By Ghulam Muhammed
17 May 2012
Prof. Daniel Pipes is a sober, sane and commonsensical thinker and writer. Though his lifelong persuasion is to spread the derivatives of Zionism, by attacking Islam, his fundamental grounding in rational thinking and logical presentation has never left him. It is for this reason that when he strays in his zeal to force his cause on non-responsive world, he comes out as without clothes.
In the following article, Pipes has been so overwhelmed by the new phase of an old propaganda stirred up by the Islamophobes paid pipers, to go to the roots of Islamic history and beliefs and try to deny each and every fact that Muslims hold as the fundamentals of Islam, that he takes leave of his common sense and tries to herald a 'revolution' that is more like a storm in a tea-cup. Muslim faith is not so flimsy that it can be swayed by such trite efforts to put together new meanings and interpretations to assimilate Islam into their own belief systems. In the so-called free world, they are welcome to try their convoluted propaganda. However, let Pipes know that Islam is spreading in the West, on the strength of its inner structural cohesion and its inbuilt mechanism to remain steadfast in its fundamentals and still remain relevant throughout changing times.
Jews and Christians have never been comfortable with their new rival, Islam, which in fact had arrived to take out the inconsistencies, distortions and mysteries that had developed over time in the fundamental monotheistic beliefs of the Abrahamic religion. And this body of beliefs is not dependent on the calibre and capabilities of the defenders of the faith. The more it is subjected to scrutiny and/or ridicule the more it attracts adherents and seekers of truth.
In a way, Pipe's choice of the two authors whose writings are supposed to usher in a revolution, are a boon to Islam. Islam always thrives with challenges.
Mr. Ghulam Muhammad is a social activist based in Mumbai.
Uncovering Early Islam
By Daniel Pipes
16 May, 2012
The year 1880 saw the publication of a book that ranks as the single most important study of Islam ever. Written in German by a young Jewish Hungarian scholar, Ignaz Goldziher, and bearing the nondescript title Muslim Studies (Muhammedanische Studien), it argued that the hadith, the vast body of sayings and actions attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, lacked historical validity. Rather than provide reliable details about Muhammad's life, Goldziher established, the hadith emerged from debates two or three centuries later about the nature of Islam.
(That is like today's Americans debating the Constitution's much-disputed Second Amendment, concerning the right to bear arms, by claiming newly discovered oral transmissions going back to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Obviously, their quotations would inform us not what was said 225 years ago but about current views.)
Portrait of Ignaz Goldziher
Since Goldziher's day, scholars have been actively pursuing his approach, deepening and developing it into a full-scale account of early Islamic history, one which disputes nearly every detail of Muhammad's life as conventionally understood - born in 570 A.D., first revelation in 610, flight to Medina in 622, death in 632. But this revisionist history has remained a virtual secret among specialists. For example, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, authors of the synoptic Hagarism (Cambridge University Press, 1977), deliberately wrote obliquely, thereby hiding their message.
Cover of Hagarism
Now, however, two scholars have separately ended this secrecy: Tom Holland with In the Shadow of the Sword (Doubleday) and Robert Spencer with Did Muhammad Exist? (ISI). As their titles suggest, Spencer is the bolder author and so my focus here.
In a well-written, sober, and clear account, he begins by demonstrating the inconsistencies and mysteries in the conventional account concerning Muhammad's life, the Koran, and early Islam. For example, whereas the Koran insists that Muhammad did not perform miracles, the hadith ascribe him thaumaturgic powers - multiplying food, healing the injured, drawing water from the ground and sky, and even sending lightening from his pickaxe. Which is it? Hadith claim Mecca was a great trading city but, strangely, the historical record reveals it as no such thing.
The Christian quality of early Islam is no less strange, specifically "traces of a Christian text underlying the Qur'an." Properly understood, these traces elucidate otherwise incomprehensible passages. Conventionally read, verse 19:24 has Mary nonsensically hearing, as she gives birth to Jesus, "Do not be sad, your Lord has placed a rivulet beneath you." Revisionists transform this into the sensible (and piously Christian), "Do not be sad, your Lord has made your delivery legitimate." Puzzling verses about the "Night of Power" commemorating Muhammad's first revelation make sense when understood as describing Christmas. Chapter 96 of the Koran, astonishingly, invites readers to a Eucharist.
Cover of Did Muhammad Exist
Building on this Christian base, revisionists postulate a radically new account of early Islam. Noting that coins and inscriptions from the seventh century mention neither Muhammad, the Koran, nor Islam, they conclude that the new religion did not appear until about 70 years after Muhammad's supposed death. Spencer finds that "the first decades of the Arab conquest show the conquerors holding not to Islam as we know it but to a vague creed [Hagarism, focused on Abraham and Ishmael] with ties to some form of Christianity and Judaism." In very brief: "the Muhammad of Islamic tradition did not exist, or if he did, he was substantially different from how that tradition portrays him" – namely an Anti-Trinitarian Christian rebel leader in Arabia.
Only about 700 A.D., when the rulers of a now-vast Arabian empire felt the need for a unifying political theology, did they cobble together the Islamic religion. The key figure in this enterprise appears to have been the brutal governor of Iraq, Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. No wonder, writes Spencer, that Islam is "such a profoundly political religion" with uniquely prominent martial and imperial qualities. No wonder it conflicts with modern mores.
The revisionist account is no idle academic exercise but, as when Judaism and Christianity encountered the Higher Criticism 150 years ago, a deep, unsettling challenge to faith. It will likely leave Islam a less literal and doctrinaire religion with particularly beneficial implications in the case of Islam, still mired in doctrines of supremacism and misogyny. Applause, then for plans to translate Did Muhammad Exist? into major Muslim languages and to make it available gratis on the Internet. May the revolution begin.
Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.