AN EXAMINATION OF THE CONTENTS OF THE QUR'AN, IN ORDER TO DECIDE WHETHER THESE PROVE ITS INSPIRATION
IN order to ascertain whether the Qur'an is or is not a revelation from God Most High, we must study its contents. It is not enough to be able to repeat large portions of it by heart without understanding them. This is more worthy of a parrot than of a man. Those who believe that the Qur'an is God's Word, and that it is a Light and a Guidance to men, should perceive that it can be such only if it enlightens their hearts and intellects, and that it cannot do this unless they comprehend it. A light is given to be set where men can see it, not to be hidden under the bushel of superstition and ignorance. Hence the careful and prayerful study of the Qur'an is incumbent upon all true Muslims. If the book is God's last and final and most perfect revelation; it can do no good to those who do not understand and obey it. Yet the great mass of Muslims content themselves with repeating its verses aloud in order to gain merit for themselves or for the dead. They repeat it in Arabic, though the majority of them do not understand the tongue of the Quraish. This is not the way to employ a book which professes to come from God. Such conduct is as unsuitable as it would be for a traveller on a dark night to hide his torch in a gloomy cavern, instead of using, it to show him the way in which he ought to walk.
Since such lofty claims are made for the Qur'an, and since it is most important that no man should rashly reject any revelation from God, it is desirable that thoughtful Christians also should study the Qur'an and learn what it teaches, lest in rejecting it they should be throwing away light and guidance and salvation. When both Christians and Muslims have studied the book with earnestness, they will be the better able to help one another to find the truth and to walk in the right way, the way of those with whom God Most High is pleased, not that of those with whom He is angry, or who go astray.
The most important of the contents of the Qur'an is its teaching about the Nature and Attributes of God Most High. It describes Him as One, Eternal, Everlasting, Almighty, All-wise, All-knowing. It tells us that He hears, sees, speaks; that He is the Creator of Heaven and Earth; that He is Merciful, Just, Gracious, Patient, Holy, the Causer of life and of death; that He possesses all perfect Attributes and is devoid of all imperfection, and that He is therefore far removed from weakness, ignorance, injustice, and change. The Qur'an also invites men to belief in the Divine Unity: it absolutely forbids Polytheism and Idolatry. It inculcates belief in the Resurrection, in future rewards and punishments for deeds done here on earth. It speaks of Paradise and of Hell-fire. It-bears witness to the Old Testament and to the New, as has been shown in the First Part of this treatise. It bids Muslims profess belief in all the Prophets, making no distinction between them. It condemns hypocrisy, and declares that certain things are lawful (حلال) and others unlawful (حرام). It forbids murder, adultery, theft, and false swearing. It enjoins that justice should be done to orphans, and that alms be given to the poor.
Everyone, be he Christian or Muslim, will readily admit that much of the teaching which the Qur'an gives on such points is good. All good teaching comes ultimately from the Most Merciful God (who is alone the source of all good), whether we receive such teaching from Him through Prophets, through inspired books, through Conscience, Reason, or in some other manner. But before we admit Muhammad's claim to be a Prophet and a Messenger from God, it must be proved, either (1) that He was the first of all men to teach the great truths of the Unity of God, the difference between good and evil, the guilt of sin, the happiness or misery of the After-life, or (2) that his teaching on these and other points was so vastly superior to that given by earlier prophets that it was unquestionably the result of a fresh Divine Revelation. But it is well known that all the truths to which we have referred had been already taught in many parts of the world, and even in Arabia itself, centuries before Muhammad's birth. The Unity of God is not only taught in both the Old Testament and the New, but it is the very foundation of Judaism as well as of Christianity. All the other truths which we have mentioned are also found in the Bible. That God is the Maker of Heaven and Earth was inculcated even by King Darius of Persia, in the inscriptions which he left upon the rocks of Bisitun and Istakhr, engraved about 500 years before the Christian era and more than a thousand years before Muhammad's birth. Had Muhammad taught only this one great doctrine for the first time, he would indeed most justly be admitted to be a prophet: but it was not so. Even before his birth the Arabs believed in God Most High (Allah Ta'ala'— الله تعالىََ). The Ka'bah at Mecca was known as the House of God (بيت الله), and the very word Allah, including as it does the definite article, taught the Divine Unity. Even the name of Muhammad's father, 'Abdu'llah (عبد الله),who died before his son's birth, contains God's Name and proves belief, in His Unity. It is admitted that in the “Times of Ignorance” other deities of inferior rank were worshipped as intercessors with God Most High, and were in this sense considered as His Partners: yet even among the heathen Arabs Monotheism had not entirely died out then. If it had done so, Muhammad might have learned it from the Jews and Christians who then dwelt in Arabia. Moreover, before professing to be a Prophet, Muhammad had at least twice visited Syria, where he met and conversed with the people, almost all of whom then professed Christianity. His first recorded visit to Syria took place with his uncle Abu Talib when he was about nine years old; the second with Maisirah, a slave of Khadijah, when at the age of twenty-five. Even among his relatives and personal friends there were men who were or had been Jews or Christians, to say nothing of his Coptic slave-girl Mary. For instance, Waraqah ibn Naufal, one of the Hanifs, became a Christian, and was acquainted 1 with both the Torah and the Injil. Another of them, 'Uthman ibn Huwairith, also received baptism at Caesar's court in Constantinople. Waraqah and 'Uthman, as we learn from the genealogies which Ibn Hisham 2 gives, were Khadijah's cousins. Another Hanif, 'Ubaidu'llah ibn Jahsh, became a Muslim and went to Abyssinia, but there he became a Christian. When he died, Muhammad married his widow, Umm Habibah. Regarding Salman the Persian, who was one of the Ashab, some say that he was originally a Christian of Mesopotamia, and became a Zoroastrian when carried captive to Persia. The more probable opinion is that he was a Persian and a Zoroastrian by birth, but became a Christian in Syria. He then came to Arabia, became a Muslim and a close personal friend of Muhammad. He persuaded the latter to use a catapult in his attack upon Ta'if, and to dig a ditch round Medinah to protect it from the attack of the Quraish and their allies in A. H. 5. This is Ibn Hisham's account. Regarding 'Abdu'llah ibn Salam, we learn from Ibn Ishaq 3 that he was a learned Jewish Rabbi (حِبر) before he became a Muslim. 'Abbasi and the two Jalals in their commentaries tell us that this is the man referred to in Surah 46:9, as a “witness” to the asserted agreement between the Qur'an and the Jewish Scriptures. 'Abbasi mentions a Christian slave named Yasar (also called Abu Fuqaihah) and a Greek Christian whose Arabic name was Abu Takbihah, both of whom were referred to in the accusation brought against Muhammad of getting help in compiling the Qur'an as we learn from Surah 25:5, 6. In his commentary on Surah 16:105 'Abbasi speaks of a Christian named Cain (قابيل) as an object of the same suspicion, while the two Jalals in their notes on this passage mention Yasar and Jabr; others speak of Salman, others of Suhaib, others of a monk named Addas. Muhammad's adopted son Zaid was a Syrian by birth, and therefore professed Christianity.
When we consider these facts, which cannot be disputed, we perceive that it is absolutely impossible to maintain that those great doctrines of the Qur'an which in the main coincide with those of the Old Testament and the New were for the first time revealed directly to Muhammad in the Qur'an. Hence their occurrence in the Qur'an, though a very good thing indeed, and one for which we may well thank God, is by no means a miracle, nor is it a proof of the inspiration of that book or of Muhammad's Divine commission as a prophet.
It is often stated, however, that a decisive proof of this is found in the numerous prophecies which, some Muslims assert, are to be met with in the Qur'an. Those who hold this view say that the fulfilment of prophecy is a clear proof of a Divine commission, and in corroboration of this they rightly quote Deuteronomy 18:21, 22. It is our duty therefore to examine and carefully consider those verses of the Qur'an which are said to contain predictions of events which were future when Muhammad dictated these passages to his amanuenses. If Muslims would only agree that the Qur'an was Muhammad's own composition, though written by inspiration, and not dictated to him by the Angel Gabriel, their argument would be much stronger.
Those who have endeavoured to find as large a number as possible of predictions in the Qur'an say that they amount in all to twenty-two. They are contained in the following passages, some of which are supposed to include more than one prophecy: Surahs 2:21, 22, 88, 89; 3:10, 107, 108, 144; 5:71; 8:7; 9:14; 15:9, 95; 24:54; 28:85; 30:1-4; 41:42; 48:16, 18-21, 27, 28; 44:44, 45; 61:13; 110:1, 2.
An attentive student will perceive that these alleged prophecies maybe divided into three classes: (1) Those which refer to Muhammad's victories; (2) Those relating to the Qur'an itself; (3) The single “prophecy” regarding the Byzantines (الرّوم). With these we now proceed to deal consecutively and as briefly as possible.
Passages of the first class need not detain us long. Of course it is impossible to prove that they were composed or “descended” before the occurrence of the events to which they are said by commentators to refer. It is very probable, however, that the Traditions are right in declaring that this was so, and for the sake of argument we grant it. Yet it is not at all surprising that Muhammad should promise his men the victory before each contest. Every general almost always does so, in order to encourage his trooPsalms One side or the other finally wins the battle, or claims that it has done so. Both generals have predicted their own victory, and one of the two is correct in his prediction. Yet we do not on that account consider him a prophet or the Seal of the Prophets. Doubtless Changiz Khan and Tamerlane (Taimur i lang— تيمور لنك) promised their followers success in battle and the plunder of their enemies' property. The promise was fulfilled and the foe defeated: but who therefore considers that these conquerors were prophets or Apostles of God? The very fact that his men believed in Muhammad's claims to a Divinely-given mission would make them accept his promises of victory and booty as from God. They would thus become almost invincible, as in later days were the Wahhabis, and more recently the followers of the so-called Mahdi and his Khalifah in the Sudan. In this, however, there is nothing miraculous.
That this may be clear, let us examine the account of the battle of Badr, regarding which some claim to find a prophecy in Surah 54:44, 45. Concerning this battle, Al Baizawi, in his commentary on Surah 8:5, tells us that Abu Sufyan with only thirty-nine other mounted men was escorting a caravan from Syria. The Angel Gabriel is said to have informed Muhammad of the fewness of those who protected it and of the wealth which it carried. Muhammad therefore urged his people to attack the caravan and plunder it. Meanwhile Abu Jahl led out the Meccans to Badr. On hearing this latter piece of news, Muhammad's men inquired why he had not warned them that they were about to fight, in order that they might prepare for battle. They wished to leave the enemy's army and to pursue the ill-protected caravan, 4 which, Muhammad told them, had passed by the sea shore. This angered Muhammad, and he assured them that God had promised him as his prey one of the two companies, either the caravan or the enemy's army. In his commentary on ver. 6, Al Baizawi explains the reluctance of the Muslims to fight as due to the comparative smallness 5 of their numbers, and to the fact that they had only two horsemen among them and were unprepared for battle. He says, in his commentary on Surah 54:44, 45, that 'Umar afterwards declared that he did not know the meaning of these verses until he saw Muhammad putting on his breast-plate on the day of the battle. Surah 8:6 makes it clear that the Muslims at first feared on that day to attack the Quraish, for it runs thus: “They will dispute with thee concerning the truth, after that it has been made clear, as if they are being driven on to death, and see it.” Ibn Hisham's account of the affair is the following: “When 6 the Apostle of God heard of Abu Sufyan's coming from Syria, he exhorted the Muslims to go against them, and he said, 'This is a caravan of the Quraish in which is their property. Therefore go ye forth against it; perhaps God will make it your spoil.' Therefore the men were incited thereto. Some of them were eager (light), and some reluctant (heavy), and that because they had not thought that the Apostle of God would offer battle. And when Abu Sufyan drew near the Hijaz, he kept asking for news and inquiring of any riders whom he met, since he feared about the matter of the men” (i.e. Muhammad's followers); “until information reached him through some travellers that Muhammad had gathered his Companions (اصحاب) together against him and against his caravan. Accordingly he thereupon became on his guard. And he hired Zamzam ibn 'Amri'l Ghaffari, and sent him to Mecca. And he bade him go to the Quraish and gather them together to [the defence of] their property, and inform them that Muhammad had gone to encounter them” (i.e. Abu Sufyan's people) “with his companions”. Accordingly a large body of the Quraish marched out to defend their property. In the Hayatu'l Qulub 7 we are told, in accordance with both these accounts, that Muhammad informed his Companions that the caravan had passed and that the Quraish were advancing towards them, and that God Most High had commanded him to fight a Jihad with them. On hearing this his Companions became very much afraid and very anxious. Elsewhere the writer of that account says that, when Muhammad's Companions heard of the great number of the Quraish, then were very much afraid, and cried out loud and wept. Hence it was that, to encourage them and enable them to fight manfully a battle upon which so much depended, Muhammad repeated Surah 54:44, 45. In this he acted wisely, and very much as any other general would have done, except that he stated that his message of encouragement and promise of victory came from God. Cheered by such words, the Muslims fought bravely and gained a great victory. But this was not in any sense a miracle. Nor can Muhammad's words of encouragement be justly entitled a prophecy.
We now turn to passages of the second class. Some of these are supposed to predict the preservation of the Qur'an in completeness and its protection from all injury. The author of the Izharu’l Haqq, writing on this subject, 8after quoting Surah 15:9, “Verily it is We that have sent down the Warning, and verily We are surely Protectors,” says: “That is, from alteration and addition to and subtraction from what has been handed down in succession . . . by the Reciters of the time. And it has happened just as it was announced. Accordingly no one among the infidels or the idle or the Qarmatites (القرامطة) has been able, up to this time in which we live, to alter any of it, either one of the letters of its foundations or one of those of its meanings, or one of its vowel-points.” Those of our readers who have perused the Third Chapter of the Second Part of our present Treatise, and who remember how 'Uthman destroyed all the old codices of the Qur'an, will be able to estimate the value of this statement. If it is true, then many of the accepted Traditions (احاديث) are false, for, as we have seen, they declare that certain verses of the Qur'an, for example the Verse of Stoning, have been lost. Hence it is not clear that, if Surah 15:9 be considered as a prophecy, it has been fulfilled. This second class of asserted predictions therefore is, like the first class, of no real value as a proof of the inspiration of the Qur'an and of Muhammad's prophetic office.
In the Third Class there is only one passage, Surah 30:1-4, which in the ordinary copies of the Qur'an runs thus: “The Byzantines have been defeated in the nearest part of the land, and they shall conquer in a small number of years after their defeat. Unto God belongeth the matter before and after. And in that day the Believers will rejoice with God's help. He helpeth whomsoever He willeth, and He is the Glorious, the Gracious.” Some Muslims argue that this is such a great and distinct prophecy that there can be no doubt of Muhammad's being a prophet. They tell us that the first verse refers to the defeat of the Byzantines in Syria by the Persians under Khusrau Parviz. We are told that when news of the victory of the Persians reached Mecca, the Polytheists rejoiced, saying, “The Muslims and the Christians are the People of the Book, while we and the Persians are Gentiles and have no Book.” Then this passage was revealed, predicting that the Byzantines would soon defeat the Persians. Abu Bakr laid a bet with Ubai ibn Khalaf that the prediction would be fulfilled within three years, but, when he learnt from Muhammad that the word بِضع used in ver. 3 (“in a small number of years”) meant a period of between 3 and 9 years, 9 he altered the terms of the wager. We are told that within seven years from the Byzantines' defeat they overcame their enemies, and that Abu Bakr received from the heirs of the deceased Ubai the amount of the bet. Such is the story. Let us now see what its evidential value is, if we grant that the verses were composed before the Byzantine successes, and that the reading in the ordinary text of the Qur'an is correct.
From history we learn that the Persians defeated the Greek (or Byzantine) forces in Syria in the sixth year before the Hijrah, that is in A.D. 615. As this defeat took place “in the nearest part of the land” to Mecca, news must have been received there within a very few days. Al Baizawi in his commentary tells us that the prophecy was fulfilled when the Byzantines defeated the Persians “on the day of Al Hudaibiyyah.” Now the treaty of Al Hudaibiyyah took place in the month Dhu'l Qa'dah of A. H. 6 (March, A. D. 628). Therefore, if this commentator is right, not seven but twelve years elapsed between the two events. If Muhammad therefore explained بِضع as meaning a period of between three and nine years, the facts of the case do not confirm his claims.
It was not at all a difficult matter for any able man to predict the ultimate victory of the Byzantines. That the Persians had at first gained some successes was evidently a surprise to the Quraish, hence their delight at the news. Abu Bakr's wager was probably made before he consulted Muhammad at all. If so, he 10 as well as Muhammad felt convinced of the fact that the Byzantines would finally overcome their foes. The reason of this conviction was the evident instability of the Persian Empire in those days. Between the death of Anushiravan (A.D. 578) and the overthrow of Yasdijird III, in A.D. 642, at the battle of Nahavand, no less than fourteen sovereigns sat on the Persian throne, many of whom were murdered after a very short reign. In the five years that elapsed between the death of Khusrau Parviz (A.D. 627) and the accession of Yasdijird III (AD. 632), there were eleven Persian monarchs. A country subject to such internal disturbances was evidently unfitted long to resist the Byzantine arms, and this Muhammad readily perceived. We may date the beginning of the Byzantine successes under the Emperor Heraclius from the year 625 of the Christian era, instead of two years later, as Al Baizawi does. Yet even then the victory was ten years after the defeat, and not between three and nine.
That Muhammad did actually realize the weakness of the Persians is clear from a fact mentioned in Ibn Hisham's Siratu’r Rasul. He tells us that, when Muhammad and the chiefs of the Quraish held a conference in the presence of Abu Talib in Mecca, before the Hijrah, Muhammad tried to persuade them to repeat the first part of the Kalimah and put away their polytheism by promising them the supremacy over Arabia and Persia on that condition, saying: “O Uncle, 11 they shall give me one word: ye shall through it possess Arabia, and through it shall Persia submit to you.”
But Al Baizawi shatters the whole argument of the Muslims by informing us of certain varied readings in these verses of Suratu'r Rum. He tells us that some read غَلَبَتِ instead of the usual غُلِبَتِ, and سَيُغْلَبُونَ instead of سَيَغْلُبُونَ. The rendering will then be: “The Byzantine have conquered in the nearest part of the land, and they shall be defeated in a small number of years,” &c. If this be the correct reading, the whole story about Abu Bakr's bet with Ubai must be a fable, 12 since Ubai was dead long before the Muslims began to defeat the Byzantines, and even long before the victories which Heraclius won over the Persians. This shows how unreliable such Traditions are. The explanation which Al Baizawi gives is, that the Byzantines became the conquerors of “the well-watered land of Syria” (على ريف آلْشام), and that the passage predicted that the Muslims would soon overcome them. If this is the meaning, the Tradition which records the “descent” of the verses about six. years before the Hijrah must be wrong, and the passage must belong to A.H. 6 at earliest. It is clear that, as the vowel-points were not used when the Qur'an was first written down in Kufic letters, no one can be certain which of the two readings is right. We have seen that there is so much uncertainty about (1) the date at which the verses were “sent down”, (2) the correct reading, and (3) the meaning, that it is quite impossible to show that the passage contains a prophecy which was fulfilled. Hence it cannot be considered to be a proof of Muhammad's prophetic office.
Therefore the whole argument founded upon the supposed prophetic element in the Qur'an breaks down when examined. In order to see this, we have but to compare these twenty-two passages of the Qur'an with the very large series of prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament, or those about Israel in both the Old Testament and the New, or those in the Book of Revelation which have been already fulfilled: for instance, Revelation 9:and also Revelation 14:6.
Another alleged proof of the inspiration of the Qur'an is the information which it professes to give about ancient times and vanished nations. Such information would be of interest, if reliable: but we must test it, as a merchant does coins offered to him, before we can accept it as correct. Pure gold has no reason to fear any test that can be applied to it, but comes out uninjured and approved from all kinds of testing and from the hottest fire. Let us see whether this is so with the historical statements in the Qur'an.
The existence of the ancient Arab tribes of 'Ad and Thamud is known to us from what two ancient Greek writers, Ptolemy and Diodorus Siculus, tell us about them. To the information thus afforded the Qur'an adds very little that can be considered historical. Many great discoveries of recent times have completely confirmed what the Bible tells us about the far more ancient nations of Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria, but no such discoveries have corroborated what the Qur'an says about 'Ad and Thamud. Hence learned men 13 think it highly probable that what Muhammad taught about these tribes was taken from the books of the Sabians (الصّابيّون) which the Qur'an calls the “Volumes of Abraham” (صُحُف إبراهيم — Surah 87:19). the Muhammad seems afterwards to have discovered that these volumes were forgeries, and therefore about four years after his claim to be a prophet he ceased to mention them. It is possible that Hud, Salih, and Shu'aib were Christian preachers who were rejected by the Arab tribes to whom they were sent. As no mention of them has yet been found elsewhere, we cannot say anything about the dates at which they lived, if they ever existed. The Qur'an tells us very little about them. The learned say that, since the Qur'anic statements about other persons, whose existence we know from history and who lived long before Muhammad's time, are not always quite correct, we must wait for evidence before accepting any such statements as historically accurate. For example, much that the Qur'an states regarding Abraham is not in accordance with the teaching of the Torah, to confirm which the Qur'an claims to have been sent down. The story of his being thrown into the fire and coming out safe is taken from a Jewish fable, and the latter arose from a mistake in translating one word in Genesis. This has been proved by the author of the Masadiru'l Islam [Yanabiu'l u'l Islam: “Original Sources of the Qur'an”]. Abraham's father's name was not Azar (Surah 6:74), but Terah (Genesis 11:26). Again, in Surah 7:130, we read that God sent “the Flood” (الطّوفان) upon the Egyptians in Moses' time. The use of the definite article in. this passage makes us inquire whether this was the same as Noah's Flood, mentioned in the same Surah (7:62). In Surah 3:30-44, it is clearly taught that Miriam, daughter of Amram, (عمران—Surah 56:12) and sister of Aaron (Surah 19:29: compare Exodus 15:20 and Numbers 26:59), was identical with Mary the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ (compare Surah 66:12), who lived about 1,400 years later. Muslim in the Kitabu'l Adab tells us that the Christians of Najran pointed out this historical error to Al Mughairah. He consulted Muhammad on the subject, but could not get a satisfactory answer. Nor has one yet been found, after more than 1,300 years search on the part of the ‘Ulama of Islam.
In Surah 18:82-98 we find an account of Dhu'l Qarnain. Ibn Hisham 14 and Al Baizawi identify him with Alexander the Great of Macedon. Al Baizawi writes thus 15 : “Dhu'l Qarnain, that is to say, Alexander the Greek, King of Persia and Greece, and it is said of the East and of the West, and therefore was he named Dhu'l Qarnain: or because he supported the two horns of the world, its East and its West; and it is said, because in his time two generations of men came to an end: and it is said he had two horns, that is, two locks of hair: and it is said his crown had two horns. And it is probable that he was given that title because of his bravery, as a heroic leader is called the Ram, as if he butted his adversaries. And there is a difference of opinion regarding his being a prophet, with agreement concerning his belief and his soundness.”
Human life must have been extremely short in those days, if Alexander lived for two generations, for he was only 33 years old when he died after a drunken debauch at Babylon in 323 B.C. Instead of being a prophet 16 or even a believer in the One True God, he was an idolater, and he actually claimed to be the son of the Egyptian god Amun. He certainly did not see the sun set “in a miry fount” (فِي عَيْنِ حَمِيٌةٍ — Surah 18:84), or, if we adopt the reading of Ibn 'Amir and Hamzah and Al Kasa'i and Abu Bakr, 17 “in a hot fount” فِي عَيْنٍ حَامِيَةٍ), for we know that the sun does not go round the earth, as the writer of the verse evidently fancied it did, to set in any spot of the kind. Nor did the Alexander whom we know from true history, as distinguished from fable, build a wall of iron and brass between two mountains (Surah 18:95). Yet Al Baizawi and other Muslim writers are doubtless right in saying that Alexander is the person to whom the Qur'an gives the title of Dhu'l Qarnain. The comparison with a ram explains how the title arose. In Daniel 8:3, 4, we are told of a ram with two horns which pushed westward and southward and northward, and which none could resist. Evidently the person who composed this Surah had heard of this ram, and thought it represented Alexander, who is mentioned in the same chapter. But in this he was not correct, for Daniel 8:20, tells us that the two-horned ram denoted the united Median and Persian Empires, whereas in the same chapter the Macedonian monarch is referred to as the notable horn between the eyes of the he-goat which overthrew the ram, that is to say, which conquered the whole of the Persian Empire (Daniel 8:5-7, 21). The use of the word “ram” (كبش) in Arabic with the meaning of “heroic leader” (as Al Baizawi says) caused this confusion in the mind of the person who gave this title of Dhu'l Qarnain in the Qur'an to Alexander the Great. What the Qur'an says about Alexander can be tested, because he lived in the full light of history. It is well known that the celebrated philosopher Aristotle was his tutor. Arrian, Quintus Curtius and other historians of repute have written the history of Alexander's exploits, and regarding them there is no uncertainty. When learned men therefore find the Qur'an so very inaccurate in regard to this king, whose history is known, they not unnaturally hesitate to accept as valuable and even as reliable the statements of the Qur'an about other matters of past history.
The Qur'an states that Pharaoh's wife adopted Moses (Surah 28:8), whereas Moses himself in the Torah says that he was adopted by Pharaoh's daughter (Exodus 2:5-10). In several places in the Qur'an we are told that Haman (هامان) was closely associated with Pharaoh, and was in his service; 18 but from the Book of Esther 19 we learn that Haman was the favourite of Ahasuerus (that is to say, Xerxes, as the Greeks called him), who lived in Persia many hundreds of years later, instead of in Egypt in Pharaoh's time. Again, according to the Qur'an, Pharaoh told Haman to build a tower of brick, the top of which would reach unto heaven (Surah 28:38; 40:38, 39). But from Genesis 11:1-9, we learn that it was in Babylon, many generations before Pharaoh's time, that the people built this famous tower.
We are told that the Golden Calf worshipped by Israel in the wilderness in Moses' time was made by “the Samaritan”( السّامريّ — Surah 20:87, 96). But the city of Samaria was not built till hundreds of years after Moses' death (1 Kings 16:24). Evidently in the mind of the composer of this Surah there was confusion between the golden calf made by the Israelites in the wilderness and the two golden calves afterwards worshipped in the kingdom of Israel after the time of David and Solomon (1 Kings 12:28). But even these two calves were not made by a Samaritan, since Samaria was not yet built. When it was built, however, it became the capital of that kingdom, and this fact partly accounts for the very great and notable historical error to which we refer.
In Surah 2:250 we are told of a certain incident in connexion with selecting a body of warriors by observing in what manner they drank water. The Qur'an says that this took place in the time of Saul (طالوت) and in connexion with David's victory over Goliath. But the Bible tells us that it took place long before, in the time of Gideon.
In Surah 18:8-26 is found the story of the Companions of the Cave. But the author of the Masadiru'l Islam [Yanabiu'l Islam: “Original Sources of the Qur'an”] has proved how this fable originated. No doubt in the “Days of Ignorance” some very credulous and ignorant Christians believed it, and from them the Meccans and the composer of this Surah learnt the tale. For the story is contained in the writings of several Syriac authors, along with many other monkish legends. In Europe it is known as a tale to amuse children. There are many different forms of the fable, but its origin has been discovered in the legend which a heathen Greek writer, Diogenes Laertius, about A. D. 200, relates 20 about Epimenides' long sleep. Epimenides was a heathen Greek boy who for many years slept in a cave. Diogenes Laertius quotes contradictory accounts of the length of this boy's life given by different Greek writers.
It is surely unnecessary to quote any more of what learned men have called the anachronisms and historical inaccuracies of the Qur'an. From what has been already said, however, it will be clear to the honoured reader that it is not wise to appeal to the valuable information contained in the Qur'an regarding ancient times and vanished nations as a proof of its inspiration and of Muhammad's office of a prophet.
Another proof of the inspiration of the Qur'an is said to be its wonderful freedom from self-contradiction. Some Muslims say that in so large a book there must have occurred many contradictory statements, if it were not of Divine origin. But men of learning have pointed out many contradictions in the Qur'an. Some of these are only slight, others are of great importance. As an example of slight contradictions it will be sufficient to ask our honoured readers to compare Surah 56:13, 14, with verses 38 and 39 of the same Surah. Al Baizawi's attempted explanation and the tradition mentioned by Zamakhshari here are not quite satisfactory. But this is a trifling matter. We proceed to point out a few of real consequence.
In Surah 4:51 and 116 we are told that the one sin which God will never pardon is Shirk (الشّرك) or the association of partners with God. Yet in Surah 6:76, 77, 78, we are informed that Abraham, the God, was guilty of this very sin. Abraham is held by all Muslims to have been a prophet, and they consider it very wicked to deny that all prophets are sinless (معصومون). Although it is the unpardonable sin to worship any other but God, yet the Qur'an teaches that 'Azazil or Iblis was cast out of God's favour because he refused to worship Adam (Surahs ii 31; 7:10; 17:63; 18:48; 20:115).
The Qur'an rightly condemns hypocrisy (Surahs 2:78; 4:137; 9:65-69; 58:13). It states that the lowest stage in Hell is reserved for hypocrites (Surah 4:144). Now it will be admitted that people who through compulsion pretend to change their religion, and who thus profess with their lips what in their hearts they do not believe, are hypocrites. But the Qur'an commands Muslims to force men to accept Islam, that is to say, to become hypocrites. For we find several passages which make fighting in a Jihad incumbent on Muslims under certain circumstances. They must then fight until all their heathen opponents are compelled to embrace Islam, unless the latter prefer to be killed. The “People of the Book”, however, may be spared, if they “pay tribute out of hand, and are brought low” (Surah 9:5, 29, 41; compare Surahs 5:39; 61:11; 22:77). To condemn hypocrisy, and yet to command Muslims to force men to become hypocrites, seems to the minds of most men self-contradictory.
The Qur'an in some measure condemns lust, for in Surah 79:40 we read: “Whoso hath feared the place of his Lord and hath restrained himself from desire, then verily Paradise is the abode” for him. Yet elsewhere the same book permits to Muslims polygamy, divorce, and the use of female slaves as concubines (Surah 4:29). To Muhammad himself, moreover, special marital indulgence was permitted (Surah 33:37, 38, 49-51), doubtless in consequence of certain inclinations of his regarding which the Traditions speak too plainly for us to quote them here. Even to those who are not slaves of lust here on earth, the chief reward promised in Paradise, if they are faithful Muslims, is unlimited indulgence in that vileness (Surahs 55:46-78; 56:11-39; see also Mishkatu’l Masabih, “Sifatu'l Jannat”). 21 In this matter there is something far worse than contradiction, but there is undoubtedly the latter also. Surely if lust is wrong on earth and hateful to God, the Holy One, it cannot be pleasing to Him in Paradise.
Wine is forbidden to Muslims here on earth (Surah 5:92; compare Surah 2:216), but in Paradise rivers of wine are promised them (Surahs 47:16; 76:5; 83:25).
The Qur'an's statements about the Lord Jesus Christ cannot be said to be free from contradiction. Some passages speak of Him as a mere man and a prophet, like any other of the chief prophets, entirely denying His Deity (Surahs 3:52; 5:19, 109, 110; 43:59). Others, however, give Him higher titles than are given to any other human being, some of them—as, for example, “The Word of God.” (كلمة الله, compare Surah 4:169)—being such that they cannot rightly be assigned to any creature. Regarding Christ only does the Qur'an say that He was born of a Virgin (Surah 21:91), that He was “illustrious in this world and in the next” (Surah 3:40). 22 The words used in Surah 3:31 are explained by the Tradition quoted by Muslim and referred to by Al Ghazzali, that Satan was present at the birth of every child born into the world except Jesus and His mother (Mishkatu’l Masabih, Kitab i, Bab iii. 1, and Kitab xxv, Bab 1:1). The Qur'an testifies to Christ's miracles (Surah 2:254, &c.), and even that He CREATED 23 a bird out of clay (Surah 3:43), although power to create is one of the Divine Attributes. To Him alone of the greater Prophets the Qur'an imputes no sin. Of no other Prophet does the Qur'an tell us that his birth took place through God's Spirit (Surah 21:91) and that he was “a sign to all creatures” (ibidem), and was “a Spirit from Him”, i.e. from God (Surah 4:169). All other Prophets are dead, but the Qur'an informs us that the Lord Jesus was taken up alive into heaven (Surah 4:156): and Muslims agree with Christians in believing that He still lives there, and will return at the end of the world. Christ did not need to have His breast opened, His burden removed (as is said of another in Surah 94:1-3), His sins forgiven (contrast Surah 47:21). Nor do His people pray for God's mercy on Him, saying, “O Lord, have mercy upon Him and give Him peace.” 24 In all these points and in not a few others Muslims, in accordance with the Qur'an, admit the distinction which exists between Christ and every other Prophet, every other human being. Even to Muhammad the Qur'an does not attribute such dignity as it does to Christ. And yet there can be no doubt that the aim of the Qur'an is to substitute Muhammad for Christ as the Head of the human race. In this matter there is something very contradictory, since the Qur'an does not attribute miraculous birth, sinlessness, power of working miracles, or a truly noble and holy character to Muhammad, as will be shown in a later chapter and at the end of the present one.
One of the leading doctrines of the Qur'an is that fate decides every man's actions and his happiness or misery hereafter. Thus in Surah 17:14 it is written: “And as for every man, We have fastened for him his fate upon his neck, and We shall bring out to him on the day of the Resurrection a book which shall meet him wide open.” In Surahs 14:4 and 74:34 it is declared that “God misleadeth whom He willeth, and guideth aright whom He willeth”. The same teaching is given in Surahs 2:5, 6; 4:90; 6:125; 7:177, 178, and elsewhere. In Surahs 7:178, 11:120, and 32:13 we are told that God said, “Verily I shall fill hell with Jinns and men all together,” and that this was His purpose in creating them. Yet other passages tell us that men are to be rewarded in the next world for having been Muslims here on earth, and punished for not having become such. If every action has been fated beforehand, and man is devoid of freedom of will, it is evident that there can be on man's part neither merit nor demerit, neither goodness nor wickedness, and neither reward nor punishment; for the latter words imply good and evil desert. Nor can there be any object in commands and prohibitions, since there is no power on man's part to obey or disobey, if Fate has fixed everything beforehand. Yet the Qur'an which professes to come from the All-wise God, contains both commands and prohibitions. The Qur'an in some places tells Muhammad that his efforts to convert men to God are useless, because God Himself has made it impossible for them to believe. For instance, in Surah 2:5, 6 it is written: “Verily those who have disbelieved, it is equal to them whether thou hast warned them or hast not warned them: they will not believe. God hath set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing, and upon their sight there is a dimness, and for them is severe punishment.” Yet he is commanded to attempt their conversion, not by force but by gentle means. Thus in Surah 2:257 it is written: “There is no compulsion in the Religion.” In Surah 24:53 we read the command to Muhammad: “Say thou, 'Obey God and obey the Apostle'; for, if ye turn back, verily upon him lies that with which he has been burdened, and upon you that with which ye have been burdened: and if ye obey ye shall be rightly guided: and naught is incumbent upon the Apostle except distinct delivery (of the Message).” In like manner in Surah 88:21, 22 the following command is given to Muhammad: “Therefore warn thou: verily thou art a warner. Thou art not a governor over them.” But elsewhere the very contrary to this is taught, for everyone knows that he who is called “The Prophet with the Sword” asserted that God had commanded him to spread Islam by force. This is taught in such passages, as Surahs 2:86-89, 212; 4:76, 91; 8:40; 48:16; 66:9. Here we find contradiction after contradiction. It does not avail to say that later verses annul some of the earlier ones, as we read in Surah 2:100. 25 This is only an admission that in the Qur'an as it now exists there is such self-contradiction that some such device must be found to account for its existence. A good instance is afforded by comparing Surah 2:59 with Surah 3:79. In the former passage we are told that Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Sabians are saved (“Verily those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians, whoso hath believed in God and the Last Day and done good, to them accordingly shall be their reward with their Lord: and upon them is no fear, nor shall they grieve”); in the latter, that only Muslims have the true religion (“And whoso desireth other than Islam as a religion, it shall never therefore be accepted from him, and in the next world he shall be among the lost”). It would be easy to adduce other contradictions in the Qur'an, especially as Muslim learned men admit that there are no fewer than 225 verses which have been abrogated. Many of these abrogated verses are those which inculcate justice and religious toleration. We are asked to believe that the Unchangeable God afterwards sanctioned oppression and persecution and imposed war on Muslims, even against their will, in order that their faith might be forced upon other men (compare Surahs 2:212, 213; 9:5, 29).
There is another very important class of contradictions in the Qur'an which Muslims should carefully observe. It is that between the Qur'an and the Bible. We have already seen that the Qur'an professes to have been “sent down” in order to confirm and protect the Torah and the Injil. Yet in not a few matters it absolutely contradicts them both. Among the matters in which there is absolute contradiction between the Qur'an and the Bible are many leading doctrines of the Gospel: for example, the death of Christ upon the cross, in accordance with prophecy; His Atonement for the sins of the whole world; His Divine Nature; His Resurrection; that He alone can save men's souls. Now it is clear that no later Revelation from the Unchangeable One can change His Eternal Purpose, His appointed way of salvation, His promises, His Moral Law; His own Divine teaching. Moreover, the Qur'an's claim to be a Revelation, and that of Muhammad to be a Prophet with a new Message, are both contrary to the teaching of the New Testament, as is clear from the Lord Jesus Christ's saying: “Heaven 26 and Earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away,” and from St. Paul's words: “Though 27 we, or an angel from Heaven, should.preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.” These is no room, therefore, for a new revelation, whether brought down by Gabriel or by any other person, angel or man. In this matter the Qur'an contradicts itself, for it first asserts the truth and inspiration of the Bible, and then teaches what is contrary to its leading doctrines.
In many minor matters also the Qur'an contradicts itself, by differing from the Bible which it came to confirm. For instance, in Surah 19:23 we are told that Christ was born under a palm-tree, while the Gospel says His birth took place in a caravansarai, and that He was laid in a manger (Luke ii). The Qur'an says that He spoke when He was an infant in the cradle (Surahs 3:41; 5:109; 19:31), and that when young He created birds out of clay and made them, fly (Surahs 3:43; 5:110). These are miracles. But the Gospel mentions the fact that His first Miracle was wrought soon after the beginning of His Ministry at the age of thirty years (Luke 3:23; John 2:11 ). So again in matters of duty and morality there is contradiction between the Qur'an and the Gospel (Injil). Christ taught men to love even their enemies: Muhammad in the Qur'an commands men to “fight in the way of God”, to undertake Jihads. Christ said that “in the Resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:35); whereas the Qur'an teaches that in Paradise there will be for Muslims almost unlimited indulgence in licentiousness.
It is not possible to refute this argument by asserting that the Holy Scriptures which Jews and Christians now possess have become corrupted: for in the earlier portion of this Treatise this statement has been fully answered. In connexion with any book which did not claim to be a Divine Revelation, as the Qur'an does, the matter could be easily explained. Everyone would agree that the compiler of the later book had been misled by incorrect information as to the contents of the earlier books: that his informants were ignorant men, who relied upon current fables instead of consulting the Bible itself. In the case of the Qur'an, however, we are unwilling to draw any such conclusion. We prefer to ask our Muslim friends to decide the matter for themselves. Possibly the respected reader will admit that our study of the Qur'an has not hitherto furnished us with any conclusive proof of its inspiration.
If the Qur'an were from God Most High, its doctrines must in every instance be higher, more noble, more worthy of God, more lofty in their morality, than those of the Injil, just as those of the Injil are far more advanced in such matters than what was taught in the Torah. But this is not so. For in the Injil the future reward promised to God's faithful people does not consist in eating and drinking and other carnal delights, but in spiritual joys, such as peace of heart, purity, the love of God and His service. Thus the Injil teaches us that those who in this world truly believe in Christ and remain steadfast in love and obedience to God, being faithful unto death, will finally be received into the high and holy place which Christ has prepared for them. Ever there dwelling in the Divine Presence, “ 28 His servants shall do Him service: and they shall see His face; and His Name shall be on their foreheads.” The Injil forbids the use of force in religious matters, and leaves each man free to accept or reject the truth for himself. If any man desires to believe in Christ, the Holy Spirit's grace enables him to do so, and to receive new and spiritual birth, guidance, and salvation. Those who reject Christ are not forced to believe in Him, but are clearly told that by rejecting Him, they are pronouncing their own condemnation. 29 Again, the Gospel, in contrast with the Qur'an gives rest of heart and the assurance of acceptance with God to those who come to Him through Christ. Every true Christian knows this from his own experience. But, according to the Qur'an, every man during his whole life must always remain in doubt and uncertainty whether he is not one of those unfortunate persons whom God has condemned to Hell-fire and created for that purpose. The Gospel (البِشارة), in accordance with its name, proclaims the glad tidings that God has not created a single creature for eternal misery and destruction, but that, on the contrary, He “willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth”, 30 and that, in order that this might be possible, He sent His only Son into the world, 31 “ that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but, have eternal life.” Hence the Gospel clearly teaches that no man will be eternally lost except those who, refusing God's love and mercy offered them in Christ, will not believe in Him, nor recognize the truth of His claims, nor accept Him as the one true Saviour, the only true Mediator between God and man, but choose darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil, and receive not the love of the Truth that they may be saved.
If the Qur'an were God's last and most perfect Revelation to mankind, it ought to give us more worthy views of God's Holiness, Justice, and Mercy, more unselfish motives for obedience to God's Laws, deeper and more spiritual teaching regarding sin, the way of salvation, the need of spiritual holiness, God's love to us, and our need of love to Him, our duty to God and to our neighbour, the necessity of purity of heart, and a nobler and holier picture of life in Paradise, than does the New Testament. Those who have studied both the Qur'an and the Bible will perceive for themselves whether this is so or not.
In studying the contents of the Qur'an in order to learn whether it is or is not from God, the question arises: “How can we account for it, if it be not a Divine Revelation?” A complete answer to this query is given in the Masadiru'l Islam [Yanabiu'l Islam: “Original Sources of the Qur'an”]. Learned men state that many of the tales found in the Qur'an, as well as many of the religious rites and ceremonies practised by Muslims, have been borrowed from other religions. The evidence in support of this statement will be found in the book we have named. In it the learned reader will discover extracts from the books of the Zoroastrians, the Hindus, the ancient Egyptians, and many other nations. These extracts seem to the author of the Masadiru'l Islam to be in many cases the originals from which much that is incorporated in the Qur'an has been borrowed. He gives his reasons for concluding that much has also been derived from apocryphal and unreliable fables which in Muhammad's time were current among the more ignorant of the Jews and Christians, though no foundation for such tales exists in the Bible.
Besides all this, whoever will carefully peruse the verses by Zaid ibn 'Amr ibn Nufail, quoted by Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham in the Siratu’r Rasul, 32 will perceive that the following matters which are taught in the Qur'an were taught by Zaid ibn 'Amr before Muhammad claimed to be a prophet. The points to which we refer are:—(1) The acknowledgement of God's Unity; (2) the rejection of the worship of Allat, Al 'Uzza' and other deities worshipped by the heathen Arabs; (3) the promise of happiness in Paradise; (4) warning of the punishment of the wicked in Hell; (5) denunciation of God's wrath upon unbelievers; (6) the application of the titles Ar Rabb, Ar Rahman, Al Ghafur, to God; (7) the prohibition of the practice of burying infant girls alive. Besides this, Zaid ibn 'Amr and the other Hanifs said that they were searching for the “Religion of Abraham.” Muhammad asserted that he was sent to invite men to turn to the “Religion of Abraham”; and the Qur'an repeatedly speaks of Abraham himself as a Hanif. 33 Moreover, the Kitabu'l Aghani 34 is in accord with the Siratu’r Rasul in making it evident that Muhammad had met and conversed with Zaid ibn 'Amr before laying claim to the prophetic office.
The author of the Masddiru'l Islam adduces evidence to prove that the account of Muhammad's Night Journey in Surah 17:1, and in the Traditions is largely modelled on the story contained in the Old Persian book entitled Arta-i Viraf Namak, telling how the pious young Zoroastrian ascended to the skies, and, on his return, related what he had seen, or professed to have seen.
The Arabic historian Abu'l Fida mentions many old Arabian rites and observances which were adopted into Islam and are sanctioned in the Qur'an and Traditions. “The Arabs of the Times of Ignorance”, he 35 says, “used to do things which the religious law of Islam has adopted. For they used not to wed their mothers or their daughters, and among them it was deemed a most detestable thing to marry two sisters; and they used to revile the man who married his father's wife, and to call him Daizan (ضيزان). They used, moreover, to make the Pilgrimage (الحجّ) to the House,” i.e. the Ka'bah, “and visit the consecrated places, and wear the Ihram, and perform the Tawwaf, and make the runs, and take their stand at all the Stations, and cast the stones.” (Compare Surahs 22:27, 28, 30; 5:98; 2:139, 144, 145, 153, 190, 192, 193-195, &c.) Abu'l Fida speaks of other customs which were also adopted into Islam from the heathen Arabs, such as ceremonial washings after certain kinds of defilement, parting the hair, paring the nails, &c. He says that the heathen Arabs used to practise circumcision and to cut off a thief's hand. Of course some may assert with Ibn Ishaq 36 that these customs had been retained from Abraham's days. We know that this is true with regard to circumcision, but it cannot be proved regarding all the ceremonies above referred to. It is by no means contrary to reason to suppose that, in giving a new Revelation, God might sanction many rites already in use among the people to whom the Revelation came. But this would not agree with the theory that the Qur'an was written down on a Preserved Tablet in Heaven ages before such customs arose, and even before the heathen Arabs had come into existence.
It is sometimes asserted by Muslims that the Qur'an teaches so much of the knowledge of God, of morality, of good government, and of the future life, that it must have come from God. Undoubtedly, if it taught something on these points far higher and better than the Bible does, this argument would have very great weight. But we have already seen that, regarding the Nature and Attributes of God Most High, the teaching of the Qur'an is not in advance of that of the New Testament. In fact, in what the Qur'an says of God's resolve to fill Hell with men and jinns, 37 His having fastened each man's fate upon his neck, His permission to Muhammad to indulge in licentious conduct to a greater extent than to ordinary Muslims, His commanding a Jihad for the spread of Islam, and many other matters of importance, the doctrines of the Qur'an are manifestly at a far lower level than are those of the Law of Moses. The Old Testament nowhere positively sanctions polygamy, though for a time it was tacitly permitted among the Jews. But that monogamy has always been God's law for man is indicated in Genesis 2:18-24, and clearly taught by Christ (Matthew 19:3-9 ; Mark 10:2-12) and His Apostles (for example, in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12; 1 Corinthians 7:2). Christ prohibited even a lustful look on earth (Matthew 5:28), but the Qur'an encourages Muslims to hope for almost unlimited indulgence in this vice, even before God's face in Paradise. This teaching is not likely to produce purity of heart here on earth. As to good government, we ask where it is now to be found in Muhammadan lands, or at what period in past history did it exist? It would be interesting to have an answer to this question, and to learn exactly what connexion exists between such good government and the teachings of the Qur'an.
It is perfectly true that the Qur'an does tell us a great deal about the future life, especially about the tortures of Hell and the pleasures of Paradise. Regarding the former we need say nothing here. But we must remind our Muslim friends of two matters in connexion with Hell. One is the verse in Surah Maryam (Surah 19:72) which says: “And there is no one of you but goeth down into it; unto thy Lord it has become a determined decision.” Many attempts to explain this away have been made by commentators. The other matter is, the Tradition that only one of the many sects into which Islam is divided is that which will be saved. These two points would render us, if we were Muslims, full of terror all our lives at the prospect of death and the Day of Judgement. Hence perhaps it is that true Christians look forward with joy to the Resurrection-Day, while Muslims fear and dread its coming. With regard, however, to the pleasures which, the Qur'an tells us are reserved in Paradise for the saved, we must not pass over them without some consideration of their nature. Descriptions of them are given in Surahs 2:23; 4:60; 13:35; 36:55-58; 37:39-47; 47:16, 1 7; 55:46-78; 56:11-37; 76:5, 11-22; 77:31-36; 83:22-28. Besides all this, in Ghazzali's Ihya 'Ulumi'd Din, in the 'Ainu'l Hayat, in the Tafsir i Tibyan and other books much fuller details are given, on the authority of Traditions. Al Bukhari in As Sahih sums up all the genuine Traditions that he could find on this and other subjects. But one of the fullest accounts is given in the Mishkatu’l Masabih, 38 under the heading “Description of Paradise and its People”. When we study all this, we learn that, according to the Qur'an and the Traditions, the future bliss of Muslims will consist in being clad in splendid garments, reclining on gorgeous couches, eating sumptuous viands and delicious fruits, drinking exquisite wines which produce no headache, and in familiar intercourse with hosts of beautiful women. Such a Paradise is material, furnished with everything suitable for the gratification of men's sensual appetites, but there is no place in it for holy and pure-minded men and women. Pure-minded people would flee from it, as they would on earth from places of gluttony, drunkenness, and profligacy. A Paradise of this description is not such as would be provided by God, who is Holy, and whose Nature is averse from sin and all impurity. How can the human spirit, created to know and serve God, which should ever seek spiritual joy in the Love of its Maker and in nearness to Him, be gladdened and satisfied with such earthly delights as these? Even on earth debauchees finally discover that sensual pleasures in the end produce loathing, not happiness. The description of Paradise given in the Qur'an cannot therefore be said to prove that the book has come from God. The commentator Muhiyyu'ddin, perceiving this, endeavours to show that all these descriptions have a mystical sense. 39 But the great mass of Muhammadans regard him as a heretic, and rightly consider that the Qur'an means exactly what it says, as do the Traditions also.
In considering the contents of the Qur'an we must not omit to call attention to the fact that it does not satisfy the spiritual needs and yearnings of mankind, which is one of the main reasons why a Divine Revelation is required. For God has implanted these desires in man's heart in order that he may never be able to find rest, until he find it in God. Some Muslim writers claim that the Qur'an terrifies men and makes them weep, as the Tradition informs us that the Negus (النّحاشى) of Abyssinia (though doubtless ignorant of Arabic) did when a part of the Qur'an was recited before him. But even such writers cannot truthfully assert that it gives them peace of heart, such as Christ through all the ages has given and still gives 40 to those who truly believe in Him. On the contrary, certain passages in the Qur'an, for instance Surah 19:71, 72,—together with the Doctrine of Fate, must make all thoughtful Muslims live in perpetual dread of death. Nor does the Qur'an reveal God to man in such a way that He may be known. This is clear from the way in which so many Muslim writers explain the absolute impossibility of knowing God, even in books intended for the instruction of their own people. For example, Akhvund Mulla, Muhammad Taqqi of Kashan, in his book entitled Hidayatu't Talibin dar Usulu'd Din, 41 says: “To 42 know the Nature of the Necessarily Existent One is impossible”; and again: “Between the created and the Creator, the Conditioned and the Absolute, the recent and the Ancient, the temporal and the Eternal, there is no kind of resemblance, so that it should be possible to know His Nature. And it is on this account that our Prophet, who is superior to all the prophets, has said, 'We have not known Thee with due knowledge of Thee.'” Now it is clear that if the Qur'an does not lead to a knowledge of God, and if Muhammad himself rightly admitted that his own knowledge of God was far from being what it should have been, then Islam in this most important matter fails to supply man's needs.
Again, the Qur'an does not teach that purity of heart is necessary before any man can find access to God. On the contrary, as we have already seen, it contains passages which are opposed to the possibility of purity of heart in man, and which do not represent God as acting in a way consistent with His Holiness, Justice, Mercy, and Love. Nor does the Qur'an show how man may obtain pardon of his sins and be accounted righteous before God. It is true that certain precepts are given whereby merit may be acquired. But no means of escaping from Fate can be found in the Qur'an, and Fate decides every man's future happiness or misery. There is no Atonement in the Qur'an, nor does the Qur'an show how a man who is the slave of sin can break his chains.
Some Muslims hold that Muhammad will intercede for his people at the judgement Day: others fancy that perhaps even now, though he is dead, he has some influence with God Most High. But all this is absolutely contrary to the Bible, which the Qur'an claims to confirm. From such verses as John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6, it is clear that there is and can be no Mediator but Christ. Moreover, it would be hard to find a single passage in the Qur'an itself which lends support to the idea that Muhammad is a Mediator between God and man. We need not refer to the value of the Traditions on this subject, for one who is in the Qur'an bidden to pray for the forgiveness of his own sins cannot act as a mediator with God. . A man who has sinned and repented may doubtless pray to God to forgive other men as well as himself; but that is quite a different matter. Both the Qur'an and the Traditions represent Muhammad as praying for forgiveness of both his own and his people's offences. For example, in Surah 40:37, it is thus written: “Therefore be thou patient; verily God's promise is truth, and ask pardon for thine offence, and proclaim the praise of thy Lord at even and early morn.” So also in Surah 4:106: “Ask pardon of God: verily God has been forgiving, gracious.” Somewhat similar are those verses in which the Qur'an states that God forgives Muhammad's offences, such as Surah 48:1, 2: “Verily We have won for thee a manifest victory, in order that God may forgive thee what went before of thine offence, and what followed after.” 'Abbasi explains this as meaning the offences which Muhammad had committed before he claimed to be a prophet, and those that he was to commit even until his death. Al Baizawi and other commentators say that the meaning is, the faults which he had committed in the Time of Ignorance and up to the date of the “descent” of these verses. 43 On the supposition that the Qur'an “descended” from God Most High, we have here very distinct statements about Muhammad. Nor can it be argued that the word “offence” (ذَنْبُ) used in the Qur'an means only lesser sins or slight faults which can hardly be called sins at all. For in Surah 4:39, the word in the plural is applied to the sins of both jinns and men. In Surah 28:78 idolaters are said to be guilty of “offences” (ذُنُوبْ), and the word is used as equal to jurm. The same word “offence” (ذنب) is used of such sins as lying; slander, lust, unbelief, and others of the worst crimes, in Surahs 12:29; 67:11; 91:14, and elsewhere. In Surah 47:21, Muhammad is thus addressed: “Ask pardon for thy offence, and for believing men and believing women.” Here Muhammad's own offence is clearly distinguished as being his own personal fault and separate from those of his followers, though some have vainly attempted to explain “thy offence” as meaning “the offence of Muslim men and women”. In Surah 94:1-3 God is represented as saying to Muhammad: “Did We not open thy breast for thee and remove from thee thy burden, which weighed down thy back?” It is impossible to mistake the meaning of all these passages.
The Traditions agree with the Qur'an in this matter, whether we consult the books of the Sunnis or those of the Shi'ites. Let us take only a few examples out of many. Ahmad, At Tirmadhi, and Ibn Majah tell us, on the authority of Fatimah, that, when Muhammad entered the Mosque, he said: “My 44 Lord, forgive me mine offences, and open to me the gates of Thy mercy”; and when he came out he said, “ My Lord, forgive me mine offences, and open to me the gates of Thy grace.” 'Ayishah tells us another of his prayers, in which the words, “O God, 45 forgive me,” occur. In another place Muslim quotes on her authority Muhammad's saying: “O God, 46 verily I take refuge in Thy good pleasure from Thy displeasure, and in Thy forgiveness from Thy punishment.” Ahmad, At Tirmidhi, and Abu Da'ud quote, on 'Ali's authority, Muhammad's prayer: “Verily 47 I have wronged my soul; therefore forgive me, for there is none that forgiveth offences but Thee.” According to Abu Musa, Muhammad used to pray thus: “O God, 48 forgive me my sin and my ignorance and my dissipation in my business, and what Thou knowest better than I do. O God, pardon me my earnestness and my joking and my error and my obstinacy, and all that is with me. O God, forgive me what went before and what came after, and what I have concealed and what I have made manifest.” Besides this, Al Baihaqi 49 in Ad Da'watu'l Kabirah tells us, on the authority of 'Ayishah, that one day the latter said to Muhammad: “O Apostle of God, doth no one enter Paradise except through the mercy of God Most High?” In reply he three times said, “No one enters Paradise except through the mercy of God Most High.” She said, “Not even thou, O Apostle of God?” Muhammad placed his hand on his head and replied, “Not even I, unless God decide upon it firmly from Himself for me through His mercy.” This he said three times.
Imam Ja'far tells us 50 that one night, when Muhammad was in Umm Salmah's dwelling and was engaged in prayer, he wept and said, “O Lord, turn me not back at all to wickedness, though Thou hast delivered me therefrom, and never leave me to myself for the twinkling of an eye.” Umm Salmah said to him, “Since God has forgiven thee thy past and future sin, why dost thou speak thus and weep?” He said, “O Umm Salmah, how should I become safe, since God Most High left Jonah to himself for the space of the twinkling of an eye, and he did what he did?” And, again, 51 Muhammad Baqir is quoted as the authority for the Tradition that one night Muhammad was in 'Ayishah's abode, and was offering many prayers. 'Ayishah asked him why he wearied himself so much, since God Most High had forgiven him his past and future sin. He replied, “O 'Ayishah, should I not be, God's thankful servant?” We are also told 52 that one day, at the close of an address to his followers, Muhammad repeatedly said, “O Lord, pardon me and my people,” and added, “ I seek pardon from God for myself and for you.” Many other similar traditions might be quoted from both Sunni and Shi'ite Traditions, but these are sufficient.
All this represents Muhammad in a very favourable light. It shows that, like all the Prophets who were merely men, he felt his need of God's mercy and forgiveness. The Qur'an mentions certain sins as committed by the Old Testament Prophets and others, as for example by Adam, 53 Noah, 54 Abraham, 55 Moses, 56 and Aaron, Joseph, 57 David, 58 Solomon, 59 Jonah. 60 Doubtless they repented, as the Bible informs us they did. We have in Psalms 51 the prayer which David, for instance, offered in his penitence, as was most suitable. Everyone who has sinned needs to repent and seek forgiveness from God, and the very fact of the request for pardon being made is an admission that the person who asks for it is guilty of an offence, and is conscience stricken on account of it. Every human being who is no more than human might well use these prayers of Muhammad which we have quoted above. But no one who needs or has ever needed repentance can ever atone for other men's sins. Hence the Qur'an teaches 61 that no human being can in this way aid anyone else on the Day of Judgement. As Muhammad, therefore, cannot save his people, it is evident that they need someone who can save them. The Qur'an reveals no Saviour, no Atonement, and therefore cannot satisfy the wants of the human spirit. It fails in this and in every other point to fulfil the conditions laid down in the Introduction as the criteria of a true Revelation. In this it stands in striking contrast with the Injil, as has been shown in the Second Part of this Treatise. Christ is alive 62 and Muhammad is dead; Christ is not only perfect man and sinless, but the Word of God, and 63 “able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them”.
Let it not be forgotten that throughout this Treatise our object is not controversy, but inquiry into and search for the Truth. Prejudice and party spirit in religious matters cannot help us. By God's grace they should be laid aside. In what has been said of the contents of the Qur'an, the writer of these pages has endeavoured with all his might to observe not only the rules of courtesy but those of honesty and fairness. In what remains to be discussed in the following chapters his guiding principle will be the same.
1. Siratu’r Rasul, vol. i, pp. 81, 82.
2. Ibid., vol. i, pp. 63, 76, &c.
3. Ibid., vol. i, p. 184. See also the Rauzatu'l Ahbab.
4. Al Baizawi says:— فقالوا يا رسول الله عليك بالعير ودع العدوّ.
5. Ibn Ishaq says that at Badr Muhammad had 83 Meccans, 61 Ausites, and 170 Khazrajites, in all 314 men. Abu Jahl had about 600.
6. Siratu’r Rasul, vol. ii, p. 9.
7. Vol. ii, ch. 30.
8. Part II, pp. 32, 33.
9. See Al Baizawi's note on the passage.
10. Though Abu Bakr was not a prophet.
11. Siratu’r Rasul, Vol. i, p. 146: يا عم كلمة واحدة يعطونيها تملكون بها آلْعرب وتدين لكم بها آلْعجم.
12. Unless we admit that Ubai had something of the prophet in him.
13. See Al Kindi's remarks about 'Ad and Thamud in p. 57 of the Risalatu 'Abdu'llah, &c.. printed at London, A.D. 1880.
14. Siratu’r Rasul, vol. i, p.105.
15. Comment. on Surah 48:82; vol. i, p. 572.
16. Surah 18:94, 97, 98.
17. Quoted by Al Baizawi.
18. Sur'ahs 28:5, 7, 38; 29:38; 40:25, 38.
19. Esther 3:1, 7:10.
20. [De Vitis Philosophorum, Lib. I, cap. x. 2, 4.]
21. [In former editions of the Mizanu'l Haqq it was customary to quote these passages, or selections from them. When this book is rendered into any Muhammadan tongue, this should still be done, not here, but further on in the chapter: but for the English edition it is not necessary. Some of these extracts are given in my Religion of the Crescent, 3rd ed., S.P.C.K.]
22. Al Baizawi says: “The illustriousness in this world is the office of a Prophet, and that in the next world is the office of Intercessor”: similarly Zamakhshari.
23. The word خَلَقَ is used.
24. As is commanded regarding Muhammad, in Mishkat, p. 78. No other Prophet needs his people's prayers: it is admitted that Muhammad does.
25. Compare Surah 16:103.
26. Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33: compare John 12:48.
27. Galatians 1:8, 9.
28. Revelation 22: 3, 4.
29. John 3:18-21.
30. 1 Timothy 2:4.
31. John 3:16.
32. Vol. i, p. 77.
33. Surahs 3:89; 4:124; 6:162.
34. Part III, p. 15.
35. Abu'l Fida's التّواريخ آلْقديمة من آلْمختصر في اخبار آلْبشر, Leipzig, 1831, ed. Fleischer: cf. also Al Kindi's Apology.
36. Siratu’r Rasul, Part I, p. 27.
37. Surahs 11:120; 32:13.
38. [Mishkat, pp. 487-491. This passage should be given in all versions of the present work into Muhammadan languages. English readers will find a. translation in my Religion of the Crescent, pp. 111-114. It is unnecessary to reproduce it here.]
39. In his commentary on Surah 56:18, he writes thus:— بِأكْوَابٍ وَأَبَارِيقَ ـ من خمور آلاْرادة وآلْمعرفة وآلْمحبّة وآلْعشق وآلْذوق ومَياة العلم و آلْعلوم الخ.
40. John 14:27.
41. This work was finished in A.H.1285.
42. شناختن ذات واجب آلْوجود جلّ شأنهُ محال است ... مخلوقرا با خالق وممكن را با واجب و حادث را با قديم و فانيرا با باقى هيج كَونة مناسبتى نيست كِة تواند ذات آنرا شناخت ـ و از اين جهت است كِة بيغمبر ما صلعم كِة افضل از همة بيغمبران است فرمودة ـ مَا عَرَفْنَاكَ حَقْ مَعْرِفَتِكَ. — (pp. 41-43)
43. Al Zamakhshari explains “what went before”, as referring to the affair of Zainab, and “what followed after” to that of Mary the Copt.
44. Mishkatu’l Masabih, p. 62.
45. Mishkat, p. 74.
46. Mishkat, p. 76.
47. Mishkat, p. 206.
48. Mishkat p. 210 Similar traditions are given in Mishkat, pp. 100, 104, &c.
49. Quoted in Mishkat, p. 107.
50. Hayatu'l Qulub, vol. ii, p. 75.
51. Hayatu'l Qulub, vol. ii, p. 77.
52. Op. cit., p. 301.
53. Surahs 2:33, 34 ; 20:119.
54. Surah 71:29.
55. Surahs 6:76-78; 2:262; 14:42.
56. Surahs 7:150; 26:19; 28:14, 15.
57. Surah 12:24.
58. Surah 38:23, 24.
59. Surah 38:34.
60. Surah 37:139-144.
61. Surahs 2:46, 117; 6:164; 82:19.
62. All Muslims know that His tomb at Medinah is empty: not so Muhammad's. [Author suggests there is an empty tomb of Jesus in Medinah. See page 369]
63. Hebrews 7:25.