As for the presence of Nicene and Chalcedonian Christianity in Arabia in the 6th and early 7th century, it is my understanding that Arabia was a haven for non-Orthodox sects—am I correct on this?
I don't think there was much Chalcedonian Christianity in Arabia at all, but there was Trinitarian Christianity from the Monophysites and Nestorians (they both agreed with the Nicean and Constantinople councils and the doctrine of the Trinity) around the borders of Arabia. There was maybe some in extreme North Arabia where Saudi Arabia and Jordan are today; Muhammad and others came into contact with that in Palestine and Syria along the caravan routes. The lack of Biblical evangelism and missions set up a vacuum for more false doctrines, heresies, and eventually a new religion.
As Richard Bell notes, “Coming now a little nearer to the actual cradle of Islam, . . . In a way the existence of a Christian Church here belongs to the Christian encirclement of Arabia rather than to the history of Christianity in Arabia itself.” (emphasis mine)
(Richard Bell, The Origin of Islam in its Christian Environment. London: MacMillan, 1926, republished in 1968, The Edinburgh University Lectures, p. 33; available on line at: http://www.muhammadanism.org/bell/origin/p032.htm
Najran in the south, and Yemen had mixtures of Monophysite and later, some Nestorian churches were established.
Najran Christianity was completely wiped out by Islam later and Yemen also eventually.
My point is that Muhammad could not distinguish between the Monophysites, Nestorians, Chalcedonians, and Apocryphal Gnostic sects, desert monks, ascetics, and the Collyridians (if they got that idea from them); -- they could not distinguish between them because of the Marian practices, images, bowing before icons, prayers to Mary, and calling her "the Mother of the God". It was a bad witness and lack of evangelical missions on the Orthodox part; combined with the heretics who were exiled to the frontiers. Cults and heresies grew up and new religions are started from a lack of outreach and witness.
The early Christian dialogues with Muslim Caliphs, Nestorian Timothy (780 -820 AD), John of Damascus, defender of icons (born 676 – died 754 ? – last years in Palestine), Al Kindy, (813-833 ?) apology during the reign of Al Ma’amun to name a few of the more famous ones, came later than the earlier days of Muhammad and the influences on the founding of Islam. The damage had been done by the lack of outreach and sound doctrine centuries before; and the presence of Apocryphal gospels, heretical sects and nominal Christians; and what Muhammad and early Arabs perceived from the Marian piety, practices, and growing defense of doctrines that would later become dogmas, like the Perpetual Virginity and Assumption, which John of Damascus defended. (Gnostic and apocryphal writings such as the Protoevangelium of James; the Odes of Solomon, and the Ascension of Isaiah were being used to support the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. (see Mary- Another Redeemer?. James R. White. Bethany, 1998, p. 33.) For more on details on the Protoevangelium of James, see several of Turretinfan's blog posts:
The heresies of the Collyridians and Gnostics and Arians were certainly worse than Nestorians and Monophysites. The Al Kindy apology has some controversy behind it, as to whether all that we have today was there originally, or was it edited and added to over the centuries. Many of the first historians and administrators for the Arab Muslims in conquered eastern parts of Byzantine and in Mesopotamia were Nestorian or Monophysite or Byzantine/Chalcedonian. They seem to be very nominal and not really converted; as they helped compile a lot of the early records of Islam, especially from Damascus and Baghdad. The apparent contradictions in the Qur’an and the Haddith about Jesus and the credibility of the previous Scriptures (Torah, Zabor, and Injeel) point to what seems to be a later redaction. (“Zabor” – Psalms of David; “Injeel” = Gospel of Jesus Al Masih)
If the Muslim Hadiths are truly credible about Warqa Bin Naufal; a “hanif”, ‘a seeker of the true religion of Abraham”; then it is hard to know what kind of a “Christian” he was, for he encouraged Muhammad that he was a prophet of God for his people. Warqa was the cousin of Khadija, the first wife of Mohammad.
When the revelation came to Muhammad at the cave of Hira, He was shaken with fear, came to his wife and told her of what had happened.
She took him to her cousin Warqa bin Naufal who was a reputed to be someone who knew the previous Scriptures and the Hebrew language, and had embraced Christianity. After hearing from Mohammad what has happened on the mountain of Hira, he said that was the Angel Gabriel, who had always brought revelation to the Messengers of God before him. Warqa Bin Naufal died shortly after this.
As a preacher I heard on this subject in 1979 said, "Too bad Warqa did not have a gospel tract for Muhammad! Never under-estimate someone coming to you for spiritual guidance!" (Rev. Ian North, "A Christian Response to Islam")
For more details on that; and some controversy over the truth of the history of the Islamic sources, see: