Special Report: Poking the Bear
Vol: 127 Issue: 23 Monday, April 23, 2012
A new book by Robert Spencer may well turn out to be so controversial that merely mentioning it by name could be dangerous, if not deadly. The book takes on one of the most important but least-often asked questions of our time.
It is a question regularly asked about Jesus, King David or Moses, but this is the first time to my knowledge anybody has written a book asking, “Did Muhammed Exist“?
Indeed, it triggered the stunning self-realization that it was a question that had never even entered my mind. Of course, Muhammed existed. Didn’t he? Is it possible that the world’s most feared religious icon is a myth?
The earliest source of information telling of the life of Muhammed is the Koran, which gives very little information about him. The most important biography concerning the life of Muhammed dates to about 120 years after Muhammed’s supposed death in 632 AD.
The hadith collections, the traditional accounts of the verbal and physical traditions of Muhammed, date to at least two hundred and perhaps as much as three hundred years after his death.
Early Muslim scholars were concerned that some hadiths may have been fabricated, and thus developed a whole science of hadith criticism to distinguish between genuine sayings and those that were forged, recorded using different words, or were wrongly ascribed to Muhammad.
In general, the majority of western academics view the hadith collections with caution. Bernard Lewis states that “the collection and scrutiny of Hadiths didn’t take place until “several generations” after Muhammad’s death and that “during that period the opportunities and motives for falsification were almost unlimited.”
Patricia Crone and Michael Cook challenge the traditional account of how the Koran was compiled, and the historicity of Muhammad himself, writing that “there is no hard evidence for the existence of the Koran (or Muhammad) in any form before the last decade of the seventh century.”
German scholar and Koranic authority Gerd R. Puin’s initial study of ancient Qur’an manuscripts found in Yemen led him to conclude that the Koran is a “cocktail of texts”, some of which may have been existent a hundred years before Muhammad.
Another German academic, Professor of Religious Studies and the History of Christianity at the University of Saarland, came 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.
According to the traditional Islamic view of the Koran, Muhammed began to receive revelations from the angel Gabriel when he was about forty years old.
However, Muhammed was illiterate, (a detail that Allah and Gabriel were apparently unaware of when they chose him to record Allah’s “third testament”.)
So the Koran was compiled by Muhammed’s confidants, from memory and many years after his death, but Islam accepts that the words of the Koran are exactly those of Muhammed.
Notes Front Page Magazine regarding Spencer’s book:
“Non-literary sources from the late 7th century are equally vague. Dedicatory inscriptions on dams and bridges make no mention of Islam, the Koran, or Mohammad. Coins bear the words “in the name of Allah,” the generic word for God used by Christians and Jews, but say nothing about Muhammad as Allah’s prophet or anything about Islam. Particularly noteworthy is the absence of Islam’s foundational statement “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
Later coins referring specifically to Muhammad depict him with a cross, contradicting the Koranic rejection of Christ’s crucifixion and later prohibitions against displaying crucifixes. Given that other evidence suggests that the word “muhammad” is an honorific meaning “praised one,” it is possible that these coins do not refer to the historical Muhammad at all. . .”
Yet Spencer’s analysis of the inscriptions inside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, with their mixture of Koranic and non-Koranic verses along with variants of canonical Koranic scripture, suggests rather that the Koran came into being later than 691 when the mosque was completed. Indeed, the inscriptions could be referring not to Muhammad but to a version of Jesus believed in by a heretical sect that denied his divinity.
At any rate, the first historical inscription that offers evidence of Islamic theology dates to 696 when the caliph Abd al-Malik minted coins without a representation of the sovereign and with the shahada, the Islamic profession of faith, inscribed on them. At this same time we begin to see references by non-Muslims to Muslims. Before then, the conquerors were called Ishmaelites, Saracens, or Hagarians.
This evidence, Spencer suggests, raises the provocative possibility that al-Malik “greatly expanded on the nascent Muhammad myth for his own political purposes.” Likewise the Hadith, the collections of Muhammad’s sayings and deeds that form “the basis for Islamic law and practice regarding both individual religious observance and the governance of the Islamic state.”
They also elucidate obscure Koranic verses, providing “the prism through which the vast majority of Muslims understand the Koran.” Yet there is no evidence for the existence of these biographical details of the Hadith before their compilation. This suggests that those details were invented as political tools for use in the factional political conflicts of the Islamic world.
Robert Spencer is often called the “Internet’s leading Islamophobe” and is the founder and publisher of Jihadwatch.org and so there are as many articles criticizing him as there are praising his new book.
They aren’t criticizing the claims made in the book — just it’s author. Questioning the historical existence of Jesus Christ is something of a global cottage industry. Even some Christian leaders, (like former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams) openly question the historicity of Jesus Christ.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. . . .Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:15–18,20)
All the Islamic apologetics in the world don’t express the true nature of Islam the way that Islam’s actions do.
I hope Spencer can afford bodyguards.