Professor Hired for Outreach to Muslims Delivers a Jolt

Historians in the News

Muhammad Sven Kalisch, a Muslim convert and Germany's first professor of Islamic theology, fasts during the Muslim holy month, doesn't like to shake hands with Muslim women and has spent years studying Islamic scripture. Islam, he says, guides his life.

So it came as something of a surprise when Prof. Kalisch announced the fruit of his theological research. His conclusion: The Prophet Muhammad probably never existed....

He had no doubts at first, but slowly they emerged. He was struck, he says, by the fact that the first coins bearing Muhammad's name did not appear until the late 7th century -- six decades after the religion did.

He traded ideas with some scholars in Saarbrücken who in recent years have been pushing the idea of Muhammad's nonexistence. They claim that"Muhammad" wasn't the name of a person but a title, and that Islam began as a Christian heresy.

Prof. Kalisch didn't buy all of this. Contributing last year to a book on Islam, he weighed the odds and called Muhammad's existence"more probable than not." By early this year, though, his thinking had shifted."The more I read, the historical person at the root of the whole thing became more and more improbable," he says.

He has doubts, too, about the Quran."God doesn't write books," Prof. Kalisch says.

Some of his students voiced alarm at the direction of his teaching."I began to wonder if he would one day say he doesn't exist himself," says one. A few boycotted his lectures. Others sang his praises....

Read entire article at WSJ

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Nicholas Clifford - 11/19/2008

I haven't the faintest idea whether there is anything at all to Prof. Kalisch's thesis, but the notion that Islam began as a Christian heresy was common in the Middle Ages, and explains Dante's placement of him among the schismatics (see Inferno xxviii, 30ff.)