Friday, November 29, 2013

did the Prophet Muhammad copy off the Bible, Jewish, Christian apocryphal sources?

did the Prophet Muhammad copy off the Bible, Jewish, Christian apocryphal sources?

Many polemics such as David Wood, Robert Spencer, Iraqi Sam Shamoun, Pakistani Ibn Warraq, etc bring forth this arguement that the Prophet Muhammad copied off Gnostic Christians, Jews, The Jewish Talmud, the Christian apocryphal sources and the Bible. But is this true? Let's see.

For example Robert Spencer claims that the Prophet Muhammad copied off Christian Apocryphal source "The Infancy Gospel" and Gnostic Christians about the Crucifixion of Jesus (See Truth about Muhammad pages 54-55).

As for Revelations about Aisha, Bassam Zawadi has already refuted that arguement:

Also an incident occurred with Aisha, the wife of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in which she was falsely accused of committing adultery and she and the Prophet (peace be upon him) had to wait in distress for the verse from the Qur'an to come down to vindicate Aisha of the crime. (Read the story in Qur'anic commentaries under Chapter 24, Verse 11)

Now if the Prophet (peace be upon him) were the author of the Qur'an he would have quickly (instead waiting for more than a month and causing distress for himself) made up a verse vindicating his beloved wife and also saved himself from the distress of having people suspecting his own wife for cheating on him. However, his sincerity shows that he did not make up the Qur'an, but was waiting to receive revelation from Allah Almighty.

As for The Zanyab Bint Jash issue (this has already been refuted earlier in the Blog) and the Quran 66 (This issue has already been refuted also in this blog). So there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. The Quran has criticises Muhammad and it doesn't fit a man's psychology to author a book that critizes himself. For example the Prophet Muhammad wasn't allowed to take Charity (See Earlier in this blog), He has to Pray the Night Prayers (Only he has to do this, nobody else has to do this (Ibn Abbaas, Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn 'Abbâs, Commentary on Chapter 17, Verse 79), the Quran critizes the Prophet for turning away a blind man (See Quranic commentaries on Quran 80, etc etc). 

See this more detailed refutations against the Quran copying off the Bible, Jewish/Christian apocryphal sources:

The stories in the Quran that are also allegedly found in the Jewish, Christian apocryphal sources are different from one another. So if the Prophet Muhammad was copying off these stories from either listening to Jews and Christians reciting these stories or from reading if off somewhere, he would have copied the entire stories, However there are several differences from the Jewish/Christian apocryphal accounts and the Quran accounts of these stories.

As for the Quran 4:157, the Quran doesn't say someone else was crucified instead of Jesus, or that Jesus cruficixion was just an illusion. rather there are different theories as to what the Quran is talking about. So it can't be argued that the Prophet Muhammad heard the Gnostic Christians say someone else was crucified instead of Jesus and their ideas were put into the Quran. Rather The Quran and the Prophet Muhammad never said anything like that. For more on the Origins of the Subsitution theory of the Crucifixion see Shabir Ally;s debate with Mike Liconia and William Lane Craig

Most of the critics of Islam, say that the Prophet Muhammad was sincere. If he was sincere he would not have knowingly included information heard from Jews and Christians into the Quran.

I of course agree that we are only dealing with probabilities when it comes to history, however probabilities are dependent upon certain variables. One could not say that something is probable or improbable without working with some kind of background information. I contend that it is more reasonable to state that it is probable that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not plagiarize based on the convergence of the following points:  1) His sincerity and truthfulness; 2) his illiteracy; 3) lack of ready access to Jewish and Christian documents; 4) improbability of the presence of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas in the Hijaz 5) The many striking differences between the Quranic stories and the parallels in the Judeo-Christian documents, with a virtual lack of verbal similarities; 6) and the many more differences between the Quranic story and the account in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas

We need to bare in mind that similarity between a Qur'anic account and a Biblical (or non-Biblical) story is not proof of the former borrowing from the latter. They could have the same source as well. Why could it not be that a certain event occurred and eventually came to be recorded either in a Biblical or a non-Biblical writing and later Allah revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him) the story as well? If a priori we reject the possibility of Muhammad's (peace be upon him) prophethood then we would have no choice but to look for a non-divine solution (i.e. that Muhammad (peace be upon him) either directly or indirectly borrowed a certain story). But if we are open to the possibility of revelation, miracles and Muhammad's (peace be upon him) prophethood, then the mere fact that two stories are the same or similar does not by itself negate the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) or that he received the information through fresh revelation.

The reason being the lack of direct quotations from the latter in the Quran and the so many differences between the Quranic stories and their Biblical (canonical and non-canonical) counterparts. Instead, the common view is that Muhammad (peace be upon him) "must" have been reliant upon Biblical and non-Biblical traditions orally, which he then altered and reshaped to suit his own needs. Such a hypothesis is quite possible only if we a priori dismiss the possibility of Muhammad (peace be upon him) receiving revelation from God.

In a recent essay on the question of Quranic sources, Gerhard Bowering (Professor of Islamic Studies at Yale University) writes (Essay: "Recent Research On The Construction of The Quran." In, "The Qur'an in its Historical Context," p. 70 (bold added):
"No single collection of biblical writings, normative, apocryphal or midrashic, however, has been identified as the major source in which the Qur'an may have been rooted.1 To the best of our present knowledge, the Bible had not been translated into Arabic by the time of Muhammad, either in its entirety or in the form of single books.2 It is generally believed that Muhammad gathered his biblical knowledge principally, if not exclusively, from oral sources.3 This oral lore was communicated to Muhammad in his mother tongue, but its original forms were in Syriac, Aramaic, Ethiopian and Hebrew materials, as evidenced by the vocabulary of foreign origin to be found in the Arabic Qur'an.4 This foreign vocabulary formed an integral part of Muhammad's proclamation and was understood by his audience in Mecca and Medina whom he addressed in eloquent Arabic.5"

and (p. 83, bold mine):
"During his lifetime, Muhammad had a good number of his Qur'anic proclamations copied down by scribes, but there is no evidence that he used foreign written source materials for the composition of the Qur'an. Until the appearance of evidence to the contrary, one has to support the position that it was oral information on which the Qur'an drew directly, even if behind this oral information there was a core of passages extracted from written traditions that were translated into Arabic from one or the other of its sibling languages. This core, however, has not yet come to light in a distinct form. The almost total absence in the Qur'an of direct parallels with the normative, midrashic or apocryphal biblical traditions 60 makes it impossible to argue for a direct dependence on written sources. Essential sections of the Qur'anic message were received from the oral lore of a variety of religious communities who were rooted in the widely dispersed and non-normative Jewish and Christian traditions. Not a single written source, whether scriptural or liturgical, however, has been identified that would satisfy the search for an underlying Ur-Qur'an, whether postulated as a Christian hymnal or a Syro-Aramaic lectionary, that served as a written source book for the Qur'an.[2]

As an example, we may actually point to Jesus' clay-bird miracle in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which states:
When this boy, Jesus, was five years old, he was playing at the ford of a rushing stream. (2) He was collecting the flowing water into ponds and made the water instantly pure. He did this with a single command. (3) He then made soft clay and shaped it into twelve sparrows. He did this on the sabbath day, and many other boys were playing with him.
(4)But when a Jew saw what Jesus was doing while playing on the sabbath day, he immediately went off and told Joseph, Jesus' father: "See here, your boy is at the ford and has taken mud and fashioned twelve birds with it, and so has violated the sabbath."
(5)So Joseph went there, and as soon as he spotted him he shouted, "Why are you doing what's not permitted on the sabbath?"
(6)But Jesus simply clapped his hands and shouted to the sparrows: "Be off, fly away, and remember me, you who are now alive!" And the sparrows took off and flew away noisily.
(7)The Jews watched with amazement, then left the scene to report to their leaders what they had seen Jesus doing.

Compare the above with the Quranic account. In two locations the Quran mentions this miracle. In Surah 3:49, we read:
"And (appoint him) an apostle to the Children of Israel, (with this message): "'I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah's leave ...

Then in Surah 5:110 we read:
Then will Allah say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the holy spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave ...

If Muhammad (peace be upon him) was copying from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas or any other Jewish/Christian apocryphal source or even the Bible, or reliant upon it even indirectly, why were its crucial details omitted? A lot of details in these so called Pre Islamic Jewish and Christian sources are missing in the Quran. The Quran does not mention the "soft" clay, the "twelve sparrows," Jesus' "clapping of hands" and his "crying" to the sparrows: "Be off..." It does not mention Jesus (peace be upon him) asking the sparrows to remember him and the sparrows noisily flying. In fact, the entire framework of the story is absent in the Quran (the sabbath story).

If the Quran was dependent upon the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, why would its Author omit so much - He omitted everything except for mentioning the miracle of the clay-bird?

The Quran only states that Jesus made a bird from clay and it transformed into an actual bird when he breathed into it. The Quran then emphasizes that this was God's miracle, done through Jesus (peace be upon him). Thus, it is highly unlikely that Muhammad (peace be upon him) had a copy of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas in his lap and was copying directly from it.

Could it be that Muhammad (peace be upon him) acquired this story indirectly, as it was circulating orally (with its ultimate source being the Infancy Gospel of Thomas)? This is "possible." Though one wonders, is it likely that the written story would later transmit orally in such a way that it was completely stripped from all the exciting details in its written form and a total absence of its framework? That seems quite improbable.


Muhammad (peace be upon him) wasn't sincere and knowingly includes information into the Qur'an, while claiming to the people that they are the direct words uttered by God. Unless, Shamoun illustrates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) wasn't sincere I see no reason to interact with arguments based on false assumption. 

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