Tom Holland’s flight of Fantasy on Channel 4’s program on Islam


I just saw the Channel 4 program ‘Islam: the untold story’ by author Tom Holland. I found it very amusing, he tried to come up with a alternative explanation for Islam (presumably the ‘untold story’) and admitted failure (along with arch orientalist, Patricia Crone).

To boil it down, the programs logic went like this:
1.Tom doesn’t want to believe Islam came from super-natural causes, because history ‘must have materialistic explanations’.

2. Tom proposes that the 8th Century ‘Arab empire’ invented the background story of the Quran and Muhammed (saw) in order to justify the divine right of the Arab leader to be obeyed (which is funny, considering how Islam goes into more detail regarding morals, manners, rituals and dua – a little long winded for an Arab emperor who justs wants people to obey him!)

3. Islamic sources say that the Quran first was revealed in Mecca

4. Tom notices the Author of the Quran seems to talk about a great deal about different geographical places, times and histories – therefore Tom feels it ‘could’ have actually originated from different geographic locations and different communities (like syria?!), and allegedly, Muhammed (saw) was invented to play the role of the revealer of it, much later on.

5. Tom admits that the theory does not fit well, because it does not explain how the Quran was produced and compiled from all these different sources, into one book, and how this book was then disseminated to the masses of ‘Arabs’ of whom were meant to have already been fighting for it, and memorised it. The Quran seems to point to one origin, and Muhammed (saw) and the Quran seemed to originate together, from the same time and location (an isolated place in a desolate location i.e. Mecca). Tom admits he is confused (well Tom, I’m glad I didn’t have to say it first…)

6. Tom then suggests that it is because Mecca is so isolated, it could have been why it was deliberately chosen by the ‘Arab empire’ in the first place as the perfect alibi for its cover story – because Mecca is isolated from the world!

In essence, Tom says its hard to know anything about Islam for sure, because it came from an Isolated place (i.e mecca). Of course, he then suggests, that this was EXACTLY why Mecca was chosen to be the claimed origin of Islam in the first place! This is called circular reasoning, and is a poor argument. Its like me saying that the Queen of England is a shape-shifting Alien Lizard . If you tell me “but she looks human”, I will say, EXACTLY, it is BECAUSE she looks human, that she must actually be a shape shifting alien lizard – as surely an alien would want to look human to blend into human society unnoticed!

They should have renamed the program: Tom’s flight of Fantasy: The untold story”

What next from Tom Holland? Was Jesus an invention of the Roman Empire, to justify why Roman emperors should be obeyed by the people too?!

Categories: ARTICLES, History, The Muslim Debate Initiative

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9 replies

  1. well, if he is confused about Islam, whats he gonna do when he researches Christianity!!!!!!!he may have to jump off a building


  2. I saw the program too. A documentary about Islam made by Athiests and Jews where they cherry pick the Muslim “scholar” to respond to their claims.

    I find it surprising that a mainstream broadcaster would air such a baseless documentary that lacked so much evidence. At one point I remember he managed to conclude the Arabs spent 60 years inventing the background of Prophet Muhammad just because it took 60 years to for his name to appear on a coin for the first time.

    But then again Channel four have history for bashing Islam, the last documentary they made about Islam on the Quran was appaulingly biased and also made many baseless allegations. The documentary was meant to focus on the Quran yet some how managed to accuse Islam of instructing female circumcision.


  3. Totally biased show. I e-mailed channel 4 complaining about it and this is what they said:

    “Thank you for your message about the documentary feature Islam: The Untold Story.

    We have noted your concerns but stand by the making and broadcast of this programme and we are satisfied that it is neither biased nor inaccurate. Channel 4 has consistently provided thought provoking programming around the theme of religion and this particular documentary follows very much in the footsteps of series such as our strand, Witness or series such as The Bible: A History.

    We can reassure you that Islam: the Untold Story was a carefully considered and scrupulously researched documentary that did not set out to criticise the Islamic faith. Rather it is a history documentary which examines the historical context in which the religion emerged. Clearly the origins of one of the world’s major religions are an entirely legitimate subject of academic enquiry and an equally legitimate subject for a historical documentary. Tom Holland is a highly respected, award-winning author and historian who has who has written four acclaimed books on the ancient and early medieval periods – including one on the emergence of Islam. The programme does contain a range of differing views on its central thesis. There is a clear recognition of Muslim faith throughout the programme – Seyyed Hussain Nasr, one of the world’s leading Muslim thinkers, appears within the film as a penetrating critic of what he sees as the arrogance and blindness of the Western tradition of sceptical historical enquiry.

    Nevertheless please be assured that your complaint has been logged and noted for the information of those responsible for our programming.

    Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.”


    • I just sent a complaint too, but its all in vain, they will never accept being in the wrong.

      Holland is obviously very confused about the whole thing and himself admits having sleepless nights terrified that he’s got it completely wrong. How they could broadcast a complete fantasy based on an individual who’s aim is to discredit the Quran’s origin is beyond me.


  4. “What next from Tom Holland? Was Jesus an invention of the Roman Empire, to justify why Roman emperors should be obeyed by the people too?!”

    Actually, Richard Carrier’s and other’ work on Jesus being a myth is being well-received in the research community. Looking forward to a review about his work from you as it concerns a basic article of our faith.


  5. You should read the book on which the documentary was based, it presents it far more clearly. it puts ISlam in a context against the fall of the Classical World and when it looks at Islam’s simply states that it is confused and uncertain, but that the traditions around the origins of the Koran, Mohammed’s historical setting and the rise of Arabianism don’t fit what is known very well. it does He then goes on to try and explain what he considers the most likely scenarios, but like all good scientists disclaims certainty.


  6. It seems to me that the complaints about his film and the death threats he received only serve to reinforce the well known fact that Muslims act irrational and aggressively when criticized or are challenged on their faith. The religion is too immature at present to be able to take any questioning. Maybe one day it will.


    • Who is sending death threats? Clearly this is an academic discussion where Abdullah has responded to Tom Holland film, which is all speculation, conjecture and has no evidence whatsoever.


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