You have probably heard of the Holy Book called the Qur’an. What do you know about it? Is it really divine sourced? Who is the real author of the Quran “Qur’an“? Muslims believe it is the final revelation from Allah (the Arabic name for God). It was sent to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a guidance for humanity like the previous revelations. Some critics argue that the Qur’an is human sourced. However, looking through the content of the Qur’an, we find a number of sophisticated historical, religious, and cultural references. If we review the biography of Muhammad (PBUH), the places he visited, and the people he lived with, we’ll come to a conclusion that Muhammad (PBUH), or any human being, couldn’t be the source of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an’s contents
The Qur’an was revealed 14 centuries ago. It contains many stories of the past nations and their Prophets, such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lut, Moses, Jesus, and others. It also doesn’t only contain details on the beliefs of the Jews, and Christians, but it also evaluates, corrects and comments on them.
The source of such references was one of the major debates of Orientalism for centuries. They don’t believe in a supernatural intervention, so they had to hypothesize the natural source of such accumulated knowledge.
For example, in 2018 Gabriel Reynolds, a Christian Professor of Islamic Studies and Theology at the University of Notre Dame (USA), wrote a book called “The Qur’an and the Bible”. He tried to argue how the Qur’an discussed, evaluated and even quoted texts in the Bible, the Talmud and other ancient writings. Whilst the Bible was first accessible to Arab speaking people when translated to Arabic, even partially, decades after the Prophet (PBUH) passed away and the Talmud was first translated in the 21st century let alone the other writings (such as apocrypha, manuscripts and hidden books) that were only discovered tens of years ago, orientalists still arbitrarily stick to the humanity of the source of the Qur’an.
In this article, I am going to review orientalists’ suggestions. I argue these sophisticated historical and religious references could not be attributed to any other than one of three sources: Giving the accumulative nature of the references, it must be either Muhammad (PBUH) dictated himself studying historical literature, or a well-informed scholar taught him, or God Almighty taught him. And there is no other possibility.
Muhammad (PBUH) & Mecca
If we contextualize the Prophet (PBUH) and his environment, we would have more insights on the matter and draw a valid and solid conclusion.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born at the beginning of the 7th century in Mecca. He was illiterate as the vast majority of Mecca community. The local tribes called him “the most truth-teller and trustworthy person” (al-Sadiq al-Ameen). He was raised up with Meccan people who were pagans and didn’t have (and did not care of) any knowledge of the previous scriptures or scholarly discussions. This is because they were thousands of miles away from any civilization.
Muhammad’s (PBUH) statement
Muhammad (PBUH) said:
What I have been given, is Divine Inspiration which Allah has revealed to me (the Qur’an).“
It is less probable that someone deny the ownership of a book that even the masters of the Arabic language -who could fluently extemporize and form thousands of poetry verses in minutes- couldn’t meet the challenge to get anything similar.
We could doubt the opposite if he claimed to be the author of the Qur’an. In addition, we would be asking for the evidence this illiterate man could do this work.
In front of any court today this would be accepted as a statement from the one who said it, that this book is not written by him.
Muhammad’s (PBUH) elevated morals
Muhammad’s (PBUH) good character and great morals were obvious to everybody, whether friends or enemies.
For example, it was narrated by Ibn `Abbas, when Allah ordered him to deliver the Message, he went out, and when he had ascended Safa mountain, he shouted,
O Sabahah! (a local alert)” The people said, “Who is that?”… Then they gathered around him, whereupon he 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.”
Ibn Abbas also narrated a later similar testimony of Abu Sufyan (a leading pagan enemy) in front of Heraclius who asked them about the Prophet (PBUH): ‘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.
It happened that Quraish (Muhammad’s tribe) offered Muhammad (PBUH) money, leadership, women … etc. to leave the mission hoping he will surrender to his human desire when accomplished as they are mainly the human purposes. On the contrary, Muhammad (PBUH) rejected the offer saying
If they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand to leave it, I won’t.”
when an eclipse happened occasionally on the day of the death of Muhammad’s son, some of his followers thought it happened for the death of their Prophet’s son and they spread rumours that this proves his prophethood. Muhammad (PBUH) severely objected and angrily shouted in the discourse
The sun and the moon are not eclipsed on account of anyone’s death or on account of anyone’s birth. So when you see that, supplicate Allah, declare His greatness, and give alms.“
Umar also narrated, another example of such events for a person who does not want the worldly purposes and majesty,
Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a slave of Allah. So, call me the slave of Allah and His Apostle.” [Al-Bukhari 3445]
Claiming to be a prophet sent by God is either the best man on Earth if his claim is true, or the worst man on Earth if he is a liar. People know he is a truth-teller by his honesty among them. If he doesn’t lie to people, will he be able to lie to God?
A liar’s aim is mainly to gain leadership, money, prosperity… etc. If that’s the case, he will leave away his claim if he could achieve his goals without it. What is his benefit in telling people to worship one God, and to not associate with Him any partners even if it was him? Why did he suffer for years when he had these offers delivered to him on condition that he leaves the painful mission? Why did he continue?
To whom does Muhammad (PBUH) belong?
Who exactly was the author?
We could agree by now, but I want to elaborate more on who the author was. It is important to consider two things when dealing with this point. Firstly, Muhammad (PBUH) lived in or visited four places; Bani Sa’idah where his wet nurse lived till the age of four, Mecca where he was raised and lived till the age of 53, and two trade journeys to Syria that took few months. The first one with his uncle at the age of 12, the other at the age of 25, and finally, in Medina where he lived the last ten years of his life, from the age of 53 till 63.
And the second thing to consider, is that The Qur’an was revealed in portions over the course of the Prophet’s life. From the beginning of revelation at the age of 40 till his death at the age of 63.
Given the Prophet (PBUH) was illiterate and his elevated morals, the notion of dedicated study of the non-Arabic books the Hebrew Bible, New Testaments, the Talmud and other sources that were not yet discovered can’t be a solid argument for the source of the Qur’an. So, Islam critics don’t depend on this argument. Hence, we are still faced with the other two possibilities i.e. he learnt from a well-informed, international and multi-tongue scholar who accompanied him throughout his life, or the All-Knowing and All-Powerful taught him.
A Meccan source
Firstly, let’s see where is Mecca. Mecca lies in the Arabian Peninsula. At the time of the Qur’anic revelation (more than 1400 years ago) It was far away from any civilization by thousands of kilometres. Its people were -as previously mentioned- pagans and illiterate.
For example, Tom Holland, a radical skeptic orientalist, elaborates on the importance of this issue saying: “The key factor about the traditional account is that Muhammad receives his first revelation in Mecca. And Mecca stands at a fabulous remove from the World of the Roman Empire. … There were no Jews and no Christian in Mecca. … Muhammad was illiterate …if that is the case, … so how to explain this text which full of those sophisticated cultural references except by a miracle. It seems if we are to rely on the Muslim account of how the Qur’an came into being that The Divine must indeed have penetrated this Miracle.” [The Origin of Islam, a YouTube video at Rancho Mirage]
When the Meccans searched for someone who could teach Muhammad (PBUH) in Mecca, there were two possible men; Waraqah Ibn Nawfal and a blacksmith Roman slave. Waraqah was a monotheistic Christian scholar who believed in one God and Jesus (AS) as his Messenger. It is impossible for him to be the author as he firstly met Muhammad (PBUH) after he had already received the revelation. He told him he would follow him. However, he died a few days after this incident and the revelation continued for 23 years after his death. (so one of the above considerations are not accomplished)
The blacksmith Roman slave couldn’t also be the author as he was unqualified, non-Arabic speaker. Moreover, there is no evidence that he had such sophisticated knowledge like that mentioned in the Qur’an. Being a Roman (let alone being a slave and a blacksmith), does not make you a dictated multi-tongue scholar of Christianity, Judaism, ancient history …etc.
Allah comments on this claim and says:
And We certainly know that they say, ‘It is only a human being who teaches the Prophet.’ The tongue of the one they refer to is foreign, and this Qur’an is [in] a clear Arabic language.” [Qur’an 16-103](1)
A source during his travels
Muhammad (PBUH) travelled two times in trade journeys. The first time was in the company of his uncle at the age of 12. The importance of this journey for Islam critics is that he met a Jewish monk called “Buhayra”. This monk hosted the caravan because he saw signs of prophethood written in their scriptures on this group that he later recognized on the young future Prophet (PBUH). He advised his uncle to take him back to Mecca because if the Jews saw him, they would kill him as they did to previous prophets. So, his uncle took his advice and sent Muhammad (PBUH) back.
Some critics may argue that Buhayra was the teacher of Muhammad (PBUH) and that’s not possible for many reasons; the meeting didn’t exceed few hours which isn’t enough for anyone to receive the Qur’an with its detailed references; all the people of the caravan attended the meeting and no one accused Muhammad (PBUH) of learning from Buhayra although later on some of them turned to be his enemies as well as they would have learned the same knowledge he gained. Muhammad (PBUH) was so young (12 years old) and the revelation started at the age of 40. Also, whoever reads the narration of this incident will find that the monk was the questioner and Muhammad (PBUH) was the answerer not the opposite.
The second time was at the age of 25 when he went out as a leader of a commercial caravan. This journey lasted for a few months that they mostly consumed on the way. History does not contain any reference of him learning anything from anyone. Most of the Meccans were traders (for longer periods) who were also not scholars (being a trader doesn’t equal scholar i.e. and arguing the contrary would contain bias behind). For that reason, Islam critics don’t put this journey into consideration while searching for possible sources of the Qur’an because it doesn’t prove anything.
Jews and Christians in Medina
Muhammad (PBUH) migrated to Medina 13 years after the initiation of revelation. There he met Jewish and Christian people. Some critics argue that Muhammad (PBUH) may have learnt from them. Before taking a decision, we have to know the following:
- Most of the historical events were revealed in Mecca before migration to Medina. How could they teach him before even seeing him?
- They sometimes misunderstood the revelation, so how come they teach something they cannot understand. For example, it was narrated on the authority of Udai Ibn Hatim (RA), who is an ex-Christian Muslim:
I went to the Prophet when he was reciting Surat Bara’ah (chapter no.9). He then recited the ‘They have taken their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah‘. I told him after he finished ‘We did not worship them’. He replied, ‘Didn’t they make some unlawful things -which Allah had prescribed- as lawful and then you followed them? And they made lawful things -which Allah had prescribed- as unlawful and then you followed them?‘. I (Udai) answered, ‘yes’. The Prophet (PBUH) said ‘This is the kind of worship they receive.’” [Tirmidhi 3095, Tabarani 218 and as-Sunan al-Kubra of Bayhaqi 20137]
- They used to sit to the Prophet (PBUH) and listen from him. There were people among them who accepted Islam, and others who rejected it despite knowing he was a true Prophet. For example, Safiyya the daughter of Hoyay ibn Akhtab (a Jewish leader) narrated: When the Prophet (PBUH) came to Medina and he stayed in Qiba’, my father and my uncle went to him. They didn’t return till it was sunset. I went to them as I used to do but none of them turned to me out of the grief they had. I heard my uncle asking my father “Is it he (the Messenger we are waiting for)??”, my father answered “Yes, by Allah”, my uncle said “Did you know him?”, he answered “yes”, he asked “What’s inside you towards him?”, he replied “His Enmity, by Allah, as long as I live.”
- The prophet (PBUH) corrected their mistakes. In addition, the Qur’an contains many verses that condemn wrong beliefs and acts of the Jews and the Christians. For example:
They have certainly disbelieved who say, ‘Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary’ while the Messiah has said, ‘O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ Indeed, he who associates others with Allah – Allah has forbidden him Paradise, and his refuge is the Fire. And there are not for the wrongdoers any helpers.” [Qur’an 5-72](2)
And the Jews say, ‘The hand of Allah is chained.’ Chained are their hands, and cursed are they for what they say. Rather, both His hands are extended; He spends however He wills.” [Qur’an 5-64](3)
- No historical narration that mentions such thing.
Prof. Dirazz concluded on his research on this issue. He said: “whoever appreciate the sanctity of history and believed in its events know Prophet Muhammad had no human teacher. For those who claim a Human taught Muhammad (PBUH), please tell us his name, who saw or narrate this reference? What kind of knowledge did he hear? When did it happen and where? Was Muhammad born in Mars? Or was he raised in a world other than ours?” [Dirazz, an-Naba’ al-‘Adhim, p. 63]
The Devil (Satan)
Some radical skeptics suggested the devil as the source of the accumulative knowledge of the Qur’an, when failed to prove the above. It is enough to read the following verses to know whether it is plausible or not:
So when you recite the Qur’an, [first] seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the expelled [from His mercy].” [Qur’an 16-98](4)
O you who have believed, do not follow the footsteps of Satan. And whoever follows the footsteps of Satan – indeed, he enjoins immorality and wrongdoing.” [Qur’an 24-21](5)
O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. (168) Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy. He only orders you to evil and immorality and to say about Allah what you do not know.” [Qur’an 2- 168:169)](6)
And Satan will say when the matter has been concluded, ‘Indeed, Allah had promised you the promise of truth. And I promised you, but I betrayed you. But I had no authority over you except that I invited you, and you responded to me.’ ” [Qur’an 14-22](7)
Satan promises them and arouses desire in them. But Satan does not promise them except delusion.” [Qur’an 4-120](8)
[The hypocrites are] like the example of Satan when he says to man, ‘Disbelieve.’ But when he disbelieves, he says, ‘Indeed, I am disassociated from you. Indeed, I fear Allah , Lord of the worlds.’ ” [Qur’an 59-16](9)
A devil who tells people to be just, give charity, be good to parents, and never follow the devil is not a devil.
Did the Western scholars solve ‘the author’ problem?
Professor David Thomas, an emeritus Professor of Christianity and Islam at the University of Birmingham said:
“Precisely what Muḥammad knew about Christianity and its teachings remains unclear. A Christian presence in the Ḥijāz and his native Mecca is less easy to identify. It is the same with the Qurʾān. The fact that it has within it a great deal of detailed information about Christians, including monks and priests, and their beliefs about the Trinity, Incarnation and person of Jesus is undeniable. And it seems just as clear that it assumes an advanced degree of knowledge of Abraham, Moses and other biblical figures, about whom it tends to comment rather than narrate, as though contributing to an ongoing conversation concerning the meaning and importance of their deeds and words. But exactly how this relates to contemporary Christian beliefs, doctrines and teachings has long been the object of investigations that have so far not yielded much that lies beyond dispute.“ [David Thomas et al (eds), Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History, Volume 1 (600-900), LEIDEN, BOSTON (2009), pp. 2-3]
The real author of the Quran “Qur’an”
It is obvious that the Qur’an’s content wasn’t authored by Muhammad (PBUH) who was morally elevated and illiterate. And by studying the Quranic verses we would find that it directed its speech to Muhammad (PBUH) as a learner not an author. Also, by reviewing history we find that he wasn’t taught by any human being.
The whole article showed the historical content of the Qur’an must be from God, and that’s not the only aspect.
The Qur’an’s language is so beautiful and affecting. Its linguistic style is of a high level of eloquence that no one could get anything similar. Try listening.
The Qur’an’s teaching is the strongest evidence it is from God. It says it is a confirmation of the revelations before, and orders us to believe in all Messengers and revelations Allah has sent. It has teachings for purifying oneself, learning about our Creator, the purpose of our life, the Hereafter and has flexible rules for organizing our lives starting from the small details concerning the small family till the whole society and the whole world.
When are you going to start reading it?
(1) Verse (16-103) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(2) Verse (5-72) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(3) Verse (5-64) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(4) Verse (16-98) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(5) Verse (24-21) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(6) Verse (2-168:169) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(7) Verse (14-22) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(8) Verse (4-120) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).
(9) Verse (59-16) of Qur’an (English interpretation of meaning).