For example, before Muhammad’s emigration to Medina he is said to have received an oath of allegiance by twelve inhabitants of the city, an obvious parallel to the Twelve Apostles, and during the digging of a defensive trench around Medina Muhammad is said to have miraculously sated all the workers from a handful of dates, recalling Jesus’ feeding of the multitude.
Finally, it is distinctly possible that some reports about events in Muhammad’s life emerged not from historical memory but from exegetical speculation about the historical context of particular verses of the Qurʾān.
This digest does not aim to separate historical fact from later legend.
Certain verses assume that Muhammad and his followers dwell at a settlement called (“the town”) or Yathrib (e.g., , 60) after having previously been ousted by their unbelieving foes, presumably from the Meccan sanctuary (e.g., 1).
Other passages mention military encounters between Muhammad’s followers and the unbelievers.
Moreover, a number of rudimentary details about Muhammad are confirmed by non-Islamic sources dating from the first decades after Muhammad’s traditional date of death.
For instance, a Syriac chronicle dating from about 640 mentions a battle between the Romans and “the Arabs of Muhammad,” and an Armenian history composed about 660 describes Muhammad as a merchant who preached to the Arabs and thereby triggered the Islamic conquests.
At least to historians who are reluctant to admit reports of divine intervention, the problem is reinforced by the miraculous elements of some of the material included in Ibn Isḥāq’s work.
Moreover, some of the narratives in question are patently adaptations of biblical motifs designed to present Muhammad as equal or superior to earlier prophetic figures such as Moses and Jesus.When he was born, around 570, the potential for pan-Arab unification seemed nil, but after he died,…Qurʾān yields little concrete biographical information about the Islamic Prophet: it addresses an individual “messenger of God,” whom a number of verses call Muhammad (e.g., 4), and speaks of a pilgrimage sanctuary that is associated with the “valley of Mecca” and the Kaʿbah (e.g., 4–129, , –25).…(Hāshem) clan of Quraysh named Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib.One of their own, he accomplished what the Quraysh had started, first by working against them, later by working with them.This is not to suggest that there was necessarily an element of deliberate fabrication at work, at least at the level of a compiler like Ibn Isḥāq, who was clearly not inventing stories from scratch.