Hagarism : The Sto­ry Of A Book Writ­ten By Infi­dels For Infidels

The book titled Hagarism : The Mak­ing of the Islam­ic World ques­tions just about every­thing Mus­lims believe as his­tor­i­cal truths. It chal­lenges the com­mon belief that the Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muham­mad over a peri­od of 22 years (610632) in Mec­ca and Med­i­na. Instead, the book con­tends that the Qur’an was com­posed, pos­si­bly in Syr­ia or Iraq, more than fifty years after the Prophet’s death, pro­ject­ed back in time, and attrib­uted to the Prophet. The Qur’an, accord­ing to the book, was fab­ri­cat­ed dur­ing the reign of Caliph Abdul Malik (685705 C.E.) to legit­imize an expand­ing empire.

The book also con­tends that the word Mus­lim” was invent­ed in the 8th cen­tu­ry to replace the word Muha­jirun (immi­grants), which was the orig­i­nal name of the Arab com­mu­ni­ty that con­quered Pales­tine and built the Dome of the Rock. The book itself pre­scribes a new name for ear­ly Mus­lims. It calls them Hagarenes, that is, the bio­log­i­cal descen­dants of Abra­ham by Hagar. This racial nam­ing of ear­ly Mus­lims is employed to dis­tin­guish them from Jews, who are the descen­dants of Abra­ham by Sarah. Hagarism, the book’s title, is a qua­si-pejo­ra­tive, and pos­si­bly a racist, label to describe the his­tor­i­cal phe­nom­e­non of ear­ly Muslims.

In the authors’ own words, the book is writ­ten by infi­dels for infi­dels.” Attacks on the Quran’s authen­tic­i­ty, the Prophet’s integri­ty, or Islam­ic his­to­ry are not new. The Quran itself acknowl­edges sim­i­lar attacks the unbe­liev­ers made while the Quran was being revealed. For more than a thou­sand years, West­ern schol­ar­ship has been deter­mined to expose what it con­sid­ers to be the fraud­u­lent foun­da­tion” of Islam. In this sense, Hagarism is yet anoth­er book in the large dump of attack literature.

How­ev­er, what dis­tin­guish­es this book is the fact that its authors, Michael Cook and Patri­cia Crone, no longer sub­scribe to its crit­i­cal find­ings. On April 3, 2006, I had a phone con­ver­sa­tion with Michael Cook and we talked about Hagarism. He said to me the fol­low­ing, which he lat­er con­firmed by means of an email : The cen­tral the­sis of that book was, I now think, mis­tak­en. Over the years, I have grad­u­al­ly come to think that the evi­dence we had to sup­port the the­sis was not suf­fi­cient or inter­nal­ly con­sis­tent enough.” On April 6, 2006, I inter­viewed Patri­cia Crone, as well, to see what she now thinks about the book. She was even more can­did in repu­di­at­ing the cen­tral the­sis of the book. She agrees with the crit­ics that the book was a grad­u­ate essay.” The book was pub­lished in 1977 when the authors lived in Eng­land. We were young, and we did not know any­thing. The book was just a hypoth­e­sis, not a con­clu­sive find­ing,” said Crone. I do not think that the book’s the­sis is valid.”

Many West­ern schol­ars, Chris­tians and Jews, have dis­missed Hagarism as a thin argu­ment” rather than cred­i­ble research.” One his­to­ri­an who appears to admire the book is Daniel Pipes, who has taught at Chica­go and Har­vard uni­ver­si­ties. Pipes, an embit­tered Zion­ist known for his ugly utter­ings against Islam and Mus­lims, argues that while West­ern schol­ars like Crone and Cook in the role of ter­mites” are eat­ing away at the mag­nif­i­cent Islam­ic edi­fice, Mus­lims are act­ing as though the beams and joints were as strong as ever.” Even Pipes, how­ev­er, describes the book as wild.” Notwith­stand­ing schol­ar­ly repu­di­a­tions, Inter­net web­sites con­tin­ue to rely on the book to malign Islam, assum­ing that the book’s the­sis is derived from cred­i­ble research.

Even online Wikipedia fea­tures the book, cit­ing a large quo­ta­tion from Daniel Pipes. The arti­cle con­cludes : Although this line of research is dis­count­ed by Islam­ic tra­di­tion­al­ists, West­ern schol­ars have gen­er­al­ly applaud­ed Crone and Cook’s advances in trac­ing the ori­gins of Islam.” When I insist­ed that Wikipedia pro­vide a source to sup­port the above con­clu­sion, the edi­tor added cita­tion need­ed” to the con­clu­sion. As of today, no cita­tion to sup­port the con­clu­sion has been furnished.

Part of the con­fu­sion aris­es from the fact that Cook and Crone have made no man­i­fest effort to repu­di­ate their juve­nile find­ings in the book. The authors admit­ted to me that they had not done it and cater no plans to do so. Repu­di­at­ing schol­ar­ly work is not easy because some­times errors are inter­twined with valid find­ings. No schol­ar is oblig­at­ed to rewrite books to cor­rect errors. Schol­ar­ly decen­cy, how­ev­er, demands that the authors offi­cial­ly repu­di­ate a scan­dalous the­sis, one in which they no longer believe and one that maligns the faith of more than a bil­lion people.

It appears how­ev­er that the authors do not wish to dis­count a book that launched their careers and brought to them con­tacts and for­tune. Patri­cia Crone teach­es at the Insti­tute for Advanced Stud­ies, the aca­d­e­m­ic home of Albert Ein­stein, an insti­tute that pro­claims itself as one of the world’s lead­ing cen­tres for the­o­ret­i­cal research and intel­lec­tu­al inquiry.” Michael Cook is a chaired pro­fes­sor of Near East­ern Stud­ies at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, who in 2002 (a few months after 911 ter­ror­ist attacks) received a $1.5 mil­lion Dis­tin­guished Achieve­ment Award from the Mel­lon Foun­da­tion for sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to human­i­ties research.”

One needs no brains to write against Islam in the West­ern world. After 911, anti-Islam­ic lit­er­a­ture has become a big busi­ness that even acclaimed aca­d­e­mics have gen­er­ous­ly exploit­ed for self-pro­mo­tion. In this milieu, repu­di­at­ing even a false anti-Islam­ic book will be con­demned as apos­ta­sy. We need not burn the book. Crone and Cook them­selves must muster the courage and put out the brush­fire they start­ed three decades ago, albeit in youth­ful excitement. Hagarism: The Story Of A Book Written By Infidels For Infidels 1Endmark

Dr. Ali Khan is a pro­fes­sor of law at Wash­burn Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law in Tope­ka, Kansas. This excerpt is tak­en from his forth­com­ing law arti­cle, The Exter­nal­ist Schol­ar­ship on Islam­ic Law”, which will be pub­lished in Michi­gan State Law Review.







One response to “Hagarism : The Sto­ry Of A Book Writ­ten By Infi­dels For Infidels”

  1. Mohammed Avatar

    That should shut Denis Giron up :)

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