This thread will focus on the historical Muhammad: The Islamic tradition vs Western scholarship.
Part one: -The Year of the Elephant
The Islamic tradition says that Muhammad was born in the Year of the Elephant, that's 570.
This event is related to the invasion of Southern Saudi Arabia by king Abraha who marched
on Mecca, his elephant (named 'Mahmud') refusing to enter the city, not to harm the Ka'ba!
This event is recorded in sura 105 (Chr.19th):
-Hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the owners of the Elephant ?
-Did He not bring their stratagem to naught,
-And send against them swarms of flying creatures,
-Which pelted them with stones of baked clay,
-And made them like green crops devoured (by cattle) ?
That's already mythical enough but we found an inscription infirming 570 and without any mention to Mecca.
As a matter of fact it is also proving sura 105 a rotten baloney, as the Northern Arabs -lost- to king Abraha.
The inscription is now dated 552ce and reads:
"With the power of the Almighty, and His Messiah King Abraha Zeebman, the King of Saba'a, Zuridan, and Hadrmaut and Yemen and the tribes (on) the mountains and the coast wrote these lines on his battle against the tribe of Ma'ad (in) the battle of al-Rabiya in the month of "Dhu al Thabithan" and fought all of Bani A'amir and appointed the King Abi Jabar with Kinda and Al, Bishar bin Hasan with Sa'ad, Murad, and Hadarmaut in front of the army against Bani Amir of Kinda. and Al in Zu Markh valley and Murad and Sa'ad in Manha valley on the way to Turban and killed and captured and took the booty in large quantities and the King and fought at Halban and reached Ma'ad and took booty and prisoners, and after that, conquered Omro bin al-Munzir. (Abraha) appointed the son (of Omro) as the ruler and returned from Hal Ban (halban) with the power of the Almighty in the month of Zu A'allan in the year sixty-two and six hundred."
As one can clearly see, the Abraha expedition is described in detail and contrary to the fairy tales that we heard from Ibn Ishaq and traditionalists there is absolutely no mention of anything related to Kaaba or Makka. The inscription doesn't mention elephants. Given the fact is that it would have been highly impractical to bring elephants into the desert and carry their weight in water, I would say that Abraha did not use elephants. (...)
As you may have noticed, the story of Abraha as told in the inscription is kind of dull and with no happy ending for the Arabs. On the other hand, the hearsay tales from the likes of Ibn Ishaq are filled with amazing details, suspense, and drama. They capture people's imagination with the amazing detail of the character of an old frail man (the fictitious Abd Al-Mutilib) standing in the path of the Army of Abraha. The stories have special effects of amazing creatures (the elephants) and gore (the flesh and blood flowed like water and the skin of Abraha and his soldiers falling off and exposing the bones, etc.). These hearsay stories that the Arabs concocted two hundred years after the fact have very high entertainment value and appeal to the masses much as Hollywood flicks often do. However, they have no value for those interested in the truth. (...)
As a side note, the date on the inscription converts to 552AD. According to traditionalists accounts of the sira/story of the prophet, he was born in the year of Abraha's expedition and they say that he was born in 570AD. So this pushes back the date of birth of the prophet by about 20 years. This creates a big problem for traditionalists. They now either have to revise the entire Sira/story of the prophet or they have to give up all their Hadiths. This is for the simple reason that all the chains of transmission of their "Sahih" Hadiths will now be broken as a result of pushing back the dates by 20 years.
Indeed, with the Year of the Elephant dated 552, the whole traditional account of Muhammad (570-632) falls down! (Muhammad = ?-?).
Added by editing:
http://www.answering-islam.org/Response ... man_av.htm
A far greater problem for the Islamic traditions is that the Sabean date on this inscription is 552 A.D. According to the most recent scholarship, Abraha died in 553 A.D. or shortly thereafter – but, according to the Muslims, Muhammad was born in 570 A.D. So, if we want to believe the Muslim traditions concerning Abraha, we have to push Muhammad's birth back 15, 16 or even 18 years. This has enormous consequences for much of early Islamic history. If Muhammad was born 18 years earlier, when did Muhammad begin to receive revelations? When did the Hijrah occur? When did Muhammad die? When did various battles take place, and when did the first four Caliphs reign? This is potentially messing up everything that Muslims believe about their early history. Moreover, this may cast doubt on much of the Islamic Traditions. The accuracy of their so-called "Sahih" Hadiths cannot be trusted because the "chains of transmission" may now be broken - most events in the life of Muhammad has been pushed back 18 years and gaps are bound to open up somewhere in the chains between Muhammad and the time of Bukhari, Muslim, and the other collectors. (...)
Muhammad ibn al-Sa'ib (died 726 A.D.) said that Muhammad was born 15 years before the "Year of the Elephant". Ja'far ibn Abi 'l-Mughira (died early 8th century A.D.) dates Muhammad's birth 10 years after the "Year of the Elephant", while Al-Kalbi tells us that Shu'ayb ibn Ishaq (died 805 A.D.) said that Muhammad was born 23 years after this event. Al-Zuhri (died 742 A.D.) believed that Muhammad was born 30 years after the "Year of the Elephant", while Musa ibn 'Uqba (died 758) believed that Muhammad was born 70 years later!8 If we assume that the "Year of the Elephant" was 570 A.D., then Muhammad could have been born anytime between 555 A.D. and 640 A.D. and could have died anytime between 615 A.D. and 700 A.D.! How can we trust any of the hadiths? The "transmitters" cited by the hadith may not have been alive during Muhammad's lifetime, to witness the events which they are believed to have "transmitted". The problem of dating Muhammad's birth date is an issue that not only affects the hadith traditions; but also affects the reliability of the history of the Quran's collection and compilation.
All the hadiths and sirah of the prophet, the whole chain of oral transmissions gets derailed, obsolete. Kaput... Kapishe!