2. Late Dates
10. Talmudic Sources in the Qur'an
a. The story of Cain and Abel
b. The story of Abraham
c. The Story of Solomon and Sheba
15. The Jews
17. Dome of the Rock
19. 'Muslim' and 'Islam'
In August of 1995 I was invited to debate the motion, "Is the Qur'an the Word of God?" with Dr.
Jamal Badawi. The debate took place at Trinity College, Cambridge, and after our papers had
been presented the debate was opened to the floor for an hour of questions from both the
Muslims and Christians present. Below is the content of the paper, which I gave at the debate,
as well as further material, which I used in the question and answer period, and further data,
which has come out since the time of the debate. Because of the interest shown in the topic, we
have put this paper along with ten other apologetical papers, and certain Muslim rebuttals to the
material, as well as a number of the popular 99 Truth Tracts on a web-site, on the internet
(please use the following call number to access them:http:// w ww. domi ni.org/deb ate/hom e.htm).
Our hope is that with the material on this web site the debate can continue around the world,
and help to enliven the dialogue already begun by the Cambridge debate.
(Note: I have tried to footnote those statements which could prove to be contentious, or which
would stimulate the readers to look for further data. I have used the Harvard model, which
commences with the author's name, followed by the date of publication, and page number). Let
us then begin our study.
Islam claims that the Qur'an is not only God's Word, but that it is the final revelation given to humanity. It comes from the "Mother of all books" according to sura 43:2-4. Muslims maintain that the Qur'an is an exact word-for-word copy of God's final revelation, which is found on the original tablets that have always existed in heaven. They point to sura 85:21-22, which says, "Nay this is a glorious Qur'an, (inscribed) in a tablet preserved." Islamic scholars contend that this passage refers to the tablets which were never created. They believe that the Qur'an is an identical copy of the eternal heavenly book, even so far as the punctuation, titles and divisions of chapters are concerned.
According to Muslim tradition, these revelations' began to be sent down (Tanzil or Nazil) (sura 17:85), to the lowest of the seven heavens in the month of Ramadan, during the night of power or destiny (lailat al Qadr) (Pfander, 1910:262). From there they were revealed to Muhammad in installments, as need arose, via the angel Gabriel (sura 25:32). Consequently, every letter and
Most westerners have accepted these claims from Muslims at face value. They have never had the ability to argue their veracity, because the claims could neither be proved nor disproved, as their authority was derived solely from the Qur'an itself (dispelling any attempt to wrest from the pages of the Bible fulfilled prophecies of Deuteronomy 18, John 14, 16; and perhaps others).
There has also been a reticence to question the Qur'an and the prophet due to the adverse
response directed upon those who were brave enough to attempt it in the past. The fact is that
for too long westerners have been content to assume that the Muslims had evidence and data
to substantiate their claims.
It is only now, as secular scholars of Islam (known as "Orientalists") re-examine the Islamic
sources, that evidence is being uncovered which puts into question much of what we have been
led to believe concerning Muhammad and his revelation,' the Qur'an.
The findings of these scholars indicate that the Qur'an was not revealed to just one man, but
was a compilation of later redactions (or editions) formulated by a group of men, over the
course of a few hundred years (Rippin 1985:155; and 1990:3,25, 60). In other words, the Qur'an
which we read today is not that which was in existence in the mid-seventh century, but was
more than likely a product of the eighth and ninth centuries (Wansbrough 1977:160-163). It was
at this time, the Orientalists say, particularly in the ninth century, that Islam took on its classical
identity and became that which is recognizable today. Consequently, the formative stage of
Islam, they contend, was not within the lifetime of Muhammad but evolved over a period of 200-
300 years (Humphreys 1991:71, 83-89).
Source material for this period, however, is sparse. Essentially the only sources which had been
available to the historians were Muslim sources. What is more, outside the Qur'an,' the sources
are all late. Prior to 750 A.D. we have no verifiable Muslim documents which can give us a
window into this formative period of Islam (Wansbrough 1978:58-59). Nothing exists with which
to corroborate Muslim Tradition' material (that is, Islamic history based on their traditions). Later
documents simply draw upon earlier documents, which no longer exist today (if indeed they
existed at all) (Crone 1987:225-226; Humphreys 1991:73). This classical period (around 800
A.D.) describes the earlier period, but from its own viewpoint, much like an adult, writing about
their childhood will tend to remember those areas which were pleasant. Thus, the account is
coloured, and biased, and as such cannot be accepted as authentic by historical scholars (refer
to Crone's studies on the problems of the traditions,' especially those which were dependent on
local storytellers, in Meccan Trade....1987, pp.203-230 and Slaves on Horses, 1980, pp. 3-17).
Consequently, the demarcation line between what the historian will accept and that which
Muslim Traditions maintain is growing further apart for the following reasons: Islam, according to
orthodox Muslim scholars, gives complete credence to divine intervention for its revelation.
Muslim Tradition asserts that Allah sent down his revelation to Muhammad via the angel Gabriel
(Jibril) over a period of twenty-two years (610-632 A.D.), in which time many of the laws and
traditions which delineate that which we define as Islam were formulated and worked out.
Yet it is this scenario which secular historians are balking at today, as it presupposes that in the
early seventh century, Islam, a religion of immense sophistication, of intricate laws and
traditions was formulated in a backward' nomadic culture and became fully functional in only
twenty two years.
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