The best investigative study of the Sana'a find was conducted by Toby Lester. Writing for the Atlantic Monthly, he reports: "Some of the parchment pages from the paper grave seem to date back to the eighth century, making them the oldest Qur'ans in existence. What's more, some of these fragments reveal intriguing aberrations from the standard text - devastating in that Muslims are told that the Qur'an, as it has reached us today, is the perfect and unchanging Word of God - letter for letter how he wrote it."
The first scholar to examine the Yemeni fragments was Gerd Puin, a specialist in Arabic calligraphy and Qur'anic paleography. His inspection revealed unconventional verse orderings, textual variations, and artistic embellishments. Scripture was written in a rare and early Hijaz Arabic script. And newer scripts were very clearly written over earlier, worn-out versions. Therefore, the text evolved. It wasn't simply revealed in its entirety to the prophet Muhammad in the early seventh century, as alleged.
More than 15,000 sheets of the Yemeni Qur'an's have been flattened, cleaned, treated, sorted, and assembled. They await further examination in
Puin, and his colleague Graf von Bothmer, an Islamic historian, have published short essays on what they discovered. They continue to feel that when the Yemeni authorities realize the implications of the find, they will refuse further access. Von Bothmer, however, in 1997 shot 35,000 microfilm pictures of the fragments, and has brought the pictures back to
In his article on the Yemeni fragments, Toby Lester quoted many of the same scholars Jay Smith referenced in his
Stephen Humphreys, a professor of Islamic studies at the
The Encyclopedia of Islam says: "The closest analogue in Christian belief to the role of the Qur'an in Islam is not the Bible, but Yahshua. If Yahshua is the Word of God made flesh, the Qur'an is the Word of God made text." Questioning its sanctity or authority is thus considered an outright attack on Islam.
The prospect of a Muslim backlash has not completely deterred the critical and historical study of the Qur'an. In 1996 the Qur'anic scholar Günter Lüling wrote in The Journal of Higher Criticism: "The wide extent to which both the text of the Qur'an and the official Muslim account of Islamic origins have been distorted has been unsuspectingly accepted by Western Islamicists until now." In 1994, the journal Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam published a study by Yehuda Nevo of the
Patricia Crone collaborated on a book with Michael Cook, called Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World. They claim that the Qur'an came into being later than is now believed. "There is no hard evidence for the existence of a Qur'an in any form before the last decade of the seventh century, and that only includes inconsistent and sparse quotations from inside the Dome of the Rock." Hagarism, however, came under immediate attack from Muslims for its heavy reliance on hostile, non-Islamic sources.
Gerd Puin says, "My idea is that the Qur'an is a kind of cocktail of texts that were not understood even at the time of Muhammad. Many may even be a hundred years older than Islam itself. Within the Islamic traditions there is a huge body of contradictory information."
Crone agrees: "The Qur'an is a scripture with a history like any other, except we don't know this history and tend to provoke howls of protest when we study it. Nobody would mind the howls if they came from Westerners, but Westerners feel deferential when the howls come from other people. Muslims shout: 'Who are you to tamper with our legacy?'"
Personally, I share William Muir's perspective. Many consider Muir to be Islam's foremost scholar. He contends: "The Qur'an is the most stubborn enemy of Civilization,
But Muslims would rather be indoctrinated than investigate. The truth frightens them, as do facts and rational thought. They routinely reject all non-Islamic study of the Qur'an. Unable to refute the assault on their holy books with facts, history, or reason they simply assail the messengers of news they do not want to hear.
An Egyptian doctor who edited Prophet of Doom explained: "Their response is psychological. It is what you'd expect from someone who has been told that their religion is a delusion. The revelation triggers a defense mechanism of anger. This is what I faced every time I tried to discuss Islam with them. Our only hope is that Muslims learn to contain their anger and then make use of their minds. But I'm afraid that will not be tolerated by those who benefit from imposing Islam. If Islam suddenly disappears, Muslim clerics and kings, dictators and terrorists, would lose their power and funding. A million Islamic clergy, dictators, and terrorists would instantly be out of work."
Here is an example of how they respond. In
These boys have a vivid imagination. Like their prophet and god, they see conspiratorial plots being hatched everywhere. And nowhere is there a word of reason to refute any adverse claim. Muslims are so used to lying and being lied to they have become paranoid and delusional. It is part of their every day life, the perceived cause of all their troubles. If Western doctors inoculated Muslim children against disease, imams preach that they are infecting them with HIV. When Americans deliver food to feed starving families, the clerics claim the food is drugged so as to make Muslims barren. When it doesn't rain, it's a CIA plot. It's pathetic. Yet to believe a scheme as deceptive and delusional as Islam one's mind has to be corroded, so it's not surprising.
But in a way, Manzoor was right. The motivation for exposing the Qur'an (at least mine) was "spite, bred in frustration and nourished by vengeance." The spiteful and frustrated vengeance of the 9/11 terrorists motivated me to learn why Muslims were killing us. And Manzoor was also correct in displaying his panicked paranoia over the Qur'an. By showing it to be a fraud, the curse of Islam can be removed from the world. But then, alas, Manzoor and clerics like him would have to get a real job.
Another Muslim scholar, Abu Zaid, protests: "The Qur'an is a literary text, and the only way to understand, explain, and analyze it is through a literary approach. This is essentially a theological issue." While Zaid may not like Prophet of Doom, that was precisely the approach I took - analyzing the Qur'an based upon what it said theologically. But free speech is not tolerated in Islam, nor are contrarian views. In 1995 Abu Zaid was officially branded an apostate, a ruling that was upheld by
Abu Zaid sought to refute the charges of apostasy, but in the face of death threats and relentless public harassment he fled
"Abu Zaid seems to have been justified in fearing for his life and fleeing. In 1992 the Egyptian journalist Farag Foda was assassinated by Islamists for criticizing
I agree with Lester: "Despite its repeated assertions to the contrary, the Qur'an is extremely difficult for contemporary readers - even highly educated speakers of Arabic - to understand. It makes dramatic shifts in style, voice, and subject matter from verse to verse. It assumes a familiarity with language, stories, and events that seem to have been lost even to the earliest Muslims, which is typical of a text that initially evolved through oral tradition. Its inconsistencies are easy to find: Allah is referred to in the first and third person in the same sentence; divergent versions of the same story are repeated at different points in the text; and divine rulings contradict one another. The Qur'an, anticipating this criticism, defends itself by asserting the right to abrogate its own message: 'Allah blots out or confirms what He pleases.'" Every independent scholastic review of the Qur'an gives Allah failing marks.
Toby Lester went on to write: "As Muslims came into contact with literate people during the eighth century, the wars of conquest were accompanied by theological challenges, in which Christians and others latched on to the confusing literary state of the Qur'an as proof of its human origins. So Muslim scholars found themselves fastidiously cataloguing the problematic aspects of Allah's Book. These include: incomprehensible vocabulary, omitted words, foreign words, grammatical incongruities, contradictions, historical inaccuracies, scientific errors, and deviant texts. Yet for complicated political reasons, the official Islamic doctrine became that of i'jaz, or the 'inimitability' of the Qur'an. As a result, 'Allah's Book' is recited in Religious Arabic by Muslims worldwide, the overwhelming majority of whom do not understand any form of the language." Rather than defend the Qur'an rationally and objectively, they hide under the cover of an arcane language virtually no one understands.
After studying the Yemenite parchments, Gerd Puin speaks with disdain about the traditional willingness, on the part of Muslim and Western scholars, to accept the conventional understanding: "The Qur'an claims for itself that it is 'mubeen,' or clear, but if you just look at it, you will see that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn't make sense. Many Muslims will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Qur'anic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Qur'an is not comprehensible, if it can't even be understood in Arabic, then it's not translatable into any language. That is why Muslims are afraid. Since the Qur'an claims repeatedly to be clear but is not - there is an obvious and serious contradiction. Something else must be going on." You would have to search long and hard for a better summary of the Qur'an from a more knowledgeable source.
Stephen Humphreys, writing in Islamic History: A Framework for Inquiry, concisely presented the nature of the historical vacuum surrounding the formation of Islam. "If our goal is to comprehend the way in which Muslims of the late 8th and 9th centuries understood the origins of their society, then we are very well off indeed. But if our aim is to find out what really happened in terms of reliably documented answers about the first century of Islamic society, then we are in trouble."
In his Atlantic Monthly article, Toby Lester reported: "The person who, more than anyone, has shaken up Qur'anic studies in the past few decades is John Wansbrough, formerly of the
"Wansbrough applied the entire arsenal of 'instruments and techniques of Biblical scholarship - form, source, and redaction criticism - to the text.' He concluded: 'The Qur'an evolved only gradually in the eighth century, during a long period of oral transmission when Jewish and Christian sects were arguing volubly with one another well to the north of Mecca and Medina, in what are now parts of Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Iraq. The reason that no Islamic source material from the first century or so of Islam has survived,' Wansbrough said, 'is that it never existed.' Wansbrough's theories have been contagious in scholarly circles, but Muslims have found them deeply offensive. Parvez Manzoor has described Wansbrough and others as 'a naked outburst of psychopathic vandalism.'" Another messenger lies wounded by Islam's intolerant tongue while his facts lay undisputed.
The hostility experienced was not unique. One of his most famous predecessors was a prominent Egyptian government minister, and university professor, Taha Hussein. He is considered by many Muslims to be the Dean of Arabic Studies. "Hussein devoted himself to understanding pre-Islamic Arabian poetry and ended up concluding that much of that body of work had been fabricated well after the establishment of Islam in order to lend outside support to Qur'anic mythology." This confirms that the Qur'an's vocabulary was defined and its grammar was established by fabricated sources.
Recently, the Iranian journalist and diplomat Ali Dashti, in his Twenty Three Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Muhammad, took his fellow Muslims to task for not questioning the traditional accounts of Muhammad's life, much of which he called "myth-making and miracle-mongering." Ali is right. What's more, it's obvious.
Lester explains: "Such work has not come without cost, however: Taha Hussein, like Nasr Abu Zaid, was declared an apostate in
The first thing Muslims would discover by exposing the Qur'an to rational, historic, scientific, and linguistic scrutiny is that Arabic didn't exist when the Qur'an was allegedly scribed by the Pen on Heavenly Tablets. Scholars have determined that written Arabic evolved relatively recently from Aramaic by way of Syriac. The earliest trace of Syriac turned Arabic is found, ever so appropriately, on a gravestone. The earliest document is the Qur'an itself.
By way of background, the Aramaic and Syriac languages had fewer consonants than Arabic; so, during the 7th century new letters were created by adding dots to existing ones in order to avoid ambiguities. Diacritics indicating short vowels were introduced, but they are only used so that the Qur'an can be recited. There are two types of written Arabic. Classical or Religious Arabic is the language of the Qur'an. It differs from Modern Standard Arabic in style and vocabulary, much of which is archaic - antiquated beyond understanding.
Arabic inscriptions were virtually unknown prior to the birth of Islam in the seventh century. The Nabataeans, living in modern-day
As evidence that written Arabic was unknown in Mecca during Muhammad's lifetime, Ishaq, the first to write on behalf of Islam, tells us: Ishaq: 85 "The Quraysh found in the corner [of the Ka'aba's foundation] a writing in Syriac. They could not understand it until a Jew read it for them. It read: 'I am Allah the Lord of
Here's the bottom line: Arabic, especially in written form, is a recent phenomenon linguistically. Not only wasn't it one of man's earliest languages, it was derived from a language that predated it by 3,000 years. There is no evidence that written Arabic existed in
There is more you should know about the difference between the Classical Arabic of the Qur'an and the language spoken by Arabs today. First, there is a wide gap between written Arabic and all varieties of the spoken language. The spoken dialects aren't used in writing. The modern colloquial dialects are not mutually intelligible. In nations where Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is used, speakers must learn a local colloquial Arabic dialect to communicate as their native language and then gain a greater or lesser fluency with MSA as an educated and commercial language.
Second, there are major differences between Modern Standard Arabic and Religious Arabic. Classical Arabic only survives in some questionable poetry and in the Qur'an. Being schooled in MSA does not prepare a student to understand the Qur'an, as its form of Arabic is substantially different than MSA and massively different than spoken dialects. For example, Muslims are required to take classes called Tagweed, every year for ten years just to learn how to recite the Qur'an. But even then, they don't know what the words mean. The situation is similar to contemporary Italian and Latin. Being literate in one does not make one literate in the other.
The biggest differences between Religious and Standard Arabic are word order, grammar, and vocabulary. Classical Arabic is always verb-subject-object, rather than the more familiar subject-verb-object. If someone aims to learn Arabic he or she would have to learn MSA, Classical, and at least one local dialect. To make matters worse, Arabic has a wicked property - diglossia - a phenomenon in which two forms of one language are used side by side. One variety is formal; the other is mostly oral.
This brings us to a shocking conclusion. Less than three percent of the world's population speaks Arabic, and almost all of them need to have the Qur'an translated into MSA before they can understand it. Thus the Islamic apologists who scream that the Qur'an must remain in Religious Arabic are saying that they only want an infinitesimal fraction of three percent of the world's population to understand it. Fortunately, you know why.
The Qur'anic headaches get worse, not better. During the Qur'an's first century, the emerging Arabic alphabet did not have diacritical points, and letters were omitted. The text Uthman canonized, if this actually occurred, was a bare consonantal text with no marks to show verse endings, to distinguish consonants, or vowels. Without them it is impossible to comprehend the intended meaning of the text. In the introduction to his translation of the Qur'an, Dawood said, "Owing to the fact that the Kufic script in which the eighth and ninth century Qur'ans were originally written contained no indication of vowels or diacritical points, variant readings are recognized by Muslims as of equal authority."
For example, without the diacritical points the following words would be indistinguishable: repent, plant, house, girl, and abide, as are rich and stupid. There are thousands of Arabic words like these in which the meaning changes depending upon the placement of the diacritical marks. Yet the Qur'an was neither revealed nor initially scribed with these designations. Thus men had to guess as to what Allah was trying to say. The Qur'an cannot be letter for letter as Allah revealed it, because without the diacritical points and vowels, the identity of most letters is missing.
The principles of sound Arabic demand that words have diacritical points and their letters should be written in complete form. It is inconceivable that God would have revealed a book in such an inferior condition. To demonstrate the magnitude of this problem, try to establish the meaning of the following sentences extracted from this page with vowels removed along with one out of every five consonants and punctuation: ltrs r ssng h smlst pncpls snd rc lngg mnd tt wrd hv dctcl pts nd hr ltrs shd be wttn n mplt fm t s nmprhnbl th gd wl hv rvd bk n ch n nrr cndn t. Now, imagine trying to do this without having an intelligible text right before your eyes. Then, to equate this challenge to deciphering the Qur'an, remove every fifth word and replace some of those that remain with an unknown vocabulary. This is what you would have left: r ssng h adgh snd rc lngg tt wrd hv dctcl nd hr ltrs shd be n mplt fm @$%&*! th wl hv rvd bk n ch n nrr cndn. Try to make sense of that.
Our Muslim brethren claim the eloquence of the Qur'an, the supremacy of its language and the beauty of its expression, is conclusive evidence that it was revealed by Allah. "Forget the content," they say. "The inimitability of the Qur'an lies in its stylistic use of the Arabic language." Yet how can this be if there are so many omissions and errors pertaining to acceptable principles of style, literary expression, and grammatical rules? We even find many words that don't have any meaning whatsoever and aren't found in any language. Simply stated: much of the vocabulary no one understands, and much of the text is oblique, obscure, and senseless.
But even so, the eloquence of any book cannot be an evidence of the greatness of the scripture or proof that it was revealed by God. What must be important to God in communicating to man is not manifest in style, but substance - the power, truth, clarity, and usefulness of the revelation. And this is where the Qur'an fails so miserably.
Speaking of style over substance, in his Comprehensive Commentary on the Qur'an, E.M. Wherry, wrote: "Though it be written in prose, the Qur'an's sentences generally conclude in a long continued rhyme. And for the sake of rhyme the sense of what is being communicated is often interrupted. Unnecessary repetitions too frequently made, appear still more ridiculous in a translation, where the ornament, such as it is, for whose sake they were made, cannot be perceived. However, the Arabians are so mightily delighted with this jingling, that they employ it in their most elaborate compositions, which they also embellish with frequent passages of, and allusions to, the Qur'an. It is probable the harmony of expression which the Arabians find in the Qur'an considerably contributes to making them relish the doctrine and efficacy of argument which, had they been nakedly proposed without this rhetorical dress, might not have so easily prevailed." He is saying that Muhammad's militants, like Hitler's minions, were stupefied. Beguiled by a twist of phrase, they were unable to see the base and vile nature of the words themselves. The Qur'an is Islam's equivalent of rap music.
Stealing a page from Mein Kampf, Wherry concludes: "Very extraordinary effects are related to the power of words well chosen and artfully placed, whose power can ravish or amaze. Wherefore much has been ascribed to the best orators. He must have a very bad ear who is not uncommonly moved with the very cadence of a well-turned sentence; and Muhammad seems not to have been ignorant of the enthusiastic operation of rhetoric on the minds of men. For this reason he has not only employed his utmost skill in reciting his pretend revelations. The sublimity of style might seem worthy of the majesty of that being whom he gave out to be the author of them as he tried to imitate the prophetic manner of the Old Covenant. Yet it was only in the art of oratory wherein he succeeded, strangely captivating the minds of his audience. Some thought it the effect of witchcraft and enchantment, as the Qur'an itself so often complains."
Wherry's conclusion squares quite nicely with Muhammad's confessions: Bukhari: V6B60N662 "Allah's Apostle said, 'Some eloquent speech is as effective as magic.'" Bukhari: V9B87N127 "The Prophet said, 'I have been given the keys of eloquent speech and given victory with terror so the treasures of the earth were given to me.'"
The Qur'an is like a Christmas tree. Decorated in its holiday finery it appears beautiful, but the tree is dead. Worse, everything it stands for is pagan, even Satanic. The festival, its date, tree, ornaments, and exchange of presents all date back to the time when they were used to celebrate Lucifer's birthday. Trimmings can be deceiving. (The Messiah was born on the Feast of the Tabernacles, in September.) The Winter Solstice was the birthday of Tammuz, the Babylonian sun god - and all sun gods thereafter. Lucifer wasn't called the Morning Star for nothing.
But the ornamentation of the Qur'an was only superficial. The document is severely flawed. Jalal al-Suyuti dedicated a hundred pages of his Itqan to explain the difficult vocabulary. Under the title "Foreign Words of the Qur'an," he suggests that Religious Arabic is incomprehensible. "No one can have a comprehensive knowledge of the language except the Prophet." (Itqan II: p 106)
Jalal al-Suyuti states: "Muhammad's Companions, in whose dialect the Qur'an was given, failed to understand the meaning of many words, and thus they said nothing about them. When Bakr was asked about the Qur'anic statement "and fruits and fodder," he said, "What sky would cover me or what land would carry me if I say what I do not know about the book of Allah?" Umar read the same text from the rostrum, then said, "This fruit we know, but what is fodder?" Then he was asked about the Qur'anic text in chapter 13 discussing Mary and he had no response. Ibn Abbas [the most prolific source of Islamic Hadith] said that he did not know the meanings of Qur'an verses like 69:36, 9:114, and 18:9." Suyuti suggests that only Muhammad knew what they meant. Ibn Warraq in his scholastic anthologies on Islam compiled thick tomes of linguistic analysis of the Qur'an's hopelessly incoherent condition.
Continues on Part V
Monday, 20 February 2012
The Qur'an has other literary difficulties. "The subject matter within surahs jumps from one topic to the next, with duplications and inconsistencies in grammar, law, and theology," Rippin suggests. "The language is semi-poetical, while its grammar, due to omission, is so elliptical as to be obscure and ambiguous. There is grammatical discord such as the use of plural verbs with singular subjects, and variations in the treatment of the gender nouns (2:177; 3:59; 4:162; 5:69; 7:160; & 63:10). Many times sentences leave verbs out.
The Qur'an is replete with dangling modifiers. It has few explanations. Consequently the Qur'an is difficult to read and impossible to comprehend."
As an example, Qur'an 3:60 omits the words "This is." The verse begins: Qur'an 3:60 "the truth from your Lord, so be not from those who doubt." But it gets worse. The Arabic "word" used for "doubt" is "momtreen." It is not used anywhere else in the Arabic language except in this verse. Islamic Imams are clueless as to what momtreen means so the translators simply guessed "doubt." In Qur'an 7:160 "Fanbagesat" is a nonexistent, and thus meaningless word, as well.
Similarly, "al Sa'boon" in Qur'an 5:69 isn't a word. The only place it's used in all of the Arabic language is in this one verse. No one knows what al Sa'boon means. And there are a hundred more mystery "words" like these.
The oft-quoted and superficially tolerant verse: Qur'an 5:69 "Surely, those who believe and those who are Jews, Sabians and Christians, whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, and works good, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve," was abrogated. The Noble Qur'an says: "This verse should not be misinterpreted. It was abrogated by 3:85 [which is impossible since the 3rd surah was revealed before the 5th surah]. After the coming of Prophet Muhammad no other religion except Islam will be accepted from anyone."
An example of a grammatical error can be found in Qur'an 63:11. "Ethny Asher Asbatan" according to Arabic grammar rules should be: "Ethny Asher Sebtan" not "Asbatan." As it was written is says: "Allah will not delay in taking a soul in it is time." He meant to say: "when it dies."
These aren't the only problems. Patricia Crone points out: "Within blocks of verses trivial dislocations are surprisingly frequent. Allah may appear in the first and third persons in the same sentence. There are omissions, which if not made good by interpretation, render the sense unintelligible."
In response to these accusations, the theologian-grammarian al-Rummani argued that the ellipses and grammatical irregularities were really positive rhetorical devices rather than evidence of rushed or sloppy writing. It's another Islamic first: the Qur'an is so poorly written only god could have bungled it.
Muir discovered: "Al-Kindi, a Christian polemicist employed in the Caliphal court, had discussions with Muslims as early as
"Another difficulty with the Qur'an is scope. Some verses state that it is a book only for Arabs (surahs 14:4; 42:7; 43:3 & 46:12), while others imply it's a revelation for all mankind (34:28; 33:40). This also speaks to the problem of choosing Arabic. If God wanted to communicate to mankind in the seventh century, Greek or Latin would have been vastly superior choices.
According to Dr. Crone, "There were other people in existence at that time, who lived close by and have left us material which we can use to evaluate the Qur'an. The non-Muslim evidence is found in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Coptic literature from the time of the conquests in the seventh century onwards," Nevo shares, "We also have a large body of Arabic inscriptions, which pre-date the Muslim Traditions. Yet, these materials all contradict the Islamic Hadith and Qur'an." This evidence is particularly troubling. If Muslims wish to save Islam, they will need to come up with a ready defense. Attacking the messenger and putting their heads in the sand will not suffice.
Patricia Crone discovered: "A papyrus dated
"According to archaeological research carried out by Creswell and Fehervari, the floor-plans of the Umayyad mosques in Iraq, one built by the governor Hajjaj in Wasit (the oldest surviving mosque), and another attributed to roughly the same period near Baghdad, have Qiblahs (the direction the mosques face to accommodate prayer) which do not point to Mecca, but are oriented to the north. The Wasit and
As an interesting aside, Hajjaj (Al Hajjaj Ibn Yoseef Althaqafi) was one of the most brutal Islamic governors, even by Muslim admission. He appointed Kora Ibn Shoreek Alasady as his correspondent in
Returning to the misaligned Qiblahs, Baladhuri testifies: "The Qiblah of the first mosque in
"We find further corroboration for this direction of prayer by the Christian traveler Jacob of
"The Ka'aba Jacob of
This is devastating for Islam. If there is no historical or archeological evidence for the existence of a seventh century Qur'an ordaining Mecca, or even a seventh century Mecca, what is left of Muhammad and Islam besides blood, taxes, fables, and folklore?
"New research carried out by Patricia Carlier on the Umayyad Caliphal summer palaces notes that the mosques at these palaces also had Qiblahs pointing towards
"According to Crone, Cook, Carlier, and Hawting, the combination of the archaeological evidence from Iraq along with the literary evidence from Syria and Egypt points unambiguously to a sanctuary in Jerusalem, not Mecca. So why is there such a glaring discrepancy between the Qur'an and that which archaeology has revealed, especially as late as
"Muslims argue that perhaps the early Muslims didn't know the direction of
Muslims maintain that
"From research carried out by Crone and Cook, the first and only pre-Islamic allusion to a town some have mistakenly thought was Mecca is a reference to a city called 'Makoraba' by the Greco-Egyptian geographer Ptolemy in the mid-2nd century A.D. Though it appears that this citation by Ptolemy didn't actually refer to Mecca, because the three Arabic root letters for Mecca (MKK) do not correspond with the three Arabic root letters for Makoraba (KRB), as the letters 'ma,' which precede 'koraba,' signify 'the place of.' With that report thereby discredited, there is absolutely no other mention of
"The next allusion to
For Muslims, the dilemma only gets worse. Their "scriptures" fall apart at the seams if
Trying to salvage their illusion, Muslims the world over steadfastly maintain that
His findings are corroborated by the research of Groom and Muller, who contend that
Patricia Crone, in her Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, adds a practical reason which is too often overlooked. "Mecca was a barren place, and barren places do not make natural halts. This is especially true when there are famously green environments close by. Why should caravans have made a steep descent into the barren
"Furthermore," Crone says, "there was no commodity available in Arabia that could be transported such a distance, through such an inhospitable environment, and still be sold at a profit large enough to support the growth of a city in a peripheral site bereft of natural resources." Dr. Crone points out: "Some Muslims maintain it was camel herding; yet that's not possible in a barren environment." Jay Smith agreed: "According to the latest research by Kister and Sprenger, the Arabs engaged in the trade of leather and clothing; hardly items which could have founded a commercial empire of international dimensions. Moreover,
"The Greek and Roman trade between
"There were other problems as well. Greco-Roman trade collapsed by the third century A.D., so that by Muhammad's time there simply was no overland route, and no Roman market to which the trade was destined. Of even more significance, the Romans and Greeks to whom the trade went, had never heard of a place called
Crone says: "Greek trading documents refer to the towns of Ta'if (which is close to present-day
We are left in a quandary. If Mecca was not the great commercial center the Muslim Traditions would have us believe, if it was not known by the people who lived and wrote from that period, and, if it could not even qualify as a city during the time of Muhammad, it certainly could not have been the center of the Muslim world, much less Allah's world. What city, therefore, was? The answer is not difficult to guess. It seems
"In the center of
"Yet according to the research carried out on the inscriptions by Van Berchem and Nevo, the earliest dated writings in the edifice say nothing of the Mi'raj, but relate merely polemical quotations which are somewhat Qur'anic, and aimed primarily at Christians. In defense, Muslims are quick to point out that both surahs 17:1 and 2:143, which speak of the 'inviolable place' and the 'change of Qiblah,' can be found on the inscriptions on the drum of the dome and the doorway facing south. But they would do well to read the history of those inscriptions. What they will find is that neither are original, nor are they old. The entire dome was rebuilt by al Zaher Li-L'zaz in
Van Berchem and Nevo attest: "The earliest inscriptions speak of the Messianic status of Jesus, the acceptance of prophets, Muhammad's receipt of revelation, and the use of the terms 'Islam' and 'Muslim.' It must be noted, however, that even their early dates are in doubt due to a different design attributed to the supporting pillars from an account by the Persian Nasir Khusran in
"If the sanctuary was built to commemorate such an important event in the history of the prophet's life (the Mi'raj), why don't any of the earliest inscriptions refer to it? They don't mention the Night's Journey, Heaven, the Winged Buraq, nor Abraham, Moses, Gabriel, or Allah. There isn't even a mention of the required five prayers, which was the purpose of the event. How can this be rationalized?"
Driving home his point, Jay Smith said, "The best explanation is that the story of the Mi'raj either didn't exist or wasn't known at this time, but was redacted later on during the Abbasid period. This becomes apparent when one realizes that the idea of five prayers also emanated from this time. The only Qur'anic references to prayer occur in suras 11:114; 17:78; 20:130; and 30:17, and they require three, not five prayers. If the Qur'an is from Allah, why doesn't he know how many prayers a Muslim is required to perform? And why, if the Dome of the Rock were built to commemorate that momentous event, does it say nothing about it until a 1,000 years later?
"It's obvious this building was originally constructed for purposes other than commemorating the Mi'raj. The fact that such an imposing structure was built so early suggests that this was deemed to be Allah's House and therefore the center of the Islamic world up until at least the dawn of the eighth century. From what we read earlier of Muhammad's intention to fulfill his and Ishmael's birthright, by taking back the land of Abraham - Israel - it makes sense that Abd al-Malik would build this structure as the centerpiece of that fulfillment. Is it no wonder then, that when Abd al-Malik built the dome in which he proclaimed the prophetic mission of Muhammad, he placed it over the temple rock itself. [Actually he built it upon the foundation of the
"According to Islamic Tradition, the Caliph Suleyman, who reigned as late as
Having seen three of Islam's four most enduring symbols vanish, we are about to lose the fourth. Apart from the Sunnah, Muhammad is yet another mirage. "The earliest Islamic documents," according to Dr. John Wansbrough, "say nothing of Muhammad's prophethood. The Maghazi, stories of his battles and campaigns, are the earliest Islamic documents we possess. Yet they tell us little about Muhammad's life or teachings. In fact, nowhere in these documents is there a veneration of Muhammad as a prophet!" The earliest comprehensive history of Muhammad's life, Ishaq's Sira steadfastly refrains from calling Muhammad a "prophet," too.
"In order to know who Muhammad was, and what he did, we must, therefore, go back to the time he lived, and look at the evidence which existed then, and still exists, to see what it can tell us about this infamous figure. The most prolific artifacts are Arabic rock inscriptions scattered all over the Syro-Jordanian deserts and the Peninsula, especially in the
Nevo found: "In the Arab religious documents during the Sufyani period [661-684] there is a complete absence of any reference to Muhammad. Neither the name Muhammad nor any Muhammadan formulae (that he is the prophet of Allah) appears in any inscription dated before the Dome of the Rock - and even those are dubious. This is true whether the purpose of the inscription is religious, or whether it was used as a commemorative carving."
Muhammad's name is absent from all seventh century inscriptions, even religious ones. Since the Sira, Ta'rikh, and Hadith, which make up the Sunnah, are almost entirely narratives on the prophet's life, making him the example all Muslims must follow, why don't we find this same emphasis in earlier Arabic inscriptions which are closer to the time he lived? Even more troubling, why is there no mention of him at all? His name isn't found in Arab inscriptions until the eighth century. What's more, the first dated occurrence of the phrase "Muhammad Rasul Allah" (Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah) was discovered on an Sassanian coin of Xalid from the year 690, which was struck in
The first occurrence of what Nevo calls the "'Triple Confession of Faith,' which includes the Tawhid (Allah is one), the phrase, Muhammad Rasul Allah, and the denial of the Messiah's divinity (Rasul Allah Wa-Abduhu), is in
Nevo explains, "Religious content on rock inscriptions does not become pronounced until after
"The Muhammadan formulae only began to be used on rock inscriptions of the
The terms "Muslim" and "Islam" are also an enigma. While the Qur'an says in surah 33:35, that the faithful were Muslims and their religion was Islam, neither term was used until the late seventh century. According to Crone and Cook: "Islam and Muslim in the sense of 'submission' and 'one who submits' was borrowed from the Samaritans. The verb aslama has cognates in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac, but whereas neither Jewish nor Christian literature provides satisfactory precedent for the Islamic usage, we find exact parallels in the Memar Marqah, which is the most important Samaritan text of the pre-Islamic period. The sense of submission can readily be seen as intended to differentiate the Hagarene covenant from Judaism."
While hunting for archeological inscriptions, Cook found: "The quotations from the Qur'an on both the 690 coin and Dome of the Rock differ from that which we find in today's Qur'an." Van Berchem and Grohmann are etymologists who have done extensive research on the Dome inscriptions. They maintain: "The earliest contain variant verbal forms, extensive deviances, as well as omissions from the current Qur'anic text. If these inscriptions had been derived from the Qur'an, the variants they contain prove that the Qur'an could not have been canonized prior to the late seventh century."
These sources also seem to suggest that the Qur'an was put together rather hurriedly. Dr. John Wansbrough reports, "The book is strikingly lacking in overall structure, frequently obscure and inconsequential in both language and content, perfunctory in its linking of disparate materials, and given to the repetition of whole passages in variant versions. On this basis it must be argued that the book is the product of the belated and imperfect editing of materials from a plurality of traditions."
I believe the reason is obvious. Muhammad's companions plundered the world on verbal instructions. And the next two generations of Muslims were too busy wielding swords and accumulating booty to be bothered with scripture. But then things settled down. The war capital of Islam moved to the more civil city of
Crone and Cook say, "It was under governor Hajjaj of
"All these findings give us good reason to question the authority of the Qur'an as the word of God. Archaeology, as well as documentary and manuscript evidence indicates that much of what the Qur'an maintains does not coincide with the factual data at our disposal. From the material amassed from external sources in the seventh and eighth centuries, we can conclude: that the Qiblah was initially toward Jerusalem and not fixed toward Mecca until the eighth century; that the Dome of the Rock was the first Islamic shrine; that Muhammad was not classified as Allah's prophet until the late seventh century; that the terms Muslim and Islam were not used until the end of the seventh century; that five daily prayers as well as the Hajj were not standardized until the eighth century; that the earliest Qur'an does not appear until the mid-eighth century; and that the earliest Qur'anic writings do not coincide with the current text." Besides that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?
"All scientific, historical, and archeological data contradicts the Qur'an. The ramifications of this assertion are astounding indeed. Whichever way one chooses to interpret the facts, they leave no doubt that the Qur'an was the product of an evolving revelation, canonized during the early Abbasid period towards the mid to end of the eighth century, in what is today Iraq." It gives an altogether different insight into Revelation's "Whore of
"Wansbrough takes the position that the Qur'an was compiled even later than the Hadith, and was used as an authoritative stamp to authenticate later rites and laws by those who were responsible for imposing Islam. If he is correct, then one would wonder whether Muhammad would even recognize the Qur'an which we possess today."
Jay Smith concluded by quoting Wansbrough: "Readers are faced with many structural and literary difficulties which bode ill for a document claiming to be the final and perfect word of God. We are presented with spurious Biblical accounts, which parallel known second century heretical Talmudic and Apocryphal documents. And while we wonder how these very human documents found their way into a supposedly non-human scripture, we are introduced to scientific peculiarities which have also found their way into its pages. These problems all point away from a divine authorship and toward a more plausible explanation: the Qur'an is simply a collection of disparate sources borrowed from surrounding pieces of literature, folk tales, and oral traditions present during the seventh and eighth centuries, and accidentally grafted in by unsuspecting later compilers of the Abbasid period."
Continues on Part IV