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The Challenge of Establishing the Historicity of the Islamic Creed

Muslim traditionists credit Uthman bin Affan, the third caliph (644 CE – 656 CE), with the collection of the Quran. However, no copy of the Quran or a fragment from the Uthman days exists. The oldest Quranic manuscript is thought to go back to about a century after Uthman, or some 125 years after the death of the Prophet. Given the intense Intra-Muslim political and religious strife during that period, the caliphs may have altered the Quranic text in order to strengthen their hold on power. Similarly, given that the Prophet’s Sunna and biography were written about two centuries after the death of the Prophet, the caliphs may have invented, eliminated, and altered prophetic traditions and stories in order to fortify their rule. This article examines the events that render the traditionists' accounts implausible.


The Historicity of the Sunna

Following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 CE, the caliphs were faced with different cultures and ways of life in the conquered lands of Roman Syria, Iraq, and Egypt and of Persia from what Quranic law prescribed for the desert Arabians. Of today’s 6,236 Quranic verses, less than 10% deal with legislative matters, primarily on marriage, divorce, inheritance, and penal matters. The rest deal with theology, rituals, Biblical tales, God’s supremacy, obedience, threats etc.

To expand the coverage of Islamic law the ulama succeeded by the end of the ninth century in enshrining the Sunna traditions of the Prophet, His sayings (Hadith) and actions (Sira), as a source of law equal to God’s word in the Quran, though the Quran never made the Sunna a source of law. Indeed, the Quran is supposed to contain all that mankind needs to know (6:38, 16:89). Moreover, the Prophet reportedly said: “Do not write from me anything except the Quran and whoever has written anything from me other than the Quran should erase it”[i].

Notwithstanding the reported integrity of the Hadith’s collectors and the care they took to check the credibility of the thousands of attributers and examine the authenticity of the hundreds of thousands of traditions (isnad) that grew over two centuries it remains impossible to be certain that every word and detail in the 34,400 Hadiths of the six Sunni canonical collections[ii] is genuine. What is known, however, is that during the intervening ten generations four major intra-Muslim civil wars and numerous violent rebellions (see below) rocked the nascent nation, in addition to seven state capital cities (Medina, Kufa, Damascus, Hashimiyya, Baghdad, Samarra, Baghdad, plus Gordova; the capital of the Umayyad caliphate in Spain). These events spilled rivers of Muslim blood and divided Muslims into conflicting factions and sects. Under such circumstances, attributors and the collectors had financial, political, career, and personal interest in what they attributed to the Prophet as saying or doing. Or, they might have simply forgotten what was said.
Further, the six Sunni canonical collectors lived under Abbasid rule (750 CE – 1258 CE). The Abbasid Hadith transmitters upon whom the six collectors relied were in turn reliant on chains of transmitters who had lived for almost a hundred years under the rule of the Umayyads (661 CE – 750 CE), the Abbasids great enemy.

Under such conditions, the caliphs may have invented, eliminated, and altered traditions in order to justify and fortify their hold on power.   

In fact, Shi’ite Muslims reject the six Sunni Hadith collections. They have their own[iii].  Shi’ite collections emphasize the Prophet’s naming of Ali as his first successor, a claim disputed by the Sunnis. Twelver Shi’ites, the majority of Shi’ites today, believe in the traditions of the twelve Imams, not only those of the Prophet, as Sunnis do. Further, a Shi’ite tradition must be transmitted through one of the Imams. Shi’ites denounce the first three caliphs: Abu Bakr (632 CE – 634 CE), Omar (634 CE – 644 CE), and Uthman (644 CE – 656 CE) as usurpers of the caliphate from Ali (656 CE – 661 CE). They also disqualify transmissions (isnads) by these caliphs and the Companions of the Prophet who supported them.

The historicity of the Quran

The historicity of the Quran is far from clear despite the neat constructions Muslim traditionists built to explain why the revelations were made and, how, where, and when the Quran was collected in addition to the myriad interpretations they advanced in order to reconcile contradictory verses and clarify hundreds of incomprehensible ones.

That the third caliph, Uthman (644 CE – 656 CE), arranged for the Quran to be collected is not supported by evidence.No copy of Uthman’s Quran exists today; thus, making it impossible to connect today’s Quran to the Uthman days or to demonstrate that Uthman’s Quran contained the identical 6,236 verses in the 114 chapters of today’s Quran.

The oldest Quranic manuscripts and fragments extant are thought to belong to between the later part of the first century hijri (early part of the eighth century CE) and the early part of the second century hijri (middle to the latter part of the eighth century CE)[iv], or some 125 years after the death of the Prophet in 632 CE. The following manuscripts are notable:

The Samarqand Manuscript at the Tashkent’s State Library (Uzbekhistan)[v]. This manuscript is written in Kufic script without diacritical marks and ornamentation. It covers approximately one third of the Quran. Of the 353 folios, only 15 are complete, the rest are more or less damaged and mended with paper.

The Al-Hussein Mosque manuscript in Cairo, Egypt[vi]. Kufic script on parchment in dark-brown ink with sparse diacritical marks and no ornamentation, it covers more than 99% of the text of the Quran. Certain folios are restored by a later hand.

The Egyptian National Library manuscript in Cairo, Egypt.[vii] Reminiscent of the Kufic script exhibited during the Umayyad period, this manuscript is written on parchment with no vocalization and a very limited amount of diacritical marks. There are line fillers to complete certain lines.

The Topkapi Museum Manuscript in Istanbul, Turkey[viii]. Kufic script. The letters contain vowel marks in the form of red dots. It could be that some of the folios were rewritten and added later due to loss or damage. It covers more than 99% of the text of the Quran.

The Turkish and Islamic Art Museum manuscript in Istanbul, Turkey[ix]. Kufic script. Total number of folios: 439. 17 folios are missing. The manuscript is written on gazelle skin. The folios restored in 1437 CE are made of paper.

The British Museum manuscript in London[x]. Ma’il script, used around the Hijaz. The script varies in thickness and size. Certain parts exhibit a different hand as compared with the script in rest of the codex. It is extensively dotted perhaps by a later hand. It covers 53% of the total text of the Quran.

The Institute of Oriental Studies manuscript in St. Petersburg, Russia[xi]. Late Hijāzī script, thought to belong to the second century hijri. It was written by two copyists. Diacritical marks to distinguish the consonants are provided.
Except for the manuscripts at the British Museum and in St. Petersburg the others are written in the Kufic script. The Kufic script evolved and used in the southern Iraqi city of Kufah in the eighth century (later part of the first century hijri), not in Mecca and Medina a century earlier[xii]. 

The Kufic script did not use dots. Without dots, 18 of the 28 letters in today’s Arabic alphabet, which today’s Quran uses, become indistinguishable from one another. Without dotting, the Arabic letter b becomes indistinguishable from t, th, and n; the letter j from ha, and kh; the letter d from dh; the letter r from z; the letter s from sh; the letter f, from k; etc…

Change the position of the dot in an Arabic word and the meaning of the word changes. For example, add three dots to the word sarab (mirage) and the word becomes sharab (a drink). Add a dot to the first letter in the word Arab and the word becomes gharb (west). Remove the dot from the first letter in the Arabic word jabal (mountain) and the word becomes habl (rope), add a second dot to the second letter in habl and the word becomes hiyal (tricks), add a second dot to the second letter in jabal and the word becomes jeel (generation), add a dot on top of the first letter in hiyal and the word becomes khayl (horses).

In 1972, thousands of fragments of the Quran were discovered during the restoration of the Great Mosque of Sana'a (Yemen). The fragments represent approximately 22% of today’s Quran[xiii]. Analysis by the two German scholars entrusted since 1981 with the Yemeni Quran project suggests that “some of the parchment pages seemed to date back to the seventh and eighth centuries, or Islam's first two centuries”[xiv]. Also, that some of the fragments are at variance with today’s standard text and that new script had been written over earlier washed-off versions. These observations imply that the Quran had been an “evolving text”, not the perfect, timeless, and unchanging word of God as revealed to the Prophet in the seventh century CE.

The likelihood is high that the process of evolving the dot-less Kufic script into the dotted cursive naskhi script of today’s Quran could have caused words to be changed.

That today’s Quran is identical to Uthman’s Quran in every word, dot, comma, and diacritical mark and that every one of the 6,236 verses in the 114 chapters represent the immutable word of God as revealed to the Prophet require a great deal of faith to accept. Indeed, Shi’ite Muslims charge that, “the Quran was mutilated by the suppression of much which referred to Ali and the Prophet’s family”, a charge “founded on dogmatic assumptions which hardly appeal to modern criticism[xv].

During the first 150 years following the death of the Prophet four devastating intra-Muslim civil wars and numerous smaller rebellions over authority rocked the nascent Muslim polity. The first war was from 656 CE to 661 CE between Ali (the fourth Caliph) and Muawiyah [the fifth Caliph and founder of the Umayyad dynasty in Damascus (661 CE to 750 CE)]. As a prelude, a battle led by Aisha, the Prophet's widow, and Ali's loyalists took place in 656 CE in Basra, Iraq. The second war (680 CE – 692 CE) was during the caliphate of Muawiyah’s four successors against another claimant of the caliphate, Abdullah Bin Al-Zubair, who in 683 CE was recognized as a rival caliph to the Umayyads in parts of Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. This war saw Mecca attacked by the Umayyads’ Syrian army in 682 CE and the holy Kaaba burned and its sacred Black Stone broken. The second civil war ended with the killing of Ibn Al-Zubair at Mecca in 692 CE. The third war culminated in 750 CE when the Abbasids decimated the Umayyads in Damascus and established their empire in Baghdad (750 CE – 1258 CE). The fourth war (811 CE – 813 CE) was between Al-Amin and Al-Mamoun. It ended with the former getting killed and the later, becoming the caliph (813 CE - 833 CE).

Additionally, there was that cataclysmic event in 680 CE, which shook the foundations of Islam and caused a permanent split between Shiites and Sunnis to this day; namely, the rebellion and the resulting killing of Imam Hussain Bin Ali at Karbala, Iraq.

The Quran, an evolving text

Since the Quranic manuscripts extant belong to the period of Islam’s intense political and religious strife the caliphs may have altered the Quranic text in order to enhance their hold on power.

The Mu’tazilite School of rational theology asserted that the Quran was created. Mu’tazilisim, developed during the reign of the Umayyads, survived for about two and a half centuries. It placed reason above revelation and proclaimed man’s freewill. During Al-Mamoun caliphate (813 CE – 833 CE) Mu’tazilisim became the official doctrine of the Abbasid state.

The notion that the Quran is an evolving literary text finds support among serious scholars. John Wansbrough, professor of Semitic Studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies concluded that the Quran “was written down in the third-century Hijri”,[xvi] and that the Quranic text “evolved only gradually in the seventh and eighth centuries, during a long period of oral transmission when Jewish and Christian sects were arguing volubly with one another well to the north of Mecca and Medina, in what are now parts of Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Iraq”[xvii]. As to “the reason that no Islamic source material from the first century or so of Islam has survived, Wansbrough reasoned that it never existed[xviii].
Indeed, in 6:99, 6:141, 16:11, 24:35, 80:29, and 95:1, for example, the Quran addresses an audience as if it were familiar with abundance of water, grain, palm trees, dates, olive trees, olives, vine, grapes, figs, pomegranate, etc. Such an audience could not have possibly been living in arid Mecca and its environs. In fact, Mecca is not mentioned in the Quran at all, not once. The Quran refers once only, in 3.96, to a place called Bakka, which Muslim traditionists equated it to Mecca. And, the Quran does not tell us where Bakka is located. Is it in the Hijaz, in Najd, or outside Arabia altogether? Might Bakka have been located in today's Levant region, where olives, figs, grapes, and pomegranates grow aplenty?
Nasr Abu Zaid, professor of Arabic literature at Cairo University argued that the Quran is “a text, a literary text, and the only way to understand, explain, and analyze it is through a literaryapproach[xix].
Taha Hussain, the doyen of Arabic Literature concluded in his analysis of pre-Islamic Arabian poetry in 1926 that the Quran should not be used as a source of history[xx]. Taha Hussein argued that the migration tale in the Quran of Abraham and his son Ismail to Mecca and their construction of the Kaaba there was “some kind of a trick” to use an ancient legend to “connect Jews with Arabs on one hand and Islam with Judaism, and the Quran with the Torah, on the other hand” so that “Quraish may ward off Roman, Persian, and Ethiopian political and religious interference in Arabian lands[xxi].

Further, Taha Hussein concluded that, “the great majority of the poetry reputed to be pre-Islamic had been forged by Muslims of a later date and has nothing to do with Jahiliyya poetry. Such poetry, professor Hussein continues, is Islamic, representing the life of the Muslims, their predilections and inclinations more than the life of the Jahilis[xxii].

Pre-Islamic Arabian culture and way of life
The word jahiliyya means the age of ignorance. It appears in the Quran in 3:154, 5:50, 33:33, and 48:26. In order to contrast a dark pre-Islamic age with the enlightenment Islam brought, the ulama promoted a terrible image of pre-Islamic beliefs, culture, values, and way of life. They indoctrinated generations into believing that the pre-Islamic epoch was an age of polytheism, licentiousness, adultery, polyandry, prostitution, girl-infanticide, gambling, drunkenness, plundering, among other vulgarities.
A comparison, however, between Islam and jahili culture and way of life suggests that Islam embraced jahili culture and way of life, including the pilgrimage to Mecca, belief in djinn and angels, treatment of women, wine drinking, slavery, and blind obedience to Muslim authority. Even Islam’s focus on monotheism was not new.

Monotheism was well known to the Jewish tribes of Medina, Fadak, and Khaybar and to Najran’s Christians and Byzantine Syria. Christianity was also known in the Prophet’s own household in Mecca. According to Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, a cousin of the Prophet’s first wife Khadija, Waraqa Bin Nofal, was a Christian to whom Khadija took Muhammad to seek advice on her husband’s future divine mission[xxiii].

Although the pre-Islamic Arabs worshipped many deities, they recognized the awesome powers of a supreme God, “Allah”[xxiv].

In naming their children, the pre-Islamic Arabs often preceded the name of a preferred deity by the word Abd (slave, servant) as a sign of respect, fear, or subservience. The name of the Prophet’s father was Abd Allah.  

“When Khalid Bin Sinan’s daughter heard the Prophet reciting the Al-Ikhlas Sura (Chapter 112), she said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, this is what my father used to say.’ The Prophet did not contradict her and praised her father”[xxv].

In making the first article of the Islamic faith la ilaha illa Allah [there is no God (deity) but God], in designating Allah as the only omnipotent God, Islam did not invent a new deity. “Muhammad contended himself with ridding the heathen Allah of His ‘companions’ subjecting Him to a kind of dogmatic purification”[xxvi].

On rituals, “it is incontrovertible” that Islam took from the pagan Arabs “an entire pre-Islamic ritual, previously steeped in paganism.”[xxvii] This ritual is the veneration of and the pilgrimage to the Kaaba at Mecca. For the pre-Islamic Arabs, “the Kaaba was the centre of worship where the Jahilis prayed and went round it seven times. The Jahilis went on pilgrimage to the Kaaba once a year in Dhul-Hijja for a week, and they performed the Waqfa on Mount Arafat”[xxviii]. The pre-Islamic pilgrims halted at Muzdalifa, stayed at Mina, made seven runs between Safa and the Marwah Hills, sacrificed animals, and shaved their heads. They performed the lesser pilgrimage (umrah) outside the month of Dhul-Hijja. Islam adopted the entire ritual.

Islam has also in common with the pre-Islamic Arabs their belief in djinn. The pre-Islamic Arabs were “fully convinced,” in the existence of shadowy, crafty, mischievous, even destructive beings called djinn.[xxix] Surat al-djinn (Chapter 72) is dedicated to these spirits. Other parts of the Quran recognize djnn’s existence: “They link Him with jinn by lineage” (37:158); that God created djinn from fire (55:15), and that djinn’s end, like men’s, is to serve and worship God (51:56). The Quran reveals also that God sent messengers to djinn and men (6:130), and teaches that djinn may believe in God and His Holy Book: (72:1). Also, djinn may be unbelievers (6:130). Djinn promised that they will not “associate in worship any gods with our Lord” (72:2).

The Quran speaks in 41:14 as if the conception of angels had been known and accepted by pagans: “They said, if our Lord had so pleased, He would certainly have sent down angels.”

On the treatment of women, the ulama created a barbaric image of the personal and family lives of the pre-Islamic Arabs, depicting them as practitioners of, among others, unlimited polygamy and of treating women like chattel. A closer look, however, shows that Islam allows unlimited polygamy and treats women like chattel all the same. In allowing the Muslim male to marry four wives simultaneously and, divorce any one of them at will without giving cause, in giving the woman one-half the weight of the man in an Islamic court of law in testimony and as a witness and in inheritance, in instituting for Shi'ites the mut’a marriage (the man "marries" the woman for a specific period of time and pays for her companionship), and for Sunnis the misyar marriage (the man visits his misyar "wife" at her parents home without financial obligation), Islam has allowed unlimited polygamy, sanctioned adultery and reduced the woman to a piece of property.

By contrast, Khadija, the Prophet’s first wife, we are told, was the best born in Quraish, a successful businesswoman of vast means. Khadija employed young Muhammad and proposed marriage to him. He was 25 years old. She was 40 years old and twice a widow. For their 25-year marriage, until Khadija died in 620, the Prophet remained monogamous to her. In comparison with Khadija, Aisha, whom the Prophet married after Khadija’s death, was a child of nine years old. The Prophet was in his early fifties. She was one of nine simultaneous wives of the Prophet when he died (for the extra five wives beyond the allowed four God granted the Prophet in 33:50 a special dispensation). If Khadija were the prototype of the pre-Islamic woman, then pre-Islamic women had had superior rights to what Islam grants them today.

The pre-Islamic Arabs spoke of wine drinking and Islam promised the pious and the devout “rivers of wine” in paradise (47:15) but prohibited wine drinking on the Earth (2:219).

Islam institutionalized pre-Islamic slavery. However, the Quran instructed that slaves should be treated humanely (2:177) and their manumission (24:33) was made into a pious act.

Muslims share with the pre-Islamic Arabs the lunar calendar[xxx].

Taha Hussein again: “No, the jahilis were neither ignorant nor stupid, they were not rough and did not live primitively; rather, they were people of knowledge and intelligence, of sensitivity, delicate emotions, refinement, and affluent living conditions”[xxxi].

Monotheism and blind obedience

Islam shares in common with desert living a culture of blind obedience to hierarchical authority. In the scorching sun and with the meager resources of desert living, disobedience and strife can cause the loss of scarce water and staples, and can even lead to death. The Prophet, being a product of desert living, incorporated blind obedience to authority in the Islamic Creed.

God orders in 4:59: “Obey God and obey God’s messenger and obey those of authority among you.” Similar wording occurs twenty times in the Quran. The effect of 4:59 transcends all layers of hierarchical authority—the male over the female, the father over the children and wife (or wives), the teacher over the student, the employer over the employee, the ruler over the ruled, and so forth.

Traditions attributed to the Prophet amplify 4:59. Answering how a Muslim should react to a ruler who does not follow the true guidance, the Prophet is reported to have said, according to Sahih Muslim: “He who obeys me obeys God; he who disobeys me, disobeys God. He who obeys the ruler, obeys me; he who disobeys the ruler, disobeys me”[xxxii]. Such wording or its equivalent occurs two dozen times in Sahih Muslim. As to emphasize the point, Abi Dawood and Ibn Maja quoted the Prophet as imploring Muslims to hear and obey their ruler, even if he were an Ethiopian slave[xxxiii]. Al-Bukhari quotes similar sayings[xxxiv].

Monotheism helped the development of obedience culture along. Monotheism transferred in one swoop all the powers that had been the preserve of the many gods of the pre-Islamic polytheist Arabs into the hands of the one and only omnipotent god, Allah. As the Messenger of Allah, the Prophet’s authority became rooted in Allah’s unlimited and absolute powers.

The historicity of the Prophet’s biography

Stories about the Prophet’s life reported by the early biographers and followed by later historians present a challenge as well[xxxv]. Stories in Muhammad Bin Ishaq’s (704 CE – 761 CE) Sirat Rasul Allah (the life of the Messenger of God), the earliest and the most widely quoted biography of the Prophet, raises serious questions[xxxvi]. Ibn Ishaq’s original work was lost. There is no surviving copy of his original manuscript. Ibn Ishaq’s work is known in the recension of Abu Muhammad Abd Al-Malik Bin Hisham (d. 813 CE).

Muhammad Bin Ishaq’s scholarly integrity has come under attack by important contemporaries and later scholars. The early traditionist and jurist, Malik, impugned the veracity of Muhammad Bin Ishaq’s sources in general, rejected his approach, and called him unequivocally “a liar” and “an impostor”[xxxvii]. Ibn Ishaq’s uncritical inclusion in his Sirat of spurious or forged poetry, used to construct how life was, as told by the poet, has drawn criticism. Among those who criticized the Sirat was Ibn Sallam Al-Jumahi (756 CE – 845 CE), an early critic of poetry. Al-Jumahi described Ibn Ishaq as a “kind of archivist or undiscerning compiler of folklore”[xxxviii]. Ibn Al-Nadim (d. 1010 CE) writes on Ibn Ishaq, “It is said that poems used to be forged and brought to him with a request to include them in his book on the Sirat. He did so, and thus included in his book such poetry as made him a scandal among rhapsodists”[xxxix]. Yacout (d. 1229 CE), in his biography of Ibn Ishaq, writes, “Poems were forged for Muhammad Bin Ishaq which he included in the books on Maghazi, so that he became a scandal among narrators and rhapsodists[xl].

In Ibn Ishaq’s defense, however, it must be said that he frequently preceded his stories by writing; “as I was told,” or “X has alleged,” or “A, B, and C have alleged,” or “God knows what really happened,” or “only God knows whether a particular statement is true or false.” On the other hand, his inclusions have in many ways shaped how the Muslim generations grew to see their religion and themselves.

A Dangerous Path

The challenge of establishing the historicity of the Islamic creed is formidable. What makes the task even more daunting is the danger facing whoever questions Islamic dogma in Muslim countries; the Arab world in particular. Here are some examples:

In 1925, Ali Abd Al-Razik, an Al-Azhar scholar, contended in a short book entitled Al-Islam Wa-Usul Al-Hukm (Islam and the Principles of Political Authority) that Islam is not concerned with the system of government, which is a secular affair, and that the caliphate is not an intrinsic religious element in Islam. The book created a sensation and was immediately banned and vigorously condemned byAl-Azhar.

In 1926, three complaints were filed with Egypt’s chief prosecutor against Taha Hussein. He was condemned as a “heretic” by Al-Azhar’s ulama and other Islamic scholars, and by Egyptian parliamentarians for his book On Jahiliyya Poetry (see above). The chief prosecutor found on March 30, 1927 that what Taha Hussein wrote was the opinion of an academic researcher without a deliberate criminal intent to denigrate Islam. However, Taha Hussein was demoted in March 1932 from Dean of the Faculty of Letters at the Egyptian University to the post of Supervisor of Elementary Education.

In 1993, invoking Egypt’s hisba law, Islamist lawyers asked the courts to rule that Nasr Abu Zeid (see above) was an apostate. The petitioners argued that, as an apostate, Abu Zeid should not be allowed to remain married to a Muslim woman in a Muslim country. The petitioners demanded that Professor Abu Zeid be forced to divorce his wife. An appellate court in June 1995 gave the plaintiffs standing to pursue their suit, after a lower court threw out the suit. In August 1995, the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest court of appeal, supported the ruling against Abu Zeid. Professor Abu Zeid and his wife fled Egypt.

In May 2003, a Jordanian court sentenced a poet, Mousa Hawamdah, to three months in jail after convicting him of “insulting religious feeling” in two poems in 1999[xli].
In March 2004, a Saudi court sentenced a teacher accused of criticizing Islam to three years in jail, 300 lashes, and banned him from teaching and writing in newspapers[xlii]. In November 2005, a Saudi court sentenced a teacher, Mohammed Al-Harbi, to 750 lashes and forty months in prison for promoting “dubious ideologies”[xliii].  Also in Saudi Arabia, on March 14, 2008, Abdul-Rahman Al-Barrak, a leading Saudi cleric, issued a fatwa that two Saudi writers should be tried for apostasy for their “heretical articles” and put to death if they do not repent. Barrak was responding to recent articles in Al-Riyadh newspaper that questioned the Sunni view that Christians and Jews should be considered unbelievers[xliv]. 
In Sudan, an article considered offensive to the Prophet in the Al-Wifaq newspaper in 2005 led a Sudanese court to close the publication for three months. On August 6, 2006, Al-Wifaq’s editor was decapitated by Islamists [xlv].

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[i] Azami, Muhammad Mustafa, Studies in Hadith Methodology and Literature (Indianapolis, IN: American Trust Publications, 1977), p. 28. 

[ii] Al-Bukhari (d. 870 CE) quoted 7,400 traditions, Muslim (d. 875 CE); 7,600, Ibn Maja (d. 886 CE); 4,300, Abi Dawood (d. 888 CE); 5,300, Al-Tirmithi (d. 892 CE); 4,000, and Al-Nasai (d. 915 CE); 5,800.

[iii] Twelver Shi’ites assembled four of their own canonical Hadith collections assembled by three authors: Al-Kulayni (d. 939 CE), Bin Babouya (d. 991 CE), and Al-Tusi (d. 1067 CE), who wrote two collections. Additionally, three other authors during the 1600s produced highly regarded Shi’ite collections: Bin Murtada (d. 1680 CE), Bin Hasan (d. 1692 CE), and Majlisi (d. 1699 CE).

[iv] The hijri year starts with the Prophet’s migration from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. The year 2012 corresponds to the hijri years 1433–1434.

[xii] Martin Lings and Yasin Hamid Safadi, The Qur’an, 1976, pp. 12-13, 17.

[xiv] Toby Lester,What Is the Koran? The Atlantic Monthly, January 1999:

[xv] Watt and Bell, Introduction to the Quran, Edinburgh University Press, 1997, p.  51.

[xvi] John Wansbrough,  Quranic Studies. Sources and Methods of Scriptural Interpretation. Forward, Translations, and Expanded Notes by Andrew Rippon, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2004, p. xiv.

[xvii] Tobey Lester,What is the Kuran?

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Taha Hussein, On Jahiliyya Poetry, with an introduction by Dr. A .M. Talima, Al-Nahr Publishing, Cairo, Egypt, p. 32.

[xxi] Ibid, p. 34.

[xxii] Ibid, p. 19.

[xxiii] The Six Books, Dar Al-Salam for Publishing and Distribution, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,  Sahih Al-Bukhari, tradition 3, p. 1 and Sahih Muslim, tradition 403, pp. 704-705.

[xxiv] In 29:61, if you asked “. . . Who created the heavens and the earth and set the sun and the moon to work, they will certainly reply, Allah.”

In 29:63, if you asked “. . . Who sends down rain from the sky and gives life to the earth after its death they will reply Allah.”

In 39:3: “Those who take for protectors other than Allah say: we only serve them in order that they may bring us nearer to Allah.”

[xxv] Abdullah, A. Y. Al-Udhari, 1991, Jahili Poetry Before Imru Al-Qais, Ph.D dissertation, School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, p. 73.

[xxvi] Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, s.v. Arabs (Ancient).

[xxvii] Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, s.v. Kaaba

[xxviii] Al-Udhhri, p. 77.

[xxix] Watt and Bell, Introduction to the Quran, Edinburgh University Press, 1977, p. 153.

[xxx] Philip Hitti, History of the Arabs, Tenth Edition, MacMillan Press Ltd., London, 1970, p. 94.

[xxxi] Taha Hussein, On Jahiliyya Literature, 16th Edition, Dar Al-Maarif, 1927, p. 74.

[xxxii] The Six Books, Sahih Muslim, traditions 4746 to 4763, pp. 1007-1008 and traditions 4782 to 4793, pp. 1009-1010.

[xxxiii] According to Abi Dawood, ibid., Sunan Abi Dawood, tradition 4607, p. 1561; and to Ibn Maja, ibid., Sunan Ibn Maja, tradition 42, p. 2479.

[xxxiv] Ibid., Sahih Al-Bukhari, traditions 7137 and 7142, p. 595.

[xxxv] Uri Rubin, The Eye of the Beholder. The Life of Muhammad as Viewed by the Early Muslims. A Textual Analysis, Princeton, New Jersey, The Darwin Press, Inc., 1995.

Also, see: Fred M. Donner, Narratives of Islamic Origin: The Beginnings of Islamic Historical Writing, Princeton, New Jersey, The Darwin Press, Inc., 1998.

[xxxvi] Anthony Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, Nineteenth Impression, Oxford University Press, 2006.

[xxxvii]  W. N. Arafat, “New Light on the Story of Banu Qurayza and the Jews of Medina,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1976):100-107.

[xxxviii] Rina Drory, “The Abbasid Construction of the Jahiliyya: Cultural Authority in the Making,” Studia Islamica, Department of Arabic Language and Literature, Tel Aviv University, (1966): 33-49. Also, see the introduction written by Abdulmonem Talima to On Jahiliyya Poetry, by Taha Hussein (1995), 4.

[xxxix] W. N. Arafat, “Early Critics of the Poetry of the Sira”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. XXI, part 3, (1956): 453-463.

[xl] Ibid.

[xli] Al-Hayat Newspaper (Lebanon), May 9, 2003.

[xlii] Arab News Newspaper  (Saudi Arabia), March 13, 2004.

[xliii] BBC,“Saudis Slated for Jailing Teacher,” November 17, 2005,


[xliv] Reuters, “Top Saudi Cleric Calls for Writers' Deaths,” March 15, 2008,


[xlv] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), “Kidnapped Sudanese Journalist Found Dead,” August 7, 2006.