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The Hidden Origins of Islam: New Research into Its Early History Hardcover – July 30, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 405 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; 1St Edition edition (July 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591026342
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591026341
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Karl-Heinz Ohlig is professor emeritus of Religious Studies and the History of Christianity at the University of the Saarland, chairman of the Inarah Institute for Research into the Early History of Islam and the Qur'an, and the author of many books including Weltreligion Islam: Eine Einführung (Islam as World Religion: An Introduction).

Gerd-R. Puin, a retired research associate at the University of the Saarland, is an expert on the historical orthography of the Qur'an.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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85 of 94 people found the following review helpful By David Reid Ross on March 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Hidden History of Islam" contains ten essays. The two editors Puin and Ohlig reserve to themselves the ninth and tenth essays, respectively. In addition the chronic editor Ibn Warraq has the fifth slot. The famous, or perhaps notorious, Christoph Luxenberg has the second. The remaining six are from scholars you may or may not have heard of.

Volker Popp's essay is the first, and at over 100 pages easily the longest. This purports to be a history of Islam "as others saw it" (in Hoyland's terms). Luxenberg's essay explicates the inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock. The third essay, Claude Gilliot's, seeks to confirm the Syriac Hymnody / Lectionary theses of Lueling and Luxenberg. The fourth is de Premare's essay on 'Abd al-Malik's and al-Hajjaj's Qur'an. Ibn Warraq's contribution is a summary of others' scholarship, of the sort he has written elsewhere. The sixth and seventh essays deal with the language and script of early Arabic during the first century AH. The eighth essay by Alba Fideli details a variant text-type in palimpsests of suras 2 and 5. Puin offers a speculative essay on some names in the Book. Ohlig ends it with an overview of the nature of Christianity in Syria before Islam.

Overall, the book argues for early Islam as a rebellion of extremist Syrian Christianity against Nestorian Christianity: first restoring what one might term a neo-Arianism, then turning against Byzantine (and Monophysite) Christianity, and finally under al-Hajjaj defining itself as a new faith.

Of these, I have found Popp's essay to be overly revisionist, like the thesis of Nevo / Koren, or once upon a time Crone.
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80 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Louis T. Klauder on August 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Throughout history autocrats have recognized the value of religious ideas and feelings for promoting social cohesion and support for government. Accordingly, autocratically governed empires have promoted official religions and have styled themselves as protectors of their religions and as agents their gods.

In many cultures the origins of religious concepts are obscure.

During the first two and a half centuries of Christianity the religion was independent of and often persecuted by the (Roman) government. Only under Constantine in 312 and following did the government identify with and exploit Christianity. (There is a nice essay on this theme by Shaye I.D. Cohen at [...].)

The book "The Hidden Origins of Islam" deals among other things with the relationship between the Arian form of Christianity in vogue among the Arab aristocracies of southern Iran and eastern Iraq in the 7th century, the formation of the Arab empire in the power vacuum left in those regions following the Byzantine defeat of the Persians in 622 CE, the tangible evidence concerning religious ideas in the Arab empire in the 7th century, and the appearance of Islamic literary documents (other than the Qur'an) in Arabic in the 9th century. I found the first chapter by Popp and the 2nd chapter by Luxenberg particularly compelling.

It will be interesting to see if any of the scholars who work within the framework of the traditional Islamic stories of Islamic origins can find any basic flaws in the marshalling and interpretation of objective evidence presented in this book and in related studies by scholars such as Kalisch.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Puterbaugh on March 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The final result of all this must be left to professional historians, yet some of the facts will simply not go away. Following the historic method of Mommsen, the scholars gathered here present some facts that will make your head hurt.

Let me first establish the contrast between "traditional Islamic history" and the facts as they appear on the ground.

In "traditional Islamic history," the Khalif Mu'awiyya fought big battles for Islam, and so did his three followers: Abd-el Malik and the rest.

Unfortunately, "traditional Islamic history" appears to be a special kind of fiction, because the coins and inscriptions found on the ground make it quite obvious that Mu'awiyya and his three successors had never heard of Muhammad, the Koran, Islam, or the word "Khalif" = "ruler."

What is even worse, they were all Christians!

Of course, the history of Arab Christianity -- although quite long and interesting -- is not something that modern Muslims like to deal with. On the contrary, as in Egypt, they have implemented stringent controls over education, which forbid the teaching of pre-Islamic Egyptian history, which to my mind was much more interesting than the "post-Islamic" history.

As a result of this explosive book, we have to face the possibility that Muhammad never existed, that the Koran was pasted together from Syric-Aramaic Christian sources, and that the whole thing was a bundle of bushwah created to defend the now "Islamic" empire.

I don't think you need me to tell you that Muslims will not be "happy" about this book. And I am not qualified to see where all this will go (not being an expert in the partitive gerundial in Syriac.)

I would also warn you that this book is Hard. Probably not for beginners.
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