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Iraq Q&A: further evidence for the birthplace of Islam


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Mel asked viewers to comment on what he introduced a week ago concerning whether the birthplace of Islam, as well as Muhammad, and even the Qur'an could be placed in Iraq, and not in the central part of Arabia, known as the Hijaz, the area the later 9th and 10th century Islamic Traditions place them. Many of you viewers did comment, both for and against, and it is with this video that Mel, along with Jay as a commentator, respond to your questions and responses. Mel begins by introducing Dr Fred Donner, one of the 'heavyweights' of the Orientalist community, who suggests that the birthplace of Islam is not quite what the later Islamic Traditions would have us believe, and even accepts that it could be birthed in Iraq. Mel then introduces Dr Gabriel Sawma, an expert on Mesopotamia, who refers to Surah 62:5 which uses the word 'Asfar' to denote 'book', better known as 'kitab' in Arabic, suggesting that this word is Aramaic and not Arabic, which is symptomatic of most of the foreign words in the Qu'ran, in fact 70% of foreign words all coming from Aramaic, which was spoken in Iraq, and not in the Hijaz. From there Mel moved to China, a country which is 1000s of miles from Arabia, and so would have no influence from the Arabs, though they had much contact with them. He notes that the Chinese refer to the 'Tashih' who could be the 'Tayaye', who were the Persian Arabs, since the Chinese would write a word the way they would hear it, often exchanging the letter 'y' for 's' or even 'sh', and then pronounce and then write it that way. In 945 AD a Chinese named Jiu Tang Shu referred to the Ju-Fen-Mo-Di-Na mountain, so that the word 'Ju fen' could easily be Taysfun (Ctesiphon), and 'Mo-Di-Na' could be Madina (City), thus referring to the 'city of Ctesiphon', which would have been the name for Baghdad, in Iraq, in the 7th century. The Chinese, in 756-758 AD refer to the Tashih (Arab) emissaries changing their story, suggesting a new regime change, which would be just after the Abbasids overthrow the Umayyads and take over (649 AD), and that the new diplomats try to sublimate everything which had gone before, typical of a new empire which does not want to give authority to that which they have supplanted. It is at this time that the name 'Muhammad' is mentioned in the Chinese writings, though they refer to him as 'Mo-ke-mo'. Mel then turns to the word 'Quraish', which in the Islamic Traditions is the name of the tribe that Muhammad belonged to, and the dialect that the Qur'an was supposedly first introduced in and was subsequently rewritten in during the time of Uthman in 652. Yet, this word seems to be associated with the Aramaic word 'Kuresh' who are the people from the Persia, or Iraq, as they are known as the people of Cyrus, from which the word 'Kuresh' is derived. Mel mentions the great Qur'anic manuscript collector, Alphonse Mingana, who refers to the writings of Narsai in 500 AD, where the word used for these Persians is 'Qadeshi'. Could this be a deformation of the word 'Quraishi'? Mel looked at an inscription from the Hadramat area (southern Arabia) from 270 AD which refers to three peoples (Syria, Iraq, and India), and then to a group of 'Women from Quraysh'. The fact that they are referenced with the 3 other groups, all of which are not in the Hijaz area, suggests that these women are possibly from much further north, supporting the notion that the Quraish are from further north and east as well. Finally, Mel returns to a controversy regarding whether the Christian writer Sebeos, who purportedly wrote about the Persians, and even referred to a man named Muhammad in the mid 7th century, could be trusted, because some believe that he actually lived in the 8th century, and wasn't anywhere near Muhammad, or Islam. Using Dr Robert Hoyland as his authority, Mel suggests that Sebeos can be trusted because the events he talks about 1) are so specific, that only someone living at that time would know them; 2) he uses documentary material (i.e. letters written between 614-631 AD), proving he had to live then to receive and send them to those individuals; and 3) he had access to privileged information (i.e. he is the only one who explains why the Persians sacked and destroyed Jerusalem, which went against their practice). In the end, it looks like Mel has done a 'slap-up' job introducing us to a completely new reference point for the birthplace for Islam, one which is much further north and East from that which the Islamic Traditions places it; yet, is much better supported by the evidence on the ground, suggesting he has the right man in the right place, and at the right time. Pfander Centre for Apologetics - US, 2020 (38,790) (Music: "small adventure", by Rafael Krux, from filmmusic-io - License CC BY)