Dated And Datable Texts Mentioning Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ From 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
The history of the quest for the historical Muhammad in the modern Western literature has its origins from the time (c. 1850 CE) of Sir William Muir and Alois Sprenger. Both of them suspected that much of the Islamic traditions on Muhammad, which were accepted by Muslims as authentic, were in fact forged.
Their views were given a further impetus by Ignaz Goldziher who became convinced that the tradition literature had grown up after the Arab conquests, i.e., the aḥādīth did not reflect the life of Prophet Muhammad; rather they reflect the beliefs, conflicts and controversies of the first generation of Muslims.
 In other words, the aḥādīth reflect reality, but not the reality of seventh century Arabia but of Umayyad and early Abbasid empires. About half a century after Goldziher, Joseph Schacht applied the former’s methodology and came up with what is called the backward growth of isnāds. Isnāds, he argued, tended to grow backward with time.
In other words, traditions with worse isnāds are likely to be earlier and the ones with perfect isnāds betray their late development. Therefore, the legal rules formulated during later times were enshrined in ḥadīth and projected back to the life of the Prophet in order to give them an Islamic justification.
Following the earlier scepticism, albeit charting a new direction, John Wansbrough argued that ḥadīth literature is exegetical in origin, i.e., the bulk of the tradition literature is closely tied to the interpretation of the Qur’an, which he believed did not take its final form/canonised until the late eighth / early ninth century.
Ḥadīth literature is not rooted in history but it originated due to the propensity of the early Muslims to tell stories related to the Qur’an. A variation of Wansbrough’s position was put forth by John Burton who suggested that the origins of ḥadīth had nothing to do with real life and everything to do with the problem of interpreting the Qur’an.
Following the footsteps of Wansbrough, a different approach was taken by Judith Koren and Yehuda Nevo to study Islamic history. They contend that any Muslim source must be checked against a non-Muslim source (preferably material, e.g., archaeology, epigraphy, numismatics), and if the two sources conflict, the non-Muslim source is to be preferred. Concerning Muhammad, they claim:
[Brock] points out that there are no details of Muhammad’s early career in any Byzantine or Syriac sources which predate the Muslim literature on the subject.
While commenting on the Islamic sources, Nevo claims that “neither the Prophet himself nor any Muhammadan formulae appear in any inscription dated before the year 71 / 691” and that the earliest occurrence of the phrase Muhammad rasūl Allāh is on an Arab-Sassanian coin of Khālid bin ʿAbdullāh from the year 71 AH / 691 CE.
It will be seen later that Nevo and Koren were wrong on both accounts, not in keeping with their most surprising claim that it is the revisionists and not the “traditionalists” who pay close attention to the findings of archaeology, epigraphy and numismatics. Perhaps the situation can be summed up no better than the recent analysis by Jeremy Johns. He said,
The polemical style permitted historians to dismiss this article as not worth an answer, while Nevo’s unorthodox interpretation of material evidence embarrassed archaeologists into silence (Fig. 1). What, it was widely asked, could have persuaded Der Islam to waste space in this manner?
The implications here are quite startling. If the sceptics are right then the life of Muhammad as seen in the Islamic literature is not historical. The tradition literature may have grown out of the political and theological debates of the first generation Muslims, as Goldziher argued, or out of the legal debates, as Schacht suggested, or simply out of the need to interpret the Qur’an, as Burton claimed, but it cannot be confidently traced to any real events of the Prophet’s lifetime.
Therefore, Ibn Ishaq’s Sīra along with the corpus of ḥadīth literature may be of limited use for discovering what Muhammad himself said, did or believed. However, such extreme views have been somewhat alleviated by, firstly, the availability of new sources that are “pre-canonical” such as the Muṣannafs of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Ṣanʿānī and Ibn Abī Shayba or ʿUmar bin Shabba’s Tārīkh al-Madīnah (Schacht had no access to earlier sources); and secondly, the development of isnād and matn analysis of the aḥādīth that resulted in the investigation of textual variants of the aḥādīth.
Using this technique, aḥādīth have been shown to have very early origins going back to the first century of hijra. Availability of new Muslim sources and a careful analysis of non-Muslim accounts have re-invigorated the Western quest for the historical Muhammad.
The most comprehensive work in recent times dealing with the Muslim and non-Muslim accounts relating to the rise of Islam and Muhammad is by Robert Hoyland, the first person to systematically collect all the non-Muslim evidence bearing on the rise of Islam.
His methodical approach in dealing with Muslim and non-Muslim texts has established that they “furnish us with an enriched and expanded version of the Middle East in the early Islamic times”. This is also true even for Muhammad, as to how he was perceived among the Muslims as well as non-Muslims.
The aim of this essay is modest. We want to present dated and datable non-scriptural Muslim and non-Muslim texts mentioning Prophet Muhammad from the first century of hijra and see how they perceive him. Do the non-Muslim texts provide some form of corroboration for the Muslim accounts? If yes, then to what extent? How should these texts be utilised in light of authentic early Muslim testimony?
Below is a listing of dated and datable Muslim and non-Muslim sources mentioning Prophet Muhammad. To put Muslim and non-Muslim accounts in a chronological perspective, the death of the Prophet happened in Rabī al-Awwal, 11 AH / June, 632 CE. Excluding multiples of certain objects such as milestones, coins and papyrological corpora, in total there are forty separate texts.
Twelve of these are Christian literary texts, eight were written in Syriac, two in Coptic, one in Greek and one in Armenian. The remaining twenty eight items are dated documentary Muslim texts, twenty five are written in Arabic, two in Middle Persian and one in Arabic-Greek. With regard to the presentation of the texts, they are ordered chronologically irrespective of type, language or genre.
List Of Dated And Datable Texts Mentioning Prophet Muḥammad From 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE
Doctrina Iacobi Nuper Baptizati, 13–20 AH / 634–640 CE.
Written by a Christian apologist, this anti-Jewish tract illuminates the story of the forced conversion of a Palestinian Jewish merchant named Jacob to Christianity. After reading the scriptures, instead of resenting his forced baptism, he recognises the truth of his newly found faith and is eager to share his experience with other Jews.
Though it is quite clear this is a fictitious account designed for apologetic purposes, the historical details of contemporary events accurately recounted by the anonymous author reveals some quite startling information – the appearance of a new Prophet among the Saracens.
When the candidatus was killed by the Saracens, I was at Caesarea and I set off by boat to Sykamina. People were saying “the candidatus has been killed,” and we Jews were overjoyed. And they were saying that the prophet had appeared, coming with the Saracens, and that he was proclaiming the advent of the anointed one, the Christ who was to come.
I, having arrived at Sykamina, stopped by a certain old man well-versed in scriptures, and I said to him: “What can you tell me about the prophet who has appeared with the Saracens?” He replied, groaning deeply: “He is false, for the prophets do not come armed with a sword. Truly they are works of anarchy being committed today and I fear that the first Christ to come, whom the Christians worship, was the one sent by God and we instead are preparing to receive the Antichrist.
Indeed, Isaiah said that the Jews would retain a perverted and hardened heart until all the earth should be devastated. But you go, master Abraham, and find out about the prophet who has appeared.” So I, Abraham, inquired and heard from those who had met him that there was no truth to be found in the so-called prophet, only the shedding of men’s blood. He says also that he has the keys of paradise, which is incredible.
This source vies with the following two texts detailed below, viz., A Record Of The Arab Conquest Of Syria, 637 CE and Thomas The Presbyter, c. 640 CE, as being amongst the very earliest non-Islamic sources to mention Prophet Muḥammad. Furthermore, this is the earliest text to ascribe to his teachings an explicit religious motivation.
A Record Of The Arab Conquest Of Syria, 15-16 AH / 637 CE.
This much faded note is preserved on folio 1 of BL Add. 14,461, a codex containing the Gospel according to Matthew and the Gospel according to Mark. This note appears to have been penned soon after the battle of Gabitha (636 CE) at which the Arabs inflicted a crushing defeat of the Byzantines. Wright was first to draw attention to the fragment and suggested that “it seems to be a nearly contemporary notice”, a view which was also endorsed by Nöldeke.
The purpose of jotting this note in the codex appears to be commemorative as the author appears to have realized how momentous the events of his time were. The words “we saw” are positive evidence that the author was a contemporary. The author also talks about olive oil, cattle, ruined villages, suggesting that he belonged to peasant stock, i.e., parish priest or a monk who could read and write. It is worthwhile cautioning that the condition of the text is fragmentary and many of the readings unclear or disputable. The lacunae are supplied in square brackets.
… and in January, they took the word for their lives (did) [the sons of] Emesa [i.e., Ḥimṣ)], and many villages were ruined with killing by [the Arabs of] Muḥammad and a great number of people were killed and captives [were taken] from Galilee as far as Bēth […] and those Arabs pitched camp beside [Damascus?] […] and we saw everywhe[re…] and o[l]ive oil which they brought and them.
And on the t[wenty six]th of May went S[ac[ella]rius]… cattle […] […] from the vicinity of Emesa and the Romans chased them […] and on the tenth [of August] the Romans fled from the vicinity of Damascus […] many [people] some 10,000. And at the turn [of the ye]ar the Romans came; and on the twentieth of August in the year n[ine hundred and forty-]seven there gathered in Gabitha […] the Romans and great many people were ki[lled of] [the R]omans, [s]ome fifty thousand […]
There are certain observations to be made here. The phrase “turn of the year” signifies that the beginning of the note refers to the year 634-5 CE. The people of Emesa “took the word for their lives”, an expression for surrendering on terms of tolerance, confirmed by oaths. Then there was a battle in Palestine with the “Arabs of Muhammad” in which many villages were ruined and people from the region of Galilee and Beth Sacharya(?), south west of Jerusalem were taken captive.
Then the Arabs laid siege to Damascus (as read by Nöldeke). In May, 635 CE, a Byzantine general of the rank of sakellarious was in the region of Emesa. His name according to the Byzantine sources was Theodor. Apparently, he was unable to lift the siege. The next battle took place in Gabitha, a town to the north of the river Yarmuk in the Golan massif.
The date of the battle is 20th August AG 947 = 636 CE / Rajab 15 AH, which agrees with the best Arab date for the battle of Yarmuk. As mentioned earlier, the fragmentary nature of this note has resulted in scholars advising caution.
Thomas The Presbyter, 19 AH / 640 CE.
The 8th century BL Add. 14,643 was published by Wright who first brought to attention the mention of an early date of 947 AG (635-6 CE). The contents of this manuscript have puzzled many scholars for apparent lack of coherence as it contains an assembly of texts with diverse nature. In relation to Islam and Muslims, there are two important dates mentioned in this manuscript.
AG 945, indiction VII: On Friday, 4 February, [i.e., 634 CE / Dhul Qa‘dah 12 AH] at the ninth hour, there was a battle between the Romans and the Arabs of Muḥammad [Syr. tayyāyē d-Mḥmt] in Palestine twelve miles east of Gaza. The Romans fled, leaving behind the patrician YRDN (Syr. BRYRDN), whom the Arabs killed. Some 4000 poor villagers of Palestine were killed there, Christians, Jews and Samaritans. The Arabs ravaged the whole region.
AG 947, indiction IX: The Arabs invaded the whole of Syria and went down to Persia and conquered it; the Arabs climbed mountain of Mardin and killed many monks there in [the monasteries of] Kedar and Benōthō. There died the blessed man Simon, doorkeeper of Qedar, brother of Thomas the priest.
It is the first date above which is of great importance as it provides the first explicit reference to Muhammad in a non-Muslim source. The account is usually identified with the battle of Dathin. According to Hoyland, “its precise dating inspires confidence that it ultimately derives from first-hand knowledge”. This means that the time period between the death of Muhammad (June, 632 CE) and the earliest mention of him (4th February, 634 CE) is slightly over a year and half!
… dhimmat Allāh wa ḍamān rasūlih.
… the protection of God and guarantee of His Messenger.
Sebeos, Bishop Of The Bagratunis, 40’s AH / 660’s CE.
One of the most interesting accounts of the early seventh century comes from Sebeos who was a bishop of the House of Bagratunis. From this chronicle, there are indications that he lived through many of the events he relates. He maintains that the account of Arab conquests derives from the fugitives who had been eyewitnesses thereof.
He concludes with Mu‘awiya’s ascendancy in the Arab civil war (656-61 CE), which suggests that he was writing soon after this date. Sebeos is the first non-Muslim author to present us with a theory for the rise of Islam that pays attention to what the Muslims themselves thought they were doing. As for Muhammad, he has the following to say:
At that time a certain man from along those same sons of Ismael, whose name was Mahmet [i.e., Muḥammad], a merchant, as if by God’s command appeared to them as a preacher [and] the path of truth. He taught them to recognize the God of Abraham, especially because he was learnt and informed in the history of Moses. Now because the command was from on high, at a single order they all came together in unity of religion.
Abandoning their vain cults, they turned to the living God who had appeared to their father Abraham. So, Mahmet legislated for them: not to eat carrion, not to drink wine, not to speak falsely, and not to engage in fornication. He said: ‘With an oath God promised this land to Abraham and his seed after him for ever.
And he brought about as he promised during that time while he loved Ismael. But now you are the sons of Abraham and God is accomplishing his promise to Abraham and his seed for you. Love sincerely only the God of Abraham, and go and seize the land which God gave to your father Abraham. No one will be able to resist you in battle, because God is with you.
Sebeos was writing the chronicle at a time when memories of sudden eruption of the Arabs was fresh. He knows Muhammad’s name and that he was a merchant by profession. He hints that his life was suddenly changed by a divinely inspired revelation. He presents a good summary of Muhammad’s preaching, i.e., belief in one God, Abraham as a common ancestor of Jews and Arabs. He picks out some of the rules of behaviour imposed on the umma; the four prohibitions which are mentioned in the Qur’an. Much of what he says about the origins of Islam conforms to the Muslim tradition.
A Chronicler Of Khuzistan, 40’s AH / 660’s CE.
This is an anonymous and short Nestorian chronicle that aims to convey church as well as secular histories from the death of Hormizd son of Khusrau to the end of the Persian kingdom. Because of its anonymity, it is known to scholars as the Khuzistan Chronicle, after its plausible geographical location or Anonymous Guidi, after the name of its first editor. Amid his entry on the reign of Yazdgird, the chronicler gives a brief account of the Muslim invasions:
Then God raised up against them the sons of Ishmael, [numerous] as the sand on the sea shore, whose leader (mdabbrānā) was Muḥammad (mḥmd). Neither walls nor gates, armour or shield, withstood them, and they gained control over the entire land of the Persians. Yazdgird sent against them countless troops, but the Arabs routed them all and even killed Rustam.
Yazdgird shut himself up in the walls of Mahoze and finally escaped by flight. He reached the country of the Huzaye and Mrwnaye, where he ended his life. The Arabs gained countrol of Mahoze and all the territory. They also came to Byzantine territory, plundering and ravaging the entire region of Syria. Heraclius, the Byzantine king, sent armies against them, but the Arabs killed more than 100,000 of them.
In summary, concerning Muhammad, the chronicler says that he was the leader of the sons of Ishmael, whom God raised against the Persians.
The Maronite Chronicle, After 44 AH / 665 CE.
The anonymous author of this chronicle self-identifies himself as a Maronite and probably belonged to the Maronite community. It covers historical events from Alexander the Great down to the 660’s CE.
AG 971 (=660 CE): “Many Arabs gathered at Jerusalem and made Muʻāwiya king and he went up and sat down on Golgotha and prayed there. He went to Gethsemane and went down to the tomb of the blessed Mary and prayed in it. In those days when the Arabs were gathered there with Muʻāwiya, there was an earthquake;” much of Jericho fell, as well as many nearby churches and monasteries.
“In July of the same year the emirs and many Arabs gathered and gave their allegiance to Muʻāwiya. Then an order went out that he should be proclaimed king in all the villages and cities of his dominion and that they should make acclamations and invocations to him. He also minted gold and silver, but it was not accepted because it had no cross on it. Furthermore, Muʻāwiya did not wear a crown like other kings in the world. He placed his throne in Damascus and refused to go to the seat of Muḥammad.”
In the notice for the year AG 971, whilst describing intra-Muslim conflict, of which he seems very well acquainted, the author mentions Muḥammad by name.
… li-ahli Nessana dhimmat Allāhi wa dhimmat rasūlihi.
…[ ] due to him payment, and the people of Nessana have the protection of God and the protection of His mess[eng]er.
Along with a drachm of ʿAbd al-Malik ibn ʿAbd Allāh, Zubayrid Governor of Bīshāpūr, 66 AH / 685-686 CE, this piece of evidence is amongst the earliest datable documentary texts to mention Muhammad indirectly.
Lā ilāha illa-Allāh waḥdahu la sharīka lahu Muḥammad rasūl Allāh …
There is no god but God alone without partner and Muhammad is the Messenger of God …
Bism Allāh Lā ilāha illa-Allāh waḥdahu Muḥammad rasūl Allāh …
In the name of God. There is not but God He is one, Muḥammad is the Messenger of God …
Seven milestones on the Damascus-Jerusalem road from the reign of ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwan, 65-86 AH / 685-705 CE. Some of them can be seen here. They start with the typical formula of
Bism Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm lā ilāha illa-Allāh waḥdahu la sharīka lahu Muḥammad rasūl Allāh …
In the name of God the Compassionate the Merciful. There is no god but God alone without partner and Muhammad is the Messenger of God …
Obverse margin: bism Allāh / Muḥammad rasūl / Allāh (“In the name of God, Muhammad is the Messenger of God”).
John bar Penkaye, 67-68 AH / 687 CE.
Little is known about John bar Penkaye. He was a native of Fenek in north-western Mesopotamia and a resident of the monastery of John Kamul. It was in this monastery he wrote Ktābā d-rīš mellē (“Book of the Salient Points”) and dedicated it to a person called Sabrisho‘, the abbott of this convent. In his book John bar Penkaye wrote the chronicle of the world from Creation to his present day which he calls as the “severe chastisement of today”.
His work seeks to treat the salient points of history in a brief fashion. For the issue which concerns us here, it is discussed in the fifteenth and the last chapter, where the Arab conquests and the devastating famine and plague of 67 AH / 686-67 CE are mentioned. Concerning Muhammad, John bar Penkaye says that:
Having let their dispute run its course, after much fighting had taken place between them, the Westerners, whom they call the sons of ’Ammāyē, gained the victory, and one of their number, a man called M‘awyā [i.e., Mu‘awiya], became king controlling the two kingdoms, of the Persians and of the Byzantines. Justice flourished in his time, and there was great peace in the regions under his control; he allowed everyone to live as they wanted.
For they held, as I have said above, an ordinance, stemming from the man who was their guide (mhaddyānā), concerning the people of the Christians and concerning the monastic station. Also as a result of this man’s guidance (mhaddyānūtā) they held to the worship of One God, in accordance with the customs of ancient law. At the beginnings they kept to the traditions (mašlmānūtā) of Muḥammad, who was their instructor (tā’rā), to such an extent that they inflicted the death penalty on anyone who was seen to act brazenly against his laws.
John bar Penkaye presented Muhammad as the “guide” and “instructor” whose “traditions” and “laws” the Arabs fiercely upheld. The term “tradition” (Syr. mašlmānūtā) implies that something is handed down, which suggests that the Muslims adhered to and enforced the example of Prophet Muhammad. Concerning the term mhaddyānūtā, Brock points out that:
There is, however, one interesting term used for Mụhammad that terms up in both Monophysite and Nestorian sources, namely mhaddyana, “guide”, a term that has no obvious ancestry, although the related haddaya is a Christological title in early Syriac literature.
Obverse field: Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust without the name of governor. Instead it is occupied by Middle Persian legend MHMT PGTAMI Y DAT (“Muhammad is the Messenger of God”).
The legend reads bism Allāh Muḥammad rasūl Allāh (“In the name of God, Muhammad is the Messenger of God”).
… ahl al-Islām muṣībatahum bi al-nabī Muḥammad ṣallā-Allāhu alayhi wa-sallam… wa tashhadu lā ilāha illā-allāh waḥdahu lā sharīka lahu wa anna Muḥammadan ‘abduhu wa rasūlahu, ṣallā-Allāhu alayhi wa-sallam.
The greatest calamity of the people of Islām is that which has fallen them on the death of Prophet Muhammad, may God grant him peace…. [she died] confessing that there is no god but God alone without partner and that Muhammad is His servant and His apostle, may God grant him peace.
Reverse field: The legend in Middle Persian reads – YZDT’ -I BR’ ‘LH ’HRN YZDT’ L‘YT’ MḤMT’ PTGMBI Y YZDT’ (“One God, but He, another god does not exist. Muhammad is the Messenger of God”).
Obverse field: Written in Arabic to downwards to the right of the bust: Muḥammad rasūl Allāh (“Muhammad is the Messenger of God”).
Outer Octagonal Arcade
Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ṣallā-Allāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam… Muhammad rasūl Allāh inna allāha wa malā’ikatahu yusallūna ʿala al-nabīyi yā ayyuhā al-ladhīna āmanū ṣallū ʿalayhi wa sallimū taslīman… Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ṣallā-Allāhu ʿalayhi wa malā’ikatahu wa rusulu wa al-taslīman ʿalayhi wa raḥmat Allāh… Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ṣallā-Allāhu ʿalayhi wa taqabbal shafāʿatahu yawm al-qiyamah… Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ṣallā-Allāhu ʿalayhi.
Muhammad is the Messenger of God, may God grant him peace… Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Verily God and His Angels bless the Prophet; O you who believe, bless him and salute him with a salutation!… Muhammad is the Messenger of God, the blessing of God be on him and the angels and His prophets, and peace be on him, and may God have mercy… Muhammad is the Messenger of God, the blessing of God be on him. May He accept his intercession on the Day of Judgment [on behalf of his people]… Muhammad is the Messenger of God, the blessing of God be on him.
Inner Octagonal Arcade
Muḥammad ʿabd-Allāhi wa rasūluhu inna allāha wa malā’ikatahu yusallūna ʿala al-nabīyi yā ayyuhā al-ladhīna āmanū ṣallū ‘alayhi wa sallimū taslīman ṣallā-Allāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam ʿalayhi wa raḥmat Allāh.
Muhammad is the servant of God and His Messenger. Verily God and His Angels bless the Prophet; O you who believe, bless him and salute him with a salutation! The blessing of God be on him and peace be on him, and may God have mercy.
Muḥammad ʿabd-Allāhi wa rasūluhu arsalahu bi-l-huda wa dīn al-ḥaqq liyudhhiru ʿala al-dini kullahi wa-law karih-al-mushrikūn. Āmannā billāhi wa mā unzila ila Muḥammad wa mā ūtiya al-nabīyūna min rabbihim lā nufarriqu bayna aḥadin minhum wa naḥnu lahu muslimūn. ṣallū ʿalayhi Muḥammad ʿabduhu wa nabīyahu wa al-salām ʿalayhi wa raḥmat Allāhi wa barakātuhu wa magfiratuhu wa riḍawānahu.
Muhammad is the servant of God and His Messenger whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth that He might make it prevail over all religions even if the associators are averse. We believe in God and that which was revealed unto Muhammad and that which the Prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. The blessing of God be upon Muhammad, His servant and His prophet, and peace be upon him and the mercy of God and His blessing and His forgiveness and His acceptance.
… an ta-ṣallī ʿala Muḥammad ʿabdika wa nabīyika wa tataqabbala shafā’atahu fī ummati ṣallū ʿalayhi wa al-salām ʿalayhi wa raḥmat Allāhi wa…
… that You bless Muhammad Your servant, Your prophet, and that You accept his intercession for his people, the blessing of God be upon him and peace be upon him and the mercy of God and…
bism Allāh lā-ilaha il-Allāh waḥdahu Muḥammad rasūl Allāh.
In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the Messenger of God.
Fragments Of The Chart Of Jacob (= James) Of Edessa, 73 AH / 692 CE.
Jacob (also called James) of Edessa (19-90 AH / 640-708 CE) was a bishop of Edessa. He composed a set of chronological charts intended to continue those of Eusebius. Only fragments from 10th or 11th century remain, covering the 7th century only down to 631 CE. Elias of Nisbis (975-1050 CE) informs us that Jacob of Edessa composed his chronicle in 1003 AG / 692 CE and this is confirmed by Michael the Syrian (12th century) who cites Theodosius of Edessa. Brooks has convincingly demonstrated that this chronicle was a work of Jacob’s but with a qualification that it “is not the full work of Jacob but only a series of extracts from it”.
The manuscript is arranged in three columns. A central column counts off the years since Constantine and the regnal years of the Byzantine and Persians emperors; historical notices are placed on either side.
In the central column, giving the dates of the rulers, there are entries for the following years:
[296 = 932 AG / 622 CE] Muhammad, the first king of the Arabs, began to reign, 7 years.
[303 = 939 AG / 629 CE] No. 2 of the Arabs, Abu Bakr, 2 years, 7 months.
On the left hand side of the column are the following notices:
[Beside years 293 and 294] and Muhammad goes down on commercial businesses to the lands of Palestine and of the Arabias and of Phoenicia of the Tyrians.
There was a solar eclipse.
Beginning of the kingdom of the Arabs whom we call Tayyōyē, while Heraclius, king of the Romans, was having his eleventh year and while Chosroes, king of the Persians, was having his thirty first year [i.e., 620-21 CE].
[Beside years 301 and 302] The Arabs began to carry out raids in the land of Palestine.
Muhammad’s trading is placed beside years 293 and 294 = 929 AG / 617-18 CE and 930 AG / 618-19 CE, but before the mention of the solar eclipse. The start of the “kingdom of Arabs” is tied to the rulership of kings of Byzantine and Persians empires and is placed in 620-21 CE. The Arabs’ raids are placed beside the year 301 and 302 = 937 AG / 625-26 CE and 938 AG / 626-27 CE.
It is interesting to note that Jacob of Edessa gives an accurate date for the start of the Arab era. He seems to have assumed that the Arab era like the ones during his time such as Byzantine and Persian eras must have been reckoned from the first year of the rule of a king, presumably their first king. Since the Arabs reckoned from 622 CE, i.e., the start of hijra calender, Jacob might have assumed that their first king, i.e., Muhammad, must have started to rule that year.
Bism Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm lā ilāha il-l-allāh waḥdahu la sharīka lahu Muḥammad rasūl Allāh …
In the name of God the Compassionate the Merciful. There is no god but God alone without partner and Muhammad is the Messenger of God …
Reverse margin: Muḥammad rasūl Allāh arsalahu bi-l-huda wa dīn al-ḥaqq liyudhhiru ʿala al-dini kullahi wa-law karih-al-mushrikūn
Muhammad is the Messenger of God whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth that He might make it prevail over all religions even if the associators are averse.
Obverse margin: Muḥammad rasūl Allāh arsalahu bi-l-huda wa dīn al-ḥaqq liyudhhiru ʿala al-dini kullahi wa-law karih-al-mushrikūn
Muhammad is the Messenger of God whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth that He might make it prevail over all religions even if the associators are averse.
Shahida al-Rayyān bin ʿAbd Allāh innahu lā ilāha il-l-allāh wa shahida anna Muḥammadan rasūl Allāh…
Al-Rayyān b. ʿAbdullāh testifies that there is no god but God and he testifies that Muḥammad is the Messenger of God…
The Gospel Of The Twelve Apostles, 72 – 87 AH / 692 – 705 CE.
Though attributed to the apostle John, this is a pseudonymous apocalyptic work containing four distinct sections the last of which deals with Islamic rule, covering the conquests and the beginnings of the Umayyad dynasty.
God shall send forth a mighty wind, the southern one, and there shall come forth from it a people of deformed aspect and their appearance and manners like those of women. And there shall rise up from among them a warrior and one whom they call a prophet, and they shall be brought into his hands….And the South shall prosper, and by the hooves of the horses of its armies it shall trample down and subdue Persia and devastate Rome.
In keeping with several other Christian texts of this period, Muhammad is described as a warrior whom his followers call a prophet.
Allāhumma ṣallī ʿala Muḥammad al-nabī wa taqabbala shafāʿatahu fī ummati…
O Lord, bless Muḥammad, the Prophet, and accept his intercession on behalf of his community…
Chronicle Of John Of Nikiou, c. 80-81 AH / c. 700 CE.
This chronicle apparently written by John, bishop of Nikiou, relates the events from Creation until the conclusion of the Arab conquest of Egypt. Presented with a strong Christian view, the chronicle is considered one of the main independent and reliable sources of information regarding the conquest of Egypt and its aftermath.
Many of the Egyptians who had been false Christians denied the holy orthodox faith and life-giving baptism, and embraced the religion of the Muslims, the enemies of God, and accepted the detestable doctrine of the beast, this is, Muḥammad.
Despite describing Muhammad in unflattering terms, the author notes he possessed a distinct doctrine.
Obverse margin: Muḥammadun rasūlu’llāhi wa’lladhīna yatlūna maʿahu ashiddāʾu ʿalā’l-kuffāri ruḥamāʾu baynahum
Muḥammad is the Messenger of God, those who recite with him are severe [in their dealings] with the unbelievers, compassionate among themselves.
Arabic-Greek / Greek-Arabic and Arabic protocols, mostly from the time of al-Walid I (85-97 AH / 705-15 CE) to Yazid II (101-106 AH / 720-24 CE).
Examples from the time of al-Walīd and Sulaymān b. ʿAbd al-Malik are available. They all begin typically with the example given below for Arabic. Bilingual texts contain the translation in Greek of Arabic text and conclude with the name of the caliph / governor and the date.
Arabic: Bism Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm lā ilāha il-l-allāh waḥdahu la sharīka lahu lam yalid wa-lam yulad wa-lam yakun lahu kufūwan aḥad Muḥammad rasūl Allāh arsalahu bi-l-huda wa dīn al-ḥaqq …
In the name of God the Compassionate the Merciful. There is no god but God alone without partner. He did not beget and was not begotten. And there is none like unto Him. Muhammad is the Messenger of God whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth …
Greek: … maamet apostolos theou …
… Muhammad is the Messenger of God …
… rabbuna-Allāhu waḥdahu wa dīnunā al-islām wa nabīyyunā Muḥammad ṣallā-allāhu alayhi wa sallam.
… Our Lord is God alone, and our religion is Islam and our prophet is Muhammad, may God grant him peace.
This unique historic coin is of the highest rarity and the earliest known dīnār to bear the legend ‘Mine of the Commander of the Faithful’. The reverse margin bears the same legend as what is seen on the aniconic silver and gold coins issued by Umayyad caliph ʿAbd al-Malik.
Reverse margin: Muḥammad rasūl Allāh arsalahu bi-l-huda wa dīn al-ḥaqq liyudhhiru ʿala al-dini kullahi wa-law karih-al-mushrikūn.
Muhammad is the Messenger of God whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth that He might make it prevail over all religions even if the associators are averse.
Reverse Margin / Centre: Bism Allāh Muḥammad rasūl Allāh al-Wafā’ lillāh….
In the name of God. Muḥammad is the Messenger of God. Equity is God’s…
Ad Annum 705, 86-96 AH / 705-15 CE.
It is list of Arab rulers found in a late 9th century manuscript with an unknown provenance and presumably incomplete since the promised statistics regarding Muslim occupied lands do not appear. The dating of this manuscript is done using the accession date of Walid mentioned in the chronology, who reigned from 705-15 CE. The relevant text states:
Again a report giving the information about the kingdom of Arabs and how many kings they produced and how much land each of them held after his predecessor previous to his death.
Muhammad came upon the earth in 932 of Alexander, son of Philip the Macedonian [i.e., 620-21 CE]; he reigned for seven years.
After him Abu Bakr reigned for 2 years…
This chronicle also provides similar dates just as what we have seen in the case of the chart of Jacob of Edessa.
…lā ilāha il-l-allāh waḥdahu la sharīka lahu wa anna Muḥammad ʿabduhu wa rasūluhu…
…there is no deity but God and He is One with no partner and Muḥammad is His slave and messenger.
The History Of The Patriarchs Of Alexandria, c. 96 – 97 AH / c. 715 CE.
This collection was written by George the Archdeacon and contains a wealth of information regarding Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt in the decades after the conquests.
And in those days Heraclius saw a dream in which it was said to him : «Verily there shall come against thee a circumcised nation, and they shall vanquish thee and take possession of the land». So Heraclius thought that they would be the Jews, and accordingly gave orders that all the Jews and Samaritans should be baptized in all the provinces which were under his dominion.
But after a few days there appeared a man of the Arabs, from the southern districts, that is to say, from Mecca or its neighbourhood, whose name was Muhammad; and he brought back the worshippers of idols to the knowledge of the One God, and bade them declare that Muhammad was his apostle; and his nation were circumcised in the flesh, not by the law, and prayed towards the South, turning towards a place which they called the Kaabah.
And he took possession of Damascus and Syria, and crossed the Jordan, and dammed it up. And the Lord abandoned the army of the Romans before him, as a punishment for their corrupt faith, and because of the anathemas uttered against them, on account of the council of Chalcedon, by the ancient fathers.
After fighting three battles with the Romans, the Muslims conquered them. So when the chief men of the city saw these things, they went to Amr, and received a certificate of security for the city, that it might not be plundered. This kind of treaty which Muhammad, the chief of the Arabs, taught them, they called the Law; and he says with regard to it :
«As for the province of Egypt and any city that agrees with its inhabitants to pay the land-tax to you, and to submit to your authority, make a treaty with them, and do them no injury. But plunder and take as prisoners those that will not consent to this and resist you».
For this reason the Muslims kept their hands off the province and its inhabitants, but destroyed the nation of the Romans, and their general who was named Marianus. And those of the Romans who escaped fled to Alexandria, and shut its gates upon the Arabs, and fortified themselves within the city.
The author notes Muhammad originated from Mecca or its environs, that he told his followers he was a prophet and invited them to worship one God and cast aside their idolatrous practices. They were circumcised in the flesh and prayed in the direction towards the Kaʿaba. Muhammad was the chief of the Arabs and initiated a form of legislation for them to practice.
Reverse field: Muḥammad rasūl Allāh
Muḥammad is the Messenger of God.
Reverse field: Muḥammad rasūl Allāh
Muḥammad is the Messenger of God.
… wā qimhu ʿala ḥawḍi Muḥammad …
… and s[et him on] the pool of Muhammad …
What can we know about Muhammad and Islam in the first century AH? With respect to the historical sources the answer will always be – never enough. Historians of this period will always be frustrated by the apparent lack of texts, the disjointed nature of the texts we do have and the slow pace of mostly unremarkable archaeological discoveries.
What we do have is not unimportant, especially when utilised in a careful and considerate fashion. In what direction should we travel? One approach is to deny that we can learn anything useful. Stephen Shoemaker says,
Despite frequent assertions to the contrary, our historical knowledge concerning Muhammad and 1st-century Islam is far more limited and uncertain than is the case with respect to Jesus and 1st-century Christianity.
Being a specialist in early Christianity, Shoemaker is of course intimately acquainted with the sources. But we would like to address the negative generalisations and remove some of the spin contained in this overarching assessment. What makes this situation particularly bizarre is that Western scholars have access to what can be called a treasure-trove of documentary evidence when compared with other major world religions.
Judaeo-Christian scholars studying the earliest Christian artefacts are presently unable to call forward a single item of documentary evidence from the first one hundred years of Christianity and beyond. In contrast, the number of dated documentary texts concerning Muhammad and/or earliest Islam in its first century number more than one hundred and fifty individual items.
From the foregoing data it is clear Shoemaker cannot be talking about dated documentary texts. What about external references to Muhammad/Islam and Jesus/Christianity in their respective first centuries? With regard to just Syriac texts alone, Penn informs us,
Scholars of early Christianity face a somewhat similar dilemma to that of early Islam scholars. There is only a small corpus of surviving first- and early second-century Christian writings, primarily found in what later became the canonical New Testament. Most surviving early Christian texts were not written until the mid-second and early third centuries. Scholarship thus often turns to early non-Christian sources.
For example, there is hardly an undergraduate class offered on early Christianity whose syllabus does not include the two pages that the early second-century pagan author Pliny the Younger wrote about Christians. Virtually every New Testament textbook includes a discussion of the one paragraph referring to Jesus found in the late first-century Antiquities of the Jews.
New Testament scholars continue to vigorously debate whether these few sentences were actually written by the Jewish historian Josephus or were a later Christian interpolation. So too the handful of sentences by the Roman historian Tacitus that speak of Christianity remains central to all scholarship on Roman persecution of Christians.
The sum total of these early, outsider references to Christians is less than five pages. In contrast, there are almost two hundred pages’ worth of very early Syriac references to Islam. Historians and students of early Islam must use such passages with great care.
Outsider literature is no less biased than insider literature. Syriac authors had their own agendas and vary substantially in their historical reliability. Nevertheless, one can only imagine the impact a similar quantity of material would have on the study of early Christianity.
Again, it is clear that Shoemaker cannot be talking about external references to Muhammad and/or Islam. We are now left with scriptural texts and other literary texts written by their respective followers. Even on these grounds, from a strictly historico-critical standpoint, it is difficult to justify Shoemaker’s level of skepticism.
Advanced western methods of ḥadīth criticism (isnād-cum-matn analysis) applied to different genres of written Muslim literature have produced fruitful results, not to mention the actual text of the Qur’an itself which undoubtedly dates to the first century hijra, based on an increasingly abundant level of manuscript evidence.
So just what are Shoemaker’s terms of reference? One gains the sense he is aggrieved by the apparent lack of historical criticism applied to the early Islamic sources – perhaps even double standards – when compared to early Christian sources, and it is on this comparative basis he feels what we do know is limited and uncertain.
Even if he believes that to be the case, one is not excused from identifying and using the primary sources. As scholars are already well acquainted with Prophet Muhammad’s depiction according to early Islamic religious sources we wish to adopt a different approach. In what follows we have purposefully excluded any texts from scriptural Muslim sources encompassing the following genres of early Arabic literature, sīra / maghāzī, ḥadīth / athar, taʾrīkh / akhbār and tafsīr.
With this approach it will be seen there is still much that can be learnt and that the kind of unwarranted pessimism that furthers the self-fulfilling prophecy that we can never know anything useful about Muhammad and first century Islam is damaging and ultimately self-defeating.
From the listings of the dated and datable texts, it is clear that the name of Prophet Muhammad appears very early in the non-Muslim texts. The time period between the death of Muhammad (June, 632 CE) and the earliest mention of him (4th February, 634 CE) in the writings of Thomas the Presbyter (writing c. 640 CE / 19 AH), is slightly over a year and half! Interestingly enough, one of the earliest indications of stirrings in Arabia comes from the Doctrina Iacobi (“Teachings of Jacob”), a Greek anti-Jewish apologetic work which was presumably composed in Africa in July 634 during the Heraclean persecution.
Although Muhammad is not mentioned by name in this tract, he is called a (false) Prophet, who has appeared among the Saracens [i.e., the Arabs] and has the keys of Paradise.
Non-Muslim writers (read Christian) of the first century hijra depict Muhammad variously as a Prophet/Preacher with a spiritual motivation (Doctrina Iacobi Nuper Baptizati, Sebeos Bishop of the Bagratunis, The Gospel of the Twelve Apostles,
The History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria), a King/Leader (A Chronicler Of Khuzistan; Fragments Of The Chart Of Jacob (= James) Of Edessa; Ad Annum 705), a warrior (The Gospel of the Twelve Apostles), a Guide/Instructor (John bar Penkaye), a trader/merchant (Fragments Of The Chart Of Jacob (= James) Of Edessa; Ad Annum 705), whom the Arabs derived their authority from (Maronite Chronicle), especially when battling their opponents (A Record of the Arab Conquest of Syria; Thomas, the Presbyter) or negotiating treaties (The History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria).
He originated from Mecca or its environs and was an instructor who instituted a definite kind of legislation and tradition which his followers were to adhere to, including prayer in direction towards the Ka’ba (The History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria). The early Arabs were the followers of Muhammad (Thomas the Presbyter; Sebeos, Bishop of the Bagratunis; Chronicler of Khuzistan),
who was their ‘guide’ and ‘instructor’ (John bar Penkaye) whose ‘traditions’ and ‘laws’ they fiercely upheld (John bar Penkaye; The History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria) and who prescribed for them abstinence from carrion, wine, falsehood and fornication (Sebeos, Bishop of the Bagratunis).
Furthermore, the non-Muslim sources of the first century hijra also attest that the religion of the followers of Muhammad was strictly monotheistic (Sebeos, Bishop of the Bagratunis; John bar Penkaye; The History Of The Patriarchs Of Alexandria) and of Abrahamic associations (Chronicler of Khuzistan). Sebeos, Bishop of the Bagratunis points out that Muhammad legislated the law proscribing carrion (Qur’an 5:3), wine (Qur’an 2:219, 5:90), falsehood (Qur’an 39:3, 16:116, 33:24) and fornication (Qur’an 17:32, 24:2). More importantly,
it shows that early Muslims adhered to a religion that had definite practices and beliefs and was clearly distinct from other currently existing faiths. The Syriac sources from the middle until the end of the first/seventh century constitute the majority of the literary texts and emphasize Muhammad’s centrality for the Muslims, just like the Muslim sources from the same period.
The earliest dated documentary Muslim source to mention Prophet Muhammad is a drachm minted by ʿAbd al-Malik ibn ʿAbd Allāh, Zubayrid governor of Bīshāpūr, in 66 AH / 685-86 CE. The legend on the coin reads Muḥammad rasūl Allāh (“Muhammad is the Messenger of God”), which would become a common phrase in many of the dated texts in the rest of the first century AH.
The Muslim sources from this period describe Muhammad as a ‘messenger’, ‘prophet’, ‘servant of God’, ‘sent with guidance and the religion of truth’ and an ‘intercessor on the Day of Judgment’ for his people. Supplications are made to God to send His ‘peace’ and ‘mercy’ upon Muhammad. His death is depicted as the ‘greatest calamity’ to fall on Muslims.
Also mentioned is the ‘pool’ of Muhammad in Paradise from which the believers would drink on the Day of Judgment. Muhammad’s earliest followers derived authority from him and were able to grant protective covenants to non believers in his name. The dated Muslim texts also depict the deity which Muhammad and Muslims after him worshipped as monotheistic.
Recently, Christoph Luxenberg suggested that the Dome of the Rock was a Christian Church built as a memorial to Jesus containing Christian inscriptions which record, amongst other things, the theological disputes between the camps of the Hellenised and Syrian Christians regarding the divinity of Jesus.
The phrase muḥammadun ʿabdullāhi wa rasūluhū on the Dome of the Rock does not mean ‘Muhammad is the slave of God and his Messenger’, rather it means ‘Praised be the slave of God and His Messenger’ which Luxenberg considers as a plain unambiguous reference to Jesus.
Contradicting the claims of Luxenberg, numerous first century hijra Arabic-Greek bilingual papyri from the time of Umayyad caliph ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (65-86 AH / 685-705 CE) as well as later ones such as Egyptian National Library Inv. No. 67 (90-91 AH / 709-710 CE), PER Inv. Ar. Pap. 3976 (98-99 AH / 716-717 CE) among others clearly translate the Arabic phrase muḥammad rasūl Allāh in Greek as ‘maamet apostolos theou’ i.e., ‘Muhammad is the Messenger of God’, thus confirming that ‘Muhammad’ was considered as a proper name and not ‘praised’ or ‘praiseworthy’.
There is also an anonymous Arab-Sassanian coin from 70 AH / 689 CE that contains the Middle Persian legend MHMT PGTAMI Y DAT, “Muhammad is the Messenger of God”, again confirming that ‘Muhammad’ was considered as a proper name and not ‘praised’ or ‘praiseworthy’. One might also add that ‘Muhammad’ is mentioned as a nasab (patronym) on a coin dated 80 AH containing the Arabic name legend of the Umayyad general ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Muḥammad in Middle Persian APDARMAN Y MHMTAN. Both he and his father Muḥammad (d. 41 AH / 661 CE) were prominent historical figures and well known from Islamic sources.
Furthermore, as we have seen, the non-Muslim sources from the middle until the end of the first/seventh century emphasize Muhammad’s centrality for the Muslims and depict the early Muslims as the followers of a living person named Muhammad, certainly not some other ‘Muhammad’ born around six hundred years earlier in a different land who is no longer on earth.
Now we are left with the issue of the relative value of the ‘insider’ versus ‘outsider’ accounts of Muhammad. In the various reviews of Crone and Cook’s Hagarism one criticism recurs often: could the ‘outsiders’, i.e., the external observers have known better than the ‘insiders’, i.e., the Muslims? In the words of Josef van Ess:
… we cannot demand that an observer from outside, who could even less evaluate the radical novelty of the event, should have had a clearer concept of what was really happening. We should rather expect the he tried to describe the phenomenon with his own categories.
The answer to be the above question is clearly no. It is undeniable that Christians presented their information regarding Muhammad, Islam and Muslims in their own terms, which inevitably had some amount of distortion. However, it is important to note that this information is either based on personal observation or ultimately derived from the Muslims themselves.
As for the value of Christian accounts, it is two-fold. Firstly, they are often precisely dateable which can’t be said of early Muslim writings and secondly, the Christian sources often preserve information which Muslims passed over. Nevertheless, there should be no axiomatic principle of preferring the external source simply because they are observers out with the realm of the group being represented.
With regards to Muhammad, Christian writings from the first century of hijra divulge nothing new about his biography when compared with the Islamic sources, but they do reinforce the Islamic accounts about him, albeit with polemic overtones. The situation is best summed by Wansbrough, who notes with regard to the earliest Christian apocalyptic texts and supposedly neutral chronicles bearing on the rise of Islam,
Material of this sort might be described as the property of a ‘minority historiography’: the sum of stereotyped literary reactions to political change, to the presence of a new and alien authority.
He then goes on to say,
What they do not, and cannot, provide is an account of the ‘Islamic’ community during the 150 years or so between the first Arab conquests and the appearance, with the sīra-maghāzī narratives, of the earliest Islamic literature.
Agreeing with Wansbrough’s viewpoint, Hoyland neatly encapsulates what is now considered the standard rigorous approach when writing about early Islamic history. He says,
I would certainly agree that non-Muslim sources cannot provide a complete and coherent account of the history of Early Islam, even less can they support an alternative version of its development. But what I hope to have achieved in this book is to demonstrate that the testimony of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian writers can be used alongside that of Muslim authors to furnish us with an enriched and expanded vision of the history of the Middle East in Early Islamic times, to offer us new perspectives on its character and to suggest to us new directions for its study.
In fact, when properly considered this procedure is relatively straightforward in as much as it is devoid of any novelty. Looking sideways at historical Jesus scholarship, after devoting a considerable amount of research into weighing the evidence of Jesus in non-Christian sources, Craig Evans reduced non-Christian sources which mention Jesus into three categories: ‘dubious’, ‘minimal’ and ‘important’, dependant on the source’s independence from Christian tradition and the closeness to the events being described.
In the category of ‘important’ sources, he mentions the Annals of Cornelius Tacitus (c. 56 – c. 118 CE) and the Jewish Antiquities of Flavius Josephus (37 – sometime after 100 CE). Apart from the reasons given above, Evans emphasises the primary importance of these sources is due to their corroboration of certain New Testament accounts.
In any case Evans considers the Christian sources to possess enough information in and of themselves as to negate the need for excessive attempts at modelling Jesus based on non-Christian sources. Likewise similar conclusions can be drawn regarding Prophet Muhammad. Should one seek to enforce an exclusively Christian reading of Muhammad and early Islam?
The testimonies of non-Muslim accounts should not be automatically preferred over those Muslim accounts which provide more accurate and detailed information, necessitated by the circumstances of their recording. That is not to say one must ignore what is said about the earliest Muslims by others, merely that the application of common sense take place in order to reach logical and balanced conclusions.
Some may hasten to interpret certain epigraphic trends in isolation from other historical information, in a kind of vacuum so to speak, but is this the best way to proceed and will it provide the most fruitful results? It seems the question of the non-appearance of the name ‘Muhammad’ in an Arabic inscription during Islam’s first 50 years or so has vexed a number of modern scholars.
Of course, any kind of inscription from this period is exceedingly rare, though comparatively, with let’s say Christianity, one could say there are an abundance of epigraphic texts! Should we infer the non-existence of a person because someone did not engrave their name into a rock as early as we think it should have been? The exclusive application of this principle could lead one to conclude the overwhelming majority of people from ancient times never actually existed.
At present there is not a single mention of Jesus in an inscription from the first 200 years of Christianity. In fact, with perhaps one or two exceptions, there are no Christian inscriptions at all in this period. Nevertheless, no New Testament scholar we are aware of would consider the non-existence of Jesus solely on this basis. To be sure there are very vocal mythicists but they are not taken seriously. These are of course separate issues with different historical circumstances, but certain methodological principles can be similarly applied in both cases.
It is important to examine the underlying assumptions of those who insist there must be an almost contemporaneous inscription containing the name ‘Muhammad’. Why must it be so and why is it so important to them? Of the more than 77,000 words in the Qur’an, four of them mention Muhammad by name. The Qur’an has many key themes and concepts that one may presume its earliest followers paid attention to.
One of the contributing factors may be the majority of western scholars primary exposure is in Judaeo-Christian religion, history and culture and resultantly certain assumptions are imported by some regarding how an individual traversing a desert 1400 years ago should have interacted with a rock. Forgiveness and mercy are key concerns registered in these very early inscriptions, also key central themes in the Qur’an.
By their very nature these are short pietistic invocations mentioning God and are not intended to be complete manuals of faith and doctrine. Later on as the Islamic state gained a new dynamic under ʿAbd al-Malik, propaganda efforts intensified and one finds the increasing mention of ‘Muhammad’, including in polemical contexts, starts to establish itself.
The time period between the death of Muhammad (June, 632 CE) and the earliest mention of him (4th February, 634 CE) in a non-scriptural source is slightly over a year and half. Indeed, Muhammad is the only founder of a world religion to be mentioned in external sources that are nearly contemporaneous with his life. When all of the aforementioned texts are considered as a whole, in their language of original composition, Muhammad is mentioned in no fewer than six different languages: Arabic, Syriac, Coptic, Greek, Armenian and Middle Persian.
The geographic distribution is no less impressive covering Arabia, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Armenia, Egypt, North Africa (Tunisia) and Spain. The literary texts of this period are exclusively Christian in their theological perspective and although revealing nothing new in terms of the biography of Muhammad, what the non-Muslim sources of the first century of hijra do divulge is not unimportant.
Often precisely datable, something which can’t be said of early Muslim literary sources, the information contained in these accounts generally corroborates the Muslim accounts, albeit coloured with polemical overtones as the conquests were still fresh in their minds. These sources are clearly aware of a person called Muhammad whom the Muslims followed, upholding his traditions and holding fast to the belief and worship in one God casting aside their previous idolatrous practices.
The Qur’an does not portray a belief system whose religious formulae and expression are centred on the deification and glorification of a man. To put it another way, Muslims are not “Muhammadans” and Islam is not the worship of Muhammad. This can help to explain why our earliest epigraphic records are not awash with references to Muhammad, instead containing simple pietistic invocations mentioning God.
Western scholars whose customary point of reference is Judeo-Christian religion, history and culture often fail to appreciate this crucial nuance. What these records do emphasise is the worship of one God alone without any partner, his attributes such as mercy and forgiveness are often supplicated for and are found in our earliest inscriptions. By their very nature, these inscriptions are short and are not intended to be complete manuals of faith and doctrine.
Once the Islamic state started to change in the time of ʿAbd al-Malik (r. 685-705 CE) following a number of battles and wars both internal and external, propaganda efforts were intensified, perhaps no more vividly than in the construction of the Dome of the Rock, whose Qur’an-inspired inscriptions boldly proclaim the fundamental aspects of the religion, challenging the Christian belief of Jesus as God and proclaiming God’s promise that the final victory will be for Islam,
“Muhammad is the servant of God and His Messenger whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth that He might make it prevail over all religions even if the associators are averse”. There could be no more explicit declaration to the residents of the city of Jerusalem and the wider Christian and Jewish communities that Islam had been established.
Appendix: The Rise Of The Mythicists
In the mid-18th century, some disciples of the famous English deist Henry Saint-John Bolingbroke began to spread the idea Jesus never actually existed. They were followed in the late 18th century by certain philosophical scholars from the period of the French Revolution who began to assert the idea that Jesus of Nazareth did not in fact exist. Several decades later, the idea was systematically developed in Germany where it received its theoretical foundation from Bruno Bauer, whose threefold basis for denying the historicity of Jesus is essentially the same methodology used by the deniers of Jesus existence until today. Bauer held to the following:
1. The New Testament has little to no historical value,
2. The lack of any non-Christian references to Jesus dating to the first century, and
3. Christianity has pagan or mythical roots. Though impactful, Bauer’s writings had no lasting following or any real influence on subsequent biblical scholarship. Judaeo-Christian scholars seldom waste their time engaging such theories, usually not even bothering to mention them in their books, deeming them unworthy of a response.
In a recent book confronting the mythicists, it was noted by one leading scholar that, to his knowledge, no mythicist taught a religious studies program at any university in North America or Europe. This short summary serves as a useful introduction to the mythicists operating in Islamic Studies – though having no direct dependance on Bauer – whose objections ultimately rest on the same threefold foundation, namely:
1. The Qur’an has little to no historical value,
2. The lack of any non-Muslim references to Muhammad dating to the first century, and 3. Islam has pagan or Christian roots.
Under the auspices of the American Committee for Lectures on the History of Relgions, Snouck Hurgronje was chosen as the lecturer for 1914. In one of the lectures he delivered titled ‘Some Points Concerning The Origin Of Islâm’, he anticipated that it would not at all be surprising to hear someone say that Muhammad did not exist – in a period of increased religious scepticism – though he himself dismissed such a notion out of hand.
Perhaps surprisingly, it is to 1920s and early 1930s Marxist anti-Islamic discourse in the USSR one must turn to discover the origins of these rumblings. One of the leading voices was Liutsian Klimovich who in 1930 gave a lecture at the Communist Academy titled ‘Did Muhammad Exist?’.
He rejected Muhammad and the Qur’an as inventions of later times, though he was widely criticised during the open scholarly debate that followed in the auditorium, ranging from outright rejection to questioning his handling of the ancient sources. Klimovich’s writings and those of his peers were documented in their native Russian, consequently their impact on wider western scholarship has been limited.
In the late 1970s Islamic History was reinterpreted by some radical skeptics. Hagarism, co-authored by Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, undoubtedly stands as the broad academic methodology that underpins the work of the mythicists today. Crone and Cook of course were no mythicists and Crone held a positive view of what could be learned of Muhammad’s life and was optimistic that future research would uncover even more details.
Notwithstanding, the underlying methodology of Hagarism can be expressed in one sentence – when contemplating early Islamic History, Muslim sources are worthless, Christian and Jewish sources are priceless. Islam started as a heretical Jewish Messianic sect which subsequently fabricated its own history as time progressed. One constant rings throughout the whole book, Muslim sources cannot be trusted, except under the most exceptional circumstances.
The climax of this type of approach led to its logical conclusion. If Islamic history retold in Muslim sources is fabricated, untrustworthy and entirely unhistorical, then the person at the centre of this history is likewise unhistorical and, in fact, never existed. The first scholars to systematically underwrite this view academically were Yehuda Nevo and Judith Koren.
To them Muhammad was not a historical figure. Following the establishment in 2007 of the Istitut zur Erforschung der frühen Islamgeschichte und des Koran (Inârah) based in Saarbrücken, Germany, a series of landmark publications have appeared where several mythicists converged to radically alter the early beginnings of Islam, principally Christoph Luxenberg, Karl-Heinz Ohlig and Volker Popp.
Though their approaches are not identical and mutually exclusive in many places, they all agreed one critical point: During Islam’s first 130 years or so any mention of Muhammad was simply as an epithet for Jesus; the personage of Muhammad never existed and was the product of the need to create an Arabian identity for the Abassid empire.
Though headline grabbing and impactful, mainstream scholarship has firmly rejected these fantastical claims and their congruent arguments, accompanied with penetrating descriptors such as ‘excess’, ‘fanciful’, ‘outlandish’, ‘wild speculations’, ‘conspiracy’, ‘polemical’, ‘politically motivated’ and ‘dislike and distrust of Islam and Muslims’.
Historical Jesus scholarship has successfully navigated past the small cadre of scholars who believe Jesus never existed, though not without the occasional hiccup and disruption. Although Islamic studies now finds itself in the midst of a localised disturbance with 19th century roots, so far the response has been similar.
It is perhaps not by accident the group have self-styled themselves with the appellation ‘Inârah’ that means ‘enlightenment’ in Arabic. While criticising Wansbrough’s hypothesis for the late compilation of the Qur’an, Noseda noted the extant material evidence contradicted his claims and said, “… history will decide which nickname to apply, choosing between LUSITANIA and TITANIC. But let us not anticipate.”
 A good idea of the views of Muir can be obtained from his polemical writings. Sir W. Muir, The Mohammedan Controversy, Biographies Of Mohammed, Sprenger On Tradition, Indian Liturgy And The Psalter, 1897, T. & T. Clark: Edinburgh.
 A. Sprenger, The Life Of Mohammad, From Original Sources, 1851, Presbyterian Mission Press: Allahabad; idem., Das Leben Und Die Lehre Des Mohammad Nach Bisher Grösstentheils Unbenutzten Quellen Bearbeitet, 1861-1865, Three Volumes, Nicolai’sche Verlagsbuchh.: Berlin. For a review summarizing the contents of these two books, especially on the skepticism of life of Muhammad as mentioned in the Islamic literature see Sir W. Muir, The Mohammedan Controversy, Biographies Of Mohammed, Sprenger On Tradition, Indian Liturgy And The Psalter, 1897, op. cit., pp. 106-118.
 I. Goldziher (Ed. S. M. Stern), Muslim Studies (Muhammedanische Studien), 1971, Volume II, Atherton: New York and Aldine: Chicago, p. 11. Good interaction with the various theories of Goldziher in respect of the early ḥadīth literature can be found in T. A. H. Maloush’s Early Hadith Literature And The Theory Of Ignaz Goldziher, 2001, Ph. D. thesis (unpublished), University of Edinburgh.
 J. Schacht, The Origins Of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, 1950, Oxford At Clarendon Press, p. 165.
 J. Wansbrough, Qur’anic Studies: Sources & Methods Of Scriptural Interpretation, 1977, London Oriental Series Volume 31, Oxford University Press, p. 49-52. Given our current knowledge of early Qur’anic manuscripts Wansbrough’s theory can now be safely discarded. Based solely on first century hijazi manuscripts almost the entire text of the Qur’an can be reproduced, with some 17% of the total text unrepresented in this time period. For a more comprehensive collection, see Concise List Of Arabic Manuscripts Of The Qur’ān Attributable To The First Century Hijra. Noseda’s calculation excludes first century hijra Kufic manuscripts, all Qur’anic inscriptions and all hijazi manuscripts found at Ṣanʿāʾ. See F. Déroche and S. N. Noseda (Eds.), Sources de la transmission manuscrite du texte coranique. I. Les manuscrits de style hijazi. Volume 2. Tome I. Le manuscrit Or. 2165 (f. 1 à 61) de la British Library, 2001, Fondazione Ferni Noja Noseda, Leda, and British Library: London, p. xxvii. Benefitting from a sombre tone in a memorial volume dedicated to Wansbrough, Herbert Berg comments thus, “… his [Wansbrough] claim that the ne varietur text only occurred “towards the end of the second century” needs to be modified.” See H. Berg, “The Needle In The Haystack: Islamic Origins And The Nature Of The Early Sources”, in C. A. Segovia & B. Lourié (Eds.), The Coming Of The Comforter: When, Where, And To Whom? Studies On The Rise Of Islam And Various Other Topics In Memory Of John Wansbrough, 2012, Gorgias Press: New Jersey (USA), p. 272.
 J. Burton, An Introduction To Hadith, 1994, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, p. xxiii and p. xv.
 J. Koren & Y. Nevo, “Methodological Approaches To Islamic Studies”, Der Islam, 1991, Band 68, pp. 92-93.
 ibid., pp. 99-100.
 Y. D. Nevo, “Towards A Prehistory Of Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 1994, Volume 17, pp. 109-110; Also see Y. Nevo & J. Koren, Crossroads To Islam: The Origins Of The Arab Religion And The Arab State, 2003, Prometheus Books: New York, p. 247.
 J. Koren & Y. Nevo, “Methodological Approaches To Islamic Studies”, Der Islam, 1991, op. cit., p. 87. To give another example, Nevo and Koren are quick to point out what they believe are the negative consequences stemming from the absence of a classical Arabic inscription in the Hijaz before the reign of Muʿawiya. [p. 104].
Elsewhere they write that no contemporary account in the non Arab literature mentions any caliph before Muʿawiya [p. 100], implying the events preceding this point as recorded in Islamic history including those personalities and their stories are ahistorical and untrustworthy.
Both these assertions were sunk by the discovery of a single inscription from the Hijaz mentioning the death of the caliph ʿUmar written in classical Arabic in 24 AH, conforming with the date of his death as given in the Muslim literary sources. There are also two inscriptions (1, 2) from the first century hijra, written by a direct descendant of ʿUmar who is explicitly named.
Unless we think this person fabricated the personage of his great grandfather in anticipation of Western scepticism 1400 years later, it is safe to assume his great grandfather, i.e., ʿUmar, really existed. This example only serves to highlight the need to display caution and a steady head so that one may avoid making rash conclusions based on fragmentary documentary evidence.
 J. Johns, “Archaeology And The History Of Early Islam: The First Seventy Years”, Journal Of The Economic And Social History Of The Orient, 2003, Volume 46, No. 4, p. 412. John’s contribution can be further appreciated by examining those articles which deal directly with some of the issues he addresses. See C. Foss, “A Syrian Coinage Of Mu‘awiya?”,
Revue Numismatique, 2002, Volume 158, pp. 353-365; R. Hoyland, “New Documentary Texts And The Early Islamic State”, Bulletin Of The School Of Oriental And African Studies, 2006, Volume 69, No. 3, pp. 395-416.
For some apt observations regarding the use of archaeological and literary sources and the relevance of their contribution, see C. Hillenbrand, “Muhammad And The Rise Of Islam”, in P. Fouracre (Ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval History c. 500 – c. 700, 2005, Volume I, Cambridge University Press, pp. 325-331.
 The views of the Western scholars was neatly summarized by Peters. See F. E. Peters, “The Quest Of The Historical Muhammad”, International Journal Of Middle Eastern Studies, 1991, Volume 23, pp. 291-315. Reprinted in F. E. Peters, “The Quest Of The Historical Muhammad” in Ibn Warraq (Ed.), The Quest For The Historical Muhammad, 2000, Prometheus Books: Amherst, pp. 444-475. For an early review on the same subject see A. Jeffery, “The Quest Of The Historical Mohammed”, Moslem World, 1926, Volume XVI, No. 4, pp. 327-348.
 Perhaps the best example of such an analysis is by Harald Motzki on the collection of the Qur’an. H. Motzki, “The Collection Of The Qur’an: A Reconsideration Of The Western Views In Light Of Recent Methodological Developments”, Der Islam, 2001, Volume 78, pp. 1-34. The Western views on the collection of the Qur’an that Motzki discusses are the works of Wansbrough (Qur’anic Studies: Sources & Methods Of Scriptural Interpretation, 1977, Oxford University Press), Watt (Muhammad’s Mecca, 1988, Edinburgh), Nöldeke and Schwally (Geschichte des Qorans, 1938, Leipzig), Casanova (Mohammad et la fin du Monde, 1911, Paris), Mingana (“The Transmission Of The Qur’an”, 1916, Journal of The Manchester Egyptian and Oriental Society) and Burton (The Collection Of The Qur’an, 1979, Cambridge University Press). Refuting the claims of Western scholarship concerning the collection of the Qur’an Motzki states that [p. 31]:
Muslims account are much earlier and thus much nearer to the time of the events than hitherto assumed in Western scholarship. Admittedly, these accounts contain some details which seem to be implausible or, to put it more cautiously, await explanation, but the Western views which claim to replace them by more plausible and historically more reliable accounts are obviously far away from what they make themselves out to be.
Also see H. Motzki, “The Musannaf Of ʿAbd al-Razzāq Al-Ṣanʿānī As A Source of Authentic Aḥādīth of The First Century A.H.”, Journal Of Near Eastern Studies, 1991, Volume 50, pp. 1-21; idem., “The Prophet And The Cat: On Dating Mālik’s Muwaṭṭa And Legal Traditions”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 1998, Volume 22, pp. 18-83; idem., “The Murder Of Ibn Abī l-Ḥuqayq:
On The Origin And Reliability Of Some Maghāzī Reports”, in H. Motzki (Ed.), The Biography Of Muhammad: The Issue Of Sources, 2000, Islamic History And Civilization: Studies And Texts, Volume 32, Brill: Leiden, Boston, Köln, pp. 170-239; U. Mitter, “Unconditional Manumission Of Slaves In Early Islamic Law: A Ḥadīth Analysis”, Der Islam, 2001, Volume 78, pp. 35-72.
For a meticulous study of the ḥadīth that has drawn the most attention in Western literature, proving the applicability of the traditional transmission based analysis, see I. Zaman, The Evolution Of A Hadith: Transmission, Growth, And The Science Of Rijal In A Hadith Of Sa‘d b. Abi Waqqas, 1991, Ph. D. Thesis (unpublished), University of Chicago; idem. “The Science Of Rijāl As A Method In The Study Of Hadiths” Journal Of Islamic Studies, 1994, Volume 5, Number 1, pp. 1-34.
For a recent overview of dating Muslim traditions see H. Motzki, “Dating Muslim Traditions: A Survey”, Arabica, 2005, Volume 52, No. 2, pp. 204-253.
 H. Motzki (Ed.), The Biography Of Muhammad: The Issue Of Sources, 2000, Islamic History And Civilization: Studies And Texts, Volume 32, Brill: Leiden, Boston, Köln. Also see J. Horovitz (Ed. L. I. Conrad), The Earliest Biographies Of The Prophet And Their Authors, 2002, Studies In Late Antiquity And Early Islam – 11, The Darwin Press, Inc.: Princeton (NJ).
 R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam – 13, The Darwin Press, Inc.: Princeton (NJ), p. 598. Also see R. G. Hoyland, “The Earliest Christian Writings On Muhammad: An Appraisal”, in H. Motzki (Ed.), The Biography Of Muhammad: The Issue Of Sources, 2001, op. cit., pp. 276-297.
 Wansbrough was surely exaggerating when he says we have “neither artifact nor archive” to study the Islamic origins. See J. Wansbrough, Res Ipsa Loquitur: History And Mimesis, 1987, The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities: Jerusalem, p. 10. This was reprinted in J. Wansbrough, “Res Ipsa Loquitur: History And Mimesis” in H. Berg (Ed.), Method And Study In The Study Of Islamic Origins, 2003, Islamic History And Civilization: Studies And Texts – Volume 49, Brill: Leiden & Boston, p. 7.
 For the purposes of consistency, the chronological ordering of the literary texts follows those dates given in D. Thomas & B. Roggema (Eds.), Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History, 2009, Volume 1 (600-900), Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands; R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit.; M. P. Penn, When Christians First Met Muslims – A Sourcebook Of The Earliest Syriac Writings On Islam, 2015, University of California Press: USA.
 R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 57.
 S. W. Anthony, “Muḥammad, The Keys To Paradise, And The Doctrina Iacobi: A Late Antique Puzzle”, Der Islam, 2014, Volume 91, Number 2, p. 244.
 W. Wright, Catalogue Of Syriac Manuscripts In The British Museum Acquired Since The Year 1838, 1870, Part I, Printed by order of the Trustees: London, No. XCIV, pp. 65-66. This book has been recently republished in 2002 by Gorgias Press.
 Th. Nöldeke, “Zur Geschichte Der Araber Im 1, Jahrh. d.H. Aus Syrischen Quellen”, Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 1876, Volume 29, p. 76.
 A. Palmer (with contributions from S. P. Brock and R. G. Hoyland), The Seventh Century In The West-Syrian Chronicles Including Two Seventh-Century Syriac Apocalyptic Texts, 1993, Liverpool University Press: Liverpool (UK), pp. 2-3; Also see R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., pp. 116-117.
 Th. Nöldeke, “Zur Geschichte Der Araber Im 1, Jahrh. d.H. Aus Syrischen Quellen”, Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 1876, op. cit., p. 78, note 10.
 A. Palmer (with contributions from S. P. Brock and R. G. Hoyland), The Seventh Century In The West-Syrian Chronicles Including Two Seventh-Century Syriac Apocalyptic Texts, 1993, op. cit., p. 4; Also see R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 117.
 Th. Nöldeke, “Zur Geschichte Der Araber Im 1, Jahrh. d.H. Aus Syrischen Quellen”, Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 1876, op. cit., pp. 79-82.
 F. M. Donner, The Early Islamic Conquests, 1981, Princeton University Press: Princeton (NJ), p. 144; R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 117.
 W. Wright, Catalogue Of Syriac Manuscripts In The British Museum Acquired Since The Year 1838, 1872, Part III, Printed by order of the Trustees: London, No. DCCCCXIII, pp. 1040-1041.
 A. Palmer (with contributions from S. P. Brock and R. G. Hoyland), The Seventh Century In The West-Syrian Chronicles Including Two Seventh-Century Syriac Apocalyptic Texts, 1993, op. cit., pp. 5-6; R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., pp. 118-119.
 A. Palmer (with contributions from S. Brock and R. G. Hoyland), The Seventh Century In The West-Syrian Chronicles Including Two Seventh-Century Syriac Apocalyptic Texts, 1993, op. cit., pp. 18-19; Also see R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 119 and p. 120.
 A. Palmer (with contributions from S. P. Brock and R. G. Hoyland), The Seventh Century In The West-Syrian Chronicles Including Two Seventh-Century Syriac Apocalyptic Texts, 1993, op. cit., p. 19, note 119; Also see R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 120, note 14.
 R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 120.
 R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 128.
 R. W. Thomson (with contributions from J. Howard-Johnson & T. Greenwood), The Armenian History Attributed To Sebeos Part – I: Translation and Notes, 1999, Translated Texts For Historians – Volume 31, Liverpool University Press, pp. 95-96. Other translations can also be seen in P. Crone & M. Cook, Hagarism: The Making Of The Islamic World, 1977, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, pp. 6-7; R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 129; idem., “Sebeos, The Jews And The Rise Of Islam” in R. L. Nettler (Ed.), Medieval And Modern Perspectives On Muslim-Jewish Relations, 1995, Harwood Academic Publishers GmbH in cooperation with the Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies, p. 89.
 R. W. Thomson (with contributions from J. Howard-Johnson & T. Greenwood), The Armenian History Attributed To Sebeos Part – II: Historical Commentary, 1999, Translated Texts For Historians – Volume 31, Liverpool University Press, p. 238.
 R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 186. A brief translation of this text is also present in J. W. Watt, “The Portrayal Of Heraclius In Syriac Historical Sources”, in G. J. Reinink & B. H. Stolte (Eds.), The Reign Of Heraclius (610-641): Crisis And Confrontation, 2002, Groningen Studies in Cultural Change, Peeters Publishers, p. 71.
 R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 136. Also see, A. Palmer (with contributions from S. P. Brock and R. G. Hoyland), The Seventh Century In The West-Syrian Chronicles Including Two Seventh-Century Syriac Apocalyptic Texts, 1993, op. cit., p. 32; M. P. Penn, When Christians First Met Muslims – A Sourcebook Of The Earliest Syriac Writings On Islam, 2015, op. cit., p. 58.
 A good introduction about the theme of the book is by G. J. Reinink, “East Syrian Historiography In Response To The Rise Of Islam: A Case Of John Bar Penkaye’s Ktābā D-Rīsh Mellē” in J. J. Van Ginkel, H. L. Murre-Van Den Berg, T. M. Van Lint (Eds.), Redefining Christian Identity: Cultural Interaction In The Middle East Since The Rise Of Islam, 2006, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta – 134, Peeters Publishers, pp. 77-89; idem., “Paideia: God’s Design In World History According To The East Syrian Monk John Bar Penkaye” in E. Kooper (Ed.), The Medieval Chronicle II: Proceedings Of The 2nd International Conference On The Medieval Chronicle Driebergen / Utrecht 16-21 July 1999, 2002, Costerus New Series 144, Editions Rodopi B.V., pp. 190-198.
 R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 195.
 This chapter is translated in English by Professor Sebastian Brock. For the translation see S. P. Brock, “North Mesopotamia In The Late Seventh Century Book XV Of John Bar Penkāyē’s Riš Millē“, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 1987, Volume 9, pp. 51-75.
 S. P. Brock, “North Mesopotamia In The Late Seventh Century Book XV Of John Bar Penkāyē’s Riš Millē“, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 1987, op. cit., p. 61.
 W. B. Hallaq, The Origins And Evolution Of Islamic Law, 2005, Themes In Islam Law – I, Cambridge University Press, p. 50. Also see R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 197.
 S. P. Brock, “Syriac Views Of Emergent Islam” in G. H. A. Juynboll (Ed.), Studies On The First Century Of Islamic Society, 1982, Papers on Islamic History – Volume 5, Southern Illinois University Press: Carbondale & Edwardsville, p. 14.
 The date 71 AH is clear on the inscription. Some scholars have suggested the 100 may have been dropped (i.e., 171 AH) and that aspects of the script do not appear to match the early date. See R. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 695, footnote 29; M. Groß, “Zum Grabstein Von Assuan Und Der Entstehung Des Muḥammad-Mythos”, in M. Groß & K-H. Ohlig (Eds.), Die Entstehung Einer Weltreligion III: Die Heilige Stadt Mekka – Eine Literarische Fiktion, 2014, Verlag Hans Schiler: Berlin/Tübingen, pp. 683-698.
 W. Wright, Catalogue Of Syriac Manuscripts In The British Museum Acquired Since The Year 1838, 1872, Part III, op. cit., No. DCCCCXXI, BL Add. 14,685, pp. 1062-1064.
 R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 164.
 E. W. Brooks, “The Chronological Canon Of James Of Edessa”, Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 1899, Volume 53, pp. 261-64.
 A. Palmer (with contributions from S. P. Brock and R. G. Hoyland), The Seventh Century In The West-Syrian Chronicles Including Two Seventh-Century Syriac Apocalyptic Texts, 1993, op. cit., p. 37 and p. 38.
 ibid., p. 39, also see pp. 37-40.
 R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 269.
 Some scholars suspect the singe mention of Muhammad is a later gloss, see R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 156.
 ibid., p. 156, footnote 141.
 W. Wright, Catalogue Of Syriac Manuscripts In The British Museum Acquired Since The Year 1838, 1872, Part III, op. cit., No. DCCCCXXI, BL Add. 14,685, pp. 1062-1064.
 B. Evetts (Trans & Ed.), “History Of The Patriarchs Of The Coptic Church Of Alexandria – Peter I To Benjamin I (661)”, in R. Graffin & F. Nau (Eds.), Patrologia Orientalis, 1904, Volume 1, Librarie de Paris, pp. 492-494.
 This inscription was originally published by Alois Musil who dated it to the first half of the 8th century (A. Musil, “Zwei Arabische Inschriften Aus Arabia Petraea”, Wiener Zeitschrift Für Die Kunde Des Morgenlandes, 1908, Volume 22, p. 83) – there is no visible date in the inscription itself. Confusingly, whilst briefly discussing this inscription, El-Hawary dated it 100 AH (H. M. El-Hawary, “The Most Ancient Islamic Monument Known Dated AH 31 (AD 652) From The Time Of The Third Calif ‘Uthman”, Journal Of The Royal Asiatic Society, 1930, Volume 64, Issue 2, p. 324) but just a few pages later it is undated (plate V)! Adolf Grohmann appears to have assumed the date 100 AH citing El-Hawary (A. Grohmann, Arabische Paläographie II: Das Schriftwesen. Die Lapidarschrift, 1971, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften Philosophisch – Historische Klasse: Denkschriften 94/2. Hermann Böhlaus Nachf.: Wein, p. 86]. Beatrice Gruendler likewise dated the inscription 100 AH following Grohmann and El-Hawary (B. Gruendler, The Development Of The Arabic Scripts: From The Nabatean Era To The First Islamic Century According To The Dated Texts, 1993, Harvard Semitic Series No. 43, Scholars Press: Atlanta (GA), p. 21).
 J. Johns, “Archaeology And The History Of Early Islam: The First Seventy Years”, Journal Of The Economic And Social History Of The Orient, 2003, Volume 46, No. 4, pp. 411-436.
 S. J. Shoemaker, The Death Of A Prophet: The End Of Muhammad’s Life And The Beginnings Of Islam, 2012, University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 273. Quoted by G-R Puin, “Abermals: Hieß Mohammed ,,Muḥammad‘‘?”, in M. Groß & K-H. Ohlig (Eds.), Die Entstehung Einer Weltreligion III: Die Heilige Stadt Mekka – Eine Literarische Fiktion, 2014, Verlag Hans Schiler: Berlin/Tübingen, p. 699.
 L. W. Hurtado, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts And Christian Origins, 2006, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 2-4. The earliest extant Christian inscriptions are from the third century CE. The earliest extant example of a Christian Church is from the third century CE. Hurtado says [p. 3]:
… Among these pre-Constantinian manuscripts, a small but growing number are dated as early as the second century, and these second-century manuscripts now constitute the earliest extant artifacts of Christianity.
For a comprehensive overview of the archeological evidence of earliest Christianity see, G. F. Snyder, Ante-Pacem: Archaeological Evidence Of Church Life Before Constantine, 2003, Revised Edition, Mercer University Press: Georgia (USA).
 There are at least 94 dated (166 undated) published written documents and at least 57 dated (16 undated) published inscriptions. N.B. This is a back of the envelope calculation and is neither comprehensive (coins and some other objects not included) nor definitive in providing an answer to this question. For the numbers used in the above estimate see, K. M. Younes & J. Bruning, “Arabic Documents From The First Two Islamic Centuries”, Version 13.4.2015, Formation of Islam – The View From Below – University Of Leiden, accessible online, January 2017) and The Arabic And Islamic Inscriptions: Examples Of Arabic Epigraphy.
A good starting point for anyone wishing to avail themselves of the earliest documentary texts are R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., pp. 688-695; R. G. Hoyland, “New Documentary Texts And The Early Islamic State”, Bulletin Of The School Of Oriental And African Studies, 2006, Volume 69, No. 3, pp. 411-416; F. Imbert, “L’Islam Des Pierres : L’Expression De La Foi Dans Les Graffiti Arabes Des Premiers Siècles”, Revue Des Mondes Musulmans Et De La Méditerranée, 2011, Volume 129, pp. 57-78; Y. Ragheb, “Les Premiers Documents Arabes De L’Ère Musulmane”, Travaux Et Mémoires, 2013, Volume 17, pp. 679-726; Muḥammad b.ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Rāshad al-Thenyian, Nuqūsh Al-Qarn Al-Hijrī Al-Awwal Al-Muʾrakhat Fī Al-Mamlakah Al-ʿArabiyyah Al-Saudia, 2015, Riyaḍ, (Saudi Arabia).
 M. P. Penn, When Christian First Met Muslims: A Sourcebook Of The Earliest Syriac Writings On Islam, 2015, op. cit., p. 8. Penn’s tome is best enjoyed in conjunction with its companion volume M. P. Penn, Envisioning Islam: Syriac Christians And The Early Muslim World, 2015, University of Pennsylvania Press (USA). For a comprehensive study that examines virtually every known source bearing on the rise of Islam, see R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit.
 Shoemaker would object to this point, see S. J. Shoemaker, “In Search Of ʿUrwa’s Sīra: Some Methodological Issues In The Quest For “Authenticity” In The Life Of Muḥammad”, Der Islam, 2011, Volume 85, Issue 2, pp. 257-344. For a response see, A. Görke, H. Motzki & G. Schoeler, “First Century Sources For The Life Of Muḥammad? A Debate”, Der Islam, 2012, Volume 89, Issues 1-2, pp. 2-59.
 Concise List Of Arabic Manuscripts Of The Qur’ān Attributable To The First Century Hijra; Dated Texts Containing The Qur’an From 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE; Radiocarbon (Carbon-14) Dating Of Manuscripts Of The Qur’ān.
 S. J. Shoemaker, The Death Of A Prophet: The End Of Muhammad’s Life And The Beginnings Of Islam, 2012, op. cit., p. 277.
 M. G. Morony, “Sources For The First Century Of Islam”, Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, 1978, Volume 12, Number 3, p. 20. Nearly forty years ago Michael Morony wrote this very instructful article regarding the first century sources of Islam, today seldom referenced. Those who rush forth with eagerness to rewrite wholesale early Islam should pause and take stock of this salient point. He said, “The rehabilitation of literary sources does not excuse us from identifying and using primary sources.”
 The text in the Chronicler of Khuzistan reads:
Regarding the dome of Abraham, we have been unable to discover what it is except that, because the blessed Abraham grew rich in property and wanted to get away from the envy of Canaanites, he chose to live in the distant and spacious parts of the desert. Since he lived in tents, he built that place for the worship of God and for the offering of sacrifices. It took its present name from what it had been, since the memory of the place was preserved with the generations of their race. Indeed, it was no new thing for the Arabs to worship there, but goes back to antiquity, to their early days, in that they show honour to the father of the head of their people.
R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 187.
 C. Luxenberg, “Neudeutung Der Arabischen Inschrift Im Felsendom Zu Jerusalem”, in K-H. Ohlig & G-R. Puin (Eds.), Die Dunklen Anfänge: Neue Forschungen Zur Entstehung Und Frühen Geschichte Des Islam, 2006, 2nd Auflage, Verlag Hans Schiler: Berlin (Germany), p. 126 with discussion on pp. 129-131. The German text for the phrase muḥammadun ‘abdullāhi wa rasūluhū is rendered as:
Zu loben ist (gelobt sei) der Knecht Gottes und sein Gesandter.
Unsurprisingly, of the thirty-two references cited in Luxenberg’s article, not a single reference deals with the dated documentary texts, found in relative abundance before, during and after the construction of the Dome of the Rock. This questionable methodological approach likewise penetrates the author’s endeavour at a “historical reconstruction”; no attempt has been made to provide a critical analysis of the early Christian reactions to the building of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. For the early Christian reactions see G. J. Reinink, “Early Christian Reactions To The Building Of The Dome Of The Rock In Jerusalem”, Xristianskij Vostok, 2001, Volume 2, Number 8, p. 241.
 J. Karabacek, J. Krall and K. Wessely (Eds.), Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer: Führer Durch Die Ausstellung, 1894, Alfred Hölder: Wein, No. 79 (Inv. Pap. Nr. 4002), p. 19.
 For example see, A. Grohmann, Corpus Papyrorum Raineri Archiducis Austriae III, Series Arabica I, Part 2: Protokolle, 1924, Burguerlag Ferdinand Zöllner: Wein, No. 34, 35, 37, 38, 62, 66. These Arabic-Greek bilingual papyri from the first century hijra translates the Arabic phrase muḥammad rasūl Allāh in Greek as ‘maamet apostolos theos’.
 S. Album & T. Goodwin, Sylloge Of Islamic Coins In The Ashmolean – The Pre-Reform Coinage Of The Early Islamic Period, 2002, Volume I, Ashmolean Museum: Oxford (UK), p. 29-30 & Plate 26 (No. 371). This apt observation was taken from G. Schoeler (Trans. U. Vagelpoh & Ed. J. E. Montgomery), The Biography Of Muḥammad: Nature And Authenticity, 2011, Routledge: Oxford (UK) & New York (USA), p. 14. He goes on to say, “This fact refutes Ohlig’s ludicrous claim that in first century AH sources, especially the inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock, the word Muḥammad (written MḤMD) is not a personal name but an epithet of Jesus (without any reference to the Islamic Prophet) and should be translated as ‘the praiseworthy one’ or ‘the blessed one’”.
 J. van Ess, “The Making Of Islam”, The Times Literary Supplement, 1976, September 8th, p. 998. Similar statements are also to be seen in various reviews of Crone and Cook’s Hagarism. N. Daniel writes (Journal Of Semitic Studies, 1979, Volume 24, p. 298):
It is easier to believe that Muslims are better witnesses to Islam than Christians or Jewish writers who may more naturally be supposed to have known very little about it.
R. B. Serjeant says (Journal Of The Royal Asiatic Society, 1978, No. 1, p. 78):
Why should the Syriac sources, not new of course to the Islamic historians, with their hostility to Islam, be considered more trustworthy than the Arabic historians?
J. Wansbrough, in his review, states (Bulletin Of The School Of Oriental And African Studies, 1978, Volume 41, p. 156):
My reservations here, and elsewhere in this first part of the book, turn upon what I take to be authors’ methodological assumptions, of which the principal must be that the vocabulary of motives can be freely extrapolated from a discrete collection of literary stereotypes composed by aliens and mostly hostile observers…
 R. G. Hoyland, “The Earliest Christian Writings On Muhammad: An Appraisal”, in H. Motzki (Ed.), The Biography Of Muhammad: The Issue Of Sources, 2001, op. cit., pp. 289-290.
 ibid., pp. 291-292.
 J. Wansbrough, The Sectarian Milieu: Content And Composition Of Islamic Salvation History, 1978, Oxford University Press, p. 117.
 ibid., p. 119.
 R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, op. cit., p. 598.
 C. A. Evans, “Jesus In Non-Christian Sources” in B. Chilton & C. A. Evans (Eds.), Studying The Historical Jesus: Evaluations Of The State Of The Current Research, 1994, New Testament Tools And Studies: Volume XIX, E. J. Brill: Leiden, p. 443.
 ibid., pp. 464-477.
 ibid., pp. 477-478.
 For instance see ibid., p. 459, p. 462, p. 464 and pp. 477-478 (conclusions). This is undoubtedly the impression Evans wants to convey, although he does not state it in so many words.
 The earliest undated inscriptional attestations of Jesus are to be found in the Church at Megiddo in Palestine and the Church at Dura-Europos in Syria, both from the third century CE. See E. Adams, “The Ancient Church At Megiddo: The Discovery And An Assessment Of Its Significance”, The Expository Times, 2008, Volume 120, Number 2, pp. 62-69. In Palestine, the earliest ‘dated’ inscription mentioning Jesus is found in a mosaic pavement of the Lower Church at Shiloh.
The pavement bears no era date but it contains the name of a bishop who was present at the synod of Lydda in 415 CE, and the church itself is mentioned in St. Jerome’s Epistle 46, dated between 386 CE and 392 CE (Personal Communication, Professor Leah Di Segni, August 2013). See, L. Di Segni, “Greek Inscriptions From The Early Northern Church At Shiloh And The Baptistery”, in N. Carmin (Ed.), Christians And Christianity III: Churches And Monasteries In Samaria And Northern Judea, 2012, Judea and Samaria Publications 15: Jerusalem, pp. 209–218.
 H. G. Snyder, “A Second-Century Christian Inscription From The Via Latina”, Journal Of Early Christian Studies, 2011, Volume 19, Number 2, pp. 157-195; idem., “Bed, Bath, and Burial: NCE 156 Revisited”, Journal Of Early Christian Studies, 2015, Volume 23, Number 2, pp. 305-316; idem., “The Discovery And Interpretation Of The Flavia Sophe Inscription: New Results”, Vigiliae Christianae, 2014, Volume 68, Issue 1, pp. 1-59.
The earliest Christian inscription upon which most Judeo-Christian scholars agree is the Aberkios Epitaph written c. 200 CE. It is also the earliest inscription which attempts to register Christian belief. See L. W. Hurtado, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts And Christian Origins, 2006, op. cit., p. 2; Also see R. A. Kearsley, “The Epitaph Of Aberkios: The Earliest Christian Inscription?”, in S. R. Llewelyn (Ed.), New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity:
A Review Of The Greek Inscriptions And Papyri Published In 1980-81, 1992, The Ancient History Documentary Research Centre: Macquarie University (Australia), pp. 177-181; B. H. McLean, An Introduction To Greek Epigraphy Of The Hellenistic And Roman Periods From Alexander The Great Down To The Reign Of Constantine (323 B.C.–A.D. 337), 2002, University Of Michigan Press, p. 280.
 Slightly adapted from a comment made by one of the authors here.
 R. E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside The New Testament: An Introduction To The Ancient Evidence, 2000, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Michigan (USA) / Cambridge (UK), pp. 6-10.
 B. D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument For Jesus of Nazareth, 2012, Harper Collins (USA), p. 2.
 C. S. Hurgronje, Mohammedanism: Lectures On Its Origin, Its Religious And Political Growth, And Its Present State, 1916, G. P. Putnam’s Sons: New York, pp. 26-27.
 M. Kemper, “The Soviet Discourse On The Origin And Class Character Of Islam, 1923-1933”, Die Welt des Islams, 2009, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp. 30-34. This description of the historical period in question is fascinating.
 P. Crone, “What Do We Actually Know About Mohammed?”, available online.
 Y. Nevo & J. Koren, Crossroads To Islam: The Origins Of The Arab Religion And The Arab State, 2003, Prometheus Books: New York, p. 11.
 It should be noted Inârah’s publications also contain contributions from well-known and respected scholars who do not necessarily share such views. See A. Rippin, “Review – The Qur’ān In Context: Historical And Literary Investigations Into The Qur’ānic Milieu. Edited by Angelika Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai, and Michael Marx. Texts and Studies On The Qur’ān, vol. 6. Leiden: Brill, 2010”, 2011, Journal Of The American Oriental Society, Volume 131, Number 3, p. 470.
 Their overall position is neatly summarised by K-H. Ohlig, “Foreword: Islam’s “Hidden” Origins”, in K-H. Ohlig & G-R. Puin (Eds.), The Hidden Origins Of Islam: New Research Into Its Early History, 2010, Prometheus Books: New York, pp. 7-14.
 A. Rippin, “Review – The Qur’ān In Context: Historical And Literary Investigations Into The Qur’ānic Milieu. Edited by Angelika Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai, and Michael Marx. Texts and Studies On The Qur’ān, vol. 6. Leiden: Brill, 2010”, 2011, Journal Of The American Oriental Society, op. cit., pp. 470-473. In a memorial volume dedicated to Wansbrough, Van Reeth comments thus,
There is no doubt in my mind, indeed, that he [Muhammad] has been an actual living, historical person. All the elaborations in that sense, such as those of Ohlig, K.-H. “Vom muhammad Jesus zum Propheten der Araber. Die Historisierung eines christologischen Prädikats.” In idem, ed. Der frühe Islam. Eine historisch-kritische Rekonstruktion anhand zeitgenössischer Quellen, 327–76. Berlin, 2007, are to be totally rejected: they are not a “historisch-kritische Rekonstruktion”, but unfortunately only a mere construction of historical phantasy. It is to be deplored that Luxenberg has been led astray by all this.
J. M. F. Van Reeth, “Who Is The ‘Other’ Paraclete”, in C. A. Segovia & B. Lourié (Eds.), The Coming Of The Comforter: When, Where, And To Whom? Studies On The Rise Of Islam And Various Other Topics In Memory Of John Wansbrough, 2012, op. cit., p. 452, footnote 148.
 S. N. Noseda, “Parerga To The Volumes Of «Sources De La Transmission Manuscrite Du Texte Coranique» Thus Far Published And In Course Of Publication” in M. S. Kropp (Ed.), Results Of Contemporary Research On The Qur’ān: The Question Of A Historio-Critical Text Of The Qur’ān, 2007, Beiruter Texte Und Studien – Band 100, Orient-Institut: Beirut, p. 172.