The Muslims believe that the Qur'an is a book of divine revelation that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. The words in the Qur'an are the exact words spoken by God to Archangel Gabriel who transmitted it to Prophet Muhammad. The Muslims also believe in the other Holy Books: The Torah that was revealed to Prophet Moses, The Zaboor that was revealed to Prophet David, and The Gospel that was revealed to Prophet Jesus. However, the Muslims believe that all Holy Books before the Qur'an could not be preserved in their pure form. They had suffered gross distortion over the ages. Consequently, God sent another messenger, Prophet Muhammad, with a new revelation. Prophet Muhammad is the last messenger because his message and the Holy Book he brought forward, the Qur'an, are preserved till the Day of Judgement.
The Jews and Christians, on the other hand, do not believe that the Qur'an is a true divine revelation. They claim that Muhammad was the author of the Qur'an. They do not believe in Islam as a true religion and they do not believe in Muhammad as a true prophet from God.
The objective of the essay is to look into the different theories that were put forward regarding the origin of Qur'an and its author.
The history of the Qur'an and its authenticity have been the subject of another topic Authenticities of the Qur'an. In that topic it has been proven beyond doubt that the Qur'an we have today is exactly the same Qur'an that was recited and memorized by the early Muslims at the time of Prophet Muhammad. Unlike other Holy Books, the text of the Qur'an was purely preserved and it reached us without suffering a single modification or distortion.
So the question that we have to answer now is the following:
Who is the author of the Qur'an? And, is the Qur'an a true divine revelation from God?
Facts about the Qur'an:
In The Miracles of the Qur'an we examined the Miracles in the Qur'an, and in another topic we discussed the conformity of Qur'an with the proved scientific findings. From these essays we can list the following facts about the Qur'an; these facts will help us in determining the author of the Qur'an.
1- The Qur'an contains many statements of a scientific nature that are in total agreement with proven scientific facts; these facts were not known at the time of Prophet Muhammad.
2- The Qur'an contains many prophecies that came true.
3- The Qur'an contains detailed and accurate accounts about historical events that took place hundreds of years before the time of Prophet Muhammad.
4- The Qur'an contains comprehensive systems of life: social, economical, and political, as well as worshipping practices. These systems regulate the life of the individual as well as the society as a whole.
5- The Style of writing of the Qur'an is very special that was unaccustomed to by the Arabs themselves. Prophet Muhammad challenged the Arab idolaters to come up with one chapter or even few verses like the Qur'an. They could not.
Theories Regarding the Author of the Qur'an:
In this section we will review the different theories that were put forward to identify the author of the Qur'an. We will examine the plausibility of each theory based on the established facts about Prophet Muhammad and the Qur'an.
A- Muhammad is the Author of Qur'an.
The proponent of this theory claim that Muhammad himself was the author of the Qur'an. Muhammad used to go to a cave near Makkah and meditate for long hours. During these long meditation sessions, he invented the Qur'an. The theory also claims that Muhammad used to sleep in that cave and he learnt about the historical facts and about future incidents in his dreams.
The above theory, however, can be easily refuted for the following reasons:
1- Muhammad was an illiterate person who did not know how to read or write. He was not known to have an interest in literature and he never composed a single poem in his entire life. Muhammad, therefore, could not have written the Qur'anic text with its superb style that no Arab in Makkah could produce a text similar to it. A person cannot gain the power and fluency of expression via meditation only.
2- To write a highly perfect text (even a short one) of a majestic style, the writer cannot do without the help of the pen to write, edit, correct, and rewrite again. The Qur'an contain more than 6600 verses that are composed of more than 77000 words. The style of the Qur'an is homogeneous, the ideas are consistent, and the accounts are accurate. Muhammad was illiterate; he did not know how to write. It was impossible for an illiterate person to be able to author such a long text.
3- Muhammad could not be the author and developer of the social, economical, political, legislative and religious systems that are contained in the Qur'an [and in Islam]. As a matter of fact no single human being could develop such systems by himself alone. If a society or a community endeavors to develop and perfect such systems, it will need large numbers of thinkers, philosophers, experts in sociology, religious scholars, politicians, and men of wisdom. It will need also many years [perhaps hundreds of years] for implementation, evaluation, experimentation and perfection. The systems of life in Islam have been proven to be ideal for man for more than 1400 years. They are until now the same teachings that were revealed to Prophet Muhammad in a span of about twenty years only; they did not go into the normal cycle of development and evolution that is characteristics of man-made laws and legislation.
B- The Qur'an has `Jewish-Christian' origins:
The second theory regarding the identity of the author of the Qur'an is that Muhammad got the help from the Jews and Christians who had good knowledge about the old Holy Scriptures. The proponent of this theory claim that Muhammad used to travel in merchant caravans to Syria. There, he was influenced by some Jews or Christians who told him about the teachings of Jewish prophets and the history of the Jews and Christians. After returning from these trips, Muhammad used the information he gathered as a basis for the new religion.
Another variation of this theory claims that many Jewish tribes used to live in Yathrib (Madinah), a city about 420 km north of Makkah, and some Christians used to live in Najran, a city about 350 km south of Makkah. Muhammad could have travelled to those places and was influenced by the Jews and Christians living there.
A third variation of the theory claims that some Christian Arabs used to visit Makkah from time to time. Muhammad could have met some of them and was inspired by them. The proponent of this variation of the theory mention, in particular, the name of Waraqa ibn Naufal, an Arab Christian who was a relative of Khadija, the wife of Muhammad, and who was known to have met Muhammad several times. They claim that Waraqa ibn Naufal influenced Muhammed when he was in Makkah; and after Mohammed’s emigration to Madina, he was influenced by the Jews who were living in Madinah and whom Muhammad used to discuss with them matters related to religion.
The above group of theories share a common claim that Muhammad himself was the author of the Qur'an, but, his sources of information were Christian or Jewish people whom he had met in different places. These theories, however, can be refuted using the following arguments:
1- Muhammad travelled outside Makkah only three times in his entire life. The first time, he travelled with his mother to visit some of his uncles who were living in Yathrib. On that trip, he was six years old. The other two trips were to Syria; the first when he was twelve years old in the company of his uncle, and the other trip when he was twenty five years old in charge of the caravan of Khadija (his future wife). The questions that one must ask:
First, how much knowledge can an illiterate person gain in these short trips? Secondly, without the aid of writing and reading, how could a person preserve the knowledge he acquired and reproduces it in its finest details after many years from the time he acquired it?
It is difficult, therefore, to accept the theory that Mohammed learnt in his trips the knowledge that enabled him to author the Qur'an.
2- Historical accounts tell us that Muhammad met Waraqa ibn Naufal twice only. Waraqa was an old man who was blind during the last years of his life. Their first encounter occurred when Waraqa was going around the Ka'aba and saw Muhammad. He affectionately kissed his head (as if feeling Muhammad will grow to be a special person). The second meeting was after Muhammad had received the first revelation. Waraqa died three years later while the revelation continued for twenty more years. During the initial stages of revelation in Makkah, the Qur'an concentrated on building the basic beliefs of monotheism and the abolishment of idols' worshipping. The details of the Islamic systems of life were revealed in the later stages of revelation after Muhammad emigrated to Madina. It is evident, therefore, that Waraqa ibn Naufal could not be the source of the Qur'an.
3- The proponents of the `Jewish-Christian Origins of Islam' theory may still argue that Waraqa ibn Naufel could be the source of the inspirations to Muhammad when he was in Makkah, and the Jews could have been his source of ideas after his emigration to Madina. However, this argument implies the multiplicity of sources that would most definitely lead to inconsistencies in the beliefs and disparities in the historical accounts. These inconsistencies and disparities do not exist in the Qur'an. The Qur'an is the most consistent and homogeneous text one can ever find.
4- Although there are many similarities between the stories and the ideas in the Qur'an and in the Old Testament or the New Testament; however, a closer and careful comparison between the three Holy Books reveals that most of the concepts, laws and historical accounts in the Qur'an are markedly different from those in the other Holy Books. The reader to the Qur'an will immediately feel that the Qur'an is a book that corrects the errors and distortions in the preceding Holy Books. In the following, we give just three examples of these differences:
i- The Old and New Testaments give highly distorted concept about God. In these books, human characteristics are attributed to God: God has children! He sleeps! He gets tired and needs rest! He wrestles with His creatures! And He makes mistakes and feels sorry for what He has done!
In the Qur'an, God is Almighty, the Absolute and the Eternal. He has no wife and needs no children. He doses not tire and does not sleep. God's characteristics are unique to Him and nobody is like Him. Let us read what Qur'an says about God:
In Chapter 112:
112:1. Say: "He is God, The One and Only;
112:2. God, the Eternal, Absolute;
112:3. He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
112:4. And there is none like unto Him."
Also, in Chapter 59, we read the following beautiful verses that describe some attributes of God:
59:23. He is Allah, besides Whom there is no other God;
The Sovereign; The Holy One; The Source of Peace;
The Guardian of Faith; The Preserver of Safety;
The Exalted in Might; The Irresistible; The Supreme;
Glory to Allah; High is He above the partners
they ascribe to Him.
59:24. He is Allah; The Creator; The Evolver; The Bestower
of forms and colors; To Him belong the most beautiful
Names; All that is in the heavens and the earth declare
His praise and glory; And He is The Exalted in Might;
ii- The Old and New Testaments distort the image of the prophets and defame them. Some prophets got drunk! Some showed their nakedness to others! Some pretend foolishness! And some fornicate and commit adultery!
In the Qur'an, these distortions are non-existent. The reader to the Qur'an will find continuous glorification to the prophets of God because they are the `God-Elects' and they are the most righteous of all men.
iii- The story of creation and human history in the Old Testament contradicts the most basic science findings.
In the Qur'an, there are many verses of a scientific nature that discuss the creation, the development of the embryo, the origin of fresh underground water, and other physical and scientific phenomena that were discovered hundreds of years after the revelation of the Qur'an. None of these verses contradict any of the proven scientific facts.
Now, if the Qur'an had a `Jewish-Christian' origin, one would expect to find in the Qur'an the same errors and distortions that are in the Old and New Testaments. The question that must be asked here: how could Muhammad correct the distortions in the Old and New Testaments?
5- This `Jewish-Christian origin' theory does not give an explanation to how could an illiterate man recite thousands of verses and chapters of Arabic text of a highly majestic and unique style that no other Arab could imitate.
Thus, with the `Muhammad-the-author' and `Jewish-Christian-origin' theories falling apart, the only alternative is to accept the divinity of the Qur'an, and that Qur'an is a true revelation from God to Prophet Muhammad. The arguments that are used to refute the above-mentioned theories are actually arguments that support the conclusion that the Qur'an is an authentic revelation. In addition to these arguments, however, we also add the following:
i- The Qur'an contained corrections or blames on Prophet Muhammad himself. At one time in Makkah, Muhammad was busy with a few dignitaries from Quraish, explaining to them the message of Islam, when Ibn Umm Maktoom, a poor blind man, interrupted him. Unaware that the Prophet was busy with those people, Ibn Umm Maktoom asked him repeatedly to teach him some verses of the Qur'an. Muhammad was not very pleased at this interruption, and he frowned and turned away from Ibn Umm Maktoom. Several verses were subsequently revealed to Muhammad criticizing his behavior in this incident. In the first twelve verses of Chapter 80 of the Qur'an we read:
80:1. He frowned and turned away;
80:2. Because a blind man came to (interrupt) him.
80:3. What do you know? He [the blind man] might be purified [by the guidance of the Qur'an]?
80:4. Or he might receive admonition, and the teaching might profit him?
80:5. As to the one who regards himself as self-sufficient,
80:6. You gave him your full attention,
80:7. Though it is not you to be blamed if he rejects the guidance.
80:8. And the one who came to you striving earnestly,
80:9. With fear in his heart,
80:10. You were inattentive to him.
80:11. By no means should it be so! For it is indeed a message of instruction to all people, not only the rich].
80:12. Therefore let who so will, keep it in remembrance.
If Muhammad was the author of the Qur'an, why would he write something that reproach and criticize oneself? In that incident no harm was done. Prophet Muhammad taught Ibn Umm Maktoom about Islam, and the blind man became a Muslim. So the whole incident could have been forgotten. But God does not forget. Muhammad was expected to be the Perfect Prophet. As God describes Prophet Mohammed’s character in another verse: `And thou stand on an exalted standard of character.' [Qur'an 68:4] Thus, from Muhammad, God will not accept the slightest actions that might touch this perfection.
ii- In Chapter 3, verse 42, we read the following:
3:42. Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! God hath chosen thee and purified thee - chosen thee above all women of all nations (and times)."
The above verse is among several verses in Chapter 3 of the Qur'an that tell the story of Mary and Jesus Christ. The verse clearly states that the stature of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, is above that of all women of all nations and all times, including the Arab women and Mohammed’s mother and wives.
If Mohammed was the author of the Qur'an, why would he glorify Mary, an Israelite woman, and make her above all Arab women, even above his own mother and wives? He could have changed the last part of the verse to read: `above all Israelite women'! Who is going to discover this change? This change would not have caused a major effect on the meaning of the verse, but it would have certainly pleased the Arabs.
iii- It is the law of God that He judges people based on their positions towards pure and undistorted teachings and laws. A man will not be held responsible if he follows inaccurate or distorted teachings and laws, and he was not able to extract the truth out from the pile of corruption and distortions. In this case, it is the law of God that a new prophet will be sent to show the people the truth, and teach them the accurate religion. In Essay-B1, we have seen that the Old and New Testaments we have today are unauthentic. In Essay-B2, we have seen examples of the numerous errors, contradictions, and distortions in these Scriptures.
With the Old and New Testaments beyond repair, it is the law of God that He must send another Prophet with a new and fresh revelation. Since the time of Jesus, Muhammad was the only prophet who came forward with a Book of divine revelation. Certainly, there were tens, or even hundreds, of men who claimed to be prophets; however, none of them could bring out a Book of teachings, laws and guidance that matches the Qur'an
For Further Readings:
1- Badawi, Jamal A., Mohammed’s Prophethood: An Analytical View, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1990.
2- Bucaille, Maurice, The Bible, The Qur'an and Science, (English Edition), American Trust Publications, Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A, 1977.
3- Deedat, Ahmad, Al-Qur'an: The Miracle of Miracles, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
4- Njozi, Hamza M., The Sources of the Qur'an: A Critical Review of the Authorship Theories, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1991.