Webinar on: The Quest for a Historical Muhammad: A Critical Appraisal
February 26, 2022


Date: Saturday, 12th March 2022
Time: 10 AM MYT || 9 PM EST (Friday, 11th March 2022)



Dr Mun’im Sirry, Assistant Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA



Nageeb Gounjaria, Senior Research Fellow, Islamic Renaissance Front


Organised by:

Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)


Register at:https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-quest-for-a-historical-muhammad-a-critical-appraisal-tickets-277621642807


The Zoom link will be sent upon registration before 12th March 2022.


You are welcome to join the chat during the webinar. You can also send your questions in advance to [email protected]


One of the most controversial issues in the recent scholarly discussions on the emergence of Islam is the biography of the Prophet Muhammad. Several scholars have challenged the historicity of the commonly-held assumption about the received life of Muhammad. Can we know the historical Muhammad?

In the quest for the historical Muhammad, perhaps the main aim is to catch glimpses of the birth of Islam and the role played by its extraordinary founder. Islam, as its Prophet came to conceive it, was a strict and absolute monotheism. How Muhammad had arrived at this view is not a problem for Muslims, who believe that the Prophet received a revelation from Allah or God, mediated by the Angel Gabriel. For scholars, however, interested in placing Muhammad in the historical context of the seventh-century Arabian Peninsula, the source of the Prophets inspiration is a significant question. It is apparent that the two earlier monotheisms, Judaism and Christianity, constituted an influential presence in the Hijaz, the region comprising Mecca and Medina. Indeed, Jewish communities were salient here, especially in Medina and other not-too-distant oases. Moreover, in addition to the presence of Jews and Christians, there existed a third category of individuals, the Haneefs, who, dissatisfied with their polytheistic beliefs, had developed monotheistic ideas.

To what extent in which these various influences shaped the emergence of Islam and the development of the Prophets beliefs? What evidence do we have to reconstruct the biography of the Prophet? Why do historians of early Islam consider the Seerah literature written by Muslim scholars to be so problematic? What is at stake with the Muslim literary sources? We will also seek to understand how the process set in motion by Muhammad led, not long after his death, to the establishment of a world empire. The speaker will reflect on these and similar questions by critically examining the most recent developments in the field of Islamic studies. In particular, his presentation will address how the historicity of Muhammad’s life has been debated by traditionalist and revisionist scholars.


About the Speaker: 

Mun’im Sirry is assistant professor of theology with additional responsibilities for the Contending Modernities research project. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School (2012). He did his undergrad and graduate studies at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Master’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His academic interest includes Qur’anic studies, interreligious relations, political theology, modern Islamic thought, and Southeast Asian religions and cultures. Along with Professor Gabriel Said Reynolds, he is the editor of journal Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. Sirry is the author of Scriptural Polemics: The Qur’an and Other Religions (Oxford, 2014). He is now finishing up his monograph dealing with both traditional and critical scholarship on Islamic origins. He is also coordinating the Contending Modernities working group on Indonesia exploring and analyzing the complex relationships between various contending forces that have shaped, and been shaped by, religious life at both the societal and state levels.
Sirry’s publications have appeared in journals such as Arabica, al-Bayan, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Interpretation, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Journal of Semitic Studies, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, The Muslim World, Studia Islamica, Die Welt des Islams.



1000-1005AM:    Introduction by the Moderator, Nageeb Gounjaria, Senior Research Fellow, Islamic Renaissance Front

1005-1045AM:    Presentation by Dr Mun’im Sirry

1045-1140AM:    Discussion

1140-1145AM:    Concluding remarks by the Moderator, Nageeb Gounjaria

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Updated version: 2.39-20231022