Whilst Islam critics have been trying for years to prove Prophet Muhammad was the author of the Qur’an, it is still one of the tough topics that hinder their purposes. However, the Qur’an itself is a piece of clear evidence that proves Muhammad isn’t its author.
In a previous article, we discussed all the probabilities for the Qur’anic source. In this article, we will focus more on Muhammad’s relation with the Qur’an. I will present some reasons why Prophet Muhammad could not be the author of the Qur’an.
The high moral conduct of Muhammad
We always see people’s actions and attitudes through their attributes, values, context … etc. There is no doubt the moral conduct is an especial factor to necessarily trust and believe others’ claims. We have to use a similar criterion with Prophet Muhammad who claims to receive revelation from God. Muhammad was known among people as “the honest” and “the trustworthy.” People used to keep their properties with him during their long travels. Many people believed in him due to his elevated moral conduct.
To imagine to what extent they trusted him, listen to what happened at the beginning of receiving revelation. He ascended Mount Safa in Makkah (a small mountain that one could easily see what’s behind) and said:
‘Do you see? If I inform you that cavalrymen are proceeding up the side of this mountain, will you believe me?’ They said, ‘We have never heard you telling a lie.’ Then he said, “I am a plain warner to you of a coming severe punishment.’ “ [Bukhari, Hadith 4971] (1)
Even his enemies were clear on that issue. For example, when they were asked about his honesty, no one denied it. Ibn Abbas (one of the Prophet’s companions) narrated a testimony of Abu Sufyan (a leading pagan enemy who later embraced Islam after its dominance over Arabia) in front of Heraclius. The latter asked them about the Prophet: “Have you ever accused him of telling lies before his claim (to be a Prophet)? …, Does he break his promises?” and similar questions to which Abu Sufyan replied with “No.”
How would a truthful and righteous person who couldn’t lie against people, lie against the All-Knowing, the All-Powerful?
The linguistic variance between Muhammad’s speech and the Qur’an
Nowadays, scholars are performing modern research to discuss the issue in a way that doesn’t involve human biases and subjectivity. In 2012, a study was held by Literary and Linguistic Computing journal to determine whether the Qur’an was authored by Muhammad or not. The study was based on computational author discrimination. Researchers use this method to identify the authenticity of relating a piece of writing to a certain author.
For example, they applied this method to the New Testament. They concluded that letters attributed to Paul couldn’t have been written by the same author. The study held 16 experiments comparing similar vocabulary, numbers, citation of animals, special ending bigrams … etc. in the Qur’an and Hadiths (sayings of Muhammad). The Research concluded that the Qur’an and Hadiths are of two different sources due to the pronounced differences between them both.
“Thus, three series of experiments are done and commented on. The first series of experiments analyses the two books in a global form … It concerns nine different experiments. The second series of experiments analyses the two books in a segmental form (four different segments of text are extracted from every book). It concerns five different experiments. The third series of experiments makes an automatic authorship attribution of the two books in a segmental form by employing several classifiers and several types of features. The sizes of the segments are more or less in the same range (four different text segments …). It concerns two different experiments. … in fact, all the results of this investigation have shown that the two books should have two different authors. The Quran was not written by the Prophet Muhammad and that it belongs to a unique author too.” [H. Sayoud, Author discrimination between the Holy Quran and Prophet’s statements, in Literary and Linguistic Computing 27(4):427-444 ·(2012) DOI]
The content of the Qur’an
The content of the Qur’an was further beyond Muhammad’s ability to author. It seems that all impossibilities gathered if he was to author such a comprehensive book. The Qur’an has sophisticated historical, cultural and religious references. That suggests the author should have had a wide knowledge of the previous scriptures, ancient multilingual writings of Rabies and monks, hidden manuscripts only discovered recently and the history of the previous nations. Muhammad was an illiterate man living among illiterate people in Makkah at the heart of the desert away from any civilization. Meccan people were pagan Arabs who didn’t have any knowledge of the previous scriptures. Furthermore, the previous scriptures weren’t completely translated into Arabic (and most of them lasted undiscovered) except in the 20th-21st century.
Assuming that an illiterate man, in a society of illiterate people, living in the desert, 14 centuries ago had all this knowledge is like assuming that a baby living on a distant, remote island wrote a multi-lingual dictionary.
The Qur’anic prophesies
The Qur’an’s content has plenty of future prophesies that, later on, came true. If Muhammad was the author, how could he dare to predict something that, if it turned out to be false, would destroy his credibility?
* God promised His Prophet – at the times of war and hardships where none of Muslims was able to ensure to take a further breath – he will protect his life against murder
O Messenger, announce that which has been revealed to you from your Lord, … And Allah will protect you from the people.” [Qur’an 5 – 67] (2)
The Prophet wasn’t murdered, and there’s a strange story narrating an incident when a disbeliever tried to kill him.(3)
* The Qur’an prophesied the defeat of Persia at the time they achieved victory over the Byzantines. And it was nearly impossible to predict that this could happen.
The Byzantines have been defeated in the nearest land. But they, after their defeat, will overcome within three to nine years. To Allah belongs the command before and after. And that day the believers will rejoice.” [Qur’an 30- 2:4] (4)
* God gave good tidings to the believers that they would safely enter Makkah after long years of suffering:
Certainly has Allah showed to His Messenger the vision in truth. You will surely enter al-Masjid al-Haram, if Allah wills, in safety, with your heads shaved and [hair] shortened, not fearing [anyone]. He knew what you did not know and has arranged before that a near conquest.” [ Qur’an 48 – 27] (5)
And in 538 Ac. The Prophet and the believers entered Makkah (Al-Masjid al-Haram) without a drop of blood.
* God promises in the Qur’an that He is going to preserve it from any changes. He said:
Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.” [Qur’an 15 – 9] (6)
The Qur’an was never updated since the death of Muhammad. It has been preserved for over 14 centuries now.
How could someone make all these prophecies other than the All-Knowing?
Muhammad’s inability to understand some of the revelations on his own
If Muhammad was himself the author, he would have certainly understood what he was authoring. However, he sometimes waited for the revelation to clarify the meaning of the previous revelations which he couldn’t understand on his own. For example, God revealed: “
Whether you show what is within yourselves or conceal it, Allah will bring you to account for it” [Qur’an 2-284] (7)
The companions of the Prophet said:
How can we be judged for something we did not do?” The Prophet told them “Say, we hear and we obey.” [Sahih Muslim] (8)
He didn’t know the intended meaning of the verse and waited for the revelation which came afterward with the clarification:
The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and (so have) the believers… (285) Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have (the consequence of) what (good) it has gained, and it will bear (the consequence of) what (evil) it has earned…” [Qur’an 2-285:286] (9)
If Muhammad was the author, he would easily clarify what he meant. Nevertheless, he did not have any further explanation of the understanding of the verse and had to wait for the new revelation clarifying it to him.
Muhammad misinterpreted some of the revelations
On one occasion, the Qur’an was revealed preventing the Prophet from praying for the hypocrites nor asking forgiveness for them.
Ask forgiveness for them, (O Muhammad), or do not ask forgiveness for them. If you should ask forgiveness for them seventy times – never will Allah forgive them. That is because they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger, and Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.” [Qur’an 9-80] (10)
Muhammad’s kindness led him to understand he was given the two options; either to ask forgiveness for them or not. So, he said:
Allah has given me the choice. …” Then he added, “I will (appeal to Allah for his sake) more than seventy times.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari] (11)
Later on, a verse was revealed correcting his understanding of the previous revelation. It said,
And do not pray (the funeral prayer, Muhammad), over any of them who has died – ever – or stand at his grave. Indeed, they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger and died while they were defiantly disobedient.” [Qur’an 9-84] (12)
Muhammad obeyed God, and never prayed for the hypocrites again. If Muhammad was the author, he would know exactly what he meant, he wouldn’t condemn his own act. It is apparent that he was in the place of a learner.
The intermittency of the revelation
The Qur’an was revealed in portions throughout Prophet Muhammad’s life. It didn’t only narrate valuable stories of the previous nations, but it also commented on occasions that happened during his life so people may learn. Reviewing the pages of history, we find some incidents were used by the hypocrites to spread negative rumors about the Prophet and his family. Obviously, if Muhammad was the author, he would have easily formed a couple of verses to exculpate himself and his close ones. On the contrary, Muhammad waited for tens of days for the revelation to come despite the difficulty of the situation.
For example, the hypocrites accused the Prophet’s wife (Aisha) of adultery, an accusation that profoundly defames his prophet-hood and burdens him. Muhammad knew she was innocent and said,
… By Allah, I know nothing about my family but good. And they have accused a person about whom I know nothing except good. And he never entered my house except in my company. …” [Sahih Al-Bukhari] (13)
However, he couldn’t make a decision except by revelation, so he said to his wife:
O `Aisha! I have been informed such-and-such about you; if you are innocent, then Allah will soon reveal your innocence. And if you have committed a sin, then repent to Allah and ask Him to forgive you. For when a person confesses his sin and asks Allah for forgiveness, Allah accepts his repentance.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari] (14)
And finally, the Qur’an revealed her innocence. It said,
Indeed, those who came with falsehood are a group among you. Do not think it bad for you; rather it is good for you. For every person among them is what [punishment] he has earned from the sin, and he who took upon himself the greater portion thereof – for him is a great punishment. (11)
Why, when you heard it, did not the believing men and believing women think good of one another and say, ‘This is an obvious falsehood’? (12)
Why did they [who slandered] not produce for it four witnesses? And when they do not produce the witnesses, then it is they, in the sight of Allah, who are the liars.” [Qur’an 24-11:13] (15)
If he was the author, why did not he avoid these false rumors which could destroy his family’s reputation as well as his prophet-hood from day-one?
The logical explanation of this is that he was waiting for God’s revelations.
The Qur’an reprimanded and severely blamed Muhammad for some actions, and that’s obviously not from himself.
For example, when the Prophet promised his wife he won’t drink the honey given to him by his other wife, God said:
O Prophet, why do you prohibit [yourself from] what Allah has made lawful for you, seeking the approval of your wives?” [Qur’an 66-1] (16)
When Muhammad permitted the hypocrites to not join the battle, God corrected him saying:
May Allah pardon you, [O Muhammad]; why did you give them permission [to remain behind]? [You should not have] until it was evident to you who were truthful and you knew [who were] the liars.” [Qur’an 9-43] (17)
Once, Muhammad turned away from a blind man and left him to speak to the leaders seeking their guidance. God severely criticized his action saying:
The Prophet frowned and turned away because there came to him the blind man, (interrupting). But what would make you perceive, (O Muhammad), that perhaps he might be purified or be reminded and the remembrance would benefit him? As for he who thinks himself without need, to him you give attention. And not upon you (is any blame) if he will not be purified. But as for he who came to you striving (for knowledge) and he fears (Allah), from him you are distracted. No! Indeed, these verses are a reminder.” [Qur’an 80-1:12] (18)
After the battle of Badr, the Prophet had two choices regarding the captives: either to take a ransom or to execute them as they were willing to sweep the Muslims. The Prophet chose the former, but God blamed him:
It is not for a prophet to have captives (of war) until he inflicts a massacre (upon Allah’s enemies) in the land. You desire the commodities of this world, but Allah desires (for you) the Hereafter. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise. If not for a decree from Allah that preceded, you would have been touched for what you took by a great punishment. So consume what you have taken of war booty (as being) lawful and good, and fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Qur’an 8-67:69] (19)
How would someone severely blame his own choices and embarrass himself in front of his followers and enemies as well?
The superiority of the Qur’an’s language
The Qur’an linguistic style suggests there is a superior entity speaking. It orders Muhammad to say he was not more than a man receiving revelation from God. He didn’t hold the benefit or harm for anybody, nor did he know the unseen except through God.
God said in the Qur’an:
Say, ‘I am only a man like you, to whom has been revealed that your god is one God.’ ” [Qur’an 18:110] (20)
Say, [O Muhammad], ‘I do not tell you that I have the depositories [containing the provision] of Allah or that I know the unseen, nor do I tell you that I am an angel. I only follow what is revealed to me.’ ” [Qur’an 6-50] (21)
Say, ‘I hold not for myself [the power of] benefit or harm, except what Allah has willed. And if I knew the unseen, I could have acquired much wealth, and no harm would have touched me. I am not except a warner and a bringer of good tidings to a people who believe.’ ” [Qur’an 7-188] (22)
[It is] a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. And if Muhammad had made up about Us some [false] sayings, We would have seized him by the right hand; Then We would have cut from him the aorta. And there is no one of you who could prevent [Us] from him.” [Qur’an 69-43:47] (23)
O Messenger, announce that which has been revealed to you from your Lord. And if you do not, then you have not conveyed His message.” [Qur’an 5-:67] (24)
The commands were clear to Muhammad through the whole Qur’an indicating his servitude, and the superiority of the Qur’anic source.
Psychological and emotional variances
Any poetry or any piece of literature is affected by its author’s personal feelings and environment. You can feel the author’s grief and happiness through his words. But was the Qur’an affected by Muhammad’s psychological state?
The Qur’an was revealed in portions throughout the Prophet’s life, so it was contemporaneous with all of the incidents that happened in the 23 years of the message. Yet, none of the Prophet’s major sufferings and sadness were expressed in the Qur’an.
Some major incidents happened during that period. For example, Muhammad lost his uncle who protected and sustained him as well as his beloved wife in one year which he called ‘the year of sadness’. Yet, nothing was mentioned in that concern.
Muhammad lost all his sons and daughters except one. His companions were tortured severely. The leaders of Makkah (the place where he lived) rejected him. Looking through the Qur’an, we don’t find the feelings of Muhammad nor the names of his close one. However, we find a clear message from The All-Knowing giving further plans, teachings, warnings, legislation, … etc.
The challenge of producing a similar book
God raised a challenge to humanity to prove the Qur’an is his word.
And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful.” [Qur’an 2:23] (25)
If you say this book is formed by Muhammad or any human being, do the following: gather all the human poets and the most eloquent authors and produce a chapter like that of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an amazingly reflects upon its source in several ways. Modern computational author discrimination researches showed the pronounced differences between Muhammad’s speech and the Qur’an. Furthermore, the Qur’an’s comprehensive content, prophecies, unique linguistic style, reprimands, intermittency, as well as Muhammad’s inability to interpret some of it without revelation, all show the Qur’an is from the All-Knowing, the All-Wise who sent the Qur’an as guidance to humanity.
(1) Prophet’s saying ‘Hadith’ from Sahih Al-Bukhari.
(2) Verse (5-67) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).
(3) Hadith from Sahih Muslim.
(4) Verse (30:2-4) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(5) Verse (48-27) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(6) Verse (15-9) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(7) Verse(2-284) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(8) Prophet’s saying ‘Hadith’ from Sahih Muslim.
(9) Verse (2-285:286) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(10) Verse (9-80) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(11) Prophet’s saying ‘Hadith’ in Sahih Al-Bukhari.
(12) Verse (9-84) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).
(13) Prophet’s saying ‘Hadith’ from Sahih Al-Bukhari.
(14) Same as previous reference.
(15) Verse (24-11:13) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).
(16) Verse (66-1) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).
(17) Verse (9-43) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).
(18) Verse (80-1:12) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).
(19) Verse (8-67:69) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).
(20) Verse (18-110) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).
(21) Verse (6-50) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).
(22) Verse (7-188) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).
(23) Verse (69-43:47) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).
(24) Verse (5-67) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).
(25) Verse (2-23) of Qur’an( English interpretation of meaning).