Episode 56 – Why did the Arabs win? Part 1: The Sources

Why can’t we entirely trust the traditional Islamic account of the conquests?

Period: 602-695

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5 thoughts on “Episode 56 – Why did the Arabs win? Part 1: The Sources

  1. Pingback: Episode 56 – Why did the Arabs win? Part 1: The Sources - Byzantium

  2. Priyankar Kandarpa

    A book I would like to suggest is “The war of the three gods Romans Persians and the rise of islam” which talks about the Early Middle Ages. It is available on Audible and a small part of he book is on Google books

  3. Moncef


    the 8th century muslim sources justify the absence of written history by claiming the illiteracy of the arabs during the time of The Prophet and that they were memorizing everything they hear, that’s an awful excuse, The first word of the quran is (إقرأ) that means (read) and not (recite) you can look it up.

    The quran mentioned (القرطاس) and in plural (القراطيس) many times, it means papyrus rolls, he mentioned also (الرق) which is a leather roll to write on, and the mekkan had tons of them because of the religious sacrifices, also in the hadith sources there are many evidences that the prophet knew how to write and read and that he had his own Quran written by his right hand.

    before the revelation the prophet was a merchant traveler between countries, how can a illiterate manage to sold and buy and ship merchandise without writing and reading contracts, specially if we know that he was working for Khadija, who he married after.

    Christians and jews were livinf in Mekka and Medina and Najran and Yeman, they had bibles and torahs and talmuds aand midrashs (places for study), why do later muslims sources claim otherwise and wahts their objectif ?

    it does not make sense, such big events like what happen during the life of the prophet Mohammed were not written until centuries later (ibn ishak)

    wasn’t Mekka an international trading pole ? didn’t romans and persians heard about what was going on in the arabian peninsula ? why can’t we find objectif details about a man “claiming” to be a prophet in arabia ?

  4. A PhD who teaches Islamic Studies

    I generally enjoy this podcast, but your work on Islam and Muhammad is Orientalist and highly problematic at best. It is built upon the work of popular writers who aren’t scholars of Islam (like Tom Holland) who built his highly unlikely imaginings about early Islam upon scholars who the fringe of Islamic Studies (like Patricia Crone and to a lesser degree Fred Donner). Crone’s work, and to some degree Donner’s, can be quite intriguing, but is highly speculative, and must be used carefully and with sufficient note regarding its speculative nature — and the fact that many, if not most, well regarded scholars of Islam (and not just Muslim scholars of Islam) find it highly problematic. It’s a little like citing Erich von Daeniken (of ancient astronaut fame) unproblematically.

    As I noted, I generally enjoy this podcast, and have a great respect for what you do every week. However, I must say that if you aren’t a trained historian, it would seem wisest to keep your retellings (which are generally quite good) to the center of established scholarship, whether it is about early Islam, the Eastern Roman Empire, or anywhere.

    • Hi, thanks for your comments. Perhaps you could offer some advice on the scholarship. When I went through it at the time there seemed to be a divide between those who accepted the accounts of Muhammad’s life written in the 8th/9th centuries – and those who discounted them as adequate sources. What I struggled to find was any historian who engaged with all the 6th/7th century sources and argued that they supported the later accounts of Muhammad’s story. Obviously I only had a few weeks to engage with the field and that was 8 years ago. So any recommendations you could make for future study would be helpful. Thanks, Robin

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