It is with great pleasure that I link to an interview of my advisor, Prof. Fred M. Donner, at Boston Ideas, Islam’s Beginnings, on his new book, Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam.
IDEAS: Are your ideas particularly threatening to literalists because you question the Islamic narrative without attacking the faith?
DONNER: It stays within the framework of the Prophet’s narrative. What I really suggest has to be revisited is the notion that at the very beginning this community was hard and fast set as a religious community. It could include Jews and Christians. They were monotheists who saw themselves as people trying to live in accordance with God’s rules and law. In that sense they were all believers, and they could make common cause with them. Only 75 or 100 years later did they shake out as a separate religion.
IDEAS: When did Muslims start distinguishing themselves from other people of the book, Jews and Christians?
DONNER: Where the divorce takes place — that’s an interesting question, because we have always viewed the Muslims as separate people. My sense is that this is beginning 60 to 75 years after the death of the Prophet, in the seventh century. You might have quite a lag between official change and popular change. We don’t really understand this change or transformation.
I will post more on this book but for now, please go buy it.