Muslim Professor Says Muhammed Never Existed

Muslim Professor Says Muhammed Never Existed

 

Up to some time ago I was convinced that Muhammad was a historical figure. Although I always based my thinking on the assumption that the Islamic historical narrative regarding Muhammad was very unreliable, I had no doubts that at least the basic lines of his biography were historically correct.I have now moved away from this position and will soon publish a book in which I will, among other things, comment on this question and explain my arguments in more detail. This essay is only a short summary of my most important arguments. It also deals with the question of what implications historical-critical research has for the Islamic theory and how I deal with my research results as a theologian.

 


And with those words Muhammad Sven Kalisch, Muslim Convert and Professor of Islamic Theology sent shockwaves through the theological world, lost his departmental chairmanship and an probably put a bounty on his head.

 

My position with regard to the historical existence of Muhammad is that I believe neither his existence nor his non-existence can be proven. I, however, lean towards the non-existence but I don’t think it can be proven. It is my impression that, unless there are some sensational archeological discoveries — an Islamic “Qumran” or “Nag Hammadi” — the question of Muhammad’s existence will probably never be finally clarified.

 

Read more about Sven’s theory and some of the academic and Islamic reactions below:

Professor Hired for Outreach to Muslims Delivers a Jolt Islamic Theologian’s Theory: It’s Likely the Prophet Muhammad Never Existed By ANDREW HIGGINS

MÜNSTER, Germany — Muhammad Sven Kalisch, a Muslim convert and Germany’s first professor of Islamic theology, fasts during the Muslim holy month, doesn’t like to shake hands with Muslim women and has spent years studying Islamic scripture. Islam, he says, guides his life.

So it came as something of a surprise when Prof. Kalisch announced the fruit of his theological research. His conclusion: The Prophet Muhammad probably never existed.

Read a translated excerpt from “Islamic Theology Without the Historic Muhammad — Comments on the Challenges of the Historical-Critical Method for Islamic Thinking” by Professor Kalisch.

Muslims, not surprisingly, are outraged. Even Danish cartoonists who triggered global protests a couple of years ago didn’t portray the Prophet as fictional. German police, worried about a violent backlash, told the professor to move his religious-studies center to more-secure premises.

“We had no idea he would have ideas like this,” says Thomas Bauer, a fellow academic at Münster University who sat on a committee that appointed Prof. Kalisch. “I’m a more orthodox Muslim than he is, and I’m not a Muslim.”

When Prof. Kalisch took up his theology chair four years ago, he was seen as proof that modern Western scholarship and Islamic ways can mingle — and counter the influence of radical preachers in Germany. He was put in charge of a new program at Münster, one of Germany’s oldest and most respected universities, to train teachers in state schools to teach Muslim pupils about their faith.

Muslim leaders cheered and joined an advisory board at his Center for Religious Studies. Politicians hailed the appointment as a sign of Germany’s readiness to absorb some three million Muslims into mainstream society. But, says Andreas Pinkwart, a minister responsible for higher education in this north German region, “the results are disappointing.”

Prof. Kalisch, who insists he’s still a Muslim, says he knew he would get in trouble but wanted to subject Islam to the same scrutiny as Christianity and Judaism. German scholars of the 19th century, he notes, were among the first to raise questions about the historical accuracy of the Bible.

Many scholars of Islam question the accuracy of ancient sources on Muhammad’s life. The earliest biography, of which no copies survive, dated from roughly a century after the generally accepted year of his death, 632, and is known only by references to it in much later texts. But only a few scholars have doubted Muhammad’s existence. Most say his life is better documented than that of Jesus.

Sven Muhammad Kalish

“Of course Muhammad existed,” says Tilman Nagel, a scholar in Göttingen and author of a new book, “Muhammad: Life and Legend.” The Prophet differed from the flawless figure of Islamic tradition, Prof. Nagel says, but “it is quite astonishing to say that thousands and thousands of pages about him were all forged” and there was no such person.

All the same, Prof. Nagel has signed a petition in support of Prof. Kalisch, who has faced blistering criticism from Muslim groups and some secular German academics. “We are in Europe,” Prof. Nagel says. “Education is about thinking, not just learning by heart.”

Prof. Kalisch’s religious studies center recently removed a sign and erased its address from its Web site. The professor, a burly 42-year-old, says he has received no specific threats but has been denounced as apostate, a capital offense in some readings of Islam.

“Maybe people are speculating that some idiot will come and cut off my head,” he said during an interview in his study.

A few minutes later, an assistant arrived in a panic to say a suspicious-looking digital clock had been found lying in the hallway. Police, called to the scene, declared the clock harmless.

A convert to Islam at age 15, Prof. Kalisch says he was drawn to the faith because it seemed more rational than others. He embraced a branch of Shiite Islam noted for its skeptical bent. After working briefly as a lawyer, he began work in 2001 on a postdoctoral thesis in Islamic law in Hamburg, to go through the elaborate process required to become a professor in Germany.

The Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. that year appalled Mr. Kalisch but didn’t dent his devotion. Indeed, after he arrived at Münster University in 2004, he struck some as too conservative. Sami Alrabaa, a scholar at a nearby college, recalls attending a lecture by Prof. Kalisch and being upset by his doctrinaire defense of Islamic law, known as Sharia.

In private, he was moving in a different direction. He devoured works questioning the existence of Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Then “I said to myself: You’ve dealt with Christianity and Judaism but what about your own religion? Can you take it for granted that Muhammad existed?”

He had no doubts at first, but slowly they emerged. He was struck, he says, by the fact that the first coins bearing Muhammad’s name did not appear until the late 7th century — six decades after the religion did.

He traded ideas with some scholars in Saarbrücken who in recent years have been pushing the idea of Muhammad’s nonexistence. They claim that “Muhammad” wasn’t the name of a person but a title, and that Islam began as a Christian heresy.

Prof. Kalisch didn’t buy all of this. Contributing last year to a book on Islam, he weighed the odds and called Muhammad’s existence “more probable than not.” By early this year, though, his thinking had shifted. “The more I read, the historical person at the root of the whole thing became more and more improbable,” he says.

He has doubts, too, about the Quran. “God doesn’t write books,” Prof. Kalisch says.

Some of his students voiced alarm at the direction of his teaching. “I began to wonder if he would one day say he doesn’t exist himself,” says one. A few boycotted his lectures. Others sang his praises.

Prof. Kalisch says he “never told students ‘just believe what Kalisch thinks’ ” but seeks to teach them to think independently. Religions, he says, are “crutches” that help believers get to “the spiritual truth behind them.” To him, what matters isn’t whether Muhammad actually lived but the philosophy presented in his name.

This summer, the dispute hit the headlines. A Turkish-language German newspaper reported on it with gusto. Media in the Muslim world picked up on it.

Germany’s Muslim Coordinating Council withdrew from the advisory board of Prof. Kalisch’s center. Some Council members refused to address him by his adopted Muslim name, Muhammad, saying that he should now be known as Sven.

German academics split. Michael Marx, a Quran scholar at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, warned that Prof. Kalisch’s views would discredit German scholarship and make it difficult for German scholars to work in Muslim lands. But Ursula Spuler-Stegemann, an Islamic studies scholar at the University of Marburg, set up a Web site called solidaritymuhammadkalisch.com and started an online petition of support.

Alarmed that a pioneering effort at Muslim outreach was only stoking antagonism, Münster University decided to douse the flames. Prof. Kalisch was told he could keep his professorship but must stop teaching Islam to future school teachers.

The professor says he’s more determined than ever to keep probing his faith. He is finishing a book to explain his thoughts. It’s in English instead of German because he wants to make a bigger impact. “I’m convinced that what I’m doing is necessary. There must be a free discussion of Islam,” he says.

Obama Declares War on Conservative Talk Radio

Obama Declares War on Conservative Talk Radio

By Jim Boulet, Jr.

Barack Obama sought to silence his critics during his 2008 campaign.  Now, with the ink barely dry on this November’s ballots, Obama has begun a war against conservative talk radio.

Obama is on record as saying he does not plan an exhumation of the now-dead “Fairness Doctrine“. Instead, Obama’s attack on free speech will be far less understood by the general public and accordingly, far more dangerous.

 

The late community organizer Saul Alinsky taught his followers to strike hard from an unexpected direction, an approach known as Alinsky jujitsu.

 

Obama himself not only worked as an organizer for an Alinsky offshoot organization, Chicago’s Developing Communities Project, but would go on to teach classes in Alinsky’s beliefs and methods.

 

“Alinsky jujitsu” as applied to conservative talk radio means using vague rules already on the books to threaten any station which dares to air conservative programs with the loss of its valuable broadcast license.

 

Team Obama and the “localism” weapon

 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule in question is called “localism.”  Radio and television stations are required to serve the interests of their local community as a condition of keeping their broadcast licenses. 

 

Obama needs only three votes from the five-member FCC to define localism in such a way that no radio station would dare air any syndicated conservative programming.

 

Localism is one of the rare issues on which Obama himself has been outspoken. 

 

On September 20, 2007, Obama submitted a pro-localism written statement to an FCC hearing held at the Chicago headquarters of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.’s Operation Push.

 

Furthermore, the Obama transition team knows all about the potential of localism as a means of silencing conservative dissent.  The head of the Obama transition team is John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress.

 

In 2007, the Center for American Progress issued a report, The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio.  This report complained that there was too much conservative talk on the radio because of “the absence of localism in American radio markets” and urged the FCC to “[e]nsure greater local accountability over radio licensing.

 

Podesta’s choice as head of the Federal Communications Commission’s transition team is Henry Rivera.

 

Since 1994, Rivera has been chairman of the Minority Media Telecommunications Council.  This organization has specific ideas about localism:

 

In other words, it would not do for broadcasters to meet with the business leaders whose companies advertise on their station.  Broadcasters must reach beyond the business sector and look for leaders in the civic, religious, and non-profit sectors that regularly serve the needs of the community, particularly the needs of minority groups that are typically poorly served by the broadcasting industry as a whole.

 

Rivera’s law firm is also the former home of Kevin Martin, the current FCC chairman.  Martin is himself an advocate of more stringent localism requirements. 

 

It was on Martin’s watch that on January 24, 2008, the FCC released its proposed localism regulations.  According to TVNewsday: “At the NAB radio show two weeks ago, Martin said that he wanted to take action on localism this year and invited broadcasters to negotiate requirements with him.”

 

FCC complaints as politics by other means

 

Remember that an FCC license is required for any radio or television station to legally operate in the United States.  A single complaint from anyone can significantly hinder a station’s license renewal process or even cost the station its FCC license entirely.

 

There have been some attempts to utilize the FCC complaint process for partisan political ends, most memorably in 2004, when Sinclair Broadcasting agreed to air a documentary questioning Senator John Kerry’s war record:
Poised to pre-empt programming on its 62 television stations to run a negative documentary about Sen. John Kerry, Sinclair Broadcast Group has come under fire from critics calling it partisan and questioning whether it is failing federal broadcast requirements to reflect local interests.
Members of Congress and independent media groups have questioned the company’s willingness to respect “localism,” a section of federal law that requires media companies to cover local issues and provide an outlet for local voices.

 

One group, The Leftcoaster, went further:

 

But what isn’t done a lot which requires the broadcaster to rack up expensive legal fees, is to challenge every one of their affiliates’ FCC license renewals as they come up this year and next.  … [T]here still is time to organize and file Petitions or objections by November 1, 2004 for Sinclair stations in North Carolina and South Carolina, and for Florida by January 1, 2005.

 

More recently, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium issued a “fill in the blanks” official FCC complaint form which begins “Anything that you feel is offensive is worth reporting.”

 

Community advisory boards as permanent complaint departments

 

These random efforts could be far more effective at silencing conservatives if they could only be systematized and institutionalized.  That is exactly what the FCC proposed on January 24th.   Every radio and television station would be required to create:

 

[P]ermanent advisory boards comprised of local officials and other community leaders, to periodically advise them of local needs and issues, and seek comment on the matter. … 
To ensure that these discussions include representatives of all community elements, these boards would be made up of leaders of various segments of the community, including underserved groups.

 

The “community advisory board as permanent complaint department” model may well be based upon the 1995 revisions of the Community Reinvestment Act, as described by Howard Husock in City Journal:

 

[T]the new CRA regulations also instructed bank examiners to take into account how well banks responded to complaints. … [F]or advocacy groups that were in the complaint business, the Clinton administration regulations offered a formal invitation.  …
By intervening-even just threatening to intervene-in the CRA review process, left-wing nonprofit groups have been able to gain control over eye-popping pools of bank capital, which they in turn parcel out to individual low-income mortgage seekers. A radical group called ACORN Housing has a $760 million commitment from the Bank of New York…[emphasis in original].

 

Understand that even allowing conservatives to be radio talk show guests may provoke a FCC licensing complaint.  Just ask “right wing hatchet man” Stanley Kurtz.

 

For Obama, when it comes to radio talk, silence is golden, at least when it comes to conservatives.

 

Can localism be stopped?

 

FCC observers agree that the outpouring of complaints from groups like the National Religious Broadcasters during the original comment period helped delay matters. 

 

However, Kevin Martin’s determination to enact a localism regulation has led him to ask the broadcast industry to accept a voluntary standard that the FCC would then enact.  If industry failed to agree now, Martin warned, “a future FCC may be less willing to compromise than the current one.”

 

This scare tactic — agree to our demands today or suffer dire consequences tomorrow — is having an impact. 

 

What broadcasters need to do: speak up now

 

Radio and television station owners need to become engaged in the localism issue and then take the time to educate their own Congressman and Senators about the dangers of the FCC’s proposals. 

 

If broadcasters get involved, it just may be possible to block implementation of any localism rules during the few months remaining of the Bush Administration.

 

This delay is critical, since once it is the Obama Administration leading the fight for rules which would shut down conservative talk radio, Republican Congressmen and Senators will find it easier to fight back.

 

The Senate needs to draw a line in the sand: free speech, not localism

 

While President Obama will have the authority to name Commissioners as their terms end, these nominations must be confirmed by the Senate

 

A few pointed questions on localism to FCC nominees during their confirmation hearings would be useful.  A filibuster of any and all pro-localism FCC nominees would be even better.

 

Any Senator leading such a filibuster would earn the gratitude of millions of fans of talk radio as well as everyone who believes in free speech..

 

Jim Boulet, Jr. is the founder of the anti-localism web site, KeepRushontheAir.com.  Research assistance for this article was provided by Richard Falknor of Blue Ridge Foru
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