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Philangeli

Historicity of Mohammed

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Philangeli

Was the Quran really dictated by God?

Did Mohammed plagiarise existing teachings?

Did Mohammed as an historical character described by Muslims actually exist?

Did others write it?

What do others think?

Some extracts from Historicity of Muhammad - Wikipedia

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

According to traditional Islamic scholarship, all of the Qur'an was written down by Muhammad's companions while he was alive (during AD 610-632), but it was primarily an orally related document. The written compilation of the whole Qur'an in its finite form as we have it now was not completed until many years after the death of Muhammad.

F.E. Peters states, "Few have failed to be convinced that what is in our copy of the Quran is, in fact, what Muhammad taught, and is expressed in his own words... To sum this up: the Quran is convincingly the words of Muhammad, perhaps even dictated by him after their recitation". Peters argues that "The search for variants in the partial versions extant before the Caliph Uthman’s alleged recension in the 640s (what can be called the 'sources' behind our text) has not yielded any differences of great significance."

-----------------------

The Uthman Qur'an, dated to the early 9th century. It is an alleged 7th century original of the edition of the third caliph Uthman. This Qur'an is located in the small Telyashayakh mosque in Tashkent.

Gerd R. Puin's initial study of ancient Qur'an manuscripts found in Yemen led him to conclude that the Qur'an is a "cocktail of texts", some of which may have been existent a hundred years before Muhammad.

He later stated that "these Yemeni Qur'anic fragments do not differ from those found in museums and libraries elsewhere, with the exception of details that do not touch the Qur'an itself, but are rather differences in the way words are spelled."

Puin has stated that he believes the Qur'an was an evolving text rather than simply the Word of God as revealed in its entirety to Muhammad in the seventh century A.D.

Karl-Heinz Ohlig comes to the conclusion that the person of Muhammed was not central to early Islam at all, and that at this very early stage Islam was in fact an Arabic Christian sect (likely Ebionite, Arian and/or Nestorian, based on the recorded Ebionite faith of Khadija, Muhammad's first wife, and the Arianism and/or Nestorianism of her cousin,[dubious – discuss] the monk Bahira, mentioned by John of Damascus an early 8th century apologetic text where he hypothesises a fictional story that Bahira might have taught Muhammad, such accusations having made by the Quraish themselves in Mecca) which had objections to the concept of the trinity, and that the later hadith and biographies are in large part legends, instrumental in severing Islam from its Christian roots and building a full-blown new religion. John Wansbrough believes that the Qu’ran is a redaction in part of other sacred scriptures, in particular the Judaeo-Christian scriptures.

-----------------------------------------

Prophetic biography (sura)

According to Wim Raven, it is often noted that a coherent image of Muhammad cannot be formed from the literature of sura, whose authenticity and factual value have been questioned on a number of different grounds. He lists the following arguments against the authenticity of sura, followed here by counter arguments:

1.Hardly any sura work was compiled during the first century of Islam. However, Fred Donner points out that the earliest historical writings about the origins of Islam first emerged in 60-70 AH, well within the first century of Hijra (see also List of biographies of Muhammad). Furthermore, the sources now extant, dating from the second, third, and fourth centuries AH, are mostly compilations of material derived from earlier sources.

2.The many discrepancies exhibited in different narrations found in sura works. Yet, despite the lack of a single orthodoxy in Islam, there is still a marked agreement on the most general features of the traditional origins story.

3.Later sources claiming to know more about the time of Muhammad than earlier ones (to add embellishments and exaggeration common to an oral storytelling tradition).

4.Discrepancies compared to non-Muslim sources. But there are also similarities and agreements both in information specific to Muhammad, and concerning Muslim tradition at large.

5.Some parts or genres of sura, namely those dealing with miracles, are not fit as sources for scientific historiographical information about Muhammad, except for showing the beliefs and doctrines of his community.

Nevertheless, other content of sura, like the Constitution of Medina, are generally considered to be authentic by both Muslim and non-Muslim historians.

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Peter B

Was the Quran really dictated by God?

I'm somewhere between agnosticism and atheism: I seriously doubt the existence of any God. Therefore I seriously doubt the Quran was dictated by God.

Did Mohammed plagiarise existing teachings?

I'd prefer the word "influenced" to "plagiarised". That is, I think he was aware of what Jews and Christians in Arabia were teaching, and I think these teachings influenced his ideas.

Did Mohammed as an historical character described by Muslims actually exist?

Yes, I have little doubt about his historical reality. If nothing else, at least one contemporary document mentions him by name as the leader of the Arabs.

However, having read Tom Holland's book "The Shadow of the Sword", it seems that the biography of the Prophet as generally understood is unlikely to be true. For example, there's no mention of Mecca in contemporary documents or inscriptions, nor anything else until nearly a century after Muhammad's death; by contrast, Medina's very name (it translates as City of the Prophet) and its status as the effective capital of the early Caliphate suggest it was the Prophet's home. Secondly, Holland points out that academics have noted that many of the issues discussed in the Quran relate to the life of nomadic pastoralists rather than desert dwellers, again suggesting a base of operations further north (and much closer to the Roman Empire) than generally assumed.

Did others write it?

Again, Holland points to the work of academics who suggest that because the oldest known Qurans (dating to the late 7th century - maybe two generations after the Prophet's death) are substantially similar to later Qurans, it's likely to be the authentic thoughts of the Prophet. Holland also points out that there are statements in the Quran which suggest Muhammad was literate, even though it's a long-held Muslim tradition that he was illiterate. Put those together and it's reasonable to believe Muhammad effectively wrote the Quran, even if others later edited it.

What do others think?

Having become familiar with the traditional biographies of Muhammad, I found "The Shadow of the Sword" fascinating reading. It suggests revisions for early Islamic history as we understand it, creating a narrative which is familiar yet hauntingly different.

For example, it strongly suggests that one reason for the early successes of Islam was an alliance of convenience between Muhammad's Muslims and a loose confederation of Arabs who'd formerly been employed by the Roman Empire and left unemployed as a result of the Persian conquest of Syria. This explains the origin of the Quraysh who otherwise aren't mentioned before the earliest biographies of Muhammad (according to Holland, "Quraysh" is similar to the Syriac word for "confederation") and the fact that some early Umayyad caliphs appear to have been strangely un-Islamic (for example, the appearance of a cross in an inscription marking the dedication of a bathhouse by Caliph Muawiya, or the appearance of portraits of Caliph Abd-al-Malik on coins for a period of several years).

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Philangeli

...

For example, it strongly suggests that one reason for the early successes of Islam was an alliance of convenience between Muhammad's Muslims and a loose confederation of Arabs who'd formerly been employed by the Roman Empire and left unemployed as a result of the Persian conquest of Syria. This explains the origin of the Quraysh who otherwise aren't mentioned before the earliest biographies of Muhammad (according to Holland, "Quraysh" is similar to the Syriac word for "confederation") and the fact that some early Umayyad caliphs appear to have been strangely un-Islamic (for example, the appearance of a cross in an inscription marking the dedication of a bathhouse by Caliph Muawiya, or the appearance of portraits of Caliph Abd-al-Malik on coins for a period of several years).

Some great info there. Thanks. I'll have to get hold of that book.

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Podo

There is a great book called The Complete History of Islam. I can't remember the author's name, and google produces about a thousand books with similar titles (but I own the book and can find the name when I get home if people are interested). It was a really good, relatively unbiased account of Islam's history, by a celebrated historian. After reading it, I find myself relatively certain that Mohammed did exist as a real person. Was he holy? Of course not. Was he dictated the Koran by his god? Of course not. But I do think he was real, and that he was a powerful political figure in his time.

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XenoFish

he was a powerful political figure in his time.

Most psychopaths are.

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Philangeli

There is a great book called The Complete History of Islam. I can't remember the author's name, and google produces about a thousand books with similar titles (but I own the book and can find the name when I get home if people are interested). It was a really good, relatively unbiased account of Islam's history, by a celebrated historian. After reading it, I find myself relatively certain that Mohammed did exist as a real person. Was he holy? Of course not. Was he dictated the Koran by his god? Of course not. But I do think he was real, and that he was a powerful political figure in his time.

Yes, definitely would like the name and author of the book.

From what I have studied so far, I tend to believe that Mohammed was a minor warlord who had a religious message, but that his exploits and prophethood were amplified and exaggerated through the course of a hundred or so years after his death, making him a much bigger figure than he actually was.

It was an Arabian Caliph (can't remember his name just now) who put together the Quran in it final book form and used this as a theological weapon when the Muslim armies swept through the Arabian peninsula.

Throughout this period, there is little or no external, historical mention of Mohammed, or even the term, 'Muslim'.

Edited by Philangeli

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Podo

Yes, definitely would like the name and author of the book.

From what I have studied so far, I tend to believe that Mohammed was a minor warlord who had a religious message, but that his exploits and prophethood were amplified and exaggerated through the course of a hundred or so years after his death, making him a much bigger figure than he actually was.

It was an Arabian Caliph (can't remember his name just now) who put together the Quran in it final book form and used this as a theological weapon when the Muslim armies swept through the Arabian peninsula.

Throughout this period, there is little or no external, historical mention of Mohammed, or even the term, 'Muslim'.

Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong. It's a good read, I recommend it.

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Podo

Most psychopaths are.

I actually don't think he was a psychopath. From the descriptions of him, it seems more that he had a whole crop of psychological conditions. He suffered from seizures, visions, and heard voices. As far as I can tell, he seems like a profoundly sick man who happened to surround himself with enough idiots who believed the things he said and actively encouraged him to have psychotic episodes.

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Philangeli

I actually don't think he was a psychopath. From the descriptions of him, it seems more that he had a whole crop of psychological conditions. He suffered from seizures, visions, and heard voices. As far as I can tell, he seems like a profoundly sick man who happened to surround himself with enough idiots who believed the things he said and actively encouraged him to have psychotic episodes.

Various cult leaders have appeared throughout history who remarkably resemble Mohammed in some respects (though not as successful) - paranoid, over sexed, power mad, and a belief in being divinely chosen. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons springs to mind. On a smaller scale, the law finally caught up with this cult leader in London recently:

http://www.theguardi...ter-goes-public

Thanks for the book details - I'll check it out.

Edited by Philangeli
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GoldenWolf

The name Muhammad is an Arabic baby name. In Arabic the meaning of the name Muhammad is: Variant used for Mohammad - founder of Islamic religion. praiseworthy; glorified.

Muhammad (Arabic: محمد‎) is the primary transliteration of the Arabic given name, مُحَمَّد‎, from the triconsonantal root of Ḥ-M-D; Praise and becomes conjugated to Muhammad, which means "The Most Praised One". It is the name of the Islamic prophet.

A mnemonic that can be used to remember the characteristics of histrionic personality disorder is shortened as "PRAISE ME"

  • Provocative (or seductive) behavior
  • Relationships are considered more intimate than they actually are
  • Attention-seeking
  • Influenced easily
  • Speech (style) wants to impress; lacks detail
  • Emotional lability; shallowness
  • Make-up; physical appearance is used to draw attention to self
  • Exaggerated emotions; theatrical

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Philangeli

I found this interesting - a review of Robert Spencer's book, Did Muhammad Exist?

I don't have a firm belief one way or the other as I am still studying this topic.

From http://www.answering...mmad_exist.html

Did Muhammad exist?

What a strange question. Everybody assumes that Muhammad existed. Does not Islam affirm his existence? Why would anyone question it? Strangely enough there are many questions about Muhammad, the Qur’an, and the hadiths (traditions) that arose about Muhammad that led some scholars and researchers to the conclusion that Muhammad really did not exist. What is the cause of this doubt?

A recent book by Robert Spencer has the title, Did Muhammad Exist? The book<a href="http://www.answering...ist.html#fn_1">1 is well-researched and deals with many historical issues. He describes the “canonical” story, that is, the common story told by Muslims, of Muhammad and then deals with the problems of supporting the story. The conclusion is that there is little to support the Muslim claims concerning the existence of Muhammad historically.

What are the sources of information about Muhammad?

First, we must examine the Qur’an, the sacred book of Muslims. There is little information about Muhammad in the Qur’an. The word “Muhammad” appears 4 times in the Qur’an. In three of the cases it could merely refer to a title, “the praised one,” or “chosen one.” Other names like Abraham appear 79 times, Moses 136 times, Pharaoh 74 times. The title “messenger of Allah” appears 300 times. Surah 33:40 is certainly a reference to a person, but it tells nothing about the life of Muhammad. Surah 48:29 also names Muhammad as a messenger of Allah.

Spencer concludes that “we can glean nothing from these passages about Muhammad’s biography. Nor is it even certain, on the basis of the Qur’anic text alone, that these passages refer to Muhammad, or did so originally.” (p.19)

Second, there are the hadiths, traditions, that are voluminous in quantity, often contradictory in nature, and most of them fabrications due to the lack of information about Muhammad. The hadiths arose much later after Muhammad supposedly died in 632.

Third, there is the Sira, an Arabic term for the traditional biographies of Muhammad. “The earliest biography of Muhammad was written by Ibn Ishaq (d.773), who wrote in the latter part of the eighth century, at least 125 years after the death of his protagonist, in a setting in which legendary material about Muhammad was proliferating. And Ibn Ishaq’s biography does not even exist as such; it comes down to us only in the quite lengthy fragments reproduced by an even later chronicler, Ibn Hisham, who wrote in the first quarter of the ninth century, and by other historians who reproduced and thereby preserved additional sections. Other biographical material about Muhammad dates from even later.” (p.19)

One of the earliest non-Muslim sources to possibly mention the prophet of Islam is a document known as the Doctrina Jacobi which was written by a Christian between 634 and 640. The document mentions the Saracens coming with an army and the prophet leading them. The writer was stopped by an old man well versed in Scripture and he inquired, “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.’ (p.21) This unnamed prophet mentioned in the Doctrina was travelling with his army. Muhammad had died already. Moreover the full document speaks with reference to the anointed one, the Christ who was to come.”

“… there is not a single account of any kind dating from around the time the Doctrina Jacobi was written that affirms the canonical Islamic story of Muhammad and Islam’s origins.” (p.22)

The conquest of Jerusalem in 637 is mentioned by Sophronius, the patriarch of Jerusalem, who turned the city over to Umar, the conquering leader, but nothing is said about a holy book, or Muhammad, only that they were Saracens who were “godless.”

The first reference to the term Muslim comes in 690 by a Coptic Christian bishop, John of Nikiou. He wrote: “And now many of the Egyptians who had been false Christians denied the holy orthodox faith and lifegiving baptism, and embraced the religion of the Muslims, the enemies of God, and accepted the detestable doctrine of the beast, that is, Muhammad, and they erred together with those idolaters, and took arms in their hands and fought against the Christians.”

“There is, however, reason to believe that this text as it stands is not as John of Nikiou wrote it. It survives only in an Ethiopic translation from the Arabic, dating from 1602. The Arabic itself was a translation from the original Greek or some other language. There is no other record of the terms Muslim and Islam being used either by the Arabians or by the conquered people in the 690’s, outside of the inscription on the Dome of the Rock, which itself has numerous questionable features…” (p.36)

After pursuing various issues Spencer sums up what we know about the traditional account of Muhammad’s life and the early days of Islam.

  • No record of Muhammad’s reported death in 632 appears until more than a century after that date.

  • A Christian account apparently dating from the mid-630s speaks of an Arab prophet “armed with a sword” who seems to be still alive.

  • The early accounts written by the people the Arabs conquered never mention Islam, Muhammad, or the Qur’an. They call the conquerors “Ishmaelites,” “Saracens,” “Muhajirun,” and “Hagarians” but never “Muslims.”

  • The Arab conquerors, in their coins and inscriptions, don’t mention Islam or the Qur’an for the first six decades of their conquests. Mentions of “Muhammad” are non-specific and on at least two occasions are accompanied by a cross. The word can be used not only as a proper name but also as an honorific.

  • The Qur’an, even by the canonical Muslim account, was not distributed in its present form until the 650’s. Contradicting that standard account is the fact that neither the Arabian nor the Christians and Jews in the region mention the Qur’an until the early eighth century.

  • During the reign of the caliph Muawiya (661-680), the Arabs constructed at least one public building whose inscription was headed by a cross.

  • We begin hearing about Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, and about Islam itself in the 690’s, during the reign of the caliph Abd al-Malik. Coins and inscriptions reflecting Islamic beliefs begin to appear at this time also.

  • Around the same time, Arabic became the predominant written language of the Arabian Empire, supplanting Syriac and Greek.

  • Abd al-Malik claimed, in a passing remark in one hadith, to have collected the Qur’an, contradicting Islamic tradition that the collection was the work of the caliph Uthman forty years earlier.

  • Multiple hadiths report that Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, governor of Iraq during the reign of Abd al-Malik, edited the Qur’an and distributed his new edition to the various Arab-controlled provinces--- again, something Uthman is supposed to have done decades earlier.

  • Even some Islamic traditions maintain that certain common Islamic practices, such as the recitation of the Qur’an during mosque prayers, date from orders of Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, not to the earlier period of Islamic history.

  • In the middle of the eighth century, the Abbasid dynastic supplanted the Umayyad line of Abd al-Malik. The Abbasids charged the Umayyads with impiety on a large scale. In the Abbasid period, biographical material about Mohammed began to proliferate. The first complete biography of the prophet of Islam finally appeared during this era—at least 125 years after the traditional date of his death.

  • The biographical material that emerged situates Muhammad in an area of Arabia that never was the center for trade and pilgrimage that the canonical Islamic account of Islam’s origin depend on it to be. (pp.205-206)

Given these huge problems for the history of Islam, how does Spencer explain the rise of Islam? He proposes the need for a political theology that would reflect Arabic culture, Arabic language, and Arabic religion. When warriors from Arabia encountered the conquered cultures they observed that the Roman empire had a political theology for the purpose of binding the empire together. “The earliest Arab rulers appear to have been adherents of Hagarism, a monotheistic religion centered around Abraham and Ishmael.” (p.208) It was not as anti-Christian as Islam developed later since there were Arab coins with crosses on them. This religious model reached its height in 691 and there began to emerge a defiantly Arabic one.

By the end of the seventh century and the beginning of the eight, “the Umayyads began to speak more specifically about Islam, its prophet and eventually its book.” (The Umayyad dynasty ruled from 661 to 750.) The Dome of the Rock’s inscription referring to the “praised one” no longer could refer to Jesus, but to Muhammad. Even if Muhammad did not exist his name would be politically useful since the Arabs needed an Arab prophet who would also have a scripture in Arabic.

Since much of the Qur’an has been borrowed from Jewish and Christian sources of some kind it was easy to plagiarize them and change them for their own uses.

The lack of historical documents seems to be blamed on the Umayyad party who were replaced by the Abbasids in 750. The Umayyads were regarded as irreligious, failing to appreciate the history of Islam. With the new Caliph, the Abbasids, there begins a massive attempt to fill in the gaps of ignorance about the past, about Muhammad, and the manufacture of hadiths (traditions) began in earnest. Many of the hadiths blame the Umayyads, and the Umayyads created their own hadiths blaming the Abbasids. There are 600,000 hadiths, all of them forgeries by competing groups. Even the Shia have their own hadiths affirming the claim of Ali as successor to Muhammad.

Essentially, Spencer maintains that the Arabian empire came first, the theology came later.

He concludes: “A careful investigation makes at least one thing clear: The details of Muhammad’s life that have been handed down as canonical—that he unified Arabia by the force of arms, concluded alliances, married wives, legislated for his community, and did so much else—are a creation of political ferment dating from long after the time he is supposed to have lived. Similarly, the records strongly indicate that the Qur’an did not exist until long after it was supposed to have been delivered to the prophet of Islam.”

“Did Muhammad exist? As a prophet of the Arabs who taught a vaguely defined monotheism, he may have existed. But beyond that, his life story is lost in the mists of legend, like those of Robin Hood and Macbeth. As the prophet of Islam, who received (or even claimed to receive) the perfect copy of the perfect eternal book from the supreme God, Muhammad almost certainly did not exist. There are too many gaps, too many silences, too many aspects of the historical record that simply do not accord, and cannot be made to accord, with the traditional account of the Arabian prophet teaching his Qur’an, energizing his followers to such an extent that they went out and conquered a good part of the world.” (pp.214-215)

How will Muslims respond to this book? Some may seek to curse the author. They may respond in outrage. But that will not disprove the facts presented here. Islam is supposed to be a religion based in history. It is supposed to be a religion of reason. But if history will not support the claims of Islam, is it time for Muslims to rethink the legitimacy of Islam? Blind commitment to the teachings of the local imam will not be enough in this age of instant information and verification of facts.

Spencer makes a compelling argument that Muhammad did not exist.

Edited by Philangeli

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third_eye

Muhammad's letters to the Heads-of-State

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

According to al-Tabari in his History of the Prophets and Kings, Muhammad decided after the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah to send letters to many rulers of the world, inviting them to Islam. [1][2][3] Non Muslims have disputed this tradition, however.[4]

Muhammad, according to the usually told Islamic historiography, sent ambassadors with such letters to Heraclius the Caesar of Byzantium, Chosroes II the Khosrau of Persia, the Negus of Ethiopia, Muqawqis the ruler of Egypt, Harith Gassani the governor of Syria, Munzir ibn Sawa and to the ruler of Bahrain.[5]

~

Ashtiname of Muhammad

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Ashtiname of Muhammad, also known as the Covenant or Testament (Testamentum) of Muhammad, is a document which is a charter or writ ratified by the Islamic prophet Muhammad granting protection and other privileges to the Christian monks of Saint Catherine's Monastery. It is sealed with an imprint representing Muhammad's hand.[1]

Āshtīnāmeh (IPA: [ɒʃtinɒme]) is a Persian word meaning "Book of Peace", a Persian term for a treaty and covenant.[2]

~

Was Muhammad a real historical figure? What is the evidence for his existence?

~

Historicity of Muhammad

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

***

Nevertheless, other content of sīra, like the Constitution of Medina, are generally considered to be authentic by both Muslim and non-Muslim historians.[23]

Non-Muslim sources

See also: Seeing Islam as Others Saw It

There is a reference recording the Arab conquest of Syria, that mentions Muhammed. This much faded note is preserved on folio 1 of BL Add. 14,461, a codex containing the Gospel according to Matthew and the Gospel according to Mark. This note appears to have been penned soon after the battle of Gabitha (636 CE) at which the Arabs inflicted crushing defeat of the Byzantines. Wright was first to draw the attention to the fragment and suggested that "it seems to be a nearly contemporary notice",[28] a view which was also endorsed by Nöldeke.[29] The purpose of jotting this note in the book of Gospels appears to be commemorative as the author appears to have realized how momentous the events of his time were. The words "we saw" are positive evidence that the author was a contemporary. The author also talks about olive oil, cattle, ruined villages, suggesting that he belonged to peasant stock, i.e., parish priest or a monk who could read and write. It is worthwhile cautioning that the condition of the text is fragmentary and many of the readings unclear or disputable. The lacunae are supplied in square brackets:

... and in January, they took the word for their lives (did) [the sons of] Emesa [i.e., ̣Hiṃs)], and many villages were ruined with killing by [the Arabs of] Mụhammad and a great number of people were killed and captives [were taken] from Galilee as far as Bēth [...] and those Arabs pitched camp beside [Damascus?] [...] and we saw everywhe[re...] and o[l]ive oil which they brought and them. And on the t[wenty six]th of May went S[ac[ella]rius]... cattle [...] [...] from the vicinity of Emesa and the Romans chased them [...] and on the tenth [of August] the Romans fled from the vicinity of Damascus [...] many [people] some 10,000. And at the turn [of the ye]ar the Romans came; and on the twentieth of August in the year n[ine hundred and forty-]seven there gathered in Gabitha [...] the Romans and great many people were ki[lled of] [the R]omans,
ome fifty thousand [...]

The 8th century BL Add. 14,643 was published by Wright who first brought to attention the mention of an early date of 947 AG (635-6 CE).[31] The contents of this manuscript has puzzled many scholars for their apparent lack of coherence as it contains an assembly of texts with diverse nature.[32] In relation to Arabs of Mohamed, there are two important dates mentioned in this manuscript.

AG 945, indiction VII: On Friday, 4 February, [i.e., 634 CE / Dhul Qa‘dah 12 AH] at the ninth hour, there was a battle between the Romans and the Arabs of Mụhammad [syr. tayyāyē d-Ṃhmt] in Israel twelve miles east of Gaza. The Romans fled, leaving behind the patrician YRDN (Syr. BRYRDN), whom the Arabs killed. Some 4000 poor villagers of Israel were killed there, Christians, Jews and Samaritans. The Arabs ravaged the whole region.

AG 947, indiction IX: The Arabs invaded the whole of Syria and went down to Persia and conquered it; the Arabs climbed mountain of Mardin and killed many monks there in [the monasteries of] Kedar and Benōthō. There died the blessed man Simon, doorkeeper of Qedar, brother of Thomas the priest.

It is the first date above which is of great importance as it provides the first explicit reference to Muhammad in a non-Muslim source. The account is usually identified with the battle of Dathin.[34] According to Hoyland, "its precise dating inspires confidence that it ultimately derives from first-hand knowledge".[35]

Another account of the early seventh century comes from Sebeos who was an Armenian bishop of the House of Bagratuni. From this chronicle, there are indications that he lived through many of the events he relates. He maintains that the account of Arab conquests derives from the fugitives who had been eyewitnesses thereof. He concludes with Mu‘awiya's ascendancy in the Arab civil war (656-61 CE), which suggests that he was writing soon after this date. Sebeos is the first non-Muslim author to present us with a theory for the rise of Islam that pays attention to what the Muslims themselves thought they were doing.[36] As for Muhammad, he has the following to say:

At that time a certain man from along those same sons of Ismael, whose name was Mahmet [i.e., Mụhammad], a merchant, as if by God's command appeared to them as a preacher [and] the path of truth. He taught them to recognize the God of Abraham, especially because he was learnt and informed in the history of Moses. Now because the command was from on high, at a single order they all came together in unity of religion. Abandoning their vain cults, they turned to the living God who had appeared to their father Abraham. So, Mahmet legislated for them: not to eat carrion, not to drink wine, not to speak falsely, and not to engage in fornication. He said: 'With an oath God promised this land to Abraham and his seed after him for ever. And he brought about as he promised during that time while he loved Ismael. But now you are the sons of Abraham and God is accomplishing his promise to Abraham and his seed for you. Love sincerely only the God of Abraham, and go and seize the land which God gave to your father Abraham. No one will be able to resist you in battle, because God is with you.

Sebeos was writing the chronicle at a time when memories of sudden eruption of the Arabs was fresh. He knows Muhammad's name and that he was a merchant by profession. He hints that his life was suddenly changed by a divinely inspired revelation.[38]

~

It is surprising that this paper was able to make it past the editor and was included in the journal in the first place. It makes an elaborate case for the killing of professors and others who are deemed enemies of the state for criticizing the “War On Terror.” It employs the methodology of Robert Spencer in describing critics of the military and US policy as “useful idiots” and sympathizers of the catch-all bogeyman known as “Islamists.”

Most of the news reports have focused on Bradford’s fascistic call to eliminate professors and attack academic institutions. The retraction by the journal focuses completely on this aspect of his paper, which granted is the central thesis,

This past spring the Journal made a mistake in publishing a highly controversial article,
Trahison des Professeurs: The Critical Law of Armed Conflict Academy as an Islamist Fifth Column
, 3 Nat’l Sec. L.J. 278 (2015), by William C. Bradford, who is currently an assistant professor at the United States Military Academy. As the incoming Editorial Board, we want to address concerns regarding Mr. Bradford’s contention that some scholars in legal academia could be considered as constituting a fifth column in the war against terror; his interpretation is that those scholars could be targeted as unlawful combatants. The substance of Mr. Bradford’s article cannot fairly be considered apart from the egregious breach of professional decorum that it exhibits. We cannot “unpublish” it, of course, but we can and do acknowledge that the article was not presentable for publication when we published it, and that we therefore repudiate it with sincere apologies to our readers.

Moving forward, the current Editorial Board is committed to generating legitimate scholarly debate, representing all points of view, in the area of national security law. However, we have learned from this experience, and we recognize the responsibility that attends our publication decisions. The process of selecting articles is one our Editorial Board takes very seriously, and we are re-examining our selection process to ensure that we publish high quality scholarly articles.

A welcomed and necessary retraction by the Journal to save face after this embarrassing incident, though it doesn’t tell us why they published or made this “mistake” in the first place.

It is telling that the retraction doesn’t mention another factor why Bradford’s article can be considered as exhibiting an “egregious breach of professional decorum”: the fact that it considers threatening “total war” and use of nuclear strikes on “Islamists” and Muslim holy sites as a reasonable strategy! Shouldn’t that be included in the whole reason why this paper was so awful?

  • edit to add ~ Robert Spencer Watch link

~

For media inquiries, please contact communications@pjmedia.com

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Complete Infidel’s Guide to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.

~ ahem ... please contact ~

Edited by third_eye
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Philangeli

edit to add ~ Robert Spencer Watch link

~

~ ahem ... please contact ~

Even though I think Mohammed probably did exist, I wouldn't automatically accept Hadith sources as being historically accurate, (e.g. Al Tabari, who died in 923), which were written two to three hundred years after the said events.

The same goes for any Christian sources for his existence - they may easily have been borrowed, altered, third hand tales passed down through the generations.

With reference to the fragment containing the name, Mohammed, this could easily be explained by the fact that Mohammed means Praiseworthy or the Praised One, and may have not referred to the character Muslims believe to be called Mohammed.

Edited by Philangeli

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third_eye

Even though I think Mohammed probably did exist, I wouldn't automatically accept Hadith sources as being historically accurate, (e.g. Al Tabari, who died in 923), which were written two to three hundred years after the said events.

I have no idea how old you are or how much time you'd have dedicated yourself on this Don Quixote rigmarole of an 'investigation' but all I can say is you're giving yourself a Man From La Mancha misadventure because the debate in regards to Muhammad PBUH isn't historical accuracy but the seats of legitimate succession and Power.

That in itself shows how wrong many Researchers were in regarding Muhammad PBUH as a politically inclined individual, he did not care about that and that is the reason Islam and the Caliphate suffered from the History that it does ~ no one among his Brothers in Islam had any Idea that the Religion they started among themselves in their backyard would have the kind of reach and borders we see today ~ and the subsequent Caliphates took the worse examples to emulate when they did discover that with Empires they needed Earthly Empire Ruling Skills ~ something Muhammad PBUH did not have any chance to exemplify with his time on Earth ~

So the Islamic Empire were left to their own devices ... and like other Empires they failed as much as they succeeded ~ depending on whose side you want to believe

The same goes for any Christian sources for his existence - they may easily have been borrowed, altered, third hand tales passed down through the generations.

With reference to the fragment containing the name, Mohammed, this could easily be explained by the fact that Mohammed means Praiseworthy or the Praised One, and may have not referred to the character Muslims believe to be called Mohammed.

You are offering dubious sentiments as doubts ~ which you are inclined to be bias about which is also understandable ... so I guess if I were to offer any impartial perspective here it would automatically default to the other edge of the prejudice for you ~ in other words : a massive waste of time ~

One note on the Christian Sources in regards to JC ... it is not a simple as just as you stated there so blithely ... over 500 years of senseless slaughter in Medieval Europe made the version of the Good Book that many holds in so great regard today ... and that is not merely an 'opinion'

~

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third_eye

The Qur'an, Hadith, and the Prophet Muhammad

***

The traditional Muslim understanding of the history of the Qur'an is found at the History of Qur'an Site and The Preservation and Transmission of Qur'an (link fixed, Sept. 4, 2000). The major events in traditional accounts of the process that lead up to the production of the Qur'an as we know it are noted at the site A brief History of the Compilation of the Qur'an. For a detailed recounting of the traditional Muslim view of the early transmission of the Qur'an see Transmission of the Qur'anic Revelation, which is chapter two in Ahmad von Denffer's book 'Ulum al-Qur'an. See also chapter three in the same work, The Qur'an in Manuscript and Print, for a discussion of early Qur'an manuscripts. A recent online article that discusses early Qur'an manuscripts and includes numerous images of these is titled The Qur'an Manuscripts and was compiled by the Muslim scholars of Islamic-Awareness.Org, which is a website designed to educate Muslims about the issues often raised by Christian missionaries.

A minority of Western scholars (often called orientalists) assert that Muslim accounts of the compilation of the Qur'an are pious fictions and that the Qur'an substantially evolved after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 CE. This viewpoint is presented in a recent article (on-line and in print) written for a popular audience in Atlantic Monthly, What is the Koran? (Link fixed February 7, 1999) Nevertheless, concerning the completeness of the Qur'an and the final arrangement of the surahs (chapters), it must be stressed --as Professor A. Jones of Oxford asserts-- that "the varying views of orientalists [on the the completeness and order of the Qur'an] are a mixture of prejudice and speculation" and consequently have not been generally accepted as being true (Cambridge History of Arabic Literature: Arabic Literature to the End of the Umayyad Period p. 240). For a rebuttal of the Atlantic Monthlyarticle's main contentions see a A Response to the article "What is the Koran?" written by a Jeffrey Lang, a Muslim professor of Mathematics at the University of Kansas. (Fixed 2 December 1999 and offline on Nov. 28, 2001) In addition, see the critique written by Azizah al-Hibri, professor of Law at the University of Richmond. (Fixed 2 December 1999 and 24 November 2001.) And note as well, the comments on the Atlantic Monthly article derived from a statement by Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, (link fixed 24 November 2001) a highly esteemed scholar of Islam and religion in general.

A wide variety of criticisms of Muslim beliefs in the Qur'an are explained and refuted in a generally scholarly manner at the many pages of the site Issues Concerning the Qur'an. See especially the subpages Textual Integrity of the Qur'an and The Sources of the Qur'an.

An excellent introduction to the Qur'an is the article titled The Koran, by Professors Sachiko Murata and William C. Chittick of State University of New York, Stonybrook. This is an excerpt from their book The Vision of Islam (Amazon.com) which is largely based on the Qur'an itself. This article will help readers to understand and get beyond certain problems inherent in any translation of the Qur'an

***

Sirah, Hagiographical Literature on the Prophet

The Prophet's life-story was transmitted by story tellers and then compiled in books called sirah (pronounced as seera.) In the works of this genre, the Prophet Muhammad's virtuous character is made clear. Even before receiving the revelation of the Qur'an, the Prophet Muhammad was well-known for his good character. One example of his character can be seen in the well-attested hadith transmitted by Umm al-'Ala', an Ansari woman [of Madina] who made the pledge to the Prophet. She narrated the following hadith: At the death of Abu Sa'ib 'Uthman ibn Maz'un, she said, "O Abu Sa'ib, I testify that God has enobled you." The prophet said, "How do you know that God has enobled him?" So I [umm al-'Ala'] said, "May my father be sacrificed for you, O Messenger of God! Whom does God enoble?" Then the Prophet said, "As for him, [the] certainty [of death] has indeed come to him, and by God, I hope the best for him. By God, I do not know--even though I am the messenger of God--what will be done with me." She said, "By God, I never attested to anyone's piety after that." (Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 1, p. 419-20; M. M. Khan, v. 2, p. 189-90 Jana'iz, bab 3, #2 (#334); Ibn Hajar, Irshad al-sari, vol. 2, p. 376-77).

A well-written on-line Biography of the Prophet Muhammad is that of the contemporary Muslim scholar Muhammad Hamidullah.

***

~

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Peter B

When assessing whether Muhammad was a real person, I think it’s pretty important that people are as familiar as possible with the political, economic and religious context of the time. Personally I find the period absolutely fascinating, so I hope people don’t mind me sharing some of what I know about the time and place.

Political background

At the start of the 7th century, the two most powerful kingdoms in the Middle East were the Roman Empire and the Sassanid Persian Empire.

The Roman Empire at this time was quite unlike the empire most people are familiar with. For one thing it was almost militantly Christian, with Emperors placing increasingly tight restrictions on non-Christians. And although it was by far the most powerful state in Europe, it was also under tremendous pressure, with enemies active on pretty much every frontier.

Thanks to the conquests ordered by Justinian two generations earlier, the Empire, with its capital at Constantinople, held parts of Spain, Italy and North Africa, in addition to all the land around the eastern Mediterranean. However, the Visigoths were attacking in Spain, the Lombards in Italy, the Berbers in North Africa, and Slavic tribes and the gold-hungry Avars (from whom we get the word avaricious) in the Balkans. To the east was Sassanid Persia, Rome’s main enemy now for nearly 400 years. For most of this time warfare had involved little more than large-scale raids, but this was about to change.

Persia was as militantly Zoroastrian as Rome was Christian. Although it had a much smaller population than the Roman Empire, Persian territory was more compact, with Turkish nomads to the north the main enemy apart from Rome.

On the fringe of the Arabian Desert both Rome and Persia had clients – the uncompromisingly Christian Ghassanid Arabs for the Romans, and the equally defiantly pagan Lakhmid Arabs for the Persians, with Roman and Persian gold ensuring that they remained the two most powerful forces in Arabia. Further into the desert the remaining clans and tribes engaged in almost endless feuding and skirmishing.

One other reason Rome was under pressure was the Plague of Justinian, which had struck around the middle of the 6th century. In killing around a third of the population, it was every bit as deadly as the Black Death would be several centuries later. As a result the Roman Empire was desperately short of people to tax and people to enlist in its armies.

The Romans gained unexpected relief in 591 when a coup in Persia overthrew the king. His son, Chosroes, fled to Constantinople and begged the Emperor for a Roman army to put him back on the throne. The Roman Emperor, Maurice, agreed and the plan succeeded. Chosroes seized the throne and made peace on terms highly favourable to the Romans.

Edited by Peter B
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Peter B

Religious background

As mentioned above, the Roman Empire was strictly Christian. Most of the population followed a version of Christianity from which both today’s Catholic and Orthodox churches are descended. However in Syria and Egypt the majority of the local populations followed what the Emperor considered to be heretical versions of Christianity, and the feeling was mutual. Sectarian violence was the order of the day.

Across the Empire, Jews and other non-Christians were subject to increasingly stringent restrictions and humiliations. Escape from persecution was possible only on the Empire’s fringes or outside it. When the Emperor Justinian closed down Plato’s Academy in Athens the remaining teachers sought asylum in Persia, only to seek to return the following year due probably to a combination of homesickness and irritation at being a propaganda pawn of the Persian King. It’s at least possible they settled in Harran, a Roman controlled city but one near the Persian border, and unusual because its inhabitants continued to worship the old gods rather than convert to Christianity or Zoroastrianism. By contrast, Samaritans, a Jewish sect based around the old capital of the kingdom of Israel, were welcomed in the Roman army as ferocious soldiers, at least until they rebelled at one religious restriction too many.

Meanwhile, most Persians were Zoroastrians, a religion in theory based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster, although information about when and where he lived was extremely sketchy. Back in the 3rd century the primacy of Zoroastrianism in Persia had been briefly challenged by Manichaeism, a strongly dualist religion, but the new religion was soon suppressed and it remained a fringe religion in both Persia and Rome.

Persia also had a large Jewish population, descended from Jews who’d declined to return to Judea at the end of the Babylonian Captivity. The population was largely self-governing and loyal, although they could also attract the enmity of the Zoroastrian church leaders. It’s worth noting that there were two Talmudic academies in Persia, at Sura and Pumpeditha, both on the Euphrates River, and both with a reputation as high as any in Judea.

Finally, there was also a reasonably large number of Christians in Persia. However, as they belonged to a church considered heretical by the Roman Emperor, they felt no loyalty to Rome, and were instead loyal Persians.

In Arabia the situation was more fluid. Beyond the immediate control of either Empire, all sorts of heretical sects survived, although the mainstream religions of the time were also gaining converts too. That is, there were Jewish and Christian tribes and clans scattered across Arabia, in addition to the majority of Arabs who still worshipped the old Arab gods. One point of note is that Jews and Christians of this time considered Arabs to be descended from Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, hence the term Ishmaelite occasionally being used as a synonym for Arab (although it had pejorative implications).

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Peter B

Historical background

In 602 Emperor Maurice overreached himself in an effort to save money. The army in the Balkans rebelled and Maurice was deposed and murdered. The man who seized the throne, Phocas, has come out of history with a pretty terrible reputation, but it’s likely he was mightily libelled by the upper class historians who despised his common origins. In any case the Empire soon descended into chaos.

Chosroes decided to take advantage of this chaos to avenge his late benefactor and sent Persian armies into Syria.

Following a series of Persian victories over Roman forces, the son of the Roman governor of Africa, one Heraclius, led a rebellion against Phocas. By 610 it was successful; Phocas was dead and Heraclius was Emperor. Despite this, things got worse in the next 15 years, as first Syria, then Palestine and Egypt were conquered by the Persians. Jerusalem was captured and Chosroes gleefully seized the True Cross, one of the most holy Christian relics. But the loss of Egypt was particularly dangerous as Egypt supplied the grain needed to feed the urban poor in Constantinople.

With Persian armies now raiding across Asia Minor (modern Asian Turkey), an Avar army approaching Constantinople, and the treasury nearly empty, Heraclius and the Roman Empire were on the brink. His solution was to borrow the approach to warfare of the Ghassanids.

While the Roman Empire had seen no serious contradiction between being Christian and having an army, it was the Ghassanids who took things to the next level. Over the course of their proxy war with the Lakhmids they gradually came to see themselves as God’s warriors, engaged in holy warfare. And then they went even further, with some victories ascribed to the magical intervention of particularly holy stylite monks (that is, monks who lived permanently on top of columns for decades at a time).

So Heraclius approached the Church, asking both for its gold (to be melted down to make coins to pay the soldiers) and for its blessing (to remind said soldiers that they were doing God’s work in defeating the Persians).

The turnaround was incredible. In the space of about five years Heraclius led literally the last Roman army on a series of campaigns inside Persia itself which defeated a series of Persian armies, ravaged Mesopotamia and destroyed several high profile Zoroastrian temples. With his reputation in tatters, Chosroes was overthrown and murdered in 628. The Persians made peace and evacuated all the Roman provinces they’d occupied.

So ended what turned out to be the last Roman-Persian war. In many respects it can be compared to World War One: it was cataclysmic in terms of economic and personal damage; victory came suddenly after a long period of stalemate; the victors were almost as exhausted as the defeated; and, most significantly, the resulting power vacuum allowed the rise of a completely new power.

Edited by Peter B
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Peter B

The New Power

The rise of the new Arab empire was as astonishing to people at the time as it is to us today, and that astonishment probably had a significant effect on Islam itself.

For the first few decades, the Arabs simply replaced the Romans and Persians as the ruling class of the local populations. They made no effort to change the bureaucratic arrangements in place, which is why for more than half a century the Arabs continued to mint coins in the old Roman and Persian style. Significantly, though, they made no effort to convert people to Islam. In fact, for at least a century it seems the Arabs made every effort to prevent people from converting. For one thing, the conquered people had to pay the jizya, a tax on non-Muslims which bought their protection, and at least initially the Arabs viewed attempts at conversion as a form of tax evasion. (One sign of the fundamentalism of ISIS is their reintroduction of the jizya.)

In a religious sense, however, conquest had a powerful effect on people’s thinking. People of all religions were long used to assuming that, at some point in the future, their own religion would ultimately be triumphant over all. The Arab conquest threw this thinking right out the window, with many experiencing a massive crisis of faith. But if the Arabs wouldn’t let locals convert to Islam, they couldn’t stop them from talking and exchanging ideas about it, and coming to their own conclusions of what Islam should be.

Of particular significance was the fact the Islam seemed to be about a community of equals – an Ummah – before God. The problem was that as long as the Arabs prevented non-Arabs from converting, and instead levied the jizya, this community was denied them. This was a genuinely serious issue if, as the Arab conquest appeared to demonstrate, Islam was in fact the True Religion.

It’s in this context that we should view the hadiths – what Muhammad is reported to have said on various topics. For example, the Jewish punishment for adultery was stoning, while the Quran itself says only that adulterers will go to Hell. For another example, the Zoroastrians were required to pray five times a day, while the Quran itself apparently only calls on people to pray three times a day. Most interestingly, the Samaritan Jews had a prayer which started, “There is no God but God, and Moses is his Prophet.”

In other words, as Western academics have pointed out, a lot of what’s commonly accepted about Islam seems to owe its origins to pre-Islamic religions, presumably imported by early self-converts.

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Peter B

The New Religion

A lot more of what’s commonly accepted about Islam owes its origins to Caliph Abd al-Malik, who became Caliph in 685, at the age of 39. Thus, he was the first politically significant Caliph to be born after the death of Muhammad. It was his political, economic and religious reforms which created a secure Islamic state.

One of his more significant innovations was his title. While his predecessors were known simply and modestly as Leader of the Faithful, Abd al-Malik appears to have been the first to refer to himself as Deputy of God – a somewhat more exalted salutation.

He was also responsible for reorganising the Caliphate’s coinage, with the old Roman and Persian coins finally ditched and replaced with a universal currency. For a few years these coins featured an illustration. Assuming it shows Abd al-Malik, it says something about him that he holds a sword in one hand and a whip in the other...However, these portraits then disappear, to be replaced solely with writing.

It was also during his reign that Arabic became the language of administration, just one more sign of an attempt to create a unitary state rather than a grab-bag of conquests.

Finally, Abd al-Malik’s other great legacy was dealing with a major threat to his rule from Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr’s revolt. It doesn’t seem to be well known that one of the major brakes on early Muslim expansion was infighting. And the significance of al-Zubayr’s revolt is that he was one of the last Companions of Muhammad – people who’d actually known the Prophet when he was alive.

This is a significant point that anyone doubting the reality and importance of Muhammad has to deal with: the Companions had considerable status in Muslim society which is hard to explain if Muhammad himself was either fictional or unimportant. On top of that, during the course of his revolt, al-Zubayr was the first to come up with the idea of putting the phrase “Muhammad is the Prophet of God” on the coins he minted – previous Muslim coins had simply carried the unremarkable phrase “In the Name of God”. Al-Zubayr’s coins were the first time someone had thought to so publicly tie their legitimacy back to Muhammad. Abd al-Malik liked the idea so much he copied it, even as he sent his armies to defeat al-Zubayr.

Finally, there’s the issue of the Kharijites. They were an extreme sect of Muslims who arose in the mid-7th century, during the first Muslim civil war. They opposed the negotiations between the warring factions of Ali and Muawiya on the basis that everything should be left to the will of God, figuring that it was more appropriate to fight it out – the result of the battle would determine God’s will. When the negotiations were successful peace was restored, the Kharijites expressed their displeasure at this by attempting a triple assassination – of Ali and Muawiya, and of the lead negotiator. They succeeded only with Ali, leaving Muawiya to take complete control of the Muslim world. As the Kharijites have a heritage traceable back to the mid-7th century – less than 30 years after the death of Muhammad – and as that heritage is based on their interpretation of the Quran, it suggests that even then there were Muslims who were aware of what is now generally credited as Muhammad’s writings. Once again, this is a fairly significant point that needs to be explained if Muhammad was either non-existent or unimportant.

Anyway, that’s enough prattling from me. I hope you’ve found this informative, and I hope it contributes to further discussions on this thread.

Also, if anyone thinks I've made a mistake anywhere, I'm happy to be corrected. I find the period interesting and I like to think I know a bit about it, but I'm not an academic.

Cheers

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third_eye

~snip

Anyway, that’s enough prattling from me. I hope you’ve found this informative, and I hope it contributes to further discussions on this thread.

Also, if anyone thinks I've made a mistake anywhere, I'm happy to be corrected. I find the period interesting and I like to think I know a bit about it, but I'm not an academic.

Cheers

An exceptional job Good Sir .... tip top ... will take some time to digest and plenty of morsels that is new to me, thanks ye kindly and I'm more than well appreciative ~

Beautifully rendered too ~ :tu:

~

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Philangeli

Peter -

Many thanks for the above posts - a lot of useful information there, much of which I was unaware.

I am happy to accept Mohammed was a real character and his overall importance in Islamic history is undisputed, but how great was his importance while he was actually alive?

I have difficulty reconciling two contradictory portraits of Mohammed. On the one hand, we have a true prophet of God, a model example to follow, a kind, charitable, virtuous man, in all respects.

On the other hand, we have a polygamist warlord who would brook no criticism and was ruthless in eradicating his perceived enemies.

Both views cannot historically be true.

Let us look at the Islamic view. Unlike Biblical scholars (who may be of no particular religious affiliation), Islamic Scholars are invariably Muslim, so, immediately we have a one-sided view. They already believe that the Quran is the literal word of Allah dictated to Mohammed, whom they see as the last true messenger and prophet.

Much of their study comes from the Hadith - a massive collection of texts which go into a lot of detail about Mohammed's exploits. These books were put together hundreds of years after Mohammed died. So, the obvious question is - how do we know they are historically accurate?

When texts are written about a historical character, myth and fact are often inextricably interwoven. In the West, we are familiar with tales of Robin Hood, Alfred the Great, Hereward the Wake, Beowulf, etc. These tales are told against an authentic, historical backdrop with historical characters forming part of the stories, as well as mythical ones. The problem for historians is how to distinguish the legends from the historical facts.

The same applies to the Hadith. Was Mohammed really such a great warlord? Was he really such a great prophet?

Islamic scholars have determined which Hadith verses are considered to be 'strong' (reliable, trustworthy) sources, or 'weak' (untrustworthy, unreliable) sources.

And, guess which verses are considered to be 'weak': any verse which criticises Mohammed or casts doubt on his prophethood, behaviour or moral attitudes. Little wonder.

It may take many years to get to the bottom of this, but at least things are moving forward, as more independent scholars are able to analyse these texts and give a more scientific and critical evaluation.

Edited by Philangeli

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Peter B

An exceptional job Good Sir .... tip top ... will take some time to digest and plenty of morsels that is new to me, thanks ye kindly and I'm more than well appreciative ~

Beautifully rendered too ~ :tu:

~

Thank you. You're most welcome.

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Peter B

Peter -

Many thanks for the above posts - a lot of useful information there, much of which I was unaware.

Cheers. Thanks for that.

I am happy to accept Mohammed was a real character and his overall importance in Islamic history is undisputed, but how great was his importance while he was actually alive?

I have difficulty reconciling two contradictory portraits of Mohammed. On the one hand, we have a true prophet of God, a model example to follow, a kind, charitable, virtuous man, in all respects.

On the other hand, we have a polygamist warlord who would brook no criticism and was ruthless in eradicating his perceived enemies.

Both views cannot historically be true.

Well, yes, both views can't be completely true. But I could accept the possibility that he was a complex man and people took from this complexity whatever it was that suited their needs.

Let us look at the Islamic view. Unlike Biblical scholars (who may be of no particular religious affiliation), Islamic Scholars are invariably Muslim, so, immediately we have a one-sided view. They already believe that the Quran is the literal word of Allah dictated to Mohammed, whom they see as the last true messenger and prophet.

Much of their study comes from the Hadith - a massive collection of texts which go into a lot of detail about Mohammed's exploits. These books were put together hundreds of years after Mohammed died. So, the obvious question is - how do we know they are historically accurate?

When texts are written about a historical character, myth and fact are often inextricably interwoven. In the West, we are familiar with tales of Robin Hood, Alfred the Great, Hereward the Wake, Beowulf, etc. These tales are told against an authentic, historical backdrop with historical characters forming part of the stories, as well as mythical ones. The problem for historians is how to distinguish the legends from the historical facts.

The same applies to the Hadith. Was Mohammed really such a great warlord? Was he really such a great prophet?

Islamic scholars have determined which Hadith verses are considered to be 'strong' (reliable, trustworthy) sources, or 'weak' (untrustworthy, unreliable) sources.

And, guess which verses are considered to be 'weak': any verse which criticises Mohammed or casts doubt on his prophethood, behaviour or moral attitudes. Little wonder.

Is that the case? I genuinely don't know. The impression I got from Holland's description of the hadiths is that many of them owed their origin to self-converts who were engaged in a probably very chaotic process of trying to define their new religion from the outside - so to speak. Hence the fact that many hadiths appear to be restatements of aspects of their various previous faiths, such as the examples I mentioned. Holland describes, for example, a hadith which stated that whenever Muhammad got up in the night he'd brush his teeth - an unusual activity for the Arabs, who weren't known for their interest in dental hygiene (supposedly Caliph/Emir Umar was renowned for his especially potent breath), but apparently something that every self-respecting Persian did.

It may take many years to get to the bottom of this, but at least things are moving forward, as more independent scholars are able to analyse these texts and give a more scientific and critical evaluation.

The thing is, there's more to the story than textual analysis, as fascinating as it is. I'm particularly interested in the contemporary non-Muslim texts, such as those of the mid-7th century Armenian bishop and historian Sebeos, and of the Frankish monk Arculf, who narrated an account of a visit to Jerusalem around 680. There's also the commentaries of the late-7th-early-8th century Bishop John of Damascus, who accurately quoted passages from the Quran, but described them as being from several books not one.

Another interesting point that Holland raises in "The Shadow of the Sword" is that while it's generally accepted that Muslims changed the direction they faced when praying (from towards Jerusalem to towards Mecca) on the instruction of Muhammad, there's archaeological evidence that mosques from Iraq to Egypt were rebuilt to accommodate a change in prayer direction. Given that these regions weren't conquered until several years after Muhammad died, he obviously couldn't have been responsible for the change. This raises the obvious questions of exactly when the change occurred, on whose orders, and why. Holland's candidate for this decision is none other than our old friend Abd al-Malik. The reason he gives is intriguing, and goes to the heart of the origin story of Islam. I won't try to explain it here, largely because I wouldn't be able to do a decent job of it.

Oh, and one last little point. In 717, an ambitious Roman general by the name of Leo seized the throne, partly thanks to the machinations of a Muslim army invading the Empire. Within a year, Leo would lead the successful defence of the city of Constantinople against the second Arab siege. However, Leo is far better known to church historians for his policy of iconoclasm - the smashing of icons - introduced about a decade after the siege. Leo was probably inspired by the Muslim rejection of representational art (even though the Umayyad rulers of the Muslim world were happy to decorate their palaces with such art). But what's particularly intriguing is Leo's origin - his family seems to have belonged to one of a number of Christian groups based in the Syrian hills (that is, inside the Caliphate) who engaged in almost constant guerilla warfare against the Caliphate. This suggests that Leo was probably an Aramaic-speaking Syrian (although he would have also learned Greek as a child). But I think there's at least a smidgen of a possibility he was Arabic.

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hetrodoxly

When the Arab hordes were coming out of the desert slaughtering all before them word spread fast Jerusalem weakened by years of war with Persia decided to hand the keys of the city over to the invaders, scholars and chroniclers wrote extensively about the event, they didn't mention Islam, they didn't Mention Mohammed, they didn't even mention a new religion, years go by before we get our first mention of Mohammed (blessed one) and it's on a coin with a ?Christian cross on the other side, it appears the Arabs were practising some form of Christianity hundred years pass and visitors to Jerusalem describe the city, they didn't mention Islam, they didn't Mention Mohammed, they didn't mention a new religion they didn't mention a Mosque,Islam doesn't exist in the historical records Islam was invented so Arabs could have a religion of their own.

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