The main issues that center around the reconstruction the life of Muhammad are the validity and extent of validity of sources. Most sources are dated to two or three centuries after Muhammad passed, so this can also make sources questionable, although many believe that they are preserved because of the Islamic verbal tradition.
Controversy within sources mainly lies in hadith material. Ignaz Goldziher was one of the first scholars to challenge the validity of the hadith material, material that was before used by most scholars. He stated that the origin of the information is not clear, making the hadiths unreliable. In addition, without a basic chronological and topographical framework provided by the Muslim tradition, even sources like the Qur’an become almost useless for a historian trying to compile a biography on Muhammad.
Still, many historians continued to write historical accounts of Muhammad. Many believed that although many sources may not be reliable, the critical mind could reconstruct what really happened. Other historians instead just insert disclaimers in their books. These disclaimers basically state that the information presented might be from historically unreliable sources. So why did historians still use these sources? This fringes upon the fact that it is “not possible to write a historical biography of the Prophet without being accused of using the sources uncritically, while on the other hand, when using the sources critically, it is simply not possible to write such a biography “. Through all of the controversy and all of the doubts, everyday new developments in research arise, and some sources become more reliable and others less reliable. It will be interesting to see how information changes, and what new historical accounts emerge in the future, and how historical information on Muhammad will change over time. View More »