Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam

At the time of the revelation of the Quran, Prophet Muhammad, his followers, together with those who were Jewish, Christians and anyone who believed in God, lead a righteous life and believed in the Last Day and constituted a Community of Believers.

“Islam” as a separate and distinct named religion was started 65-75 years after the death of the Prophet.

Historians wrote Islamic history 200-300 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad and projected their corrupted and fabricated beliefs of that day, to day one of Prophet Muhammad.

[2:62] Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who believes in GOD, and believes in the Last Day, and leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve. [2:62, 5:69]

The question for Dr. Donner’s and numerous historians research is how were the Arabs able, within a few years after the death of Prophet Mohammad in 632, explode into an empire which stretched from Egypt, Syria and near the borders of Afghanistan, specifically when neither of those empires had any interest in Arabia since there was nothing there. The Persian empire was completely overthrown, and big chunks of the Roman Empire were taken.

Historians generally give four causes for the collapse of the empires.

  • Two empires were battling each other for years
  • Economic issues
  • Zeal for a new religion
  • God was on the side of the Arabs

We know that God controls everything. As a historian, Dr. Donner rejected the above reasons as historical evidence does not support provide support. The Arab conquest is archaeologically invisible, which means that there is no historical evidence of siege or destruction. In other words, there is no evidence that “Islamic expansion was spread by sword.”


Historians, look at the following sources to accurately depict history:

  • Documents of that period
  • Archaeology – study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture such as coins and pottery from that period
  • Philology – the branch of knowledge that deals with the structure, historical development, and relationships of a language or languages. A philologist can determine the time period of a written document based on the various aspects of a language at a certain period.
  • Corroboration of documents

In his research, Dr. Donner found and historians agree that there are no documents from the time of Prophet Mohammad or his companions except for two – the Quran and a letter (Mīthāq al-Madīnah) which is considered as the ‘constitution of Medina.’ The well-documented Islamic history, as historians’ state, simply does not exist and is pure fiction.

Having determined that there are no other documents, Dr. Donner studied the Quran alone without any outside influence. If you listen to his videos, it is obvious that he is fluent in Arabic.

Here are his conclusions about the Quran:


The Quran is addressed to the believers (mu’minun) and specifically to “O you who believe.”

There are 89 verses with the phrase ‘O you who believe,’ 173 verses contain the word, ‘believers’ while only 31 verses have ’submitter (muslim)’ and ‘submission (islam)’ is in 12 verses. All our religious duties and various laws in the Quran are directed to “O you who believe.”

Referring to 49:14-15, Dr. Donner points out that Muslim and Believer are not equal but that some Muslims can be believers. With the Quran addressed primarily to “O you who believe,” Prophet Muhammad and the early followers were a community of believers.

[49:14] The Arabs said, “We are Mu’mens (believers).” Say, “You have not believed; what you should say is, `We are Muslims (submitters),’ until belief is established in your hearts.” If you obey GOD and His messenger, He will not put any of your works to waste. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

[49:15] Mu’mens (believers) are those who believe in GOD and His messenger, then attain the status of having no doubt whatsoever, and strive with their money and their lives in the cause of GOD. These are the truthful ones.


The Quran mentions ‘People of the scripture’ and clearly states that some of them are believers

[3:113] They are not all the same; among the followers of the scripture, there are those who are righteous. They recite GOD’s revelations through the night, and they fall prostrate.

[3:114] They believe in GOD and the Last Day, they advocate righteousness and forbid evil, and they hasten to do righteous works. These are the righteous.

Both Judaism and Christianity are considered monotheistic religions. The Christians and Jews bowed and prostrated like the believers at that time in greater number then at this period. Some Christians and Jews still do. Both accept a series of prophets and scriptures. The Roman or the Byzantine empire was predominantly Christians and Jews. Zoroastrians are also considered monotheistic and were the citizens of the Persian empire. They all had common beliefs of God, being pious in this life and belief in the Day of Judgement.


The second document from the time of Prophet Muhammad is from the year 622, when he migrated from Mecca to Medina. He was invited as an arbiter of disputes, who, as an autonomous arbiter would run affairs. This document called ‘Constitution of Medina’ uses a letter form never used after the 7th century. This is where philology comes into play. The big take-away from this document is the evidence that Jewish tribes were considered part of the Ummah or part of the community of believers.

Thus, the community of believers were Prophet Muhammad, his followers as well as the Jews and Christians. This is different from the traditional description of the followers of Muhammad as “Muslims” adhering to the religion of “Islam.”


Dr. Donner, calls these believers a ‘monotheistic revival movement’ and ‘monotheistic believers’ movement.’

Dr. Donner’s explanation of the explosion of the Arab conquest and the collapse of the Persian and Roman empires is the growth of ‘monotheistic believer’s movement’ in which communities joined the believers’ movement. The citizens preserved their religion, culture and freedom. There was no (forced) conversion as the basic beliefs were the same.

It will not be out of line to state that all of God’s messengers revived a “Monotheistic Believers movement.”

We know that per 7:172 all of us given the instinct to worship God alone.

[7:172] Recall that your Lord summoned all the descendants of Adam, and had them bear witness for themselves: “Am I not your Lord?” They all said, “Yes. We bear witness.” Thus, you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection, “We were not aware of this.”

Certainly, the believers had an army but there was peaceful capitulation (to the believers). There is no evidence of destruction, siege was very rare and there is no trace of conquest. Archaeologically, the expansion is invisible as there is no material record of destruction. The new citizens simply started paying taxes to the new state while maintaining their religion and culture.

This conclusion by Dr. Donner for the first 65 years after the death of Prophet Mohammad is based on the following evidence.

The leader of the community of believers was called ‘Commander of the believers’ – Amir ul mu’minun. He was not called Caliph or Khalifa nor leader of Muslims.

Documents and coins of that period refer to “In the Jurisdiction of Believers”

There are corroborating documents from non-Islamic sources referring to the leader of the new empire as Amir ul mu’minun. These documents are from emissaries who visited the new empire and reported back.

Christians and Jews served in the army and administration from the lowest levels to the highest. St John of Damascus served (described best in modern terms) as Prime Minister for the ‘Commander of the believers.’ St John of Damascus is revered as a great Christian and saint in Christianity.

There is archaeological evidence of the same building near Jerusalem being utilized as Church and Mosque. The building had a (south) Mehrab and a (east) Niche. This was discovered only 10-15 years ago.

The Umayyad Mosque or the Great Mosque of Damascus was at one-point half Church and half mosque.

Here is one form of evidence – Coins. Credit to for the images.


65 – 75 years after Prophet Mohammad a separate religion was started by giving importance to Prophet Muhammad, making him fundamental and utilizing words from the Quran.

Caliph was introduced from the Quranic word Khalifa (which means representative / successor) from verse 38:26 (O David, we have made you a ruler on earth). The goal was to divine authority on the ruler as Amir ul mu’minun is not in the Quran. Amir ul mu’minun was used for a few centuries. Later historians, however, rewrote history and named all heads of state as Caliphs going to the very beginning.

Emphasis on Mohammad was started. We see the origination of what Dr. Donner calls the double shahada. Coin evidence on slides. proudly proclaims that we see the complete (double) shahaada for the first time in 73 AH.

The Dome of Rock was constructed with Quranic of verses on trinity to emphasize the difference between Muslims & Christians

A change was made from co-existence of believers to newly defined Muslims only. There was narrowing of boundaries as Christians and Jews were excluded. Only those who followed the Quran were considered believers. They equated meaning of believers and Muslims which violates 49:14-15.

Jihad – The word Jihad in the Quran is addressed to individuals. It is considered personal striving, something internal, striving in the way of God, doing good in the community, as well as war (fighting is only one option). Jihad was elevated to mean to wage war in the cause of the state (as opposed to the cause of God). Jihad became associated with military campaigns of the caliph, a duty incumbent upon Muslims rather than an individual and the conduct of Jihad became a monopoly of the State

Fitnah – civil wars were renamed as fitnah (temptation or seduction of the worldly kind). They wanted to show the early rulers as “paragons of virtue” who could not possibly disagree on religion let alone have civil wars. God has blessed us with the knowledge that one of the major cause of the civil wars was the insertion of false verses in the Quran.

Emphasis on era in the Calendar. In the first years only the year was written on coins and documents. Subsequently AH which stands for ‘After Hijra” was introduced together with the year to place emphasis on Prophet Mohammad. There are more than 1000 early coins which have the year only.

Judge –  Qadi, a word from the Quran was introduced as judge. Prior to that the governor, province head or assistants settled disputes. The word Qadi does not appear in numerous documents from Egypt in the first century.

Change was initiated by Abd al-Malik who had become the Amir ul mu’minun in 690. Whether the change was initiated at the top or by others is being researched. Islamization of the State began by terminology derived from the Quran. Only those who followed the Quran, as understood by the state and scholars were considered believers. We already know that they were way off-track when they introduced the double shahaada.

History was rewritten. Islam as understood and dictated 200-300 years after Prophet Muhammad was projected to day one.

One thought on “Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam

  1. Pingback: Books on Islam, Quran, Submission - Islam | Books on Islam, Quran, Submission - Islam The Real Islam of the University of Chicago’s Fred Donner

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