The article, as you may have guessed, doesn’t actually consider whether or not Muhammad ever existed. The real article is entitled, “5 reasons to suspect that Jesus never existed,” by Valerie Tarico, and was published in Salon on September 1, 2014. It’s a ridiculously counter-factual piece of the type that frequently appears in Salon: it asserts, for example, that “even the gospel stories don’t actually say, ‘I was there.’ Rather, they claim the existence of other witnesses, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has heard the phrase, my aunt knew someone who . . . .” In reality, John’s gospel claims to have been written by the apostle John himself: “This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24). And St. Luke’s doesn’t present itself as a product of casual “my aunt knew someone” hearsay, but of a diligent compilation of eyewitness accounts: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.” (Luke 1:1-4)
Whether or not such claims are true is another matter, but it is patently dishonest to assert flatly that “even the gospel stories don’t actually say, ‘I was there'” when there is this clear evidence to the contrary. But that’s Salon for you. The mainstream media eagerly publishes articles like that one, and other deconstructions of the gospel accounts of Jesus, but would never dare subject Muhammad and Islam to the same critical scrutiny. Salon, for example, wouldn’t be caught dead discussing my book Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry Into Islam’s Obscure Origins, except possibly to sneer at it or call it “Islamophobic.” The idea that religious claims can and should be subjected to rational and historical analysis for the Left applies only to Christianity, never to Islam. This is partly because for the media, Islam and Muslims are always the victim, and must be accorded special privileges as a result, and also because of an “Islamophobic” fear that Leftist media outlets would never admit to, but is nonetheless real — that if they question Muhammad’s historicity, they could end up being killed by an adherent of what they tenaciously believe to be the Religion of Peace.
Nonetheless, for stouter hearts and clearer minds, Did Muhammad Exist? has just been published in paperback by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. This edition is not only handy, portable, and paper-bound, but it also contains a brand new Foreword by Ibn Warraq, in which he surveys the reaction to the book, compares it to Reza Aslan’s Zealot, and chides the mainstream media for its eagerness to deconstruct Christianity but carefully respectful, even reverential, stance toward Islam. Don’t miss this one. You can get it at Barnes and Noble here and at Amazon here — as well as at any self-respecting brick-and-mortar bookstore.
A sampling of critical reactions:
“A well-written, sober, and clear account . . . The revisionist account is no idle academic exercise but, as when Judaism and Christianity encountered the Higher Criticism 150 years ago, a deep, unsettling challenge to faith. . . . May the revolution begin.” —National Review Online
“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. . . . For too long, the topic of Islamic historiography has been confined to highly specialized academia, with the growing problem of Islamist intimidation. Thus, an accessible primer on the subject as we have here is most welcome. In addition, the project of translating this book into Arabic is to be commended. In the years to come, it would be good to see Spencer’s book prescribed as introductory reading for courses on Islam in schools and universities.” —American Spectator
“Careful, detailed, well-reasoned survey and analysis . . . [A] brave book.” —FrontPage Magazine
“[Spencer] has engaged in concerted detective work of a scholarly nature. His book is no polemic. It is a serious quest for facts. The ones wrapped up in the Muslim canon are, alas, elusive. . . . Well-written and moves right along.” —Washington Times
“In an impeccably researched book, Spencer shows that all our Arabic sources for the life of Muhammad are very late, tendentious, and unsupported by any archaeological or epigraphic evidence, while the non-Islamic sources are scant and ambiguous. Thanks to this book, skepticism regarding what we can know about Muhammad must now and forever be taken seriously.” —Ibn Warraq, editor of What the Koran Really Says
“This will send shockwaves through Islamic communities.” —The Blaze
“A surprising and eye-opening new book . . . Quite a convincing job.” —PJ Media
“Robert Spencer has displayed brilliant scholarship and fierce courage in his previous books. In this one he perseveres and confronts with deep erudition the most topical problem of our century.” —Bat Ye’or, author of The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam
“A super detective service for the West . . . Spencer leaves few rocks unturned in his search for the truth about Islam and Muhammad.”