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Islam New book on the origins of Islam

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by Seeker9, Apr 20, 2012.

  1. Seeker9

    Seeker9 United Kingdom
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    Dear all

    I note there have been several prosletysing-type threads recently about the Qu'ran

    In the interests of balance, I wanted to share the following book review with you:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/...hadow-of-the-Sword-by-Tom-Holland-review.html

    One key thing to note is the theory that Islam as a religion was not established as such until more than 200 years AFTER the Prophet's divine revelations in the cave. This would then raise questions as to the authenticity of the Scriptures and the extent to which they have been influenced by ordinary humans

    To me that makes sense as there are some questionable passages which are more likely to have been written by selfish ordinary humans as opposed to being divinely transcribed

    I also wanted to raise this thread to encourage some genuine theological discussion instead of the irrelevant (in my opinion) threads we have been subjected to recently

    Defenders of the faith welcome to respond but if you choose to dislike my post, please remember to state why in either factual terms or theological terms so I will be able to respond

    Thanks for reading
     
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    #1 Seeker9, Apr 20, 2012
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  3. Seeker9

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    Forgot to add I am posting this via my phone so will copy and paste entire review when I get home
     
  4. Seeker9

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    "To understand the origins of Islam,” writes Tom Holland, “and why it evolved in the way that it did, we must… explore the empires and religions of late antiquity”.

    In the Shadow of the Sword works very precisely to this brief. Beating a path from the height of the Persian Empire established in AD 224 to the rise of the Abbasid caliphate in 750, Holland’s new book traces the process by which the world of the first millennium came to be dominated by one God, three religions and an innumerable succession of emperors.

    In a book that challenges most of the first principles of Islamic exceptionalism, Holland portrays the vast Arab empire that was amassed between the River Oxus and the Pyrenees during the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries as “the last, the climactic and the most enduring” in a series of religious and political superstates that came to dominate the world of the Mediterranean and Middle East following the chaotic collapse of the western Roman Empire.

    Islam, Holland argues, was not born fully formed with the Prophet as he received God’s revelation in a cave in 610, or when he fled Mecca for Medina around 622. In fact, the religion took nearly two centuries to assume its present form: a strict monotheism supremely loyal to the memory and teachings of its founder, Mohammed, governed by the words of its sacred text, the Koran, and overseen by an alliance of zealous princes and powerful priests.

    During those two centuries, Islam and the caliphs took on board almost everything that had been integral to the success of the other emerging faiths and empires of the age: Persian Zoroastrianism, the Christianity of the eastern Romans and Judaism, which lacked a territorial empire but endured by the potency of its teaching throughout Palestine, Arabia and beyond.

    From these old models, the Arab conquerors who rode out of the desert to seize North Africa, most of the Iberian Peninsula, the Holy Land, the fertile crescent and virtually everything between the Aral and Arabian seas, gleaned the means by which they, too, could rule the world.

    Theologically, this meant the potency of submission to a single God; the doctrinal power of a single, perfect messenger to whom God had revealed himself; the relentless persecution of deviant or cultish forms of religious belief; and, most importantly of all, the enduring reach of a sacred text.

    Practically, it suggested other methods to control a wide and variegated people: a legal code in which believers held privileged status; the exultation of warriors who fought in the name of the Almighty; spectacular buildings raised to the glory of God; and the conscious mythologising of great cities as the central hubs of both political power and pilgrimage. (Jerusalem and Constantinople pre-empted Mecca, Medina and Baghdad.)

    Countless other aspects of early Islamic power were also borrowed directly from the empires that preceded the caliphates. Whereas the Christian Roman Empire of Justinian had imposed heavy taxes on those who did not worship God, so the Arabs imposed a poll tax (known as the jizya) on Jews and Christians who fell under their rule. The jizya was ascribed to a decree of the Koran. But “the supreme theme of the age,” Holland writes, was “the raising of a new order upon the ruins of the old.”

    Holland tells a complex story, dotted with names and places leagues beyond the realm of popular recognition. Yet he makes it unmistakably his own. He is one of the most distinctive prose stylists writing history today, and he drags his tale by the ears, conjuring the half-vanished past with such gusto that characters and places fairly bound from the page. The nuances of ancient theological debate are not glossed over; but they are placed into the context of smelly marketplaces, shimmering palaces and bloodstained battlefields.

    Holland is writing, however, about a touchy subject. Among his arguments is that the prevailing notion of Mecca in the age of Mohammed is almost certainly not historically authentic, that our knowledge of the Prophet is uncertain, since nearly all of the information we have concerning his life derives from accounts written centuries after his death and that there were probably variations in early texts of the Koran.

    Is this Satanic Verses territory? Holland quotes Salman Rushdie at the very beginning of the book, acknowledging, wryly, another British author who ventured onto the sticky wicket of Islam’s origin myths. But I should be surprised if Holland lands himself in trouble. In the Shadow of the Sword may reach provocative conclusions, but it is also a work of impressive sensitivity and scholarship.

    * Tom Holland is speaking about his book at the Telegraph Hay Festival.
     

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  5. Seeker9

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  6. Archived_member15

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    This has actually been my understanding of Islamic history for quote a while.

    There is a fascinating book on this subject called, "The Hidden Origins of Islam": Amazon.com: The Hidden Origins of Islam: New Research Into Its Early History (9781591026341): Karl-Heinz Ohlig, Gerd-R Puin: Books

    It demonstrates that Islam was not founded in the sixth century BUT IN THE EIGTH under the Abbassids.

    The Dome of Rock Mosque was actually a Church. It bears an inscription supposedly from the Qur'an about Jesus, denying his divinity and speaking of 'muhammad'. But 'muhammad' was a phrase ORIGINALLY APPLIED TO JESUS! We have coins from the Arab conquered Persia which bear depictions of Jesus and crosses with the word "muhammad" - that is, "The Praised One". Thus a famous mosque inscription may refer not to Muhammad but, astonishingly, to Jesus.

    It has the conclusion that Islam actually began as an Arabian form of Christianity which did not believe that Jesus was Divine but purely human. Its sacred text was the Bible AND a Syriac commentary on the Bible with biblical quotations called the Ur-Qur'an - a lectionary.

    Over time this text was doctored to become a Sacred Scripture in its own right called the Qur'an.

    that Mecca did not actually exist at the time of Muhammad, in the location the Hadiths claim. There was no major trade route in that area, and we have no concrete evidence for things such as the Quarysh tribe, Muhammad's battles etc. Nada. Nothing. Mecca and the Kaaba were situated in Syria. This is confirmed by Byzantine historians of the fourth-sixth centuries such as Siculus Diodorus and Jacob of Edessa.

    What this means, is that the Muhammad of the Hadiths might very well be a different person from the historical one. The Hadiths were written around 200-300 years after the death of Muhammad. The earliest biography of Ibn Ishaq was written 130 years after the prophet's death.

    The earliest biographical material about Muhammad dates from at least 125 years after his reported death. Six decades passed before the Arabian conquerors—or the people they conquered—even mentioned Muhammad, the Qur’an, or Islam. Many scholars believe that the Qur’an was constructed from existing materials—including pre-Islamic Christian texts. Even Muslim scholars acknowledge that countless reports of Muhammad’s deeds were fabricated. The oldest records referring to a man named Muhammad bear little resemblance to the now-standard Islamic account of the life of the prophet.

    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

    I can't say if its 100% legit but its an intriguing and increasingly well-documented theory.
     
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    #5 Archived_member15, Apr 21, 2012
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  7. Auzer

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    Well there are several problems with skeptical speculations about Origins of Islam.

    1- We have actual physical copies of Qur'anic manuscripts from as early as 7th-8th century. So this speculation that Qur'an was probably developed 2 centuries after Prophet's death fall on its face.

    2*- We actually have independent testimonies , from 7th century, of different people , historians etc talking about Muhammad--A man in Arabia preaching a 'new' religion of its own. ( Guess what that religion was? A type of 'Christianity' ? lol It can't be. Only answer remains is Islam)

    3- A non-Muslim chronicler , Thomas The Presbyter , talk about Muhammad in his writings of 634 C.E ... That is just 1.5 years after Prophet's death.. He also records the battle between Arabs and Romans in Palestine region and refer Arabs as "Arabs of Muhammad" .. This is the earliest mention of Muhammad by a non-Muslim , non-Arab historian.

    4- Christian/non-Muslim chroniclers from the time era of Muhammad also mention Arab conquests and the spread of Islam and 'blame' "Muhammad" to have inspired the Arabs for their great conquests and 'imposing' of 'Muhammad's religion' on them ...

    From all this , one thing can be established that there was a man in 7th century named Muhammad. He founded a religion in Arabia (Islam) and united all of Arabia under one banner. He was also a political leader and appointed military commanders for different expeditions and also fought in some battles... We now also know that Qur'an was written/dictated by him because we have physical manuscripts of Qur'an from 7th and early 8th century.

    So 'origins' of Islam are historically well-established and authentic (unlike that of Christianity) ... BUT....the 'authenticity' of Hadiths is what scholars look at with skeptic view (and understandably so). I think that the topic should be about 'evolution of Islam' rather than 'origins of Islam' .....
    See that is what I am talking about. Many people (not referring to you) talk about it without any knowledge of history. Muhammad was first mentioned by a non-muslim chronicle in 634 C.E (just after 1.5 years of Muhammad's death!) .....

    Peace!
    :mundabhangra:
     
  8. Seeker9

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    Dear Auzer Ji
    the thread is about the origins of islam and not the origins of the prophet
    i am sudying for finals but will research this and come back to you with a more complete response
    assuming the author and previous authors have researched the subject I suspect there will be counter views to some of your points
     
  9. Seeker9

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    Dear Auzer Ji

    Some very quick responses which I will develop further in time:
    The article is not about the origins of the Qu'ran. It is about the origins of Islam as a religion. Yes, some codices go that far back but not the same complete finished Qu'ran you and I can read today

    List them please. Interesting that the Qu'ran itself only refers to Muhammed 4 times......

    No one doubts the existence of such a historical figure and neither does the article/book. Question is whether the actual historic Muhammed and the Islamic one are the same....



    No we don't know. Both things are capable of standing alone. Muslims choose to make that direct link




    I disagree with both statements. I.e
    I don't think the origins of Islam are that well established but there is a lot of archaeological evidence, and history to support a lot of the characters and events in the Bible. Feel free to start a separate thread on that if you like but let us stick to Islam on this thread please



    Agreed


    :interestedsingh:

     
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    #8 Seeker9, Apr 24, 2012
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  10. Astroboy

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  11. Archived_member15

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  12. Archived_member15

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    My dear brother Auzer peacesign

    As-Salaam-Alaikum! (Peace be with you)

    Neither the article nor the book I referred to doubt that there was a historical man who was given the title of Muhammad (the Praised One) and who lived around the 6th and 7th centuries in the Middle East. What is in dispute is the Origins of Islam as an independent world religion. There is practically no evidence for a major trade-route running through a place called Mecca at the time of Muhammad; nor is there any evidence for a religion called Islam nor a holy book called the Qur'an until the Abbasid Caliphate in the 8th century, when we clearly have an independent world religion holding together a vast Empire. Secondly, the earliest accounts of Muhammad are radically different from the Hadiths which date to around 200-300 years after his existence.

    The earliest non-Islamic mention of Muhammad that we have is from a Christian writer called Sebeos, a Bishop of the Armenian Church, who wrote in the 7th century. To him has been attributed A History of Heraclius, chronicling events from the end of the fifth century to 661. However the authenticity of this is disputed, it may be from later centuries. If we take it as authentic (and regardless it is our earliest account anyway if it isn't) then it presents a RADICALLY different understanding of Muhammad with none of the main events of Islamic history - ie divine revelations in the cave, Angel Gabriel, the Hajj, Mecca, Medina, the battles and wars of the prophet, a religion called Islam etc.

    Sebeos supposedly wrote in 660 A.D:


    "...Twelve peoples representing all the tribes of the Jews assembled at the city of Edessa. When they saw that the Persian troops had departed leaving the city in peace, they closed the gates and fortified themselves. They refused entry to troops of the Roman lordship. Thus Heraclius, emperor of the Byzantines, gave the order to besiege it. When the Jews realized that they could not militarily resist him, they promised to make peace. Opening the city gates, they went before him, and Heraclius ordered that they should go and stay in their own place. So they departed, taking the road through the desert to Tachkastan Arabia to the sons of Ishmael. The Jews called the Arabs to their aid and familiarized them with the relationship they had through the books of the Old Testament. Although the Arabs were convinced of their close relationship, they were unable to get a consensus from their multitude, for they were divided from each other by religion. In that period a certain one of them, a man of the sons of Ishmael named Muhammad, became prominent...Muhammad taught them to recognize the God of Abraham, especially since he was informed and knowledgeable about Mosaic history. Because the command had come from on High, he ordered them all to assemble together and to unite in faith. Abandoning the reverence of vain things, they turned toward the living God, who had appeared to their father–Abraham. Muhammad legislated that they were not to eat carrion, not to drink wine, not to speak falsehoods, and not to commit adultery. He said: “God promised that country to Abraham and to his son after him, for eternity. And what had been promised was fulfilled during that time when God loved Israel. Now, however, you are the sons of Abraham, and God shall fulfill the promise made to Abraham and his son on you. Only love the God of Abraham, and go and take the country which God gave to your father Abraham. No one can successfully resist you in war, since God is with you”..."


    Read:


    "...The Qur'an implies that Muhammad severed his relationship with the Jews in 624 A.D. (or soon after the Hijra in 622 A.D.), and thus moved the direction of prayer, the Qibla at that time from Jerusalem to Mecca (Sura 2:144, 149-150). The early non-Muslim sources, however, depict a good relationship between the Muslims and Jews at the time of the first conquests (late 620s A.D.), and even later. Yet the Doctrina Iacobi warns of the Jews who mix with the Saracens,' and the danger to life and limb of falling into the hands of these Jews and Saracens' (Bonwetsch 1910:88; Cook 1983:75). In fact, this relationship seems to carry right on into the conquest as an early Armenian source mentions that the governor of Jerusalem in the aftermath of the conquest was a Jew (Patkanean 1879:111; Sebeos 1904:103).
    [​IMG][​IMG]What is significant here is the possibility that Jews and Arabs (Saracens) seem to be allied together during the time of the conquest of Palestine and even for a short time after (Crone-Cook 1977:6).
    If these witnesses are correct than one must ask how it is that the Jews and Saracens (Arabs) are allies as late as 640 A.D., when, according to the Qur'an, Muhammad severed his ties with the Jews as early as 624 A.D., more than 15 years earlier?
    To answer that we need to refer to the earliest connected account of the career of the prophet,' that given in an Armenian chronicle from around 660 A.D., which is ascribed by some to Bishop Sebeos (Sebeos 1904:94-96; Crone-Cook 1977:6). The chronicler describes how Muhammad established a community which comprised both Ishmaelites (i.e. Arabs) and Jews, and that their common platform was their common descent from Abraham; the Arabs via Ishmael, and the Jews via Isaac (Sebeos 1904:94-96; Crone-Cook 1977:8; Cook 1983:75). The chronicler believed Muhammad had endowed both communities with a birthright to the Holy Land, while simultaneously providing them with a monotheist genealogy (Crone-Cook 1977:8). This is not without precedent as the idea of an Ishmaelite birthright to the Holy Land was discussed and rejected earlier in the Genesis Rabbah (61:7), in the Babylonian Talmud and in the Book of Jubilees (Crone-Cook 1977:159).
    Here we find a number of non-Muslim documentary sources contradicting the Qur'an, maintaining that there was a good relationship between the Arabs and Jews for at least a further 15 years beyond that which the Qur'an asserts.
    If Palestine was the focus for the Arabs, then the city of Mecca comes into question, and further documentary data concerning Mecca may prove to be the most damaging evidence against the reliability of the Qur'an which we have to date..."


    There is no mention in the early non-Muslim literature, if even valid, of a new religion. It is simply a group of Jews asking their Arab neighbours, who are genetically related to them, to believe in one God and unite with the Jews against the Byzantine Empire and remove them from the Holy Land so as to give it back to the Children of Abraham and out of Christian and Persian control. The Arabs are torn because they are polytheists but one Arab leader becomes prominent because he supports the Jewish envoys and claims that Arabs really are Children of Abraham. This wise man is called Muhammad and he has read the Bible and made a thorough investigation of the roots of the Arab peoples, finding their origin in the figure of Abraham. He has also come to believe that there is One God. He thus creates a united group of Jews and Arabs and wages war against the Byzantines. In the aftermath, a new Arab Empire is forged under his rule and that of his successors.

    Islam in this respect comes two centuries later.

    peacesignkaur


    What is fascinating is that this early view seems to back up the Catholic view of Islam.

    Our view of Ishmael essentially is connected with our view of Islam, the religion whose founder traces his genetic lineage from that son of the prophet Abraham. One of our best scholars on Islam, the French priest and theologian Louis Massignon said that: "Islam is a mysterious answer of divine grace to Abraham's prayer for his son Ishmael and the Arab race". (Borrmans, 122).

    Massignon, and I would say the Catholic Church, views Islam as God's fulfilment of Abraham's prayer for his son Ishmael, who was exiled with his mother Hagar and for his people, the great nation which God promised to him, the Arabs and the subsequent Islamic religion and civilisation. In the Qur’an it is written: “We have revealed to you an Arabic Qur'an that it be easy for you people to understand / use reason"(12:2). This certainly seems to suggest that the Qur'an is truly an answer of divine grace to Ishmael and the Arab peoples.

    To have one's son exiled is surely a painful, terrible experience for any father to go through and I have always sympathised with Ishmael. He seems to have become a bit of an outcast to the rest of his family, not of Abraham but certainly of his wife Sarah, and it does indeed appear from the bible that young Ishmael gets pushed to the sidelines. However, he was vindicated - somewhat - with the coming of Muhammad and the emergence of the Islamic faith a century or so after.

    It is not well known but Pope Paul VI was a member of the circle (the Badaliya or "Islamic prayer circle") of the Islamologist Louis Massignon.


    In the Catholic Church's view, Islam is a religion based on Muhammad's genuine inspiration, which made him see the oneness (tawhid) of God. This inspiration was completed by research in which Muhammad found the origins of the Arab people in the Biblical person of Ishmael. (Borrmans, 119f) We thus see the revelation in Islam as a "mysterious answer of divine grace to Abraham's prayer for Ishmael and the Arab race". (Borrmans, 122). Given their common origin in Abraham, Christians should always approach Muslims as brothers in Abraham "united by the same spirit of faith and sacrifice".

    To cut a long story short: Muhammad saw it as his original mission, according to Massignon, to spread the message of the oneness of God among the Arab peoples. He was thus God's answer to Abraham's prayer for his beloved son and his son's people.

    So according to the Catholic Church, at least, God cared enough for Ishmael to grant him thousands of years later a religion in his honour. He cared so much for Ishmael that he intervened and gave monotheism to his descendants through Muhammad!

    Later on Muhammad's teachings became somewhat changed and transformed as the sacred scripture the Qur'an came into being, but the essence still existed and does so now.
    __________________

    Its all theory but interesting nonetheless!
     
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    #11 Archived_member15, Apr 24, 2012
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  13. Auzer

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    Seeker and Vouthon ji ,

    Lets break it down and dissect the issue ...

    So what we know is that there was one man named Muhammad , in 7th century , who preached monotheism to the Arabs. He regarded Jesus as only a Prophet but not God. He abolished idol worship from Arabia and taught them to worship only one God.

    So this is the 'origin of Islam' , a new religion for Arabs as they came from polytheism or monotheism. We Muslims know this as the 'origin of Islam' .. Even Muslims believe that Muhammad (PBUH) didn't brought a new religion of its own as such but just 'restored' the true religion of Jesus , Moses , Abaraham , David etc ..

    So what exactly is different about Origins of Islam from Islamic perspective and Origins of Islam from secular perspective?

    Again , I will say that the real issue in hand is evolution of Islam and authenticity of Hadiths.

    Or any one of you brother can make it clear for me ....

    :happymunda:
     
  14. Seeker9

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    Thanks Auzer Ji

    For me the key question is the extent to which Islam today reflects the teachings of the Prophet and the extent to which it has been moulded into something by ordinary humans

    Hence to query the origins of Islam is valid. To query the evolution of Islam is also valid

    How much of the Qu'ran is really word for word everything that was revealed to the Prophet?

    I think it is fair to say there are some questionable passages in the Scriptures. You know the ones I am talking about as they provide ammunition for anti-Islamists

    Would the Prophet really have prescribed those passages?

    I think not!
     
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  15. Archived_member15

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    I think that traces of Muhammad's original teaching can be found most well-preserved in the earlier and shorter Meccan suras, than in most of the Medinan ones (with the exception of some portions of Sura Maryam and the stunningly beautiful Lamp parable) :whatzpointkudi:
     
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  16. Auzer

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    Well the Islam for over-whelming majority of Muslims is simply

    1-Worship ONLY one God/Allah.
    2- Muhammad is God's messenger
    3- Pray.
    4-Fast in Ramadhan.
    5-Pay Zakkat
    6- Lead your life in a good way.

    Now this is what Islam is for average Muslims. Average believer doesn't go into deep in his religion. So it pretty much seems that Islam is what Prophet taught it to be.
    Well change in Qur'an would've been difficult. Very difficult. The early believers memorized it word by word and they believed it to be word of God. The Hadiths however do not hold the same credibility. Also , those passages , when taken in historical context of that time period, seems perfectly alright , to me atleast.
     
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