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Islam and the West ( 18 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Did Prophet Muhammad Ever Really Live? DISPUTE AMONG ISLAM SCHOLARS


Spiegel online 
interview with michael marx:

 

A number of islamic associations have put a quick end to their collaboration with a professor -- and trainer of people who are supposed to teach islam in german high schools -- who has expressed his doubt that muhammad ever lived. Islam scholar michael marx spoke with spiegel online about what lies behind the debate and the historical person of the prophet.

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Professor muhammas sven kalisch, of the university of münster, teaches islamic theology and heads the program that is in charge of training people who, in the future, are supposed to teach courses about islam in germany at the secondary level. Last week, a quarrel erupted between kalisch and the coordination council of muslims in germany (krm), an umbrella organization of leading islamic associations. "the associations represent a conception of theology that is not aligned with the times," kalisch said. In response, the krm has said that there is a "formidable discrepancy" between kalisch's positions and the fundamentals of islamic doctrine. The apparent cause of the conflict is that kalisch has questioned thehistorical existence of the prophet muhammad. Kalisch has been quoted by the german dailysüddeutsche zeitung as saying that he tends "to be closer and closer to accepting that (muhammad) did not live, in any case not like it has been described in the koran or the hadith, the recorded tradition." and if muhammad never lived, kalisch said, "then it might be that the koran was truly inspired by god, a great narration from god, but it was not dictated word for word from allah to the prophet."

 

 

Since 2006, michael marx has been the director of the "corpus coranicum" project at the berlin-brandenburg academy of sciences. The project aims to document the text of the koran based on early manuscripts and differing traditions on how to read unclear passages. In doing so, and in the context of creating a comprehensive commentary, the project also conducts research on the intellectual environment the koran emerged in.

 

Spiegel online: mr. Marx, someone studying islam learns that the prophet muhammad was born on the arabian peninsula in a.d. 570 and died in medina in a.d. 632. Is there any reason for doubting that this is true?

Michael marx: those are provisional dates that we should hold on to until there are better figures. The islamic sources are rich with material about the person of the prophet and his life story. Some of it is has elements that are somewhat mystical. But we can generally rely on the solid core of islamic tradition.

Spiegel online: there is a group of prominent german islamic scholars, who are becoming increasingly aggressive about questioning whether the existence of the prophet is even historically accurate. The theory got its most recent backing from the university of münster's professor muhammad sven kalisch, who is in charge of training teachers for islamic education at the secondary-school level. The ministry of education of the state of north rhine-westphalia is now planning to calm the waters by appointing an additional professor of islamic pedagogy. Are we witnessing a split into two camps?

Marx: i don't see it that way. But we should note that what we have from kalisch at the moment are only the things he has allegedly said. From them, it sounds like he has decided to back the thesis of professor karl-heinz ohlig, which ohlig publicized three years ago in his book "dark beginnings" ("die dunklen anfänge"). There, ohlig posits that the koran is a christian text and that muhammad probably never lived. But this group, which also includes the numismatist volker popp and some others, is very small. I'd say that their position isn't really within the realm of accepted scholarship.

Spiegel online: why?

Marx: there are far too many pieces of evidence that make ohlig's thesis that the prophet never lived untenable. In the 14 centuries of polemics between christians and muslims, this issue has never made an appearance. Even in syrian-aramaic sources, however, there is some documentation about the prophet from an earlier time.

Spiegel online: your scholarship focuses on the early period of islam and the koran. What is the evidentiary situation? How could we prove that the prophet lived?

Marx: you have to be a bit delicate about it. In general, when it comes to history, you can't point to any scientific proof. How would we, for example, prove the existence of charlemagne? We can't conduct any experiments; we have to work with evidence. And, for this issue, the evidentiary thread is the koran. In this case, the evidentiary situation is better than it is for any other religion. We know of manuscripts of the koran and islamic inscriptions already 40-50 years after the prophet died. It would be hard to explain the koran, if you took the prophet out of the equation. Ohlig claims that islam was actually a christian sect up until the umayyad caliphate, that is, the eighth century. In this case, i run into this massive issue: it doesn't match up with the text of the koran. Why isn't christ a more central figure in the koran, then? You hear about abraham, moses and noah much more frequently.

Spiegel online: and what about with the format of the koran?

Marx: that's the second evidentiary thread. As can be shown in even linguistic terms, the koran is a kind of speech. It isn't a narration like the new testament, a piece of correspondence like the epistles of paul, an account of the apocalypse or a psalm. The genre only makes sense when i have a person that i can attach it to -- a charismatic orator, a prophet. Why would a community that doesn't have a prophet invent one after the fact and make up a text, which is then also christian, as ohlig sees it? Ohlig's thesis is uneconomical; it raises more issues than it solves.

Spiegel online: in other words, if the prophet did not live, in order to explain the literature, there must have been an enormous conspiracy.

Marx: precisely. And that -- from morocco to india -- not a single trace of this conspiracy remained. And who would have implemented the conspiracy? Already after the middle of the eighth century, we no longer have any central islamic political authority that could have implemented the fabrication of the prophet in asia and africa.

Spiegel online: are you saying that ohlig and his fellow combatants are either demagogues or pseudo-scholars?

Marx: it's not for me to make that type of judgment. But that's what it seems like to me. Of course, it's perfectly legitimate to discuss issues. And the koran definitely contains a number of open questions. We at the corpus coranicum project (see author box) are first trying to conduct basic research before deriving overarching theories.

Spiegel online:muhammad sven kalisch operates in a sort of border region, that is, between science and theology. And, then, he's supposed to be training religion teachers, too. The coordination council of muslims in germany (krm) isn't going to support him anymore because they believe that kalisch is questioning fundamental elements of the islamic faith. Is it conceivable that a person can be a muslim and at the same time say that the prophet might not have even ever lived?

Marx: that's hard to imagine.

Spiegel online: mr. Kalischi is a zaidi shiite, not a sunni. Does affiliation with this branch of islam allow for another image of muhammad, which could explain these pronouncements?

Marx: at least not that i know of.

Spiegel online: by taking this position, mr. Kalisch has once again ignited the debate in germany -- and that's something that won't escape the notice of the arab world. For example, a historian at the free university of berlin's institute of islamic studies, gudrun krämer,has said in an interview that kalisch's isn't an isolated viewpoint.

Marx: ms. Krämer has been wrongly -- that is, incompletely -- quoted. For example, she has said very clearly that the majority of islam scholars adhere to the details that have been handed down, and she in no way numbers among those who challenge the existence of the prophet. But, unfortunately, the imprecise quotes have been published in a number of arabic newspapers.

Spiegel online: does this have any consequences for someone like you, who also cooperates with muslim researchers from abroad?

Marx: by all means, something like this has the consequence of bringing discredit to western scholars of islam. Rumors and reports like this spread very quickly in the internet age. We at the corpus coranicum don't want to be associated with it. We have muslims and non-muslims working side by side, and we have very trusting collaborative relationships with institutions in the arab and islamic world.

Spiegel online: why is research on muhammad such a sensitive topic at all? After all, according to muslim dogma -- differently than jesus in christianity -- the prophet was just an exemplary person whom god selected to convey a message but did not endow with divine attributes. We already witnessed indications of this sensitivity in the controversy over the muhammad caricatures in denmark.

Marx: the best way to explain these fierce reactions is to say that many muslims feel that it is tantamount to continuing to fight the battle between the west and the islamic world -- which they still see as being waged -- but on another level. That is often interpreted as being an attack on their identity, as psychological warfare.

Spiegel online: could we ever see the thesis -- that the prophet muhammad might not have ever lived -- brought up as a matter of discussion in an islamic university?

Marx: i wouldn't know where.

Spiegel online: as a researcher, how do you steer clear of this tense issue? You use what is a completely critical-historical approach. As long as your findings don't contradict mainstream muslim theology, it's no problem. But what happens when it does?

Marx: well, then it would probably be a problem. But we're still a good way off from that situation. Don't forget that what we're doing here is basic research. The koran deserves to be studied in a serious, scientific manner. I think it's essential that we take these steps with muslims. We're doing that with our (corpus coranicum) project here at the berlin-brandenburg academy of sciences. What the muslim community takes out of it in terms of inspiration and whether it uses it as a foundation for a process of some type of reform -- that's its own issue. Pragmatic coexistence probably continues to be much more powerful than the force of philology, which we have a tendency to overestimate.

Interview conducted by yassin musharbash

****

 

Islam and religious criticism: A question of decency and tact



muhammad kalisch, professor for islamic studies at the university of münster, germany, sharply criticises that islam in western media is often portrayed as "the enemy", but argues that there must be absolute freedom of speech

criticism of islam is, according to kalisch, legitimate. Yet, "the problem is that we muslims are often viewed as nothing more than a uniform mass to which negative characteristics are attributed wholesale and without exception", he adds those who know that muslims find the depiction of the prophet particularly offensive, but are critical of islam and would like to discuss this criticism with muslims in an honest dialogue should ask themselves whether there are not other ways of expressing their criticism; ways which do not dilute or obscure their criticism in any way, but ways which are less offensive to the other party. It is a question of decency and tact.

Nevertheless, it is important to emphasise that conflicts that could arise from such a discussion cannot and should not be resolved in a criminal court. In the conflict between the freedom of speech and academic freedom on the one hand and religion on the other, there must be absolute freedom of speech and academic freedom, even if these freedoms offend religious sensitivities. Any attempt to impose restrictions in this regard is not compatible with the system of fundamental rights and history shows that no good can possibly come of such restrictions.

Nevertheless, there are limits. However, these limits relate not to people's religious denomination, but to their personal dignity. If the followers of a particular religion – whether they be jews, christians, muslims, hindus, baha'is or whatever – are depicted in caricatures or other forms of expression in such a way that they are made to look like a mere conglomerate and are all tarred with the same brush of negatively charged properties such as falsehood, deceit, or even a desire to murder without any attempt at individual distinction, then there can be no doubt that their human dignity has been offended and that the depiction in question sought to stir up hatred. 

Muslims or christians must accept the fact that people may describe their religions as blood-thirsty, quaint, or anti-democratic, even if this description is complete and utter nonsense. 

Free and entirely open discussion on islam

if this was not the case, judges would be required to pass judgements on the nature of islam or christianity and free academic research could be censored at any time on the grounds that it was portraying religion incorrectly. Conversely, it cannot be that a person automatically falls under general suspicion and is described in criminal terms simply because they are a member of a certain religious community. 

In such cases, the state must indeed take decisive action! 

The discussion about islam – or about any other religion for that matter – can only be conducted as a free and entirely open discussion in which the only thing that counts are the arguments that back up the assertions made by both sides. In discussions such as this, groundless assertions are quickly exposed as such. Freedom of speech and academic freedom will ensure that agitators and demagogues do not win the day.

Muhammad kalisch: "with their policies, conservative parties are making it unmistakably clear that they support the fact that religions are not all treated in the same way"

 

Much nonsense is written about islam and there are many incredibly one-sided portrayals. There are, however, also very defensive portrayals that are capable of making distinctions. I am firmly convinced that in a society that consistently guarantees the freedom of speech and academic freedom, a balanced image of religion will emerge in a public debate in the long-run and portrayals that are completely one-sided and intentionally distortional will always meet with harsh criticism. 

There are undoubtedly portrayals of islam in which the authors intentionally select facts in a one-sided manner and distort certain aspects with a view to stirring up hatred. But there are also portrayals of islam that do not seek to stir up hatred or distort facts, but that nevertheless present and evaluate facts in a manner that is offensive to a muslim. 

However, there can never be a reliable differentiation between these two cases in a court of law. Consequently, if we are to preserve the freedom of speech and academic freedom, we must accept that these freedoms can be abused. Followers of every religion just have to be willing to hear severe criticism of their own religion.

Protecting the dignity of individuals or groups

however, criminal law must be used to protect the dignity of individuals or groups and these groups or individuals may not be portrayed as criminals or liars simply because they belong to a certain religious community. One may describe islam as a religion of terror and violence, which it is not. However, such a groundless assertion must be accepted for the aforementioned reasons as part of the freedom of speech. 

We must assume that a specific person or group of people is behaving legally until such time as a violation of the law is proven in a court of justice using the rule of law. This is a pillar of democracy, states governed by the rule of law, human rights, and pluralism. 

If we uphold this principle, then those who really believe that all muslims, jews, or atheists are criminals can no longer enjoy the protection of the freedom of speech because they do not accept the foundation on which freedom of speech is built, namely the dignity of humans and the view that guilt can only ever be individual and never collective, which is why it is nonsensical to dismiss entire groups as immoral and accuse them of illegal behaviour. 

The image of human beings on which democracy and the freedom of speech are built does not assume that any individual or group of humans has per se evil intentions or does evil deeds, and considers the notion that members of a specific ethnic group or religion are fundamentally evil to be irrational.

Muslims are being presented as the enemy

and this, in my opinion, is the crux of the problem. This is no longer about the criticism of islam. As i have already explained, such criticism of islam is, of course, legitimate. The problem is that we muslims are often viewed as nothing more than a uniform mass to which negative characteristics are attributed wholesale and without exception. Islam and we muslims are being presented as the enemy, oftentimes using the tools of agitation.

Distinctions are no longer being made. A small group of violent terrorists is associated with an entire religious community. We are always expected to distance ourselves from terrorism and violence, which would appear to imply that we in general support such activities. 

A general suspicion of muslims is developing – unfortunately with the support of politicians in this country, as the "muslim test" in the state of baden-württemberg shows. In my opinion, the debate about headscarves is ridiculous because it in practice leads to the exclusion of emancipated muslim women from the labour market. 

With their policies, conservative parties are making it unmistakeably clear that they support the fact that religions are not all treated in the same way, a situation that, in my opinion, cannot be of lasting duration in terms of the constitution. In spite of this fact, there has been much talk recently about the jewish/christian foundations of the occident. 

Interestingly, with the exception of the palestine conflict, which is a political conflict, muslims and jews get on very well. This is why it is incomprehensible that people claim that christians get on well with jews, but not with us muslims, even though the jews and muslims are theologically more closely related that the jews and the christians – a fact illustrated by every religious trialogue.

Muhammad kalisch

© muhammad kalisch/qantara.de 2006 

translated from the german by aingeal flanagan

this text is an excerpt from the original version, published by muhammad kalisch in reaction to the mohammed cartoon crisis. You read the complete version of the text 
here, on the website of the center for religious studies of the university of münster, germany. (in german only)
published: 24.02.2006 - last modified: 24.02.2006

Source: http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c-478/_nr-411/i.html?phpsessid=133099

*****

 

 

Some interesting, at times hilarious comments on jihadwatch

 (http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/023531.php )

"muhammad sven kalisch... Doesn't like to shake hands with muslim women"

Two words, hand sanitizer.

Posted by: stickman  at november 16, 2008 9:02 pm

Given the many details we know of muhammed's life that portray him in a less-than-flattering light, i find it difficult to believe he did not exist. Would a mythical religious figure have been portrayed as having sex with a little girl while in his 50s? Raping women? Ordering many murders of innocent people? Boasting that he was made "victorious with terror"?

Whether or not you believe they were real or fictional, divine or merely human, jesus and siddhartha (the buddha) are not said to have done similarly repugnant things. Wouldn't early muslims have created a more admirable figure if they wanted others to follow a fictional "holy" man?

Posted by: kaffirchick  at november 16, 2008 9:11 pm

How can you take a tome seriously whose first line is:

"this book is not to be doubted."

Even before you know what it will claim, it forbids any thinking.

Zeno, or any greek philosopher, would have just laughed.

Islam: no thought allowed.

Absurdity apotheosized.

Posted by: profitsbeard  at november 16, 2008 9:12 pm

Two words, hand sanitizer.

Posted by: stickman

sorry, no, it contains alcohol; maybe gloves would do the trick

Posted by: ebonystone  at november 16, 2008 9:18 pm

He should just stick to piss christ. He'd have a following of sexy female liberals all over him. Muslims would be waiting in the wings though, in case he said anything bad about their warlord, if he existed that is.

Posted by: leon  at november 16, 2008 9:29 pm

"piss christ" i meant the infamous exhibit in london, sorry i realized after publishing that post it could come across as disrespectful. Sorry..

Posted by: leon  at november 16, 2008 9:31 pm

Prof. Kalisch, who insists he's still a muslim, says he knew he would get in trouble but wanted to subject islam to the same scrutiny as christianity and judaism. German scholars of the 19th century, he notes, were among the first to raise questions about the historical accuracy of the bible.
......................

Yes. While some of the scholars who question jewish and christian writings are indeed out to "debunk the bible", many are not, but are researchers who consider themselves devout jews or christians--or at least in no way hostile to these creeds. Any faith that has been practiced for centuries is bound to have a few holes and inconsistencies in the record.

Some scholars feel that biblical figures such as moses and jesus may be entirely fictional, may be based on a historical figure whose history was them embroidered by later followers, or may be a conflation of several historical figures. Many, of course, also believe that any inconsistencies are minor matters, that in no significant way cast doubt on the existence and most important elements of these figures.

Even the catholic church has acknowledged that some saints--even some of its most beloved, such as st. Christopher--may not have existed.

Sometimes, in fact, these studies work the other way. The city of jerico, for instance, was long thought by most historians to be fictional. Well, the historical jerico has been found by archeologists. Evidence of both earthquake damage and probable siege have been uncovered. These studies actually tend to lend credence to the biblical story.

Most jews and christians who have reached high-school age are at least generally aware of these studies. Some take them as a good reason to give greater study to scripture, and some largely ignore these sceptics' studies. For instance, i have a good friend who still carries her mother's st. Christopher's medal with her on long trips.

In any case, whatever their views on these studies, devout jews and christians are not threatening the lives of those who question the scriptures. It should be the same with islam.

Posted by: gravenimage  at november 16, 2008 9:31 pm

"given the many details we know of muhammed's life that portray him in a less-than-flattering light, i find it difficult to believe he did not exist. Would a mythical religious figure have been portrayed...."

posted by: kaffirchick 

many of the pagan gods and goddesses of antiquity were pretty unsavory characters, too. And look at the aztec gods, who had to be fed a steady diet of human hearts.

Posted by: ebonystone  at november 16, 2008 9:40 pm

Why doesn't anyone seem to firmly say the truth is somewhere between real or fictional. Namely, that there was a real, historical person named mohammad who was an influencial leader but whose life details have been irrevocably lost and replaced with numerous myths and distortions.

Posted by: max publius  at november 16, 2008 9:46 pm

On this topic, patricia crone has written an article, available free online, called what do we actually know about mohammed?

Posted by: kinana of khaybar  at november 16, 2008 10:38 pm

...saudi arabia needs to be pressured to open up for archaeological investigations.

Posted by: kinana of khaybar  at november 16, 2008 10:40 pm

"wouldn't early muslims have created a more admirable figure if they wanted others to follow a fictional "holy" man?"

Not if they find such repellant ugly things appealing and inspiring.

Posted by: denverrodeo  at november 16, 2008 10:42 pm

Many of the pagan gods and goddesses of antiquity were pretty unsavory characters, too. And look at the aztec gods, who had to be fed a steady diet of human hearts. - ebonystone

Good point. What "looks good" to a society depends on the society's own values.

Posted by: marisoljw  at november 16, 2008 10:44 pm

Islam needs to be put back into history, to be seen in its historical setting, and the qur'an seen as a text whose variant readings should not be hidden from view but studied, and both the qur'an and the figure of muhammad subject to exactly the kind of scholarly study as were judaism and christianity, in what is now called the higher criticism (beginning with julius wellhausen et al.). Until that happens, until islam is "put back into history," the possibilities of any intelligent reform, either of the faith, or of those inculcated with a faith that makes it impossible for them to truly co-exist with any non-muslims on the basis of agreed-upon equality and real, not feigned, trust, do not exist, no matter how many rabbis meet with how many smiling imams for "a weekend of twinning," or how many christian ministers and priests participate in their own, equally treacly way, in interfaith healing racketeering, of which there has been quite enough, with the results we all see.

Posted by: hugh  at november 16, 2008 10:47 pm
who invented islam???

I have a tendency to think mohammad did exist, but probably in a combination of kaffirchick and max opinions.

If mohammad did not exist, someone else invented islam...who? Ali? Abu bakr? Umar? Uthman? He put the first authorized (by him) quran together.

Abdullah m tries hard to re-invent islam...or maybe islam is a recent invention of ahmadinijad.

And the rest of the cast of early characters...all fake? Are they also imaginary?

If so who was the 'real' first caliph? Did he invent islam?

If mohammad did not exist, who invented islam?

Allah said in his book that mohammadans should obey the prophet. Why would he say that if there was no prophet?

Posted by: duh_swami  at november 16, 2008 11:01 pm

"the first biography of muhammad, that of ibn ishaq, dates from 150 years after muhammad's death, and even that book is lost and survives only in large fragments reproduced in even later writings"

As someone who's studied christian theology and history, my first question is "why would the biography of ibn ishaq have been lost at this period in history?" one would think that there would be numerous copies of such an important work, given the importance of mohammad as an exemplar of the islamic faith.

This said, if islam really was true, muslims would not fear subjecting it to the fire of liberal criticism. Christianity is doing fine, perhaps even better once this criticism has been laid to rest. I think christianity is true, and so bring on more critics. The more the better.

Posted by: james martel  at november 16, 2008 11:18 pm

I'm inclined to believe in muhammad as a historical figure....just as i am jesus, minus the miracles that defy the laws of physics.

It certainly doesn't hurt our cause if the "prophet" did indeed exist. The theological record, as defined by the ahdith and the sirat rasul, gives enormous ammunition to the anti-jihad, in terms of its exposition of muhammad's pronounced moral failings.

Having said that, scholarly inquiry on whether or not muhammad existed is certainly legit, and kalisch should be able to pursue his theories unmolested.

Posted by: cornelius  at november 16, 2008 11:21 pm

"good point. What "looks good" to a society depends on the society's own values."

Good thing we have better values then them, eh?

Posted by: denverrodeo  at november 16, 2008 11:31 pm

Than*

Posted by: denverrodeo  at november 16, 2008 11:32 pm

Interesting position. Having read the sirat (ibn ishaq & al-tabari), i disagree. I believe muhammad *did* commit those evil acts, which in context look completely plausible. I consider the sirat sufficient proof that muhammad was an actual person. A wicked one, though.

The problem for muslims is that using the sirat as proof of his existence makes his obviously criminal character all to obvious.

But then, the sirats fits the quran perfectly :)

Posted by: henrik  at november 16, 2008 11:44 pm

I'm inclined to believe in muhammad as a historical figure....just as i am jesus, minus the miracles that defy the laws of physics.
Posted by: cornelius

Ed zackery!!!

Pretty much exactly where i'm coming from. I believe in jesus. I think he walked this earth and was someone so important that his words have spanned centuries to inspire people. Much like buddah. I believe that he gave himself and died on the cross for everyone else. I draw the line at the impossible.

As a literary reference, i offer dr. Suess's horton hears a who.

I think that geisel was probably on acid, but what a great book! To me it says that we are so arrogant as a species that we think, with our collective consciousness (is that jung, moemories dreams & reflections?), that if any being is superior to our lot then that being is a god.

Come on now, there are sins. Humility is a virtue.

Corny, good comment!

Posted by: richard  at november 16, 2008 11:52 pm

I draw the line at the impossible.

I probably should, too, but have see too many weird things myself to be able to do that...

Posted by: henrik  at november 16, 2008 11:56 pm

Yea well hes dead anyway the religion of peace will behead him more interesting is the other professers open mindness lol if he where pissing on christianity the guy would have said well it helps christianity to question it but on islam i cant believe what hes saying ya gotta love this stuff.

Posted by: spcbat  at november 16, 2008 11:59 pm

I tend to believe that mohammad lived and did all that was ascribed to him. I remember when first learning about islam that i was amazed that the texts had not been scrubbed or sanitized of this creatures more disgusting acts by his followers. No committee could perfect the murderous soul prison that became islam. It is the dark genius of one cynical megalomaniac named mohammad. Making evil seem righteous work is very potent. Throw in keeping 80% of all the goods on a given infidel corpse you kill on behalf of god, add in all the humiliating rape and perversion also as a religious act, you have a winner and an engine for parasitizing the planet in the name of god.

Posted by: bl@kbird  at november 17, 2008 12:02 am

Spcbat:

I love to see your comments. I would enjoy reading your opinions even more if you would parse them. Use the period and the space bar, dude. I value your opinon, i wish i could read it more easily.

Beer
rick

Posted by: richard  at november 17, 2008 12:04 am

Bl@kbird makes a good point: if you wan to make up a fictious person to justify your religion, noone - absolutely noone - would come up with a person as evil as muhammad.

Posted by: henrik  at november 17, 2008 12:12 am

Many of the pagan gods and goddesses of antiquity were pretty unsavory characters, too. And look at the aztec gods, who had to be fed a steady diet of human hearts. - ebonystone

Yes, but none of 'them' had allah to back them up.

All those gods were demanding, but none as demanding as allah...

Posted by: duh_swami  at november 17, 2008 12:14 am

Joseph smith modeled muhammad. And set up his cult in the same form. L. Ron hubbard did it. I have a friend who is caught up with the abraham-hicks movement. It can be tough disabusing people of strange notions.

Posted by: richard  at november 17, 2008 12:19 am

From the caption under the drawing of kalisch:

“kalisch: an increasingly rare breed, an honest university academic”

I beg to differ.

Anyone who continues to call himself a muslim and practices islamic rituals, after coming to the conclusion that: “the prophet muhammad probably never existed” is honest only in the sense that those who are mentally unbalanced are honest.

Kalisch is not playing with a full deck, but he’s added a crazy joker into the mix. It will be entertaining to see how it plays out with his fellow islamists.

Posted by: ahem  at november 17, 2008 1:03 am

"how refreshing it is to see an honest man, and that even rarer bird, an honest academic, and that rarity of rarities, an honest professor of islamic studies."--robert

In my experience, honest academics aren't rare. Let's not impugn all of academia based on the conduct of some professors in some departments.
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Ahem,

I'm not sure i'd agree with your statements. Kalisch may be honest and sane...and wrong and incoherent.
----------

"wouldn't early muslims have created a more admirable figure if they wanted others to follow a fictional "holy" man?"--an argument above.

I doubt this for the same reason denver and others have doubted it. There are plenty of ruthless and evil leaders in history who were admired by followers who shared the worldview and values of the leaders (e.g., hitler).

Posted by: kinana of khaybar  at november 17, 2008 1:25 am

One the one hand, nobody would invent somebody as evil and indefensible as muhammad. He did some stupid stuff, like tell his followers not to cross-pollinate their trees, and they nearly starved because of it. I think that many of the "facts" abbout muhammad had to be true. Why would they have made him supposedy rape his own 6-year-old niece? Why would they have simultaneously claimed that he had the sexual strength of 30 men and left it nearly irrefutable that he was impotent the last 20 years of his life? Why would we he have delivered that sermon about sex slaves not sleeping around at the funeral of mary the copt's son? Why would aisha have said that that baby looked nothing like him and that she never saw mo naked? Why did he lose those intellectual debates with the arabs? Why didn't rayhana marry him?

On the other hand, some stuff in islamic history has to be made up. Like mecca. It was nothing. It was not a major trading hub or cosmopolitan anything. Look at a map. Why would anyone brave all that desert when there were port cities all around? Why is there nothing - nothing - in indian or greek seafaring records about having delivered good to or from mecca?

http://islammonitor.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1122&itemid=0

Of course the saudis don't want an excavation. That would prove that islam is fraudulent. It's such a house of cards. They did do some excavation around mecca and guess what they found: not a single baby buried alive. So much for mo's claim to have ended female infanticide. It didn't happen. Why would it? You could sell a 3-year-old as a sex slave for a pretty penny. I have to think that the arabs intentionally destroyed a lot of historical evidence, not just because it was jahiliya, not because they just weren't a literat epeople and didn't write things down, but because they were covering up some lies. But i do think that mo was real. Especially after having read ali sina's book. There is some physical evidnce of a guy with agromegaly having lived around arabia in the early 7th century, and it fits with everyone's descritions of him.

The bible, on the other hand, only continues to be proven more and more true. They keep uncovering more records of jesus' crucifixion. They found the dead sea scrolls. It used to be believed that the hittites were a literary device. Now you can get a degree in hittitology at u penn (maybe it was penn state; i can't remember).

Posted by: jdamn  at november 17, 2008 1:27 am

It doesn't matter. The quran closes the loop this professor presents:

"o ye who believe! Ask not questions about things which if made plain to you, may cause you trouble. Some people before you did ask such questions, and on that account lost their faith." (quran. 5:101-102)

Posted by: christiansoldier  at november 17, 2008 1:47 am

Some people before you did ask such questions, and on that account lost their faith.

Now, doesn't that make sense?

It's a battle between the logical heritage of the greeks vs. Bullying superstition of the middle east.

Posted by: henrik  at november 17, 2008 2:00 am

I think robert fell for this one. This is a simple publicity stunt, aimed at raising an unknown two-bit professor's profile. He's simply looking for headlines.

Posted by: ernie banks  at november 17, 2008 2:02 am

I've recently been translating zakariya boutros' studies on factors that influenced muhammad at: staringattheview.blogspot.com. Although not denying muhammad's existence, zakariya shows with convincing evidence how his claim to prophethood and his desire to establish a political kingdom fit in with many geopolitical factors of the region at the time. Much more was involved than a message from gabriel in the cave of hira.

Posted by: staringattheview.blogspot.com  at november 17, 2008 2:05 am

You don't seem to be on the ball with this one:

Kalisch, who reverted to islam when he was 15, became a scholar, but got himself in trouble recently when he started to question the existence of muhammad. The muslims in germany insited on indoctrination and proselytizing, - like they do everywhere,- which means they are against free enquiry and against spreading doubt, kalisch refused to play along, so now he is in deep doodoo.

I wouldn't give him life-insurance coverage, but lets see how it peters out...

So in spite of him being a muslim, he is now seen as an apostate, or rather a traitor.

The german dhimmi uni-administrators have already pulled the plug on him, they don't want any upheavals, which means kalisch is replaced by a muhammedan cleric who indoctrinates his students rather than teach how to ask questions.

That's what this whole case is about.

Posted by: sheik yer'mami  at november 17, 2008 4:12 am

"how refreshing it is to see an honest man, and that even rarer bird, an honest academic..." --robert

It's always good to find an honest man, and we know you are targeting the social sciences with such statements, robert. Still, it's good to remember that the social sciences are only a small part of universities.

Posted by: eastview  at november 17, 2008 4:56 am

Robert:
but is it profoundly telling that it's a german convert to islam that's raising the question? Think about it, it's a german convert still preserves the western methodology of rational inquiry while practicing his new religion.

His behaviour seems to corroborate hugh's observsation that islam is very vigourous in the first few centuries because of the christian and jewish converts of the first generation by the second and 3rd, the intellectual vigour completely fades.
It's interesting to note that amin maalouf in his book on the crusades as seen by the arabs (i refer to the french edition) points out in his conclusion that by the 900s, islam had started to stagnate and was losing vigour. I wonder just how damaging was the copt revolt in the 800s to islam?
I also wonder what would've happened to world history if the turks had stayed in asia and not converted to islam?

Xavier

Posted by: xavier   at november 17, 2008 5:32 am

Even if muhammad existed and was the prophet that received the qur'an from an agent of god, even if this was verifiable fact, it matters not, for islam is so inherently ugly, pathetic and not worthy of human aspirations.

Posted by: raven_  at november 17, 2008 6:51 am

Many of the pagan gods and goddesses of antiquity were pretty unsavory characters, too. And look at the aztec gods, who had to be fed a steady diet of human hearts. - ebonystone
good point. What "looks good" to a society depends on the society's own values.

Posted by: marisoljw at november 16, 2008 10:44 pm 
--------------------------------------------------

Hey guys look what sam butler said:

Morality is the custom of one's country and the current feeling of one's peers. Cannibalism is moral in a cannibal country.

En français: la moralité de nos actes dépend de la coutume de notre pays et de l'opinion courante de nos pairs. Le cannibalisme est moral chez une tribu d'anthropophages.

Posted by: platypus  at november 17, 2008 6:55 am

I love that one

Posted by: platypus  at november 17, 2008 6:58 am

A german convert to islam who doubts that mohammed existed? What's next? A muslim apostate who converts to christianity and then doubts jesus existed? Sometimes it's hard not to conclude that life is absurd, especially as truth keeps proving stranger than fiction most times out of ten.

Posted by: wellington  at november 17, 2008 7:02 am

The point of mohummad not existing is not that great in that it is the so called words written about his life and his teachings that harm humankind. Contrast that with those who say jesus did not exist, his words and teachings are still good for humankind. Jesus's teachings are worthwile compared to the death cult of muhammad's teachings.

Posted by: zenawarriorprincess  at november 17, 2008 7:09 am

Ernie: "i think robert fell for this one. This is a simple publicity stunt, aimed at raising an unknown two-bit professor's profile. He's simply looking for headlines."

...and risking his life in the process.

Posted by: cornelius  at november 17, 2008 7:27 am

He gave up beer and brautwurst for this!? Happy jonestown anniversary...

Posted by: bingo  at november 17, 2008 7:41 am

"prof. Kalisch, who insists he's still a muslim, says he knew he would get in trouble but wanted to subject islam to the same scrutiny as christianity and judaism. German scholars of the 19th century, he notes, were among the first to raise questions about the historical accuracy of the bible."

The tradition of open inquiry trumps primitive superstitions. Hmm. This simply shows how weak islam really is. All other religions have survived such academic scrutiny. But it seems that, from the start, islam discourages questions.

Posted by: tanstaafl  at november 17, 2008 8:23 am

If mohammed never existed then why are wahhabis busily destroying all ancient sites in mecca that are believed to have been related to mohammed? 
Opening up saudi arabia to scientific inquiry will do little good once the evidence is gone.

It would be easier to believe mohammed never existed if his "ministry" had been anywhere near as short as that of jesus. Instead he died an old man.

Mohammed's daughter married ali, so there have been fourteen centuries of quarrels over who had the right to inherit the legacy of someone who never existed? If moe didn't exist then neither did fatima or ali or bakr.

What cannot be believed are the many stories made up after the fact.

- the newborn mohammed, raising his eyes to heaven, exclaimed: god is great! There is no god but god and i am his prophet.
- his grandfather gave a feast on the seventh day (circumcision story?) At which he presented mohammed as "the dawning glory of our race".
- at the age of three he was playing with a brother in the field and was visited by two angels. One of them, gabriel, opened mohammed's breast and pulled out his heart and cleansed it of all impurity. The stain of original sin was replaced with knowledge and light and the heart was put back and the opening closed. Thereafter, a light began to emanate from mohammed, similar to what was seen in past prophets.

Posted by: pmk  at november 17, 2008 8:51 am

Does anyone know the over/under on this guy lasting a month?

Posted by: epaminondas   at november 17, 2008 9:11 am

The key card in islams 'house of cards', is mohammad. Kick that card out and the whole structure falls. A big lie supporting a lot of little lies. As the host lie dies, so do the lying parasites that have attached themselves to it.

Posted by: duh_swami  at november 17, 2008 9:57 am


an excerpt talking about who really was mohammads father: mohammad in the womb for four years?

Staring at the view
perspectives on life in riyadh

Friday, october 31, 2008

Ahmad: how have the muslim scholars dealt with the issue of hamza being four years older than muhammad?

Abuna: many of them have claimed that a pregnancy of four years is no problem. "al-sirah al-halabiyah” says that malik and dahak ibn al-muzaim both remained in the wombs of their mothers for two years. The “muhadarat” of jalal al-din al-suyuti states that another person was in his mother’s womb for three years. The imam of cordoba, ibn al-arabiya, wrote that if a fetus could remain in his mother’s womb for five years, it could also remain for ten years or more. We discussed in a previous program the event in the islamic history books when a child emerged from his mother’s womb after ten years knowing how to speak. Can any muslim in the 21st century believe that a child could remain in the womb of his mother for four years? Can they bring one example from medical history? I would like to address this question specifically to the medical college of al azhar university. Can you find one example in history? I urge you to do your research, and come tell us.

And i have another question. If muhammad was the first of god’s creation, why could god not cause him to have a normal birth, or a birth accompanied by miracles such as the birth of jesus? Was his being born after remaining in the womb of his mother four years a miracle from god? I want people to think and ask themselves if the muhammad whom they follow was the son of abdallah. This is the question i ask the scholars of religion and the ulema and the shaykhs.

Mohammad in the womb for four years? Must be some kind of exotic mushrooms.

Posted by: duh_swami   at november 17, 2008 10:20 am

In george orwell's novel '1984' the main character, winston smith, privately and fearfully begins to doubt the existence of emmanuel goldstein, the hated enemy of the people and arch-plotter against big brother.

Smith reasons that no-one has seen goldstein, no-one knows where he is, those who might remember him are not around to mention their recollections.

Professor kalisch is displaying enormous courage, both intellectual and physical, to publicly doubt muhammed's historical existence.

Personally, i have no doubt that muhammed really lived, really gave us the qur'an and islam and that he did lead the earthly military battles, dictate the treaties, etc., attributed to him by his earliest followers.

A recent british tv programme on the qur'an showed one of the earliest mosques in existence, in the yemen, and a western scholar (not a muslim as far as i could ascertain) claimed that the government had asked him to look at and translate a collection of very early islamic material stored there from approximately one hundred years after muhammed's time.

I do not remember the name of this scholar but he showed some script on parchment fragments which he said was the earliest known type of written arabic, not nearly as developed as it rapidly became as the qur'an began circulating.

He claimed that the scrolls at the mosque were the earliest known copies of qur'anic verses and that the script was so primitive that a variety of meanings could be given to most verses. For instance the injunction to women to cover their heads could equally have meant only that their midriffs should be covered.

This, of course, meant that by the time the text became standardised it could easily have been based on multiple mis-understandings. I felt this scholar was going as near to the edge as he dared, especially as it was filmed in the mosque. Kalisch has already gone over the edge and i am sad that he will undoubtedly pay a high price for his intellectual escape from the straight-jacket he was rash enough to put on.

Converting to islam isn't a game like monopoly - there's no card that says 'get out of jail free'.

 

Posted by: moris2  at november 17, 2008 10:22 am

From post above: claimed that the government had asked him to look at and translate a collection of very early islamic material stored there from approximately one hundred years after muhammed's time.

Apparently, old worn out qurans were not burned or buried, they were placed in an opening in a wall, and eventually sealed in. The roof was leaking and repairmen discovered a mound of these old qurans. Unfortunately, they had been rained on for years and were one huge pile of stuck together rotting pages. To restore these to readable, the pages have to be carefully removed and restored, then they can be read. The older qurans in that pile may very well say different things than the current one.
This may be a long drawn out process...don't look for any revelations soon...

Posted by: duh_swami  at november 17, 2008 10:33 am

Denverrodeo wrote:

"wouldn't early muslims have created a more admirable figure if they wanted others to follow a fictional "holy" man?"

Not if they find such repellant ugly things appealing and inspiring.
.................

Denver, i agree--and think this is significant.

People often note that if you take the qur'an and hadith at face value, that muhammed was a pirate, kidnapper, slave-owner, pedophile, rapist, torturer, and mass-murderer, who advocated lying and treachery.

I always think, in these cases--you say that like it's a bad thing.

If someone believes that muhammed is "the perfect man" and a "model of conduct"--then all of these horrors are *good things*--and things to be emulated.

I have in fact had conversations with muslims where they first vehemently deny some of this ugliness, then backtrack and affirm it if they are allowed to put it into a more "acceptable" context.

An example of this is the spokesman from "why islam" i spoke with, who at first denied that aisha was nine when her marriage with muhammed was consummated (he claimed this was disputed, and she was probably 16)--but when i ventured that islam had a "different view of women's rights" than the west, he eagerly glommed onto this, admitted that aisha was indeed nine, but that in islam child marriage is a *good thing* for women.

I know that many readers here have had similar experiences.

The story of muhammed--whether or not it has a historic basis is in a way immaterial--exhibits a very different value system from the modern, enlightened, democratic west. It is the creed of primitive desert raiders.

This would be no more than an interesting--if savage--point of history, if it wasn't for the fact that so many people embrace this appalling creed today, and wish to impose it on the rest of the world.

Posted by: gravenimage  at november 17, 2008 11:55 am

"the first biography of muhammad, that of ibn ishaq, dates from 150 years after muhammad's death, and even that book is lost and survives only in large fragments reproduced in even later writings"

As someone who's studied christian theology and history, my first question is "why would the biography of ibn ishaq have been lost at this period in history?" one would think that there would be numerous copies of such an important work, given the importance of mohammad as an exemplar of the islamic faith.
- james martel


ibn ishaq studied mohammad as a life long quest. What he found made mohammad look much worse than the more accepted works. Prophet of doom (available online) quotes ishaq.

 

Posted by: borg  at november 17, 2008 12:22 pm

Well, the famous historian al-tabari quotes ibn ishaq extensively, including the 'satanic verses' incident, which is not just embarrasing, but actually pivotal to islam. Without that, muhammad would never have started allah.

Ibn ishaq is not available in mere 'fragments'. The work retained by ibn hisham and al-tabari present a rather complete and coherent work - which depicts muhammad as an absolute criminal, creating the quran as a collection of 'divine' excuses for his barbarian life.

Posted by: henrik  at november 17, 2008 12:38 pm

Oops. An important sentence in my comment above should read:

"without that, muhammad would never have started worshipping allah."

Before the satanic verses, he worshipped other gods. It is clearly described in the sirat.

Sure, it's embarrasing. But then, what in his life isn't?

Posted by: henrik   at november 17, 2008 12:39 pm

Maybe i'm thinking of tabari. He is not accepted by muslims since he also made mohammad look much worse.

Posted by: borg  at november 17, 2008 1:17 pm

Tabari was completely accepted by muslims in his own time. A highly respected historian, working for the vizir in baghdad, a solid member of the islamic establishment in his time.

He's solid. Use him :]

Posted by: henrik   at november 17, 2008 1:36 pm

Not sure he is accepted by hardline muslims now though.

There's plenty of lurkers here who could answer that issue.

Posted by: borg  at november 17, 2008 3:05 pm

Borg, it hardly matters if he's 'accepted' or not by those who'd be embarrassed by the contents. He was 112 % accepted by the islamic elite of his own time, which is what matter. The view of muhammad that he portrayed so, ehm, vividly, was the accepted in that time, or he wouldn't be allowed to pen it that way.

I suspect that christian influence made that original view so embarrasing that later the islamic 'scholars' had to come up with something that would at least appear holy to those who knew of jesus.

What a mockery of true religion...

Posted by: henrik  at november 17, 2008 3:44 pm

We have to be careful because this german convert to islam, may be trying to legitamise islam in europe, ie gull europeans into thinking that islam is just like any other religion, and can be subjected to critical review.

I hold this view despite that this prof is now taking security measures for his safety, as taqqiya can take many insiduous forms.

This german prof also insists that he is a true muslim, despite believing that mohammed is a myth. This is absurd. It is akin to a devout christian believing that jesus is a myth.

Posted by: dp111  at november 17, 2008 5:45 pm

It is nearly impossible to write exactly in the moms what an individual has said half-hour after the event. I am sure billions fo folks with experience could agree to that.

If i imagine there were thousands of meetings or events, lets say, took place in the presence of someone called mohd. Then, it can be concluded that it would be absurd to imagine or expect to write moms over hundreds of years after the event.

It is so plainly obvious, that quaran is a bad cut and paste job of various other scripts written by a bunch of old fashion politicians/philosophers.

Posted by: mushuntcowboy  at november 17, 2008 5:57 pm

A german convert to islam who doubts that mohammed existed? What's next? A muslim apostate who converts to christianity and then doubts jesus existed? Sometimes it's hard not to conclude that life is absurd, especially as truth keeps proving stranger than fiction most times out of ten.

Posted by: wellington at november 17, 2008 7:02 am 

I fully agree with this. Here is a professor who claims to be muslim, so the first thing he has to do is recite the shehada, and central to that is the belief that mohammed is the prophet of allah. He then comes out with his assertion that mo never existed.

So here is a muslim who believes that someone who he believes never existed was a messenger from allah to himself? Bizarre!

Robert

Whenever you do research this question, can you also find out whether mohammed indeed was descendant from ismail?

Posted by: infidel pride  at november 18, 2008 2:16 am

Infidel pride,
mo was no descendant from ismail, because mo was born a "pagan". That also means there is no verifiable line of descent from abraham to mo. It was either totally lost or never existed, because his tribe was polytheist. Mo merely heard about monotheism through the grapevine. Islam is no more an abrahamic religion than voodoo or new age systems that incorporate christian beliefs.

Posted by: max publius  at november 18, 2008 8:36 am

Url: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/did-prophet-muhammad-ever-really-live?-dispute-among-islam-scholars--/d/997

 

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