In their latest effort to save the Qur'an from the charge that it contains material borrowed from other sources, Saifullah and Company employ their two favorite lines of defense: ad hominem attacks and questioning the chronology of possible Jewish sources. The "Islamic Awareness" team begins by mocking and attacking (in their words) the Reverend and Saint Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall who noted that the Pirke De-Rabbi Eli'ezer may have been the source of Qur'an's story of Cain and Abel.
In an earlier article, Norman Stillman's "The Story Of Cain & Abel In The Qur'an And The Muslim Commentators: Some Observations", (Journal Of Semitic Studies, 1974, Volume 19) was used to counter Rev. Tisdall's claim that the Pirke De-Rabbi Eli'ezer was the source. The "Islamic Awareness" team quoted a section of this paper which discredits the idea that the Pirke De-Rabbi Eli'ezer was the source, but did not tell us that Stillman believed that the Midrash Tanhuma was the source of the Qur'an's account of the story of Cain and Abel. They also omitted a point that was made in another response to "Islamic Awareness" - that there are at least two ancient manuscripts of the Pirke De-Rabbi Eli'ezer. The ancient Vienna manuscript, which has only in recent years been translated into English, shows every evidence of being pre-Islamic. I wonder why the "Islamic Awareness" team did not want to share this information with us?
After we brought this omission to public attention, Saifullah and Company ignored our charge of selective quotation, which is both un-professional and misleading, and went to the library to do a little more "quote-mining" in order to save the Qur'an from being exposed as the fraud that it is. After using Norman Stillman to attack Rev. Tisdall, they needed to find a quote to discredit Stillman's contention that the Midrash Tanhuma was the source of Muhammad's Qur'anic tale of Cain and Abel.
Meyer Waxman's A History of Jewish Literature is called upon to save the Qur'an from the accusation of borrowing.
Saifullah and Company give us the following quote:
Modern scholars like Meyer Waxman agree with this dating of Midrash Tanhuma. Waxman, who provides further details, says:
... it [printed Tanhuma] could not have been the work of the author whose name it bears, as there are evidences which show definitely that the compiler was aquainted with the Karaite movement, with the works of Geonim written in the eighth century and other late events. The date of compilation is, therefore, placed by most scholars to be the second half of the ninth century.... The manuscript Tanhuma is not much younger than the printed one. It dates most likely from the end of the ninth century and is an incomplete version, as it contains new material only on the first three books of Moses; the other two are alike in both.
Does this settle the issue? Not really. If we read the previous two paragraphs, which Saifullah and Company omitted (I wonder why?), we find some interesting information:
Please notice that Waxman tells us, in the next paragraph which was quoted by Saifullah and Company, that the compilation dates from the second half of the ninth century. The man who compiled this Midrash, most likely included material dating from his lifetime in addition to older material dating from the pre-Islamic period. This process is how the Midrashim evolved over the centuries. The compiler was not the author of the entire work, as another source quoted by "Islamic Awareness" will point out.
Saifullah and Company give us a quote from Samuel A. Berman in an attempt to cast doubt on the Midrash because Berman does not refer to Midrash Tanhuma and the Tanhuma Yelammedenu synonymously as manuscripts. Berman makes an interesting observation which was, once again, omitted by the "Islamic Awareness" team:
It is amazing how quickly the "Islamic Awareness" arguments evaporate when the quotes are read in context!
It is difficult to provide concrete evidence concerning events which occured many centuries ago. Proving that Muhammad borrowed directly from other sources is as difficult to prove as the claim that Gabriel, and not Muhammad's imagination, spoke to him in the cave. The case for borrowing is based on circumstantial evidence - this standard of proof is used in courts of law in cases where no witnesses exist. There is overwhelming evidence, presented to us by scholars such as Reverend Tisdall, Rabbi Geiger, Abraham Katsh, and Israel Schapiro which show striking similarities between the tales in Muhammad's Qur'an and Jewish Midrashim, Christian Apocrypha, and Pagan tales.
The "Islamic Awareness" team leaves us with an amazing accusation:
There is no "intellectual crisis", the weight of the evidence suggests that Muhammad created portions of his Qur'an by borrowing stories from other traditions. An ad hominem is an attack which is made on a person. We made no such attack. Our attack was on the un-professional and inaccurate misuse of academic literature through partial and selective quotation. I can understand the "Islamic Awareness" team's discomfort with criticisms of the Qur'an and Muhammad. Many Muslims have never heard such criticisms in their own countries where the state and/or mob violence would silence anyone who dares to raise such issues. Since freedom of religion and speech are guaranteed in the West, some Muslims react to criticism of Islam by attacking the character and intelligence of anyone who dares to question their beliefs. For the authors of a site which has routinely called those who ask perfectly legitimate questions about the Qur'an and Muhammad devious, deceptive, and neophyte, and then feign offense concerning alleged ad hominem attacks, which were never made, is the height of hypocrisy, and the world has seen enough Muslim hypocrisy and false piety in recent months.
To Moo Or Not To Moo, That Is The Question!
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