Monday, 20 April 2009

Divinely Inspired Ignorance?

”How Muhammad fails in several instances the test as Prophet”.

 The Qur’an speaks of a certain encounter that Muhammad had with some Jews, and their arguments by which they resisted and rejected Muhammad and his message.

In this passage (3:181-185) we find the following statement: “
God has made covenant with us, that we believe not any Messenger until he brings to us a sacrifice devoured by fire.’ Say: ‘Messengers have come to you before me bearing clear signs, and that you spoke of; why therefore did you slay them, if you are truthful?’3:183.

Therefore, we need to ask:
Who lied? The statement, ‘God has made covenant with us, that we believe not any Messenger until he brings to us a sacrifice devoured by fire, was either a lie by these Jews, or the author of the Qur’an.

Muhammad lied by putting this wrong statement into the mouth of the Jews, although they never made such a claim. In the latter case, if Muhammad made up this false argument and put it into the mouth of the Jews, then he is a liar and is disqualified as a prophet from God. If the author of the Qur’an invents false statements about the Jews (or anyone else), then the Qur’an is exposed as cheap polemics, and it does not come from God who is the truth.

Excursus: Muhammad had to struggle over and over again with the problem that he was not able to do any miracles. He claimed to be a prophet from the same God who had sent the earlier prophets. On the one hand, he included many stories about the miracles done by these earlier prophets in his own message; on the other hand, he demanded from his audience to be accepted as another prophet like them but without showing any miracle that would authenticate his divine authority. It is no surprise that Muhammad was confronted time and again with the sceptical question.

Back to the main topic of this article.
3:183 reports an objectively wrong statement, an assertion that was allegedly made by some Jews who opposed Muhammad’s claim to prophethood. We may never know whether these particular Jews tried to trick or deceive Muhammad with this "divine criterion", and the Qur’an only recorded this, or if Muhammad lied about the Jews.

Be that as it may, the question now is
how does an inspired prophet respond to a false claim about God's earlier revelation? Even though Muhammad was not able to perform miracles, if he had exposed their false claim, he could have made some progress in regard to his own credibility. However, instead of exposing their demand as a false claim, a fabrication, he attacks the honesty or sincerety of the questioners. Instead of dealing with the content of their criterion of prophethood, he uses an ad hominem approach in order to avoid the uncomfortable issue of his own authentication: These Jews put before Muhammad a criterion or test of prophethood that he was not able to satisfy. Seeing attack as his only way of defense, Muhammad in return questions their sincerety. The accusation and conclusion that is implicit in the rhetorical question given to them in response is this: Because you killed the prophets which came to you with miracles, you are not truthful and have therefore no right to question me. Suddenly the question is no longer what is the correct criterion for a true prophet, and whether Muhammd satisfies this criterion, but the issue now is the sincerety of the people questioning Muhammad. Viewing it as Muhammad's personal response, as coming from an imperfect human being, I can understand all that. However, Islam expects us to believe that the Qur’an is not Muhammad's word, but God's word.

His answer to the claim of those Jews was allegedly not Muhammad's idea, but God told him to give this answer. And that causes
considerable problems. God knew exactly that the criterion put forward by these Jews was wrong. God never gave such a command, and he is not forgetful about his earlier revelations. God could have given a decisive answer that would have exposed them as fabricating a command of God.

Muhammad, on the other hand, was ignorant on the matter. He may have had a suspicion that these Jews tried to deceive him, but he was not sure, and their criterion could just as well be taken from their scriptures. Therefore, he could not directly charge them with deception in this specific matter. He ends his answer with "if you are truthful", which is not only part of his counterattack, but also an admission of his own ignorance. This is the first indication that the answer did not come from God but from Muhammad's mind.

The answer, "
Verily, there came to you Messengers before me, with clear signs and even with what you speak of; why then did you kill them, ...?" presents three statements as if they were facts:

Messengers (from God) came to the Jews who brought clear signs, i.e. miracles;
At least some of these came even with the specific sign that fire from heaven devoured a sacrifice that they had prepared.
The Jews killed those messengers.

Whom is Muhammad talking about? What are the names of those alleged messengers? Again, Muhammad is not certain enough about the details, so he remains vague in his statements. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that this idea is inspired by the story of Elijah's confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel that is reported in 1 Kings 18 and belongs to the better known stories of the Bible.

The 1st t statement is true: God sent messengers/prophets to the Israelites and some of them God confirmed with miracles.
The 2nd statement is questionable: The Qur’an seems to speak about a plurality of messengers who prepared a sacrifice that was then devoured by fire which was sent directly by God as a public confirmation that these are true prophets. However, Elijah was the only prophet to whom this sign was given before a skeptical audience so that the people should see that Elijah's God was the true God, and that Elijah was truly sent by God.
The 3rd statement is definitely false: Even if we allow all the above given names of people who experienced that God sent fire to devour their sacrifice (Moses, Aaron, Gideon, David, Solomon, Elijah), there is not even 1 among them who was killed by the Jews. Ironically, the only prophet (Elija) whom this miracle was given as confirmation, did not even die on this earth, but was taken up to heaven by God (2 Kings 2:11). It is true that there were plans to kill Elijah, but it was not the Jews who tried to kill him. Ahab, the king of Israel, had married Jezebel, a foreign woman who brought an idolatrous pagan religion with her. She sought to kill Elijah after he had defeated and killed the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19:1-2). However, God protected Elijah and, eventually, Elijah was taken to heaven without dying (2 Kings 2:11).

As so often, the author of the Qur’an
messed up on the details of the Bible stories. It is true that a number of prophets sent to the Jews were persecuted and some even killed. It is also true that there were some men of God who experienced that fire from the Lord devoured their sacrifice. However, not one of those men of God who were given the sign of "fire from heaven devouring their sacrifice" were killed by the Jews. God certainly knew this. But Muhammad was ignorant about the details and often confused the Bible stories (

This error is again strong evidence that
Muhammad himself is the author, and it was not God who gave him this response as an answer to the Jews. Again, the answer to the Jews was made up by Muhammad, and the error contained in it exposes the ignorance of the author. This is a false claim in the Qur’an and it constitutes evidence that Muhammad fabricated himself what he claimed to have received as divine revelation. To claim that God is the author of the Qur’an is an insult to God, because it means to ascribe ignorance to God and blame him for the errors in the Qur’an.

A possible Muslim objection: Some Muslims may try to avoid the charge that Muhammad's answer in the Qur’an was ignorant by claiming either that the Bible is wrong on Elijah, or that this passage does not talk about Elijah but about some other prophets whose story is not recorded in the OT.

This explanation does not work.

After all, Muhammads counter attack will only be able to silence the Jews if they know what he is talking about. If they are not aware of any prophet who brought fire from heaven and which was then killed by the Jews, Muhammd's answer will not be able to convince them, but
only make them laugh about his ignorance. And what the Jews know about their prophets is found in their scriptures. The answer presupposes that this is a known fact among the Jews. But Muhammad was wrong in this assumption. Again, I would love to know what these Jews said in response, whether in direct response to Muhammad, or only among themselves, but the Qur’an does not report that.

An internal contradiction: We have seen that the 3rd statement above is false according to the Bible. However, it is worse than that. The author of the Qur’an does not only say that "some Jews (in the past) killed those messengers" but "why then did YOU kill them", addressing the questioners directly. This is not only factually wrong, it also contradicts the teaching of Islam in other passages of the Qur’an.

According to Islam there is NO original sin and nobodye is accused or punished for what his parents did. We know that at Muhammad's time there were no prophets sent to the Jews. Nevertheless, in this verse Muhamamd is accusing the Jews of his time of killing the prophets. This contradicts his own message and theology. This is discussed in + detail in footnote 2 of the article,
Which Prophets Did the Jews Kill?

How Muhammad failed the test in multiple ways

First, Muhammad failed because he did not satisfy the criterion of a physical miracle to authenticate his claim to be a prophet of God like the earlier prophets. The Jews were wrong to demand only this one specific sign of "fire that devoures a sacrifice", but their scriptures report how God regularly confirmed his true prophets with miracles. The Jews were certainly justified to expect that a genuine prophet of God would have a confirming supernatural sign. Muhammad was not able to bring any miracles of the kind given to the earlier prophets, neither fire from heaven, nor any other supernatural sign.

Second, even if the claim of the Jews that God's test is fire from heaven was wrong, being faced with a false claim is a test in itself. Perhaps this was even intentional, i.e. the test which the Jews brought was not on the surface of their claim; they didn't actually want to see supernatural fire, but they wanted to see whether Muhammad was able to give an answer to their trick question that exhibited divine insight. Intentional or not, Muhammad failed this "test behind the test" because he did not recognize that the criterion was not genuine.

Third, Muhammad failed because his answer contained a factually wrong statement that exposed his ignorance of the Bible. The Jews didn't kill any prophet who had brought the miracle of fire from God which devoured a sacrifice. And it doesn't help Muhammad at all that he attributed his wrong answer to God. On the contrary, by doing so he exposed himself as a false prophet.

The first two failures may be specific to this particular encounter, but the
third one we see over and over again in the Qur’an. Muhammad was not a prophet from God because his allegedly divine revelation contains numerous false statements ranging from apparently small numerical inaccuracies, e.g. the age of Noah (
*), to more substantial errors regarding the history of Israel and the Jewish prophets (like this one) to grave misrepresentations of essential doctrines of the Chris Faith, like the crucifixion of Jesus (*), his divine sonship (*), and the doctrine of the Trinity (*).In addition to that there is the questionable morality of Muhammad (endorsing marriage to minors in general and having sex with a nine year old himself, the assassination of his critics, etc.), his being a victim of magic, etc., see the articles listed in the section on the person of Muhammad (*)



1 comment:

  1. And what exactly is the criterion of a TRUE prophet? Can it ever be proven beyond doubt, that any human claiming a direct linkage with the Creator is telling the truth or lying. One can give so many explanations to refute anyone making such a claim. He can be considered a madman, a fraud or a trickster or whatever depending upon the biases of the person out to disprove him. Yes I agree, Muhammad's claim of prophet hood cannot be proved, as neither can Moses' or Jesus' being a God or prophet or messiah or all the others mentioned in all those books claiming to be divinely inspired with all those fairytale accounts of people living for hundreds of years and women giving birth beyond child bearing age. If westerners, who are supposed to be more rational and are the pioneers of present scientific progress can truly believe such absurdities, then what is wrong with the followers of Muhammad and the Koran. As for the present day militancy. It is an anomaly, having its roots in international politics. It will rectify when might would stop being right. Remember the Christians have not at all been HUMAN towards the Jews during most of their history, neither have they been towards all the people and nations they vanquished.