This is perhaps Shabir's lengthiest paper next to his 101 clear contradictions of the Bible. We have omitted irrelevant material and have focused primarily on the truth claims of Islam and Shabir's assertions on biblical issues. We hope that the reader will be challenged to go back and examine the sources for authenticity and see who has accurately represented the issues effecting Muslim-Christian dialogue.
Shabir Ally has chosen the questions
The Prophet's Married Life
Q. A Christian missionary Dr. Anis Shorrosh says that the prophet's wives were virtually captives in the prophet's houses. This he says because they were not to be spoken to except from behind a curtain, and because they could not remarry after Muhammad's death (see Dr. Anis Shorrosh, Islam Revealed. US: Thomas Nelson, 1988. p. 64).
A. Dr. Shorrosh is mistaken. First, the wives of the prophet (pbuh) were allowed to go out for their needs as specifically stated in the authentic hadiths although it is true that they were also directed to stay at home except when such need arose.
So which is it? Were they commanded to stay home or could they go out? And why were they only allowed to go out when necessary as Shabir implies? Where is the freedom in that? Interestingly, Shabir must appeal to hadiths to prove his point that the wives were allowed to venture out of their homes on special occasions since he cannot find any Quranic verses to support his premise.
Second, they were allowed to speak to other women face to face. The curtain applied only in speaking to men. This was not to keep the wives of the prophet captive but, as the Qur'an specifically said, so as to keep purity in their hearts and the hearts of the men who spoke to them. They were not captives but teachers. Men had to continually come to learn from them about the prophet's example. The curtain rule was only to make sure that the wrong type of attraction did not develop between teacher and student.
How could the veil keep purity in the hearts of the women in light of the fact that the men were unveiled allowing for the women to harbor lust or desire in their heart? To be fair and consistent, men should also cover their faces as to not become a stumbling block to women. Furthermore, if the veil was to protect men from lusting for Muhammad's wives seeing that they were instructors of the faith then why should women of today wear the veil? If it was solely for the purpose of safeguarding their role as spiritual mothers to the believers then women of today do not need the veil since they do not hold the position of teachers and spiritual mothers that the wives of Muhammad held.
Third, the fact that the wives of the prophet could not remarry after his death has to be understood in its fuller context. The Qur'an declared them to be the mothers of the believers. It was more of an honour to those women to have billions of spiritual children than to have temporary husbands.
First, according to Muslim authorities the reason why the wives of Muhammad could not remarry had nothing to do with their position as the mothers of believers. It actually had to do with Muhammad's jealousy. Al-Suyuti in Asbab al-Nuzul writes:
"Talha came to one of the Prophet's wives and talked with her; he was her cousin. But Muhammad said to him: `You will never do this again.' Talha said: `But she is my cousin, and Allah knows that neither I nor she said anything abominable. But Muhammad said: `There is none more jealous than Allah, and there is none more jealous than me.' He left, and after that he said: `On the death of Muhammad I will surely marry Aisha after him.' When Muhammad heard about it, he said: `... neither marry his wives after him.' " (The True Guidance [Light of Life, P.O. Box 13, A-9503, VILLACH AUSTRIA], pt. 5, p. 236)
Secondly, what advantage did Aisha get from this command which disallowed her from ever remarrying? If we keep in mind that Aisha was widowed while still in her teens (roughly 18) this means that she remained without a husband or children for the rest of her life! Does Shabir actually expect us to believe that the honor of being a spiritual mother meant more to Aisha then having her own children or a husband to meet her emotional and physical needs?
Fourth, while the prophet (pbuh) was alive he offered them to opt for a separation so that they can go their separate ways. They had shown some discontent over the prophet's self-imposed poverty. But when the offer was made they refused to leave the prophet and his poverty. What would they choose after his death?
Shabir does not quote the verses in order to enable his readers to see what consequences the wives would have faced had they chosen the riches of this life over Muhammad:
"O Prophet (Muhammad SAW)! Say to your wives: If you desire the life of this world, and its glitter, Then come! I will make a provision for you and set you free in a handsome manner (divorce). But if you desire Allâh and His Messenger, and the home of the Hereafter, then verily, Allâh has prepared for AlMuhsinât (gooddoers) amongst you an enormous reward. O wives of the Prophet! Whoever of you commits an open illegal sexual intercourse, the torment for her will be doubled, and that is ever easy for Allâh.
And whosoever of you is obedient to Allâh and His Messenger SAW, and does righteous good deeds, We shall give her, her reward twice over, and We have prepared for her Rizqan Karima (a noble provision Paradise). O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allâh), then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery, etc.) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honourable manner. And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance, and perform As-Salât (IqamâtasSalât), and give Zakât and obey Allâh and His Messenger. Allâh wishes only to remove ArRijs (evil deeds and sins, etc.) from you, O members of the family (of the Prophet SAW), and to purify you with a thorough purification." S. 33:28-33 Hilali-Khan
Muhammad's wives are not like ordinary women. If they disobey and are immoral, their punishment is double. Yet, if they are obedient their reward is double. It is not hard to see why the wives would choose to remain in their condition since having come to the conclusion that Muhammad was the Messenger of God, to disobey and abandon him was to incur the wrath of God and eternal hell-fire. The hadith records:
(the wife of the Prophet) when Allah's Apostle was ordered to give option to his wives, he started with me, saying, "I am going to mention to you something, but you shall not hasten (to give your reply) unless you consult your parents." The Prophet knew that my parents would not order me to leave him. Then he said, "Allah says: 'O Prophet (Muhammad)! Say to your wives: If you desire the life of this world and its glitter...a great reward." (33.28-29) I said, "Then why I consult my parents? Verily, I seek Allah, His Apostle and the Home of the Hereafter." Then all the other wives of the Prophet did the same as I did. (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 309)
Allah's Apostle gave us the option (to remain with him or to be divorced) and we selected Allah and His Apostle. So, giving us that option was not regarded as divorce. (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 63, Number 188)
Aisha did the only wise thing a person could do in light of her beliefs and circumstances. Due to the fact that the wives were convinced that Muhammad was a legitimate prophet of God, they would have been foolish to reject their only hope of eternal bliss, or so they believed.
Fifth, a mother in Islam is more honourable than a wife. After they are already promoted to the respectable position as mother of all the believers why would they want to demote themselves to become wives of their spiritual sons? Dr. Shorrosh needs to look at this broader context in order to properly understand the honourable position of the wives of the prophet (pbuh).
Again, what honor did Aisha receive seeing that the former engaged in a brutal war with Ali b. Abu Thalib, who was both her stepson and Muhammad's first cousin? This battle, called the "Battle of the Camel", split the Muslims into two groups, causing Muslims to fight and kill each other in cold blood.
(Al-Ahnaf said:) I went out carrying my arms during the nights of the affliction (i.e. the war between 'Ali and 'Aisha) and Abu Bakra met me and asked, "Where are you going?" I replied, "I intend to help the cousin of Allah's Apostle (i.e., 'Ali)." Abu Bakra said, "Allah's Apostle said, 'If two Muslims take out their swords to fight each other, then both of them will be from amongst the people of the Hell-Fire.' It was said to the Prophet, 'It is all right for the killer but what about the killed one?' He replied, 'The killed one had the intention to kill his opponent.'" (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 88, Number 204)
Narrated Abu Wail:
When 'Ali sent 'Ammar and Al-Hasan to (the people of) Kufa to urge them to fight, 'Ammar addressed them saying, "I know that she (i.e. 'Aisha) is the wife of the Prophet in this world and in the Hereafter (world to come), but Allah has put you to test, whether you will follow Him (i.e. Allah) or her." (Bukhari Volume 5, Book 57, Number 116)
When Aisha's side lost, she was eventually banished and confined to her house by Ali.
Furthermore, an examination of the lives of Muhammad's wives leaves us with the impression that they were far from being qualified to instruct anyone about religion. This is due to the games they played on Muhammad, the jealousy they had for each other, and their child-like boasting over Muhammad's preferential treatment for some of them. The characteristics displayed by the wives are far from exemplary, and disqualifies them from being spiritual leaders:
The Prophet used to stay (for a period) in the house of Zainab bint Jahsh (one of the wives of the Prophet) and he used to drink honey in her house. Hafsa and I decided that when the Prophet entered upon either of us, she would say, "I smell in you the bad smell of Maghafir (a bad smelling raisin). Have you eaten Maghafir?" When he entered upon one of us, she said that to him. He replied (to her), "No, but I have drunk honey in the house of Zainab bint Jahsh, and I will never drink it again." Then the following verse was revealed: 'O Prophet! Why do you ban (for you) that which Allah has made lawful for you?...(up to) If you two (wives of the Prophet turn in repentance to Allah.' (66.1-4) The two were 'Aisha and Hafsa And also the Statement of Allah: 'And (Remember) when the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his wives!' (66.3) i.e., his saying, "But I have drunk honey." Hisham said: It also meant his saying, "I will not drink anymore, and I have taken an oath, so do not inform anybody of that ' (Bukhari Volume 8, Book 78, Number 682)
Narrated 'Ubaid bin 'Umar:
I heard 'Aisha saying, "The Prophet used to stay for a long while with Zanab bint Jahsh and drink honey at her house. So Hafsa and I decided that if the Prophet came to anyone of us, she should say him, "I detect the smell of Maghafir (a nasty smelling gum) in you. Have you eaten Maghafir?' " So the Prophet visited one of them and she said to him similarly. The Prophet said, "Never mind, I have taken some honey at the house of Zainab bint Jahsh, but I shall never drink of it anymore." So there was revealed: 'O Prophet! Why do you ban (for you) that which Allah has made lawful for you . . . If you two (wives of Prophet) turn in repentance to Allah,' (66.1-4) addressing Aisha and Hafsa. 'When the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to some of his wives.' (66.3) namely his saying: But I have taken some honey." (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 63, Number 192)
Allah's Apostle was fond of honey and sweet edible things and (it was his habit) that after finishing the 'Asr prayer he would visit his wives and stay with one of them at that time. Once he went to Hafsa, the daughter of 'Umar and stayed with her more than usual. I got jealous and asked the reason for that. I was told that a lady of her folk had given her a skin filled with honey as a present, and that she made a syrup from it and gave it to the Prophet to drink (and that was the reason for the delay). I said, "By Allah we will play a trick on him (to prevent him from doing so)." So I said to Sada bint Zam'a "The Prophet will approach you, and when he comes near you, say: 'Have you taken Maghafir (a bad-smelling gum)?' He will say, No. 'Then say to him: 'Then what is this bad smell which I smell from you?' He will say to you, 'Hafsa made me drink honey syrup.' Then say: Perhaps the bees of that honey had sucked the juice of the tree of Al-'Urfut.' I shall also say the same. O you, Safiyya, say the same." Later Sada said, "By Allah, as soon as he (the Prophet) stood at the door, I was about to say to him what you had ordered me to say because I was afraid of you." So when the Prophet came near Sada, she said to him, "O Allah's Apostle! Have you taken Maghafir?" He said, "No." She said. "Then what is this bad smell which I detect on you?" He said, "Hafsa made me drink honey syrup." She said, "Perhaps its bees had sucked the juice of Al-'Urfut tree." When he came to me, I also said the same, and when he went to Safiyya, she also said the same. And when the Prophet again went to Hafsa, she said, 'O Allah's Apostle! Shall I give you more of that drink?" He said, "I am not in need of it." Sada said, "By Allah, we deprived him (of it)." I said to her, "Keep quiet." ' (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 63, Number 193)
Muhammad's wives stooped to the level of lying in order to receive some attention from their husband. We must ask do the spiritual mothers of the believers stoop to the level of deceit and trickery in order to get what they want? And what does this say of Muhammad as a husband seeing that he often neglected some wives for the affection of the ones he preferred?
Narrated Ibn Abbas:
For the whole year I had the desire to ask 'Umar bin Al-Khattab regarding the explanation of a Verse (in Surat Al-Tahrim) but I could not ask him because I respected him very much. When he went to perform the Hajj, I too went along with him. On our return, while we were still on the way home. 'Umar went aside to answer the call of nature by the Arak trees. I waited till he finished and then I proceeded with him and asked him. "O chief of the Believers! Who were the two wives of the Prophet who aided one another against him?" He said, "They were Hafsa and 'Aisha." Then I said to him, "By Allah, I wanted to ask you about this a year ago, but I could not do so owing to my respect for you." 'Umar said, "Do not refrain from asking me. If you think that I have knowledge (about a certain matter), ask me; and if I know (something about it), I will tell you." Then Umar added, "By Allah, in the Pre-lslamic Period of Ignorance we did not pay attention to women until Allah revealed regarding them what He revealed regarding them and assigned for them what He has assigned. Once while I was thinking over a certain matter, my wife said, "I recommend that you do so-and-so." I said to her, "What have you got to do with the is matter? Why do you poke your nose in a matter which I want to see fulfilled?" She said, How strange you are, O son of Al-Khattab! You don't want to be argued with whereas your daughter, Hafsa surely, argues with Allah's Apostle so much that he remains angry for a full day!" 'Umar then reported; how he at once put on his outer garment and went to Hafsa and said to her, "O my daughter! Do you argue with Allah's Apostle so that he remains angry the whole day?" Hafsa said, "By Allah, we argue with him." 'Umar said, "Know that I warn you of Allah's punishment and the anger of Allah's Apostle . . . O my daughter! Don't be betrayed by the one who is proud of her beauty because of the love of Allah's Apostle for her (i.e. 'Aisha)." 'Umar addled, "Then I went out to Um Salama's house who was one of my relatives, and I talked to her. She said, O son of Al-Khattab! It is rather astonishing that you interfere in everything; you even want to interfere between Allah's Apostle and his wives!' By Allah, by her talk she influenced me so much that I lost some of my anger. I left her (and went home). At that time I had a friend from the Ansar who used to bring news (from the Prophet) in case of my absence, and I used to bring him the news if he was absent. In those days we were afraid of one of the kings of Ghassan tribe. We heard that he intended to move and attack us, so fear filled our hearts because of that. (One day) my Ansari friend unexpectedly knocked at my door, and said, "Open Open!' I said, 'Has the king of Ghassan come?' He said, 'No, but something worse; Allah's Apostle has isolated himself from his wives.' I said, 'Let the nose of 'Aisha and Hafsa be stuck to dust (i.e. humiliated)!' Then I put on my clothes and went to Allah's Apostle's residence, and behold, he was staying in an upper room of his to which he ascended by a ladder, and a black slave of Allah's Apostle was sitting) on the first step. I said to him, 'Say (to the Prophet) 'Umar bin Al-Khattab is here.' Then the Prophet admitted me and I narrated the story to Allah's Apostle. When I reached the story of Um Salama, Allah's Apostle smiled while he was lying on a mat made of palm tree leaves with nothing between him and the mat. Underneath his head there was a leather pillow stuffed with palm fibres, and leaves of a saut tree were piled at his feet, and above his head hung a few water skins. On seeing the marks of the mat imprinted on his side, I wept. He said.' 'Why are you weeping?' I replied, "O Allah's Apostle! Caesar and Khosrau are leading the life (i.e. Luxurious life) while you, Allah's Apostle though you are, is living in destitute". The Prophet then replied. 'Won't you be satisfied that they enjoy this world and we the Hereafter?' " (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 435)
The wives of Muhammad became so jealous that they often fought with him and conspired against him, so much so that he even isolated himself from them completely for a period of time.
The wives of the Prophet out of their jealousy, backed each other against the Prophet, so I said to them, "It may be, if he divorced you all, that Allah will give him, instead of you wives better than you." So this Verse was revealed. (66.5) (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 438)
Narrated 'Amra bint 'Abdur-Rahman from 'Aisha:
Allah's Apostle used to practice Itikaf every year in the month of Ramadan. And after offering the morning prayer, he used to enter the place of his Itikaf. 'Aisha asked his permission to let her practice Itikaf and he allowed her, and so she pitched a tent in the mosque. When Hafsa heard of that, she also pitched a tent (for herself), and when Zainab heard of that, she too pitched another tent. When, in the morning, Allah's Apostle had finished the morning prayer, he saw four tents and asked, "What is this?" He was informed about it. He then said, "What made them do this? Is it righteousness? Remove the tents, for I do not want to see them." So, the tents were removed. The Prophet did not perform Itikaf that year in the month of Ramadan, but did it in the last ten days of Shawwal. (Bukhari Volume 3, Book 33, Number 257)
After discovering that Aisha was allowed to practice Itikaf, Muhammad's other two wives, Hafsa and Zainab, decided to perform Itikaf out of jealousy.
Narrated 'Urwa from 'Aisha:
The wives of Allah's Apostle were in two groups. One group consisted of 'Aisha, Hafsa, Safiyya and Sauda; and the other group consisted of Um Salama and the other wives of Allah's Apostle. The Muslims knew that Allah's Apostle loved 'Aisha, so if any of them had a gift and wished to give to Allah's Apostle, he would delay it, till Allah's Apostle had come to 'Aisha's home and then he would send his gift to Allah's Apostle in her home. The group of Um Salama discussed the matter together and decided that Um Salama should request Allah's Apostle to tell the people to send their gifts to him in whatever wife's house he was. Um Salama told Allah's Apostle of what they had said, but he did not reply. Then they (those wives) asked Um Salama about it. She said, "He did not say anything to me." They asked her to talk to him again. She talked to him again when she met him on her day, but he gave no reply. When they asked her, she replied that he had given no reply. They said to her, "Talk to him till he gives you a reply." When it was her turn, she talked to him again. He then said to her, "Do not hurt me regarding Aisha, as the Divine Inspirations do not come to me on any of the beds except that of Aisha." On that Um Salama said, "I repent to Allah for hurting you." Then the group of Um Salama called Fatima, the daughter of Allah's Apostle and sent her to Allah's Apostle to say to him, "Your wives request to treat them and the daughter of Abu Bakr on equal terms." Then Fatima conveyed the message to him. The Prophet said, "O my daughter! Don't you love whom I love?" She replied in the affirmative and returned and told them of the situation. They requested her to go to him again but she refused. They then sent Zainab bint Jahsh who went to him and used harsh words saying, "Your wives request you to treat them and the daughter of Ibn Abu Quhafa on equal terms." On that she raised her voice and abused 'Aisha to her face so much so that Allah's Apostle looked at 'Aisha to see whether she would retort. 'Aisha started replying to Zainab till she silenced her. The Prophet then looked at 'Aisha and said, "She is really the daughter of Abu Bakr." (Bukhari Volume 3, Book 47, Number 755)
Here we have a situation where Muhammad was giving preferential treatment to his wife Aisha, so much so that it moved his other wives to jealousy and constant bickering. Instead of rectifying the situation, Muhammad continued giving Aisha preferential treatment, allowing his wives to fight amongst each other.
I never felt so jealous of any wife of Allah's Apostle as I did of Khadija because Allah's Apostle used to remember and praise her too often and because it was revealed to Allah's Apostle that he should give her (Khadija) the glad tidings of her having a palace of Qasab in Paradise. (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 156)
Even Muhammad's favorite wife felt jealousy towards her husband's fondness for his first wife, Khadijah. Hence, both Muhammad and his wives were far from exemplary in their actions and dealings with each other. Finally, while it was all right for Muhammad to marry whomever he chose and to prefer some wives over others, it was not all right for his son-in-law to take another wife:
Narrated Al-Miswar bin Makhrama:
I heard Allah's Apostle who was on the pulpit, saying, "Banu Hisham bin Al-Mughira have requested me to allow them to marry their daughter to Ali bin Abu Talib, but I don't give permission, and will not give permission unless 'Ali bin Abi Talib divorces my daughter in order to marry their daughter, because Fatima is a part of my body, and I hate what she hates to see, and what hurts her, hurts me." (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 157)
Ali was forbidden from marrying any other women as long as he was married to Fatima, Muhammad's daughter from his first wife Khadijah. This is due to the fact that Muhammad did not want to see his daughter get hurt or become jealous over the possibility that by taking another wife, Ali might not have given Fatima the same kind of love and attention. Hence, while it was okay for Muhammad to show more affectionate to one wife or to have more wives, it was not okay for his son-in-law to do likewise.
Q. Is it true that the prophet (pbuh) had fallen in love with Zainab due to her beauty?
A. If that were true it would not detract from the veracity of the prophet. Muslims admit that he was a human being. It is not unnatural for a man to fall in love. The fact that he is a prophet does not rob him of his natural human emotions. In fact it is true that he loved his wives.
While it is true that it is only natural for a man to fall in love, it is immoral for him to fall in love with a married woman, especially if she happens to be his cousin like Zainab was. The Holy Bible forbids marriage to relatives and considers lustful desires for a married woman within one's heart an act of adultery before God:
"No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD... Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your sons wife; do not have relations with her." Leviticus 18:6, 15
"If a man commits adultery with another man's wife - with the wife of his neighbor - both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death... If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them must be put to death." Leviticus 20:10, 12
"You have heard that it was said, `Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:27-28
Amazingly, not only did Muhammad approach a relative in marriage and desired her in his heart, but this was God's express will for Muhammad!
"It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allâh and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allâh and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error. And (remember) when you said to him (Zaid bin Hârithah radhiallahu'anhu the freedslave of the Prophet SAW) on whom Allâh has bestowed Grace (by guiding him to Islâm) and you (O Muhammad SAW too) have done favour (by manumitting him) "Keep your wife to yourself, and fear Allâh." But you did hide in yourself (i.e. what Allâh has already made known to you that He will give her to you in marriage) that which Allâh will make manifest, you did fear the people (i.e., Muhammad SAW married the divorced wife of his manumitted slave) whereas Allâh had a better right that you should fear Him. So when Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them). And Allâh's Command must be fulfilled. There is no blame on the Prophet (SAW) in that which Allâh has made legal for him. That has been Allâh's Way with those who have passed away of (the Prophets of) old. And the Command of Allâh is a decree determined." S. 33:36-38 Hilali-Khan
"O Prophet (Muhammad SAW)! Verily, We have made lawful to you your wives, to whom you have paid their Mahr (bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage), and those (captives or slaves) whom your right hand possesses - whom Allâh has given to you, and the daughters of your 'Amm (paternal uncles) and the daughters of your 'Ammah (paternal aunts) and the daughters of your Khâl (maternal uncles) and the daughters of your Khâlah (maternal aunts) who migrated (from Makkah) with you, and a believing woman if she offers herself to the Prophet, and the Prophet wishes to marry her; a privilege for you only, not for the (rest of) the believers. Indeed We know what We have enjoined upon them about their wives and those (captives or slaves) whom their right hands possess, - in order that there should be no difficulty on you. And Allâh is Ever OftForgiving, Most Merciful." S. 33:50 Hilali-Khan
Hence, Muhammad is given the sole privilege of marrying his relatives and marrying his adopted son's divorcee.
However, it is not true that he fell in love with Zainab in the way that is claimed by some critics. They say that once the prophet visited Zaid, the husband of Zainab. Zaid was out at the time, and Zainab was combing her hair. The prophet was struck by her beauty and immediately left saying something to the effect that God changes the hearts of people. When Zaid learnt about this incident he offered the prophet that he would divorce Zainab in order that the prophet may marry her.
Accordingly, he divorced her and the prophet married her.
Several things point to the lack of truth in this story. First, it is unlikely that the prophet (pbuh) was suddenly struck by Zainab's beauty. Zainab was his cousin. He had known her since childhood. Why would she suddenly appear striking after she was already married to another?
Second, the prophet had arranged for her to get married to Zaid. If there was to be an attraction why did the prophet (pbuh) not encourage her to marry none but himself?
Third, the fact of the matter was that Zaid's marriage proved to be an unhappy one. Zaid was a former slave and as such was held in low esteem in the eyes of Zainab. He mentioned to the prophet that he intended to divorce his wife. But the prophet advised him to keep his wife and avoid divorce.
In the meantime, Zaid intended to divorce his wife, Allah intended to marry her to the prophet. Eventually Zaid could maintain his marriage no longer. He divorced Zainab and Allah declared in his Glorious Book that he has wedded her to the prophet after the proper waiting period was over.
First, let us see if the early Muslim writers agree with the story that Muhammad was struck by Zainab's beauty and was the cause for the divorce:
Muhammad Ibn Yahya Ibn Hayyan narrated, "The Messenger of God came to Zaid Ibn Haritha's house seeking him. Perhaps the Messenger of God missed him at that time, that is why he said, 'Where is Zaid?' He went to his house seeking him and, when he did not find him, Zainab Bint Jahsh stood up to [meet] him in a house dress, but the Messenger of God turned away from her. She said, 'He is not here, Messenger of God, so please come in; my father and mother are your ransom.' The Messenger of God refused to come in. Zainab had hurried to dress herself when she heard that the Messenger of God was at her door, so she leapt in a hurry, and the Messenger of God liked her when she did that. He went away muttering something that was hardly understandable but for this sentence: 'Praise be to God who disposes the hearts.' When Zaid came back home, she told him that the Messenger of God came. Zaid asked, 'You asked him to come in, didn't you?' She replied, 'I bade him to, but he refused.' He said, 'Have you heard [him say] anything?' She answered, 'When he had turned away, I heard him say something that I could hardly understand. I heard him say, "Praise be to God who disposes the hearts." ' Zaid went out to the Messenger of God and said, 'O Messenger of God, I learned that you came to my house. Did you come in? O Messenger of God, my father and mother are your ransom. Perhaps you liked Zainab. I can leave her.' The Messenger of God said, 'Hold on to your wife.' Zaid said, 'O Messenger of God, I will leave her.' The Messenger of God said, 'Keep your wife.' So when Zaid left her, she finished her legal period after she had isolated herself from Zaid. While the Messenger of God was sitting and talking with `A´isha, he was taken in a trance, and when it lifted, he smiled and said, 'Who will go to Zainab to tell her that God wedded her to me from heaven?' The Messenger of God recited, 'Thus you told someone whom God had favoured and whom you yourself have favoured: "Hold on to your wife." ' `A´isha said, 'I heard much about her beauty and, moreover, about how God wedded her from heaven, and I said, "For sure she will boast over this with us." ' Salama, the slave of the Messenger of God, hurried to tell her about that. She gave her some silver jewelry that she was wearing." (Ibn Sa`d, al-Tabaqat al-Kubra 9 vols. [Beirut: Dar Sader, n.d. `Iyad, al-Qadi. al-Shifa fi sifat al-Mustafa. Beirut, 1980], vol. 8, pp. 101-102; Muhammad Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami`al-bayan `an ta´wil al-Qur´an [Annals of al-Tabari], Edited by Mahmud Muhammad Shakir. 30 vols [Cairo, 1968], vol. 2, p. 452ff.)
Another tradition states:
Remember, Muhammad, when you said to Zaid, "Hold on to your wife, and heed God in regard to her, and do not divorce her owing to necessity or offering her haughtiness as excuse." In fact Zainab Bint Jahsh appealed to the Messenger of God when he saw her, as is told, when she was under the bond of his next of kin, so God placed in his heart aversion toward her when he knew that the heart of his Prophet was so stricken by her. So Zaid wanted to leave her and he told the Messenger of God. The Messenger of God said to him, "Hold on to your wife" even though he desired him to be finally divorced from her so that he could marry her, "and heed God" namely fear Him in the duty you owe Him for your wife. A tradition by Wahb: "Ibn Zaid said, 'The Prophet had married Zaid Ibn Haritha to Zainab Bint Jahsh, his cousin, and the Messenger of God went out one day seeking him. On Zaid's door was a curtain which the wind moved to show her unveiled in her chamber. The heart of the Prophet was filled with admiration for her. When this happened, she became undesirable to the other [namely to Zaid], who came [to the Messenger of God] and said, "O Messenger of God, I want to leave my wife." He replied, "Did she do anything to arouse your suspicion?" He said, "No! She did nothing to arouse my suspicion at all, O Messenger of God, and all I have seen from her was good." Then the Messenger of God said to him, "Hold on to your wife, and heed God." This is why God said, "Thus you told someone whom God had favoured and whom you yourself have favoured: 'Hold on to your wife, and heed God,' while you kept to yourself what God has disclosed." [This means that] you hid in yourself that you would marry her if he leaves her.' " (al-Tabari, vol. 22, pp. 12-13)
We notice that it was Muhammad's comments that made Zaid want to divorce his wife in order that Muhammad might marry her. One Muslim writer is not ashamed to admit that it was primarily Muhammad's comments that led Zaid into divorcing his wife:
"He had occasion to visit the house of Zaid, and upon seeing Zainab's unveiled face, had exclaimed, as a Moslem would say at the present day when admiring a beautiful picture or statue, Praise be to God, the ruler of hearts! The words, uttered in natural admiration, were often repeated by Zainab to her husband to show how even the Prophet praised her beauty, and naturally added to his displeasure. (Syed Ameer Ali, The Spirit of Islam [Chatto and Windus. London, England. 1974 (1890)], p. 235).
In fact, one Muslim specifically states that it was the express will of God for Zaid to divorce his wife in order that Muhammad could marry her:
"At last Zaid divorced her. It was not Zaid who did so but it was the Will of God. God ordered Muhammad to marry her. (Hafiz Ghulam Sarwar, Muhammad: The Holy Prophet [Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan. 1969], p. 375).
We also notice Aisha's uneasiness with the fact that Allah married Zainab to Muhammad since she was aware that the latter was certainly going to boast about it. In fact, the traditions record that this is precisely what Zainab did:
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Verse of Al-Hijab (veiling of women) was revealed in connection with Zainab bint Jahsh. (On the day of her marriage with him) the Prophet gave a wedding banquet with bread and meat; and she used to boast before other wives of the Prophet and used to say, "Allah married me (to the Prophet in the Heavens." (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 93, Number 517)
Zaid bin Haritha came to the Prophet complaining about his wife. The Prophet kept on saying (to him), "Be afraid of Allah and keep your wife." Aisha said, "If Allah's Apostle were to conceal anything (of the Quran he would have concealed this Verse." Zainab used to boast before the wives of the Prophet and used to say, "You were given in marriage by your families, while I was married (to the Prophet) by Allah from over seven Heavens." And Thabit recited, "The Verse:-- 'But (O Muhammad) you did hide in your heart that which Allah was about to make manifest, you did fear the people,' (33.37) was revealed in connection with Zainab and Zaid bin Haritha." (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 93, Number 516)
According to the hadith, Zainab received the best wedding reception from all of Muhammad's brides:
The marriage of Zainab bint Jahash was mentioned in the presence of Anas and he said, "I did not see the Prophet giving a better banquet on marrying any of his wives than the one he gave on marrying Zainab. He then gave a banquet with one sheep." (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 100)
The Prophet did not give a better wedding banquet on the occasion of marrying any of his wives than the one he gave on marrying Zainab, and that banquet was with (consisted of) one sheep. (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 97)
Muhammad's marriage to Zainab caused people to mock the former for taking his son's divorcee. They accused him, saying, "Muhammad prohibits the wives of the son while he himself marries the wife of his son Zaid." (Sa'd, al-Tabaqat, vol. 3, p. 42)
Abdullah Ibn `Umar stated, "We have always called him [namely Zaid] Zaid Ibn Muhammad." (Ibid., vol. 4, p. 43)
Hence, Muslims were calling Zaid the son of Muhammad without Muhammad objecting to it at first. This indicates that the unbelievers' insults at Muhammad had some basis to it since Muslims themselves were addressing Zaid as Muhammad's son. This necessitated another revelation, relieving Muhammad from his role as a father to Zaid:
"Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but [he is] God's Messenger and the Seal of the Prophets. God is Aware of everything!" S. 33:40
Ibn `Umar said, "We only called him Zaid Ibn Muhammad till the verse 'Muhammad is not the father of any of your men' was revealed." (Ibid.)
To summarize, there is no substance to Shabir's assertion that Zaid divorced Zainab due to marital strife since Muslim authorities indicate that Zaid only became displeased with her after Muhammad's remark about her beauty. Before this incident, Zaid himself testifies that he was content with Zainab since he saw nothing but good in her.
This marriage served more than one purpose. First, the prophet was responsible for arranging Zainab's marriage to Zaid. In a sense, then, he was also indirectly responsible for the unhappiness she felt in her marriage. Her marriage to the prophet now provided her the honour she felt she deserved, and exonerated the prophet.
We have seen the exact opposite since it is Muslim authorities that indicate that the reason the divorce took place was due to Zaid's desire to please Muhammad seeing that the latter had come to desire Zainab. Secondly, why should Zainab feel that she deserved better than a freed slave who was one of the first individuals to believe in Islam? Why should she feel ashamed of being married to a man who had forsaken even his family in order to remain with Muhammad? Why should she look down upon another Muslim due to his inferior status? Is this the spirit of Islam? Finally, why would a true Prophet of God acquiesce to the demands of one who, because of arrogance, felt she was entitled to marry someone better than a former slave? Shouldn't she have felt honored that she had married one who had been adopted into Muhammad's family and was a devout God-fearing Muslim? Perhaps Shabir can answer these questions.
Second, Zaid had been adopted as the prophet's son. Eventually, however, the Qur'an prohibited the practice of changing the parental identity of adopted persons. Zaid, then, was to no longer be called "son of Muhammad" but rather "a close friend." The prophet's marriage to the divorced wife of Zaid was a practical demonstration that the adopted relationship was not equal to a real blood-relationship. A man cannot marry the divorced wife of his real son but he can marry the divorced wife of his adopted son.
Shabir has now left himself in a predicament. According to S. 33:36-38 one primary reason for allowing Muhammad to marry his adopted son's divorcee was to set the precedence for others to do likewise. But if one is not allowed to have an adopted son in the first place how can S. 33:36-38 set the example for future Muslims to marry their adopted sons' divorcees like Muhammad? If it is purely a relationship of friendship then in what sense is a person adopted? Does he have the same inheritance rights? Can he assume his adopted father's name for legal purposes? Does this mean that he can marry his adopted sister seeing that he is not actually a blood brother? Could he then marry his adopted mother if his adopted father divorces here? If not, why not? If an adopted father can do so why not an adopted son?
What about adopted daughters? Can their mothers marry their divorced husbands or is this a privilege only for men and their adopted sons' divorcees? Can daughters marry their adopted mothers' divorced husbands? Again, if not why not? The Quran leaves more problems then it is able to solve.
The abolishment of the age-old practice was a positive improvement for the adopted persons. People outside of Islam still continue this practice for their own benefit. They adopt children and rob them of their real identify, making them believe they are real children of the household in which they grow up. When such children realize the truth they suffer much disappointment and grief. The adoptive process continues for the selfish gain of the adoptive parents.
One almost senses the desperation Shabir feels in trying to make sense out of all this. First, what if the adopted son, after knowing the truth, still desires to view his adopted parents as his family? Can he then call them "mom" or "dad"? Are the parents allowed to address him as "son"? What if the child's real parents are dead and hence has no family identity outside of the one given to him by his adopted family? Do all adopted children really feel pain and disappointment after knowing the truth about their situation? Does Shabir know this to be a fact? What about all the adopted children who have been made the better because of adoption?
What about the possible disappointments adopted children face after discovering who their real families are? For instance, what if a child discovers that his real biological mother was raped and that is how he/she was conceived? Would the child feel good about himself/herself knowing that he/she was a by-product of rape? Furthermore, Shabir believes that in Pre-Islamic times men use to bury their infant daughters alive. What if someone discovered the infant and took her in as his own child and later the child wants to find her real parents? How would such a child feel knowing that her real father deserted her to die? Would this make her feel happy and proud to have such parents?
The most honest thing for Shabir to do is to admit that the Quran leaves him with a major difficulty as opposed to trying to defend what is simply indefensible. Christians struggle with accepting Muhammad as a true prophet and role model in light of his marriage to his adopted son's divorcee, seeing that he was also the cause of the divorce in the first place.
But is it not true that children sometimes need adoptive parents? Yes. But they also need to preserve their real identify. This is what Islam ensures. It is the responsibility of the entire community to help children in need. They should be taken in and nurtured but not confused with one's own children.
Again, Shabir opens himself to criticism. What if the only children a husband and wife can ever have are the ones they adopt? This basically means that Islam robs parents of the privilege of having adopted children that they can love as their own since the Quran disallows Muslims from viewing adopted children as biological children.
This also means that a barren wife and her husband can never have the privilege of hearing a child call them "mom" or "dad" because Allah does not allow for such intimate exchange between adopted parents and their children.
The prophet's marriage to Zainab was a bold measure to forever engrave in the minds of his followers that as much as people would resist change, some changes are worth the effort. Adoptive children should no longer be robbed of their real identities.
Actually, the only bold thing about all this is that Muhammad would attribute such atrocious sins to God. How could God be the author of such immorality? The answer is that he cannot be, and this is precisely why Christians reject Muhammad as God's prophet.
(Note- For a more in-depth look at Muhammad's relationship with his wives and the role of women we recommend the following book- The Position of Women in Islam by Hamdun Dagher available from Light of Life, P.O. Box 13, A-9503, VILLACH, AUSTRIA. This book is also available in its entirety online.
Was Muhammad (pbuh) literate?
Q. Muslims only claim that Muhammad was illiterate because they do not wish to admit that he wrote the Qur'an. They want to substantiate the miraculous nature of the Qur'an by claiming that Muhammad could not write.
A. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was indeed illiterate. This fact of history will not change even if Muslims or non-Muslims wish it were otherwise. The Qur'an is a source contemporary with the Prophet. This book acknowledges that the prophet could neither read nor write. Even Dr. Anis Shorrosh, admits that biological references in the Qur'an are invaluable because they are contemporary with Muhammad (Islam Revealed, p. 47).
Here are some Qur'anic references to the illiteracy of the prophet: 7:157; 29:46; 62:2
Actually, not all Muslims see it this way. For articles written by Muslims in support of Muhammad's literacy we present the following links  and .
Furthermore, in light of the verses alluded by Shabir none of them offer convincing proof for Muhammad's illiteracy:
"Those who follow the messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper." S. 7:157 Y. Ali
"It is He Who has sent amongst the Unlettered a messenger from among themselves, to rehearse to them His Signs, to sanctify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom,- although they had been, before, in manifest error;-" S. 62:2 Y. Ali
Shabir presupposes that the term unlettered (Arabic- ummi) implies one who can neither read or write. Yet, this interpretation can not be sustained in light of the fact that the term is used elsewhere to refer to the Arabs or Gentiles:
"Among them are unlettered folk (umiyyuuna) who know the Scripture not except from hearsay. They but guess." S. 2:78 M.M. Pickthall
"So if they dispute with thee, say: "I have submitted My whole self to Allah and so have those who follow me." And say to the People of the Book and to those who are unlearned (ummi): "Do ye (also) submit yourselves?" If they do, they are in right guidance, but if they turn back, Thy duty is to convey the Message; and in Allah's sight are (all) His servants." S. 3:20 Y. Ali
"Among the People of the Scripture there is he who, if thou trust him with a weight of treasure, will return it to thee. And among them there is he who, if thou trust him with a piece of gold, will not return it to thee unless thou keep standing over him. That is because they say: We have no duty to the Gentiles (ummiyyiina). They speak a lie concerning Allah knowingly. S. 3:75 M.M. Pickthall
In light of these passages, ummi cannot possibly mean illiterate since this would imply that the entire Arab nation was uneducated and could not read or write. Yet, Shabir himself would not accept this interpretation since he believes that the Quran was revealed at a time when Arab poetry and eloquence was at its peak. This indicates that the Arabs had a high level of literacy in order to produce eloquent, poetic writings. This implies that the term ummi refers to communities who had not been given revelation in the form of scripture like the Jews and Christians, and therefore were ignorant of prophetic writings.
"And you did not recite before it any book, nor did you transcribe one with your right hand, for then could those who say untrue things have doubted." S. 29:48 Shakir
Again, nothing in this verse would imply that Muhammad was illiterate. Instead, all this verse is saying is that Muhammad had not read any religious scriptures before the Quran was given to him, nor did he merely transcribe the Quran from information he had gathered from previous revelation. Hence, Muhammad had no prior knowledge of divine revelation until the Quran was given. He was ignorant of the content contained within previous scripture, not that he was illiterate.
The evidence from the following hadiths strongly argue that Muhammad was literate:
When the Prophet went out for the 'Umra in the month of Dhal-Qa'da, the people of Mecca did not allow him to enter Mecca till he agreed to conclude a peace treaty with them by virtue of which he would stay in Mecca for three days only (in the following year). When the agreement was being written, the Muslims wrote: "This is the peace treaty, which Muhammad, Apostle of Allah has concluded." The infidels said (to the Prophet), "We do not agree with you on this, for if we knew that you are Apostle of Allah we would not have prevented you for anything (i.e. entering Mecca, etc.), but you are Muhammad, the son of 'Abdullah." Then he said to 'Ali, "Erase (the name of) 'Apostle of Allah'." 'Ali said, "No, by Allah, I will never erase you (i.e. your name)." Then Allah's Apostle took the writing sheet...and he did not know a better writing... and he wrote or got it the following written: "This is the peace treaty which Muhammad, the son of 'Abdullah, has concluded: "Muhammad should not bring arms into Mecca except sheathed swords, and should not take with him any person of the people of Mecca even if such a person wanted to follow him, and if any of his companions wants to stay in Mecca, he should not forbid him." (excerpt from Sahih Bukhari Volume 7 Number 88)
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Once the Prophet wrote a letter or had an idea of writing a letter. The Prophet was told that they (rulers) would not read letters unless they were sealed. So the Prophet got a silver ring made with "Muhammad Allah's Apostle" engraved on it. As if I were just observing its white glitter in the hand of the Prophet ..." (Bukhari Volume 1 Number 65)
Narrated 'Ubaidullah bin 'Abdullah:
Ibn 'Abbas said, "When the ailment of the Prophet became worse, he said, 'Bring for me (writing) paper and I will write for you a statement after which you will not go astray.' But 'Umar said, 'The Prophet is seriously ill, and we have got Allah's Book with us and that is sufficient for us.' But the companions of the Prophet differed about this and there was a huge and cry. On that the Prophet said to them, 'Go away (and leave me alone). It is not right that you should quarrel in front of me." Ibn 'Abbas came out saying, "It was most unfortunate (a great disaster) that Allah's Apostle was prevented from writing that statement for them because of their disagreement and noise. (Bukhari Volume 1 Number 114)
If Muhammad did not write but had others write for him, then why did he not delegate someone else to write on his behalf? Would this not argue that Muhammad could write, but was unable to do so at the time due to his illness? After all, Muhammad could have easily dictated what needed to be written down seeing that he still had enough energy to speak at the time.
Narrated Said bin Jubair:
Ibn 'Abbas said, "Thursday! What (great thing) took place on Thursday!" Then he started weeping till his tears wetted the gravels of the ground. Then he said, "On Thursday the illness of Allah's Apostle was aggravated and he said, "Fetch me writing materials so that I may have something written to you after which you will never go astray." The people (present there) differed in this matter and people should not differ before a prophet. They said, "Allah's Apostle is seriously sick." The Prophet said, "Let me alone, as the state in which I am now, is better than what you are calling me for." The Prophet on his death-bed, gave three orders saying, "Expel the pagans from the Arabian Peninsula, respect and give gifts to the foreign delegates as you have seen me dealing with them." I forgot the third (order)" (Ya'qub bin Muhammad said, "I asked Al-Mughira bin 'Abdur-Rahman about the Arabian Peninsula and he said, 'It comprises Mecca, Medina, Al-Yama-ma and Yemen." Ya'qub added, "And Al-Arj, the beginning of Tihama.") (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Number 288)
Narrated Ibn Abbas:
Thursday! And how great that Thursday was! The ailment of Allah's Apostle became worse (on Thursday) and he said, fetch me something so that I may write to you something after which you will never go astray." The people (present there) differed in this matter, and it was not right to differ before a prophet. Some said, "What is wrong with him? (Do you think) he is delirious (seriously ill)? Ask him (to understand his state)." So they went to the Prophet and asked him again. The Prophet said, "Leave me, for my present state is better than what you call me for." Then he ordered them to do three things. He said, "Turn the pagans out of the 'Arabian Peninsula; respect and give gifts to the foreign delegations as you have seen me dealing with them." (Said bin Jubair, the sub-narrator said that Ibn Abbas kept quiet as rewards the third order, or he said, "I forgot it.") (See Hadith No. 116 Vol. 1) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Number 716)
Narrated Ubaidullah bin 'Abdullah:
Ibn Abbas said, "When Allah's Apostle was on his deathbed and there were some men in the house, he said, 'Come near, I will write for you something after which you will not go astray.' Some of them (i.e. his companions) said, 'Allah's Apostle is seriously ill and you have the (Holy) Quran. Allah's Book is sufficient for us.' So the people in the house differed and started disputing. Some of them said, 'Give him writing material so that he may write for you something after which you will not go astray.' while the others said the other way round. So when their talk and differences increased, Allah's Apostle said, "Get up." Ibn Abbas used to say, "No doubt, it was very unfortunate (a great disaster) that Allah's Apostle was prevented from writing for them that writing because of their differences and noise." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Number 717)
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:
When Allah's Apostle was on his death-bed and in the house there were some people among whom was 'Umar bin Al-Khattab, the Prophet said, "Come, let me write for you a statement after which you will not go astray." 'Umar said, "The Prophet is seriously ill and you have the Qur'an; so the Book of Allah is enough for us." The people present in the house differed and quarrelled. Some said "Go near so that the Prophet may write for you a statement after which you will not go astray," while the others said as Umar said. When they caused a hue and cry before the Prophet, Allah's Apostle said, "Go away!" Narrated 'Ubaidullah: Ibn 'Abbas used to say, "It was very unfortunate that Allah's Apostle was prevented from writing that statement for them because of their disagreement and noise." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Number 573)
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:
When the time of the death of the Prophet approached while there were some men in the house, and among them was 'Umar bin Al-Khatttab, the Prophet said, "Come near let me write for you a writing after which you will never go astray." 'Umar said, "The Prophet is seriously ill, and you have the Quran, so Allah's Book is sufficient for us." The people in the house differed and disputed. Some of them said, "Come near so that Allah's Apostle may write for you a writing after which you will not go astray," while some of them said what 'Umar said. When they made much noise and differed greatly before the Prophet, he said to them, "Go away and leave me." Ibn 'Abbas used to say, "It was a great disaster that their difference and noise prevented Allah's Apostle from writing that writing for them. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Number 468)
Narrated Said bin Jubair:
that he heard Ibn 'Abbas saying, "Thursday! And you know not what Thursday is? After that Ibn 'Abbas wept till the stones on the ground were soaked with his tears. On that I asked Ibn 'Abbas, "What is (about) Thursday?" He said, "When the condition (i.e. health) of Allah's Apostle deteriorated, he said, 'Bring me a bone of scapula, so that I may write something for you after which you will never go astray.' The people differed in their opinions although it was improper to differ in front of a prophet, They said, 'What is wrong with him? Do you think he is delirious? Ask him (to understand). The Prophet replied, 'Leave me as I am in a better state than what you are asking me to do.' Then the Prophet ordered them to do three things saying, 'Turn out all the pagans from the Arabian Peninsula, show respect to all foreign delegates by giving them gifts as I used to do.' " The sub-narrator added, "The third order was something beneficial which either Ibn 'Abbas did not mention or he mentioned but I forgot.' (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Number 393, also Ibn Sa'd's biography, Vol. II, p. 302)
These traditions strongly support the contention that Muhammad could read and write. To simply say that these traditions merely indicate that Muhammad was asking for pen and paper in order to dictate to someone else to write on his behalf is an inadequate explanation. The reason being is that Muhammad was able to communicate during his illness and there was nothing stopping him from dictating what he wanted written down. The fact that he never asked someone to write on his behalf implies that Muhammad wanted to personally write himself, but could not do so due either to his illness or the anger he felt at the Muslims who questioned his sanity at the time of his sickness.
The next set of traditions provides additional, strong evidence that Muhammad was able to write:
Narrated Yazid ibn Abdullah:
We were at Mirbad. A man with dishevelled hair and holding a piece of red skin in his hand came.
We said: You appear to be a bedouin. He said: Yes. We said: Give us this piece of skin in your hand. He then gave it to us and we read it. It contained the text: "From Muhammad, Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him), to Banu Zuhayr ibn Uqaysh. If you bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah, offer prayer, pay zakat, pay the fifth from the booty, and the portion of the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and his special portion (safi), you will be under by the protection of Allah and His Apostle."
We then asked: Who wrote this document for you? He replied: THE APOSTLE OF ALLAH (peace_be_upon_him). (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 19, Number 2993)
... Akk was told: Go to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him), and obtain his protection for your town and property. He therefore came (to him) and the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) WROTE a document for him: (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 19, Number 3021)
Thus, it is evident, at least to us, that the Islamic literature provides very good and sound evidence for Muhammad's literacy.
If Muhammad were indeed literate Muslims would not need to hide it. The fact that God revealed the Qur'an would not change even if Muhammad were literate. When his contemporaries heard the Qur'an many remarked: "This is no less than divine speech." Those who believed saw it not as the speech of a literate man but as the speech of no man whether literate or illiterate.
Not all who heard the recitation of the Quran believed that it was divine speech, but ancient fables that Muhammad had caused to be written down:
Those who disbelieve say: "This (the Qur'ân) is nothing but a lie that he (Muhammad SAW) has invented, and others have helped him at it, so that they have produced an unjust wrong (thing) and a lie." And they say: "Tales of the ancients, which he has written down, and they are dictated to him morning and afternoon." Say: "It (this Qur'ân) has been sent down by Him (Allâh) (the Real Lord of the heavens and earth) Who knows the secret of the heavens and the earth. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." S. 25:4-6 Hilali-Khan
Others believed that Muhammad was possessed by a jinn, and it was through possession that he was able to produce the Quran:
"Do they not reflect? Their companion is not seized with madness (min-jinnah): he is but a perspicuous warner." S. 7:184
"Thou art not, by the Grace of thy Lord, mad or possessed (bi-majnun)." S. 68:2
"And (O people!) your companion is not one possessed (bi-majnun);" S. 81:22
Both Muhammad and his foster-parents at one time believed that the former had been possessed by evil-spirits:
Naturally he was scared, and intimated to his wife, Khadija, the fear that he might even be possessed by an evil spirit... Stricken with panic, Muhammad arose and asked himself, "What did I see? Did possession of the devil which I feared all along come to pass?" ... When he calmed down, he cast toward his wife the glance of a man in need of rescue and said, "O Khadijah, what has happened to me?" He told her of his experience and intimated to her his fear that his mind had finally betrayed him, and that he was becoming a seer or a man possessed. (Muhammad Husayn Haykal, The Life of Muhammad [North American Trust Publications, USA 1976], pp. 73-75)
His foster-mother, Halimah, feared for the child since she believed he was possessed:
"Some months after our return he and his brother were with our lambs behind the tents when his brother came running and said to us, `Two men clothed in white has ceased that Qurayshi brother of mine and thrown him down and opened up his belly, and are stirring him up.' We ran towards him and found him standing up with a livid face. We took hold of him and asked him what was the matter. He said, `Two men with white raiment came and threw me down and opened up my belly and searched therein for I know not what,' so we took him back to our tent... His father said to me, `I am afraid that this child has had a stroke, so take him back to his family before the result appears.' So we picked him up and took him to his mother who asked why we had brought him when I had been anxious for his welfare and desirous of keeping him with me. I said to her, `God has let my son live so far and I have done my duty. I am afraid that ill will befall him, so I have brought him back to you as you wished.' She asked me what happened and gave me no peace until I told her. When she asked if I feared a demon possessed him, I replied that I did. She answered that no demon had any power over her son who had a great future before him, and then she told me how when she was pregnant with him a light went out from her which illumined the castles of Busra and Syria." (Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, pp. 71-72)
Muhammad was so troubled by the fact that he might have been demon-possessed that he contemplated suicide:
"I shall go to some high mountain cliff and cast myself down therefrom so that I may kill myself and be at rest. I went off with this mind, but when I was in the midst of the mountains I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'O Muhammad, thou art God's apostle and I am Gabriel.' (At-Tabari, Tarikh al-Rasul Wa al-Muluk, Leiden, 1991, I, p. 1152)
In fact, Muhammad claimed to be helped by a jinn,
"From Abdu-Allah Ibn Massoud; Mohammed the messenger of God said `everyone one of you has a companion from Angels and Jinn.' `Even you the Messenger of God?' "Even me, but Allah has helped me and my Jinn companion became Muslim, therefore he only advises me to do good' (Ahmed Bahgat, "The Prophets of God" or "Anbi'a Allah", p.386. Ahmed is an Egyptian)
The question needing to be asked is what kind of advice did the jinn give Muhammad before the former became Muslim? One woman even claimed that Muhammad's angel was actually satan:
Narrated Jundab bin 'Abdullah :
Gabriel did not come to the Prophet (for some time) and so one of the Quraish women said, "His Satan has deserted him." So came the Divine Revelation: "By the forenoon And by the night When it is still! Your Lord (O Muhammad) has neither Forsaken you Nor hated you." (93.1-3) (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 21, Number 225)
Others claimed that the Quran was nothing more than poetry which Muhammad compiled:
"It is not the word of a poet ... nor is it the word of a soothsayer." S. 69:41, 42.
Nay, say they, (these are but) muddled dreams; nay, he hath but invented it; nay, he is but a poet. Let him bring us a portent even as those of old (who were God's messengers) were sent (with portents). S. 21:5 Pickthall
And said: Shall we forsake our gods for a mad poet? S. 37:36 Pickthall
Do they say `He is a poet; we are waiting for some calamity which time will bring upon him?' S. 52:30 Sher Ali
Hence, while it is true that believers obviously felt that the Quran was of divine origin, others felt that it was something which Muhammad forged with the help of men or demons.
Incidents proving the literacy of the prophet?
Q. When the peace treaty of Hudaybiyah was to be signed, the nonbelievers objected because the treaty said "Muhammad the Messenger of Allah." They wanted the words "Messenger of Allah" struck out. Muhammad struck out the words and instead wrote "son of Abdullah."
A. Because of the variations in the reports which describe this incident one cannot be sure that the prophet himself wrote "son of Abdullah." But if for the sake of discussion we grant that he did, this does not detract from the fact that he was illiterate.
Seldom do we find a person who is so illiterate that he could not write his own name. Yet, if there is no evidence that a person wrote more than his name we do not have sufficient evidence to describe such a person as literate.
The title "son of Abdullah" would function as an identifying element in the prophet's name. Hence this would be roughly equivalent to someone writing Mark, son of John, or usually Mark Johnson. Writing this much not proof enough of a person's literacy. A man's ability to write his full name does not prove that he could write a book.
One must first assume that Muhammad was illiterate in order to draw the inference that his ability to write his name is not sufficient grounds to establish his literacy. Shabir assumes what he has yet to prove, namely that Muhammad was illiterate but not to the extent where he was unable to write his own name. Yet, when all the evidence is taken into consideration the picture that emerges is that Muhammad was able to read and write.
Q. When Muhammad was on his death bed he called for writing instruments so that he could write some final instructions. If he could not write, why did he ask for such materials?
A. Most officials write through secretaries. When such an official calls for writing instruments he intends for his secretaries to write. When he says, "I will write to you" he means, "I will dictate a letter to you; my secretaries will write it, or type it." The fact that the prophet called for writing instruments does not prove that he was literate.
As we stated earlier, if Muhammad was simply asking someone to write on his behalf then there was nothing stopping him from doing so since his illness was not so severe as to prevent him from dictating orally what he wanted written down. Furthermore, Shabir is again working from the assumption that Muhammad was illiterate. Hence, Shabir interprets the data in light of this presupposition instead of following the evidence to its logical conclusion.
Q. The prophet was a successful trader. Surely he knew how to read and write.
A. Being a successful trader is not proof enough that a person is literate. Many merchants are unable to compose a paragraph. As an example, my mother was a successful merchant. In all her trading years she affixed her thumbprint for a signature because she could not write her own name. In her retirement years she learnt how to write her name and a few simple words. But then she was known to be a registered student in a formal study program. This fact could not be hidden from her friends and relatives. How did Muhammad (pbuh) compose the most remarkable book of all time and yet his schooling remains a mystery?
First, Shabir again assumes that Muhammad was illiterate and therefore his role as a merchant would not be sufficient proof establishing that he was literate. He also assumes that just as there were many successful merchants who were illiterate, Muhammad was also one of them. But this is taking the exception as the norm. Although there are many illiterate merchants who have been successful at what they do, these are exceptions to the norm. The normal thing is to expect that most merchants are able to read and write.
Hence, one again must assume that Muhammad was illiterate and therefore was an exception to the fact that most merchants are quite literate. But one can just as easily assume the opposite, namely that being a successful merchant Muhammad would have naturally known how to read and write. One must produce evidence to show that Muhammad was illiterate, and therefore an exception to the normal expectation that merchants by large are educated individuals.
Q. Dr. Anis Shorrosh says he saw a copy of a letter signed by Muhammad. Does this not prove that he could write?
A. If the letter is genuine it can only prove that the prophet could sign his own name. It does not prove that he could write a letter, much less a book. Notice that even Dr. Shorrosh does not claim that the prophet wrote the letter - only that he signed it.
It also does not deny the fact that Muhammad could write a book or that he in fact did write the letter. Furthermore, no matter what evidence is presented Shabir has already made up his mind that Muhammad was illiterate. Hence, any evidence is trivial to Shabir since he always interprets it in light of his presupposition that Muhammad could not have been literate.
Q. The prophet lived among eloquent bedouins. Surely he picked up beautiful 7th century Arabic from them.
A. Those people admitted that their beautiful 7th century Arabic was no match for the beauty and eloquence of the Qur'an and the excellence of its teachings. They had to confess that the Qur'an is no less than divine speech.
As we have seen, the Quran itself shows and the traditions prove that not all of the Arabs believed that the Quran was of divine origin. Shabir jumps the gun since Arabs never had to confess anything, since even those who had embraced Islam apostatized shortly after Muhammad's death. This led Abu Bakr to declare war against those Arabs who abandoned Islam, bringing them back by force. This fact makes it hard to believe that the Arabs actually believed the Quran was of divine origin seeing how quickly they abandoned Islam after Muhammad's death.
Something that might be of interest is that even one of Muhammad's scribes abandoned Islam at first, claiming to be just as inspired as Muhammad was:
Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas:
Abdullah ibn AbuSarh used to write (the revelation) for the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him). Satan made him slip, and he joined the infidels. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) commanded to kill him on the day of Conquest (of Mecca). Uthman ibn Affan sought protection for him. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) gave him protection. (Sunan Abu-Dawud Book 38, Number 4345)
The reason why Abdullah abandoned Islam was due to Muhammad allowing Abi Sarh to change the revelation. Al-Baidawi in Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta'wil comments on the Qur'an, Sura al-An`am 6:93:
"'To me it has been revealed', when naught has been revealed to him" refers to Abdallah Ibn Sa`d Ibn Abi Sarh, who used to write for God's messenger. The verse (23:11) that says, "We created man of an extraction of clay" was revealed, and when Muhammad reached the part that says, "... thereafter We produced him as another creature (23:14), Abdallah said, "So blessed be God the fairest of creators!" in amazement at the details of man's creation. The prophet said, "Write it down; for thus it has been revealed." Abdallah doubted and said, "If Muhammad is truthful then I receive the revelation as much as he does, and if he is a liar, what I said is a good as what he said."
From Al-Sira by al-'Iraqi:
The scribes of Muhammad were 42 in number. Abdallah Ibn Sarh al-`Amiri was one of them, and he was the first Quraishite among those who wrote in Mecca before he turned away from Islam. He started saying, "I used to direct Muhammad wherever I willed. He would dictate to me 'Most High, All-Wise', and I would write down 'All-Wise' only. Then he would say, 'Yes it is all the same'. On a certain occasion he said, 'Write such and such', but I wrote 'Write' only, and he said, 'Write whatever you like.'" So when this scribe exposed Muhammad, he wrote in the Qur'an, "And who does greater evil than he who forges against God a lie, or says, 'To me it has been revealed', when naught has been revealed to him." So on the day Muhammad conquered Mecca, he commanded his scribe to be killed. But the scribe fled to `Uthman Ibn `Affan, because `Uthman was his foster brother (his mother suckled `Uthman). `Uthman, therefore, kept him away from Muhammad. After the people calmed down, `Uthman brought the scribe to Muhammad and sought protection for him. Muhammad kept silent for a long time, after which he said yes. When `Uthman had left, Muhammad said "I only kept silent so that you (the people) should kill him."
"I can reveal the like of what Allah hath revealed" was revealed about Abdullah bin Sa'd bin Abi Sarh. He confessed Islam. The Messenger of Allah invited him once so that he could write him something, so when the verse which is in Surat Al-Mou'mineen "Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay)" was recited, he [Mohammad] dictated it to him [Abdullah]. When Mohammad finished by saying "We developed out of it another creature", Abdullah was amazed by this detail in the creation of man and said, "So blessed be Allah, the Best to create!", so the Messenger of Allah said, "That's how it was revealed to me". So Abdullah doubted then and said [to himself], "If Mohammad were truthful, then I was revealed what he was revealed. And if he were a liar, then I said what he said." (Asbaab Al-Nuzool by Al-Wahidi Al-Naysaboori – p. 126 - Beirute's Cultural Library Edition Tub'at Al-Maktabah Al-thakafiyyah Beirute - No date)
The One whose name is Exalted (Allah) means in his saying "Who doth more wrong than such as invent a falsehood against Allah" and "Who doth more wrong and who is more ignorant than such as invent a falsehood against Allah" referring to those who invent falsehood against Allah and claim to be a Prophet and a Warner, and he [the person who claims] is false in his claims, and lying in his sayings. In this, God is ridiculing the Pagan Arabs, and (ridiculing) the opposing of Abdullah bin Sa'd bin Abi Al-Sarh and the Hanafite Musaylamah to the Prophet of Allah (SAW). For one of them claimed prophethood and the other claimed that he came up with something similar to what the Messenger of Allah (SAW) came with [the Quran], and at the same time denying the lying and false claims against his Prophet Mohammad (SAW). (Tafseer Al-Qurtubi)
Mohammad bin Al-Hussein spoke to me, he said: Ahmad bin Al-Mufdil narrated: Asbat narrated from Al-Sudy: "Who doth more wrong than such as invent a falsehood against Allah, or said: "I have received inspiration,' when he hath received none" until his [Allah] saying, "ye receive your reward, a penalty of shame". He [Al-Sudy] said: This verse was revealed about Abdullah bin Sa'd bin Abi Al-Sarh, he embraced Islam, and used to write [Quran revelations] for the Prophet (SAW). So when the Prophet dictated him: "Who heareth and knoweth all things", he'd write it: "All-Knowing, All-Wise". So he doubted and reverted. Then he said, "If Mohammad gets inspiration, then I get inspiration too, and if Allah sent him his revelation then I was sent the same thing. For when Mohammad said, 'Who heareth and knoweth all things' I'd say, 'All-Knowing, All-Wise'" So he followed the Pagans, and he blew the cover of Ammar and Jubar [secret Muslims] to Ibn Al-Hudrumi or to Bani Abd Al-Dar, so they took them and tortured them until they reverted. Ammar's ear was cut off that day, so he [Ammar] went to the Prophet (SAW) and told him what had happened to him, but the Prophet (SAW) refused to handle his issue. So Allah revealed about [Abdullah] Ibn Abi Al-Sarh and his companions, "Anyone who, after accepting Faith in Allah, utters Unbelief, - except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith - but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty" Who was "under compulsion" is Ammar and his companions, and who "open their breast to Unbelief" is [Abdullah] Ibn Abi Al-Sarh. (Tafseer Al-Tabari)
How could a true prophet of God allow someone to influence him to change the revelation? Does this not prove that Muhammad is a false prophet? Is it any wonder that many Muslims apostatized seeing the way Muhammad lived and allowed the revelation to be changed at the suggestions of uninspired men?
Q. Dr. Shorrosh says that when Gabriel commanded Muhammad to read, this implies that he could also write.
A. The logic in that statement is fuzzy. Just because a person can read is not proof enough that he can write. Many readers have never handled a pen.
Shabir would have us assume that a person that can read does not mean that he can also write, yet fails to tell us why this is so. It is hard to imagine that people who can read have never handled a pen. Again, how does Shabir know this to be the case? Has he personally observed that most people who can read are unable to write? Or does he once again take the exception as the norm, i.e. the fact that few individuals who can read but cannot write implies that this is the case in every situation?
Q. Dr. Shorrosh (p. 53) says that the Qur'an refers to Muhammad as "one who taught by the pen" in surah 96:1-5.
A. On the contrary, the surah refers to Muhammad's Lord as the one who taught by the pen.
The problem we have with this statement is that if God teaches by the pen, why did he not teach his prophet to write? Furthermore, if God is to teach by the pen this assumes that a person must be able to read what is written. Hence, for God to reveal to Muhammad that he is the one who teaches by the pen and yet did not teach his prophet to read what he causes to be written would be hypocritical at best.
Q. Why did Muhammad consider suicide when he was troubled about the revelation?
A. He had no idea what to make of the experience. He grew up in a tradition in which angels did not visit people. A common interpretation in his culture would have been that he was seeing visions as a result of being jinn-possessed. This indeed is the accusation his people eventually levelled against him. Fearing that this interpretation was true, the prophet preferred to die rather than mislead his people. But before he could do anything, the angel Gabriel called out to him and assured him that he was indeed the messenger of God.
This is precisely the reason why Christians have a problem with Muhammad as a true prophet of God. None of the biblical prophets ever contemplated suicide after encountering God or his angels. In fact, the angels would comfort God's prophets relieving them of their fears and anxieties. Yet, instead of relieving Muhammad of anxiety the angel squeezed him half to death three consecutive times, forcing him to recite his commands. This angel does not fit the profile of a true angelic messenger of God, but sounds more like the devil instead.
Q. Dr. Shorrosh (p. 54) concludes that at the moment of inspiration the prophet fell to the ground according to a tradition.
A. Notice that he did not say which tradition because there is no such tradition.
He might not have said it, but the hadiths sure do:
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
that he heard the Prophet saying, "The Divine Inspiration was delayed for a short period but suddenly, as I was walking. I heard a voice in the sky, and when I looked up towards the sky, to my surprise, I saw the angel who had come to me in the Hira Cave, and he was sitting on a chair in between the sky and the earth. I was so frightened by him that I fell on the ground and came to my family and said (to them), 'Cover me! (with a blanket), cover me!' Then Allah sent the Revelation: "O, You wrapped up (In a blanket)! (Arise and warn! And your Lord magnify And keep pure your garments, And desert the idols." (74.1-5) (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 54, Number 461)
The dread of seeing the angel caused Muhammad to fall to the ground. As we have already indicated, no true prophet of God experienced such fear after encountering an angel since they always received comfort from God's angelic messengers.
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
When the Ka'ba was built, the Prophet and Abbas went to bring stones (for its construction). Al Abbas said to the Prophet, "Take off your waist sheet and put it on your neck." (When the Prophet took it off) he fell on the ground with his eyes open towards the sky and said, "Give me my waist sheet." And he covered himself with it. (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 26, Number 652)
We are unable to tell whether if Muhammad fell due to complications or out of embarrassment for being uncovered. It seems more likely that the fall was caused by complications such as a seizure since Muhammad had willingly taken off his waist sheet. This fact comes out crystal clear in the following tradition:
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
When the Ka'ba was rebuilt, the Prophet and 'Abbas went to carry stones. 'Abbas said to the Prophet "(Take off and) put your waist sheet over your neck so that the stones may not hurt you." (But as soon as he took off his waist sheet) he fell unconscious on the ground with both his eyes towards the sky. When he came to his senses, he said, "My waist sheet! My waist sheet!" Then he tied his waist sheet (round his waist). (Bukhari Volume 5, Book 58, Number 170)
Being uncovered does not result in a person falling down unconscious. This fact implies that Muhammad's falling to the ground had a lot more to do with simply being embarrassed.
Muhammad also went through different experiences when receiving revelation:
(the wife of the Prophet) The commencement (of the Divine Inspiration) to Allah's Apostle was in the form of true dreams in his sleep, for he never had a dream but it turned out to be true and clear as the bright daylight. Then he began to like seclusions, so he used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship Allah continuously for many nights before going back to his family to take the necessary provision (of food) for the stay. He come back to (his wife) Khadija again to take his provision (of food) likewise, till one day he received the Guidance while he was in the cave of Hira. An Angel came to him and asked him to read. Allah's Apostle replied, "I do not know how to read." The Prophet added, "Then the Angel held me (forcibly) and pressed me so hard that I felt distressed. Then he released me and again asked me to read, and I replied, 'I do not know how to read.' Thereupon he held me again and pressed me for the second time till I felt distressed. He then released me and asked me to read, but again I replied. 'I do not know how to read.' Thereupon he held me for the third time and pressed me till I got distressed, and then he released me and said, 'Read, in the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists), has created man out of a clot, Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen, has taught man that which he knew not." (96.1-5).
Then Allah's Apostle returned with that experience; and the muscles between his neck and shoulders were trembling till he came upon Khadija (his wife) and said, "Cover me!" They covered him, and when the state of fear was over, he said to Khadija, "O Khadija! What is wrong with me? I was afraid that something bad might happen to me." Then he told her the story. Khadija said, "Nay! But receive the good tidings! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you, for by Allah, you keep good relations with your Kith and kin, speak the truth, help the poor and the destitute, entertain your guests generously and assist those who are stricken with calamities." Khadija then took him to Waraqa bin Naufil, the son of Khadija's paternal uncle. Waraqa had been converted to Christianity in the Pre-lslamic Period and used to write Arabic and write of the Gospel in Arabic as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said (to Waraqa), "O my cousin! Listen to what your nephew is going to say." Waraqa said, "O my nephew! What have you seen?" The Prophet then described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, "This is the same Angel (Gabriel) who was sent to Moses. I wish I were young." He added some other statement. Allah's Apostle asked, "Will these people drive me out?" Waraqa said, "Yes, for nobody brought the like of what you have brought, but was treated with hostility. If I were to remain alive till your day (when you start preaching). then I would support you strongly." But a short while later Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was paused (stopped) for a while so that Allah's Apostle was very much grieved.
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah: While Allah's Apostle was talking about the period of pause in revelation. He said in his narration. "Once while I was walking, all of a sudden I heard a voice from the sky. I looked up and saw to my surprise, the same Angel as had visited me in the cave of Hira.' He was sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. I got afraid of him and came back home and said, Wrap me! Wrap me!" So they covered him and then Allah revealed: 'O you, wrapped up! Arise and warn and your Lord magnify, and your garments purify and dessert the idols.' (74.1-5)... (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 478)
A question we like to ask is why did Muhammad say that he could not read when the angel simply wanted him to repeat the words? Does a person need to know how to read before being able to recite words that are dictated orally? Furthermore, why did the angel ask Muhammad to read seeing that the latter was supposedly illiterate? Did God not know that Muhammad could not read before sending the angel to him? If so, then why would God have the angel command Muhammad to read in the first place?
Verily, al-Harith Ibn Hisham said: O Apostle of Allah! how does revelation dawn upon you? The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, said: Sometimes it dawns upon me in the form of the ringing of a bell, and that is very hard on me; (ultimately) it ceases and I remember what is said. Sometimes the angel appears to me and speaks and I recollect what he says. Ayishah said: I witnessed the revelation dawning upon him on an extremely cold day; when it ceased, I noticed that his forehead was perspiring. (Ibn Sa'd, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol. 1, p. 228)
"Ubada b. Samit reported that when wahi descended upon Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him), he felt a burden on that account and the colour of his face underwent a change. (Sahih Muslim, Vol. 4, p. 1248)
All these experiences prove that Muhammad was totally unlike the biblical prophets since none of them experienced such conditions when receiving instructions from the true God Yahweh.
What about the Satanic Verses?
Q. Why were Muslims so angry with Salman Rushdie?
A. His book "The Satanic Verses" is a mockery of everything that Muslims hold sacred. It is a parody of the prophet Muhammad, his noble family, the book of God, and the prophets of God.
The book is a work of fiction in which the characters are made to represent the most noble characters of Islam. Yet the characters in the novel are made to indulge in sexual promiscuity. This to Muslims is more distasteful than if their own mothers were depicted in those scenes.
While it is true that Salman Rushdie's work is fictitious, the Satanic verses are not as we shall shortly see.
Q. Are people other than Muslims also upset over that publication?
A. Yes. Many non-Muslims thinkers and writers have also condemned the publication as being insensitive and knowingly provocative. On the other hand, many others argue in the name of freedom of speech that anyone should be free to express his ideas. But even those people must agree that freedom has its limits. One person should not be so free as to harm others and get away with it.
Some persons do not see why Muslims should be so upset over religion. Most people today think that religion is not important enough to get excited about. This may be their own conclusions about their own religions. But where they extend their conclusion to apply to Islam they are quite wrong. Muslims are still convinced that Islam is the truth to live for and die for. All the rational evidence is in favour of the Muslim position.
We agree with Shabir that to defame a religious personality with half-truths and lies in order to sell books is not something acceptable since some degree of respect must be observed. Yet, if respecting others entails that one is to never objectively examine religious truth claims then we do strongly disagree. Our criticism of Muhammad is not one of a personal nature and is not intended to offend. Rather, we are trying to examine the Islamic sources and judge whether Muhammad passes the test of true prophethood. In our honest opinion, he does not since he fails to compare with the biblical prophets.
Q. Why does the book use the name "Satanic Verses"?
A. The title refers to a passage which was said to once form part of the Qur'an and was later obliterated from the sacred scripture. The claim goes that when the Qur'an was being handed down to the prophet a piece at a time, a piece came down to recognise the Gods of the prophet's opponents. The claim continues to assert that after a while the prophet declared these verses to be of satanic origin and that they are to be replaced by other verses of divine origin. If this claim is true it does not affect the truth of Islam or the veracity of the Qur'an. In sum, the claim is that the devil threw something into the Qur'anic revelation but God blotted out what the devil threw and God established his own pure revelation. This is perhaps why some early Muslim sources did not shy away from recording this claim.
In actuality, this damages the credibility of Islam and the Quran as revelation from God. This is due to the fact that no true prophet of God will ever succumb to the lies of the devil since God protects his message from satanic interjections. One will not find even one biblical prophet ever reciting verses inspired by Satan and only later realizing that he had been deceived. The fact that this occurred to Muhammad throws into question how could God allow Satan even for a minute to deceive Muhammad into reciting verses that were not from him? To say that God annulled it later is irrelevant since had it really been Divine revelation, God would have protected Muhammad even before Satan could have ever been able to deceive him.
However, a full analysis of the story would prove the claim to be at best doubtful and at worst fictitious. It is most unlikely that the Qur'an ever contained anything to honour or affirm the validity of any but the one true God Allah. If this was ever done it is difficult to see how anyone would not be utterly confused by such a passage. The call of Islam has always been known from the beginning to admit of only one God who has no partners, relatives, or intercessors.
This again begs the question since Shabir assumes what he is yet to prove, namely that the Quran is revelation from God. It is easy for a non-muslin to see how Muhammad, wanting to unite the Arabs, lapsed momentarily into idolatry in order to unify the pagans. In fact, this is precisely what one Muslim writer said actually happened:
"The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, had seen his people departing from him. He was one day sitting alone when he expressed a desire: I wish, Allah had not revealed to me anything distasteful to them. Then the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, approached them (Quraysh) and got close to them, and they also came near to him. One day he was sitting in their assembly near the Ka'bah and he recited: "By the Star when it setteth" (Quran 53. 1), till he reached "Have ye thought upon Al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other?" (Quran 53. 19-20). Satan made him repeat these two phrases: These idols are high and their intercession is expected. The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, repeated them, and he went on reciting the whole surah and then fell in prostration, and the people also fell in prostration with him. Al-Walid Ibn al-Mughira, who was an old man and could not prostrate, took a handful of dust to his forehead and prostrated on it... They were pleased with what the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, had uttered. They said: We know that Allah gives life and causes death. He creates and gives us provisions, but our deities will intercede with Him, and in what you have assigned to them, we are with you. These words pricked the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him. He was sitting in his house and when it was evening, Gabriel, may peace be upon him, came to him and revised the surah. Then Gabriel said: Did I bring these two phrases? The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, said: I ascribed to Allah what he had not said." (Ibn Sa'd, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol. 1, p. 237 emphasis ours)
The evidence supporting the authenticity of this story is tremendous. Muslim historians and commentators such as al-Tabari, Salama, Waqidi, al-Zamakhshari, al-Jalalayn (commentary, p.282), al-Suyuti (Asbab al-Nuzul, p.184), al-Baidawi (commentary, p. 447), Ibn Hisham (Prophetic Biography, pt. 2, p.126) and Ibn Ishaq (Sirat Rasulullah-Life of Muhammad, trans. Alfred Guillaume, pp.119-127) affirm the reliability of this story. In fact, indirect corroboration for what is now referred to as the "Satanic Verses" comes from Sahi Bukhari, considered the premiere collection of traditions on Muhammad's life and words:
Narrated Ibn Abbas: The Prophet performed a prostration when he finished reciting Surat-an-Najm (i.e. Sura 53), and all the Muslims and pagans and Jinns and human beings prostrated along with him. (Volume 6, Number385- see also vol. 2, no.173)
The only way for hostile pagans to bow alongside Muhammad and the Muslims is if the satanic injunction to call upon the pagan goddesses for intercession was originally part of this Sura. Otherwise, this tradition makes absolutely no sense at all. Additional support for the authenticity of the "Satanic Verses" comes from the Quran itself:
"If a suggestion from Satan assails thy mind, seek refuge with God; for he heareth and knoweth (all things)." S. 7:200
And We have sent before thee no messenger or prophet but as he recited (a portion of the message) Satan cast forth (suggestions) in respect of the recital. Then Allah abolishes what Satan casts forth, and Allah continues His revelations; and Allah is Knowing, Wise. S. 22:52 Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi (2 volume set)
According to Zamakhshari S. 22:52 is referring to the time when "Satan substituted something in accordance with the wish which the Messenger of God had sheltered." (Helmut Gätje, The Qur'an and its Exegesis [Routledge and Keagan Paul, London UK. 1976], p.54)
And their purpose was to tempt thee away from that which We had revealed unto thee, to substitute in Our name something quite different: (In that case), behold! They would certainly have made thee (their) friend! And had We not given thee strength, thou wouldst nearly have inclined to them a little. S. 17:73-74
The only record of Muhammad inclining to the pagans is the case of the satanic verses.
When God, the One and Only, Is mentioned, the hearts Of those who believe not In the Hereafter are filled With disgust and horror; But when (gods) other than He Are mentioned, behold, They are filled with joy. S. 39:45 A. Yusuf Ali
"Al-Tabari, commenting on Sura al-Zumar 39:45 said that this verse was given due to the recitation of Sura al-Najm 53 at the Ka'ba, when the idolaters rejoiced at Muhammad mentioning their idols." (True Guidance, pt. 5, Comments on Quranic Verses [Light of Life, P.O. Box 13 A-9503 Villach, Austria], p. 216)
The final evidence that supports the story's authenticity is that the verses in question flow more smoothly within the Sura itself than do the current passages found today. One author states, "In style and in rhythm the two Satanic lines fit admirably into the original Sura" (Tor Andrae, Mohammed: The Man and his Faith [New York; Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936], p. 21)
One common Muslim response is to suggest that it would have been impossible for Muhammad to have recited these verses as part of the Quran for several years only to be abrogated later without Muslims having been aware of its presence.
In response to this assertion Muslims were very well aware of its presence as the examples above demonstrate. Furthermore, the verses were not abrogated several years later, but on the very same day that they had been recited by Muhammad as reported by Ibn Sa'd. Author John Bagot Glubb notes:
"Tabari, however, who mentions the Satanic verses, seems to suggest that Muhammad repented of the compromise the same day." (Glubb, The Life and Times of Muhammad [London, UK.; Hodder & Stoughton, 1979], p. 128 emphasis ours)
Therefore, there are no convincing arguments to refute the passage's authenticity, while there is plenty to support its genuineness. We are also told by the hadith that Muhammad was bewitched:
"Narrated Aisha: Once the Prophet was bewitched so that he began to imagine that he had done a thing which in fact he had not." (Bukhari Volume 4, Number 400)
Again, how can a true prophet of God succumb to witchcraft and curses in the first place? He simply cannot and this is why Muhammad is not God's prophet.
When we compare Muhammad's inability to ward off Satan to Christ, we see that the former does not come close to comparing with the true prophets of God:
"Then Jesus said to him, Be gone Satan!..." Matthew 4:10
In fact, Satan has no power against Christ:
"I (Jesus) will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world (Satan) is coming. He has no power over me..." John 14:30
This is due to the fact that Christ's whole purpose in coming was to destroy the works of Satan:
"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV
"The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." 1 John 3:8b
Because Jesus has destroyed Satan's works, He can say to all who love and follow Him to take heart and do not fear, "that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33
In light of the preceding evidence, we simply must say that Muhammad is not a true prophet of God.
The choice of the name "The Satanic Verses," therefore, was highly inappropriate - unless one was trying to be deliberately provocative. It would have been a different matter if someone had presented the idea of the claim about satanic verses for the sake of academic discussion.
This indeed is often done in many writings. Muslims do not raise a cry against such writings because their claims are made in a style which can be responded to in likewise academic format.
Hopefully, Shabir will practice what he preaches and not raise a cry against our academic pursuit of establishing the veracity behind the origin of the satanic verses.
Talking to Jews and Christians
Both Jews and Christians believe in that part of the Bible which Christians call the Old Testament. The Old Testament contains references to the prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace and blessings. That Book declared him to be a true prophet. So it is necessary for the Jew and Christian to believe that Islam is true. You therefore do not need to argue over the details of Islam with a Jew or Christian. If he thinks Islam is wrong on any point he has to answer for himself why his Bible recommends Muhammad if he taught a false religion. If he wants to reject the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) then he has to also reject his Bible. But then if he rejects his Bible he is no longer a Jew or a Christian and you have won the debate.
The fact is there is not one single reference anywhere in the Holy Bible predicting the advent of Muhammad. We have both seen and rebutted the alleged prophecies presented by Muslims and have found them wanting.
Now what remains is for us to specify where in the Bible to find mention of our prophet. In the Old Testament there are many references. The most significant is Song of Solomon, chapter 5, verse 16. This verse mentions our prophet by name. It says in the Hebrew language Bibles "He is Muhammad." But English translation have "He is altogether lovely" instead of the real truth. You need to insist that, since it says our prophet's name in the Hebrew, the "altogether lovely" translation is nothing more than a camouflage hiding our prophet's name. Tell every Bible reader whether Jew or Christian to ask any Hebrew scholar to read the Hebrew word which appears as "altogether lovely" in the translation. You will hear that word pronounced "Muhammad." Why then hide what you should believe?
There is a very simple reason why the name "Muhammad" is not transliterated into English, namely that it is not a proper noun but an adjectival clause. Hence, Song of Solomon is not saying that the person's name is Muhammad, but rather describes a certain quality about the person in question.
Now the Jew or Christian may feel backed into a corner and attempt to escape by throwing you this punch. They may say that if you refer to the Bible you should believe in everything it says. You should reply that you do not believe in everything the Bible says. And that is alright for you because you never claimed that the Bible is, in its present form, entirely the word of God. On the other hand both the Christian and the Jew say that the Song of Solomon is the word of God. How can they refuse what it says?
This is perhaps the best example of circular reasoning we have seen thus far. Shabir appeals to the Holy Bible for proof that Muhammad is a prophet. Yet, in order to prove the authenticity of the biblical passage in question, he appeals to the Quran as the criteria whereby he can know for certain whether it is authentic or not. Hence he proves the Quran's authenticity by appealing to the prophethood of Muhammad as predicted in the Holy Bible, and then proceeds to use the Quran in order to establish the authenticity of certain biblical passages that point to Muhammad's prophethood.
The important distinction is as follows. You are asking them to recognise the man whom their Bible speaks about not because you believe in their Bible but because they do. You are simply using a valid form of argument to establish a proof. What they accept as their authority is proof against them, not against you.
You are simply turning their proof back on them. What they say is the Word of God is telling them to believe in Muhammad (pbuh). How can they escape this belief?
It only works against the Jews and Christians if one presupposes that there are real predictions of Muhammad in the Holy Bible. The truth is that there are none.
In sum, no matter what objection they raise against Islam, remember that in reply you can always argue as follows. If there is something wrong with Islam why does the Bible recommend the prophet who taught us this religion? If they cannot answer this then you also do not need to answer their objection.
In sum, seeing that there are no valid arguments for the prophethood of Muhammad and seeing that there are no biblical references that point to him, Muslims are left with one embarrassing question. Why do you believe in Islam seeing that the arguments presented by Muslim apologists are so weak and shallow, and that both Islam and Muslim apologetics are logically inconsistent?
If all this seems too easy it is just because the truth is on your side. It wins with flying colours. Allah says that when the truth is hurled against falsehood it smashes its core.
We completely agree. Since all the arguments against Christianity crumble and Islam fails to pass the tests put to it, we are left with the conclusion that Christianity is indeed true since it is so easily defended.
What About Claimed Contradictions in the Qur'an?
Q. How many days did it take God to create the heavens and the earth? Some surahs say six. One surah says eight. Which is right?
A. Six is right. No surah says eight. Critics who are eager to find a contradiction in the Qur'an try to make surah 42 say eight days. But they cannot prove their case.
Actually, surah 42 agrees with the six day span mentioned in surahs 7:54; 10:3; 11:7; and 25:59.
The critics go about their business in a strange fashion. They notice in surah 42 verses 9-12 that Allah created the earth in two days and measured out its sustenance in four days. This comes to obviously six days altogether. But then the Qur'an makes a further reference to the first two days. Critics want to add these two days to the already established total of six. But how can they? Do the critics wish to double-count? Or are they so over-zealous to find a contradiction that they would use any unreasonable means?
The bottom line is that this is not a contradiction in the Qur'an. Despite the efforts of the critics building on the work of previous generations of critics not a single contradiction has been proven in the Qur'an.
The reason why critics find a contradiction in these passages is based primarily on Muhammad's interpretation of them. Muhammad personally believed that the heavens and the constellations were created after the earth had already been formed. The following traditions are taken entirely from The History of al-Tabari, Volume 1- General Introduction and from the Creation to the Flood (trans. Franz Rosenthal, State University of New York Press, Albany 1989), pp. 187-193:
"We have stated before that time is but hours of night and day and that the hours are but traversal by the sun and the moon of the degrees of the sphere. Now then, this being so, there is (also) a sound tradition from the Messenger of God told us by Hannad b. al-Sari, who also said that he read all of the hadith (to Abu Bakr)- Abu Bakr b. `Ayyash- Abu Sa'd al-Baqqal- `Ikrimah- Ibn Abbas: The Jews came to the Prophet and asked him about the creation of the heavens and the earth. He said: God created the earth on Sunday and Monday. He created the mountains and the uses they possess on Tuesday. On Wednesday, He created trees, water, cities and the cultivated barren land. These are four (days). He continued (citing the Qur'an): `Say: Do you really not believe in the One Who created the earth in two days, and set up others like Him? That is the Lord of the worlds. He made it firmly anchored (mountains) above it and blessed it and decreed that it contain the amount of food it provides, (all) in four days, equally for those asking'- for those who ask. On Thursday, He created heaven. On Friday, He created the stars, the sun, the moon, and the angels, until three hours remained. In the first of these three hours He created the terms (of human life), who would live and who would die. In the second, He cast harm upon everything that is useful for mankind. And in the third, (He created) Adam and had him dwell in Paradise. He commanded Iblis to prostrate himself before Adam, and He drove Adam out of Paradise at the end of the hour. When the Jews asked: What then, Muhammad? He said: `Then He sat straight upon the Throne.' The Jews said: You are right, if you had finished, they said, with: Then He rested. Whereupon the Prophet got very angry, and it was revealed: `We have created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days, and fatigue did not touch Us. Thus be patient with what you say.'"
According to this tradition from Ibn Abbas, Muhammad believed the earth and everything within it were created on the first four days whereas the heavens and the constellations were created afterwards on Thursday and Friday.
"According to al-Muthanna- al-Hajjaj- Hammad- `Ata' b. al-Sa'ib- `Ikrimah: The Jews asked the Prophet: What about Sunday? The Messenger of God replied: On it, God created the earth and spread it out. They asked about Monday, and he replied: On it, He created Adam. They asked about Tuesday, and he replied: On it, He created the mountains, water, and so on. They asked about Wednesday, and he replied: Food. They asked about Thursday, and he replied: He created the heavens. They asked about Friday, and he replied: God created night and day. Then, when they asked about Saturday and mentioned God's rest(ing on it), he exclaimed: God be praised! God then revealed: `We have created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days, and fatigue did not touch Us.'"
"The two reports transmitted by us from the Messenger of God have made it clear that the sun and the moon were created after God had created many things of His creation. That is because the hadith of Ibn Abbas on the authority of the Messenger of God indicates that God created the sun and the moon on Friday. If this is so, earth and heaven and what was in them, except the angels and Adam, had been created before God created the sun and the moon. All this (thus) existed while there was no light and no day, since night and day are but nouns designating hours known through the traversal by the sun and the moon of the course of the sphere. Now, if it is correct that the earth and the heaven and what was between them, except what we have mentioned, were in existence when there was no sun and no moon, the conclusion is that all existed when there was no night or day. The same (conclusion results from) the following hadith of Abu Hurayrah reported on the authority of the Messenger of God: God created light on Wednesday- meaning by `light' the sun, if God wills."
Hence, it is both Muhammad's and the early Muslim writers' interpretations of the Quran which leads to internal contradictions as well as conflict with modern scientific views on the origins of the universe.
Finally, the fact of the matter is that Shabir presupposes that the Quran has no contradictions and therefore interprets every discrepancy in light of this belief. Hence, the real question is not whether if the Quran contains contradictions, but whether Shabir's presuppositions will allow him to admit that it does.
Is the Qur'an the Word of God?
Yes. The Qur'an speaks about the past, revealing details that were unknown to Muhammad and his countrymen. Yet independent research confirms the truth of what the Qur'an revealed. The Qur'an cannot be shown to have a single historical error.
No. The Quran speaks about past events that are simply wrong. Independent research confirms that the Quran is not the word of God, since it is shown to contain many historical errors.
The Qur'an also speaks about the future. And the future unfolds exactly as the Qur'an said it will. Not a single Qur'anic prediction has ever failed.
The Quran fails to make any true future predictions, and the verses that Muslims often present are vague and fail to compare to the detailed predictions of the Holy Bible.
The Qur'an also reveals details about the natural sciences which were not discovered by scientists until a few decades ago. These facts were unknown to man, but revealed in the Qur'an. Who revealed those facts if not God alone?
Actually, the Quran copied the gross scientific errors that were commonly known throughout the Arabian Peninsula. During Muhammad's time, most of the Greek writings on medicine and science had been preserved in Arabic and were used by Nestorians in their schools of learning. For further information check out the following articles: , , , , .
These articles are sufficient in showing where Muhammad received his information on embryology and fetal development, and other details as well. After reading them, one will clearly see that it certainly wasn't something revealed to him from God.
Furthermore, just because a book contains no scientific errors does not follow that it is from God. Satan can inspire a book that contains no scientific errors as well since he is a spirit who has been around a lot longer than man and knows the laws governing both the universe and our physical bodies.
Now most people would trace back in history to the point when Muhammad was the first man to make the Qur'an public. Then they would want to conclude that Muhammad must have written the book. But wait. Many facts indicate that Muhammad did not write the book. First, Muhammad could not write except his own name. And even that is doubtful.
It is only doubtful if you have made up your mind like Shabir.
Second, Muhammad claimed over a period of 23 years that the Qur'an was from God alone and that he himself was only a conduit though whom the book was made public. God revealed it, he said.
Joseph Smith, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Baha'ullah, Elijah Muhammad all claimed that they were God's agents through whom new revelation was being given. Do we accept their claims simply because they said so?
Could he have been lying? No. Even his enemies knew him to be an honest and trustworthy individual. How could he tell such a big lie involving God? And how could he maintain that lie for such a long time?
First, how does Shabir know that Muhammad was viewed by his enemies as trustworthy and honest? Does he have writings from Muhammad's enemies that state this? Or does he simply assume that the hadith which was compiled over two hundreds after Muhammad's death is 100% true and contains no embellishments?
Secondly, a person can be sincere and still be deceived at the same time. This comes as no surprise to Christians since the Holy Bible teaches that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of Light pretending to be righteous in order to deceive mankind. (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15) Hence, Muhammad was deceived and did not realize that the angel that came to him was actually the devil in disguise.
Were their opportunities for him to modify his claim? Yes. Did he? No. His opponents offered to buy him off with money, power, and women. He refused. What then could be his motive for maintaining his position? It could not have been money, power, or women.
What could have been Baha'ullah's motive to be imprisoned and to suffer all those years if he were not really a prophet? What were Buddha's motives for abandoning his lofty status as a prince to live an impoverished life if he did not sincerely believe that what he was teaching was the truth? What led Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to suffer isolation and disgrace for claiming to be God's final Islamic messenger and reformer for this age? Why would Rashid Khalifah die as a martyr if he were simply a deceiver seeking monetary gains? What could have been the motives behind these men maintaining their persecuted positions, forsaking earthly riches for the life to come?
It should be obvious to the reader that using Shabir's criteria one can establish the prophetic claims of any and all so-called prophets and messengers. The reason why these men went through the suffering that they did is because they sincerely believed that they were God's spokesperson for their communities.
His opponents offered to accept a modified version of the Qur'an. This was an easy way out for him. Or was it? He said he dares not change a single thing in the Qur'an lest Allah strikes him with a severe punishment.
He didn't? What does Shabir do with the fact that Muhammad allowed his scribe, Abi Sarh, to change the message of the Quran? What does Shabir do with the abrogated and abrogating verses of the Quran where verses cancel out previous commands? For instance, the Quran states:
"Such of our revelation as we abrogate or cause to be forgotten, we bring (in place) one better or the like thereof." S. 2:106
Al-Jalalayn indicates that God's intention for this verse is:
"To eliminate the ordinance of the verse either with its wording or to keep the wording and eliminate the ordinance, or we make you O, Muhammad, to forget it; namely, we will remove it from your heart" (Tafsir, p. 16).
Al-Baidawi says in p. 22:
"This verse was given because the Jews and the infidels said that Muhammad ordered his followers to do something, then He prohibited them from it and commanded them to do something opposite to it. Abrogation means eliminating reading it as an act of worship or eliminating the ordinance inferred from it, or both of them. To forget it means to remove it from hearts." (See also al-Zamakhshari's al-Kash-shaf, pt. 1, p. 303)
In part 3, p. 59 al-Suyuti states:
"Abrogation means the removal as it is mentioned in chapter Hajj: 52, and it means alteration."
In Asbab al-Nuzul, p. 19, al-Suyuti claimed that:
"Ibn 'Abbas himself said, `Sometimes the revelation used to descend on the prophet during the night and then he forgot it during daytime, thus God sent down this verse: 2:106."
Ibn 'Umar stated:
"Two men read a Sura which the apostle of God had taught them, yet one night they rose up to pray but they failed to remember one word of it. The next morning, they went to the apostle of God and related it to him. He told them, `It is one of those, which have been abrogated, thus, forget about it."' (al-Itqan, 3:74).
Here is another Quranic verse on abrogation:
"And when we put one revelation in place of another revelation- and Allah knows best what He reveals- they say, `Lo! thou art but inventing'" S. 16:101
Are we to really believe that God changes his commands or causes certain portions of his revelation to be forgotten within the span of a day? Is this not proof that Muhammad dared to change things in the Quran and claim that this was the will of God for him to do so?
Instead, Muhammad bore all kinds of persecution from his enemies just because he will not stop preaching. He watched his close friends and followers being beaten, tortured, and killed. He himself was insulted, beaten, spat upon, choked, stoned, and almost killed. Did he give up? No. Why? This demonstrates his sincerity. When he said that the Qur'an was from Allah he really believed it.
Baha'ullah, Joseph Smith, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and Elijah Muhammad also believed that what they received was really from God. These men also suffered much for their claims. Would Shabir then embrace them as messengers of God as well?
Could he have been deluded? No. The Qur'an speaks to Muhammad, commands him, corrects him, and instructs him. If Muhammad wrote this book he would have been a madman. But then if he was a madman he could not have written such a book.
No, it would only mean that Satan is the greatest deceiver since he convinced Muhammad and a host of other so-called prophets that they were God's messengers. Indeed, a madman cannot write a religious book like the Vedas, the Book of Mormon or the Quran but one deceived by Satan could.
The Qur'an is such a complete and comprehensive constitution for life that it could not have been written by a madman. The book itself challenges its opponents to come up with one better. The intelligentsia of the world could not write a better book. Then why do they insist that a madman wrote it? Is it because they do not want to accept it as a revelation from their God and creator?
The problem with the Quranic challenge is that it is totally subjective. After all, would Shabir honestly admit that the challenge has been met seeing that to admit that it has been met would undermine the whole foundation and authority of his religious beliefs? Unless he is totally objective and has committed himself completely to the pursuit of truth, we fail to see how Shabir could ever admit that the challenge of the Quran has been met.
Moreover, we have already seen that the Qur'an contains information about the past and the future. How could such information come from the brain of any man? More so, how could it come from the brain of a deluded man? It couldn't.
This is actually begging the question since we find within the Quran major discrepancies. The real question then is that since the Quran contains gross errors of fact and major discrepancies how can Shabir still believe that it is a revelation from God?
The Qur'an contains a further challenge to the world. It claims itself to be an inimitable masterpiece the like of which could never be produced by man. Not to speak of the whole book, the like of any one surah could not be man-made. Now all critics have to do is produce a surah of literary beauty and eloquence similar to the Qur'an. Many have tried, all have failed. It simply cannot be done. Why? Allah said it and none will ever be able to contradict Allah.
Yet if one did produce a sura like the Quran, would Shabir ever admit that the challenge had been met? Furthermore, what seems to be a masterpiece to Shabir is nothing more than a disjointed, incoherent piece of literature to someone else. Finally, we like to challenge Shabir to produce a masterpiece like Psalm 103 or the moral teachings outlined in the Sermon on the Mount or the Hebrew poetic parallelism found in such places as Isaiah 40 or the deep theological discourse of either Romans or Hebrews. Let Shabir present just one sura from the Quran that matches the beauty and deep theological truths of the Holy Bible. We're pretty certain he can't. (pretty subjective isn't it?)
The non-Arabic speaker may wonder whether he is disadvantaged to meet this challenge. Is there any way for such persons to appreciate the significance of this challenge? Yes. In every field of knowledge we rely on experts to share with us their findings. The experts in the field of Arabic linguistics have nothing but admiration and appreciation for the wisdom and beauty of the Qur'an and the eloquence of its expressions. The non-Arabic speaker should ask such experts why they are unable to meet the Qur'anic challenges. Then they can make up their own minds about what to believe.
Which Arabic linguist is Shabir referring to? Although Shabir might find many Arab linguists who agree that the Quran is beautiful, we can find just as many that claim the opposite. For instance, the late Iranian Muslim scholar, Ali Dashti claimed that the Quran was unintelligible and contained many grammatical mistakes.
He even lists Muslims who claimed to have met the challenge of the Quran or disagreed that it was miraculous in anyway:
"Among the Moslem scholars of the early period, before bigotry and hyperbole prevailed, were some such as Ebrahim on-Nazzam who openly acknowledged that the arrangement and syntax of the Qor'an are not miraculous and that work of equal or greater value could be produced by other God-fearing persons." ((Dashti, Twenty Three Years: A study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad [Allen and Unwin, London, 1985], p. 48)
"It is widely held that the blind Syrian poet Abu'l-`Ala ol-Ma'arri (368/979-450/1058) wrote his Ketab ol-fosul wa' l-ghayat, of which a part survives, in imitation of the Qor'an." (p. 48)
"The Qor'an contains sentences which are incomplete and not fully intelligible without the aid of commentaries; foreign words, unfamiliar Arabic words, and words used with other than the normal meaning; adjectives and verbs inflected without observance of the concords of gender and number; illogically and ungrammatically applied pronouns which sometimes have no referent; and predicates which in rhymed passages are often remote from the subjects. These and other such aberrations in the language have given scope to critics who deny the Qor'an's eloquence. The problem also occupied the minds of devout Moslems. It forced the commentators to search for explanations and was probably one of the causes of disagreement over readings." (pp. 48, 49)
"To sum up, more than one hundred Qor'anic aberrations from the normal rules and structure of Arabic have been noted. Needless to say, the commentators strove to find explanations and justifications of these irregularities. Among them was the great commentator and philologist Mahmud oz-Zamakhshari (467/1075-538/1144), of whom a Moorish author wrote: `This grammar-obsessed pedant has committed a shocking error. Our task is not to make the readings conform to Arabic grammar, but to take the whole of the Qor'an as it is and make Arabic grammar conform to the Qor'an.'" (p. 50)
"In the field of moral teachings, however, the Qor'an cannot be considered miraculous. Mohammad reiterated principles which mankind had already conceived in earlier centuries and many places. Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, Socrates, Moses, and Jesus had said similar things." (p. 54)
"Neither the Qor'an's eloquence nor its moral and legal precepts are miraculous. The Qor'an is miraculous because it enabled Mohammad, single-handedly and despite poverty and illiteracy, to overcome his people's resistance and found a lasting religion because it moved wild men to obedience and imposed its bringer's will on them." (p. 57)
The fact that the Quran is disjointed and contains foreign words whose meanings are uncertain is admitted by al-Suyuti in his al-Itqan:
"Muhammad's companions, who are genuine Arabs, eloquent in language, in whose dialect the Qur'an was given to them, have stopped short in front of some words and failed to know their meanings, thus they said nothing about them. When Abu Bakr was asked about the Qur'anic statement `and fruits and fodder' (8:31), he said, `What sky would cover me or what land would carry me if I say what I do not know about the book of God?' 'Umar ibn al-Khattab read the same text from the rostrum, then he said, `This fruit we know, but what is fodder?' Sa'id ibn Jubair was asked about the Qur'anic text in chapter 13 of Mary. He said, `I asked Ibn 'Abbas about it, but he kept silent."' (Ibid., pt. 2, p. 4)
"There are many verses in the Qur'an which were revealed without any connection to the verses which proceeded or preceded them, such as what we read in chapter 75:13-19 because the entire chapter talks about the states of resurrection. But these verses were revealed because Muhammad used to hastily move his tongue when dictating the Qur'anic revelation. Some Muslims said that part of the chapter has been dropped, because these verses are not relevant to this chapter at all." (Ibid., pt. 3, 328)
There is one more exercise to recommend for the skeptic. The Qur'an claims to be free from error. Which other book claims this? None! No, not even the Bible. Why only the Qur'an? Because all other books are authored in whole or in part by fallible humans. Only the Qur'an is revealed entirely from the infallible Wise Allah. Can the skeptic disprove this claim by finding a single error in the Qur'an? Again, many skeptics have tried. All have failed. No real error in the Qur'an has ever been established although many imaginary errors have been claimed. The Qur'an remains demonstrably true in its entirety.
Actually, by claiming to be free from any discrepancies the Quran ends up refuting itself since it does contain gross errors. Furthermore, just because a book claims that it contains no errors does not make it true. To assert something is entirely different from proving that assertion to be true. Although the Quran makes the claim that it has no errors it fails to live up to its claim.
Finally, just because a book does not come out and say that it contains no errors does not mean that it is written by fallible human authors who knew that they had made mistakes. A book can be infallible without ever explicitly claiming it since infallibility must be proven, not just stated.
Q. What about the Surahs on the Internet?
A. Recently some Christian missionaries posted on the internet four surahs in answer to the Qur'anic challenge. However, none of the four surahs can be a match for the surahs of the Qur'an for the following reasons.
What Shabir should have said is that he cannot allow that the challenge has been met and must therefore explain these Internet surahs away.
First, the missionary surahs are lacking in reason. They mimic some of the rhyme of the Qur'an, but nothing of the reasonableness of the Qur'anic teachings. The missionaries attempted to teach Christianity by means of their surahs. But Christianity is inherently self-contradictory. It makes no sense that Jesus is both man and God, that God is both one and three, or that an innocent man is crucified so that the guilty can go free. If such beliefs are expressed in eloquent language the expression will not match the Qur'an which is the right combination of rhyme, rhythm and reason.
Shabir seemingly chases after red herrings since he brings up irrelevant issues such as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the atonement etc. Since this is not the place to delve into these points we will focus on the real issue, namely the Quran.
Furthermore, Shabir assumes that the Quran is 100% reasonable. The fact is that the Quran is filled with myths such as talking ants and hoopoes, youths and their dogs asleep in a cave for a period which some believed spanned over three hundred years, Jews turned into swine and monkeys, Solomon having jinns and the wind in his control, etc. Shabir is entitled to believe in such fairy tales. But for him to attack the Holy Bible because he feels it is logically inconsistent is simply astonishing in light of the fact that the Quran itself contains all these mythical elements and tries to pass it off as actual history! Hence, if Shabir is to remain consistent he would be forced to toss out the Quran along with the Bible.
To further explain this inadequacy of the missionary surahs, consider the case of an evil person having lovely appearance. One who can see past the outward beauty will find the core repugnant. Likewise patently false teachings cannot be improved by expressing them in eloquent writings. Of course one can always use such a gimmick to fool those who look only at the surface. But for those who look deeper it just will not work.
Precisely! That is why the whole argument of the Quran's eloquence is irrelevant since it must be judged by its teachings. When one does go beyond the surface and looks deep within the Quran he finds that its core teachings are completely false and downright immoral, i.e. Muhammad marrying his adopted son's divorcee or heaven being a place where Muslim men will engage in sexual fantasies with wide-eyed maidens.
Second, to meet the challenge one has to invent something new, not copy something existing. By mimicking the Qur'an the missionaries fail in meeting the challenge. The Qur'an calls for an invention, not a plagiarization. The point of the challenge is this. Skeptics claim that Muhammad invented the Qur'an on his own; that he did not get it from God. Allah's reply is that Muhammad could not have invented it. But those who think he did should likewise try to invent a surah like it. If they say Muhammad did it why can't they likewise do it? But notice what Muhammad did not do.
In all fairness, the Quran itself is an editorial patchwork of Jewish, Christian, Persian and Arabian myths and stories compiled into a book. The Quran is nothing more than an assimilation of preexisting material which Muhammad modified to suit his purposes.
In fact, the Quran indicates that this is what the unbelievers accused Muhammad of doing, namely writing down ancient fables and claiming it to be revelation from God:
Those who disbelieve say: "This (the Qur'ân) is nothing but a lie that he (Muhammad SAW) has invented, and others have helped him at it, so that they have produced an unjust wrong (thing) and a lie." And they say: "TALES OF THE ANCIENTS, which he has written down, and they are dictated to him morning and afternoon." Say: "It (this Qur'ân) has been sent down by Him (Allâh) (the Real Lord of the heavens and earth) Who knows the secret of the heavens and the earth. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." S. 25:4-6 Hilali-Khan
He did not plagiarize. He did not mimic the existing styles of writing. What he recited to the people did not fit any of the existing styles. The recitations was completely new. Let the skeptics likewise produce something new. This the missionaries have failed to do.
The only thing new was Muhammad's ability to fuse all the different source material together and claim it as a revelation from God.
Their failure in this respect is remarkably pronounced. They have borrowed so much from the Qur'an that whole phrases from the Qur'an (and even the hadith) appear in the missionary surahs. In one of their surahs they even reproduced the phrase "Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem" having plagiarized it wholesale from the Book of Allah. Sorry, guys, this is not what the Qur'an asked for. Please try again. Or, have you considered surrendering yourselves to your maker?
Really? The Quran does not ask the unbelievers to produce something similar to it? If so, what does being similar entail? Can Shabir show us exactly what the Quran is asking for and what it does not accept? Finally the Quran borrowed so much preexisting material that it cannot be considered original in any sense whatsoever. As stated, the only original thing about it is the fact that it fused all these different religious traditions together into one.
Q. Why does the Qur'an speak highly of the Torah and the Injeel if they are corrupt?
A. The Qur'an declares that Muslims must believe in the original Torah and Injeel, not the present day changed versions. When Torah or Injeel is mentioned in the Qur'an a reader must establish from the context which versions are referred to - the real or the corrupt. Careful readers will notice that whereas many Qur'anic passages praise the Torah and injeel, some other passages candidly chastise the scribes who made changes or writers who wrote without authority.
There is not a single place in the Quran where it claims that the scribes made changes to the text of the Holy Bible. The Quran chastens the scribes for concealing what was written and misinterpreting the text. It never clams that the text of Holy Scripture has been changed.
It is true that the Qur'an does not use the terms "real Torah" or "corrupt Torah." But usually this is quite clear from the context. The mere fact that the name Torah refers to both the real thing and its altered version should come as no surprise. There are many different Bibles.
Again, there is not a single place where the context of the Quran implies that a corrupt Torah or Injeel is being referred to. Shabir assumes this to be the case but has absolutely no grounds to support this assertion.
Yet each is called a Bible. But in a given context one can usually tell whether one is speaking of a Jewish Bible, a Catholic Bible or a Protestant Bible. When, for example, a Protestant uses the term he certainly does not mean the Catholic version unless he speaks of it in derision. Similarly, when the Qur'an praises the Bible it is referring to the Bible which is unchanged.
There is only one major problem. There was no Catholic "Bible" during Muhammad's time. The Catholic edition of 73 books was not made official until 1546 at the Council of Trent. Prior to this, the canon of the Old Testament consisted of the 39 books currently found in both the Jewish and Protestant versions of the Holy Bible. Furthermore, the Quran itself identifies the scriptures in the hands of Jews and Christians as being essentially one:
"The Jews say, `The Christians are not (founded) upon anything.' And the Christians say, `The Jews are not (founded) upon anything.' And yet they READ the Book" S. 2:113
What was the Book that both Jews and Christians read? It was the 39 books of the OT and the 27 of the NT. Yet, the Jews do not accept the New Testament. This being the case, how can the Quran claim that the Judeo-Christian community read the same Book seeing that one group included 27 additional books in their canon that the other group did not accept? This indicates that the term "Bible" or "Book" can be used in a broader sense to refer to any portion of the Holy Bible, either Old or New Testaments.
On the other hand, the Qur'an in 2:79, and 9:30 make it clear that not the entire Bible is from God.
Let us read these passages and see if they say the things that Shabir claims they do:
And when they (Jews) meet those who believe (Muslims), they say, "We believe", but when they meet one another in private, they say, "Shall you tell them what Allâh has revealed to you written in the Torah, that they may argue with you about it before your Lord?" Have you then no understanding? Know they not that Allâh knows what they conceal and what they reveal? And there are among them unlettered people, who know not the Book, but they trust upon false desires and they but guess. Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands and then say, "This is from Allâh," to purchase with it a little price! Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for that they earn thereby. S. 2:76-79
The context of the passage is speaking of some unlearned Jews who had no knowledge of the scriptures, but concocted scriptures of their own. It has nothing to do with the text of the Torah being corrupted. In fact, the Quran specifically refers to the Torah as being present at the time. Furthermore, while there were some that had no idea of what the scriptures consisted of and produced their own writings, the Quran mentions those who did know the scriptures and read it in earnest:
"Of the people of Moses there is a group (umma) who guide with truth and judge by it." S. 7:159
"He broke them (the Jews) up into sections on this earth. Some of them are righteous, and some of them are not. We have tried them with blessings and with adversities in order that they might return to Us...What! has there not been taken from them the covenant of the Book, that they should not say of God other than the truth, and they diligently STUDY that which is therein... As to those (Jews) who HOLD FAST by the Book and observe prayer; verily We shall not detract from the reward of the righteous." S. 7:168-170
"It is not for a man to whom is given the Book and wisdom and prophecy that he should then say to people, `Be worshipers of me in place of God.' But rather, `Be true teachers (rabbaniyin), since you teach the Book and you STUDY it earnestly.'" S. 3:79
"O children of Israel!... believe in what I (God) reveal, attesting to (the truth of) that which IS WITH YOU (the Torah), and be not the first to reject faith in it, nor sell my signs for a small price... and do not clothe truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you know it... Do you command righteousness for people and forget yourselves, and yet you STUDY the book." S. 2:40-44
"Not all of them are alike. Some of the People of the Book are an upright people. They recite the signs (or verses) of God in the night season and they bow down worshiping. They believe in God and the last day. They command what is just, and forbid what is wrong and they hasten in good works, and they are of the righteous." S. 3:113-114
"And there are, certainly, among the People of the Book those who believe in God, and in that which has been revealed to you (plural), and in that which has been revealed to them, bowing in humility to God. They will not sell the signs of God for a miserable gain. For them is a reward with their Lord, and God is swift in account." S. 3:199
These verses affirm that an uncorrupt scripture was available at the time of Muhammad by which the Jews and Christians knew truth from falsehood. Furthermore, there were godly Jews and Christians who studied God's Word and would not sell God's signs for money and profit. This presupposes that a true, uncorrupt Bible was in circulation at the time of Muhammad.
The final verse which Shabir quotes actually has nothing to do with the text of the Holy Bible:
And the Jews say: 'Uzair (Ezra) is the son of Allâh, and the Christians say: Messiah is the son of Allâh. That is a saying from their mouths. They imitate the saying of the disbelievers of old. Allâh's Curse be on them, how they are deluded away from the truth! S. 9:30 Hilali-Khan
Shabir assumes that since the Quran denies that Jesus is the Son of God this affirms that the Holy Bible is corrupt since it teaches the divinity of Christ. Shabir again presupposes that Muhammad was a prophet and therefore the Quran is a revelation from God. The fact is that Muhammad was not a prophet and, being ignorant of the true contents of the Holy Bible, he thought by appealing to the scriptures he would be reinforcing his theological views. Yet, he failed to realize that the Holy Bible actually taught the very things he opposed such as the deity of Christ, his death on the cross for sinners, etc.
In conclusion, none of Shabir's arguments stand the test since all his points crumble under closer examination.
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