Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Surah Mariam; How the Editor of the Qur’an, by Trying to Harmonize Difference Accounts, Made Multiple Mistakes

”By trying to show that the Gospel was corrupted, you end falsify your own Qur’an”

In the current and standard Qur’an version of the Islamic world the nineteenth chapter bears the name Mariam, which corresponds to Jesus’ mother Mary in the Christian scripture and tradition. Being a chapter (Surah) of the period prior to Muhammad and his followers’ migration to Medina, Surah Mariam is significant in that it illustrates Muhammad’s early approach to some basic Christian tenets as well as his familiarity with the oral and written data about Christianity in his era. Elwood Morris Wherry’s comprehensive commentary of the Qur’an1, which is based on Sale’s translation and notes, gives information on the probable date of this Surah’s supposed revelation to Muhammad and categorizes the 98 verses thematically under the title “principal subjects”.

In this study I shall mainly use Wherry’s commentary and meticulously analyze verses 2 through 35. The primary reason underlying my choice of these verses is that they are partly related to Jesus’ nativity and infancy narrative in the canonical Gospel of Luke. Luke the Evangelist narrates John and Jesus’ miraculous births comparatively to highlight some fundamental theological points and presents John as the precursor of Jesus, who is called the Son of God and the Savior. Unsurprisingly, the birth and infancy narrative in this chapter of the Qur’an objects to Jesus’ identification as the Son of God and attempts to explain Jesus’ uniquely miraculous birth through God’s general and arbitrary omnipotence, awkwardly forcing Jesus into the line of ordinary prophets. In addition to this major Islamic deviation from the Christian tenet concerning Jesus’ identity in the New Testament, the account in this Surah also has a number of comparatively minor discrepancies with the teachings of the New Testament about Zachariah, John the Baptist, Mary, and the events occurring prior to and after Jesus’ nativity. The source of the contradictory and baffling statements in the Islamic version of the story will be the subject of my project as I aim to prove both the casual and deliberate distortion of the original accounts of the New Testament by the hands of the scribes devising the Qur’an.

The secondary motive that has driven me to analyze verses 2 to 35 is the existence of a few issues that have given birth to ongoing controversies between Islamic and Christian scholars due to their introduction by Christian polemicists as examples of the Qur’an’s historical errors. The accusation of the Qur’an’s writers for plagiarism from non-canonical Christian literature is also related to the analysis of Surah 19, which will become obvious when the originality of some statements about Mary and Jesus in the Islamic scripture is questioned


We go directly to the conclusions. For readers who want to go more into details please refer to this excellent analysis that can be found



The writers of the Islamic scripture were not actually stupid or ignorant people who attempted to create a fiction in order to challenge basic Christian tenets. They considered themselves crafty enough to copy from Christian scripture in order to promote their counter teachings in accordance with Muhammad’s new doctrine and ideology. Plagiarism from Christian writings was a necessity as well as the systematic distortion of those sources. While inventing the first historical narrative about the prevalent figures of Christianity in the Qur’an, Muhammad’s scribes inevitably encountered a number of obstacles due to the cultural and historic peculiarities of their era and space of fiction. First, they became unable to distinguish canonical writings from apocryphal ones since they used the notion of popularity as the main criterion for the validity of a text. The Gospels of nativity and infancy were eventually regarded as primary sources for the adoption of fundamental Christian teachings after their adaptation to Islam since these writings contained very famous stories circulating in the Christian population of the time.

Second, the writers of the Qur’an were baffled when they heard from some Christians a few additional stories that had both similarities and contradictions with the things recorded in the Gospels of nativity and infancy. The writers could only presume that these discrepancies reflected the textual corruption of their primary source. In order to solve this supposed problem, they focused on the thematic parallelism between these different accounts and made efforts to combine them through the elimination of some figures. This, however, caused more problems because the method of harmonization turned into the systematic unification of some originally independent accounts and thus a very dangerous game in the hands of the writers of the Qur’an. The result of this extreme and unnecessary tendency to harmonize almost every narrative, even the ones having a superficial similarity, was the confusion of characters and teachings, which made the Qur’an not only a book contradicting the New Testament, but also a book full of historical blunders.

Consequently, the peculiar form of the apocryphal Gospels of infancy imposed a curse on the writers of the Qur’an by leading them into their hasty and faulty conclusions and forcing them to illustrate that the Qur’an was not of divine origin, but was a scripture based on the inept distortion of a few apocryphal Christian writings.



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