This particular theory on Islamic origins started popping up in 2020. I watched the video where Jay Smith and someone called Mel first lay it out and I was disappointed.
I first stumbled upon this watching some other videos where they alluded to this, and in those they say "Iyas ibn Qabisah's nickname was Muhammad" as if that is an indisputably independently verified fact. But it's actually not, it's based on their very bad use of Thomas the Presbyter.
Thomas the Presbyter in 640 AD talking about the battle of Dathin in 634 refers to "Tayy of Muhammad", Mel concludes the person being called Muhammad here must be the leader of the Tayy tribe and then talks about Iyas who was a leader connected to that tribe a generation earlier.
A lot of modern translations of Thomas translate this reference as "Arabs of Muhammad" because there is a lot of evidence that non Arabs of that region and time period often used Tayy as a synecdoche for the Arabs. But even if we interpret Thomas as intending to mean the Tayy tribe specifically, he says "Tayy of Muhammad", as in he's referring to Tayy who were followers of Muhammad. Nothing in this quote makes the Muhammad in mind a specifically Tayy tribal leader or Tayy himself at all. It also does not imply this Muhammad was himself present at the battle or still alive.
In the official traditional Islamic view of this history the Tayy had all become followers of Islam by a few years ago at this point. So nothing in Thomas contradicts the mainstream view.
Meanwhile Iyas ibn Qabisah even while he was governor of Al-Hira from 602-617 was not the sole leader of the Tayy, the Tayy generally never had one single leader, they were split up into many clans with their own chiefs.
I listened to this thesis with an open mind because I already since way back in 2019 and 2018 had my own reasons for thinking the Lakhmid kingdom and Al-Hira have an overlooked importance to understanding the historical context of Islam's origins. When you consider how Kufa was basically a re-founding or expansion of Al-Hira and Ali's tomb being in a city that used to be a Christian burial ground in the same general area. And also my thesis that Nestorianism was an influence on how Islamic Theology and Christology developed. I've also long been into the story of Al-Numan III and his Lesbian daughter. But I'm also interested in Arabic history that goes back even further like the Christian Queen Mavia in the fourth century.
Iyas plays a role in all that history and so does now interest me, but saying he is who the mythology of Muhammad was originally based on simply doesn't work.
In the video they quote some 7th and early 8th Century Christian sources that call Muhammad a King. I understand that might seem a little weird at first, but remember the Priests saying 'We have no King but Caesar" probably annoyed Pilate because the Romans were in deep denial that they were no longer a Republic. Muhammad had absolute power in Medina, calling him a King then is officially wrong only in the same was calling Hitler a king would be official wrong.
All three of these references they quote said Muhammad's reign as King began in 622, same year Muhammad became a political leader in the Islamic narrative. Meanwhile Iyas was not ever formally a King either, in fact he was less of a King then Muhammad in Medina since he was a governor subordinate to the Sassanids.
They want to claim after Iyas lost governorship of Hira in 617 he became a King of the Arab rebels in 622. But they can't cite any primary source saying that not dependent on their flawed conjectures. Yet they keep stating it as if they've proven it.
The early Christian sources on the Arab conquest they quote also refer to the Arabs having two leaders for a time and then being united under Muawiyah, and they seem to view that as some enigma in conflict with the Muslim history. Well let me mention something about the Rashidun Caliphate most people don't know, Ali never actually ruled the entire Kingdom that Umar and Uthman had just conquered, he was based in the East while the West including Israel was ruled by Muawiyah.
They even took an early Christian source saying Muhammad was born of Noble ancestry and said that contradicted the Islamic narrative. And at that point they are either misunderstanding or intentionally misrepresenting what the official traditional history is. Muhammad ibn Abdullah is a direct patrilineal descendent of Qusai ibn Kilab who was a King of Mecca and the Quraysh tribe in the 5th Century. And between them in that genealogy is mostly people who were entrusted with the custodianship of the Kaaba. Muhammad is not claimed to have been a commoner by any of the 9th and 10th century sources Smith wants to discredit.
Maybe they're confused because some American Muslims have sought to pretend Muhammad was a nobody, that his rise to power was a rags to riches story, a 7th century Arabian version of the American Dream. Not unlike the way some Americans like to talk about Jesus, "He was born in a stable and became the most famous person in history" no Bing Crosby that's not what makes Jesus so important.
Now I agree with Jay Smith that the "Mecca" King Qusai actually ruled was Petra. But unlike Smith I don't think the Petra theory itself really discredits Islam at all, in fact I watched a video on YouTube by Shia Muslims supporting it, tying it into their hatred of the Saudis and prophecies that the Twelfth Imam/Mahdi will destroy Mecca. And in Jordan I imagine even Sunni Muslims could be fine with it, it would help their tourism industry. We Christians also have disagreements on where certain Biblical locations actually are. And no the Qibla does not exist because Muslims literally think Allah won't hear them if they Pray in facing the wrong way, it's a just a purely ceremonial custom.
If Jay Smith is going to decide for the sake of intellectual consistency that every mainstream official Biblical site must be true and if not Christianity is utterly discredited, then he and I will have a problem. Because the Crucifixion of Jesus is pretty unambiguously placed East of The Temple, that's what "Nigh to the City" and "Without the Camp" meant in Hebrew idiom.
I do not believe the Black Stone was ever in Petra however, it's not mentioned in the Quran and some Quran only Muslims reject it as inherently Pagan. The Black Stone is similar to things done south in Yemen not by any of the Nabatean Arabs. There was a similar "Red Stone" in Ghaiman and a "White Stone" at al-Abalat/Tabala. So I think this was added the Kaaba traditions when the current Meccan Kaaba was founded.
I first heard about this new theory when I watched the recent debate between Jay Smith and David Wood about the historicity of Muhammad. My position on that issue is kind of between theirs. I believe in the basic outline of Muhammad's biography more then Smith does, but I do think there has been some corruption and distortion and I do find Wood's obsession with the "criterium of embarrassment" rather annoying, as an aspiring writer of fiction myself, I would never invent a Prophetess without giving her embarrassing flaws.
I think both are wrong actually when they attribute the Infancy Gospel of Thomas to the Gnostics, what we object to in that Gospel the Gnostics would probably hate even more. I don't think any of it was "less embarrassing" to it's author then it is to us, they simply disagree with the view that Jesus needs to be flawless, it's basically a 2nd Century version of Last Temptation or Jesus Christ Superstar. And the thing is Muslim doctrine doesn't even claim Muhammad to be without Sin the way Jesus is claimed to be by both Christians and the Quran.
However I do think Wood is on the right track with his "Faith of the Fatherless" thesis. Which is ironically specifically why I don't think the Satanic Verses story happened. Even if Muhammad had at some point temporarily wanted to compromise with the Pagans allowing them to keep this trio of Goddesses, Wood's own psychological profile for Muhammad utterly contradicts that he would ever call them Daughters of Allah. He could have just made them three important Angels or Jinn, the kind of thing Christians and Jews compromising with Paganism had already been doing (and still do like Tolkien and Lewis). My own theory on the Satanic Verses is that the Sura in question was a plagiarism of an older Nabatean hymn that predated Muhammad, the verses in question were never in the Quran's version, but at some point the existence of the other version became known and Muslims who didn't want to admit Muhammad didn't invent it had to explain the existence of these verses which seemed to be in it's oldest version.
However to Smith I'd argue the entire Petra thesis helps the historicity of Muhammad. If the Kaaba was moved during the time of Abd All ibn al-Zubayr and the stories about the Prophet didn't begin to be fabricated till after that, then how come those stories are still so clearly and accurately describing Petra?
Petra also helps the traditional claim of Muhammad's Ishmaelite ancestry, modern Jordan and very North Western Saudi Arabia is basically where The Bible places the Ishmaelite tribes, around Biblically Paran and Kadesh (I believe Kadesh Meirbah is Petra, a city that went back and forth between being Edomite and Nabatean). These Tribes intermarried with each other a lot so it isn't surprising that Muhammad has claimed descent from both Nabojath and Kedar, Dumah and Tema were also in this area.
I want to talk briefly about the Doctirna Jacobi and the issue that it implies Muhammad is still alive in 634 IF it's talking about the same Arab Prophet. This source is a second hand account of a second hand account, and while it reflects the time period it's main narrative is probably fictional since it's a Christian account of a Jew saying Jesus was probably the Messiah and all this is our punishment for rejecting Him. But the main point is this Prophet doesn't even appear in the narrative directly. News didn't travel as fast back then as it does now, it's entirely possibly Christians in Carthage didn't know the Prophet who started this Arab movement was already dead by the time they entered The Hold Land. It also might be they were confusing Umar with the original Prophet.
I think it's entirely possible that the teachings of the Prophet in question are not being accurately represented by the document, or at least not quoted directly. Things like "kays of paradise" may not be based on any exact expression he said, but the fact remains Paradise and how to get there was part of Muhammad's message so it fits just fine.
Muhammad was prophesying the second coming of Jesus which people hearing about his message second or third hand could have thought was about a new Messiah when that wasn't the original intent, he did pronounce the name differently then these Greeks were used to.
The most important fact to me is this document's main criticism of this Prophet is exactly what most American Christians' main criticism of Muhammad is, that he and his message are too violent, so to see them turn around and go "this can't possibly be criticizing that same blood thirsty Prophet I'm criticizing" is just funny to me.
There are plenty of contemporary references to the Arab Conquest being prompted by a Schismatic Arab Prophet named Muhammad. It doesn't matter how many details at first glance seem odd, the basic picture fits just fine. There is even a Seventh Century use of the word Moslem by John of Niku. Sebeos also mention Umar by name, there is also a Hejaz Arabic inscription for Umar. We also have Ad Annum a 705 document that lists all the Caliphs but Ali (who might be left out since he never had the west) but says Muhammad only reigned 7 years starting in 621 or 622, and gives Umar 12 years, 2 years more then usual. Earlier then that we have Jacob of Edessa, and then there is another Chronicle in 724.
But these revisionists want to misuse parts of these same sources to say the opposite, that the "real Muhammad' was still alive a later point not that he died even sooner. I think the extra two years being added to Umar's reign here are probably at the start, I think his invading the Eastern Roman Empire immediately is unlikely, even Alexander The Great had to deal with domestic stuff first.