Islam: The Untold Story

Synopsis: Tom Holland is searching for the birth place of Islam. Needless to say it's not where we usually believe it is.
Genre: Documentary
74 min

1,400 years ago, armies of nomads

swept out of the Arabian desert

and conquered half the world.

Today, their descendants tell

an extraordinary story.

They say that God sent them

a prophet - Mohammed -

and that God

then gave them an empire.

But is it really true?

Not everyone is so sure.

The Muslim conquests were one of

the most decisive events in history.

But were the Arabs in

the 7th century even Muslims at all?

My name's Tom Holland.

I'm a historian.

I write about ancient empires so,

Persian, Greek, Roman empires.

Now I want to write about the most

influential of all these empires -

the empire founded by the Arabs

in the 7th century -

the empire that gave us Islam.

I thought that it would be

a relatively simple matter.

It's been said that Islam was born

in the full light of history.

But when I began on the project,

I discovered that wasn't

actually the case at all.

When it comes to Islam's beginnings,

there is no full light of history.

Only a kind of darkness.

And when you start looking,

everything seems up for grabs.

From the beginning, I felt like I

was being sucked into a black hole.

The problem of authorising

the history of the rise of Islam

is that we have absence of evidence.

We have nothing

on which to tell a story.

I had expected Muslim testimony

from the 7th century.

But there's nothing there.

I can't find anything.

There's a problem here.

You're delving into the origins

of Muslims' deepest beliefs

but where is

the historical evidence?

Sometimes the belief of the


and the understanding of the

scholar, cannot be squared.

It's a choice between doing history

and not doing history.

So I do the history,

even though it may hurt people.

You have to say things

that believers don't say.

Things that sometimes

shock believers.

Things that sometimes

make them very angry.

There's a sense

of the detective story about it.

Why do most of the clues

seem to be missing?

When the Romans conquered

the Middle East, they left behind

all kinds of evidence -

histories, inscriptions, coins.

But with the

Muslim conquest, silence.

What can we actually say

about Mohammed?

What do we really know

about the origins of Islam?

Where to begin?

Well, maybe we should start

at the beginning of the 7th century.

It is five minutes to midnight

and the ancient world

is about to change for ever.

This is Istanbul.

In 632, it was Constantinople.

For 300 years, the capital city

of the Roman Empire.

A Christian city

at the heart of a Christian world.

A universal religion

for a universal empire.

That was the Roman recipe for power.

An idea fully appreciated

by the Muslims

when almost 1,000 years later,

they conquered the city

and turned the largest cathedral

in Christendom into a mosque.

We know how and when

the Romans became Christian

because contemporaries

tell us all about it.

But what we don't know

is how the Arabs became Muslim.

Take a journey into the past

and you can't be certain

where it's going to end.

History is like a labyrinth.

Once you're inside,

who knows where it may lead?

So, here we are - the Great Palace

of the Roman emperors

of Christian Constantinople.

Odd to think that, at the start

of the 7th century,

when Mohammed was still alive,

this was pretty much

the centre of the world.

There's one awful poetry about

the fact that all you've got here

is splintered firewood.

Because what this is, is something

that's been smashed to smithereens.

What it preserves

just the faintest trace of is, um,

what was, at the time,

the hub of the greatest power

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "Islam: The Untold Story" STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 1 Mar. 2021. <>.

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