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The process of collecting the Qur'an into one book was no trivial
matter. The Qur'an, when it was revealed, was subject to seven different
interpretations (as related by al-Bukhari). Muslims used to recite it in
such a way as to convey the meaning, which was not necessarily word for
word as written, and there were in fact several versions in circulation
before Othman collected them and put together the version named after him.
All this made the collection of the Qur'an a turning-point in the
credibility of the Qur'anic text.
The Companions at first were opposed to the idea of collecting the
entire Qur'an together in one book, which the Messenger had not done while
he was still alive, regarding such an act as heresy. But as soon as the
idea was realised, many copies passed into circulation and each Companion
had his own Mushaf (copy of the Qur'an), which he would not exchange for
Ikrima reported that Ali Ibn Abi Taalib stayed at his home after the
election of Abu Bakr, and Abu Bakr was told that he resented his election!
So he sent for Ali saying, "Do you resent my election?" Ali
answered, "No, by God!" Abu Bakr then asked him, "Why did
you stay away from me?" He answered, "I saw the Book of God
being added to, so I said to myself, 'I shall not wear my mantle, except
(to go) to pray, till I have collected it.'" Abu Bakr said, "Such
is a most wonderful thought."
There was also the copy collected by Ubayy Ibn Kab, widespread in Syria.
It differs from the copy of Othman in that it has two more Suras
al-Hafd and al-Khal. Al-Baihaqi reported that Omar Ibn al-Khattaab prayed
by reciting them, that Ali taught them to the people, and that people used
to recite them before King al-Malik Ibn Marwaan (until the Umayyad era)!!
Ubayy's version also differs from other copies in that it combines Sura
al-Fil 105 and Sura al-Humaza 104, as well as Sura al-Duha 93 and Sura
al-Sharh 94, while in Othman's version they are four separate suras.
There is another version named after Ibn Masuud, who was one of the
leading reciters of the Qur'an recommended by Muhammad himself. Al-Suyuti
reported, on the strength of Jaabir, that the prophet said, "Receive
the Qur'an from four: Abdullah Ibn Masuud, Muaaz Ibn Jabal, Saalim, and
Kab." The difference between Ibn Masuud's copy and the others is that
it does not contain Suras al-Fatiha 1, al-Falaq 113 and al-Nas 114. It was
also reported that he said, "The two charm suras (namely Suras
al-Falaq 113 and al-Nas 114) are not of the Book of God."
Yet another version, that of Zaid, was collected and written down at the
order of caliph Abu Bakr, following Omar Ibn al-Khattaab's advice to him.
Zaid collected it from the Companions' recollections and from writings on
bones, tree-leaves, tree bark and palm leaves!!
Othman, Between Unifying and Distorting
The process of collecting the Qur'an had obvious effects on the history
of the written Qur'an. Many different and variant texts of the Qur'an were
in evidence. Muslims were divided among themselves and each group held to
a certain text. The disagreement came to a head when they started killing
one another and accusing each other of being infidels. They levied various
accusations, on top of which was the accusation of distortion.
Seeing what was befalling the Muslims, Caliph Othman Ibn Affaan resolved
to unify the different interpretations of the Qur'an into one. Anas Ibn
Maalik reported that the people disagreed about Qur'an verses at the time
of Othman, with even disciples and teachers killing one another. Othman
heard about this, and said, "Do you lie about it and recite the
Qur'an using incorrect Arabic even when in front of me? What then about
those who are far away from me? They surely tell more lies and use even
worse Arabic! Companions of Muhammad, unite yourselves and write an Imam
(prayer leader, i.e. the Qur'an) for the people."
After forming a committee to supervise the writing of the Qur'an, Othman
commanded oil to be boiled and had the other versions that differed from
his cast into it. This should arouse suspicion among the researchers as to
the credibility of the version that we now have. For Ali Ibn Abi Taalib
bears witness that the Qur'an was added to! They say that Ali wrote in his
copy of the Qur'an the abrogating and the abrogated verses, while Othman
omitted the abrogated ones from his. Yet the copy we now have still has
several abrogating and abrogated verses!
One of the historical facts, which will continue to cast suspicion on
the history of the written version of the Qur'an, is the difference of Ibn
Mas'uud's copy from those of the other Companions. He rejects Sura
al-Fatiha 1, Sura al-Falaq 113 and Sura al-Nas 114, and even declared that
anyone considering them as belonging to the Book of God was an infidel!!
Note that Ibn Masuud was one of the four people Muhammad recommended as
trustworthy reciters of the Qur'an. It was reported that he claimed to
know everything in the Qur'an, big or small. When Zaid was assigned to
collect the Qur'an, and Ibn Masuud was left out, he was indeed sullen and
angry at the assignment of someone less than twenty years of age to such a
mission for which he felt more qualified than anyone else. He strongly
disapproved of the assignment of Zaid to collect the Qur'an and said, "By
God, I converted to Islam while he was yet in the loins of an infidel!"
As for Ubayy's copy, it contains verses and suras that are not in Othman's
Why this difference and disagreement, even though the people were still
closely related to their leader's life?! We again wonder, why did those
responsible for the collection of the Qur'an ignore such Companions as Ali
Ibn Abi Taalib, Ubayy Ibn Abi Kab, Ibn Mas'uud and Ibn Abbaas? We also
have the right to ask why Othman formed a committee to collect and arrange
the Qur'an, yet removed the abrogated verses from it. Why didn't he or
those with him accept the Zaid's version, although Abu Bakr, Omar, Ali,
and the senior Companions accepted it under Abu Bakr and Omar?
What Othman did to the Qur'an will always be under suspicion and
accusation, since he burnt all the other copies that were existent at the
time. Why were the copies prior to Othman's copy, which included Zaid's
copy, destroyed, if they were consistent with the unified text of Othman?
And if it was at variance with it and thus was burnt, how can we trust
Othman's version while he did not trust those of Abu Bakr, Omar and Ali?
The Shiites and Distorting the Qur'an
All that we have said thus far represents the sayings and opinions of
reliable Suni scholars, which challenge the integrity of the Qur'an and
accuse it, explicitly and implicitly, of being added to, taken from,
changed and substituted for. The Shiite scholars, likewise, hold that the
Qur'an has been added to and taken from. Their scholars of Tradition and
exposition, such as Ali Ibn Ibrahim, his disciple al-Kalleeni, al-Ayyaashi
and al-Tubrusi, are all of the opinion that the Qur'an currently
circulating among of the Muslims is not the whole Qur'an!
Imam Muhammad Ibn Jafar, for example, emphasised in his book al-Imamah
that God never said in the Qur'an, "The second of two, when the two
were in the Cave, when he said to his companion, Sorrow not; surely
God is with us'" (Sura al-Tawba 9:40).
There are many books written by the most notable leaders of the Shiite
sect that confirm the fact that the Qur'anic texts were distorted. The
most famous among them is The Abridgement on the Corruption of the
Book of the Lord of Lords by Imam al-Nuri. The writer said in the
preface, "This is a kind book and a creditable treatise, which proves
the corruption of the Qur'an and brings to light the shameful deeds of the
injurious and the unjust." The book has three prefaces and the body
of the text is in two parts.
In his first introduction, the writer emphasises the need to reject all
that took place during the collection of the Qur'an, its collector, and
the reason for collecting it. He touches upon the incompleteness and the
differences in the Qur'an in relation to the way it was collected,
supporting his argument with the reports of many Imams, among whom are
al-Saduuq, al-Tubrusi, al-Sighaar, al-Kalleeni, Ibn Shahr Ashuub,
al-Ayyaashi, al-Majlisi and al-Numaani. Here is a synopsis of these
reports. Ali collected the Qur'an neither adding a letter to it nor
removing a letter, but he was rejected and spurned. The three caliphs
assigned the compilation and the composition of the Qur'an to whomever was
in agreement with them against the holy men of God. So they omitted
everything that commended the Imams, as well as the text of great import
concerning the office of prince, or leader, of believers. Thus none,
except the prince of believers Ali Ibn Abi Taalib, can claim he collected
the whole Qur'an. Imam al-Nuri adds, "There were different
collectors; the prince of the believers was the first among them, whose
collection was at variance with all the other collectors. There is a
second version collected by the three caliphs, and then the copies of Ibn
Kab, and Ibn Masuud, which make four copies in total."
He then sums up his argument with the following: "When these
general and specific accounts are considered closely, we learn from what
is both stated and implied that the Qur'an now circulating among Muslims
in the east and the west, bound by two covers and according to its
collection and arrangement, was not so during the life of the Messenger."
The second preface to Imam al-Nuri's book was written for the purpose of
pointing out the types of differences and changes that may have happened
to the Qur'an. The examples of addition and reduction are numerous; the
addition has been pointed out previously, and the reduction includes Suras
al-Hafd and al-Khal. As for the substitution, it includes that of words,
letters and vowels.
Imam al-Nuri backs up his argument with quotations from sayings of the
Shiite scholars proving that the Qur'an has been corrupted and changed. He
quotes the sayings of more than twelve fundamentalist scholars who admit
the corruption of the Qur'an, such as al-Majlisi in his book, The
Mirror of Minds, Muhammad Ibn Hasan al-Sairafi in his book, Corruption
and Substitution, and Ahmad Ibn Muhammad in his book, The
In the first part of his book, al-Nuri furnishes evidence indicating the
occurrence of such changing and reduction in the Qur'an, supporting his
evidence with various reports and accounts:
1. There are accounts that indicate the omission of many verses, such as
the verse of al-Rajm (stoning), as well as many suras. Sura al-Ahzab 33
was as long as Sura al-Baqara 2, and Sura al-Bayyina 98 once listed 70
persons from Quraish by their names and their fathers' names. It was also
as long as Sura al-Baqara 2!
2. Ali Ibn Abi Taalib had a copy of the Qur'an, which he himself
collected. This version differed from that of Othman. It had verses not
found in Othman's copy, and vice versa. Among the verses it had, which are
not in Othman's copy:
"Am I not your Lord, and Muhammad is My Messenger, and Ali
the prince of the believers?"
"... and his parents were believers, while he was an
"... and We have sent before thee, neither a Messenger,
nor a Prophet, nor a speech-carrier."
"... and their mothers' husbands, and he is a father unto
"Surely man is in a loss, and in it he shall remain till
the end of the age ..."
3. There is a version of the Qur'an named after Abdullah Ibn Masuud that
does not agree with the present version. It is also at variance with Ali's
version. Al-Nuri listed some of the verses that were found only in Ibn
"For surely God chose Adam, Noah, the house of Abraham,
and the house of Muhammad above all beings."
"Did We not expand thy breast from thee and lifted from
thee thy burden? Did We not exalt thy fame by Ali thy son-in-law?"
Here are some of the sixty places the Shiites believe have been
corrupted according to the studies of Professor Muhammad Mallallaah. The
phrases they consider to be authentic, though not existent in the copies
we have now, are between brackets.
Abu Baseer reported, on the strength of Ubayy Abdillaah:
"Whosoever obeys God and His Messenger (in the rule of the
Imams) has won a mighty triumph" (Sura al-Ahzab 33:71). The Shiites
believe that Muhammad's Companions omitted "in the rule of the Imams."
Abu Baseer reported, on the strength of Ubayy Ibn Abdillaah:
"So We shall let the unbelievers (who forsook the rule of the
prince of the believers) taste a terrible chastisement, and recompense
them with the worst of what they were working" (Sura Fussilat 41:27).
Al-Husain Ibn Mubaah reported that a man recited in the presence of
Ubayy Ibn Abdillaah, "Say, Work; and God will surely see your
work, and His Messenger, and the believers'" (Sura al-Tawba 9:105).
For which Ubayy answered, "It is not so. it is rather ... and
the trusted ones,' which we are."
Abu Hamza reported, on the strength of Abi Jafar: Gabriel, peace be upon
him, revealed this verse after this manner, "Surely the unbelievers,
who have done evil (by depriving the house of Muhammad from their right),
God will not forgive them, neither guide them on any road but the road to
Gehenna, therein dwelling for ever and ever" (Sura al-Nisa´
Abu Hamza also reported: "Yet most men refuse (the rule of Ali) all
but unbelief" (Sura al-Isra´ 17:89).
They also reported that Sura al-Baqara 2:106, "And for whatever
verse We abrogate or cast into oblivion, We bring a better or the like of
it," did not originally have "or the like of it." Let the
reader draw his own conclusions from this.
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The miraculous nature (ijaz) of the Qur'an manifests itself in
many ways, the most remarkable of which is its historical accuracy. Muslim
scholars sum up their proofs for this thus: "When it spoke of
history, the Qur'an gave a clear divine saying" (Dr. Ahmad Shalaby,
in his book Lectures on the Islamic Civilisation). Dr. al-Biltaji
also states in his book Islamic Studies, "When the Qur'an
spoke, it told of the ancients, and prophesied the events of the end
times. This is not within the ability of a Bedouin, who was, moreover,
illiterate. If it was not divinely inspired, where did it come from then?"
Sayed Qutb said in the introduction of his book, Under the Wings of
the Qur'an, "The Qur'an and its texts must have the last word,
not archaeology and archaeologists. The Qur'an has been revealed by Him
who knows the secret in the heavens and earth, who "knows the secret
and that yet more hidden" (from Sura Ta Ha 20:7). He used to repeat
often, "Are you more knowledgeable than God?"
This was the position taken by some Muslim scholars on the miraculous
historical accuracy of the Qur'an, which is however neither a unanimous
view among such scholars, nor the opinion held by the general public.
There are some who hold that history in the Qur'an is not to be counted
among the "clear texts" (muhkam) but among the "ambiguous
texts" (mutashaabih) that allow for interpretation,
exposition and individual opinion. They argue that the Qur'an, when giving
a historical account, is ambiguous and does not narrate historical events
clearly one way or another but rather uses ambiguities and statements that
could have more than one meaning!
Although we side with neither one group nor the other, we still hold
that the existence of myth in the Qur'an is enough proof that the author
of the Qur'an was not the Lord of all beings. Be that as it may, we
nonetheless put forward here some more citations to back up what we claim.
1. The Qur'an ignores the main fundamentals of history when it does not
give the time or date of events. It does not even specify the persons
involved. Consider the accounts of Moses' life in the Qur'an. Despite
being repeated so often, the Qur'an gives no precise details about his
life (which no self respecting historian would consider) such as his
character, descent, the time he was sent as a prophet, the purpose of his
mission, and where, how and why he appointed Aaron as his deputy. Neither
does it relate the argument which took place between them and their
people, which would be indispensable to any account worthy of being
considered as history.
2. It narrates some events and ignores others. The Qur'an does not
concern itself with narrating in full the events concerning a certain
person or a certain nation where, had it done so, valuable conclusions
might have been drawn and lessons learnt. Perhaps it is for this reason
that the Qur'an groups together several stories that lead the reader to
one end as it does in Sura Hud 11. In addition, it pays no attention to
the chronological or natural sequence of events as it narrates them.
3. It ascribes some events to certain persons in one place, then
ascribes these same events, in another place, to other people. Let us take
for example Sura al-A`raf 7:109: "Said the Council of the people of
Pharaoh, Surely this is a cunning sorcerer.'" In another part
of the Qur'an, it ascribes these same words in the same situation to
Pharaoh ("Said he to the Council about him, Surely this man is
a cunning sorcerer'" Sura al-Shu`ara 26:34).
Likewise we find in the story of Abraham that the good news about the
boy was given to his wife: "Our messengers came to Abraham with the
good tiding s; they said, Peace!' Peace,' said he; and
presently he brought a roasted calf.... And his wife was standing by; she
laughed, therefore We gave her the glad tidings of Isaac, and after Isaac,
of Jacob" (Sura Hud 11:6971). Yet we find in Sura al-Hijr 15:5153
that the good news was given to Abraham himself: "And tell them of
the guests of Abraham, when they entered unto him, saying, Peace!'
He said, Behold, we are afraid of you.' They said, Be not
afraid; behold, we give the good tidings of a cunning boy.'" In Sura
al-Dhariyat 51:2428 the Qur'an also says, "Hast thou received
the story of the honoured guests of Abraham? When they entered unto him,
saying Peace!' He said, Peace! You are a people unknown to
me.' ... Then he conceived a fear of them. They said, Be not
afraid!' And they gave him good tidings of a cunning boy."
4. Whenever the same story is repeated, the Qur'an has a given person
say different things. For example, when it narrates Moses' encounter with
God in the burning bush, Moses hears different greetings each time. It
says in Sura al-Naml 27:8, "So, when he came to it, he was called: Blessed
is he who is in the fire, and he who is about it.'" In Sura al-Qasas
28:30 however it says, "When he came to it, a voice cried from the
right bank of the watercourse, in the sacred hollow, coming from the tree:
Moses, I am God, the Lord of all being.'" Yet in Sura Ta Ha
20:11,12 it says, "When he came to it, a voice cried, Moses, I
am thy Lord; put off thy shoes; thou art in the holy valley, Towa.'"
5. It adds certain things to its stories that in fact had no place in
the sequence of events, such as the claim that the Jews said, We
slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God.' yet they
did not slay him, neither crucified him" (Sura al-Ma´ida 5:157).
It is both common knowledge and common sense that the Jews did not say
Jesus was Christ, the Messenger of God. Had they adopted this belief, they
wouldn't have killed Him or crucified Him! Moreover, it strikes us as odd
to claim that the Jews acknowledged the killing of Christ, which they have
The historical material was introduced into the Qur'an to serve the
purposes of the Islamic dawa. Therefore it is not subject to the
scientific methods of research; it is rather religion-oriented material.
It was an embodiment of the lives of Muhammad, his followers and his
people, not of the true events of history. The history of the prophets as
set out in the Qur'an is not necessarily an accurate representation of the
course of their lives, as much as it was an accurate representation of the
There are numerous stories told in the Qur'an for this same reason, such
as the stories in Sura Hud 11. Some have even attributed the difference
between Lot's story in Sura Hud 11 and Sura al-Hijr 15 to the difference
of events in Muhammad's own life. The purpose of Sura Hud 11 is to
strengthen the hearts of Muhammad and his followers, which is why the
Qur'an is careful to relate the harm done to Lot. Therefore it clearly
depicts his state of mind, describing his emotions and thoughts. All the
stories in this Sura are similarly related, so there is a common thread
running throughout the Sura and linking the beginning and the end with the
verses between. At the beginning of the Sura it says, describing
Muhammad's state of mind, "Perchance thou art leaving a part of what
is revealed to thee, and thy breast is straitened by it" (Sura Hud
11:12). At its end it says, "And all that We relate to thee of the
tidings of the Messengers is that whereby We strengthen thy heart"
(Sura Hud 11:120).
The purpose of Lot's story in Sura al-Hijr 15, however, was to
demonstrate the harm that befalls those who disbelieve. Thus the Qur'an
lets the angels reveal their identity to Lot and tell him of the disasters
and the punishment about to befall the people, which paralleled Muhammad's
own situation. The Qur'an makes this clear at the end of Sura al-Hijr 15
when it says, "Now by thy Lord, We shall surely question them all
together concerning that they were doing. So shout that thou art commanded
and turn thou away from the idolaters. We suffice thee against the mockers"
(Sura al-Hijr 15:9295). So we see that the purpose of the story was
to emphasise the punishment meted out to those who did not obey the
prophets, who were sent to them as a warning to those who might not obey
As a further example, if we want to choose a Qur'anic story that
accurately reflects the attitude of Muhammad and his followers toward
their people at a certain period of time, we shall not find a stronger,
more violent or more truthful a story than the story of Noah as it appears
in Sura Nuh 71, which is named after him. It demonstrates Muhammad's
problems and those of his followers in their dawa. The movement of
the narrative parallels the difficult situation Muhammad was in, and his
turning to God to bring him up out of this situation and to rescue those
who believed from among the throng of the deceitful and the unbelievers.
The Sura says, "We sent Noah to his people, saying, Warn thy
people, ere there come on them a painful chastisement.' He said, O
my people, I am unto you a clear warner, saying, "Serve God and fear
Him, and obey you me, and He will forgive you your sins, and defer you to
a stated term; God's term, when it comes, cannot be deferred, did you but
know."' He said, My Lord, I have called my people by night and
by day, but my calling has only increased them in flight. And whenever I
called them, that Thou mightest forgive them, they put their fingers in
their ears, and wrapped them in their garments, and persisted, and waxed
very proud. Then indeed I called them openly; then indeed I spoke publicly
unto them, and I spoke unto them secretly, and I said, "Ask you
forgiveness of your Lord; surely He is ever All-forgiving, and He will
loose heaven upon you in torrents, and will succour you with wealth and
sons, and will appoint for you gardens, and will appoint for you rivers.
What ails you, that you look not for majesty in God, seeing He created you
by stages? Have you not regarded how God created seven heavens one upon
another, and set the moon therein for a light and the sun for a lamp? And
God caused you to grow out of the earth, and He shall return you into it,
and bring you forth. And God has laid the earth for you as a carpet, that
thereof you may thread ways, ravines."' Noah said, My Lord,
they have rebelled against me, and followed him whose wealth and children
increase him only in loss, and have devised a mighty device and have said,
"Do not leave your gods, and do not leave Wadd, not Suwa, Yaghuth,
Yauq, neither Nasr." And they have lead many astray. Increase Thou
not the evildoers save in error!' And because of their transgressions they
have drowned, and admitted into Fire, for they not, apart from God, any to
help them. And Noah said, My Lord, leave not upon the earth of the
unbelievers even one. Surely if Thou leavest them, they will lead thy
servants astray, and will beget none but unbelieving libertines. My Lord,
forgive me and my parents, and whosoever enters my house as a believer,
and the believers, men and women alike; and do Thou not increase the
evildoers save in ruin!'" (Sura Nuh 71:128).
Thus Sura Nuh 71 accurately reflects the situation of Muhammad and his
followers, and their struggle with their people, so much so that if
Muhammad were to write the account of his dawa, he wouldn't need
to add a word to this Sura!!
The parallel between Noah's situation and Muhammad's is complete. This
is seen in two constituents of the dawa worship of and
obedience to God, as well as in the method of the dawa, which
consisted of "public" and "secret" proclamation, and
in the way people received the message of his dawa, namely running
away from it, later growing proud and putting their fingers in their ears.
It is evident also in the things he promised money and rivers
to entice them to believe. Afterwards he starts to draw their attention to
God's greatness, which is manifest in his creation of the mountains, and
the seven heavens, which he set one upon another, and his appointment of
the moon for a light and the sun for a lamp. After that he communes with
his Lord, where he tells him that the people have followed the rich and
those whose wealth and children only resulted in loss for them. Then we
see it in the way he depicts the cunning of the rich and the leaders when
they demand their people to remain idol-worshippers as they have always
Strangely, however, the names of the idols mentioned in Sura Nuh 71, "Do
not leave your gods, and do not leave Wadd, nor Suwa, Yaghuth, Yauq,
neither Nasr," the worship of which this sura claimed Noah was
fighting, are not the names of the idols of Noah's people but those of the
Arabs. This confirms that there is some sort of mixing and duality in the
Qur'anic account of Noah's story, so that the Sura attributes to Noah what
happened to Muhammad, in such a way that would lead us to believe that the
Sura has been misnamed "The Sura of Noah" and think it more
accurate to call it "The Sura of Muhammad"!!
Table of Contents
The Qur'an is the Book of God; "falsehood comes not to it from
before nor from behind it." It is the true word of God, the epitome
of knowledge. Thus runs the myth of the Qur'an, which disproves itself
through the occurrence of myth within it!
Whoever peruses the verses of the Qur'an find that they record things
that have nothing to do with historical fact. The historical material in
the Qur'an has gone beyond the bounds of reality to those of fairy-tales.
This was the reason that prompted the unbelieving Arabs who opposed the
Islamic dawa in Mecca to say that the Qur'an was nothing but the
fairy-tales of the ancients (Sura al-An`am 6:25). One may indeed wonder:
are there myths in the Qur'an?
To answer this question, one should first set forth the Qur'anic verses
that speak of myths and fairy-tales:
"And when Our signs are being recited to them, they said, We
have already heard; if we wished we could say the like of this; this is
naught but the fairy-tales of the ancients.' And when they said, O
God, if this be the truth from Thee, then rain down upon us stones out of
heaven, or bring us a painful chastisement'" (Sura al-Anfal 8:31,32).
"Nay, but they said the like of what the ancients said. They said, What,
when we are dead and become dust and bones, shall we be indeed raised up?
We and our fathers have been promised this before; this is naught but the
fairy-tales of the ancients'" (Sura al-Mu´minun 23:8183).
"They say, Fairy-tales of the ancients that he has had
written down, so that they are recited to him at the dawn and in the
evening.' Say, He sent it down, who knows the secret in the heaven
and earth; He is All-forgiving, All-compassionate'" (Sura al-Furqan
"The unbelievers say, What, when we are dust and our fathers,
shall we indeed be brought forth? We have been promised this, and our
fathers before; this is naught but the fairy-tales of the ancients'"
(Sura al-Naml 27:67,68).
"But he who says to his father and his mother, Fie upon you!
Do you promise me that I shall be brought forth, when already generations
have passed away before me? while they call upon God for succour Woe
upon thee! Believe; surely God's promise is true'; then he says, This
is naught but the fairy-tales of the ancients'" (Sura al-Ahqaf
And obey thou not every mean swearer, backbiter, going
about with slander, hinderer of good, guilty aggressor, coarse-grained,
moreover ignoble, because he has wealth and sons. When Our signs are
recited to him, he says, Fairy-tales of the ancients!' (Sura
Woe that day unto those who cry lies, who cry lies to the Day of
Doom; and none cries lies to it but every guilty aggressor. When Our signs
are recited to him, he says, Fairy-tales of the ancients!
(Sura al-Mutaffifin 83:1013).
These were the verses in which the Qur'an discussed this matter, from
which we conclude the following:
1. These verses are all found in the Meccan Qur'an, despite the fact
that some of these verses have been inserted into Medinan suras, such as
Sura al-Anfal 8. Scholars are unanimously agreed on the fact that these
aforementioned verses are indeed Meccan, despite the suras in which they
are now found. What one can gather from this is that the unbelievers, who
spoke of the fairy-tales of the ancients in the Qur'an, were of the people
of Mecca. None adopted this opinion in Medina after the migration.
2. Those who held this view were, for the most part, among those who
denied the Resurrection and the Judgement. They did not believe in the
afterlife. This can be inferred from the verses of Sura al-Mu´minun
23, al-Naml 27, al-Ahqaf 46 and al-Mutaffifin 83.
3. The idolaters had a firm conviction in what they believed. The
strength of their belief can be felt in Sura al-Anfal 8:32: "O God,
if this be the truth from Thee, then rain down upon us stones out of
heaven, or bring us a painful chastisement."
4. The Qur'an does not deny the fact that it contains myths or
fairy-tales; it is however careful to deny that these myths are evidence
that the Qur'an was compiled by Muhammad and not revealed by God. Thus we
find, on viewing the previous verses, that:
The Qur'an only records this act of the unbelievers in the verses of
Sura al-Anfal 8, al-Mu´minun 23, al-Naml 27 and al-Ahqaf 46, but does
not comment on what they actually said!!
It threatens the people, in the verses of Sura al-An`am 6 and
al-Mutaffifin 83, who denied the Day of Resurrection and who prevented
others from following Muhammad, but no such threat is given because they
said that the Qur'an included fairy-tales.
The Qur'an concerned itself with contesting their claim that it
contained "fairy-tales" on one occasion only. "They say, Fairy-tales
of the ancients that he has had written down, so that they are recited to
him at the dawn and in the evening'" (Sura al-Furqan 25:5,6). This
reply does not deny the existence of myths in the Qur'an. It only denies
that these myths were from Muhammad, which he dictated or had dictated to
him. It emphasises that, even though they were "fairy-tales,"
yet they are from God!
This is the reason we admire the question al-Razi asks when he says, "How
can the command of the Qur'an, Say, "He sent it down, who knows
the secret in the heavens and earth,"' (Sura Ta Ha 20:7) be a reply
to the unbelievers' accusation of the Qur'an that it was the fairy-tales
of the ancients?" For what comes to one's mind, which is what al-Razi
and others also expected, is that the Qur'an should negate this
accusation, not confirm it!
We are of the opinion that the Qur'an's answer was the natural,
unavoidable one in this respect, since the subject of the conversation
between Muhammad and the idolaters was not whether there were myths in the
Qur'an. It was rather whether this fact could be taken as evidence against
the authenticity of the Qur'an, on the basis that Muhammad compiled these
myths himself, not God.
But now a question presents itself: Why did people stop saying that
there were myths in the Qur'an when Muhammad moved from Mecca to Medina?
In my opinion, the reason is obvious. The environment Muhammad moved to
had been biblically cultured, thanks to the People of the Book, so truth
and facts were widespread, replacing myths and fables. And since the
Qur'an is the result of and reflects its environment, myths disappeared
from the text of the Qur'an as soon as there were none in the environment.
Being more enlightened, Medina was no good milieu for the growth of such
old wives' tales!
Even stranger than the stance the Qur'an takes on this matter and its
response to the unbelievers is the defence of Muslim scholars against the
existence of myths in a book supposedly revealed by God. They hold that
the Qur'an utilised myths that were known to the Arabic people at the time
of its revelation, as means of creating an impact on the minds of the
people of that culture and of establishing the faith in their hearts!
Is it consistent with this interpretation to claim that the Qur'an is
the word of God that was sent down straight from the Safeguarded Tablet?
God is far greater than to resort in his Book, which he revealed for the
guidance of all beings, to falsehood and lies, in order to appeal to the
Arabs who lived at the time of the Qur'an. Didn't he know that other
people of other nations, times and places would come to believe in it, who
would be able to discover the truth about these myths, as those who held
this theory claimed?
These questions lead us to one of paramount importance. How can the
Creator resort to going along with the imagination and fancies of the
pagan pre-Islamic Arabs, when he is well able to compose his Book from
facts that are in agreement with reality and history, which at the same
time will well serve the purpose of admonishing and teaching those who
Table of Contents
Muslim scholars review the Qur'anic verses that speak of the original
sin of Adam and the salvation of mankind, and come to this conclusion:
Adam and Eve lived in the garden. God ordered them to eat anything they
desired from it, except for a tree he pointed out to them. When they
obeyed the devil, they brought upon themselves God's punishment (which is
undefined in the Qur'an). But they asked for forgiveness from their Lord
and confessed their guilt, and he forgave them. This sin or transgression
took place before Adam became a prophet, they claim.
The point then is that Adam sinned against his Lord; after that he
repented, and his repentance was accepted. So things came back to normal
again, and the divine plan prescribed for Adam and Eve took its due
course. They duly had children, and mankind came into existence. Thus
there was no inheritance of sin, and consequently there is no need for
Muslims reject the idea of an original sin that was passed down from
generation to generation. They say, "No soul laden bears the load of
another" (Sura al-An`am 6:164). "And every man We have
fastened to him his bird of omen upon his neck" (Sura al-Isra´17:13).
"Every soul shall be pledged for what it has earned" (Sura
al-Muddaththir 74:38). But saying this, Muslim scholars deny the true
exegesis of the verse. "And We said, Adam, dwell thou, and thy
wife, in the garden and eat thereof easefully where you desire; but draw
not nigh this tree; lest you be evildoers.' Then Satan caused them to slip
therefrom and brought them out of that they were in; and We said, Get
you all down, each of you an enemy of each; and in the earth a sojourn
shall be yours, and enjoyment for a time'" (Sura al-Baqara 2:35,36).
In the original Arabic, God addressed Adam and Eve in the plural, and not
in the dual form which is used when addressing two people. When he said, "Get
you all down" he usedihbitu and not the dual ihbita,
and also used lakum instead of lakuma when he said, "yours".
Muslim scholars say, however, that addressing them in the plural implies
the idea of representation, such a manner of speech being intended to give
honour to the ones addressed. They also say that even though Adam was a
representative of mankind in sin, which is backed up by the Qur'an's
statement, "Get you all down, each of you an enemy of each; and in
the earth a sojourn shall be yours, and enjoyment for a time," the
next verse says, "Thereafter Adam received certain words from his
Lord, and he turned towards him; truly he turns, and is All-compassionate"
(Sura al-Baqara 2:37). So inasmuch as Adam was a representative of his
descendants in transgression, according to the first verse, why can't he
be likewise a representative of them in his repentance and asking for
forgiveness, according to the second verse, they argue?!
Muslim scholars unceasingly appeal to divine justice, which prescribes
that no man should be taken to task for the guilt of another. They fall
back heavily on the verses speaking about personal responsibility
regarding reward and punishment, which we referred to previously, in order
to conclude that Adam and Eve sinned and repented, and that God forgave
them. Consequently, the issue was supposed to be settled, so that there
was no inheritance of sin!
If we examine the Qur'anic texts closely we will discover that they
prove an opinion other than this. Indeed the Qur'an establishes a
view-point that has long been rejected and denied by the exegetes!
Here we list the Qur'anic verses that speak of Adam's sin:
"And We said, Adam, dwell thou, and thy wife, in the garden
and eat thereof easefully where you desire; but draw not nigh this tree;
lest you be evildoers.' Then Satan caused them to slip therefrom and
brought them out of that they were in; and We said, Get you all
down, each of you an enemy of each; and in the earth a sojourn shall be
yours, and enjoyment for a time.' Thereafter Adam received certain words
from his Lord, and He turned towards him; truly He turns, and is
All-compassionate. We said, Get you down out of it, all together;
yet there shall come to you guidance from Me, and whosoever follows my
guidance, no fear shall be on them neither shall they sorrow'" (Sura
O Adam, inherit, thou and thy wife, the Garden, and eat of
where you will, but come not nigh this tree, lest you be of the
evildoers.' Then Satan whispered to them, to reveal to them that which was
hidden from them of their shameful parts. He said, Your Lord has
forbidden you from this tree lest you become angels, or lest you become
immortals.' And he swore to them, Truly, I am for you a sincere
adviser.' So he led them on by delusion; and when they tasted the tree,
their shameful parts revealed to them, so they took to stitching upon
themselves leaves of the Garden, And their Lord called to them, Did
not I prohibit you from this tree, and say to you, "Verily Satan is
to you manifest foe?"' They said, Lord, we have wronged
ourselves, and Thou dost not forgive us, and have mercy upon us, we shall
surely be among the lost.' Said He, Get you down, each of you an
enemy to each. In the earth a sojourn shall be yours, and enjoyment for a
time.' Said He, Therein you shall live, and therein you shall die,
and from there you shall be brought forth.' Children of Adam! We have sent
down a garment to cover your shameful parts, and feathers; and the garment
of godfearing-that is better; that is one of God's signs" (Sura
"And when thy Lord took from the children of Adam, from their
loins, their seed, and made them testify touching themselves, Am I
not your Lord?' they said, Yes, we testify' lest you should
say on the Day of Resurrection, As for us, we were heedless of this'"
(Sura al-A`raf 7:172).
"And We made a covenant with Adam before, but he forgot, and We
found in him no constancy.... Then We said, Adam, surely this is an
enemy to thee and thy wife. So let him not expel you both from the Garden,
so that thou art unprosperous. It is assuredly given to thee neither to
hunger therein, nor to go naked, neither to thirst therein, nor to suffer
the sun.' Then Satan whispered to him saying, Adam, shall I point
thee to the Tree of Eternity, and a kingdom that decays not?' So the two
of them ate of it, and their shameful parts revealed to them, and they
took to stitching upon themselves leaves of the Garden. And Adam disobeyed
his Lord, and so he erred. Thereafter his Lord chose him, and turned again
unto him, and He guided him. Said He, Get you down, both of you
together, out of it, each of you an enemy to each; but if there comes to
you from Me guidance, then whosoever shall follow My guidance shall not go
astray; neither shall he be unprosperous'" (Sura Ta Ha 20:115,117123).
From these verses dealing with Adam's first sin we conclude the
1. Adam and Eve's residence in the Garden was absolute, not restricted
to a certain time. The verse simply says, "Adam, dwell thou, and thy
wife, in the garden." If Satan had not caused them to slip, they
would have remained in it together with their offspring for ever. But if
their residence in the Garden was temporary, as it was with their
residence on earth, then this should have been pointed out as it has been
in the second, where it says, "And in the earth a sojourn shall be
yours, and enjoyment for a time."
2. Their residence in the Garden was under the condition of complete
obedience to God for He commanded them not to eat of the Tree. The Qur'an
says, "But draw not nigh this tree; lest you be evildoers." So
when the devil tempted them to eat of the Tree, which he told them it was
the Tree of Eternity, the divine decree was issued for them to go down to
3. The two of them were representing all their offspring when they ate
of the Tree, which was a sin of disobedience to God's command. The Qur'an
says, "Get you all down, each of you an enemy of each." And if
the statement "in the earth a sojourn shall be yours" was
addressed to Adam and Eve only, it should have been put in the dual ihbita
and lakuma, not in the plural, as the case is. Sura Ta Ha 20:123
says, "Get you down, both of you together, out of it, each of you an
enemy to each." We are only considering logically acceptable
interpretations and those backed up by Hadith. It is hardly plausible that
God should give honour to Adam while condemning him to get down to the
earth as a result of his transgression. Even if Adam was worthy of honour,
it wouldn't be due him in this particular situation! As for the claim that
the Qur'an's statement: "We said, Get you all down, each of you
an enemy of each'" was addressed to all those who were present;
namely Adam, his wife, the devil and the serpent, it is rather a peculiar
interpretation to say the least. For the next verse says, "Yet there
shall come to you guidance from Me, and whosoever follows my guidance, no
fear shall be on them neither shall they sorrow." What kind of
guidance could the devil and the serpent be expected to follow?!
4. Obviously, Adam and his wife broke God's interdiction by approaching
the forbidden tree. So they were punished firstly by enmity one to
another, and secondly by death. For "each of you an enemy of each"
indicates enmity, and "in the earth a sojourn shall be yours, and
enjoyment for a time" implies mortality on earth, to be ended by
certain death. Now if we look to Adam's offspring we'll find them
suffering the same punishment of enmity and death. We are thus faced with
one of two conclusions: Either Adam and Eve were representatives of their
progeny, in which case receiving a part of the punishment on behalf of
their progeny would be fair and just, or Adam and Eve were not
representatives of their progeny, in which case the infliction of the
punishment for sin on those who had no part in it would be a great evil
and manifest injustice.
It is meaningless, in view of the issuing of the divine decree: "We
said, Get you all down,'" to stick to the concept of immediate
forgiveness: "Thereafter Adam received certain words from his Lord,
and He turned towards him." How could God forgive them and still
inflict punishment on them at the same time? How could He have accepted
their repentance, yet did not put them back in the Garden?
It is a flimsy argument that says that divine justice does not accept
taking a person to task in place of another.
How can one argue that divine justice does not allow for the making of
one person accountable for the sin of another? Can we refuse to admit the
fact that we are born having inherited from our father his sin and guilt,
while accepting that a person may be born having inherited a certain
genetic disease from his father without seeing this as injustice on God's
5. The concept of inheriting the original sin is not a strange one to
the Islamic thought; we find several theologians who have given it a firm
foundation and confirmation by furnishing various evidence to back it up.
Ibnul Athir says in al-Usuul, "Muhammad said, If sin
was committed in a land, those who witnessed it and renounced it are like
those who were absent at the time. And those who were absent at the time
of committing it, if they approved of it, are like those who witnessed
it.'" "Then," he goes on to say, "you may say, The
external sense of "And fear a trial which shall surely not smite in
particular the evildoers among you" (Sura al-Anfal 8:25) includes the
evildoers and those who did no evil, so how can it be that God, who is
merciful and generous, inflicts the trial upon those who did no evil?'"
For which Ibnul Athir answered, "God, may He be exalted, is King over
His dominion, and the Creator of His beings; they are His servants and
under His dominion. He is entitled to deal freely with them, and is not to
be taken to task for what He does, whereas they are. So it is fitting for
Him because he is King, and also because He might know that this would
involve some sort of benefit for them!"
Ibn Hazm says that the verse "A man shall have to his account only
as he has laboured" (Sura al-Najm 53:39) has been abrogated by the
verse "And those who believed, and their seed followed them in
belief, We shall join their seed with them, and We shall not defraud them
of aught of their work" (Sura al-Tur 52:21). This latter verse puts
the child on a par with his father on the Resurrection Day and implies
that God accepts the intercession of the fathers for their children, and
Furthermore, the Qur'an says, "Surely they who took to themselves
the Calf anger shall overtake them from their Lord, and abasement
in this present life" (Sura al-A`raf 7:152). Here Muhammad was
accusing the Jews of his time of worshipping the calf, although it was not
they but their ancestors who did so. Yet the Qur'an says, "They who
took to themselves the Calf." Ibn Abbaas said, "These are the
ones who were at the time of the Prophet, and their ancestors were the
ones who worshipped the Calf!"
Some expositors have even interpreted "anger shall overtake them
from their Lord, and abasement in this present life" as a reference
to the massacre and expulsion that befell the Jews of Bani Nudhair, Bani
Quraiza and Khaibar. It is not correct to say that this is a historical
account, that it speaks of the Jews of the past, otherwise what would "shall
overtake them" mean? This is obviously an account of the future not
of the past!
The concept of the inheritance of the original sin is obvious from the
Hadith reported by Abu Huraira about Muhammad: "When God created Adam
He rubbed his back, so that every soul He was to create of his offspring
unto the Resurrection Day fell out. He then put between the eyes of every
man a glitter of light, and reviewed them in front of Adam. The latter
said, O Lord, who are these?'
"He said, These are your offspring.'
"Adam saw a certain man amongst them with a glitter between his
eyes that appealed much to him, so he asked Lord, who is he?'
"God said, He is David.'
"Adam asked, How long did Thou make his life to be?'
"God answered, Sixty years.'
"Adam said, Lord, add 40 more of my lifetime to them.' So
when Adam's life came to an end, but for 40 years, and the Angel of Death
came upon him, he said, Aren't there 40 years of my life remaining?'
"The Angel said, Have you not given them to your son David?'
"Therefore Adam retracted, so that his offspring retracted; and
Adam forgot and ate of the Tree, so that his offspring forgot. By Adam's
sin his offspring sinned" (reported by al-Tirmizi and Ibn Maaja).
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What the Qur'an has to say about Christ's crucifixion and resurrection
arouses a lot of controversy. For even though the Qur'an gave the Muslims
the truth about the things Christians and Jews were disagreeing about, as
Muslims say, yet it did not give a decisive statement on many historical
issues, such as Christ's crucifixion which aroused an extensive discussion
at the time. The Qur'anic texts have a certain direction, its expositors
another direction, and the common people have yet another. The gap between
these three opinions is vast indeed! Here are the Qur'anic texts that deal
with this question:
"Peace be upon me, the day I was born, and the day I die, and the
day I am raised up" (Sura Maryam 19:33).
"And We gave Jesus son of Mary the clear signs, and confirmed him
with the Holy Spirit; and whensoever there came to you a Messenger with
that your souls had not desired for, did you become arrogant, and some cry
lies to and some slay?" (Sura al-Baqara 2:87).
"When God said, Jesus, I will take thee to Me (Arabic: mutawaffeeka,
"I will cause you to die") and will raise thee to Me, and will
purify thee of those who believe not, I will set thy followers above the
unbelievers till the Resurrection Day'" (Sura Al Imran 3:55).
"And when God said, O Jesus, son of Mary, didst you say unto
men, "Take me and my mother as gods, apart from God"?' He said, To
Thee be glory! It is not mine to say what I have no right to... I was
witness over them, while I remained among them; but when Thou didst take
me (tawaffaitani, "caused me to die") to Thyself, Thou
wast Thyself the watcher over them; Thou Thyself art the witness of
everything'" (Sura al-Ma´ida 5:116,117).
These Qur'anic texts show that Christ died even though they do not show
how his death took place. Only one verse broke the rule, namely Sura
al-Nisa´ 4:157: "Yet they did not slay him, neither crucified
him... and they slew him not of a certainty." So how did the
expositors doctor this contradiction?
Some expositors said that the phrase "take thee" in the
previous verses does not mean actual death, but rather what is called in
Arabic wafaatul nawm or the death of sleep. They back this up by
the Qur'anic verse, "It is He who recalls you (yatawaffakum)
by night, and He knows what you work by day" (Sura al-An`am 6:60). It
slipped their memories that the Qur'an uses the verb tawaffa to
mean actual death more than 25 times, as in Sura al-Ma´ida 5:117: "And
I was witness over them, while I remained among them; but when Thou didst
take me (tawaffaitani)...." Tawaffaitani here means
actual death, in contrast to life on earth.
They also said that Sura al-Nisa´ 4:157 has abrogated all the
verses that speak of the death of Christ. This is obviously a spurious
interpretation, since abrogation is permissible in the cases of judgements
and treatments, not in those of reports and historical narratives!
Difference of Complementation
We believe that there is no contradiction at all between the Qur'anic
texts which deal with this subject. It is rather a difference of
complementation, i.e. different pieces of information (each true)
which pieced together give the whole story, and not of contradiction. The
four previous verses spoke of the death of Christ, but Sura al-Nisa´
4:157 showed in detail how death took place. In the Qur'an there are clear
verses (muhkam) and ambiguous verses (mutashaabih). Verses
are "clear" when the Qur'anic text is so definite and decisive
that it gives no room for interpretation (taweel). "Ambiguous"
verses, however, occur when "the Qur'anic text allows interpretation
(taweel) and exposition in more than one way."
An example of the clear verses might be "Like Him there is naught"
(Sura al-Shura 42:11) and an example of the vague, "God's hand is
over their hands" (Sura al-Fath 48:10). The relationship between the
clear and the vague, as Muslim scholars determined it, is that the vague
should be referred to the clear and interpreted in view of them.
Here we put forward a question: is what the Qur'an has to say about
Christ's crucifixion and death of the clear or the vague texts?
The Qur'an says in regard to itself, "And We have sent down to thee
the Book with the truth, confirming the Book that was before it, and
assuring it" (Sura al-Ma´ida 5:48). Expositors have interpreted
the word translated here "assuring" (muhayminan) as
meaning "putting to right the previous doctrines that were corrupted,
and explaining the vague parts of them." Thus the Qur'an is supposed
to correct and explain.
Has the Qur'an really carried out this formidable task? The facts speak
for themselves, and reality answers negatively. For despite the emergence
of the Qur'an at a time when heated arguments and controversy raged about
Christ, the Qur'an did not reveal clearly the truth about Christ. It did
not, for instance, tell us who that "duplicate" was, who was
crucified instead of Christ
If Christ was not buried and did not rise from the dead, why does the
Qur'an not say where he went and how he lived after that? Why did the
Qur'an fail to solve the riddle of the "empty tomb"?
If the Qur'an indeed accuses the Bible of having been altered (as the
expositors claim), why does it not back up its accusation with evidences
such as who distorted it, which are the distorted texts and what were the
original texts, and when was it distorted?
What the Qur'an has to say about Christian doctrines is for the most
part vague and ambiguous. The Qur'an says that the divinity of Christ was
said to be a widespread belief. Why then didn't the texts that treated
this issue deny this claim outright? What the Qur'an says, however, is
vague and indefinite:
"The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God,
and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him" (Sura
The way the Qur'an talks about the Biblical doctrines leads us to
definitely conclude that these verses lie within the boundary of the vague
ones, which allow interpretation (taweel). The Qur'anic verses
that speak of Christ's death positively state that he died. However, let
us look at Sura al-Nisa´ 4:157,158: "As for their saying
(namely, the Jews), We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the
Messenger of God' yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him,
only a likeness of that was shown to them. Those who are at variance
concerning him surely are in doubt regarding him; they have no knowledge
of him, except the following of surmise; and they slew him not of
certainty no indeed; God raised him up to Him; God is All-mighty,
All-wise." This verse belongs to the vague ones, which should be
interpreted in light of the clear verses that speak expressly of Christ's
death. So how can we interpret it according to the verses that speak of
The negation in the verse, "they did not slay him, neither
crucified him," is not a negation of the incident itself, but of the
consequences ensuing from it. The verse speaks of the Jews who thought
that by nailing Christ to the cross and thereby killing him, they had
blotted out his name for ever and eradicated his message. For even though
they plotted to kill Christ, thinking they would exterminate him once and
for all, God brought their expectations to nought by lifting him up from
among the dead, and he was thus resurrected, victorious over death. "They
slew him not of certainty - no indeed; God raised him up to Him."
The Qur'an negates the consequences ensuing from the incident, not the
incident itself. They fancied they killed him, but they could only guess
as to the truth about him. This means that the Jews were at variance
concerning the fact that he was killed because by his resurrection they
knew they did not kill him of a certainty his name was not brought
to an end by his crucifixion. Why? Because "God raised him up to Him;
God is All-mighty, All-wise."
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In their attempt to prove the divine inspiration of the Qur'an, the
Islamists depend on Muhammad's illiteracy and ignorance of everything to
do with reading and writing. But was Muhammad illiterate in the sense that
he could not read or write? And what are the reasons that have led Muslims
to believe in their leader's illiteracy?
Historical accounts do not give a definite answer either way on this
issue. The historians who wrote the biography of Muhammad emphasised his
illiteracy, and the fact that he never went to a tutor or received any
human teaching, yet there are still some records that confirm his
knowledge of reading and writing as reported by these same historians.
This obvious contradiction in history as handed down through the ages
has caused people nowadays to conclude that Muhammad was not illiterate
all his life long, but that he received this knowledge of reading and
writing from God through Gabriel.
Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar says, "The Prophet was illiterate, and that is
why the Qur'an is so miraculous by nature. When Islam had spread and he
was sure that no one would be suspicious (of his being the compiler of the
Qur'an), he learnt how to read and write"! Ibn Sheba says, "The
Messenger of God, peace be upon him, died only after he had learned to
read and write." al-Tubrusi adds, "As for the time after he was
chosen to be a prophet, there was no reason for anyone to harbour
suspicion against him; therefore it is possible that he learnt to read and
There are therefore records which indicate for certain that Muhammad was
literate, and not illiterate, which led Muslim scholars to believe he
learnt after he had been appointed a prophet. But these do not stand on
solid ground, since that which they claim is corroborated neither by
Qur'anic evidence nor by personal testimony. All they offer are personal
efforts to justify the incidents reported by historians that deny the
allegation that Muhammad was illiterate!
It was reported in a book written by Dr Muhammad ibn Abdalla Othman on
the style of writing adopted by Othman, "The Prophet, peace be upon
him, laid the foundation for the writing of the inspiration in the Qur'an.
He said, among other things, to Muaawia, Prepare the ink-pot,
sharpen the pen, lay the ba stretched, tooth the seen
well. Do not blotch the meem's eye, shape the letters of Allah
beautifully, stretch those of "the All-compassionate" (Ar-rahman),
and write those of "the All-merciful" (Ar-raheem) as
clearly as possible. Put your pen on your left ear; this will better
The books written on the life of Muhammad relate that it was Muhammad
who wrote the reconciliation of Hudaibia himself. It was said in his
biography written by Ibn Hisham, "... and we have with us the
Messenger of God, peace be upon him, who can write, together with Suhail."
It was likewise said in al-Bukhari, "And the Messenger of God took
the book to write, and wrote, This is that which Muhammad agreed
upon....'" It was said in al-Tabari as well, when he was in much pain
during his final days, that he said, "Fetch me the inkwell and a book
that I may write to you a writing therewith you will never go astray after
Abu Bakr reported that the Messenger of God "just before he died
asked for an inkwell and a pen, and wrote down the name of his successor."
Moreover, al-Hamathaani said in al-Ikleel that "the Arabs
used to call all those who read or write Sabians,' and Quraish
called the prophet, peace be upon him, a Sabian' when he used to
call people in Mecca to Islam, and recite the Qur'an.
These reports may seem to be contradictory to a widespread historical
account, which, according to historians, was the first encounter between
Muhammad and Gabriel. It is when Gabriel ordered him, "Read (or
recite)." Muhammad answered, "I am not one to read (or recite)."
It may be true that this report is contradictory to the previous ones,
but al-Tabari narrates the incident in a way that is in keeping with what
we held previously. He reported that Ibnul Zubair said, "The
Messenger of God, peace be upon him, said, And a prophet in silk
came to me while I was asleep, who had a book. He said, "Recite."
I said, "What do I recite?" Then he enveloped me in such a
manner that I thought he was Death, and sent saying, "Recite."
Then I said, "What shall I recite?" He answered, "Recite,
in the Name of thy Lord who created...."'"
This leads us to ask: Were Gabriel and his Lord, according to the first
report, ignorant of Muhammad's illiteracy to ask him to read or recite,
and wait for Muhammad to answer and deny being able to?! It was more
reasonable on the part of Gabriel, who was supposed to be God's messenger
to Muhammad, to make it easy for him. He should have confirmed his call to
prophethood by telling him that he was illiterate (if this was indeed the
case) and that he knew his inability to read and write, and that he
therefore would teach him how to do so. This would be logical and easily
acceptable by any rational mind.
As for any other explanations given, they make light of reason and
distort the truth passed down to us.
These quotations are adequate to refute the claim of Muhammad's
illiteracy. Why then do Muslims still cling to this erroneous notion?
By proving that Muhammad was illiterate Muslims hoped to prove the
miraculous nature of the Qur'an and that it was divinely inspired, with
this miracle coming to a city that had fallen into ignorance and
stupidity, and to a time pervaded with paganism and godlessness. Through
this miracle God is supposed also to have turned the world system upside
down, giving an illiterate man the gift of eloquence, and replacing
ignorance with knowledge and idolatry with belief!!
It is only right therefore to ask: Does it really aggrandise a religion
for it to be built on the primitiveness of men? Is the benightedness of
those who follow its teachings really something to be proud of? Would God
not have been able to prove the eloquence of the Qur'an to civilised
people equally well, making it be delivered by a learned man and not an
illiterate one, without detracting from the power and essence of the
In fact, Islamists would not have thought this way but for some of the
verses of the Qur'an whose outward meaning might denote Muhammad's
illiteracy, yet their inward meaning negates it! Here we look at some of
The People of Moses and the Illiterate Prophet
The Qur'an says in Sura al-A`raf 7:156-158, as a part of the discourse
of Moses and his people, And prescribe for us in this world
good, and in the world to come; we have repented unto Thee.' Said He, My
chastisement I smite with it whom I will; and my mercy embraces all
things, and I shall prescribe it for those who are godfearing and pay the
alms, and those who indeed believe in Our signs, those who follow the
Messenger, the Prophet of the common folk (the Arabic can also mean "the
illiterate Prophet"), whom they find written down with them in the
Torah and the Gospel, bidding them to honour, and forbidding them
dishonour, making lawful for them the good things and making unlawful for
them the corrupt things, and relieving them of their loads, and the
fetters that were upon them. Those who believe in him and succour him and
help him, and follow the light that has been sent down with him- they are
the prosperous. Say: "O mankind, I am the Messenger of God to you
all, of Him to whom belongs the kingdom of heaven and of the earth. There
is no God but He. He gives life, and makes to die. Believe then in God,
and in His Messenger, the Prophet of the common folk, who believes in God
and His words, and follow him; haply so you will be guided."
In no other place does the Qur'an mention "the Prophet of the
common people," which was mistakenly understood as meaning "the
illiterate Prophet". Yet the Qur'an prides itself on its form of
narrative that is characterised by repetition of various phrases and ideas
in order to impress the story permanently in the minds of the hearers, as
"The Prophet of the common folk" in Sura al-A`raf 7 is written
in contrast to Moses and his people. Moses and his people at their
appointed time were seized by trepidation and began to pray, saying, "And
prescribe for us in this world good, and in the world to come; we have
repented unto Thee." According to the Arab linguists of the time, the
Jews derived their name from the word huda (meaning "guidance"),
which was also the epithet of the Torah. It was a brilliant play on words
in verse 156 to say "we repented unto Thee" since the verb used
here (haad, yahuud) bears a striking resemblance with the Arabic
word for the Jews (yahuud). Moses, and his people, then praying to
God to count their Judaism as righteousness on their part, for which God
answered at first, "I shall prescribe it for those who are godfearing
and pay the alms, and those who indeed believe in Our signs, those who
follow the Messenger, the Prophet of the common folk whom they find
written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel!" So Moses and his
people had to wait for about a thousand years in order for them to be
granted this through belief in Muhammad! Is it really reasonable for God
to answer the prayer of Moses and his people saying that guidance is not
to be found in the Mosaic Law but in the following of Muhammad "the
Prophet of the common folk," which means the prophet of the Gentiles
to the Jews, who had not yet come?!
How could God answer Moses' prayer saying that Muhammad is written about
in the Torah and the Gospel?! Where was the Gospel at the time of Moses,
so that God might speak of it to Moses and his people?
The Meaning of "Illiterate" in the Qur'an
The word ummi occurring in the text in question did not mean,
according to the Qur'an itself, having no knowledge of reading or writing,
but it means those who did not have a book revealed by God. The Jews, who
came from Abraham's son Isaac, were the People of the Book, while the
Arabs, who are considered as coming from Abraham's son Ishmael, were
common folk (ummiyoon) or Gentiles (umam). The Qur'an
showed this distinction clearly and openly in many a place, when it called
both the people of the Book and the common folk to follow Islam.
"And say to those who have been given the Book and to the common
folk (ummiyeen): Have you surrendered?'" (Sura Al Imran
3:20). This verse points to how the common folk desired to know the Book,
as in Sura al-Baqara 2:78, "And some there are of them that are
common folk not knowing the Book, but only fancies." The Qur'an also
boasts that God sent a messenger not of the people of the Book: "It
is He who raised up from among the common people a Messenger from among
them" (Sura al-Jum`a 62:2).
As to the people of the Book themselves, they called those who did not
belong to them Gentiles. "They say, There is no way over us as
to the common people' (Sura Al Imran 3:75). In the light of this Qur'anic
verse we are to understand that the Qur'an describes Muhammad as ummi.
The common folk of the Qur'an are the Arabs who descended from Ishmael,
and the people of the Book are the Jews who descended from Isaac.
Consequently, the word ummi does not mean illiterate, but someone
who belonged to the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael, who did not have a
revealed Book. Al-Shahristaani writes:
The people of the Book upheld the religion of the Tribes (of Israel) and
conducted themselves as the Children of Israel. The common people upheld
the tribal religion and conducted themselves as the children of Ishmael.
Table of Contents
Looking into the incentives and reasons for fighting in the Islamic
belief, one finds a diversity of inclinations and attitudes. We cannot, by
any means, say about all of them that they were "for the sake of God."
The incentives for holy war were never exclusively for the sake of God, as
some fancy, and as some Muslim writers have tried to depict neither
at the time of the companions of Muhammad after Muhammad's death, nor
under Muhammad himself.
The Qur'an says in Sura Al Imran 3:165, "Why, when an affliction
visited you, and you have visited twice over the like of it, did you say,
How is this?' Say: This is from your ownselves!'"
It says also in the same sura, as a comment on the incidents of the raid
of Uhud, "Some of you there are that desire this world, and some of
you there are desire the next world" (Sura Al Imran 3:152). These
verses were given because of the Muslims who took part in the raid of Uhud
in which they were defeated, to discuss the causes of this defeat. They
fought and were defeated because they desired "this world". That
defeat was "from your own selves". The Qur'an describes the
greed that would overtake the early Muslims whenever they went out for
war. It says, "and do not say to him who offers you a greeting, Thou
art not a believer,' seeking the chance goods of the present life. With
God are spoils abundant" (Sura al-Nisa´ 4:94).
Islam imposes three alternatives on the non-Muslims, of which they are
free to choose one:
1. Espousing Islam, which would give them equal rights and duties as
those of the Muslims.
2. Paying tribute: "Until they pay the tribute out of hand and have
3. War and fighting.
However, Muslims were not happy with letting other peoples espouse Islam
without war, since this consisted in depriving them of the booty that was
legalised by the Qur'an. When at one time they declared war on a Jewish
tribe, the latter announced that they would espouse Islam out of sheer
fear of destruction and extermination at the hands of the Muslims. But the
Muslims didn't accept this tribe as a Muslim one and continued to fight
it. When this event came out into the open and many people spread the news
of what the Muslims had done, the Qur'an wanted to save the face of its
followers, so it censured them mildly, saying, "And do not say to him
who offers you a greeting, Thou art not a believer.'"
Booty, which was the fruit gained by war and fighting, was one of the
most important incentive to their going out from Mecca and Medina, and
drawing their swords in the face of everybody they met.
The Qur'an helps us put our finger on the most important incentive that
spurs a Muslim to go out for war, that is, spreading the word of God. For
the Qur'an is to be spread by the sword: This is a legitimate, authorised
way of spreading the words and the verses of the Qur'an. God has even "bought
from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of
Paradise; they fight in the way of God; they kill, and are killed"
(Sura al-Tawba 9:111).
When we come to the issue of the incentives for war and fighting in
Islam, we find two opinions. These two are:
1. Fighting only for the defence of one's land, country, honour and
religion. This opinion is held by a number of Muslim scholars, who are a
minority on account of the contradiction of what they believe with those
Qur'anic texts held to be irrefutable.
2. Fighting to uphold the word of God, that it might be uppermost and
the word of the unbelievers lowest (Sura al-Tawba 9:40). This opinion has
been held by all groups within the Islamic movement, since the leader of
transitional thought, Sayed Qutb, wrote to explain the issue of "sovereignty,"
which is a very relevant issue to the subject of holy war in Islam. Sayed
Qutb held that those spiritually and intellectually defeated people, in
order to refute the accusation that Islam was spread by the sword,
confused the use of force in legitimate holy war (jihad) with the
denunciation of compulsion of belief in the Qur'an, which are two
different, unrelated concepts. As a result, they try to confine holy war
in Islam to what they call today "war of defense" (see Guideposts
on the Road by Sayed Qutb).
Holy war in Islam has nothing to do with the wars of men or their
incentives. The incentives for holy war spring from the fact that this
religion is a public announcement of the liberation of mankind from
servitude to men. It brings man back to the servitude to God alone. Hence
it was inevitable that Islam would spread across the globe eliminating the
reality that was not consistent with this not only by reason and logic,
but also attacking political powers which enslaved people to someone other
then God (i.e., by not ruling them according God's law and
Islam does not force people to espouse its doctrine. It is not however
just a doctrine. Islam is a public announcement of the liberation of
mankind from servitude to men. It aims, initially, at removing both
regimes and governments based on the sovereignty of people over people,
and the servitude of man to man. Then it sets individuals free to choose
the religion they want. The Islamic expansion is in no need for more moral
justification than that which the Qur'an contains. Simply stated, the
Qur'an says, "Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and
do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden such men as
practise not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the
Book until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled"
(Sura al-Tawba 9:29) (Sayed Qutb, Guideposts on the Road).
The advancing of this divine doctrine is faced with very real obstacles,
such as the power of the government, the social system, and the conditions
of the environment. All of these Islam takes upon itself to destroy by
force, so that it can address individuals freely, appealing to their
consciences and thought, after freeing them from the fetters of
materialism and leaving them free to choose (Sayed Qutb, ibid.).
To sum up, the most important warrant for declaring war appealed to by
the Islamic movement is the belief that they are guardians of all beings,
and that as such they are required to remove all the injustices inflicted
on mankind. The severest type of injustice, as they envisage it, is the
subjection of man to man-made laws and systems. For to appropriate God's
right, they argue, and give it to created man is to do injustice to the
subjects, since to submit oneself to human laws is to deify man and
worship him apart from God. Fighting is therefore a must, in order for
this injustice to be removed, and to establish a just rule, as represented
by the Law of God revealed in the Qur'an.
Fighting is, consequently, the rule, and making peace the exception,
because the world will never be free from human laws.
Table of Contents
Belief in the Last Day is one of the six basic tenets a Muslim has to
espouse, the others being God, his angels, his Books, his Messengers and
According to a reliable Hadith reported by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani in his
book Jaami al-Uluum Wal Hikam, a conversation occurred between
Muhammad and Gabriel, who disguised himself as an Arab asking about the
precepts of Islam and faith. The following is a part of this conversation:
"He said, 'Tell me about faith.' Muhammad answered, It is to
believe in God, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day and
fate, whether bad or good.'"
The Qur'an puts it this way: "The godfearing who believe in the
Unseen, and perform the prayer, and expend of that We have provided them;
who believe in what has been sent down to thee, and what has been sent
down before thee, and have faith in the Hereafter" (Sura al-Baqara
Belief in the Last Day particularly has been the subject of many
unsubstantiated and unaccepted Hadiths, or so-called "falsified
Hadiths" (al-ahaadeeth al-mawdhooa). The Last Day in Islam
has been surrounded with a thick hedge of superstitions, fables and
illusions that have distorted it and made of it a doctrine quite at odds
with its equivalent in other religions.
Paradise, as they believe, is in the seventh heaven, while hell is in
the seventh earth. Hades is said to be under the sea, and that it will
keep on demanding more and more (people) until God puts His foot into it,
so that it draws together and says, "Enough, enough. By Your glory
and honour!" As for the sun and the moon, they will be cast into Hell
because they have been worshipped in the place of God!
Hell will complain to God that it is eating itself, and God will answer
its complaint by giving it two breaths, one in winter and the other in
summer! A neck will come forth from the Fire with two eyes and a tongue
that speaks, and will say, "I have been entrusted with those who
assigned others with God!" But such peculiar things will disappear
once we know that the Hadiths that relate such fables were in general
falsified or poorly substantiated. However, they will reappear as soon as
we find a number of substantiated Hadiths, which Muslims believe to be
correct, reporting things not in the slightest bit less peculiar or
abnormal than those things mentioned above. They might even strike us as
odder still. The Hadiths contain, for example, many references to the
Anti-Christ, or dajjal, who is being kept in chains until the end
times, when Christ will come and kill him.
One such saying, agreed upon by the main collectors of Hadith, says:
Abdullah Ibn Omar reported that the messenger of Allah said: "I saw
myself (in a dream) near the Ka'ba. I saw a man with a colour like that of
the most beautiful human colour you have ever seen. He has a forelock like
the best of the forelocks you have ever seen. He has combed it and it was
dropping down water. He was leaning against the shoulders of two persons
and going round the House. I asked, Who is he?' They replied, He
is Christ, son of Mary.' After that I was by the side of a man, curly
haired, blind of right eye as if his eye was a floating grape, having
similarity with Ibn Qatan whom I have seen among the people, having placed
his hands upon the shoulders of two men going around the House. I asked, Who
is he?' They said, He is Dajjal, the Anti-Christ.'"
Another such Hadith is as follows: "Ibn Maaja narrated a report
given by Faatima Bint Qais, in which she said, The Messenger of God
climbed the pulpit, although he was not in the habit of climbing it other
than on Fridays. This fell hard on the people. He beckoned with his hand
to those who were standing and those beginning to sit down, and said, "By
God, I stand here right now only for your good; I desire nothing and fear
nothing. But Tameem al-Daari came to me and brought me news so joyful and
exhilarating that it kept me from my afternoon rest. So I decided to share
with you the joy of your prophet. It is that a cousin of Tameem's told me
that the wind forced them to an island they knew not; they sat in the
boats of the ship and set out in them. And all of a sudden a figure with
long dark lashes and a lot of hair approached them. They said to it, What
are you?' It said, I am al-Jassaasa ...' They said, Tell us.'
It said, I surely am going to tell you nothing neither ask a thing.
But there is a monastery you will reach, which you may enter and find a
man eager for you to tell him, and he you.' They reached it, and when they
went in they found an old man tightly bound with chains, in sorrow and
complaining bitterly. He asked, Where are you from?' They answered, From
Syria.' He asked, What has become of the Arabs?' They said, We
are Arabs, so what do you want to know?' He said, What has the one
who went out among you done?' They answered, He has done well; he
came upon a people and God helped him against them. Today they are in one
accord, having one God, one religion, and one prophet.' He asked again, What
has become of Ain Zughar?' They answered, It's in a good condition;
people now water their plants and draw water for their folk from it.' What
has become of the palm-trees between Oman and Bisan?' he asked. They said,
They yield their fruit every year.' What has become of Lake
Tiberias?' he asked. They answered, It overflows its sides due to
the amount of water it carries.' So he heaved thrice and said, I was
given the responsibility of him who worships another god with God.'"
The Prophet said, "This is the end of what I wanted to say. This is
Teeba. By him who holds my soul in His hands, there isn't a narrow pathway
or a wide one, there isn't a plain or a hill in it that does not have an
angel with his sword drawn over it unto the Resurrection Day"'"
(from al-Qortubi:al-Tazkira Fi Ahwaal al-Mauta Wa Umuur al-Aakhira,
Al-Qortubi, commenting on this Hadith, says, "This Hadith is
correct; it has been narrated by Muslim, al-Tirmizi, Abu Daud, and others,
may the favour of God rest upon them all." Even though this Hadith is
correct in essence and well substantiated, yet it still contains some
bizarre things which we would only expect to find in old-wives' tales!
This Hadith admits that the beast al-Jassaasa spoke with the
Companions in a language they understood, and then tells how these
Companions met the false Christ, who was bound in chains in a cave till
the Hour comes!
The Sources of Islamic Concepts of the Last Day
The human mind with its inclination to myths and imagination played a
prominent role in forming the Islamic conception of the doctrine of the
Last Day. But there are also other sources of this doctrine, one of which
is the Bible.
The Qur'an describes the terrors of the Day of Resurrection, saying: "On
that Day there will be lightning and thunder and great horrors. The
trumpet will be blown, the Blast will sound, and a cry will be heard in
every place, on the account of which the earth shall tremble, and people's
veins shudder, and all eye will be forced to look down. Upon that Day "Every
suckling woman shall neglect the child she has suckled, and every pregnant
woman shall deposit her burden" (Sura al-Hajj 22:2) and "a man
shall flee from his brother, his mother, his father, his consort, his
sons, every man that day shall have business to suffice him" (Sura
`Abasa 80:34-37). It shall "make the children grey-headed" (Sura
al-Muzammil 73:17). It is a day when "no father shall give
satisfaction for his child, and no child shall satisfaction for his father
whatever" (Sura Luqman 31:33) and "a master shall avail nothing
a client" (Sura al-Dukhan 44:41) and "no soul for another shall
give satisfaction, and no counterpoise shall be accepted from it, nor any
intercession shall be profitable to it, neither shall they be helped"
(Sura al-Baqara 2:123).
The New Testament tells about this day. Jesus said, "When the Son
of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will
sit on the throne of His glory. And all the nations will be gathered
before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd
divides sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand,
but the goats on the left.
"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, Come you
blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was
thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was
naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison
and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, Lord,
when did we see You hungry and feed You, thirsty and give you a drink?
When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and cloth You? Or
when did we see You sick or in prison, and come to You?'
"And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say
to you, inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My little brethren,
you did it to Me.'
"Then He will also say to those on His left hand, Depart from
Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his
angels: For I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you
gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and
you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'
"Then they also will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we
see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and
did not minister to You?'
"Then He will answer them, saying, Assuredly, I say to you,
inasmuch as you did not do it to one the least of these, you did not do it
"And these will go into everlasting punishment, but the righteous
into eternal life" (Matthew 25:31-46).
It is significant, too, that where the Qur'an teaches that Hell was
created especially to receive jinn and human beings, the Bible
teaches that Hell was not created for people but for the fallen angels who
rebelled with Satan before mankind was created.
According to the Qur'an's portrayal of the Day of Resurrection, people
will gather before God "in scatterings to see their works." And
He will separate between the righteous, whom it calls "the men of the
right (hand), and the wicked, whom it calls "the men of the left
(hand)." Works will be revealed and hidden things exposed, according
to the record of works, for every man has his own book in which his works
The New Testament Tells about this Day
The New Testament says about this, "Then I saw a great white throne
and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.
And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and
great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was
opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to
their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave
up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who
were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then
death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And anyone not found in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire"
Dr W. St. Clair Tisdall adds in his book, Sources of Islam, yet
another source of the Islamic conception of the Last Day. He established
that the reports contained in both the Qur'an and the Hadith concerning
Paradise, the houris, the youths, the jinn and the angel
of death have been directly taken from the ancient books of the
Zoroastrians. For example, the houris, cloistered in
cool pavilions' of Sura al-Rahman 55:72 and the wide-eyed houris
as the likeness of hidden pearls' of Sura al-Waqi`a 56:22,23 have, beyond
doubt, been taken from what the ancient Zoroastrians said about spirits of
certain voluptuously beautiful young women called Mirkaan by them, and
Biryaan among the late Persians. The Zoroastrians claimed that the spirits
of these maidens lived in the air, being connected in some way with
planets and light. The beauty of these maidens was so dazzling that it
bewitched the hearts of men."
Dr Tisdall points out that Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgement,
all people will be commanded to pass over al-serat, which is
something stretched across hell leading to Paradise. When the believers
walk along it they will reach heaven, but the unbelievers will stumble on
it and fall down to hell. Dr Tisdall comments that "whoever wants to
know the origin of this saying should first check the etymology of the
word al-serat, because it is not Arabic. Etymologically it is in
fact Latin (strada), but semantically Persian. The Qur'an gives us
a picture of the people of the Book on the Last Day."
When looking at Qur'anic verses, one should really distinguish between
the two periods in which the Qur'an was given. These two periods are the
Meccan period and the Medinan period. They show such an obvious difference
in the strategies of the dawa that leads us to conclude that the
Islamic dawa took a giant step after the migration to Medina, and
that the whole concept of Islam changed seriously, as well. We can thus
say that the Islam of Mecca is not the same as the Islam of Medina, and
those who were considered unbelievers in Mecca are not the same as those
of Medina. Even the ones who were considered friends in Mecca are not the
same as those of Medina. For the ones who were taken as friends in Mecca
were treated as enemies in Medina, and the ones who were already treated
as enemies in Mecca were treated as being even more so in Medina.
The same applies to the concept of the Last Day in the Qur'an. The lost
who are doomed to hell according to the Meccan Qur'an are not the same as
those of the Medinan Qur'an! The unbelieving idolaters were the ones
doomed to hell in Mecca, and the object of all the Qur'anic curses for
over thirteen years. However, the people of the Book were submissive,
which is equal in Arabic to the word Muslim, with whom Muhammad
himself was commanded to be so. They are described by the Qur'an as the
ones "God has guided; so follow their guidance" (Sura al-An`am
As for the people of the Book in Medina, they are the ones who distorted
the Book, by twisting their tongues when reciting it. They are the ones
who hid Muhammad's name and description from their Bible. They are the
worshippers of the Trinity, who deified Christ and his mother, taking them
as gods apart from God. They therefore merited the fire, in which they
will remain for ever!
The careful reader of the Qur'an will notice straight away that there
was not a single verse given during the greatest part of the Meccan era to
warn the people of the Book against painful chastisement in hell. The
verses proclaiming chastisement were levelled, for the most part, at the
idolaters of Quraish and the surrounding area, who barred the way to God
and rejected the call to equality between castes. But it is very different
when we read the part of the Qur'an given in Medina. It does not
differentiate between Christians who submitted to God and worshipped none
other with him, thereby acknowledging he is one, and others who went
astray and worshipped Christ and his mother as gods, or those who took
their rabbis and monks as lords over them in the place of God!!
Let us consider further the contradiction in attitudes towards the
people of the Book in the Qur'an:
Khadeeja, who was Muhammad's only wife during the time in Mecca, asked
Muhammad about the destiny of the children of the idolaters, including
those of the people of the Book. He said, "No soul laden bears the
load of another (Sura al-An`am 6:164). They are on the bridge." Or
according to another report "They are in Paradise."
Abaan reported, on the strength of Anas:
The Messenger of God, peace be upon him, was asked about the children of
the idolaters. He said, "They did not have good deeds therefore they
could be rewarded and be kings in Paradise. Also they had no bad deeds
therefore they could be punished and be of the people of the Fire. They
are therefore servants of the people of Paradise."
This candid attitude towards the children of the idolaters and the
people of the Book seems to disappear at this point, giving way to another
attitude that the Qur'an held towards the same together with their
children. Ayesha once asked Muhammad during the Medinan era about the
offspring of the non-Muslims. He answered, "They are with their
parents." She said further, "With no works (considered)?" "God
knows what their works were," he answered, "by the One who holds
my soul in His hand, if you will, I can let you hear their wails in the
In Mecca the children of the people of the Book were in Paradise serving
its inhabitants. But later Islam took an independent position, or rather
an antagonistic one, towards its original source from which it had an
ample supply of doctrines and legislations for over thirteen years. As a
result, these innocent children were cast into hell, for no other reason
than being the children of non-Muslims!
Jesus and the Last Day
Christ, as the Qur'an portrayed him, was not only unique in his
conception, birth, childhood, miracles, death and resurrection, being thus
highly exalted above the rest of the prophets and messengers, but the
Qur'an also assigned him other things which it did not assign any other
prophet. The Qur'an even called him "the knowledge of the Hour"
(Sura al-Zukhruf 43:61). This means that his descent to the earth at the
end times will usher in the Resurrection.
We also read in the authorised Islamic collections of Hadith (such as
Bukhaari and Muslim) whole chapters that report tens of hadiths, with
unbroken chains of narration about the coming of Jesus Christ, son of
Mary. These hadiths appoint him a status unequalled by that of any other
It was reported that Muhammad said, "Jesus, peace be upon him, will
be in my nation a just judge and a fair leader." And also "Jesus,
son of Mary, will surely rank among men from my nation as you are, or
better than you."
Another hadith says that "Jesus, son of Mary, will descend, get
married, and have a son. He will remain for 45 years and will be buried
with me in my grave. Jesus and I will arise from one grave flanked by Abu
Bakr and Omar."
It is said that "he will marry a woman from among the Arabs after
he kills the false Christ. She will bear him a daughter and die. Then he
himself will die after living for two years." Abu Huraira reported a
Hadith of Muhammad's, in which he said, "Jesus will tarry in the
earth after his descent 40 years, thereafter he will die. Muslims will
pray the funeral prayer for him and bury him." There is also another
accepted Hadith that says, "The Prophets are brothers; they came from
different mothers but their religion is one. I am the nearest one to Jesus
son of Mary, for there was no Prophet between him and me. Know him when
you see him. He is a man of medium stature. His complexion is white with a
red tincture. His head seems like it is dripping, yet he was not drenched."
Kab al-Ahbaar said, "Jesus, peace be upon him, will tarry in the
earth 40 years, during which good will abound by his hands. The living
shall pass by the dead and say to him, Rise and see what blessing
God brought down.' Jesus, peace be upon him, will marry a woman from the
house of so-and-so and will have two children from her. He will call one
of them Muhammad, and the other Moses. People will enjoy favourable
conditions under him, and will have a time of plenty for forty years.
After that God will take up his soul, and he will taste death and be
buried beside the Prophet, peace be upon him" (from Yaqazat Uli
Litibaar, by the fundamentalist scholar Siddeeq Hasan).
But what is the reason that Muslims see underlying the advent of Christ
alone out of all the other prophets at the end times?
In his book al-Tazkira, al-Qortubi answers this question. He
says on page 764: "Christ found in the Gospel how much more excellent
the nation of Muhammad (peace be upon him) would be, and therefore prayed
to God, highly and magnificently exalted, to make him a part of this
nation. God answered his prayer and lifted him up to heaven, from which he
will come down at the end of time, renewing the things of the Islamic
religion that fell in oblivion. This will coincide the going forth of the
false Christ, whom he will slay.
"And perhaps he will be brought down because his life will be
coming to an end, not to fight the false Christ. No creature made of dust
should die in heaven. His status will be according to what God said: Out
of the earth We created you, and We shall restore you into it, and bring
you from it a second time' (Sura Ta Ha 20:55). God, who is highly exalted,
will come down to bury him in the earth for a time during which the one
who will come near him will see him, and the one who is far away from him
will hear of him. Then He will take his soul, and the believers will tend
to him and pray the funeral prayer for him. After that he will be buried
where the Prophets have been buried.
"And perhaps this will be due to the fact that the Jews
meant to kill him and crucify him. God has shown what they did with him in
His Book. They have always claimed they killed him, they said that he was
a magician and other things, from which God however exonerated him. They
will persist in this error of theirs till the Hour draws nigh. Then the
false Christ will appear, who is the mightiest of all magicians, and the
Jews will make a covenant with him. From that day on they will be his
soldiers, fancying that through him they will be able to avenge themselves
on the Muslims. If things come to this, God will bring him down, whom they
believe they have killed, and show him to them and to other hypocrites,
alive. He will help him against the false Christ and the Jews that will be
with him. That day they shall not find a way of escape. If one of them
hides himself behind a tree, a rock, or a wall it will call out, O,
Spirit of God, here is a Jew.' A Muslim will come to him, and he will
either espouse Islam or be killed."
All these are alternatives offered by al-Qortubi. They might on the
other hand turn out to be nothing but a new stock of suppositions and
individual interpretations with nothing to support them except some
ambiguous passages from the Qur'an and the hadith dealing with the life of
the Lord Jesus and his conception, birth, crucifixion, resurrection and
coming in the end times.
CHAPTER III. A LTTLE OF WHAT THE BIBLE TAUGHT ME
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