Part 4—The Quran—of God or of Man?
ACCORDING to orthodox Islam the Quran “is uncreated and eternal [and] was written from the beginning in golden rays on a magnificent tablet in heaven and was communicated to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel . . .” (1942 ed. of Ency. Amer., Vol. 16, under “Koran”) In the effort to place the Quran above all else and as equal with God himself, Muslim tradition has a paradox on its hands; for how could the Quran be eternal and uncreated and yet written on a magnificent tablet? Written by whom—if coeternal with God?
In the previous articles of this series we have seen that the giving of the Quran was not accompanied with miracles, as was the case with the giving of the Law and the gospel, and have found the position taken by Muslim scribes that the Quran is a literary miracle to be untenable. We also found that its claim to be confirmatory of previous Scripture was without foundation and that the blame for its failure to do this could not be placed on the Bible but must rest on the Quran. Further, we have seen that the message itself could not be used to prove its divine origin, as above all else divine truth must be consistent with itself, whereas we found much discrepancy in the Quran. All of which argues against the Quran’s being of God.
THE BIBLE FORETELLS MUHAMMAD’S WORK?
Among other arguments that Muslim scribes use to prove the inspiration of the Quran is that Muhammad and his work were foretold in the Bible. According to a footnote on Sura 46:10, Ali, (n.4783) “in the Quran and its Prophet [is found] a true confirmation of the previous scriptures . . . Islam [being] a fulfillment of the revelation of Moses himself! (See Deut. XVIII, 18-19)”
But how could that be? At Mount Sinai Jehovah told Moses: “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.”—Deut. 18:15-19, AS.
Certainly it cannot be justly argued that Muhammad, who was a descendant of Ishmael, was of Moses’ brothers. Nor did Muhammad speak in the name of Jehovah God, as did Moses. The fact is that centuries before Muhammad was born the apostle Peter, in addressing the bona fide brothers of Moses, the Jews, applied this text to Christ Jesus, and the facts show that this prophecy does apply to him.—Acts 3:20-23.
Another prophecy which Muslim scribes apply to Muhammad is that of Jesus regarding the coming of a “helper” or “comforter”. Says Ali, in his footnote comment on Sura 3:81: “In the New Testament as it now exists Muhammad is foretold in the Gospel of St. John 14:16; 15:26; and Joh 16:7. The future Comforter cannot be the Holy Spirit as understood by Christians, because the Holy Spirit already was present, helping and guiding Jesus.”
However, note that Jesus said that his going away would make his apostles orphans, but not for long, as the “spirit of truth”, the paraclete, the “helper” or “comforter”, was to come. He further told them that they would be baptized with this spirit of truth “not many days after this” and that they were to remain in Jerusalem until this spirit came. Surely all these promises and commands would not make sense if the apostles were to wait six centuries until Muhammad came!
True, the holy spirit was upon Jesus, but it is very apparent that, until it was given to them at Pentecost, without Jesus his apostles were very much like lost children. They went back to their fishing business; they presumed to elect an apostle to take the place of Judas; they had no message for the Jews. With the spirit’s outpouring at Pentecost all this changed! From then on the apostles confidently went forward with the work of preaching, making converts by the thousands. (John 21:3; Acts 1:4, 5, 15-26; 2:32-36, 41; 4:4) Clearly such misapplication of Scripture cannot prove the divine origin of the Quran!
THE QURAN PROPHETIC?
In further efforts to prove the Quran inspired Muslim scribes point to its prophetical element. No question about it, such would be strong claim to its divine origin, as the strongest circumstantial evidence that the Bible is indeed God’s Word is the fulfillment of its many prophecies. Moses foretold ever so many things regarding Egypt and his people which were fulfilled. (See Exodus chapters 7-14; Leviticus chapter 26; Deuteronomy 17:14, 15; 31:6-8.) Two hundred years in advance Isaiah foretold the deliverance of the Jews from captivity and even gave the name of the one who was to release them, namely Cyrus. (Isa. 44:28; 45:1-7) Jeremiah accurately foretold that the land would lie desolate seventy years. (Jer. 25:11; Dan. 9:2) Daniel correctly foretold the succession of world empires, as well as giving the exact year that Messiah the prince would come. (Daniel chapters 8 and 9) Upward of thirty outstanding events in the life of Jesus were accurately foretold; and unquestionably Jesus’ own prophecy, recorded at Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, is finding its fulfillment today. And all these specific as to details.
But what are the prophecies of the Quran, the fulfillments of which would stamp it as inspired? The foremost one to which Muslim theologians refer is that found at Sura 30:1-3: “The [Roman Empire has been] defeated by a land hard by. But after their defeat they shall defeat their foes in a few years.” (Ali; Rodwell) This is taken to foretell the defeat the Romans administered to the Persians some ten years after having been defeated by them. However, any shrewd observer could have hazarded the guess that the Roman Empire would eventually win out. Besides, when the Quran was originally written, no vowel points were used and so the passage could just as well have been translated “they shall be defeated” as “they shall defeat”. And this is generally quoted as the foremost example of prophecy in the Quran.
On the other hand, a Quranic prophecy that has signally failed is that Islam will be “victorious over every other religion”. (Sura 9:33, Rodwell) Muslims can account for but some 11 per cent of the world’s population, whereas Hindus claim 12 per cent, so-called Christians 30 per cent, etc. Islam has engaged in one holy war, Jihad, after another, in obedience to the command: “Fight therefore against them until . . . the only worship be that of God.” (Sura 2:189, Rodwell) Yet, even then, Islam has not triumphed, has not been victorious over all other religions. Her armies were stopped in France A.D. 732 by Charles Martel, and at the gates of Vienna for the last time in 1683. So we see that on the basis of the prophetical element the Quran cannot claim divine origin.
In view of all the foregoing, what alternative is left us as regards the question: “The Quran—of God or of Man?” However, rather than specifically answering this question, let us consider some very interesting parallels that history has recorded between the message of Islam and the customs and beliefs of the people with whom Muhammad came in contact at the end of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh century A.D.
The Quran proclaims that Allah is the one true God, that the faithful will be rewarded after death by being taken to paradise and that the wicked will be punished by torment. It also repeatedly condemns the Arabic practice of burying alive their infant daughters. All this was likewise preached by a group of reformers in Muhammad’s native city, Mecca, the Hanifs, with whom he was well acquainted.
The Quran commands the worship of the Kaaba stone, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the fast during the month of Ramadhan, and it also teaches a fatalism regarding the present life. All of this was part of the pagan religion of the Arabs in Muhammad’s day.
The Quran’s graphic portrayals of heaven and hell; its instructions regarding a kebla or direction in which one should turn when praying; its rules regarding prayer and purification; the idea of the use of balances on the judgment day and of Al Araf or purgatory; the opening prayer of all suras except the ninth, “In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful”; its angelism and demonology, all find their close counterparts in the Talmud of Judaism and the Avesta of Zoroastrianism.
The Quran tells of Jesus’ speaking as an infant. This account is likewise found in the apocryphal Gospel of the Infant. It also tells that as a small child Jesus made birds out of clay and caused them to become alive. The same story is found in the Gospel of Thomas, the Israelite, as well as in the Gospel of the Infant. The Quran claims that Jesus was not nailed to a stake, “crucified,” and was not put to death at the instance of the Jews (and at the hand of the Romans). This belief was also held by the sect of the “Manichaeans” and others, and is found in certain apocryphal writings, such as the Travels of the Apostles.
The Quran was produced in Arabia. Its appeal is to the preferences and prejudices of the Arabs. Repeatedly it emphasizes the fact that it was sent in pure Arabic and to Arabs. “A book whose verses (signs) are MADE PLAIN—an Arabic Koran, for men of knowledge.” (Sura 41:2, Rodwell. See also Sura 12:2; 13:37; 16:105; 42:5, Rodwell.) If the Quran were of God and for the peoples of all languages, what difference would it make what its original language was?
The same may also be said regarding the Quran’s prohibition of wine on the one hand and the permission to “marry women of your choice, two, or three or four”; both of which are contradictory to what has been man’s experience in the rest of the world regarding what is best for society, although seemingly practical for the inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula.
Finally, note the many interesting parallels between immediate local circumstances and the contents of certain suras. Muhammad’s uncle and aunt were most skeptical of Muhammad’s claim to be the prophet of Allah. Sura 111 is devoted to pronouncing a curse on them. As Islam grew in strength and engaged in wars for booty or conquest we find suras such as Nos. 2, 3, 8, etc., containing admonition to engage in war, rebuke for those failing to do so, and explanations for the outcome of certain battles.
An unpleasant rumor involved Muhammad’s favorite wife, Ayesha, in an affair with a young Muslim warrior. Sura 24 deals with this incident and condemns the scandalmongers. Muhammad was perplexed about marrying the divorced wife of his adopted son Zaid. Sura 33 grants him an exception so that he can marry her even though among the Arabs an adopted son was considered the same as one’s natural son and the Quran had forbidden the wife of one ever to become the wife of another. In another instance one of Muhammad’s wives had discovered him in her apartment with his Coptic concubine. This caused such a furor among his wives that Muhammad voluntarily denied himself having any relations with this concubine. Sura 66 assures him that he need not consider the objections of his wives in regard to his relations with the dusky Coptic concubine.
Yet all this, we are gravely assured, existed coeternal with God himself, in his presence, awaiting the time when need would cause the angel Gabriel to bring it down and transmit it to Muhammad! Could credulity be stretched any farther?
So what is our conclusion? This: Without a doubt the religion which Muhammad brought his countrymen in the Quran and forced them to accept was far superior to that which most of them were practicing; and without a doubt Muhammad started out fully convinced that he had a message from God (Allah) for the people of his day. Nevertheless his message did not come from God. It may not altogether have had human sources; his fear that the voices he heard were those of evil spirits, wicked Jinns, may have been closer to the truth than his wife’s assurances that these were those of good spirits.
Nor should this surprise us, for the Bible tells us that “Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light” and that as the “god of this system of things [he] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through”.—2 Cor. 11:14; 4:4, NW.
Does such an observation seem too severe? Then ask: Is it reasonable to conclude that after Jehovah God used Christ Jesus to bring in a system of things far superior to the law arrangement under Moses, seven centuries later he would use Muhammad to go back to Moses and ever farther with ceremonial cleansings, fasts, prohibition of certain foods, not to say anything about the worship of the Kaaba?—Jer. 31:31-34; Matt. 5:21-48; Heb. chaps. 9, 10.
In one respect, however, Muhammad set a good example for all to follow. Under the conviction that his message was true he proclaimed it, although, for some years at least, it made him very unpopular, subjected him to ridicule, severe punishment and even caused his life to be threatened. And regarding the cardinal doctrine of the Quran, that there is but one true God, he did not change.
The Bible tells us: “Come . . . let us reason together.” (Isa. 1:18) And we are also admonished: “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” (Prov. 23:23) To arrive at the truth we must be willing to reason on the facts presented and be willing to pay the price for it, for the truth is no more popular today than it was in times past. Check the foregoing arguments by the Quran, the Bible and the facts of history, and then be convinced in your own mind as to which book is the divine revelation. Be willing to receive instruction as to what constitutes divine truth and what God requires of those who would gain salvation, eternal life in happiness. And then act accordingly.