It is only now, as secular scholars of Islam (known as “Orientalists”) re-examine theIslamic sources, that evidence is being uncovered which puts into question much of what wehave been led to believe concerning Muhammad and ‘his revelation,’ the Qur'an.The findings of these scholars indicate that the Qur'an was not revealed to just one man, but was a compilation of later redactions (or editions) formulated by a group of men, over thecourse of a few hundred years (Rippin 1985:155; and 1990:3,25, 60). In other words, the Qur'anwhich we read today is not that which was in existence in the mid-seventh century, but was morethan likely a product of the eighth and ninth centuries (Wansbrough 1977:160-163). It was atthis time, the Orientalists say, particularly in the ninth century, that Islam took on its classicalidentity and became that which is recognizable today. Consequently, the formative stage of Islam, they contend, was not within the lifetime of Muhammad but evolved over a period of 200-300 years (Humphreys 1991:71, 83-89).Source material for this period, however, is sparse. Essentially the only sources whichhad been available to the historians were Muslim sources. What is more, outside the ‘Qur'an,’the sources are all late. Prior to 750 A.D. we have no verifiable Muslim documents which cangive us a window into this formative period of Islam (Wansbrough 1978:58-59). Nothing existswith which to corroborate ‘Muslim Tradition’ material (that is, Islamic history based on their traditions). Later documents simply draw upon earlier documents, which no longer exist today(if indeed they existed at all) (Crone 1987:225-226; Humphreys 1991:73). This classical period(around 800 A.D.) describes the earlier period, but from its own viewpoint, much like an adult,writing about their childhood will tend to remember those areas which were pleasant. Thus, theaccount is coloured, and biased, and as such cannot be accepted as authentic by historicalscholars (refer to Crone's studies on the problems of the ‘traditions,’ especially those which weredependent on local storytellers, in Meccan Trade....1987, pp.203-230 and Slaves on Horses,1980, pp. 3-17).Consequently, the demarcation line between what the historian will accept and that whichMuslim Traditions maintain is growing further apart for the following reasons: Islam, accordingto orthodox Muslim scholars, gives complete credence to divine intervention for its revelation.Muslim Tradition asserts that Allah sent down his revelation to Muhammad via the angel Gabriel(
) over a period of twenty-two years (610-632 A.D.), in which time many of the laws andtraditions which delineate that which we define as Islam were formulated and worked out.Yet it is this scenario which secular historians are balking at today, as it presupposes thatin the early seventh century, Islam, a religion of immense sophistication, of intricate laws andtraditions was formulated in a ‘backward’ nomadic culture and became fully functional in onlytwenty two years.The
(central Arabia) before that time was hardly known in the civilized world.Even the later traditions refer to this period as
(or period of ignorance, implying its backwardness). Arabia before Muhammad did not have an urbanized culture, nor could it boasta sophisticated infrastructure needed to create, let alone maintain the scenario painted by the later traditions for the early period of Islam (Rippin 1990:3-4). So, how did it come together so neatlyand so quickly? There is no historical precedence for such a scenario. One would expect such adegree of sophistication over a period of one or two centuries, provided there were other sources,such as neighbouring cultures from which traditions and laws could be borrowed, but certainlynot within an unsophisticated desert environment, and certainly not within a period of a mere 22years.