In the latest installment of the Review of Qur’anic Research, Fred M. Donner reviews Michael Penn’s When Christians First Met Muslims: A Sourcebook of the Earliest Syriac Writings on Islam (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015). Since the publication of Patricia Crone and Michael Cook’s Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World (1980), several collections of non-Muslim sources used to reconstruct the history of Early Islam have appeared in conversation, bringing together languished manuscripts that were previously unpublished and often untranslated into one place. A major milestone was the appearance of Robert Hoyland’s Seeing Islam as Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam (1997), a collection whose value has hardly diminished in the two decades since its publication. Also critical in this regard is Andrew Palmer’s The Seventh Century in the West-Syrian Chronicles (1993). Michael Penn’s When Christians First Met Muslims is a welcome addition to this list of useful compendium of non-Muslim sources that describe the origins of Islam.
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