The traditional Islamic narrative states that Islam developed in the city of Mecca in the early 7th century after a man named Muhammad received revelations from an angel that were later recorded in a book called the Qur’an. However, a growing body of evidence demonstrates that this narrative was probably not written down until the 9th century and most of the claims cannot be supported by any historical data from the 7th century. Thus, the real origins of Islam, Muhammad, and the Qur’an may provide a very different scenario than the standard Islamic narrative.
On the other hand, there are a number of reputable researchers who have utilized the available historical evidence from the 7th century in areas such as archaeology, epigraphy, numismatics, and non-Muslim eye-witness accounts, to reveal a wealth of information on the origins of Islam, the development of the Qur’an, and even the most likely basis for the appearance of Muhammad. In regard to the origin of Islam, some scholars have put forth the view that Islam rose up from a form of Jewish Christianity in Northern Arabia, Syria, and Iraq. Other scholars prefer a pathway developed through 7th-century Arab leaders who espoused apocalyptic Judaism.
Another group of scholars and researchers bring forth a wealth of historical evidence that strongly indicates that Islam rose out of a heretical anti-Trinitarian Christian movement involving the Arab Ghassanid and Lakhmid kingdoms that inhabited North Arabia and the Levant region as well as Persia and Iraq. Both groups of Arabs migrated from Yemen in the 2nd and the 3rd centuries and for the most part accepted Christianity: The Ghassanids followed the Miaphysite beliefs and the Lakhmids were mostly Nestorian in their view of Christ. The Ghassanids also were allied to the Byzantines during the Byzantine/Sasanian war while the Lakhmids were allied to the Sasanians. While the long war weakened both the Byzantine and the Sasanian empires, the two Arab groups gained more and more power, especially when they were joined by other Arab factions. In time, they swept through the Levant and took control of the major centers of influence, including Jerusalem and Damascus.
At first, the two great 7th century Umayyad caliphs, Muawiya and Abd al-Malik were both Christians, but apparently anti-Trinitarian Christians. Shortly after this time (around 731), John of Damascus, who worked under Abd al-Malik, referred to this new sect that had grown out of Christian roots as the “Heresy of the Ishmaelites.” Is it possible that this progression may represent a change in belief from non-Orthodox views of Jesus Christ to a nascent anti-Trinitarian belief?
To answer this question, this paper will utilize archaeology, epigraphy, numismatics, and non-Muslim eye-witness accounts to make the case that Islam developed from anti-Trinitarian Christians who revered Jesus Christ as their prophet (the “chosen one”), but did not believe that he could be God himself.