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Who is the Author [S] of the Quran? Part 1/2

Jamal Badawi
3/24/2012
1353 views

Introduction

 

From the practically universal perspective of the nearly 1.6 billion Muslim people, the Qur’an is regarded as “the word of Allah; God” 1. The predominant views among Western writers are that the Qur’an is not a divinely revealed scripture. Some hold that view because they do not accept the notion of divine revelation and some do not believe in the existence of God altogether. Some writers who believe in God, Prophets and divinely revealed scriptures hold that the Qur’an does not fall in this category of sacred books. Others hold the view that the Qur’an reflects the thinking, knowledge, environments and views of Prophet Muhammad and /or others around him.

 

Some of those who hold the above views may be also among the critics, even defamers of the Prophet [P] 2. Even writers, who speak positively about him as a great and highly influential leader and reformer, do not see him as a prophet of God. 3

 

This paper examines his claim that he was not the author of the Qur’an, which he insisted was revealed to him by God through the Archangel Gabriel. The paper is aimed at both Muslim readers and readers of other faith communities. It is aimed at people of other faith communities, particularly Christians and Jews, to help them reflect on a Muslim perspective on this vital topic. A perspective from within the Muslim community, reflecting the main stream may help balance the disproportionately and overwhelmingly dominant views of people of other faith communities or non-faith communities for that matter. It is also aimed at Muslims who are involved in explaining their perspective [s] on the primary and highest source of the Islamic faith.

 

Methodology

 

There is no question that Muhammad [p] repeatedly stated that he was the final and last messenger of Allah. There is no doubt also that he predicted the most significant indicator of the truthfulness of his pronouncements on the Qur’an as the divine word of Allah9. In an authentic Hadeeth, 4 he stated “There is no prophet except that he was given [a sign or miracle from Allah] which led people to believe in him [i.e., his truthfulness as a prophet]. However, what I was given was a revelation [the Qur’an]. Therefore, I hope to Allah that I will have the largest number of followers in the Day of Judgment”.5 The Qur’an itself bears this testimony as will be shown later. The central question is therefore is: How may the examination of the Qur’an help answer the question about its source [s]? In answering this question, we will examine both internal and external evidences related to this question. By internal evidence, is meant evidence from within the Qur’an itself; its own statements about its source. By external evidence is meant evidence based on reason and other sources external to the text of the Qur’an which may support [or negate] its affirmed divine source. If both types of assertions are consistent with one another and if they are both established on solid grounds, the legitimacy of the Prophet’s claims about the Qur’an and consequently the legitimacy of his prophethood are also firmly established. The supposed internal evidence is “a necessary but insufficient condition” of accepting the validity of such pronouncements. It is a necessary condition, however, because there is no point in searching for any external evidence if the assertions of the revelatory source of the Qur’an were not made in the first place. However, internal evidence in itself, if proven, may not be a sufficient condition to accept assertions about the divine source of the Qur’an on the part of for those who do not share Muslim beliefs. As such, external evidence, outside the Qur’an is needed to verify such assertions. The paper begins with an examination of the internal evidence.

 

Internal Evidence

 

Does the Qur’an Claims To Be A Revelation From Allah?

 

There is no dearth of such internal evidence in the Qur’an. This can be seen in at least three categories of verses:

17. erses that affirm the divine source of the Qur’an. A few examples are quoted below:

Blessed is He [Allah] who sent down the Criterion [the Qur’an] unto His servant [Muhammad], that he may be a Warner to the worlds [peoples and Jinn]. Qur’an 25:1 6

We [Allah], without doubt, sent down the Reminder [the Qur’an], and We will surely preserve it” Qur’an, 15:9

Surely, it [the Qur’an] is a [revelation] sent down from the Lord of he Worlds [Allah], brought down by the honest spirit [Archangel Gabriel] upon your heart [O Muhammad] so a that you be among the warmers, in a clear Arabic tongue” Qur’an, 26:192-194

It is [the Qur’an] a revelation from Him Who has created the earth and the high heavens” Qur’an, 20:4

2. Verses that negate that there is any other source of the Qur’an other than Allah. A few examples are quoted below:

This Qur’an could not have been invented [by any one part from Allah, but it is a confirmation of [revelations sent down before it] and a fuller explanation of the Book- wherein there is no doubt- from the Lord of the worlds” Qur’an, 10:37

And when you [O Muhammad] bring them not a verse [revelation], they say: ‘why have you not got it together [made it up]’? Say: ‘I only follow that which Allah is revealed to me from my Lord: this [Qur’an] is light from your Lord, a guidance and mercy for those who have faith” Qur’an, 7:203

 

And when Our clear revelations [the Qur’an] are recited unto them, those who do not look to meeting with Us say: ‘bring a Qur’an other than this, or change it.’ Say: ‘it is not for me to change it on my own accord. I follow nothing except what is revealed unto me. Truly I should myself fear, if I were to disobey my Lord, a penalty of a momentous Day [the Day of Judgment]” Qur’an, 10:15

 

3.Verses whose style indicates that the speaker is not the Prophet [p] but Allah Himself. Examples of that are expression such as:

Indeed We [Allah] created the heavens and the earth in six periods and no

weariness touched Us” Qur’an 50:38

 

The above quotes from the Qur’an and many others are also echoed as well in Hadeeths.7 They make it abundantly clear that the internal evidence about the Divine revelatory nature of the Qur’an is starkly clear and unmistakable. This evidence is but a major indicator of Muhammad’s prophethood, a universally accepted foundation of Islam. However, and as argued earlier in the paper, internal evidence is a necessary but insufficient condition to verify the affirmation of Muhammad’s prophethood, at least in mind of those who are healthily skeptical but not overly cynical. As such, it is necessary to examine and evaluate central external evidences as well. These are discussed next.

 

External Evidence

 

External evidence of the divine source of the Qur’an can be addressed on two levels, negation and affirmation. By negation is meant enquiring if there any other viable and better explanation of the source of the Qur’an? Affirmation, on the other hand refers to the enquiry as to whether there are strong rational positive evidences to support the claim of its divine origin. The negation aspect will be limited to the discussion and evaluation of the most common alternative explanations of the source of the Qur’an.

 

The First Explanation: Prophet Muhammad [p] Was The Real Author Of The Qur’an

 

This is perhaps the most common assumption about the source of the Qur’an. It is stated either explicitly such “Muhammad [p] wrote the Qur’an” or implicitly such as quoting a divine command in the Qur’an and attributing it to the Prophet [p], such as stating that “Muhammad [p] did not like some of his people’s practices such as excessive drinking and practicing female infanticide, so he told his followers to stop such practices”. Such commands appear in the Qur’an as Allah’s commands not as the Prophet’s own preaching and concerns.8 let us now examine the viability of this assumption.

 

1.Throughout his prophetic career, Muhammad [p] clearly and consistently upheld that the Qur’an is not his words and that he received every word of it through Angel Gabriel. To state, imply or insinuate that the Prophet [p] was the author of the Qur’an instead of Allah is to belie him. This assumption is utterly inconsistent with his reputation that resulted in his people according him with the nickname “Al-Ameen”, meaning the truthful or the trustworthy. When the Prophet [p] began to receive the revelations of the Qur’an, his contemporaries were shocked, as they could not fathom how Allah could speak through humans via divine revelation. While some Makkans rejected his pronouncements as the Prophet of Allah, they did so not because they lost their trust in his truthfulness. They rejected him because of a number of possible reasons. Some rejected him due to their perceived impossibility that Allah would communicate His divine message through a human being. Others rejected him because of the perceived threat of his egalitarian teachings to their privileged status in society. Still others rejected him because of their captivity to their customs and traditions. However, none of his detractors is known to have claimed that the Prophet [p] ever failed to speak the truth, not even his staunch opponents.9

 

2. The Qur’an is a book that changed peoples and history. It was and still is a source of guidance and inspiration for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Many discerning scholars from other faith communities rejected the prejudicial and polemical negative statement about the Qur’an and expressed their admiration of it. 10 The same appreciation of the Qur’an, contents and style, was expressed in his lifetime, not only by his followers but by his opponents as well.11 In such a case, it would have been more logical to expect the Prophet to claim credit for it if indeed he were the author. It is common for sceptics, when they see a great book to challenge its claimed author to prove that he is indeed the author and that he did not commit any act of plagiarism to glorify himself. However, it sounds illogical to ask the Prophet [p], who disavowed authorship of such a great book and denied any credit for it, to prove that he is not its author!

 

3. There is no viable reason or for the Prophet [p] to claim the divine source of the Quran if he were indeed its author. People may make false pronouncements so as to benefit from such pronouncements. Leaving the question of his acclaimed truthfulness aside, we may ask: what could have been his motive from doing so? In addition, what gain[s] could he have acquired as a result? Let us examine some possibilities, remote as they may be:

 

Material gains? This question may be answered by comparing his financial status before and after he stated that he had begun to receive the Qur’anic revelations. About the age of forty, Muhammad [p] had no financial worries. He was a successful and reputed merchant with comfortable income. Furthermore, he was married to Khadijah, a rich businesswoman who loved him so dearly that she placed her wealth under his disposal beyond his entitlements as her “business manager”. Additionally, Muhammad [p] was never known to be obsessed with accumulating wealth. On the contrary, he was always known for his unselfishness and altruism. Even as young boy in the custody of his uncle Abu Talib, he demonstrated dignity and unselfishness. As narrated in Ibn Ishaq, whenever food was served, Abu Talib’s children used to race to get what they wanted, not young Muhammad [p]. That led his uncle to try to save some food for him to make sure that he had enough to eat.12 His wife Khadija, who knew him best, made testimony about such quality. After receiving the first revelation and expressing his fears “that something may happen to me”. Khadijah had no hesitation to assure him “Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones” 13

 

Now, we may ask: what financial benefit did he achieve because of asserting that he was the messenger of Allah? All available information show that he became worse off financially since he and other believers were subjected to harassment and boycott for the entire Makkan period lasting for thirteen years. Even after immigrating to Madinah, where he was accepted by all as the head of that city-state, he chose to live in poverty. His wife `Aisha narrated that two months would elapse without fire being lit in the Prophet’s household [to cook a hot meal], while members of his household survived mainly on a staple of dates and water with occasional gift of milk from their neighbours. 14 In another narration, `Aisha reported that the Prophet and his family never had their full of bread for more than two or three days. 15 Al-No`maan Ibn Basheer stated, “Surely I saw your prophet unable to find enough low-grade dates to fill his stomach”. 16 The Prophet’s bedding was made of ……stuffed in an animal skin. 17 Even after the victories he achieved and at the time of his death, his armour was held as collateral with a Jew for some barley that the Prophet bought from him.18 Surely, the Prophet [p] could have easily lived much more comfortably or at least he could have continued his comfortable life before his call. Not only was he worse off financially after his call, but it is also obvious that he purposely chose a simple life of poverty when he could have lived like a king. Perhaps this was his way of identifying and sympathizing with the poor and needy.

 

Personal power and leadership? Some may argue that the Prophet [p] may have been after power, respect and influence rather than material gains. This argument is self-contradictory since power and prestige are closely connected with finer clothes, better dwellings and other trappings of power. Furthermore, if the Prophet [p] was after personal power he was certainly going about it the wrong way. A seeker of power in his culture was one who regularly attends the consultation meetings of the chiefs and sages of Makkah to demonstrate his abilities and wisdom. Instead, he used to retire to the cave of Hiraa’ on the top of the mountain to reflect on Allah’s creation seeking to discover the truth that resonates with his innately pure and upright nature. There is no indication that the Prophet [p] aspired to become a leader, let alone a great prophet. That fact was stated clearly in the Qur’an and his adversary were not reported to havechallenged its accuracy. In the Qur’an, we read: '' And you [O Muhammad] had no hope that the Book [the Qur’an] that We inspired in you, but it is a mercy from your Lord, so never be a helper tothose who reject faith in Allah” Qur’an, 28:86

 

The Prophet’s reaction to receiving the first revelation in the Cave Hiraamay also be revealing. If indeed the Prophet [p] had any ambitions tobecome a prophet, he would have come from the cave happy and jubilantthat his supposed “dreams” were finally coming to fruition. His reaction,however, was the opposite of that. He ran to his wife Khadijah tremblingand terribly worried if the one who spoke to him in the Cave was an evilspirit. This is not only an historical narration. 19 It was alluded to in the Qur’an20 with no reported denial of his contemporary detractors.The proposition that the Prophet were after either personal material gains or power or both seems illogical and contradictory to available historicalInformation. In the early Makkan period and at the outset of his mission, TheProphet [p] was offered both on a silver platter. He was offered money, power and leadership and more just in return for his criticism of idolatry. His answer was unhesitant, uncompromising and firm “… if they place the sun on my right hand and the moon on my left hand on condition that I give up this matter [his mission], I will never do so until either Allah makes it manifest [and promulgated] or I will perish defending it. 21 For any seeker after wealth or power, this offer is beyond his dreams. It is a huge carrot that does not even require giving up one’s belief or right to worship. For the Prophet [p] this generous offer was not only a huge carrot, he was also keenly aware that there is also a huge stick ready to strike at him, his family and his followers and possibly assassinate him. Outright rejection of such temptations and readiness to go through suffering and deprivation, as transpired later on, is a clear indication that he was unmistakably clear about his mission as Allah’s messenger no matter what sacrifices it may have taken.

 

Was he a likely author of the Qur’an? It should be remembered that the Prophet [p] was unlettered and could neither read nor write. The Qur’an alludes to this as well. We read:

 

And you [O Muhammad] did not recite any book before it [i.e. revelation of the Qur’an to you], nor did you write it with your right hand, for then the mendacious ones would have had grounds for doubt” Qur’an, 29:48

 

In spite of his many watchful enemies seeking to discredit his pronouncements, none of them is known to have challenged the accuracy of this clear Qur’anic pronouncement. Furthermore, there is no known credible historical narration indicating that up to beginning of his mission at the age of forty, the Prophet was known to have authored any work or was notable as a poet or orator. To assume that he started all of a sudden to “author” such a significant and influential book like the Qur’an is utterly unreasonable.

 






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