A flurry of new books on Islam and its prophet, Mohammed, has led to a surprising revelation among historians: most of what we thought we knew about the fierce tribal cult is probably false. Indeed, according to I.M. al-Rawandi, the life of Mohammed chronicled in the Sira and the Hadith is likely “baseless fiction.” It was made up. The prophet never lived in Mecca. He never fled to Medina. He never instituted the haj. He never taught a group of disciples principles of faith. He was never really a religious leader at all. Instead, al-Rawandi argues in The Mythic Origins of Islam, Mohammed (which was originally a title not a name) was probably "just a bandit chieftain named Ubu’l Kassim who lived in what is now southern Jordan."
But that is not all. Scholars are beginning to realize that the Koran was probably made up as well. It may simply be a series of stories and quotations from scores of varying sources and authors stitched together over the course of a century or two by succeeding sultans and caliphs--for the purpose of justifying the terrifyingly brutal conquests of their militant Arab imperial armies. According to a host of historians, including Mohammed Ibn al-Warraq, John Wansbrough, Kenneth Cragg, Michael Cook, John Burton, Andrew Rippin, Julian Baldick, Gerald Hawting, and Suliman Bashear, the evidence is more than a little compelling.
The very first sources for the Sira, the Koran, the Hadith, or any of the other early Islamic texts actually appear no earlier than two to three centuries after Mohammed supposedly gathered his motley followers under the shadow of Mount Hira. According to Patricia Crone, formerly Lecturer in Islamic Studies at both Oxford and Cambridge and currently Professor of Near Eastern History at Princeton, "textual and historical evidence for Koranic authenticity is altogeter non-existent. The documents were cobbled together many centuries after the events they purportedly describe." She argues in The Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, that Mecca was not the center of the Arab world at any time within two hundred years of Mohammed's life, that it was chosen simply for symbolic and mythic reasons much later, and that the militant ideas of ji'had are thus merely aspects of a much more recent "propaganda effort created by Caliphate militarism."
If these suppositions are true, they would certainly help to explain Islam's perpetual impulse to violent, revolutionary, and imperial terror. According to Craig Winn the narratives compiled by Islam's founding ideologues in the eighth and nineth centuries were essentially tools of war, inducements for further conquest, and thus are purposely "immoral, criminal, and violent." In Prophet of Doom, Winn takes the words of the prophet, as recorded in the five primary Islamic holy texts and shows that instead of portraying Mohammed as a great and godly man, "They reveal that he was a thief, liar, assassin, mass murderer, terrorist, warmonger, and an unrestrained sexual pervert engaged in pedophilia, incest, and rape. He authorized deception, assassinations, torture, slavery, and genocide. He was a pirate, not a prophet." Osama has quite some model, eh?
So, is Islam a pernicious myth after all? It appears that a growing number of reputable historians around the globe are actually beginning to think so. Gee. Waddaya know!