David S. Powers


On his book Muhammad is Not the Father of any of Your Men: The Making of the Last Prophet

Cover Interview of September 03, 2009

Editor’s note

Originally, this interview ran on the Rorotoko cover page under the headline

“Muhammad’s sonlessness was a function of theological imperatives.”

We highlighted two quotes.

On the first page:

“The word kalala is little-known, even among native speakers of Arabic.  During the first two or three centuries of Islamic history, however, the meaning of this word was a matter of great interest to Muslim scholars.  One might say that the word kalala was a mystery.  The second caliph Umar b.  al-Khattab appears to have been obsessed with this word for much of his adult life.  He is reported to have said that he would rather know the meaning of kalala than possess the equivalent of the poll-tax levied on the fortresses of Byzantium.”

On the second:

“Although Muhammad may have had an adopted son named Zayd, the narrative reports about Zayd’s life have nothing to do with history—as that term is understood in the academy today.  Viewed from a literary perspective, Zayd emerges as a key figure whose sole function was to make it possible for Muhammad to become the Last Prophet.”