Islam: Untold Story

Last week a historical documentary on the early years of Islam was released in the UK and shown on television there. In the immediate aftermath of the video, both the television station which aired it and the production company received over 1,200 complaints from Muslims. As a result, scheduled future screenings of this video have been withdrawn over safety concerns.

Why all the ruckus? Because Muslims do not like any aspect of their religion subjected to critical scrutiny and analysis. We are supposed to accept as fact that Muhammad was a prophet, that the Qur’an is God’s final revelation to mankind, and that Islam emerged just as the oral tradition says it did.

But what about evidence? Should not these statements of fact be verifiable by means of objective evidence? And if such evidence is found lacking, what does that say about Islam?

The video in its entirety is posted below. Note that this video has been blocked on YouTube by channel 4 in the UK. They don’t want it going out, but this is a story that must be told, Muslim sensitivities be damned.

I want you first to read my friend Jay Smith’s comments on this video. Jay is a PhD candidate in Islamic history and has been studying Islam for over 25 years. Jay says the following:

Concerning my own personal thoughts on the documentary, I felt that  while the scenery and  the opening desert shots were stunning, Tom was very careful to present his material gently, almost apologetically,  I assume  this was so that the Muslims would not be offended.

Nonetheless, he did not shirk from presenting some of the historical problems mentioned in his book with the classical accounts of the emergence of Islam, including difficulties with finding much at all about this new religion from sources in the 7th century, and, more troubling, locating the biography of Muhammad before the 9th century.

He brought out anachronisms such as the impossibility of olives growing in Arabia, the fact that the ruins of Sodom (Sura 37:11) are located 1,000 miles further north than where the Qur’an locates them, and he spent a good bit of time questioning the Qur’anic references to Mecca, suggesting that not only is there no objective historical reference for this city until the mid 8th century, but the location suggested in the Qur’an, along with the disoriented ‘qiblahs’ (direction of prayer), places it too far north again, and with too much vegetation. His conclusion that it was probably chosen later as an Arab equivalent to Jerusalem, upon which the new Arab religion could be housed, is interesting.

His suggestion that much of the historical material in the Qur’an would probably have been written during or after the time of abd al Malick, towards the end of the 7th century, coincides with a growing consensus within the orientalist community, and while I would have loved him to have worked with the conclusions a bit more, he did enough to begin the debate.

I think many of us who know these historical problems already, and who have been working with them publicly for the last two decades would have wanted Dr. Holland to have gone further in his analysis, and brought a stronger critique from the material in his book, but we can understand his reticence to do so here. By presenting it this way, others like ourselves can now take these ideas and work with them in our own ministries, and begin fleshing out their ramifications in our own apologetics.

In the end, the token Muslim scholar on the program, Professor Seyeed Hossain Nasr, summed up best the tenor of the critique when, presented with the plethora of historical facts which confront the classical account of Islam’s emergence, quips that it is not for us to impose our  Western historical conclusions on Muslims, since they simply won’t accept them; indeed, that will take time.

Meanwhile, we can move on with the realization that we don’t have these problems with our own Bible, for which we thank God.

Be blessed as you watch the documentary,


Now for the legal stuff:

This video is made available pursuant to the “fair use” provision of the US Copyright Act of 1976 as codified in  17 U.S.C. §107, which states, in part:

“Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

As a non-commercial blog interested in history and critical analysis of current events, this video is being made available for education, scholarship, and criticism.

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One response to “Islam: Untold Story”

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  1. Terrence says:

    about Judaism that were completely wrong, which brngis me to question their statements about Islam as well. Especially when comparing religions – both Judaism and Islam don’t believe that God could have a son. This goes against Christian beliefs. The statement “we worship the same God” is therefore very misleading.Some info I found on the Dearborn community:Arab and Muslims came to Dearborn in three significant waves: in the early 1900s, when Ford recruited people from Yemen and other Arab countries to work in its Detroit area factories; in the late 1970s, when thousands from Lebanon — spurred by that country’s civil war and Israel’s invasion of the south — joined Dearborn’s already thriving Lebanese community; and in the 1980s and 1990s, when Iraqis left their country because of Saddam Hussein’s regime of terror. It was during this latter period that al-Husainy came to Dearborn. His Karbala Islamic Education Center was once a chic nightclub that drew such stars as Frank Sinatra, but now its walls are covered with paintings of Iraqi clerics and its floors with Muslim carpets. Near the center are block after block of bakeries, restaurants and shopping centers with Arab names (like the Arabian Towncenter). Even a nearby Walgreens has a sign on its door in Arabic and English, aisle signs in Arabic and English and a special section where shoppers can buy Arabic food from the Middle East. Women wearing hijab are a common site at Dearborn’s stores, where clerks use a mixture of Arabic and English to speak with customers. (Source: )Also:The worship area at the Karbala Education Center is not typical; there are no separate entrances for men and women, no separate prayer room, or divisions on the carpet. I think is it no chance that Dave was sent to a Muslim community filled with Saddam refugees.On the other hand, the dress he was wearing (white skullcap, white robe) is that of a very devout Muslim, though it is portrayed like something any moderate Muslim would wear. Same for the ‘beard’ part of the show. Note that his ‘host’ barely has one.