Who Authored the Qur’an?—an Enquiry
By Abul Kasem
Bahira was a Nestorian Christian monk who lived in Sham (Syria). His Christian name was Sergius or Georgius. It is believed that he was expelled from the monastery for certain offences. To expiate it, he set out on a mission to Arabia. In Mecca, he met Muhammad, became intimate with him and stayed with him. He had confidential conversation with Muhammad, in which he surely told Muhammad many facets of Christianity. The verses in the Qur’an dealing with Christianity must have emanated from Bahira, the monk. Muhammad simply re-wrote them with the help of his Qur’an collectors or scribes.
It is believed that the Qur’anic verses on the Psalms of David were actually the contribution of Bahira. These verses are:
004.163 We have sent thee inspiration, as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him: we sent inspiration to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David We gave the Psalms.
017.055 And it is your Lord that knoweth best all beings that are in the heavens and on earth: We did bestow on some prophets more (and other) gifts than on others: and We gave to David (the gift of) the Psalms.
021.105 Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): My servants the righteous, shall inherit the earth."
In fact, the Dictionary Islam (p.698) writes that the last quoted verse (21.105) is a direct quote from Psalm xxxvii.29
Here are some sample verses which most likely were contributed by Bahira:
Even when Muhammad confirms the previous scriptures, the Jews and the Christians reject him…2:101
The Jews and the Christians quarrel with each other even though they study the same book; God will judge between them...2:113
The Islamic, the Jewish and the Christian God is the same God, do not argue on this; God will reward each group according to their deeds…2:139
The Jews and the Christians are invited to believe in the Book of God to settle their disputes...3:23
Some Jews and Christians twisted their scriptures and passed them as God’s messages…3:78
Some Jews and Christians believe in baseless powers of mysteries and the powers of evil...4:51
Christians forgot a good part of the message; so, God condemned them to animosity and hatred among themselves...5:14
Some Christians follow Gospel correctly but most of them do not. If they followed the Gospel correctly they would have enjoyed happiness from every side...5:66
Jesus' believers (Christians) were Muslims and their religion was Islam (?)...5:111
Muhammad was to learn from the Jews and the Christians; the Qur’an contains the messages of these books...10:94-95
Some Jews and Christians are actually Muslims; they believed in the Qur’an…28:53
Argue with the people of the Book only in a nice manner; Muslims are to believe in the Qur’an as well as in other books sent down by God; Muslim's God and Jews’ and Christians’ God is the same…29:46
God bestowed Gospel to Jesus and ordained compassion and mercy to his followers; God did not prescribe monasticism to the Christians...57:27
It is not clear why Bahira was expelled from the Syrian church. Could it be that he held views on Christianity that was blasphemous to the Nestorian church? Or could it be that he did some criminal act? No one knows. Any way, Muhammad had a wealth of information on Christianity (apocryphal or main-stream) from this monk.
It is interesting to note that Qur’an mentions itself that Muhammad was, in fact, taught by a foreigner, but Allah tried to deny the truth by implying that the language of Muhammad and the language of the foreigner was different! This obviously, is completely untrue, as we note that Muhammad, during his trip to Sham (Syria) had met Bahira, and had no difficulty in communicating with him. Here is the verse that says that Muhammad was taught by a foreigner:
016.103 We know indeed that they say, "It is a man that teaches him." The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear.
The Dictionary of Islam (Hughes Dictionary of Islam, p.223) writes that Jabr was one of the Ahlu-l-Kitab and was well-read in the Taurat and Injil, and Muhammad used to hear him read these books as he passed by his house. Muhammad must have learned from Jabr many of those Suras dealing with the traditions of the Christians and the Jews. Most likely the verses on David and Solomon were composed by Jabr. Some of these verses are (only the main messages are shown here; for details read the entire verse):
David slew Goliath...2:251
Psalms was given to David...4:163
God is discriminatory; he prefers some prophets to others; he gave Psalms to David…17:55
God witnessed the judgment of David and Solomon…21:78
God gave Solomon the correct understanding; He made the mountains and the birds to serve David…21:79
God taught David the skill of war-shield making…21:80
Before the Qur’an, God sent messages in the Psalms of David...21:105
God gave knowledge to David and Solomon…27:15
Solomon's father was David. Solomon was the heir of David; Solomon understood the speeches of birds, beasts and plants…27:16
Solomon had control over Jinns; the Jinns and birds fought in Solomon’s army…27:17
God put the mountains under the command of David; taught him how to make weapons from iron…34:10-11
God had put the mountains, birds for David’s service and endowed him with wisdom and logic…38:18-20
God forgave David's sins...38:25
God made David a ruler on earth and gave him the authority to issue fair judgment by God’s laws and by his personal opinions…38:26
Ibn Qumta was a Christian slave who lived in Mecca. Muhammad learned about the apocryphal gospel of Christianity (such as: The Gospel of Infancy and The Gospel of Barnabas) from him. The entire Sura on Mary and the birth of Jesus Christ (Sura 19) was probably written by this Christian slave. Sourcing from Wakidi, Alphonso Mingana, in his essay, The Transmission of the Koran (Alphonso Mingana, The Transmission of the Koran, The Origins of The Koran, p.103) writes:
‘A more ancient historian, Wakidi, has the following sentence in which it is suggested that ‘Abdallah b. Sa’d b. Abi Sarh, and a Christian slave, ibn Qumta, had something to do with the Koran. And ibn Abi Sarh came back and said to Quraish: “It was only a Christian slave who was teaching him (Muhammad); I used to write to him and change whatever I wanted.”’
Please note that Abdallah b. Sa’d b Abi Sarh was Muhammad’s trusted scribe. When Muhammad migrated to Medina Abdallah also followed him. Whenever Muhammad went into a trance he would dictate Abdallah to write down his utterances. When Abdallah suggested some changes to Muhammad’s lisping, Muhammad would readily agree with Abdallah. An example is when Muhammad was dictating 23:12-14.
023.012 Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay);
023.013 Then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed;
023.014 Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (foetus) lump; then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then we developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create!
Abdallah suggested some modifications to the last verse, Muhammad quickly agreed with Abdallah. This led Abdallah to suspect Muhammad’s claim of reception of messages from Allah, apostatised and left Medina for Mecca. He then proclaimed that he (Abdallah) too could easily write the Qur’anic verses being inspired by Allah.
Muhammad was furious and sought Allah’s help. Allah promptly sent down verse 6:93, condemning any one who claims to be inspired by Allah. Here is the verse:
006.093 Who can be more wicked than one who inventeth a lie against Allah, or saith, "I have received inspiration," when he hath received none, or (again) who saith, "I can reveal the like of what Allah hath revealed"? If thou couldst but see how the wicked (do fare) in the flood of confusion at death! - the angels stretch forth their hands, (saying),"Yield up your souls: this day shall ye receive your reward,- a penalty of shame, for that ye used to tell lies against Allah, and scornfully to reject of His signs!"
When Muhammad occupied Mecca he earmarked 8 [or10 (6 men, 4 women) according to Ibn Sa’d, vol. ii, p165] people to be killed even if they were found in the precinct of Ka’ba. Abdallah was one of them.
Even Sahih Bukhari confirms that a Christian wrote parts of the Qur’an. This Christian writer of the Qur’an, without doubt, is none other than ibn Qumta. Here is the Hadis:
A Christian who converted to Islam wrote Muhammad's revelations; then he reverted back to Christianity and claimed that Muhammad knew nothing and he wrote the Quran for Muhammad; when this man died his body was repeatedly thrown out from the grave...4.56.814
There was a Christian who embraced Islam and read Surat-al-Baqara and Al-Imran, and he used to write (the revelations) for the Prophet. Later on he returned to Christianity again and he used to say: "Muhammad knows nothing but what I have written for him." Then Allah caused him to die, and the people buried him, but in the morning they saw that the earth had thrown his body out. They said, "This is the act of Muhammad and his companions. They dug the grave of our companion and took his body out of it because he had run away from them." They again dug the grave deeply for him, but in the morning they again saw that the earth had thrown his body out. They said, "This is an act of Muhammad and his companions. They dug the grave of our companion and threw his body outside it, for he had run away from them." They dug the grave for him as deep as they could, but in the morning they again saw that the earth had thrown his body out. So they believed that what had befallen him was not done by human beings and had to leave him thrown (on the ground).
Please note that the text inside parenthesis, (e.g., the revelations) is the insertion by the translator.
W. St. Clair-Tisdall (W.St. Clair Tisdal, The Sources of Islam, The Orgins of the Koran, pp.236-237) writes that the Sabeans inhabited Syria. They were the followers of Seth and Idris. Sabeans fasted for 30 days from night to sunrise, observed Eid and prayed for the dead without prostration. Muhammad simply copied their system of fasting (only change made was fasting from dawn to dusk) and retained the celebration of Eid and the prayer for the dead in exactly the same fashion as the Sabeans. Thus the rules on fasting as prescribed in verses 2:183-187 were actually adapted from the Holy Scriptures of the Sabeans. In fact, the Qur’an confirms itself that the system of fasting was a copy-cat from other faith, but remaining coy about which religious scripture Muhammad copied from. Here is verse 2:183 that says that the Islamic system of fasting is the mimicry of the other faith (Sabeans, of course):
002.183 O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint,-
The Sabeans possessed a book called ‘Pages of Seth. They observed 7 prayers a day, 5 of which were at the same hours as chosen by Muhammad. They also venerated Ka’ba. Muhammad, most likely, learned about the Holy Scripture of the Sabeans from Bahira, the monk and from Salman, the Persian, because both of them had spent a considerable amount of time in Syria and were well aware about the sources, rituals and the religious doctrine of the Sabeans. Muhammad simply incorporated those in the Qur’an—passing them as Allah’s dictum.
On the Sabeans, the Dictionary of Islam (Hughes Dictionary of Islam, p.551) writes that they worshipped the stars secretly but openly professed to be Christians. Others say that they were of the religion of Sabi, the son of Seth, the son of Adam. Some say they were of the religion of Noah. Their Qiblah was towards the south, from whence the wind blows.
No doubt, after learning about the Sabeans Muhammad was profoundly impressed by their religion and hastened to incorporate some of their rituals in Islam. He regarded them as the true believers of Allah. In fact, the Dictionary Islam (ibid) writes that the Arabs used to call Muhammad as Sabi—he who has departed from the religion of the Quraysh. The Qur’an mentions them 3 times in the following verses:
002.062 Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
005.069 Those who believe (in the Qur'an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
022.017 Those who believe (in the Qur'an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians, Christians, Magians, and Polytheists,- Allah will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for Allah is witness of all things.
Note that those verses also contain the Jews, the Christians and the Magians (Zoroastrians).
Khadijah, Waraqa and Ubydallah et. al.
The Sirah (biography) of Muhammad does not mention about the religion of Khadijah, Muhammad’s first wife. However, it is difficult to believe that Khadijah was a 100% polytheist. She was probably deeply influenced by his cousin brother Waraqa, who, as mentioned before, was first a Jew, then converted to Christianity. He became a devout Christian and reportedly translated the Gospel in his version of Arabic. His profound knowledge and understanding of the mainstream Christianity, as well as Judaism, must had had profound influence on Khadijah and Muhammad. So, it will be quite reasonable to surmise that Khadijah, too, was a follower of Christianity—at least inwardly. We find no reference anywhere that Khadijah had ever prayed to any idol or had attended any polytheist religious ritual; instead, we note (as told previously) that Muhammad was, indeed, a polytheist when he married Khadijah. For 25 years Khadijah was Muhammad’s support (financially) and counsellor. It was most likely that Khadijah influenced Muhammad to change his religion—from polytheism to Christianity. Waraqa and Khadijah used to discuss lots of Christian and Jewish stuff with Muhammad that made him think deeply about his belief system at birth (i.e., paganism).
We learn from Sahih Bukhari that Waraqa used to read the Gospel in Arabic. This confirms that the Arabic translation of the Gospel was available during Muhammad’s time.
The Prophet returned to Khadija while his heart was beating rapidly. She took him to Waraqa bin Naufal who was a Christian convert and used to read the Gospels in Arabic Waraqa asked (the Prophet), "What do you see?" When he told him, Waraqa said, "That is the same angel whom Allah sent to the Prophet) Moses. Should I live till you receive the Divine Message, I will support you strongly."
Not only that Waraqa read the Gospel in Arabic, he also translated Gospel in his own version in Arabic. Sahih Bukhari confirms this:
Please note that this is quite a lengthy Hadis. I have quoted only the relevant part.
…….." Khadija then took him to Waraqa bin Naufil, the son of Khadija's paternal uncle. Waraqa had been converted to Christianity in the Pre-lslamic Period and used to write Arabic and write of the Gospel in Arabic as much as Allah wished him to write…….
Waraqa even knew how to read and write in Hebrew! Sahih Bukhari confirms this:
Please note that only the part germane to the subject is quoted here.
……Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa bin Naufal bin Asad bin 'Abdul 'Uzza, who, during the PreIslamic Period became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write……
The above information, especially those quotes from the Sahih Bukhari will leave one without any doubt that Waraqa, as well as Khadijah were big-time contributors to the compilation of the Qur’an-- especially those verses dealing with Christianity and Judaism.
Then came along Ubaydallah, the grandson of Abd al-Muttalib and Muhammad’s cousin brother. As Ubaydallah was a Hanif, surely, Muhammad learned a lot of good materials on Hanifism from him. Muslim historians claim that Ubaydallah converted to Muhammad’s religion and migrated to Ethiopia; then he left Islam and embraced Christianity and died there as a Christian. So, the other contributors of the Christian stuff in the Qur’an were definitely Ubaydallah. After Waraqa, Khadijah and Ubaydallah died Muhammad simply incorporated in the Qur’an, what he had heard/learned from them.
We need to mention here two other main contributors to the Qur’an. They were Abdullah b. Salam and Mukhayariq. According to Ibn Ishaq (Ibn Ishaq, p.239) Abdullah b. Salam b. al-Harith was a Jew from B. Qaynuqa who converted to Islam when Muhammad arrived at Medina. Mukhayariq, too, was a Jewish Rabbi from B. Thalaba and he also converted to Islam. Abdullah b. Salam was an authority on Torah, and had undoubtedly contributed to write in the Qur’an, the Jewish stuff--especially the Jewish laws.
Here is a brief list of some of the materials in the Qur’an that Muhammad copied/adopted from the Christians, the Jews, the Armenians, the Hindus and the Magians (Zoroastrians):
Tayammum (4:43): Copied from the Jewish Scripture the Talmud.
Breathing life into birds (2:260, 3:49, 5:110): Copied from the Coptic books.
Houris, Azazil (44:54): Learned from the foreigners in Mecca.
Harut amd Marut (2:102): From the Armenian books—Harut and Marut are in control of wind and rain.
Allah’s throne above water (11:7): From the Jewish tradition.
Malik, the ruler of Hell (43:77): From the Jews.
7 Heavens (2:29, 41:12): Adopted from the Sanskrit Scripture of the Hindus.
Mary giving birth under the trunk of a tree (19:23): Copied from the Gospel of Infancy, an apocryphal Christian Gospel
Infant Jesus talking (3:46, 19:30-31, 19:33): Copied from the Gospel of Infancy.
Description of Paradise and Hell (there are many verses—see the section on Salman, the Persian: Copied from the Magians (Zoroastrians) and the Hindus.
Jesus not killed, Allah lifted up Jesus (3:55, 4:157-158): Copied from the Gospel of Barnabas
The story of Joseph (Sura 12): Copied from the Midrash, a Jewish Scripture.
The story of Solomon and Sheba (21:78-82, 27:17-19, 27:22-23): Copied from the Haggada, a Jewish Scripture.
The original Qur’an is kept in Heaven (43:4, 85:21-22): The Talmud says it is a preserved tablet in Heaven.
Angel of death--Azrail or Azazil, Malaku’l Maut (6:61, 7:37, 32:11): Adopted from the Jewish and the Magian (Zoroastrian) scriptures.
Uncannily though, the Qur’an asserts itself that the infidels of Mecca knew that Muhammad had copied the Qur’an from various sources, especially from the Jewish Scriptures; and that was why Allah had to admonish the polytheists for calling Muhammad a copy-cat. This is revealed in verse 28:48
028.048 But (now), when the Truth has come to them from Ourselves, they say, "Why are not (Signs) sent to him, like those which were sent to Moses?" Do they not then reject (the Signs) which were formerly sent to Moses? They say: "Two kinds of sorcery, each assisting the other!" And they say: "For us, we reject all (such things)!"
For more examples of plagiarism in the Qur’an (and by Muhammad) one may refer to the books listed in the bibliography.
Muhammad’s neighbour was an-Nadr b. al-Harith. He also used to write verses similar to the Qur’an. He was also a very good story-teller--especially of the ancient fables. Whenever Muhammad gathered people to listen to his tales in the Qur’an an-Nadr would entice the audience of Muhammad with better stories than Muhammad. Due to an-Nadr’s excellent proficiency in narrating the anecdotes Muhammad saw his audience disappear. Muhammad considered an-Nadr’s act extremely loathsome and had his revenge taken by capturing an-Nadr in the battle of Badr and later beheading him.
Here are references to some selected verses from the Qur’an that tell us that the pagans were very much aware that Muhammad used to tell them ancient stories that they had heard before—Muhammad did not narrated any new fable at all—he simply regurgitated what he had heard from his sources—passing them as Allah’s revelations:
The unbelievers consider the Qur’an as the tales of the ancients…8:31
The unbelievers said that the revelations to Muhammad were the tales from the past…16:24
Many pagans had heard the story of resurrection from past tales…23:83
Disbelievers say 'the Qur’an is ancient tales which they had heard before'…25:5
The unbelievers insist that Qur’an is tales from the past…27:68
The unbelievers say the Qur’an is nothing but the tales of the ancients…46:17
The unbelievers termed Muhammad’s revelations as tales from the past…68:15
“The Holy Qur’an,” the internet version of three English translations can be read at: http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/]
Ali, Abdullah, Yusuf, “The Holy Qur’an: Translation and Commentary,” Amana Corp., Brentwood, Maryland, 1983.
al-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Ismail, “Sahi Bukhari,” translated in English by Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan: [http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/bukhari/ ]
Muslim, Abu al-Hussain b. al-Hajjaj al-Qushairi, “Sahi Muslim,” translated in English by Abdul Hamid Siddiqui: [http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/muslim/ ]
Hughes, Patrick Thomas, “A Dictionary of Islam;” first published in 1886; latest reprint by Kazi Publications Inc., Chicago, 1994.
“The Origins of the Koran,”edited by Ibn Warraq, Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York, 1998.
Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad b. Yasr, “Sirat Rasul Allah,” translated in English by A. Guillaume; first by published by Oxford University Press, London in 1955; fifteenth reprint by Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, 2001.
Ibn Sa’d, Abu Abd Allah Muhammad, “Kitab al-Tabaqat,” vol i, translated in English by S. Moinul Haq, Kitab Bhavan; 1784, Kalam Mahal, Daraya Ganj, New Delhi, India, 1972.
Ibn Sa’d, Abu Abd Allah Muhammad, “Kitab al-Tabaqat,” vol ii, translated in English by S. Moinul Haq, Kitab Bhavan; 1784, Kalam Mahal, Daraya Ganj, New Delhi, India, 1972.
Ibn al-Kalbi, Hisham, “The Book of Idols (Kitab Al-Asnam),” translated in English by Nabih Amin Faris, Princeton University Press, 1952. [http://www.answering-islam.org/Books/Al-Kalbi/index.htm ]
al-Misri, Ahmed ibn Naqib, “Raliance of the Traveller (‘Umdat al-Salik),” revised edition, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Amana Publications, Bettsville, Maryland, 1999.
This essay continues in Part 5/5
Part 1 2 3 4 5
[Mukto-mona] [Articles] [Recent Debate] [Special Event ] [Moderators] [Forum]