The Quest for the Historical Muhammad (Ibn Warraq)

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The Quest for the Historical Muhammad (2000), edited by Ibn Warraq, is an anthology of 15 studies examining the origins of Islam and the Qur'an. The contributors argue that traditional Islamic accounts of its history and the origins of the Qur'an are fictitious and based on historical revisionism aimed at forging a religious Arab identity.


In his review, Daniel Pipes praised the book as a "fascinating collection of essays" that raises "basic questions for Muslims concerning the prophet's role as a moral paragon".[1]

Other well-known American scholars such as Fred Donner has criticized the selection of essays, and described it as a "monument to duplicity". Donner writes that Warraq unduly favors revisionist theories in order to advance "anti-Islam polemic", forwarding that "this lopsided character makes The Quest for the Historical Muhammad a book that is likely to mislead many an unwary general reader."[2] Alfons Teipen, a professor of religion at Furman University, criticized the editing: "The two introductory articles ... are one-sided, rather polemical overview[s] of ... scholarship on the life of Muhammad."[3]

Asma Afsaruddin described the book as a "partisan work" and added that Warraq "clearly has an ideological axe to grind". Asma states that "poor editing, sloppy transliteration, and ad hominem attacks on certain authors...especially Watt, add to the chagrin of the reader", and argued that "Ibn Warraq is not interested in debate; he wants nothing less than wholesale conversion to his point of view within the community of scholars of Islam" and added that his book "needlessly poisons the atmosphere and stymies efforts to engage in honest scholarly discussion".[4]

In his review of the book, As'ad AbuKhalil states that Ibn Warraq collected old writings by Orientalists who have been long discredited and added that "the more rigid and biased the Orientalists, the better for Warraq".[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Daniel Pipes: The Quest for the Historical Muhammad
  2. ^ Fred Donner (2001). "Review: The Quest for the Historical Muhammad". Middle East Studies Association Bulletin. University of Chicago. Archived from the original on Apr 3, 2003. 
  3. ^ Teipen, Alfons H. (Summer 2003). "The Quest for the Historical Muhammad". Journal of Ecumenical Studies. 40 (3): 328–9. 
  4. ^ Asfaruddin, Asma; Warraq, Ibn (2001). "The Quest for the Historical Muhammad". Journal of the American Oriental Society. American Oriental Society. 121 (4): 728–729. doi:10.2307/606555. JSTOR 606555. 
  5. ^ AbuKhalil, As'ad (2004). ""The Islam Industry" and Scholarship: Review Article". Middle East Journal. Middle East Institute. 58 (1): 130–137. JSTOR 4329978. 

Further reading[edit]