Islam’s Troubled Historic Record and Dome of the Rock

 Listen to Tom Wallace and Shahram Hadian at noon central time each Saturday on American Family Radio Below are the “show notes” or transcription of the audio from the broadcast, so forgive any typos/grammar irregularities, and we encourage to click on the “audio link” and listen.

Segment One | When and Where Did Islam Begin and What Historical Record of Mohammed are Cited

Dome of the Rock Issues

On today’s broadcast we had Dr. Daniel Janosik Head of Islamic Studies at Southeaster Evangelical Seminary. He was a missionary and deals with Christian apologetics.

Today, with Dr. Janosik’s help, we are going to share a different perspective on the history of Islam. Those of you who follow this ministry are familiar with the traditional teachings on the history of Islam, but when we analyze the teachings that come from Muslim sources and when we look at the historic record from non-Muslim sources we get quite a different story. There are some legitimate questions that should be asked about Muhammad and the Qur’an. If the Qur’an did come from Muhammad, what does the historic record from other sources say? What do we know about Muhammad, what do we know about the Muslims and this new religion called Islam?

When we look at these things through the lens of other sources there are some interesting things we learn. I want to look at these things in this article.

To start with, there is very little in the written record from early Muslim sources. There seems to be a gap of 150-200 years between Muhammad and the written history of him. What other sources exist to validate Muhammad and his religion, and what do they say?

Let;s start by pinpointing some dates. The traditional view is that Muhammad received his first revelation in 610 and for 23 years, until his death in 632, he had the revelations that became the Qur’an. Muslims then say that within 20 years the Qur’an was written down. Until that time it was memorized by his followers and only existed in oral from. It was supposedly written down somewhere around 650, and it is purportedly the same Qur’an that we have today.

The Muslims moved up from southern Arabia and took northern Arabia and North Africa. They continued their conquest into Spain and France until they were turned back in 732.

This was written down about 150 to 200 years after the facts by Muslims. We can look at what the non-Muslims, the Christians, the Jews, and the secularists say about Muhammad and Islam. They were writing in the 7th century, the time of Muhammad and 60 to 70 years afterward. When we look at these writings we find a very different picture.

We find that Muhammad is not really mentioned. There are a few sources that mention the name Muhammad, but very tangentially, that means just in passing and as playing no important role. It is not until 691 that his name is mentioned by the Muslims and that is found in the Dome of the Rock. The caliph of that period had it inscribed along with other Qur’anic sayings. These sayings were similar to the Qur’an, but not identical. These sayings were very critical of Christ as the Son of God and critical of the idea of the Trinity. It looks like they were put there purposely to contradict the teachings of the Christians.

The non-Muslims have very little to say about Muhammad, and what little they do say is very negative, until the Dome of the Rock. You don’t really have much said about Muhammad, even in the Islamic world, until the first biographies were written at the end of the 8th century into the 9th century. Starting at this time you find many stories about Muhammad but they don’t seem to be connected to what really happened. It seems to be a body of stories that embellished the man that they put forth.

Essentially we have a man named Muhammad who is hard to identify either by non-Muslims or Muslims. We have a Qur’an which was supposedly finalized in 650 but we don’t have any manuscripts until the early 700’s and then they show many differences and many corrections. The don’t show the consistency that Muslims claim should exist. We also have a religion that was not considered Islam until the 8th century, over 100 years after Muhammad’s death.

What we are finding is that there is little said about Muhammad until the late 8th century and the early 9th century. Muhammad lived in the early 7th century so we have a 150 to 200 year gap in the historic record concerning Muhammad.

Let’s start by talking about the Dome of the Rock because it seems to be the only place were we find early reference to the name of Muhammad. There is only one other early reference to Muhammad and it is a coin put out in 687. This coin was by a renegade leader and it does not seem to be the same Muhammad so we really find the first early reference to the Muhammad of Islam at the Dome of the Rock. This is dated between 691 and 701 and the inscription says “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.”

While this mentions Muhammad as Allah’s prophet, it doesn’t seem to have had much to do with the policies of the Arabs at that time. It is not until later in the next century that you start having some stories appearing. John of Damascus in 743 mentions him in his “Heresy of the Ishmaelites” but it is still very tangential.

 Listen to Tom Wallace and Shahram Hadian at noon central time each Saturday on American Family Radio Below are the “show notes” or transcription of the audio from the broadcast, so forgive any typos/grammar irregularities, and we encourage to click on the “audio link” and listen.

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Segment Two | The Authority of the Bible vs The Qur’an

The Arabic language, in written form, was just being developed at that time. This makes it easy to determine the approximate time of writing of Arabic documents.

Muhammad is referred to as the “unlettered prophet” because he could neither read nor write. This was not at all unusual because most Arab people of that day could not red or write. History was passed on by oral tradition.

At the time of Muhammad the Arabic language, as an oral language, had existed for more than 1,000 years. It was like Hebrew and Syriac which were written in consonants without and vowel markings until the 6th century when scholars started putting in vowel markings so that could be pronounced better. Before this time Arabic did not have a written format. If they needed something written down they used the Syriac letters or Aramaic letters.

It seems that the letters that came to be known as Arabic were not developed until after the time of Muhammad. Arabic did not develop its written form until some 60 to 70 years after the death of Muhammad. The earliest Qur’anic type manuscripts date to the early 700’s, which is the 8th century.

I was surprised on my recent visit to Israel to find that the inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock had the vowel markings. Realizing that this must have been written later I contacted Dr. Janosik. He told me that it is what is written inside that is of earlier origin.

The point of all of this is that you can tell when certain passages of the Qur’an were written by the script in which they are written. You can tell that what is written on the inside of the Dome of the Rock was written much earlier than what is written on the outside. What is on the inside is late 7th or early 8th century and what is on the outside is mid 15th century.

They claim that the Qur’an was written 20 years after the death of Muhammad. One of the Hadith gives instructions for the writing down of the Qur’an. Here are the instructions:

“In case you disagree with Zayd ibn Thabit on any point in the Qur’an then write it in the dialect of the Quraysh, the Qur’an was revealed in their tongue.”

The Quraysh were the tribe of Mecca and Muhammad. It is interesting that they are debating what was really in the Qur’an. They are confessing that there may be disagreement on what it really should say.

The caliph sent one copy of what had been copied and ordered that all of the other Qur’anic manuscripts be burned. Muslims tell us that they still have these original copies of the Qur’an.

Two manuscripts are housed in two different museums that are considered to be of those written 20 years after the death of Muhammad. They are both dated to the 8th century, more than 150 years after they are claimed to have been written. Neither of them is complete, and they present a completely different picture from those dating to the late 7th century.

There are two things that tell us that they were actually written 150 and 170 years after the claimed date of their writing. One is the script in which they were written. The second would be the carbon dating of the manuscript itself and the type of materials that were used.

Muslims claim that our Bible has been corrupted yet they have offered us no manuscript proof of this. The only proof they give are the slight variants in different manuscripts.

The oldest Qur’anic manuscripts do not have all of the vowel markings, which were not developed until the 8th century. These manuscripts show the efforts to come up with a standard manuscript from all of the divergent manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have whole passages taken out or replaced, the overwriting of some passages, and a number of other corrections and changes. This indicates that the Qur’an was not finalized in the early 700’s. In fact it was still not finalized at the end of the 8th century.

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 Listen to Tom Wallace and Shahram Hadian at noon central time each Saturday on American Family Radio Below are the “show notes” or transcription of the audio from the broadcast, so forgive any typos/grammar irregularities, and we encourage to click on the “audio link” and listen.

Segment Three | The Unintellible Qur’an and Historical Scrutiny

The information we are looking at today seems to tell us that Islam was not a settled faith during the time of Muhammad. It seems that others developed the religion into what we know today and that the word of Allah, the Qur’an, was not finalized for some 150 to 200 years after the death of Muhammad.

We can date the time of the Qur’an being finalized by the script used to record it. The Arabic alphabet we know today was probably not even in existence in Muhammad’s day. Since Islam is now being subjected to the same historical scrutiny that Christianity has faced there are a lot of problems arising for Muslims.

One major problem with the Qur’an is that it is very hard to understand. Some say that about one fifth of the Qur’an is completely unintelligible. Muslims tell us that these are mysteries that we will someday understand. It is possible that parts of the Qur’an were originally written in a foreign language.

One man who has written extensively on this is Christoph Luxembourg. He has written a book on the Syriac origins of the Qur’an. He is fluent in Arabic and Syriac. Syriac was the language of the Christians in that area at that time. He found that if you take the Arabic phrases that are unintelligible and translate them back into Syriac they make much more sense. He found that they seem to come from an earlier Christian liturgy.

This means that it is very possible that much of the Qur’an came from an earlier source that was Christian. It was transliterated into Arabic when that language had developed in the later part of the 7th century and the early part of the 8th century. The fact that some of the Qur’an may have come from Christian sources instead of direct revelation from Allah is very disturbing to Muslims.

If I were a Muslim hearing this it would make me angry because someone is not respecting my holy book. Secondly it would drive me to prove them wrong.

We are not here just to tear down another religion. We are simply asking valid questions. Why is there such a gap in the historic record? Why is there this issue with the Syriac language? Why do so many of the stories in the Qur’an seem to be plagiarized from other sources?

Muslims are told not to explore these areas. Islam is very authoritarian and Muslims are told not to ask questions. It is forbidden to dig into the origin of the Qur’an. There are some more modern Islamic clerics who are willing to look into these things.

This is something that the Bible had to go through in the 18th and 19th centuries with German Higher Criticism. Christianity came through this with flying colors. We actually have a better understanding of the development of our Scriptures and of the history of our religion because of this.

Islam is going through an examination of their roots and origins and we are finding that there are a lot of discrepancies. They are not doing it because they want to know the truth, they are going through it because it has been forced upon them by non-Muslim scholars.

There are mythical stories in the Qur’an. For example there is a story where a crow scratches on the ground to show where Abel’s body is buried. This comes from a Jewish story from about 300 AD. There are also Greek myths found in the Qur’an.

These scholars are showing that much of the Qur’an is plagiarized from other writings and Arabized. These stories seem to have become the text for the Qur’an. Caliph Abdul Malik wanted a scripture, a religion, and a prophet in his government.

It seems like the religion of Islam doesn’t come directly from Muhammad. It seems like those who came after him embellished Islam to make it what they wanted it to be.

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Segment Four | Origins of Islam, Creation of Muhammad as a Prophet and Lack of Written Records

It seems like it took about 200 years after the death of Muhammad to develop a uniform Qur’an and standard doctrine within Islam. It seems like everything really came together under the rule of Caliph Abdul Malik from 685 to 705. It was under his rule that Islam became a religion, Muhammad became a prophet, and the Qur’an began to develop as the scriptures of Islam. We have seen that the Qur’an most likely came from earlier sources and that Muhammad was greatly embellished as an apocalyptic leader.

At first they were not called Muslims, they were called believers or other names. The traditional place for the origin of Islam is Mecca. History is revealing that it probably came from a place closer to Israel like Petra. It seems that these Arabs were believers in something but they were neither Christian or Jewish. They were a form of monotheism but they did not believe the Jesus was God. They did have Jesus in a high place as a prophet and as a miracle worker but they didn’t see Him as deity.

The religion seemed to be coming together in the later 600’s. It was at this time that Abdul Malik had the power to pull the religion together. It was really during the 8th and 9th centuries that you have the full development of this religion.

Remember, there are no written records by the Muslims until the end of the 8th century. Most of it was written in the 9th century. This is some 175 to 200 years after the facts. There was plenty of time for legends and myths to develop. The Hadith may just be embellished stories about Muhammad to advance this new religion.

Now that we have learned these things, how should we use them in our efforts to reach Muslims? We shouldn’t try to beat them over the head with this information. Our approach should be that we are seeking the truth, and that we are open to the truth. A great way to deal with this is to have them compare the Christian Scriptures with the Qur’an. How was the Bible developed and brought to its present state and how the Qur’an was developed and brought to its present state.

As I said earlier, the Christian Scriptures were put through the test of history and came out with flying colors. This is why I can put my full trust in them. Ask the Muslim if he wouldn’t like to have the same confidence in the Qur’an by putting it through the same process. The principle is to challenge the Muslim to look honestly at the Qur’an and its development.

The fact is that history is telling us something different from what Muslims are being taught. The truth is on our side. We need to get Muslims to look at it honestly. We shouldn’t do this by telling them that their scriptures won’t stand the test. We should get them to look honestly to see if they do.

The important thing is to get them into the Bible. It is the Bible that is quick and powerful, not our arguments. By getting them to study both the Bible and the Qur’an to see how they fit the facts, this goal is accomplished. This same principle works if we can get them to compare the content of both books.

When I do this I always ask them to pray to the God of Abraham for guidance as they study. They will think they are praying to Allah, but they will be praying to Jehovah. If they pray to Jehovah about the study of His Book, He will show them the truth. Just like everyone else, they will have to decide whether or not to accept it as truth.

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17

This is the best way to bring Muslims, or anyone else for that matter, to Christ. This is our goal, is it not?