Dutch Version of Controversial Book on Early Islam Released

2 March 2012


The Fourth Beast, a book by British historian Tom Holland making controversial claims about the origins and development of Islam, has been released in a Dutch translation, though in advance of the English publication. According to an article in Radio Netherlands Worldwide the book’s potentially controversial claims include: that Islam emerged as a product of interaction in a multicultural and multifaith environment; that the religion is geographically rooted in Jordan rather than Mecca; and that little historical material can provide authoritative evidence about the life and character of Mohammad.

The article does not provide a Muslim perspective on Holland’s claims, rather stating their “shocking” nature. The review does an expert perspective from Petra Sijpesteijn, professor of Arabic language and culture at Leiden University. Sijpesteijn affirms Holland’s claim that Islam’s historical emergence was deeply influenced by Christianity and Islam, as “it says in the Qur’an itself that it’s a continuation of Judaism and Christianity. [Further], Western researchers generally assume that the Qur’an wasn’t written all at once, and Muslim scholars also recognise that Islam developed over the course of the centuries.”. Sijpesteijn disputes Holland’s assertion that there are no reliable records of Mohammad produced during his lifetime and immediately afterwards, as well as his suggestion that Islam did not arise in Mecca.