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16. Who Started Islam: Abraham or the Arabs?
Chapter 3. Did Abraham visit Mecca?

3.5. How many years separate the events of Abraham and Ishmael from the events of Muhammad and the beginning of Arab Islam?

The Koran of the Arabs does not give us any information about this. However, the Hebrew Suhuf Ibrahim, the Tawrat Musa, the books of the other prophets from the Sons of Jacob, the Injil and later historic writings give quite detailed information about this duration of time: Muhammad came more than 2500 years after Abraham! Here are some details: Abraham (Ibrahim) died around the year 1940 BC, Moses (Musa) died around 1570 BC, David (Dawud) died around 970 BC, Christ (al-Masih) died around 30 AD, and Muhammad died in the year 632 AD. This gives a total of 1940 + 632 = 2572 years that separate the events of Muhammad's death from Abraham's death. How can information endure such an incredible span of time (more than 100 generations separate Abraham from Muhammad)? Logically speaking it is impossible for any information from Abraham's son Ishmael to have reached Muhammad and his followers more than 2500 years later, especially in view of the fact that there are no historical traces of the events between these two men. The events of Abraham and of Christ are separated by nearly 1900 years. Information could reach people at the times of Christ from the times of Abraham, because we have detailed information about how Abraham's son Isaac grew into a great nation through his grandson Jacob, how they moved to Egypt and were oppressed there, how they were liberated from slavery there by Moses who led them to the promised land, how under Moses' successor Joshua they conquered the land and lived there first under Judges (whose lives are documented) for 450 years and then under kings (whose lives are equally documented) for 510 years until they were led into exile to Babylon, then they came back to the promised land (documented also) and lived there until the time of Christ. And we have many very elaborate texts from each one of these phases of history separating Abraham from Christ. This is why the information about the Suhuf Ibrahim is logically viable, seeing an uninterrupted chain of documented events between Abraham and Christ. However, there is nothing comparable concerning the course of events separating Ishmael from Muhammad, and the time span between them is even 600 years longer! So logically speaking, how can anyone guarantee the content of the Muslim Narrations about Abraham and Ishmael, which are not revelations from Allah, but human ideas, how can anyone believe such Narrations, especially since quite a few of them contradict each other? This is why not few conservative Muslims have rejected such Muslim Narrations and have come to only restrict their faith to what the Koran says, even though they are not able to understand all the details of what this book of Muslims says in view of Abraham and Ishmael. They trust it, because they believe it to be of divine origin. But then you have the question, why did Allah not reveal more details about Abraham and Ishmael and of the events separating them from Muhammad? Did Allah not know what happened, or did he not want Muhammad to know what happened, or did he actively lead Muhammad astray in these questions, since the Koran witnesses to the fact that Allah often did lead people astray (see e.g. Sura al-Ra'd 13:27 "Say! Allah leads astray whom he wants ")? At least one episode in the life of Muhammad can be pointed out, where such questions logically arise in our context. The details concern the second issue we want to address here (see section 3.6. below).

But to be complete, we have to add that what the Koran ignored or suppressed in chronology can rudimentarily be found in some Arabic Narrations from the time after Muhammad. For example, the Kitab al-Tabaqat by Ibn Sa'd (who died in 845 AD, i.e. 213 years after Muhammad died in 632 AD) has a section entitled, "Account of generations and period between Adam and Muhammad pbuh". There it is claimed that there were 10 generations between Adam and Noah (same as in Tawrat Musa, see Genesis 5), 10 centuries between Noah and Abraham (same number of generations as in Tawrat Musa, but less number of years there, only 950 years, see Genesis 11:10-26, and for details see section 4.5. below), ten centuries between Abraham and Moses (in the Tawrat Musa the duration is only 430 years, see Exodus 12:40-41), and 1900 years between Moses and Christ (only 1570 years according to biblical history). So, Muslims today can, by consulting their own sources, come to an understanding that Muhammad lived thousands of years after Abraham and Ishmael, even though the exact number of years cannot be deduced from these Arabic sources after Muhammad. And there is a huge historical void between these two biographies, which is why Tabari in his Ta'rikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk noted, "… after the Persians no nation except for them (the descendants of Abraham through Isaac) has a continuous, unbroken history." (Quoted from: The History of al-Tabari. Volume 2: Prophets and Patriarchs, translated and annotated by William M. Brinner, New York, 1987, page 133.) With this comment he pointed to the fact that this does not apply to the history that separates Ishmael from Muhammad.

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