page 26


Did Muhammad borrow from Judaism? And if so, what did he borrow?

Before we pass to the consideration of individual passages as instances of borrowing from Judaism, we must show some general historical grounds for the opinion that a borrowing from that source has taken place; and thus this division falls again into two sections, a general and a particular.


Did Muhammad borrow from Judaism?

For the answer to this question we are thrown back entirely on the Quran,1 as we have no other literature

page 27

of the same date which treats of the matter in question. Still there are plenty of passages there preserved to us, which in a general way sufficiently prove our point; and indeed they all contain either the blame expressed by Muhammad's contemporaries at his borrowing from Judaism, or else an appeal from him to the Jews, as witnesses of the truth of his assertions. He complains bitterly in many passages that the Arabs said his words were not original,1 and even called them antiquated lies.2 Sometimes they said still more definitely that a certain man taught him,3 and the addition of the words:4 "The tongue of the person unto whom they incline is a foreign tongue, but this is the perspicuous Arabic tongue," shows plainly that this man was a Jew. Commentators take this view, and indeed think that it was 'Abdu'llah Ibn Salam, a learned Rabbi, with whom Muhammad was in constant and close intercourse, and who is frequently mentioned in the commentaries.5 Another rather more general statement is as follows:6 "Other people have assisted him therein" on which Elpherar remarks7: "Mujahid says, by this he means the Jews". Could any one desire a clearer historical witness than this accusation, which was so often brought against Muhammad,

page 28

and which appeared to him so important that he constantly referred to it in the hope of refuting the charge? He himself confesses, however, that much related by him is to be found in the earlier Scriptures. To the embarrassing question, as to why he never worked a miracle, he constantly answered that he who was called to be a preacher only, not a wonder-worker, had yet told them plainly of the miracles which are mentioned in the earlier writings,1 and which the learned Jews knew well.2 They could testify to the truth of these narratives,3 and among them one man4, especially the aforesaid 'Abdu'llah Ibn Salam,5 to whom the laudatory passage in Sura III. 68 is said to refer. Not only were they to corroborate his words to others, but also to remove any doubt from Muhammad's own mind as to the truth of his Mission. Thus we have in one place the injunction given to him:6 "If thou art in doubt concerning that which we have sent down unto thee,

page 29

ask them who have read the book before thee."7 If he then, however cunningly, acknowledges the Jews as to a certain extent witnesses to his revelations, we are justified in expressing our opinion that Judaism was one source of the utterances in the Quran, and in this certainty we may proceed at once to discuss the actually borrowed passages.

JUDAISM AND ISLAM [Table of Contents]
Answering Islam Home Page