Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Robert Spencer vs. David Wood: Did Muhammad Exist?

After Robert agreed to debate me, I began sending him taunts about my inevitable victory, including this promise from Ivan Drago, this debate prediction from Clubber Lang, and numerous references to old gorillas being overthrown and forced into exile by young gorillas. Alas, old gorillas only live to become old gorillas by knowing how to fight!



In cased you missed our Marvel Team-Up against Anjem Choudary and Omar Bakri, here it is:

34 comments:

simple_truth said...

Ha ha, David!

I really enjoyed the debate which included two very good debaters. I think that both of you won on certain points but tied overall. Certainly Mohammad did exist, but not according to the imagery supported by the legends of Islamic literature.

Derek Adams said...

David's opening speech was very powerful. I think I give the slight edge of the victory to Robert. Certainly the only and best debate ever on this subject.

Here was my experience:

http://www.answeringabraham.com/2012/05/dk-derek-adams-phone-call-to-abn-david.html

Dk

Fisher said...

I like David's emphasis on the Principle of Embarrassment, since that means it is illogical for Muslims to dismiss the embarrassing details in their sahih hadiths as da'if/mawdu. I mean really, what Muslim would fabricate such narrations and how could Imams Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, etc., miss such fabrications?

Another issue I've also heard raised (but not mentioned in the debate) is the fact that there are many traditions that are common to all Muslims regardless of their sect. Given that sectarian divisions occurred very early on in Islamic history, such traditions must be very old.

By the way, it's a funny idea that Spencer put forward that the story of Muhammad thinking he was demon-possessed was created to show non-Muslims that the thesis of demon possession was considered then refuted based on "sound logic and evidence." Yeah, your wife and her relative telling you that whatever throttled you in a cave was from God counts as "sound evidence."

The leap months issue is interesting too. That is a glaring omission in the Islamic tradition that I've never heard brought up before.

In the end, I (like David) do come down on the side of Muhammad being a historical figure (legendary accretions notwithstanding). However, Spencer does bring up a lot of valid points that should be taken seriously.

skynightblaze said...

@David Wood

I agree with your conclusion however I have different arguments to reach the same conclusion. Here is a question for fans of Spencer. How was SPencer so sure of the motives of 8th and 9th century Arabs when he himself later claims that we do not know how these people thought??. Spencer confidently gave reasons behind fabrications of quranic verses quoted by David in 7 arguments that he made in his opening statement.

Anyway David, I think you missed very vital evidence which could have helped you to beat Spencer easily. One source is a monk writing in 637 AD which affirms existence of Muhammad. The fragmentary note is confirmed to have been from 7th century by Noldeke. The note however contains text that could not be deciphered and it is included in brackets however the words that are not in brackets clearly exist in the note. The note describes Muhammad as the same depicted in ahadith like raiding villages and taking captives. Now this is a non muslim source and writing as early as 637 AD! See the note for yourself. Spencer has not included this quote in his book..

http://forum09.faithfreedom.org/viewtopic.php?p=178551#p178551

skynightblaze said...

@David Wood

Sanaa manuscripts indicate that we had different versions of quran in place at a time. This is confirmed by ahadith in Bukhari so how in the world can these ahadith be fabrications??

Also I would like to comment on some things in the debate... Bukhari did not collect 2,97,000 different ahadith.They were repetitive. It was like if 1 hadith was repeated by 10 different people then it was considered as 10 different ahadith and not 1 and that is how the no got to 2,97,000. SO Robert got that wrong that Bukhari sifted the incorrect ones out of 2,97,000 ahadith..Here is what Bukhari had to say...

"I have not included in my book al-Jami` but what is authentic, and I left out among the authentic for fear of [excessive] length.(Footnote 2)"

Footnote 2 says:

He [al-Bukhari] meant that he did not mention all the turuq [parallel chains of transmission] for each and every hadith.[7]

Here is my thread which deals with refuting quran alone muslims. I have included this argument here..

http://forum09.faithfreedom.org/viewtopic.php?p=154473#p154473

On another note, I have seen writings of Gibril Haddad . Please read the particular post referred in the following link..

http://forum09.faithfreedom.org/viewtopic.php?p=151900#p151900

He claims that ahadith existed even within the first century hijra.

One can read the following article too.

http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/refuting_the_argument_that_the_hadith_have_been_collected_200_years_after_the_death_of_the_prophet_and_therefore_are_unreliable_

The only problem with these arguments is I am not sure how to determine whether these muslims are telling the truth. I mean how do we know for sure that these books existed ? Bukhari in my opinion had access to these sources out of which he compiled his collection.This is not to say Bukhari is infallible. Bukhari does contain contradictions however I believe it is because of having to sift through large collections but that does not mean every single thing he wrote was crap. we have non muslim writers confirming what BUkhari and others wrote especially about the criminal activities of Muhammad.

skynightblaze said...

Let us confirm Zayd- Zaynab issue from a neutral non muslim writer John of Damascus writing in 730 AD. He too makes a mention of Muhammad stealing his adopted son's wife. Now mind you no sira or ahadith existed so John was not referring to the islamic sources that are supposedly corrupted.. Here is what he wrote....

=======
As has been related, this Muhammad wrote many ridiculous books, to each one of which he set a title. For example, there is the book On Women, in which he plainly makes legal provision for taking four wives and, if possible, a thousand concubines – as many as one can maintain, besides the four wives. He also made it legal to put away whichever wife one might wish, and, should one wish so, take to oneself another in the same way. Muhammad had a friend named Zeid. This man had a beautiful wife with whom Muhammad fell in love. Once, when they were sitting together, Muhammad said: “Oh, by the way, God has commanded me to take your wife.”

The other answered: “You are an apostle. Do as God has told you and take my wife”. (John of Damascus. On Heresies 101).[223]
========

Now how can Robert's explanation be correct especially in the light of writings of non muslim historians?? Why would non muslims lie about Muhammad?? External sources corroborate islamic ones and therefore I believe that Muhammad existed as as thug in the same way as described by islamic scriptures.If we are to believe Robert then we need to condemn all the non muslim historians.

Another example is John Bar Penkaye writing in 687 AD who portrays Muhammad as a criminal . He mentions looting, taking captives done by muslims and he also talks about Muhammad who killed people who did not believe in him which is very much in line with teachings of islam.

mkvine said...

I think Muslims are in quite a pickle! Either they admit that there is a huge gap in the early sources concerning Muhammad and therefore undermine his existence, OR they grant the criterion of embarrassment and admit the ridiculous stories about him (satanic verses, etc.) Either way, its a lose-lose situation. I wouldn't want to be in that position...

skynightblaze said...

I think Spencer uses inconsistent line of reasoning therefore blows up his valid points. He actually brought up valid points like muslims not describing anything about Muhammad in the additional months in the lunar calendar or that coins were minted with Muhammad and cross on it. So now if we are to apply Spencer's line of reasoning i.e. what appears insensible to us may have been sensible to the 8th and 9th century arabs then using the same logic these valid points from Spencer can be dismissed because it may be that , the 8th and 9th century arabs found it sensible! :).

If we are to rely on making sense then David's points become valid however they are some gaps in islamic sources which cannot be answered as Robert pointed out but then again you have non muslim writers i.e sources external to islam confirming islamic ones on some counts and therefore it only means that those gaps have some explanation but it is difficult for us to know them.

skynightblaze said...

@mkvine

I agree with you. Muslims lose both ways and therefore I am happy with both the hypothesis :) however I am inclined to side with David Wood atleast on this issue.

Ivan Omara said...

Muhammad obviously existed because as David pointed out. Many of the stories written were embarrassing even to the 1st generation of Muslims, now if Muhammad was invented, there wouldn't be this clear consistent chain of development among the Sira literature's ect...

The Fact that the early Muslims were watering it down (the stories), this means that they knew it happened therefore trying to improve the image of their prophet.

Clear Example: In the Gospels theirs the famous saying of Jesus Matthew 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Almost every scholar agrees that these are actually authentic sayings of Jesus. Now Why?

Very simple = the principle of embarrassment as David said

In other words Scholars cannot imagine a serious christian inventing such words of Jesus especially if they believe that he is Divine. Now why can't Robert apply the same standard to Muhammad.

Haecceitas said...

I think I'd score this debate as a draw. What kept David from winning the debate was two things. He didn't spend enough time dealing with the "massive gaping hole" problem and he didn't make clearly enough the point that if the standard, generally accepted version of Islamic history proves to be too problematic to accept in light of the surprising lack of early evidence, it doesn't follow that Muhammad-mythicism is true. It could just be that the historical core is smaller and more vague than previously thought. On the other hand, Spencer was definitely weaker than David in his attempts to deal with the embarassing material. David also made things a bit too easy for him by not only granting but even presenting the issue of the lack of early testimony so that Spencer didn't need to make a positive case of his own at all and could spend all of his time in responding to David's arguments.

Ivan Omara said...

If David spent more time responding to "the missing gap) argument he would have won the debate without question but as I have stated before both made convincing points, Robert made a good case about the "missing Gap" and David the "Principle of embarrassment". However in the rebuttal period, David spent most of his time asking Robert questions concerning his case and not vice versa.Robert I to have say gave a weak response to David arguments but David barely dealt with the (missing Gap)issues which of course deducted some points.

Herakleios said...

Hi Skynightblaze:

You mention a Fragment from 637 AD, that Noldeke dates to this date? (Do you mean the german Theodor Nöldeke?)
In which of his books is he doing so? I have access to a really big theological library at my university and am interested in reading that book.

Zack_Tiang said...

great stuff!

Zack_Tiang said...

Great stuff! Robert Spencer did indeed present some interesting evidence for his case.

Personally, I don't mind sticking with Muhammad being a real person.

Mary said...

Very though-provoking, intelligent, reasonable, and refreshingly civil. I think that both are true. Mohammad was a historical (wicked) person whose legend grew and maybe people wrote down and embellished whatever snippet of the legend they heard and they were all combined into the official version. This official version was used and molded to justify the conquests, to rally the warriors, to rationalize the violence, and to solidify and institutionalize the Islamic kingdom.

skynightblaze said...

@Herakleios

Yes I am talking about the german scholar. If you could dig up more , it would really be helpful.. Here are the books that I got this information from..

Please check the following links..

http://books.google.co.in/books?id=N3Vp1g0AxjAC&pg=PA140&lpg=PA140&d#v=onepage&q&f=false

http://books.google.co.in/books?id=VdXMK4CYRToC&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false

skynightblaze said...

@Herakleios

I do not understand Germany but here is the book...


Th. Nöldeke, "Zur Geschichte Der Araber Im 1, Jahrh. d.H. Aus Syrischen Quellen", Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 1876, Volume 29, p. 76.

Michael Schueckler said...

David,

Surely you have received many calls and emails from Muslims or Muslim apologists thanking you for doing such an excellent job of defending the existence of Muhammad.

None could have done better.

Peter said...

I think that both debaters did a great job, but I think that Robert had many more points than David.

Davids point about embarrassment was good, but it was only one point, and I think that it is not that strong in fact.

It is true that it is illogical to make up a story that is embarrassing, but embarrassing stories are only mild circumstantial evidence.

As Robert pointed out, we do not know exactly what was embarrassing to the early muslims.

But I think that there is an even more rational explanation to the embarrassing stories:

People make mistakes!

In the Quran and in the hadith there are hundreds or thousands of little things to back up Mohammad as a prophet. It would be illogical if all of the stories were just perfect. People make mistakes and sometimes peoples stories and lies backfire. That is the nature of people and that is the nature of lies.
So I simply cannot see the embarrassing stories about Mohammad as evidence that he existed. I could simply be evidence that the creators of false stories made some stupid mistakes. Maybe they even thought that they were really clever to make some stories where Mohammad were not absolutely perfect to make him look more real, and then by mistake they made him appear like a complete jackass. With that huge amount of lies something had to go wrong, and this doesn't just have to include the blatant errors in the Quran. This could also very well include the embarrassing stories about Mohammad.

Apollos26 said...

Hi David,

great debate and clearly the worst defense I have heard from the muslims - as it happens many, well I really would say quite always.

BUT,

you and Robert didn't understand the challenge of the Quran proposed by Sheik Omar Bakari. You didn't listen carefully to his words. Here is where the rubber meets the road:

"Produce one CHAPTERS like it!" - I think that is the miracle of the Quran according to the sheik. You have to produce one chapters! Can you meet the challenge? ;)

characterbuilder said...

David,

Just an excellent presentation.

Traeh said...

I want to listen to the 5 minute summations again. I thought David's 5 minute explanation of the huge gap made excellent sense -- though I don't know how David can answer Robert's 5 minute rebuttal, since the debate pretty much ended after that.

Robert said, among other things, that if, as David claims, the early Muslims were for the most part just raiders who didn't really care about Islam, the Qur'an, or stories of Muhammad, and therefore only got around to inculcating Islam after a couple of generations, then why, if they didn't care about the stories much, did the Muslims bother to save the stories for those two generations without telling them to anyone?

Is it possible that a core leadership saved them and cared about them, but did not get around to teaching them to all the Muslims until a couple generations had passed?

The fact that David did not get to reply to this is a huge gaping hole in the debate!

How could we be left hanging on that? What is David's answer to this huge question???!!!

Is it possible that the Muslims only started caring about their formative stories in light of the astounding success of a century of conquests that took over a large part of the globe? That the success made them take seriously for the first time their own traditions and beginnings -- which formerly they had taken only as a convenient ideology for their raiding ambitions? And so after the huge conquests, started valuing the traditions much more and inculcating them?

skynightblaze said...

@Traeh

Here are a few muslim muslim sources that speak about existence of texts in the first century hijra.

Kuraib left with us a camel load of Ibn 'Abbâs's books. When 'Ali ibn 'Abdullâh ibn 'Abbâs would need any book from them, he wrote to Kuraib, 'Send to me such and such books.' He would then transcribe the book and send to him one of the two copies. [Tabaqât Ibn Sa'd]


Abu Hurairah took him to his home and showed him "many books" containing the ahâdîth of the Holy Prophet. [Jâmi' Bayân-ul-'Ilm; Fath-ul-Bâri]

The pupils of Ibn 'Abbâs would copy these scripts and read them over to him to confirm the correctness of the copies. [Jâmi' at-Tirmidhi]


As far as I know Bukhari had access to lot of books out of which he compiled his collection by applying various criteria.

skynightblaze said...

http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/refuting_the_argument_that_the_hadith_have_been_collected_200_years_after_the_death_of_the_prophet_and_therefore_are_unreliable_

The link above records a no of books from the first and second century hijra. Please read the above link for detail . Now the question is how do we determine whether the books mentioned by the link above existed or not? I am not able to decide however the link does mention a lot of books. Following are 1st century books and 2nd century books are also mentioned.

The Compilations of the First Century

We present here a list of hadîth works written by the Tâbi'în in the first and second centuries. In the first century the following books of hadîth were compiled by the Tâbi'în:

1. Book of Khalid ibn Ma'dan (d. 104)

2. Books of Abu Qilabah (d. 104). He bequeathed his books to his pupil, Ayyub Saktiyan (68-131 A.H.), who paid more than ten dirhams as a fare for them being loaded on a camel.

3. The script of Hammam ibn Munabbih, already referred to.

4. Books of Hasan al-Basri (21-110 A.H.)

5. Books of Muhammad al-Baqir (56-114 A.H.)

6. Books of Makhul from Syria

7. Book of Hakam ibn 'Utaibah

8. Book of Bukair ibn 'Abdullah ibn al-Ashajj (d. 117)

9. Book of Qais ibn Sa'd (d. 117). This book later belonged to Hammad ibn Salamah.

10. Book of Sulaiman al-Yashkuri

11. Al-Abwâb of Sha'bi, already referred to.

12. Books of Ibn Shihâb az-Zuhri

13. Book of Abul-'Aliyah

14. Book of Sa'id ibn Jubair (d. 95)

15. Books of 'Umar ibn 'Abdul Aziz (61-101 A.H.)

16. Books of Mujahid ibn Jabr (d. 103)

17. Book of Raja ibn Hywah (d. 112)

18. Book of Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn 'Amr ibn Haq

19. Book of Bashir ibn Nahik.

Fernando said...

Dear Ivan Omara... the problem is thate "the principle of embarrassment" only workes in reference of a cultural matrix... in other words: Jesus acting against the rulling social rules context in which the Gospels were writteen and, even though, his actions being present in the Gospels is an example off, according to the "the principle of embarrassment", something that we are sure thate happened... butt none off the muhammad's sotries were embararsed to the authors of islamic texts att the time they were written since they were written to justifie political ans social ambitions off the rullers off the time... ergo... I guess you are clever enought to draw your own conclusions...

Ivan Omara said...

My Dear Friend Fernando, If these stories were clearly written to justify their political purposes, then why do we see this chain of development within the Sira literatures for "generations". Obviously it was embarrassing, the fact that it has impacted not just the community but generations upon generations, clearly shows it was something embarrassing and that's when we see in later sources all these upgrades in Muhammad's life. Scholars through out the ages believed Muhammad to be real figure, mainly they were some embarrassing stories about Muhammad, that they can't imagine someone making up especially to "unite" the Arabs.

Antonio Jerez said...

I think David won the debate by quite a large margin. Yes the criterion of embarrassment clearly point in the direction that not all of the stories about Muhammad were invented. Funny enough in earlier books Spencer used the criterion of embarrassment to show that a story like the Satanic Verses weren´t invented. Now he is arguing the opposite. I think the reason is obvious why Spencer has changed tack - nowadays he thinks the best way to "destroy" Islam is by proving that its founder never existed.
And I think the Quran in its totality is actually one of the best signs that a Meccan prophet called Muhammad actually existed. It is hardly a coincidence that the text of the Quran has been fairly stable through the centuries - including among "heretic" muslim groups like the Shias. It wasn´t altered even among heretic groups for the simple reason that it was known to go back to the founder. To tamper with the Hadiths and invent things that suited ones purposes was on the other hand considered a fair game among both Sunnis and Shias

Antonio Jerez said...

Ivan,
regarding Matthew 24:36 as an example of the criterion of embarrassment working in favor of its authenticity. Your logic only follows if early Christians like Mark, Matthew and Luke believed that Jesus was God and therefore allknowing. But the problem is that the internal evidence of their gospels doesn´t lead to that conclusion. They believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son, Saviour etc etc...but not God. Therefore what may be embarrassing to later Trinitarian Christians wasn´t embarrassing to them.

Saborte said...

Antonio,
They sure did believe jesus was good simply by the name they gave him Messiah (as you stated) as well as many other names that would only be attributed to god and not a prophet or someone with a lower status. I think you may need to do a bit more research into christianity!

reason said...

great debate it is hard to see the winner both are very clever and good point

Mohamed said...

I think you missed one vital evidence in favour of Muhammad's existence, his body!!! His burial place is well known. End of discussion.

David Wood said...

Horrible argument. I believe that Muhammad existed, but the supposedly "known" location of his body is no evidence at all. The only reason you believe that the grave belongs to Muhammad is that Muslim tradition tells you this. And the reliability of Muslim tradition is precisely what's in question. Your records are late, corrupt, and generally untrustworthy.

If you disagree, here's the challenge. Prove to us that the body in the grave belongs to Muhammad. I'm waiting.

Mohamed said...

I would gladly do it if the Saudi authorities let me :) in fact we know where a lot of the bodies of Muhammad's immediate companions are such Umar, Abu Bakr, Uthman, Hamza etc. Robert's book rests on the assumption that a simple DNA and carbon dating test can't verify the identity of the earliest of Muslims, which can be refuted immediately. The whole question is absolutely ridiculous, nothing but an attempt to extract money from the ignoramus who have no idea of the depth and breadth of historical records that can be used to show the precise opposite of Robert intends. The idea that a whole country can unanimously agree on a mythical figure, a lie perpetuated and repeated from one generation to the next, is an idea that can only be born out of a man blinded by his animosity towards Islam. To make matters worse, Robert isn't just arguing that Muhammad is fake, he goes above and beyond to include Muhammad's wives, all his companions, even his enemies and all the battles that Muhammad fought.

This man doesn't deserve a comprehensive refutation, what he deserves is a DNA test, and lifelong ridicule.