As you may or may not know, there is a new website: www.islamic-awareness.com (as opposed the the original .ORG). As far as deceptive tactics go, this is the worst I have seen yet from the missionaries! It looks like a Muslim website on the face, but contained is falsehood, dishonesty and hatred (the usual package from missionaries).
My question, anyway, is about the Christian claim that the story of Abraham (pbuh) in the Quran. They claim that it is copied from a mythical story made up by a rabbi and is nowhere to be found in any other religious scripture.
The link to the claim is at the discussion board on the missionary website, however I have included the claim below for your convenience:
——–start of claim——–
If anybody thought Qur’an was divine they will be grossly mistaken to find heretical Jewish myths and legends in it which predate the Qur’an e.g. the legend of Abraham and the idols:
If the Qur’an is the “word of God” how come Muhammad borrowed a mythical story invented by a Rabbi in the 2nd century CE???
Abraham and the Idols
The Qur’an claims “To thee we sent a scripture in truth, confirming the scripture which came before it and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah has revealed…” (S5:51) However it may come as a surprise to discover that many stories in the Qur’an which appear to be historical facts do not come from any scriptures held as divine by the Jews and Christians but from legends and myths circulating in Arabia before the time of Muhammad.
The Jewish Legend in the Qur’an
In Jewish religious literature, called the Midrash, there are stories made up by the Rabbis to illustrate the dangers of polytheism and
other evils of pagan belief. One such theme is illustrated by the story of Abraham breaking the idols of his father and then being saved from the fire into which he would have been thrown for having committed this act.
A former Chief Rabbi has written:
The fight against idolatry begun by the Prophets (Biblical Prophets) was continued by the Pharisees. Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people, they taught, started on his career as an idol wrecker. In legends, parables and discourses, they showed forth the folly and futility of idol worship… (Former Chief Rabbi J H Hertz from the “Book of Jewish Thoughts” Published by the office of the Chief Rabbi London 1942)
It will no doubt come as a shock for some to discover that the Qur’an, which claims to be “divine revelation” contains one such Jewish legend and presents it as being an historical fact concerning the life of Abraham. However this story is a well known illustration invented by Rabbi Hiyya in the 2nd century CE; it is recorded in the Midrash Rabbah Genesis and all authorities agree that it was never meant to be considered historical. The story in the Qur’an.
A comparison of the stories reveals unique similarities in the Qur’an and the Midrash, which appear nowhere else in Biblical or other ancient literature.
The Qur’anic account of Abraham and the idols commences in Sura 6:74 where Abraham is quoted as saying “Takest thou idols for Gods?” and this theme is then expanded in Sura 21:51-71. It is exactly the same theme of the Midrashic legend where Abraham takes issue over the idols of his father.
The shared themes in the Midrashic account
The Midrashic account is given here and the Qur’anic equivalent can be found in the ayats in the brackets.
Abraham’s father accused of being an idolater: “Terah (Abraham’s father) was a manufacturer of idols” i.e. He was an idolater. (52)
“He once went away somewhere and left Abraham…” (57)
Abraham breaks all the idols except the biggest: “So he took a stick, broke them, (the idols) and put the stick in the hand of the largest.” (58)
“When his father returned he demanded, ‘What have you done to them?'” (59) (In the Qur’anic account this demand is made by his father and the people.)
Abraham claims: “Thereupon the largest arose, took the stick, and broke them.” (63)
Abraham is seized and delivered up for judgement: “Thereupon he seized him and delivered him to Nimrod.” (68) The Qur’an does not mention by name who was to punish Abraham.
Abraham is saved from the fire: “When Abram descended into the fiery furnace and was saved…” (69)
All the above points are unique both to the Qur’anic and mythical midrashic accounts. They do not appear in the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians.
From Rabbinical accounts we know that these legends and myths were used widely to teach people the dangers of idolatry.
There is no doubt that Muhammad heard of these stories from the many discussions he had with Jews and, having mistaken them as stories from the Scriptures of the Jews, he retold them claiming that they were historical fact given to him by divine revelation.
——–end of claim——–
It occurs to me that if true, then how come there were no reports of objections from the Jews claiming that it was copied from so and so? If
true, then it would have ruined Islam’s credibility from the start.
Please reply to this, with a possible refutation, inshallah,
My dear brother, when a writer establishes a premise; accumulates his arguments, on the basis of this premise, for a particular end; strongly substantiates his arguments; and finally draws logical conclusions from these arguments, it becomes imperative upon those who disagree with the drawn conclusions to present a rebuttal (if possible) of these conclusions or (if the rebuttal is not possible,) to accept the drawn conclusions. This rebuttal, normally, is effective only if it can be established that:
The basic premise, itself, is not yet fully established or agreed upon; or
The arguments are not based on the established premise; or
The arguments are not adequately substantiated or the substantiation is incorrect; or
The conclusions drawn from these arguments are not logical.
An effective rebuttal of a ‘logical’ conclusion is one, which establishes any one of the four aforementioned points.
To fully understand the above explanation, consider the following premise-argument-substantiation-conclusion example:
Man needs a stable society for his moral, spiritual, mental, physical and material well-being. Because such stability can only be guaranteed by stability in basic human relations, a society should be based upon the institution of marriage. Extra-marital sexual relations are, in effect, a negation of the very institution of marriage. Fornication should, therefore, be prohibited and considered a punishable crime in a society, which aspires to be stable.
In this example, “Man needs a stable society for his moral, spiritual, mental, physical and material growth”, is the premise and “Fornication should, therefore, be prohibited and considered a punishable crime in a society, which aspires to be stable” is the drawn conclusion. All that lies between the two statements are either arguments for the conclusion or substantiations for the arguments.
An important point to note in such premise-argument-substantiation-conclusion statements is that if the premise is not fully established or already agreed upon, all the following arguments, substantiations and conclusions become redundant and meaningless. For instance, if the statement “Man needs a stable society for his moral, spiritual, mental, physical and material growth” is not considered to be a-priori or ‘given’, then all the statements that follow are meaningless.
Keeping the above explanation in perspective, let us now take a close look at the referred writing. If we categorize the various parts of the referred article, we shall see that the basic implied premise on which the conclusion (i.e. “the story of Abraham (pbuh), as given in the Qur’an was not revealed by God, but was actually concocted by some Rabbi, which was later transferred to Mohammed (pbuh) by some Jews and was subsequently placed it in the Qur’an”) is that Mohammed (pbuh) is not a prophet of God. However, as any reasonable person would agree, this premise is precisely the point of difference between Muslims and the followers of other religions. Thus, being a point of difference, it cannot serve as a premise on which conclusions can be drawn. If Mohammed (pbuh) is accepted to be a prophet of God, then the narrative of the Qur’an regarding the referred events of the life of Abraham (pbuh) will be accepted as true even if “all authorities” unanimously consider the narration of Rabbi Hiyya as “never meant to be considered historical”. While, on the other hand, if Mohammed (pbuh) is not accepted to be a prophet of God, then all that is in the Qur’an will be rejected as concoctions of Mohammed (pbuh) even if such rejection is based purely on conjecture.
The writer of the referred article has actually ignored the fact that the Muslim mind, after accepting Mohammed (pbuh) as a prophet of God considers all that is in the Qur’an to be true, irrespective of the opinion of “all authorities” regarding the Midrash Ribbah Genesis.
Under these circumstances, I really do not see anything in the article to respond to. I think the Muslim mind should only take the article with any gravity if the author can provide any sound reasoning to establish that:
It is impossible to consider the referred narrative as revealed by God, irrespective of the opinion of ‘all authorities’ regarding the Midrash; or
There is an obvious error in the narrative, which renders it unfit to be ascribed to God1.
In the absence of the establishment of these points, the whole article is based on a couple of wild assumptions. Let us briefly examine these assumptions as well:
The narrative in the Midrash is false because “all authorities” consider it as “never meant to be considered historical”2.
Mohammed (pbuh) was told about the whole incident during a discussion with a Jew. However, not only the time, the place and the occasion of this discussion is not mentioned by the author, but also the particular ‘Jew’ who informed the Prophet (pbuh) about the incident has been ignored.
I really do not think that any unfounded claim deserves our attention.
I hope this helps.
- It may, however, be kept in mind that an ‘error’ is not synonymous with ‘difference’ with the narration of the Bible or with the opinion of ‘all authorities’. [↩]
- Note the assumption in this point. It is quite one thing to say that something is false and quite another to consider something as not ‘meant to be considered historical’. One may ask, if the authorities do not consider the narrative to be historical, then what exactly do the authorities want it to be consdered as?
There is no doubt about the fact that the Midrash is considered to be the most authoritative interpretation of Hebrew scriptures (this can be confirmed from any Jewish source). Moreover, even if that was not the case, for a Muslim mind, the mere fact that the narrative of the Midrash corresponds to that of the Qur’an on any given incident would be evidence of the authenticity of the Midrash with respect to that particular narrative. [↩]