The Quran’s Historicity
THE DOME OF THE ROCK.
It was built by Abd al-Malik in 691 and still is an imposing structure even by nowadays standard. First, we have to notice that the Dome of the Rock is not a mosque since it hasn’t any prayer’s direction, suggesting it was built as an octagon with eight pillars to walk around.
Muslims contend that it was erected to commemorate the night when Muhammad went up to the heaven to speak with Moses and Allah concerning the number of prayers required for the believers. But, according to the researches made by Van Berchem and Yehuda Nevo, the inscriptions found there say nothing about the Mi’raj but rather attest the messianic status of Jesus, the acceptance of the prophets, Muhammad’s receipt of revelation, and the use of the terms ‘’Islam’’ and ‘’Muslim’’. Why, if it was erected to commemorate the Mi’raj does it say nothing about it ? This imposing structure built so early suggests that this and not Mecca became the first sanctuary and the center of nascent Islam until at least the late 7th century.
According to Islamic tradition, the caliph Suleyman, who reigned as late as 715-717, went to Mecca to ask about the HAJJ. He was not satisfied with the response he received there, and so chose to follow Abd al-Malik (i.e. travelling to the Dome of the Rock). This fact alone, points out Dr. Hawting, indicates that there was still some confusion as where the sanctuary was to be located as late as the early 8th century. One can understand why, according to the tradition, WALID I, who reigned as Caliph between 705 and 715 wrote to all regions ordering the demolition and enlargement of the mosques. Could it be that at this time the Qiblas were then aligned towards Mecca ? If so it points to a glaring contradiction in the Quran.
The Dr. John Wansbrough, an absolute authority on early Islamic tradition, found interesting observances as to this man Muhammad was. The best non-Muslim sources on this period which we have are those provided by the Arabic rock inscriptions scattered all over the Syro-Jordanian deserts and the Peninsula , especially the Negev desert. The late Yehuda Nevo, from the University of Jerusalem, made extensive research and published his results in 1994 book ‘’Toward a Prehistory of Islam’’, which I’ll refer.
Nevo has found in the Arab religious texts, dating from the first century and a half of Arab rule (7th to 8th century) a monotheist creed ‘’demonstrably not Islam, but a creed from which Islam could have developed’’.
He also found in all Arab religious institutions during the SUFYANI period (661-684) a complete absence of reference to Muhammad or any Mohammedans formulae that he is the prophet of God. This is true, until around 691, whether the main purpose of the inscription is religious or simply commemorative, such as the inscription at the dam near Ta’if, built by the Caliph Muâwiya in the 660’s. How come that Muhammad’s name is absent on all early inscriptions, is significant.
The first occurrence of the phrase Muhammad rasul Allah (Muhammad is the prophet of Allah) is found on an Arab-Sassanian coin of Xalib ben Abdallah from the year 690, which was struck in Damascus . The ‘’Triple Confession of Faith’’, including the Tawhid (God is one), the phrase setting that Muhammad is His prophet and the human nature of Jesus (rasul Allah wa-abduhu) is found in Abd al-Malik’s inscription in the Dome of the Rock, dated 691. BEFORE THIS, THE MUSLIM CONFESSION OF FAITH CANNOT BE ATTESTED AT ALL. After that, through the MAARWANID dynasty (until 750), Muhammad’s name usually occurs whenever religious formulae are used, such as coins, milestones and papyrus ‘’protocols’’. Yet, the first Arabic papyrus, an Egyptian receipt for taxes paid, dated 642, written in both Greek and Arabic is headed by the ‘’BASMALA’’, yet it is neither Christian nor Muslim in character.
Rock inscriptions, though bearing religious texts, never mention the prophet or the Mohammedan’s formulae, a full 30-60 years and more after the death of Muhammad, though they contained a monotheist form of belief developed with a Judaeo-Christian literary style. What’s more, when the formulae is introduced during the MARWANID period (after 684) it is carried almost ‘’overnight’’. Suddenly, it became the state’s only form of official religious declaration. Then again, they were not accepted by the public so promptly.
According to Y. Nevo, the Mohammedan’s formulae only began to be used in popular inscriptions sometime during the reign of Caliph Hisham (724-743). EVEN THESE, THOUGH THEY ARE MOHAMMEDANS, ARE NOT MUSLIM. For that, Nevo believes, we must wait until the beginning of the 9th century (around 822), coinciding with the first written Quran, as well as the first traditional Muslim accounts. It thus seems that it was not during his lifetime that Muhammad was elevated to the position of a universal prophet and, EVEN THEN, THE FORMULAE WHICH WAS INTRODUCED WAS STILL NOT EQUIVALENT WITH THAT WHICH WE HAVE TODAY.