Did Muhammad Exist?

A briefing by Robert Spencer
April 24, 2012
http://www.meforum.org/3232/did-muhammad-exist

Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, has released a new book titled, Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins. On April 24th, Mr. Spencer spoke on his book at a joint meeting of the Middle East Forum and Gatestone Institute in New York City.

Did the Prophet Muhammad really exist, or was he a sacred myth fashioned by the Koran decades after his purported death? Robert Spencer has addressed this thorny question with a dual intent:

To serve the interests of freedom of expression as a rebellion against the tyranny of censorship by the likes of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation and the leftist idolatry for political correctness, which attempt to silence any debate on Islamic issues.

To play in the Islamic world the same positive role that non-religious, scientific research played in Judaism and Christianity, triggering a rational debate that can lead to the rejection of strict literalism.

Blinded by dogmatic thinking, one could dismiss the question as pure provocation, ignoring the abundance of historical evidence supporting this thesis. Particularly intriguing is the absolute absence of a mention whatsoever of Muhammad, Islam or the Koran, either by the Arab conquerors or the conquered, in written records, inscriptions, coins, etc. during 630-690, i.e. to the period of Muslim conquests following the (alleged) death of Muhammad.

Furthermore, the life of Muhammad is shrouded in mystery given that the first biographies were written no sooner than 125 years after his death, and it is well acknowledged by Muslim scholars, among others, that many of the hadiths which hand down sayings and actions of the Prophet are false, artfully created for political reasons.

Nor is the Koran itself a more reliable source: it is supposed to have been collected and distributed in its standard edition no later than in 653, but one cannot find any mention of it until the 690s, and the traces of Aramaic and Christian traditions inside the text indicate a well established contact with the conquered territories.

In conclusion, historical evidence tells a very different story from the traditional one, namely that of political and military events which occurred at a time when some Arabian tribes expanded at the expense of the "sick men" - the Persian and Byzantine empires - and which necessitated a glue to bind them together and to form a central focus of identification. And what could offer a better nucleus for the nascent Arab empire than religion?

According to Spencer, such a study is of paramount importance because demonstration of the political circumstances of Islam's birth enables the contextualization of some of its elements in the framework of a political and military agenda, thus making possible a distinction between the religion and its secular, political, violent outcomes. This doesn't infringe on religious freedoms of Muslims: why aren't writers questioning Jesus' existence branded as "racist"? The search for the truth is never a provocation.

Summary account by Tommaso Virgili, intern for The Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum

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Publication Date: April 23, 2012

Are jihadists dying for a fiction? Everything you thought you knew about Islam is about to change.

Did Muhammad exist? It is a question that few have thought-or dared-to ask. Virtually everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, takes for granted that the prophet of Islam lived and led in seventh-century Arabia.

But this widely accepted story begins to crumble on close examination, as Robert Spencer shows in his eye-opening new book.

In his blockbuster bestseller The Truth about Muhammad, Spencer revealed the shocking contents of the earliest Islamic biographical material about the prophet of Islam. Now, in Did Muhammad Exist?, he uncovers that material's surprisingly shaky historical foundations.

Spencer meticulously examines historical records, archaeological findings, and pioneering new scholarship to reconstruct what we can know about Muhammad, the Qur'an, and the early days of Islam. The evidence he presents challenges the most fundamental assumptions about Islam's origins.

Did Muhammad Exist? reveals:

How the earliest biographical material about Muhammad dates from at least 125 years after his reported death;

How six decades passed before the Arabian conquerors-or the people they conquered-even mentioned Muhammad, the Qur'an, or Islam;

The startling evidence that the Qur'an was constructed from existing materials-including pre-Islamic Christian texts;

How even Muslim scholars acknowledge that countless reports of Muhammad's deeds were fabricated;

Why a famous mosque inscription may refer not to Muhammad but, astonishingly, to Jesus;

How the oldest records referring to a man named Muhammad bear little resemblance to the now-standard Islamic account of the life of the prophet;

The many indications that Arabian leaders fashioned Islam for political reasons.

Far from an anti-Islamic polemic, Did Muhammad Exist? is a sober but unflinching look at the origins of one of the world's major religions. While Judaism and Christianity have been subjected to searching historical criticism for more than two centuries, Islam has never received the same treatment on any significant scale.

The real story of Muhammad and early Islam has long remained in the shadows. Robert Spencer brings it into the light at long last.



The following are based on a classical deist viewpoint - we are here to learn not just mindless attacks.

I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy. Thomas Paine

Excerpts from Will Durant's The Age of Faith Pages 162-186 Pub. 1950