Thoughts and Truth from the Impossible Life

Ibn al-Rwanadi’s concluding thoughts on the history of Islam.

Once the Arabs had acquired an empire a coherent religion was required in order to hold that empire together and legitimize their rule. In a process that involved a massive backreading of history, and in conformity to the available Jewish and Christian models, this meant they needed a revelation and a revealer (prophet) whose life could serve at once as a model for moral conduct and as a framework for the appearance of the revelation; hence the Koran, the Hadith, and the Sira, were contrived and conjoined over a period of a couple of centuries. Topographically, after a century or so of Judeo-Muslim monotheism centered on Jerusalem, in order to make Islam distinctively Arab the need for an exclusively Hijazi origin became pressing. It is at this point that Islam as we recognize it today-with an inner Arabian biography of the Prophet, Mecca, Quraysh, Hijra, Badr, etc, – was really born, as a purely literary artefact. An artefact moreover, based not on faithful memories of real events, but on the fertile imaginations of Arab storytellers elaborating from allusive references to the Koranic texts the canonical text of the Koran not being fixed for nearly two centuries. This scenario makes at least as much sense as the traditional account and eliminates many anomalies.From the vantage point of this skeptical analysis the narrative related in the Sira, that purports to be the life of the Prophet of Islam, appears as a baseless fiction. The first fifty-two years of that life, including the account of the first revelations of the Koran and all that is consequent upon that, are pictured as unfolding in a place that simply could not have existed in the way it is described in the Muslim sources. Mecca was not a wealthy trading center at the crossroads of Hijazi trade routes, the Quraysh were not wealthy merchants running caravans up and down the Arabian peninsula from Syria to Yemen, and Muhammad insofar as he was anything more than an Arab warlord of monotheist persuasion, did his trading far north of the Hijaz;  furthermore Mecca, as a sanctuary, if it was a place of sanctuary, was of no more importance than numerous others and was not a place of pilgrimage. (al-Rawandi, ‘Origins of Islam: A Critical Look at the Sources’, pp. 104-5, 2000)Referenceal-Rawandi I. (2000). ‘Origins of Islam: A Critical Look at the Sources’, in I Warraq (ed), The Quest for the Historical Muhammad, Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. pp. 104-5.

via Ibn al-Rwanadi’s concluding thoughts on the history of Islam..


September 29, 2011 - Posted by | Understanding Islam | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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