Peace"Is the Qur'an the Word of God?"
- Part 3
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------D: An External Critique of the Qur'anD4: Mecca
Muslims maintain that "Mecca is the centre of Islam, and the centre of history." According to the Qur'an,"The first sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Bakkah (or Mecca),
a blessed place, a guidance for the peoples."
In Sura 6:92 and 42:5 we find that Mecca is the "mother of all settlements."
According to Muslim tradition, Adam placed the black stone in the original Ka'ba there,
while according to the Qur'an (Sura 2:125-127) it was Abraham and Ishmael who rebuilt the Ka'ba many years later.
Thus, by implication, Mecca is considered by Muslims to be the first and most important city in the world!
Apart from the obvious difficulty in finding any documentary or archaeological evidence
that Abraham ever went to or lived in Mecca, the overriding problem rests in finding any reference
to the city before the creation of Islam. From research carried out by both Crone and Cook,
the supposed first and only pre-Islamic reference to Mecca is an inference to a city called "Makoraba"
by the Greco-Egyptian geographer Ptolemy in the mid-2nd century A.D., though we are not even sure
whether this allusion by Ptolemy referred to Mecca, as he only mentioned the name in passing.
Furthermore, according to Dr. Crone, the three Arabic root letters for Mecca (MKK)
do not at all correspond with the three Arabic root letters for Makoraba (KRB)
(as the letters 'ma-', which preceed 'koraba', signify 'the place of'). Thus, there is absolutely
no other report of Mecca or its Ka'ba there in any authenticated ancient document;
that is until the late seventh century (Cook-74; Crone-Cook 1977:22). In fact, they maintain,
"the earliest references are those found in one Syriac version of the Apocalypse of pseudo-Methodius" (Crone-Cook 1977:22,171).
However, although the Apocalypse itself dates from the late seventh century,
the references to Mecca are only found in later copies, and are not present in the European
or later Syrian traditions, and make no appearance in the Vatican Codex,' which is considered by etymologists to be the earliest text
(refer to the discussion on this problem between Nau and Kmosko in note "7," p. 171, in Crone & Cook's Hagarism:1977).
The next reference to Mecca, according to Crone and Cook, occurs in the Continuatio Byzantia Arabica,
which is a source dating from early in the reign of the caliph Hisham, who ruled between 724-743 A.D. (Crone-Cook 1977:22,171).
Therefore, the earliest corroborative evidence we have for the existence of Mecca is fully 100 years
after the date when Islamic tradition and the Qur'an place it. Why? Certainly,
if it was so important a city, someone, somewhere would have mentioned it; yet we find nothing
outside of the small inference by Ptolemy 500 years earlier, and these initial statements
in the latter seventh to early eighth century.
And that is not all, for Muslims maintain that Mecca was not only an ancient and great city,
but it was also the center of the trading routes for Arabia in the seventh century and before (Cook 1983:74; Crone 1987:3-6).
Yet, according to extensive research by Bulliet on the history of trade in the ancient Middle-East,
these claims by Muslims are quite wrong, as Mecca simply was not on the major trading routes.
The reason for this, he contends, is that, "Mecca is tucked away at the edge of the peninsula.
Only by the most tortured map reading can it be described as a natural crossroads between
a north-south route and an east-west one." (Bulliet 1975:105)
This is corroborated by further research carried out by Groom and Muller, who contend that Mecca
simply could not have been on the trading route, as it would have entailed a detour from the natural route.
In fact, they maintain the trade route must have bypassed Mecca by some one-hundred miles
(Groom 1981:193; Muller 1978:723).
Patricia Crone, in her work on Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam adds a practical reason
which is too often overlooked by earlier historians. She points out that,
"Mecca was a barren place, and barren places do not make natural halts, and least of all when they are found
at a short distance from famously green environments. Why should caravans have made a steep descent
to the barren valley of Mecca when they could have stopped at Ta'if. Mecca did, of course, have both
a well and a sanctuary, but so did Ta'if, which had food supplies, too" (Crone 1987:6-7; Crone-Cook 1977:22).
Furthermore, Patricia Crone asks, "what commodity was available in Arabia that could be
transported such a distance, through such an inhospitable environment, and still be sold at
a profit large enough to support the growth of a city in a peripheral site bereft of natural resources?" (Crone 1987:7)
It was not incense, spices or other exotic goods, as many notoriously unreliable early writers
had intimated (see Crone's discussion on the problem of historical accuracy, particularly between
Lammens, Watts and Kister, in Meccan Trade, 1987:3).
In her study on the Meccan Trade, Dr. Crone points out that of the fifteen spices attributed to Mecca:
six went out of fashion before the sixth century; two were imported by sea; two were exclusively
from East Africa; two were inferior and thus never traded; one was of a problematic identity;
and two cannot be identified at all (Crone 1987:51-83). Consequently, not one of the fifteen spices
can be attributed to Mecca. So what was the trade for which Mecca was famous? Some Muslims
maintain it was banking or perhaps camel herding; yet in such a barren environment?
According to the latest and much more reliable research by Kister and Sprenger, the Arabs engaged
in a trade of a considerably humbler kind, that of leather and clothing; hardly items which could
have founded a commercial empire of international dimensions (Kister 1965:116; Sprenger 1869:94).
The real problem with Mecca, however, is that there simply was no international trade
taking place in Arabia, let alone in Mecca, in the century immediately prior to Muhammad's birth.
It seems that much of our data in this area has been spurious from the outset, due to sloppy research
of the original sources, carried out by Lammens, "an unreliable scholar," and repeated by the great
orientalists such as Watts, Shaban, Rodinson, Hitti, Lewis and Shahid (Crone 1987:3,6).
Lammens, using first century sources (such as Periplus - 50 A.D. - and Pliny - 79 A.D.) should have
used the later sixth century Greek, Byzantine and Egyptian historians who were closer to the events
(such as Cosmas, Procopius and Theodoretus - Crone 1987:3,19-22,44). Because they were not only
merchants, travellers and geographers, but historians, they knew the area and the period
and therefore would have given a more accurate picture.
Had he referred to these later historians he would have found that the Greek trade between
India and the Mediterranean was entirely maritime after the first century A.D. (Crone 1987:29).
One need only look at a map to understand why. It made no sense to ship goods across such
distances by land when a waterway was available close by. Patricia Crone points out that in
Diocletian's Rome it was cheaper to ship wheat 1,250 miles by sea than to transport it fifty miles
by land (Crone 1987:7). The distance from Najran, Yemen in the south, to Gaza in the north was
roughly 1,250 miles. Why would the traders ship their goods from India by sea, and unload it Aden,
where it would be put on the backs of much slower and more expensive camels to trudge across
the inhospitable Arabian desert to Gaza, when they could simply have left in on the ships and
followed the Red Sea route up the west coast of Arabia?
There were other problems as well. Had Lammens researched his sources correctly, he would have
also found that the Greco-Roman trade collapsed by the third century A.D., so that by
Muhammad's time there simply was no overland route, and no Roman market to which
the trade was destined (Crone 1987:29). He would have similarly found that what trade remained,
was controlled by the Ethiopians and not the Arabs, and that Adulis on the Ethiopian coast of the Red Sea
and not Mecca was the trading centre of that region (Crone 1987:11, 41-42).
Of even more significance, had Lammens taken the time to study the early Greek sources,
he would have discovered that the Greeks to whom the trade went had never even heard of
a place called Mecca (Crone 1987:11,41-42). If, according to the Muslim traditions and
recent orientalists, Mecca was so important, certainly those to whom the trade was going
would have noted its existence. Yet, we find nothing. Crone in her work points out that the
Greek trading documents refer to the towns of Ta'if (which is close to present-day Mecca),
and to Yathrib (later Medina), as well as Kaybar in the north, but no mention is made of Mecca (Crone 1987:11).
Even the Persian Sassanids, who had incursions into Arabia between 309 and 570 A.D. mentioned
the towns of Yathrib (Medina) and Tihama, but not Mecca (Crone 1987:46-50). That indeed is troubling.
Had the later orientalists bothered to check out Lammens' sources, they too would have realized
that since the overland route was not used after the first century A.D., it certainly was not in use
in the fifth or sixth centuries (Crone 1987:42), and much of what has been written concerning
Mecca would have been corrected long before now.
Finally, the problem of locating Mecca in the early secular sources is not unique, for there is even
some confusion within Islamic tradition as to where exactly Mecca was initially situated
(see the discussion on the evolution of the Meccan site in Crone & Cook's Hagarism 1977:23,173).
According to research carried out by J.van Ess, in both the first and second civil wars,
there are accounts of people proceeding from Medina to Iraq via Mecca (van Ess 1971:16;
see also Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Dhahabi 1369:343). Yet Mecca is south-west of Medina,
and Iraq is north-east. Thus the sanctuary for Islam, according to these traditions was at one time north of Medina,
which is the opposite direction from where Mecca is today!
We are left in a quandary. If Mecca was not the great commercial center the Muslim traditions
would have us believe, if it was not known by the people who lived and wrote from that period,
and, if it could not even qualify as a city during the time of Muhammad, it certainly could not have
been the center of the Muslim world at that time. What city, therefore, was? The answer is not
that difficult to guess, as has been intimated already. It seems that Jerusalem and not
Mecca was the center and sanctuary of the Haggarenes, or Maghrebites (early names given to the Arabs)
until around 700 A.D..
The earlier discussions concerning the Hijra, the Qibla, and the Jews pointed out that it
was towards the north, possibly Palestine that the Hijra was directed, that it was somewhere in
the north-west of Arabia that the Hagarenes turned to pray, and that it was alongside the Jews
that the conquests were carried out (Crone-Cook 1977:9,160-161,23-24,6-9). Add to that
another fact which may help us bring this all together: D5: Dome of the Rock
In the center of Jerusalem sits an imposing structure (even today) called the Dome of the Rock,
built by Abd al-Malik in 691 A.D.. One will note, however, that the Dome of the Rock is not a mosque,
as it has no Qibla (no direction for prayer). It is built as an octagon with eight pillars (Nevo 1994:113),
suggesting it was used for circumambulation (to walk around). Thus, it seems to have been built
as a sanctuary (Glasse 1991:102). Today it is considered to be the third most holy site in Islam,
after Mecca and Medina. Muslims contend that it was built to commemorate the night
when Muhammad went up to heaven to speak with Moses and Allah concerning the number
of prayers required of the believers (known as the Mi'raj in Arabic) (Glasse 1991:102).
Yet, according to the research carried out on the inscriptions by Van Berchem and Nevo,
the earliest dated inscriptions in the edifice of the building say nothing of the Mi'raj, but relate merely
polemical quotations which are Qur'anic, though they are aimed primarily at Christians.
Many Muslims are quick to point out that both suras 17:1 and 2:143-145, which speak of the
'inviolable place' and the 'change of the Qibla', can be found on the inscriptions on the drum
of the dome and the doorway facing south. They would do well to read the history of those inscriptions.
What they will find is that neither of these inscriptions are original, nor are they old.
The entire dome was rebuilt by al Zaher Li-L'zaz in 1022 A.D. due to an earthquake in 1016 A.D. (Duncan 1972:46).
The drum was rebuilt in 1318 A.D. (Creswell 1969:30), but the inscriptions
(both the lower sura 36 and the upper sura 17) were not added until 1876 A.D. by
Abdul Hamid II (Duncan 1972:66). The present doors (where sura 2:144 is found) were not erected
until 1545 A.D. (Creswell 1969:26). The southern portical where sura 2:143-145 is written
was not built until 1817 A.D. by the Sultan Mahmud (Duncan 1972:64). Thus, once we read
the history of the dome, we find that neither of these two 'incriminating' suras belong to
the original dome when it was constructed by 'abd al-Malik in 691 A.D.
The earliest inscriptions which we can attest to speak of the messianic status of Jesus,
the acceptance of the prophets, Muhammad's receipt of revelation, and the use of the terms
"islam" and "muslim" (Van Berchem 1927:nos.215,217; Nevo 1994:113). It must be noted, however,
that even their early dates are in doubt due to a different design attributed to the supporting
pillars from an account by the Persian Nasir i Khusran in 1047 A.D. (see Duncan 1972: 44-46).
If the sanctuary was built to commemorate such an important event in the history of the prophet's
life (the Mi'raj), why do none of the earliest inscriptions refer to it? Nowhere in the earliest
inscriptions is there any mention of his night journey to heaven, on the back of the winged horse
Buraq, nor is there any mention of the dialogue Muhammad had between first Moses and Allah,
nor the required five prayers, which was the purpose of the event!
How can this be explained? A possible explanation could be that the story of the Mi'raj simply did not
exist at this time, but was redacted later on during the Abbasid period (after 750 A.D.). This is
not hard to understand when one realizes that the idea of five prayers also seems to have been
redacted later as well. The only references to prayer in the Qur'an occur in suras 11:114; 17:78-79; 20:130; and 30:17-18
(though there is doubt whether they all speak of prayer [salat], or whether they speak of praise [sabaha]).
What we find in these references are three required prayers. They say nothing of five prayers
(albeit many Muslim commentators have tried desperately to add, by means of a tortured reading,
the two missing prayers either in the morning or in the evening).
This story of the Mi'raj supposedly took place while Muhammad was living in Medina (most likely around 624 A.D.).
Yet we are obliged to refer to the Hadith, compiled 200-250 years later to find not only that five
daily prayers are stipulated, but what they are called. If the Qur'an is the word of God, why does it
not know how many prayers a Muslim is required to pray? And furthermore, why,
if the Dome of the Rock were built to commemorate that momentous event, does it say nothing
about it until over 1000 years later? It seems obvious that this building was originally built for
other purposes than that of commemorating the Mi'raj. The fact that such an imposing structure
was built so early suggests that this was the sanctuary and the center of Islam up until at least
the late seventh century, and not Mecca (Van Bercham 1927:217)!
From what we read earlier of Muhammad's intention to fulfill his and the Hagarene's birthright,
by taking back the land of Abraham, or Palestine, it makes sense that Abd al-Malik would
build this structure as the center-piece of that fulfillment. Is it no wonder then, that when
Abd al-Malik built the dome in which he proclaimed the prophetic mission of Muhammad, he placed
it over the temple rock itself (Van Berchem 1927:217).
According to Islamic tradition, the caliph Suleyman, who reigned as late as 715-717 A.D.,
went to Mecca to ask about the Hajj. He was not satisfied with the response he received there,
and so chose to follow 'abd al-Malik (i.e. traveling to the Dome of the Rock)
(note: not to be confused with the Imam, Malik b. Anas who, because he was born in 712 A.D.,
would only have been three years old at the time). This fact alone, according to Dr. Hawting
at SOAS, points out that there was still some confusion as to where the sanctuary was to be
located as late as the early eighth century. It seems that Mecca was only now taking on the role
as the religious centre of Islam. One can therefore understand why, according to tradition,
Walid I, who reigned as Caliph between 705 and 715 A.D., wrote to all the regions ordering the
demolition and enlargement of the mosques (refer to 'Kitab al-'uyun wa'l-hada'iq,' edited by
M. de Goeje and P. de Jong 1869:4). Could it be that at this time the Qiblas were then aligned
towards Mecca? If so, it points to yet another contradiction with the Qur'an which established
Mecca as the sanctuary, and thus direction for prayer, during the lifetime of Muhammad from
80 to 90 years earlier (see sura 2:144-150).
And that is not all, for we have other archaeological and manuscript evidence which point up
differences with that which we read in the Qur'an: D6: Muhammad
The writings by the Armenian chronicler from around 660 A.D. (referred to earlier) give us
the earliest narrative account of Muhammad's career to survive in any language, attesting
that Muhammad was a merchant who spoke much about Abraham, thus providing us with
early historical evidence for the existence of Muhammad (Cook 1983:73). Yet this chronicler
says nothing of Muhammad's universal prophethood, intimating he was only a local prophet.
Even the earliest Islamic documents, according to Dr. John Wansbrough, say nothing of his
universal prophethood. The Maghazi, which Wansbrough points out are stories of the prophet's
battles and campaigns, are the earliest Islamic documents which we possess (Wansbrough 1978:119).
They should give us the best snapshot of that time, yet they tell us little concerning Muhammad's
life or teachings. In fact, nowhere in these documents is there a veneration of Muhammad as a prophet!
If, according to the Qur'an, Muhammad is known primarily as the "seal of all prophets" (Sura 33:40),
then why would these documents be silent on this very important point?Nevo's Rock inscriptions
In order to know who Muhammad was, and what he did, we must, therefore, go back to
the time when he lived, and look at the evidence which existed then, and still exists, to see what it
can tell us about this very important figure. Wansbrough, who has done so much research on
the early traditions and the Qur'an believes that, because the Islamic sources are all very late,
from 150 years for the Sira-Maghazi documents, as well as the earliest Qur'an, it behooves us
not to consider them authoritative (Wansbrough 1977:160-163; Rippin 1985:154-155). It is when
we look at the non-Muslim sources that we find some rather interesting observances as to who this man Muhammad was.
The best non-Muslim sources on seventh century Arabia which we have are those provided by
the Arabic rock inscriptions scattered all over the Syro-Jordanian deserts and the Peninsula, and
especially the Negev desert (Nevo 1994:109). The man who has done the greatest research on these
rock inscriptions is Yehuda Nevo, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It is to his research,
which is titled Towards a Prehistory of Islam, published in 1994, that I will refer.
Nevo has found in the Arab religious texts, dating from the first century and a half of Arab rule,
a monotheistic creed. However, he contends that this creed "is demonstrably not Islam,
but [a creed] from which Islam could have developed." (Nevo 1994:109)
Nevo also found that "in all the Arab religious institutions during the Sufyani period [661-684 A.D.]
there is a complete absence of any reference to Muhammad." (Nevo 1994:109) In fact neither
the name Muhammad itself nor any Muhammadan formulae (that he is the prophet of God)
appears in any inscription dated before the year 691 A.D.. This is true whether the main purpose
of the inscription is religious, such as in supplications, or whether it was used as a commemorative
inscription, though including a religious emphasis, such as the inscription at the dam near the town
of Ta'if, built by the Caliph Mu'awiya in the 660s A.D. (Nevo 1994:109).
The fact that Muhammad's name is absent on all of the early inscriptions, especially the religious
ones is significant. Many of the later traditions (i.e. the Sira and the Hadith, which are the
earliest Muslim literature that we possess) are made up almost entirely of narratives on the prophet's life.
He is the example which all Muslims are to follow. Why then do we not find this same emphasis
in these much earlier Arabic inscriptions which are closer to the time that he lived? Even more troubling,
why is there no mention of him at all? His name is only found on the Arab inscriptions after 690 A.D. (Nevo 1994:109-110).
And what's more, the first dated occurrence of the phrase Muhammad rasul Allah
(Muhammad is the prophet of God) is found on an Arab-Sassanian coin of Xalid b. Abdallah from
the year 690 A.D., which was struck in Damascus (Nevo 1994:110).
Of greater significance, the first occurrence of what Nevo calls the "Triple Confession of Faith,"
which includes the Tawhid (that God is one), the phrase, Muhammad rasul Allah (that Muhammad is his prophet),
and the human nature of Jesus (rasul Allah wa- abduhu), is found in Abd al-Malik's inscription in
the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, dated 691 A.D. (Nevo 1994:110)! Before this inscription
the Muslim confession of faith cannot be attested at all. It must be noted, however, that the date for
this inscription could itself be much later, possibly added by al Zaher Li-L'zaz when he rebuilt the
inner and outer ambulatories above which the inscription is situated, in 1022 A.D. (Duncan 1972:46).
As a rule, after 691 A.D. and all through the Marwanid dynasty (till 750 A.D.), Muhammad's name
usually occurs whenever religious formulae are used, such as on coins, milestones, and papyrus "protocols" (Nevo 1994:110).
One could probably argue that perhaps these late dates are due to the fact that any religious
notions took time to penetrate the Arabic inscriptions. Yet, according to Nevo, the first Arabic papyrus,
an Egyptian entaqion, which was a receipt for taxes paid, dated 642 A.D. and written in both Greek
and Arabic is headed by the "Basmala," yet it is neither Christian nor Muslim in character (Nevo 1994:110).
The religious content within the rock inscriptions does not become pronounced until after
661 A.D. However, though they bear religious texts, they never mention the prophet or the
Muhammadan formulae (Nevo 1994:110). "This means," according to Nevo, "that the official
Arab religious confession did not include Muhammad or Muhammadan formulae in its repertoire
of set phrases at this time," a full 60 years and more after the death of Muhammad (Nevo 1994:110).
What they did contain was a monotheistic form of belief, belonging to a certain body of sectarian
literature with developed Judaeo-Christian conceptions in a particular literary style, but one
which contained no features specific to any known monotheistic religion (Nevo 1994:110,112).
Of even greater significance, these inscriptions show that when the Muhammadan formulae
is introduced, during the Marwanid period (post 684 A.D.), it is carried out "almost overnight" (Nevo 1994:110).
Suddenly it became the state's only form of official religious declaration, and was used exclusively
in formal documents and inscriptions, such as the papyrus "protocols" (Nevo 1994:110).
Yet even after the Muhammadan texts became official, they were not accepted by the public quite
so promptly. For years after their appearance in state declarations, people continued to include
non-Muhammadan legends in personal inscriptions, as well as routine chancery writings (Nevo 1994:114).
Thus, for instance, Nevo has found a certain scribe who does not use the Muhammadan formulae
in his Arabic and Greek correspondence, though he does on papyrus "protocols"
bearing his name and title (Nevo 1994:114).
In fact, according to Nevo, Muhammadan formulae only began to be used in the popular rock inscriptions
of the central Negev around 30 years (or one generation) after its introduction by Abd al-Malik,
sometime during the reign of Caliph Hisham (between 724-743). And even these, according to Nevo,
though they are Muhammadan, are not Muslim. The Muslim texts, he believes, only begin to appear
at the beginning of the ninth century (around 822 A.D.), coinciding with the first written Qur'ans,
as well as the first written traditional Muslim accounts (Nevo 1994:115).
Consequently, it seems from these inscriptions that it was during the Marwanid dynasty (after 684 A.D.),
and not during the life of Muhammad that he was elevated to the position of a universal prophet,
and that even then, the Muhammadan formula which was introduced was still not equivalent with that which we have today.
For further discussion on the six classifications or periods of the rock inscriptions, and their content,
I would recommend Nevo's article (pages 111-112). D7: 'Muslim' and 'Islam'
We now come to the words "Muslim" and "Islam." Muhammad's adherence to the Abrahamic
line could explain why no mention is made of the name Muslim until the latter years of the
seventh century (Cook 1983:74; Crone-Cook 1977:8 ). In fact the earliest datable occurrence of this term
is not found until the inscriptions on the walls of the Dome of the Rock which we know was constructed in 691 A.D.,
60 years after the death of Muhammad (van Berchem 1927:217; Crone-Cook 1977:8 ).
Prior to that time the Arabs were referred to as Magaritai, the term we find in Greek papyri of 642 A.D.
(called PERF 564 and PERF 558: Grohmann 1957:28f,157). In the Syriac letters of the Bishop Isho'yahb III
from as early as the 640s A.D. they were called Mahgre or Mahgraye (Duval 1904:97 ).
The appearance of these terms is not unique, however, but are found as far afield as Egypt and Iraq,
which is significant (Crone-Cook 1977:159). The corresponding Arabic term is Muhajirun, which is
both genealogical as they are the descendants of Abraham and Hagar, and historical, as they are
those who take part in a hijra, or exodus. The earlier discussion on the significance of the hijra pointed
out that this was (according to external sources) possibly towards Palestine and not simply to Medina.
Athanasius in 684 A.D., writing in Syriac used the name Maghrayes to refer to the Arabs.
Jacob of Edessa in 705 A.D. mentions them as Hagarenes. The Doctrina Iacobi refers to them as Saracens
(Bonwetsch 1910:88; Cook 1983:75). Thus, contrary to what the Qur'an says in Sura 33:35, it seems that
the term Muslim was not used until the late seventh century (Crone-Cook 1977:8 ). So where did the name originate?
According to Crone and Cook the term Islam (and the corresponding word Muslim) in the sense of
"submission to God" was borrowed from the Samaritans (Crone-Cook 1977:19-20). Crone and Cook
maintain that "the verb aslama has cognates in Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac, but whereas neither
Jewish nor Christian literature provides satisfactory precedent for the Islamic usage, we find exact parallels
to Islam in [the Memar Marqah], which is the most important Samaritan text of the pre-Islamic period."
(Crone-Cook 1977:19,169; Macdonald 1963:85) They go on to say that, "the plausible sense of
the root to invoke here is that of peace' and the sense of to make peace.' The reinterpretation of this conception in terms of the ultimately dominant sense of submission' can readily
be seen as intended to differentiate the Hagarene covenant from that of Judaism." (Crone-Cook 1977:20)
Though the Qur'an uses this term (Sura 33:35), it seems, from the seventh century documents
which we do possess, that it was not known during the life of Muhammad, which consequently adds
more credence to the possibility of an evolution in the Qur'anic text. D8: Qur'an
All these findings give us good reason to question the true authority of the Qur'an as the word of God.
Archaeology, as well as documentary and manuscript evidence indicates that much of what the Qur'an
maintains does not coincide with the data at our disposal. From the material amassed
from external sources in the seventh and eighth centuries, we can conclude:
1. that the Hijra was more-than-likely not towards Medina, but towards Palestine;
2. that the Qibla was not fixed towards Mecca until the eighth century, but to an area much further north,
and possibly Jerusalem;
3. that the Jews still retained a relationship with the Arabs until at least 640 A.D.;
4. that Jerusalem and not Mecca was more-than-likely the city which contained the original sanctuary for Islam,
as Mecca was not only unknown as a viable city until the end of the seventh century, but it was not even on the trade route;
5. that the Dome of the Rock was the first sanctuary;
6. that Muhammad was not classified as God's universal prophet until the late seventh century;
7. that the terms Muslim'/ Islam' were not used until the end of the seventh century;
8. that five daily prayers as well as the Hajj were not standardized until after 717 A.D.;
9. that the earliest we even hear of any Qur'an is not until the mid-eighth century;
10. and that the earliest Qur'anic writings do not coincide with the current Qur'anic text.
All of this data contradicts the Qur'an which is in our possession, and adds to the suspicion that
the Qur'an which we now read is NOT the same as that which was supposedly collated
and canonized in 650 A.D. under Uthman, as Muslims contend (if indeed it even existed at that time).
One can only assume that there must have been an evolution in the Qur'anic text. Consequently,
the only thing we can say with any certainty is that only the documents which we now possess
(from 790 A.D. onwards) are identical to those which are in our hands today, written not 16 years
after Muhammad's death but 160 years later, and thus not 1,400 years ago, but a mere 1,200 years.
The ramifications of this assertion are astounding indeed.Jay Smith - 3rd June 1996
Taken from: http://debate.org.uk/topics/history/debate/debate.htm