Reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, one cannot help but marvel at the
thoroughness of Sherlock Holmes’s use of reason to piece together disparate
clues and evidence and conclude that the least plausible explanation was the
most obvious, true one. The legendary, spectral hound that haunted the Dartmoor
bogs for two centuries was a piece of unsubstantiated folklore exploited by a
devious criminal whose only purpose was to seize wealth that wasn’t his. He
bought a hound, coated it in phosphorous, and launched his nefarious designs.
If his plans worked out, everyone would believe that the heir to the
Baskerville estate was really killed by an elusive, evanescent hound, just as
the heir’s uncle apparently was. No one would investigate further. After all,
the locals might be offended.
Holmes shoots it as it attacks another Baskerville heir. The Hound from Hell
was an invention, based on an apocryphal curse. The Hound was a fraud. A hoax.
As insubstantial as marsh gas.
Islam, however, is the very real Hound from Hell now roaming the earth, causing
unimaginable suffering and death in nations where Islam rules, invading Western
countries with hordes of assimilation-hostile faithful imbued with an
implacable enmity for Western values and culture, waging constant violent and
stealth jihad in countries its advocates mean to conquer and bring under
Islamic and Sharia rule. The aspect that makes it frightening is the
phosphorous of moral certainty that it is invincible and ineluctable. But the
bogeyman is a phony. A contrivance. A will-o’-the-wisp designed to frighten men
into submission or silence. Ignis fatuus. Mere methane.
Robert Spencer calls its bluff.
Spencer performs a super detective service for the West in Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins, but to a degree
and extent that would make Holmes green with envy. He examines virtually every
aspect of the composition and history of Islam and its purported founder,
Let us begin with one of his summations:
A careful investigation makes at least one thing clear: The details of Muhammad’s
life that have been handed down as canonical – that he unified Arabs by the
force of arms, concluded alliances, married wives, legislated for his
community, and did so much else – are a creation of political ferments dating
from long after the time he is supposed to have lived. Similarly, the records
strongly indicate that the Qur’an did not exist until long after it was
supposed to have been delivered to the prophet of Islam. [pp. 214-215]
The Qur’an, the
Islamic canon alleges, was the eternal “perfect book,” coexisting
with Allah, who sent it to earth via the Angel Gabriel to whisper into Mohammad’s
ear on Mount Hira, and which he, an illiterate, was able to communicate to the
world in its entirety, unalterable, unchanged, and untouchable.
Well, because he couldn’t write, he had secretaries to whom he dictated the Qur’an.
No, wait. Those secretaries began recording the good book after he had died.
As Spencer demonstrates, it did not come into existence until long after
Mohammad’s death (presuming he even existed) in 632. (Gabriel was the “Prophet
Whisperer.”) The Hadith,
the companion to the Qur’an purportedly a collection of Mohammad’s sayings and
doings, did not begin to accumulate until a century after his death. As Spencer
shows, the Hadith became a kind
of cottage industry for caliphs, Islamic clerics, scholars and anonymous
scribes to invent its contents over the centuries for reasons that can partly
be explained, and that partly remain conjectural.
Islam, Mohammad, and even Muslims did not begin to enter anyone’s consciousness
until early in the 8th century following Arab conquests of the Mideast and
North Africa. Spencer emphasizes, and demonstrates, that it was Arabs, and not
necessarily Muslims, or Moslems, or Mohammadans who waged jihad on that part of
the Dark Age world. And those Arabs, while they were monotheists, were not
necessarily Muslims. Spencer demonstrates that possibly it was the biblical and
Judaic Abraham who was the “prophet,” not the person Mohammad.
Surviving commentaries by chroniclers were ambiguous on the point. Moreover,
that monotheist creed regarded Christians and Jews in a far more tolerant light
of fellowship than would the Islam that finally emerged centuries later. It
would explain many of the contradictory
verses in the Qur’an, especially the earlier, abrogated ones.
Up until the time the Qur’an was being diligently assembled by a succession of
clerics, politicians, and charlatans, no mention is made in the earliest
documents that can be linked to Islam of the Qur’an or to Mohammad. What
chroniclers referred to when writing about those events and those Arabs – which
include fictive battles that Mohammad fought – were Hagarians, Saracens, or
The invaders referred to themselves as Muhajirun, “emigrants” – a
term that would eventually take on a particular significance within Islam but
that at this time preceded any clear mention of Islam as such. Greek-speaking
writers would sometimes term the invaders “Magaritai,” which appears
to be derived from Muhajirun. But conspicuously absent from the stock of terms
that invaded and conquered people used to name the conquering Arabians was “Muslims.”
“Allah,” Spencer points out, was not the exclusive name for God of
Muslims in this period, but a common term shared by Christians and Jews. “Muhammad”
was not necessarily a proper name, but often an honorific title meaning “praised
one,” which could be appended to any random “prophet” or
religious preacher. As Spencer shows with meticulous attention to detail, Islam
and the iconic Mohammad were too likely a consequence between feuding tribes, ä
la the Hatfields and McCoys, in the prophet’s alleged home base, Mecca, in this
instance, the Quraysh and the Umayyads. Spencer also points to the dubious role
of Mecca itself in the history of Islam, and of the Kaaba, which was originally
a shrine for a host of pagan and polytheistic deities, and not the sole
spiritual property of Islam as is the common belief. It shared the fate of many
churches in lands conquered by the invaders, which were turned into mosques. It
was appropriated by Islam. That is, stolen by conquering Arabs of questionable
The original Qur’an, writes Spencer, had to have been in Syriac, not Arabic, as
the Islamic canon asserts it was. Allah commanded it to appear in Arabic, and
not in any other language. Spencer bursts that balloon, too. And every fifth
verse in the Qur’an is literally incomprehensible, having no intelligible
reference to what precedes or follows it.
Spencer devotes important attention to the likelihood that the Qur’an is
founded on a substratum of early Christian and Judaic texts. The Qur’an
possibly was based on an early Christian lectionary.
My first introduction to Islam was the epic Lawrence of Arabia in 1963. I was
in high school when I first saw it on a big theater screen. From a directorial
and cinematography standpoint, it is still one of my favorite films. Spencer’s
book clears up some of the dialogue and scenes in that film. For example, when
Lawrence and his Bedouin army are nearing Damascus, an Arab rider offers
Lawrence a stem of grapes. Lawrence tastes one and grimaces. “They are not
ripe!” laughs the rider.
Spencer discusses the actual meaning of those grapes and their relationship to
the seventy-two renewable virgins promised martyrs in Paradise. Citing the
researches of Christoph Luxenberg, a contemporary investigator of Islam’s
origins, he notes:
… [A] closer philological analysis indicates that the Qur’an does not offer
such a…promise. After examining the rasm, the other contexts in which hur
appears in the Qur’an, and the contemporary usage of the word houris, Luxenberg
concludes that the famous passages refer not to virgins but instead to white
raisins, or grapes.
Yes, fruit. Strange as that may seem, given all the attention paid to the Qur’an’s
supposed promises of virgins in Paradise, white raisins were a prized delicacy
in that region. As such, Luxenberg suggests, they actually make a more fitting
symbol of the reward of Paradise than the promise of sexual favors from
virgins. Luxenberg shows that the Arabic word for “Paradise” can be
traced to the Syriac word for “garden,” which stands to reason, given
the common identification of the garden of Adam and Eve with Paradise.
Luxenberg further demonstrates that metaphorical references to bunches of
grapes are consonant with Christian homiletics expatiating on the refreshments
that greeted the blessed in Heaven. The fact that the Syriac word Ephraem used
for “grapevine” was feminine, Luxenberg explains, “led the
Arabic exegetes of the Koran to this fateful assumption” that the Qur’an
text referred to sexual playthings in Paradise. [p. 169]
Luxenberg is one of the many pioneer investigators and examiners of Islam’s
origins to whom Spencer gives ample credit throughout his book. Luxenberg
focused on the philological quirks and inconsistencies found in Islam’s holy
book in his 2000 The
Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the
Language of the Qur’an.
A chief inconsistency of Islam for me is that the Qur’an is claimed to have
been the “perfect book” that coexisted with Allah. Yet, no sooner had
Mohammad died than his successors began to fiddle with its contents to conform
to the expediency of the moment – surely a punishable offence in Islam. When
this is pointed out to the faithful defenders of the Qur’an’s inalterability,
the pat answer is that Allah planned it that way, that is, implying that Allah
had the Angel Gabriel whisper an incomplete and imperfect Qur’an into a delirious
Mohammad’s ear. So, it’s an either/or conundrum for which Islamists have no
credible solution and no rationally comprehensible answer.
The Qur’an especially winds up being a kind of Rube Goldberg-like
literary contraption that contains explanations for every unnecessary and
obvious contradiction, and its defenders hardly blush.
Islam has swindled its faithful,
its communicants, its followers, its believers. All the possible evidence
points to the fact that Islam’s substance and veracity comprise a theological
and historical fraud. The walls of Allah’s gold mine of salvation and his
blessings were salted with glittering silicate from a shotgun, meant to dazzle
and stun the gullible and irrational into buying into what is, at root and in
purpose, a totalitarian ideology. Unfortunately, about a billion people are
comfortable with being the playthings of that ideology. Which is why Islam is,
root and branch, incompatible with America.
Spencer leaves few rocks unturned in his search for the truth about Islam and
Mohammad. Beneath them he has found either nothing concrete, or another
hand-buzzer of Islamic practical jokers. He posits at the end that Islam was
knocked together as a political faith to anchor the Arab empire in the 8th
century, and then began to acquire its contemporary character as sheer
political circumstances demanded. In this relatively short book, Spencer adds
an invaluable resource to the growing and much needed corpus of literature that
exposes, if not the peril posed by Islam, then its maleficent and felonious
Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins, by Robert Spencer.
254 pages. ISI Books, Wilmington, DE, 2012.