Charles Hamilton, translator of The Hedaya: Commentary on the Islamic Law, writes in his preface to the translation: "Who was the real author of this extraordinary compound of declamation and precept, must for ever remain a matter of uncertainty, since on this point much difference of opinion exists, even among the earliest opponents of Mohammed and his pretended mission. That this extraordinary person, however, was himself the principal projector, is beyond dispute, although it be probably that he received much assistance from others in the composition of it."
Such an allegation that the Prophet authored the Qur'an implies that the Prophet falsely claimed to have received Divine Revelation. This undermines the honesty and integrity of the personality of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and negates his noble mission. The allegation also denotes that the Prophet had ulterior motives for claiming to be a recipient of Revelation. Among the foremost allegations and charges are:
i. The Prophet wrote the Qur'an though claiming it was divine
ii. Power or Wealth as Motive for claiming prophethood
iii. Arab Nationalism as a Motive
iv. Was Aided by Jewish or Christian Scholars in drawing up the Qur'an
v. Reproduced Qur'an from previous Scripture
vi. Dishonesty and Fabrication
Response to Various Charges
Prophet as Author: George Sale, in his Preliminary Discourse, first published in the eighteenth century, declared: "That Muhammad was really the author and chief contriver of the Qur'an is beyond dispute; though it is highly probably that he had no small assistance in his design from others." A similar view is that adopted by Richard Bell who writes in the preface to his translation, The Qur'an: Translated, With a Critical re-arrangement of the Surahs, that: "Muhammad himself wrote the Qur'an."
Responding to the charge that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the author of the Holy Book, the Qur'an commands him to reply: "Say it is not for me, of my own accord, to change it; I follow only what is revealed to me: If I were to disobey my Lord, I should myself fear the Penalty of a Great Day (to come). Say: If Allah so willed, I should not have rehearsed it to you. A whole life-time before this I have lived amongst you; Why do you then not understand? " (Q 10:15-16)
The holy Prophet's critics are told to reflect on the fact that he had lived amongst them for forty years, without showing any signs of great learning or even a flair for poetry; he was in fact non-literate. How could they explain the fact that he recited the Qur'an, which is unparalleled in sublimity? In fact, addressing Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself the Qur'an says: "And thou was not (able) to recite a Book before this (revelation came), nor are thou able to transcribe it with thy right hand: In that case, indeed, would the talkers of vanities have doubted" (Q 29:48)
Power or Wealth as Motive: During the most difficult period of torture, suffering and persecution in his prophetic career, an attractive offer was made to him by the chiefs of Makkah in return for which he was expected to stop what they regarded as dividing the people and he should give up his claim that there was only One Universal God. It was 'Utbah ibn Rabi'ah who presented the offer to Prophet Muhammad in the following words: "Son of my brother ... you are as thou know noble of tribe and your lineage assures you of a place of honor. You have brought to the people a matter of grave concern, whereby you have rifted the community, declared their way of life to be nonsensical, spoken shamefully of their gods and their ideology, and called their forefathers infidels. So hear what I propose, and see if any of it be acceptable to you. If it be wealth you seek, we will put together a fortune for you from our various properties that you may be the richest man amongst us. If it be honor you seek, we will make you our overlord and take no decisions without your consent; and if you want kingship; we will make you our king and if you can not rid yourself of this spirit that appears unto you we will find thee a physician and spend our wealth until the cure be complete." (Martin Lings, Muhammad: His life based on the earliest sources).
When the Quraish had earlier threatened him with the persecution of death if he did not renounce his new faith, Prophet Muhammad's reply to his uncle Abu Talib was: "O my uncle! By God, if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left in order that I may give up my work, I will not do so. I will go on till Allah helps me or I expire in the effort."
'Utbah too convinced that Muhammad was a prophet of God. His pagan friends ridiculed him for being "bewitched by Muhammad's recitation." The problem is: if Prophet Muhammad had composed the Qur'an as a means of getting riches, or power, there could be no better offer. Why would he reject it?
His honesty, selflessness, and humility are well recorded. Once he was traveling with some of his companions who began preparation to cook some food by dividing the work among them selves. The Prophet wanted to take the responsibility of collecting some wood. His companions told him that they could do it for him. The Prophet answered back, "I know you could do it for me but I hate to have any privilege over you."
The death of the Prophet Muhammad's beloved son Ibrahim coincided with the eclipse of the sun and people regarded it as a miracle from God that the heavens and earth were mourning the death of Ibrahim. The Prophet was angered by this and said: "The sun and moon are two signs out of Allah's innumerable signs. They are not eclipsed because of the death or birth of any human being."
A stranger once came to him almost trembling out of respect. The Prophet asked the man to come closer to him and with a compassionate pat on the man's shoulder told him: "Relax brother, I am only the son of a woman who used to eat dried bread."
There are also numerous citations, which clearly indicate that Prophet Muhammad lived a consistently frugal life from the beginning of his apostleship until the end of his life. The idea that he was motivated by material gain is inconsistent with historical evidence. As the New Catholic Encyclopedia observes: "A case has been made that mere economic gain was the inspiration from Muhammad's religious revolution. The case does not suit the facts as they are known."
The hypothesis of material motives is clearly at variance with historical evidence. Prophet Muhammad's financial position was far better before than after his prophethood. When he was 25 (15 years before proclaiming prophethood) he married and lived comfortably with Khadijah, who was a rich businesswoman. After announcement of his prophethood his financial position and life standard was certainly unenviable. Martin Lings says in his book, Muhammad: His Life Based On the Earliest Sources: "The Prophet and his family had lived a life of utmost frugality. 'Aisha said that before (the conquest of) Khayber she had not known what it was to eat her fill of dates. Such was the poverty of their ever-increasing dependents that the Prophet's wives had only asked him for what they needed, and not always that."
Hafiz Ghulam Sarwar writes in his book, Muhammad, The Holy Prophet: "At the time of his death, Prophet Muhammad was penniless. He had seven dinars in his possession but had them distributed to the poor a few days before his death, being afraid that they might be left behind."
Nationalism as a Motive: The New Catholic Encyclopedia also suggests that Prophet Muhammad's prophetic call was merely a means of uniting the Arabs. "About the age of 40 he received his prophetic' call to unite the Arabs under monotheism."
According to literary critic and academic M.M. Mulokozi it was "deep-seated desire to liberate his fatherland, Arabia, from imperialist domination" which drove Prophet Muhammad to adopt prophethood as a means of unifying his people to fight their oppressors: "Politically therefore, Islam emerged from a colonial situation and oppression. The Islamic movement was to some extent, an attempt by the Arabs to disengage themselves from the clutches of the imperialist powers ... the historic role of Islam was therefore to foster a spirit of nationalism amongst them, and to lead them to fight their oppressors. The means employed to bring about that unity is that of Prophethood, a means well-suited to the long-standing, centuries-old experience Of the people of the Middle East." (Mulokozi, quoted by the martyr Sayed Qutb, In the Shade of the Qur'an)
Furthermore, The Holy Qur'an states that the bond of Faith is far more important than family ties. (Q 9:23), (Q 11:45-46), (Q 2:124), (Q 66:10-11). Nowhere in the Qur'an is Allah described as the God of Quraishites, the God of Arabs or the God of Muslims. See (Q 1:1)(Q 4:79).
The theory that Prophet Muhammad had authored the Qur'an in order to unite and liberate the Arabs is very difficult to defend for the following reasons:
Firstly, if that were the case, the Qur'an would have put much accent on the theme of unity and liberation for the Arabs. In fact there is not a single verse in the whole Qur'an calling for the unity or liberation of the Arab nation.
Secondly, the Qur'anic concept of ummah (supra-national fellowship) is ideological, universal and against all forms of nationalistic tendencies. It is based on the criterion of truth (haqq), and opposed to falsehood (batil). Anyone who accepts that ideology is a member irrespective of nationality, gender, race, color, or even blood ties. The Abyssinian slave Bilal was closer to the Prophet than his own Quraishi Arab uncle Abu Jahl. The unity, which prevailed in Arabia after the triumph of Islam, was ideological (not national), and that unity is strongly encouraged by the Qur'an as a universal ideal.
Thirdly, some of the most renowned companions of the holy Prophet were non-Arabs; e.g. Salman (Persian), Bilal (Abyssinian). These were key members of a nascent Islamic movement from the outset.
Helped by Jewish or Christian Scholars : The implication here is that Prophet Muhammad had carefully studied previous scriptures and "selected" or "borrowed" those portions, which appeared consistent to him. This theory is greatly weakened by the following points:
Firstly, Prophet Muhammad said that the Qur'an came from Allah and for historical, psychological and logical reasons Muhammad could not have produced the Qur'an.
Secondly, Prophet Muhammad was non-literate. He could not have studied and selected from previous scriptures without the ability to read and write.
Thirdly, the first Arabic version of the Old Testament appeared two hundred years after the demise of Prophet Muhammad, and the oldest Arabic version of the New Testament appeared a thousand years after the departure of Muhammad. Under "Sources of the Qur'an", Thomas Patrick Hughes writes, "We have no evidence that Muhammad had access to the Christian scriptures.. It should also be borne in mind that we have no clear traces of the existence of Arabic versions of the Old or New Testament previous to the time of Muhammad. The earliest Arabic version of the Old Testament of which we have any knowledge is that of R. Saadias Gaon A.D. 900 and the oldest Arabic version of the New Testament is that published by Erpenius in 1616 "
Fourthly, similarity between any two compositions or books does not in itself constitute sufficient evidence that one was copied from the other, or the latter from the earlier one. Both of them could be based on a common third source, the Divine, and this is precisely the argument of the Qur'an. There are also major variations in the stores of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Lot, Moses, and Jesus (Peace be upon them). The idea that the Qur'an has largely borrowed from the Bible is certainly erroneous. Where did the Prophet Muhammad get so many details, which are absent in the Bible if the Qur'an was principally dependent on Jewish and Christian traditions? Under 'Christianity in Arabia' the New Catholic Encyclopedia however affirms that during the time of the Prophet, "The Hejaz had not been touched by Christian teaching."
Fifthly, if Prophet Muhammad was taught by some Jew or Christian then:
a) Why is it that with an abundance of historical material on the Prophet's life, and in spite of the extensive research on his life for centuries by his severest critics, why was it not possible to discover the mysterious teacher(s) through whom he (pbuh) might have learned?
b) Whoever taught him would surely have written a book or at least a chapter similar to the Qur'anic revelations. Where are such works?
c) Under these circumstances, and considering the climate of antagonism existing between him and those who did not believe in his message; particularly the Jews and the Polytheists, his teacher's name could scarcely have remained unknown throughout all the years of the Prophet's mission. It is known that Prophet Muhammad was opposed, ridiculed, and persecuted for nearly thirteen years by his own contemporaries. With this magnitude of severe animosity, was it not possible for them to prove to the masses that Muhammad's claim of revelation was sheer fabrication? Was it not possible for them to reveal and name the alleged human source of sources of his teaching?
d) He would never have preached a faith so radically different from Christianity and Judaism, particularly with respect to their basic creeds.
Reproduced a Literature from previous Scripture: A difficulty is presented by Prophet Muhammad's life long non-literacy for those who allege that he reproduced the Qur'an from copying and restating segments of previous scriptures. As the Qur'an suggests, had Prophet Muhammad been literate, many critics would have doubted his claim. The Prophet's non-literacy has also been referred to in the Qur'an [7:158]. Since he was unlettered, it is inconceivable that he could have gathered all the materials from the Hanifs, Jews, Christians and from other pagan sources and then recast the material and recite it orally for 23 years in the sublime language of the Qur'an without the aid of a pen; responding to theological, ethical, political, social and judicial issues in a most appropriate yet innovative manner. Note that Prophet Muhammad grew up in an environment that was predominantly idolatrous and the Qur'an has been uncompromisingly monotheistic from the outset.
Dishonesty and Fabrication: Finally, the suggestion that the Prophet had consciously fabricated the Qur'an is inconsistent with all available records of his character. Even before his claim to prophethood he was known as Muhammad (Al-Sadiq) the Truthful, (Al-Amin) the Trustworthy. Not a single lie has been recorded against him, and even his enemies have acknowledged this fact. Early in his mission, for example, he called all the Quraish to Mount Safa. The people gathered there and asked him, "What is the matter?" He said, "Just consider this, If I told you there was an army behind this hill (waiting to attack you) would you believe me?" They said, "Yes, you are the one without blemish and we have never known you to tell a lie." (H.G. Sarwar. Life of Muhammad)
When Abu Sufyan, then an arch-enemy of Muhammad (pbuh), was asked by Heraclius, "Have you ever accused of Muhammad of telling lies before this claim (of being a Prophet)?" His reply was in the negative. Heraclius further asked: "What does he order you to do?" Abu Sufyan replied, "He tells us to worship Allah and not to worship anything along with Him, and to renounce all that our ancestors had said about God. He orders us to pray, to speak the truth, to be chaste and to keep good relations with our kith and kin."
Divine Negation of Human Authorship
Apart from the assertion that it is a divine revelation and the emphatic negation of human authorship; the holy Qur'an also spells out the method of disproving the allegations of those who doubt its Divine source: "And if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a Surah like it; and call upon all besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true. But if you cannot - and surely you cannot - then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones which is prepared for those who reject the truth." Furthermore, the Qur'an explicitly states, "This is indeed a Qur'an; most honorable ... A Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds." (Q:17:88)
This fact is further reaffirmed by subsequent scholarship, and we furnish here some opinions of important non-Muslim scholars about the Qur'an. One can easily see how some in the modern world are coming closer to the reality regarding the Qur'an. We appeal to all open-minded people to study the Qur'an in the light of the aforementioned points. We are sure that any such attempt will convince the reader that the Qur'an was not authored by Prophet Muhammad and could never have been written by any human being.
"The best of Arab witness have never succeeded in producing anything equal in merits to the Qur'an... To compose such revelations at will was beyond the power of the most expert literary artist." Encyclopedia Britannica
"The miracle of Islam par excellence is the Quran ... How could this marvelous book be the work of Muhammad, an illiterate Arab... The Qur'an could not be the work of an uneducated man... Unless he had the help of the Divine." Dr. Laura Vaglliari
"By a fortune absolutely unique in history, Muhammad is a threefold founder of a nation, of an empire, and of a religion. The Quran is a book which is a poem, a code of laws, a book of common prayer, all in one and is reverenced by a large section of the human race as a miracle of purity and style, of wisdom and truth. It is the one miracle claimed by Muhammad, 'his standing miracle' as he called it, a miracle indeed it is." Reverend Bosworth Smith
Shaykh Sadullah Khan is the Director of Impower Development International.