Tom Holland (author)

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Tom Holland (2020)

Thomas Holland FRSL (born 5 January 1968) is an English author who has published best-selling books on topics including classical and medieval history and the origins of Islam. In addition to his writing, he has worked with the BBC to create and host historical television documentaries, and presents the radio series Making History.

Quotes[edit]

  • Certainly, it can come as a jolt to discover that, with a single exception, we have no extant descriptions of the Battle of Badr that date from before the ninth century AD.... What if the entire account of the victory at Badr were nothing but a fiction, a dramatic just-so story, fashioned to explain allusions within the Qur’an that would otherwise have remained beyond explanation? A battle on a valley’s edge won against terrifying odds; angels swooping down to strike at infidel necks; plunder seized from routed caravans: the holy text certainly alludes to all these things. Yet, aside from a single name-check, Badr itself is never mentioned.52 There is certainly no confirmation that a great battle—such as the one described by Ibn Hisham—was ever fought there. Whatever else it may be, the Qur’an is no work of history.
    • Tom Holland - In the Shadow of the Sword_ The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire-Doubleday (2012)
  • Certainly, it can come as a jolt to discover that, with a single exception, we have no extant descriptions of the Battle of Badr that date from before the ninth century AD. We do not even have Ibn Ishaq’s original biography of Muhammad—only revisions and reworkings. As for the material on which Ibn Ishaq himself drew upon for his researches, it has long since vanished. Set against the triumphal hubbub raised by Arab historians in the ninth century, let alone the centuries that followed, the silence is deafening and perplexing. The precise state of play bears spelling out. Over the course of almost two hundred years, the Arabs, a people never noted for their reticence, and whose motivation, we are told, had been an utterly consuming sense of religious certitude, had set themselves to conquering the world—and yet in all that time, they composed not a single record of their victories, not one, that has survived into the present day. How could this possibly have been so, when even on the most barbarous fringes of civilisation, even in Britain, even in the north of England, books of history were being written during this same period, and copied, and lovingly tended? Why, when the savage Northumbrians were capable of preserving the writings of a scholar such as Bede, do we have no Muslim records from the age of Muhammad? Why not a single Arab account of his life, nor of his followers’ conquests, nor of the progress of his religion, from the whole of the near two centuries that followed his death?
    Even the sole exception to the rule—a tiny shred of papyrus discovered in Palestine and dated to around AD 740—serves only to compound the puzzle.
    • Tom Holland - In the Shadow of the Sword_ The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire-Doubleday (2012)
  • Far from Islam having been born in the full light of history, its birth was shrouded in what has appeared, to an increasing number of scholars, an almost impenetrable darkness. To be sure, there are very few scholars who would go so far as to claim that the Prophet never existed. Someone by the name of Muhammad does certainly appear to have intruded upon the consciousness of his near-contemporaries.
    • Tom Holland - In the Shadow of the Sword_ The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire-Doubleday (2012)

External links[edit]

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