Posts Tagged ‘Spencer’

Did Mohammed Exist?

September 2, 2012

For the last two centuries, secular and skeptical scholars have attempted to learn about the “historical Jesus”, the actual person behind the Gospel accounts, and to develop a secular explanation for the origin of Christianity. This effort necessarily involves some degree skepticism about the traditional accounts of the life and words of Jesus and the apostles found in scripture. There has not really been much of an effort to find the “historical Mohammed” and to reconstruct the early history of Islam.

The historian who wishes to investigate the origin of Islam suffers from two disadvantages that the historian of Christianity does not. First, while the evidence for Jesus’ life outside the New Testament is scanty, Jesus and the early Christians lived in a literate culture and the earliest Christians writings and non-Christian references to the new religion begin to appear within decades of Jesus’ death. Islam, on the other have, began in an almost completely illiterate, predominately oral, culture. The earliest written accounts of the life of Mohammed do not appear until more than a century after his death. These are largely those collections of Mohammed’s sayings and deeds called the Hadith, which were transmitted orally for several generations, and even Muslim scholars concede that many are spurious. The Koran is supposed to have been roughly contemporary with Mohammed, but there is good reason to suppose that it too was not collected until more than a century after Mohammed.

The second disadvantage that the skeptical scholar of Islam faces is the fact that he literally endangers his life by making inquiries that the followers of the religion of peace disapprove of. For this reason, several scholars are obliged to use pseudonyms or invest in security. Less daring investigators prefer to study less dangerous subjects, such as the origins of Judaism or Christianity, whose followers are noticeably less inclined to murder them when they are offended.

For this reason, we have good reason to be thankful that Robert Spencer is willing to take on the subject of the origin of Islam in his latest book, Did Mohammed Exist?  Robert Spencer is not a scholar and offers no original research in writing Did Mohammed Exist.  Instead, he has presented the works of those scholars who have questioned the traditional origin story of Islam in a clear, easily understood manner and convincingly makes the argument that Mohammed, at least in the sense of being the prophet from Mecca, did not exist.

Did Mohammed exist?  It may seem an odd question to ask. Surely, there is as much evidence that Mohammed existed as Jesus or Socrates. Even a non-Muslim must concede that, even if he does not believe Mohammed is a prophet. In fact, as Spencer shows, the evidence for Mohammed’s life is sparse. As I mentioned above, Muslim accounts of his life are not found until more than a century or more after his death. Non-Muslim chroniclers, although they describe the invasions of the Arab armies, make no mentions of the Arab prophet or of the Koran. Coins minted by the earliest caliphs are more likely to show Christian symbols, rather than quotations from the Koran.

Spencer also notes that the Koran is a very strange book in that it is very disordered and many Arabic words don’t actually make any sense. This is due, in part, to the fact that the earliest Arabic alphabet did not make distinctions between certain letters and if some of the letters are changed, the text makes more sense. Spencer also notes that much of the Koran may, in fact, have been written in Syriac, a language closely related to Arabic, and again if some words are actually Syriac, than the text makes more sense. (For one thing, those virgins that martyrs are promised are more likely to be white raisins.)

As for Mohammed, that name only appears a few times in the Koran. The name means “one who is highly praised” and could be a title rather than a proper name. While it is likely that there was a warlord or prophet with that name or title, the Mohammed of Islam almost certainly did not exist. Spencer shows that the historical evidence simply cannot confirm the traditional accounts. There is much that is contradictory in these accounts and there is much that does not match what is known of the conditions in Arabia in the time that Mohammed is said to have lived. It seems more likely, according to Spencer, that the legend of Mohammed and much of the religion of Islam was created, out of Jewish and Christian traditions in the first century of the Arab Empire as an attempt to provide an Arabic religious ideology to unify the diverse conquered peoples. Whether the reader ends up agreeing with Robert Spencer’s thesis or not, they are sure to find Did Mohammed Exist? A thought provoking exploration of the story behind the origins of one of the largest religions.

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I see that Robert Spencer‘s new book, Did Mohammed Exist?, is now available for the Kindle. That’s great! I will get it as soon as I can. Meanwhile I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the one-starred reviews. As I mentioned once before, the best way to judge the quality of a book on a controversial subject is to take a look at how hysterical the one-starred reviews by liberals who haven’t actually read the book get. By that criterion, Did Mohammed Exist? is really good.

As of this writing there are seven one-starred reviews. Here are the first two.

This is pure garbage from some Islamaphobic ignorant moron!
Throw as much BS out there and hopefully the layman or even better an uneducated hate spewing follower will believe this trash..

SPENCER go back to your hole and the rest of the new generation on Nazism

There is no merit to a book about the Prophet Muhammad unless it’s written by a serious objective scholar that has been peer-reviewed. Mr. Spencer has no such qualifications. He purports to use the works of other scholars to support his claims, so he provides no original sourcing or research. Rather, he cherry-picks scholars to support his own biases and prejudices, and then markets the book as the “best-selling book on Islam on Amazon.com.” After reading this distinctly amateur effort, I discovered that I, too, can write a book on a subject that I have no expertise and have it marketed on Amazon.com as the “best-selling book on Widgets.” There are people who want to read about Islam to justify their hatred of specific religions and there are people who want to learn about specific religions for a better understanding of the world they live in. Mr. Spencer’s book appeals to the former. Read Esposito or Armstrong for the latter.

Notice that neither reviewer actually refutes anything Spencer had to say. I don’t know who Esposito is but Karen Armstrong is somewhat notorious for white washing many of the more unpleasant aspects of Islam. I would say then, that if you want to learn more about a theological and politic system that is a threat to our freedom, read Spencer. If you want to read comforting lies, read the other two.

I’ll go on with the next two.

This book was written by a layman. The author purports to be an Islamic scholar but has no academic credentials to claim scholarship. In fact, Mr. Spencer has no university degree whatsoever in Islamic studies. His writings have never been peer-reviewed. Mr. Spencer does not read Arabic, which is a basic requirement for Islamic studies. Yet here is a writer who takes a provocative position on the existence of the Prophet Muhammad and we are suppose to believe his work. This book was written solely for readers who are seeking to reinforce their prejudices and bigotry against Muslims. It will satisfy and justify those individuals’ bigotry. A cursory inspection of Mr. Spencer’s website clearly demonstrates his own bigotry and utter lack of respect for the Muslim community. If you like what he writes on his website, you will love the book. If you want serious scholarship with an objective view of Islam, try an established Muslim or non-Muslim scholar.

Robert Spencer is an islamophobe and a long-time ally of anti-Muslim mainstay Pamela Geller. He spends all of his time spewing hate messaging and compares Muslims to the Nazis. This book is pure rubbish and doesn’t even try to logically refute some of the historical facts noted in history. Don’t waste your time or money on this one.

Spencer may well have a lack of respect for the Muslim community (he would disagree), but where exactly is he wrong? No he does not read Arabic, but he knows those who can and translations of Moslem scriptures are available. I gather that, for this book, he uses historical accounts from the peoples the early Moslems conquered. Did he have to learn to read Byzantine Greek, Persian, and Syriac as well?

As for the second reviewer here, perhaps he is unaware of the connections between the Nazis and Arab nationalists before and during the Second World War. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem happened to be a good friend of Hitler’s regime. The theme of the book is to question whether the person known as Mohammed happened to exist. The historical facts seem to suggest that there is a good chance he did not. If the reviewer knows better, he should write his own book refuting Spencer’s thesis without name calling.

Here are some more.

The book is not even worth reading because the title itself proclaims the author’s ignorance.

What is your next book? How about: “Is the earth flat?”

Or, “Did Christ exist?”

Or, “Did Moses exist?”

And, no, I am not a Muslim.

And, no, I did not read the book. The title is enough.

And, yes, I support the author’s right to freedom of expression, even if it is based upon ignorance.

And, yes, I am very familiar with the author and his views and his Web site.

And, yes, I have heard the author summarize his book on the radio.

At least he is honest. He hasn’t bothered to read it but he can review it. As it happens, the questions of whether Jesus or Moses existed has been much discussed by scholars. Why shouldn’t the question of whether Mohammed existed be discussed? Why is that question automatically a sign of ignorance and hate?

The last two.

THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT IS TAKEN FROM LOONWATCH: “Spencer is hawking his new book, which he is pushing as a “scholarly work” about how Muhammad didn’t exist. His home page boasts that Robert Spencer is “[t]he acclaimed scholar of Islam”, “[a] serious scholar”, and “a brilliant scholar.”

I have pointed out in the past that Spencer is not a scholar of any sort-especially not on anything related to Islam. He simply does not have the academic qualifications to claim this. What other “scholar” do you know of that doesn’t even have a master’s or PhD degree on the subject he claims to be a “scholar” of? He only has a one-year master’s degree in “the field of early Christianity”. How does that make him an “acclaimed scholar of Islam”?”

INDEED, SPENCER HAS NO FORMAL EDUCATION IN ISLAMIC STUDIES. HE CANNOT SPEAK, WRITE, READ NOR UNDERSTAND ARABIC!!! YET HE IS A SCHOLAR?

I PUT IT TO YOU… SINCE WHEN DID A SCHOLAR OR ACADEMIC OF CLASSICS NOT REQUIRE TO BE FLUENT IN THE GREEK LANGUAGE? IN THE ABOVE LINK YOU WILL SEE HOW SERIOUSLY FLAWED SPENCER’S SO CALLED ‘SCHOLARLY’ WORK IS. A COMPLETE JOKE!

ENJOY!

The twisted, completely uneducated, culling of material from sources, and patching it up to support a hate theses, shouldn’t even qualify this to be a book. Can’t understand how someone with absolutely no credentials on this topic can be seen as an authority.

The blind leading the blind.

There is no more to be said about them. They don’t refute anything Spencer said. They only indulge in name calling and irrelevancies. I don’t think that any of these reviewers, except perhaps the last, are actually Moslems. They probably think they are being liberal and tolerant and politically correct. The irony here is that is any country under Sharia they would be among the first to get their throats cut.


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