Saturday, July 14, 2012

Searching for Muhammad

You may not be aware, but I am somewhat addicted to podcasts. Podcasts have done for me in the audio milieu what TiVo did for me in video. I can listen to what I want when I want it, and skip through parts I don't want. Add to that Yahoo Pipes, and life gets even better.

One of the podcasts I follow is Catholic Answers Live. I don't remember when I started listening to it, but what I like is that it is faithful to the Magisterium, and the guests are extremely knowledgeable, at least as far as I can tell (in other words where I know something, they do too, which believe me is rare in most shows). But the best part are the questions people ask. Things I never would even have thought to ask, let alone know the answer to. I can honestly say is that from almost every episode I have learned something new or looked at something from a new perspective. And learning new things and new ways to examine things is something I enjoy, much like Richard Feynman.

An example is one of last week's episodes, "Searching for Muhammad". The guest on the show, Robert Spencer, (no relation to Shawn Spencer) examines the question "did Muhammad exist". I had never considered the question, having taken the "history" of Islam that I've heard on the media at face value. But if his claims are true, there is no credible evidence that Muhammad existed or that he produced the Quran.

I'm very skeptical of this claim, since I have heard the same claims made about Jesus and Christianity. However, such claims are trivial to disprove, and Jesus' existence is documented by non-Christian historians as well as by Christians, and most of the New Testament, while not compiled into a single volume until the late fourth century, was written and widely disseminated during the first century.

On the contrary I haven't heard any such refutations of Mr. Spencer's claims (although that doesn't mean they don't exist). According to him, there are no references either in the Arab world or in the lands they conquered to Muhammad the prophet, or the Quran or Islam until about 125 years after Muhammad is supposed to have died. In addition, he says coins minted in that time that feature the name Muhammad bear the image of a man with a cross, which could not be the Muhammad of Islam (since the cross is accursed according to Islam).

I am not enough of a historian to say whether these claims are true or not, but it is a fascinating question to ponder. There's much more in the episode, and I suggest you listen to it if you find the idea interesting.


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