Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Muhammadan Polemicist Disproves the Quran Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun


In the cross-fire section of his debate with Dr. James R. White on the status of the Lord Jesus, Muhammadan dawagandist Sami Zaatari challenged White’s assertion that some of the stories of Jesus in the Quran were obviously borrowed from Gnostic fables and legends:

“Show me the names of who the prophet got these stories from orally, since you made the claim… Show us the names, show us where, show us when… And again, show us the names, show us when. Don't just tell us, hey! he got it from somebody. Who's that somebody, I want to know…. And again, he didn't show us where the prophet Muhammad borrowed these stories. I'm not going to let him get away with it since this is his criteria.” (DEBATE Sami Zaatari vs Dr James White Jesus, Divine Son of God or Great Prophet of Allah 11

"… And he can't show me a specific example of where the prophet borrowed these stories. Give me who, when, where." (Ibid.

Pay careful attention to the implication of Sami’s challenge. If we can disclose the name(s) of Muhammad’s informants, the individual(s) whom he learned and borrowed his fables from, then this will basically prove that he is a false prophet and that his Quran is nothing more than an incoherent, unintelligible babble consisting primarily of the myths, legends, and fairytales that were circulating among the pagans, Jews, Christians etc., of his day.   

We have decided to answer Sami’s challenge by showing him the names of Muhammad’s informants, and by giving him a specific example where Muhammad took what he heard from others and passed it off as revelation from God.


The Quran itself testifies that Muhammad’s contemporaries knew that the stories that he was passing off to them were nothing more than the fairy-tales which they had already heard growing up, and which he obviously adopted from individuals with whom he conversed and/or learned from. Case in point:

And indeed We know that they (polytheists and pagans) say: "It is only a human being who teaches him (Muhammad).” The tongue of the man they refer to is foreign, while this (the Qur'an) is a clear Arabic tongue. S. 16:103 Hilali-Khan

The Quran’s objection to the accusation of the disbelievers is not only weak but also desperate. To be quite blunt, it is an absolutely terrible and pathetic argument, especially since this is supposed to be coming from the one true omniscient God of all creation. Muhammad’s informant(s) didn’t need to know Arabic (at least not fluently) in order for him to learn or borrow his stories from. All that was required was for Muhammad to understand what he was hearing or being taught, and then communicating that information in Arabic for his Arabic audience.  

According to the Muslim sources, the unbelievers even knew the names of the people that had influenced Muhammad to compose his fairy-tales:  

107. In this connection, traditions mention the names of several persons, one of whom is Jabar. According to the disbelievers of Makkah he taught the Prophet. However, one thing particularly noteworthy about all these persons is that they were non Arab slaves. Whosoever he might be, the fact that he used to recite the Torah and the Gospel and had an acquaintance with the Prophet. This gave an opportunity to the disbelievers for spreading this false report that it was the particular slave who was the real author of the Holy Quran, but Muhammad presented it as the Word of God. This not only shows that his opponents were very impudent in spreading false accusations against the Prophet but also that, in general, people are not just in judging the worth of their contemporaries. They were ill treating like this that great personality who has had no parallel in history. Nevertheless, these people who had become blind in their opposition, preferred to attribute the authorship of the matchless Arabic Quran to a non Arab slave who had a smattering of the Torah and the Gospel. Instead of accepting the claim of the Prophet, who was an embodiment of truth, they attributed its authorship to an insignificant foreign slave. (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur’an: The Meaning of the Qur’an; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Allah tells us about the idolators' lies, allegations, and slander when they claimed that this Qur'an which Muhammad had recited for them, was actually taught to him by a human. They referred to a foreign (i.e., non-Arab) man who lived among them as the servant of some of the clans of Quraysh and who used to sell goods by As-Safa. Maybe the Messenger of Allah used to sit with him sometimes and talk to him a little, but he was a foreigner who did not know much Arabic, only enough simple phrases to answer questions when he had to… (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; bold and underline emphasis ours) 

And verily wa-laqad is for confirmation We know that they say ‘It is only a human that is teaching him the Qur’ān’ — this was a Christian blacksmith whom the Prophet USED TO FREQUENT. God exalted be He says The tongue the language of him to whom they refer to whom they incline with the accusation that he is the one teaching him is foreign’; while this Qur’ān is in a clear Arabic tongue one of lucidity and clarity so how can a foreigner be teaching him? (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours) 

(And We know well) O Muhammad (that they) i.e. the disbelievers of Mecca (say: Only a man) Jabr and Yasar (teacheth him) the Qur'an. (The speech of him at whom they falsely hint) incline and ascribe this to (is outlandish) Hebraic, (and this is clear Arabic speech) He says: the Qur'an is in the usage of the Arabic language. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; bold and underline emphasis ours) 

(And We know well that they say: Only a man teacheth him. The speech of him at whom they falsely hint is outlandish…) [16:103]. Abu Nasr Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Muzakki> Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Hamdan al-Zahid> ‘Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz> Abu Hisham al-Rifa‘i> Ibn Fudayl> Husayn> ‘Abd Allah ibn Muslim who said: “We owned two Christian youths from the people of ‘Ayn Tamr, one called Yasar and the other Jabr. Their trade was making swords but they also could read the Scriptures in their own tongue. The Messenger of Allah used to pass by them AND LISTEN TO THEIR READING. As a result, the idolaters used to say: ‘He is being taught by them!’ To give them the lie, Allah, exalted is He, revealed (The speech of him at whom they falsely hint is outlandish, and this is clear Arabic speech)”. ('Alī ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

He went on: “The Messenger of God used often to sit at al-Marwa near the shop of a young Christian named Jabr, a slave of the Banu al-Hadrami. People would say, ‘By God, it is merely Jabr who teaches Muhammad most of what he says!’” (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad (Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya), translated by Professor Trevor Le Gassick, reviewed by Dr. Ahmed Fareed [Garnet Publishing Limited, 8 Southern Court, south Street Reading RG1 4QS, UK; The Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization: First paperback edition, 2000], Volume II, p. 55) 

Ibn Kathir further confirms that five years before Muhammad claimed to be a prophet there was a carpenter in Mecca who was a Coptic Christian: 

Muhammad b. Ishaq b. Yasar said, “When the Messenger of God reached 35 the Quraysh reached an agreement to rebuild the ka‘ba. They did so because they were concerned about reroofing it, being afraid its roof would collapse since it was made only of stones set above its frame. They also wanted to make it taller as well as reroof it… 

Ibn Ishaq said, “In Mecca there was A COPT who was a carpenter and so they had available to them some of what was needed to repair it. 

“There was a serpent that would emerge from the ka‘ba’s well into which they would drop every day the sacrificial offerings. It would emerge and sun itself on the ka‘ba‘s wall. They were all afraid of it, because whenever anyone approached it, it would raise its head, move its coils audibly and open its mouth. One day as it lay on the ka‘ba‘s wall as was its habit, God sent down a bird which snatched it up and flew away with it. 

At that the Quraysh said, ‘Now we can hope that God is pleased at our plan. We have a local carpenter, and wood, and God has taken care of the serpent.’” (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad (Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya), Volume I, pp. 199-200; bold and capital emphasis ours) 

This next one is rather interesting:

Narrated Anas:

There was a Christian who embraced Islam and read Surat-al-Baqara and Al-Imran, and he used to write (the revelations) for the Prophet. Later on he returned to Christianity again and he used to say: “Muhammad knows nothing but what I have written for him.” Then Allah caused him to die, and the people buried him, but in the morning they saw that the earth had thrown his body out. They said, “This is the act of Muhammad and his companions. They dug the grave of our companion and took his body out of it because he had run away from them.” They again dug the grave deeply for him, but in the morning they again saw that the earth had thrown his body out. They said, “This is an act of Muhammad and his companions. They dug the grave of our companion and threw his body outside it, for he had run away from them.” They dug the grave for him as deep as they could, but in the morning they again saw that the earth had thrown his body out. So they believed that what had befallen him was not done by human beings and had to leave him thrown (on the ground). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 814)

Putting aside the obvious legendary embellishments, it is rather evident from the above narration that there was a growing problem of people claiming to have influenced Muhammad in composing the Quran which the Muslims had to address and explain away. 

The following lengthy quote is taken from the Reverend E. M. Wherry’s comprehensive commentary to the Quran:

(105) A certain man teacheth him. The following is Sale's note on the passage. We give his authorities in a footnote below:-

"This was a great objection made by the Makkans to the authority of the Quran; for when Muhammad insisted, as a proof of its divine original, that it was impossible a man so utterly unacquainted with learning as himself could compose such a book, they replied that he had one or more assistants in the forgery; but as to the particular person or persons suspected of this confederacy, the traditions differ. One says it was Jabr, a Greek servant to Amar Ibn Hadhrami, who could read and write well (1); another, that they were Jabr and Yasar, two slaves who followed the trade of sword-cutlers at Makkah, and used to read the Pentateuch and Gospel, and had often Muhammad for their auditor when he passed that way. (2) Another tells us that it was one Aish or Yaish, a domestic of al Huaitib Ibn Abd al Uzza, who was a man of some learning, and had embraced Muhammadanism. (3) Another supposes it was one Qais, a Christian, whose house Muhammad frequented; (4) another, that it was Addas, a servant of Otha Ibn Rabia, (5) and another, that it was Salman the Persian. (6)

"According to some Christian writers, (7) Abdullah Ibn Salam, the Jew who was so intimate with Muhammad (named by one, according to the Hebrew dialect, Abdias Ben Salon, and by another, Abdala Celen), was assisting him in the compiling his pretended revelations. This Jew Dr. Prideaux confounds with Salman the Persian, who was a very different man, as a late author (8) has observed before me; wherefore, and for that we may have occasion to speak of Salman hereafter, it may be proper to add a brief extract of his story as told by himself. He was of a good family of Ispahan, and in his younger years left the religion of his country to embrace Christianity, and travelling into Syria, was advised by a certain monk of Amuria to go into Arabia, where a prophet was expected to arise about that time, who should establish the religion of Abraham, and whom he should know, among other things, by the seal of prophecy between his shoulders. Salman performed the journey, and meeting with Muhammad at Kuba, where he rested in his flight to Madina, soon found him to be the person he sought, and professed Islam.(9)

"The general opinion of the Christians, however, is that the chief help Muhammad had in the contriving his Quran was from a Nestorian monk named Sergius, supposed to be the same person with the monk Buhaira, with whom Muhammad in his younger years had some conference at Bosra, a city of Syria Damascena, where that monk resided, (10) to confirm which supposition a passage has been produced from an Arab writer, (11) who says that Buhaira's name in the books of the Christians is Sergius, but this is only a conjecture; and another (12) tells us that his true name was Said or Felix, and his surname Buhaira. But be that as it will, if Buhaira and Sergius were the same man, I find not the least intimation in the Muhammadan writers that he ever quitted his monastery to go into Arabia (as is supposed by the Christians), and his acquaintance with Muhammad at Bosra was too early to favour the surmise of his assisting him in the Quran, which was composed long after, though Muhammad might from his discourse gain some knowledge of Christianity and of the Scriptures, which might be of use to him therein.

"From the answer given in this passage of the Quran to the objection of the infidels viz., that the person suspected by them to have a hand in the Quran spoke a foreign language, and therefore could not, with any face of probability, be supposed to assist in a composition written in the Arabic tongue, and with so great elegance, it is plain this person was no Arabian. The word Ajami, which is here used, signifies any foreign or barbarous language in general, but the Arabs applying it more particularly to the Persian, it has been thence concluded by some that Salman was the person. However, if it be true that he came not to Muhammad till after the Hijra, either he could not be the man here intended, or else this verse must have been revealed at Madina, contrary to the common opinion."

1 Zamakhshari, Baidhawi, Yahya
2 Zamakhshari, Baidhawi. See Prideaux, Life of Mohammed, p.32.
3 Ibidem.
4 Jalaluddin.
5 Zamakhshari, Yahya.
6 Zamakhshari, Baidhawi.
7 Ricardi, Confut. Legis Saracenicae, c. 13; Joh. Andreas de Confus, Sectae Mahometanae, c. 2; see Prideaux, Life of Mohammed, pp. 33, 34.
8 Gagnier, note in Abulf., Vit. Moh., p.74.
9 Ex Ibn Ishaq; vide Gagnier, ibid.
10 See Prideaux, ubi sup., p.35, &c.; Gagnier, ubi sup., pp.10, 11; Marrac. de Alcor., p.37.
11 Al Masudi.
12 Abu'l Hasan al Baqri in Quran.

On this subject Muir writes as follows: - "Shortly after Mahomet began to occupy the house of Arcam, several slaves allied themselves to him. Of these, Yasar and Jabr are mentioned by the commentators of the Coran as the parties accused by the Coreish of instructing the Prophet. The latter was the Christian servant of a family from Hadhramaut, and the Prophet is said to have sat much at his cell. The former better know under the name of Abu Fokeiha, was subjected to great persecution, but probably died some time before the Hegira. His daughter Fokeiha was married to Hattab, a convert, whom we find, with others of his family, among the subsequent emigrants to Abyssinia.

"A more important convert, styled by Mahomet 'the first-fruits of Greece,' was Suheib, son of Sinan. His home was at Mousal or some neighbouring Mesopotamian village. His father, or his uncle, had been the Persian governor of Obolla. A Grecian hand made an incursion into Mesopotamia, and carried him off, while yet a boy, to Syria, perhaps to Constantinople. Bought afterwards by a party of the Bani Kaib, he was sold at Mecca to Abdalla lbn Jodaan, who gave him freedom and took him under his protection. A fair and very ruddy complexion marked his Northern birth, and broken Arabic betrayed a Grecian education. By traffic he acquired considerable wealth at Mecca; but having embraced Islam, and being left by the death of Abdalla without a patron, he suffered much at the hands of the unbelieving Coreish. It is probable that Mahomet gained some knowledge of Christianity from him, and he may be the same to whom the Meccans at a later period referred as the source of his Scriptural information: 'And indeed we know that they say, VERILY A CERTAIN MAN TEACHETH HIM,' &c. . . . Another freed slave, Ammar, used to resort to the house of Arcam, and simultaneously with Suheib embraced Islam."- Life of Mahomet, vol. ii. pp. 122-125. 

Whatever doubt may remain as to the identity of the person alluded to here, of one thing we are certainly informed - that Muhammad had the means of receiving help from both Jews and Christians some years before he fled to Madina. That he availed himself of this help, the stories related in the later Makkan chapters of the Quran, drawn as they are from the Jewish Scriptures and traditions, suffice to prove beyond all doubt. The passage before us tells us the charge of receiving help from foreigners was made against Muhammad by his neighbours. His reply proves the weakness of his effort to rebut the charge; for as Arnold well says, "admitting they were foreigners they might nevertheless supply him with materials." This is just what they did do, and it is because Muhammad wrought up these materials to suit his prophetic purposes, and then repeated them as the very word of God received by direct revelation from heaven through the ministration of the Angel Gabriel - it is because of this that we do not hesitate to reiterate the old charge of deliberate imposture.

Mr. Bosworth Smith (Mohamed and Mohammedanism, p. 134) admits that after the Hijra "a change does seem to come over him. The revelations of the Koran are more and more suited to the particular circumstances and caprices of the moment." But were we to trace this trait of Muhammad's character back from Madina towards Makkah, he would find it fully manifested long before he left his native city. Circumstances no doubt modified its manifestation, but the trait of character was the same. (Wherry, A Comprehensive Commentary on the Quran [Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co. Ltd., Paternoster House, Charing Cross Road: London, 1886], Volume III (3), pp. 44-47; bold and underline emphasis ours; footnote numbers from Sale adjusted for easier matching)

We are not through just yet, since we have more evidence in the next part of our rebuttal.