Ibn Warraq is furious. Why is the West so blind, refusing to see Islam as it really is? Why is the Moslem world unwilling to look at the fraud perpetrated on them?
And so he wrote this book to summarize as much of the scholarship about and against Islam as he could. Some is quite valuable, and some much less so. He quotes Smirnov summarizing Morozov's assertion that Muhammad (MTLHMOHS) did not exist--not noticing that a Soviet religious scholar in 1930 was not free to say anything else--his job was to denigrate all religions, by any means.
I wish I were more confident of Warraq's sources. The claim that Muhammad (MTLHMOHS) borrowed (and corrupted) a great deal from the Jewish Midrash stories is quite interesting. Clumsy transitions in the Koran's story of Cain and Abel or of Joseph compare unfavorably with the clearer (exactly parallel) stories in the older Midrash--pretty clear evidence of borrowing.
Warraq seems to have shoveled all the sources he could find together without sorting through them carefully. He quotes Crone approvingly in a claim that the Koran was written late (2 centuries late), not noticing that the Shi'ite split was early, and would inevitably have meant different scriptures if the canon were not already firm.
To make matters worse, Warraq is an atheist (he calls himself a humanist), and he proceeds to trot out all the tired old chestnuts to prove that there is no God and therefore Islam is false. He seems to have not idea how badly this weakens his attack.
The Koran claims that the Christian trinity includes Mary--which was never true; and implies that the mother of Jesus was the sister of Moses, and similar nonsense. It is taken to repudiate itself internally as later pronouncements supercede the earlier eternal pronouncements. There are even the "Satanic verses." The Hadiths can stand even less scrutiny--they are known to be largely bogus, and Warraq claims that Hadith-writing industries appeared during the Umayyads and lasted through the Abhasids, fueled largely by political disputes.
After shredding the Koran, Warraq addresses himself to the character of Muhammad (MTLHMOHS), who doesn't shine with a very holy glow. Muhammad (MTLHMOHS) seems to have become more skillful at discovering convenient revelations to suit his interest as time went on, as shown by the stories of the early Moslem hagiographers themselves. His cruelty was perhaps in keeping with his culture, but then how is he a model for the ages?
He goes on to document how "tolerant" Islam has had heretic hunts. Everybody knows of the Shi'ites; but the Mu'tazilites led one such heretic-hunt, only to be hunted away in their turn. You can hear very bitter quarrels to this day, with various schools anathamizing each other, in places like Pakistan.
Islam's vaunted tolerance for others (about which see Bat Ye'or) developed its rules in an era when Moslems were both conquerors and a minority. (My observation, not his.) Life wasn't pleasant for the conquored, and as Moslems became the majority, the need for tolerance evaporated, leaving behind only fitfully applied rules.
Moslems apologists love to boast of the glorious flowering of arts and sciences in the Persia, but Warraq and others note that the arts were inherited from Zoroastrian Persia, and the whole business dried up about the time that the gates of ijtihad were closed and sharia was fixed. (Maybe a coincidence--I seem to recall a political/military decline; but my references are 150 miles away.)
Warraq illustrates that Islam is inherently totalitarian and deeply oppressive of women. The quotes are fairly damning.
For the honor of truth, I should point out that the theory and practice can differ amazingly. It is, or was until the Saudis starting throwing Wahabism around the world, quite possible to find Africans who called themselves Muslim whose practice was much more like their animist neighbors than anything in Arabia.
His answer to me would undoubtedly be that the seeds of the
"pure form" are there, and can easily be brought to fruition
by purist reformers. And he would be correct. Islam has
always had a violent tendancy--unavoidably, given the way it
In sum, you'll find a lot of useful references in here, but there's a lot of less reliable material. Use salt.