Text Only

     Occidentalist Apology



False Accusations by The Hyde Park Christian Fellowship's 99 Truth Papers

Having had his attention drawn by the Islamic Party to the challenge made by the Hyde Park Christian Fellowship's Joseph Smith against the authenticity of the Qur'an, Muhammad Rafiq takes his argument apart in this Occidentalist Apology.

An Initial Apology

Mr. Smith, may I start by congratulating you on the excellent research you have done and the fact that you have quite rightly decided that the Islamic claims should be challenged. As a convert to Islam I am often embarrassed by the fact that much of the propagation literature produced by Muslims makes assertions such as `Islam is the way which is provable by intellect'. The same literature informs the non - Muslim that blind acceptance of doctrines is not the way of Islam and that Islam encourages people to research, think and decide for themselves. We as Muslims request non-Muslims to examine the veracity of their own beliefs and the material that it is based upon. Very often Muslim scholars hold debates on and produce literature about the fallacious doctrines (from an Islamic perspective) upheld in other faiths. Further than this they critique the books at the core of those faiths such as the Bible, pointing out syntactical errors and such like. Also we Muslims deem it reasonable to highlight murky patches and unpleasant people of history, such as the infamous Council of Nicea (325 C.E.) where a debate between Christian scholars was presided over by a then pagan emperor Constantine. Usually these areas are often conveniently ignored or glossed over by Christian and Jewish scholars alike. So based on the Biblical wisdom of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" it should be only correct and just for secular Muslim scholars (Orientalists) to put forward their own arguments.

The Main Apology

In your introduction you state:

"There has also been a reticence to question the Qur'an or the prophet, peace be upon him, because of the adverse response evidenced by those who have been brave enough to have done so in the past". 

Well brave heart this is not strictly true. The Qur'an was first translated by George Sale in the early eighteenth century. He was requested to perform the task by the Queens Privy Council as part of a war briefing. (Originals are hard to come by however there are a few nineteenth century facsimile editions still circulating). Mr. Sale wasted no time in making desparatory and unsavoury comments e.g.: 

"Besides angels and devils the Mohammedans are taught by the Koran to believe an intermediate order of creatures, which they call Jin or Genii, created also of fire, but of a grosser fabric than angels since they eat and drink... and are subject to death. Some of these are supposed to be good and others bad, and capable of future salvation or damnation as men are, whence Mohammed pretended to be sent for the conversion of Genii as well as men". (Sale's Koran, Preliminary Discussion sec. iv p.72 (1734))

As we can see Mr. Sale announced that Muhammad "pretended" to be here for Jinn and Mankind as long ago as 1734. With regards the nomenclature of Mohammedans your own research has proved that Muslims were using the title Muslim for sure some 60 years after the death of the prophet (SAW). For some reason Orientalists old and new just don't like the name Muslims and when they can't denounce it they simply substitute for something of their own invention. How bizarre! Needless to say Mr. Sale's theology is incorrect and since accuracy is paramount I shall attempt to clarify his errors.

1.) There are three known orders of beings;  Angels, Jinn and Mankind. Devils are not known to be a separate order.

2.) They are made of light, smokeless fire and clay respectively. Since man is physically 90% water these descriptions are of a metaphysical or metaphorical nature (Muslim scholars vary on this detail).

3.) Angels are not believed to have free will and therefore always obey the orders of God providing they do not experience a problem carrying them out. Jinn and Mankind are known to have limited free will and so can choose between belief and disbelief for which they will be held accountable.

4.) Among the disbelievers of Jinn (most notably "Iblees" or Satan) and Mankind are those who reach such levels of depravity that they become known as "Shaytan" or devils.

5.) The Holy Qur'an states that it is a mercy to Mankind and the Jinn (51:56 + 6:130, 46:29-35, 72:1-15). These verses, like all other verses in the Qur'an, are an article of faith to every true Muslim.

6.) Every Muslim believes the prophet Muhammad, before God has the highest status in creation. Back to Orientalists of the past.

Sir William Muir states:

"The confidence with which Mahomet refers to the testimony of the Jews and of their Scriptures, is very remarkable. It leaves us no room to doubt that some amongst the Jews, possessed probably of an imperfect and superficial acquaintance with their own books and traditions, encouraged Mahomet in the idea that he might be, or positively affirmed that he was `that Prophet whom the Lord their God should raise up unto them of their brethren' [Deut:18.8] .... But whoever his Jewish friends may have been, it is evident that they had a knowledge - rude and imperfect, perhaps, but comprehensive of the outline of Jewish history and tradition. These, distorted by rabbinical fable, and embellished or parodied by the Prophet's fancy, supplied the material for the Scriptural stories, which begin to a chief portion of the Coran." (Life of Mohamet, vol. ii p.183 (1858))

Here we have the Seal of Prophethood, peace be upon him, being accused of distorting rabbinical fable and adding to it of his own whims. It is not necessary to deal with these outdated and disproved claims here, it simply serves as an example.

In reference to Muhammad's seal upon his back Muir stated:

"I have not noticed this `seal' in the body of the work", 

and then strangely enough went on to cite some traditions pertaining to it and finally surmised:

"From the traditions quoted above it would seem to have been nothing more than a mole of unusual size; and his saying that `God had placed it there' was probably the germ of the supernatural assertions which grew up concerning it."

A final example from Rodwells Koran declares:

"The source whence Muhammad derived many of the traditions in the Kur'an was indeed an ill - concealed secret in the earlier portion of his career; later on, when the religion of the Prophet became firmly established, no one ventured to doubt the divine origin of the entire book" (Koran, John M. Rodwell 1861)

Since Orientalism began over two hundred and fifty years ago (as a science) there has been a barrage of claims and repetition of claims made against the Prophet, his mission and his revelation.

The reason for the "adverse response" you mention is simply that Orientalists have not been satisfied with keeping their claims in an academic field but have often resorted to the child's playground. Tactics have included making up disparaging nicknames for people, passing insulting comments about the Prophet, peace be upon him, deliberately distorting his teachings and taking aspects of his life out of context. As Muslims we welcome any intellectual challenge but it is not possible to accept insults. If we remind ourselves of the contents of the tablets given to Moses we find God admonishing us to “not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”. Indeed in Islam to blaspheme the names of God or any of the Prophets, peace be upon them all, is a major and punishable sin, as it used to be in Christian and Judaic law. Therefore, as the propagation literature asserts, Islam welcomes intellectual and academic debate but contenders are requested to please tread wisely so as not to cause offence.

Apology of Shortcomings Before continuing the riposte this would also be a good time to expose some of the shortcomings of the Muslims in this area.

The Muslims have not yet developed a discipline of Occidentalism. There exist different scholarly disciplines within the existing framework. Depending on the nature of any given question it may be necessary to go from one type of scholar to another in order to get a complete answer. This is something which I as a practising Muslim have experienced myself. For instance the science of Hadith containing the `knowledge of men' is presided over by highly specialised research scholars. Such men are not ordinarily qualified to pass rulings (fatwas) and such like. Similarly a jurist is not ordinarily qualified to make a classification upon the authenticity of Hadith. (Unfortunately many scholars overstep their marks into each other's fields and this is one of the many causes of theological division amongst Muslims). These various disciplines have historically been taught quite rigidly and so most scholars are not really qualified to tackle the Orientalist challenge. There is for example no field in the Islamic sciences of Archaeology. Across the board there is to this day still a shortage of fluid English speaking scholars from the specialised disciplines versed in Occidental culture and Occidental disciplines.

Continued Riposte

You refer to the Qur'ans own claims to self integrity being 85:22:

"Nay this is a Glorious Qur'an in a tablet preserved". 

These sentiments are re-iterated in two other places namely 56:78-9:

"This is indeed a Noble Qur'an in a well preserved book" 

and 15:10:

"Surely, We ourselves have sent down this Exhortation, and We will most surely safeguard it". 

Citing 43:3 you then incorrectly interpret these verses as meaning that the Qur'an is the Mother of Books and the earthly version is an identical replica of tablets in Heaven. In fact 43:3 reads:

"We have appointed it a Lecture (Qur'an) in Arabic that haply you may understand"

which is followed by:

"And verily, it is in the Mother of the Book, which We possess, it is high, full of wisdom". 

This does not claim that the Quran is the Mother of Books but that with God is a book which is the mother of all revelations.

"The Mother of the Book, the Foundation of Revelation, the Preserved Tablet, is the core or essence of revelation, the original principle or fountain-head of Allah's Eternal and Universal Law. From this fountain-head are derived all streams of knowledge and wisdom, that flow through time and feed the intelligence of created minds. The Mother of the Book is in Allah's own Presence and its dignity and wisdom are more than we can all think of". (Yusuf Ali's Qur`an, comm. no. 4606)

It is the source of the Qur'an itself which cannot be changed and may be paralleled with the computing concept of WORM technology (Write Once Read Many) such as optical disks etc. The Qur'an asserts that none have access to this divine source except the spiritually purified 56:77-9. However God's preservation of the earthly Message from this source is promised in 15:10.

The Traditions

As you rightly point out the earliest sets of traditions, commentaries, biographies and books of history still extant do not pre-date 750 C.E., and they do not flourish until approximately 50 years later. It is most ominous that for a period of 120 years after the death of the Prophet there is an apparent news blackout. A veritable silence over what would have been a time of great activity, hustle and bustle. Why, apart from the Qur'an which God willing we shall detail shortly, can nothing else be proven archaeologically from this period? If, as we Muslims maintain, the Seal of Prophethood was walking upon the earth delivering the Final Testament to Mankind, then this subsequent silence would imply something satanic took place. Or as some Orientalists assert, there was no Prophet and Islam "evolved" over a period of 200-300 years.

Well the claim that there is nothing at all for this period is untrue. Recently a very early document has come to light, the "Sahifa" (that is a collection of Hadith belonging to a Companion of the Prophet) of Hammaam ibn Munabbih. Research performed by Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah has proven that the Hadith in the Sahifa can all be found in the Musnad of Ibn Hanbal, with only slight textual variation. (Ibn Munabbih, Hammaam "a-Sahifa", Ed. Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah, Paris) Hammaam himself was a student of Abu Hurayrah, the companion who is famous for being the most prolific narrator of Sunni Hadith. 

Also the American scholar Nabia Abbot has done extensive work with collections of Arabic papyrus documents acquired by the Chicago Oriental Institute between 1929-47. She has published three volumes on this research, Studies in Arabic Literary Papyri (Volume 1: 1957, Volume 2: 1967, Volume 3: 1972). After comparing very early Hadith papyri against later canonical collections she concludes they:

"contain very little, beyond some rather minor textual variants, that was not already available to us in the rich heritage of tafsir and Hadith literature" (Volume 2)

This confirms your point that "Later documents simply draw upon earlier documents". This also serves as testimony to the Muslim scholars' same claim. Since you must now accept that research has so far conclusively proven that these later sources have been collected with a high degree of accuracy, your claim that the classical period has been "coloured" and therefore its traditions must be discounted, no longer stands. All primary source material discovered so far substantiates the contents of the secondary material. In all fairness some degree of reporting bias does exist but not to such an extent as to invalidate the traditions, but merely to require caution and research before using them.

You ask "But of most importance is the question of where the compilers obtained their material from". This brings us to the remarkably simple fact that the compilers were themselves practising Muslims. The material was obtained to some degree from the traditions which they themselves were raised practising and from copying earlier existing compilations but the main body was collected verbally. The compilers spent a large amount of time interviewing people about their own practices and where they came from and if they had ever heard any saying attributed to the Prophet or his companions. They would also request the narrator to cite the authority for the tradition. Humphrey's astounding claim that these chains are simply lists of names is probably the greatest inaccuracy any Orientalist has ever expounded. It is a well known fact that the biographies of hundreds of thousands of Arabs, Persians, Jews et al living in the Muslim lands have been preserved. This biographical literature constitutes the largest body of literature of its kind in the world. For instance Bukhari alone has compiled the biographies of more than 42,000 people in his `Tarikh'. The assertion that the chains of narration are nothing more than "lists purporting to give the names of those from whom the oral traditions came, yet lacking any documentation to support their claims" proves that either a.) he has never researched, b.) is incompetent or c.) is deliberately attempting to mislead people. These biographies, larger than telephone directories, compiled by hand by men who spent decades of their lives travelling by foot and camel are still extant.

Hadith literature can only be viewed as a highly credible body of historical literature with a very unique set of internal validations.

The Qur'an

Whilst it may be possible that both the Samarkand Manuscript and Topkapi Manuscript may not both be Uthmanic originals they are generally recognised as two of the oldest known Qur'ans. Whilst discussing these texts you appear to have overlooked the central issue. When the Czarist government published a facsimile of the Samarkand it was taken and compared to the Topkapi and they were found to be identical in content (Preservation of the Original Teachings in Islam, Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah (1989)). And of course the ancient Topkapi manuscript is identical to the Qur'an revered and recited by one billion Muslims world-wide today. This brings us to a brief sojourn to the Dome of the Rock which is replete with many Qur'anic verses both inside and outside. These inscriptions can be dated to 691 C.E. and are also identical in script to the Topkapi manuscript and all the Qur'ans in circulation today (The Noble Sanctuary, Alistair Duncan (1972)). This solid evidence confirms the Islamic claim that the Qur'an is the `unchanging' word of God. These ancient texts also serve as vindications to the Islamic claims concerning the accuracy of verbal transmissions.

It is also worthy of note that the Qur'an pre-dates any translation of the Bible to Arabic (Grunebaum).

To quote once again the nineteenth century Orientalist Sir William Muir:

"There is otherwise every security, internal and external, that we possess the text which Muhammad himself gave forth and used" 

and again:

"There is probably no other book in the world which has remained twelve centuries with so pure a text." (Life of Mohamet) 

No doubt this admission caused great pains to Sir Bill and after two further centuries the miracle shines on.

It is important to realise that these texts are not held as artefacts of reverence as other relics are to other faiths. As Muslims we are simply interested in the truth, like fate, for the good of it and the bad of it. The Samarkand manuscript is believed to be the actual one read by the Khalif `Uthman ibn 'Affan at the time of his murder and is allegedly spattered with his blood. This is certainly a claim which could be verified through the science of forensics (not that one would advocate a sacrilegious exhumation to perform a DNA test).

Carbon Dating

Ironically enough your belief that carbon dating these texts is not possible is also unsound. Not many people are aware of the fact that carbon dating equipment is calibrated using the science of dendochronology (tree ring dating). According to M.G.L Baillie:

"In broad terms....almost the whole of the last 7,000 years has been calibrated at high precision" (Tree-Ring Dating and Archaeology, 1982). 

High precision calibration has taken the standard deviation from +/ 70 years to +/ 20 years. It is only when attempting to date something greater than seven millenniums that accuracy becomes dubious because dendochronological calibration ceases to be feasible.

The main practical problem with carbon dating is the fact that there are very few such facilities available throughout the world and the demand upon them is considerable. These texts have most probably not yet been analysed using such techniques because no-one has raised this as an issue.

The Kufic Script

Unfortunately my good brother Mr. Lings' assertions about the Kufic script are erroneous. Letters from the Prophet Muhammad , peace be upon him, which are still extant and preserved in Istanbul are in the Kufic script. Letters written by the Prophet's son in law, the Khalif 'Ali ibn Abu Talib, are still extant and preserved in Iraq, which are also in the Kufic script.

This now re-opens up the possibility of both the Samarkand and Topkapi scripts being Uthmanic originals.

You say that prior to the Islamic conversion of Kufa (the wrongly asserted birth place of the script) the Arabic language could not have been pre-dominant and that it would have taken many years to do so. For some reason you are unaware of the fact that the Khalif 'Ali fought the infamous "Battle of the Camel" just outside Basra. The majority of his force were made up of Kufans whom he had managed to persuade to support him. After his victory against the rebels he was suitably impressed with Kufa and decided to settle there and declared Kufa the centre of the Islamic community (transferring it from Madina for the first time after some 35 years). As the new capital the Arabic language would have taken root at a very fast pace. With regards the literacy of 'Ali, he himself had been taught as a child at the instigation of the Prophet and was one of the very early Qur'anic scribes at Mecca. This proves that the revelation itself was first set down in Kufic script. 'Ali was famed for his skills in articulation and in later life is believed to have written a text book on Arabic grammar. It is true to state that the script only became dominant when the Abbasids, based in Kufa and Baghdad, overthrew the Ummayads and seized power.

Concession - The Void That Should Be Full

From an archaeological perspective an admission must be made of the discrepancy between the secondary sources textual assertions and the extant reality.

The first experience Muhammad, peace be upon him, had of revelation was the instruction to read which led to first verses of the Qur'an:

"Read ! in the name of thy Lord Who created, Who created man from a clot of blood, Read! for thy Lord is the Most Noble, Who taught by the pen, Taught man what he knew not" (96:1-5). 

At the end of the second chapter of the Qur'an we find instructions for Muslims to commit to writing credit transactions (2:282). Muslims are instructed to take whatever the Prophet gives and abstain from what he forbids (59:7, 4:59, 33:21). Throughout the Qur'an we find interspersed instructions to read and ponder upon God's Reminder (amongst other appellations the Qur'an is also known as the Reminder) and even challenges to produce its like (2:23, 10:38, 11:13, 17:88).

Amongst the secondary sources we find the Prophet instructing people of Mecca to teach the people of Medina to write (Ibn Al Athir), having his wives taught literacy by other women (Ibn Abd Al Barr (Jami)), the Qur'an and the skill of reading and writing to the People of the Veranda (Ibn Hambal (Musnad)), a prisoner of war release policy after the battle of Badr in which prisoners could earn their freedom by teaching Muslim children these skills (Ibn Sa'd) and his advice to Anas of "Capture science by the means of writing".

We find the Qur'an asserts that the Prophet never spoke of his own desires (53:4). This concept is expanded upon in the narrations relating the story of 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr ibn al 'As who was known to commit to writing the sayings of Muhammad. He was teased about this by some people who said that since the Prophet, peace be upon him, was a human being he was subject to human emotions so it was therefore undesirable to write down every saying. 'Abdullah went and questioned Muhammad, saying "Should I note down everything you say?", the reply was "Yes". `Abdullah inquired further "even when you are happy and even when you are angry ?" and Muhammad replied "Of course! By God nothing that comes out of this mouth is ever a lie" (Tirmidhi + Abu Dawud).

The secondary sources make references to many of the earlier primary sources which existed in the seventh century such as: Jabir ibn 'Abdullah compiled an opuscule on the methodology of pilgrimage to Mecca complete with an account of the last pilgrimage including the farewell address (Muslim, Sahih), Samurah ibn Jundab and Sa`d ibn `Ubadah are reported to have written their memoirs for their children (Ibn Hajar), when Ibn Abbas died he left a camel load of writings behind and Ibn Mas`ood left a book behind which his son Abd ar-Rahman used to show his friends (al-Hakim, Mustadrak). This is just a small example of the many attested earlier documents.

Given that there are numerous Qur'anic injunctions demanding literacy of the Muslims and to obey the sayings of the Prophet and that there are numerous injunctions in the secondary sources repeating and expanding upon the demand of literacy upon the Muslims; given that the skills of reading and writing were reported to have been taught on a wide scale to the Muslims of all social backgrounds and standing; given that there are scores of early compilations attested to have existed; given all this, there should have been an explosion of literature in seventh century Arabia the like of which would have never had an equal upon the face of the earth. But the bang did not go off until the "Golden Period" some 120 years later.

It is not sufficient for Muslim scholars to state simply that the originals were copied into later books. In spite of this being true it does not explain what happened to these originals. Are we to assume that after copying them the compilers destroyed them?

If we compare the same period of history with medieval Europe it really helps to quantify this enigma. From Anglo-Saxon-Celtic Britain from the 6th to the 9th centuries C.E. there is an absolute wealth of extant literature in the form of Holy Bibles, religious treatise, supplications, accounts, edicts, letters, books of history etc. These include the famous Book of Durrow (7th cent.), the Lindisfarne Gospels (7th cent.), the Echternarch Gospels (early 8th cent.), the Book of Kells (early 7th cent.), the Durham Gospels (early 8th cent.), the Lichfield Gospels (second half 8th cent), the Northumberland Gospels (8th cent.) and the epic Beowulf (7th cent.). Now consider the infamous invasions of the barbarian Viking hoards. It must be remembered that the Vikings specifically targeted the Religious institutions of the day, sacking and looting the Churches and Monasteries. We find the 8th century Bishop Alcuin writing to King Offa in 796 C.E. "Look at the most holy places laid waste by the pagans, altars defiled ..., monasteries profaned ..., the earth polluted with the blood of kings and princes" (The Reign of Charlemagne, H.R. Loyn and J. Percival (1975)). Many thousands of Anglo-Saxon-Celtic men, women and children were savagely murdered, raped and kidnapped (to be sold as slaves to the Muslims of Spain (see Mohammed, Charlemagne and the Origins of Europe, Richard Hodges and David Whitehouse (1983) for extensive details of the Muslim-Viking trade alliances).

This carnage began towards the end of the 8th century and continued well into the 11th century and yet we still have extensive surviving literature. Therefore the absence of Arabic papyri for the same period, a period of Arab dominance and security, is most ominous.

When we examine the Bible we find that there are comparatively few extant manuscripts in the original Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic prior to the fourth century. The wealth of Latin manuscripts is staggering however, the Vatican's own library being several miles long. This discrepancy as we know is as a result of the policy of Constantine after the Nicene vote, in which he selected only four from over two hundred available Gospels through a "miraculous" process. These were translated into Latin and all the originals were destroyed and Constantine made it an offence, punishable by death, to possess an original Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic scripture (Jesus, Prophet of Islam, Muhammad 'Ata ur-Rahim (1991)). It is ironic that such a crucial event is still relatively unknown. This does lead one to wonder if a similar event could be responsible for all the missing seventh century Arabic papyri?

Finally another contributing factor to the absence of material may be that which is held in private possession and for which there is no public availability. The multi-million pound underground world of manuscript trading is briefly alluded to by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh in their detailed expose "The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception" (1991).

The effect of these missing traditions can be clearly seen since even in the time of the "Golden Period" the "Great Imams" differed in many areas of their jurisprudence because of the number of conflicting and/or missing traditions. No such conflicts could have been possible at the time of the Prophet and so must result from distortions in the intervening period.


You refer to a tradition in the Sunan of Abu Dawud which describes there being "hijra after hijra, but the best of men are to follow the hijra of Abraham". Well firstly such a non-specific text is possible to interpret it in many ways. More importantly the research scholars of traditions referred to in the apology of shortcomings have classified this particular tradition as "weak". This means that there is either a defect in the chain or inconsistency in the text. Naturally weak traditions are not usually accepted by jurists and so arguments based upon it are not valid.

Direction of Qibla

Without wishing to "move the goal posts" as it were, unfortunately to this day Muslim prayer facilities are still being constructed erroneously. Even with modern compasses the architects seem to have difficulty finding what should be a straightforward bearing. Jurists vary in the degree of inaccuracy allowed for a prayer to still be considered valid. Some allow errors of up to 45 degrees and others allow prayer whilst on board planes, trains, buses etc. where the Qibla may constantly be moving.

You quote Jacob of Edessa, who by 705 C.E. states 

"So from all this it is clear that it is not to the South that the Jews and the Maghraye here in the regions of Syria pray, but towards Jerusalem or the Ka'ba, the patriarchal places of their races". 

From this text, by completely ignoring its grammar and syntax you try to infer that "the Jews and Maghraye" were both praying "towards Jerusalem, which is also known as the Ka'ba". The correct syntax for this sentence is quite plainly "the Jews and Maghraye" were both praying "towards Jerusalem or the Ka'ba respectively". Respectively is grammatically inferred and is re?iterated by the closing remark that they are the "patriarchal places" plural, and not "place" singular, of their races. This letter is therefore non Muslim documentary evidence of the Ka'ba at Mecca being the Qibla used by Syrian Muslims in 705 C.E.

Also for some reason Dr. Hawtings, Van Berchem and most recently Nevo all seem to be walking around the Dome of the Rock with their eyes closed. Among the many perfectly clear Qur'anic inscriptions, both inside and outside the building, are the verses pertaining to the changing of the Qibla.

The Jews

At no time did the Prophet, peace be upon him, sever social or business ties with the Jews. It must be noted that the Prophet did expel various tribes of Jews from Medina in the early years of the Hijra. This of course was because of their siding with his enemies after reneging on the contract of peace which they had drawn up between them (the Qur'an referring to them as hypocrites). According to the Qur'an cordial relations must always be maintained with the people of the book (Jews, Christians and Sabaeans) "Unto us our works, unto you your works, there is no argument between us and you. Allah will bring us together and unto Him is the journeying" (42:15) and also "Tell those who believe to forgive those who hope not for the days of Allah" (45:14). It must be noted limited inter?marriage has always been practised. Also Jews and Christians were to some degree involved in the administration of Islamic Spain, where all three faiths lived in peace under Islamic rule for almost eight hundred years. The change in the direction of prayer served many functions but God tells us in His Qur'an that one of these reasons at the time was to separate the "lukewarm" Muslims from the true Muslims (2:143).

You quote an unknown Armenian chronicler who is dated at approximately 660 C.E. He was of the opinion that Muhammad was somehow trying to make a birthright claim for the Arabs to the Holy Land of Palestine. From this you deduce that "Muhammad's vision was not merely Arabia, but was oriented to Palestine". Naturally as the Seal of Prophethood, his vision was not territorial but as the Qur'an claims for the whole of Mankind and Jinn. Based on this understanding the non-Muslim sources do not contradict the Qur'an. Naturally the conquest of Jerusalem in 637 C.E. by the Khalif `Umar ibn al Khattaab would have put cordial relations with the Palestinians of the day under strain (as does modern Palestinian non-rule).


According to G.E. von Grunebaum (Classical Islam - A History 600 1258 (English ed. 1970)) 

"Mecca is mentioned by Ptolemy, and the name he gives it allows us to identify it as a South Arabian foundation created round a sanctuary".

As stated earlier you will also find the verses of the Qur'an describing the Qibla as being the sanctuary of Mecca upon the gateway of the Dome of the Rock which opens towards Mecca (Duncan). This pre-dates Crone and Cook's earliest reference by 30 years.

Without a doubt the oldest reference to the precincts of the sanctuary can be found in the Holy Bible in the Book of Psalms. We find in Psalms 84;5-6 the verses:

"Blessed are the men whose strength is in Thee, in whose hearts are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs". 

This beautifully matches God's reference to the valley of Bakka (by all accounts the ancient name of the valley in which the sanctuary is located). 

"The first Sanctuary appointed for Mankind was that at Bakka, a blessed place, a guidance to peoples" (3:96).

Here we actually have King David explicitly referring to the sanctuary of Abraham approximately 1200 years before Ptolemy as well as the sanctuary at Zion. The description of the valley being made a place of springs is most certainly a reference to the famous well of Zam Zam which God caused to miraculously appear for Hagar, the mother of Ishmael after being delivered there by Abraham. This famous Islamic tradition can also be found in the book of Genesis 21;17-20 

`And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, "What troubles you Hagar ? Fear not for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him fast with your hand for I will make him a great nation'. Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink. And God was with the lad and he grew up, he lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow".

This well had been lost until the grandfather of Muhammad, Abdul Muttaalib, was woken during his regular afternoon nap in the shade of the Ka`ba. He began to dig a hole inside the precincts of the sanctuary much to the consternation of the locals who demanded to know what he was doing profaning the sacred ground. He then explained that his actions were at the instigation of Angels whom had visited him on four consecutive days requesting him to dig for "Sweet Clarity", then "Beneficence", then the "Treasured Hoard", and finally "Zam Zam". After several hours digging the blessed water re-surfaced and has remained an open well ever since (Muhammad - His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, Martin Lings (1983)).

Incidentally, in terms of location the valley is to be found 40 days journey South of Canaan, surrounded by three hills and with three valley passes, one opening to the North, one opening to the South and the third opens towards the Red Sea some 50 miles away.

We also find the Prophet, peace be upon him, by way of pilgrimage, instructing Muslims to:

"Make journey for pilgrimage only to three; the Inviolable Mosque, the Mosque of the Prophet and the Mosque of Jerusalem" (Bukhari, Sahih and Nawawi, Taqreeb)

Meccan Trade

Patricia Crone's understanding of economics and trade is pitifully weak. She asks:

"what commodity was available in Arabia that could be sold at a profit large enough to support the growth of a city?".

I, therefore, simply counter with "what commodity do the British trade, that makes an Island as geographically insignificant as Iceland, rank among the G5 giving it the power to devalue, for instance, the Turkish Lira by 40% in four months and allows it to `pick the fruit of the so called Third World'". The answer is, that cancer of humanity, usury! The big earner for the ten clans of the family of Quraysh in pagan Mecca was their money-lending (at rates which would have embarrassed Shylock) and their highly profitable caravan financing.

"They sponsored trade caravans to Yemen, Syria and elsewhere once in the summer and once in the winter. Makkah is referred to by some writers as a merchants' republic. Its form of administration was oligarchical in character, and the affairs of the city were managed by a Council of Elders. Makkah was a business centre where capital enjoyed active circulation. The businessmen had a flair for hoarding and gathering wealth. Usury was the common trade practice and the rich made money at the cost of the poor. The Makkans had a blind faith in the unlimited productivity of capital and the virtue of credit. Brokers, agents and the bulk of the population lived on credit. Sleeping partnerships were common, and the capitalists enjoyed a greater part of the profits in the business without any active participation. Makkah had many financiers, whose first article of trade was money, and they advanced money on credit at profitable terms, to the leaders of the caravans and traders. They charged exorbitant rates of interest, dinar for dinar, dirham for dirham" (History of Islam, Professor Masud ul Hasan (3rd ed. 1994))

"The more things change, the more they stay the same" (famous French saying). The parallel of the economic situation of Mecca to today is amazing which just goes to show;

1.) that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and

2.) that even if you dropped all the worlds bankers in the middle of the desert they would still succeed in usurping the worlds ignorant poor and needy (Lord Stamp). But I digress.

Other aspects of the pagan Meccan trade included replica idols, prostitution and all the usual side-show attractions. The Umayyad's were the foremost clan of the Meccans and Abu Sufyan, their leader, was the wealthiest among them. Needless to say the real cause of Umayyad hostility to the teachings of Islam was not just the abolition of idolatry. What was completely intolerable was the fact that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was advocating a way of life which would bring the death knell to their business. Hence the fact that out of all the Umayya, only one, 'Uthmaan bin 'Affan, voluntarily embraced Islam before the fall of Mecca in the 8th year of Hijra. On this point we find shortly after the demise of the Prophet, during the khalifate of 'Umar ibn al Khattab, Mu'awiya the son of Abu Sufyan re-introducing usury. This was much to the distress of the chief of the tribe of Ansar, `Ubada bin as Samit Al Ansari, who informed him that the practice had been forbidden by the Prophet, but Mu'awiya considered it reasonable and continued unabated. (Ibn Maja, Sunan)

The Dome of the Rock

You suggest that the eight pillars of the building imply circumambulation. Van Bercham believed that such an imposing structure built so early suggests that it was the sanctuary and centre of Islam until the late 7th century. It is important to note that within the precincts of the Dome of the rock are the mosque built by the Khalif `Umar and the famous rectangular al Aqsa Mosque. According to Muslim tradition both of these pre-date the Dome of the Rock.

This brings us back to Anglo-Saxon Britain and the Bishop of Jarrow known as the Venerable Bede (died 735 C.E.). He compiled a pilgrims guide to Jerusalem and surrounding areas known as the De Locis Sanctis (between 702-9 C.E.). This itself was based upon the De Locis Sanctis written by Adamnan of Iona between 683-6 C.E. and was based upon the verbal account given him by a Frankish Bishop called Arculf who had performed the pilgrimage in 679. Arculf reported that whilst in Jerusalem he witnessed an argument between what he describes as a believing and a non-believing Jew (i.e. in Jesus ). He reports that the dispute, over an alleged funeral shroud of Jesus, peace be upon him, was settled by "the Saracen King Mavias", meaning of course Mu`awiya. He also goes on to describe the "Saracens' quadrangular mosque at Jerusalem and ... to another mosque at Damascus" (Early Medieval History, Professor J.M. Wallace-Hadrill (1975)).

This proves:

a.) that the al Aqsa mosque pre dates the Dome of the Rock and

b.) that it was the only `Saracen' facility worthy of note prior to the building of the Dome of the Rock which proves that in original form it was a place of prayer and veneration for the Muslims and not a sanctuary of circumnambulation.

As mentioned earlier amongst the many Qur'anic verses to be found both on the interior and exterior of the Dome of the Rock are 2:143-5 which state:

"Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses against mankind, and that the messenger may be a witness against you. And We appointed the Qiblah which you formerly observed only that We might know him who follows the messenger from him who turns on his heels. In truth it was a hard test safe for those whom Allah guided. But it was not Allah's purpose that your faith should be in vain, for Allah is full of pity, merciful towards mankind. We have seen the turning of your face to heaven. And now verily We shall make you turn to a Qiblah which is very dear to you. So turn your face to the Inviolable Place of Worship, and you, wheresoever you may be, turn your faces toward it. Lo! those who have received the Scripture know that this is the truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do. And even if you broughtest unto those who have received the Scripture all kinds of portents, they would not follow your Qiblah, nor can you be a follower of their Qiblah, nor are some of them the followers of the Qiblah of others. And if you should follow their desires after the knowledge which has come unto you, then surely you were of the wrongdoers".

For some reason, Berchem and Nevo seem to be either extremely scant in their research or extremely short-sighted because their claims that the Dome of the Rock contains no evidence for the miraculous "mi'raj" on the building is negated by the existence of the verse

"Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far Distant Place of Worship; the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him our tokens. Lo! He only He is the Hearer, the Seer". (17:1).

In fact this inscription is followed by a further 7 verses of the same chapter (Alistair Duncan, the Noble Sanctuary (1972)).

The power of the Qur'an is such that just the existence of the four verses on the building alone negates, nay obliterates, all of your arguments concerning the Prophet, Mecca, the ascension, the position of "the people of the book", the Qiblah, the dating of the Qur'an and the accuracy of Qur'anic transmission.

With regards the number of prayers prescibed in the Qur'an you appear to have missed other references including 50:39-40 and 52:48-9.

Muhammad, peace be upon him

You have discovered an account by an Armenian chronicler from around 660 C.E. which gives a brief account of the career of Muhammad, but does not make any reference to his Prophethood. Well, naturally, one would expect a non-believer not to recognise his Prophethood since it is the Islamic criterion of being a non-believer.

Dr. John Wansbrough claims that the earliest Islamic documents also say nothing of his Prophethood. Amongst the letters of the Prophet, which are still extant is one which is preserved in Istanbul and is replete with his own seal which read "Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah".

Needless to say this also negates the theories expounded by Nevo based on his interpretation of graffiti found upon rocks in the Arabian desert. It must be admitted that the references to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the declaration of faith really does not appear to be in widespread use before the Marwanid period (prior to 684 C.E.) and that its appearance seems almost overnight. Why is this so?

It is necessary for us to examine the policies applied by the early Ummayad rulers to realise that the absence of references to the Prophet are because of their own hostilities towards him and his family. For instance, it is well known that the then Khalif Mu'awiya instituted the extremely un-Islamic practice of institutionalised cursing against the cousin and son in law of the Prophet, 'Ali ibn Abu Talib. For a period of 60 years this was a regular practice in the obligatory congregational sermon of the Friday prayer. This was abolished by 'Umar bin Abdul Aziz who was Khalif between 717-20 C.E. He also repealed the Poll Tax which had been introduced upon new Muslims, which resulted in a very large numbers of people suddenly embracing Islam. When questioned about the resulting loss in revenue he replied that "the Holy Prophet had been sent as a mercy to mankind and not as a tax gatherer" (History of Islam). He restored the Garden of Fedak to the family of 'Ali from whom it had been stolen and he returned all the properties which had been confiscated by his predecessors to their rightful owners. He did not keep a "harem" and was well known for being conservative with the state treasury (bait-ul-mal). "The liberal and benevolent policies of 'Umar bin Abdul Aziz adversely affected the vested interests and they conspired to get rid of him. He was poisoned to death in 720 C.E." (History of Islam).

This then begs the question, how on earth did such policies come into being? In order to understand this, it is necessary to examine the mentality and practices of pre-Islamic Arabia. 

"Each tribe was a world by itself. It had its own code of honour, its own concepts of law and order. All activities were conceived within the framework of the tribe. Loyalty to the tribe, courage to fight with others, to vindicate the honour of the tribe, the glorification of one's own tribe... were rated as the main virtues. Tribal loyalties led to inter-tribal rivalries and hostilities. Disputes among tribes arose over cattle, pastures, springs of water, horse racing and other trivial matters. Once the dispute began and some persons from either side became the victims of such disputes, a chain reaction was set up and vendetta became one of the strongest religio-social obligations. During the 5th century C.E. one of the well known bedouin wars was the "Harb al Basus". The dispute arose over the wounding of a she-camel belonging to an old woman of Banu Bakr, named Basus, by a Taghlib chief. The war lasted for 30 years with reciprocal raiding, killing and plundering. The "Harb al Dalis and al Ghabra" was another war which broke out... about unfair conduct... in a race. The war lasted for several decades" (History of Islam)

The Pre-Islamic Arabs were steeped in tribalism and its practices. The earlier Umayyad khalifs saw themselves avenging their tribe against the injustices brought against them by what they perceived as the "Hashimites" or the tribe of the Prophet, peace be upon him. The Umayya never managed to divorce themselves of these practices. Remember that before the fall of Mecca only one member of the tribe, 'Uthman bin 'Affan, had voluntarily embraced the new way of life. Mu`awiya ibn Abu Sufyan refused to acknowledge the khalifate of 'Ali ibn Abu Talib. He fought against him for years, resulting in a civil war that left many tens of thousands of the Prophet's companions dead. After opposing 'Ali ibn Abu Talib we find Mu'awiya opposing his successor Hasan bin 'Ali who after 6 months abdicated his khalifate under special terms. Mu'awiya, however, had no intention of keeping to this agreement, and after establishing himself in the seat of power had Hasan poisoned to death.

"The person whom Mu'awiya selected on this occasion for the perpetration of his purpose was no other than the wife of the devoted Hasan, Jaidah, the daughter of Aishauth, the son of Keyss, whom he prevailed to undertake the destruction of her husband by the promise of a sum of money and of being united in marriage to his favourite Yezzeid... Her only compensation for the foul parricide, by which this wretched woman consented to consign her name to eternal infamy, was a sum of about 50,000 dirhams (equal to about £1,146), which Mu'awiya remitted for her use.” (The Miracle Play of Hasan and Hussain, Colonel Sir Lewis Pelly (1879)).  

This is well known Mu`awiya then caused the khalifate to become an hereditary Umayyad monarchy. Mu'awiya's feeling about the Prophet and Islam are summed up in the following tradition from Shu'ba al-Thaqafi. 

"I visited Mu'awiya with my father. My father would visit him and narrate from him. Thereafter, he would come to me and mention Mu'awiya and his mentality and would often be surprised at what he saw. He came to me one evening. However he did not have dinner and appeared aggrieved. I waited for a while thinking that something had happened between us or what we did. I then said to him `What is the matter, I see you are distressed since the evening?' He said `O my son, I have come from the most evil of people'. I said to him `How can that be?'. He said `I said to Mu'awiya when I was alone with him "O commander of the Faithful, you have attained your goal, if only you were to demonstrate justice and spread virtue. You have become old of age. If only you were to look after your brothers the Banu Hashim and were to re-establish ties with them. By God, they do not have anything today which you should be scared of. In that there will be something for which you will be remembered and will receive reward." He said to me "Far be from it, far be from it. What remembrance do I wish to leave behind me? The brother of Taym (Abu Bakr) ruled and spread justice and did what he did. As soon as he died so did his remembrance... Then the brother of 'Adi ('Umar) ruled... As soon as he died so did his remembrance... Then our brother 'Uthmaan ruled... By God, and as soon as he died, they forgot his remembrance... The brothers of Hashim shout every day five times `I bear witness that Muhammad is the Prophet of God'. What action and what remembrance will remain with this, O motherless one, by God, except to die and be buried"." .(al-Mas`udi, Muruj al Dhahab and Sharh Nahj al Balagha, Ibn Abi`l Hadid) 

G.H.A. Juynboll also raises the impact that these early Umayyads have had on traditions. When referring to the fadaa`il genre of narrations, that is to say the Hadith which pertain to the merits and character of any individual, he quotes:

"Mu`awiya wrote one and the same letter to his tax collectors after the year of the Jamaa`a in which he said `Let the conquered people refrain from mentioning any merit of Abu Turaab ('Ali ibn Abu Talib) or his kinsmen... Make a search for those you can find who were partisans of 'Uthman and seek those who supported his rule and those who uphold his merits and qualities. Seek their company, gain access to them and honour them. Write down for me everything which everyone of them relates...' In exchange Mu`awiya sent them presents" (Hadith Literature: Its Origin, Development and Special Features, Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqi (rev. ed. 1993))

There is a catalogue of such distortions of practice and verbal traditions which were introduced by this dynasty and their impact has yet to be fully assessed. Needless to say this is undoubtedly the cause of many modern day conflicts within the traditions, a major cause for the absence of papyri and the reason for the `playing down' of the Prophet, peace be upon him, in this critical period of history.

The Journey

An account of travelling from A to C via B does not necessarily implicate the vectorial position, i.e. does not necessarily have geographical significance. A journey from London to New York via Frankfurt does not mean that the cities have to be in a linear path.

The Maghre and the Muslims

Athanasius in 684 C.E. writes of the Muslims using the nomenclature Maghraye. Jacob of Edessa addresses the Muslims of Syria as Maghraye (before 705 C.E.). Who were these people? 

"The Arab assault on North Africa began in 639, only seven years after the death of the Prophet. The conquest was made possible by desert tribesmen from Syria and Arabia who, under 'Amr ibn al-As, challenged the unpopular Byzantine administration of Egypt with an army of about 12,000 men. In 641 'Amr forced the Byzantine evacuation of the fertile Nile delta. Nubia was invaded in 641-2... Richard Goodchild, after more than twenty years research in Libya, concluded that the Arabs were able to break through the `extraordinarily impressive' Byzantine defences in the Cyrenaican Jebal because they were welcomed by the Copts... The Arabs rushed through the once great province, and at Apollonia they began the systematic destruction of the palace and associated buildings of the imperial administration" (Mohammed, Charlemagne and the Origins of Europe)

According to the Websters New Geographical Dictionary "Maghreb - The Arabic name for NW Africa and during the Moorish occupation, Spain". In a nutshell the Maghrebites were Muslims from the Maghreb.

I have quoted extensively about the Islamic conquest of this area because it also gives us a further clue as to the whereabouts of the contents of the Void Which Should Be Full. It would appear that the over zealous Muslims on entering an area had abandoned the Prophetic example and etiquettes of battle and had resorted to destruction and plundering. As we see the very building which should have been charting the Islamic expansion from a non-Muslim perspective, striking peace accords and business agreements was "systematically destroyed".

The Qur'an

Finally the teachings of the Qur'an in Arabic can only have come from a divine source since at that time no Biblical teachings were extent. 

"..though the question of the existence of a pre-Islamic translation of the Bible into Arabic is certainly to be answered in the negative; nor is the claim tenable that an Arabic Bible arose in the region of Hira about 620... a generally used definitive translation of the whole Bible was not available even in the tenth century. The Koran remains the first holy book in Arabic and at the same time - although the ordinances of customary law were highly developed - the first attempt at a codification of law.” (Classical Islam)

In 649 C.E. Pope Martin held a Lateran Synod on monotheism, canons of which were brought to Wearmouth later for transcription, which had been held purely for the defence of the Trinitarian doctrine which was being challenged by the teachings of Islam. (Early Medieval History)

To believe that Islam "developed" over a 200 year period when there were no available Arabic texts of the Bible even for the eighth and ninth century compilers to copy from is not feasible. How could the Umayyads and the Abbasids allow the introduction of a set of teachings to develop which included a cessation of usury when it was their `bread and butter'? How could such a powerful effect on the world and humanity, second only in numbers to the effect of the Messiah Jesus, be anything but the hand of Almighty God operating through one of his vicegerents on earth?

Author: Muhammad Rafiq
Date Published: Winter 1995

Further Links  

Islamic Awareness : A Study of Quranic manuscripts.

Response To Hyde Park Christian Fellowship By David Pidcock

Notice: We do not necessarily endorse the information provided by any external site. These links are provided as a service for the community.

Back To Top

 The Party | The People The Policies |Common Sense
E-Commerce  | Qur'an Translation  | Advanced Search | Contact Info
© Islamic Party 2000, Islamic Party of Britain, PO Box 844, Oldbrook, Milton Keynes, MK6 2YT