that a definitive text was not achieved until as late as the ninth century. This argument rests on Wansborough's theory that Islam emerged as a coherent religion only when it came into contact with Rabbinic Judaism during the course of the Arabic conquests of the Near East. In support of his theories, Wansborough points to the treatment of narrative material from Judeo-Christian scripture within the Koran which, he says, is not so much reformulated as merely referred to, in a manner which presupposes familiarity. He dismisses the possibility that the Arabs could have come under the Rabbinic influence from the Jewish population within Arabia, which was centered on the Hijaz (the area of western Arabia from which Islam originated) as references to Arabia in sixth and seventh century Rabbinic literature are, he says, negligent.

Wansborough sees the style of the Koran as highly polemical, and thus evidence that it was composed in a very sectarian atmosphere. i.e. within the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of the conquered Near East, in which Arabs, Jews, Samaritans, Zoroastrians and Christians of Chalcedonian, Nestorian and Jacobite denominations were thrown under the same rule. Within this atmosphere, it is suggested, the conquering Arabs felt the need for a Heilsgeschichte or "salvation history" to legitimise their political ascendancy. In Wansborough's model, the early Muslim community, under the influence of Rabbinic accounts, took Moses as an exemplum and thus created the portrait of Muhammad, gradually, and in response to the needs of the religious community. As Muhammad was based on a Mosaic model, there arose a need for a holy scripture as testimony to his prophethood, hence the Koran was created.

Wansborough also cites certain negative evidence for a late date for Koranic development. He takes the studies of Joseph Schact on the early development of legal doctrine within the Muslim community to demonstrate the Muslim jurisprudence is largely not derived from the Koran. He also sees significance in the absence of any reference to the Koran in the Fiqh Akbar I. The latter is a mid eighth century document in which a statement of the Muslim faith is made in the face of sectarianism. Wansborough finds it inconceivable that this document would not have made reference to the Koran had it been in existence, as the Koran, being the word of God, represents the ultimate authority and orthodoxy of Islam.

Furthermore, Wansborough submits the text of the Koran to a very technical analysis, with the aim of showing that rather than being deliberately edited by a few men, the Koran was "the product of an organic development from originally independent traditions during a long period of transmission."


Publication: Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World

During the decade 1977-1987 Patricia Crone and Michael Cook published their theories on early Islam which were even more radical than Wansborough. They rejected wholesale the entire Islamic version of early Islamic history, and argued instead that the Arab conquests and the formation of the Caliphate should be understood in terms of a movement of peninsular Arabs, inspired by Jewish messianism, to try to reclaim the Promised Land and particularly Jerusalem. Like Wansborough they suggest that Islam only emerged as an autonomous religion and culture within the process of a long struggle for identity among the disparate peoples yoked together by the conquests. They argue that since the Islamic historical tradition was the product of conflicting polemic and retrojective reference to a fictitious past it was necessary to look beyond the Islamic tradition for less partisan views on Islamic history.

In formulating their theories, Cook and Crone have studied the non-Muslim sources contemporary to early Islam: from the Byzantine empire, Syria and Armenia. These testify to the existence of the man Muhammad, the fact that he was a merchant, the importance of Abraham in his teaching, and they also attach significance to the date 622AD. These sources do not, however, include any mention of Mecca, and more importantly, none of the Koran until they late seventh century. The Armenian chronicler Bishop Sebeos describes the Jews as allies of the Arabs in their conquest of the Fertile Crescent and a Greek source tells the same story, adding that an Arab prophet was proclaiming the coming of the Jewish messiah. Sebeos understood that Muhammad preached that Arabs were the descendants of Abraham, and as such claimed a right to the Promised Land. The notion of Abraham as the first and most pure monotheist, which was fundamental to Muhammad's teaching is also to be found in the Jewish apocryphal work, the Book of Jubilees, which dates from c.140-100BC. Moreover, the fifth century Christian Sozomenus, describes the presence of Ishmaelite monotheism in Arabia, where some Arab tribes had adopted Jewish practices.

Cook and Crone also point to indications in the orientation of early mosques and in Christian literary sources that early Muslims prayed in a direction much further north than Mecca suggesting that the early Muslim sanctuary was not located here, and that Jerusalem was a more likely site. They further suggest that the Hijra does not refer to an exodus from Mecca to Medina, as Arab tradition holds, but rather refers to an emigration from Arabia to the Promised Land. Cook and Crone argue that Mecca

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