Did Muhammad write the Quran? Did he plagiarize the Bible?
“May God pardon you (O Prophet)! Why did you grant them permission (to stay at home) before it had become obvious to you as to who was speaking truth and (before) you came to know (who were) the liars” .
The charge against the Prophet Muhammad that he concocted the Qur’an is a very prevalent one, especially in the West. Even those who are sympathetic to Islam among Western writers cannot admit that the Qur’an is revelation and its author is God himself. There is a long and deeprooted tradition in Western literature that views the Qur’an as the work of the Prophet. Thus, we will look at this issue, though extremely briefly, in light of well-documented historical facts, logic, as well as with respect to the Prophet’s personality, life and career.
The Prophet Muhammad is perhaps the most fully documented person in antiquity and history. This fact enables us to examine closely the claim that he wrote the Qur’an himself. This is a topic of volumes, as scholars have discussed in detail hundreds of strong evidences that establish the divine origin of the Qur’an. Considering the scope of this booklet, we will mention just a few.
First, it was well-known among the early Arabs of Mecca that the Prophet Muhammad did not read or write, and was not formally educated. The Qur’an itself states that the Prophet was unlettered, specifically in the sense that he could not read or write. No one in the Meccan community attempted to deny this claim of the Qur’an:
“Believe, then, in God and His Messenger – the unlettered Prophet who believes in God and His words – and follow him, so that you might find guidance!”
As is recorded in his biography, when the angel Gabriel approached the Prophet for the first time at the age of 40, and revealed to him the first verse of the Qur’an, “Read!”, the Prophet’s response was that he was unable to read. Thus even at the start of revelation, the Prophet was in no position to compose a book. Indeed as the Qur’an states, the Prophet’s being unlettered was itself a matter of divine wisdom:
“Never have you recited Scripture before this (Qur’an oh Prophet)! Nor have you transcribed one with your right hand. For then, the progenitors of falsehood would have had cause to doubt (the revelation).”
Second, in various instances in the life of the Prophet Muhammad where a problem arose, he was unable to find a solution until it was revealed to him by God. In many of these instances, the answer was delayed often causing the Prophet great anxiety. If the Prophet had devised the answers himself, why would he need to wait on revelation? Here are a few examples:
• Once a group of people accused the Prophet’s wife Aisha of adultery. The slanderous accusations shook the community in Medina,
and resulted in the Prophet separating from his wife temporarily. During this extremely difficult ordeal he did not know what to do.
Finally, verses were revealed that established the innocence of Aisha and rebuked those who made the false accusations against her.
• The leaders of Quraysh once asked the Prophet a few questions in order to test him and to see if he really is the Messenger of God. They asked about stories and issues, such as the Seven Sleepers, Dhul Qarnain, the nature of the spirit, etc. Weeks had passed and the Prophet would not give any answers, because he did not have knowledge of them at that time. As a result of the delay, the Prophet was accused of being a liar by the Quraysh. Finally, the Prophet received by revelation a whole chapter of the Qur’an, called the Cave (Chapter 18), as well as other verses, answering all the questions asked to the Prophet by the Quraysh.
• In the early days of Islam, the Muslims used to face Jerusalem while praying. The Prophet wished and wanted to change the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca. But he did not instigate the change himself; instead, he waited for a command from his Lord, raising his head towards the heavens in anticipation.
The Qur’an states:
“We have seen you (O Prophet) often turn your face towards heaven…” .
Thereafter God’s commands arrived, and Muslims immediately turned their faces towards the direction of Mecca, turning from North to South.
In all of these incidents and many others the Prophet did not act until revelation came to him with an explicit answer or command. This was the case even though the delay caused him to be rebuked and accused of being a false Prophet. If the Qur’an were from the Prophet, surely he could have “revealed” the verses earlier. This shows the Quran is a revelation from God, and not from Muhammad’s own imagination.
Third, the Arabs, both Muslims and nonMuslim, have testified to the high calibre and literal mastery of the Qur’an:
• Umar bin al Khattab used to be a judge of the poetry festival in Mecca. His mastery of the Arabic language was superb. Nonetheless,
when he heard a portion of the Qur’an, he was spellbound, and because of it embraced Islam. How could the Prophet produce such
a literal masterpiece at the age of 40 when he had never shown such talent before?
• Similarly, there were many others like AtTufayl bin Amr al-Dawsi, Utbah bin Rabiha and others who had such experiences when they heard portions of the Qur’an. They would repeat statements such as, “I have heard words of such that I never heard before. By God, it is not poetry, nor magic, nor divination.” This was often their first impression. This shows that the Qur’an was something beyond the Prophet’s talent or genius, as its origin was other than the Prophet Muhammad.
Fourth, there is a marked difference between the Prophet’s sayings and Qur’anic verses. The Prophet’s sayings are recorded in volumes, called hadith, which are more voluminous than the Qur’an. When he spoke, his sayings were not accompanied with any extraordinary experiences, but when he received the revelation he would often experience abnormal sensations. When verses were revealed to him, sometimes he would sweat even on cold days, his face would become red, his body would become heavy, etc. Was he just acting? Definitely not! How could he have lived such a pretentious and complicated life for 23 years? This is indeed the difference between the hadith and the Qur’an. As for the Qur’an, he received it by revelation from God verbatim, and as for the hadith, they were his own words. Another crucial point in this respect is the huge difference between the linguistic style of the Qur’an and that of hadith. A comparison of both suggests unequivocally that the author of the Qur’an is entirely different from that of the hadith.
It is also recorded authentically that the Arabs themselves were surprised by the language of the Qur’an because the Prophet was not known to have composed any literal piece before its revelation. Clearly, the language of the Qur’an was not from Muhammad’s own tongue. Even nonArabic speaking people can see this vast difference in style and language between the Qur’an and the hadith, even by reading translations.
Fifth, a good portion of the Qur’an includes stories of previous Prophets and their nations. Always, the concluding remark is that the Prophet had no previous knowledge of any of those stories or historical events, and that he only knew of them through revelation, for example:
• After relating the story of Moses and Pharaoh the Qur’an states:
“You were not (there, O Prophet,) on the western mountainside (of Tur) when We decreed to Moses the Commandments. Nor were you (there among those) of the Children of Israel who bore witness (to these events). Furthermore, We brought forth (many) generations (after Moses), such that the life spans (of heedlessness) that stretched over them grew (so very) long – (until they forgot God’s Covenant). Moreover, you were not (there with Moses when he was) dwelling among the people of Midian, conveying Our message unto them…”
The Qur’an also states after the story of Jesus and Mary:
“This account of something that was beyond the reach of your perception We [now] reveal unto you: for you were not with them when they drew lots as to which of them should be Mary's guardian, and you were not with them when they contended [about it] with one another.”
It also states after the story of Joseph:
“This is (but one) of the tidings of the unseen (past) that We reveal to you, (O Prophet). For you were not with them when they resolved (to execute) their (evil) affair, and while they were plotting (it).”
Verses like the above appear routinely after the stories in the Qur’an. Thus, if the Prophet had learned these stories from Jews and Christians, why should he ascribe them to God? Is he such a blatant liar?
Sixth, the Qur’an severely criticized the Prophet on several issues:
• The Prophet was once sitting with some of the leaders of Quraysh, inviting them to Islam.
A blind man, Abdullah bin Umm Makhtum,
who was already a Muslim, came to the Prophet to ask him some questions regarding Islam.
The Prophet ignored him, as he was busy delivering the message of Islam to the leaders of Quraysh, hoping they would come to Islam. Thereupon the revelation came reproaching and reprimanding him:
“He frowned and turned away because the blind man approached him. Yet for all you did know (O Muhammad) he might perhaps have grown in purity?” .
• The Prophet used to love to eat honey. Once he refused to consume any honey after his wives discouraged him to do so, as a result of a quarrel they were having among themselves.
God again reproached and reprimanded him:
“O Prophet! Why do you, out of a desire to please [one or another of] your wives impose [on yourself] a prohibition of something that God has made lawful to you?” .
• At the time of the battle of Tabuk, some hypocrites came and asked the Prophet to excuse them from participating in the campaign. The merciful Prophet accepted their excuse. Thereupon revelation came down upon him again reproaching and reprimanding him: Prophet)! Why did you grant them permission (to stay at home) before it had become obvious to you as to who was speaking truth and (before) you came to know (who were) the liars” (9:43).
There are many other incidents in which the Prophet was reproached and reprimanded by God. The logical question here is why would the Prophet
Seventh, one of the major themes of the Qur’an is that the source of the Qur’an is God Himself. The Prophet did not have any right to add or subtract from what had been revealed:
If he (Muhammad) had dared to attribute some of (his own) sayings unto Us, we would indeed have seized him by his right hand and would indeed have cut his life-vein.”
If the Prophet was really the author of the Qur’an, why did he have to state these words? Was he a sheer liar to the extent that he both concocted the Qur’an and devised threats against himself? History and logic would refute this claim, especially since the Prophet was known never to have uttered a lie in his whole life. Before Prophethood, even the pagan idolaters attested to his truthfulness, and he was known as the “Trustworthy” and“Truthful” .Are we to believe that suddenly, at the age of 40, the Prophet not only began to utter a long string of lies but that these lies were against God Himself? Simply illogical!