1. There are many versions of Islam. In recent decades there has been much scholarly debate over Islam’s origins, and therefore Islam’s ‘essential’ character.
2. The traditional Muslim view has increasingly been found inadequate, but critical scholarship has not been able to reach a consensus on how Islam arose. Some of this scholarship is somewhat polemical.
3. Sparse historical documents a couple of hundred years later, nothing from the great prophet (peace be upon him), a period of control and destruction of alternative texts, how can we access the traditional story of the emergence of a great world religion?
4. Even if we could access that those historical sources, how can we respectfully debate that tradition?