(Ahadith: 491) Muhammad: “He who recites the holy Qur’an well and clearly is equal in rank to the angels, who record creation’s deeds. These Angels are honorable and lofty in rank. He who finds no difficulty in reciting the noble Qur’an will obtain a double reward.” [Bukhari, Muslim]
As every religion had have a source from which it sprung, Islam, the last faith of Allah, must have its originating cause as well. Accepted neither by the Jews nor the Christians nor by believers of any other religious faiths for that matter, many treatises have been written to convert these thoughts. Hence, Islam discourages the followers of Islam to shirk any other beliefs with Islam! These have been answered by Muslims in many works by contradicting itself and mocking other beliefs; but unfortunately the learning of the authors of these defenses of Islam has not been equal to their zeal.
The object of the present work is to investigate the various theories, which have been put forward as to the origins of Islam via the Qur’an. Firstly, we will briefly review the Muslim views, and then examine the claims of those, who hold that “Islam has a human touch and not of divine origins” [in later parts].
Muhammad found himself disturbed by the idolatry and moral debasement of the people of Makkah [Mecca]. And, he was troubled by the thought of what might be the one “true” religion, and began meditating in the caves of Hira near Mecca in the hope of finding his troubled truths!
Many experts contend that Muhammad was illiterate, thus, making the works of the Qur’an that much more of a miracle. However, this is most probably not true. As he meditated and sought the true religion in a cave, it is thought that Muhammad had composed the chapters of the Qur’an, which expressed yearnings of an inquirer. And, no scribes ever accompanied Muhammad on these trips. There are other reasons also for doubting the illiteracy of Muhammad. For example, there are accounts of peace treaties signed by Muhammad, his asking for pen and paper to write the name of his successor while on his deathbed, and the fact that Muhammad had served for many years as a trading merchant for Khadijah, his wife. So, he must have known reading, writing, and arithmetic as he took his trades to Damascus and other cities in the Arabian regions? Also, the Qur’an was conceived in 7th-century Arabic, the same language spoken by the very literate Bedouins, who raised him as a child. Even Muslims must question this claim of Muhammad’s illiteracy, when even Allah referred to him as "the one who taught by the pen".
[Surah Al ‘Alaq Chapter 96: verses 1-5] In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Read in the name of thy Lord who —
Creates man from a clot,
Read and thy Lord is most Generous,
Who taught by the pen,
Taught man what he knew not.
Regardless of Muhammad's writing abilities, it is not disputed that he had a proclivity toward his lucid dreams, his compulsive trances, and his opus visions; and he was said to be so troubled by them to an extent that, at times, he sought escapes by committing suicide. It was during one of these suicide episodes, as Islam informs us, the angel Jibraiel called out to him: "O Muhammad, thou who art the Prophet of the Lord, I am Jibraiel". It is also known that when Muhammad would have godly revelations, severe sweating would pop up on his brows and he would drop to the ground in constant pain and nausea. At such times, Jibraiel would reappear to him and repeat his commanding instructions that ‘Muhammad was a prophet of Allah sent to reclaim the lost people of the land’! It was these visions and Muhammad's revelations from Jibraiel that led to the religion of Islam into being! When Muhammad first began having these opus visions, he feared that those messages were coming from Jinn or evil spirits. In fact, it was Muhammad’s wife Khadijah, who convinced him that these were ‘divinely inspired visions’ and that Muhammad was a true prophet of Allah. Thus, he began spreading his alleged revelations and gathering followers of the newly found "one true religion" of Islam!
You can find the Qur’an translated in most languages. An authentic Qur’an should have a statement of authenticity inside and also should contain the original Arabic form. It is required of the new Muslims to try to learn to read the Qur’an correctly and in Arabic text to receive the full blessings of Allah.
(Ahadith: 491) Muhammad: “He who recites the holy Qur’an well and clearly is equal in rank to the angels whom record creation’s deeds. These Angels are honorable and lofty in rank. He who finds no difficulty in reciting the noble Qur’an will obtain a double reward.” [Bukhari, Muslim]
While reading it, the Qur’an clears your mind of thoughts, tries to beautify your voice, instills fear of Allah [SWT] in you and makes you believe in those words that you recite. You should feel them in your chest as if they were written to you personally. And, also one who is reading the Qur’an should lower their voices or read it silently. If there are people around you, who find it inconvenient in listening, should not be forced into listening. While the Qur’an is being recited, listen attentively and always stay silent.
For the Qur’an says (7:204): “So when the Qur'an is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy”.
You may ask others, who can read it correctly and beautifully, to read the Qur’an and you listen to it. Remember as much of the Qur’an as your memory preserve.
For the Qur’an says (2:2-5): “This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah. Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them, And who believe in what has been revealed unto you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith]. Those are upon [right] guidance from their Lord, and it is those who are the successful.”
And For the Qur’an says (47:24): “Then do they not reflect upon the Qur'an, or are there locks upon [their] hearts?”
Muhammad is said to have heard Christians and Jews talking about their religions in fairs in Mecca. And he would go meditate in a cave when he was troubled about some of the questions they would bring up. He was there when he supposedly had a vision of the archangel telling him that he was God's prophet. He didn't know what to make of this, but his wife reassured him and he had many revelations afterwards. His wife and cousin were his first disciples. While preaching, he would recite from his revelation which was written down by certain followers of him in scattered pieces. Twenty years after his death, these utterances were collected, and conflicting versions were destroyed, to form what is now known as the noble Qur’an. Like others have done since (e.g., Joseph Smith), Muhammad claimed to be God's last viceroy with His last ‘holy’ book in his blessed heart! Some followers claimed that the large mole on Muhammad’s shoulder was also proof of his divine selection, presumably taken from the holy Bible from Isaiah 6: "the government shall be upon his shoulder".
Initially, Muhammad started preaching social reforms, monotheism and economic justice, but his teachings were not very fruitful. The rich merchants of Mecca did not like the idea of economic fairness as Muhammad’s followers were mostly the poor of society and he sought to raise their economic well-being. Some of slaves, who had adopted Muhammad’s faith, were also persecuted by their masters.
After his wife and uncle died in 619 C.E., Muhammad began to lose all hopes as the Meccans had decidedly rejected his faith. He was in despair after his attempt to convert the nearby town of at-Taif failed. But soon thereafter, another city, Medina, where his faith was doing well even in his absence, offered him hopes as his followers there invited him to relocate to that city. Having accepted the offer to relocate, he fled to Medina, allegedly before his enemies of Mecca could carry out their plan to murder him. His trip marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. It is known as Hijrah, which means ‘emigration’ or ‘migration’. There are numerous differences of between the Medinan and Meccan Surahs of the Qur’an. And so, of the 114 “Surahs” in the revealed Qur’an, do the “Medinan” verses follow and nullify several of the former “Meccan” verses? Also, I would describe the causes and effects of the great Muslim Hijrah of 622 C.E.
The Surahs are chapters of the Qur’an (Koran), the Islamic Holy scripture. They are collections of the different “verses” or ‘sayings’ of Muhammad, which Muslims believe were channeled to him via angel Jibrael from Allah’s original Arabic Qur’an in heaven. Muhammad uttered these sayings over a period of 23 years from the time of his first revelation in a cave in Hira in 610 C.E. and until his death 632 C.E. Estimates suggest that two-thirds of the Surahs of the Qur’an Muhammad spoke or repeated while living in Mecca and the other one third while living in Medina. During those 23 years, Muhammad faced some major changes in his circumstance, and these were reflected in the Surahs. Other than a general change of length, the Medinan Surahs being more prolonged and extensive than the Meccan ones, the character of the Surahs also changed. To understand this difference, it is vital to understand the situation in Muhammad’s life both in Mecca and then in Medina.
Muhammad, a member of the wealthy ruling Qurayesh tribe, grew up in Mecca. During this time, Mecca was a center of pagan worship, centered on the Kaab’ah, the main pagan temple of Arabia, which was under management of the Qurayesh tribe. Muhammad started receiving visions and, at first, he told nobody outside his immediate family. After his wife urged him, he started preaching to everyone the “Word of the Lord”. The first Meccan Surahs Muhammad "received" told him to tell others of Allah’s message. In these Surahs, he viewed himself as one, who should warn the people with a goal similar to that of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah of the Bible. Muhammad had warned the Meccan citizens to leave their idol-worship and wickedness behind, and to follow the one true Allah. During this time in Arabia, there was a great deal of Jewish and Nestorian Christian influences. Though Muhammad never read the Bible, he heard much about the prophets, about Abraham, Moses, and Jesus and the history of the Jews. He showed respect to “the people of the Book” and to the Bible in the Meccan Surahs. It is interesting to observe that the most dramatic change between the Meccan and Medinan Surahs concerns the Muslim relationship with Jews and Christians.
During the years when Muhammad preached in Mecca, he wanted to attract the Jews and Christians of the area to his message. He did this by showing the similarities of the other prophets and himself, and praising and showing that the Allah was the God of Abraham and was also the God of the Jews, Christians and Muslims! This helped him because, compared to negative reactions of most pagan citizens of Mecca, when they were told to destroy their sacred idols, the Jews and Christians welcomed his message and some of the so-called “Christians” even converted to Islam and became Muhammad’s closest companions and followers. However, by the time of his flight to Medina, his approaches “differed and the Medinan Surahs show a different face concerning the Jews and the Christians. Predominantly, the Jews and Christians, quietly yet firmly rejected his claims of being a prophet of God. Additionally, the change might have been influenced by a tribe of Jews that refused to help Muhammad when an army from Mecca besieged Medina in an attempt to kill “The Prophet of Islam”.
The Medinan Surahs show that though Muhammad still believed they served the same God, he started pointing out the fundamental differences of the Christian and Jewish beliefs from the teachings of Allah. For example, read and compare the following three verses:
A Meccan Surah (29:46): “And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, "We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him."
Whilst a Medinan Surah reads (9:30): ‘The Jews say, "Ezra is the son of Allah "; and the Christians say, "The Messiah is the son of Allah." That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the sayings of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded.’
Most of the Medinan Surahs, when speaking of the Jews, speak negatively about them and how they abandoned “The Book” and the ways of the Lord. Numerous passages warn Muslims to avoid them or not associate with them. Though the Qur’an claims that Allah had chosen Israel, it also says that God left them because of their disobedience and now blesses and cares for the Muslims! Even though that was the opinion of Muhammad towards the Jews and Christians, he sanctioned special better treatment towards them than towards other pagan people.
These contradictions in the Qur’an’s message raise much debate. But Muslims use various excuses to support these discrepancies of the Quran. For example, about the Christian-Muslim relations, Muhammad made it very clear that contradictions can occur because ‘Allah sends down newer revelations which improve or replace the older revelations’. [(2:106): “We do not abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten except that We bring forth [one] better than it or similar to it. Do you not know that Allah is over all things competent?”]
This is vital to understand that, even though you can clearly find contradictions in the Qur’an, Muhammad predicted and talked of such possibilities; and in the opinion of many Muslims, this does not change the sanctity of the Qur’an.
Continued in Part 3 (Part 1)