CHAPTER II ___________________________
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM
I. INTRODUCTORY REMARKS
A good deal has been written on the theme of the Prophet’s having allegedly drawn on Judaism and Christianity in formulating his doctrines and teachings. The aim of these writings has invariably been to show, on the one hand, his preparations for the role he played and, on the other, to disprove the divine origin of the Qur’an. The first modern scholar to advance this line of the assumption seems to be Abraham Geiger1 who concentrated on the supposed Jewish influence on the Prophet. He was shortly afterwards followed by William Muir who was perhaps the first modern scholar to advance the theory as a whole and did most to popularize it. Since his writings a number of works have appeared on the subject.2 In 1926 was published Richard Bell’s The Origin if Islam in its Christian Environment. Shortly afterwards the Jewish case was stated in C. C. Torrey’s The Jewish Foundation if Islam3 and restated in A. I Katsh’s Judaism in Islam.4 The sheer volume of these writings calls for an independent treatment of it. The scope of the present work, however, allows only an epitomization and discussion of the main assumptions which are in fact reflected in the works of Muir, Margoliouth and Watt.
II. SUMMARY OF THE ASSUMPTIONS
Muir says that Muhammad (p.b.h.) obtained his knowledge of Judaism and Christianity through his contact with the followers of those religions in Makka, Madina and the ‘Ukaz fair, as well as in the course of his trade journeys to Syria. Even as a child he is said to have seen the Jews at Madina, “heard of their synagogue and worship, and learned to respect them as men that feared God.”5 Muir of course rejects as “puerile” the story of a meeting between Nestorius and the Prophet during his second journey to Syria leading Khadijah’s (r.a.) trade
1 ABRAHAM GEIGER, Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthem aujgenommen?, Bonn, 1833.
2 Of such works mention may be made of
(a) WILHELM RUDOLPH, Abhangigkeit des Qoran.r von Judentum und Die Chri.rtentunm, Stuttgart, 1922;
(b) TOR ANDRAE, Der Ursprnng des Islams und des Christentum, Stockholm, 1926 (Fr. tr. Les Origins de I’lslam le Christianisme, Paris, 1955);
(c) K. AHRENS, “Christliches in Qoran”, ZDMG, 1930, 15-68, 148-190 (also his Muhammed als Religions stifler, Leipzig, 1935).
3 New York, 1933, republished 1967.
5 MUIR, op.dt, third edition, 15 (1st edition, II, 8).
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 27
caravan to that place. Yet, says Muir, “we may be certain that Mahomet lost no opportunity of enquiring into the practices and tenets of the Syrian Christians or of conversing with the monks and clergy who fell in his way. “1 As specific instances of such contacts, however, Muir mentions only three, namely,
(a) the Prophet’s having heard as a boy the preaching of Quss ibn Sa’ida at the ‘Ukaz fair,2
(b) the contact with Zayd ibn Harithah whose ancestors, Muir supposes, had been exposed to the influence of Christianity and who, though sold as a slave when a little boy, must have communicated whatever impressions he had of Christianity to Muhammad (p.b.h.);3 and
(c) the contact with Waraqah ibn Nawfal who, as Muir puts it, “had an acknowledged share in satisfying the mind of Mahomet that his mission was divine. “4
Muir further says that Muhammad (p.b.h.) must have noticed the differences and conflicts among the Christians and the Jews but nonetheless he obtained from them the idea of One True God, of divine revelation, of a Book and of a name, that of Abraham (Ibrahim), which both Jews and Christians repeated with profound veneration and who was “the builder of the Ka’ba and author of the rites observed there by every Arab tribe.”. Muir also says that while in Syria the Prophet must have observed what is called “the national profession of Christianity” there. As a result of all these, concludes Muir, Muhammad (p.b.h.) thought of acting the part of a Christian bishop, “but on a still wider and more catholic scale.”5
Having said this, and being obviously aware of the differences between the teachings of the Qur’an and the articles of the Christian faith, Muir attempts to explain the position by saying that the Prophet derived his information from the “orthodox party”, the “ecclesiastics and monks of Syria”, and thus he obtained a “distorted” and faulty view of Christianity, particularly with regard to Mary and Jesus.6 Had he been given a correct view, observes Muir, he would have become a Christian instead of founding a new religion. Muir therefore laments that “the misnamed catholicism of the Empire thus grievously misled the master mind of the age, and through him eventually so great a part of the eastern world. “7 The views thus advanced by Muir were taken over and repeated by subsequent writers. Thus Margoliouth, for instance, builds upon Muir’s suggestions and says
1 Ibid., 20 (1st edition, II, 18).
2 Ibid., 15-16 (1st edition, II, 7-8).
3 Ibid, 34 ( 1st edition, II, 49-50).
4 Ibid .. (1st edition, II, 52).
5 Ibid.,16 (1st edition, II, 8-9).
6 Ibid., 20-21 (1st edition, II, 19-20).
28 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
that in the course of his trading activities Muhammad (p. b. h.), picked up information, most of it from “conversations (e.g.) at wine-shop or from listening to story-tellers” among whom were “Jewish dealers who traded in clothes.”1 From such intercourse with the Arabian Jews and Christians the Prophet is said to have “derived a sort of biblical phraseology”.2 Also, he is said to have been so engrossed in business that “traces of this calling are found all over his Sacred Book.”3 Like Muir, Margoliouth also says that Muhammad (p.b.h.) got the idea of a Prophet, of divine revelation, of a Book, etc. from the Jews and Christians and that the Prophet’s knowledge about these two systems was faulty and “superficial”.4 Margoliouth adds, however, that as time went on the Prophet’s knowledge about the biblical stories improved. There “is no question”, writes Margoliouth, “that as the Koran grew in bulk, its knowledge of biblical stories became somewhat more accurate: and though this greater degree of accuracy may have at times been due to the Prophet’s memory, it is more likely that he took such opportunities as offered of acquiring more information. “5
But while Muir laments that a distorted view of Christianity prevented Muhammad’s (p.b.h.) ultimate conversion to that system, Margoliouth seeks to explain that outcome in terms of the Prophet’s design and personal ambition. The part which the Prophet played, says Margoliouth, was “present to his mind for many years, suggested by conversations with Jews and Christian and Parsees”, all of whom had “one thing which the Arabs had not: a legislator, who had acted as divine commissioner … Yet each nation ought to have a leader. Here then was an opportunity for a Prophet. “6
Echoing Muir’s view that the Prophet observed and was impressed by the “national profession of Christianity” in Syria, Margoliouth says that when he (the Prophet) visited countries where “the whole population was subjected to the law of God” he was convinced of the backwardness of his own country and of the need for reform which he decided to carry out by assuming the role of a prophet and by means of a revelation which he saw as “an indispensable preliminary of progress.”7 He did not think of either Judaism or Christianity because, according
1 MARGOLIOUTH, op.cit., 60.
2 Ibid., 58-59.
3 Ibid.,69. Here Margoliouth refers to C.C.Torrey’s Commercial-Tbeologica/ Term.r in the Koran, Leiden, 1892, without specifying the author and title of the work.
4 MARGOLIOUTH, op.cit., 76-77.
5 Ibid., 106.
6 Ibid., 73.
7 Ibid., 74.
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 29
to Margoliouth , Christianity “could not be dissociated from subjection to the suzerainty of Byzantium and Mohammed was far too great a patriot to contemplate the introduction of a foreign yoke.” Also, even if converted to “an established religion, he could not have pretended to such knowledge of it as older members possessed. “1 Hence he decided to reproduce the role of Moses or Jesus. “Being a cool-headed student of human nature”, further states Margoliouth, Muhammad (p.b.h.) could see that “they were men, and what they had done he could do. “2 His plans are said to have been facilitated by the prevailing differences between the Jews and the Christians and between the latter’s rival sects, and at Madina he “claimed that it was his mission to put them right where they disagree . “3
These Muir-Margoliouth assumptions have been adopted and developed by Watt. Thus, he deals rather elaborately with what he calls the “relation of Islamic teachings to Judaeo-Christian sources” and states that “one of the theses” of his book, Muhammad at Mecca, is that the greatness of Islam is largely due to a “fusion” of some Arab elements “with certain
Judaeo-Christian conceptions. “4 He sets the theme on a wider plane and speaks about the influence of these “sources” upon the then Arabs in general, or rather on Muhammad’s (p.b.h.) environment, as well as upon him individually.5 Like his predecessors Watt holds that the concept of monotheism was derived mainly from Christianity and Judaism. Though not excluding the possibility of influence from the monotheistic groups like the banfjs he discounts any “movement” as such towards monotheism6 and asserts that the “premonitions of monotheism among the Arabs must have been due mainly to Christian and Jewish influences.”7 Like Muir and Margoliouth, again, Watt traces these influences through the Arabs’ contact with the Jews and Christians in Arabia and with the Byzantine Empire, which was Christian and “whose power and civilization they grearly admired”, and also Abyssinia and even Al-I;Iirah, which “was an outpost of the East Syrian or Nestorian Church.”8 Watt also repeats the Muir-Margoliouth assumption that the idea of prophethood was derived from Judaism and Christianity. The “idea that Hud and Salih were
I Ibid., 77.
2 Ibid .,78.
3 Ibid., 76-77.
4 WATT,M.at M.,23.
5 Ibid., 25-29 and Excursus B, pp. 158-161; and Muhammad’s Mecca 36-38.
6 M. at M., 28; Muhammad’s Mecca, 37-38.
7 M. at M., 27.
30 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
prophets to ‘Ad and Thamud”, writes Watt, “was probably a pre-Qur’anic instance of the application of the Judaeo-Christian conception of prophethood.”1
Having thus spoken of the “indirect environmental influence” Watt comes to the question of “direct” influence and says that there is “good evidence” showing that the Prophet had a “monotheist informant”.2 This “good evidence” he seeks in the Qur’anic statement, 16:103, which, it may be mentioned here, is cited also by Noldeke and Margoliouth to suggest that the Prophet had an informant.3 This passage gives a lie to the unbelievers’ allegation to the same effect by pointing out that the person they hinted at spoke a foreign tongue, but the Qur’an is in clear Arabic.4 Watt does not, however, cite Margoliouth. Instead, he adopts C.C. Torrey’s peculiar interpretation of the passage5 saying that it shows that the Prophet did not deny having a human teacher but only insisted that the teaching came from heaven. 6
Proceeding on the basis of that assumption Watt next develops what Margoliouth says about the supposed growth in accuracy in the Prophet’s knowledge of Biblical stories with the passage of time. Watt cites some seven Qur’anic passages, which we shall presently notice, to show what he calls the “growth in accuracy of the acquaintance with Old Testament stories, particularly with regard to Abraham and Lot.”7 He adds that “there are a great many” of such examples of growth in accuracy, without of course citing them, and says that in view of these it is difficult for the “western critic” to resist the conclusion that the Prophet’s “knowledge of these stories was growing and that therefore he was getting information from a person or persons familiar with them. “8 In this connection Watt further refers to the Qur’anic passage 11:51 which says that neither the Prophet nor his people previously knew the stories of the Prophets revealed to him. Watt says that the “embarrassment caused by such a verse to those who want to uphold the sincerity of Muhammad” (p.b.h.) could be resolved by supposing that he did not make any distinction between the “story” and the “teaching” implicit in it and by interpreting the term nuhi (We reveal) occurring in
I Ibid., 28.
2 Ibid., 27 and Excursus B, p. 159.
3 Margoliouth, op.cit., 106-107.
4 The passage runs as:;.,.-‘-1’/ 0U l.i. J ~!<,11 0J.l>J, c>.iJI 0U
5 C.C.Torrey, The Jewish Foundation of islam, op.cit., 43f.
6 Watt, M. at M., Excursus, B, p. 159.
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 31
the passage to mean we “cause to understand the teaching implicit in it or the significance of’, etc.1
Reiterating the same views in his latest work and further citing the Qur’anic statement in 25:4 Watt states that there might have been more than one informant for Muhammad (p.b.h.) and that the Qur’an “does not deny that Muhammad was receiving information in this way” but that it merely insists that the material thus received “could not have been Qur’an, since a foreigner could not express himself in clear Arabic.”
Watt thus once again states that what the Prophet received from his informants “would be factual knowledge” but the “meaning and interpretation of the facts” came to him “by the usual process of revelation. “2
Further, Watt recapitulates and expands the Muir-Margoliouth assumption that the Prophet had obtained certain distorted and mistaken notions of these two religions and those notions were reproduced in the Qur’an. Avoiding Muir’s insinuation against the “orthodox party” and the Syrian Church Watt says that “the particular Jewish and Christian groups which influenced the Arabs” had “many strange ideas”. Examples of such strange notions, asserts Watt, are the Qur’anic statement which “suggests that the Trinity consists of Father, Son and Mary”. This statement, emphasizes Watt, “is doubtless a criticism of some nominally Christian Arabs who held this view”. Watt further states that “much of the detail” from the Jewish side also was incorporated in the Qur’an, but this came “not from the sacred scripture but from secondary sources of various types.”3
The same thing he repeats in his latest work saying that “some people in Mecca wrongly supposed certain beliefs to be held by Jews and Christians”, namely, “that Christians took Jesus and Mary to be two gods apart from God, and that ‘Uzayr [Ezra] to be the son of God.”4 These Qur’anic statements, asserts Watt, “are palpably false” because “these were beliefs held by the Meccans” and because, according to him, “it was not essential for God’s purposes that false ideas of this sort should be corrected”, for He addressed the Arabs “in terms of their existing beliefs” and the Qur’anic message could be communicated “without correcting these beliefs.”5 Elaborating the same assumption Watt states that the
2 Muhammad’s Mecca, 45.
3 M. at M., 27-28.
4 Muhammad’s Mecca, 2, 45.
5 Ibid., 2, 44.
32 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
Qur’an addresses the Arabs in the first instance, speaking “in terms of their world picture”, including even points in which that picture was “mistaken”. In support of this statement he refers to the prevailing notion of the earth being a flat space and quotes some seven Qur’anic passages to show that that mistaken notion was reproduced in the Qur’an.1
Again, like Muir and Margoliouth, more particularly the latter, Watt states that Muhammad (p.b.h.), having observed the unsatisfactory social condition of his land and people, and having been convinced of the need for bringing about a reformation, thought that this could be done by means of a revelation or religion. As Watt puts it, Muhammad (p.b.h.) “may even have decided that this [unsatisfactory state] could be got rid of by some form of religious belief. “2 Echoing Margoliouth in a remarkable way, Watt further suggests that Muhammad (p.b.h.) launched a new monotheistic movement in order to avoid the political implication of adopting Judaism or Christianity; “for Christianity was linked with the Byzantine and the Abyssinian empires, and Judaism had support in the Persian empire. In effect Islam gave the Arabs a monotheism independent of the empires.”3 Watt winds up his discussion by adopting in effect Bell’s observation that for “the study of the life of Muhammad it is hardly necessary” to delineate the relative importance of Jewish and Christian influences; for, he admits, “many details are disputed”. “The main necessity”, he emphasizes, “is to realize that such things were ‘in the air’ before the Qur’an came to Muhammad and were part of the preparation of himself and of his environment for his
Thus do the orientalists advance identical views and arguments. In general, these arguments revolve round the following five assumptions:
(1) The circumstantial or environmental influence of Judaism and Christianity;
(2) The alleged specific instances of Mul).ammad’s (p.b.h.) contact with particular Christian individuals;
(3) The supposed Qur’anic evidence about his informant or informants; (4) The supposed gradual growth in accuracy in the Qur’an’s narration of the biblical stories; and
(5) The alleged reproduction of contemporary scientific errors in the Qur’an.
1 Ibid., 2, 5-7. The Qur’anic passages quoted are: 2:22, 13:3; 20:53; 51:47-48; 71:19-20; 78:6-7 and 79:27-33. See below for discussion on these passages.
2 Ibid., 51.
3 Ibid., 38.
4 M. at M., 29
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANI1Y 33
The following is a discussion of the first four categories of arguments. The fifth, the alleged errors in the Qur’an, is dealt with separately in the next chapter.
III. ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCE IN GENERAL
It is an acknowledged fact that there were Jews and Christians in Arabia; the former mainly at Yathrib (Madina) and the latter mainly at Najran. So far as Makka, the birth-place of the Prophet and the immediate scene of his activities was concerned, there were only a few Christians of humble social and intellectual status, being either slaves or petty retailers, and mostly immigrants. One or two original inhabitants of Makka like ‘Uthman ibn al-Huwayrith and Waraqah ibn Nawfal had turned Christians, the former out of personal or political considerations, and the latter as a result of his search for a better faith. Also the Makkans conducted trading operations with such countries as Syria and Abyssinia where Christianity prevailed. It is therefore quite understandable that the knowledgeable section of the Makkan community, including Mul).ammad (p.b.h.) had been aware of both Judaism and Christianity as systems of religion and did doubtless also know something of the common beliefs and practices of the votaries of those religions. Indeed all the three of our scholars, Muir, Margoliouth and Watt, are at one in stating, after all their arguments, that Muhammad’s knowledge of Christianity was at best second-hand, “superficial” and erroneous. Margoliouth even states that one reason why Muhammad (p.b.h.) did not embrace either of these religions was that he realized he could not pretend to such knowledge of it as its older members possesses. Now, this being obviously the most that the orientalists think was the level of Muhammad’s supposedly acquired knowledge of the two religions, the question that naturally suggests itself to the general reader is: Is it reasonable to assume that a person of Muhammad’s (p.b.h.) intelligence and common sense, as on all hands he is admitted to have been endowed with, would proceed to propound a new religion and challenge the correctness of both the prevailing systems of Judaism and Christianity on the basis of a mere hearsay and superficial knowledge of these systems of faiths? The orientalists, although they spare no pains to prove ambition and preparations on the Prophet’s part to play the role he did, would just not address themselves to this simple and natural question. The inherent weakness and inconsistency in the orientalists’ approach lies in the fact that they suggest , on the one hand, that the Prophet was ambitious and therefore careful enough to avoid the political
34 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
implications of embracing either Judaism or Christianity and, on the other, that he was careless enough to proceed to found a new religion by picking up information from bazaar gossips and Jewish story-tellers at wine shops!
The fact is that it is as naive to say that Islam is an amalgam of second-hand information about Judaism and Christianity with some Arab elements, as it is absurd to suggest that the Prophet was not cognizant of the two religious systems. There is no doubt that the concepts of prophethood, revelation and of Allah as Supreme Lord were known to the pre-Islamic Arabs. The existence of these concepts does not, however, ipso facto prove they were derived from the Jews, although the latter undoubtedly possessed these concepts as well. In so far as the concept of prophethood is concerned, the memory of Ibrahim as Prophet and founder of the Ka’ba which the Arabs universally cherished, and the Abrahamic rites like Hajj or pilgrimage to the Ka ‘ba were unquestionably pre-Jewish and pre-Christian. Similarly the concept of Allah as Supreme Lord was known to the pre-Islamic Arabs independently of any Jewish or Christian influence. The concept was in fact a remnant of the teachings of Ibrahim which had spread in Arabia before the coming into existence of either Judaism or Christianity. So was the concept of banfj as a worshipper of one God, which also finds mention in the Qur’an. The orientalists of course recognize the existence of the concept of Allah among the pre-Islamic Arabs; and of late Watt pays special attention to this point.1 But while quoting a number of Qur’anic passages that clearly show the existence of this concept of Allah among the pre-Islamic Arabs, and while quoting Teixidor’s study of the inscriptions to show that belief in a high or supreme God was common throughout the Semitic Near East in the Greco-Roman period2 and thus trying to illustrate the Prophet’s indebtedness to the prevailing ideas, Watt is very careful in not tracing this concept of a· “high God” in any way to the so-called Judaeo-Christian influence. Nor does he explain how this particular concept came into existence and continued to survive among the polytheistic Arabs. He of course suggests, like Margoliouth, that the “archaic” religion or paganism was in decline because, according to him, of a growing awareness of the powerlessness of the gods and goddesses. 3 Also, following others, he attempts to explain the composition of the word Allah.4 Yet, neither
1 WATT, Muhammad’s Mecca, 31-36.
2 Ibid., 35, quoting Javier Teixidor, The Pagan God: Popular Religion in the Greco-Roman Period, Princeton, 1977, pp. 17, 161.
3 WATT, M. at M., 23-24; Muhammad’s Mecca, 35. See also MARGOLIOUTH, op.,it., 24.
4 WATT, M. at M., 26-27. See also Hitti, op.dt., 100-101.
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 35
this nor the supposed decline in paganism does in itself explain the emergence of the concept of Allah as “high God”.
As regards the concept of monotheism the Qur’an, and for that matter the Prophet, accused the contemporary Arabs, Jews and Christians of having deviated from the original teachings of their prophets and of having degenerated into polytheism. There is thus no question of his having taken over the concept of monotheism from the Jews and the Christians, because he so unequivocally controverted and rejected what they said to be the teachings of their scriptures. In fact, even a cursory glance at the Qur’an unmistakably brings out two undeniable facts. First, the Qur’an does not claim any originality in the sense of presenting a new religion. It claims merely to revive and fulfil the same message which it maintains -and here is its originality -Allah has given to all the Prophets throughout the ages and to every people. More specifically, it claims its teachings to be the same as those of Prophets Ibrahim, Musa and ‘Isa (p.b.t.), about all of whom it speaks in glowing terms. Second, it very uncompromisingly rejects and denounces the polytheistic beliefs and practices of the contemporary Arabs and also of the Jews and Christians. These two-fold notes of the Qur’an are just the reverse of what the orientalists suggest. They say that Muhammad (p.b.h.) had no first-hand knowledge of their scriptures. He had neither read them himself, nor was any Arabic version of them available at the time. The Qur’an, and for that matter the Prophet, emphatically say, on the other hand, that their teachings are essentially the same as those of the original scriptures of the Jews and the Christians. Secondly, the orientalists insist that Muhammad (p.b.h.) derived his knowledge from those of his contemporary Jews and Christians whom he happened to meet. The Qur’an, and therefore the Prophet, insist that the contemporary Jews and Christians were mistaken and misguided and had deviated from the teachings of their original scriptures, particularly in respect of monotheism.
The only conclusion which any reasonable and impartial observer can draw from this situation is, first, that Muhammad (p.b.h.) did not make up his teachings by picking up information from here and there; for in that case he would have feigned originality, would not have traced his teachings to the previous scriptures or would have at least so chosen his audience as were not likely to detect the sources of his information. Secondly, he had not obtained his information from his contemporaries because he found fault with them and set about to reform
36 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
them and to bring them back to the original teachings of the previous prophets. Thirdly, since, while saying that his teachings were the same as those of the previous scriptures, he at the same time stated that he had not read any of them, and since the orientalists also agree that he had not read any of those scriptures, his source of knowledge must have been something else than either a first-hand perusal of those scriptures or a second-hand knowledge of them obtained from his contemporaries.
Some of the orientalists, particularly Watt, of course suggest a third possibility, that of there being a monotheist informant or informants for the Prophet. This assumption raises more questions than it solves. The so-called Qur’anic evidence on which this assumption is based would be examined presently. It may only be noted here that the Qur’an, far from indicating that the Prophet had any human informant, does just the opposite thing of denying such allegation made by the unbelievers.
It has also been suggested, particularly by Margoliouth, that the Prophet, having got the name of Ibrahim from the Jews and the Christians, traced his teachings to him in order to claim precedence over both Judaism and Christianity. Further, it has been said that the Prophet’s denunciation of the Jews and the Christians began after his break with the former at Madina. These two suggestions are manifestly untenable. The Abrahamic tradition, the Ka’ba and the rites connected with them existed there for ages before the Prophet’s birth. If he had invented the tradition and thus related his teachings to Ibrahim, he (the Prophet) would have been simply ridiculed not only by his adversaries but also by his followers. Secondly, the rejection of the concept of sonship or fathership of God and the assertion that both the Jews and the Christians had deviated from the teachings of their original scriptures had been very distinctly made in the Makkan surahs of the Qur’an, long before the migration to Madina and the subsequent development of enmity with the Jews of that place.
The truth is that it was impossible to get an impression of monotheism by any amount of observation of and acquaintance with the Judaism and the Christianity of the day. Even a perusal of the extant scriptures would have hardly conveyed such an impression. The God in the Old Testament is depicted as essentially a tribal god, openly partial to the children of Israel. Such a god could scarcely attract the imagination, far less the adoration, of a non-Israelite population. The New Testament, on the other hand, obscured and blurred the concept of One
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 37
God by inextricably tagging it with the manifestly difficult and admittedly mysterious doctrine of the Trinity which conceived God not in easily understandable Unity but in “God the Father”, “God the Son” and “God the Holy Ghost”, these being not distinct qualities of a single entity but three distinct and separate entities. Moreover, the doctrine of incarnation on which the concept of “God the Son” rests is essentially no different from the same doctrine of the Hindus. Like the Christians, a modern Hindu, while acknowledging the existence of many gods and goddesses and a sort of Trinity in the existence of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva (Trideva), would equally assiduously assert that his sacred texts do in the ultimate analysis speak of One and Only True God,1 though a non-Hindu finds it difficult to accept that Hinduism inculcates monotheism. And so far as the practices of the Jews and the Christians of the time were concerned,. these were acknowledgedly beset with the most debasing corruption and superstitions and as such they were the farthest removed from being model monotheists. Muir indirectly admits this fact when he squarely decries what he calls the “misnamed catholicism” of the Empire and the “orthodox party” of the Syrian church. The situation indeed continued to deteriorate for several centuries after the emergence of Islam. In fact, the various reform movements in Christianity, particularly the Cluniac Movement, the Iconoclastic Movement and the Reformation started by Martin Luther bear an eloquent testimony to the depth of corruption and superstition into which the Christians and the Christianity of the day had degenerated. In a way, all these reform movements and the subsequent emphasis on monotheism, in spite of the adherence to the doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ, are by and large an impact of the uncompromising monotheism enunciated and propagated by Islam. In any case, so far as the state of Christianity in the 7th-8th century Syria and the neighbouring lands were concerned, it was more likely to repel than to attract any outside observer. Truly has it been said that the “self-conceit” which deludes one to assume that the spectacle of “national” profession of Christianity in Syria impressed the “young reformer” Muhammad (p.b.h.) has no foundation in historical fact.2
1 See for instance the modem Vedandists’ views, particularly the views expressed by Devendranath Thakur and his associates in the mid-nineteenth century, M. M. ALI, The Bengali Reaction to Christian
Missionary Activities, 1833-1857, Chittagong, 1956, chapters II and III.
2 HUART, “Une nouvelle source du Koran”, Journal Asiatique, 1924, p. 129. See also George Sale, Observations Historique et Critique sur le Mahometisme, 68-71.
38 TIIE QUR’AN AND TIIE ORIENTALISTS
V. THE ALLEGED INSTANCES OF CONTACT
WITH JUDAEO-CHRISTIAN EXPERTS
The orientalists emphasize the well-known facts of the Prophet’s two journeys to Syria, once in company with his uncle when he was about twelve years of age, and again as leader of Khadijah’s (r. a.) caravan when about twenty-five years of age. On both these occasions he is said to have come across a Christian monk, Bahira on the first occasion and Nestorius on the second. As already pointed out, doubts and improbabilities surround these traditions and the orientalists themselves, particularly Muir, reject the stories as “puerile”. Nevertheless he assumes that Muhammad (p.b.h.) “lost no opportunity of enquiring into the practices and tenets of the Syrian Christians or conversing with the monks and clergy who fell in his way.” The same assumption is made in a more exaggerated way by Margoliouth; while Watt also subscribes to the view saying: “Muhammad had presumably some contact with Christians on his trading journeys to Syria.”1
It must be emphasized that the trade journeys were made to a predominantly or wholly Christian land. There is thus no question of not making any contact with Christians. What is necessary to note is that there is no reference whatsoever in the sources to the Prophet’s having taken advantage of those journeys to seek information about Christianity from any particular monk or any Christian individual. Even the doubtful accounts of meeting with Bahira and Nestorius speak only of the enquiries and opinions of those two individuals, and not at all of the Prophet himself. Also, on the occasion of the reported meeting with Bahira the Prophet was a mere boy of about twelve and therefore unlikely to engage in any serious academic discussion. Nor could the nature of the journeys afford him any leisure to seek diversion in such educational exercise. If he had made any such educational contact, it would have not escaped unnoticed by the scores of others of the leading men of Makka who had accompanied him on both the occasions and many of whom subsequently opposed his mission. Yet, we find from the Qur’an that the unbelieving Quraysh leaders accused the Prophet of having allegedly received instructions only from a foreigner who happened to be in Makka and further alleged that a group of other people, also presumably in the city, composed the text of the revelation for him and read it unto him morning and evening. Had Muhammad (p.b.h.) contacted during his trade journeys to Syria any Christian monk or layman for obtaining information or even for casual
1 WATT, Muhammad’s Mecca, 36.
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 39
discussion, the Quraysh opponents, many of whom had accompanied him to Syria, would not have failed to make the most of it in their attack against him. That no such allegation was made by them is a decisive proof that he had not sought information about Christianity or Judaism from anyone in the course of his journeys to Syria.
The second so-called instance is the tradition relating to Quss ibn Sa’ida to which Muir refers specifically and Margoliouth alludes indirectly. It is stated that the Prophet heard Quss preach at the ‘Uakaz fair1• This tradition is unanimously classified as spurious and is rejected as such.2 Specially, one of its narrators, MuQ.ammad ibn al-Ballaj al-Lakhmi, is condemned as a confirmed liar (kadhab).3 And even according to this spurious report, the Prophet was only one of the audience and did not make any enquiries as such with the speaker. The orientalists’ use of this report without any indication of its weakness and untrustworthiness is indicative of how such materials are uncritically accepted and cited to support a particular assumption.
Similarly weak is the “instance” of Zayd ibn f:larithah of which Muir makes special mention. It is to be observed that Muir tactfully refrains from saying directly that Zayd or his parents were Christians, but indirectly introduces the subject by saying that Christianity had made progress among Zayd’s ancestors and suggests that Zayd, though a boy when sold as a slave, must have remembered something of Christianity and must have communicated that knowledge to his foster father Mu}:lammad (p.b.h.). Nothing could be a more far-fetched inference than this; for whatever the boy Zayd had learnt about Christianity and of that whatever he could have managed to remember after his disconnection with that system for at least a quarter of a century, it could be of very little use to any serious enquirer and would-be-reformer. Moreover, had Zayd acted in any way as teacher in Christianity for the Prophet and had the latter formulated his doctrines on the basis of the knowledge imparted to him by Zayd, the latter would surely have no genuine faith in the Prophet’s mission and would not have followed him so dedicatedly till his death.
1 The tradition is recorded in a number of works. See for instance ‘ABU AL-QASIM SuLAYMAN IBN AHMAD AL-TABARANI, AI-MUJAM al-Kabir (ed. ‘ABD AL-MAJID AL-SALAFI), XII, 88-89; NUR AL-DIN AL-HAITHAMI, Majma’ al-Zawa’id wa Manba’ al-Fawi’id, IX, Beirut, 1986/1406, pp. 421-422; AL-BAYHAQI, Dala’il al-Nubuwwah, I, 453, 454-456 and 457-465.
2 See for instance ‘ABU AL-FARAJ IBN AL-JAWZI, AI-Mawdu’at, I, 213-214; AL-SUYUTI, AI-La’ali ai-Masnu’ah, I, 183-1192; ‘ABU AL-
HASAN ‘ALI IBN MUHAMMAD IBN ‘IRAQ AL-KANANI (907-963), Tanzih al-Shari’ah al-Marfu’ah ‘an al-‘ahadith al-Shani’ah al-Mawdu’ah, I, 3rd impression, Beirut, 1981, pp. 241-243.
3 See for instance AL-DHAHABI, Mizan al-I’tidal Fi Naqd al-Rijal (ed. ‘ALI MUHAMMAD AL-BAJJAWI), III, No. 7351, p. 509; Al-Isabah, III, No. 7349, pp. 279-280.
40 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
As regards the instance of Waraqah ibn Nawfal, great emphasis has indeed been placed on it by the orientalists. There is no doubt that Khaclijah (r.a.) took the Prophet, shortly after his receipt of the first revelation, to Waraqah for consultation. This fact, as already pointed out, shows on the one hand that the Prophet did not entertain any ambition or intention to play the role of a Prophet. On the other hand it shows that on his part Waraqah also considered him a sincere and unpretentious person. Had the Prophet previously received instruction in Christianity from Waraqah, he would have formed a very different opinion about the former. In fact, except for this meeting, there is no indication in the sources of the Prophet’s having previously consulted Waraqah on any subject, though under the circumstances it is reasonable to assume that the two knew each other from close quarters. The same reason which has been indicated above in connection with the Prophet’s journey to Syria and his alleged acquisition of Christian knowledge in the course of that journey may be adduced the more strongly in the present case. Had the Prophet been in the habit of receiving instruction in Christianity from Waraqah, that would have formed a very strong point in the Quraysh leaders’ attack on and criticism of the Prophet.
IV. THE SUPPOSED QUR’ANIC EVIDENCE
ABOUT A MONOTHEIST INFORMANT OR INFORMANTS
This brings us to the subject of the Qur’anic statement about the Makkan leaders’ allegation that the Prophet received instruction from others. It is mainly on this allegation of the unbelievers that Watt and his predecessors have based the assumption of a monotheist informant or informants for the Prophet. In doing so, however, Watt, or rather C. C. Torrey, from whom he has taken his cue, has grossly misinterpreted the Qur’anic texts. To see how this has been done it is necessary to quote in original the couple of passages cited by Watt in support of his assumption. These passages together with Watt’s translation, stand as follows:
~<,If’ 0U i,l., J ~~ …,Ji 0 J~ (.Slli 0U _A ~ WI 0} ~ ~~ ~ …Lil J
“We know they say : It is only a person teaches him. The tongue of the one they hint at is foreign, but this (the Qur’an) is (in) a clear Arabic tongue.” [16:103] (Muhammad’s Mecca, 45).
J_.; ~ 4-,:::5″1 .J,}JI.j1 _).Lll_,.ili J …. 0Jf”‘l~ i} ~ -..;\.>.( J olpl d;i ‘}ii,l., 011)_;5′ .,:r..UI Jli J ~~) •.fv. ~
“The unbelievers say, This is only a falsehood he invented; other people helped him with it… They said, Old-World fables, he has had written; they are dictated to him morning and evening.” [25:4-5] (Ibid.)
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 41
Watt, following Torrey,1 interprets these statements, particularly the first, saying “that Muhammad does not deny having a human teacher but only insists that the teachings came down from heaven.”2 Elaborating the same statement Watt writes in his latest work that “the Qur’an does not deny that Muhammad was receiving information in this way” but only “insists that any material he received could not have been the Qur’ an, since a foreigner could not express himself in clear Arabic”. Hence what he was given by the informant “would be factual knowledge, whereas the meaning and interpretation of the facts would come to him by the usual process of revelation. “3
This interpretation of Watt (and Torrey) is totally wrong. It is also an attempt on Watt’s part to fit in these texts, particularly the first passage, his notion of revelation (wahy) which he describes “prophetic intuition”, a form of the Prophet’s own “consciousness”, something in the nature of “meaning” and “interpretation” distinct from the facts and words, etc. That notion of Watt’s will be discussed when we come to the subject of revelation.4 Here it should be noted that the most that can be made out of the first passage (16:103) is that there was a foreign person at Makka who had presumably had some knowledge of either Christianity or Judaism and who happened to be an acquaintance of the Prophet. Obviously this fact was taken advantage of by the Prophet’s opponents to allege that he was being “taught” by that person to produce what was being given as revelation. The Qur’an refers to this allegation by way of denying it and giving a lie to it. By no stretch of the imagination could it be suggested that the Qur’an does not deny the fact of receipt of information from the person alluded to and that it merely “insists” that the material thus received “could not have been the Qur’ an, since a foreigner could not express himself in clear Arabic.” This latter phrase, “could not express himself in clear Arabic”, is Watt’s own interpretation or “tendential” shaping. The clear statement of the Qur’an is that the tongue of the person insinuated is ‘ajami, i.e., “foreign”; and this is a very strong form of denial of the unbelievers’ allegation. But even allowing the twist in meaning given by Watt, does it at all sound logical to say that a foreigner, who could not express himself in clear Arabic, would nonetheless be able to instruct the Prophet, who by all accounts did not know any foreign language, in the details and subtleties of Christianity and Judaism?
1 C. C. TORREY, The Jewish Foundation eft:, op.dt, 43ff.
2 WATT, M. at M., 159.
3 WATT, Muhammad’s Mecca, 45.
4 Infra, chaps. VI and VII.
42 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
In fact it is grossly misleading and somewhat inconsistent to say, as Torrey and Watt do, that Muhammad (p.b.h.) does not deny having a “human teacher but only insists that the teaching came down from heaven.” If the insistence was that “the teaching came down from heaven”, does it not constitute a denial of a human teacher? But the insistence was not simply on that the teaching came down from heaven. It was more strongly and consistently stated that the “text” of the revelation also came from the heaven. In fact the main challenge of the Qur’an was and has been to any one to come forward with a text similar to any of its surahs. The unbelievers’ allegation also had reference to the preparation of the text of the revelation by the person insinuated; not with regard to the mere fact or information contained in the revelation. The term yu ‘allimu in contemporary Arabic parlance meant not simply imparting information but communicating a text which was usually committed to memory, transmission of knowledge· being at that time almost wholly oral. And because the allegation had reference to the text of the revelation, the denial of it is made all the stronger by simply pointing out the utter unreasonableness of the insinuation, that is, by pointing out that the person insinuated was simply incapable of producing a clear Arabic text. The denial contains also an element of ridiculing the insinuation. Indeed the nature of the unbelievers’ allegation is more clearly specified in the second passage, 25:4-5, quoted by Watt and to which we shall presently turn our attention.
Watt’s interpretation of the passage 16:103 is wrong in three ways. In the first place, it totally ignores the context which is that it refers to the unbelievers’ allegation for the sake of giving a lie to it.1 This is clear not only from the passage itself but also from its two immediately preceding ‘ayahs, (i.e. 101 and 102). Thus ‘ayah 101 refers to the unbelievers’ allegation that the Prophet was a “forger” and then rebuts it by saying that those who indulged in such allegation did not really know. “They say, thou art a forger; but most of them know not. “2 The same denial is continued and stated in a positive form in ‘ayah 102 which emphasizes that the revelation was truly brought down from “your Lord” by the angel Jibril-“Say, it has been brought down by the Spirit of Holiness Jibril) from your Lord.”3 ‘ayah 103, which is quoted by Watt, is merely a continuation of the same topic of
1 It may be noted that Watt and his preceptor Bell tend to belittle the context in interpreting a Qur’anic passage by assuming that the unit of revelation was almost always a short passage. But no sudden change of subject-matter, nor the style of language, nor of the form of address from third person to first person, etc., which according to them indicate the disconnection of a particular passage from its preceding or following ‘ayahs, are applicable in the present instance.
2 The text runs as follows: ~ _,..1., ‘! r-” )S1 J< _;.;-.;..;I L.;i l_,lu
3 The text runs as: .!-41 .:.r’ ..r.lill CJJ J) J.i
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 43
the unbelievers’ allegation and the same emphatic denial of it. In fact the expression: “And indeed We know they say” (0}~ ~~ ~ …I..Al J), particularly the particle and pronoun ‘annahum clearly indicate this connection with the previous ‘ayahs. In his interpretation, thus, Watt ignores the context altogether and in effect simply adopts the allegation of the Prophet’s adversaries.
Secondly, Watt and Torrey are mistaken in saying that the Qur’an does not deny what he calls the receipt of information from the foreigner. Leaving aside the context, the ‘ayah 103 itself contains an unmistakable denial in the term yulhiduna. It bears a derogatory sense and a reproach, namely, that of deviation from the truth and the just course, or perversion. All the competent authorities are agreed that ‘ilhad means “falsely stating” or “falsifying”, takdhib (~.150).1 In fact the very verb
yulhiduna occurs at two other places in the Qur’an, namely, 7:180 and 41 :40; and at both these places it clearly means a wrongful and unwarranted ace. Significantly enough, A.J. Arberry in his translation of the Qur’an renders the expression at both the places as blaspheming -“and leave those who blaspheme His names” and “Those who blaspheme Our signs.”3 More important still, the Qur’an itself uses the root-word ‘ilhad in apposition to zulm or injustice at 22:25;4 and A.J. Arberry rightly translates it :”And whosoever purposes to violate it wrongfully” etc.5 Hence, though Watt and Torrey translate the expression at 16:103 as simply “they hint at”, its correct rendering should be “they wrongfully suggest”, “they unjustly hint at”, “they unfairly insinuate”, or some such words. It may further be pointed out that the Arabic equivalent of “they hint at” is yushiruna ‘ila, not yulhiduna ‘ila. Thus the correct meaning of the ‘ayah 16:103 should be: “We indeed know they allege that a human being tutors him. The language of the individual they unjustly insinuate is foreign, while this (the Qur’an) is in clear Arabic”. Thus, far from there being no denial of the allegation, the text of the ‘ayah clearly labels it as an ‘ilhad, an unjust insinuation.
Thirdly, Watt also ignores the decisive rebuttal contained in the last part of the ‘ayah where it is emphasized that the language of the individual they unjustly
1 See for instance IBN AL-‘ KATHIR, AI-Nihiiyah Fi Gharib al-lfadiih wa al-‘Kathir, Pt. IV; AL-ZAMAKHSHARi, AI-Ka.rh.rhdj; II, Beirut, n.d., II, 429; AL-QURTUBI, Tafsir, Pt. VII, 328 and Pt. X, 178 and MUHAMMAD IBN ‘ALi AL-SHAWKANi, Fatq ai~Qadi eft:, Pt.I, second impression, 1964/1383, p. 270 and Pt. III, 195.
2 The two statements run respectively as:
(7:180) J_,.l…, jlS” \… 0J~ .oJL….! J 0JJ….l, 01.iJIIJ;> J
(41:40) ~ 0~ ‘1 Ci41, J 0JJ….l, 01.iJI Jl
‘ AJ.ARBERRY, The Koran, O.U.P. (Oxford Paperbacks), 1986, pp. 165,495.
4 The text runs as: (22-25) ~~ yl~ if .ui; ~ ,wt; …,; ‘-“if J 5 AJ.ARBERRY, op.dt., 336.
44 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
insinuate is “foreign”. There is in fact a two-fold denial of the allegation in this single statement. In the first place, since the person spoke a foreign tongue, it was impossible on the Prophet’s part, who did not know any foreign language, to follow that person’s “instruction” or “exposition”. Secondly, as the Qur’an is in clear Arabic, it could not have been composed for the Prophet by that individual. Thus neither in the sense of communicating what is called “facts” or “information”, nor in the sense of formulating the text and wording of the revelation could the foreigner act as “trainer” for the Prophet. The denial of the unbelievers’ insinuation is continued in the immediately following two ‘qyahs (16:104-105). ‘Ayah 104 warns the unbelievers against the evil consequences of their rejection of the “signs” of Allah, and ‘4Jah 105 retorts by saying: “It is but they who believe not in the signs of Allah that forge falsehood; and they are the ones who lie. “1 Thus 16:103 together with its immediately preceding and following couple of ‘ayahs constitute a distinct unit of which the purport is to deny and rebut the unbelievers’ allegation in a very positive, forceful and unmistakable manner. It should also be noted that there is nothing in these ‘ayahs that warrants the assumption that the unbelievers were referring only to the receipt of information or facts as distinguished from their “meaning” and “interpretation”, as Watt would have us believe. On the contrary, the nature and wording of the denial, especially the emphasis on the language of the person insinuated, make it obvious that the allegation had reference to the Prophet’s inability to produce, by himself, the text of the revelation. This nature of the unbelievers’ allegation is more specifically spelt out in 25:4-5 which Watt quotes and which should be considered along with 16:103. The passage 25:4-5 says that the unbelievers’ allegation was that the Prophet had the text of the revelation, which to them was only “old-world fables”, written for him and dictated to him morning and evening. It is noteworthy that in translating this passage Watt omits the last part of ‘4Jah 4 which reads IJJj J L.J.l;, IJjl>. …w , which means: “they have indeed come up with an injustice and falsehood”. Watt omits to mention this last clause of the ‘4Jah obviously because it contradicts his false suggestion that there is no denial in the Qur’an of the allegation made by the unbelievers.
1 The text runs as: (16:105)
THE AlLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 45
This passage 25:4-5 or·rather this surah is unanimously regarded as earlier than surah 16 in the order of revelation.1 This is all the more reason why the allegation contained in 16:103 should be considered in conjunction with the allegation in 25:4-5; for it would be obviously absurd on the unbelievers’ part first to suggest that the Prophet had the passages of the revelation written for him by others and recited by them to him morning and evening, and then to state that he had only obtained the “facts” and “information” from an individual. It is thus obvious that the allegation of incapacity on the Prophet’s part to produce the revelation by himself had reference not simply to the “facts” and “information” but to the text and language of the revelation as well. But whether one likes to assume that the allegation had reference to facts and information alone, or whether one admits the obvious fact that the allegation had reference to both the facts and the text, the concluding part of ‘qyah 25:4, which Watt chooses to withhold from his readers, characterizes the unbelievers’ allegation as a manifest injustice (~ulm) and a palpable falsehood (zur). Nothing could be a stronger and clearer denial than this.
Watt does mention that the Muslim commentators of the Qur’an are not in agreement about the identity of the person or persons “hinted at” by the unbelievers and give several names, “mostly of Christian slaves” in Makka.2 But what Watt fails to do is that he does not complete the story; nor does he pursue the questions that naturally arise out of his assumption. These questions are: (a) Why, after Muhammad (p.b.h.) had come forward with his claim to Prophethood and after he had passed some time in publicly calling people to believe in his mission -why any knowledgeable Jew or Christian should have come forward to help promote his claim by supplying him with information about Judaism and Christianity? (b) Why the Quraysh leaders, with their power and influence and
1 This surah ( a/-Furqan) is placed between the 38th and the 42nd in the order of revelation by classical Muslim scholars. On the other hand, orientalists like RODWELL and NOLDEKE count it as the 66th in the order of revelation, and MuiR places it as the 74th. Silrah 16 (ai-Na&~. on the other hand, is placed between the 67th and 72nd by the Muslim scholars; while RoDWELL and NOLDEKE place it as the 73rd, MuiR puts it as the 88th and A. JEFFERY as the 46th. (See MUHAMMAD KHALIFA, The Sublime Qur’an and Orienta/ism, London and New York, 1983, Appendix II; and MUHAMMAD ‘IZZAT DARWAZAH, Sirat a/-Ra.ri/1 eft:, I. Beirut, n.d. (1400 H.], pp. 145-149. –
2 Watt, Muhammad’s Mecca, 45. Several names were indeed suggested. The most frequently mentioned name is Jabr, a Christian slave of Al-Fakih ibn al-Mughirah, who had embraced Islam. Ibn Ishaq says that this Jabr was a slave of Banu al-Hadrami. Another name suggested is Ya’ish, a slave of Banu al-Hadrami or Banu al-Mughirah, or of Banu ‘Amir ibn Lu’ayy. It is further said that Banu al-Hadrami had two slaves, one named Jabr and the other named Yasar or Nabt. They were sword-smiths and the Prophet is stated to have occasionally visited them and talked to them. Ibn ‘Abbas says that the person referred to was Bal’am, a Christian who had some knowledge of the Bible. According to Al-Qurtubi, the person alluded to was a Greek Christian at Makka named Maysara. Another report says he was ‘Addas, a servant of ‘Utbah ibn Rabi’ah. A still another view is that he was ‘Abs, a servant of Huwayrith ibn al-‘Uzza. See AL-QURTUBI, Tafsir,X, 177-178 and AL-ZAMAKHSHARI AI-Kashshaf; II, 429.
46 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
their knowledge and control of affairs of the then not very big town of Makka, and especially of their constant watch upon the activities of the Prophet and his acquaintances -why did they not make use of any such “informant” to expose the Prophet’s “pretensions”? (c) If, on the other hand, such “informant” or “informants” were from among the Christian and Jewish converts to Islam, why should they have continued to have faith in the Prophet’s mission and leadership when they found out that he needed their knowledge and help in formulating what he gave out as revelation from Allah? Significantly enough, Watt does not raise these very pertinent questions, let alone answering them. If he did raise the questions, he would have found that the Muslim commentators have made it clear that the Quraysh leaders made the allegation in question because of the existence in the ranks of the Muslims a few Christian converts and that the Makkan leaders did not stop by simply making the allegation. They tortured a number of such converts in order to extort an admission from them to the effect that Mul)ammad (p.b.h.) had obtained help from them. It is further mentioned that one of such victims of oppression, Jabr, when persecuted and tortured to the extreme, gave out the significant reply: “It is not I who teaches Muhammad, rather it is he who teaches and guides me. “1
V. THE SO-CALLED GROWTH IN ACCURACY IN BIBLICAL INFORMATION
Indeed, it does not at all stand to reason that a person of Mul)ammad’s (p.b.h.) intelligence and common sense would obtain from hearsay and secondary sources a perfunctory and superficial knowledge of the contents of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures, which is what the orientalists suggest at the most, and would then proceed, on the basis of that knowledge, to utter doctrines and stories claiming them to be divine revelation. Yet the orientalists not only advance such an absurd proposition but even go further to suggest in effect that the Prophet was simpleton and rash enough to give out as revelation whatever little he learnt at first of a particular Old-Testament story and subsequently modified or improved upon it as he learnt more of it. Thus, citing a number of Qur’anic passages relating to Ibrahim and Lut (p.b.t.) which will be considered presently and which he thinks show “the growth in accuracy of the acquaintance with Old-Testament stories” Watt concludes that “Muhammad’s knowledge of these stories was
1 AL-QUR~UBi, Tafsir, X, 177.
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 47
growing and that therefore he was getting information from a person or persons familiar with them.”1
The passages cited by Watt are 37:135 C; 26:171 E(D); 27:58 E(D); 7:81 D-E; 15:60 DE; 1:83 E+ and 29:32 E+. It may be noted that Watt follows Flugel’s numbering of the ‘qyahs which differs slightly from the current and standard numbering; but there is no difficulty in identifying the passages by looking at the meaning. He does not quote the passages in original, nor does he give their translation. Also, while citing only one ‘qyah of each surah he evidently has in view a number of them relating to the topic. The letters placed beside each ‘ayah number are, as Watt mentions, indicative of Bell’s dating of the passages, C standing for Makkan, E for early Madinan and E + for Madinan period. 2
It may be noted at the outset that the assumption of “growth in accuracy” is based essentially upon the above mentioned dating of the passages. But this dating is acknowledged to be only “provisional”3 and Watt himself entertains doubts about its accuracy4. Moreover, in his latest work he discards Bell’s dating in favour of R. Blachere’s which closely follows that of Noldeke.5 Also the way in which two letters indicating two different periods, sometimes one in brackets, are placed beside an ‘ayah, is confusing. It should also be noted that all the passages cited are counted as Makkan by the classical Muslim scholars. In any case, an assumption of gradual growth in accuracy based upon a system of dating about the accuracy of which the author himself is in doubt and which he discards in his latest work is hazardous and misleading.
Apart from the question of dating, however, the passages cited by Watt to prove his view themselves do not really sustain the theory of “growth in accuracy” as such. Thus, the first point which Watt attempts to make is that in the two first mentioned passages (37:135 and 26:171) the member of Lut’s “party” not saved is “an old woman”, in all the other passages it is his wife. This statement of Watt’s is not correct and is clearly a misunderstanding of the two passages in question. The statement at both the places starts with ‘ilia, “except”, which shows that it is merely a continuation of what precedes in the passage. It is to be noted that in the ‘qaah preceding at each place the material term is ‘ahl. Hence the meaning at both the places is that all of Lufs ‘ahl except “an old
‘ WATT, M. at M., 159 (Excursus B).
2 Ibid., IX.
4 WATT, “The dating of the Qur’an: A review of Richard Bell’s theories”.
J.R.A.S., 1957, pp. 46-56 (especially pp. 54-65)
5 WATT, Muhammad’s Mecca, 4.
48 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
woman” were saved. The primary meaning of ‘ahl is “family”, even “wife”; while in a secondary or extended sense it may mean “people” or “inhabitants”. This secondary meaning is clearly inadmissible here; for it is obviously not the intention of the passages in question to say that all of Lufs people were saved except an old woman. Nor could it be suggested that among all those of Lufs people who were punished and destroyed, there was only one old woman. The obvious meaning of the two consecutive ‘ayahs at each of the two passages (37:134-135 and 26:170-171) is that all the members of Lufs family were saved except “an old woman”. Thus at both the places Lufs relationship with her is expressed in an indirect way. The term “old woman” is used here out of disapproval of her unbelief, not out of an ignorance of her relationship with Lut. In all the other places, however, the relationship is expressed directly and explicitly. There is thus no case of inaccuracy in the first two passages, nor of “growth in accuracy” in the other five passages.
Similarly ill-conceived is Watt’s second point. He says that in the above mentioned passages there is “no awareness of the connexion between Abraham and Lot”; whereas in the other passages “there is explicit mention of the connexion with Abraham.”1
Now, a reference to the passages 15:60, 11:83 and 29:32 shows that “the connexion between Abraham and Lot” which Watt finds in them is only an indication of their contemporaneity. This comes out as an incidental detail of the manner in which Allah’s wrath and punishment befell Lut’s people. These passages tell that Allah sent some angels who, on their way to Lufs people, also met Ibrahim, gave him the good tidings of another son to be born to him and informed him that they were going to Lut’s people to punish them. Thereupon Ibrahim made some pleadings for Lut. Obviously, this incidental detail was not called for in the other passages where the theme and context are different . In fact, the emphasis of the first four passages (37:135; 26:171, 27:58 and 7:81) is on Allah’s favours upon the Prophets mentioned and how they were helped to emerge successful through their trials and the enmity of their own people. The emphasis of the other three passages (15:60, 11:83 and 29:32) is, on the other hand, on the conduct of the Prophets’ opponents and the evil consequences of their opposition to and rejection of the message delivered to them. The first group of four passages are addressed mainly to the Prophet and his followers by
1 WATT, M.at M.,159
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 49
way of reassuring and consoling them; the other three are addressed mainly to the unbelievers by way of warning them about the ultimate evil consequences of their disbelief and opposition. Hence in the first group of four passages no details are given of the retribution that befell the rejecters of the truth, nor is there a mention of the angels who acted as the agents of such retribution upon the people of Lut. On the other hand, in the other three passages such details are given, including the coming of the angels through whose conversation with !braham the so-called “connexion” between him and Lut appears. There is thus here, again, no deficiency as such in the first four passages, nor any growth of accuracy in the other three passages.
It should be mentioned here that the Qur’an refers to historical events and the stories of the previous Prophets not for the sake of narrating history or telling a story; it does so essentially for the sake of illustrating a lesson or drawing a moral; most frequendy to emphasize the fact that all the Prophets preached the doctrine of monotheism (tawhid). Hence different or the same aspects of the life-story of a particular Prophet are mentioned at different places; and nowhere is a particular historical event or the story of a Prophet narrated in full and at a stretch, as is usually the case with ordinary history or story books. This apparent repetition or partial narration of the stories has been seized by the orientalists to advance the theory of “growth in accuracy”. But a careful look at the passages, or rather the surahs, would at once expose the speciousness of the theory. It may also be pointed out that the mere non-mention of a detail, which is not called for by the theme and context at one place, and the mention of that detail at another place where the theme and context demand it, is no ground for suggesting inaccuracy in the first instance, and growth in accuracy in the second. Again, even the gradual unfolding of facts and details does not in itself prove that a human informant or informants were supplying information to the Prophet. The whole of the teachings of Islam in the Qur’an, the rules and duties, are indeed spelt out gradually and over a period of some twenty-three years. To cite this fact as proof of the Prophet’s supposedly gradual acquisition of knowledge from some human tutor or tutors would be a height of presumption.
Apart from these reasons, a closer look at the passages shows that there is indeed no deficiency in information as such in the four first mentioned passages or surahs. For, not to speak of the Prophets sent to the ‘Ad and the Thamud peoples (i.e. Hud and $alih), who are mentioned in them but who do not find any
50 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
mention in the Bible, even with regard to Ibrahim such details are given in these surahs as are not to be found in the Old-Testament. Thus, it is in these surahs that Ibrahim is depicted as a propagator of monotheism and a very clear account is given of his struggles for its sake, his argumentation with his father and people over their mistaken beliefs, his denunciation and breaking of the idols, his ordeal by fire, his travel to Hijaz, etc. None of these aspects of his life-story is mentioned anywhere in the Old-Testament. On the other hand, in the other three passages where a “growth in accuracy” is assumed on account of the mention in them of the coming of the angels and their conversation with Ibrahim, it is noteworthy that the Qur’anic account of this incident differs materially from that of the Old-Testament. For instance, it is clearly mentioned in the three passages under reference that Ibrahim grew curious about his “guests” (the angels in human forms) only when they declined to partake of the meal prepared for them, which led to their disclosing their identity and their further conversation with him including the giving of the good tidings of another son to be born to him and their commission about the punishment of Lut’s people. The Old-Testament, on the other hand, simply states that as soon as Ibrahim saw “three men” he “ran to meet them from the tent door”, invited them to be his guests, and on their acceptance of it, prepared a meal for them, “and they did eat” of it.1 Similarly they “did eat” the food prepared for them by Lut.2 Thus neither is a case of deficiency in information established in respect of the first four passages in question, nor is a case of dependence upon the Old-Testament details proved in respect of the other three passages. In both the instances the Qur’an goes beyond the Old-Testament and also differs materially from it. Hence the sources of Muhammad’s (p.b.h.) information must have been other than the extant Old-Testament and any other human being conversant with it; and no theory of “growth in accuracy” can logically be sustained here.
Indeed, far from denying the receipt of information from an “informant” or “informants”, the Qur’an throws out a challenge declaring that neither the Prophet nor his people previously knew the facts that were being revealed to him. Thus 11:49 says:
…. I..L. J_,j ,y .;..L. j ‘:1 J …:,..;! 4—J…; ..:-.S L. .!.l.,Ji 4-.>-j ..,_.;Ji ~t.,.;l ,y .;.U;
“That is of the tidings of the unseen, that We reveal to thee: thou didst not know them, neither thou nor thy people, before this … ” (11 :49)3
1 Gen. 18:1-8.
2 Gen. 19:3
3 The translation is that of A.J. Arberry, op.til., 217, with slight modification.
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 51
This ‘ayah together with some others to the same effect are some of the strongest Qur’anic evidences showing that the Prophet had no previous knowledge of what was being revealed to him. Hence, as in the case of the Qur’anic evidence in support of the Prophet’s “illiteracy”\ so in this instance too Watt has misinterpreted this ‘ayah in order to sustain his assumption. Thus, proceeding on the basis of his assumption that the Qur’an shows the Prophet’s receipt of information from some one, Watt states that this ‘ayah 11:49 poses an “embarrassment” to those “who want to uphold the sincerity of Muhammad” and then attempts to explain away this supposed embarrassment by having recourse to his peculiar notion about revelation (wahy). He says that the facts and information about the prophetic stories came from human sources, but the “teaching” and “ulterior significance of the stories came to Muhammad by revelation”.2 But having said this Watt seems to recall his general thesis that even in respect of ideas and concepts the Prophet borrowed them from Judaeo-Christian sources. Hence Watt hastens to add that since “Judaeo-Christian ideas had become acclimatized in the Hijaz”, the ideas that the Qur’an presupposed did not require to be specially communicated”, but that the “precise form” in which they were to be “integrated so as to be relevant to the contemporary situation, could have been given them only by the prophetic intuition. “3
It must at once be pointed out that the assumption of the Prophet’s having received information from any human source is totally groundless and wrong. Also it is true that the Prophet and his people did not know the facts that were being given through the revelation. Hence the ‘ayah quoted above does in no way pose an embarrassment; nor is there any need for explaining away that supposed embarrassment by reducing the meaning and scope of revelation to merely “the precise form” in which the stories or the ideas were to be “integrated” so as to make them relevant to the contemporary situation.
That the Prophet was receiving the facts (as well as the text) through the revelation is clear from the Qur’anic passages themselves. The key word in the passage quoted above (11 :49) is ‘anbli’ (~4i~. Watt himself translates this word as “stories”. Nonetheless he suggests that their “teaching” and “significance” only should be understood. This suggestion is made just for the sake of fitting his
1 Supra, pp. 15-20.
2 Watt, M. at M., 160.
3 Ibid., 160-161.
52 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
assumption in this ‘ayah . The plain Arabic equivalent of ‘anba’ is ‘akhbar (J~.,>-~; and both mean “facts” or “accounts”; and A.J. Arberry’s rendering of the expression as “tidings” comes nearer to conveying the correct meaning. Indeed ‘anbd, when it emanates from Allah,1 means “facts” and “true accounts” without the slightest doubt or untruth about them. But even if Watt’s translation of the word as “stories” is allowed, there is nothing here or elsewhere in the Qur’an to sustain the claim that it means merely “teaching” and “significance” to the exclusion of the facts. It may be noted that besides the various derivatives from the root, the word naba’ ~ ) in its singular form occurs in the Qur’an at some seventeen places,2 while the plural form ‘anbd’ in some 12 places.3 At each of these 29 places it signifies facts and circumstances. It is not necessary to look into all these places. It would suffice if we look at only the two other places, besides 11:49 where it has been used with the same emphatic assertion that the Prophet had no prior knowledge of what was coming to him as revelation. One of these places is 3:44 which runs as follows:
.) ~ .)\ t+’..u ..::.£ 1,.. ) t/-f ~ t+’f l*”~f .) ~ .)\ t+’..u ..::.£ 1,.. ) ..!J,)\ “-::>-j ~\ ~t.,.;f .._,.. ..!.l).)
“That is of the tidings of the unseen , that We reveal to thee; for thou wast not with them, when they were casting quills which of them should have charge of Mary; thou wast not with them when they were disputing. “4
And the other ‘ayah, 12:102, runs as follows:
.) )~ (‘-“‘ ) (‘-“‘ _,..f l_,…..,..f .)\ t+’..u ..::.£ 1,.. ) ..!J,)\ “-::>-j ~\ ~t.,.;f .._,.. ..!.l).)
“That is of the tidings of the unseen that We reveal to thee: thou wast not with them when they agreed upon their plan, devising.”5
It is noteworthy that the last part of each of these two ‘ayahs beginning from “thou wast not with them” is an explanation of the ‘anba’ given to the Prophet and it refers to specific facts and circumstances, not to mere “meaning” and “significance” of some facts. The same emphasis on the Prophet’s innocence and lack of prior knowledge of the facts that were being revealed to him is reiterated (though without the specific expression ‘anba} in another highly expressive Qur’anic passage, 28:44-46, which runs as follows:
~ JJ\k.a 1.; J} ~.;Gf .:fJ J ·..:r-…~…>l.!..ll .._,.. ..::.£ \… J _,..’;1 l5′”” y Ji 1.:.,..;:.i .ll (,f-_;JI …,_.;~ ..::.£ \… J .:fJ J~~L; .ll J#l …,_.;~ ..::.£ \… J -~ _,.. \.:5′ .:fJ J l:.i41~ ~ 1_,1.:; ..:r-..v J.o>f J 4JG ..::.£ \… J __,…,JI
1 Watt of course does not admit that the revelation received by the Prophet was from Allah .
2 Q. 5:27; 6:34; 6:67; 7:175; 9:70; 10:71; 14:9; 18:3; 26:69; 27:22; 28:3; 28:21; 38:67; 38:88; 49:6; 64:5 and 78:2.
3 Q. 3:44; 6:5; 7:101; 11:49; 11:100; 11:120; 12:102; 20:99; 26:6; 28:66; 3:20 and 44:4.
4 A.J. ARBERRY, op.cit., 51.
5 Ibid., 237.
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 53
0J.J’.i:: r-..w .!.ll,.i ,y _~-..i; ,y (“””‘Lil \.. \..j J..i.:::J ~J ,y 6…..>-J
“Thou wast not upon the western side when We decreed to Moses the commandment, nor wast thou of those witnessing; but We raised up generations, and long their lives continued. Neither wast thou a dweller among the Midianites, reciting to them Our signs; but We were sending Messengers. Thou wast not upon the side of the Mount when We called; but for a mercy from thy Lord, that thou mayest warn a people to whom no warner came before thee, and that haply they may remember.” (28:44-46).1
All these Qur’anic passages (11:49; 3:44, 12:102 and 24:44-46) are unequivocal confirmations of the Prophet’s innocence and lack of prior knowledge of the facts and circumstances he was giving out by means of the revelation to him. They also constitute irrefutable contradictions of the assumption that he received facts and ideas from human sources and then had had recourse to “revelation” in order to obtain only “the precise form” in which they were to be integrated so as to make them relevant to the contemporary situation. Also, these passages are, as already pointed out, in the nature of challenges to the Prophet’s contemporary adversaries who similarly insinuated that he received information from some human beings. It should be noted that every part of the Qur’an was given out to the public the moment it was revealed. In fact the various allegations of the unbelievers and their rebuttal as they occur in the Qur’an are themselves unmistakable proofs of instant publication of the texts of the revelations. And keeping in view the dates of revelation of the above mentioned passages, which vary from early Makkan to mid-Madinan periods (and Watt himself classifies the first mentioned passage, 11:49, as C-E+, i.e., early Makkan to mid-Madinan period), it is evident that the challenge was repeated not only at Makka but also at Madina where there were a number of well-informed Jews who were against the Prophet. Yet, there is no indication in the sources of their having taken up the challenge in any way, nor of their having pointed out any individual or any other source from which MuQ.ammad (p.b.h.) could have obtained the information. Nor, as already pointed out, could the unbelieving Quraysh leaders, in spite of their ceaseless efforts and inhuman torturing of the few Christian converts at Makka, elicit an admission from them that they had taught the Prophet anything.
VI. DIFFERENCES IN THE QUR’ANIC AND BIBLICAL ACCOUNTS
That the above mentioned passages relate to facts and also prove that the Prophet did not receive the facts from any person conversant with the Bible is further evident from the factual differences that are noticeable in the Qur’anic
I Ibid., 396-397.
54 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
and Biblical accounts of the same Prophets. The first mentioned passage, 11:49, occurs in the context of the account of Nuh. Unlike the Old-Testament, it is the Qur’ an which specifically mentions that he preached monotheism and called his people to the worship of Only One God. Again, unlike the Old-Testament, it tells that the deluge did not come except after Nuh had faced all sorts of opposition and troubles in the cause of his mission and except after he had become despaired of his people ever receiving guidance, and also except after God had revealed to him that they would not believe. Thirdly, it is the Qur’an which mentions that only those who believed in God were saved. The Qur’an also refers to what happened to Nuh’s son for his refusal to accept the truth and how he was drowned. Fourthly, the Old-Testament says that God became repentant (?) for His having caused the devastation and resolved never again to do so and, in order to remind Him of His resolution and “covenant” with Nuh, set a bow (rainbow) in the sky, thus implying also the weakness of forgetfulness on His part.1 It is more with reference to such facts as are not mentioned in the Old-Testament but are stated clearly in the Qur’an that it challengingly tells the Prophet that neither he nor his people previously knew them.
Similarly the second passage, 3:44, comes in the context of the story of Maryam and ‘Isa (Mary and Jesus). The differences between their story in the Qur’an and that in the New Testament are more remarkable. The passage itself refers to the incident of her care and protection which information is wanting in the New Testament. Second, the Qur’an clears her of all imputations of being an unworthy character and emphatically declares her purity and chastity and states that Allah selected her as the noblest lady for the extraordinary honour of being mother of Isa-“0 Maryam, Allah has chosen thee and purified thee, chosen thee above the women of all the nations. “2 At the same time it makes it very clear that she was no more than a human being and that she was as much in need of praying to Allah as anyone else -“0 Maryam, worship thy Lord devoutly, prostrate thyself and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down. “3 As regards ‘Isa, the Qur’an mentions even such of his miracles as are not related in the New Testament. For instance, his speaking to the people while he was in the cradle,4 his giving life to clay birds by Allah’s permission,5 and the table that
1 Gen. 8:21 and 9:11-16.
2 Q. 3:42. The text runs as: ~WI ,w Js-!lW….I; !l ~; !lW….I ..!JI 01 t’/ 4 >.S:l’:>W1 .,.Ju ;1 ; 1
3 Q. 3:43. The text runs as: .:r.£1)1 e:: …->h <.>….._1; ~) <f”l t<f” 4
4 Q. 3:46. ;
5 Q. 3:49; 5:113.
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 55
descended unto him from the heaven are mentioned only in the Qur’an. Besides these, so far as the conceptual aspects are concerned, the Qur’an categorically says that ‘Isa was no more than a Prophet, that he was not god,1 nor a “son of God” ,2 nor one of the Trinity,3 nor was he crucified.4 The third of the passages, 12:102, comes at the end of the story of Yusuf which the Qur’an designates as “the most beautiful of stories” (‘ahsan al-qasas). This story is told in the Qur’an throughout in a note of spirituality which is lacking in the Old Testament. The distinctions between the treatments of the story in the two may be best illustrated by placing some of the salient facts in both in juxtaposition as follows:
(1) The Qur’an says that Ya’qub’s special love for Yusuf was due to his dream and notion of a great future for his son (12:4-6).
(2) The Qur’an says that Yusufs brothers conspired against him before taking him out with them. (12:9-10).
(3) The Qur’an states that it was Yusufs brothers who asked their father to let Yusuf go with them (12:11-14).
(4) The Qur’an shows that Yusuf did not divulge his dream to his brothers (12:5).
(5) The Qur’an says that Yusufs brothers threw him into a pit wherefrom a passing caravan picked him up and subsequently sold him as a slave in Egypt (12:15,19).
(6) The Qur’an says that Ya’qub did not believe the story given out by his sons nor did he despair of getting him back someday (12:16-18).
(7) The Qur’an states that it was ‘Aziz’s wife who attempted to seduce Yusuf and shut the door of her room whereupon Yusuf ran away from her. She snatched her shirt from behind which was torn as Yusuf rushed towards the door (12: 23-25).
The Old Testament
(1) The Old Testament says that Ya’qub’s love for Yusuf was due to his being the son of an old age (Gen. 37:3).
(2) No mention of it in the Old Testament.
(3) The Old Testament, on the other hand, makes Ya’qub ask Yusuf to go out with his brothers (Gen. 37: 13-14).
(4) The Old Testament says that Yusuf told about his dreams to his brothers (Gen. 37: 5,9).
(5) The Old Testament says that Yusufs brothers first threw him into a pit and then took him out and sold him to a passing company of merchants (Gen. 23-28).
(6) The Old Testament says that Ya’qub readily believed his sons’ false story , became despaired of getting Yusuf back . and mourned his loss for a long time (Gen. 333-34).
(7) The Old Testament says that ‘Aziz’s wife shouted and called for help whereupon Yusuf left his clothes in her hands and fled (Gen. 39:12).
I Q. 5:19; 5:119.
2 Q. 4:171; 6:101; 10:68; 17:111; 18:4-5; 19:35; 19:88-89; 19:91-92; 21:26; 23:91; 25:2; 37:152; 39:4; 43:81; 72:3 and 112:3.
3 Q. 4:171; 5:76.
4 Q. 4:157.
56 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
(8) The Qur’an says that when in the course of Yusufs running away he and ‘Aziz’s wife were at the door, her husband unexpectedly arrived there. She then hastened to allege that Yusuf had attempted to violate her honour and without wru.t:lng for her husband’s opinion demanded that Yusuf be put in prison or be appropriately punished (12:25).
(9) The Qur’an says that Yusuf defended himself then and there at the door telling the truth that it was she who had attempted to seduce her (12:26).
(10) The Qur’an further says that a witness of the household pointed out that if Yusufs shirt was torn in the front he was to blame; but if it was torn in the backside he was guilty (12:26-27).
(11) As the shirt was tom in the backside ‘Aziz realized the truth of Yusuf’s statement, asked him to pass it over in silence and also asked her to seek Allah’s forgiveness for her sinful act (12:28-29)
(12) Information about the affair nonetheless leaked out and the ladies of the town started whispering among themselves about the deed of’ Aziz’s wife who invited the ladies to a banquet where at the end of the dinner she gave each lady a knife and asked them to cut the fruits laid before them. At the same time she asked Yusuf to come out before them. They were so bewitched by the beauty and countenance of Yusuf that each of them cut her hand with the knife instead of cutting the fruit each was holding. Exultantly ‘Aziz’s wife confessed before them her deed and insisted that if Yusuf did not accede to her solicitation he would surely be put in prison and humbled (12:29-32).
(8) The Old Testament says that ‘Aziz came back home afterwards when his wife informed him of Yusufs alleged offence, saying that as she cried out for help Yusuf left his clothes to her and fled (Gen. 39:14-18).
(9) No mention of it in the Old Testament.
(10) No mention of it in the Old Testament.
(11) The Old Testament says that ‘Aziz’s anger shot up as soon as heard his wife’s complaint and instantly put Yusuf into prison. (Gen. 39:19-20)
(12) No mention of the incident in the Old Testament.
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY
(13) Yusuf himself preferred going to prison in view of the persistence of ‘Aziz’s wife in her design. ‘Aziz also preferred putting Yusuf in prison in order to avoid a scandal (12:33-35).
(14) The Qur’an says that when the King of Egypt sent his messenger to the prison conveying his decision to release Yusuf from imprisonment and to appoint him to a high post, he did not jump at the offer but demanded that the affair which had brought him into prison be first investigated and his innocence publicly vindicated (12:50).
(15) The public hearing was duly held and Yusuf’s innocence vindicated by the confession of ‘Aziz’s wife of her guilt as well as by the testimony of the ladies who had cut their hands in the banquet and before whom also ‘Aziz’s wife confessed her guilt (12:51-52 &12:32).
(16) The Qur’an ends the story by narrating how Yusuf was finally united with his father and brothers and refers to the whole outcome as a realization of his dream (12:100).
(17) The Qur’an correctly describes that Yusuf’s brothers used “beasts of burden ” (ba’ir), not camel (Jamal/ ibil) to carry their merchandise to Egypt. Camel had not yet been domesticated in Yusuf’s time.
(18) Finally, the Qur’an rightly describes the Egyptian ruler in this story as “King”, not as “Pharaoh”, which came to be used as the designation of the Egyptian sovereign much later in the reign of Amenhotep IV, i. e, during the second quarter of the 14th century B.C.
(13) No mention of it in the Old Testament.
(14) The Old Testament does not refer to Yusuf’s demand for public vindication of his innocence and says that he instantly accepted the king’s offer.
(15) No mention of these facts in the Old Testament.
(16) No reference is made in the old Testament to the final realization of Yusuf’s dream.
(17) The Old Testament, on the other hand, describes them as camels not only at the time of Yusuf but also at the time of Ishaq, the grandfather of Yusuf.
(18) The Old Testament, on the other hand, throughout terms the Egyptian ruler as “Pharaoh” not only in the story of Yusuf but also with regard to events occurring much earlier during the time of Ibrahim.
58 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
These are some of the factual differences in the Qur’anic and Old-Testament accounts of the story of Yusuf. A detailed comparison would reveal more such differences. Similarly the fourth passage, 28:44-46, comes at the end of a narration of some of the facts relating to Mlisa (Moses, 28:2-43). Incidentally, this account of the fact starts with the statement: “We recite unto thee some of the naba’ (story, account) relating to Musa.” The Qur’an indeed tells the story of Musa and his brother Harun, as also that of the Israelites in far greater detail than what occurs in the Old-Testament. There are of course some similarities between the two accounts; but the differences and the new elements in the Qur’an are fundamental1
• (1) The most important distinction is that the Old-Testament, though it represents Musa as the “Law-giver”, nonetheless accuses him and also Harun of several improprieties and ultimately depicts them as persons who had betrayed God and incurred His wrath.2 It is even alleged that Harun was instrumental in introducing the worship of the golden calf. The Qur’an, on the other hand, clears them of such accusations and emphatically asserts that they were Allah’s chosen Prophets, were recipients of His favours, revelation and scripture, were free from the irregularities ascribed to them and were men who sincerely and devoutly discharged their duties as Allah’s Prophets by calling their people to the worship of the One Only God.3
(2) It also specifically mentions that it was the Israelite Samiri, not Harun, who was responsible for introducing the worship of the calf.4
(3) It is also in the Qur’an alone that the story of Musa’s travel to the “meeting place of the two seas” is given.5
(5) Again, it is only in the Qur’an that the significant incident of the Pharaoh’s plan to kill Musa is revealed and it is further stated that a “believer” at Pharaoh’s court dissuaded him from carrying out his plan.6 Even with regard to details, as the writer in the Shorter Enryclopedia of Islam points out, there are a number of differences.
Thus (6), in the Qur’an it is the Pharaoh’s wife, not his daughter, who rescues the infant Musa from the river; (7)
1 See for a summary of the similarities the Shorter Enclopaedia ofl.rlam, 1974 reprint, pp. 414-415.
2 Deuteronomy 32:48-52.
‘ See for instance Q. 2:52-72; 7:144-145; 19:51-53,57-73; 20:39-50; 21:48; 33:69; 37:114-122; 53:38 and 87:19.
4 Q. 20:85-86; 20:95-97.
5 Q. 18:60-62. The writer in the Shorter Enryclopaedia of lslam (p. 415) rightly says: “The story of Musa’s accompanying a wise man on a journey seems without parallel.)
6 Q. 40:26-45. The writer in the Shorter Enclopaedia ofirlam, thinking that some aspects of the story of Musa originated in Haggada, writes, “The Kur’anic story of a believer at the court of Pharaoh who wants to save Mus a is not clear.” Yes; the comparison which the writer suggests, of course with a question mark, with the story of Jethro in Haggada is really not clear. The Qur’anic account is quite distinctive, without any parallel in Haggada.
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 59
instead of the seven shepherdesses in the Bible, it is only two in the Qur’an whom Musa assists;
(8) and instead of ten plagues the Qur’an speaks of nine miracles;
(9) also Musa strikes twelve springs out of the rock, one for each tribe;
(1 0) he repents after having slain the Egyptian and
(11) he sees the burning bush at night and desires to take a brand from its fire.
(12) The Qur’an also mentions that the Pharaoh’s magicians died for their belief in God.1
(13) Also its description of the capabilities of the Pharaoh’s magicians is different from that of the Bible. The latter ascribes supernatural powers to them but the Qur’an treats them as mere conjurers.
(14) The Bible gives a rather exaggerated figure of the Hebrew population at the time of the Exodus saying that there were 600,000 men, with women and children in addition (Exodus 12:37). “Consequently, in this case”, observes Maurice Bucaille, “the entire population would have approximately amounted to two and a half million or more, according to certain Jewish commentators. Such a hypothesis is quite untenable.”2 The Qur’an, on the other hand, does not give any such figures about the Hebrew population of the time.
(15) While the Bible informs us that the Pharaoh was afraid of the increasing Hebrew population and hence ordered the killing of their newly born male babes, the Qur’an informs us that he was not worried about any such demographic problem and boastfully said: “These indeed are a band of small numbers” (26:54). Still more significant
(16) is the mention of Haman in the Qur’an as an intimate of the Pharaoh (28:6,8, 38; 29:39; 40:24, 36). Haman is not mentioned in the Bible and scholars have hitherto been guessing about his identity and the correctness of his association with the Pharaoh. It has been suggested that he is to be identified with the ancient Egyptian god “Amun” or that he might be “Aman”, a counsellor of Assueus (Xerexes) who was an enemy of the Jews. But it has now been discovered that Haman in the Qur’an is an exact transliteration of a Hieroglyphic name of a person who was “chief of the workers in stone-quarries” at the time of the Pharaoh and that this description of him fits in with what is spoken of him in the Qur’an. The name Haman has also been found engraved on a stela kept at the Hof-Museum of Vienna, Austria. Hieroglyphs had been totally forgotten at the time of the Qur’anic revelation and its discipherment took place only in the 19th century. “Since matters stood like that in ancient times”, writes the discoverer of this fact, Maurice Bucaille, “the existence of the word ‘Haman’ in the Qur’an suggests a special reflection.”3
1 Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam, op.cit, 414-415.
2 Maurice Bucaille, op.cit., p. 197.
60 THE QUR’AN AND THE ORIENTALISTS
But the most astounding fact is that (17) the Qur’an, while mentioning that the Pharaoh and his hosts were drowned and destroyed, also says that the body of the Pharaoh was saved:
“So today We rescue your body that you be for those who come after you a sign! And many of men are about Our signs indeed heedless!”
(.:J_,lii.Al w~1~ ,y …… wl ..,.. l_r.)’ .:,1J ~~~ ~ .:r.J .:,~ ..!1~ ~ i.r.l\.j -10:92).
The Bible simply says that the Pharaoh was drowned; and early in the 7th century when the above mentioned statement of the Qur’an was revealed none could have any idea that the body of the Pharaoh had been saved. Modern Egyptology has established the fact that the Pharaoh of the Exodus was Merenptah, successor of Ramesses II. In 1898 the French Egyptologist V. Loret discovered the mummy of Merenptah and his name was found written under the first layer of the wrappings. Medical investigations carried out by Maurice Bucaille on the mummy of Merenptah confirm the Qur’anic account of his death. “There was no human knowledge, as well, at this time, about the two other Qur’anic teachings which are not found in the Bible: the name of an intimate person belonging to the close circle of Pharaoh, ‘Haman’, and the announcement of what happened to the dead body of Pharaoh. What we read in the Qur’an about them is in close conformity with modern data in the field of Egyptology ……. Now, it is up to the exegetes of the Qur’an and the Bible to direct their objective attention to these facts and this reality and draw conclusions.”2
Similarly with regard to the other Prophets the accounts in the Qur’an differ fundamentally from those in the Bible. Some of the differences in the story of Ibrahim have been mentioned above. So far as Da’ud and Sulayman (Solomon), the two other great Prophets are concerned, the Bible in fact depicts them as tyrants, committing the most heinous crimes, indulging in pleasures and licentiousness and even abducting others’ wives for illicit enjoyment!3 Prophet Lut is even made to commit incest with his own daughters.4 The Qur’an, on the other hand, is singularly free from imputing such frivolities to any of the Prophets. And so far as Da’ud is concerned, he is represented as Allah’s ideal servant on whom He bestowed kingdom, wisdom, scripture and power5• Similarly Sulayman was favoured with rare knowledge of the languages of birds and animals, in addition to power and kingdom.6 Both were noble characters and Allah’s Prophets.
1 Maurice Bucaille, op. cit., p. 193.
2 Ibid., pp. 216-217, 219.
3 For Da’ud see Samuel II, 3:12-16; 4:4-5; 16:23; 18:33; and for Solomon see Kings I, 2:13-25; 28:35; 11:1-13.
4 Gen. 19:31-36 . .
5 Q. 2:102; 4:163; 6:84; 21:78-82; 27:15-44; 34:12-14; 38:30-40.
THE ALLEGED BORROWING FROM JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY 61
Thus a comparison between the Biblical and Qur’anic accounts of the Prophets makes it clear that the latter are not a reproduction of the former. There are of course points of similarity between the two sets of accounts; but the Qur’an definitely presents a good deal different and original. Some of the orientalists do recognize that there are new elements in the Qur’an. In general, however, their treatment of the subject suffers from three common drawbacks. In the first place, they seem to emphasize only the points of similarity almost to the exclusion of the points of dissimilarity or make only casual and secondary reference to them. Second, they spare no pains to identify similar facts or ideas in other ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin works or legends and then immediately advance the suggestion that the Qur’anic accounts are drawn from or based on them. It is overlooked that the mere existence of similar facts or ideas in previous works, sometimes thousand of years old, does not ipso facto prove that a subsequent work is based on that work. Some further evidence is needed to show the contact or possibility of contact with, or understanding of, that source. This point is especially relevant in the case of Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be on him; for it does not carry conviction just to suggest that he mastered the materials treasured in numerous ancient works and sources, and that also in a multiplicity of foreign and even defunct languages, by means only of casual conversations with a trader in transit or a foreign slave in domestic service. For, that is the most that has hitherto been alleged about him. Nor is there any indication that Makka and its vicinity at that time possessed a good library or museum containing the ancient works and manuscripts to which the orientalists call their readers’ attention; or that there were scholars and philologists in that place to unravel the secrets of such works to the prophet-to-be. Third, while casually recognizing that there are new elements in the Qur’an, the orientalists seem never to have paid attention to find out the sources of these elements. If they had done so, they would surely have found reason to see that the assumptions under which they have hitherto been labouring so diligendy and impressively need revision.
I Q. 27:15-30.