Skip to comments.Robert Spencer Asks: Did Muhammad Exist?
Posted on 04/23/2012 4:47:09 AM PDT by SJackson
- FrontPage Magazine - http://frontpagemag.com -
Robert Spencer Asks: Did Muhammad Exist?
Posted By Bruce Thornton On April 23, 2012 @ 12:55 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 7 Comments
Editor’s note: Robert Spencer’s acclaimed new book, Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins, is now available. To order, click here.
One of the jihadists most potent psychological weapons is the double standard Muslims have imposed on the West. Temples and churches are destroyed and vandalized, Christians murdered and driven from the lands of Christianitys birth, anti-Semitic lunacy propagated by high-ranking Muslim clerics, and Christian territory like northern Cyprus ethnically cleansed and occupied by Muslims. Yet the West ignores these depredations all the while it agonizes over trivial insults to Islam and Mohammed, and decries the thought-crime of Islamophobia whenever even factual statements are made about Islamic history and theology. This groveling behavior confirms the traditional Islamic chauvinism that sees Muslims as the best of nations destined by Allah to rule the world through violent jihad.
Even in the rarefied world of academic scholarship, this fear of offense has protected Islam from the sort of critical scrutiny every other world religion has undergone for centuries. Some modern scholars who do exercise their intellectual freedom and investigate these issues, like Christoph Luxenberg or Ibn Warraq, must work incognito to avoid the wrath of the adherents of the Religion of Peace. Now Robert Spencer, the fearless director of Jihad Watch and author of several books telling the truths about Islam obscured by a frightened academy and media, in his new book Did Muhammad Exist? challenges this conspiracy of fear and silence by surveying the scholarship and historical evidence for the life and deeds of Islams founder.
As Spencer traces the story of Muhammed through ancient sources and archaeology, the evidence for the Prophets life becomes more and more evanescent. The name Muhammad, for example, appears only 4 times in the Quran, as compared to the 136 mentions of Moses in the Old Testament. And those references to Muhammad say nothing specific about his life. The first biography of Muhammad, written by Ibn Ishaq 125 years after the Prophets death, is the primary source of biographical detail, yet 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.
Nor are ancient sources outside Islam any more forthcoming. An early document from around 635, by a Jewish writer converting to Christianity, merely mentions a generic prophet who comes armed with a sword. But in this document the prophet is still alive 3 years after Muhammads death. And this prophet was notable for proclaiming the imminent arrival of the Jewish messiah. At the height of the Arabian conquests, Spencer writes, 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. This uncertainty in the ancient sources is a consistent feature of Spencers succinct survey of them. Indeed, these sources call into question the notion that Islam itself was recognized as a new, coherent religion. In 651, when Muawiya called on the Byzantine emperor Constantine to reject Christianity, he evoked the God of our father Abraham, not Islam per se. One hundred years after the death of Muhammad, the image of the prophet of Islam remained fuzzy.
Non-literary sources from the late 7th century are equally vague. Dedicatory inscriptions on dams and bridges make no mention of Islam, the Quran, 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 Allahs prophet or anything about Islam. Particularly noteworthy is the absence of Islams foundational statement Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Later coins referring specifically to Muhammad depict him with a cross, contradicting the Quranic rejection of Christs 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.
Related to the issue of Muhammads historical reality is the date of the Quran, supposedly dictated to the Prophet by the angel Gabriel. Yet Spencers analysis of the inscriptions inside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, with their mixture of Quranic and non-Quranic verses along with variants of canonical Quranic scripture, suggests rather that the Quran 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 theshahada, 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 Muhammads 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 Quranic verses, providing the prism through which the vast majority of Muslims understand the Quran. 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.
Spencer casts an equally keen critical eye over the early biographies of Mohammad to find the same problems with source authenticity and origins, and their conflicts with other Islamic traditions. These problems, along with the miraculous and folk elements of Ibn Ishaqs biography, suggest that the latter arose long after the collection of the Quran. As Spencer concludes, If Ibn Ishaq is not a historically trustworthy source, what is left of the life of Muhammad? The history of Islam and Mohammad recalls the statement of the reporter in John Fords The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: When the legend becomes fact, print the legend, particularly when the legend was so useful for conquest and the consolidation of power during factional rivalries among Muslim rulers and sects.
So too with the integrity of the Quran, the supposedly unchanging and uncreated words of Allah dictated to Mohammad, the perfect copy of the eternal book transmitted in its purity without alteration or addition. Yet apart from fragments, modern Qurans are based on manuscripts that date no farther back then the medieval period. The first mention of the Quran appears in 710, decades after it allegedly inspired Muslim conquests from Persia to North Africa. Nor is it true that the book has not changed: Even Islamic tradition shows this contention to be highly questionable, with indications that some of the Quran was lost and other parts were added to or otherwise changed. Such textual variants, revisions, lost passages, numerous influences from Jewish and Christian writings and doctrines, and the presence of words in the Syriac language (likely including the word Quran itself), along with the fact that about one-fifth of the book is simply incomprehensibleall call into question the idea of the Qurans purity unchanged since it was divinely dictated to Mohammad.
Spencers careful, detailed, well-reasoned survey and analysis of the historical evidence offer strong evidence that Muhammad and Islam itself were post facto creations of Arab conquerors who needed a political theology delivered by a warrior prophet in order to unify the vast territories and diverse religious and ethnic groups now subjected to Muslim power, and to provide a potent basis for loyalty to their new overlords. As Spencer explains, the empire came first and the theology came later.
The full truth of whether a prophet named Muhammad lived in seventh-century Arabia, Spencer concludes, and if he did, what sort of a man he was, may never be known. But it would be intellectually irresponsible not to ask the question or consider the implications of the provocative evidence that pioneering scholars have assembled. The great service Spencer provides goes beyond popularizing the critical study of one of the worlds largest religions in order to advance our knowledge and establish historical reality. At a time when the threat of jihadist violence has silenced many people and intimidated them into voluntarily surrendering their right to free speech and the pursuit of truth, Spencers brave book also demonstrates the importance of those quintessential and powerful Western ideals.
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Yes, I saw him in a Dutch cartoon depiction for a gutter religious cult.
Speaking from his hidden bunker at an undisclosed and heavily secured location, I hope.
Robert Spencer is a great man. The muzzies absolutely hate him and his friend, Hugh Fitzgerald, also an editorial contributor to www.jihadwatch.org .
Never heard of Hugh Fitzgerald? Maybe you know him by his former name? The name he had before he renounced Islam and became a Catholic. Hugh used to be a popular movie star named Omar Sharif.
If youd like to be on or off, please FR mail me.
save for later
WOW - never heard this before! What was catalyst that caused him to make the change?
As recently as the 1950s the religion was referred to in history classes in my state as “Mohammedanism” and it was taught that Mohammed became a Christian and brought Christianity to the Arabs but they corrupted his teachings and placed Mohammed himself above Jesus.
That and five dollars will get you a cup of coffee but that is the way it was in my youth.
> WOW - never heard this before! What was catalyst that caused him to make the change?
Don’t know, but I’m pretty sure the reason is available online somewhere as public record.
If I were going to research the why, I’d probably start with the JihadWatch.org website and start digging.
“”Never heard of Hugh Fitzgerald? Maybe you know him by his former name? The name he had before he renounced Islam and became a Catholic. Hugh used to be a popular movie star named Omar Sharif.””
Do you have a source for this information?
Please cite source for Omar.
That’s backwards. Shariff was born Roman Catholic and converted to Islam as an adult. He is not Hugh Fitzgerald. The misunderstanding might come from just reading a headline (and not the article) at jihadwatch:
> Please cite source for Omar.
It’s from an article that I read on JihadWatch 7 or 8 years back when Hugh Fitzgerald joined JihadWatch.org. Can I locate the original source? Not gonna try. Go to jihadwatch and do your own looking up.
See post 13 which is the correct info.
“””Never heard of Hugh Fitzgerald? Maybe you know him by his former name? The name he had before he renounced Islam and became a Catholic. Hugh used to be a popular movie star named Omar Sharif.”””
Your source is wrong. See info below-—
Omar Sharif, the Franco-Arabic actor best known for playing Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia and the title role in Doctor Zhivago, was born Michel Demitri Shalhoub on April 10, 1932 in Alexandria, Egypt to Joseph Shalhoub, a lumber merchant, and his wife, Claire. Of Lebanese and Syrian extraction, the young Michel was raised a Roman Catholic...
Not this stupidity again!
I’m disappointed in Spencer, as I’ve admired his past work.
Look, the Arabs had been a peripheral despised people for literally millenia.
Suddenly, around 600, they turned into a dynamic revolutionary force, conquering much of the known world. Such things do not happen without something causing them to happen.
If Mohammed never existed, I’ll be interested in Spencer’s explanation of what caused the sudden change in Arab character. It is also interesting that after the century of initial Muslim Arab conquest the Arabs returned to their somnolence. Almost none of the great Muslim figures since have been Arab by birth or culture.
Turkish, Berber, Persian, Kurdish, Mongol, etc., yes. But not Arab.
So why were Arab different during that century?
I’s also like to point out others have made similar arguments about the actual existence of Jesus Christ.
“Oh, boy. This is gonna be great!” ping....
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