Islamic Scholar Says Muhammad Never Existed

11 Jul
Muhammad Sven Kalisch, a Muslim convert and Germany's first professor of Islamic theology, fasts during the Muslim holy month, doesn't like to shake hands with Muslim women and has spent years studying Islamic scripture. Islam, he says, guides his life.
So it came as something of a surprise when Prof. Kalisch announced the fruit of his theological research. His conclusion: The Prophet Muhammad probably never existed.
Prof. Kalisch, who insists he's still a Muslim, says he knew he would get in trouble but wanted to subject Islam to the same scrutiny as Christianity and Judaism. German scholars of the 19th century, he notes, were among the first to raise questions about the historical accuracy of the Bible.
Many scholars of Islam question the accuracy of ancient sources on Muhammad's life. The earliest biography, of which no copies survive, dated from roughly a century after the generally accepted year of his death, 632, and is known only by references to it in much later texts. But only a few scholars have doubted Muhammad's existence. Most say his life is better documented than that of Jesus.
Of course, the poverty of the documentation about the life of Jesus probably makes a homeless guy living under the Brooklyn Brige look like Mark Zuckerberg.
I don't know if this scholar actually believes it, though. He might be more of an agnostic about Muhammad's existence and is simply trying to clean the slate to investigate Muhammad's existence objectively; investigating it without “tak[ing] it for granted that Muhammad existed”. Is Muhammad closer in historical role to someone like Jesus, or someone like Alexander the Great? I have a huge dearth of knowledge about the history behind Islam, but I do recall some Greeks writing about 20 years after Muhammad's death complaining about a madman who had gathered a bunch of Arabs to conquer a bunch of land. The Greek doesn't actually name the guy, but his very brief description seems to match that of Muhammad.
Can the advent of Islam and Islamic conquest be interpreted to make sense without a Muhammad? I don't know. But I do think that Muhammad and Jesus aren't really comparable historical figures. Case in point, from the same article:
To [Prof. Kalisch], what matters isn't whether Muhammad actually lived but the philosophy presented in his name.
Christianity, at least modern Christianity, isn't about the teachings of Jesus. It's about Jesus himself. What strengthens this is the fact that the earliest Christians never appealed to the saving power of Jesus' teachings; they don't put any value on his teachings at all (if he had any to begin with). No, it's all about Jesus as some sort of human sacrifice that is the “good news”. Christianity is all about the first line of Mark: ευαγγελιου Ιησου Χριστου. The good news of Jesus Christ. Not the good news of Jesus Christ's philosophy.
I think that if someone did unite disparate Arab tribes under one banner/religion, and led them in conquering the Arab world, then for all intents and purposes we could call that person Muhammad. It really depends on how you define the role of Muhammad in history.

Posted by on July 11, 2011 in islam


2 responses to “Islamic Scholar Says Muhammad Never Existed

  1. beowulf2k8

    July 12, 2011 at 4:13 am

    20 years after his death? Try 100.

    “Can the advent of Islam and Islamic conquest be interpreted to make sense without a Muhammad?”

    Of course. Islam is just a messed up version of Talmudic Judaism with some Arian Christianity mixed in. And with pagan prayer stance retained (i.e. bowing towards an idol, but with the idol removed).

    Its been well known and openly taught for a long time by non-Muslim scholars that Mohammed didn't write the Koran.

    Even Muslim tradition clearly states that Mohammed himself did not write it in the sense of literally writing it down. He only recited it (hence the word Koran, which means recite) to his followers, who in turn wrote it down on scraps of paper, turtle shells, anything they could find. Then years later, one of the Caliphs collected all these scraps and put it together.

    Now, does that require a historical Mohammed? No. A bunch of people with a basic knowledge of Judaism and Christianity could have written all these scraps without any Mohammed ever reciting them to them. Or, the Caliph himself could have wrote the whole thing, claimed it came from earlier days, from the followers of a fictional Mohammed, and used it as a basis for legitimizing his power in a religious sense (whereas obviously he had already legitimized his power militarily).

    Beyond this, Muslims say the Koran has never changed. Yet, it is known that one Caliph in particular made changes and had all older versions destroyed.

    None of this is all that new. Its just that people generally don't know about it, and although its all taught in official Islamic sources, the Imams don't want their people to know it.

  2. beowulf2k8

    July 12, 2011 at 4:21 am

    “To [Prof. Kalisch], what matters isn't whether Muhammad actually lived but the philosophy presented in his name.”

    I doubt many Muslims would agree. If there was no historical Mohammed who really received the Koran directly from Jabreel, then why not just give up on Islam and become a Jew? The two are so very similar, aside from the violence which Judaism no longer practices. The big thing in Islam is that Mohammed is a sort of savior. Their creed is “There is no God but Allah, AND MOHAMMED IS HIS PROPHET.” So, their whole theory stands or falls with Mohammed. Besides this, most of their religion is based not on the Koran but on the Hadiths, stories about what Mohammed said or did, and of miraculous happenings around him. From these stories they derive most of their doctrine (its sort of their Talmud or their 'church fathers'.) If he's just a fictional character, all of this loses its authority.

    Futhermore, every male muslim is named Mohammed. This is literally true. They have multiple names, and each and every one of them has Mohammed or Ahmed in there as one of them. If Mohammed himself isn't important, just their teachings, then why this idolatrization of Mohammed himself? Why having to say PBUH always after his name? And if he isn't important, then why if you draw a cartoon of him do they want to murder you?

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