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Crossroads to Islam: The Origins of the Arab Religion and the Arab State (Islamic Studies (Amherst, N.Y.).) Hardcover – June 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Series: Islamic Studies (Amherst, N.Y.).
  • Hardcover: 462 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (June 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591020832
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591020837
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #623,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the consensus view of early Muslim history, the Arab tribes, united and inspired by Muhammad's teachings, embarked on a military jihad that wrested Syria and Palestine from a weakened Byzantine Empire in the years after 630 A. D. But according to this radical revisionist treatise by the late Israeli archaeologist Nevo and Koren, an "information specialist," every particular of this orthodoxy is wrong. Basing their arguments on a detailed examination of archaeology, contemporary texts, linguistic analyses and evidence from coins, the authors arrive at a thesis that will surely be incendiary to Islamic believers. The authors argue that Byzantium voluntarily transferred her eastern provinces to Arab client states in continuance of an imperial policy stretching back for centuries. The Arabs who took over the region after 630 A.D. were not Muslims, but a mixture of pagans and adherents of a Judeo-Christian "indeterminate monotheism" from which Islam evolved over succeeding decades. Muhammad was not a historical person, they argue, but a mythical figure who became, starting in the 690s, a "National Arab Prophet" of a new official religion for the consolidating Arab state. In addition to the Muslim ire that the authors' religious debunking will raise, specialists in the field may have objections to their treatment as well. Especially unconvincing is their rational-actor account of Byzantine policy towards the eastern provinces, where, they assert, the Byzantine government deliberately fomented and then persecuted heresies, stoked hatred of the emperor himself and left its territories open to military incursions by rival powers, all in order to reconcile the inhabitants to their long-planned abandonment by the empire.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"informative survey of the origins of the Arab religion and state; an important addition to the literature on Arab-American history" -- The Bookwatch, November 2003

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Customer Reviews

It is a very interesting book on the beginning of Islam.
Gabrielle Brenner
The material on indigenous Arab monotheism, influences from Ebionite Christianity is interesting and plausible, but not new.
R. Kevin Hill
Fourth, "Muhammed" can be a title, roughly and idiomatically, but not literally, equivalent to Messiah or Christ.
S. J. Snyder

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By D. Layman on May 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This work is an important contribution to a historical-critical reading of the Koran and the origins of Islam.

As other reviewers have noted, it should not be read in isolation, and like all revisionist scholarly works, it must be read in an awareness that further sources or documentation might require even further revision.

But as it stands, it cannot be ignored. It is certainly NOT "pseudo-scholarship," as one reviewer claims. I have a Ph.D. in religious studies, and am familar with historical-critical and source-critical methodology as it is used analyzing the origins of religions and biblical studies. It is those who dismiss Nevo who are guilty of "distorting or omitting the important evidence," evidence that is laid is in careful detail. Just the appendices, that lay out the inscriptional data, (in both Arabic and English translation) is worth the price of the book.

In evaluating this data, the non-specialist must bear one central fact in mind: there is NO primary, contemporaneous data for the origins of Islam. The Koran/Qur'an gives no such data. Muslim traditions are written 200-300 years later. This is why the careful analysis of the changing themes on the dateable inscriptions are so important.

Contrary to "R. Kevin Hill," it is not true that "Much of his evidence is numismatic." Nevo is explicit: numismatic [coin inscription] evidence is "insufficient as the [i]primary[/i] type of evidence on which to ground a historical theory." The core evidence is based on the sequence of ideas in inscriptions, both official and popular.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on September 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I am torn by this book. While I have read previous academic journal articles and in-depth humanities public magazines about such things as textual variation in the Quran and its theoretical path of evolution (with which I agree), nonetheless, Nevo and Koren take this ball and run onto a whole new playing field. And here, on the issues of secular Byzantine history and eastern church history, the two seem to almost willfully adopt a contentious theory and deliberately reinterpret every bit of archaeological and literary evidence that does not agree with said theory.

So, I give it two stars. Here's why, with some suggested alternative reading at the end of this review.
While the Sassanid seizure of Palestine (and Egypt), followed by Byzantine counter-war later, would have left Palestine stripped of Byzantine troops and open to a peaceful non-Muslim monotheist Arab infiltration, some of their speculation here is historically unfounded, and unnecessary. There is no need to presume that the Byzantines had totally withdrawn their forces in the process of establishing Arab foederates circa 500-525, or a century before the Sassanid invasion. And, even to the degree Byzantine troops were withdrawn, this certainly doesn't mean Byzantine interests were withdrawn. To the north and west, over the previous two centuries or more, Eastern, Western and unified Roman Empires had established various Germanic tribal foederates without withdrawing Roman interests in Gaul, Pannonia, etc.

On church history, the authors engage in pure speculation, unsubstantiated by any footnoted research. They claim Byzantine emperors such as Justinian and Justin deliberate fostered heresy in outlying provinces as a way of pushing Palestinians, Egyptians, etc.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Timothy W. Dunkin on November 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
An interesting book, though weighed a bit towards the speculative side. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, since speculation is often the precursor to further research which leads to a better understanding of the truth. The theory presented in this book pretty much refutes point by point the "Traditional" account of the Muslim incursions into the Palestine/Syria area of what once was the Byzantine empire. They do build a good case, based upon extant contemporaneous information (epigraphic, archaeological, contemporary writers) to support their claim, and indeed most of their evidence IS thought-provoking. They sometimes overreach in "fitting" a piece of data into their paradigm - something they repeatedly accuse "Traditional" historians of doing (and rightly so, much of the time). Overall, the information presented is good and the theory seems pretty sound, as long as it is remembered that it IS just a theory, not to be dogmatised into absolute truth as has happened with so much else in the realm of the early origins of Islam.
The book is fairly easily read, the information is presented in a relatively straightforward way, but a fair amount of extraneous information seems to have been added in for filler, which has to be filtered out.
Overall, a good read which provides for a somewhat revolutionary view of the Late Byzantine/Early Islamic period in the Levant. As with most revolutionary ideas, the thesis built by Nevo and Koren will have its detractors, a good thing since this helps to weed out error and move a theory more towards extant reality. Unfortunately, as with some of Nevo's other books, this one has suffered from much attack by Muslims on purely obscurantist religious bases (i.e.
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