The Mecca Mystery: Probing the Black Hole at the Heart of Muslim History by Peter Townsend

thorbiorn

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
My earliest interest in the scientific study of the text of the Quran was motivated by the writing of the German scholar, Günter Lüling who worked on the text of the Quran and found that several sections showed evidence of being based on pre islamic Arabic Christian poetry. While this early work in many respect have been superceeded by more modern work, it may still be meaningful to bring up links to threads on the forum, where his work and the topic of Islam has been mentioned or discussed:

https://cassiopaea.org/forum/threads/cs-session-10-january-2015.36930/post-548855
Revisionist approach to Islamic history from August 2013
Islam from February 2006

About the biography of Günter Luling born in 1928, there is on the inside cover os his book "A challenge to Islam for reformation" first published in German in 1974, with the edition I have, published by Motilal Barnarsidass, New Delhi, 2003:
"After his studies in Protestant theology he took Diploma rerum politicarum, and then PhD in Semantics and Islamics. He was Director of the Goethe-Institut of Aleppo in Syria and returned to university as assistant professor. His PhD with a dissertation about pre-islamic strophic poetry in the Koran was awarded the highest grade "eximium opus".
In the epilogue, probably written for the Indian edition, he presents some of his own reasons and sentiments about the work he has done. He ends by writing:
"It should and will become the task of all the different cultures ready to enter the common community of the global-village-world to find out what has survived in today's existing religious and social institutions of that early moral code and that religious "tribal-democratic" spirit of the time before the babylonian confusion of the languages such that the world might become again united in one spirit able to match the challenges of the future of this planet." (page 521).
I tried to look up Günter Lüling on Youtube, which then did not give any useful result except audios of German Wiki texts like
There was also a short German video about a University teacher in Germany who had gotten into trouble, because he dropped out of Islam and had to conclude that he could neither prove nor disprove the existence of the prophet, in fact his predominant impression was that Muhammad did not exist. If any of the German speakers are interested, then the link is
In the youtube they interview both an Islamist and a Christian, and they both hold that people that should teach future theologians to be employed should not teach about the doubtful aspects of the respective religions. I know this video is a case from Germany, but isn't a similar situation present in several other countries?

As I searched for Günter Lüling in one of the above links, I found a quote from the C's which perhaps explains part of what is at stake, at least in France: https://cassiopaea.org/forum/threads/cs-session-10-january-2015.36930/

Q: (L) Basically, you're saying that Israelis are not Semitic, but Arabs for the most part are. Is that what you're saying?
A: Yes
Q: (Pierre) So, the objective is the destruction of Arabic population in France through a civil war?

(L) I would say so, because if you've got the destruction of the Arabic population in France, then there is no support [from outside] for the Arabic people around Israel [and they can be more easily destroyed]. Israel just wants to claim all that land – Eretz Israel, they call it.

A: Yes

Q: (Pierre) Destruction through civil war?

A: Expulsion, camps, similar to the treatment of the Semitic Jews by the Nazis, supported or ignored by the rest of the world.
I don't know if such a scenario is reserved for France, or if it may have repercussions for other European countries, as did the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, but I think the discussions in this thread might help some Muslims and Christians living in Europe to gain perspective and avoid the danger that has not yet come. I have ordered the two books recommended and is looking forward to go deeper into the arguments about the origin of Islam.
 

luc

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member

JEEP

The Living Force
There are LOTS of details that are not in this discussion, and the logical flow of arguments really needs to be read.

I've just finished Spencers "Did Muhammed Exist" and it is well worth reading also. He includes longer transcripts of the ancient texts and makes quite a number of points and arguments that Townsend only touched on.

View attachment 28859

Everything you thought you knew about Islam is about to change

This stunning book uncovers provocative evidence that forces us to ask: Did Muhammad, Islam’s founding prophet, even exist?

It is a question that few have thought―or dared―to ask. But the widely accepted story of Islam’s origins begins to crumble on close examination.

In Did Muhammad Exist? bestselling author Robert Spencer brings to early Islam the same level of probing historical criticism scholars have long applied to Christianity and Judaism. Meticulously examining historical records, archaeological findings, and pioneering new scholarship, Spencer challenges the most fundamental assumptions about Islam’s origins―raising questions with profound implications for our world today.

https://www.amazon.com/Did-Muhammad-Exist-Inquiry-Obscure/dp/1610171330/ref=sr_1_1
I'm surprised this and any books like it have escaped the fate of Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. From wiki:
The Satanic Verses controversy, also known as the Rushdie Affair, was the heated and frequently violent reaction of Muslims to the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, which was first published in the United Kingdom in 1988 and inspired in part by the life of Muhammad. Many Muslims accused Rushdie of blasphemyor unbelief and in 1989 the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie. Numerous killings, attempted killings, and bombings resulted from violent Muslims over the novel.[1]

The Iranian government backed the fatwa against Rushdie until 1998, when the succeeding government of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said it no longer supported the killing of Rushdie.[2] However, the fatwa remains in place.[3]

The issue was said to have divided "Muslims from Westerners along the fault line of culture,"[4][5] and to have pitted a core Western value of freedom of expression—that no one "should be killed, or face a serious threat of being killed, for what they say or write"[6]—against the view of many Muslims—that no one should be free to "insult and malign Muslims" by disparaging the "honour of the Prophet".[7] English writer Hanif Kureishi called the fatwa "one of the most significant events in postwar literary history."[8]
~~~~~~~~~~~~
In the United Kingdom, The Satanic Verses received positive reviews, was a 1988 Booker Prize finalist (losing to Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda) and won the 1988 Whitbread Award for novel of the year.[2] However, major controversy ensued as Muslims accused it of blasphemy and mocking their faith. The outrage among Muslims resulted in a fatwā calling for Rushdie's death issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran, on 14 February 1989. The result was several failed assassination attempts on Rushdie, who was placed under police protection by the UK government, and attacks on several connected individuals such as translator Hitoshi Igarashi (leading, in Igarashi's case, to death).

The book was banned in India as hate speech directed towards a specific religious group.
[3][4]
Just like Jesus, I thought Muhammed did exist but wondered how such a strong religion came into being based on his life. Sounds like a good book for answering such questions / uncovering just how bogus it all is.
 

Tuatha de Danaan

Jedi Master
Just got the book and am 1/3 of the way in. The use of mercenaries( the Arab tribes) by both the Roman and Persian Empires, the lie about the Koran being written in pure Arabic instead of a mixture with Syriac, not, supposedly, being influenced by either Judaism or Christianity and the location of Mecca are just a few of the points already discussed.
Literally the lies and disinformation so far are breathtaking. The drive to wage war and conquer is permanent and under any disguise- in this case religion. Douglas Reid discusses these forces very clearly in The Controversy of Zion.
 

seek10

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I enjoyed reading the book. Thank you for the recommendation. It was well written in a systematic way - question, criteria used and proof that has in way it is easy to understandable even for a novice . Though i have known lot of Muslim friends, i should say i didn't know what their teaching was or history because we know it as a sensitive topic. This book clarifies its origins. Looks like Islam version of "Mythicisation of History, Historicisation of Myth".

Townsend has done very good job of deconstructing the history while comparing with historical texts of the time for the conclusion that Mecca or Muhammad didn't exist and religion is the result of need for identity of the migrants turned rulers of the day. While reading, I was thinking of how history gets whitewashed to fit the political needs of the day, leaving muddled and contradictory version for the future. I felt, If ISIS had succeeded and spread across all over the world and if they have to create a religion to make it acceptable, Quran fits the bill( Since they already had it, they don't need to create it).

I had a good chuckle when I read "Grapes for the Martyr". :-P
By taking away the Arabic vowels (added according to Muslim tradition by Al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf Al-Thakafi, 660-714 CE272) and replacing them with Syro-Aramaic vowels, Luxenberg can show how many obscure passages can suddenly be rendered perfectly understandable, thus indicating that they were originally written in Syriac and not in Arabic. One of his most famous conclusions is that the huris (white eyed virgins) awaiting the faithful in paradise (Qur'an 44:54, 52:20, 55:72, 56:22) refer to grapes or raisins. This is consistent with earlier Christian texts in which grapes are associated with paradise. If Luxenberg is correct, some martyrs for the cause of Allah may be in for a rude shock.

The fun that has been had with the ‘grapes for martyrs’ claim should not, however, distract from Luxenberg’s serious and very carefully researched conclusion: it is impossible to fully understand the Qur'an without seriously taking Syriac influence into account
Speaking of Islamic hidden history, I encountered this video in an earlier investigation I was doing. It's about a UNESCO heritage site that is deemed to be a monument constructed by the earliest Muslim ruler in Delhi. The video uses documentary and architectural and cultural data to demonstrate that this was not in fact built by Muslims, but simply re-skinned and re-branded as Muslim; the structure and mosques were in fact built by Hindus.
Video creator has done a good job to say this monument is built over previous Hindu structure with his video's. He has some other video's on similar lines that Taj Mahal and Agra fort was built on Hindu structures. It is known that many of Indian muslim structures built on existing Hindu structures. If it is a religious structure built over religious structure, it can become explosive political issue. Ayodhya dispute is one extreme case that shaped Indian politics for almost 30 years. Govt's come to power with these types of controversial issues and once in power, this simply pass it to court for dragging. Here is one video on LONG history of religious politics of the Ayodhya dispute.

I think similar type of conflict exist in Jerusalem between the 3 monotheistic religions about dome of rock.
The Dome of the Rock (Arabic: قبة الصخرة‎ Qubbat al-Sakhrah, Hebrew: כיפת הסלע‎ Kippat ha-Sela) is an Islamic shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was initially completed in 691 CE at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik during the Second Fitna on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The original dome collapsed in 1015 and was rebuilt in 1022–23. The Dome of the Rock is in its core one of the oldest extant works of Islamic architecture.

Its architecture and mosaics were patterned after nearby Byzantine churches and palaces, although its outside appearance has been significantly changed in the Ottoman period and again in the modern period, notably with the addition of the gold-plated roof, in 1959–61 and again in 1993. The octagonal plan of the structure may have been influenced by the Byzantine Church of the Seat of Mary (also known as Kathisma in Greek and al-Qadismu in Arabic) built between 451 and 458 on the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

The Foundation Stone the temple was built over bears great significance in Judaism as the place where God created the world and the first human, Adam. It is also believed to be the site where Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son, and as the place where God's divine presence is manifested more than in any other place, towards which Jews turn during prayer. The site's great significance for Muslims derives from traditions connecting it to the creation of the world and the belief that the Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey to heaven started from the rock at the center of the structure.
It looks as if some body want these conflicts go on for ever.
 

loreta

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I'm surprised this and any books like it have escaped the fate of Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. From wiki:

Just like Jesus, I thought Muhammed did exist but wondered how such a strong religion came into being based on his life. Sounds like a good book for answering such questions / uncovering just how bogus it all is.
Interesting about the "Satanic Verses", I was just talking about this book the other day. I remember when the book went out I was working in a library and we were forced to take out the book from the selves. An I remember also a meal with friends, 2 of them musulmans from Ouest Africa, men not fanatic at all but concerning Mahomet, yes. And concerning the book, also. They were very angry to the idea to put a visage to Mahomet, in their religion there is no painting or art showing Mahomet and the idea to put a body or a face to him is inconcevable for them. This reunion was really a surprise for me, as is a surprise when I talk to other musulmans that are incapable to answer some basic questions as: why are you not eating during the day while Ramadan? It is a simple question. Is it for health? to clean the body? etc. They are (the people I know) incapable to answer. They just say: God is asking to do this, God is the savior.

So they remind me the Jehovah witness that some are very gentle but are incapable to have a conversation with arguments. Not possible at all and not possible was with my musulmans friends that night around a meal.

I didn't know about the translator of the book. How sad. Thanks for the information.
 

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I found this book to be a very entertaining and engrossing read on the history of Syria and Arabia. At the end of the day it seems blatantly obvious how much the religion of Islam was a product of a very unique set of political and cultural circumstances, as a way to racially unify the Arabs in a region with a lot of divergent religious practices. The survey of different Christian sects living in the borderlands of the Eastern Roman Empire and their associated "heresies" was quite educational as well. Below I've quoted some choice summaries of critical (or at least interesting) parts of the book.

Chapter One Summary
Islamic history is strongly contested, suggesting a high likelihood that the historical record was manipulated to serve and strengthen later partisan political positions. Interaction with primary sources represents the gold standard of historical research. However, the standard Islamic account rests on secondary sources mostly compiled about two to three centuries after the events they claim to describe.

These secondary sources claim to be a written record of reliable oral traditions stretching back to the time of Muhammad. There are, however several serious objections to the idea that oral traditions in general, and these in particular, could have been flawlessly preserved.

Many of those working on the early history of Islam neglect to practice rigorous source criticism on the classic sources generally used for this purpose, choosing to accept them on face-value. This is an inconsistent (given the vigorous investigation into the reliability of the sources underpinning other periods) and unscientific approach. There are, contrary to popular belief, a vast range of non-Islamic primary sources that we can draw upon to reconstruct the history of the Arabian Peninsula in the 6th - 8th centuries CE.
Mecca and Pre-Islamic Arabia
It would be hard to overstate the importance of Mecca in Muslim belief and practice. Muslims believe that Allah revealed himself to Muhammad in a cave near this Arabian city and all believing Muslims dream about going there on pilgrimage at least once in their lives. Despite the importance of Mecca within Islamic historical sources (which were first committed to paper generations after Muhammad was supposed to have lived), there is no historical evidence that a major city existed at the location of the modern city of Mecca in ancient times.

When we study the inscriptions, documents and archaeological evidence produced by Mecca’s Arab near-neighbors and the imperial powers that dominated the ancient Near-East (Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian and Roman), we do not find a single reference to Mecca. This despite the fact that we can produce historical evidence trails for even relatively insignificant Arabian cities. Mecca could not have been the great trading center described in Islamic history because the trans-Arabian trade in incense had collapsed by the 6th century, while the spice trade with the East was focused on sea routes through the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. This leaves only low-value commodities (e.g. animal hides, salt and dates) as potential tradable goods. The high cost of transport and the fact that the great empires had cheaper sources of these goods nearer to hand make it highly unlikely that anyone from central Arabia would have engaged in long distance trade in them.

The location of the modern city of Mecca is nowhere near the well-attested Trans-Arabian trade route and visiting the city would have required traders to embark on a tortuous, expensive and pointless detour (since they could resupply at Ta’if, about 70 miles from Mecca).

Mecca could not have been an ancient religious center as Islamic sources show it as being under the control of a specific tribe (the Quraysh). The nomadic Arabs held their ‘sacred month’ ritual in places that were not under the control of specific tribes. There is, furthermore, no evidence (besides the 7th century CE Muslim claim) that the Biblical figure of Abraham ever set foot in central Arabia. The two candidates often proposed by Muslim scholars as pre-Islamic references to Mecca (Ptolemy’s ‘Macoraba’ and the Valley of Baka in Psalm 84) cannot withstand even a basic level of scrutiny.

All of the above must be deeply troubling for devout Muslims as it places profound question marks over the version of history that they have been taught to believe. The disconnect between official Muslim history and ‘on the ground’ realities should prompt us to have a close look at what alternative sources tell us about issues, questions and ideologies that animated the world from which Islam sprang. This is where we turn next.
The Arabian Peninsula at the Dawn of Islam
The classic Islamic accounts claim that the Qur’an was revealed in a place awash in paganism and entirely isolated from other religious ideas (e.g. Judaism and Christianity) and political realities (e.g. the conflict between Rome and Persia). The idea of ‘Arab Isolation’ was aggressively promoted by early Muslim scholars to ensure that the claim could not be made that Islam ‘borrowed’ from other belief systems or political systems. This view can, however, be challenged on several levels.

While there is indeed solid evidence for the practice of animism and for enduring patterns of tribal nomadism there is also solid evidence for the presence in Arabia of many other belief systems that could potentially profoundly influence the early development of Islam. Jewish communities existed up-and-down Arabia. In fact, one of the last Jewish monarchs anywhere on earth reigned in southern Arabia. The Jewish presence in Arabia is clearly reflected in the Qur’an with several of its chapters containing material that was lifted from Jewish sources.

Many Christians lived beyond the borders of the Roman Empire. In fact, Christians who for, whatever reason, were unwilling to sign up to standard definitions of Christian orthodoxy may have preferred to live in places like Arabia where they would be free from imperial persecution designed to bring them back into line. It is quite possible that Muhammad, or whoever wrote the Qur’an, had contact with such a group. This is evident in the non-standard way (Nasara) in which the Qur’an refers to Christians and the fact that it attacks doctrines (e.g. that Mary is part of the Trinity) that is not part of orthodox Christianity. The Roman Empire, in the form of the Eastern or Byzantine Empire, had a keen strategic interest in the Arabian borderlands next to their province of Syria. One strategy that they utilized to keep the frontier safe was to employ Arab mercenaries to act on their behalf. The Muslim historical tradition states that the Meccans entered such an alliance with the Romans. The Qur’an also, very strangely for a book with vanishingly few references to specific contemporary events, prophecies a future victory for the Romans. This would only be significant for the Arab readers if their lot was somehow intertwined with that of Rome. All of this suggest a location much further north than Mecca as the Romans would have wanted their allies to act on their behalf on their borders and not in the middle of an empty desert.

Like the Romans the Persians were also keenly aware of the strategic importance of the Arabian Peninsula. They, therefore, essentially mirrored the Roman strategy by enlisting Arab tribes to act as their proxies on the borders of their empire. The Persian influence on Islam can be seen in the recognition of the Sabian religion as divinely inspired but would actually be much more profound long after the death of Muhammad when ex-Zoroastrians brought much of their worldview and practices into Islam.

It should be evident, after reviewing the contents of this chapter, that the classic Islamic idea of a place called Mecca existing in a sea of paganism and entirely isolated from wider geopolitical realities cannot be sustained. There is indeed ample evidence of significant levels of Jewish and Christian influence in the pages of the Qur’an. It is, furthermore, the case that deep Persian and Roman involvement in the Arabian Peninsula raises the question of ‘how’ (rather than ‘if?’) the original recipients of the Qur’an were affected by the clash of the superpowers of late antiquity. The most plausible answers to these questions, once again, raise troubling questions about the reliability of the standard Muslim accounts dealing with the early history of Islam. In the next chapter, we will tackle some of these questions head-on by attempting to pinpoint a possible location for the events related in the Qur’an and hadiths.
Where did Islam Originate? Examining the Islamic Sources
Linguistic analysis is one of the most important tools that can be used to determine the location where a specific document was written. When such an analysis is performed on the Qur'an, it quickly emerges that it is full of loan-words from a wide variety of sources. This would be rather odd if the Qur'an sprang from the isolation of the Arabian Desert. It is, furthermore, particularly important to note that the language that seems to have influenced the Qur’an the most is Syriac. This means that it must have been composed in close proximity to the Roman province of Syria.

There are precious few geographical markers in the Qur'an and the single reference to Mecca is so vague that it cannot be used to provide a fix on the location of Islam's holy city. The other geographic references in the Qur'an are all concentrated in northern Arabia and not in the west-central area of the Arabian Peninsula (where the modern city of Mecca is located).

There are many indirect geographical clues that indicate that the Qur'an could not have been directed at people living in the middle of the Arabian Desert. These include references to arable and livestock farming and the assumption of familiarity with concepts and locations associated with Abrahamic religion. Given the evidence presented thus far in this book, references to the 'House at Bakka' in the Qur'an cannot automatically be assumed to refer to Mecca.

Many hadiths do not seem to be based on an intimate knowledge of the area around Mecca. This is manifested in glaring descriptive mistakes and the inclusion of events (e.g. very short journeys from northern Arabia to Islam's holy city) that would be physically impossible if this holy city was located at the modern location of Mecca. Many of the geographical impossibilities and absurdities in the hadiths are immediately resolved if we propose a location of Islam's first holy city far to the north of Mecca. The deep unfamiliarity of many hadiths with the geography of the area around Mecca is not only due to a likely north Arabian location for the early years of Islam, this is also because they were mainly written down several centuries later in Mesopotamia.

The fact that many hadiths that were written down in Mesopotamia had a profound influence on the final form of Islam. This is clearly visible in the considerable number of Zoroastrian and Jewish beliefs and practices that were included in the hadiths and continues to exert significant influence over the contemporary practice of Islam.

It would be easy to dismiss one or two indications that Islam's original holy city was not located in Mecca, but much further north as interesting outliers. The fact is, however, that wherever we turn (historical analysis, linguistic analysis, geographical analysis etc.) the results that we get back all lead to the same conclusion: Islam, as presented in the Qur'an and hadiths, could simply not have originated in the middle of the Arabian Desert. This means that the accepted Islamic historical account has much to answer for. It was constructed either in ignorance or in a willful attempt to deceive the faithful, but it simply does not correspond in any way to actual historical and geographical realities. This means that every aspect of the story that they are telling must inevitably be suspect. Over the next few chapters we will take a critical look at three of these aspects: a) The history of Muhammad b) The origins of the Qur'an and c) The history of the post-Muhammad period.
On the acts of Muhammed in war according to the hadiths:
He ordered raids (razzias) on caravans (and took part in several) in order to steal their contents and to sell people for ransom.393 He forced several of his enemies (e.g. Abu Sufyan) to accept his prophethood or be executed.394 He ‘married', and had sex with, a woman on the same day that her husband, father, brother and most of her family were slaughtered by his followers.395 He was present and did nothing to stop an act of genocide when his followers slaughtered disarmed male members of the Banu Qurayzah (Jewish) tribe after they refused to embrace Islam396 and he received 'divine sanction' for it (Qur'an 33:25-26). He ordered the assassination of several people who were critical of him (e.g. the poets Asma bint Marwan397 and Abu Afak).398 He ordered the torture of Kinana al-Rabi with a red-hot iron to 'encourage' him to reveal the whereabouts of a hidden treasure.399 He broke a treaty (the treaty of Hudabiyyah), which committed him to live in peace with the people of Mecca.400 Again he conveniently receives a 'revelation' justifying his actions (Qur'an 60:10).401 He allowed his followers to rape captive women.402 He consistently taught that warfare for the sake of Allah is the highest duty that a Muslim can perform.403 He taught that those who abandon Islam should be executed.404 He actively encouraged his followers to lie for the sake of the spread of Islam, especially in the context of warfare.
Can't overlook this one either:
Unfortunately, one of [Muhammed's] marriages was to a six-year-old girl, Aisha. This marriage was consummated when she was nine years old. This fact, combined with the idea that Muhammad is recommended as an excellent example (Qur’an 33:21) would have devastating consequences for generations of young girls across the Muslim world.
Finding Muhammed behind the Shadows
It is extremely difficult to construct an accurate picture of the ‘historical Muhammad’ from the sources available to us. He is mentioned by name only a few times in the Qur’an and upon reading the relevant verses, we are left with material that is mainly theological (in the sense that it deals with his role as a prophet called by God). There is, therefore, very little that we can use to construct an accurate picture of his life. When it comes to the hadiths, we find an abundance of material supposedly dealing with even the minutest details of Muhammad’s life. The problem is, however, that these so-called traditions were written down hundreds of years after Muhammad supposedly lived. This means that there were many opportunities for corruption and additions to occur.

That this, in fact, happened can be clearly seen in the inclusion of many miracle stories. Many traditions also seem to have been invented to serve the needs of a particular individual (or groups of individuals) by giving divine sanction for certain practices (e.g. traditions that validate the taking of booty in warfare). There are tens of thousands, often contradictory, hadiths claiming to provide an accurate picture of the life of Muhammad. If we stick to those that are regarded as sound by Muslim scholars themselves, we are left with an image of Muhammad as 1) Extremely warlike 2) Having a very complicated family life and 3) A prophet with a direct hotline to God. It should, once again, be emphasized that these details emerge hundreds of years after his life and are not based on contemporary historical data.

One possible way to confirm some aspects of the biography of Muhammad as presented in the official Islamic accounts would be to cross-reference some of the prominent events that they relate with contemporary accounts. Upon doing this we find that even supposedly earth-shattering events (e.g. The Battle of Badr and the massacre of the Jews of the Banu Qurayza) did not raise so much as a ripple in contemporary historical sources, leading to a very strong suspicion that they never happened.

When we turn to contemporary historical sources for direct references to Muhammad, we find that it took about 60 years after he supposedly died for him to be mentioned in any Arabic text. This is a staggering absence given the eventual ubiquity of the phrase ‘I testify that there is no God but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God’ within fully developed Islam. Some non-Arabic sources do contain possible earlier references to Muhammad, but the picture that they paint is confused and differs in several key essentials from the Muhammad we find in the official Islamic tradition.
On the Origins of the Qur'an:
The purpose of this chapter was to evaluate whether the Qur’an can be used to provide a solid marker in terms of validating some of the key aspects of the traditional Islamic historical accounts. Particular attention was paid to the generally accepted narrative of Qur’anic origins namely that the Caliph Uthman did Islam the immense service of collecting a variety of divergent readings, choosing an authoritative version, and publishing it as the definitive record of Allah’s word to humanity.

The first and most basic problem with the traditional account of how the Qur’an came into being is the simple fact that this was committed to paper more than 200 years after the events that it described supposedly occurred. In fact, it took about a century after the traditional death-date (632 CE) of Muhammad for the Qur’an to emerge onto the world stage.

When we subject the text of the Qur’an as we now have it to a text critical evaluation we see that the constantly repeated Islamic mantra that the book was ‘Never changed, never altered’ is little short of laughable. A comparison between the Cairo Text (used by modern Muslims) and earlier Qur’anic manuscripts reveals a vast number of changes, additions, corrections and other editorial interventions.

The fact that serious questions can be asked about the textual history of the Qur’an can also be confirmed by looking at some of the very earliest Qur’anic texts, the Birmingham Folios and the Sana’a Qur’an. The first is filled with examples of earlier material from a variety of sources that made it into the Qur’an and the second is a post-Uthmanic Qur’an that differs markedly from the supposedly once-and-for-all definitive edition promulgated by Uthman.

While the Qur’an does contain some original Arabic material, it is also, as we have seen, filled with much that was plagiarized from other sources. These range from Syriac Christian material, pseudo-Gospels, Jewish writings, folk tales and even Zoroastrian theological concepts. All of this confirms what should be obvious to the attentive and historically aware reader. Rather than a work authored by a single author (divine or human), the Qur’an is almost certainly composite work that reflects the complex theological, ideological, cultural and linguistic melting pot from which it emerged.
The Post-Muhammad Period
Islamic sources, committed to paper in in the 9th and 10th centuries, make the strongest possible connection between the Arab conquests of the mid-7th century and the rise of Islam. This version of events is, however, comprehensively contradicted by the available contemporary documentary and archeological evidence. In these sources, the conquests are never linked with a fully developed religion named Islam and the persons supposedly conquering the world for Islam (the four ‘Rightly Guided Caliphs’) are equally absent from the record.

Muslim post-conquest accounts are furthermore contradicted by the fact that not a single 7th century mosque was oriented towards Mecca. Instead, mosques from this period consistently pointed towards northwestern Arabia. We also find clear indications of the survival of paganism in the Arabian Peninsula long after it was supposedly eradicated by the rise of Islam.

Instead of Islam sweeping all before it, the contemporary record indicates that the first three Arab rulers (661-684 CE) who are reliably attested in the historical record (the so-called Sufyanids) followed a broad religious policy centered on a vague Arab monotheism (the standard opening protocol on their documents was simply ‘In the Name of God’), which even left room for strongly Christian symbolism (cf. the appearance of the cross on their coins and inscriptions).

A decisive change occurred under the so-called Marwanid rulers (from 684 CE onwards). These rulers were clearly intent on emphasizing and cementing the specifically Arab nature of their rule. This is evidenced in a decisive turn towards Arabic (instead of Greek in official documents) and the introduction, almost overnight, of a new protocol (‘In the Name of God, Muhammad is the Messenger of God’) which would become ubiquitous on Umayyad correspondence from 690 CE onwards. With the construction of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem under Caliph Abd Al-Malik in Jerusalem (691 CE), Islam as we now know it finally announces itself to the world. It stands as a decisive repudiation of Christianity and as a marker for a separate Islamic identity focused on someone named Muhammad. As such it contains the oldest Qur’anic inscriptions (although the inscriptions are somewhat different from the modern Qur’an) and the first references to Muhammad, Muslims and Islam in Arabic.

Whatever the reasons behind the sudden emergence of Islam, there can be little doubt that it had its roots in the policies of Arab rulers who lived decades after Muhammad supposedly dominated the Arabian Peninsula. Some of the reasons behind why it was necessary to invent this new ideology will be presented in the next chapter.
Conclusions:
The time has now come to update the statement that prefaced every chapter of this book. In light of the material presented in this chapter it can be posited that Islam developed in the following way:

“At the beginning of the 7th century a power vacuum existed in the Syrian borderlands due to the Roman and Persian armies fighting each other to a standstill. This area was also in the grip of intense sectarian conflict as diverse groups of Christians strongly opposed the decisions (on the divinity and nature of Christ) of the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon. As Roman imperial control broke down (both on the military and political levels), different Arab tribes migrated into this area, eventually becoming militarily dominant. Thus, the coming of Arab domination during 7th century appears not to have been religiously motivated, but was rather driven by a desire for land and political control. As Arab power was consolidated, a way had to be found to keep Arabs with different religious convictions politically unified. The Sufyanid Arab ruler Muawiya attempted to do this by adopting and promoting a bland monotheism that was so non-dogmatic that most of those Arabs following competing monotheisms could make their peace with it. This attempt at forging a broad religious consensus came to an end with the reign of the Marwanids through their very explicit repudiation of Nicaean Christianity (the religion of the Roman Empire). Even this break with the religion of Rome was not enough for many of the martially inclined Arabs, who saw the need for a religion that could sustain and motivate their endless wars against non-Arab entities. The response to this was the projection of an interpretation of what the ideal Arab warrior should be onto a figure named Muhammad who supposedly lived about six decades before in the middle of the Arabian Desert. A variety of scriptural and narrative traditions were invented to illuminate his life and to provide a holy text for the new religion. The development of Islam as a religion was finally completed in Mesopotamia under the Abbasid Empire. It was during this period that the supposedly ancient oral traditions dealing with the life of Muhammad were finally written down. Many of these traditions clearly had more to do with Jewish and Zoroastrian teachings than with life in 7th century Arabia and they supplied the emerging religion with its own legal tradition known as shari’a.”
 

Laura

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Thanks for the extracts, Whitecoast. I think you will also be well satisfied with some of the deeper examinations carried out by Spencer in his book. He gives more in the way of context and direct quotes from the ancient sources.
 

Tuatha de Danaan

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Just finished the book. Every page producing information and logical explanations. The reasonableness of his arguments would make it rather difficult, I think, for a Muslim to find a suitable get out. This is , of course, if a Muslim could get a hold of such a book. Plenty of Muslim women sure could do with reading it. DID MOHAMMAD EXIST has just arrived. Can't wait to get started. Thanks Laura for the suggestions. These I can read much easier than COLLINGWOOD.
 

genero81

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I talk to other musulmans that are incapable to answer some basic questions as: why are you not eating during the day while Ramadan? It is a simple question. Is it for health? to clean the body? etc. They are (the people I know) incapable to answer. They just say: God is asking to do this, God is the savior.
Yeah, that reeks of 4D STS subsumption. Submitting one's will without any real Knowledge as to why or for what purpose. Even if there is potential benefit from fasting or whatever.
 

Niall

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He says he explores this in another book - Nothing to do With Islam? Investigating the West's Most Dangerous Blind Spot.

I should read his other book before criticizing his conclusive generalization about Islam, but my initial thought is that things are not so simple. By all means, conduct honest research into Islam, but I would hope that it includes research into how the most fundamentalist Islamic countries today are those that have undergone the severest traumas at the hands of external (usually Western) military-economic interference...
Ok so I've read the above-mentioned book.

It has a few interesting claims. E.g., Islam is the only major religion with no formulation of the Golden Rule, apparently. The selection of barbaric Qur'anic/Hadith verses he highlights reaffirmed for me that things must have been really bad during the interim between the Roman and Medieval ages for people to actually believe such things.

Strangely though, Townsend seemed to 'forget' that the horror stories of Muhammad's brutality he is criticizing can't literally have happened as such because of his own, earlier, discovery of a 'black hole' at the core of Islam's foundation. So for the purpose of this book, he takes the Qur'an/Hadiths as literal history.

I can overlook that because his bigger point is that this stuff is there, it's written down since centuries, and Muslims today are expected to take it literally. But Townsend has to, at times, make some pretty loopy leaps to make things fit: he even cites verses on emigration to implicitly suggest that Muslims today are 'invading' Europe because the Qur'an tells them to go forth and proselytize. :umm:

The problems with this approach of finding evidence in scripture from way back then to make the case that the terrorism/mass migration that's going on now is 'natural' to Muslims are obviously - to us anyway - manifold. The core premise these critics of Islam seem to be promoting is that 'Islam is, was and ever shall be evil, period'. But this leaves out mountains of evidence that positive things came out of 'Islamic culture' during the intervening millennium.

Townsend has a chapter dedicated to answering the gamut of criticisms he and other 'Islamophobes' receive. I was particularly interested in reading what he had to say to those who point out that none of us would even be discussing the evils of Islam if GWOT and the ME wars hadn't happened.

He leaves that issue till last. His response to it is completely lame. He essentially talks around it by saying 'that's like blaming the Crusades for the Ottomans (much later) invading Vienna'. :thdown:

The point of analyzing Muslims' motivations for their actions during this post-9/11 period (and maybe several decades further back) is that there are immediate, clear-cut, non-Islamic factors that can largely explain them, without resorting to historical grievances and ancient texts.
 
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thorbiorn

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Ok so I've read the above-mentioned book.
[...]

The point of analyzing Muslims' motivations for their actions during this post-9/11 period (and maybe several decades further back) is that there are immediate, clear-cut, non-Islamic factors that can largely explain them, without resorting to historical grievances and ancient texts.
Some year ago, Laura wrote about Transmarginal Inhibition -- Sott.net which among other points explains that
Transmarginal Inhibition,
or TMI, is an organism's response to overwhelming stimuli. Ironically, the popular acronym TMI means too much information, which can be a common factor of transmarginal inhibition in today's culture.
1546977173693.png
Pavlov demonstrated that when Transmarginal Inhibition began to take over a condition similar to hysteria manifested. In states of fear and excitement, normally sensible human beings will accept the most wildly improbably suggestions.

Once you read this information, I think that you will agree with me that this is the process that has been used on the global masses for quite some time, with a peak of stress inducement on September 11, 2001. You will also understand why so many people have been hoodwinked. (By the way, you won't find this kind of in-depth information on such subjects on Wikipedia!)
Apart from the present context, which involves many other people than just Muslims in Islamic countries, perhaps also when Islam was introduced it occured in a situation of major upheavals, minor cataclysms and general social chaos where many people basically suffered from Transmarginal Inhibition, thus being more susceptible to "wildly improbably suggestions" which then crystallized on a collective level and influenced what later became a tradition.
 

Joe

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Niall has highlighted a concern with authors like Townsend and particularly Spencer: they often have an ideological bias, and while we can glean some interesting things from their research, we'd be wise to avoid swallowing their conclusions whole.
 
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Niall

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It should be pointed out that Robert Spencer has made a career out of 'the evils of Islam'. Besides his many books promoting the idea that Islam is inherently 'terroristic' (something he denies, but that is his essential message), he is also the founder/editor, since 2003, of jihadwatch.org.

Jihad Watch is funded by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Neocon think-tank dating from 1988, which in turn receives significant funding from the billion-dollar Bradley Foundation, one of the largest right-wing* philanthropic entities in the US. David Horowitz is a full-blown Zionist/Neoconservative who says things like "Palestinians are Nazis." Like many Neocons, Horowitz came from a hard-left background, espousing 'New Left' political ideology in his youth. His Wiki entry says his parents were "long-standing members of the American Communist Party and strong supporters of Stalin."

The combination of Money + Ideology can skew everything in whatever direction it wishes. We should always keep in mind that Israel and whatever it wants is dear to many if not most among the corrupt and the powerful in the US and elsewhere. The Cs remarked several years ago, after the Hebdo massacre, that the terror attack was motivated by the 'survival mandate' of getting everyone in line with how Israel sees the world ('us versus them' - Muslims being 'them').

[ * right-wing in the sense of the oligarchy, not Trump's base]

An honest account of why the West is exposed to some Muslims doing crazy things these days would be titled:

Nothing to do With Western Intervention? Lack of Insight is West's Real Blindspot
 
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Approaching Infinity

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The point of analyzing Muslims' motivations for their actions during this post-9/11 period (and maybe several decades further back) is that there are immediate, clear-cut, non-Islamic factors that can largely explain them, without resorting to historical grievances and ancient texts.
The problem is that I don't think all these factors can be divorced from one another. They work together. Real contemporary grievances will always be supported (if the material is there) by historical grievances and whatever ideology is present to frame the response. They're what turn a protest into an ideological revolution. For example, the Western Ukrainians have a lot to complain about (poverty being a big one), but that doesn't change the fact that they've largely adopted a fascist, ethnonationalist ideology with which to express their grievances.

I think the real error is focusing too much on the ideology - in this case Islam - as was the case in anti-Communist propaganda, to the exclusion of the other factors. That misses the crux of the matter, which is psychological and ponerological. Traditional Islamic texts, along with the works of more contemporary salafi/jihadist writers and ideologues, have framed a large part of the response to the influence of the West and the ME's own secular governments, primarily the militant response but also the political response (e.g., in the Muslim Brotherhood). But just like in revolutionary Russia, once there is an ideology with enough support, the worst of the worst will take that ideology to the limit. And there's enough pathological material in the Islamic texts and interpretations to make it a perfect vehicle for pathocracy.

So guys like Spencer and all the terrorism studies people can produce some very good work. In their minds it's even necessary work. But as long as they focus just on the ideology and not on the psychology of how that ideology is weaponized, they'll be no better than the vast majority of anti-communists, blindly leaving the doors open and causing the same types of infection that led to the use of the ideology in the first place.

I think that one of the the things that bothers the critics of Islam is that not enough people see the problem with the ideology. And that is a problem - just as many people aren't aware of the problems with communism. But the deeper problem is the pathology behind the ideology. Without seeing that, it's too easy to fall back into a conflict of identity groups, which is exactly what Islamists do.
 
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