On The Bible Borrowing Theories Of The Qur'ân: An Authoritative Refutation

Methodological Fallacy Of The Theory Of Religious Borrowing

Mansur Ahmed, M S M Saifullah & Muhammad Ghoniem

© Islamic Awareness, All Rights Reserved.

Last Updated: 21st June 1999

Assalamu-alaikum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

The 'Charge' & Its Implications

And they say: 'Tales of the ancients which he has caused to be written...'

'And they say: 'Tales of the ancients which he has caused to be written' This charge of borrowing ancient materials and composing it as the Qur'ân is, contrary to popular view among the Christians, not new. It is as old as its time of revelation. In fact the above quotation is from the Qur'ân itself! (Surah 25, verse 5). Since the Qur'ân, in the time of its revelation, talks about the people before them, as well as which was known to them from before, it was one of the excuses of unbelievers rejection of the Qur'ân.

Missionary Christians are now faithfully echoing this tradition of the excuse-makers.

So What Is The Implication Of This Charge?

It is that the Qur'ân is not a divine revelation since most of it is found narrated in ancient texts and traditions, some of which are known to be myths, legends and fables, while other parts just plagiarized from the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Therefore, by implication again form this is that Muhammad(P) is an imposter who is seen to be fabricating, plagiarizing and claiming to have received divine inspiration and thus deceived the people, i.e., Muhammad(P) is an imposter and the Qur'ân is a deception.

The Theory Of Religious Borrowing

The main theme of the theory of borrowing is as follows:

If a later text shows similarities to an older (i.e.earler) text(s) or tradition(s) or is similar to what is known (or thought to be known) before, then the later text has borrowed/plagiarized/copied/utilized the 'previously known'.

Ever since Abraham Geiger's Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthume aufgenommen? in 1833 which gave an over- exaggerated view of the Jewish 'contribution' in the Qur'ân, - the Jews, Christian and the Orientalists have gone at pains to show parallels in the Qur'ân from pre-Qur'ânic sources, thus to their satisfaction demonstrating Prophet Muhammad(P)'s spiritual debt to the Judeo-Christian heritage. The use of these 'scholarly' materials has become a missionary heritage in our present time. Some of which is seen at:

But before we go into that what needs clarification is whether similarities always imply borrowing.

Does Similarities Imply Borrowing?

Let's start with an example. Prophet Noah(P) was given certain commandments. So was Prophet Moses(P) after him. If we were to see that the followers of Prophet Noah(P) accusing of the followers of Prophet Moses(P), how do we expect the followers of Prophet Moses(P) to respond? We might hear a response like this:

We will thus see that the emphasis shifts to verifying the inherent proofs or evidences of the fresh revelation when older (or traces of the older) revelation still exists. Therefore, similarity between two revelations can even imply that the later revelation is from God.

The Dilemma & The Double Standard

Since it is the claim of the Christian missionaries that similarities imply borrowing then one can simply show the same in the Bible concerning the notion of God as depicted in the Old Testament as an aged diety, his dwelling place and heavenly court being borrowed from Ugaritic sources. The Flood narrative in Genesis and the Mesopotamian parallels are some of the most interesting parallels in the history. There are many more examples that can be shown.

Now the key question is: Are the Christian missionaries now ready to accept the conclusions of the orientalists with regards to biblical data being borrowed from ancient texts? Surely it seems unlikely. They will readily say that biblical data is derived from the same source from which earlier data was generated albeit now corrupted, and biblical data is providing true narratives that ought to be. This is what we Muslims have been saying all along! That is, the Qur'ân corrects the previous texts, testifies to their truthfulness and falsifies their falsities. But this alternative theory puts them into a dilemma. Hence they are seen resorting to a double standard.
They would accept the 'one source' theory when it comes to comparing biblical data with ancient literature or traditions; but resorts back to the borrowing theory when it comes to comparing Qur'ân with earlier literature or traditions. However, as we shall see, the problem lies elsewhere.

The Theory Of Innovation

It is not just the similarities between the Qur'ân and earlier texts but the differences also has given another problem to the missionaries. Suppose the Qur'ân was totally devoid of similarities, would they then accept it? Very unlikely. Rather they have come up with another theory: The theory of innovation. Why? Because it is not to be found in earlier revelation (which to them is the Bible). Because some of the concepts in the Qur'ân are not similar to earlier revelations, then they must have been invented. But this brings us back to square one.

Parallels imply borrowing, so can't accept.

Differences imply innovation, so can't accept.

This is the millenium bug of missionary evangelism: the tautological war you can't win either way, any way bug.

Missionary Tautology & Its Implication

This methodology is used not to prove why they don't believe in the Qur'ân; rather to deceive the uninformed Muslims to have doubts about the Qur'ân and to make them accept the Bible, as well as to prevent others from considering Islam.

The Jews and the Christians will never be satisfied until you changed to their religion.....

They wish that Qur'ân never had existed.

The problem lies elsewhere! Now suppose Qur'ân had similarities which totally agreed in doctrines to that of the Bible, would they accept it then? We don't think so. It all comes down to

Let's give an example:

Suppose the whole of the Qur'ân was just a single chapter consisting of 3-4 verses e.g., Surah Ikhlas 104, which when interpreted means:

Say or Proclaim: Allah is Ahad (one, unique, only). Allah is as-Samad (Absolute, independent, eternal, on whom every one and every thing depends). He is not begotten, and does not beget And there is none co-equal unto him (in whatever manner).

Would the missionary Christians accept this? If not, then it's not the concept of borrowing which is the problem in accepting the Qur'ân but it is what the Qur'ân has to say.

To make it clear: Not the alleged source(s) of the Qur'ân but the contents of it.

Important Questions To Ask

Furthermore, the assertion of Judeo-Christian borrowing raises a number of questions. Jamal Badawi puts forward the following six questions:

  1. Why is it in spite of the abundance of historical material on Muhammad(P)'s life, and in spite of the extensive research on his life for centuries by his severe critics, that it was not possible to discover the mysterious teacher(s) through whom Muhammad(P) might have learned all that?

  2. It is known that Muhammad(P) was opposed, ridiculed and persecuted for nearly 13 years by his own contemporaries. With this magnitude of severe enemies, was it not possible for them to prove to the masses that Muhammad(P)'s claim of revelation was sheer fabrication? Was it not possible for them to reveal and name the person whom they alleged to be the human source or sources of his teachings? Even some of his adversaries who had made this assertion, changed their minds later on and accused him, instead, of magic or being possessed by evil... etc.

  3. Muhammad(P) was raised among his people and every aspect of his life was exposed to them, especially by the openness that characterises tribal life in the desert. How could the multitudes of his contemporaries, including many of his close relatives who knew him so well, how could they believe in his truthfulness if they had any doubt that he was claiming credit for ideas taught to him by some other teachers without bothering to give them credit ?

  4. What kind of teacher might have taught Muhammad(P) a coherent and complete religion that changed the face of history? Why didn't he or they (if any) speak against the alleged student who continued learning from them, while ignoring them and claiming some other divine source for his teachings?

  5. How could many Jews and Christians amongst his contemporaries become Muslims and believe in his truthfulness if they knew he was copying from their scriptures or learning from their priests or rabbis?

  6. It is known that some of the Qur'ânic revelations to Muhammad(P) in the presence of people. The Qur'ân was revealed over the span of 23 years, where then that was mysterious, perhaps invisible teacher of Muhammad(P)? How could he have hidden himself for so long? Or how could Muhammad(P) who was constantly surrounded by companions, how was he able to make frequent secret visits to that mysterious teacher or teachers for 23 years without even being caught once?

The answer to all these questions are never given. But the Christian missionaries' logic is that still Muhammad(P) borrowed from the Judeo-Christian sources even though there is no evidence to show. What you do not know, you do not have to show; just say it and it becomes so.

Since the Christian missionaries are confused about their own ideology let us now refute some of the 'contents' which they think are borrowed by the Qur'ân.

Index Of The Arguments

The Orientalists,The Bible & The Qur'ân: A Brief Review Of Bible Borrowing Theories

Comments On Geiger & Tisdall's Books On The 'Sources' Of The Qur'ân

Is The Bible Really The Source Of The Qur'ân?

The Defense of The Qur'ân Against The Bible Borrowing Theory

The Prophet's Wives Teaching The Bible?

Did Waraqa Ibn Nawfal Teach The Prophet?

What About Salam - The Persian?

Well, Did Not Muhammad Copy Some Verses Of The Qur'ân From Imru'l Qais?

But What About The Story Of Cain & Abel In The Qur'ân?

To Moo Or Not To Moo, That Is The Question!

Arent Wensnick & Jewish Sources Of Qur'ân 18:65-82

Is The Qur'ân's Story Of Solomon & Sheba From The Jewish Targum?

On The Judeo-Christian Sources Of al-Khidr & Dhul-Qarnayn

The Ten Wise Jews: Source Of The Qur'ân?

Haman, The Qur'ân & The Bible

Problem Of The Parallels


Sufficient care has been taken to prepare the documents. Please let us know if there are any mistakes in quoting the references.


It could be mentioned in conclusion that even if Muhammad's(P) mission had started in the middle of Christians and Jews, this wouldn't matter.  Secular scholars accuse Moses(P) and the Hebrews of borrowing from the religions and myths of neighboring cultures.  However, anyone who has sincerely studied the life of the Prophet Muhammad(P) should be able to see that his sincerity negates conscious borrowing or fabrication.

Karen Armstrong in her book A History Of God writes about the revelation to the Prophet Muhammad(P) by God:

In about the year 610 an Arab merchant of the thriving city of Mecca in Hijaz, who had never read the Bible and probably never heard of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, had an experience that was uncannily similar to theirs.[1]

Roger DuPasquier, a Swiss journalist and author, asserts that:

To this day no-one has put forward a defensible explanation of how an unlettered caravan merchant of the early seventh century might have been able, by his own devices, to produce a text of such inimitable beauty, of such capacity to stir emotion, and which contained knowledge and wisdom which stood so far above the ideas current among makind at that time.  The studies carried out in the West which try to determine the 'sources used by Muhammad', or to bring to light the psychological phenomenon which enabled him to draw the inspiration from his 'subconscious', have demonstrated only one thing: the anti-Muslim prejudice of their authors.[2]

And Allah knows best!

   Islamic Awareness Qur'ân Sources Methodological Fallacy Of The Theory Of Religious Borrowing


[1] Karen Armstrong, A History Of God, 1993, Ballantine Books, New York, p.132.

[2] Roger DuPasquier, Unveiling Islam, 1992, The Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge, p.53.

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