I Since John Wansbrough, Albrecht Noth, and Uri Rubin introduced the 'literary turn" to the study of the origins and rise of Islam, scholars of the field have found themselves facing a shibboleth of sorts: Has the recognition of the literary character of the source material precluded the possibility of reaching factual truth, or is the dismissal of the Islamic source material unwarranted extremism? How is it possible to extract positive knowledge from the mass of legendary material? Is there a sound methodology to deal with the material, and where does it lead? No matter how individual scholars go about it. these questions require a response before any findings can be assessed appropriately. In the course of modern studies on the beginnings of Islam, different answers have been given, with different reasoning. Fred Donner has summarized the development of approaches as a sequence from a descriptive, positivist attitude represented by the optimism of nineteenth-century Orientalists through the source-criticism of Wellhausen and the tradition-critical work of Goldziher and Schacht to the "skeptical approach." Under this last rubric Donner lists John Wansbrough's work informed by the textual analysis of biblical studies, and that of Crone and Cook, who drew the radical conclusion of these textual studies and abandoned hope of extracting historical information from Islamic sources altogether. (1) Ever since, any serious historical study in this field has to clarify its stance regarding the authenticity and source value of the early Muslim tradition, Qur'an, slra, hadith. and historiography.