On today’s broadcast we had Dr. Daniel Janosik Head of Islamic Studies at Southeaster Evangelical Seminary. He was a missionary and deals with Christian apologetics.
Today, with Dr. Janosik’s help, we are going to share a different perspective on the history of Islam. Those of you who follow this ministry are familiar with the traditional teachings on the history of Islam, but when we analyze the teachings that come from Muslim sources and when we look at the historic record from non-Muslim sources we get quite a different story. There are some legitimate questions that should be asked about Muhammad and the Qur’an. If the Qur’an did come from Muhammad, what does the historic record from other sources say? What do we know about Muhammad, what do we know about the Muslims and this new religion called Islam?
When we look at these things through the lens of other sources there are some interesting things we learn. I want to look at these things in this article.
To start with, there is very little in the written record from early Muslim sources. There seems to be a gap of 150-200 years between Muhammad and the written history of him. What other sources exist to validate Muhammad and his religion, and what do they say?
Let;s start by pinpointing some dates. The traditional view is that Muhammad received his first revelation in 610 and for 23 years, until his death in 632, he had the revelations that became the Qur’an. Muslims then say that within 20 years the Qur’an was written down. Until that time it was memorized by his followers and only existed in oral from. It was supposedly written down somewhere around 650, and it is purportedly the same Qur’an that we have today.
The Muslims moved up from southern Arabia and took northern Arabia and North Africa. They continued their conquest into Spain and France until they were turned back in 732.
This was written down about 150 to 200 years after the facts by Muslims. We can look at what the non-Muslims, the Christians, the Jews, and the secularists say about Muhammad and Islam. They were writing in the 7th century, the time of Muhammad and 60 to 70 years afterward. When we look at these writings we find a very different picture.
We find that Muhammad is not really mentioned. There are a few sources that mention the name Muhammad, but very tangentially, that means just in passing and as playing no important role. It is not until 691 that his name is mentioned by the Muslims and that is found in the Dome of the Rock. The caliph of that period had it inscribed along with other Qur’anic sayings. These sayings were similar to the Qur’an, but not identical. These sayings were very critical of Christ as the Son of God and critical of the idea of the Trinity. It looks like they were put there purposely to contradict the teachings of the Christians.
The non-Muslims have very little to say about Muhammad, and what little they do say is very negative, until the Dome of the Rock. You don’t really have much said about Muhammad, even in the Islamic world, until the first biographies were written at the end of the 8th century into the 9th century. Starting at this time you find many stories about Muhammad but they don’t seem to be connected to what really happened. It seems to be a body of stories that embellished the man that they put forth.
Essentially we have a man named Muhammad who is hard to identify either by non-Muslims or Muslims. We have a Qur’an which was supposedly finalized in 650 but we don’t have any manuscripts until the early 700’s and then they show many differences and many corrections. The don’t show the consistency that Muslims claim should exist. We also have a religion that was not considered Islam until the 8th century, over 100 years after Muhammad’s death.
What we are finding is that there is little said about Muhammad until the late 8th century and the early 9th century. Muhammad lived in the early 7th century so we have a 150 to 200 year gap in the historic record concerning Muhammad.
Let’s start by talking about the Dome of the Rock because it seems to be the only place were we find early reference to the name of Muhammad. There is only one other early reference to Muhammad and it is a coin put out in 687. This coin was by a renegade leader and it does not seem to be the same Muhammad so we really find the first early reference to the Muhammad of Islam at the Dome of the Rock. This is dated between 691 and 701 and the inscription says “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.”
While this mentions Muhammad as Allah’s prophet, it doesn’t seem to have had much to do with the policies of the Arabs at that time. It is not until later in the next century that you start having some stories appearing. John of Damascus in 743 mentions him in his “Heresy of the Ishmaelites” but it is still very tangential.
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