Thursday, 26 January 2012

Islam's Dark Past; Part I

"The Qur'an escapes from the hearts of men faster than a runaway camel." (Prophet of Doom)

Islam provides only one prime source of information on Muhammad and the formation of Islam written within two centuries of the time he lived and it was conceived. Ishaq's Sira, or Biography, stands alone - a singular and tenuous thread connecting us to a very troubled man and time. Over the next two hundred years, other Hadith Collections were compiled by the likes of Tabari, Bukhari, and Muslim. Their assemblages of oral reports, or Traditions, were said to have been inspired by Allah. They purport to convey Muhammad's words and example. They also explain the Qur'an - a book so deficient in context and chronology, it can only be understood when seen through the eyes of the Sunnah writers.

Throughout Prophet of Doom, I have been less concerned with the validity of these sources than with what they have to say. Their message is all Muslims have. Together, the Sunnah and Qur'an are Islam. Therefore, I was willing to take them at face value.

But you don't have to dig very deep to find the truth. Even a cursory reading of the Qur'an is sufficient to prove that it is a fraud. There is no way the creator of the universe wrote a book devoid of context, without chronology or intelligent transitions. Such a creative spirit wouldn't need to plagiarize. He would know history and science and thus wouldn't have made such a fool of himself. The God who created man wouldn't deceive him or lead him to hell as Allah does. Nor would he order men to terrorize, mutilate, rob, enslave, and slaughter the followers of other Scriptures he claims he revealed, wiping them out to the last. One doesn't need a scholastic review of the Qur'anic text to disprove its veracity. It destroys itself quite nicely.

While that remains true, I believe that I owe it to readers, especially Muslims, to explore the textual evidence for the Sunnah and Qur'an. I'll start with what the Hadith has to say about the Qur'an's origins, but I'm going to dispense in short order with the circular reasoning Islamic scholars use in that they all quote the Sunnah. While there are Hadiths that say Bakr tried to assemble the Qur'an and others that credit Uthman, Muhammad's third successor, it's like using the results of Carbon-14 dating to prove the validity of Carbon-14 dating. The source is the same.

In Bukhari's Hadith Collection alone we find a sea of disturbing and contradictory claims regarding the compilation of Allah's book. There were differing versions, even in Muhammad's day: "Ibn Abbas asked, 'Which of the two readings of the Qur'an do you prefer?' The Prophet answered, 'The reading of Abdallah ibn Mas'ud.' Then Abdallah came to him, and he learned what was altered and abrogated." This is reasonably clear. The Hadith says that portions of the Qur'an were conflicting, changed, and cancelled.

Tradition tells us that Muhammad had not foreseen his death, and so he had made no preparations for gathering his revelations
. He left it up to his followers to sift through the conflicting versions. That's astonishing. Islam's lone "prophet" left his Qur'an as vapour, sound waves that had long since faded.

Bragging one day, the imposter called his surahs a miracle: Bukhari:V6B61N504 "Muhammad said, 'Every Prophet was given miracles because of which people believed. But what I have been given is Divine Inspiration which Allah has revealed to me. So I hope that my followers will outnumber the followers of the other Prophets.'" If the Qur'an was his only "miracle," why would he leave it in such horrid condition? I believe the answer is clear. Muhammad knew his recitals had been nothing more than a figment of his less-than-admirable imagination, situational scriptures designed to satiate his cravings. Preserving these recitals would only serve to incriminate him, as this Hadith suggests. Muslim: C24B20N4609 "The Messenger said: 'Do not take the Qur'an on a journey with you, for I am afraid lest it would fall into the hands of the enemy.' Ayyub, one of the narrators in the chain of transmitters, said: 'The enemy may seize it and may quarrel with you over it.'"

A number of Bukhari Hadith suggest that Muhammad's companions tried to remember what they could of what he had said, but there was a problem. Like today, those who knew the Qur'an were militants. So Abu Bakr feared that large portions would be forgotten. The best Muslims were dying on the battlefield subduing fellow Arabs. In one battle alone, most of the Qur'an's most knowledgeable reciters were lost, and many Qur'anic passages along with them. Bukhari:V6B60N201 "Zaid bin Thabit, the Ansari said, 'Abu Bakr sent for me after the (heavy) casualties among the warriors (of the battle) of Yamama (where a great number of Muhammad's Companions were killed). Umar was present with Bakr. "The people have suffered heavy casualties at Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be more casualties among those who can recite the Qur'an on other battlefields. A large part of the Qur'an may be lost unless you collect it." I replied to Umar, "How can I do something which Allah's Apostle has not done?" Umar kept on pressing, trying to persuade me to accept his proposal.' Zaid bin Thabit added, 'Umar was sitting with Abu Bakr and was speaking (to) me. "You are a wise young man and we do not suspect you of telling lies or of forgetfulness. You used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle. Therefore, look for the Qur'an and collect it (in one manuscript)." By Allah, if Abu Bakr had ordered me to shift one of the mountains (from its place) it would have been easier for me than the collection of the Qur'an. I said to both of them, "How dare you do a thing which the Prophet has not done?"

Zaid declared that collecting the Qur'an's surahs would be an impossible task. He said that it would be easier to move mountains than to turn Muhammad's string of oral recitals into a book. The reason for this rather troubling statement is obvious: Zaid's search for Qur'anic passages forced him to rely upon carvings on the leg or thigh bones of dead animals, as well as palm leaves, skins, mats, stones, and bark. But for the most part, he found nothing better than the fleeting memories of the prophet's Companions, many of whom were dead or dying. In other words, the Qur'an, like the Hadith, is all hearsay.

There were no Muslims who had memorized the entire Qur'an, otherwise the collection would have been a simple task. Had there been individuals who knew the Qur'an, Zaid would only have had to write down what they dictated
. Instead, Zaid was overwhelmed by the assignment, and was forced to "search" for the passages from men who believed that they had memorized certain segments and then compare what he heard to the recollection of others. Therefore, even the official Islamic view of things, the one recorded in their scripture, is hardly reassuring.

Worse still, the Muslim chosen for this impossible task was the one in the best position to plagiarize the Torah and Talmud. Moreover, it's obvious he did. Remember: Tabari VII:167 "In this year, the Prophet commanded Zayd bin Thabit to study the Book of the Jews, saying, 'I fear that they may change my Book.'"

As is typical of the Islamic Traditions, the more one digs, the worse it gets. Bukhari: V6B61N511 "Zaid bin Thabit said, 'I started searching for the Qur'an till I found the last two Verses of Surat At-Tauba with Abi but I could not find them with anyone other than him. They were: 'Verily there has come to you an Apostle from amongst yourselves.'" [Qur'an 9:128] This is incriminating. The 9th surah was the second to last revealed. If only one person could remember it, there is no chance those revealed twenty-five years earlier were retained. Furthermore, this Tradition contradicts the most highly touted Islamic mantra: Most Muslims contend Uthman, not Bakr, ordered the collection of the Qur'an a decade later.

And who knows what version they finally committed to paper, if in fact they ever did? Bukhari: V6B61N513: "Allah's Apostle said, 'Gabriel [whom Muhammad said had 600 wings] recited the Qur'an to me in one way. Then I requested him and continued asking him to recite it in other ways, and he recited it in several ways till he ultimately recited it in seven different ways.'" So there were at least seven Qur'ans.

That wasn't the end of the confusion. In version two of the angelic recital, Muhammad was the reciter, not Gabriel. Bukhari: V6B61N519: "In the month of Ramadan Gabriel used to meet Muhammad every night of the month till it elapsed. Allah's Apostle used to recite the Qur'an for him." Then, we go from every night to once a year. Bukhari: V6B61N520: "Gabriel used to repeat the recitation of the Qur'an with the Prophet once a year, but he repeated it twice with him in the year he died."

No wonder they couldn't remember who said what to whom.
Bukhari: V6B61N549 "Allah's Apostle said, "The example of the person who knows the Qur'an by heart is like the owner of tied camels. If he keeps them tied, he will control them, but if he releases them, they will run away." To release something you have memorized you would have to share it. So this Hadith is apparently telling Muslims not to recite surahs for fear of losing them. And speaking of losing it: Bukhari: V6B61N550 "The Prophet said, 'It is a bad thing that some of you say, "I have forgotten such-and-such verse of the Qur'an." For indeed, I have been caused to forget it. So you must keep on reciting the Qur'an because it escapes from the hearts of men faster than a runaway camel.'"

This frivolity is important because it exposes a lie that sits at the heart of Islam. It's irrational to think God would shift from a reliance on literate Jewish prophets to an illiterate Arab. The foundation of Islamic teaching is based upon the notion that God chose Arabs because they had good memories. Therefore, they reason, the Qur'an wouldn't be changed the way the Bible was corrupted. All Islamic schools from Al Azahr to Pakistan are centred around this obvious lie. The Qur'an was forgotten; it was changed and recited by so many people it was corrupted beyond hope before it ever found paper. And since the Bible started out as words on a page, it has remained true to its initial inspiration.

But it's worse than that. Muslims insist on confining the Qur'an to Religious Arabic - a language which is so hard to learn with its complex grammar and antiquated vocabulary, it's ranked second by linguists after Chinese, as the world's least hospitable communication medium. Worse still, even in Arabic much of the Qur'an cannot be understood because many words are missing and others are nonsensical. It's not rational to think that God would choose illiterate people and such a difficult language if he wished to communicate his message to the whole world.

But there is a method to their madness. By confining the Qur'an to Religious Arabic, Islamic clerics and kings can say whatever they want - and they do. An Egyptian doctor who edited Prophet of Doom wrote: "You would be amazed how they can distort facts to deceive others."

In keeping with the camel theme, Allah's divinely inspired messenger announced: Bukhari: V6B61N552 "The Prophet said, 'Keep on reciting the Qur'an, for Qur'an runs away (is forgotten) faster than camels that are released from their tying ropes.'" In the interest of full disclosure, I present: Bukhari: V6B61N559 "The Prophet said, 'Why does anyone of the people say, "I have forgotten such-and-such Verses (of the Qur'an)?" I am, in fact, caused (by Allah) to forget.'" It's a wonder anyone takes Islam seriously.

Continuing to cripple its own claim that the Qur'an was retained as Allah's Pen wrote it: Bukhari: V6B61N561 "Umar bin Khattab [the second Caliph] said, 'I heard Hisham bin Hakim bin Hizam reciting Surat Al-Furqan ["Al-Furqan," the title of the 25th surah, has no meaning in any language.] during the lifetime of Allah's Apostle. I listened to his recitation and noticed that he recited it in several ways which Allah's Apostle had not taught me. So I was on the point of attacking him in the prayer, but I waited till he finished, and then I seized him by the collar. "Who taught you this Surah which I have heard you reciting?" He replied, "Allah's Apostle taught it to me." I said, "You are lying. Allah's Apostle taught me in a different way this very Surah which I have heard you reciting." So I led him to Muhammad. "O Allah's Apostle! I heard this person reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way that you did not teach me." The Prophet said, "Hisham, recite!" So he recited in the same way as I heard him recite it before. On that Allah's Apostle said, "It was revealed to be recited in this way." Then the Prophet said, "Recite, Umar!" So I recited it as he had taught me. Allah's Apostle said, "It was revealed to be recited in this way, too." He added, "The Qur'an has been revealed to be recited in several different ways, so recite of it that which is easier for you." If Muhammad were alive today and made this statement, he would be branded an apostate, hunted down and murdered. As we shall soon discover, he just contradicted Islam's holy grail.

Examining these Hadith we discover that the first "manuscript" wasn't even in Muhammad's tongue, requiring it to be translated. Bukhari: V4B56N709 "Uthman called Zaid, Abdallah, Said, and Abd-Rahman. They wrote the manuscripts of the Qur'an in the form of a book in several copies. Uthman said to the three Quraishi persons, 'If you differ with Zaid bin Thabit on any point of the Qur'an, then write it in the language of the Quraysh, as the Qur'an was revealed in their language.' So they acted accordingly." Because there was such confusion, Uthman ordered competing versions to be burned. But by destroying the evidence, he destroyed the Qur'an's credibility. Now all Muslims have is wishful thinking.

Since "wishful thinking" isn't sufficient, and since the Islamic Hadith is more conflicting than helpful, I am going to turn to reason and fact to determine what is true and what is not.

First, let's establish what Muslims believe so that we can direct our attention to determining whether or not it is accurate, or even reasonable. As evidenced by the official Islamic introduction to the Qur'an, Islamic scholars contend: "The Qur'an is one leg of two which form the basis of Islam. The second leg is the Sunnah of the Prophet. What makes the Qur'an different from the Sunnah is its form. Unlike the Sunnah, the Qur'an is quite literally the Word of Allah, whereas the Sunnah was inspired by Allah but the wording and actions are the Prophet's. The Qur'an has not been expressed using any human words. Its wording is letter for letter fixed by Allah. Prophet Muhammad was the final Messenger of Allah to humanity, and therefore the Qur'an is the last Message which Allah has sent to us. Its predecessors, such as the Torah, Psalms, and Gospels have all been superceded." Funny thing, though, the Allah-inspired Sunnah just confirmed that the Qur'an used "human words" and that it wasn't "fixed letter for letter by Allah." Muslims ought to read their own scriptures.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, including their own, Islamic scholars contend that today's Qur'an is an identical copy of Allah's Eternal Tablets, even so far as the punctuation, titles, and divisions of chapters are concerned
. Maududi, one of the most esteemed Qur'anic scholars said, "The Qur'an exists in its original text, without a word, syllable nor even letter having been changed." (Towards Understanding Islam, Maududi) Abu Dhabi, another leading Muslim said, "No other book in the world can match the Qur'an. The astonishing fact about this Book of Allah is that it has remained unchanged, even to a dot, over the last fourteen hundred years. No variation of text can be found in it." That's factually untrue, every word of it.

The Qur'an says of itself: "Nay this is a glorious Qur'an, (inscribed) on a Preserved Tablet." (85:21) "A Scripture Book, whereof the verses are explained in detail; a Qur'an in Arabic." (Qur'an 41:3) "We have coined for man in this Qur'an. (It is) a Qur'an in Arabic, without any crookedness (therein)." (39:27) Richard Nixon tried that line too. It didn't work any better for him than it does for Allah. Over the course of these pages you'll discover why.

This appendix follows twenty-five chapters of Islamic scripture, all punctuated by my analysis, so I thought you'd be best served if this section was driven by most qualified Islamic scholars. While their findings are shocking, don't say you weren't warned. I dedicated the opening of the "Heart of Darkness" chapter (pages 115-8) to this very problem.

The best-researched scholastic analysis of the validity of the Qur'an and Sunnah was presented in 1995 by Jay Smith. In his debate at Cambridge University, he said, "Most Westerners have accepted Islamic claims at face value. They have never had the ability to argue their veracity, because the claims could neither be proved nor disproved, as their authority was derived solely from the Qur'an itself. There has also been a reticence to question the Qur'an and the prophet due to the adverse response directed upon those who were brave enough to attempt it in the past. [Muslims kill their critics.] So Westerners have been content to assume that Muslims have some evidence to substantiate their beliefs." We are about to discover that they have no such data. And what little exists serves only to destroy Islam's credibility.

According to Wansbrough, Schacht, Rippin, Crone, and Humphreys: "Almost universally, independent scholars studying the Qur'an and Hadith, have concluded that the Islamic scripture was not revealed to just one man, but was a compilation of later redactions and editions formulated by a group of men, over the course of a few hundred years. The Qur'an which we read today is not that which was in existence in the mid-seventh century, but is a product of the eighth and ninth centuries. It was not conceived in Mecca or Medina, but in Baghdad. It was then and there that Islam took on its identity and became a religion. Consequently, the formative stage of Islam was not within the lifetime of Muhammad but evolved over a period of 300 years." While these are strong words, rest assured: the scholars prove their case.

What's interesting here is that apart from the Islamic Hadith, virtually nothing is known about the formation of Islam and the creation of the Qur'an. The scholars agree: "Source material for this period is sparse. The only manuscripts available to historians are Muslim sources. What is more, outside the Qur'an, the sources are all late. Prior to 750 A.D., and Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, we have no verifiable Muslim documents which can provide a window into Islam's formative period. Even then, his manuscript has been lost so we are dependent upon those who wrote fifty to one hundred years thereafter. And no independent secular document exists with which to corroborate any Hadith," says Smith on behalf of Crone, Humphreys, Schacht, and Wansbrough.

"During the ninth century, Islamic sages in Baghdad attempted to describe Islam's beginnings from their viewpoint. But much like an adult writing about their childhood, the account is colored and biased. The picture that Islam was fully developed religiously, politically, and legally by an illiterate man in one of the most primitive places on earth isn't feasible," Smith claimed in his Cambridge debate.

Sure, Muhammad's scripture was feeble - equal parts delusional, dim-witted, and demented, regurgitated, plagiarized, and twisted - but there was too much of it to have been compiled and retained in the vacuum of the Hijaz. Central Arabia wasn't part of, or even known to, the civilized world at the time. And the Islamic Traditions themselves refer to this period as Jahiliyyah, or Period of Ignorance, implying its backwardness. "Arabia did not have an urbanized culture, nor could it boast of having the sophisticated infrastructure needed to create, let alone maintain the scenario painted by the later Traditions. There is no historical precedence for such a scenario."

Fortunately, historical experts have recently converged on Islam. They include: Dr. John Wansbrough of the University of London, Michael Cook, Patricia Crone of Oxford, now lecturing at Cambridge, Yehuda Nevo from the University of Jerusalem, Andrew Rippin from Canada, and others, including Joseph Schacht. They sought out, examined, and probed every source concerning the Qur'an and Sunnah to ascertain clues as to their origins.

In his debate, Smith said, "In order to critique the Qur'an we must go back to the beginning, to the earliest sources which we have at our disposal, to pick up clues as to its authenticity. One would assume that this should be quite easy to do, as it is a relatively new piece of literature, having appeared on the scene, according to Muslims, a mere '1,400 years ago.'"

However, the first century of Islam is dark, a veritable black hole from which nothing emerges. "The primary sources which we possess are 150 to 300 years after the events which they describe, and therefore are quite distant from those times and characters," say Nevo, Wansbrough, and Crone. "For that reason they are, for all practical purposes, secondary sources, as they rely on hearsay material. The first and largest of these sources is what is called the 'Islamic Traditions' or 'Hadith.'"

Jay Smith was kind enough to publish his research in advance of his Cambridge debate. So as not to turn this appendix into a book, I have elected to abridge his findings. While I have come to the same conclusions, the words that follow are either his or quoted from cited sources. "Islamic Traditions comprise writings which were compiled by Muslims in the late eighth to early tenth centuries concerning what the prophet Muhammad said and did back at the dawn of the seventh century. There is also one early commentary on the Qur'an. These make up the sole body of material which we have on Islam's formation. The Qur'an by itself is difficult to follow, as it leaves readers confused while it jumps from story to story, with little background narration or explanation. So the Traditions are critical as they provide the context of place, circumstance, and time which otherwise would be lost.

"In some instances the Hadith prevails over the Qur'an. For example, the Qur'an refers to three daily prayers (surahs 11:114, 17:78, 30:17). The Hadith demands five. Muslims prostrate themselves in accordance with Muhammad's Sunnah orders rather than Allah's Qur'anic command.

"A number of genres exist within the Islamic Traditions. Their authors were not writers themselves, but were compilers and editors who drew together information passed to them. There were many compilers, but the four who are considered by Muslims to be the most authoritative in each genre lived and assembled their material between 750-923 A.D. (or 120-290 years after Muhammad's death). Here is a list of their works, along with their dates: The Sira (Arabic for "Biography") is an accounting of the life of the prophet, including his raids. The earliest and most comprehensive Sira was composed by Ibn Ishaq, who died 765 A.D. His manuscript has been lost. Consequently, we are dependent on the Sira of Ibn Hisham, who died in 833. He edited Ishaq, and by his own admission, he omitted Hadith which he thought might have caused offense."

While Smith quoted Crone as his source, I'd like you to read what Hisham wrote. Ishaq: 691 "For the sake of brevity, I am confining myself to the Prophet's biography and omitting some of the things which Ishaq recorded in this book in which there is no mention of the Apostle and about which the Qur'an says nothing. I have omitted things which are disgraceful to discuss, matters which would distress certain people, and such reports as al-Bakkai [Bukhari?] told me he could not accept as trustworthy - all of these things I have omitted." Since the character, deeds, and words of Muhammad presented in Hisham's edits of Ishaq are revolting, I can't imagine what would have been too "disgraceful to discuss." And in case you're wondering, the "matters that would distress certain people" comment speaks volumes. Hisham is telling us that Wansbrough, Cook, Crone, Humphries, Rippin, Margoliouth, and Muir are right. The Hadith that make up the Sunnah were composed and compiled in a highly politicized environment 200 years after Muhammad's death. A compiler's life was dependant upon not offending the cleric-kings.

While the Sira is nothing more than a collection of Hadith arranged in chronological order, the most "official" Islamic Hadith collection was compiled by al-Bukhari, who died in 870 A.D. "These include two thousand short reports or narratives (akhbar [news]) on the sayings and deeds of the prophet. Of the six most famous collections of Hadith, those of al-Bukhari and Muslim are considered to be the most authoritative.

"The Ta'rikh (which means "History" in Arabic) provides chronologies of the prophet's life and the formation of Islam. The earliest and most famous was written by al-Tabari, who died in 923 A.D." Some portions of Ishaq's original manuscript, discarded by Hisham, were retained by Tabari. Of particular interest is Ishaq's recording of Muhammad's Islamic creation accounts and his entanglement in the Quraysh Bargain and Satanic Verses. As such, the Ta'rikh, or History of al-Tabari is the oldest surviving uncensored account of Muhammad and Islam.

According to the Islamic scholars, "The Tafsir [which means explanation or interpretation in Arabic] comprise the fourth most reliable Islamic source documents. They are commentaries and exegesis on the Qur'an. The earliest, most universally respected, and best known was also written by Tabari."

As an interesting aside; I am routinely threatened by Muslims who assail my character in colorful ways. They claim that I know nothing about Islam and that my words are offensive, repulsive, disgraceful, bigoted, hateful, intolerant, mean spirited, and #%$&*. But little do they know, they are not my words. All I have done is report what Islam has to say about itself. Apart from the Sira-Ta'rikh-Hadith collections of Ishaq, Tabari, Bukhari, and Muslim, nothing is known about Muhammad or Islam. The Qur'an literally disintegrates without them, since without context and chronology, it is gibberish.

This puts Muslims in a hellish predicament. If the Hadith compilations of Ishaq, Tabari, Bukhari, and Muslim are true, their prophet was the most evil man who ever lived - a bloodthirsty pirate, a ruthless terrorist, and a sexual pervert. His Islam was nothing more than the Profitable Prophet Plan. Allah was just one of many moon rocks. That's not good. But if the Hadith compilations of Ishaq, Tabari, Bukhari, and Muslim are not true, Islam evaporates.

Returning to Smith's debate paper, we find: "Obviously, the first question which we must ask is why these Traditions were written so late, 150 to 300 years after the fact? We simply do not have any account from the Islamic community during the initial 150 years or so. Not a single document has been found that can be traced to the period between the first Arab conquests of the early seventh century and the appearance of the Sira-Ta'rikh-Hadith collections of Ishaq, Tabari, and Bukhari towards the late eighth and ninth century. 'As historians and scholars, we would expect to find, in those intervening two centuries, at least remnants of evidence for the development of Islam; yet we find nothing,' say Nevo, Crone, and Wansbrough. And that means the totality of the Islamic conquests from Spain to India were complete before the first verse of Islamic scripture was written or retained.

"A few Muslims disagree, maintaining that there is evidence of an earlier Tradition called the Muwatta by Malik ibn Anas. He died in 795 A.D. Yet even a cursory review shows this collection consists of 'schooled texts,' transmitted and developed over several generations. More incriminating still, they follow 'Shafi'i's law' which demands that all Hadith be traced to Muhammad by way of isnad. Yet the law and its observance did not come into effect until after 820 A.D."

Shafi'i was one of four Islamic Imams, who along with Malik Ibn Anas, Abu Hanefa, and Ibn Hanbul, was credited with creating Islamic Law, or Feqh
. Each had their own interpretation of the Qur'an and Hadith. The most extreme, militant, and radical was Ibn Hanbul, nicknamed Hunbali. In the Middle East, his name is used to describe a highly religious or obsessed person. The Hunbali School, which is similar to that of Ibn Taymea, forms the basis of Saudi Arabian Wahabism.

The Oxford accredited curator of Ancient Islamic Manuscripts for the British Museum, Martin Lings, a devout Muslim, confirmed in his Muhammad, His Life Based Upon the Earliest Sources, that Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah was Islam's earliest and most reliable accounting of Muhammad's life. His "Key References" list the books upon which Prophet of Doom was based: "The Qur'an, the Ta'rikh of al-Tabari, and the topical Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim." Lings does, however, acknowledge two additional sources. The first is Waqidi's Kitab al-Maghazi, a compilation of Muhammad's raids. While interesting, Waqidi doesn't help explain Islam as he focused on battles and invasions. He doesn't even venerate Muhammad as a prophet. Lings also referenced Ibn Sa'd's Kitab at-Tabaqat al-Kabgir, even though its portrait of Islam's prophet was especially vulgar.

Sir John Glubb has written eleven books on Islam and lived among Muslims for the better part of his life. Under the heading "Sources" in his The Life and Times of Muhammad, he wrote: "There are three sources for the life of Muhammad: the Qur'an, the biographies and the traditions." Glubb said, "The Qur'an's value as a source is limited for it was not intended to be a narrative of events." Glubb's next assertion is also universally acknowledged: "The second source at our disposal is the biographies and histories of the first Arab writers. The earliest of these is Muhammad ibn Ishaq, who wrote his Life of Allah's Apostle, the Sirat Rasul Allah, about 120 years after the prophet's death. The only edition of Ibn Ishaq which has survived is that edited by Ibn Hisham, who died some 200 years after Muhammad. Another early narrative is the Al Mughazi of Waqidi, who died 197 years after the prophet." A "mughazi" is an Islamic raid or invasion inspired by Muhammad, so Waqidi's work is only valuable if one is looking to judge Muhammad's skill as a combatant, not a prophet. "The third source of information on the life of Muhammad is the traditions, called in Arabic Hadith. This word really means a conversation or verbal report. After the death of Muhammad, his companions took great pleasure in describing him, recounting his sayings and sharing their experiences in his company. New converts listened to these stories and passed them on, until an immense quantity of such anecdotes was in circulation. The two most reliable and famous tradition collectors are Bukhari and Muslim. Bukhari compiled his massive work The True Traditions which consists of ninety-five books or sections, about 220 years after the death of Muhammad. Muslim published his Hadith collection some five or six years later."

The 20th century's most universally respected Islamic scholar is Dr. Arthur Jeffery. He headed the Department of Middle East Languages at Columbia University and taught linguistics at the School of Oriental Studies in Cairo. He wrote: "The briefest investigation suffices to reveal that the problem of Islamic sources is relatively simple, for most volumes represent little more than the working over (with fabulous and irrelevant additions and modifications) of perhaps half a handful Arabic texts of primary importance. The earliest Life of Muhammad of which we have any trace was written by Muhammad Ibn Ishaq, who died in 768 C.E. i.e., 130 years after the death of the prophet. The Sirat Rasul Allah of Ibn Ishaq, however, has perished, and all we know of it is what is quoted from it (and these quotations are fortunately considerable) in the works of later writers, particularly Ibn Hisham and al-Tabari. This work of Ibn Ishaq, in addition to being the earliest known attempt at a biography, has a further importance in that, whether because the writer was somewhat of a free thinker, or because he had not come under the influence of later idealizing tendencies, his work contains very much information of a character that is distinctly unfavorable to Islam's prophet."

To validate his point, Jeffry quotes Dr. Margoliouth's review of Muhammad's character from the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (Volume 8, p. 878) that I have shared with you twice before. It begins: "The character attributed to Muhammad in the biography of Ibn Ishaq is exceedingly unfavorable." Moving on, Arthur Jeffry concludes his review of Islamic source material by confirming the validity of what we have read from others. In his The Quest of the Historical Muhammad, he writes: "The first important source that has actually come down to us, therefore, is Waqidi's Kitab al-Maghazi, or Book of the Raids. Al-Waqidi died 822 C.E. and his book may best be consulted in the translation of the important parts of it given in Wellhausen's Muhammad in Medina (Berlin, 1882). Waqidi's work, however, has the serious limitation that it deals only with Muhammad's campaigns.... Later Arabic biographies are of very secondary value as compared with these. And even these works are not primary sources, as they are themselves based on two sources, Tradition and the Qur'an. The most important collections of Tradition are those of Bukhari (who died in 870 C.E.), and Muslim (who died in 874 C.E.). What value can be placed on the Traditions is questionable because the dates of the Hadith collections are even later than those of the biographies."

For a little more contemporary view, let's review the sources used by F. E. Peters, as he is considered to be one of today's most learned scholars on the subject of early Islam. He is Professor and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages, Literature and History at New York University and has authored four insightful books on Islam. Recognizing that the process of defining the sources define Islam is less than inspiring, Peters put his source evaluation in an appendix at the end of his, Muhammad and the Origins of Islam. In it we read: "The earliest integral example we possess of a biography is the Life of the Apostle of Allah composed out of earlier materials [Hadith, or oral traditions] by the Muslim scholar Ibn Ishaq (d. 767). In some ways this, by now standard Muslim Life, looks like a Gospel, but the appearance is deceptive. Ibn Ishaq's original, before a certain Ibn Hisham (d. 833) removed the 'extraneous material' from the work, was more in the nature of a 'world history' than a biography. The story began with Creation, and Muhammad's prophetic career was preceded by accounts of all the prophets who had gone before him. This earlier, 'discarded' section of Ishaq's work can to some extent be retrieved." Ishaq's discarded Hadith depicting Islamic Creation and Muhammad's presentation of Biblical patriarchs was retained in Volumes I-V of The History of al-Tabari.

Speaking of the Qur'an's deficient presentation of Muhammad, Peters said: "We do not have material in the Qur'an to compose a biography of Muhammad because the book is a disjointed discourse, a pastiche [imitation, spoof, parody] of divine monologues that can be assembled into a homily [lecture, sermon] or perhaps a catechism [snippets of dogma] but that reveals little or nothing about the life of Muhammad and his contemporaries.... The Qur'an give us no assurance that its words and sentiments are likely to be authentic in the light of the context they were delivered and in the manner of their transmission. There are no clues as to when or where or why these particular words were being uttered.... The Qur'an is of no use whatsoever as an independent source for reconstructing the life of Muhammad. The Qur'an is not terribly useful even for reconstructing the Meccan milieu much less the life of the man who uttered its words; it is a text without context."

Peters debunks the myth that "the formation of Islam was played out in the clear light of history." He writes: "For Muhammad, unlike Jesus, there is no Josephus to provide a contemporary political context, no literary apocrypha for a spiritual context and no Qumran Scrolls to illuminate a sectarian milieu. From the era before Islam there is chiefly poetry whose contemporary authenticity is suspect, but was nevertheless used as the main vehicle of Arab history in the pre-Islamic and early Islamic periods. The fact remains that between the contemporary Greek and Roman sources about Arabia and the later Islamic Traditions about the same place, there is a total lack of continuity. Despite volumes of information supplied by later [9th and 10th century] Muslim literary [and thus not historic] sources, we know pitifully little for sure about the political or economic history of Muhammad's Mecca or of the religious culture from which he came."

F.E. Peters acknowledges, as do all serious scholars, that "the earliest 'biographers' of the Prophet, whose work is preserved by Ibn Ishaq and Tabari, were little more than collectors of oral reports or Hadith on the raids conducted by or under Muhammad. Yet, despite these obvious and serious disabilities, Ibn Ishaq's Biography of Allah's Apostle, is on the face of it a coherent and convincing account and gives the historian something to work with, particularly if the latter closes his eyes to where the material came from."

Continues on Part II



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