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5.0 out of 5 stars Did the Muslim Muhammad Exist?, April 14, 2012
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This review is from: Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins (Hardcover)
"Did Muhammad Exist?: An inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins" by Robert Spencer (Apr. 2012), 254 pgs., hardback. Initially, I was incredulous that someone might actually question that the Muslim prophet Muhammad may not have existed. After all, when one reads books pertaining to Islam they all uniformly note specific dates as to when he was born (the year of the Elephant), slinked away on his hajra to Medina, conducted various military campaigns, and portrayed his slow death - as detailed in the ahadith. However, the author (Mr. Spencer) has combed through the writings of many Islamic researchers who have questioned the historiography of some event in Muhammad's perceived career as a `barker' for the Arabian dessert god Allah. Quickly, the chapter titles are: Introduction: the Full Light of History? (Chpt 1) The Man Who Wasn't There. (2) Jesus, the Muhammad. (3) Inventing Muhammad. (4) Switching On the Full Light of History. (5) The Embarrassment of Muhammad. (6) The Unchanging Qur'an Changes. (7) The Non-Arabic Arabic Qur'an. (8) What the Qur'an May Have Been. (9) Who Collected the Qur'an? , and (10) Making Sense of It All. As the author admitted: "In writing this book, I do not intend to break new ground. Instead, I aim to bring to wider public attention the work of a ... band of scholars who have dared ... to examine what the available historical data reveals about the canonical account of Islam's origins" (p. 8). In this goal the author succeeds admirably. Is Muhammad the Arab version of England's Robin Hood? Perhaps not a real figure, but more of a figurine based on legends from the dim memories of faded accounts of misty campfire tales about past multiple adventure-action dune warriors and chieftains. Mr. Spencer unabashedly poses the heretical question: "Did Muhammad exist?" Mr. Spencer notes that the name "Muhammad actually appears in the Qur'an only four times, and in three of those instances it could be used as a title - the `praised one' or `chosen one' - rather than as a proper name" (p. 17). So the Quran itself bespeaks little about the realism of `Muhammadun rasulu Allahi' - and it appears that the Quran didn't bind up well until sixty years after its reciter's demise - even though Muslims maintain that it has always existed (p. 126). Mr. Spencer tried to find a `reality check' for Muhammad in both the ahadith (life stories) and Sira (biography). However, Muhammad's first biographer (Ibn Ishaq) didn't pen his work until "at least 125 years after the death of his protagonist" (p. 19) - and from which all following biographies regarding `al-insan al-kamil' were derived. Despite Mr. Spencer's incredulity of believing Ibn Ishaq, Mr. Spencer respectfully wrote a section on "Defending Ibn Ishaq" (p. 88). Why is it that despite the early military jihad campaigns of the Muslim warriors there are no contemporary accounts mentioning Muhammad's name? As Mr. Spencer asks: why do the early `Islamic' coins fail to acknowledge Muhammad or the Muslim faith? It is beyond the scope of this short review to extensively detail all of the doubts that Mr. Spencer raises about the existence of Muhammad. A big `Thank You' to Mr. Spencer for bringing together the salient highlights of all the Doubting Thomases ... er ... Doubting Orientalists, in exposing that Muhammad remains well hidden behind the Muslim khimar veil - as depicted on the book's cover. `Allahu alam.'
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Showing 1-10 of 27 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 15, 2012 12:00:28 PM PDT
S. U. Larsen says:
Lol, sounds like fun. Interesting and scholarly fun at that. Thanks.

Posted on Apr 18, 2012 1:35:59 PM PDT
Actually, the earliest works mentioning Robin Hood portray him as a common cutthroat. No Merry Men, no rich-to-poor income transfer, not even any fancy archery. So the point about Robin Hood is that if he did exist, he was completely uninteresting.

As far as Muhammad goes, I would say that the split between Sunni and Shia Islam is largely based on considerations of the inheritance of authority by Muhammad's family, and this split is too stupid to suppose it was invented out of whole cloth. The best analogy is Bush vs. Gore except that the partisans of George and Al would have been murdering each other for over a millennium. One good point about Muhammad was that he created an extremely simple theology on which everyone could agree, but this didn't stop his stupid followers from a centuries-long bloodbath.

Posted on Apr 24, 2012 1:33:27 PM PDT
mers says:
I'm an English major and I just can't help it! Did you really mean to write 'dessert God' when referring to Allah? I can see where a certain sense of humor might lead one to a pun, but all things considered, maybe your finger just hit the 's' key more than once? :) Like I said, English major, we really can't help ourselves!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2012 7:28:56 PM PDT
Alas, my spellcheck changed my original 'desert' (sandy area) to 'dessert' (tasty snack after dinner), and, again, after I changed it back to 'desert' -- spellcheck changed it back to 'dessert' before I could correct/ save it. -- BG

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2012 1:16:57 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 25, 2012 1:18:39 PM PDT
JohnF says:
For Charles Powers... Interesting comment...

You wrote: "One good point about Muhammad was that he created an extremely simple theology on which everyone could agree..."

Except women, of course. Now name a totalitatian system that would not agree with it... religious Islam goes hand in hand with the political Islam--that governs the relationship of believers with the infidels-- don't think it is pretty.

Posted on Apr 27, 2012 2:57:09 PM PDT
Momen Adas says:
You said "Why is it that despite the early military jihad campaigns of the Muslim warriors there are no contemporary accounts mentioning Muhammad's name?"

How about this? "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 Palestine twelve miles east of Gaza. The Romans fled, leaving behind the patrician YRDN (Syr. BRYRDN), whom the Arabs killed. Some 4000 poor villagers of Palestine 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."

Source: A. Palmer (with contributions from S. Brock and R. G. Hoyland), The Seventh Century In The West-Syrian Chronicles Including Two Seventh-Century Syriac Apocalyptic Texts, 1993, op. cit., pp. 18-19; Also see R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 119 and p. 120

There is only a period of about 3 years between the death of Prophet Muhammad and the earliest mention of him.

Posted on May 9, 2012 12:21:14 PM PDT
You have to remember that the writers and scholars did not refer to Muhammed as Muhammed but rather The apostle of Allah or Messenger of Allah (rusulullah) referring to him as Muhammed was a sign of lacking respect. Also He had many different names as the arabic language is a very rich language. The Prophet , has many names; some scholars counted three hundred names. Some of those names are mentioned in the Quran, like Ash-Shaahid, Al-Mubashhir, An-Natheer, Al-Mubeen, Ad-Daa'ee, As-Siraaj Al-Muneer, Al-Muthakkir, Ar-Rahmah, An-Ni'mah, Al-Haadi, Ash-Shaheed, Al-Ameen and Al-Muddathhir. Some other names are mentioned both in the Quran and the Sunnah (Prophetic tradition), such as Ahmad and Muhammad, and some are mentioned only in the Sunnah, like Al-Mahi, Al-Hashir, Al-`Aaqib, Al-Muqaffi, Nabiyyur-Rahmah, Nabiyyut-Tawbah and Al-Mutawakkil.

Among the known names of the Prophet are Al-Mukhtaar, Al-Mustafa, Ash-Shafi', Al-Mushafi', As-Saadiq and Al-Masdooq.

In reply to an earlier post on May 9, 2012 7:10:06 PM PDT
How do we know WHICH 'prophet' is being referred to? Could these names refer to OTHER, earlier 'prophets'?

In reply to an earlier post on May 10, 2012 6:16:49 AM PDT
Hi William, no the prophets before had their own names. If in a hadith Umar says I heard As-Saadiq say... this is obviously referring to the current prophet Mohammad and not a prophet of the past. The notion that a man named Mohammad did not exist is kind of funny too me. His grave is preserved in Medina. Imam Ahmad had 300K hadith memorized along with the chain of narations all going back to life of Mohammad. Everyone who has memorized the quran and got ijaza has a list of who they memorized Quran from all the way back to the Prophet.

The real question before one embarks on this research is do you believe in God and do you believe He sent prophets. If the answer is no then it is hard to be objective in your research. Just as man exist before writing through archaelogical finds the proof of the existence of Muhammad is in the religion of Islam where everything goes back to him, not of someone telling a story about someone in a past but the Quran and hadith of people says I heard, or I saw the Prophet doing this.

search youtube mohammad passion of christ and breaking news mohammad found in the bible, you will see his name is in the scriptures of old.

In reply to an earlier post on May 10, 2012 7:23:54 AM PDT
Regarding your thought that "the real question before one embarks on this research is do you believe in God...." I believe that even a kufir/karfir or al-mushrikun can objectively look at "the facts" in researching the existence of Muhammad, or different gods of the Jewish Yaweh or Muhammad's Allah, or the impact of al-Lat & al-Manat upon Muhammad's thinking/ revelations. Many scientists have changed their original thoughts once they objectively continued their research and uncovered new discoveries. Thank you for posting your thoughts.
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