Who Wrote the QurŽan?
The QurŽan, written in Arabic, is one of the most important books in world literature. Its verses stem from Muhammad, a Quraishite from Mecca. In Sura 7:157-158, he is described as Allahs messenger and prophet who is illiterate (ummi). Not all Muslims agree to this interpretation of the Arabic word (al-ummi). Some explain it as a prophet from the animists, with international charisma. Conservative Sunni Muslims, however, believe it is a fact that Muhammad was an uneducated, illiterate prophet. They claim this is the divine proof that he did not compile or write the QurŽan that it came from Allah, who dictated verses to Muhammmad through Jibril (Gabriel), and then were written down later by Muslim scribes.
Muhammad and the People of the Book
At the age of six Muhammad became an orphan and most likely never attended school, but he was highly gifted, sensitive, clever and intelligent. He saw beyond the narrow frame of his business of trade and recognized Jewish clans and Christian slaves possessed a higher education than the Bedouins who had settled down. He believed he would find the reason for their higher-developed culture in their book. Revealed to them by God, they drew knowledge about the past, made regulations for the present, and found expectations for the future from it. Muhammad called them people of the book (Sura 2:105-109; 3:64-78, 98-100; 4:131, 153-159, 171-172; 5:15-19, 59-68, 72-77; 33:26-27; 57:29; et al.). They were his model. He wanted to possess a book like theirs in his own Arabic language.
Muhammad and the Hanifs
Muhammad was not the only one in Mecca who sought the truth. There lived other men who were looking for new horizons.
š Waraqa b. Nawfal was a scholarly Christian who tried to translate the Torah into Arabic with Hebrew letters. The Arabic script was not yet fully developed in those days.
š Ubaid b. Jahsh was another seeker of truth who became a Muslim, but later converted to Christianity when he was in Ethiopia. He died shortly after, perhaps of a violent death.
š Uthman b. al-Huwairith traveled until he came to Constantinople, became a Christian there, and acquired a high reputation as an expert of the Arabian Peninsula.
š Zaid b. Amr became neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he worshipped Abrahams Lord. On one of his travels he was ambushed and killed.
š Muhammad did not join any of the traditional religions, but over the course of 22 years in Mecca and Medina, he developed his own religion, Islam.
Muhammad and Jibril (Gabriel)
The expert on Muhammads life, the Dane Frants Buhl, says that Muhammad suffered a deep shock near the KaaŽba listening to the sermon of a Christian evangelist or bishop from Northern Yemen. He preached about Allahs inevitable coming for judgement. Muhammad hid in a cave near Mecca to gather his thoughts about the coming judgement. Doing so, he heard a voice ordering him, Recite, in the name of your lord! (Sura 96:1-4). Muhammad answered to this voice "I cannot read! Then the voice repeated the same order. Muhammad understood that he was offered access to hidden knowledge. But he confirmed his previous answer with deep regret. Then he heard the order for the third time. At the same time his head was pressed into a cloth so that he thought he would suffocate (Ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad. Vol.I, pp. 58-60). Muhammad claimed that the spirit which revealed the QurŽan to him verse by verse was the angel Jibril (Gabriel).
How Muhammad was Seen by the Inhabitants of Mecca
Sunnites and Shiites explain Muhammads early experience mentioned above as his first encounter with Jibril, though the spirit never said his name. Skeptics among the inhabitants of Mecca called that verbal inspiration as a revelation of spirits as it is to be read in the QurŽan several times. They called Muhammad a lying magician (Sura 10:2; 34:43), the medium of a magician (Sura 17:47; 25:8), a mad poet (Sura 37:36; 44:14-15), a soothsayer driven by spirits (Sura 52:29-30; 69:42-43) or an obsessed person (Sura 68:2; 81:22-23; et al.). They were afraid of Muhammad who behaved like a disturbed or possessed person when he received a revelation. Numerous doctors since the 19th century have diagnosed Muhammad as an epileptic because of the testimonies of his wives and friends that support each other. But Muslims call this statement a blasphemy worthy of the death penalty.
Muhammad and the Bible
If you carefully and critically compare the QurŽan with the Bible you will find that 60 to 70% of its content are stories and laws from the Old Testament, and five to eight percent stem from reports in the Gospel. Muhammad heard stories from the Jewish Talmud and the Mishna that were handed down orally. He quickly learned those stories by heart, altered them according to his system of belief, and brought them forth in Arabic verses after his epileptic-like fits. Grasping and transforming those texts was a masterful performance. That way, however, Muhammad also showed that he was not a prophet, but a clever seeker of the truth. The rest of his verses in the QurŽan contain clan regulations from Mecca and Medina or come from the new order of the Islamic society.
The Choice Between Law and Gospel
Muhammad never saw Allah and never heard his voice. He always received his revelations from Jibril (Gabriel). Therefore he was unable to recognize the judging holiness and the rescuing love of God. He never broke down as a lost sinner in Gods penetrating light. He rather wanted to warn his followers of Allahs judgement that was to come. To do that, he took everything he found plausible from the Law of Moses and formed the law of Islam from it. By fulfilling that law (the ShariŽa) he hoped his god-fearing followers would gain entrance to paradise if Allah wished it! A salvation free of charge, out of God's grace alone, appeared to him as something wrong in the face of those who faithfully tried to fulfill the law of Islam.
A Comparison of the QurŽan and the Bible
The contents of Muhammads supposed revelations from his twelve years of work in Mecca (610 to 622) are short, captivating and prophetic. His movement resembled a mountain spewing fire that shook and carried away many people around him. But the Suras from the ten years of his work in Medina (622 to 632) consist of long, tiring and detailed texts of law. In the second part of his work his words resemble blazing lava that slowly solidified in dips and ditches.
Repeatedly, Muhammad intimated that his QurŽan encompassed all books of earlier revelations that made them unimportant and abolished them. That statement made by Islam demands a comparison:
· Just one person compiled the QurŽan within 22 years, whereas the Bible's 66 books were written by more than 100 people over 1000 years.
· The background of the QurŽan consisted in one Bedouin culture that was changing to a settled form of existence in an area of 400 to 500 kilometers (250 to 300 miles) in diameter. The Bible, however, was written in different cultures (Egyptian, Babylonian, Palestinian, Israeli, Grecian and Roman), in an area of more than 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) in diameter.
· The QurŽan contains about 18% of the number of words of the whole Arabic Bible. It consists of 78,090 forms of words, whereas the Arabic New Testament contains 109,499 forms of words.
Who Wrote Down the Suras of the QurŽan and Kept its Content by Heart?
The content of the QurŽan was divided into 114 Suras with 6205 to 6232 verses, according to the different traditions. Writing Arabic texts was, in those days, a privilege of very few specialists because the Arabic script was not yet fully developed.
Al-Tabari and other commentators mention various names of Muslims who served Muhammad as secretaries for longer or shorter periods:
· Abdullah b. MasŽud was Muhammads follower from his time in Mecca.
· Ubai b. KaŽb was a Jew from Medina who converted to Islam. He took part in the translation of texts from the Old Testament.
· Zaid b. Thabit was Muhammads youngest secretary who wrote most of his letters and messages for him. His calligraphy was the best to read.
· AlaŽ b. Hadrami, Zubeir b. al-Auwam and Khalid and Aban, the two sons of Zaid b. al-Aas also belong to those who knew the entire QurŽan by heart. It was these men that contributed to forming the original text of the QurŽan. Among Muslims, they enjoy a high reputation, almost like the evangelists of the Gospels. On the grounds of their admiration, the four justly guided caliphs Abu Bakr, Omar b. al-Khattab, Uthman b. Affan, and Ali b. Abi Talib are also called the supporters of the revelations, mastering the whole QurŽan.
Who Possessed an Original QurŽan When Muhammad Died?
Opinions diverge when it comes to answering this question. All in all different commentators mention 14 manuscripts of the QurŽan. Among them, there were two in particular that would influence the history of the QurŽan's text:
· Abdullah b. MasŽud had made for himself a copy of the QurŽan, which was later defended as the genuine QurŽan by the Muslims in Kufa. His QurŽan contained two extra prayer Suras besides the 114 known Suras.
· Ubai b. KaŽb possessed a QurŽan that contained only 111 Suras. The first Sura, al-Fatiha, and the last two Suras, al-Falaq (113) and al-Nas (114), were not included in his original manuscript. That QurŽan was later sold as the original QurŽan in the area of Damascus.
Besides those two owners of their particular original manuscripts, several sources also mention Abu Mousa Abdullah, b. al-Ashairi, Miqdad b. Aswad, Abu Zaid b. Said, Amr al-Aas, and Muadh b. Jabal and others as secured owners of original QurŽans. For reasons of admiration, ownership of a copy of the QurŽan is also attributed to each of the four justly guided caliphs.
The First Editing of the QurŽan Under Caliph Omar b. al-Khattab (634 A.D.)
Several Muslim veterans who had learned the QurŽan by heart, had fallen in the battle of Jamama (633). Omar b. al-Khattab urged Abu Bakr, the reigning caliph, to start editing the QurŽan as fast as possible, so that all known verses of the QurŽan would be collected, sorted and written down. Abu Bakr ordered the former secretary Muhammad Zaid b. Thabit to search for all verses of the QurŽan, to examine them and to accept them for his edition of the QurŽan on condition that every new verse was testified to by two different Muslims. Zaid started an extensive search for verses from the time before the Hijra and found old texts written on scraps of papyrus, flat stones, palm leaves, camel bones, ribs, small pieces of leather, and on wood. He also accepted what was written in the hearts of men, on condition that each time two witnesses could recite the same verse.
Abdullah b. MasŽud grumbled when young Zaid b.Thabit was given the decisive task of editing the QurŽan, and not he, the oldest keeper of the texts. Abdallah stated that he already knew 70 Suras by heart, when Zaid still played in the streets of Medina as a child.
As an experienced calligrapher Zaid wrote down all verses that were doubly witnessed on separate leaves of papyrus. He handed them over to Caliph Omar b. al-Khattab after Abu Bakr had been murdered on August 22nd, 634. This extended and examined version of the QurŽan remained among Omars private possessions at first. Because of his wars of conquest in North Africa and Central Asia and to avoid trouble in the Islamic armies, he did not want to push through the introduction of the edited QurŽan. Therefore he gave the first official QurŽan to his daughter Hafsa, one of Muhammads widows, as her heritage. She kept this original manuscript with herself, and did not have further copies made or distributed. But it is supposed that Zaid b.Thabit made another copy for himself.
The Second Edition of the QurŽan Under Caliph Uthman b. Affan (650-651)
When General Hudaifa returned with his troops from a war in Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus to Kufa, Iraq in 662, he bitterly complained to the local governor. The Muslims from Kufa, who carried the QurŽan of Abdullah b. MasŽud in their hearts, had almost caused a bloody fight against the Muslims of Damascus, because the Muslims of Damascus defended the QurŽan of Ubai b. KaŽb as the only correct truth. The General demanded an immediate official edition of the QurŽan, so that no civil war should break out between the Muslims.
The governor of Kufa asked Caliph Uthman to have this difficult task carried out as quickly as possible in order to ensure the peace of the armies. Sixteen years after his first edition of the QurŽan, Zaid b. Thabit was given an order by Uthman to revise and supplement HafsaŽs copy with a committee of four linguists of the Quraish clan from Mecca. Zaid was from Medina and perhaps did not completely master the Meccan dialect. Four men from Mecca were placed by his side in order to refute accusations by Muslims that had emigrated from Mecca who said Zaid's QurŽan was not written in genuine Arabic. Those four experts corrected and re-wrote Hafsa's QurŽan. Some people maintain that Zaid also inserted in Uthman's QurŽan edition missing verses that were testified to by only one witness at a time. Nobody knows what was really added to Hafsa's original version. Caliph Uthman had all known original QurŽanic manuscripts confiscated under threat of severe penalty if people held a copy back. By this fact you can see what tension reigned during the whole operation, for the differences concerning the content of the diverse copies were unbridgeable. Therefore he had all the confiscated QurŽanic manuscripts burned! After that he sent copies of the new standardized QurŽan to Kufa, Basra, Damascus, Homs, Edessa, Mecca, and Cairo.
But his efforts in burning the manuscripts did not lead to quick success because Abdullah b. MasŽud's followers and Ubai b. KaŽb's friends had learned by heart the local versions of the QurŽan and found them even more interesting after they were forbidden. Thus diverging versions of the QurŽan secretly existed side by side. It took several generations for Uthman's standardized QurŽan to establish itself. Abdullah b. MasŽud's admirers in Kufa defended their QurŽan text for almost 100 years!
After the assassination of Caliph Ali b. Talib and the death of his two sons, Hassan and Hussein, the Shiites, as an Islamic sect, developed into a separate community with their own theological principles. They complain to this day that in Uthman's QurŽan all verses that suggested Ali as the first caliph as well as Muhammads reprimanding lecture against the Muslims of Medina, had been eliminated from the standardized QurŽan. In Pakistan a book in the Urdu language is still circulated today with the title, The Problem of the Falsified QurŽan! Ayatollah Khomeini, is said to have supported the Shiite accusation of an altered and falsified QurŽan.
Be that as it may, we can be certain of one thing, Muslims today no longer possess Muhammads original QurŽan, but, at best, Uthman's version. For this reason it would be appropriate for Muslims to give up their unjust accusations and no longer maintain that the Bible is falsified! People who live in glass houses shouldnt throw stones!
The Seven Different Versions of the QurŽan
During Muhammads time all letters of the Arabic language were still written without symbols for the short vowels and without diacritical dots. Without short vowels, pronunciation symbols and grammatical endings a standardized way of reading the words was impossible. The correct reading of a Qur'anic verse depended on the reader's correct assumption of the word's vowels. Many words could be read in different variations, changing the meaning of the verses at their root.
The differentiating dots and the symbols for the short vowels were only introduced under Caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705 A.D.). It took 300 more years before a readable QurŽanic text with all vowels and signs of pronunciation was produced. Nevertheless, even today numerous words in the QurŽan display three different vowel signs for the same consonant because the linguists and theologians were unable to agree upon a single reading of the word in question. That still creates diverging meanings for certain words. Nobody knows exactly which variety of the QurŽan is the truly correct and solely valid one. Muhammad is said to have uttered that the different ways of reading the QurŽan reflect its spiritual richness! But shouldnt the critical reader demand the truth and the basis for the law? Traditions show that Muhammad wanted to get rid of annoying people asking too many questions by his inconsistent recitations. Some of the Traditions indicate that Muhammad wanted to hide his contradictory revelations by using the diverging varieties of the QurŽan.
Abolished and Invalid Verses in the QurŽan
Muhammad revealed his QurŽanic verses when he felt the situation was appropriate. As a consequence, earlier verses were abolished and no longer considered valid because of new situational developments. Scholars are now fighting about which verses are still valid and which ones are to be considered as annulled. People say there are 40 Suras where certain verses have been replaced by later revelations. Six Suras contain verses that have abolished other verses throughout the Qur'an. And five Suras contain both abolished verses and later "new revelations" that abolish earlier revealed verses. In only 43 Suras, they say, there have been no alterations.
A major problem in regards to the 240 abrogated verses is that these verses are still in the QurŽan although they are no longer considered valid. Therefore, hardly any Muslim knows which texts are binding and which ones are not. These contradictions lead to doubts and uncertainty with thoughtful readers.
As examples, we can take the change in the direction of prayer from facing Jerusalem to facing Mecca (Sura 2:115-144). Or Allahs ban for Muhammad to marry yet more women (Sura 33:52), although in the preceding verses, Allahs permission had been given him to marry any woman that wanted to give herself to him, if he liked her (Sura 33:50-51). In the sequence of the QurŽan, permission came before the ban, but in Muhammads life it was the other way around! Banning the consumption of wine came in three steps, because otherwise the Muslims would have rebelled. But all those verses are still contained in the QurŽan (Sura 2:219; 4:43; 5:90-91).
Two verses are especially serious the sword verse for the animists (Sura 2:191; 9:5), and the verse of repentance for the Jews and the Christians (Sura 9:29). The servants of the idols were to be killed without mercy if they did not submit to Islam and became Muslims. The owners of the book were to be subjugated until they paid the minority tax with their own hand. These three verses abolish more than 100 verses of the QurŽan that call for tolerance, mutual appreciation, and approachability and cooperation between the religions (Sura 2:256; 5:47-48; 29:46; 33:48; 109:6; et al.). But these abrogated verses are still in the QurŽan and are systematically used by Muslim minorities in non-Islamic countries to demonstrate their preparedness for peace. Ignorant Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus fall for this trick again and again because they do not know that Muhammad published and kept up his appeals to tolerance only as long as Islam was a minority in Mecca and Medina. As soon as he had gained power in Medina, tolerance came to an end. Then only the sword and the ShariŽa reigned in his religious dictatorship.
The sequence of abolished and abolishing verses in the QurŽan created a manual of deceit and ruse where clever Muslims play enticing overtures so that many ignorant humanists and philanthropists who are obsessed with dialoguing clap their hands in approval.
The Commentators of Islam
In the beginning, the QurŽan was learned by heart as the understandable word of Allah. People at first refrained from explaining the verses. Those who were in favor of this custom said if the QurŽan needed explanation, humans would have to help Allah to make his word understood. Thus the Arabic QurŽan is being drummed into thousands of children to this day without being explained. Muhammads miraculous verses are neither to be thought about nor to be understood, but they are to be preserved. Any critical thought about the QurŽan is unwelcome because it would mean that human intellect would rise above Allah and would try to comprehend him. Islam, however, means submission, which leaves no room for critical understanding even in Islamic theology!
When Muhammads eye-witnesses and companions died over the course of time, the circumstances, causes, and meanings of many QurŽanic verses became unclear. Nevertheless, the commentators did not try to add ideas, analyses, meditations, or experiences of their own to the QurŽanic texts, but they noted down what Muhammad and his comrades-in-arms were said to have spoken or done in context to the various verses. This is known as al-Hadith or Tradition.
The commentators did not want to make people think, but wanted to hand down knowledge. No Muslim knows or experiences the guidance of the Holy Spirit, because Muhammad was the last prophet. Therefore Allah could have only given the necessary supplements and explanations to the QurŽanic texts through him.
As the years went by, Islam developed a number of excellent commentators of the QurŽan. Of the 30 generally acclaimed ones we want to name seven of the best known. Their works are to be found everywhere on CD-ROMs or in good-value editions:
· Ibn Abbas 687
· al-Tabari 923
· Zamakhshari 1144
· Fakhr al-Din al-Razi 1209
· Ibn al-Kathir 1373
· al-Suyuti 1505
· Sayyid Qutb 1966
Al-Tabari produced the first comprehensive collection of supplements to the QurŽanic text, which is the basis for all later explanations. Zamakhshari, rejected by many Muslims, is the critical thinker who tried to resolve problems through language analysis. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi is the mystic among the commentators of the QurŽan, who collected cryptic opinions that often appear foreign to us. Ibn al-Kathir collected a lot from historical sources, while al-Suyuti followed the causes for the revelations. Sayyid Qutb presents the explanations of the earlier commentators in clipped modern language. Without looking them up in these works you will find that many texts of the QurŽan remain incomprehensible to you.
Al-Hadith The Second Collection of Revelations in Islam
To understand the QurŽan, commentators needed non-QurŽanic statements of Muhammad. Likewise, lawyers could not formulate their laws without a systematic presentation of Muhammads way of living and his sayings. Therefore a Hadith science came into being which extended the commandments of the QurŽan so that it became the Islamic Law.
A saying of Muhammad in the Hadith consists of two parts, (1) the chain of names that handed down the tradition to one another (isnad), and (2) the text of Muhammads words or the words that were put into his mouth (matn). Hadith scientists examined the names, places of residence, and dates of birth of the persons who handed on the substance of the tradition, in order to determine what sayings or traditions were likely to be true and which were likely to be fabricated.
In Islam, there are six books that claim to contain exclusively genuine remarks by Muhammad and his companions. Their authors are:
· al-Bukhari 870
· Muslim 875
· Ibn Maja 886
· Abu Dawud 888
· al-Thirmidhi 892
· al-NasaŽi 915
If you compare the dates of the deaths of these Hadith collectors with the dates of the deaths of the commentators of the QurŽan you will find that most Hadith collectors lived before the commentators. The Hadith collections made the commentators explanations of the QurŽan possible.
Abu Dawud points out that he examined about 500,000 remarks of Muhammads (Hadith) in his life, but that he found only 4,800 of them to be genuine. That means that just one percent of all Hadith is genuine and reliable! In spite of this staggering statistic, Traditions, along with Muhammads way of living (Sira), represent the second source of Islamic law (ShariŽa)! Thus many laws of Islam are based on unstable ground.
The Hadith collections, with their 5,000 to 6,000 so-called reliable traditions, are the second most holy books to Muslims beside the QurŽan, which contains about 6,200 verses. Thus the QurŽan contains only one half of Muhammads revelations.
Consensus, however, of the Islamic scholars eventually decide the truth of the revelations. Muhammad is said to have uttered, My followers will not consent in any error! Therefore consensus is the ultimate authority in forming the Islamic law and in evaluating theology. When all Muslims agree that a remark is true, then it must be true, even if it contradicts the QurŽan and the Hadith.
Consensus dictates that upon the first offense of theft, a thiefs right hand must be amputated and at the second, his left foot, whereas the QurŽan only mentions that two hands and no feet shall be hacked off (Sura 5:38). Thus, consensus ignores the QurŽan.
In the QurŽan, Allah commands Muhammad to ask for forgiveness of his sins four times (Sura 40:55; 47:20; 48:2; 110:3). But the consensus says that Muhammad was one of the good men and not a sinner. Here, consensus contradicts Allah and Muhammad personally.
Nowhere in the QurŽan is there a statement that a Muslim who becomes a Christian must be killed (Sura 2:161.191; 4:136; 16:106, et al.). But consensus and the Hadith demand the death of a convert after a certain time has passed during which he is offered to return to Islam.
By consensus, all truths in the QurŽan are made relative. They are only valid as long as all Muslims agree to them. This creates an unstable basis for rights and justice, and shifts the validity of the truth according to the spirit of the currently reigning Islamic society. Therefore the future can hold more inconsistencies and sensational falsifications.
Christ, the Opponent of the QurŽan
The apostle John recognized Jesus as the Word of God that became flesh. Therefore Jesus Christ is Gods answer to the QurŽan. He is the way and the truth and the life. He is the light of the world, the bread of life and the good shepherd. He is the new law, for he said, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." The crucified Lord is our justice. The risen Lord is our life. He is the beginning and the end.
Everything in the QurŽan, the Hadith and Muslim consensus that does not correspond to the way of living and to the word of Christ Jesus is ultimately a manifestation of the anti-Christian spirit. We do not only believe in the Bible as the Word of God, but we believe in Christ Jesus as the Word of God. He is Gods answer to everyone, including all Muslims. Jesus will judge Muhammad and all bearers of the Islamic revelations. He who receives His Gospel, receives the spirit of truth and has everlasting life.
The Spirit of Truth
Muhammad included the idea that Christ Jesus is the word of God become flesh in the QurŽan. Twice he did so quite clearly, and several times indirectly. But his commentators divest Jesus of his divinity by maintaining that Jesus is a created word of Allah and a temporal spirit from him, not everlasting. In Islam, there is no spirit of truth because the crucified Son of God is denied. They cannot see the Son of the Father in heaven because they shut themselves off from the Holy Spirit (1 John, 2:22-25; 4:1-5; et al.).
The difference between the Gospel and the QurŽan is also evident in the final forming of the canon of the New Testament. Over a process of 200 years the founding fathers of the church discerned and determined the books of the New Testament together as the word of God. They did not burn any original scripts of the gospels or the letters of the apostles in spite of the differences that appear as footnotes in the New Testament. No, they display these minor differences because 1,500 discovered manuscripts verify them. They did not dare correct Gods word. Respect for the word of God made them testify to the truth, just as the Greek doctor Luke wrote in the introduction to his gospel (Luke 1:1-3). The burning of the original QurŽans by Caliph Uthman and the testimony of the footnotes in the New Testament shows a difference between those who want to blindly guide their subjects and those who want to present the facts to seekers of truth. It is the difference between the QurŽan and the Gospel, between the followers of Muhammad and the followers of Christ Jesus.