Did Muhammad Exist?

Shadows and Light

Did Muhammad exist? It is a question that few have thought to ask, or dared to ask.

For most of the fourteen hundred years since the prophet of Islam is thought to have walked the earth, almost everyone has taken his existence for granted. After all, his imprint on human history is enormous.

The Encyclopedia Britannica dubbed him “the most successful of all Prophets and religious personalities.” In his 1978 book The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, historian Michael H. Hart put Muhammad in the top spot, explaining: “My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular level.”

Other historians have noted the extraordinarily rapid growth of the Arabian Empire in the period immediately following Muham­mad’s death. The Arabian conquerors, evidently inspired by his teach­ing, created an empire that in fewer than one hundred years stretched from the Iberian Peninsula to India. Not only was that empire immense, but its cultural influence—also founded on Muhammad’s teaching—has been enduring as well.

Moreover, Islamic literature contains an astounding proliferation of biographical material about Muhammad. In his definitive two-volume English-language biography of Muhammad, Muhammad at Mecca (1953) and Muhammad at Medina (1956), the English histo­rian W. Montgomery Watt argues that the sheer detail contained in the Islamic records of Muhammad, plus the negative features of his biography, make his story plausible.

However sharply people may differ on the virtues and vices of Muhammad, and on the value of his prophetic claims, virtually no one doubts that he was an actual person who lived in a particular time and a particular place and who, more to the point, founded one of the world’s major religions.

Could such a man have never existed at all?

There is, in fact, considerable reason to question the historicity of Muhammad. Although the story of Muhammad, the Qur’an, and early Islam is widely accepted, on close examination the particulars of the story prove elusive. The more one looks at the origins of Islam, the less one sees.

This book explores the questions that a small group of pioneering scholars has raised about the historical authenticity of the standard account of Muhammad’s life and prophetic career. A thorough review of the historical records provides startling indications that much, if not all, of what we know about Muhammad is legend, not historical fact. A careful investigation similarly suggests that the Qur’an is not a collection of what Muhammad presented as revelations from the one true God but was actually constructed from already existing mate­rial, mostly from the Jewish and Christian traditions.

The nineteenth-century scholar Ernest Renan confidently claimed that Islam emerged in the “full light of history.” But in truth, the real story of Muhammad, the Qur’an, and early Islam lies deep in the shadows. It is time to bring it into the light.

Historical Scrutiny

Why embark on such an inquiry?

Religious faith, any religious faith, is something that people hold very deeply. In this case, many Muslims would regard the very idea of applying historical scrutiny to the traditional account of Islam’s ori­gins as an affront. Such an inquiry raises questions about the founda­tional assumptions of a belief system that guides more than a billion people worldwide.

But the questions in this book are not intended as any kind of attack on Muslims. Rather, they are presented as an attempt to make sense of the available data, comparing the traditional account of Islam’s origins against what can be known from the historical record.

Islam is a faith rooted in history. It makes historical claims. Muhammad is supposed to have lived at a certain time and preached certain doctrines that he said God had delivered to him. The verac­ity of those claims is open, to a certain extent, to historical analy­sis. Whether Muhammad really received messages from the angel Gabriel may be a faith judgment, but whether he lived at all is a his­torical one.

Islam is not unique in staking out its claims as a historical faith or in inviting historical investigation. But it is unique in not having undergone searching historical criticism on any significant scale. Both Judaism and Christianity have been the subject of widespread scholarly investigation for more than two centuries. The nineteenth-century biblical scholar Julius Wellhausen’s Pro­legomena zur Geschichte Israels (Prolegomena to the History of Israel), a textual and historical analysis of the Torah, revolutionized the way many Jews and Christians looked at the origins of their scriptures and religious traditions. By the time Wellhausen published his study in 1882, historical criticism, or higher criticism, of Judaism and Christi­anity had been going on for more than a hundred years.

The scholarly “quest for the historical Jesus” had begun in the eighteenth century, but it was in the nineteenth century that this higher criticism took off. The German theologian David Friedrich Strauss (1808–1874) posited in his Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet (The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined) (1835) that the miracles in the Gospels were actually natural events that those anxious to believe had seen as miracles. Ernest Renan (1823–1892) in his Vie de Jésus (The Life of Jesus) (1863) argued that the life of Jesus, like that of any other man, ought to be open to historical and critical scrutiny. Later scholars such as Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) cast strong doubt on the historical value of the Gospels. Some scholars asserted that the canonical Gospels of the New Testament were products of the second Christian century and therefore of scant historical value. Others sug­gested that Jesus of Nazareth had never even existed.

Eventually, higher critics who dated the Gospels to the second century became a minority of scholars. The consensus that emerged dated the Gospels to within forty to sixty years of the death of Jesus Christ. From that gap between the life of their protagonist and their publication, many scholars concluded that the Gospels were over­grown with legendary material. They began trying to sift through the available evidence in order to determine who Jesus was and what he really said and did.

The reaction within the Christian world was mixed. Many Christians dismissed the higher criticism as an attempt to under­mine their faith. Some criticized it for excessive skepticism and one-sidedness, regarding historical-critical investigations of the Gospels and the historicity of Christ as the critics’ effort to justify their own unbelief. But others were more receptive. Large Protestant churches such as the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists ultimately abandoned Christian dogma as it had hitherto been understood, espousing a vague, nondogmatic Christianity that concentrated on charitable work rather than doctrinal rigor and spirituality. Other Protestant denominations (including splinters of the three named above) retreated into fundamentalism, which in its original formu­lation was a defiant assertion, in the face of the higher critical chal­lenge, of the historicity of the Virgin Birth of Christ, his Resurrec­tion, and more.

Pope Leo XIII condemned the higher criticism in his 1893 encyclical Providentissimus Deus, but nine years later he established the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which was to use the tools of higher criticism to explore the scriptures within a context respectful to Catholic faith. In 1943 Pope Pius XII encouraged higher critical study in his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu. The Catholic Church ultimately determined that because its faith was historical, historical study could not be an enemy of faith, provided that such investiga­tions did not simply provide a cover for radical skepticism.

The higher criticism clearly transformed the Christian world, changing the course of several major Christian communions and radically altering how others presented the faith. Similarly, investiga­tions into the origins of Judaism and the historical material contained within the Hebrew scriptures have affected the Jewish tradition. In Judaism as in Christianity, traditions developed that rejected liter­alism and reevaluated numerous elements of traditional orthodoxy. Reform Judaism, like the liberal Protestant denominations, generally rejected traditional understandings and the literalism that underlay them.

Yet Judaism and Christianity still live, and in many areas they thrive. They have survived the challenge. Can Islam survive the same historical-critical challenge?

No one knows, for it has never received this treatment on nearly the same scale. Why should Islam and its leading figure be exempt from the scru­tiny that has been applied to other religions?

The Power of Legend

Given these three points—the richly detailed portrait of Muham­mad found in the Islamic literature, the way he seemingly inspired his successors to found a vast empire, and his enduring legacy as founder of a religion that today claims more than a billion adherents—few have thought to question Muhammad’s existence. Muslims and non-Muslims alike take it for granted that he did live and that he orig­inated the faith we know as Islam. I understand the influence the traditional account has, for I spent more than two decades studying Islamic theology, law, and history in depth before seriously consider­ing the historical reliability of what the early Islamic sources say the prophet of Islam said and did.

But the more I examined the evidence gathered by scholars who had bothered to apply the historical-critical method to Islam’s origins, the more I recognized how little there was to confirm the canonical story.

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

This excerpt is from Robert Spencer’s new book
Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins (ISI Books,


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.

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  • Jane

    This article is deeply offensive.  While there are good reasons to doubt the existence of a Jesus of Nazareth in the way in which he or she is presented in the gospel stories, there is overwhelming historical evidence to show the Prophet Muhammad existed.  To suggest otherwise is to be a purley reactionary force against scholarship and the faith of Muslims.  As a Christian, I would maintain that we should be more respectful towards Islam.

    • Clement_W

      Please read my post above and see if you agree. I agree with you that we should be more respectful of Islam as we are to Judaism and Christianity but we do need to inquire as to how these two major religions came to be and why, especially at the core.

      There is another fact about Islam we should also inquire about which is “Why and How did Islam become a hereditary Prophet tradition among the Shiites who split from the religion which the Prophet Muhammad began within a mere 20 years after his death?” The answer is more than likely lies in Genesis 16 and even much earlier with Cain and Abel.

      • Bob

        George Weigel once wrote an article essentially saying that as a Christian, you can’t sit on the fifty yard line. Either you believe Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour or you believe Muhammed was a prophet from God. You can’t sit mid-field and somehow justify both. If Jesus Christ is our Lord, then Muhammed is……..

        • Clement_W

          If you believe that I am sitting on the 50 yard line, I am sorry. Islam has been and is about 18% of the human population currently and Catholicism is slightly behind. If trying to find, in the Bible, an answer for why this is so puts me at the 50 yard line, so be it. Belief in Jesus Christ does not absolve me from searching for why Jesus Christ had to come and die for even the likes of me that I may truly live in Him and He live in me.

          • Bob

            Sorry Clement, I wasn’t accusing you of anything, my bad! More just random musings towards the topic……could over 1 billion Muslims have it wrong? Certainly, there are Truths of Christ in every religion. But several hundred years after Christ ascended and the last Apostle die, did God then give Muhammed a word for word Qu’ran that conflicts and denies much of the apostolic teaching and the New Testament? Did God admit some type of mistake and do a “do over” theologically and doctrinally with Muhammed? This Catholic says nope.

            • Clement_W

              I do not have any knowledge about the roots of Mohammed’s claims. The only thing that I have been trying to say is that God did bless Ishmael promising him the same number of descendants as he did to Abraham. With approximately the same number of Moslems as there are Catholics throughout the population of the planet Earth currently, it would seem that God kept His promise to Ishmael. As to the rest of the Promise to Abraham regarding His Chosen People, the Israelites, it was vastly different and from the New Testament, God kept the Promise by including the gentiles who became Christians, thus the Children of the Promise by adoption through the Apostle Paul. Addressing your question about ‘God admitting some type of mistake’ I will hide behind Isaiah 55:8 through 11. My musings about Christianity, Judaism and Islam led me to the Book of Genesis which I have come to think may be the First Edition of the Owners Manual for Humanity (note the First Edition).

              As to whether Muhammad existed or not, unless God gives us the ability to travel back and forth in time, we will not be able to know for sure. All I know is that God is the only one who knows for sure and all we humans can do is speculate.

              • Bob

                Catholicism says that Christ is God. The biggest claim ever made in the history of humanity, Catholicism stands or falls on this claim. Islam fully denies this claim and that Christ is not God. Either one billion Catholics are misguided, or one billion Muslims are misguided. I understand what you are saying about Genesis, but possibly you are looking at it the wrong way. So who has the Truth……one billion Catholics or One billion Muslims?

                • Clement_W

                  Simple answer! Jesus Christ is the Son of God, One with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ONE GOD.

                  The Muslims agree that all the Jewish Prophets are their Prophets too, including Jesus Christ and admit the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ and in fact, they have at least a whole chapter about Mary in the Quran. I learned this from a couple of Palestinian Arabs, one a Physician and the other a Professor whom I had met in this country about 5 years ago, pointed it out with great pride. I pointed it out to them that Mohammed did not claim to be of virgin birth and therefore was less of a Prophet than Jesus. You can imagine what their reaction to my argument was. I would compare it to the reactions of extreme liberals that neither pregnancy nor ovulation are diseases and therefore, artificial birth control and abortion cannot be ‘healthcare’.

                  Their argument against the Divine nature of Christ is that under no circumstances would let His Son die because Allah is all powerful and compassionate. Thus, Mohammed having appeared on the scene later than Jesus, must be the last and greatest prophet, more in the mold of Elijah who was taken alive in a chariot to heaven.

                  I have enjoyed my back and forth with you.

    • David Hayden


      Maybe you should read the book before being offended.  Spencer is not alone; many other historians have written about this (Crone, Cook, Wansbrough, Warraq).  The lack of real evidence calls Muhammad’s historicity into question.  Read the book.

      • Dbsecml

        A reasoned response.  Thank you.

    • Jack Isaacks

      \I would maintain that we should be more respectful towards Islam.\

      Why? Error deserves no respect. 

      But PEOPLE in error should be corrected.

    • Dan99

      “he or she”?????

      • Alex

        “he or she”????? 

        Didn’t you know the messiah was actually a black lesbian? Watch the History Channel once in a while and you will learn.

    • Dbsecml

      Do not submit to stealth jihad.  Read the book.

    • touchmenot

      “While there are good reasons to doubt the existence of a Jesus of Nazareth in the way in which HE or SHE is presented in the gospel stories” Now that’s really a streeetch.. and whose prophet is he again? last time I checked the Bible never mentioned a Prophet Muhammad.

    • aspacia


      Refute Spencer’s evidence!  So what if it is offensive.  Look at some art with Jesus in unine.  How about the thousands of religious places of worship destroyed by Muslims???   What???  You are afraid, right?

  • Clement_W

    The place to start may be in the Book of Genesis where God talks about Ishmael and blesses Ishmael as he does Isaac, who was born later, as the progeny of Abraham in Genesis Chapters 16 and 17.

    I, as a Catholic retreived Prodigal son, started reading the Old Testament to answer the question which came to mind ” Why is there so much animosity between TWO Semitic peoples, Jews and Arabs?”

    The question of the historicity of Jesus is of necessity limited as yet, perhaps because the times in which Jesus came (and I do believe that Jesus is REAL) were at least 700 years earlier and in the circumstances extant at the time of the the newly generated by the Roman Empire and its dominance by conquest within such a short time made the events that occurred in one of its smaller provinces were not of as much importance to the writers of the early Roman Empire. After all, it is a truism that it is the victor who writes the history. The same argument could, of course, be applied to the Islamic Empire which became the victor after the birth of Islam.

    • Bob

      Ishmael, essentially, is the product of Abraham and Sara’s lack of trust in God. God told Abraham to trust in Him, that His descendants will be as numerous as the stars above. Sara told Abraham that I am old, how can this happen? “Maybe Abraham we should take this in to our own hands and you go in to my handmaiden, Hagar.” and voila……..nine months later, Ishmael. Ishmael was essentially the bastard son, while Isaac is whom God had promised. If Islam dates back to Ishmael, is there a case for illegitimacy for that faith? Positing this question……anyone’s thoughts???

      • Clement_W

        Islam does not date back to Ishmael but Ishmael is the ancestor of the other half of the Semitic race and it is from that branch of Semitic peoples tha Mohammed was from. Abraham, like Adam, sinned by not refusing to believe what Sarah and further more he folled a king who gave him shelter by pretending that he was Sarah’s brother. You are right that Ishmael was Abraham’s illegitimate son. Please read the Chapters of Genesis that I cited. As to whether Islam is illegimate or not, I will leave it to God to determine who is the ultimate Judge.

  • fondatori

    One of the problems is that (in the Christian context) the ‘Higher Criticism’ has been embraced and used primarily by enemies of the Faith.  Its not like the study of history or “texts” by these critics has led to a greater understanding on behalf of Christian (except perhaps some small historical gains).

    I don’t think the mainline churches lost their way as a result of this historical revisionism either – they lost their faith and as such will cling to an argument that will support them in this.

    Revisionist criticism will have to come from Muslims whose opinions are respected within Islam to be credible.

    • johnschuh

      The “Higher Criticism” came out of the radical Enlightenment, or the more moderate ones who were not like D’Holbach, atheists but “deists.” or, like Newton, Arians. To such men, Mohammed was much more acceptable than Jesus Christ, since his followers did not claim he was divine. This sentiment still moves the Left’s opinions about The “Abrahamic” faiths today.

  • Gail Finke

    I find this article offensive as well. Questioning whether or not Muhammad ever received one word of supernatural communications, and if so, who they came from, and if not, why he said so, are legitimate questions. But this whole “I doubt someone ever existed because it was a LONG time ago and they didn’t have newspapers back then” type of inquiry is insulting to the very idea of history. Muhammad did not live all that long ago, historically speaking. He defeated armies, for goodnesss sake. I can’t tell from the excerpt if this is supposed to be a legitimate question or, instead, it’s some kind of arch comment — the scholarly equivalent of  “ha ha, if Christians can be subject to this kind of dumb argument, Muslims should too.” But if it’s the former, it’s pretty lame.

    • abdul ghafoor

      Yes, Mohammad existed. And so do the djinns who scientists in Pakistan will soon harness to produce electric power – they, the djinns – being created from fire as opposed to humans created from muck. And of course paradise exists as well where nMusilm bombers having blown themselves up in order to kill innoncent Muslim women, men and children, will endless bed 70 houris. Come on, you morons, get a frekaing life.

  • Mark

    This article is not “deeply offensive” but it is a trifle silly. The same arguments can be used to disprove the existence of (for example) Socrates. But I am a little amused to see the same arguments used by “higher critics” against Jesus Christ applied for once to Muhammed. I hope Mr. Spencer doesn’t get decapitated by a higher, higher critic.

    • touchmenot

      To get decapitated by a” higher critic” is not amusing. I’m sure Spencer is very aware of that. But to say the article is silly is beyond me. To ask the question “Did muhammad exist? is not silly….. it’s insanely courageous in today’s environment.

      • nihalce76

        it is silly as he has a grave, he has family whom survived long after his death, all is free to argue what they believe but to sit down and write a book so silly is waste of time…i am a muslim and i was searching a topic that is a question mark….as a muslim, i am not offended at all, there is so many things we do not understand about any religion and they all should be discussed but this is just silly…by the way my mum is catholic so all i think is there is one god and all WHO believe choose their own way to reach God…Allah…

    • kirthigdon

      The article is really quite silly.  There are numerous historical figures whose existence is taken for granted and never questioned even though the evidence for their existence is much less than for that of either Jesus Christ or Mohammed.  The difference is that these are secular personalities.  It is only when the discussion comes to the founder of a religion that those who don’t believe in the particular religion will challenge the very existence of the alleged founder.

  • donald951

    I think that the point is that while people question the existence of both Moses and Jesus and make a big deal over questioning how accurate the Torah and Gospels are, double could be said about Mohammad and the Koran–but isn’t, out of fear of Muslim fanatics.

    • Murselino

      The old testament and the new testament has more than 1000 errors or contradictions. Quran has zero.
      If you don’tbelieve me search it up ;))))

      Tell me again how accurate Torah and Gospels are …

      • meme1961

        “The old testament and the new testament has more than 1000 errors or contradictions.”

        No, they don’t. The errors you speak of are ones of interpretation. Properly interpreted, the Bible has no errors or contradictions.

  • Donna

    Crisis, which bills itself as a voice for the “faithful Catholic laity,” has included an excerpt from a book. In this essay, with an effort to placate Muslims who would read this book and possibly be offended, the author has attempted to link his thesis of examination to earlier examinations of  the historicity of the Christian religions. In doing so, he cast some shadows over the historicity of Jesus Christ.  Nowhere in the excerpt do I see a vigorous effort to ameliorate these shadows.

    I do not have sufficient interest to go out and purchase this book, nor the time to read it, so I shall not see his fuller explanation (if there is one). In the meantime, in a respected Catholic online site, I and others have now read questionable material which can tamper with faith. And, please, no silliness like: “if your faith were really strong, it would not bother you.” Faith is precious, fulfilling – and fragile. That is attested to in the epistles.

    • touchmenot

      Poor baby…go on live your life with your eyes closed. Get a life girl…. I’m sure you’ve seen more despicable things said about your faith. Grow some skin will ya or like they said eat more onions. Nuff said.

      • MarkRutledge

        More than enough said.

    • Jason

      I appreciate Crisis for publishing this enlightening article.

      Donna, it is also attested  in the Epistles that it is our duty, with the grace of the Holy Spirit to discern objective reality and “[P]rove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).To withhold certain essays because it does not meet your decorum or lack of intellectual curiosity is uncharitable to those who seek wisdom. Furthermore, a look at our rich Catholic intellectual tradition, especially during Saint Thomas Aquinas’ time period (Scholasticism) provides evidence that everything under the sun was questioned, debated, and reconciled. Crisis Magazine continues to be a place for faith and reason. And for that I am filled with gratitude.

      • Donna

        I wonder why I ever weigh in to Christian sites where the responses too often lack reasonable charity. One can make a point without mockery or a smackdown. Sigh. Lesson learned.

        • Jason

           If you took my response as mockery, smackdown, or lack of charity then you are at fault.

          I see no reason to defend myself–let my words stand on their own.

          • knights not warriors

            Try not to burst, Jason.

            • Jason

              Certainly, I give it up to the Holy Spirit .

        • Brian Diehm

           As someone who just stumbled into this thread, where, Donna, is there a lack of reasonable charity or mockery or smackdown? I just don’t see it. (I disregard touchmenot’s comment as being outside the real discussion; I expect anyone should be secure enough in their self-definition to ignore that, or at least be able to work beyond that to address real discussion from others.)

          As John Key has outlined, Christianity has been tried in this regard, and found defensible. (That does not stop the unthinking from today throwing out the “there is no proof Jesus ever existed, which we hear increasingly in certain quarters.) In recounting this history, Spencer is not attacking the faith; he is reminding us of history, and reminding us of the fact that such questioning can be applied in many ways, sometimes to those who are themselves using such arguments.

          Without buying and reading Spenser’s entire work, I’m not sure I buy the thesis. But I can hardly reject the thesis because in times past others have leveled it at ourselves. We’ve survived that, thank you. Spencer asks “would Mohammedism?”

        • davbozGuest

          Once had a gir–irl,
          and Donna was her name.

    • John Key

      Donna, respectfully, you’ve read too much into this article. Spencer is NOT casting a shadow on Christianity. He’s simply asking why has Islam been spared a careful look at the most basic of claims. Christianity and Judaism have had to answer its critics and where not afraid to.

    • Clement_W

      To me, as a Christian by conviction AND personal experiences, the need for historicity of Jesus Christ has faded into irrelevance ever since I dug myself into a really deep hole and then when I couldn’t get out, I cried out to Jesus and He came running, picked me up and gave me my life back. If one has faith, only the personal withdrawal of permission explicitly given by receiving the Sacraments of the Catholic Church can one’s Faith can be tampered with (Ps. 125 v. 1, 2 and 3). That is why ‘The Sword of The Spirit’ is ‘The Word of God’ in the Old and New Testaments.

  • Leo Ladenson

    Whenever I see a discussion of the “higher criticism,” I always think about the minority branch of modern Biblical scholarship that uses modern methods to affirm traditional understandings of New Testament authorship and dating (as opposed to the majority of modern scholars who hypothesize quite late dates and indeterminate or “community” authors for the books of the NT). These minority scholars are actually a quite impressive group: from the work of the British monks John Chapman and B.C. Butler (both converts to the Catholic Church, by the way), to the redatings of Anglican Bishop J.A.T. Robinson; from the former students of Rudolf Bultmann like Heinrich Schlier (another Catholic convert) and Eta Linnemann, to the scholars of the “Paris Hebrew School” (who argue for Hebrew prototypes of, and thus very early dates for, the Greek Gospels) like Jean Carmignac and Claude Tresmontant; from J.J. Griesbach, the father of textual criticism, to his modern heirs like David L. Dungan, T.R.W. Longstaff, Hans-Herbert Stoldt, Bernard Orchard, Harold Riley, and William R. Farmer. Although far from an exclusively Catholic movement–the Anglican C.S. Mann, e.g., argued for Matthean priority in his *Matthew* volume for the multi-volume *Anchor Bible*–it is interesting to note the number of Catholic scholars in the movement and the converts it has attracted, including the late William R. Farmer, a Methodist scholar who joined the Catholic Church a couple of years before he died.

    • Which is why the Navarre Bible is so interesting to me … I like to try “higher criticism” on various works by somebody we know, like Shakespeare.  If we didn’t know any better, we’d undoubtedly attribute his corpus of works to five or six different authors.  We would never suppose that the man who wrote King Lear also wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor — or that he could have written Antony and Cleopatra at roughly the same time he was working on parts of Pericles.

  • did Mohammad exist? This is like asking if Satan exists and if he was a pawn for him.

    • Asper

      Are you trying to legitimize your belief in Satan by believing in someone you believe was commanded by Satan?
      In other words: Muhammad is bad, and Satan is bad; Satan exists, therefore Muhammad exists.
      Are you afraid of losing people to hate if Muhammad all of a sudden happens to be a myth?

  • David, Thailand

    Until it happened I couldn’t have imagined anyone with the courage to ask that question, or worse still try to answer it. I haven’t read the book yet, but kol ha kavod to Robert.

  • John Key

    I’m not sure how anyone can read this excerpt and come to some of the conclusions folks are coming to. For those upset that Spencer is somehow endorsing the historical critical method’s conclusions regarding Christianity, please re-read. You skin is too thin, and your eyes blurry. For those thinking this is a mindless hate filled attack on Islam, shame on you…you’ve revealed far too much about your own bias in your hysterical defense. This tease of an excerpt seems to be simply saying that it is curious how LITTLE has ever been done historically to vet the origins of Islam and what scholarly work has been done shows some curious things to say the least. Is this really out of bounds to pursue? What are you all so afraid of?

    • John Key

      And one more thing…Anyone familiar with Spencer and Jihad Watch know that he doesn’t take his research lightly and that there are not very real personal consequences to what he does. There’s a reason why you don’t find a contact address on his site. I think it is worth all our time to slow down and consider carefully with Spencer is patiently and intelligently trying to say to the world. Did Jesus exist? The Church  responded with overwhelming evidence and to the great benefit of the faithful. Did Muhammad Exist? Get it together Muslim apologists, prove your case.

  • pamelanak

    Has the historical existence of Abraham, Moses , Soloman been questioned and by whom?  Has the Jewish sacred texts such as the Talmud, Kabaalah et al been examined by non jews/non believers to the same extent as has the New Testament?  Book suggestion anyone?

  • King Tut Tony


    Just to say thank you and may God bless you.


  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    I am reminded of the wise words of Mgr Ronald Knox

    “And here steps in a very pestilent psychological influence. The lecturer who combats Kirchhoff, or exposes Ferrcro, can do so without any imputation of narrow-mindedness. He has, in this instance, clearly no axe to grind.  But if he be a Christian, and a fortiori if he be a clergyman, he is afraid of the imputation of narrow-mindedness if he takes up the same attitude towards Harnack or Spitta. When Mr. Cornford writes about Thucydides, Oxford historians cheerfully dispose of him in half a lecture, but when he writes about Christianity, Oxford theologians see cause for much searching of hearts and wagging of heads. But is there any reason for this difference, except that we are all in such craven fear of being thought illiberal ?”

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  • Ricdykstra1

    I don’t think you need to be a genius to figure out that Mohammed did exhist.  As a merchant he traveled and became knowledgable about Jewish and Catholic beliefs.  He adopted most of his beliefs directly from the Jewish Faith, threw in a few Catholic ideas, and added a few of his own.  He was careful to try and discredit the death and resurrection of Jesus, stating that Jesus was only a prophet who came to prepare the way for Mohammed himself.  He even threw in respect for Mary, Jesus’ Mother!  His faith spread quickly because you were put to the Sword if you refused conversion!

    If he were here today, I would tell him to read about the Shroud of Turin-it IS the physical proof that Jesus died on the cross-and ROSE from the dead!  The most recent scientific studies confirm that the Shroud is GENUINE!  Read about it for yourself!

    • nihalce76

      well said

    • PsyBorg


      The Shroud of Turin (SoT) has been scientifically examined and shown to be such a mess of repairs and contamination that you can prove whatever you like with it.

      The SoT is most likely a fraud because the Catholic Church has never once shown any writing or object from the time of Jesus to be genuine but it has produced or supported many frauds.

      Which of the eighteen “Holy Foreskins” of Jesus proclaimed as sacred relics by the Catholic Church in medieval times do you think was the REAL one?

      None, right?

    • johnschuh

      The story you relate is the traditional Muslim one, but which cannot be confirmed by looking at non-Muslim sources.

  • Another scholar who has done serious work questioning Muhammad’s historicity is Brother Bruno Bonnet-Eymard, of the French Contre Reforme Catholique. The commentary in his critical edition of the Koran (in French: Le Coran) states that Muhammad was not an historical person. He also has some other radical conclusions, including that the original Holy City of Islam was not Mecca, but Jerusalem.

    I am not promoting these views — which are considerably out of my own competency — but simply making the good Brother’s work known to readers.

  • Brian Diehm

    I for one tend to believe that Muhammad did exist, simply because the parallels between Muhammad and Joseph Smith are so astounding. These include, in my view, an inadequate understanding of Christianity, a messianic tendency developed in a self-sufficient occultism, the evidence of “making up the faith as you go along” in internally-contradictory, jumbled, and inorganic ways, and, ultimately, in the evidence of sexual predation self-justified in the new teaching as a result of the messianic tendency.

    In the latter we can see the logical possibility of the former. I understand, this is not proof one way or the other, but the parallels should be understood by students of either.

  • I believed that Muhammad should be confirmed historically. Despite the enormous amount of technology and knowledge held by the Western societies, it would be appealing if the revisions of Islamic faith could be done by the Muslims themselves. If not, the Muslims will see historicity of Muhammad as an attack by enemies of faith.

    If the scholars are really interested in Muhammad, they should be able to ask fellow Muslims who interested to study the analysis method from the West, so that they can find the truth themselves and perhaps being aid by Western historians.

    Anonymous Muslim

  • chris heath

    I suppose Dawkins would agree with John Locke
    “To love truth for truth’s
    sake is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the
    seed-plot of all other virtues.”

    So a part of man’s existence is the search for truth.

    I would maintain though, that where there are areas where the ‘truth’ cannot
    be ascertained, then faith seems like a reasonable alternative.
    I would imagine that a person of faith, could simply ignore absolute historical accuracy, and still retain faith intact.
    I am about to buy this book. Why? According to Mr Spencer, there is a woeful lack of evidence of his existence AT THE TIME he was supposed to be alive. But his wide ranging influence, and conquest of the Arabian peninsula, would surely have meant some, if not dozens, of contemporary accounts..
    The Koran did not appear until some 60 years after his death, and detailed accounts of his life, came much, much later. !00-200 years later.. Mr Spencer points out that normally, a famous person has many accounts written during his lifetime, and shortly after but these rapidly dwindle after his death. Until a generation or two later, there are virtually none.
    So, in Mohammed’s case the exact opposite has occurred.
    I think the Koran was used as a kind of ‘political manifesto’ and was an attempt to control a vast empire (from the Atlantic (North Africa) to North China (far east), with hugely different people, customs, races, and cultures, and unite them under a common religion, and legal system (Sharia). Bearing in mind this started in 630 AD, and only took 20-30 years to reach its full extent. This was an immensely fast expansion.

  • Steve Weiss

    All religious sacred texts are fictional. Fiction is the default position unless proven otherwise. Throughout history most observers and critics have had their roots in the faith which they evaluate and thus have a bias in attributing veracity to these fictional accounts. This is why it took about 1500 years for the Catholic Church to face a Reformation and for its reaction in a Counter-reformation. The fact remains that there are very few facts which substantiate religious mythology. The onus of proof is entirely upon believers, and they come up far short of hitting the truth mark. Religion is neither true nor false; it is arbitrary.

    • johnschuh

      We have the evidence in the societies created by the three faiths. Even enlightenment figures like Jefferson thought of Christian morality as superior to all others. That was not true of the radicals, like D’Holbach, who were philosophic materialists, who thought of all morality as mere convention. Their descendants reject the idea that there is an objectively best or true way for human beings to live together in society. This is simply begging the question.

    • meme1961

      “Fiction is the default position unless proven otherwise”

      At least you had the courtesy to list your personal dogma up front.

      The position that a man of reason would take is this: “I don’t know”, or at least “I don’t know for sure.”

      “The fact remains that there are very few facts which substantiate religious mythology.”

      The first flaw in that lies in your presumption of mythos. Rightly, you should demonstrate some basis for that, or again, acknowledge that you simply do not know whether a story is true, or mythos.

      That said, anything that has happened in the past can be questioned. The farther back in the past, the longer the chains of evidence and custody, and less and less of the evidence remains. To question the validity of something simply because it happened in the past is valid, but to assume that lack of evidence disproves a statement, is invalid. One can make quantifiable statements only about data one actually has, one may not judge data that no longer exists.

      In short, anything that happened in the past requires some level of faith to believe in, as time travel remains unavailable.

      “Religion is neither true nor false; it is arbitrary.”

      Yet another fallacy: the belief that there really is such a category as “religion.” There simply is no set of common, essential attributes such that you can identify and define a category that includes all religious faiths, beliefs, practices and traditions (if you disagree, feel free to make the attempt).

      This categorical failure invalidates your statement.

      What you also don’t seem to realize is that the value and validity of such a system can be tested.

      That said, proof from historicity is a statistical thing at best, and at worst, a way to confirm one’s biases. If one truly wishes to find truth, the proper mix and relationship between faith and reason is superior to all other methodologies.

      Your stance seems to be far to fideistic to be valid.

  • Hizbullah

    Robert Spencer

    The 1st Century CE was the beginning of the Freemason period and the New World Order.

    Persecution of the so called “Christians”, who were believers, in the Roman
    Empire occurred over a period of about three centuries. This was the beginning of the 1st Century CE. The Romans cannot change the mindset of the peoples overnight. They knew it. The believers have to undergo harsh treatment. In these three centuries many people were stoned or turn to idol worshipping. Many sects were also formed. One particular sect were the Ebonite, a “Judaizing” sect, declared heretical at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and thereafter disappeared from history, as some thought. In fact, most of its adherents are believed to have migrated into Arabia, after Christianity begins officially in the 4th Century. There is no question that Ebionitism was the main or perhaps the only group with a wide follower in Arabia during the fourth to sixth centuries. Indeed its influence in the Levant and Arabian Peninsula during these centuries was profound. The Ebonite accepted Esa [Esaias] as the Prophet and Messiah but rejected the notion that he was the son of God. They regarded Esa as a faithful Jew and follower of the Mosaic Law as well as the various other rules and regulations stipulated in that Law. Perhaps it is justified in describing this sect as “proto-Islam,” and it would appear that the first “Islam” to appear as evinced in the Holy Quran was precisely this Arab version of ”Monotheism”.This was the beginning of era and ministry of the seal of the prophets, Prophet Muhammad!

    Prophet Muhammad, high possibility, was born before the 4th
    Century of the Common Era and the Holy Quran was sent down in the 4th
    Century in order to counter the distortion of the 1st Book of ALLAH, which comprises of the Torah and Injeel by the Roman Christians as confirmed by the verse below:

    Holy Quran 02:79 -So woe to those who write the
    “Book” with their own hands, then say, “This is from ALLAH”, in order to exchange it for a small price. Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn.

    I will segregate the verse into A & B

    A. So woe to those who write the “Book” with their own hands, then say, “This is from GOD” in order to exchange it for a small price.

    Look at the imperfect verb, shows that the sentence in Present Tense. It
    proofs that the Quran was sent down during the time when a Book was written.
    This can only be during the Creed of Nicaea in 325, when the Romans under
    Constantine created the Bible. This was the time when the distortion of the
    Book of GOD started. From The Bible’s Ungodly Origins by Robert L. Johnson

    “Emperor Constantine, who was Roman Emperor from 306 CE until his death in 337 CE,
    used what motivates many to action – MONEY! He offered the various Church leaders MONEY to agree upon a single canon that would be used by all Christians as the word
    of God. The Church leaders gathered together at the Council of Nicaea and voted
    the “word of god” into existence. Constantine ordered and financed 50 parchment copies of the new “holy scriptures.” It seems with the financial element added to the picture, the Church fathers were able to overcome their differences and finally agree which “holy” books would stay and which would go.

    The Prophet comes into the picture to stop the distortion, as per the Holy Quran 05:68 – Say, “O People of the Scripture, you are on nothing until you uphold [the law of] the Torah, the Gospel, and what has been revealed to you from your Lord.”

    The command of GOD thru HIS prophet is the above verse. This
    shows explicitly that the 1ST Book of GOD was intact. Nobody in their right mind,
    especially a prophet, would want to teach things that are already distorted! The
    Prophet warned the People of the Book to uphold the Torah and Gospel and the
    Quran for their own salvation. Unfortunately, they did not as per the Holy Quran 05:66 –

    And if they had kept up the Taurat and the Injeel and that which was revealed to them from their Lord, they would certainly have eaten from above them and from beneath their feet, there is a party of them keeping to the moderate course, and (as for) most of
    them, evil is that which they do.

    B. Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn.

    Look at the perfect verb and imperfect verb [underline], shows that the sentence in Past Tense and Present Tense respectively. The above verse confirms that most of scriptures of the NT were composed during 4th Century.Further, an abstract from The Bible’s Ungodly Origins by Robert L. Johnson….

    “Therefore, one can easily argue that the first Christian Bible was commissioned, paid for, inspected and approved by a pagan emperor for church use.”

    The most significant proof that the Holy Quran was sent down in the 4th Century is the story about the Sleepers of the Cave. The Holy Quran 18:22 –

    They will say there were three, the fourth of them being their dog; and they will say there were five, the sixth of them being their dog – guessing at the unseen; and they will say there were seven, and the eighth of them was their dog. Say, [O Muhammad], “My Lord is most knowing of their number. None knows them except a few. So do not argue about them except with an obvious argument and do not inquire about them among from anyone.”

    Study the tenses carefully and you will find that the sentence is in Future/Present
    Tense. None knows them except a few.The earliest Christian version of this story comes from the Syrian bishop,Jacob of Sarug (c.450-521), in the 6th-century.

    Another significant proof from the Holy Quran 18:25 –

    And they remained in their cave for three hundred years and exceeded by nine.

    As mentioned, the persecution of the so called Christians in the Roman Empire occurred over a period of about three centuriesuntil the 313 Edict of Milan issued by Emperors Constantine and Licinius. This was the beginning of the era of official Christianity. A new religion was born. The Sleepers of the Cave slept in the year 13 and woke up 300 years later, in the year 313. 313 CE was the period where the persecutions to the believers stop. ALLAH THE EXALTED extended their lives to another 9 years. They died in year 322. The 1stNicene Creed was in the year
    325. As such, in the light of the established facts, confirms that the Holy Quran was sent down in 325 CE.

    • meme1961

      The logical fallacy of your argument is fairly obvious, as is the three separate fallacies contained within the text on the Deist web site.

      That said, quoting a Deist work is fairly interesting in the context of what you are arguing for. You do realize that the work you quote applies equally to the Koran, yes?

      • Zal Qarnain

        Everything is mentioned in the Quran. You need to study it carefully without any biases. With ignorance one will considered every expect of the Book a fallacy!

  • Marie

    The question is, also, plainly “Does Jesus exist?” But that question has nothing to do with one’s Faith as long as the parables (maybe only allegedly to have been) taught, we abide by them! Robert Spencer is all about making notes of the particular fact: we are on a jihad watch. This has been and now still is his over-riding premise. We have to face the fact that any religion practiced in the face of any other religion is a tenuous thing to do and we have to be careful, more than careful, we have to practice any faith about anything we possess to ourselves, just like politics are incendiary, so is religion, although, at the same time expressing our concerns. Btw, we sorely need voices like Spencer’s. His is a voice of warning of the dangers of stealth jihad.

  • Josepha

    Of Course Mohammad existed and rode a winged horse to heaven and Jesus bought people back from the dead and ascended into heaven. There is more historical evidence for Jesus, the human, as a potential social reformer who became a irritant for both Romans and Jews and was accordingly crucified. He was wriiten about by both jewish and roman historians of the time. However most of the sayings attributed to Jesus were written decades after he died and therefore become rather dubious in truth… and the books of the new testament contradict each other continuously. However there was a man called Jesus who lived/died around 30 -40 ad, liked the company of particularly other men and (apparently) one prostitute.
    Mohammads’ life is based on anedoctal legend. There is controversy over whether he was born in Mecca – more likely in the area now known as Syria (muslims are probably praying in the wrong direction), According to Anas ibn Malik, the Prophet Muhammad used to visit all eleven of his wives in one night; but he could manage this, as he had the sexual prowess of thirty men. However he had concubines as well. His youngest wife, Aisha was six years old according to the Sahim Muslim book 008, number 3310 but him being such a thoughtful person he didn’t consumate the marriage till she was 9 years. The thought of an old man (he was supposedly 54) becoming aroused

    by a child is one of the most disturbing thoughts that makes us

    cringe as it reminds us of pedophilia and the most despicable

    people…and look at Islam today how they treat woman? But there is much conjecture if Mohammad existed at all….because there is very little historical evidence. However it is difficult to examine the situation because moslems get so touchy about the situation and historians get threatened with death if they expose the truth.

    At least Jesus was either gay or maybe biseual or just liked a good time withe boys and one girl….. at least she was over 16?
    The whole religious ideology of particularly christianity and Islam is so fraught with anecdotes and blind faith that I wonder about the psychoses of the people who believe in them. They are obviously inadequate and illogical believing in a man( not a woman) in the sky probably with a long beard who created all and is omnipotent and don’t forget winged horses flying angels etc and God has been and always will be… that people in the year 2014 can believe in such an idea in this day and age is akin to believing in the tooth fairy and father xmas. Nice for children but please grow up and you dangerous creeps wanting an Islamic state or Caliphate, please go away and live in cave. You are living in the 21st not 3rd century.

    • johnschuh

      There is nothing in the New Testament that makes Jesus a “social reformer.” Social reformers are a modern invention.

    • meme1961

      “However most of the sayings attributed to Jesus were written decades after he died and therefore become rather dubious in truth…”

      No, they don’t. Your assumption that a thing is not recorded until written is where you go wrong. The oral tradition may generate minor differences in word choice (even when asked immediately after a speech, people will reword what they repeat back to fit their style of speech), but the ideas and teachings can be passed along almost indefinitely without mutation or damage.

      Translation changes word choice much more dramatically than oral tradition repeated within the same language does.

      “and the books of the new testament contradict each other continuously.”

      No, they don’t. What is telling is that people claim such contradictions, but never, ever list them.