I have reposted this text from another thread, found here.
This topic is an area that most Catholics don’t know and which many Americans are unfamiliar: systematic apologetics against Islam. Not just the standard appeals of evangelism, which are important, but an organized, structured analysis of the very historical roots of Islam. What I mean by this “systematic apologetics” is the historical-critical analysis of the Quran and Hadith, which a number of scholars have undertaken (with less of the apologetical thrust I mean). This area of focus has a good many Muslims worried.
I will note that such analyses have been applied to the Bible, and Christianity has survived splendidly (I routinely use these methods in interpreting the Bible). My fundamental contention is that Islam cannot survive the type of historical-critical analysis that have been applied to the Bible. A tentative hypothesis I have is that Islam, in a form similar to the religion espoused today, came into being around 50-80 years after the death of Muhammad.
For example, G.H.A. Juynboll wrote the book Encyclopedia of Canonical Hadith, published in 2007. This author used the “Common Link” theory from an earlier critic of hadith, Joseph Schacht, to analyze the six major books of hadith recognized as authentic by Sunni Muslims. This method takes advantage of the isnad, the supposed chain of transmission from Muhammad to the person who recorded it in writing, that accompanies each hadith. Using these isnads, Juynboll concluded that none of the Hadith could be dated before the caliphate of Abd Al-Malik, which lasted from 685-705. Like Schacht before him, Juynboll concluded that the hadith were forged by later people which they refer to as “common links.” This book has Muslims worried, and Western Muslims have called on their greatest scholars, like Jonathan A.C. Brown, to try to rebut it.
Another example of scholarship consistent with the notion that Islam was “engineered” later is the recent book by Fred Donner, Muhammad and the Believers. This widely-respected orientalist has published the theory that Muhammad was a “pan-monotheism” revival leader, and embraced Christians and Jews as part of his movement. This book has been, of course, pilloried by Muslims, but scholars can’t ignore its evidence and argument.
One more big example is the amateur pseudonymous author, Christoph Luxenbeg, who wrote The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Quran. In this work, the author takes advantage of the fact that early Classical Arabic script didn’t include the “diacritic” marks that later scripts did. These marks are essential in determining what letter is being written. He also notes that written Arabic didn’t really exist before the Quran, and that there were other semitic languages, including Syriac, that are closely related to Arabic. He uses Syriac to analyze phrases in the Quran that even don’t make sense in Arabic, and found that the use of Syriac allowed much more reasonable readings to be developed. Muslims have generally attacked this book, and politically-correct orientalists have criticized Luxenberg the amateur for playing with professionals. Still, a number of orientalists have said that his book has changed their field in a fundamental way.
My own personal approach is to analyze the Quran and look for texts within it that have their sources in Christian or Jewish texts. I note that in the end of Sura 5 looks remarkably like the Bread of Life narrative in John 6, and find it extremely odd that the Quran includes a eucharistic narrative. In fact, in the Quran’s story, Allah says that if people don’t believe in Jesus after he brings down the “feast from heaven,” that he will punish them as he’s never punished anyone before. Reminds me a lot of “unless you eat of this bread, you will have no life within you.” It’s hard to pin it directly, given different languages (I don’t speak or read Arabic), but it raises the question: why is it important to Islam that Jesus brought down a “feast for heaven?” To me, it suggest that, like much of the rest of the Quran, the text was copied and edited from previous Christian and Jewish texts, including apocryphal gospels popular in Syria and the Talmud.
To me, this effort is long-term, but it’s the only way that we’re going to be able to really start bringing large numbers of Muslims to faith in Christ and his Church.