We come to the finale of my series: The Quran’s Manifold Blunders Pt. 2.
The Fables of the Quran Identified
As noted, the Quran denies that it contains any tales from the ancients, and calls those who make such allegations liars:
“But the Misbelievers say: ‘Naught is this a lie which he has forged, and others have helped him at it…’ And they say, ‘Tales of the ancients which he has caused to be written: and they are dictated before him morning and evening.’” S. 25:4, 5
The Quran responds:
“… In truth it is they who have put forward an iniquity… Say, ‘It is sent down by Him who knows the mystery that is in the heavens and the earth: verily He is oft-forgiving, most merciful.’” S. 25:4, 6
Yusuf Ali elaborates:
“In their misguided arrogance they say: ‘We have heard such things before: they are pretty tales which have come down from ancient times; they are good for amusement, but who takes them seriously?’ When the beauty and power of the revelation are pointed out, and its miracles as coming from an unlearned man, they again hint at other men who wrote them, though they could not produce any one who could write anything like it.”
“The answer is that the Quran teaches spiritual knowledge which can only come from God, to whom alone is known the mystery of the whole creation.’” (4: p. 927, ff. 3058, 3059)
(It is noteworthy that throughout his commentary, Ali identifies the fables and traditions of certain passages within the Quran, disproving the very thing he tries to prove, namely no fables to be found in the revelation!)
Maulana Ali adds,
“In the previous verse, their allegation is that the Quran is a forgery; here they allege that the prophet had caused some stories of the ancients to be written down by some people who helped him and it was these stories which were recited to him and which he gave out as a revelation from on high. How could mere stories bring about the transformation which the Holy Quran was working in the hearts of men?…” (7: pp. 697- 698, fn. 1771)
It has been clearly demonstrated throughout the study that the Quran does find root in the tales of the ancients and, contrary to what Muslims are saying, contains nothing which would lead one to believe that it came down from heaven above.
In this appendix, we will present two more factors from the Talmud that prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Muhammad was not being inspired but was in actuality receiving his information from different human sources.
“When Abraham saw the sun issuing in the morning from the east, he at first moved to think that it was God, and said, ‘This is the king that created me’; and worshiped it the whole day. In the evening when the sun went down and the moon commenced to shine, he said, ‘Verily this rules over the orb which I worshiped the whole day, since the latter is darkened before it and does not shine anymore.’
“So he served the moon all that night. In the morning when he saw the darkness depart and the east grow light, he said, ‘Of a surety there is a king who rules over all these orbs and orders them.’” Zohar (1:86a)
”So also did We show Abraham the power and the laws of the heavens and the earth. That he might have certitude. When the night covered him over, he saw a star; he said, ‘This is my Lord. But when it set, he said, ”I love not those who set.’ When he saw the moon rising in splendor, he said, ’This is my Lord.’ But when the moon set, he said, ‘Unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray.’ When he saw the sun rising in splendor, he said, ‘This is my lord; this is the greatest of all’; but when the sun set, he said , ‘O my people I am indeed free from your error of ascribing partners to God. For me, I have set my face firmly and truly towards Him who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I ascribe partners to God.” S. 6:75-79 Pickhtall
”Only one single man Adam was created in the world to teach that , if any man has caused a single soul to perish, scripture imputes it to him as though he had caused the whole world to perish, and if any man saves a life, a single soul, Scripture imputes it to him as though he had saved the whole world.” Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4.5
“Therefore We prescribed for the children of Israel that whoever kills a human being, except to retaliate for manslaughter or for corruption done in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all of human- kind; and who so saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the lives of all humankind.” S. 5:32 Pickhtall
The striking similarities between the Talmudic and Quranic tales demonstrates the fact that one of Muhammad’s sources of inspiration was a Jew who knew the oral traditions of the rabbis well.
(Note: The Talmud is a body of rabbinic teachings which were passed on orally and compiled in the second and third centuries, called the Mishnah and the Gemara. Within these traditions, one finds a variety of subjects ranging from agriculture to spiritual lessons. Also contained within these accounts are stories of the prophets and historical events which often diverge from the Biblical narratives, containing gross historical errors and anachronisms. That the Quran contains much in the way of Talmudic fables is indicative of its true source and worth.)
The Drowning of Pharaoh In the Quran
Another argument that is often given by Muslims for the proof of Muhammad’s heavenly inspiration is the Quranic prediction of the Pharaoh’s bodily preservation and its future discovery as a sign for unbelievers:
“And We brought the children of Israel over the sea; and Pharaoh and his hosts followed them insolently and impetuously till, when the drowning over took him, he (Pharaoh) said, ‘I believe that there is no god but He in whom the children of Israel believe; I am of those that surrender.’ Now? and before thou didst rebel, being of those that did corruption. So today We shall deliver thee with thy body, that thou mayest be a sign to those after thee. Surely many men are heedless of our signs.” S. 10:90-92 Arberry
Accordingly, Muslims argue that the body of the Pharaoh of the Exodus is believed to have been discovered by Loret at Thebes in the King’s valley in 1898, nearly thirteen centuries after this Quranic verse was revealed. This, they claim, gives irrefutable proof for Muhammad’s prophethood since it is not possible for Muhammad to have known this apart from Divine revelation.
This argument once more reciprocates back against the Muslims, since we find this same tale proclaimed in the Talmudic fables of the Rabbis, again pointing to the fact that Muhammad was not a God-inspired Prophet:
”Perceive the great power of repentance! Pharaoh, king of Egypt, uttered very wicked words–’Who is the god whose voice I shall obey?’ (Exod. 5:2). Yet as he repented, saying, ‘Who is like unto thee among the gods?’ (Exod. 15:2). God saved him from death; for it saith, ‘Almost had I stretched out my hands and destroyed; but God let him live, that he might declare his power and strength.’” (Pirke Rabbi Elieazer, xliii; Midrash Yalkut, ccxxxviii)
If the passage is an indication of inspiration, then it is the Talmudic compilers, not Muhammad, who were being inspired, since it is again obvious as to where Muhammad received his “Revelations.”
(Note: It must be pointed out that it is impossible for the Pharaoh’s body to have been discovered, since there is a difference of opinion amongst theologians as to his identity. Some scholars are of the opinion that the Exodus took pace in the 19th dynasty period of Egypt, making Seti 1 and Rameses 2 the Pharaohs of the oppression and Exodus.
Others, citing 1Kings 6:1 as evidence, believe that the Exodus took place in 1446 B.C. due to the statement in 1Kings that Israel’s deliverance from Egypt took place 430 years before, ”The fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel” (i.e., 966 B.C.). This would make Thutmose 3 and his son Amenhotep 2, the Pharaohs of that period.
This is a fact that Muhammad Asad himself admits in his footnote to this Quranic passage:
“Lit. ‘We shall save thee in thy body’: Probably an allusion to the ancient Egyptian custom of embalming the bodies of their kings and nobles and thus preserving them for posterity. Some Egyptologists assume that the ‘evil Pharaoh’ of the Quran and the Bible was Ramses II (about 1324-1258 B.C.), while others identify him with his unlucky predecessor, Tut-ankh-amen, or even with Thotmes (or Thutmosis) III, who lived in the 15th century B.C. However, all these ‘identifications’ are purely speculative and have no definitive historical value. In this connection it should be remembered that the designation ‘Pharaoh’ (fir’awn in Arabic) is not a proper name but a title born by all the kings of ancient Egypt.” (3: p. 306, fn. 112)
Even though the historical and archaeological evidence strongly suggests a 1446 B.C. date for the Exodus, the uncertainty amongst religious scholars should point out the wishful thinking on the part of some Muslims in their overzealous attempts to ”prove” that Pharaoh’s body has been found.)
An Illiterate Prophet?
Some Muslims have taken the following verse as proof for Muhammad being illiterate, someone who could neither read nor write:
Those who follow the messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write (al-ummiyya), whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them. He will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul; and he will relieve them of their burden and the fetters that they used to wear. Then those who believe in him, and honour him, and help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him: they are the successful. S. 7:157 Pickthall
The only problem with this claim is that the word which is often translated as unlettered, namely ummi, is more correctly rendered as “gentile,” or more correctly, “People without scripture,” i.e., those who have no divinely revealed scripture, unlike the Jews and Christians, as the Quran itself bears witness:
“if they argue with you [Prophet], say, ‘I have devoted myself to God alone and so have my followers.’ Ask those who were given the Scripture, as well as those without one (wa’al-ummiyyeena), ‘Do you too devote yourselves to Him alone?’ If they do, they will be guided, but if they turn away, your only duty is to convey the message. God is aware of His servants.” S. 3:20 Abdel Haleem
“… That is because they claim: “We have no responsibility toward the unlettered [al-ummiyyeena] (those who do not have a Book like ours and follow our religion).’…” S. 3:75 Ali Unal
It is He who raised a messenger, among the people who had no Scripture (al-ummiyyeena), to recite His revelations to them, to make them grow spiritually and teach them the Scripture and wisdom––before that they were clearly astray–– to them and others yet to join them. He is the Almighty, the Wise: S. 62:2-3 Abdel Haleem
To assume that all the gentiles or Arabs were illiterate cannot be accepted, since history attests to the high level of literacy of the Arabs prior to and contemporary with Muhammad. This forces us to conclude that the word ummi, when applied to both Muhammad and his times simply meant people who were ”unlettered” i.e., not in the sense of reading or writing, but in the sense that they had no knowledge of inspired scriptures like the Bible.
Therefore, it isn’t that Muhammad was illiterate but rather that he was ignorant of the Holy Scriptures of the Jews and Christians, having never personally read them for himself, which accounts for the Quran’s repeatedly contradicting and garbling up all of the biblical accounts and characters it mentions.
List of Christian Books:
Dr. Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask, Victor Books
Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F. F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch
Hard Sayings of the Bible, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois.
Robert Morey, Islamic Invasion, Harvest House, Eugene, OR.
1. The True Guidance (Light of Life, Villach, Austria, First Edition 1994), Part 5. Comments on Quranic Verses.
2. Imam Zain-ud-Din bin Abdul-Lateef Az-Zubaidi: The Translation of the Meanings of Summarized Sahih Al-Bukhari (Arabic – English).
3. Muhammad Asad: The Message of The Qur’an (https://www.alim.org/quran/translation/asad/).
4. Yusuf Ali: The Holy Qur’an – Translation and Commentary (https://www.alim.org/quran/translation/yusuf-ali/).
5. John Ankerberg & John Weldon: The Facts on Islam
6. Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi: The Meaning of the Quran (http://www.englishtafsir.com/).
7. Maulana Muhammad Ali: The Holy Quran (https://www.muslim.org/english-quran/quran.htm).