Apologetic Paper (Joseph Smith) - May 1995, cont.
J: The Sources of the Qur'an
In the earlier sections of this paper we discussed the problems which we observed concerning the claims which Muslims make towards their Qur'an. We noted the haphazard means by which the Qur'an was collected, and were appalled by the many abrogations and errors which exist in this supposedly "perfect" word of Allah. We came to the conclusion that the book could be nothing more than a man-made piece of literature, which could not stand alongside the great literary compositions that we have in our possession today. Yet, we found it troubling that there were so many inadequacies with this most 'holy book' for the Muslims.
As we approached the study on the collation of the Qur'an, we were shocked by the glaring deficiencies which were evidenced in its collection, forcing us to conclude that much of its content must have been added to much later.
If this be so, we are now left with the question as to where the author or authors went for their material? Where were the sources for many of the stories and ideas which we find in the Qur'an?
When we read the Qur'an we are struck by the large number of Biblical stories within its pages. Yet, these stories have little parallel with that which we read in our Bible. The Qur'anic accounts include many distortions, amendments, and some bizarre additions to that which we have heard our parents read to us at devotional times. So, where did these stories come from, if not from the previous scriptures?
Upon reading and observing these dubious teachings in the Qur'an we are forced to ask whether they contain stories which have parallels in pre-Islamic writings which were of questionable authenticity? If so, then we should be able to find these "apocryphal" accounts and compare them with that which we read in the Qur'an.
Fortunately, we do have much Jewish apocryphal literature (much of it from the Talmud), dating from the second century C.E. with which we can compare many of these stories. It is when we do so, that we find remarkable similarities between these fables or folk tales, and the stories which are recounted in the Qur'an.
The Talmudic writings were compiled in the second century C.E., from oral laws (Mishnah) and traditions of those laws (Gemara). These laws and traditions had been created to adapt the law of Moses (the Torah) to the changing times. They also included interpretations and discussions of the laws (the Halakhah and Haggadah etc.). Many Jews do not consider the Talmudic writings authoritative, but merely use them as windows with which to understand the times in which they were written.
So how did these non-authoritative Talmudic writings come to be a part of the Qur'an? In the Arabian Peninsula (known as the Hijaz), during the seventh century many Jewish communities could be found. They were part of the diaspora who had fled Palestine after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. A large number of these Jews were guided by these Talmudic writings which had been passed down orally from father to son for generations. Each generation embellished the accounts, or at times incorporated local folklore, so that it was difficult to know what the original stories contained. There were even those amongst the Jews who believed that these Talmudic writings had been added to the "preserved tablets" (i.e. the Ten Commandments, and the Torah which were kept in the Ark of the Covenant), and were believed to be replicas of the heavenly book.
When Muhammad came onto the scene, in the seventh century, some scholars believe he merely added to this body of literature the Qur'an. It is therefore, not surprising that a number of these traditions from Judaism were inadvertently accepted by Muhammad, or perhaps later redactors, and incorporated into the religion of Islam.
Those who are critical of these sources, yet who adhere to Muslim Tradition, and consider Muhammad as the 'originator'of the Qur'an, contend that many of these stories came to Muhammad via the Jewish friends which he had in Medina. We do know from Muslim tradition that Muhammad's uncle, Waraqa, translated portions of the Gospels into Arabic, and that Buhaira, a Nestorian monk, was his secret teacher (Tisdall, pg.15).
Muslim Tradition also maintains that Muhammad's seventh wife, Raihana, and his ninth wife, Safiyya, were Jewesses. Furthermore, his first wife, Khadija, had a Christian background. His eighth wife, Maryam, also belonged to a Christian sect. It is likely that these wives shared with him much of their Old and New Testament literature, their dramas, and their prophetic stories.
Whether these wives understood the distinction between authentic Biblical literature and that which was apocryphal is not known. They would not have been literary scholars, but would have simply related the stories they had heard from their local communities, much of which was Talmudic in origin, as we shall soon see.
Another scenario is that many of the corresponding stories which we find in the Qur'an are from a later date (towards the end of the eighth century, or 100-150 years after the death of Muhammad), and have little to do with Muhammad. They were possibly written by later Persian or Syrian redactors, who simply borrowed stories from their own oral traditions (Persian Zoroastrians, or Byzantine Christians) as well as stories from the apocryphal Jewish literature which would have been around at that time. They then simply telescoped back the stories onto the figure of Muhammad in the seventh century. Whatever is the case, the Qur'anic accounts do have interesting parallels with the Jewish apocryphal literature from the second century C.E.
Let's then look at a few of these accounts, and compare them with the parallels which we find in other co-existing, or pre-dating literature of that period.
J1: Stories Which Correspond With Biblical Accounts
J1i: Satan's Refusal to Worship Adam
In suras 2:34 and 17:61 we find Satan (Iblis, who could be a fallen angel, or a jinn, according to sura 18:50) refusing to bow down to Adam. This story can be traced back to the second century Talmud.
J1ii: Cain and Abel
A better example is the story of Cain and Abel in sura 5:27-32: The story begins much as it does in our own Biblical account with Cain killing his brother Abel (though they are not named in the Qur'anic account). Yet in aya 31, after Cain slays Abel, the story changes and no longer follows the Biblical account (see sura 5:30-32 written out below, on the left). Where could this Qur'anic account have come from? Is this an historical record which is unknown to the Biblical writers?
Indeed it was, as the source for this account was drafted after the New Testament was written. In fact there are 3 sources from which this account is taken: the Targum of Jonathan-ben-Uzziah, The Targum of Jerusalem, and a book called The Pirke-Rabbi Eleazar. All these 3 documents are Jewish writings from the Talmud, which were oral traditions from between 150-200 C.E. These stories comment on the Laws of the Bible, yet are known to contain nothing more than Hebrew myths and fables. As we read this particular story from these 3 sources, we find a striking parallel to the Qur'anic account:
Qur'an- sura 5:31:
"Then Allah sent a raven, who cratched the ground, to show him how to hide the shame of his brother. 'Woe is me!' said he; 'Was I not even able to be as this raven, and to hide the shame of my brother?' Then he became full of regrets."
Targum of Jonathan-ben-Uzziah:
"Adam and Eve, sitting by the corpse, wept not knowing what to do, for they had as yet no knowledge of burial. A raven came up, took the dead body of its fellow, and having scratched at the earth, buried it thus before their eyes. Adam said, 'Let us follow the example of the raven,' so taking up Abel's body, buried it at once."
Apart from the contrast between who buried who, the two stories are otherwise uncannily similar. We can only conclude that it was from here that Muhammad, or a later author obtained their story. Thus we find that a Jewish fable, a myth, is repeated as historical fact in the Qur'an.
Yet that is not all, for when we continue in our reading of sura 5, in the following aya 32 , we find a further proof of plagiarism from apocryphal Jewish literature; this time the Jewish Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5.
Qur'an- sura 5:32:
"On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person- unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land-it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people..."
Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5:
"We find it said in the case of Cain who murdered his brother, 'the voice of thy brother's blood crieth out' [this latter is a quote from the Bible, Genesis 4:10], and he says, 'it does not sayeth he hath blood in the singular, but bloods in the plural.' Thou was created single in order to show that to him who kills a single individual, it should be reckoned that he has slain the whole race. But to him who has preserved the life of a single individual, it is counted that he has preserved the whole race."
There is no connection between the previous verse (aya 31) and that which we have just read (sura 5:32 above). What does the death of Abel by Cain have to do with the slaying or saving of the whole people? Nothing. Ironically, this aya 32, in fact, supports the basis of the Old Testament hope for the finished work of Jesus, who was to take away the sins of the world (see John 1:29). Yet, it doesn't flow from the verse which preceded it. So why is it here?
If we were to turn to the Jewish Talmud again, this time to the Mishnah Sanhendrin, chapter 4, verse 5 (above, on the right), we will find where the author obtained his material, and why he included it here.
In this account we read a Rabbi's comments, where he interprets the word 'blood' to mean, "his own blood and the blood of his seed." Remember, this is nothing but the comment of a Rabbi. It is his own interpretation, and one which is highly speculative at that.
Therefore, it is rather interesting that he then goes on to comment on the plural word for 'blood.' Yet this Rabbi's comments are repeated almost word-for-word in the Qur'an, in aya 32 of sura 5! How is it that a Rabbi's comments on the Biblical text, the muses of a mere human become the Qur'anic holy writ, and attributed to God? Did Allah learn something from the Rabbi, or was it Muhammad or a later author who learned this admonition from this Rabbi's writings?
The only conclusion is that the later is the case, because there is no connection between the narrative concerning the killing of Cain in the Qur'an (aya 31), and the subsequent verse about the whole race (aya 32).
It is only when we read the Mishnah Sanhedrin that we find the connection between these two stories: a Rabbi's exposition of a biblical verse and a core word. The reason why this connection is lacking in the Qur'an is now quite easy to understand. The author of sura 5 simply did not know the context in which the Rabbi was talking, and therefore was not aware that these were merely comments on the Biblical text and not from the Bible itself. He simply added them to the Qur'an, repeating what he had heard without understanding the implication.
It is rather ironic that in sura 25:4-5 this very charge of haphazard plagiarism is leveled at Muhammad by the unbelievers in Medina:
"But the unbelievers say: 'Naught is this but a lie which he has forged, and others have helped him at it.' In truth, it is they who have put forward an iniquity and a falsehood. And they say: 'Tales of the ancients, which he has caused to be written: and they are dictated before him morning and evening."
This charge rings closer to the truth than many Muslims are willing to admit. It seems that those who did not believe in Muhammad or in the later redactions, recognized the sources for these stories, since they had undoubtably heard the same myths and fables from the Jews who were not only living in that area at that time, but came from the surrounding countries to the fairs at Mecca and other trading towns in the Hijaz.
It seems quite obvious that the Qur'an cannot be accepted as the word of God, if there exists parallels in its narratives which exist from myths and commentaries of other religions, such as we find here.
In sura 21:51-71, we find the story of Abraham (due to its length, it is not written here- you can read it for yourself). In the Qur'anic account Abraham confronts his people and his father because of the many idols which they worship. After an argument between Abraham and the people, they depart and Abraham breaks the smaller idols, leaving the larger ones intact. When the people see this they call Abraham and ask if he is responsible, to which he replies that it must have been the larger idols which did the destruction. He challenges them to ask the larger idols to find out, to which they reply, "Thou knowest full well that these (idols) do not speak!" (aya 65). He gives a taunting retort, and they then throw him into a fire. But in aya 69 Allah commands the fire to be cool, making it safe for Abraham, and he miraculously walks out unscathed.
There are no parallels to this story in our Bible. There is a parallel, however, in a second century book of Jewish folktales called The Midrash Rabbah. In this account Abraham breaks all the idols except the biggest one. His father and the others challenged him on this, and with an added bit of humour, which is missing in the Qur'anic account, Abraham responds by saying that he had given the biggest idol an ox for all the idols to eat, but because the smaller idols went ahead and ate, they thus did not show respect. The bigger idol consequently smashed the smaller idols. The enraged father did not believe Abraham's account, and so took him to a man named Nimrod, who simply threw him into a fire. But God made it cool for him and he walked out unscathed.
The similarity between these two stories is quite unmistakable. A second century Jewish fable, a folklore, and myth is repeated in the "holy Qur'an." It is quite evident that Muhammad or another author heard this story from the Jews, but because he could not read their books, though he had heard snatches of the Biblical narratives, from visiting Jews, or even his wives, he simply assumed they came from the same source, and unwittingly wrote Jewish folklore into his Qur'an.
Some Muslims claim that this myth, and not the Biblical account, is in reality the true Word of God. They maintain that the Jews simply expunged it so as not to correspond with the later Qur'anic account. Without attempting to explain how the Jews would have known to expunge this very story, since the Qur'an was not to appear until centuries later, we nonetheless must ask where this folklore comes from?
The Bible itself gives us the answer.
In Genesis 15:7, the Lord tells Abraham that it was He who brought Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans. Ur is a place, also mentioned in Genesis 11:31. We have evidence that a Jewish scribe named Jonathan Ben Uziel mistook the Hebrew word "Ur" for the Hebrew word which means "fire." Thus in his commentary of this verse he writes, "I am the Lord who brought you out of the fire of the Chaldeans."
Consequently, because of this misunderstanding, and because of a misreading of the Biblical verse a fable became popular around this era, which stated that God had brought Abraham out of the fire.
With this information in hand, we can, therefore, discern where the Jewish fable originated: from a misunderstanding of one word in a Biblical verse by one errant scribe. Yet, somehow this errant understanding found its way into God's "holy" word in the Qur'an.
It is obvious from these examples that the author of the Qur'an simply repeated what he had heard, and not being able to distinguish between that which he heard and that which was Biblical truth, he simply compiled them side-by-side in the Qur'an.
J1iv: Mt Sanai
The story found in sura 7:171 of God lifting up Mount Sinai and holding it over the heads of the Jews as a threat to squash them if they rejected the law is not recognizable from the Biblical account. And well it should not be, for it hails from another second century apocryphal Jewish book, The Abodah Sarah.
J1v: Solomon and Sheba
In sura 27:17-44 we read the story of Solomon, the Hoopoo bird and the Queen of Sheba. After reading the Qur'anic account of Solomon in sura 27, it would be helpful to compare it with the account taken from a Jewish folklore, the II Targum of Esther, which was written in the second Century C.E., nearly five hundred years before the creation of the Qur'an:
Qur'an- sura 27:17-44:
(aya 17) "And before Solomon were marshalled his hosts-of Jinns and men, and birds, and they were all kept in order and ranks. (aya 20) "And he took a muster of the Birds; and he said: 'Why is it I see not the Hoopoe? Or is he among the absentees?
(aya 21) "I will certainly punish him with a severe penalty, or execute him, unless he bring me a clear reason (for absence).
(aya 22) "But the Hoopoe tarried not far: he (came up and) said: 'I have compassed (territory) which thou hast not compassed, and I have come to thee from Saba with tidings true.
(aya 23) "I found (there) a woman ruling over them and provided with every requisite; and she has a magnificent throne...
(aya 27) "(Solomon) said: 'Soon shall we see whether thou hast told the truth or lied!
(aya 28) "Go thou, with this letter of mine, and deliver it to them: then draw back from them, and (wait to) see what answer they return.
(aya 29) "(The queen) said: "Ye chiefs! Here is- delivered to me-a letter worthy of respect.
(aya 30) "It is from Solomon, and is (as follows): 'In the name of Allah, most Gracious, Most Merciful: Be ye not arrogant against me, but come to me in submission (to the true Religion).'
(aya 32) "She said: 'Ye chiefs! Advise me in (this) my affair: no affair have I decided except in your presence.'
(aya 33) "They said: 'We are endued with strength, and given to vehement war: but the command is with thee; so consider what thou wilt command.'
(aya 35) "She said...'But I am going to send him a present, and (wait) to see with what (answer) return (my) ambassadors.'
(aya 42) "So when she arrived...
(aya 44) "... she was asked to enter the lofty Palace: but when she saw it, she thought it was a lake of water, and she (tucked up her skirts), uncovering her legs. He said: 'This is but a palace paved smooth with slabs of glass.'"
II Targum of Esther:
"Solomon...gave orders...I will send King and armies against thee...(of) Genii [jinn] beasts of the land the birds of the air.
Just then the Red-cock (a bird), enjoying itself, could not be found; King Solomon said that they should seize it and bring it by force, and indeed he sought to kill it.
But just then, the cock appeared in the presence of the King and said, 'I had seen the whole world (and) know the city and kingdom (of Sheba) which is not subject to thee, My Lord King. They are ruled by a woman called the Queen of Sheba. Then I found the fortified city in the Eastlands (Sheba) and around it are stones of gold and silver in the streets.'
By chance the Queen of Sheba was out in the morning worshipping the sea, the scribes prepared a letter, which was placed under the bird's wing and away it flew and (it) reached the Fort of Sheba. Seeing the letter under its wing (Sheba) opened it and read it.
'King Solomon sends to you his Salaams. Now if it please thee to come and ask after my welfare, I will set thee high above all. But if it please thee not, I will send kings and armies against thee.'
The Queen of Sheba heard it, she tore her garments, and sending for her Nobles asked their advice. They knew not Solomon, but advised her to send vessels by the sea, full of beautiful ornaments and gems...also to send a letter to him.
When at last she came, Solomon sent a messenger...to meet her...Solomon, hearing she had come, arose and sat down in the palace of glass.
When the Queen of Sheba saw it, she thought the glass floor was water, and so in crossing over lifted up her garments. When Solomon seeing the hair about her legs, (He) cried out to her..."
It is rather obvious, once you have read the two accounts above, where the author of the story of Solomon and Sheba in the Qur'an obtained his data. The two stories are uncannily similar. The jinns, the birds, and in particular the messenger bird, which he couldn't at first find, and then used as a liaison between himself and the Queen of Sheba, along with the letter and the glass floor, are unique to these two accounts. One will not find these parallels in the Biblical passages at all.
J1vi: Mary, Imran and Zachariah
In sura 3:35-37 we find the story of Mary, her father Imran, and the priest Zachariah.
Qur'an- sura 3:35-37:
(aya 35) "Behold! a woman of Imran said: 'O my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: so accept this of me: for Thou hearest and knowest all things.'
(aya 36) "When she was delivered, she said: "O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!" And Allah knew best what she brought forth- "And no wise is the male like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to thy protection from the Evil One, the Rejected."
(aya 37) "Right graciously did her Lord accept her; He made her grow in purity and beauty: to the care of Zakariya was she assigned."
The Proto-Evangelion's James the Lesser:
"And Anna (wife of Joachim) answered, 'As the Lord my God liveth, whatever I bring forth, whether it be male or female, I will devote it to the Lord my God, and it shall minister to him in holy things, during its whole life'...and called her name Mary...And the high-priest received her; and blessed her, and said, 'Mary, the Lord God hath magnified thy name to all generations, and to the very end of time by thee will the Lord shew his redemption to the children of Israel."
After reading the passage from the Qur'an (on the left), notice the similarities between the Qur'anic story and that found in a spurious gospel account from The Proto-evangelion's James the Lesser, which is a second century C.E. apocryphal Christian fable (on the right).
Both accounts speak of the child being either male or female. They also mention that the child is Mary, and that she is protected by either a high- priest, or Zachariah, who is inferred as the keeper of the sanctuary, where Mary is kept (though the Lukan account speaks of him as the father of John the Baptist).
J1vii: Jesus' Birth
There are a number of accounts in the Qur'an which speak of the early childhood of Jesus. These accounts do not correspond at all with the Biblical story. But they do have parallels with other apocryphal Jewish documents:
a.The Palm Tree
In sura 19:22-26 we read the story of Mary, the baby Jesus, the Palm Tree, and the rivulet which flows below it. This story is not found in the Biblical account, but first appeared in an apocryphal fable of the second century C.E. (see lower passage; from The Lost Books of the Bible, New York, Bell Publishing Co., 1979, pg.38). Notice the similarities between the two accounts.
Qur'an- sura 19:22-26:
"So she conceived him [Jesus], and she retired with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree: She cried (in her anguish): 'Ah! would that I had died before this! would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight'! But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm tree): 'Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee: And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm tree; it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye.
The Lost Books of the Bible:
Now on the third day after Mary was wearied in the desert by the heat, she asked Joseph to rest for a little under the shade of a Palm Tree. Then Mary looking up and seeing its branches laden with fruit (dates) said, 'I desire if it were possible to have some fruit.' Just then the child Jesus looked up (from below) with a cheerful smile, and said to the Palm Tree, 'Send down some fruit.' Immediately the tree bent itself (toward her) and so they ate. Then Jesus said, 'O Palm Tree, arise; be one of my Father's trees in Paradise, but with thy roots open the fountain (rivulet) beneath thee and bring water flowing from that fount.'
b. The Baby Jesus Talking
Later on in the same sura (19) in verses 29-33 we find that the baby Jesus can talk. Nowhere in any of the gospels do we find the baby Jesus talking. There is the account of Jesus disputing with the elders in the temple, but this story comes later, when Jesus has grown into a young boy. So where did this story come from? Once again, we need only turn to apocryphal writings from the 2nd century; this time to an Arabic apocryphal fable from Egypt, named The first Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ to find the same story:
Qur'an- sura 19:29-33:
"But she pointed to the babe. They said: 'How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?'
"He said: 'I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet;
"And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live;
"He hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable;
"So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!"
The first Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ:
"... Jesus spake even when he was in the cradle, and said to his mother: 'Mary, I am Jesus the Son of God. That word which thou didst bring forth according to the declaration of the angel...'
c. Creating birds from clay
Jesus, according to sura 3:49 breathed life into birds of clay. The source for this Qur'anic fiction is found in the earlier Thomas' Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ, another apocryphal fable from the 2nd century:
Qur'an- sura 3:49:
"And (appoint him [Jesus]) a messenger to the Children of Israel, (with this message): 'I have come to you, with a sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah's leave..."
Thomas' Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ:
"Then he took from the bank of the stream some soft clay, and formed out of it twelve sparrows...Then Jesus clapping together the palms of his hands called to the sparrows, and said to them: 'Go, fly away.'"
J1viii: Heaven and Hell
There are Qur'anic accounts which deal with heaven and hell, which have no parallels with our Biblical accounts. It is not difficult, however, to find out where these stories originated. Take for instance the following:
a. Seven Heavens and Seven Hells
In suras 15:43-44 and 17:44 we find reference to the seven hells and the seven heavens. Without asking where these seven heavens and hells are located, it will be helpful to note that the same number of hells and heavens can be found in the tradition called Jagigah and Zuhal.
In sura 17:1 we have the report of Muhammad's journey by night from the Sacred mosque to the farthest mosque. From later traditions we know this aya is referring to Muhammad ascending up to the 7th Heaven, after a miraculous night journey (the Mi'raj) from Mecca to Jerusalem, on a "horse" called Buraq.
More detail is furnished us in the Jewish Mishkat al Masabih. We can trace the story back to a fictitious book called The Testament of Abraham, written around 200 B.C., in Egypt, and then translated into Greek and Arabic.
Another account is that of The Secrets of Enoch, which predates Muhammad by four centuries. In chapter 1:4-10 and 2:1 we read:
"On the first day of the month I was in my house and was resting on my couch and slept and when I was asleep great distress came up into my heart and there appeared two men. They were standing at my couch and called me by name and I arose from my sleep. Have courage, Enoch, do not fear; The Eternal God sent us to thee. Thou shalt today ascend with us into heaven. The angels took him on their wings and bore him up to the first heaven."
The Qur'anic description of Hell resembles the descriptions of hell in the Homilies of Ephraim, a Nestorian preacher of the sixth century (Glubb, pg.36)
The author of the Qur'an in suras 42:17 and 101:6-9, utilized The Testament of Abraham to teach that a scale or balance will be used on the day of judgment to weigh good and bad deeds in order to determine whether one goes to heaven or to hell.
The description of Paradise in suras 55:56-58 and 56:22-24,35-37, which speak of the righteous being rewarded with wide-eyed houris who have eyes like pearls, has interesting parallels in the Zoroastrian religion of Persia, where the name for the maidens is not houris, but Paaris.
J2: Stories Which do not Correspond With the Biblical Account
There are other stories which do not necessarily follow any Biblical accounts, but which have astonishing similarities with further apocryphal Jewish literature from the second century.
J2i: Harut and Marut
In sura 2:102 the two angels Harut and Marut are mentioned. Who exactly are these two characters? While Yusuf Ali believes these were angels who lived in Babylon, historical records show us that they were idols which were worshipped in Armenia. Their existence was inspired by Marut, the Hindu god of the wind. We find this story related in the Talmud (Midrash Yalzut, chapter 44).
J2ii: The Cave of the Seven Sleepers
The story which was mentioned in an earlier section of this paper, concerning the seven sleepers and a dog who slept for 309 years in a cave, is found in sura 18:9-25. It has a striking resemblance to a book called The Story of Martyrs, by Gregory of Tours. In this account it is a legendary tale of Christians who were under persecution, and who fell asleep in a cave for 200 years.
J2iii: The Sirat
Though not mentioned in the Qur'an by name, the bridge over which all must pass to their final destiny is referred to in sura 19:71. As in the case of the Mi'raj, we must go to the Hadiths to find out what the Sirat really is. And when we do, we wonder from whence such an idea originated. We don't need to look far, for a similar bridge leading over the deep gulf of hell to Paradise is called Chinavad (the connecting link) in the Zoroastrian book Dinkart.
It is important to remember that none of the above extra-Biblical quotations are recognized by Biblical scholars, historians, or theologians as authentic events in the life of Christ, or in the scope of the Jewish faith. Consequently they are not included in the Bible. In fact their late dates (most are from the second century C.E., or A.D.) should make it obvious to any casual observer that they have little authenticity whatsoever.
We have now come to the end of our discussion on the authority of the Qur'an. We began our study by noting that a possible reason for so much misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians could be the way we viewed our respective scriptures; and the real differences which exist concerning our views on revelation and inspiration. It seems obvious to me that until we understand these differences in perception we will be condemned to continue talking at and past each other, without any hope of coming together in true dialogue.
We noted in our study the tendency by Muslims to elevate their Qur'an to a higher degree then what we do with our own Bible. Examples of this elevation can be found in their demand that no-one write in its margins, or let it touch the floor. By doing so they could almost be blamed for deifying it, a practice which sparks of idolatry, the very sin (Shirk) which the Qur'an itself warns Muslims not to do (suras 4:48; 5:75-76; 41:6).
From there we dealt with the claim by Muslims that Qur'anic authority is found in the miracle of its composition; that it has superior and unique literary qualities which exceed any known written work. It seems to be the consensus of a number of scholars, however, that with no logical connection from one sura to the next, the Qur'an not only is difficult to read, its content is so confusing that it takes an enormous amount of patience to understand it. With criticisms like these it is difficult to understand why Muslims continue to elevate its supposed literary qualities.
We noted that Muslims claim authority for the Qur'an as a universal document. Yet, we found the Qur'an to be a uniquely 7th-9th century Arab piece of literature, which simply reflected the mentality and culture of that time. This was made clear with two examples: the case for the inferiority of women and the profoundly violent nature of the Qur'an and its prophet, Muhammad. From there we continued on to the collection of the original documents, and asked the question of whether any document which comes from the hands of God could be tampered with as we have witnessed here in these examples. The incredible respect and awe which is evidenced by Muslims today for their Qur'an belies the seemingly cavalier attitude of the earlier Caliphs towards the original codices, evidenced by their burning of all extent manuscripts, even those which Muhammad himself had deemed to be authoritative.
We were astonished at how an "eternal divine document of God" could contain within its text not only abrogations of itself, but errors which give doubt to its entire veracity. If God's word is to retain its integrity, it must remain above suspicion. Even the Qur'an demands such a standard. In sura 4:82 we read, "Do they not consider the Qur'an? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancies" (sura 4:82). The testimony of the material we have covered here convicts the Qur'an of failing in the very claims it purports to uphold, and sustain. This bodes ill for its claim to inspiration, while negating any hope of any recognized authority.
In conclusion, while we can concede that the Qur'an is a fascinating book to study, it simply cannot maintain its status as the final Word of God it claims to be. The declaration of textual perfection by the Muslims simply do not stand up to any critical analysis of their content. As we have seen, the Qur'an carries numerous inconsistencies with the former scriptures, while its narratives and stories help to discredit its claim to be the true Word of God. Popular sentiment and unquestioning fanatical devotion by Muslims are simply not adequate as a proof for the Qur'an's authenticity. When we take a sober analysis of the sources of the Qur'an, we find conclusive evidence that the confidence of the Muslims for their scripture is simply unfounded.
It stands to reason that those whose responsibility it was to compile a "holy book" which could compete with the existing scriptures, would naturally turn to the myths and legends of the surrounding civilizations and borrow many of their stories. Due to the predominance of oral tradition in the 7th-9th centuries one can understand how many of the stories became embellished and distorted over time. It is these corrupted stories that we find all through the Qur'an, many of which were adapted from 2nd century Talmudic literature, which was popular amongst the Jews of that area. Consequently it is the glaring similarities which we find between the Qur'an and these errant sources which nullifies the claim that the Qur'an could hope to be the true Word of God.
The same test of verification is required of the Qur'an as that of all scriptures, including those which have preceded it (the Old and New Testament). For decades now scholars have attempted to find fault with our scriptures, applying to them the same critical investigation we have applied here and more, and for the most part we have welcomed it. Yet, through all the critical and sometimes polemical analysis which has been fomented against our scriptures, they have resolutely stood the test. It therefore comes as no surprise that the Bible continues to be the number one best-seller in the history of literature. Though we do not accord our scriptures the same sense of elevated worship which the Muslims demon- strate for their Qur'an, we do stand behind the veracity of our scriptures claim to divine inspiration. We do so because it has proven time and again to remain consistent to the claims it makes of itself and of all true revelations which come from the divine hand of God.
L: References Cited
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Copleston, F.S, Christ or Mohammed? The Bible or the Koran?, Harpenden, Nuprint, 1989
Gilchrist, John, Jam' Al-Qur'an, The Codification of the Qur'an Text, South Africa, Jesus to the Muslims, 1989
Hoodbhoy, Pervez, Islam and Science, London, Zed Books ltd., 1989
Morey Robert, Islamic Invasion, Eugene, Oregon, Harvest House Publishers, 1992
Nehls, Gerhard, Christians Ask Muslims, Bellville, SIM International Life Challenge, 1987
Pfander, C. G., The Mizanu'l Haqq, (Balance of Truth), London, The Religious Tract Soc., 1910
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