Without indulging in polemics or pushing a partisan political agenda, the author simply investigates the question of whether we can really trust the traditional Islamic accounts for the life of Muhammad and the supposed early days of Islam during the Arab conquests.
To be sure, serious scholarship on Islamic historiography dates back to the latter half of the 19th century — with the works of the Belgian Jesuit Henri Lammens and the acclaimed Geschichte des Qorans by Theodor Noldeke, to name just two pioneers of the field — and Spencer makes no pretense to originality.
Yet a traditional problem with Islamic historiography has been the intended audience: that is, the academic specialist assumed to have extensive background knowledge, rather than the general reader. Thus, Spencer’s book serves a useful purpose, for it flows nicely while providing the reader with a firm grounding for delving deeper into the subject. Indeed, the author provides a handy “Further Reading List” (pp. 239-40) for anyone interested in consulting specialist works. Spencer also deserves credit for integrating his sources nicely into his writing, avoiding the practice of simply quoting verbatim large chunks from other authors.
SO WHAT ARE THE MAIN arguments against the historicity of the traditional Islamic accounts of Muhammad’s life and the subsequent rise of Islam through the Arab conquests?
this article is a review of the book:
Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins By Robert Spencer
(ISI Books, 254 pages, $27.95)