between Arabic and Syriac it might be consonants.
        “Or perhaps Muhammad was too familiar, and the Syriac author was guilty of hyperforeignism: when speakers mangle a word so it sounds more like a foreign word ‘should’ sound. English speakers often do this with the Che in Che Guevara, turning it from chay into shay – perhaps influenced by the French chez. The fact that English contains both ‘ch’ and ‘sh’ sounds is neither here nor there. This is a surprisingly common feature of language. You may not know it, but you do this all the time.
        “Or maybe the emphatic t in Syriac is an attempt to mimic the d sound in Arabic for reasons of pronunciation that nevertheless aren’t clear from the script alone. We can see this in Pinyin, a popular system for transcribing Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin distinguishes between aspirated, ‘hard’ consonants and unaspirated, ‘soft’ consonants. English does have both aspirated and unaspirated consonants, but native English speakers aren’t consciously aware of the difference. However, we are more likely to aspirate unvoiced consonants (like t) than voiced consonants like d). So Pinyin uses unvoiced letters to stand for aspirated consonants, and voiced letters to stand for unaspirated consonants. This is why there are two ways of spelling Daoism-Taoism, one Pinyin and the other not, both sort-of correct. Spencer’s insistence that a spoken Arabic d be written with a Syriac d assumes a one-to-one correspondence of oral and written language that in reality is never so precise.
        “Neither Hoyland nor Palmer obsesses over the spelling: the difficulty of transcribing foreign words is taken for granted in philology. Spencer is placing an unreasonably high burden of proof on our medieval sources.”

        And while it may be suggested that we’d change the translation, what do we suggest? Mohammet? It is not as if this kind of spelling had not been used for foreigners in every century that Mhmd/Mhmt had been known since the seventh. So why not? Call him Mohammet, or conservatively just Mhmt. Some will bristle, naturally, but when it comes to the translation, I’d agree that getting the spelling right is significant, even it is possibly a misspelling.

        Both the attempt to date the reference as a later “revision” in a subsequent century and the half-hearted attempt to complain about the spelling of the name have low cogency in the evaluation of this reference.

      • rob
        2015-08-31 09:59:39 UTC - 09:59 | Permalink

        The earliest Syriac text (not Thomas) thought to mention Muhammad’s name actually spells it MWḤMD (ܡܘܚܡܕ)

        • David Ashton
          2015-08-31 12:14:33 UTC - 12:14 | Permalink

          Although knowing a little bit about Islam today, I do not read Arabic and cannot contribute a paleographic comment, but wish to retroject a few lines from “The Times”, August 31, p.15 (not available on-line without special subscription to Murdoch’s discreetly pro-Zionist tabloid funds).

          “Koranic discovery could rewrite Islamic history…. [A] fragment of the holy text held by Birmingham library…appears to be so old that it contradicts most accounts of the Prophet’s life and legacy….it could date back to Muhammad’s childhood, or possibly even before his birth…. This would be especially challenging for the Salafist branch of Islam, whose offshoots include al-Quaeda and Islamic State…. Keith Small, from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library [says] ‘This would radically alter the edifice of Islamic tradition….’ Muslim academics [from the SOAS and Cambridge] are more sanguine about the [carbon] dates”.

          • rob
            2015-09-01 08:00:15 UTC - 08:00 | Permalink

            in antiquity is there any evidence that parchment created from animal skin could be unused after a long time? is it possible that they could be stored somewhere for later usage?

            or is the parchment written on straight after production ?

      • rob
        2015-08-31 10:00:50 UTC - 10:00 | Permalink
        • David Ashton
          2015-09-01 08:39:26 UTC - 08:39 | Permalink

          Maybe worth contacting Dr Small at the Bodleian for further comment on the parchment, ink and calligraphy. Tom Holland has got in on the act.

          • AU
            2015-09-01 09:43:07 UTC - 09:43 | Permalink

            Tom Holland isn’t the authoritative view on Islamic historicity – there are many people out there who are a lot more knowledgebale than he is, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

            My problem with people like Holland is that they don’t always study the topic in detail, they cut corners, but because they’re good at expressing themselves and have a good PR machine, they become media-darlings, and people start assuming things like “if Tom Holland said it, then it must be pretty close to true”!

          • rob
            2015-09-01 09:53:16 UTC - 09:53 | Permalink

            the scholars i have heard say that the manuscript has too many islamic “signatures” . so it cannot be pre muhamad.

            • rob
              2015-09-01 09:55:10 UTC - 09:55 | Permalink

              signature
              any unique, distinguishing aspect, feature, or mark.

              • David Ashton
                2015-09-01 11:41:06 UTC - 11:41 | Permalink

                Ask Dr Small.

      • steven
        2015-10-02 12:42:16 UTC - 12:42 | Permalink

        Mr Godfrey , Ian D Morris’ colleagues at the Quranic studies facebook discussion have replied to carriers latest article.

        https://www.facebook.com/groups/377240899046173/

        Yusuf Gürsey

        Yusuf Gürsey Robert Spencer is not a scholar but an islamophobe polemicist. There are a minority of scholars who mantain that Muhammad did not exist, but they usually don’t agree amongst themselves as to the alternative and they usually end up with raisiing more questions then they purport to solve. That being said there is a gap of dated inscriptional evidence from Arabia between 560-644 and the dated inscriptions before 560 are all from Yemen. Greek sources tell us Yemen came under Persian domination 570 and the world lost interest in Arabian affairs until 634 when the Arab invasions began. Between 570 and 634 is the lifetime of Muhammad (d. 632). The Qur’an is dated to be a mid 7th cent. Arabian document which mentions Muhammad. The evidence for Muhammad outside of Arab tradition (which in its main points provides us with a credible picture) can be found in “Seeing Islam as Others Saw It” by Robert Hoyland
        Like · Reply · 5 · 22 hrs

        Ilkka Lindstedt

        Ilkka Lindstedt Minor comment, not related with Spencer: we certainly have dated pre-Islamic inscriptions from the Northern Arabia too, even if they are somewhat uninformative when studying the context and birth of Islam
        Like · Reply · 1 · 19 hrs · Edited

        Yusuf Gürsey

        Yusuf Gürsey OK, Like the Namarah inscription 328 CE is from the North, is in Arabic and has political content specifically Arab and Arabian in nature and is dated. One good counterexample. But the South Arabian inscriptions are where one usually can find things about the poiitical alignments in Arabia. The Jabal Usays inscription 528 CE is dubbed ” the only pre-Islamic Arabic inscription with historical content”. But it only tells us of a Ghassanid king al-Harith, Arab but not (Central) Arabian, and an Arab soldier under his command. I’d be happy to stand corrected (remember the parameters, inscriptions like Zebed don’t count), any others? Arab tradition tells us the Arabs of Arabia didn’t have a dating system, just ad hoc landmarks of some event of some importance for such and such a tribe, such the Year of the Elephant, and this sounds quite credible. I’m trying to explain to the poster why it is not surprising we don’t have an inscription like “Muhammad b. Abdullah, Amir of Yathrib (did something) .{some date}”.
        Like · Reply · 18 hrs

        Yusuf Gürsey

        Yusuf Gürsey We explain because someone wants a response.
        Like · Reply · 18 hrs
        Ilkka Lindstedt

        Ilkka Lindstedt Nabataean Aramaic continued to be written till the fifth century CE. One Salihid king and one Ghassanid king are mentioned in them (these are new finds, past 10 years). As well as deities al-Manawat, Allat, al-3Uzza etc. See the articles by Laila Nehme on her academia.edu site.

        According to some interpretations, Safaitic continued to be written till the coming of Islam. In two Safaitic inscriptions, “the year the Romans fought the Persians at Bostra” is mentioned, which could refer to the wars of the early seventh century CE.

        Arab tradition is not reliable; the Northern Arabs often used the dating according to the Arabian Province of Rome as did other inhabitants of that province. This is rather widely attested everywhere in Northern Arabia where inscriptions have been found.

        Writers of Ancient North Arabian scripts rarely if ever used absolute dating, however, but ad hoc dating.
        Like · Reply · 1 · 18 hrs · Edited

        Yusuf Gürsey

        Yusuf Gürsey But Romans fighting Persians is historical but not Arabian, Roman province of Arabia is not (Central) Arabia. There is the era of Bostra in Nejran in the latest Christian inscription from there and that is Yemen. Any from Central Arabia? This is a field of research in interest to me and I would like to know. Thanks.
        Like · Reply · 18 hrs

        Ilkka Lindstedt

        Ilkka Lindstedt There are a couple from the Hijaz itself, mostly stemming from near or at Mada’in Salih
        Like · Reply · 1 · 18 hrs

        Ilkka Lindstedt
        Ilkka Lindstedt Most new finds come from there or al-3Ula
        Like · Reply · 1 · 18 hrs

        May Shaddel

        May Shaddel Ilkka, where I can find more about this inscription using ‘the year the Romans fought the Persians at Bostra’ for reckoning?
        Like · Reply · 18 hrs

        Ilkka Lindstedt

        Ilkka Lindstedt See Al Jallad’s grammar of Safaitic. The PDF is searchable:

        https://www.dropbox.com/…/Al-Jallad.%202015.%20An…

        Al-Jallad. 2015. An Outline of the Grammar of the Safaitic Inscriptions…
        DROPBOX.COM
        Like · Reply · 2 · 17 hrs

        May Shaddel

        May Shaddel Thanks, I have the book. Just tell me which page please.
        Like · Reply · 17 hrs

        Yusuf Gürsey

        Yusuf Gürsey <> OK.
        Like · Reply · 17 hrs

        Ilkka Lindstedt

        May Shaddel

        May Shaddel Found it. There are only two references to the ‘year the Persians came to Bosra’.
        Like · Reply · 2 · 17 hrs
        May Shaddel

        May Shaddel BTW, speaking of dating systems, does anybody know of any studies on the two papyri using sanat qaḍāʾ al-muʾminīn for the Islamic era, apart from Rāġib’s 2007 article?
        Like · Reply · 1 · 17 hrs

        Yusuf Gürsey

        Yusuf Gürsey According to Ragib, it’s not the islamic calendar but the Coptic calendar using the islamic era. IIRC Donner referenced it on a video lecture in regard to his view on “Community of Believers”

        • Neil Godfrey
          2015-10-03 00:06:11 UTC - 00:06 | Permalink

          Richard Carrier’s post is at Did Muhammad Exist? (Why That Question Is Hard to Answer). I have not yet read it so cannot comment on what he has written. In response to your comment, however, …..

          1. The question of Muhammad’s existence raises other questions. If he did exist the next question to ask is how much of the Muslim religion can be attributed to him.

          2. Robert Spencer is not a scholar but an islamophobe polemicist. — So I have often heard. But what interests me are the arguments themselves. I set out those of Spencer for the simple reason that they were easy to summarize and appeared to be a distilled version of what other scholars had written. I have not yet read in any detail beyond Tom Holland and Robert Spencer and am unlikely to comment any further until I do do more reading.

          3. There are a minority of scholars who mantain that Muhammad did not exist, but they usually don’t agree amongst themselves as to the alternative and they usually end up with raisiing more questions then they purport to solve. — These objections are non sequiturs. They make no difference to the actual arguments for or against M’s existence and/or for his role in the establishment of the new religion.

          4. My name is Neil and I am an Australian. It grates when Americans refer to me as “Mr Godfrey” and “Sir”.

          • David Ashton
            2015-10-03 00:12:15 UTC - 00:12 | Permalink

            Robert Spencer is a severe critic of Islam. Some people who post here are severe critics of Christianity. The label “-phobe” adds nothing to the arguments one way or another.

            • AU
              2015-10-03 10:08:56 UTC - 10:08 | Permalink

              Of course it does. A severe critic of something doesn’t make you a “phobe”, but when you have been caught lying about it, and when you write about something with a bias and not objectively, then there are serious questions about your credibility.

              • David Ashton
                2015-10-03 11:08:51 UTC - 11:08 | Permalink

                The three worst examples of Robert Spencer’s lies would be appreciated. Of course, he has a “bias” against Islam, just as I have a “bias” against e.g. Stalinism, Scientology, Pedophilia and Mafiosi.

              • AU
                2015-10-03 19:30:24 UTC - 19:30 | Permalink

                I don’t sit there documenting each time Robert Spencer has been caught lying, I have however come across numerous instances where he has.

                Here is just one example:
                http://www.loonwatch.com/2010/03/robert-spencer-fuming-over-loonwatch-threatens-danios-with-101-lashes/

                Oh, BTW, your example of paedophilia is totally irrelevant in the context of this conversation.
                Anyway, the point you are missing is a very simple one. No one is saying that Robert Spencer might not have raised any interesting points, he might well have. The point is, Robert Spencer is a staunch Catholic who hates Islam, and his book isn’t likely to be objective if he is to be judged on his past history – in fact, judging on his past history, one can safely say that he is writing the book to try and twist everything he can into making the reader believe Muhammad did not exist – after all, this is what he does all the time – try and twist things to make them anti-Islamic.

                Now I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t take the work of someone on something seriously, if that someone has constantly tried to distort the truth about that something in the past. I wouldn’t take the work of a Muslim on Christianity seriously if he has constantly tried to portray Christianity in the worst possible light in the past. I wouldn’t take the work of a racist on “black people” seriously because I wouldn’t expect the racist to be objective and honest. Similarly, I wouldn’t take the work of Robert Spencer on anything to do with Islam seriously, and would instead go and do my own research if I wanted to study the topic. This is really simple logic, and I do not know why I am having to spell this out to you.

                So, yes, the original label of Islamophobe and polemicist does add something to the argument, just like the label of racist against a racist person commenting on “black people” adds something to the argument.

        • Thomas Hennigan
          2016-12-08 16:53:23 UTC - 16:53 | Permalink

          “Yusuf Gürsey” Robert Spencer is not a scholar but an islamophobe polemicist. This is a typical and stock example of the arguments proposed by Muslim. A personal attack on the messenger, the ad hominem fallacy. If they can only find such a fallacious argument, then what credibility do they have. I have seen many debates on youtube between Muslims and the detractors of Islam and they always without fail come out with this fallacy.

      • 2017-10-06 09:22:54 UTC - 09:22 | Permalink
        • Neil Godfrey
          2017-10-08 00:42:56 UTC - 00:42 | Permalink

          Thanks for the feedback. I will have to have a closer look at those pages when I have time. Meanwhile, can you tell us what Ian Morris has to say about the arguments of Joseph Schacht, John Wansbrough, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, Günter Lüling, Christoph Luxenberg (pseudonym) and even Tom Holland who all have raised questions about the historicity of Muhammad? (My post, after all, was not addressing the details of any arguments but an attempt to simply list some of the main areas of question.)

          Does Morris add any further criticisms of the arguments questioning the historicity of Muhammad that I have myself set out in the insert box in the post?

          It is a pity Ian Morris does not always write with the professionalism we expect of “real scholars” but resorts to personal condescension and urges others to completely ignore (not even read critically) views that challenge his own.

          • 2017-10-16 01:29:51 UTC - 01:29 | Permalink

            Thanks for the response and the important questions therein. I would disagree with how you formulated your question. Joseph Schacht, John Wansbrough, Patricia Crone, Michael Cook, Günter Lüling all affirm the historical existence of Muḥammad despite their skepticism towards the later historiographical sources. The only exception is Christoph Luxenberg, whose work lies outside scholarly consensus, and the same thing can be said about Lüling.

            I take issue with you mentioning Tom Holland alongside the greats of the field of Islamic Studies. He is not a scholar and has no contribution to the field. He popularisers certain ideas and such individuals are insufferable. More importantly, he too—Tom Holland that is—affirms the historical existence of Muḥammad.

            Back to your question. If I am not mistaken, Ian D. Morris is a Neo-Schachtian, meaning, he accepts the broad outlines of Schacht’s theory/model with certain modifications. To be sure, you can tweet at Morris. I do not believe Morris has added anything apart from those two blog posts.

            Your description of Morris’ articles, as lacking »professionalism« and containing »personal condescension« and the call to »completely ignore (not even read critically) views that challenge his own« is something I would not necessarily endorse. Even if your description is correct, Morris’ is not to be chastised, especially so when some individuals—in this case Robert Spencer—promulgate factually incorrect statements that certainly misleads the masses.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2017-10-16 03:49:13 UTC - 03:49 | Permalink

              That a particular scholar should argue a case that is “outside the consensus” tells us nothing about the validity of that scholar’s arguments nor about the validity of the arguments supported by the consensus. See, for example, my latest post on a common scholarly fallacy: The Fallacy Few Historians Have Avoided

              When you say Tom Holland is not a scholar, I presume you mean that he is not a specialist scholar of Islamic studies per se, despite his historical publication on the rise of Islam and the Arab conquests in the seventh century. Your criticism indicates that you have not read his book and are unaware of his arguments with respect to the historicity of Muhammad. I have yet to study the writings of some of the other names I asked about, but when you make obviously incorrect assertions about an author I have read in some detail I am not left with any confidence in your remarks about the others.

              It appears that you do not accept that it is possible to even question the historicity of Muhammad in the light of the nature of the evidence.

              The only work of Robert Spencer that I read at the time of the above post (2015) was the one I discussed and if my memory serves me on this one, I did not find unscholarly expressions towards rivals in his book. I am not endorsing Spencer’s arguments — notice that what I have posted here are more his own summaries of the arguments of others — but mentioning them out of interest. (I have since the above post learned of less savoury views of Spencer, and had I known of them at the time of the above post I would have had something to say about them.)

              If you are keen for others to disbelieve the thrust of those arguments and to embrace the views of Islamic scholarly “consensus” then I recommend you likewise engage with the arguments themselves, and do not seek to justify unscholarly attitudes of anyone, pro or con your views.

              • 2017-10-18 11:11:29 UTC - 11:11 | Permalink

                I agree that a work is not refuted because it lies outside scholarly consensus. My comment was somewhat unnecessary and lacked further elaboration and context that is crucial for a better understanding.

                Yes, I meant that Tom Holland is not a specialist scholar of Islam. I am aware of his book and his documentary. His documentary does not question the historicity of Muḥammad, rather, it highlights some issues that seemingly dispute the native narrative of Islamic origins. Those scholars whom he interviews in the documentary, which includes Patricia Crone and Fred Donner, all believe that Muḥammad existed. True, I have not read his book, but judging from his documentary, he does not question the historicity of Muḥammad. Some who have read his book has also said that he did not touch on the issue of historicity.

                Concerning the other scholars, you mentioned, they do not dispute the historicity of Muḥammad at all. You can ask others if I am not deemed as a credible source of information.

                The existence of Muḥammad has been questioned by some on very speculative grounds, and I do not think that one should not be able to raise that question. What I would say is, considering the evidence at hand, the existence of an Arabian prophet going by the name of Muḥammad is certain. And this is considering the problems raised by scholarship. By the way, I have answered some arguments of mythicists. See, for example, my first post: https://islamic-inquiry.com/2016/10/13/muhammad-as-an-epithet-for-jesus-a-refutation-of-the-hypothesis-of-ohlig-popp-and-luxenburg/

              • Neil Godfrey
                2017-10-21 22:34:40 UTC - 22:34 | Permalink

                Tom Holland clearly expresses agnosticism on the historicity of Muhammad. At least that is very clear in his book. He does not deny the historicty of Muhammad, but he concedes we cannot confirm it either. That’s what agnosticism means. We don’t have to be either for or against. I am intrigued to see that the defences of Muhammad’s historicity and attacks on the arguments that even raise the question are so very similar to those used by many persons who evidently fear that any doubts about the historicity of Jesus are an attack on Christianity. Do you know the Tom Holland’s arguments that raise questions about the historicity of Muhammad? Evidently not.

              • 2017-10-21 23:50:43 UTC - 23:50 | Permalink

                I guess I was wrong on Tom Holland’s position on this issue. My understanding of his ideas derived primarily from his documentary and someone who is familiar with his book. That being said, I apologize.

                You claim that the arguments in defense of Muḥammad’s historicity are similar to those in favour of the historicity of Jesus. What do you mean? Any examples? Maybe some scholar you have come across?

                The last remark confused me. Do you imply that Tom Holland has provided some new arguments? I admit my ignorance on that part, but if you know some of his arguments, you are more than welcome to provide them. This is because I am aware of the arguments for the mythicist position (thus assuming his would be similar). And if Tom Holland’s arguments differ, please provide them.

  • David Ashton
    2015-03-26 23:12:30 UTC - 23:12 | Permalink

    Who was that Arab prophet armed with a sword?

    Who was that magician Celsus spoke about?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-03-27 05:45:27 UTC - 05:45 | Permalink

      >Who was that Arab prophet armed with a sword?

      Spencer does not seem to know either. So he wrote the following:

      The Earliest Records of an Arabian Prophet

      Yet surely there are abundant mentions of this man who lived and worked in the “full light of history” in contemporary records written by both friends and foes alike.

      That is, at least, what one might expect. After all, he unified the hitherto ever-warring tribes of Arabia. He forged them into a fighting machine that, only a few years after his death, stunned and bloodied the two great powers of the day, the eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Persian Empire, rapidly expanding into the territory of both. It would be entirely reasonable to expect that seventh-century chroniclers among the Byzantines and Persians, as well as the Muslims, would note the remarkable influence and achievements of this man.

      But the earliest records offer more questions than answers. One of the earliest apparent mentions of Muhammad comes from a document known as the Doctrina Jacobi, which was probably written by a Christian in Palestine between 634 and 640—that is, at the time of the earliest Arabian conquests and just after Muhammad’s reported death in 632. It is written in Greek from the perspective of a Jew who is coming to believe that the Messiah of the Christians is the true one and who hears about another prophet arisen in Arabia:

      When the candidatus [that is, a member of the Byzantine imperial guard] was killed by the Saracens [Sarakenoi], I was at Caesarea and I set off by boat to Sykamina. People were saying “the candidatus has been killed,” and we Jews were overjoyed. And they were saying that the prophet had appeared, coming with the Saracens, and that he was proclaiming the advent of the anointed one, the Christ who was to come. I, having arrived at Sykamina, stopped by a certain old man well-versed in scriptures, and I said to him: “What can you tell me about the prophet who has appeared with the Saracens?” He replied, groaning deeply: “He is false, for the prophets do not come armed with a sword. Truly they are works of anarchy being committed today and I fear that the first Christ to come, whom the Christians worship, was the one sent by God and we instead are preparing to receive the Antichrist. Indeed, Isaiah said that the Jews would retain a perverted and hardened heart until all the earth should be devastated. But you go, master Abraham, and find out about the prophet who has appeared.” So I, Abraham, inquired and heard from those who had met him that there was no truth to be found in the so-called prophet, only the shedding of men’s blood. He says also that he has the keys of paradise, which is incredible.4

      In this case, “incredible” means “not credible.” One thing that can be established from this is that the Arabian invaders who conquered Palestine in 635 (the “Saracens”) came bearing news of a new prophet, one who was “armed with a sword.” But in the Doctrina Jacobi this unnamed prophet is still alive, traveling with his armies, whereas Muhammad is supposed to have died in 632. What’s more, this Saracen prophet, rather than proclaiming that he was Allah’s last prophet (cf. Qur’an 33:40), was “proclaiming the advent of the anointed one, the Christ who was to come.” This was a reference to an expected Jewish Messiah, not to the Jesus Christ of Christianity (Christ means “anointed one” or “Messiah” in Greek).

      It is noteworthy that the Qur’an depicts Jesus as proclaiming the advent of a figure whom Islamic tradition identifies as Muhammad: “Children of Israel, I am the indeed the Messenger of God to you, confirming the Torah that is before me, and giving good tidings of a Messenger who shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad” (61:6). Ahmad is the “praised one,” whom Islamic scholars identify with Muhammad: The name Ahmad is a variant of Muhammad (as they share the trilateral root h-m-d). It may be that the Doctrina Jacobi and Qur’an 61:6 both preserve in different ways the memory of a prophetic figure who proclaimed the coming of the “praised one” or the “chosen one”—ahmad or muhammad.

      The prophet described in the Doctrina Jacobi “says also that he has the keys of paradise,” which, we’re told, “is incredible.” But it is not only incredible; it is also completely absent from the Islamic tradition, which never depicts Muhammad as claiming to hold the keys of paradise. Jesus, however, awards them to Peter in the Gospel according to Matthew (16:19), which may indicate (along with Jesus’ being the one who proclaims the coming of ahmad in Qur’an 61:6) that the figure proclaiming this eschatological event had some connection to the Christian tradition, as well as to Judaism’s messianic expectation. Inasmuch as the “keys of paradise” are more akin to Peter’s “keys to the kingdom of heaven” than to anything in Muhammad’s message, the prophet in the Doctrina Jacobi seems closer to a Christian or Christian-influenced Messianic millennialist than to the prophet of Islam as he is depicted in Islam’s canonical literature.

      Spencer, Robert (2014-04-08). Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins (Kindle Locations 439-479). Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Kindle Edition.

      So what do you make of all that?

      (I accidentally deleted the second line of your comment and retyped it from memory. Hope I got it right.)

      • mrquestioner
        2015-03-27 13:35:47 UTC - 13:35 | Permalink

        i don’t think there is even one place in christian literature which names jesus “ahmad” or “muhammad”

        why would the greek translator translate “muhammad” as “muhammad”

        when did a jew become an arab?

      • mrquestioner
        2015-03-27 13:39:04 UTC - 13:39 | Permalink
      • mrquestioner
        2015-03-27 13:41:19 UTC - 13:41 | Permalink

        ian d morris gave some advice:

        Seek knowledge, even in China; but not there

        For students and enthusiasts of History, there are a few lessons to be gleaned from this episode. Read scholarly literature very carefully. Always follow the footnotes: if one scholar’s argument looks a bit thin, perhaps she cites someone else who gives a full explanation. Don’t neglect numismatics. Study languages, ideally the languages of your sources, and think about what happens when languages interact. Talk to historians: ask them why they read sources as they do. Be critical, be skeptical, but don’t be obtuse. And above all, please ignore Robert Spencer.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2015-03-27 22:21:17 UTC - 22:21 | Permalink

          Now why would Morris tell others to ignore what he himself has just done — which is to engage with Spencer’s arguments? Is not such engagement a good idea? Does not such engagement force out into the air a wider range of evidence and interpretations that all lead us to a greater understanding of the material in question?

          If we find that Spencer’s arguments are overthrown then that’s great. We have stronger ones to put in their place. We are better equipped to respond to others who may raise similar questions.

          But if we simply ignore the arguments then how does that help anyone? Would that not only leave others less well informed to remain in ignorance, and perhaps even suspicious of those of us who choose to ignore them?

          Now, do you know what other scholars — I don’t mean Spencer, I mean some of the scholars Spencer has cited, for example — say in response to Morris’s points?

          Maybe they agree. Maybe there is yet more to learn. I fully agree with all that Morris says we should be doing except “ignoring” an alternative view. If we engage with it then we can know why we can discount it; if we ignore it we cannot.

  • David Ashton
    2015-03-27 12:59:10 UTC - 12:59 | Permalink

    Thank your for this interesting material. There are (disputed) Islamic traditions that Jesus will return as a warrior and judge at the end-times.

  • anon
    2015-03-27 13:00:10 UTC - 13:00 | Permalink

    Compilation of Quran—There are some revisionist western scholars who feel that the Quran was an earlier work (late antiquity) and there are other scholars that feel that the Quran was a later compilation. Scholars that argue for a Syriac/Christian origin—may have an earlier date of the Quran in mind…those scholars that argue for Islam developing later…often have a later period of Quran compilation in mind.
    One can suppose that the arguments of these two camps are in opposition to each other.

    Islam/Quran—Some scholars seem to equate these two terms as same—they are not. If we understand “Islam” as a way of life—then its traditions and laws did indeed develop over a period of time. The Quran is not “Islam” as we know it today, rather it is the foundation (in terms of ethical/moral principles and philosophical concepts) upon which Islam (deen=way of life) has been formed. The application of these Quranic principles into everyday life is the “Sharia”. There is more than one Sharia and these all have developed over time. The Quran has remained unchanged. Present day Quran can be traced back to what scholars call the “Uthmani codex”, however, earlier works are also being explored today.

    Early history of Islam/nature of Quran—To piece together the early history of Islam, non-Quranic evidence is helpful because the Quran is not a history book —it may allude to events, but outside evidence would be helpful to confirm. However, the existence of the Quran cannot be ignored either. The relation of the Prophet(pbuh) to historical events and his relation to the Quranic text should be viewed as 2 different threads that are linked together……also, the development of “Islam”(Deen) is another thread which is apart from the lifetime of the Prophet and its trajectory should be understood on its own….

    Quran—To analyze the Quran, one needs to do so from a literary perspective. It is a complex text that uses many literary devices. Today, there are Western scholars who have taken an interest in the literary composition of the Quran and are analyzing it…….

  • David Ashton
    2015-03-27 13:05:40 UTC - 13:05 | Permalink

    The chief key to paradise is to witness that there is no God but Allah, which is the Muslim response to the Petrine text – Muhammad not Simon Barjona is the true vizier.

  • James D. Williams
    2015-03-27 20:32:12 UTC - 20:32 | Permalink
  • Neil Godfrey
    2015-03-27 22:36:54 UTC - 22:36 | Permalink

    A problem I have with the question of the historicity of Jesus sometimes is that it can assume an importance that replaces the much bigger question: how did Christianity begin? That is, how do we explain the earliest evidence we have for Christianity?

    I hesitated several times before finally using “Did Muhammad Exist?” in my title but finally did so because it was the title of Spencer’s book and would be more recognizable for that. The real question of interest, to me at least, is how Islam originated. I am not expert in the languages required to independently answer specifics about some of the evidence, in particular in relation to Muhammad, so for that reason I will hopefully maintain an inquiring mind as long as I know that there are experts who disagree and many I have not yet read.

    I am always more willing to think there is something I don’t yet fully understand than to assume that this or that historian who has specialized in an area is completely ignorant of publicly easily accessible facts. Simply throwing up a passage from a text to “disprove” a specialist’s interpretation does not work — except for the ignorant.

    Tom Holland is one who suspects Muhammad did exist but has much the same view of Islam’s origins as one reads about in Spencer’s book. And I think even Spencer makes a similar point in principle somewhere.

    My problem is when I see one of the specialist scholars citing as grounds for historicity reasons that are not well thought through and indicate unquestioned assumptions at work somewhere.

    These points should be questioned and we should have good grounds for our arguments.

    (I have mentioned “scholars” and “specialists” here — I have already said that Spencer is not a professional scholar as such, but a writer who refers to the scholarship and specialists.)

  • 2015-03-27 23:47:25 UTC - 23:47 | Permalink

    “A problem I have with the question of the historicity of Jesus sometimes is that it can assume an importance that replaces the much bigger question: how did Christianity begin? That is, how do we explain the earliest evidence we have for Christianity?”

    This is a good point. Something for everyone to heed well. Anyone whose interest stops after determining the historicity or not of a particular individual (however defined) is going to man-handle the evidence quite a bit (and disturb the irenic historical inquiry, starting from the evidence and working carefully from it, that would eventually put an answer to that question or consider it non liquet), like one of the amateur archaeologists of the bad old days who’d only be excited with beautiful and precious artifacts to take home as treasure (tossing aside many a valuable clue).

    “I am always more willing to think there is something I don’t yet fully understand than to assume that this or that historian who has specialized in an area is completely ignorant of publicly easily accessible facts. Simply throwing up a passage from a text to “disprove” a specialist’s interpretation does not work — except for the ignorant.”

    Does it not “work”? Or does it sometimes “work”? We’d indeed be foolish to assume that someone who’s expended considerable time on a subject had not accessed all of the “easily accessible facts.” By no means would we be foolish to refer to these facts, however. We would be foolish to assume that the “facts” or “a passage from a text” have become irrelevant to settling a question simply because one specialist or scholar has examined the facts and found them insufficient to settle the question. Criticism is a double-edged blade; it cuts both ways. Perhaps the very finding of fault in the nature of the evidence is at fault. This does, of course, highlight the need to understand the exact basis on which any particular evidence has been examined and found to show one thing or another, or not.

    On the other hand, of course, there is something to be said for the lament of the Josh McDowell-type apologetics–wham, bam, Tacitus, Josephus, thank you, ma’am. We’ve all seen enough of that.

    What I find interesting is that the external references to Mhmt/Mhmd in the seventh century have several differences from the external references to Christos/Chrestos:

    1) They were preserved by people who were not religiously or politically connected to Mhmt/Mhmd.
    2) They begin right in the thick of it, writing as contemporaries less than a decade after events.
    3) They are “low literature,” chronicles mostly, not extensively-copied “high literature” like Josephus.
    4) They directly contradict the enshrined religious narrative as to the chronology (at war in 634 CE).
    5) They also tend to provide some level of insight into the development of the movement prior to the movement getting all its doctrinal wrinkles settled out.

    Most of all, they’d pass muster under any historical methodology of which I am aware (no reason to impeach their textual integrity, provenanced, datable, immediacy to the events, and objective or counter-biased).

    The HJ industry makes a lot of noise about how they need to start from the bare “fact” that Jesus existed and work from there, noting that he could be many different things and that the movement could have taken off in many different directions. The only problem there is that this bare fact isn’t exactly the most secure basis on which to found the rest of all our investigations. However, just because it doesn’t work when studying Christianity, doesn’t mean that it can’t work when studying Islam. Maybe the “historical Muhammad” model, treated as a beginning point (or one possible touchponit among several) and not as an answer, isn’t such a bad idea. How soon can we transfer over all our HJ scholars to working on someone that seems proper to assume to have existed?

  • anon
    2015-03-28 05:06:01 UTC - 05:06 | Permalink

    Chronology—Something to keep in mind is that the Islamic calender is a lunar calender so dates have to be adjusted when converting to Common Era (CE), The calender starts from the Hijra (migration) at about 622 CE which would be year 1 of Hijri. Around this time, the Constitution of Medina was made. The copy of this constitution still exists and according to some historians such as F Donner (a revisionist historian) the linguistic analysis shows the wording may be preserving the original even if the document is a later copy. Donner’s thesis is that at its origins, this was a “Believer’s movement” that later took on the characteristics of the Islam we know today….

    634 CE (–644 CE) is around the time Of the 2nd Caliph Umar Ibn Khattab.

    Origins of Islam—Unlike Christianity, the Prophet(pbuh) is not related/chained to the theology (nature of God) and so the question of his existence can be set aside in the study of the origins of Islam. The relevant materials would be the Quran, the Sira (Biography) and the Ahadith (sayings) for the very early period and the Sharia/Fiqh (Fiqh=jurisprudence aspect of Sharia). Islam, at its core, is “Law” not theology. (Ethical/moral and philosophical principles that lead to law)

    Existence of the Prophet(pbuh)—matters to the extent that the existence of the Quran, Sira, Ahadith need an explanation.
    (out of these 3, the Quran (Uthmani Codex) is probably the oldest material—Caliph Uthman–around 644 CE – 656 CE)

    One of the problems with historians such as Holland is that they take a Western Christian-centric template and use it (and its assumptions) as a default for Islam—but Islam is not Christianity—if a serious work is to be done—One needs to understand early Islam and what it is about in its own terms….
    Also, there is often confusion of terms/definitions. Anyone interested in Islamic history should be cautious about assumptions made about terms. (for example, the Quran is NOT the sayings (hadith) of the Prophet—the two are of different quality and genre…)

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-03-28 08:45:41 UTC - 08:45 | Permalink

      One of the problems with historians such as Holland is that they take a Western Christian-centric template and use it (and its assumptions) as a default for Islam—but Islam is not Christianity—if a serious work is to be done—One needs to understand early Islam and what it is about in its own terms….

      Western Christians, at least the fundamentalist or conservative kind, say the same about the Bible. They protest that “rationalist” scholars are applying “philosophically biased” approaches based on sceptical-rationalist thinking spawned by the “godless” Enlightenment era to the Bible; they argue that the only way to truly understand the Bible and Christian origins is to embrace the Biblical account “on its own terms”.

      The problem with this approach is that it disallows a genuinely independent scholarly study of the religion. There is nothing uniquely western about the scientific method; the validity of scholarly arguments is based on universal principles of verification, hypothesis formation and testing, evidence and rationality.

      Yes a scholar must indeed understand a holy book on its own terms. But it must also then seek to explain that understanding in terms of a larger understanding of how the world works: hence anthropology, literary studies, historical research, etc.

      The conclusions of that scholarly research will be expressed often in ways with which the subjects disagree. The subjects understand themselves only on their “own terms”. They do not see themselves or understand themselves in the larger, say, anthropological or sociological worldview.

      But their disagreement does not invalidate the scholarly study. Understanding a text on its own terms is the beginning. The scholar — Western and Eastern — must then seek to explain what is understood in terms of a broader theory that can be tested and accepted by the universally accepted tools of rational thought.

  • anon
    2015-03-29 05:33:12 UTC - 05:33 | Permalink

    Again—I want to point out—that Islam is not just a “text”—the Quran is a text but the Quran by itself is not “Islam”. Islam is what one might call “practice” (orthopraxy).

    “There is nothing uniquely western about the scientific method; the validity of scholarly arguments is based on universal principles of verification, hypothesis formation and testing, evidence and rationality.

    Yes a scholar must indeed understand a holy book on its own terms. But it must also then seek to explain that understanding in terms of a larger understanding of how the world works: hence anthropology, literary studies, historical research, etc.”

    —I agree…and these methods have already been used by some Muslim scholars….way before the West even thought of them….Nevertheless…it is still a good thing that Western scholars want to verify all of this again independently.

    What I meant is to study early Islam from a neutral perspective and not bring presuppositions/assumptions from studies of Western Christian origins and use these as the default starting hypothesis. To do so can potentially blind a scholar to other possibilities and research that could have contributed to an increase in knowledge….
    (I also feel that Westerners tend to have 2 harmful biases—there is an assumption that “non-Westerners” have nothing important to contribute because they are more primitive/less advanced and the “Western” perspective/judgement is the correct one.)

    One presumption that some previous Westerners used when looking at the Quran was to assume that it was influenced by Christianity and Judaism—and where the Quran differed in its narration, it had “got it wrong”. Today, there are some Western scholars that are analyzing the Quran from a neutral perspective. They are comparing what the Quran is saying to what the Torah, Talmud, Apochrypha, Gospels (canonical and apocryphal) and Jewish and Christian folklore say and the significance of the differences—that is, the dialogue between the Quranic text and these other writings/texts/stories…..

    I feel Western literary analysis of the Quran is still young—though some interesting contributions are being made. Perhaps it may have seemed that a text out of the deserts littered with primitive Bedouins had nothing much to offer….?…..but such an attitude, if it existed, is changing to a more serious study/analysis….

    Sensationalist and/or half-baked propositions may not contribute to the advancement of knowledge—but they may spark an interest where previously none existed…..and perhaps this in turn may lead to more serious study and scholarship…..

    A Question….
    “The conclusions of that scholarly research will be expressed often in ways with which the subjects disagree. The subjects understand themselves only on their “own terms”. They do not see themselves or understand themselves in the larger, say, anthropological or sociological worldview.” —Do you mean to say that any historical, anthropological, sociological studies conducted by the “subjects” are invalid because they are incapable of seeing the “larger view”—and only “us”— modern/post-modern/or whatever are able to judge the larger view?…because…we are “more advanced”….?…..

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-03-31 04:04:42 UTC - 04:04 | Permalink

      A Question….
      “The conclusions of that scholarly research will be expressed often in ways with which the subjects disagree. The subjects understand themselves only on their “own terms”. They do not see themselves or understand themselves in the larger, say, anthropological or sociological worldview.” —Do you mean to say that any historical, anthropological, sociological studies conducted by the “subjects” are invalid because they are incapable of seeing the “larger view”—and only “us”— modern/post-modern/or whatever are able to judge the larger view?…because…we are “more advanced”….?…..

      No, that’s not what I mean. Scholarly studies are valid to the extent they increase our understanding of what we observe and experience in the world. Understanding is rarely complete, however, and we are always deepening our understandings, or discarding what we come to learn were once misunderstandings. (I am not post-modernist, by the way. At least I don’t think I am.)

      The subjects are not the ones doing the studies from the outsider perspective. If they were then they would have to step outside their beliefs and personal identities to do so, I think. Scholars need to understand their subjects’ points of view, of course. But they ask questions about those beliefs that are not part of the subject’s field of interest.

      Example: Scholars study aboriginal religious or spiritual beliefs. The scholarly anthropological understandings of the function of those beliefs will have little to do with how the aboriginal societies think of their beliefs and stories. Sociologists and psychologists may study the dynamics that lead to the growth of cults and their attraction for certain individuals in particular societies. Their findings and way of looking at the cult phenomena will be quite different from the way cult members see themselves. The scholars must first listen carefully to the words of their subjects. That’s a given.

      But they then seek to understand those stories within the conceptual frameworks of a broader theoretical understanding of humanity.

  • Alan
    2015-03-30 21:27:31 UTC - 21:27 | Permalink

    Hi Neil,

    Just a word on Robert Spencer – in case you’re unaware, he is a Catholic Priest (or something like that) who is a renowned Islamophobe, so his book should be treated with a pinch of salt – he will start with the assumption that there was no Mohammed, and then try and fit things around it, as opposed to starting with an open-mind and then coming to a conclusion.

    You can also find out more about some of his shoddy scholarship here:

    http://www.loonwatch.com/2012/01/more-proof-why-you-really-shouldnt-trust-robert-spencers-scholarship/

    Thanks.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-03-31 00:38:57 UTC - 00:38 | Permalink

      I was aware of Spencer’s stance and that’s one reason I was not keen to start with his book on this question. But at the same time I do not see that as a reason to discount his book — though as you know I did disagree with certain of his concluding comments. I attempted to read the book as I would any other and that is by looking for evidence for claims, evidence of accounting for alternative views, and rationality of argument.

      As for his handling of the story of Muhammad’s marriage to the 9 year old Aisha I found just what I would expect to find in a serious historical work: not a repeat of modern attempts to associate Islam with pedaphilia but a reasonable explanation of the social values of the historical era.

      I found no evidence in the book that the author’s attitudes towards Islam today distorted his historical judgment but I did see some reviewers attacking the book because of the author’s contemporary views on Islam and not because of established faults with the contents of the book itself.

      As I said, I am not recommending the book as “the” revisionist account and I would like to read other works on this topic. (I have already read Tom Holland.) But in addressing Spencer’s book I think we should address it for its content first and foremost.

      Of course if anyone can point to how Spencer’s biases have distorted or misrepresented any of his historical arguments to the point of dishonesty or being misleading in any way then I would most keenly want to know the details.

      A. J. P. Taylor was a renowned historian who lost his son in the Second World War and what he wrote about the history of Germany was problematic from a historian’s point of view but not to be dismissed entirely. It was worth engaging with.

      There are several evangelical and conservative Christians who do write work worth seriously study and engagement. Not all of them, but there are some who do not let their faith interests cause them to be dishonest or misleading with their work.

      I have seen enough of how establishment scholars can slander and distort the arguments of revisionists at times (not only with respect to Islam or “mythicism”) to not take every criticism as the final word.

      • Alan
        2015-03-31 07:52:50 UTC - 07:52 | Permalink

        I haven’t read the book, so I cannot comment on it, I just find it hard to believe that someone like Spencer who has been caught distorting things again and again to promote his worldview that Christianity is the true religion and Islam is a fake religion can be trusted as an authority on the historicity of Islam. That doesn’t mean to say he might not raise some valid points, but I think the book shouldn’t be taken as an authority, and you clearly seem to be reading other sources too.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2015-03-31 11:25:41 UTC - 11:25 | Permalink

          I understand. I am sure you know my views on Islamophobia too. As I said, Spencer was not my first choice of reading but I was pleasantly surprised — but as you know I don’t think I am the sort of person who reads uncritically and I have recorded more than one change of my mind on this blog and have had to withdraw the odd embarrassing gaffe before.

          • David Ashton
            2015-03-31 21:44:29 UTC - 21:44 | Permalink

            Your whole approach is commendable. As Keynes put it, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do?”

  • Greg Pandatshang
    2015-03-31 15:28:01 UTC - 15:28 | Permalink

    I wonder if there could be some link between Zayd the Adopted Son and the Zaydis of Yemen, who have been in the news lately because of their rebellion against the Sunni government. The Zaydis supposedly trace their origins back to a different Zayd, Ali’s great-grandson Zayd the Martyr (Muhammad -> Fatima & Ali -> Husayn -> Ali Zayn al-Abidin -> Zayd the Martyr). Since both Zayds are early descendents of the Prophet, it strikes me as a pretty simple modification of the legend to change the founder from Zayd the Adopted to Zayd the Martyr … which would have been necessary once a version of the Qurʾan that explicitly rejected Zayd the Adopted Son’s claim to sonship was imposed on everybody.

  • Bob Moore
    2015-04-04 13:51:26 UTC - 13:51 | Permalink

    Let’s have some competent scholars do a Bayes Theorem probability on the historicity of Muhammad. Whatever the outcome it will not affect the Kenya College terrorist-types. On the other hand, either outcome should stimulate the Hirsi Ali-type reformers.

  • David Ashton
    2015-06-01 19:30:45 UTC - 19:30 | Permalink

    Another book before your bedside table collapses completely, Neil? – Edward Dutton, “Religion and Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis” (Ulster Institute for Social Research, 2014). IQ & secularization, &c.

  • David Ashton
    2015-10-03 22:16:50 UTC - 22:16 | Permalink

    I am grateful for references to websites which point out Robert Spencer’s “cherry-picking” from the most “conservative” clerical statements on the Qur’an and Hadith (which I had noticed in a few cases and suspected in others”). In principle, I would not refuse to read something because its author was a “staunch Catholic” and whether someone was “racist” would depend on what they had actually written and on how exactly this label was defined. Facts and facts, and isms are isms.

  • Thomas Hennigan
    2016-01-03 19:12:18 UTC - 19:12 | Permalink

    One of your first observations put me off. You deride Spencer for considering Christianity peaceful and Islam warlike. Now, a religion has to be judged by its sacred books and the life of its founder. Now, there is no doubt that Christians have not followed the example of Jesus in many respects and have engaged in numerous wars, many of them unjust. It is also obvious that the Mafia are baptized Catholics, but does that mean that you can judge Catholicism by the behaviour of Mafia gangsters? Now, it is totally obvious to anyone reading the Qurán, and the Sunnah, that they reiterate their invitations to FIGHT, to kill unbelievers or in the case of Jews and Christians, sumbmitting them to a humiliating tax, which in fact is a Mafia like protection money payment. Now, you accuse Robert Spencer of “chery-picking” the from most conservative clerical statements on the Qur´an and the Hadith. Are these statements present in these works or not? According to the Islamic canonical sources Mahommad was a war lord and he engaged in many battles and massacred many of his enemies, enslaving women and children etc. Are you aware of the doctrine of abrogation? It doesn’t seem that you are. This cannot be swept under the rug and declared an interpretation of conservative clerics. Just like in Christianity, there are also in Islam folks who are not willing to take everythng prescribed by the religion seriously, so many muslims are not interested in engaging in jihad. But does that mean that jihad is not an essential part of the religion? It does not. Are you aware of the doctrine of abrogation.

    • David Ashton
      2016-01-03 19:35:33 UTC - 19:35 | Permalink

      If this comment is addressed to me rather than or as well as Neil Godfrey, I have already got into hot water for repeatedly “trolling” the blatant prescriptive differences between the “pacifist” Gospels and the “militarist” Qur’an. I have Robert Spencer’s Complete Infidel’s Guides to both the Koran and Islam, and his “Did Muhammad Exist?” but excluded them from my book-list posted here a short while ago.

      He selects what he wants from Sunni traditions, but not all Muslims, including clerics, would endorse them all today. Peter Townsend’s “Questioning Islam” is relatively less “excitable” but equally sweeping (for example, complaining that fasting time-rules would not apply literally at the Poles – any Muslims there today would in practice chime in with Mecca).

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-01-03 21:33:42 UTC - 21:33 | Permalink

      Now, a religion has to be judged by its sacred books and the life of its founder. . . . .

      No, we can expect each sect or subgroup within a “religion” will have a different interpretation of the sacred books and life of its founder. These are not objective criteria that are applicable to the whole of the “religion”.

      Just like in Christianity, there are also in Islam folks who are not willing to take everythng prescribed by the religion seriously, so many muslims are not interested in engaging in jihad. But does that mean that jihad is not an essential part of the religion? It does not.

      No, it clearly means jihad is not an essential part of Islam for many Muslims.

      What your comment draws out attention to is that there is no such “thing” as “Islam” — any more than there is such a “thing” as “Christianity”. These are very abstract concepts used to cover a host of conflicting realities.

      Religions are what believers believe and practice. There are many Christianities and there are many Islams.

      Is “Christianity” or the Bible or life of Jesus responsible for the Branch Davidians or for Jonestown?

      Many would say that Christianity — the Bible’s contents and life of Jesus — cannot be held as primarily responsible for such cults. Yet the Branch Davidians would strenuously disagree. Ditto for Islamists extremists in relation to Islam.

  • Lowen Gartner
    2016-01-03 23:51:28 UTC - 23:51 | Permalink

    Slightly out of context, but had to react. I agree that the foundational scripture does define a religion.

    “Religions are what believers believe and practice.”

    What makes a religion different than other groups that have shared beliefs and practices? Shared delusions re the supernatural/magical thinking/afterlife? (Share delusions are not enough, that would eliminate very few groups with shared beliefs and practices)

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-01-04 00:13:11 UTC - 00:13 | Permalink

      Various groups within what we call Christianity, Islam and Judaism do use scriptures to justify their respective “definitions” of their own beliefs and practices. The fact that the same holy books can be used to justify so many different beliefs and practices, some of them quite contradictory, surely makes it problematic to argue that the texts themselves define the religion.

      • Lowen Gartner
        2016-01-04 00:31:03 UTC - 00:31 | Permalink

        The books are not sufficient to define a religion. Are they necessary? Can one be a Christian without accepting that authority of Christian scripture? Can one be Muslim without accepting the authority of The Koran? Can one be considered a practicing Jew without accepting the authority of the Torah? If they are necessary, would one expect there to be a “DNA” of that religion that is related to the contents of the books and the DNA to differ from religion to religion based on the difference in the books? Realizing that each group builds their beliefs and practices from the DNA to meet the needs of their particular group (environment).

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-01-04 01:14:25 UTC - 01:14 | Permalink

          In the case of Christianity we know that the NT books were a late introduction. Some sects rejected all gospels save one. Others rejected other works and embraced others not finally accepted into the orthodox canon. Some believed the Spirit was their authority — perhaps some still do today.

          Even the order of the books in the canon appears to have been arranged to influence their interpretation (e.g. what would Christianity look like if Mark led rather than Matthew? or if the epistles preceded the gospels? or if Galatians led the Pauline collection?)

          Liberal Christians today use the Scriptures as historical relics that show how others sought for God’s will and how today we are continuing that search and must leave behind many of the conclusions of old.

          The “religions of the book” are only one form of religion, too, or course.

          Jews, Muslims, Christians can find what they need in their scriptures to justify often contradictory beliefs and practices. I don’t see how there can be any independent arbiter saying that “THIS” is the correct interpretation of the holy book.

          The Bible has been used to justify slavery and to condemn slavery, ditto for a host of other issues. It has even been used as the authority to convey quite different concepts of the nature of God and Jesus.

          There have been and still are Jews who look more like Christians than Jews and Christians who look more like Jews than Christians.

          At one level it is meaningless to define someone as a Christian or Muslim or Jew. That is only useful for census reasons. The terms are so vague I would have no idea if that someone is a Christian Identity nutter or a nominal Anglican who never goes to church and never bothers about God.

          From my experience it’s usually from the extremist fringes that we find the strongest advocates for insisting that their beliefs are the true beliefs as “defined” by their holy book — that they are the true adherents of the scriptures. Mainstreamers tend not to know too much about their holy books and will often say they don’t think they should practice or believe everything in them.

          • David Ashton
            2016-01-04 11:35:42 UTC - 11:35 | Permalink

            Neil, how then would you define a Muslim? Do you accept the minimum that he or she is someone who professes a belief that there is one God Allah and that Muhammad was his Messenger? Does respect for and recitation of the Qur’an in whole or part as that holy Message come into it? How many mainstreamers, Shia or Sunni, “often say” they shouldn’t accept everything in the Qur’an? What about mosque attendance, prayer, Ramadan fasting, sharia regulations in the diaspora and in the House of Submission itself?

            Of course, religion is not a thing like a moon or a minaret, but it is a collection of beliefs and practices – so what about “Islam”? When we talk about “Christianity” in general we normally have in mind the major churches, not groups like the JWs, British Israelites – or KKK. In the case of Islam we would similarly consider its predominant organized life, especially I dare add among those whose own mother tongue is Arabic. Nominal adherents no doubt abound, but those who get closer to the NT sacred texts themselves would tend to be less “violent” than those who do so with Islam. The “equivalent” of Salafism would more likely be “Christian Pacifism”.

            • Greg Pandatshang
              2016-01-04 15:49:13 UTC - 15:49 | Permalink

              If “someone who professes a belief that there is one God Allah and that Muhammad was his Messenger” is the definition of Muslim, that implies that Manichaeans and Bahais are Muslims. Having a simple and intuitive definition is a bit of a goose chase.

              • David Ashton
                2016-01-04 18:15:30 UTC - 18:15 | Permalink

                Yes indeed. Many modern Bahais usually name their Supreme Being in whatever mother tongue they use and some modern Manichaeans prefer to call their God “Ilaha” instead of Allah. I could have inserted the adjective “final” before “Messenger” in the requisite shahadah of the submissive, but prefer to leave nit-picking to others.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2016-01-04 22:09:13 UTC - 22:09 | Permalink

              I would “define” a Muslim in the same way official censuses “define” any member of a particular religion. Anyone who identifies as a Christian or Muslim is a Christian or Muslim. That does include JWs among the Christians, as per your example — they cannot be excluded.

              Christianity is a fairly meaningless concept when it comes to identifying someone’s actual beliefs and practices and so is Islam. And that’s the problem with some of the public debate at the moment. It’s little different from generalizing about people who identify as a particular ethnic or cultural group.

              It is not for me to decide who a Christian is or is not. The faith adherents themselves decide that. Within each religion we have some groups declaring other groups to be apostates, not true Christians or Muslims etc. But that makes no difference to the outside observer who simply sees both sides identifying as that particular faith. The outsider cannot make theological judgements.

              • David Ashton
                2016-01-04 22:35:00 UTC - 22:35 | Permalink

                Self-definition, OK. Then let’s work on that re groups, which would e.g. consider whether the Sunni-Shia conflict has a theological basis inside the minds of its often violent participants. Conflicts over the definition of the Trinity or the Biblical legitimacy of US chattel slavery are past, but Islamic conflicts within and outside the Umma are very much in our face, present and future.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2016-01-04 22:50:24 UTC - 22:50 | Permalink

                We have many studies on the reasons for Islamist terrorism and Islamic State and that’s the topic that concerns me. We know about the Sunni-Shia divide. We know Sunnis and Shias would even inter-marry and few expected a civil war between the two in 2003. It was Zarqawi and his Al Qaeda in Iraq that changed all of that. Not helped at all by the folly of Maliki.

                Any attempt to reduce the Sunni-Shia conflict to a merely religious one is entirely two-dimensional. Study the rise of Islamic State and we understand the origins of the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq today.

              • Scot Griffin
                2016-01-05 05:55:45 UTC - 05:55 | Permalink

                “It is not for me to decide who a Christian is or is not. The faith adherents themselves decide that. Within each religion we have some groups declaring other groups to be apostates, not true Christians or Muslims etc. But that makes no difference to the outside observer who simply sees both sides identifying as that particular faith. The outsider cannot make theological judgements.”

                Well said.

  • James D. Williams
    2016-01-05 03:59:35 UTC - 03:59 | Permalink

    Spencer-Jacobi-Godfrey from above:
    “…And they were saying that the prophet had appeared, coming with the Saracens, and that he was proclaiming the advent of the anointed one, the Christ who was to come…”
    The Mahdi !

  • Steven C Watson
    2016-01-05 11:59:04 UTC - 11:59 | Permalink

    “…And they were saying that the prophet had appeared, coming with the Saracens, and that he was proclaiming the advent of the anointed one, the Christ who was to come…”

    Umar bin al-Khattab, the second Caliph, of whom Muhammad is alleged to have said “When people differ on any issue, look for Umar’s doing and abide by it”, was known as al-Faruq: “the Redeemer”. His clearing of the Temple Mount seems to have convinced some Jews that he was going to “restore” Israel. Compare the above saying with that attributed to Jesus in Gos. Thom 12 “No matter where you are , you are to go to James the Just for whose sake heaven and earth came into being.” There are many more origin stories to be found than what has become the party line.

    Speaking of which, I find it a little suspect that amidst this kerfuffle about Muhammad in history and whether we can trust the Islamic tradition someone poking around in neglected texts at the University of Birmingham should come across a couple of pages an old Koran and find it dates to between 568 and 645AD.
    Muslim tradition has it the third caliph Uthman (644–656) was the earliest responsible for collating and publishing the canonical text. This strikes as a little too pat. It might be noted a median date of c.605AD would be reasonable. A too naive and gullible forger or someone with a more mischievous, perhaps malevolent, intent?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-01-07 09:30:27 UTC - 09:30 | Permalink

      I have come to regret using Spencer to raise this question. There were other scholars I could have chosen and I look forward to using them more fully in future.

  • Silver Mets
    2016-12-15 14:17:15 UTC - 14:17 | Permalink

    I think a good reading for a better understanding of islamic origins is Stephen J. Shoemakers “The Death of a Prophet
    The End of Muhammad’s Life and the Beginnings of Islam”
    https://www.amazon.com/Death-Prophet-Muhammads-Beginnings-Divinations/dp/0812243560

    Highly recommended! The author discusses various contemporary sources. Many non-muslim sources indicated that prophet Muhammad was still alive during the arabic invasion of Palestine.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-12-17 01:02:31 UTC - 01:02 | Permalink

      Tom Holland provides a more comprehensive argument for the origins of the Islamic religion as we recognize it. The post above was meant to zero in on Islamic origins from the perspective of M’s possible nonhistoricity. I have yet to have a look at Shoemaker’s book so thanks for the reference, but before I read it I also have several other works I want to read that address the question of M’s existence from scholarly Muslim perspectives.

      Are you sure, though, that there are “Many non-muslim sources indicated that prophet Muhammad was still alive during the arabic invasion of Palestine”? How many? Who?

      • Silver Mets
        2016-12-18 03:52:18 UTC - 03:52 | Permalink

        Shoemaker argues that 11 sources from 7-8 centuries in one way or another indicated that Muhammad where alive in at least the initial stages of the invasions. Among the sources Shoemaker discusses is “Doctrina Iacobi” (c. 640):

        “And they were saying, “A prophet has appeared, coming with the Saracens, and he is preaching the arrival of the anointed one who is to come, the Messiah…

        Here are the prophet mentioned in the present tense, he comes with the Saracens and he preaches something witch sounds like Jewish messianism.

        According to Shoemaker, there are several closely related Jewish apocalyptic texts witch describe visions of a certain Rabbi Shimon, who describes Islamic conquests, each of them giving a slightly different version of the conquests, texts with seems to depend on a common source. Shoemaker calls it a 7th century Jewish apocalypse “The Apocalypse of Rabbi Shimon ben Yohay”,

        The earliest of these apocalypses is “The Secrets of Rabbi b. Yohai” (usually dated in the middle of 8th century) In this text, when Rabbi Simon cries out and asks if not the Jewish people have suffered enough in the hands of Edom (= Byzantine Empire) the angel Metatron tells him that God will use the Ishmaelite’s to free the Jews from the Byzantines.

        “He shall raise up over them a prophet. And he will conquer the land for them”. (p. 28)

        Now, the Hebrew is ambiguous in this text and it’s not entirely clear if God or the prophet is the one who conquers the land. The reading of the prophet as the actor is preferred for example by the fact that a fragment preserving the opening of “the Secret” survives among the Cairo Geniza texts and in this version “He raises over them a crazy prophet, possessed by a spirit, and he will conquer the land for them”. It’s hard to believe that the writer meant that God conquered the land for this possessed prophet; therefore the prophet as the conqueror is the preferred reading.
        Another mid-8th century source (“Ten King Midrash”), witch highly probably is dependent on the same source as “The Secrets” says that:

        “He will conquer all the kingdom and come to Jerusalem and bow down there and make war with the Edomites and they will flee before him and he will seize the kingship and then he will die” (p. 31)

        A more recent text, dating from the First Crusade, “The Prayer of Rabbi ben Yohai” also describes Muhammad leading the conquest of Palestine: “a crazy man possessed by a spirit arises and speaks lies about the Holy One, blessed be He, and he conquers the land”.

        Shoemaker concludes that “the persistence of this particular theme, Muhammad’s conquest of the land, across all of these sources, despite their heavy revisions to this prophecy, rather strongly suggest that this was an original feature of the seventh century apocalypse on witch they have all drawn” (p. 31). I think that he is making a strong case in this one.

        Further evidence for this comes from the anonymous Syriac “Khurizan chronicle”(ca. 660):

        “And Yazgerd, who was from the royal lineage, was crowned king in the city of Estakhr, and under him the Persian Empire come to an end. And he went forth and came to Mâhôzê and appointed one name Rustam as the leader of the army. Then God raised up against hem the sons of Ishmael like sand of the seashore. And their leader was Mohammed and neither city walls nor gates, neither armor nor shields stood before them” (p. 34-35).

        Again, the text indicates that Mohammed actually is the leader of the army!

        My last example (im tired and have to sleep) comes from the “History of the Patriarch of Alexandria” (before 717 ce):

        “…so that they said that Muhammed is his messenger. And his nation was circumcised in the flesh, not in the law, and they prayed toward the south, orienting themselves toward a place they call Ka¨ba. Andhe took possession of Damascus and Syria, and he crossed the Jordan and damned it up. And the Lord abandoned the army of the Romans before him” (p. 40).

    • The Bomb
      2017-08-16 11:55:43 UTC - 11:55 | Permalink

      Right now I’m reading Stephen J. Shoemaker’s book you mentioned, “The Death of a Prophet The End of Muhammad’s Life and the Beginnings of Islam”. You can easily find a pdf on archive.org, but I think this is an illegal copy, I’m not sure.

      Shoemaker mentions something very interesting that you will easily overlook. He mentions Ibn Sa’d (who lived in the eighth and ninth century) quoting from Ka’b al Ahbar, the latter who is supposedly an early Jewish convert to Islam, and who supposedly accompanied caliph Umar into Jerusalem.

      You can easily find a (rather messy) English translation of Ibn Sa’d’s first two books on the internet:

      https://archive.org/details/TabaqatIbnSaadVol12English

      I will quote directly what Ibn Sa’d says, and this is very interesting: “Ma’n Ibn ‘Isa informed us: Mu’awihah Ibn Salib informed us on the authority of Abu Farwah, he on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas that he asked Ka’b al-Ahbar: What qualities of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, do you find in al-Tawrah? He said: We find him (as) Muhammad lbn ‘Abd Allah, his place of brith as Makkah, his place of migration as Tabah, and his sovereighty over Syria; he is not indecent in conversation noisy in the markets and does not take revenge for evils (done to him) but forgives and pardons.”

      Another quote: “‘Amr Ibn ‘Asim al-Kilabi informed us: Hammam Ibn Yahya informed us: `Asim informed us on the authority of Abu Salih; he said: Ka’b said: The qualities of Muhammad, may Allah bless him, (as mentioned) in al-Tawrah are: Muhammad is My chosen servant. He is neither rough nor harsh. He is neither noisy in the markets nor returns evil for evil, but he forgives and pardons. His birth place is Makkah and his place of migiration is al-Madinah and his sovereighty is over Syria.”

      And another quote: “`Ubayd Allah Ibn Musa informed us: Isra’il informed us on the authority of Asim, he on the authority of Abu al-Duha, he on the authority of Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Jazali, he on the authority of Ka`b; he said: We find in al-Tawrah, Muhammad is the chosen Prophet neither rough nor harsh, nor noisy in the market. He does not retorn evil for evil but for gives and pardons.”

      It may or may not have been what Ka’b al-Ahbar actually said (it may have been someone else after all), and perhaps the line of transmission is fake after all, but it does remind me strongly of how Christians like the apostle Paul tried to extract information (such as the crucifixion) about Jesus through the Jewish Bible. Apparently this is what early Muslims did too.

      Shoemaker uses this information to prove his theory that Muhammad led the invasion into Syria and the Holy Land. But I see it the other way around. Shoemaker himself is rather surprised that Ka’b used the Torah as proof, but Shoemaker ignores this information.

      I speculate that the early Muslims (not necessarily Ka’b himself) used the Torah (or Tawrah) to extract information about Muhammad. They discovered that Muhammad came from Mecca by studying the Torah. And they discovered Muhammad went to Medina by studying the Torah. And they discovered that Muhammad conquered Syria by studying the Torah. I think it is possible that they discovered the prophet Muhammad in the first place by studying the Torah.

      Muhammad never lived! He started out just like Jesus Christ, via Jews practicing Midrash. The Muhammad mentioned by Muslims, and the Doctrina Jacobi and Sebeos is a mythical character extracted from the Jewish Bible. I think Ibn Sa’d accidentally revealed the true origins of Islam.

      There is a short wikipedia article about Ka’b al Ahbar:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ka%27ab_al-Ahbar

      It explains that he didn’t know Muhammad personally. He accompanied Umar in Jerusalem and he pointed Umar towards the Temple. Umar cleared the rubble and established prayer at the rock. Ka’b supposedly said: “Every event that has taken place or will take place on any foot of the earth, is written in the Tourat (Torah), which God revealed to his Prophet Moses”

      • Neil Godfrey
        2017-08-16 13:39:21 UTC - 13:39 | Permalink

        Interesting. Will follow up. Thanks.

      • The Bomb
        2017-08-16 13:58:23 UTC - 13:58 | Permalink

        I will quote what Shoemaker says on page 67-68 of “The Death of a prophet”:

        “We would add here briefly a later indication from the Islamic biographical tradition identifying Syria as the land of Muhammad’s rule. In a report assigned to Kaʿb al-Aḥbār, a legendary bearer of Jewish lore in the early Islamic tradition, Ibn Saʿd identifies Mecca as the place of Muhammad’s birth, Medina as the place of his migration, and Syria as the land of his rule (…) Although it certainly is possible that this tradition merely reflects the eventual dominion of Muhammad’s followers in Syria shortly after his death, this notice that Muhammad ruled over Syria is rather intriguing in light of the information above. The statement, which Kaʿb claims to know from “the Torah,” identifies Syria as the area in which Muhammad established his political authority, seemingly in the same fashion that Mecca should be recognized as the place where he was born and Medina as the place to which he fled. Such parallels would appear to suggest that rule over Syria was one of the hallmarks, indeed the climax, of Muhammad’s career: while other tendencies may have inspired this formulation, one certainly should not exclude the possibility that this report bears witness at greater distance to an earlier tradition associating Muhammad with the conquest of Syro-Palestine”

        I felt myself lighten up when I read this. But I don’t understand, if Muhammad is mythical, how the Sunni-Shia divide came about. I know from Hoyland’s “Seeing Islam as others saw it” that caliph Ali existed. Ali is mentioned by non-Muslim contemporaries, only he is murdered in Hira instead of Kufa. The whole quarrel between Sunni and Shia is about who is the rightful successor of Muhammad, Abu Bakr or Ali. Maybe the schism actually happened much later instead of right after Muhammad supposedly died. I know for instance that the Shia wrote their own Hadith collections, after the Sunni, almost 200 years after Muhammad died. Maybe this is the period the schism actually happened.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2017-08-16 15:10:48 UTC - 15:10 | Permalink

          Do you know when we have the earliest record that the Sunni-Shia divide was the result of the conflict between Abu Bakr and Ali?

          • The Bomb
            2017-08-16 17:27:28 UTC - 17:27 | Permalink

            I forgot to mention another source Hoyland mentions. It can be found on page 141 of his book “Seeing Islam as others saw it”. This source is from approximately 680 AD and the author is called George of Resh’aina. Here’s a quote: “When Maximus saw that Rome had accepted the foul mire of his blasphemies, he also went down to Constantinople at the time when Mu’awiya made peace with the emperor Constans, having started a war with Abu Turab, the emir of Hira, at Siffin and defeated him.”

            Abu Turab is a nickname of Ali. So it means, a near contemporary non-Muslim mentions Ali, the first Imam of the Shia.

            There is also a Kharijite coin (see page 695): “An Arab-Sasanian coin of the Kharijite rebel Qatari ibn al Fuja’a, Bishapur, AH 69. It bears the typically Kharijite slogan la hukm illa lillah (“Judgement belongs to God alone”), prefixed with bism Allah. And written in Persian: “Servant of God, Ktri, commander of the faithful.” ”

            End of quote. AH 69 seems to be 688-689 AD.

            The Muslims actually split in three groups during the first Islamic civil war, the Kharijites are the third group. The Kharijites are also mentioned in a mid eighth century text (the Byzantine-Arab chronicle of 741) which also mentions that Muhammad lived through the conquest of the Holy Land, and that Abu Bakr led the invasion of Persia, which is also contrary to what later Islamic chroniclers claim.

        • The Bomb
          2017-08-16 15:46:37 UTC - 15:46 | Permalink

          From what I understand, the first person to mention a conflict between Abu Bakr and Ali, was Ibn Ishaq, roughly 150 years after the events. But there was a civil war mentioned by Sebeos (date roughly 660) between four parties after which Muawiya was victorious. Muawiya is mentioned, Ali not. Hoyland refers to a Maronite Chronicler (on page 135 in “Seeing Islam as others saw it”) mentioning Ali. The text is undated. It gives some descriptions of historical events which stop at 664 AD. The manuscript seems to be of the eighth of ninth century. There is an anachronism in the text mentioning Muawiya striking silver coins which didn’t happen before the 690s. So the earliest date seems to be 690. But, it could be possible that this Ali is not related to Muhammad at all, and that later Muslim chroniclers like Ibn Ishaq or Tabari created a story in which Ali and Abu Bakr and later Muawiya and Ali vied for power. And then later, Muslims start to have a theological issue about who is the rightful successor. I understand that the Shia don’t trust certain transmitters that the Sunni do trust. Perhaps the schism started when the Muslims tried to determine from the lines of transmission which source is reliable.

          But this seems to be a very convoluted theory to me.

          As a matter of fact, from what I understand, all extant Islamic texts on paper or from 800 or later, the sole exception being the Quran, which is the only surviving Islamic text from the seventh century, possibly collected (or forged?) by Abd al-Malik and al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf in the 690s. Ibn Ishaq’s text didn’t survive. Other’s copied from him.

          But I think that’s what you were hinting at, there are no records of a schism before the 800s, of a civil war yes, but not a religious schism.

      • The Bomb
        2017-08-20 13:45:40 UTC - 13:45 | Permalink

        I have tried to find more cases in the Hadith collections of Muslims apparently using the Torah to find information about Muhammad. I have performed a search on http://www.hadithcollection.com/. I found something interesting, a variant of what Ka’b al-Ahbar is supposed to have said in the hadith collection of Ibn Sa’d. You can find it in Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, book 34, hadith number 335.

        I will quote from it: ‘Narated By Ata bin Yasar : I met Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘As and asked him, “Tell me about the description of Allah’s Apostle which is mentioned in Torah (i.e. Old Testament.”) He replied, ‘Yes. By Allah, he is described in Torah with some of the qualities attributed to him in the Quran as follows: “O Prophet ! We have sent you as a witness (for Allah’s True religion) And a giver of glad tidings (to the faithful believers), And a warner (to the unbelievers) And guardian of the illiterates. You are My slave and My messenger (i.e. Apostle). I have named you “Al-Mutawakkil” (who depends upon Allah). You are neither discourteous, harsh Nor a noise-maker in the markets And you do not do evil to those Who do evil to you, but you deal With them with forgiveness and kindness. Allah will not let him (the Prophet) Die till he makes straight the crooked people by making them say: “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah,” With which will be opened blind eyes And deaf ears and enveloped hearts.” ‘

        End of quote. This was supposedly said by Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘As, an early Hadith collector, and the son of ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, the latter who led the Arab conquest of Egypt in 640. Both were supposedly companions of Muhammad.

        Look at the end of this Hadith. Now what is peculiar is that Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘As supposedly said that Allah will not let Muhammad die until all people say: “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah”. In my opinion this can never be done by a real person. It is very clear that Muhammad, if he lived, was already dead by the time Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘As made this claim. So Muhammad will essentially “live” until everybody worships Allah alone, and I think it was very clear, even to early Muslims that there were quite a lot of non-believers around. This could be an echo of an earlier Islamic believe that Muhammad was a sort of spiritual being in one of the upper heavens who can only die when everybody embraces Allah, and Allah alone, kind of like how early Christians like Paul believed Christ died on the cross, not on Earth but in the spiritual realms.

        I conjecture that perhaps the earliest non-Muslim witnesses couldn’t quite place the spiritual Muhammad the Arab conquerors believed in, thinking he was their leader, and perhaps mistaking one of the Arab commanders for the spiritual prophet.

      • The Bomb
        2017-08-25 16:32:13 UTC - 16:32 | Permalink

        I read Shoemaker’s book further (‘The Death of the Prophet….’). I have found an answer to the strange idea in one Hadith, why Muhammad only dies after everybody acknowledges only Allah has the right to be worshiped. Shoemaker explains in his book that Muhammad believed the last day was near. You can see it in several Quran-verses, but also in several Hadith. In one Hadith, Umar explains that Muhammad told him he was the “last of us” to be alive. Umar at first just couldn’t believe Muhammad was dead.

        Reading further in his book he mentions Ka’b al-Ahbar again, this time predicting that Abd al-Malik would rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. And this is just plainly impossible because Ka’b al-Ahbar was long dead before this event. And this shoots down my whole point about early Muslims using the Torah to extract information about the prophet. Because what later Muslims apparently did was to point to historical facts and say that Ka’b al-Ahbar and other early Muslims had predicted it all along.

        But it is strange that there are Hadith predicting that Muhammad would rule over Syria, and a Hadith with a prediction he won’t die until everybody worships only one God but Allah. It is very clear to the later Hadith collectors that this information is incorrect, at least from their perspective.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2017-08-26 20:35:01 UTC - 20:35 | Permalink

          Keep reading. I’m interested in how it ends. 😉

        • The Bomb
          2017-08-27 17:25:19 UTC - 17:25 | Permalink

          I have finished the book.

          There are some traditions and hadith which say that his followers couldn’t believe Muhammad died. So they left his body in a room, and waited for him to resurrect from death. They buried him after his bodied started to smell badly.

          Shoemaker believes, copying the ideas or Fred McGraw Donner, that the early Muslims were a sort of interfaith community of Arabs monotheists, Jews and Christians. They called themselves the ‘believers’. By looking at the constitution of Medina, one could judge that everybody could join the ‘believers’ if they believed in the one true God. Islam as such didn’t exist yet.

          Shoemaker says Muhammad possible led the early campaign into the Holy Land, and that Jerusalem was his main focus. Jerusalem was the center of the last hour. Muhammad and his followers believed he would be the last person to be alive. When he died the early Muslims had to repurpose their religion. After a century they chose to let him die in Medina, and place his death earlier in time. They had to put less emphasis on the immediacy of the last hour, and adapt the religion towards an empirical religion aiming for world conquest.

          So Shoemaker seems to believe that the principle of offensive jihad was a later invention. He believes Jerusalem was their main focus. But if that is true, why did the Muslims attack Iraq and Persia at the same time they attacked the Syria and the Holy Land? I think that the enigmatic hadith (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, book 34, hadith number 335) which predicts Muhammad won’t die until everybody acknowledges only Allah has the right to be worshipped, gives a strong hint that the jihad is a very old principle. Shoemaker ignores this hadith.

          Shoemaker believes Muhammad lived, but at one time he seems to doubt it himself. I will quote him: “The eschatological confidence of earliest Islam and its apparent focus on Jerusalem and the Holy Land as the site of the final conflagration would have almost required Muhammad’s presence as his followers attained their ultimate goal. Even if it had not actually happened thus, it must have seemed entirely logical for his followers to remember the beginnings of Islam in this way. Nevertheless, once Islam developed a sacred geography anchored in the Ḥijāz as a central element of its confessional self-definition that was distinct from the other Abrahamic monotheisms that it had once welcomed, the end of Muhammad’s life would have to be radically re-remembered. The rival tradition of Muhammad’s pre-conquest death in Medina can thus be understood as a memorialization of his death within this new, distinctively Islamic—and Arab—sacred landscape.”

          End of quote. He says even Muhammad’s grave in Medina is probably a forgery. Early traditions which mention the construction of the mosque where his grave supposedly is, don’t mention his grave at all. That seems to be made up later. The Muslims don’t seem to know where he died.

          An interesting idea in his book is that the Quran is probably written not by Muhammad but by his followers. The conflicts that you find in the Quran between the prophet and the infidels, likely represent quarrels between the Arab conquerors and the conquered people in the area of the Holy Land, Syria and Iraq.

          And all the appearances of the name Muhammad are probably later interpolations. Such as the phrase which mentions the death of Muhammad (Quran 3:144), and a section in which Muhammad is allowed to marry Zayd’s wife (Quran 33:37). So the Quran originally doesn’t mention Muhammad at all!

          I think the early Muslims knew nothing about Muhammad. The Quran is the only information they had, and they made it up themselves.

        • The Bomb
          2017-09-04 17:03:32 UTC - 17:03 | Permalink

          I made a little mistake. I mentioned Quran 33:37, but it should run to 33:40 when Muhammad is mentioned, a Muhammad who is not the father of anyone of your men. Shoemaker thinks 33:37-40 is an interpolation.

          I mentioned Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, book 34, hadith number 335, which talks about Muhammad never dying and who never shouts in the streets. Actually several version of this hadith appear in the work of Ibn Sa’d which I mentioned above, in which the Quran is not mentioned alongside the Torah as the source of this information, but the Torah alone. It also appears one other time in Sahih Bukhari as an explanation for a phrase in the Quran.

          I have discovered exactly where almost the exact same content of this hadith appears in the bible. I found it on a website of a Muslim who tries to find appearances of Muhammad in the Old and New Testament. It is this website:

          http://thewaytotruth.org/prophetmuhammad/proofs.html

          The contents of this hadith appear in Isaiah 42, verses 1-4:

          “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.” (Isaiah, 42:1-4)

          So “You are neither discourteous, harsh Nor a noise-maker in the markets And you do not do evil to those Who do evil to you, but you deal With them with forgiveness and kindness” in that hadith appears as “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” in the bible.

          And ‘Allah will not let him (the Prophet) Die till he makes straight the crooked people by making them say: “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah,” ‘ (end of quote) in this hadith appears as “In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth” in the bible. In the bible he won’t falter or be discouraged. In the hadith he won’t die.

          Now I want to find out where the reference “his place of birth as Makkah, his place of migration as Tabah, and his sovereighty over Syria” in one hadith (Ibn Sa’d) comes from. I know that Mecca is often named Baccah in the Quran. There are several places named Baccah in the region of the Holy Land. Tabah is another name for Medina. But there are several places in the Holy Land and Jordan which have this name (also, Tayba or Taybeh). One such place is very close to the south of Petra (at-Tayba). Syria is al-Sham, and Damascus could also be meant. I read somewhere that Sham could also mean what is on the left hand.

          The Muslim from the website http://thewaytotruth.org/prophetmuhammad/proofs.html refers to this bible verse: “The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran.” (Deuteromony, 33.2)

          The writer explains that Mount Paran refers to Mecca, because there is a mountain range by the name of Paran close to Mecca. But what I could gather is that the Paran mountain range extends across a big area including tabuk, Medina and Mecca.

          I read that Seir is a mountain range stretching between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. Perhaps Syria is meant by this in the hadith.

          And there is a place called Taba in the Sinai, near the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba.

          So this is perhaps what the hadith writer thought. Sinai is Taba, Seir is Syria, Paran is Mecca.

        • The Bomb
          2017-09-04 18:06:28 UTC - 18:06 | Permalink

          Actually Isaiah 42 explains more ideas in Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, book 34, hadith number 335. Especially these: “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah” and “With which will be opened blind eyes And deaf ears and enveloped hearts.”

          Isaiah 42:7-8 says (I use the Contemporary English Version here): “You will give sight to the blind; you will set prisoners free from dark dungeons. My name is the Lord! I won’t let idols or humans share my glory and praise.”

          The translation of the Contemporary English Version is clearer than the earlier translation I used. Isaiah 42:4 reads: “He won’t quit or give up until he brings justice everywhere on earth, and people in foreign nations long for his teaching.”

          This explains why Muhammad doesn’t want the people of planet Earth to worship others beside God.

          I’m now reading ‘The Hidden Origins Of Islam’ edited by Karl Heinz Ohlig and Gerd R Puin. This book defends the theory that Muhammad is …. Jesus. Very interesting. Christoph Luxenberg says in the book that in Sura 72:18-20 Muhammad is resurrected. So that means he is Jesus.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2017-09-05 00:12:50 UTC - 00:12 | Permalink

            Thanks for all of this, “Bomb”. I have other reading and posts I am committed to at the moment but I do look forward to getting back to this topic as soon as possible. Your work will be most helpful.

          • The Bomb
            2017-09-09 19:07:19 UTC - 19:07 | Permalink

            Thanks.

            I kept searching for the place in the bible where the hadith writer (“Ka’b al Ahbar” in Ibn Sa’d’s hadith collection) found out that Muhammad was born in Mecca, migrated to Medina, and ruled over Syria.

            I have found two possible solutions. I am enthusiastic about both.

            The first one is simple. If Jesus is Muhammad, then Muhammad was born in Bethlehem. I could find only one location in the old testament which explicitly indicates where “the messiah” is born. That place is Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

            That’s also how the Christians found out where Jesus was born in the first place. The hadith writer says explicitly he knows Muhammad’s place of birth through the Torah. I speculate he looked at Micah 5:2, saw the name Bethlehem, a place perhaps known to him as Mecca.

            And then it follows quite naturally that Medina must be Jerusalem, the place Jesus migrates to with his disciples and other followers. Medina simply means the city. I speculate, the holy city of Jerusalem? And Syria is simple the name of the Roman province, of which Israel was a part of. The old testament says many times “the messiah” will rule over Zion, Jerusalem, and Israel, etc….

            And another solution could be found in Isaiah. I am developing a theory about it and I will soon give a more thorough explanation. I have written two full pages about it. To be short and sweet, Muhammad marches out of Sela (of which many people believe is the archaeological city Petra, but maybe some other location in west Jordan) while under the loud cheers of the local population (Isaiah 42:11-13), marches on his own to Bozrah (another archaeological site in west Jordan) where he slaughters lots of people and cattle in person (Isaiah 63: 1-6 and Isaiah 34: 5-6), then he marches to Zion with his clothes stained red, where he establishes his eternal rule (described many times in for instance Isaiah 9 and 14).

            Sela means “to praise” or “to lift up”. So Muhammad is the praised one, servant of Allah, hailing from the praised city. Sela later became Mecca. Bozrah is Medina. And Zion is Syria.

          • The Bomb
            2017-09-17 09:09:26 UTC - 09:09 | Permalink

            I give up searching for how Mecca and Medina could have been discovered in the bible. I have seen some Muslims on the internet make some attempts, which are rather silly, and not worth mentioning. But there is one interpretation I don’t find silly (not related to Mecca and Medina). There is a Wikipedia article about mentions of Muhammad in the bible, very interesting:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_in_the_Bible

            It also describes (among other things) how Isaiah 42, describes how God names his servant ‘My Servant, whom I uphold’ (“Behold My Servant, whom I uphold, Mine Elect, in whom My soul delighteth”) . The Hebrew word which was translated to “whom I uphold” is “אתמך”(Etmokh), which looks like “אחמד” which is the name Ahmad. There is a claim (for instance on youtube) that a version of Isaiah in the collection of the dead sea scrolls has “אחמד” instead of “אתמך”. The hadith writer (in Ibn Sa’d’s hadith collection) could have (mis)read Isaiah 42, and discovered Muhammad in it that same way. The hadith writer (“Ka’b al Ahbar”) says: “We find him (as) Muhammad lbn ‘Abd Allah”.

            Abd Allah means servant of Allah. So Isaiah 42 also taught the early Muslims the name of their prophet. Perhaps that’s how they discovered Muhammad in the bible in the first place: “Behold My Servant [Abd Allah], whom I uphold [Ahmad], Mine Elect, in whom My soul delighteth”. This also makes the theory of Christoph Luxenburg more plausible who says that Muhammad Abdallah is just a title of Jesus, the praised one and servant of Allah.

            One last thing about Mecca. There are suspicions that Mecca has been relocated. Dan Gibson believes it was originally located in Petra. He has written a book about it (‘Quranic Geography’) in which he makes some good arguments. Early mosques point more in the direction of Petra, rather than Mecca or even Jerusalem. He notices hadith which describe Mecca, but the descriptions don’t fit Mecca at all. Ibn Ishaq describes Mecca as having city walls, which Mecca never seemed to have. Mecca is also described by Bukhari as having a higher and a lower side (Bukhari 2:647). Bukhari describes Mecca as having a rain water passage way running through it (hadith 2:685). Bukhari also describes that Mecca could be entered or exited via two narrow mountain paths (hadith 3:891 and 2:820 and 2:645). A high mountain pass and a low mountain paths are described. Mecca is also supposed to have trees and grass, and agricultural land (for instance by Ibn Ishaq). According to Dan Gibson, these and other examples fit Petra much better. However, Dan Gibson doesn’t think that Medina was relocated.

            I think Muhammad didn’t come from Mecca. I think the Sira and hadith writers originally located Muhammad in Petra and halfway during concocting their stories relocated him to another place, leaving the descriptions of Petra intact. They might have associated Sela (which means “rock”, or “to praise”) with Petra in Isaiah 42 (Petra also means “rock”), and could have thought that Muhammad came from that town because the Lord seems to be marching out of Sela while being cheered by the locals. Sela also means “to praise”, so perhaps they found it logical that “the praised one” comes from that city. But this is just a hunch, and I just give up searching for it.

            “Let the wilderness and its towns raise their voices; let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice. Let the people of Sela sing for joy; let them shout from the mountaintops. Let them give glory to the Lord and proclaim his praise in the islands. The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies.” (Isaiah 42:11-13)

          • The Bomb
            2017-09-25 10:31:57 UTC - 10:31 | Permalink

            I discovered something interesting in Hoyland’s book ‘Seeing Islam as others saw it’. The short chronicle 818 (see page 394 of Hoyland’s book), which was probably written around 705, says this about Muhammad: “Mhmt came upon the earth in 932 of Alexander, son of Philip the Macedonian (620-21); then he reigned 7 years. Then there reigned after him Abu Bakr for 2 years.” (etc…)

            So the chronicle suggest Muhammad came on Earth in 620-621 straight from the heavens, and immediately after his arrival on Earth began to rule for 7 years. This suggest people at that time didn’t consider Muhammad to be a flesh and blood person.

          • The Bomb
            2017-09-27 14:32:16 UTC - 14:32 | Permalink

            I can’t let go, but I have a theory where “Ka’b al Ahbar” considered Medina/Taba/Tayba to be (that’s from Volume 1, Parts II.75.1 in Ibn Sa’d’s Tabaqat). So I repeat: “Ma’n Ibn ‘Isa informed us: Mu’awihah Ibn Salib informed us on the authority of Abu Farwah, he on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas that he asked Ka’b al-Ahbar: What qualities of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, do you find in al-Tawrah? He said: We find him (as) Muhammad lbn ‘Abd Allah, his place of birth as Makkah, his place of migration as Tabah, and his sovereighty over Syria; he is not indecent in conversation noisy in the markets and does not take revenge for evils (done to him) but forgives and pardons.”

            It is Tema. See Isaiah 21 13-17: “A prophecy against Arabia: You caravans of Dedanites, who camp in the thickets of Arabia, bring water for the thirsty; you who live in Tema, bring food for the fugitives. They flee from the sword, from the drawn sword, from the bent bow and from the heat of battle. This is what the Lord says to me: “Within one year, as a servant bound by contract would count it, all the splendor of Kedar will come to an end. The survivors of the archers, the warriors of Kedar, will be few.” The Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken.” (end of quote)

            This looks a bit like a Muhammad fleeing from Mecca to Medina. Lots of Muslims point to these verses as prophesying Muhammad’s migration to Medina. Tema is equated with Medina. Kedar is associated with Mecca. I read on wikipedia that Tema is associated with modern-day Tayma, 400 km north of Medina. The name Tema could have been degenerated into Taba, like Baca becomes Mecca.

            And you know what Muhammad’s full name is?: Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim.
            Muttalib means the seeker. I understand that this also is a title for Jesus, the seeker of the lost sheep.

            Hashim means the breaker of bread. That’s what Jesus obviously did at the Eucharist and when he multiplied baskets of bread.

            So Muhammad is the Praised One, the Servant of God, the Seeker of the Lost Sheep, the Breaker of Bread. Muhammad is Jesus.

            I have a theory that that story by (pseudo-)Sebeos about the 12 tribes of Ishmael and Israel returning to the Holy Land is just a midrash of the prophecies of the Old Testament. The Mahmet who appears is just Jesus who calls upon the Jews and Arabs to return to the ancestral land promised by God to Abraham’s offspring. The 12 tribes of the Jews assembling at Edessa reminds me of Micah 2:12: “I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.”

          • The Bomb
            2017-10-04 19:45:49 UTC - 19:45 | Permalink

            I now have the undeniable proof that early Muslims must have regarded Muhammad and Jesus to be the very same entity.

            The Gospel of Luke says that Jesus refers to Isaiah (specifically 42: 1-7, 58: 6 and 61:1-3) as a prophecy which he himself has fulfilled: “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”” (Luke 4:16-21)

            In the hadith collections of Ibn Sa’d (for instance Tabaqat Volume 1, Parts II.75.4) and Bukhari (for instance Volume 3, book 34, hadith number 335), Isaiah (especially 42) is referred to as referring to Muhammad.

            The Quran acknowledges multiple times that the Old and New Testament are true. For instance here: “And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.” (Quran 5: 46-47)

            Compare these Quran verses with Isaiah 42: 6: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles”.

            So this means the Quran acknowledges the Gospels to be true, including the gospel of Luke. So it means that the Quran must acknowledge that the prophecies of Isaiah about the servant of God are referring to Jesus.

            There are some theories (see wikipedia) that the Quran has Tatian’s Diatessaron in mind, when it refers to the gospel (“injil” in Arabic). The Diatessaron also refers to Isaiah several times: “And his fame spread in all the country which was around them. And he taught in their synagogues, and was glorified by every man. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and entered, according to his custom, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. And he was given the book of Isaiah the prophet. And Jesus opened the book and found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, And for this anointed he me, to preach good tidings to the poor; And he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, And to proclaim forgiveness to the evil-doers, and sight to the blind, And to bring the broken into forgiveness, And to proclaim an acceptable year of the Lord.”. I quoted from this version:
            http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/diatessaron.html

            Because Isaiah refers to both Jesus and Muhammad according to Islamic scriptures, Jesus and Muhammad must have been viewed (by early Muslims) as one and the same person.

            And…. there is a shahada which mentions Jesus: Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 644 : Narrated by ‘Ubada : The Prophet said, “If anyone testifies that None has the right to be worshipped but Allah Alone Who has no partners, and that Muhammad is His Slave and His Apostle, and that Jesus is Allah’s Slave and His Apostle and His Word which He bestowed on mary and a Spirit created by Him, and that Paradise is true, and Hell is true, Allah will admit him into Paradise with the deeds which he had done even if those deeds were few.”

            This shahada names Jesus two times!

            So it means the question is settled. What does Ka’b al Ahbar mean when he says: “We find him (as) Muhammad lbn ‘Abd Allah, his place of birth as Makkah, his place of migration as Tabah, and his sovereighty over Syria; he is not indecent in conversation noisy in the markets and does not take revenge for evils (done to him) but forgives and pardons.” (from Ibn Sai’d Tabaqat Volume 1, Parts II.75.1)

            Muhammad is Jesus. Makkah is Behtlehem, the place where Jesus is born. Tabah is Jerusalem, the place where Jesus migrated to with his disciples and followers, and where he was resurrected. He will make a second coming and rule over Syria.

            And I wondered why Muhammad is a merchant. Even (pseudo-)Sebeos acknowledges “Mahmet” to be a merchant. I have a simple answer. It is because Isaiah says the servant of God doesn’t scream in the “markets” (as “Ka’b al Ahbar” interprets Isaiah). So that means he is a merchant.

  • mrm
    2017-10-06 16:47:58 UTC - 16:47 | Permalink

    “In the hadith collections of Ibn Sa’d (for instance Tabaqat Volume 1, Parts II.75.4) and Bukhari (for instance Volume 3, book 34, hadith number 335), Isaiah (especially 42) is referred to as referring to Muhammad.”

    so here you are trusting bukhari’ report on this? this report must definitely have gone back to the early muslims ?


    Because Isaiah refers to both Jesus and Muhammad according to Islamic scriptures, Jesus and Muhammad must have been viewed (by early Muslims) as one and the same person.”

    why it never called muhammad “the messiah” ?

    you are using bukhari to support what early muslims believed ?

    • mrm
      2017-10-06 16:51:34 UTC - 16:51 | Permalink

      “The Quran acknowledges multiple times that the Old and New Testament are true.”

      the quran deliberately likes to go against the stories it is hearing about old testament and new testament. the book is clearly in debate with the versions it is hearing.

    • The Bomb
      2017-10-06 17:30:21 UTC - 17:30 | Permalink

      You mean that because Bukhari and Ibn Sad’s works are dated 200 years after Muhammad supposed death, they are not reliable? They aren’t. But these particular hadith I cite are very strange in that they say Muhammad won’t die until everybody acknowledges there is no God but Allah. And there are hadith (see Ibn Sad’s work) which claim that Muhammad will rule over Syria. I assume because these hadith are so strange that these are older beliefs of muslims. I think the earliest Muslims believed that Muhammad would rule over Syria, and that he wouldn’t die until the last day. I think the early Muslims still expected Muhammad to arrive, even when Umar conquered the Holy Land. In a later stage they flipped everything around and assumed that Muhammad had already arrived on Earth and founded the Arab empire. Chronicle 818 (which you can find in Hoyland’s book, “Seeing Islam as others saw it”), even has Muhammad arrive on Earth in 620/621, and straight away rule the Arab empire for seven years. The process of making Muhammad a historical person happened fast. Pseudo-Sebeos already assumed Muhammad to be a historical person in the 660s, while misinterpreting a Midrashic apocalyptic writing.

      What I notice is that the Quran allows Muhammad to have multiple wives (see Quran 33:50), even to have sex slaves: “O Prophet, indeed We have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have given their due compensation and those your right hand possesses from what Allah has returned to you [of captives] and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who emigrated with you and a believing woman if she gives herself to the Prophet [and] if the Prophet wishes to marry her, [this is] only for you, excluding the [other] believers. We certainly know what We have made obligatory upon them concerning their wives and those their right hands possess, [but this is for you] in order that there will be upon you no discomfort. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.”

      If Muhammad is Jesus, the early Muslims apparently believed that Jesus had or will have many wives. But … Isaiah 53:10-11 actually predicts that the servant of God will have kids: “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”

      I am still informing myself how the early Muslims could have seen Jesus to have kids. I had an idea the early Muslims might have had a system like the Catholics have now, which allows nuns to marry Jesus Christ. But this idea has problems, because the Quran seems to indicate that Muhammad may not marry the daughters of his near family members, of the maternal and the paternal side, also indicating he had an earthly father, while the Quran acknowledges the virgin birth of Jesus. I am basically forced to assume a later interpolation if I maintain Muhammad is Jesus.

  • mrm
    2017-10-08 12:43:43 UTC - 12:43 | Permalink

    “You mean that because Bukhari and Ibn Sad’s works are dated 200 years after Muhammad supposed death, they are not reliable? They aren’t. But these particular hadith I cite are very strange in that they say Muhammad won’t die until everybody acknowledges there is no God but Allah. And there are hadith (see Ibn Sad’s work) which claim that Muhammad will rule over Syria. I assume because these hadith are so strange that these are older beliefs of muslims.”

    strange beliefs found in texts written later implies strange beliefs must have gone back to the early muslims? any stuff which you did not find strange in the written text which probably went back to the early muslims?
    is criterion that that which is strange goes back to the earliest muslims, but that which isn’t strange was invented by the later muslims?

    “I think the earliest Muslims believed that Muhammad would rule over Syria, and that he wouldn’t die until the last day”

    funny, the quran seems to be saying that jesus not only died but he isn’t even going to return. there is no verse in the quran which says that jesus will return . so if the quran is the earliest source of the muslims, then quran believes that jesus aka muhammad isn’t going to return.

    • The Bomb
      2017-10-08 15:13:19 UTC - 15:13 | Permalink

      Yes you have a point. There is no proof, strictly speaking. What I can do is to point out to a Muslim that the Quran and the Hadith claim Jesus and Muhammad to be God’s chosen servant in Isaiah 42. They can’t be both this prophesied servant. So it means they must be the same being.

      But it must be said that some Hadith bear a striking resemblance to what the Doctrina Iacobi and (pseudo-)Sebeos claim. In the Doctrina Iacobi, a still living Saracen prophet is described who shows himself in Israel. (Pseudo-)Sebeos describes “Mahmed” as calling upon Jews and Arabs to go the land Abraham has promised to them. It contradicts standard Islamic theology, which claims that Muhammad died before Muslims entered the holy land. And there is no fixation on Israel in standard Islamic theology.

      There is an interesting paper/essay about the keys to paradise in the Doctrina Iacobi here:
      http://www.academia.edu/3689606/_Mu%E1%B8%A5ammad_the_Keys_to_Paradise_and_the_Doctrina_Iacobi_A_Late_Antique_Puzzle_Der_Islam_91.2_2014_243-265

      “Muḥammad, the Keys to Paradise, and the Doctrina Iacobi: A Late Antique Puzzle,” Der Islam 91.2 (2014): 243-265, Sean W. Anthony

      The Doctrina Iacobi claims that the prophet claims he has the keys to paradise. Sean Anthony tries to explain this strange idea. Sean Anthony points to a hadith, in which Muhammad says: “I will be the first to exit the grave when they are resurrected; I will be their leader once they arrive; I will address them as they hearken; I will be their mediator when they are imprisoned; and I will bring good-tidings when they are struck dumb with fear. On that day the banner of nobility, the keys of paradise, and the banner of praise shall be in my hands” (Sean Anthony gives a very complicated and long source for this hadith, I am not educated enough to understand it, but you can find it on page 259)

      Compare this to Sura 4:159: “And there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection he will be against them a witness.”

      And according to Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, number 657: “Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, surely (Jesus,) the son of Mary will soon descend amongst you and will judge mankind justly (as a Just Ruler); he will break the Cross and kill the pigs and there will be no Jizya [etc…..]”

      The funny thing is, is that in Islam both Muhammad and Jesus are some kind of figures who will decide who goes to heaven or paradise. And yes, Jesus seems to return, Jesus seems to be the seal of the prophets after all.

      On this website you will find some strange counterintuitive Islamic hadith:
      http://www.visitmasjidalaqsa.com/hadith-on-masjid-al-aqsa/

      I will quote some of it:

      Abu Umama (ra) reports that the Prophet (saw) said, “Prophethood descended upon me in three places: Makkah, Madinah and Al-Sham. Once it is brought out from any of them, it shall never return to it”. (Abu Dawud) In another narration it states, “The Quran was revealed in three places – Makkah, Madinah and Al-Sham”. (Tabarani) Ibn Kathir, the great scholar of Islam, said, “Al-Sham here means Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem). [Abu Dawud, Tabarani]

      Abdullah Ibn Umar (ra) reports that the Prophet (saw) said, There will be migration upon migration. The best of the inhabitants of earth will reside where Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) migrated (Jerusalem)”. [Abu Dawud]

      Al-Nawwas Ibn Saman Alkalbi (ra) narrates that the Prophet (saw) said, “If Al-Dajjal comes forth while I am amongst you then I shall dispute with him on your behalf, but if he comes after I am not with you, a man must dispute on his own behalf, and Allah will take to protecting every Muslim. Those of you who live up to his time should recite over him the opening verses of Surah Kahf, for they are your protection from his trial”. We asked, “How long will he remain on earth”? He (saw) replied, “Forty days, one like a year (1 day will be equivalent to 1 year), one like a month, one like a week and the rest of his days like yours”? We asked, “Will one day’s prayer suffice us in the day which will be like a year”? He replied, “No, you must estimate of its extent. Then Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Virgin Mary) will descend at the white minaret to the east of Damascus. He will then catch Al-Dajjal up at the gates of Ludd and kill him”. [Abu Dawud]

      Awf Ibn Malik (ra) reports that the Prophet (saw) said, “The rest of the world will be destroyed forty years before Al-Sham is”. [Ibn Asakir]

      The Prophet Mohammed (saw) said, “Allah has blessed what lies between Al-‘Arish (in Egypt) and the Euphrates and has made Palestine particularly Holy”. [Kanz Al-Umal]

    • The Bomb
      2017-10-15 08:35:16 UTC - 08:35 | Permalink

      I came across a very informative article by Jochen Katz here:

      http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Sources/allprophets.html

      He writes that many biblical stories in the Quran often are adjusted to reflect Muhammad’s life and ideas, but I think it might have been the other way around. Muhammad’s life is modeled after the altered biblical stories.

      One example that Jochen Katz gives is that if you read carefully, the Quran seems to say that the promised land is actually Egypt! He goes into more detail here:

      http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/israel_land_egypt.html

      I find it very convincing. And this could lead to a problem for Shoemaker’s theory that the proto-Muslims targeted what we know as the Holy Land. But it could be the early Muslims thought that Egypt was also located there.

      Jochen Katz sees many similarities between the Jesus in the Quran and Muhammad, and he also quotes from Neal Robinson’s book, “Christ in Islam and Christianity”. Neal Robinson draws similar conclusions.

      For example, the Islamic Jesus also seems to be a warlord. Quran 9:111 refers to the Gospel when it exhorts to violence: “Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah, so they kill and are killed. [It is] a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah ? So rejoice in your transaction which you have contracted. And it is that which is the great attainment.”

      And look at Quran 61:10-14: “O you who have believed, shall I guide you to a transaction that will save you from a painful punishment? [It is that] you believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is best for you, if you should know. He will forgive for you your sins and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow and pleasant dwellings in gardens of perpetual residence. That is the great attainment. And [you will obtain] another [favor] that you love – victory from Allah and an imminent conquest; and give good tidings to the believers. O you who have believed, be supporters of Allah, as when Jesus, the son of Mary, said to the disciples, “Who are my supporters for Allah ?” The disciples said, “We are supporters of Allah.” And a faction of the Children of Israel believed and a faction disbelieved. So We supported those who believed against their enemy, and they became dominant.” (end of quote)

      Neal Robinson’s comment on this (Quran 61:14): “Although this passage is very condensed its purport is clear enough. The believers are urged to fight at Muhammad’s side on the grounds that in so doing they will be following the example of Jesus’ disciples and that like them they will prove victorious. The word ‘helpers’ (ansar) is pregnant with meaning. It is the official title given to the people of Medina who rallied to Muhammad’s cause (9:100,107). It also puns with nasara, the Qur’anic name for Christians.”

      Neal Robinson also says this: “Like Muhammad, the Qur’anic Jesus is called a ‘prophet’ (nabi), a ‘messenger’ (rasul) and a ‘servant’ (‘abd) of God. Like him too he is said to have been sent as a ‘mercy’ (rahma). He received a revelation called ‘the Gospel’ just as Muhammad subsequently received the Qur’an. Jesus’ teaching and the teaching of the Gospel are referred to as ‘wisdom’, and ‘right path’, ‘guidance’, ‘light’ and ‘admonition’ – terms which recur as descriptions of the Qur’anic message. Jesus declared licit some of the things which were forbidden to the Jews (3:50) just as Muhammad did, for some of the more detailed food laws were a punishment imposed on the Jews because of their disobedience and thus were relaxed for Muslims (6:146f). Nevertheless the Gospel, like the Qur’an, was a confirmation of previous Scriptures (3:3). Its central thrust was identical with the central thrust of the Qur’an – the summons to serve and worship God. Jesus is said to have threatened idolaters with hellfire (5:72) and to have promised paradise to those who died fighting in God’s cause (9:111) – threats and promises which correspond to those made in the Qur’an. Moreover Jesus is said to have practiced ritual prayer (salat) and almsgiving (zakat) (19:31), the two fundamental religious obligations of Islam. In view of all this it should come as no surprise that the Qur’an also states that the revelation addressed to Jesus’ disciples urged them to believe in God and His messenger and that they declared that they were ‘submitted’ (muslimun, i.e. Muslims) (5:111) and wished to be enrolled ‘with those who bear witness’ (al-shahidin, i.e. those who recite the Muslim confession of faith?) (3:53).” (end of quote)

      Neal Robinson and Jochen Katz have more examples.

      I more strongly get the idea that Muhammad is indeed Jesus. But it is an Arabic warrior Jesus. His disciples are the ansar. And I surmise that this Jesus also had lots of wives. The wives described in Surah 33 are actually Jesus’ wives.

      I wonder what that gospel is the Quran refers to. It seems familiar with the Arabic infancy gospel of the savior (talking baby Jesus and a flying clay bird), The Gospel of Pseudo Matthew (Mary at the palm tree), and the gospel of the twelve apostles (the table from heaven). Was there an apocryphal gospel of a warrior Jesus which is now lost?

      • Neil Godfrey
        2017-10-15 20:25:37 UTC - 20:25 | Permalink

        Thanks for these notes, Bomb. Unfortunately it will be some time before I can make the time to delve into the literature on Muhammad’s historicity myself and be in a position to make any sort of meaningful contribution. But at least your notes will be here when that time comes.

  • mrm
    2017-10-17 20:11:16 UTC - 20:11 | Permalink

    Sahih International: The Messiah, son of Mary, was not but a messenger; [other] messengers have passed on before him. And his mother was a supporter of truth. They both used to eat food. Look how We make clear to them the signs; then look how they are deluded.

    you first said that the Quran is the EARliest source and what you do to make your argument is quote Hadeeth ,which according to you , come later. So here is proof from the earliest source, jesus used to EAT and drink and passed on.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-10-18 06:14:07 UTC - 06:14 | Permalink

      Sacred texts prove nothing about what happened in history. They are written for the faithful, not for historians.

    • The Bomb
      2017-10-19 07:43:34 UTC - 07:43 | Permalink

      Mrm, you adressed Tim Widowfield? Or me? I don’t know if the Quran is the earliest source. It seems to suddenly appear in the 690s, apparently created by al-Hajjaj Ibn Yussuf. But, the idea seems to be established by then that Muhammad was an historical person. I think some of these hadith I mentioned go back to the early days, to the the 630s when these proto-muslims or early muslims still believed Muhammad wouldn’t die until the last day, or that he would rule over Syria. It could be that these hadith are older than the Quran. It is all speculation. There are simply no Islamic sources from before 690, expect some obscure coins and inscriptions.

      About the Quran verse you mentioned. Neal Robinson has noticed that this verse about Jesus also applies to Muhammad in the Quran.

      See this one: “Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful.” (Quran 3:144)

      Or these verses: “And they say, “What is this messenger that eats food and walks in the markets? Why was there not sent down to him an angel so he would be with him a warner? Or [why is not] a treasure presented to him [from heaven], or does he [not] have a garden from which he eats?” And the wrongdoers say, “You follow not but a man affected by magic.”” (Quran 25:7-8)

      Is Jesus Muhammad?

      The Quran contradicts itself. It says Jesus has died just like all prophets, on the other hand it says he was never killed, he only appeared to be killed. He was never killed (4:157), and then God raises him up (3:55).

  • mrm
    2017-10-19 18:52:36 UTC - 18:52 | Permalink

    “I think some of these hadith I mentioned go back to the early days, to the the 630s when these proto-muslims or early muslims still believed Muhammad wouldn’t die until the last day, or that he would rule over Syria. It could be that these hadith are older than the Quran. It is all speculation. There are simply no Islamic sources from before 690, expect some obscure coins and inscriptions.”

    it is all speculation, you provide no evidence.

    quote those hadeeths which say MUHAMMAD wouldn’t die UNTIL the last day.

    quote :

    See this one: “Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful.” (Quran 3:144)

    end quote

    so what is going on here? muhammad is identified as a person and he could be killed.

  • mrm
    2017-10-19 18:56:04 UTC - 18:56 | Permalink

    “The funny thing is, is that in Islam both Muhammad and Jesus are some kind of figures who will decide who goes to heaven or paradise. And yes, Jesus seems to return, Jesus seems to be the seal of the prophets after all.”

    find in any hadeeth where jesus is called muhammad.
    muhammad and jesus are completely two different people. nobody ever confused the two for the same person.

    • The Bomb
      2017-10-19 22:31:05 UTC - 22:31 | Permalink

      Yep, it is speculation, but it looks like too much of a coincidence. I looked up what Christoph Luxenberg exactly said in ‘The Hidden Origins of Islam’ (edited by Ohlig and Puin). He also refers to the so-called servant-songs in Isaiah (for instance 42) as the origin of the the title of Muhammad Abdallah, the praised one and Servant of Allah (see from page 131 onward), like you can read on the Dome of the Rock inscriptions. You can see in the bible that Jesus is identified with Isaiah’s Beloved Chosen Servant (like in Matthew 12:15-21). Luxenberg doesn’t seem to be aware about these hadiths I mentioned above, like with Ka’b al Ahbar (see in Ibn Sa’d Tabaqat) saying that he finds in the Torah (more specifically Isaiah 42) the name Muhammad Abdallah, and this is EXACTLY what Luxenberg claims. Jesus and Muhammad are confused here.

      The Quran itself gives a hint that Jesus is God’s chosen servant. “And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.” (Quran 5: 46-47) It has the same language as Isaiah 42:6 talking about God’s chosen servant introduced in verse 1: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles”. The Quran and Isaiah both talk about righteousness, a guidance (taking hold of your hand), the light. Jesus IS that servant.

      Look at how Quran 57:28 talks about the prophet: “O you who have believed, fear Allah and believe in His Messenger; He will [then] give you a double portion of His mercy and make for you a light by which you will walk and forgive you; and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” Wasn’t Jesus the light of the world, and the one who forgives our sins? See John 8:12: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” (end of quote)

      Light and Darkness.

      Or look at Quran 65:11:”[He sent] a Messenger [Muhammad] reciting to you the distinct verses of Allah that He may bring out those who believe and do righteous deeds from darknesses into the light. And whoever believes in Allah and does righteousness – He will admit him into gardens beneath which rivers flow to abide therein forever. Allah will have perfected for him a provision.” Is Muhammad/Jesus reciting the gospel of John? Or look at Quran 4:64: “And We did not send any messenger except to be obeyed by permission of Allah. And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful.”

      That’s Jesus man.

      Muhammad and Jesus both have the title “THE servant of Allah” in the Quran (like the servant in the servant songs of Isaiah). See Quran 19:27-30: “Then she brought him to her people, carrying him. They said, “O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented. O sister of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste.” So she pointed to him. They said, “How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?” [Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.” ” (end of quote)

      Muhammad also has that title. See Quran 72:18-20: “And [He revealed] that the masjids are for Allah, so do not invoke with Allah anyone. And that when the Servant of Allah stood up supplicating Him, they almost became about him a compacted mass. Say, [O Muhammad], “I only invoke my Lord and do not associate with Him anyone.””. (end of quote)

      Christoph Luxenberg believes that when Muhammad “stood up” he is actually resurrected from the dead, and then a crowd gathers to him baffled by the miracle of the resurrection, they want to worship Muhammad, after which Muhammad (or Jesus) reassures them that only God should be worshipped, not Muhammad himself.

      “quote those hadeeths which say MUHAMMAD wouldn’t die UNTIL the last day.”

      Shoemaker quotes some of these hadiths in his book ‘The death of a Prophet…’ (I quote from page 187 from his book):

      “More importantly, however, in the version of this episode transmitted by Ibn Saʿd from al-Zuhrī through Maʿmar and Yūnus, ʿUmar explains that he could not believe that Muhammad had died, “because he [Muhammad] said that he thought that he would be the last of us [alive].” Once again, this report almost certainly reflects a very early tradition, inasmuch as it is quite unlikely that some later traditionist would ascribe such a patently false prediction to Muhammad, even indirectly through ʿUmar. By contrast, Ibn Isḥāq’s version has ʿUmar confess, “I thought that the Messenger of God would conduct our affairs until he was the last of us [alive],” making ʿUmar himself, rather than Muhammad, responsible for this false prophecy. Presumably, Ibn Isḥāq’s version is the more recent of the two, having made adjustments to shield Muhammad from error, while Ibn Saʿd’s account preserves yet further evidence of a primitive belief that the Hour would arrive prior to Muhammad’s death, a position here ascribed to Muhammad himself.” (end of quote)

      Shoemaker himself is of the opinion that the verses in the Quran about Muhammad dying, must therefore be interpolations, because nobody could witness Muhammad dying. But I’m not so sure. Muslims might have believed that Muhammad/Jesus was the last to die, and the first to be resurrected, and then to judge over humanity, while holding the keys of paradise in his hands.

      Is there a hadith (or Quran verses) which say that Jesus is Muhammad? The above examples are as good as it gets. Yes, Jesus and Muhammad are both “THE servant of Allah”, but there is no claim that Jesus is the Abdallah Muhammad. But there are some vague hadiths in which Muhammad says that he is closest to Jesus, that no prophet stands between him and Jesus. For instance this one: “The prophets are brothers of different mothers, but their religion is one. Of all men I am the most deserving to be the brother of Jesus Son of Mary, for there was no prophet between me and him.” [Al Hendy, Kanzol ‘Ummal, Vol. 17, Hadith No. 1033]

      Maybe some lost memory that both were actually the same entity in the past?

      But I admit, it is all speculation. But the pieces of the puzzle just fit too well. This is all so fascinating!!!!

      • mrm
        2017-10-20 12:46:29 UTC - 12:46 | Permalink

        your theory is causing head spin. you know, if we apply your theory, we can end up proving that arabs thought jesus came in the form called “quran” /recitation

        the quran calls itself light, guidance and the word of God.

        maybe the Quran is jesus ?

        i didn’t see in the verses you quoted that “the messenger” is able to forgive sins. i don’t know where you are getting that from .

      • The Bomb
        2017-10-20 19:31:01 UTC - 19:31 | Permalink

        Quran 57:28 isn’t very clear if it is Muhammad that gives the light and forgives, it could be God. But I think Muhammad is meant, because at the end of the verse it says that Allah is forgiving, why repeat it twice?

        “you know, if we apply your theory, we can end up proving that arabs thought jesus came in the form called “quran” /recitation”

        That is possible. Maybe we could see the Quran as the Revelations by pseudo-Jesus? Some Christians expected his coming, but when he didn’t come he came invisibly, in the form of the Quran, or so they believed. Just like the Jehovah’s witnesses believed Jesus came invisibly.

        There are enough people who say they have or had contact with Jesus, and Jesus even speaks to them.

      • The Bomb
        2017-11-05 13:43:21 UTC - 13:43 | Permalink

        I was looking for hadith about Jesus. Right now I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel. Islam has a quirky eschatology about the end times. If the theory is correct that Muhammad is Jesus, perhaps these hadith could give some hints. But it must be said that these hadith clearly separate Jesus and Muhammad. On the other hand, it is interesting to notice that Jesus is going to marry in some of these hadith and that he will die and be buried (in Muhammad’s grave). Then a short time (7 years or so) will pass before the end time is really happening, and during that time people will live in peace and tranquility. You can find many such hadith on sunnah.com by typing the search query “Ludd”.

        One of these hadith reads like this:

        Abdullah bin Amr reported Sayyidina Muhammad (pbuh) as saying, “Jesus, son of Mary, will descend to the earth, will marry, have children, and remain forty-five years, after which he will die and be buried along with me in my grave. Then Jesus, son of Mary, and I shall arise from one grave between Abu Bakr and Umar.” [Ibn al-Jauzi transmitted it in the Kitab al-Wafa’]

        I lifted the latter from: http://www.beautifulislam.net/prophethood/jesus_hadith.htm

        Although this hadith clearly separates Muhammad and Jesus as different people and is clearly written after Umar’s death, you find the idea in it that Jesus will marry and have kids, and will die after all. But it will only happen during his second coming. These particular ideas could be old. So from that perspective the Quran speaking about the wives of the prophet isn’t so strange (if Muhammad is Jesus), or that Jesus will die just like any other messenger of God. But it is peculiar that Jesus will be buried in Muhammad’s grave. Isn’t it a hint after all that they were originally the same being?

        I notice when looking at the bible, is that the messianic being who is prophesied to come, will punish the enemies of God all by himself, not with the help of any human helpers. You can see it in the Revelation of John: “He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:13-16)

        You can see the same motif in some hadith, such as this very long hadith (Sahih Muslim, Book 54, Hadith 136):

        https://sunnah.com/muslim/54/136

        “(…) He would then call (that young man) and he will come forward laughing with his face gleaming (with happiness) and it would be at this very time that Allah would send Jesus, son of Mary, and he will descend at the white minaret in the eastern side of Damascus wearing two garments lightly dyed with saffron and placing his hands on the wings of two Angels. When he would lower his head, there would fall beads of perspiration from his head, and when he would raise it up, beads like pearls would scatter from it. Every non-believer who would smell the odor of his self would die and his breath would reach as far as he would be able to see. He would then search for him (Dajjal) until he would catch hold of him at the gate of Ludd and would kill him. (…)”

        In the bible, the word of God kills with a sword coming from his mouth. In this hadith Jesus does it with his breath and body odors.

        In another similar hadith, the phrase about Jesus killing with his breath and odor is changed into just “He will fight the people for the cause of Islam”, right after the phrase about drops of sweat falling off Jesus’ head. See here:

        http://quranmalayalam.com/hadees/abudawud/037.sat.html

        Abu Dawud, Book 37, Number 4310:

        “Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus (peace_be_upon_him). He will descent (to the earth). When you see him, recognise him: a man of medium height, reddish fair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizyah. Allah will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the Antichrist and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray over him.”

        In another hadith Jesus joins the muslims and will route the disbelievers. I lifted this hadith from this website:

        http://www.discoveringislam.org/return_of_jesus.htm

        Prophet Mohammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said: “Then in the morning, Jesus son of Mary عليه السلام will join the Muslims, and Allah will cause the Dajjal and his followers to be routed, until the walls and the roots of the trees will call out: “Oh believer, here is a disbeliever hidden behind me: come and kill him.” (Musnad Ahmad and Al-Hakim).

        In other hadith, the motif about the trees crying that there are disbelievers hidden behind them are changed into Jews hidden behind them. There are also hadith about Jesus and the Muslims fighting 70.000 Jews (such as Sunan Ibn Majah, Book 36, Hadith 152 which also contains the trees warning about Jews behind them)

        Jesus in the the hadith collections is still a magical being. He will also also kill his enemies using insects, birds or worms (depending on the hadith) while being besieged by the infidels at mount Tur. But Muhammad performs miracles too. He multiplies food, and creates water out of nothing, just like Jesus.

        So here’s my short theory:

        1. At first (in the eyes of the proto-Muslims) Jesus returns on Earth and kills all disbelievers with the sword in his mouth. Jesus has the title Muhammad Abdallah (from Isaiah 42:1).
        2. In a later phase the story is changed into Jesus killing disbelievers with his breath.
        3. This is later changed into Jesus just fighting the disbelievers.
        4. This changes into Jesus joining the believers, fighting the disbelievers. The believers also kill disbelievers, and they are even warned by the stones and trees where the disbelievers are. Jesus becomes more and more human, and becomes less dependent on magic.
        5. In a later phase Jesus has wives, and is buried.
        6. The Quran is written. The Quran is God speaking through Jesus, the Logos, the word of God. Only through Jesus, can we listen to God. The Quran also describes events related to the end time, when Jesus has wives (see Surah 33), and when God commands the believers and the angels to fight wars against the disbelievers (such as Surah 8:11-12, and 3:125).
        7. In a later phase Jesus turns into the Arab warlord Muhammad who is placed at the beginning of the Arab empire. At first he still arrives straight from heaven, as explained in chronicle 818.
        8. etc.. etc.. stories about Arab warlord Muhammad begin the accrete, about his birth, his mother, his uncle, his battles, etc…

      • The Bomb
        2017-11-12 12:42:13 UTC - 12:42 | Permalink

        Actually, Paul also uses the metaphor of the breath of Christ instead of the sword in his mouth: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10 New International Version)

        Sunan Ibn Majah Vol. 5, Book 36, Hadith 4075, more clearly refers to the breath of Jesus: “While they are like that, Allah will send ‘Eisa bin Maryam, who will come down at the white minaret in the east of Damascus, wearing two Mahrud[garment dyed with Wars and then Saffron], resting his hands on the wings of two angels. When he lowers his head, beads of perspiration will fall from it. Every disbeliever who smells the fragrance of his breath will die, and his breath will reach as far as his eye can see. Then he will set out and catch up with him (the Dajjal) at the gate of Ludd, and will kill him.”

        And I think I found out where the hadiths (or ahadith as seems more correct) about the Jews or unbelievers hiding behind stones comes from. It is Revelation 6:15-17 (NIV): “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?””

        And then in several Islamic ahadith, the stones point out to the believers where the unbelievers or Jews are.

  • The Bomb
    2017-11-16 16:33:58 UTC - 16:33 | Permalink

    I wonder how Muslims started to get the idea they should fight the unbelievers in the whole world themselves at the end of time, while it is Jesus or God who will do it alone according to the bible.

    I thought I should take a look at how Christians before Islam justified conquest and forced conversions. Perhaps these ideas have inspired the proto-Muslims. It turns out it is saint Augustine of Hippo who made some elaborate justifications using the bible on how to defend forced conversions and world conquest.

    One such writing is “A Treatise Concerning the Correction of the Donatists” which can be found here:

    http://www.tertullian.org/fathers2/NPNF1-04/npnf1-04-63.htm

    Or “Contra Faustum” Book XXII, which can be found here:

    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/140622.htm

    The bible says several times that all the kings of the Earth will follow Jesus (as some Christians would interpret it). Such as Psalm 72:11: “All kings of the earth shall bow to Him, all nations shall serve Him”, or Psalm 2:10-11: “Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” And then Augustine reasons (in the Treatise Concerning the Correction of the Donatists): “what sober-minded man could say to the kings, ʺLet not any thought trouble you within your kingdom as to who restrains or attacks the Church of your Lord; deem it not a matter in which you should be concerned, which of your subjects may choose to be religious or sacrilegious,ʺ seeing that you cannot say to them, ʺDeem it no concern of yours which of your subjects may choose to be chaste, or which unchasteʺ For why, when free-will is given by God to man, should adulteries be punished by the laws, and sacrilege allowed? Is it a lighter matter that a soul should not keep faith with God, than that a woman should be faithless to her husband? Or if those faults which are committed not in contempt but in ignorance of religious truth are to be visited with lighter punishment, are they therefore to be neglected altogether?”

    He also quotes Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore God raised Him from the dead, and has given Him a name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and of things in earth, and of things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

    So what it boils down to is that the kings and the judges should follow Jesus, then the people should follow the kings and the judges, who should force all people to confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    Augustine also refers to the parable of the great Banquet to make his case: “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in.” [Luke 14:23]

    In Contra Faustum he says “The prophets, however, could even in those times die for the truth, as the Lord Himself says, ʺFrom the blood of Abel to the blood of Zachariaʺ; [Matthew 23:35] and in these days, since the commencement of the fulfillment of what is prophesied in the psalm of Christ, under the figure of Solomon, which means the peacemaker, as Christ is our peace, [Ephesians 2:14] “All kings of the earth shall bow to Him, all nations shall serve Him,” [Psalm 72:11] we have seen Christian emperors, who have put all their confidence in Christ, gaining splendid victories over ungodly enemies, whose hope was in the rites of idolatry and devil-worship. There are public and undeniable proofs of the fact, that on one side the prognostications of devils were found to be fallacious, and on the other, the predictions of saints were a means of support; and we have now writings in which those facts are recorded.”

    Augustine also saw these biblical verses as a justification to conquer the territory of the unbelievers. He also says other horrible things, for instance that people who insult God or who worship idols should be executed. He completely ignores the peaceful teachings of Jesus who said that those without sin should throw the first stone, or that God’s kingdom is in heaven. Augustine says that turning the other cheek only applies to individuals, not the emperor or the empire.

    I notice that Eusebius saw Constantine’s empire as the empire of peace of Jesus ,and that he would conquer all nations. See the “Oration in Praise of Constantine”:
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2504.htm

    A quote from Eusebius: ʺOur Saviour’s mighty power destroyed at once the many governments and the many gods of the powers of darkness, and proclaimed to all men, both rude and civilized, to the extremities of the earth, the sole sovereignty of God himself. Meantime the Roman empire, the causes of multiplied governments being thus removed, effected an easy conquest of those which yet remained; its object being to unite all nations in one harmonious whole; an object in great measure already secured, and destined to be still more perfectly attained, even to the final conquest of the ends of the habitable world, by means of the salutary doctrine, and through the aid of that Divine power which facilitates and smooths its way.ʺ

    This looks like the Islamic concept of the Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam.

  • The Bomb
    2017-11-25 10:09:26 UTC - 10:09 | Permalink

    I became more aware of the letter of John of Sedra (or Sedreh). I have actually read about it earlier, but its implications didn’t dawn upon me until now. The letter details a short dispute between John and an Arab emir. I retrieved a translation by Dr. Abdul-Massih Saadi from here:

    http://www.chaldeansonline.org/Banipal/English/karmo2.html

    This letter is not highly polemical in nature. The letter is only dated to “Sunday, the 9th of May”, which could mean 633, 639 or 644 AD. Many believe 644 AD is the correct date. The identity of the emir is unknown, but many speculate him to be Amr ibn Sa`d or `Umayr ibn Sa`d. Patriarch John of Sedra was the Patriarch of Antioch for the Syrian Orthodox Church between 631 and 648.

    This letter is problematic for the theory that the proto-Muslims considered Muhammad (Abdellah) to be the servant mentioned in Isaiah 42:1, or that Muhammad was considered to be a title for Jesus in the first place. The problem is that the emir doesn’t acknowledge the authority of the prophets (such as Isaiah) at all. He wants to know from John how Jesus is prophesied: “Why did they [Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, the rest of the prophets, all the just and righteous ones] not write clearly and make it known concerning Christ?” and “if Christ is God, and was born from Mary, and if there is a Son for God, let that be proved literally and from the Torah.”

    John gives some examples from the prophets. The emir only demands prophecies from Moses, because he only acknowledges the Torah (first five books of the old testament): “The glorious Amir did not accept these [proofs] from the prophets, instead, he demanded proof from Moses that Christ is God”.

    An echo of a question of the emir seems to be in the Quran. The letter says this: ‘At this point the Amir moved to ask him concerning the laws of the Christians: “what and how are they, and whether they are written in the Gospel or not?” Again [he asked], “if a man die and leave behind boys or girls and a wife and a mother and a sister and a cousin, how would his possessions be divided among them?”‘ (end of quote)

    Compare this to the Quran (5:47-48): “And let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the defiantly disobedient. And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion over it. So judge between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the truth. To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ.”

    These verses do acknowledge that laws can be derived from the Gospel. So I wonder, are these verses in the Quran a response to the conversation with John of Sedra.

    Might it be the case that this emir is actually the one and only……?

    And the Quran does acknowledge that Jesus is confirmed in the bible: “And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.” (Quran 5:46)

    The funny thing is, is that the emir doesn’t seem to know anything about the Gospels while the Quran talks several times about the Gospel of Jesus. He even asks if the gospel is one. Doesn’t the Quran explicitly say that there is only one Gospel of Jesus? Why does he need to ask? And Jesus seems to be a complete stranger to him.

    What is more striking is that the Quran is not mentioned, only that the Arabs follow the “law of the Mhaggraye”. Also Muhammad himself is not mentioned, and not the word Muslim(s).

    The fact of the matter is that Muhammad is mentioned in a fragment (on the Arab) conquests in 636 AD. Look here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fragment_on_the_Arab_Conquests

    Muhammad is also mentioned by Thomas the Presbyter in 635 or 636 AD, see here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_the_Presbyter

    One way to “save” the theory that Muhammad is the servant in Isaiah 42:1 is to assume that the emir doesn’t represent all the proto-Muslims of that time. Perhaps there were other sects who did acknowledge the Old Testament prophets. Perhaps the Muhammad-cult was just one of the Arab sects, who perhaps didn’t have that much power.

    Another way is to assume to the Arabs actually conquered Antioch much earlier than thought (normally dated at 637 AD). Hoyland in his book ‘Seeing Islam as others saw it’, on page 399, talks about some sources placing the Arab conquest of Syria in the period 617-619 AD. And maybe the John in the letter is not John of Sedra at all (his full name is not mentioned in the letter). So maybe the dispute between John and the emir actually happened in 633 or even earlier. This is before Thomas the presbyter and the other eyewitness reported the “Arabs of Muhmd” in 635-636. So maybe the Arabs accepted the prophets after 633, and discovered the name Muhammad Abdellah in Isaiah 42:1, then calling themselves the Arabs of Muhammad.

    But I get the faint suspicion that many scholars actually get the identity of the emir completely wrong. Might it not be possible that the emir is Muhammad himself? It is as if he first learns about Jesus and the Gospel from John of Sedra, gets inspired by it, and writes about it in his Quran.

    I have to add that I made a little mistake regarding chronicle 818. It turns out it was not written in 705, but only a short fragment within it which it copied.

    • The Bomb
      2017-12-02 10:40:04 UTC - 10:40 | Permalink

      And I realized that Thomas the Presbyter actually didn’t write about Muhammad in 635 or 636. He wrote it roughly in 640 AD (source: Hoyland’s book ‘Seeing Islam….’). He says this about Muhammad: “In January the people of Homs took the word for their lives and many villages were ravaged by the killing of the Arabs of Muhmd and many people were slain and taken prisoner from Galilee as far as Beth.”

      It could be that what he wrote about this episode is correct, only that he heard about “Muhmd” later and retroactively fitted the name into the incidents he wrote about. It could be that he heard about Muhammad in 640 AD. The same could be true about the fragment on the Arab conquests in the Syriac Christian gospel.

      So it could be that the Arabs discovered Muhammad in Isaiah 42 in 640. In that case it is possible that the conversation between John of Sedreh and the emir happened in 639, which is after 637 when the Arabs supposedly conquered Antioch, but still before 640 when Thomas the Presbyter mentions Muhammad.

      And I realized that the Doctrina Iacobi contains ideas derived from outside of the first five books of the bible. This piece was supposedly written July 13, 634. It says that “the prophet had appeared, coming with the Saracens, and that he was proclaiming the advent of the anointed one, the Christ who was to come”.

      What I understand from the Wikipedia article about the Messiah, is that the whole idea of messianism “grew from the Book of Isaiah (4:2 and chapter 11)”.

      And this means that the Arabs during 634 did recognize “the prophets” and not only the first five books of the old testament.

      However, in my opinion the Doctrina Iacobi is fictional. It is clearly a pro-Christian anti-Jewish piece of writing. There are indications it is actually written in the 670s. Sean Anthony wrote about it here:

      http://www.academia.edu/3689606/_Mu%E1%B8%A5ammad_the_Keys_to_Paradise_and_the_Doctrina_Iacobi_A_Late_Antique_Puzzle_Der_Islam_91.2_2014_243-265

      “Muḥammad, the Keys to Paradise, and the Doctrina Iacobi: A Late Antique Puzzle,” Der Islam 91.2 (2014): 243-265, Sean W. Anthony

      Sean Anthony says this: ‘The Doctrina Iacobi itself has Jacob declare that the Jews have been “trampled underfoot by the nations for 640 years, since our fathers, the Jews, crucified Christ, and since then until today we are slaves and playthings of all nations” – a number that, counting from the crucifixion, would produce a date sometime in the 670s.’

      Indeed, so it is possible that the writer of the Doctrina Iacobi heard something about the Arab prophet in the 670s and then he has people saying in his tract that they have spoken with the prophet: “So I, Abraham, inquired and heard from those who had met him that there was no truth to be found in the so-called prophet, only the shedding of men’s blood.”

      On the other hand, it is possible that the prophet was somebody else, Umar al Khattab or ‘Amr ibn al-‘As for instance. Perhaps He was influenced by Isaiah, and discovered the name Muhammad in Isaiah 42, expecting Muhammad to be the Christ who was to come. Or perhaps Ka’b al Ahbar discovered Muhammad in Isaiah 42 and related it to Umar or Amr, and then Umar or Amr started to preach about Muhammad, the anointed one, the Christ who is to come. And then people meet Umar of Amr, and relate it to Abraham, etc… and then it ends up in the Doctrina Iacobi.

  • Leave a Reply to Mark Erickson Cancel reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *