I am ALL the Prophets

This article is a work in progress. The final word is certainly not yet spoken. This is a suggestion for further discussion, and this topic is certainly worth a discussion. I welcome all feedback. Since most of these thoughts were originally posted on a discussion board, this article is largely in a format that directly and personally addresses the reader / discussion partner.

On the newsgroup (discussion forum) soc.religion.islam somebody mentioned a saying by Muhammad:

"Kull ul-Nabîyîna Ana" (I am all the Prophets).

I asked the person who had posted this for a reference and he gave me this answer:

There are several Ahadith hinting at this issue among which is the following:

"Anas ibn Malik said, one day the Messenger of God, peace be upon him, offered his morning prayer and ascended the pulpit. His face was resplendent as the full moon. We asked the Messenger of God to interpret the verse of the Qur'an: "... they are with those unto whom Allah hath shown favor of the Prophets and the saints and the martyrs and the righteous." [4:69] He said, (ama-an-nabiyoona fa-ana ...) By the term "Prophets" I am meant, by the term "saints" Ali ibn Abi Talib is meant, by "martyrs" my uncle Hamzah is meant and the "righteous" are my daughter Fatimah and her two sons Hasan and Husayn." [Bihar'ul-Anwar vol. 7 by Majlesi, cited from Riyaz ul Janan by Fazl'u'llah ibn Mahmood al-Faresi]

Whatever the authenticity of this saying, or its exact original meaning, I think it is the perfect title for some observations I want to bring to your attention.

Summary of past discussion, Talut (Saul)

In my article on the story of Talut, I mentioned that my observations on this passage are not restricted to only those verses but similar discoveries can be made in various stories throughout the Qur'an. I have not written up all of these in the same detail as I have done it for the analysis of the story of Talut, but I want to give you at least some more thoughts on this topic, so that you know what I am talking about.

I have argued that in the story on Talut there are many differences to the Biblical account. This alone is noteworthy but not in itself strong proof that the Qur'an is wrong, even though from a historical viewpoint it is more likely that the source nearer to the event is correct and not one that is removed by many centuries and a different nation in a different location. Muhammad was removed from the actual events in many ways, and from a scientific viewpoint (the way historians work with sources) his stories have no credibility over against the Biblical records. But let us assume, we have these stories and treat them both as possible. How do we decide between them?

I argued that there was no discernable reason for the Biblical writers to change the actual events. They lack motivation for such an elaborate forgery. On the other hand, I showed that most of the details in which the Qur'an differs from the Bible can be matched to actual historical events in Muhammad's life and those of his companions and consequently the Qur'anic text looks like a sermon to his companions, using the Biblical story only as a skeleton and transforming it into a contemporary parable in order to make it a message to the present listeners by including THEIR own current situation into the story so that it becomes immediately relevant. Muhammad uses story telling as a method of preaching to the Muslim community.

So far the summary of my argument. If you have not yet read my article on The Story of Talut, you might want to do so now, since I am assuming in the following that you are familiar with it.

In the following, I want to argue that these observations are not unique to the story about Talut, but that Muhammad projects himself into many of the stories from the Bible and even non-Biblical material, and in this sense the quotation chosen as title for this article is true, he is indeed "all the prophets" as they are presented in the Qur'an. Wherever we turn, we really read about Muhammad and his message, and not about the prophets whose names he bears in any particular story.

I will apply the same method as in my reflections on Talut. I will identify a few narratives refering to Biblical records, and observe which details are different (that is the part that needs explanation) and then match these differences to facts from Muhammad's life and prophetic career. The motivation for the differences becomes apparent as the desire to make the story "relevant for today" which might have been planned (as I am convinced it is in some of them) or subconscious as might be the case in others.

This should suffice as introductory explanation regarding the task and methodology of this article. Let us turn to further observations on the Qur'anic presentation of various other Prophets.


According to the the Bible only Noah and his household/family are saved (from the flood), i.e. Noah, his wife and their three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, as well as their wives, eight people in all.

Why does the Qur'an change the story and claims that some family members of the prophet (his son [11:43] and his wife [66:10]) were lost? On the other hand, Muhammad seems to add some companions of Noah as being among those who are saved [11:27, 11:40].

Surah 66:10 claims that Noah's wife went to hell. This does not necessarily mean she died in the flood. She could have been saved at that time, but then later been "unfaithful" (disobedient to her prophet husband). In any case, the claim that his wife did go to hell is peculiar to the Qur'an and not found in the Bible.

Furthermore, why does the Qur'an speak about Noah as "driven out" by his people [54:9]? Nothing like that is found in the Bible, but it sounds, again, quite right for Muhammad. We have seen this same "theme" of being "driven out" in the story of Talut. And the flight from Mecca to Medina was seemingly a traumatic experience of Muhammad. No wonder it shows up ever so often. (In fact, the Qur'an itself forces the comparison between the rejection of Muhammad by the Meccans [54:3-8] and the rejection of Noah by his people [54:9-16].)

What about the family and companions issue? On the one hand, Muhammad's message is rejected from many in his family (clan) while on the other hand, he has companions/followers who believe his preaching. So, he tells his people that the companions of the prophet get saved, since what incentive would it be to the companions if only the family got saved?

On the other hand, why are Noah's son and wife lost? Muhammad didn't find faith in all of his family and sometimes even his wives conspired against him. So, he gives a clear warning against them via inclusion in the Qur'an: Being the prophet's wife won't help you if you don't shape up and obey.

The inclusion/exclusion of various lost or saved people on the ark of Noah is discussed in further detail in the article, Noah and his son.


We see a similar dynamic in the story of Moses before Pharaoh. One detail different to the Biblical account is the reaction of Pharaoh's magicians. The confrontation between Moses and the sorcerers is quite different in Qur'an and Bible, but let us not look at all the details, only one interesting bit. According to 7:120, after the first showdown the sorcerers immediately confess faith in Moses and the God of Moses and Aaron because of his superior powers (in the Bible, the magicians recognize to be confronted by a higher power only after the third plague [Ex. 8:19], but they never confess true faith). The next events according to the Qur'an are not found in the Bible: Pharaoh threatens to torture them if they continue to confess faith in Moses and his God. In the Qur'an the magicians insist in their new faith and even preach "Muslim theology" to Pharaoh in response. In the Bible we find them still sticking with Pharaoh as his officials for many more plagues even after they recognized in between that this must be from God. But they do not become followers of Moses, like the Qur'an implicates.

This difference in the Qur'an again matches up with Muhammad's story in Mecca. There were a number of servants of powerful people who believed in Muhammad but their superiors did not and they were threatened and at times even tortured (like the slave Bilal was tortured by his master for his faith in Muhammad). This is the connection and sermon of encouragement in this story. Stay firm, like the sorcerers stood firm after they recognized the truth and they spoke of their faith to their master instead of giving in to his threats. Muhammad encourages his believers to do the same as these exemplary believers, who are praying to their Lord for constancy and patience. Good advise, without a question; however, it is not based on factual history, but made up to encourage the present listeners. (The passages regarding the Egyptian magicians are discussed in this article.)

A very similar observation can be made regarding Surah 66:11 where we read that Pharaoh's wife supposedly was a believer in Moses' message and God. This is not found in the Bible. What is the motivation? We know that some of the wives and sons of powerful men in Mecca believed Muhammad and they, like Pharaoh's wife, would have wished "O my Lord! build for me, in nearness to Thee, a mansion in the Garden. And save me from Pharaoh and his doings. And save me from those who do wrong." This is again, very "Qur'anic/Islamic" theology that is put into the mouth of Pharaoh's wife, just like a follower of Muhammad, persecuted by his/her own family would pray it, but it is not possible to connect this with anything in the Bible, and what is more, nowhere does Moses preach about "the Garden" which on the other hand is a prominent theme of Muhammad's message. Again, this is Muhammad preaching to his companions under the rule of powerful opposers to his message, not to give up but to be like the wife of Pharaoh (which he made up for their encouragement).

Also, in Sura 5:20, Moses is speaking with the viewpoint or the "time perspective" of Muhammad:

Remember Moses said to his people: "O my people! Call in remembrance the favour of Allah unto you, when He produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what He had not given to any other among the peoples."

This is discussed in more detail in another article.

The Promised Land

Perhaps the most surprising element in the quranic version of the story of Moses and the Pharaoh is the fact that in the Qur'an the land promised to the Children of Israel is Egypt. The evidence for this conclusion is presented in the article Israel, the Quran and the Promised Land.

Here we want to ask: What is the message communicated to his audience when Muhammad preaches that "the Children of Israel took over the land of Pharaoh and his people"? The point is clear: The believers take over the land of the unbelievers. That is the principle, that is the final goal. That is what Muhammad practiced in his own life and mission. He conquered all of Arabia, and the unbelievers were either expelled or enslaved, but the land fell to the Muslims. In fact, the Qur'an states quite openly that Allah restores the belongings of the unbelievers to Muhammad (implying that they are rightfully his), and the hadith even says that the earth belongs to (Allah and) Muhammad, see this article.

In this framework, the quranic teaching of making Egypt the land promised to the followers of Moses is no longer really surprising; suddenly it makes sense. Even though it is historically wrong, it is simply the specific expression of the general Islamic principle that the believers take over the land of the unbelievers. Pharaoh and his council rejected the message of Moses. Therefore, the followers of Moses take over their land.

With this observation we have probably found the main motivation for this particular false claim of the Qur'an. [The article, Adoption by Adaption, provides a further element that may have contributed to it as well.] It is obvious that the author of the Qur'an is not interested to teach truth, but merely abuses past stories to preach to his present audience. He is usurping the history of God and rewriting it for his own purposes. He lies about the past in order to justify the present action and agenda. The author of the Qur'an is exposed as a manipulator, as a forgerer of history, as a liar.


In the story of Joseph, we find him making the following statement:

Verily, I have abandoned the religion of a people that believe not in Allâh and are disbelievers in the Hereafter. And I have followed the religion of my fathers, -Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and never could we attribute any partners whatsoever to Allâh. This is from the Grace of Allâh to us and to mankind, but most men thank not. ... S. 12:36-45

How could Joseph have ABANDONED the religion of a people, when his father and grand- and greatgrandfather never worshiped other gods? You can only abandon what you were a part of. Otherwise it is "refuse to join" (the worship of gods in Egypt after he was sold as a slave to the Egyptians).

This statement does not fit the biography of Joseph, but it again fits perfectly with the life of Muhammad, showing again that it really is Muhammad speaking, who puts his own experience (abandoning the Arab pagan religion and following the religion of Abraham ...) into the mouth of Joseph.


So far about Noah, Joseph and Moses. Let's have a quick look at the Jesus of the Qur'an as well. I don't remember where it was, but somewhere I read that Muhammad said something like "of all the prophets I am most like Jesus ..." And in other sources, he reported saying:

"The prophets are brothers of different mothers, but their religion is one. Of all men I am the most deserving to be the brother of Jesus Son of Mary, for there was no prophet between me and him." [Al Hendy, Kanzol 'Ummal, Vol. 17, Hadith No. 1033]

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said, "Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one." [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 652]

Narrated AbuHurayrah:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus (peace_be_upon_him). ... [Sunan of Abu Dawud, Book 37, Number 4310]

In the Injilu 't Tufuliyyah better known as the Arabic "Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ", an Arabic translation of an originally Coptic apocryphal fable from Egypt, from the 2nd century, we find:

... Jesus spake when he was in the cradle, and said to his mother: "Mary, I am Jesus the Son of God, the Word, which thou didst bring forth according to the declaration of the angel Gabriel, and My Father hath sent me for the salvation of the world."

In this fable of Jesus' birth, we find the claim that Jesus spoke in the cradle. This is a very unusual claim and might have come to the attention of Muhammad. Maybe some heretical Christian sect whom he encountered held this story to be true. However, notice both the similarities and the differences to the Qur'anic account in Surah 19:28-34:

"O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man
nor was thy mother a harlot.
Then she pointed to him.
They said: How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?
He said: "I am indeed a servant of Allah.
He has given me the Book and has made me a prophet.
And has made me blessed wheresoever I may be,
and has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving
so long as I remain alive,
And (has made me) dutiful toward her who bore me,
and hath not made me arrogant, unblest.
Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die,
and the day I shall be raised alive!
Such was Jesus, son of Mary:
(this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt.

Most of what Jesus supposedly says here are good things, but it is distinctly Muslim theology that comes from his lips. Clearly, Muhammad took the story of the speaking in the cradle, but he put different words into Jesus' mouth and made him preach "Muhammad's message". Even though in another passage the Qur'an retains the title "the word of God", Muhammad purged "the son of God" and "My Father" and "sent for the salvation of the world" from the account since this did not fit his theology.

However, the part that is most interesting to me here, is the following. Jesus is made to say as a newborn infant from the cradle:

"He has given me the Book and has made me a prophet."

The statement is in past tense. My question is: When did Jesus receive this book? When was he appointed a prophet? If one were to read this statement "logically" then this has to have happened before his birth.

On the other hand, Muhammad only becomes a prophet at 40 years old, and it takes him 23 years of receiving his book piece by piece. Doesn't that look strange in comparison? Well, I would propose, quite disinterested in "logical coherence" (we saw the same kind of incoherence in a few statements of Talut), Muhammad wants to preach a message to his listeners. And the message is that he is just like the earlier prophets. So, his main topic about himself is that "he is a prophet" and that "he has been given a book". And so this is what he puts into the mouth of the newborn Jesus even though this makes not much sense. The story of speaking in the cradle was around before and probably known to him, but he took some liberties in what Jesus was going to speak in support of Muhammad, making Jesus message identical to Muhammad's message, "confirming" himself by this method.

The main reason that the Qur'an speaks about "a book given to Jesus" is probably Muhammad's expectation that he will find greater acceptance if he is similar to an already accepted prophet. Since most Arabs did not know much at all about the Jewish or Christian holy books the "information" about these prophets that Muhammad gave them in the Qur'an was most of what they ever knew. Muhammad was not thinking about later times when this could become a "contradiction to the reality in the outside world". In fact, he might not even have known this himself. He was familiar with some broad ideas but not with the details of the scriptures. He only thought about his legitimation to the Arab tribes around him who knew nearly nothing about true Christianity.

I think that is also the reason that Muhammad found comparatively few converts among the Jewish and Christian minority in Arabia. They knew that his message did not match up with their scriptures. The Jewish tribes in Medina did not accept him and in response he expelled or killed them [see the articles about the Jewish tribe of the Banu Qurayza].

The delegation of Christians from Najran visited and debated with him for several days but said in the end that he is not a valid prophet and left again. Muhammad was not pleased about that and later decreed that Arabia cannot contain people of different religions and that the people of the book have no place in the Hijaz. They were mostly expelled eventually, or even killed. He could not allow those around him who would constantly challenge his religious authority with their true scriptures.

And we even have the very strange formulation "Peace on me ...", something never found anywhere in the Bible. Maybe that is one source of saying "Peace be upon him", that Muhammad was so much desiring that people say that about him, he inserted it here, making Jesus not only saying it about others, but saying it about himself, giving Muhammad a reason to ask for the same from his followers. And it is practiced faithfully to this day.

It is also interesting that the Qur'an claims that both, Jesus and Muhammad, were saved by Allah from the plotting of the unbelievers and from death by means of "divine deception".

But when Jesus became conscious of their disbelief, he cried: Who will be my helpers in the cause of Allah? The disciples said: We will be Allah's helpers. We believe in Allah, and bear thou witness that we have surrendered (unto Him) [literally: that we are Muslims]. Our Lord! We believe in that which Thou hast revealed and we follow him whom Thou hast sent. Enrol us among those who witness (to the truth). And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers. (And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ. As for those who disbelieve I shall chastise them with a heavy chastisement in the world and the Hereafter; and they will have no helpers. S. 3:52-56 Pickthall

What does Allah's scheming look like? He makes it look like they crucified Jesus, but in reality Jesus is lifted to heaven.

Then because of their breaking of their covenant, and their disbelieving in the revelations of Allah, and their slaying of the prophets wrongfully, and their saying: Our hearts are hardened - Nay, but Allah set a seal upon them for their disbelief, so that they believe not save a few - And because of their disbelief and of their speaking against Mary a tremendous calumny; And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. S. 4:155-158 Pickthall

And about Muhammad it is said:

And when those who disbelieve plot against thee (O Muhammad) to wound thee fatally, or to kill thee or to drive thee forth; they plot, but Allah (also) plotteth; and Allah is the best of plotters. S. 8:30 Pickthall

Even Yusuf Ali recognizes that the story of Muhammad and Jesus is remarkably similar in various aspects, when he comments on 3:52:

The story of Jesus is told with special application to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. Note the word helpers (Ansar) in this connection, and the reference to plotters in iii. 54. It was the one religion – the religion of Allah, which was in essence the religion of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. The argument runs: why do ye then now make divisions and reject the living Teacher? Islam is: bowing to the Will of Allah. All who have faith should bow to the Will of Allah and be Muslims. (Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an, fn. 392; underline emphasis mine)

Again, because not only their message but even their experience is so similar, therefore, Muhammad's message must be authentic and all people of faith should be Muslims.

Years after my own observations were written and published in this article, we discovered Neal Robinson's book, Christ in Islam and Christianity [State University of New York Press, Albany 1991], in which he clearly admits that Muhammad modeled Jesus’ life after his own. The following are a few excerpts that confirm my conclusions:


It is well known that the Qur’an depicts Jesus as one of a series of prophets sent by God, a series beginning with Adam and culminating in Muhammad the privileged individual to whom the Qur’an itself is addressed. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Qur’an depicts Muhammad and Jesus as having a number of things in common. Nevertheless the extent of their affinity is not generally appreciated.

Like Muhammad, the Qur’anic Jesus is called a ‘prophet’ (nabi), a ‘messenger’ (rasul) and a ‘servant’ (‘abd) of God. Like him too he is said to have been sent as a ‘mercy’ (rahma). He received a revelation called ‘the Gospel’ just as Muhammad subsequently received the Qur’an. Jesus’ teaching and the teaching of the Gospel are referred to as ‘wisdom’, and ‘right path’, ‘guidance’, ‘light’ and ‘admonition’ - terms which recur as descriptions of the Qur’anic message. Jesus declared licit some of the things which were forbidden to the Jews (3:50) just as Muhammad did, for some of the more detailed food laws were a punishment imposed on the Jews because of their disobedience and thus were relaxed for Muslims (6:146f). Nevertheless the Gospel, like the Qur’an, was a confirmation of previous Scriptures (3:3). Its central thrust was identical with the central thrust of the Qur’an – the summons to serve and worship God. Jesus is said to have threatened idolaters with hellfire (5:72) and to have promised paradise to those who died fighting in God’s cause (9:111) – threats and promises which correspond to those made in the Qur’an. Moreover Jesus is said to have practiced ritual prayer (salat) and almsgiving (zakat) (19:31), the two fundamental religious obligations of Islam. In view of all this it should come as no surprise that the Qur’an also states that the revelation addressed to Jesus’ disciples urged them to believe in God and His messenger and that they declared that they were ‘submitted’ (muslimun, i.e. Muslims) (5:111) and wished to be enrolled ‘with those who bear witness’ (al-shahidin, i.e. those who recite the Muslim confession of faith?) (3:53).

Making Jesus in the Qur'an a prophet who is calling his disciples to die "fighting in God's cause" and putting an emphasis on ritual prayer and zakat (fixed measures of almsgiving) into his mouth is a particularly strong indication that Muhammad modeled Jesus after his own, since these elements stand in contrast to Jesus' life and message as found in the Gospels. In stark contrast to Muhammad, Jesus explicitly stated that "my kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews." Nowhere do we find a command of Jesus to fight, use force or compulsion in order to spread his message or to establish his rule. He even forbade his disciples to use arms to defend him when the authorities came with the goal to arrest and to kill him (Matthew 26:52-53). Muhammad, on the other hand, personally fought dozens of wars and commanded his followers to fight many more with the goal to subdue others under the rule of Islam. Jesus had a strong prayer life, but what we see reported in the Gospels is very different from what is called "salat" in Islam. It was not a fixed ritual but a very personal and intimate relationship with his Father. There is no indication that Jesus ever placed any importance on fixed prayer times, fixed text to be recited, or fixed rituals to be observed like the Muslim ablutions before salat, its prescribed numbers of prostrations etc. etc. Robinson continues:

From what has been said so far it should be clear that the Qur’anic representation of Jesus serves to legitimise Muhammad by giving the impression that he was doing what Jesus had done before him. In one very striking instance this becomes quite explicit:

O you believers! Be God’s helpers as when Jesus Son of Mary said to the disciples ‘Who will be my helpers in God’s way?’ The disciples said, ‘We are God’s helpers.’ A group of the Children of Israel believed and a group disbelieved. We upheld those who believed against their enemies and they gained the victory. (61:14)

Although this passage is very condensed its purport is clear enough. The believers are urged to fight at Muhammad’s side on the grounds that in so doing they will be following the example of Jesus’ disciples and that like them they will prove victorious. The word ‘helpers’ (ansar) is pregnant with meaning. It is the official title given to the people of Medina who rallied to Muhammad’s cause (9:100,107). It also puns with nasara, the Qur’anic name for Christians.

There would have been no need for a promise of victory if Muhammad and Jesus had not met with mockery and opposition. Muhammad’s critics mocked him for needing to eat food (25:7). Yet Jesus and his mother had similar needs (5:75). The ‘signs’ which Muhammad brought as proof of his authority - inimitable revelations of the Qur’an – led to allegations of sorcery (21:3, 38:4f., 43:31). Yet although Jesus’ miraculous ‘signs’ had been rather different they too had provoked this response (5:110). (pp. 36-38; bold emphasis mine)

Let us next consider the resemblance between what the Qur’an says about Jesus and what it says about Muhammad. Michaud, who was aware of some of the parallels which I have listed, thought it unnecessary to postulate that Muhammad had deliberately contrived to produce them. His own explanation had two parts to it. First, following Harnack and Schoeps, he assumed that Muhammad was influenced by Jewish Christianity and that consequently he initially believed that the religion which he preached closely resembled that of Jesus. Second, Michaud suggested that later on, the traditional data about Jesus which did not fit the image of him as a model prophet were initially harmonised with it by a slow and profound spiritual travail which took place within Muhammad. I accept the likelihood of both the Jewish Christian influence and the long-term spiritual travail but I question whether they are sufficient to explain all the similarities which we have observed. For example it is surely significant that there is a revelation mentioning how Muhammad was mocked for eating in the market place (25:7) and another which stresses the mortality of Jesus and Mary and their need to eat food (5:75). In subsequent chapters I shall mention some equally remarkable parallels which have a bearing on the interpretation of what the Qur’an says about virginal conception and about Jesus’ death. (p. 40; bold emphasis mine)

Robinson is very polite when he merely speaks of "remarkable parallels". Let's face it. Muhammad's remodelling of Jesus was perhaps very clever in his immediate environment, and it may even have had the desired effect on uneducated pagan Arabs who did not know the Bible and facts about the life of Jesus. To them these ‘parallels’ may have been authenticating Muhammad as a prophet from God, but to those who know the Bible they have opposite effect. This is not a triviality, this is not poetic license. This is lying about the factual history of the life of Jesus and twisting the revelation of God. Therefore these observations are strong evidence against the prophethood of Muhammad.

Still, there is much more. In discussing the similarities between what is said about Muhammad in S. 40:77, 10:46 and 13:40 with what is said about Jesus in 3:55 and 5:117, Robinson writes:


What the Qur’an says about Muhammad’s fate is in some ways tantalizingly similar to what it says about the fate of Jesus.

First, there are three ayas in which the verb tawaffa occurs with God as the subject and Muhammad as the object of the action ...

These are all late Meccan revelations. Thus they are earlier than the two Medinan ayas where the same verb is used with reference to Jesus ...

The three ayas about Muhammad and the two about Jesus are the only ones where the verb is used in the active voice with God as the subject and with one of his prophets as the object. Moreover in both sets of ayas there is a similar emphasis on God’s witnessing man’s actions and on man’s return to Him for judgement. This is too much to be a coincidence; the statements about Jesus must surely have been modelled on the earlier statements about Muhammad ...

Second, Muhammad’s opponents schemed against him but God was also scheming:

<<When those who disbelieve plot to keep you in bonds or kill you or drive you out, they are scheming and God is scheming. God is the best of schemers.>> (8:30)

This is late Meccan or possibly an early Medinan revelation. Similar things are said about the opposition to other prophets including Abraham (14:47) and Salih (27:50) but the phrase <<God is the best of schemers>> occurs elsewhere only in a subsequent revelation about Jesus:

<<They schemed and God schemed. God is the best of schemers.>> (3:54) ...

Third, Muhammad’s status as a messenger of God was no guarantee that he would not die or killed:

<<Muhammad [is] only a messenger. Messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed will you turn upon your heels ...?>> (3:144)

This is a Medinan revelation. The phrase <<have passed away before>> (qad khalat min qabli) occurs a number of times in the Qur’an with reference to past generations and vanished peoples but the closest parallel to this particular aya is in a subsequent revelation about Jesus:

<<The Messiah Jesus son of Mary [was] only a messenger. Messengers have passed away before him>> (5:75).

By the time 3:144 was revealed, Muhammad was evidently aware of the likelihood of his death in the near future. How then should we interpret the fact that 5:75, a subsequent revelation about Jesus, apparently echoes this aya? I suggest that it is intended to counterbalance the reference to Muhammad’s forthcoming death by stressing Jesus’ mortality but without actually gainsaying 4:156-9 which denied that Jesus was killed or crucified. (pp. 113-115)

Again, significant is not only how similar the statements are about Jesus and Muhammad in the Qur'an, but how different at the same time they are in comparison to the Jesus of the Bible. Both together gives the measure of how much Muhammad changed and the extent to which he transformed the image of Jesus to make it subservient to his own purposes. Jesus throughout his ministry emphasized ever so often that it was the purpose of his life to die for mankind, to atone for their sin. His death was his goal. And there was no "scheming of God" involved at all. This is a concept very foreign to the Bible.

So far I have looked at things that were explicitly stated in the Qur'an, but there is one interesting item of absence which is different between the Bible and Qur'an. In the Biblical birth narratives there is one figure that seems to be strangely missing from the Qur'an. And that is Joseph, Mary's husband. Where has he gone? Why is he left out? He has an important role to play in the Bible.

What do we know about Muhammad? His father died before he was born. There was no father at his birth. And again Jesus becomes ever more similar to Muhammad ... I don't know yet the theological significance in this one, but it is nevertheless an interesting omission that perfectly fits my overall theory.

In the discussion of the story of Noah we already saw that Muhammad adjusted the story not only in regard to the prophet himself, but also in regard to his family and companions. Neal Robinson also makes a number of observations regarding similarities of the people "around Jesus" and "around Muhammad". He writes:


There is one passage in the Qur’an in which Mary is cited for an explicitly hortatory purpose. This occurs at the end of the 66th sura. The passage states that God has proposed the wife of Pharaoh together with <<Mary daughter of Imran who guarded her chastity>> as examples for the believers (66:13-14). This is directly related to the first part of the sura which is concerned with a domestic problem occasioned by Muhammad’s wives. The details of that problem need not detain us and in any case they cannot be deduced directly from the text. Suffice it to note that the trouble was caused by two wives (66:3f) and that it was suggested that unless they had a change of heart they might be divorced and replaced with women who were better Muslims, either women who had already been married (like Pharaoh’s wife) or virgins (like Mary?) (66:4f.). According to the most plausible tradition the two wives who caused the trouble were Hafsa and ‘A’isha. They would certainly fit the bill admirably for Muhammad married Hafsa after she was widowed whereas A’isha was his only virgin bride.

Taking our lead from this passage we may enquire whether any of the other things which the Qur’an says about Mary were relevant to Muhammad’s ménage. If the Qur’anic information about the Prophet’s wives is supplemented with details derived from early Muslim traditions, and if attention is focused on A’isha some quite remarkable parallels emerge.

When the Prophet moved to Medina he was about 50 years old and had only one wife, Sawda, who was at least 30. The residence which was built for him also served as the first mosque. It consisted principally of an enclosed courtyard in which he conducted business, addressed his followers and led communal prayers. In the pre-Islamic period marriage was uxorilocal, that is to say wives used to remain in their family homes where they were visited by their husbands. Muhammad departed from this custom and established virilocal marriage as the norm. Thus Sawda lived with him in the mosque or rather in her own apartment which opened onto the courtyard. Muhammad soon contracted a further marriage with ‘A’isha. His relationship with her must, to begin with, have been more that of a guardian than a husband, for she was only nine and was allowed to keep her toys. Nevertheless ‘A’isha had to leave her family and live at the Prophet’s residence. Quarters were built for her resembling those of Sawda and opening onto the eastern side of the courtyard. In addition to being separated from her folk, ‘A’isha was screened off from them because of a revelation instructing Muslims to speak to the Prophet’s wives from behind a ‘curtain’ (hijab 33:53). There are various traditions as to why the hijab was introduced but the underlying reason was that the mosque was frequented by large numbers of people and it was undignified for the women to be exposed to all and sundry. God wished to ‘purify’ them (33:33) and give them unique status as mothers of the believers (33:12).

Many of these details tally with what the Qur’an says about Mary. The two principle versions of her story associate her with Zechariah. He was a prophet, advanced in years and married to a woman who was barren. He is mentioned in connection with an important place of worship. While Mary was still only a girl she was put in care of Zechariah because her mother had dedicated her to God. In one version of the story it is implied that Mary lived in the mihrab (3:37) which was either the place of worship itself or a chamber adjoining it. In the other version she is said to have withdrawn from her folk to an ‘easterly’ place and screened herself from them with a ‘curtain’ (hijab) (19:16). Moreover she was told by the angels that God had ‘purified’ her and preferred her above all the women of creation (3:42).

There is a further important resemblance between ‘A’isha and Mary: both were accused of sexual immorality. When the Muslims were returning from a campaign ‘A’isha was accidentally left behind at the camp site. Apparently her howda had been loaded onto the camel while she was in the privy and because she was so light no one had realised that the howda was empty. Tongues began to wag when she returned to Medina accompanied by a handsome young man who had also fallen behind for some reason and had not spent the night with the troops. The accusations provoked a serious crisis which was only resolved when Muhammad received a revelation declaring her innocence. Tradition identifies this revelation as 24:11ff. The passage does not name ‘A’isha but it clearly refers to a false accusation of unchastity made against an eminent Muslim woman. The accusers are lambasted for speaking lies and not bringing four witnesses. The believers are reprimanded for listening to scandal-mongering and not dismissing it as slander; they should have realised that it was <<a tremendous calumny>> (butan ‘azim 24:16). The case of Mary is of course different in as far as she was visited by God’s Spirit and returned to her people with a child. There are, however, a number of similarities. In the first place the encounter with the Spirit took place when she was alone and he presented himself to her as a handsome young man (19:17). Second, her people suspected her of unchastity and her virtue had to be defended by revelation (19:27-33). Finally, the Qur’an criticizes the People of the Scripture for having spoken <<a tremendous calumny>> against her (4:156). (pp. 158-160)

David, Prophet and King

In Surah 38:21-26 we read the following story about King David:

Has the Story of the Disputants reached thee? Behold, they climbed over the wall of the private chamber; When they entered the presence of David, and he was terrified of them, they said: "Fear not: we are two disputants, one of whom has wronged the other: Decide now between us with truth, and treat us not with injustice, but guide us to the even Path. "This man is my brother: He has nine and ninety ewes, and I have (but) one: Yet he says, ‘commit her to my care,’ and is (moreover) harsh to me in speech." (David) said: "He has undoubtedly wronged thee in demanding thy (single) ewe to be added to his (flock of) ewes: truly many are the partners (in business) who wrong each other: Not so do those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and how few are they?" ... and David gathered that We had tried him: he asked forgiveness of his Lord, fell down, bowing (in prostration), and turned (to Allah in repentance). So We forgave him this (lapse): he enjoyed, indeed, a Near Approach to Us, and a beautiful place of (Final) Return. O David! We did indeed make thee a vicegerent on earth: so judge thou between men in truth (and justice): Nor follow thou the lusts (of thy heart), for they will mislead thee from the Path of Allah: for those who wander astray from the Path of Allah, is a Penalty Grievous, for that they forget the Day of Account. (Yusuf Ali's translation)

To somebody who does not know anything about the background of the story these verses will appear quite mysterious. What is the Qur'an talking about? Before we come back to the discussion of the Qur'anic version, we will turn to the report of these events in the Bible which presents us detailed record of this incident. To get a deeper understanding, we recommend to read the complete story at the Bible Gateway site: 2 Samuel 11-12. The next paragraph presents a summary of the story as it is reported in 2 Samuel 11:

David discovers Bathsheba, a beautiful woman and the wife of Uriah, who is currently abroad fighting in David's army. Although David knows that she is married, he sends for her, sleeps with her and she becomes pregnant. David seeks to cover up his sin, and calls Uriah home from the war front, hoping that he would sleep with his wife. However, the plan fails, Uriah is an upright man and refuses to enjoy the company of his wife while his comrades are fighting. Not knowing what else to do, David sends Uriah back to war front and gives instructions to the general that he should place Uriah in the very front lines where he would certainly be killed. This plan succeeds. Uriah dies. Chapter 11 concludes with verse 27:

After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.

This background information is completely missing from the Qur'an. We will have to ask: Why? More about this shortly. The event that follows after David's adultery and the murder of Uriah, is presented in both books, though with many and considerable differences between the Qur'an and the Bible. The Bible continues with this report:

1 The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 4 "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him." 5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." 7 Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 7 I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.' 11 "This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.' " 13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD ." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die." (2 Samuel 12:1-14)

After having become familiar with the Biblical record, carefully read Surah 38:21-26 again. What are the most striking differences?

Many observations could be made. A few examples are: Muhammad turns Nathan's parable into a historical event. The specific numbers of the 99 sheep and the one sheep were imported from Jesus' parable in Luke 15:3-7. Several details presented in the account of the Qur'an are hardly credible, even if we did not know the Biblical original. The reader of the Qur'an recognizes that David committed some kind of sin, since David has to ask for forgiveness, but is left completely in the dark what sin he had to be forgiven for. The story as written makes little sense if one does not know the Biblical background. Some of these issues are discussed in the article Islam and the Sins of the Prophets and need not concern us here.

Most striking are two omissions. The first is the removal of the Prophet Nathan from the story. The second one is that the sin of David is not named. As before, we ask: What could be the reason for those differences found in the Qur'an when compared to the Biblical record?

The second one is answered easily: Muhammad could not let David be judged explicitly for taking another man's wife, after killing her husband, even though he already had several wives. Why not? Because Muhammad had done this himself. Obviously, such a grave charge needs evidence. Some examples: Muhammad had Kinana tortured and killed, and within a few days marries his beautiful wife Safiyya (for details, see the articles Muhammad and the Death of Kinana and Mohammed without Camouflage). Muhammad married Raihana, a celebrated beauty who also had lost her husband at Mohammed's hands (see Mohammed without Camouflage). Zainab was the wife of Zaid, Muhammad's adopted son. One day Muhammad was struck by the beauty of Zainab. Soon after, Zaid divorced Zainab, and Muhammad married her. This caused an absolute scandal at the time. A revelation came to the aid of Muhammad and gave divine sanction (Surah 33:37) to this gross violation of moral standards.

No wonder, Muhammad did not want to mention any details regarding the sin of David! His own sins were too similar, and multiplied many times over in comparison to David. Nor did Muhammad want to mention the serious punishment that David received for his disobedience. In the Qur'an, David only had to prostrate before Allah, and whatever unnamed sin it was, it is forgiven immediately. No consequences to suffer for his transgression. Very convenient! The Muslim translator Yusuf Ali (whose translation was cited above) even goes so far as to insert the word "lapse" into his translation, trivializing David's sin even further.

What could be the reason for the disappearance of Nathan? To understand the comments we are about to make, we need to set the stage properly. This discussion on David is added in April 2003, about eight years after most of the rest of the article had written. Currently Gerhard Schröder is the Chancellor of Germany and George W. Bush the President of the USA. Both political leaders are very controversial in the countries they are governing. On TV and on the radio in Germany and in the USA, we can watch comedies and listen to satirical songs that make fun of Schröder or Bush. These expressions of disagreement with leading politicians are considered very distatestful by some, but it is one of the greatest achievements of modern political development and western democracy that it guarantees the freedom of speech, and allows its citizens to criticize the powerful and mighty without threatening the opponents with punishment or even assassinating them for their critique.

On the other hand, it is the hallmark of past and present dictators, whether right wing dictators like Hitler and Mussolini, or communist ones like Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot, or cruel dictators of other political convictions and professing Islam like Idi Amin of Uganda and Saddam Hussein of Iraq, that they will not allow anyone to criticize them. Anyone daring to raise his voice with critique or in satire - in public or even in private - has to fear for his life. All of these people have the blood of many innocent people on their hands. People who have not committed a crime, but who have only raised critique whether in a calm factual manner or with an element of ridicule as in satirical articles or songs.

The last two paragraphs give the proper context for the observations that are about to follow. Muhammad was not able to suffer any critique either. Many who tried to stand up to him have been assassinated (this topic is discussed in detail in the section Muhammad and his Enemies). This background will help us to understand the above quoted Qur'anic passage about King David, and the reason for some of the considerable differences between the Biblical report and what Muhammad made of it in the Qur'an.

Back to our main question: What about the disappearance of Nathan? David was both prophet and king. Even though God spoke to David directly, and David received much prophetic revelation, he was not the main prophet in his day. There was at least one more important prophet in office during David's reign. Nathan is mentioned at crucial points of David's life, mainly when God rebukes David or denies him his desire (2 Samuel 7:1-14 and 2 Samuel 12:1-25). Nathan again plays an important role in the question of who will become David's successor (1 Kings 1).

Like David, Muhammad understood himself as prophet and as political ruler, but with an absolute authority which no Biblical ruler had ever been given. Muhammad was not willing to allow anyone to come up besides him, who could be seen as a rival to his exclusive authority.

Nathan denies David's wish to build the temple of God (2 Sam. 7), and Nathan rebukes David for his sin of adultery and murder (2 Sam. 12) and announces God's severe judgment on David for his sins.

This was absolutely unimaginable for Muhammad. Nobody should dare to challenge Muhammad. None of his followers and nobody among his opponents should ever get the idea that it would be acceptable to criticize Muhammad, the messenger of God! Therefore, Nathan had to be removed from the scene.

Own critical thinking? Even questioning Muhammad? No way! The Qur'an states very clearly: "It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Apostle, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path." (33:36) Again, the Qur'an states that "it is not right for you to annoy the Messenger of Allah" (33:53) and even threatens in the strongest language: Those who annoy Allah and HIS MESSENGER - Allah has cursed them in this World and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating Punishment. (33:57) In Muhammad's understanding, only absolute and uncritical obedience was acceptable.

This lesson Muhammad taught explicitly in the verses just cited, implicitly in the way he changed the stories of the Biblical prophets, and drastically by assassinating those who still dared to challenge him. Based on his life and his teaching, his name clearly does not stand for freedom of speech, or tolerance of differing opinions, or respect for the dignity of those who opposed him. There is no choice but to place his name among the cruel dictators of history.


After I have found the described projection of Muhammad's life and circumstances into story of Talut, I now start to see similar comments not only in other Qur'an stories, but also in other articles which I have not consciously recognized before. Here is one scholar agreeing with my observations:

HUD, the prophet who, according to the Kur'an, appeared among the `Ad [q.v.]. His story is told in Suras vii, xi, xxvi, xlvi and xlix and his name is found in the first three of these. Sura xi even bears his name, where the verses 50-60 deal with him. He is represented as one of the kinsmen (akh) of `Ad and his genealogy (which is transmitted in various forms) therefore coincides in part with that of their founder `Ad. He is also identified with `Abir (the Biblical `Eber, the ancestor of the Hebrews); in another reference he is called the son of `Abir. His figure is even more shadowy than the picture of his people and like every warner he is represented in the same position as Muhammad in Mecca, i.e. he found only infidelity and pride among the people and his followers were few. [Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam, page 140]

{This seems to promise many more such discoveries as I am going to read the Qur'an again looking out for these similarities now...}


Oftentimes Muslims point out that the message of the prophets was always the same. And if you read the Qur'an only, then I agree, IN THE QUR'AN the message of all the prophets is the same. But the explanation is easy. Muhammad makes them all sound the same. If you look at the Bible the prophets are individual characters, they are very much distinct personalities. None sounds like the other. They often have a unique emphasis in their messages. Just as we would expect it from real distinct people. When you look into the Qur'an, every prophet says (basically) the same ..... because it really is only Muhammad's message and not a genuine record of the message of those earlier prophets.

So, the fact that "all prophets had the same message" is no surprise to me, and it is certainly no evidence that Muhammad's message is authentic. After all, it is Muhammad who made them all say the same and put his message into their mouths.

Why do all the prophets look alike in the Qur'an, even though they are very different in the Bible? Because Muhammad (re)created them all in his own image.

As this article illustrated again and again, under every subheading, the author of the Qur'an is not really interested in historical truth in regard to past events, he merely uses the story of the earlier prophets in order to preach to his current audience. In order to make the story relevant, he has no problem to "adjust" past history so that it may become more similar to the current situation and message. Muhammad projected current events back into the stories of the past.

One could formulate this principle: The Qur'an is Muhammad's situation and theology wrapped into "stories of former prophets" in order to justify Muhammad's current actions and commands.

The above presented material are insights that I have realized in my own thinking about the Qur'an. I have never read this anywhere before. It makes sense, I am excited about these discoveries and would love to get feedback and discuss the pro and contra of these arguments in detail.

The Bible says, as iron sharpens iron, so men sharpen each other. Let's sharpen our understanding through reasoning about these observations.

May the Lord give us his guidance and insight into the truth of his word.

Jochen Katz

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