‘Islam the Untold Story’ – the IERA responds

This is a guest post by Amjad Khan

The Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), which is in fact a front for Salafists and Islamists to promote bigotry dressed as dogma, has also produced a response to the now infamous Tom Holland documentary ‘Islam –The Untold Story’. It is, however, poorly constructed, highly personal and completely misses the point.

There is something quite depressing about the way Muslim activists type respond to anything Islam related that isn’t a glowing tribute to the wonder and beauty of it. Objectivity and rational reasoning based on standard methodology used by historians just isn’t welcome and those who try will be accused of setting out to fabricate lies and deliberately deceive.

It’s almost as if the believing mind simply does not allow for the possibility for there being other interpretations and hence anyone who produces one must be of unsound character and mind. Progress is such an environment is both difficult and perilous.

IERA begin by seeking to discredit a claim that they attribute to Tom Holland, namely

“there is no historical evidence in the seventh century on the origins of Islam”.

They then go on to produce a list of early non-Muslim writers who wrote about Muhammad. The problem with this line of argument is that Tom Holland very clearly did not make that point. The argument he made was that early Muslims did not use the name Muhammad, did not mention Islam or anything resembling it nor referred to themselves as Muslims. This point is significant because it supports Holland’s argument that Islam was developed after the expansion of the Arab Empire rather than being the spark for it.

IERA then complain about Holland’s rejection of the Muslim oral tradition. Oral traditions are useful to historians but they can’t be taken too seriously either since the room for error is too big, regardless of how rigorous early Muslim writers were. The fact remains that ahadith (Prophetic traditions) were not recorded until about 200 years after Muhammad’s death and the very first Sirah (biography) was written over 100 years after his death. In that time myths, fabrications and memes could have easily taken root amongst Muslims and there is strong evidence to suggest they did. They can’t be treated as historical data and certainly can’t take precedence over data that does date from the time of the events it records.

This is a really problematic argument from a Muslim perspective since almost all we know about Islam has come to us via oral tradition, hence a rejection of oral tradition is a rejection of the Islamic historical narrative in its entirety. Thus Islam in its entirety is built on very weak and questionable foundations.

IERA then seek to address two other points, the story of Lot and the non-mention of Mecca. On the second point, they have completely misunderstood Holland. He does not contend that the Quran does not mention Mecca, indeed it does just the once and Holland acknowledges that. However, the fact that it is only mentioned the once in a rather vague manner does strengthen rather than weaken Holland’s argument. If indeed, Islam had emerged Mecca you would expect it to be given a more central role in the holy book.

With regards to the story of Lot, the Quran says

“And indeed, Lot was among the messengers. [So mention] when We saved  him and his family, all, except his wife among those who remained [with the evildoers]. Then We destroyed the others. And indeed, you pass by them in  the morning. And at night. Then will you not use reason?”

Holland contends that the above passage points to the fact that the audience of the Quran was more likely people based close to the ruins of Sodom and Gomarrah, which is in present day Israel, since they are supposed to pass the ruins “in the morning and at night”. IERA try to counter this by claiming that the Meccans were travellers and merchants and hence would have also passed the ruins in their trade journeys.

This is an extremely weak argument since only a small minority of Meccan residents were actually people who regularly travelled as far present day Israel which is over 1000 kilometers from Mecca for trade purposes even if they did take that specific route which passes the named ruins. Also, if that is what the Quran meant then the passage is very poorly worded since it sounds as though it is referring to a place very close by that people pass on a daily basis.

Holland further contends that the Quran appears to be addressing an agrarian olive growing community that was well versed in Biblical and Talmudic traditions. Mecca and its surrounding areas are very arid, olives don’t grow there and Meccans, according to Islamic traditions, were largely pagan and hence unlikely to be immersed in the stories of the Old and New Testament that the Quran seems primarily occupied with.

After reminding us about the miraculous and inimitable nature of the Quran, which has been challenged many times, IERA conclude their masterpiece by informing us that Holland was deviously selective with his choice of scholars. It is true that Holland could have found scholars that disagreed with him since there is much disagreement in this area but that is precisely the point. Holland is not claiming to know the definitive narrative of early Islam, he is merely pointing to loopholes in the established tradition and presenting the other side of the argument. He is seeking historical data and then seeking a narrative which best fits the data without making any presumptions, that is what good historians do.

Of course, Holland could be wrong and the orthodox Islamic view could be right but what disturbs me is the way in which IERA seek to shut down the debate by second guessing Hollands motives and mocking his efforts without consideration for the real arguments.

The problem with many activist Salafist and Islamist types is that anything and everything is perceived as an attack on Islam by the enemies of the faith. This is a paranoid mentality, that their preachers encourage, and it produces people that are intellectually retarded and unable to comprehend an opposing point of view. The absolutist and supremacist nature of their conception of Islam leaves very little room for errors and contradictions, hence any that are found must be explaining away and the finders must be humiliated and discouraged from such endeavours.

It’s a sad state of affairs and a look around the Muslim world illustrates where that kind of approach gets you.

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22 Comments

  1. Eden Eustice
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 4:48 PM | Permalink

    Good one Amjad. Those guys at iERA have no idea what they are talking about. All they ever do is use is logic and rationale backed by strong evidence to defend their stance. What a load of none sense.

  2. bobby
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 9:41 PM | Permalink

    iERA wouldn’t know what logic and rationale is if it stood up in their soup and bit them on the nose and tugged their beards.

    They are intellectually stunted salafi fanatics.

    Amjad has used logic and rationale in eviscerating their ‘arguments’. Read it again to comprehend what logic looks like.

  3. Posted September 4, 2012 at 9:53 PM | Permalink

    The fact that they produced a fairly lengthy rebuttal so soon after the airing means someone at IERA was sitting watching with a clipboard, waiting for something to jot down in red ink. i.e. they decided something would be wrong with it before the opening.

  4. Ummer
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 1:20 AM | Permalink

    Even I knew it was going to “expose islam” just by the intro alone and reading up on Tom Holland.

    As for the reporter here, he failed to check the response to Tom Holland: http://www.iera.org.uk/press_04sept2012.html

  5. Posted September 6, 2012 at 6:23 PM | Permalink

    Amjad Khan: The argument [Tom Holland] made was that early Muslims did not use the name Muhammad, did not mention Islam or anything resembling it nor referred to themselves as Muslims

    We have accounts as early as 637 CE that record the name of Muhammad. True, these accounts are from Christian historians, but the thing is, surely the Christians came to know of Muhammad from the Muslim invaders? If the Muslim invaders never used that name, then who is this Muhammad that the non-Muslim historians were describing?

    Regarding Lot’s story, Amjad Khan retorts: This is an extremely weak argument since only a small minority of Meccan residents were actually people who regularly travelled as far present day Israel which is over 1000 kilometers from Mecca for trade purposes even if they did take that specific route which passes the named ruins.

    I don’t think the argument is weak. Mecca was a trade hub. Not only were Meccan residents traveling for trade purposes, but people from other parts of Arabia had their trade routes through Mecca, and many also came to perform the pilgrimage at the Kabaah during the Period of Ignorance. In other words, Mecca had regular visitors from various parts of Arabia, and besides trade, these visits also facilitated cultural exchanges between the residents. Therefore, if we broaden the audience of Mecca, I see no reason why the relevant verses about Lot would seem out of place.

    Amjad Khan: Holland further contends that the Quran appears to be addressing an agrarian olive growing community that was well versed in Biblical and Talmudic traditions. Mecca and its surrounding areas are very arid, olives don’t grow there and Meccans, according to Islamic traditions, were largely pagan and hence unlikely to be immersed in the stories of the Old and New Testament that the Quran seems primarily occupied with.

    Well what about the denizens of Medina? Medina itself was an agrarian society, and it also boasted a sizable Jewish community. As for Meccans being unaware of the Old and New Testaments, that’s highly unlikely considering that trade must have exposed them to traders who were of a different religious persuasion than them; also worth considering are the contacts Meccans had with the Byzantine Empire, as well as their self-perception as the descendants of Ishmael who happens to be an Old Testament character.

  6. Posted September 6, 2012 at 7:32 PM | Permalink

    “I don’t think the argument is weak. Mecca was a trade hub. Not only were Meccan residents traveling for trade purposes, but people from other parts of Arabia had their trade routes through Mecca, and many also came to perform the pilgrimage at the Kabaah during the Period of Ignorance. In other words, Mecca had regular visitors from various parts of Arabia, and besides trade, these visits also facilitated cultural exchanges between the residents. Therefore, if we broaden the audience of Mecca, I see no reason why the relevant verses about Lot would seem out of place.”

    In case the above isn’t clear, Mecca was both a trade/commercial and a religious hub. At any point, people were coming in from various parts of Arabia and people were going out from various parts of Arabia. As they were coming in/going out, it is not at all implausible to believe that they passed the ruins of the disbelievers of old, including Sodom and Gomorrah.

  7. qidniz
    Posted September 6, 2012 at 11:59 PM | Permalink

    Mecca was both a trade/commercial and a religious hub.

    There is no evidence of the former, and what little there may be of the latter the Saudis are busily obliterating.

  8. Posted September 7, 2012 at 6:20 AM | Permalink

    qidniz: There is no evidence of the former, and what little there may be of the latter the Saudis are busily obliterating.

    Again, you are blindly repeating Crone’s argument that Mecca was not a commercial hub (and that it didn’t even exist!). That argument has been rejected by mainstream scholars.

  9. Amjad Khan
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 9:38 AM | Permalink

    IbnabuTalib –

    1) Yes we do have early non-Muslim accounts of Muhammad (a few years after his death) and they are acknowledged in Tom Hollands book. No one is doubting that he existed. The question is why didn’t Arab invaders who conquered surrounding lands use his name for the first 50 years or so after his death? That is very unusual is you assume, as Muslims do, that they were spreading Islam as they conquered new territories.

    2) The wording of the ayat does very strongly suggest that the place being referred to is somewhere very familiar and very close by to the residents of Mecca, which it isn’t. Your explanation is just about plausible but highly unlikely. Furthermore, we have no evidence that Mecca was a trading hub, only very late Muslim accounts refer to it as such.

    3) Yes there was, according to Muslim records only, a small Jewish community in Medina and a small agrarian base. However, Medina is also very arid and olives have never grown there. But the verses in question are Meccan verses too so if we are to believe that Mecca was a largely Pagan city the constant references to biblical tales don’t make much sense. Muhammad would not have spent all his time addressing foreign tradesmen because he was trying to influence the locals.

    There is a difference between an explanation and a highly-likely/believable explanation. Everything can be explained in one way or another if you try hard enough but you have to ask yourself how credible the explanations really are.

    Finally, questioning the story of the emergence of Islam doesn’t undermine its truth claims, i.e. Tom Holland could be right about everything and Muhammad can still be God’s final messenger, the two are not incompatible.

  10. qidniz
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 10:45 AM | Permalink

    That argument has been rejected by mainstream scholars.

    No, it hasn’t. Lack of evidence is exactly that: lack of evidence.

  11. Posted September 7, 2012 at 12:13 PM | Permalink

    Amjad Khan: 1) Yes we do have early non-Muslim accounts of Muhammad (a few years after his death) and they are acknowledged in Tom Hollands book. No one is doubting that he existed. The question is why didn’t Arab invaders who conquered surrounding lands use his name for the first 50 years or so after his death? That is very unusual is you assume, as Muslims do, that they were spreading Islam as they conquered new territories.

    I don’t think you read my argument properly. If Muslims were not using the name of Muhammad, who is this Muhammad that the Christian sources that predate Islamic sources talk about and who did they get this name from? If Muslims got the name of Muhammad from Christians, where did Christians get the name from?

    Amjad Khan: 2) The wording of the ayat does very strongly suggest that the place being referred to is somewhere very familiar and very close by to the residents of Mecca, which it isn’t. Your explanation is just about plausible but highly unlikely. Furthermore, we have no evidence that Mecca was a trading hub, only very late Muslim accounts refer to it as such.

    So you will admit that my argument becomes stronger the moment I am able to provide evidence for Mecca as a commercial hub in the Pre-Islamic times? As it happens, scholars have already refuted Crone’s argument that Mecca was not a trading hub as Muslim accounts traditionally portray it to be. I won’t go into the details but will only refer you to the works of R.B. Serjeat and Mikhail Bukharin. Nevertheless, I will quote you the conclusions of Bukharin’s analysis: Classical and Arabic sources confirm that the sourthern Hijaz in general, and the region around Mecca in particular, were intimately connected with South Arabia, East Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean through the caravan trade. The earliest references to such connections date from the second century BCE. The Meccans traded in Perfumes and spices, among other things, and this trade was conducted via the Meccan territory and the by the Meccans themselves….the data presented above does confirm the following: Mecca lay on the Incense Road, the Incense Road survived until the sixth and seventh centuries CE, and the inhabitants of the southern Hijaz participated in the trade flowing through it, mostly as caravaneers.” (p.131)

    The reference is The Quran in Context-Historical and Literary Investigations into the Quranic Milieu

    Given that I have data to support my position, my argument still holds. As a commercial and religious hub, Mecca had people coming in from various parts of Arabia and going out to various parts of Arabia on a regular basis. It is not implausible to believe that ruins of ancient sites were passed by during such journeys.

    Amjad Khan: 3) Yes there was, according to Muslim records only, a small Jewish community in Medina and a small agrarian base. However, Medina is also very arid and olives have never grown there. But the verses in question are Meccan verses too so if we are to believe that Mecca was a largely Pagan city the constant references to biblical tales don’t make much sense. Muhammad would not have spent all his time addressing foreign tradesmen because he was trying to influence the locals.

    That Jews existed in Medina is also related in non-Muslim sources. Consider the following from jewishvirtuallibrary website: The Jews of Khaybar, like Jews in other parts of the Hejaz, are mentioned hundreds of years after the expulsion of some of them by Omar. At the end of the 11th century they still had possessions, lands, fields, and castles in the region of Katība, which was a region of Banū Naḍīr in the time of Muhammad. The Jews of Wadi al-Qurā addressed questions about the cultivation of dates to R. Sherira and Hai Gaon in Babylonia. *Benjamin of Tudela (12th century) heard rumors, which are exaggerated, about the power of the Jews of Khaybar and Tayma, who were still addressing questions to the exilarchs in *Baghdad. He noted that the Jews of Khaybar were descendants of the Re’uben, Gad, and Menashe tribes and that they numbered 50,000, including scholars and war heroes who fought against their enemies. In the 11th and 12th centuries the Jews of Khaybar are mentioned in Egypt and Babylonia. In a letter from the gaon Solomon b. Judah written in Jerusalem around 1020, a certain Isaac from Wadi al-Qura is mentioned. This man deserted his family for four years, traveled to Egypt and returned “to his land,” that is, to Wadi al-Qura. Two *Genizah documents attest the settlement of Khaybar Jews in Tiberias during that period. According to Muslim tradition, the Jews of Khyabar were expelled in the days of Omar. They claimed in Tiberias to be Khayberis, and therefore exempt from tax,

    In case you don’t know, Khaybar is in Medina. Taking the above into consideration, as well as Constitution of Medina which boasts wide acceptance among historians as an authentic document and which also mentions the existence of Jews, we have very little reason to doubt that Jews were absent from Medina during the days of Muhammad. As for Medina being arid, let me simply quote the noted historian of Islam, F.E.Peters, “[Medina] was an agricultural settlement, with widely scattered palm groves and armed farmsteads, and it numbered among its inhabitants both Arabs and Jews”
    http://fepeters.com/?p=268

    Regarding the constant references to biblical tales in Meccan Surahs, come on! You know you are exaggerating!

  12. Amjad Khan
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 12:59 PM | Permalink

    1) I don’t think you understand the point being made. I am not arguing that Muhammad didn’t exist, I am arguing that Muslims didn’t refer to him as their messenger or that all for 60 years or so. That is the same argument Tom Holland made in his documentary. If your response to that ‘well non-muslims mentioned him and they must have got it from Muslims’ then you are missing the broader point, which is that the Arabs who were supposedly inspired by him and spreading his word were not mentioning his name at all which points to the fact that Islam had not cohered even if a man called Muhammad existed.

    2) Your argument does become a little stronger if you can find documents which date from the period which mentioned Mecca as a trading hub and guess what there aren’t any. We only have later Muslim accounts mentioning it as such and the scholars you are quoting are referring to those later documents, they are not conducting a historical inquiry into it. Secondly, as I mentioned, if it was a trading hub your argument is still very weak for reasons which I mentioned in my previous point. Yes some of the traders could have passed the ruins at some stage, but the verses doesn’t appear to be referencing a site a 1000 miles away which a minority of traders in Mecca passed at some point.

    3) I know there were some Jews in Medina and that it has a small agrarian base, I already mentioned that in my previous post. You have not added anything to the debate with your response to this point. So I shall re-iterate the salient points, Medina did not grow olives and the verses that seem immersed to biblical tales were revealed in Mecca which was largely Pagan. That you haven’t refuted. As for the constitution of Medina, again there is no historic record of this document dating from the time. We only have later sources for this document.

    Western scholars who have looked into this area relying on Muslims sources as their guide will of course largely agree with the Muslim version. Scholars who have gone in search of historical evidence, on the other-hand, have really struggled. Hence, it is possible that the Muslim version of events is true but it can’t be proven. That is the point.

  13. Posted September 7, 2012 at 2:22 PM | Permalink

    Amjad Khan: If your response to that ‘well non-muslims mentioned him and they must have got it from Muslims’ then you are missing the broader point, which is that the Arabs who were supposedly inspired by him and spreading his word were not mentioning his name at all which points to the fact that Islam had not cohered even if a man called Muhammad existed.

    Then who informed the Christian historians about Muhammad, if not the Arab invaders? Its a simple question Amjad.

    Amjad Khan: Your argument does become a little stronger if you can find documents which date from the period which mentioned Mecca as a trading hub and guess what there aren’t any. We only have later Muslim accounts mentioning it as such and the scholars you are quoting are referring to those later documents, they are not conducting a historical inquiry into it. Secondly, as I mentioned, if it was a trading hub your argument is still very weak for reasons which I mentioned in my previous point. Yes some of the traders could have passed the ruins at some stage, but the verses doesn’t appear to be referencing a site a 1000 miles away which a minority of traders in Mecca passed at some point.

    It would have been better if you looked into the sources I provided instead of pretending that you already know the answer. Bukharini relies on both Muslim and very early NON-MUSLIM sources to bolster the traditional account of Mecca as a commercial hub.

    We do have ancient references to Mecca, as such “Macoraba” of Ptolemy. However, Crone dismisses it on the basis of the assertion that Mecca could not have been a commercial transit. However, once we are able to show that Mecca lay on the incense road, then we have stronger case for identifying Macoraba with Mecca. This is what Bukahrini does in his analysis, and I suggest you read his paper.

    Now if Mecca had regular commercial and religious visitors, why is it implausible to believe they did not regularly pass ancient ruins on their way? Instead of addressing this point, you continue to assert that the verses imply a non-Meccan audience. At this point, all you are doing is going around in circles. So much for logic!

    Amjad Khan: I shall re-iterate the salient points, Medina did not grow olives and the verses that seem immersed to biblical tales were revealed in Mecca which was largely Pagan. That you haven’t refuted. As for the constitution of Medina, again there is no historic record of this document dating from the time. We only have later sources for this document.

    If Medina was an agricultural settlement, why is it implausible to believe olives were not grown therein? And even if olives weren’t grown, why is it implausible to believe that they did not become available through trade? You are bent on the idea that the existence of biblical references in Meccan Surahs imply something different. Again, that is to presume the polytheistic Meccans were unaware of their religious surroundings. I already addressed it: The Meccans traded with Jews and Christians. Trade also facilitated cultural exchanges. Moreover, the Meccans identified themselves as the descendants of Ishmael, claimed that Kabah was built by Abraham and his son, etc. All these show that the Meccans were far more aware of the Abrahamic religions than Tom Holland and other idiot skeptics would have us believe.

    As for the Constitution of Medina, just tell me this: Why is it considered an authentic document if there is no historical evidence for it?

  14. Amjad Khan
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 4:52 PM | Permalink

    Oh dear!

    You acknowledge that Muslims did not use Muhammad’s name on any of their documents or coins for 60 years after his death, that is the point. What you deduce from that is up to you. Tom Holland deduces that the Arab conquerors were not Muslims, though he doesn’t deny the existence of Muhammad or that some regarded him as a prophet. On that point, early non-Muslim mentions of him are irrelevant.

    Like I said, there are no accounts within 100 years of Muhammad’s death that show that Mecca was a trading hub, if there are please show me them. Even if there was your argument is still very weak with regards to that verse. There is a difference between probable and likely, your explanation is probable but high unlikely, unless you’re saying the Quran is very badly worded.

    The Quran says ‘who pass them by day and by night’. If there some traders in the city who happened to have taken that route on a few occasions, as you suggest, then the verse doesn’t really make sense since it is only relevant to a very small number of the target audience and even they can’t be passing it ‘by day and by night’, unless they lived very close to it. You can convince yourself of that if you like but it is such a poor explanation as far as I’m concerned.

    There is no evidence to illustrate that olives were ever grown in Medina and that part of Arabia couldn’t allow for olive plantations, its too arid for that. They could have come through trade, in fact i’m sure some olives were sold there, but that misses the point. The Quran refers to olive growers, not traders or consumers. You really are clutching at straws with that one.

    Also, those verses are Meccan so the agrarian nature of Medina is irrelevant as I keep mentioning.

    I’m sure some Meccans knew a bit about Abrahamic monotheism, in fact there was already a small community of monotheists called the Hanafists, who also prayed 5 times a day and fasted. But, according to Muslim accounts, the vast majority of Meccans were Pagan, hence the constant referencing to biblical tales seems slightly odd.

    With regards to the constitution of Medina, what is the earliest copy of this document in existence or the first reference to it in a historical text? We don’t have proof that dates from the period regardless of who considers it authentic or not.

    With history my friend its not about right or wrong answers, its about looking at the historical records and finding narratives that best fit. When we apply that to Islam a number of probable narratives arise. The problem is Muslims are adamant on keeping with one narrative regardless of how credible it is in the light of historic data. When dogma doesn’t allow for free inquiry and inquisitiveness there is a serious problem.

  15. Amin Riaz
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 5:24 PM | Permalink

    Amjad Khan

    “Progress is such an environment is both difficult and perilous.”

    It depends entirely on what you mean by “progress”. If you come with with the agenda that progress equals – lets end Islam . . .

    - – -

    Oral traditions are useful to historians but they can’t be taken too seriously either since the room for error is too big, regardless of how rigorous early Muslim writers were.

    This is grossly unfair . . . especially when you say “regardless of how rigorous early Muslim writers were.”

    Because . . . this was the Methodology adopted by Muslims – they placed sublime value on oral tradition. For example – Abu Hanfiah placed far greater value on Oral Transmission than

    Oral tradition – simply does NOT mean old wives tales passed around- but a well developed method of recording and transmitting. Wholesale rejection of this is wrong. There is difference between developing or having a system of Oral Transmission and not having one.

    Another angle to this . . . that there is very little remaining hard evidence for Arabic script – most of it is directly associated to the Quran. Now if you take that away . . . there is nothing to go on. But Oral transmission is successful where passing of language is concerned.

    - – -

    “This is a really problematic argument from a Muslim perspective since almost all we know about Islam has come to us via oral tradition, hence a rejection of oral tradition is a rejection of the Islamic historical narrative in its entirety. Thus Islam in its entirety is built on very weak and questionable foundations.”

    Ah . . . just because story of Islam is largely based around the oral tradition – it does not mean it is necessarily based on “very weak and questionable foundations”.

    In spite of stating the bleeding obvious – Muslims are “believers”. . . hence why is this problematic from Muslim Perspective?

    - – -

    “On the second point, they have completely misunderstood Holland. He does not contend that the Quran does not mention Mecca, indeed it does just the once and Holland acknowledges that. However, the fact that it is only mentioned the once in a rather vague manner does strengthen rather than weaken Holland’s argument.”

    And it is He who withheld their hands from you and your hands from them within [the area of] Makkah after He caused you to overcome them. And ever is Allah of what you do, Seeing. [48:24]

    Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah – blessed and a guidance for the worlds. [3:96]

    I wouldn’t call this vague – this is a direct mention. There are others – for example Umm al-Qurrah.

    Then there are mentions of Ka’bah . . . which refers back to Makkah.

    - – -

    “They then go on to produce a list of early non-Muslim writers who wrote about Muhammad. The problem with this line of argument is that Tom Holland very clearly did not make that point. The argument he made was that early Muslims did not use the name Muhammad, did not mention Islam or anything resembling it nor referred to themselves as Muslims.”

    However there is hard evidence against this . . . for example Dome of the Rock inscriptions – dating back to 690-4.

    - – -

    “Secondly, as I mentioned, if it was a trading hub your argument is still very weak for reasons which I mentioned in my previous point. Yes some of the traders could have passed the ruins at some stage, but the verses doesn’t appear to be referencing a site a 1000 miles away which a minority of traders in Mecca passed at some point.”

    Makkah – was trading hub – relative to its position within Arabia . . . it was NOT a major hub or anything of the sort . . . this hasn’t been the claim of Muslims.

    Even backwaters like Arabia had trading hubs. For a minute compare Bamako to New York.

    - – -

    IbnAbuTalib – If you could please wrap quotes with appropriate tags and marks. It would be really helpful!

  16. IbnAbuTalib
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 5:26 PM | Permalink

    Amjad, are you writing simply so you could have the last say?

  17. Amjad Khan
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 5:37 PM | Permalink

    Ibn – clearly you have given up, not surprising based on the arguments you were presenting. This is not about winning debates or having the last say, it’s about being open minded and appreciating a plurality of perspectives and understanding how historians establish narratives.

  18. Akhtar
    Posted September 8, 2012 at 5:03 PM | Permalink

    Take this as a reminder and know that on the day of resurrection, you will not be able to claim that you didn’t know about Islam or were not called towards it.

    In the Qur’an Surah Fussilat Verse 40-42 Allah talks to the disbelievers:

    40. Verily those who turn away from the straight path with regard to (the meanings of) Our Verses are not hidden from Us. Then, is he better who is thrown into the Fire of Hell or someone who comes safe and secure (from the torment) on the Day of Resurrection? Do as you wish. Surely He sees all that you do.
    41. Indeed those who disbelieved in the Qur’an when it had come to them, (that is their ill fortune). And surely it (the Qur’an) is a Mighty Venerable Book.
    42. Falsehood can approach it (the Qur’an) neither from before nor from behind. (It) has been sent down by the Most Wise, the Most Praiseworthy (Lord).

  19. Amin Riaz
    Posted September 8, 2012 at 8:40 PM | Permalink

    Amjad Khan

    ” There is no evidence to illustrate that olives were ever grown in Medina and that part of Arabia couldn’t allow for olive plantations, its too arid for that.”

    There ARE olives grown around Medina . . . . they still are there. There is ample evidence of that . . . given how long lasting Olive trees tend to be.

    I don’t know where you got this argument from . . .

    - – -

    The problem is Muslims are adamant on keeping with one narrative regardless of how credible it is in the light of historic data. When dogma doesn’t allow for free inquiry and inquisitiveness there is a serious problem.

    There isn’t any alternatives . . . simply pointing out lack of historical hard-evidence doesn’t equal to alternatives.

  20. Hellosnackbar
    Posted September 13, 2012 at 8:06 AM | Permalink

    The Tom Holland account seems to suggest that Mo (the illiterate) did not have a hand in writing the Koranus; but that the silly tome was composed by greedy sociopaths after his death proclaiming that he’d received direct instructions from the angel Jibril.
    The fact that fanatical dogma poisoned Islamists are prepared to murder and commit suicide in the interest of any furtherance of Islamic influence is sufficient reason for historians like Holland to present the available evidence.
    I look forward to the day when Allah will be accorded the same status as Santa Claus,the tooth fairy,or the Easter Bunny.

  21. Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:42 PM | Permalink

    God, revelation and the moral law emanating from it, are, accordingly, all ghosts of an infantile and obsolete metaphysics: they are nothing but deceitful and untrustworthy idols of the unfree and the un-enlightened. However, Islam’s suffering form the affliction of modernity is twofold: it is not only the target of the transcendence-negating rationality of Enlightenment, but also the victim of all the passions and phobias of an unforgiving Christianity. How tragic then that for many Muslims today, there are no other mentors but orientalists, missionaries, media pundits, political analysts and other nondescript experts. For who can deny that even a minimum allegiance to the notion of a western political identity leads to the construction of difference that renders Islam as the ultimate other that must not to be taken on its own terms. Thus, for all its achievements and respectability, western ‘science of Islam’ is but an instrument for the propagation of a message the ultimate aim of which is to ensure the western dominance of the world.

    Given the ineluctable fact that all systems of knowledge proceed from certain unproven axioms, it is not unfair to express the tenets of Western ‘islamology’, which is the polemical branch par excellence of the supremacist doctrine of the West, as follows: Muslim reality, whatever its abstruseness, intractability and recalcitrance, is always subservient to the theoretical vision of the Western scholar. Western reality may be complex, contingent and impenetrable (but that is to be expected because of richness and sophistication of western history and institutions, not to speak of the profundity and versatility of the Western mind!) Islamic reality by contrast is arid, insipid and predictable..

    That Islam is firmly committed to the command of the Transcendent from beyond presents the Western intellect with no insurmountable epistemological problems. The transcendent in the case of Islam needs no other explanation than the historical; the claim of borrowings from the Biblical tradition is more than adequate to account for the Muslim obsession with God and the Hereafter. Similarly, like Muslim faith, Muslim history is an open book. Whatever the cunning of history, the Western scholar is always able to penetrate the smokescreen of Muslim ideology and self-deception. Islam as a historical phenomenon, therefore, is not what Muslims believe it to be. No, it is what Western scholars have shown it to be, because the Western vision is academic, objective and scientific. Islamic vision, by contrast, is mythical and self-aggrandising. (The paradox that the Western vision of Islam is part of its self-image, and hence equally mythical and self-aggrandising, does not bother the self-confident Western scholar!)

    Given the erroneous nature of the Muslims’ image of Islam, it is but natural that Muslims cannot ‘represent’ it in scholarly forums; they cannot have the ‘objectivity’ and ‘intellectual perspicacity’ of the Western islamologues who alone are the scientists of things islamic and the true arbiters of islamicity. All authoritative works on Islam, be these encyclopaedias, dictionaries, standard historical accounts or general cultural tracts, cannot therefore be made the springboards of Muslim propaganda: Muslim contribution to these, inasmuch as it is de rigueur within the charade of multi-culturalism, must be restricted to remote areas and modern themes. Nothing touching the formative history of Islam and the sensitive issues of its message and ideals must ever be interpreted by the Muslims themselves; and if they ever succeed in doing it, they must be branded as ‘apologists’.

    The grandest delusion of Muslim self-understanding – such is the tacit, or at times not so tacit, ground of Western islamology – is that God spoke to Muhammad (S). Now, everybody knows that God does not exist and hence does not speak, and least of all to a heathen and gentile people like the Arabs. Or, if one insists upon using the theological language, then there can be no denying that the only genuine discourse on God is found in the Biblical tradition. Only the theological genius of the Hebrews, or the philosophical profundity of their successors, the Christian Church, can claim to having engendered and cultivated a universal morality which is the ultimate gift of the theism.

    Islam is not a religion in the true sense of the word: it is too this-worldly, sensual, obsessed with power and earthly glory, to qualify as a genuine salvational doctrine. Christian charity and overcoming of the forces of evil, by the paradoxical, nay scandalous, stratagem of surrender and self-sacrifice, is the only true path to individual redemption. That the West has created a civilisation that is far more secular, sensual and power-intoxicated than any other known to man, islamic included, does not, of course, refute the Western claim, or falsify the Christian rhetoric of love. There is no duplicity of morals and power in the Western tradition; what it possesses is a unique tension between the unattainable ideal of self-transcendence and the easily achievable reality of self-worship. Nothing, none of the umpteen genocidal wars against ancient Barbarians, medieval Saracens, modern American Indians, African natives, and countless number of other non-Western tribes, can blemish the peaceful and compassionate image of the Western world-polity.

    The West is the source of all the humane ideas of the world. Hence, its military technology, which canonises remote-killing and sanctions the indiscriminate slaughter of non-combatant civilians in the name of collective good, cannot be likened to the terrorist acts of our times. Mass killing in the name of the state is legitimate and justified; sporadic acts of violence in the name of religion (read: Islam) are illicit and immoral. In the final analysis, however, it is the nature of the victim that decides the issues of morality: causing Western deaths is always ungodly and unpardonable; exterminating non-western peoples carries no such moral stigma. Terrorism, in short, is a Muslim invention, and like fanaticism must be applied exclusively to Islam.

    Humanity, in the hegemonic perception of the West, is an abstraction devoid of political content. It exists in the moral universe of man but has nothing to do with the power-structures of states and nations. Humanitarian visions of a Just Global Order are therefore vehicles of political blackmail by the powerless and the marginalized. Human Rights, on the other hand, embody true norms of political morality and civilised behaviour. Besides, the powerful and the privileged never utilise them as instruments of Realpolitik and self-promotion. Thus, if in order to safeguard an individual’s political rights, wars need be waged, nations need be destroyed, humanity need be made to suffer, so be it. The individual is sovereign over the state – except of course, if the state happens to be Western and the individual a non-Westerner. That the legal provision of equality before law within the same state did not prevent the extinction of Jews in Nazi Germany and massacre of Muslims in Bosnia, is besides the point. For a Jew, or a Muslim, as citizen may be equal to his German or Yugoslavian fellow-citizen, but Judaism as a community, and Muslims as an umma, cannot be given the same status vis-à-vis the Christian West.

    Those who do not accept these tenets of the hegemonic Western worldview and reject the canons of its global order are bound to disappear from history. For the goal and meaning of universal history is the self-realisation of the free and rational man – the Western man par excellence.

    Given the nature of this indoctrination, which denounces every expression of Muslim identity as a conspiracy against humanity, which degrades every aspiration of Muslim morality as a return to medieval bondage, which reduces the Islamic Project to a barbaric obssession with the subjugation of women, which disfigures the soul of Islam for the sake of propagating the myth of Western superiority, isn’t it high time that Muslims start resisting the cultural and intellectual imperialism of the West. The battle for the recovery of Muslim self-image is a battle for the repossession of truth.

  22. FleetFox
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:20 PM | Permalink

    If only most Muslims were as willing to be as reasonable as you are, ahmad hussain. Unfortunately, they are not, are they:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19600346

    “The battle for the recovery of Muslim self-image is a battle for the repossession of truth.”

    This “battle” of self-image of which you speak is happening deep within the Muslim world itself. Not outside of it.

    The “evil West” is simply holding a mirror up to the Muslim world, teeming as it is in self-conflicted and moribund ideologies, and what the Muslim world is recoiling and reacting in such unholy anger against is it’s own self-image that it is reflected back to it. That is all.

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