Islam did not appear in its final form nor was it completed during the life of Muhammad, contrary to what the shaykhs claim.  Muhammad did not have a full idea of the new religion, a religion which began as a Christian sect without any distinct features of its own.


WHEN MUHAMMAD BEGAN his call, he began with short suras of the Qur’an, consisting of saj‘ rhymes that imitated the rhymes of soothsayers of that time and retold the stories of the prophets of the Children of Israel as Muhammad had heard them. Throughout his stay in Mecca – a period of thirteen years – Muhammad did not talk of any legislation or rules for his new religion, simply because the idea of ​​this religion was yet to fully formulate in his mind. There was no prayer, no pilgrimage, no zakat, and no law with any Islamic outlines.

Even after he migrated to Yathrib, most of the verses of the Madinan Qur’an spoke of fighting. This is because he had collected an army whose members were looking forward to the gains that they would obtain, such as material spoils and human captives. Step by step, Muhammad introduced rituals and legislation as needed. Even when his mission was terminated on his death, jurisprudence was something unknown, the Qur’an had not been written down, and his laws had not taken the final form that we know now.

Moreover, when all this was completed, Islam did not bring anything new that would call for the god of heaven to send a new messenger. Islam, in its essence, is made up of extracts from the religions that predated it in Persia, Iraq and Palestine, and the customs and traditions of the pre-Islamic Arabs.

All these sources are not worth the ink they were written with because their authors did not verify any of the information they included in their works

Muslims as well as non-Muslims interested in studying Islam derive their information about Islam from traditional works such as al-Tabari’s Tarikh al-Rusul wal-Muluk (‘History of the Messengers and Kings’) known simply as al-Tabari’s history, or from Ibn al-Jawzi’s Al-Muntazam fi al-Tarikh (‘The Sequence of History’) or Ibn Hisham’s Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya (the ‘Biography of the Prophet’). All these sources are not worth the ink they were written with because their authors did not verify any of the information they included in their works. The Iraqi sociologist ‘Ali al-Wardi (d. 1995 AD) used to call the authors of these sources ‘tale-tellers’ because they conveyed us tales as they heard them, dating from hundreds of years after the date of their supposed occurrence, without any scrutiny.

Moreover, the extended period of time between the advent of Islam and the writing down of these reference sources in the era of the Abbasid state makes any confidence in what they contain somewhat shaky. The nature of human memory means that it is subject to forgetfulness and a tendency to add or subtract from accounts or tales orally for two centuries or more. All the Islamic sources were written more than a hundred and fifty years after the date of the presumed death of the Messenger of Islam in 632 AD. The first to write about the Messenger of Islam himself were Muhammad ibn Ishaq (d. 770 AD), Ibn Hisham (d. 833 AD), al-Bukhari (d. 870 CE) and Muhammad bin Jarir al-Tabari (d. 923 AD).

Now if we turn to al-Tabari’s Tarikh al-Rusul wal-Muluk we find him saying this in his introduction: 

The reader should know that with respect to all I have mentioned and made it a condition to set down in this book of ours, I rely upon traditions and reports which I have transmitted and which I attribute to their transmitters. I rely only very exceptionally upon what is learned through rational arguments and produced by internal thought processes. 

For no knowledge of the history of men of the past and of recent men and events is attainable by those who were not able to observe them and did not live in their time, except through information and transmission provided by informants and transmitters. This knowledge cannot be brought out by reason or produced by internal thought processes. 

This book of mine may be found to contain some information, mentioned by us on the authority of certain men of the past, which the reader may disapprove of and the listener may find detestable, because he can find nothing sound and no real meaning in it. In such cases, he should know that it is not our fault that such information comes to him, but the fault of someone who transmitted it to us. We have merely reported it as it was reported to us. [1]

Here the author is saying that what he conveyed to us was not something extracted by reason, but what others transmitted to him, and without criticism or scrutiny. Such history is like the folk tales that grandmothers tell their grandchildren. This is clearly evident to anyone who reads al-Tabari’s history and ponders on the content of the stories it contains – such as the story of how the Ka‘ba was built. As for the work Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya by the Egyptian author ‘Abd al-Malik bin Hisham (d. 834 AD), this is an abbreviation of the Biography of the Prophet by Muhammad bin Ishaq (d. 767 AD), who was born in Madina and migrated to Baghdad. The latter’s work was the first biography of the Prophet of Islam, who died in the tenth year of the Hijra (that is, 632 AD).No copy of this book by Ibn Ishaq has come down to us and we know nothing about it except what Ibn Hisham extracted from it. In the introduction to his Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya Ibn Hisham says the following:

I have left out some of what Ibn Ishaq mentioned in this book, which the Messenger of God did not mention, nor anything was revealed concerning it in the Qur’an, or which has no relevance to the work, or which has no explanatory text for it or witness to it, other than what has been given in very brief form. In addition, I have omitted passages of poetry he cites where I see no experts in poetry mentioning them, and some matters which are disgraceful to talk about, or would offend some people to read, and some passages that are not acknowledged by al-Baka’i in his narration.[2]

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Ibn Hisham, who is transmitting to us the first book written on the biography of the Prophet of Islam, thus permitted himself to omit what he did not like about the Prophet of Islam, and what he believed might offend some readers, as well as what he had not heard of from poetry or what was not verified by Ziyad bin Abdullah Al-Baka’i al-Kufi (d. 799 AD) who was one of Ibn Ishaq’s students. We therefore do not know which were the parts that Ibn Hisham omitted because they did not impress him. Ibn Hisham thus set himself up as a censor of publications and deleted what he thought we should not see.

Fortunately for us, however, there are stone inscriptions in which contemporaries to events carved what they saw with their own eyes, as well as several historical references written by Greek and Roman historians who were contemporary with these events or wrote them down shortly after. We can now compare what was written by Muslim akhbariyyun (‘narrators’) and what was written by non-Muslim historians who have no motive in fabricating events, unlike the Muslim akhbariyyun who were driven by their eagerness to show the Prophet of Islam in the best light, and demonstrate the triumph of their religion.

[1] Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, تاريخ الأمم والملوك  Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, Beirut, 1st ed. Vol. 1 p.13. The English for this passage comes from the translation by Franz Rosenthal, The History of al-Tabari, SUNY Press, 1989, Vol. I, pp.170.171. The work is available online here.

[2] Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Malik Ibn Hisham, سيرة النبي  Dar al-Sahaba lil-Turath, Tanta, 1st ed. 1995, Vol. I, p.41.

Main image: Muhammad meets the Christian monk Bahira who for John of Damascus (d. 749) was an Arian heretic, and for Byzantine historians a secret, religious teacher to Muhammad. Miniature from Jami’ al-Tavarikh (‘The Compendium of Chronicles’), by Rashid Al-Din (1247-1318) in an early 14th century manuscript, Edinburgh, University Library.