Qur'anic studies today
Reply #1388 - February 17, 2017, 12:16 PM
Here is my personal draft summary of Islam's origins. It's not an academic work but sceptical academics are the only people I trust on this topic, so I've jotted down their names for future reference. Over the years I'll add to and edit it, and please feel free to add your thoughts...
THE QUR'AN AS A DOCUMENT
The Qur'an cannot be a record of an entirely oral transmission (Puin, Donner). Some Qur'anic words are appropriated from purely written Syriac language (Luxemberg) and Syriac legends (Tesei). Part of the Qur'an's content originates in Palestinian Christian legends (Shoemaker). Parts originate in Iraq (?), and some parts may originate somewhere in northern Arabia (Crone). There are at least two variant canonical versions of the Arabic Qur'an in circulation this day (Jay Smith), and we know more variants exist too. The seven oldest extant qur'ans differ from each other (Jay Smith)
There is evidence of multiple hands compiling the Qur'an (Zaotar, on the conflicting spelling of 'Ibraham/Abraham'). Like the bible, duplicate stories occur that vary slightly in content and more importantly vary in supposedly verbatim utterances of the dramatis personae (eg. Iblis' conversations in heaven). Whether the codex happened earlier, during or later than the traditional timeframe is unclear.
The Qur'an's audience are overwhelmingly if not entirely Christians and Jews (Crone), because the Qur'an assumes complete familiarity with biblical stories and characters. It is impossible that the Qur'an originated among pagans in Makkah and Madina.
SPREAD OF ISLAM
Islam spread not by "conversion or death", but surrender or death (Hoyland). Contemporary Christian sources attest this (Hoyland) and this was contemporary practice. Slaughter occurred, but slavery and subjugation were far more common. Slavery and preferential treatment increased the Muslim community's size dramatically, contemporaneous with the destruction of Persian Zoriastrian empire and faith. Early rulers were considered Arabs (Hoyland) or believers (Donner), identifying as 'Muslims' only later in time.
ROLE OF MUHAMMAD
Muhammad was not of primary importance in early Islam (Hoyland, Donner, Crone). The name 'Mhmd' is absent in all early and contemporary papyri documents, coins, and graffito of the early decades of 'Islam'. When the Arab empire conquers Persia and east Byziantium, a Muhammad materializes in the future by projecting a Muhammadan history into the past (Hoyland). This differs from Christianity, whose raison d'être was Jesus.
Only during an Arab civil war does the name 'Muhammad' explicitly take hold (Hoyland). The earliest biography of Muhammad occurs centuries after his existence, and has "grave weaknesses" in its veracity (Donner). Pre-hijra stories of Muhammad are overwhelmingly legendary in character. The 'sunnah', or instructions of Muhammad, are a collection of accounts of Muhammad with little to no historical reliability.