Review: Islam – The Untold Story

This evening, Channel Four broadcast ‘Islam – The Untold Story‘. It was a 90 minute (including ad breaks) documentary by the historian Tom Holland who has also written a book ‘In the Shadow of the Sword‘ which seeks to look at the earliest history of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad and to try and ascertain how much of what we think we know is actually true.

Holland informs the viewer that he is a lapsed Christian and therefore does not, of course, believe the traditional Muslim account that Muhammad was inspired by God and that the Qur’an constitutes the collection of revelations that Muhammad received from God. He is a writer of history books and wishes to deal with facts and find corroborative evidence for stories be they written or oral traditions. That is not an unreasonable approach by any means and the Muslim scholar Sayyid Hussein Nasr is shown as commending Holland if that is indeed the methodology he intends to follow.

Unfortunately, Holland makes a series of statements in the documentary that are ill-judged and undermines one’s confidence in his ability to deal with facts. Commenting on the alleged paucity of facts about the historical Muhammad in the 7th century, Holland says: “There’s nothing there. I can’t find anything.” Holland marvels at the remarkable conquests of the Arabs in the years immediately following the death of Muhammad in 632 CE but he then wonders why those who were conquered seem to say nothing about the religion of their conquerors. “So did Islam even exist in the 30 years after Muhammad?” Holland asks.

Remarkably, Holland does not seem to deal at all with the historicity of the Qur’an itself. He mentions that Muslims believe it is the Word of God but as a writer of history one would expect him to say something about when the Qur’an was compiled and what evidence it offers about the historical Muhammad and the implications relating to such evidence.

Towards the end of the programme, Holland visits the magnificent Dome of the Rock in al-Quds (Jerusalem) which was completed by the Caliph Abd al-Malik in 691CE. The building is adorned with verses from the Qur’an which emphasise Islam’s teaching of monotheism and the Prophethood of Muhammad. So here was clear evidence that less than 60 years after Muhammad’s death, his followers clearly saw themselves as Muslims, whose religion was Islam and whose Prophet was Muhammad. All Holland could offer in return was – well, why did they not say so before?

Indeed, Holland said that rather than Islam moulding the Arabs and inspiring them to build a huge empire and civilisation, perhaps it was their empire that inspired them to create their religion of Islam. This appeared to be an entirely conjectural notion with ironically – no facts to back up the theory. Holland moved on to even more fanciful realms by questioning whether the birthplace of Islam really was Makka. He said – accurately inaccurately (see update below) – that Makka is not mentioned anywhere in the Qur’an but that “Bakka” is. Holland informs the viewer that the Qur’an is talking in the language of agriculturalists but that there is no agriculture in Makka, hence, Makka cannot be where Islam began. He then told us that he personally favoured a birthplace much farther north and took us to Avdat in modern day Israel.

Again, these conjectures were very disappointing and poorly argued. While it is true (see Update below) It is untrue that Makka is not mentioned in the Qur’an, and also both Yathrib and Madina (the post hijrah name for Yathrib) are clearly mentioned in the Qur’an, but Holland does not mention this. Why not? And as for agriculture in Makka, has Holland not heard of Ta’if – which is just outside Makka and is famous for its fertile land?

The conjectures seemed to get ever more ridiculous. Holland visited Sodom and then related the Qur’anic story about its destruction and the Qur’an’s warning that the destroyed site was visible during the day and during the night. Holland asked “What is it doing here – 1000km from Makka?” Holland did not tell the viewers that the Quraysh were famous traders and that they travelled north to Syria and south to Yemen and so would have been familiar with the territory of Sodom.

Early on in the documentary there was some nice footage of Holland questioning some Bedouin about their beliefs and even praying with them and seeming to try and grapple with their views. It was a promising start. Unfortunately, the documentary quickly descended into a series of very poorly argued and sensationalised conjectures. Disappointing.

Update: I made an error in my blog above by conceding that Tom Holland was accurate in his statement that Makka is not explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an. As Aicha and Afaq point out in the comments below, Makka is directly mentioned at 48:24. Apologies to all and may Allah forgive me!

Update 2: I should in fairness point out that Tom Holland has now posted a tweet saying that he did say that Makka is mentioned once by name in the Qur’an. This makes his conjecture that the true birthplace of Islam was Avdat in Israel even more bizarre – but I shall post a new blog about that shortly as I have been in touch with him through twitter to question him about that…

Update 3: Read about my Twitter exchange with Tom Holland ‘Tom Holland’s Bizarre Conjecture About Islam’s Birthplace’

Update 4: Read about my further Twitter exchanges with Tom Holland ‘Questioning Tom Holland and his ‘Islam: The Untold Story’

See also: My review of Tom Holland’s book In The Shadow of the Sword

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64 Responses to Review: Islam – The Untold Story

  1. Tyranicalism says:

    mr holland genuinely had an agenda to make this docentary as the program demonstrated throughout.
    The veracity of the entire document was
    In question throughout. 100% subjective,
    75% misleading, 50% invalid, 25% contentious
    0% enlightening.

    • says:

      i disagree 95% invalid and i am being kind

    • SA says:

      This documentary had INCORRECT anti-islamic sentiments all the way through. Why on earth didn’t Holland go and talk to some Muslim Historians, why go in search of the truth by asking some uneducated bedouin arabs in a desert that no-one has heard of?! Timothy J Winters – aka Abdul Hakim Murad, Murad Hoffman, Hamza Yusuf Hanson
      Tariq Ramadhan, Umar Ibrahim Vadillo, Where were our intellectuals?!!
      Its like me going to a village in shropshire and asking the random christians the history of Christianity! He got seriously confused between Al-asqa mosque and the dome of the rock when he talked about the night journey, not to mention he didn’t get the verse about seeing the city of soddom , saying the quran must have been written near there becaus eof the verse….newsflash the quran was written for EVERYONE – not just arabs in the desert, so others will pass the city too?! I give up….utterly rubbish and inaccurate.

  2. Sublore says:

    And the early mosque, which was not orientated towards Mecca?
    What was it’s significance?

    • Sublore: Makka only became the Qibla (direction of congregational prayers) around two years after the Muslim migration to Madina. Prior to that, Muslims faced Jerusalem in prayers. The change of direction is explicitly narrated in the Qur’an.

  3. sunny says:

    its utterly rubbish.i should say first mr holland should find about bible or chiristanity what they have mix up in the books one and after i.e new testimon,old version i.e.changes every time new version of bible its come.finally he is old no wonder in this age peoples get mad,confused.

  4. Mit: I don’t think they said much about what direction the alleged mosque (remember it was a little pile of rocks one layer high and even Holland laughed when he saw it and asked ‘Is that it?’) pointed other than ‘East’. If we are to accept Holland’s conjecture that the alleged mosque was not oriented towards Makka or Jerusalem then which way was it supposed to be pointing and what other evidence is there in terms of other mosques to corroborate that theory? The more you think about it the more ridiculous Holland’s speculations were. I wish Channel Four had got a decent historian of Islam who teaches at any of our great universities to do a more thorough and intelligent documentary. Instead they got someone with a sensationalised book to plug to do it.

  5. Dr Sheffield says:

    I am very interested in historical and scientific approach to religions and what I was expecting from channel 4, was to be a logical, factual and evidence based research programme which could give a deeper insight into the matter, however to my disappointment, Tom proved himself to be very biased, short sighted and a man with his mind dispersed every where who tried in vainly to create a story that in fact turned out to be a ‘joke of the day’ from channel 4. It’s simply disgusting!

  6. Adeeb says:

    Apparently Holland hasn’t heard of Hadith either

  7. Eliott says:

    Inayat, you are bound to be disappointed by any programme that questions the origins of Islam. It is your religion after all and I think whatever Holland said or did would not have won your favour. I think Holland was clear that much of what he was saying was conjecture due to the paucity of evidence. The Islamic tradition cannot be relied upon solely as evidence for obvious reasons. One has to step outside the taditional narrative in order to critically evaluate its historical accuracy. If you’re not a Muslim, in otherwords if you do not accept there is a God and the idea that Muhammad is God’s prophet, then you look for alternative means to explain the origins of Islam. That will not sit comfortably with a believer.

    • Elliott: I did say in my blog that Holland’s stated purpose to look for facts and corroboration for oral and written traditions was a sensible approach. However, that is not what Holland actually did. He went off in all sorts of bizarre directions. Just to take one example, do you really think that the conjecture that Muhammad did not begin to preach Islam in Makka, but that Islam first began in Avdat in Israel is a mainstream view among non-Muslim historians? Of course it is not. Holland was presenting some very odd theories that lacked any strong evidence instead of undertaking the more respectable task of presenting a serious historical documentary. As I said, very disappointing.

      • Eliott says:

        Inayat, I am not sure who you’re referring to when you mention mainstream historians? Moreover, the mainstream or the academic concensus in any area of knowledge is not always accurate and it’s conclusions should be viewed as provisional. The concensus is often challenged by people who are initially seen as purveyors of odd theories; Darwin for example. I think Holland in turn would argue that the traditional Muslim explanation for the origins of the faith lacks strong evidence. The reason why he mentions Avdat is that in his opinion it seems a more plausible place than Mecca given the geographic evidence. I’ll restate that a serious historical documentary grounded in a critical scientific approach would be unlikely to uphold your beliefs. In the end, religion has to rely on faith for there is precious little evidence for any of its claims.

    • Muz says:

      Eliott, are you honestly saying that any muslim watching this program is not able to appreciate a non-muslims perspective on the origins of the faith? Am more offended by that!. I was looking forward to seeing what the program uncovered. However Tom Holland himself ruined the whole process of his research by bringing up the fact that he did not and cannot accept that god spoke to The prophet of Islam right at the beginning of the program. As a historical researcher or an investigative journalist, why should that even matter? Therefore to me, there was clearly a bias, if that is his stand point, then why is he looking into the origins of a faith that he believes is based on falsehood? It is to validate his own beliefs and discredit that which he does not accept. That is the overwhelming feeling i got from this very poorly researched program and am embarrased for Channel 4 to have actually aired it. It wasnt portrayed from an unbiased scientific approach but purely subjective and very personal to Tom Hollands own agenda. There was no disguising that.

      • Eliott says:

        Muz, there is no independent evidence that God spoke to Mohammed. In fact there is no evidence that there is a God though I acknowledge that one cannot prove there isn’t a supreme being. Throughout history some men and indeed some women have claimed to have been spoken to by God. Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism being one. If you can provide tangible evidence of a God then I’ll be happy to reconsider my position. Thus I think Holland’s starting premise was correct.

    • Muz says:

      Eliott, You’re missing my point…whether or not Tom Holland Believes in God should not have been relevant?!?! After all the program was about Islam’s origins? And therefore as an irrelevance to the topic at hand, I dont think Holland’s starting premise was correct at all, it should have been completely irrelevant if he wants to be taken seriously and accepted as an unbias impartial observer and researcher into the facts! However it seems his personal beliefs and opinions have misdirected his research and led him up a very merry path, completely lacking in credibilty and more importantly…evidence…the very thing he was setting out to obtain!!! As to your last point, does God exist and whether or not people / prophets have communed with God, that is quite another subject?!!? lol…what about the testimony and eye witness acounts of the miracles performed by some of the prophets (including Jesus), I could argue that you need only look around to see the evidence of God and his creation….or you could believe that this has all come about in a completely unconscious random process without rhyme or reason, purely by chance occurrences and nothing more….if you wish to negate what is believed by the majority of the human population, and what scientific research and development has led us to see and understand theamazing and absolute genius and irreducible complexity in life forms all around us (and including us) down to the tiniest of cells and our understanding around DNA and RNA the complexity involved, no doubt you will find what you are looking for, if you wish to find and look for the truth…then look…and no doubt…you will find! :)…not wishing to use your earlier point, but if you dont believe in God or an almighty creator then you will look for alternative means to explain your theories. Its very easy to argue that unless you have absolute tangible proof and evidence, then a theory is theory only. If this is the case then one could argue that there is little (or no) evidence in the fossil record to prove the theory that all living things evolved without the requirement of any intelligent design or creator, when according to the theory of evolution the fossil record should be absolutely littered with organisms and life forms that are inbetween states and classifications of the varying life forms, just as there should be all around us now! Wow. apologies….didnt mean to go on like that…Im now off my soapbox!!! lol

      • Eliott says:

        Muz, forgive me, but you made the point in your first post that you were not well inclined towards the programme because of Holland’s declaration of unbelief. Here is what you said:… However Tom Holland himself ruined the whole process of his research by bringing up the fact that he did not and cannot accept that god spoke to The prophet of Islam right at the beginning of the program….As there is no evidence for a God, just a claim, it makes sense to rule out what you cannot prove and then move on.

        • Muz says:

          Eliott, my apologies to you, what i actually stated was that Holland made a very clear point that he was not a muslim and he does not believe that God spoke to Muhammad (and i think alomst all viewers would have known and understood this without him needing to say it!). He didnt state however that he did not believe in God. There is quite a difference in setting the premise with the latter comment than with the former. It sort of Dampens your point! Lol. We later discover that he was brought up a christian. I just dont understand what his aim was in announcing that, or again what relevance there was to it? other than (knowingly or unknowingly) letting escape his personal bias against Islam and its final prophet. And therein setting the premise for the remainder program and the clear and apparent lack of knowledge, skewed suspicion loaded views and glaring holes in the research and understanding around islamic tradition and history. As a result the program was deeply flawed by his prejudices and could never have hoped to have been the open minded, scientifically approached, investigative documentary that i had hoped for (or I perhaps mistakenly assumed it to be). Deeply disappointing.

    • kerris ahmed says:

      yeah true but how can i critcise shakespeare and say that his English is not archaic when i don’t have a clue about english. Similarly, when you decide to delve into Islam, the knowledge of Arabic, its syntax, grammar, linguistics, phonetics, phonology, routes of narrations science( oral history) and all other sciences associated with Islam as a theological subject , are necessary. You disregard the above and none will pay attention

  8. Haider Ali says:

    Brothers please spend 2 minutes and use the below link to lodge a
    complaint, so that C4 know we care and do not let such inaccurate
    fabrications be broadcasted again

  9. Umm Rami says:

    I cant believe that Channel 4 allowed such nonsense and disgraceful documentary to be shown .
    Holland kept asking all sorts of silly and inappropriate questions to those simple Bedouin of Wadi Ram in Jordan. He should have turned to scholars or even Muslims in Britain , those would have gave him an educated answers matching to the level of intellect that he presumably have . I couldn’t continue watching the documentary – i was in utter disgust.

  10. RA says:

    I’m sure channel 4 will look at producers of programs like these, to ensure money is not wasted like this again. Very poor arguments made by Mr Holland which will unfortunately be accepted by some “viewers”.

  11. afaq says:

    Just did a quick reference check and found 3 mentions of mecca in the Quran.

    • kerris ahmed says:

      Let us just say Meccah was only mentioned once in Surat el Feth. Meccah is also mentioned in Al-imraan by the name of “BEKKAH”. For us, Meccah and Beccah are the same, They mean the same thing litterally: a place teeming with people. you know why?, People, since the building of the KAABAH , have always “pilgrim-ed” there. we know why.but the sceptics will scowl. Meccah was a stop-station for travellers and a poetry festival place every year. The Market of Ukaath. Meccah has always, is and will always be busy. The importance of Meccah is well documented but more documented and more important is EL-BEIT AL HARAAM.That is how Allah has referred to MECCAH in the Koraan. The FORBIDDEN HOUSE. Only twice , Meccah was mentioned as Meccah and Beccah.
      As for mr Holland, his threats of exposing the so-called “untold islam” were definitely harmless and mild which suggest to a great extent the vast knowldge he has acquired about the best relegion of all time: my relegion. ISLAM.
      thanks afaq

    • BTW, I am wrong as both Afaq and Aicha have pointed out. Makka is indeed mentioned by name in the Qur’an at 48:24. Apologies to all.

  12. Toni says:

    Where do I start this man is no expert on Islam niether do he bring any valid experts on Islam to give a counter argument to his assertions if he had been an undergraduate student at uni he would have been given a low mark for this twaddle. As has been mentioned before you cannot just flick through an English translation of the Koran and say this and that doesn’t make sense as a student of the Koran you understand the verses in conjunction with the ahadith which there was no mention in this program. There can be no true understanding of the Koran without them and no true scholar would say they had any true knowledge of what was being said in the Koran without them. There are so many point here which shows this mans shallow knowledge of the subject of which he makes such huge assertions. An example is his questioning where the prophet was born , the Koran is decided into two parts one the Meccan chapters and two the Madinan chapters. Does he want to disqualify this? Written not just in Islamic history is the existence of a Christian viceroy from Yeman called Abrar his exsistance is documented and a chapter in the Koran called surat al feel the elephant tells about his march on Mecca to destroy the holy Khaba. This. Is understood to be the year of the prophets birth . There are so many other references to this area such the spring of zam zam the station of the prophet Ibrahim . The sayings of the were written down at the time but even if they were related through oral tradition which the Arabs had been practicing for quite some time before that and was a way to record their linage and triable history , it shows remarkable ignorance from a historian to dismiss the validity of such tradition in the absence of microfish it is well documented by researchers of folklore how accurate oral traditions can be and no more susceptible to spin than writer sources today especially when they fear the wrath Allah as Muslims do even today for misquoting any religious source. I have seen withy own eyes the futile mountain platue fields just above Mecca in answer to his assertions about the mention of grapes and olives in the Koran not to mention that Mecca was a stage post on a very busy trade route from the fertile cresant to places like China and back again. To try and deconstruct Mecca as the birth place of the prophet when it is so integral to his life and to try to do this with such cursory knowledge does not deserve any respect what so ever and is a cynical attempt to influence the uninitiated based on pretended indepth knowledge , just smoke and mirrors and not very good at that.


  13. Saima says:

    Can we complain straight to ofcom or do we have to complain to ‘anti-islamic and heavily biased towards religion’ channel 4?

  14. Saima says:

    I filled in the complaint form at channel 4 but this is the message that i got ‘We are currently experiencing technical difficulties with our contact us e-mail, please try later or you can call us on 0845 076 0191’ i should imagine the lines are packed.

    • Eliott says:

      Saima, what is there to complain about ? The guy simply has a different view to yours.

      • Yassin says:

        Eliott, Although Mr Holland is entitled to his views, however leaving God and religion aside as a Historian he made (and some may feel deliberately) some serious academic errors. In presenting his hypothesis he should have at least heard the views of some main stream western scholars of Islamic studies respected in the field. Whatever the origin of Islam from god or man the fact is the opinion he presented is one that has been loosing credibility amongst the academic community and was mainly prevalent back in the turn of the last century.

  15. kerris ahmed says:

    how can anyone tackle islam but has no knowledge whatsoever about the arabic language? besides, how ignorant is Mr “intellectual” Holland for not mentioning Madinah, not even once, The Koraan referes to Meccah as the “forbidden house” and so do muslim people.Madinah was the”HUB”,where foundations for the muslim society were laid. Mr Holland did not even scratch the surface in his mediocre attempts to delve into the history ofr islam and its people. I can go on all day but there is no need. My metodology in research is to have a methodology/ without it and you are a headless chicken chasing shadows.
    mr Holland , you are not educated enough to tackle islam. Igive you a helping hand: learn Arabic in earnest and then start.
    the oral history, we call it “the routes of narrations” and if only you understood it.

  16. AICHA says:


    • Aicha: My apologies to you and Afaq. You are correct. Makka is indeed mentioned by name at 48:24. Wow. I better add a note to my blog.

    • kerris ahmed says:

      sorry sister Aicha, there is no evidence that Bakkah was the name used during the time of IBRAHEEM -peace be upon him- but nonetheless, the word mekkah or bekkah were defini/?tely mention in two seperate verses, add to the numerous times the word Al Masjid Al Haram has been mentioned. no problem there whatsoever.
      in Arabic the 6 letters-sounds- :B-L-M-N-F-R-ب-ل-م-ن-ف-ر are called HUROOF AL IDTHLAAQ -the easy letters to articulate of almost the same or adjacent points of exit. original words in Arabic consisting of 4 or more letters have at least one of the above huroof.
      is there a chance that because of the similarity of the exit and attributes of these huroof-letters or sounds- that sometimes, itis called mekkah and sometimes Bakkah? Arab linguists do not think so, for bakkah, according to them, means the actual place of worship where the Masjid Al Hram is . the place is always teeming with for centuries and that where the word بكّة from the root word بكك meaning aplace busy and teeming with people and activities.
      As for Mekkah بطن مكّة the valley of mekkah. simple and easy and shoud not have been made as the ultimate dazzling puzzle by a half-baked historian called TOM HOLLAND
      By the way the word BAKKAH is mentioned in the ZABOOR-PSALM 85:7

      Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
      whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
      6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
      they make it a place of springs;

  17. Saima says:

    The documentary was analytically and empirically biased, so many inconsistent ideas, and a lot of inaccurate information to say the least, I cannot begin to convey
    how wrong this ‘intellectual’ has got it, it is quite embarrassing on his behalf. Shows real lack of understanding for an intellectual of his calibre.

    Allow me to give just a few examples of where he went wrong.

    Going to some uneducated bedouins to find out about the history of Islam! Why didn’t he go and talk to some Muslim Historians? why go in search of the truth by asking some uneducated bedouin arabs in a desert that no-one has heard of?! I wanted to hear from the Muslim Historians and intellectuals for a less biased views – Timothy J Winters – aka Abdul Hakim Murad, Murad Hoffman, Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Tariq Ramadhan, Umar Ibrahim Vadillo, Where were the intellectuals?! It just makes me think what exactly was the objective of this ‘documentary’?

    He also got seriously confused between Al-Asqa mosque and the Dome of the Rock when he talked about the
    night journey!! this is a major site of Islam built upon the temple mount which the Jews and evalangelical Christians are trying to destroy, how could he get it so wrong?!

    He also failed to understand the very basic verse about seeing the city of soddom…in surah saffat (Those who set the ranks 37:130:38)

    130. “Peace and salutation to such as Elias!”

    131. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

    132. For he was one of our believing Servants.

    133. So also was Lut (Lot) among those sent (by Us).

    134. Behold, We delivered him and his adherents, all

    135. Except an old woman who was among those who lagged behind:

    136. Then We destroyed the rest.

    137. Verily, ye pass by their (sites), by day-

    138. And by night: will ye not understand?

    139. So also was Jonah among those sent (by Us).

    Had he asked an Islamic scholar or Historian or even read the commentary (tafsir)/ searched the net instead of reffering to his incessant guessing that he himself admitted he had a problem with, he would have known that this verse reffered to the arabs who were trading. This event (story of Soddom) appeared in several places earlier in the
    Quran, therefore no more details are needed. Here the people of Mecca had been particularly admonished because they passed the site of Soddom, day and night whilst travelling with their trade caravans to Syria and
    yet they had not learnt from it.

    Asking the Jews for historical information was rather biased, it is well known that the Israeli government is responsible for destroying the Umayyad artifacts. They have been destroying the Islamic history in Palestine for decades since the 50s, especially during the war.

  18. Eliott: I was looking forward to a well-researched documentary about the origins of Islam hoping that it would be presented by an intelligent individual who had done his homework. What C4 aired last night was a documentary that was a very poorly researched and whose presenter seemed to use valuable airtime to spout the most ridiculous conjectures about Islam. If these conjectures had some major historical scholarly opinion behind them then that would be one thing, but they did not. A huge waste.

  19. Robert says:

    I’m a non believer and i was quite disappointed with this documentary,although he was clear that it was mostly conjecture i think he missed the goal by miles,he could have started with the character of Muhammed and his illiteracy which is always quoted as a miracle “how could an illiterate Man write the Qur’an” which is quite funny for an oral tradition.

    He could have delved into the best real estate deal of Medina with the beheading of the Jews or the origin of the Kabba as a Pagan shrine or the Pagan God before Allah Al illah (the God),i think there is plenty to find if one looks,shame he didn’t see it.

    • kerris ahmed says:

      hi robert
      what do you think ,we, muslim, mean when we say oral tradition? the illiterate man you referring to, did not write the koraan. read it. yes.
      as anon-believer, what is your aim in this debate?

      • Robert says:

        Do you need to write to be an author?,how long after Muhammeds death until it was compiled by Abu Bakr,as for my aim in this debate i have none ,other than point out the documentary was disappointing and there were other avenues he could go down.

      • Muz says:

        Hi Robert, i suppose the miracle was that an illiterate man could suddenly start reciting beautiful arabic verses which in turn could be compared to the most accomplished of prose and poetry.

    • kerris ahmed says:

      one year after the death of the prophet after the battle of yamamah. they gathered everything the koraan was written on and made the first version. but the koraan was in the hearts of 1000’s already.
      now ; do you know or not what it meant by oral tradition?

    • Saima says:


      Actually, according to the Qur’an, Abraham and Ishmael (pbut) built the Kaaba in a location that “reflects” a house in Heaven that prophet Adam (as) built.

      “And when We made the House (at Makka) a resort for mankind and sanctuary, (saying): Take as your place of worship the place where Abraham stood (to pray). And We imposed a duty upon Abraham and Ishmael, (saying): Purify My house for those who go around and those who meditate therein and those who bow down and prostrate themselves (in worship). And when Abraham prayed: My Lord! Make this a region of security and bestow upon its people fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day, He answered: As for him who disbelieveth, I shall leave him in contentment for a while, then I shall compel him to the doom of Fire – a hapless journey’s end!” (Quran 002:125)

      During the reign of the Meccan pagans, the Kaaba was surrounded with 360 idols (one for each day of the year). After Muhammad (saw) conquered Mecca, he destroyed all of the idols while reciting “Truth has arrived and falsehood has perished for falsehood is by its nature bound to perish.”

      It looks like you could do with learning about the basics of islam too!

      • Robert says:

        Hi Saima,thanks for your reply,the Qur’an states many thing i do not believe,same for the OT and NT,Adam 90 feet tall and Eve or Moses as there isn’t any good historical evidence for these characters,same for Jesus too.

        Its nothing new for another religion to hijack Pagan sites,it happened in Britain too when Xtianity came here,i think i’m further than the basics of Islam and find it interesting seeing the world through medaeval eyes.

  20. kerris ahmed says:

    ummer. Bakkah is not a nickname for Mekkah.

  21. Robert says:

    Hi Muz,even before Muhammed poetry was very popular,reciting poetry was a popular pastime Amur-ul- Qais for one produced some beautiful poetry,poetry that was in his mind before it was written so although the Qur’an is seen as beautiful prose,although i think you need to understand Arabic to appreciate it,its not really a big deal imo.

    • Muz says:

      …..and the fact that the words (however poetic and sublime) came directly from the almighty!

      • Robert says:

        Believieng something is fact is not the same as fact supported by evidence,,preferably empirical evidence,of course we are still waiting for that.

  22. Student of intellect says:


    Muslim or non-Muslim I would urge everyone to check out the above link. It will answer what Tom Holland failed to answer.

  23. Mike Rodent says:

    you failed to mention that TH is an intrinsically annoying person… why he wants to stir up the wrath of Muslims (which in the past has been a pretty wrathy wrath) with badly researched media sensationalism, God only knows. Profile-building I suppose. Bonkers.

  24. Muz says:

    Here is the response from channel 4 to me:

    Thank you for your message about the documentary feature Islam: The Untold Story.

    We have noted your concerns but stand by the making and broadcast of this programme and we are satisfied that it is neither biased nor inaccurate. Channel 4 has consistently provided thought provoking programming around the theme of religion and this particular documentary follows very much in the footsteps of series such as our strand, Witness or series such as The Bible: A History.

    We can reassure you that Islam: the Untold Story was a carefully considered and scrupulously researched documentary that did not set out to criticise the Islamic faith. Rather it is a history documentary which examines the historical context in which the religion emerged. Clearly the origins of one of the world’s major religions are an entirely legitimate subject of academic enquiry and an equally legitimate subject for a historical documentary. Tom Holland is a highly respected, award-winning author and historian who has who has written four acclaimed books on the ancient and early medieval periods – including one on the emergence of Islam. The programme does contain a range of differing views on its central thesis. There is a clear recognition of Muslim faith throughout the programme – Seyyed Hussain Nasr, one of the world’s leading Muslim thinkers, appears within the film as a penetrating critic of what he sees as the arrogance and blindness of the Western tradition of sceptical historical enquiry.

    Nevertheless please be assured that your complaint has been logged and noted for the information of those responsible for our programming.

    Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.
    Grace Dawson
    Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries
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  25. Abdulkader says:

    There is absolutely no harm in asking the questions that Tom presented in the documentary and as a Muslim myself I welcome such debate. Muslims are confident in their belief and we have a rich source of history and evidence open to anyone to access. The problem with Tom Holland was that he failed to understand Islam, the character of the Prophet (p.b.u) and the Quran. A little understanding would have helped him answer his “many unanswered” questions. Also, he did not seek out Muslim scholars who would have presented him all the evidence he wanted. In fact when asked about his sources, only one was Muslim out of over a dozen. Seriously, what was he thinking?

  26. AJ Hamid says:

    I guess Tom was taking a different view of Religion in itself… after all God(Allah) wants his people to worship him alone, believe in his Angels, Believe in his Books, Believe in his MessengerS, Believe in the Day of Judgement and the Hereafter.
    So as long as you comply with these basic belief then you are titles as a Muslim.
    It’s not difficult ,,, God sent many messengers for different times and for different tribes and nations.. however, when time came around 1400 years ago God sent his final messenger for all of Humanity, for all nations, for all tribes, and all living. All the law and order is specifically mentioned in the holy Qur’an in complete detail.. no contradictions.. the complete life, death and hereafter manual. God created a user manual for his creation.
    There is nothing bad about following the Qur’an,,, what you shouldn’t be doing is following people…. Remember the first word revealed was “IQRA” in arabic.. meaning “READ” English.
    Read… Read… Read.. keep on reading.. learning,,,, understanding.. its the only way to know the truth.. if nothing is correct then turn back to God(Allah) ask him to show you the straight path .. and believe in your creator…God bless.. Asalaam Alaikum .. Peace
    Allah – Hu- Akbar —- meaning God The Greatest.
    facebook AJ Hamid

  27. JGN says:

    @ Muz, >>>> could argue that you need only look around to see the evidence of God and his creation….or you could believe that this has all come about in a completely unconscious random process without rhyme or reason, purely by chance occurrences and nothing more>>>>> then why there are people belonging to the “third-gender” and children born with cogenital heart-disease? Do you consider that as a “manufacturing-defect” ?

  28. Hussein says:

    Let this man be……….. Pray to God with your heart that he may give you a nice after-life. That is all.

  29. Bill Smith says:

    Mr Inayat’s
    Just came across your blog and noticed that you make a misleading statement in it then use it to try to discredit Holland’s statement.
    You say that you made an error in your blog above by conceding that Tom Holland was accurate in his statement that Makka is not explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an.
    Tom did not say that. His actual statement :
    TOM Holland: ‘Aside from a single, ambiguous mention in the Qur’an itself, ‘there is no mention of Mecca, ‘not one, ‘in any datable text for over 100 years after Mohammed ‘s death.

  30. 【Jewish and Palestinian have a common ancestor】

    Have you ever heard even though the Jewish people and the Palestinian people have different religions, they were originally from the same country and were good friends?

    【Jewish and Palestinian have a common ancestor】

    According to THE UNIVERSE(THE SKY)=SORA’s information, Sun Boat (Khufu Ship) excavated in the desert of Egypt is the evidence for that.
    In ancient times, people who lived in Israel went to Egypt to do commerce by Sun Boat, but they were captured and enslaved.
    Therefore they were not able to go back to their home country. People who stayed at homeland protected their country and they were made to believe Islam over the ages, which means Palestinians are the people who have protected the homeland.
    The long and short of it Jew and Palestinian have the same ancestor.
    The info that Jew and Palestinian have a common ancestor has been proved by DNA and Israel historian recognized it too.

    By Sennari Masuya

  31. Emre yilmaz says:

    Unfortunately there is no historical,archaeological or numismatic context to the Quran..If we were to collect all the relevant sources for 60 years before and after 620s it would fit into a briefcase and Quran itself would take half of the space.The hadith tradition was probably invented to fill this void by the early religious scholars.They needed answers to understand their new faith, their Holy book and also to establish their rituals .Oral testimonies appearing 60 years after the facts would never be accepted as evidence in a court of law.Human memory is fallible and completely unreliable even after a couple of years as proven by numerous studies in psychology.Hadiths served the purpose of giving historical and religious legitimacy to these answers.Muslims had to invent a story about their prophet whose biographical details are completely missing in their Holy Book..Quran is very different than the New testament in this respect.We can learn nothing about the prophet from the Quran..What we think we know comes from later scholars trying very hard to put a face to many of the mysterious passages they could not understand .Islam is a religion without any physical or historical evidence other than the Quran which makes this incredible book even more mysterious.and unknowable.And these facts do not make me less of a Muslim.
    El hamd ur illah.

  32. Aida says:

    I as a muslim agree with holland but only some of his arguments. Makkah is not Bakkah and God is not short of words or vocabolary. Holland argument wrt whereabout was Muhammad is to me justified and correct. Historical Muhammad would have been living far north of modern day city called “makkah”, Quran described and explained this very clearly. Cave of hira, hijra all are twisted and made up to fool people. Thats the reason why we couldnt find archifacts of muhammad in modern day Makkah. Remember those wars muhmmad fought, the signing of truce at aqaba…all are located north of so called makkah. Think again…quran has all the answers.

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