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Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins [Hardcover]

Robert Spencer
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 23 2012

Are jihadists dying for a fiction? Everything you thought you knew about Islam is about to change.

Did Muhammad exist?

It is a question that few have thought—or dared—to ask. Virtually everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, takes for granted that the prophet of Islam lived and led in seventh-century Arabia.

But this widely accepted story begins to crumble on close examination, as Robert Spencer shows in his eye-opening new book.

In his blockbuster bestseller The Truth about Muhammad, Spencer revealed the shocking contents of the earliest Islamic biographical material about the prophet of Islam. Now, in Did Muhammad Exist?, he uncovers that material’s surprisingly shaky historical foundations. Spencer meticulously examines historical records, archaeological findings, and pioneering new scholarship to reconstruct what we can know about Muhammad, the Qur’an, and the early days of Islam. The evidence he presents challenges the most fundamental assumptions about Islam’s origins.

Did Muhammad Exist? reveals:

•How the earliest biographical material about Muhammad dates from at least 125 years after his reported death
•How six decades passed before the Arabian conquerors—or the people they conquered—even mentioned Muhammad, the Qur’an, or Islam
•The startling evidence that the Qur’an was constructed from existing materials—including pre-Islamic Christian texts
•How even Muslim scholars acknowledge that countless reports of Muhammad’s deeds were fabricated
•Why a famous mosque inscription may refer not to Muhammad but, astonishingly, to Jesus
•How the oldest records referring to a man named Muhammad bear little resemblance to the now-standard Islamic account of the life of the prophet
•The many indications that Arabian leaders fashioned Islam for political reasons

Far from an anti-Islamic polemic, Did Muhammad Exist? is a sober but unflinching look at the origins of one of the world’s major religions. While Judaism and Christianity have been subjected to searching historical criticism for more than two centuries, Islam has never received the same treatment on any significant scale.

The real story of Muhammad and early Islam has long remained in the shadows. Robert Spencer brings it into the light at long last.


Frequently Bought Together

Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins + The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion + The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran
Price For All Three: CDN$ 48.98


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Review

“[Spencer] has engaged in concerted detective work of a scholarly nature. His book is no polemic. It is a serious quest for facts. . . . Well-written and moves right along.” —Washington Times


“Careful, detailed, well-reasoned. . . . [A] brave book.” —FrontPage Magazine


“This will send shockwaves through Islamic communities.” —The Blaze


In an impeccably researched book, Spencer shows that all our Arabic sources for the life of Muhammad are very late, tendentious, and unsupported by any archaeological or epigraphic evidence, while the non-Islamic sources are scant and ambiguous. Thanks to this book, skepticism regarding what we can know about Muhammad must now and forever be taken seriously.” —Ibn Warraq, editor of What the Koran Really Says


“A surprising and eye-opening new book . . . Quite a convincing job.” —PJ Media


“Robert Spencer has displayed brilliant scholarship and fierce courage in his previous books. In this one he perseveres and confronts with deep erudition the most topical problem of our century.” —Bat Ye’or, author of The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam


“A super detective service for the West . . . Spencer leaves few rocks unturned in his search for the truth about Islam and Muhammad.” —Capitalism Magazine

About the Author

Robert Spencer is the author of several critically acclaimed books about Islam, including the New York Times bestsellers The Truth about Muhammad and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine and the director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Spencer holds a master’s degree in religious studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has been studying Islamic theology, law, and history in depth for more than three decades.


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably most important question of our time. May 13 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The ability to question a belief system is and should be universal.It's just that - a belief system. The existence of Muhammad is no different. Believe what you want but allow (and have the belief strong enough) to have your belief questioned and scrutinized. Those who won't allow that have a weak faith indeed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Did Muhammad Exist? May 27 2012
By JohnJ
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This was a good book. It is difficult to accurately trace the history of any religion and Islam has proven to be extremely difficult because of the reluctance of Muslims to question any portion of the Qur'an or the prophet Muhammad. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the history or religion, especially the history of Islam. Even if you don't accept the author's version of Islamic history, he raises some valid questions and provides an interesting perspective.
JohnJ
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well documented March 10 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is well documented and it has certainly contributed to by understanding Islam. It also generates debate over the sources of Muslim fundamentalism.
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Did Muhammad Exist? June 27 2012
By Azy
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
First and foremost, this book is not well-researched at all. What Robert Spencer has done is quote others' research most of the time - that too from Orientalists and others who do not have a proper understanding of Arabic grammar.

While I agree with his negation of Hadiths as an historical source, he nevertheless uses Quranic translations from the very same sources as the Hadiths he condemns. Those very translations of the Quran of the 18th, 19th, and 20th. centuries, all of which follow the pattern of "Asbab-u-Nuzool (Circumstances of Revelations) are all derived from the Hadith, Tabari, Ibn Hisham and the four Imams, but mostly from Bokhari and Muslim. Most of the translations we have today are erroneous translations.

Spencer on page 156 quoting Mingana where he states that " 62:11 usually given as "And if any of your wives escape from you to the unbelievers".....

This verse does not say that. It says: "
62:11 (Asad) Yet [it does happen that] when people become aware of [an occasion for] worldly gain or a passing delight, they rush headlong towards it, and leave thee standing [and preaching]. Say: "That which is with God is far better than all passing delight and all gain! And God is the best of providers!" (end of quote and chapter).

Robert Spencer just took Mingana's statement at face value without verification.

Rober Spencer should seriously read the new book just out, entitled: " Sense and Sensibility in Islam"; Lingustics, Context and Rationality. He will realize that ther are a number of Muslim intellectuals who do favour an exegesis of the Quran. Nazer in his book has done just that. May be he will get a fresh, new and original perpective on the Quran. So will the Orientalists and Islamic Studies Professors.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  117 reviews
295 of 318 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Did the Muslim Muhammad Exist? April 14 2012
By William Garrison Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Did Muhammad Exist?: An inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins" by Robert Spencer (Apr. 2012), 254 pgs., hardback. Initially, I was incredulous that someone might actually question that the Muslim prophet Muhammad may not have existed. After all, when one reads books pertaining to Islam they all uniformly note specific dates as to when he was born (the year of the Elephant), slinked away on his hajra to Medina, conducted various military campaigns, and portrayed his slow death - as detailed in the ahadith. However, the author (Mr. Spencer) has combed through the writings of many Islamic researchers who have questioned the historiography of some event in Muhammad's perceived career as a `barker' for the Arabian dessert god Allah. Quickly, the chapter titles are: Introduction: the Full Light of History? (Chpt 1) The Man Who Wasn't There. (2) Jesus, the Muhammad. (3) Inventing Muhammad. (4) Switching On the Full Light of History. (5) The Embarrassment of Muhammad. (6) The Unchanging Qur'an Changes. (7) The Non-Arabic Arabic Qur'an. (8) What the Qur'an May Have Been. (9) Who Collected the Qur'an? , and (10) Making Sense of It All. As the author admitted: "In writing this book, I do not intend to break new ground. Instead, I aim to bring to wider public attention the work of a ... band of scholars who have dared ... to examine what the available historical data reveals about the canonical account of Islam's origins" (p. 8). In this goal the author succeeds admirably. Is Muhammad the Arab version of England's Robin Hood? Perhaps not a real figure, but more of a figurine based on legends from the dim memories of faded accounts of misty campfire tales about past multiple adventure-action dune warriors and chieftains. Mr. Spencer unabashedly poses the heretical question: "Did Muhammad exist?" Mr. Spencer notes that the name "Muhammad actually appears in the Qur'an only four times, and in three of those instances it could be used as a title - the `praised one' or `chosen one' - rather than as a proper name" (p. 17). So the Quran itself bespeaks little about the realism of `Muhammadun rasulu Allahi' - and it appears that the Quran didn't bind up well until sixty years after its reciter's demise - even though Muslims maintain that it has always existed (p. 126). Mr. Spencer tried to find a `reality check' for Muhammad in both the ahadith (life stories) and Sira (biography). However, Muhammad's first biographer (Ibn Ishaq) didn't pen his work until "at least 125 years after the death of his protagonist" (p. 19) - and from which all following biographies regarding `al-insan al-kamil' were derived. Despite Mr. Spencer's incredulity of believing Ibn Ishaq, Mr. Spencer respectfully wrote a section on "Defending Ibn Ishaq" (p. 88). Why is it that despite the early military jihad campaigns of the Muslim warriors there are no contemporary accounts mentioning Muhammad's name? As Mr. Spencer asks: why do the early `Islamic' coins fail to acknowledge Muhammad or the Muslim faith? It is beyond the scope of this short review to extensively detail all of the doubts that Mr. Spencer raises about the existence of Muhammad. A big `Thank You' to Mr. Spencer for bringing together the salient highlights of all the Doubting Thomases ... er ... Doubting Orientalists, in exposing that Muhammad remains well hidden behind the Muslim khimar veil - as depicted on the book's cover. `Allahu alam.'
89 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Muhammad April 26 2012
By Kilfincelt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I just finished reading "Did Muhammad Exist?" and found it very enlightening. He brings together a lot of the research that has been done on "The Qur'an" and the prophet by others and makes it intelligible to the average person. His book is in no way a complete survey of all the material available on the subject but he does explain what we do know about the prophet and what we don't know. He does the same for "The Qur'an" and the hadiths. Additionally, he puts Islam into an historical context.

This is the same kind of research that had previously been done on Jesus, David and others mentioned in the Bible. For too long Islam has been off limits and one wonders what is being hidden? At the end of the book, Robert Spencer tells us that historical investigators have a responsibility to delve further into Islam's origins. I couldn't agree more.
247 of 269 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bold, judicious, scholarly April 9 2012
By John Zmirak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I read this book in manuscript, and found it intellectually provocative, scrupulously evidence-based, and gracefully written. The thesis it explores is one that has been too little considered by English-language scholars: What are the reliable historical grounds for crediting the canonical narrative of the origin of Islam? For centuries, Christians and Jews have seen their respective sacred scriptures subjected to deconstruction and skepticism, while Islam received almost a "free pass." Not every skeptical treatment of scriptures has been disinterested or honest, of course. Scholars are human beings, and they have their own motives. Indeed, the analysis of Jewish/Christian scriptures by men like Hobbes and Locke was strongly motivated by their irreligious agendas. Readers of Spencer's other books will know in advance what his stance is: He worries about the political aspirations of those Muslims who are religiously intolerant, and calls on Muslims to embrace religious pluralism--while candidly acknowledging the problems this would pose for orthodox Muslims. For this, he is falsely labeled a bigot or even a "racist" (as if Islam, a world religion, were some ethnic cult). In this new book, Spencer examines the almost shocking thesis: What is Islamic revelation was an afterthought, a narrative created AFTER the Arab conquests of the Near East, to give the new ruling elite an ideological pretext for power. Historians will have to continue conducting research, under adverse conditions (Saudi Arabia, for instance, does not welcome infidel archaeologists) to see how much merit there is in this thesis. But the book is certainly well worth reading.
181 of 197 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific book--couldn't put it down April 22 2012
By 36 Megapixels - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I pre-ordered this book and when it finally arrived I found myself riveted to every page.

People have long questioned whether Moses or Jesus existed, why not the same question about Mohammed? Why has it taken so long to ask?

Spencer does an amazing job showing that there is, in fact, no historical evidence at all that Mohammed ever existed, and that the tales about him were written long after he was dead and were often fabricated to justify one tribe's actions over another. Even the stories about Mecca being an important center of trade appear to be fabricated as its location would preclude it from serving this purpose.

Brilliant book. I hope other scholars will follow Spencer's lead and make more critical investigations into the origins of Islam.

Highly recommended.
75 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Question is not Academic April 26 2012
By Bill Steele - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Muhammad was a warlord. Or was he?
Since evidence for the mere existence of Muhammad is based upon written records which date to 150 years after Muhammad's death, then it seems to me his very existence should be investigated.
I have read everything Mr Spencer has written, and I have yet to find even a single word that strays from the pursuit of truth.
Hate is not what this book is about. Truth is the subject of this book; a rare commodity in today's world.
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