Ibn Warraq: The Judeo-Christian Origins of Islam (Part 2)

The Judeo-Christian Origins of Islam
by Ibn Warraq
Part 2
Part 1 here

William St. Clair Tisdall [1859-1928], in his The Original Sources of the Qur’an [London, 1905], gives us several examples of the probable source of the stories in the Koran. But it must be remembered that he was, in my opinion, working from false premises, since he accepted the entire Muslim traditional fairy tale about the compilation of the Koran, Muhammad, the Hadith, and the rest of One Thousand and One Night fantasies.

Tisdall begins with Surah XIX., Maryam, 28, 29, where we are told that when Mary came to her people after the birth of our Lord, they said to her,

“O Mary, truly thou hast done a strange thing. O sister of Aaron, thy father was not
a man of wickedness, and thy mother was not rebellious.”

Tisdall comments, “From these words it is evident that, in Muhammad’s opinion, Mary was identical with Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron! This is made still more clear by Surah LVI , At Tahrim, 12, where Mary is styled “the daughter of ‘Imran,” the latter being the Arabic form of Amram, who in the Pentateuch is called the father of “Aaron and Moses and Miriam their sister” (Numbers. xxvi. 59). The title “sister of Aaron” is given to Miriam in Exodus xv. 20, and it must be from this passage that Muhammad borrowed the expression. The reason of the mistake which identifies the Mother of our Saviour with a woman who lived about one thousand five hundred and seventy years before His birth is evidently the fact that in Arabic both names, Mary and Miriam, are one and the same in form, Maryam. The chronological difficulty of the identification does not seem to have occurred to Muhammad. “¦ [Muslim] commentators have in vain attempted to disprove this charge of historical inaccuracy.”

Let us now see what the Qur’an and the Traditions relate regarding the

In Surah III., Al ‘Imran, 35,36 we read:””

“When ‘Imran’s wife said, “˜My Lord, verily I have dedicated to Thee what is in my womb, as consecrated: receive it therefore from me: verily Thou art the Hearer, the Knower.” When therefore she bore her, she said, “˜My Lord, verily I have borne her, a female” “” and God was well aware of what she had borne, and the male is not as the female “” “˜and verily I have named her Mary, and verily I commit, her and her seed unto Thee from Satan the stoned.” Accordingly her Lord received her with fair acceptance, and He made her grow with fair growth, and Zacharias reared her. Whenever Zacharias entered the shrine unto her, he found food near her. He said, “˜O Mary, whence is this to thee?” She said, “˜It is from God: verily God feedeth whomsoever He willeth, without a reckoning.–

Tisdall continues, “In addition to and explanation of this narrative, Baidawi [died 1260 C.E.] and other commentators and traditionists inform us of the following particulars. “˜Imran’s wife was barren and advanced in age. One day, on seeing a bird giving food to its young ones, she longed for offspring, and entreated that God would bestow on her a child. She said, “˜O my God, if Thou givest me a child, whether it be a son or a daughter, I shall offer it as a gift in Thy presence in the Temple at Jerusalem.” God heard and answered her prayer, and she conceived and bore a daughter, Mary. Jalalu’ddin tells us that the name of Mary’s mother was Hanna. When she brought Mary to the Temple and handed her over to the priests, they accepted the offering and appointed Zacharias to guard the child. He placed her in a room, and permitted no one but himself to enter it; but an angel supplied her with her daily food.”

Returning to the Qur’an (Surah III.,41-46), we learn that, when Mary was older,

“The angels said, “˜O Mary, verily God hath chosen thee and purified thee, and He hath chosen thee above the women of the worlds. O Mary, be devout to thy Lord, and worship, and bow with those that bow.” That is part of the announcement of the invisible; we reveal it to thee; and thou wast not with them when they threw their reeds (to see) which of them should rear Mary: and thou wast not with them when they disagreed. When the angels said, “˜O Mary, verily God giveth thee good tidings of a Word from Himself, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus Son of Mary, illustrious in the world and in the hereafter, and from among those who draw near (to God): and He shall speak to men in the cradle and when grown up, and He is of the Just Ones,” she said, “˜My Lord, whence shall I have a child, since no human being hath touched me?” He said, “˜Thus God createth what He willeth: when He hath decreed a matter, then indeed He saith to it, Be! “” therefore it exists.–

Tisdall comments, “In reference to what is said in these verses about ‘casting reeds’ or pens, Baidawi and Jalalu’ddin state that Zacharias and twenty-six other priests were rivals to one another in their desire to be Mary’s guardian. They therefore went to the bank of the Jordan and threw their reeds into the water; but all the reeds sank except that of Zacharias, and on this account the latter was appointed her guardian.”

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  1. says

    In spite of the fanciful thousand-and-one narrative embellishments in the Koran and Islamic tradition, one can still detect fragments of traditional Christian teaching, such as the tradition that Mary was raised in the temple until she was about 12 or 13 years old. The Presentation of the Theotokos (Greek for Bearer, or Birthgiver, of God) in the Temple, is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church.

    This series from Ibn Warraq is a huge service, as it further reveals what a syncretistic hodgepodge the Koran is. Snippets from the gnostic gospel of Barnabas are blended with the Docetist heresy, with half-digested retellings of Old and New Testament episodes and bizarre fantasies and dreams (not to mention all the injunctions to ‘smite the unbelievers’)… It is for all these reasons that the eighth century church father, John of Damascus (who was raised in the Islamic culture) treated Islam as a heresy, referring to it as “the superstition of the Ishmaelites, which to this day prevails and keeps people in error.”


  2. says

    I’ve long wondered how in the hell a devout Muslim can explain Surah 19. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the sister of Moses and Aaron!? If the Koran is the inerrant word of God, then why this colossal mistake? Of course, other mistakes in the Koran exist as well, such as Ezra in Surah 9 being referred to as the person Jews worship as the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Christian Trinity in Surah 5 being described as composed of the Father, Mother and Son, a combination that perhaps some tiny heretical Christian sect in seventh-century Arabia adhered to but why not accurately describe what the vast majority of Christians at that time and into modern times believed about the Trinity’s composition? The Koran, in addition to being turgid, repetitive, desultory and disturbing, is just plain erroneous at times.

    Memo to Muslims who can still think for themselves: the Koran is not what you’ve been told it is. Not by a long shot. Reconsider. Everything.

  3. says

    This is top class stuff! And just what’s needed. Demolish the Qur’an and Islam has precisely ……. nothing! All the nonsense about jihad and senseless killing no longer has a platform to stand on.
    More please!

  4. says

    I have the feeling this could be a long series. Ibn Warraq is just slowly getting started;-)

    I just reread Luxenberg’s translation of the inscription in the dome of the rock. He deviates at one point in order to prove that the quran mentions that Jesus was the messenger (Rassoul) and servant (Abd) of god. He further deviates and mentions that Sura 72, Verses 18-20 have been completely mistranslated! He shows that the quran actually mentions the resurrection of christ and that a syriac scripture was mistranslated into the arabic scripture, because a siriac letter was misinterpreted. Fascinating stuff!

    The quran is just a hodge-podge of scriptures written in ancient arabic, heavily influenced by syria. Parts were translated from an older syriac scripture, the mother of the book. Later muslim interpreters of the 9th century invented all kinds of entertaining stories (hadith) in order to make sense of the quran, which they no longer understood.

  5. says

    Wellington: I’ve long wondered how in the hell a devout Muslim can explain Surah 19. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the sister of Moses and Aaron!?

    The standard Muslim explanation is that their scriptures are correct and inerrant, while ours are corrupt. We Jews deliberately corrupted our own scriptures due to our perverse and evil natures, in order to obscure the truth. We know the truth and refuse to admit it. But there are good people among the Jews. They are the ones who become Muslims.

  6. says

    Jackasses who write expositions of islam, from the understanding that Muhammad was a true “prophet,” are loathsome. Karen Armstrong – who drinks wine during interviews – takes exactly that position. She has NEVER been asked why acceptance of anyone as a “prophet of god” doesn’t confer belief in their religion. Christians and Jews are well aware that they are irreconciably opposed on certain core doctrines: like the “redeemer” status of Jesus of Nazareth. So be it. But, one cannot be a follower of Judaism, while denying that Old Testament prophecy of a coming “Messiah,” has yet to play out. Hence, to a Jew, New Testament prophecy of the “Second Coming,” cannot be accepted. Torah authority allows no discretion in that regard. Yet Karen Armstrong and the rest of the pan-dhimmis, proffer a “christian” label, while believing that the wild animal whose followers murdered hundreds of millions of real Christians, is a bona fide “prophet.”

    Muhammad had good reason to concoct a religion. He was humiliated because of his boy-toy status as husband to a woman 15 years his senior. As a “prophet” he claimed the right to unlimited wives – he had 13 and 9 rape-concubines. His family once had status as religious leaders, and had been tasked a building the “kaba” which was likely Copt in construction, and Hindu in religion. He lost that when he married into wealth. He had over a decade to find ways to build a power base. Most of his concocted “recitations” originated in his sick mind, and were devised to advance his revenge and booty interests.

    We have too numerous to count examples of other concocted religions and sectarian cults. It is dishonest to deny that Muhammad had similar perverse motives in his creation. But he is the worst of all humanity. Even the booty (anfal) motivation can’t mitigate the wholesale waste of human lives that followed his every move.

    It won’t sink in with dhimmis, that muslims believe that OUR Holy Scriptures are polluted with “satanic” distortion. In public they point to “errors,” but they really view the Judeo-Christian-Secular culture as evil, and our lands as salients for “final jihad,” until “allah alone is worshipped by mankind.” That cannot impact on Karen Armstrong’s brain.

  7. says

    11:20 AM:

    Hadith records muhammad claiming to be “illiterate.” That would be impossible for a man who was a long-distance Trader, and caravan operator. As arabic didn’t become a written language until at least 50 years after the quran was concocted, the first quran script – 17 years after Muhammad died – could either have been in Hebrew (unlikely) or Aramic (near certain because the first calipha jihad aggressions were made against Syria). Of course, Aramic had Syric roots – Assyrians originated in what is now Iraq and shifted to the Mediterranean – and classical arabic grafted Hijaz verbiage, onto Syric stems, creating the lowbrid language. An angel supposedly spoke to Muhammad as he was confined to a cave, because of his madness, in arabic. God-logic dictates that a “prophet” would immediately record “recitations” (quran) in a written language. Islam follows the logic of a Fraud, with private motives and a callous indifference to life and liberty. Muhammad called himself “slave-of-allah” so that he could make slaves-of-muhhamad. I would apologize to Hitler for comparing him to the worst creature ever born. Islam is a disease and muslims are its carriers. And it was created in the sickets of all minds.

  8. says

    Wellington and ElderlyZionist:

    Re the Muslim charge that the Jews and Christians changed the Scriptures, one thing the Da’wa boys never couldd explain to me was how these two non-cooperating religions end up wrangling over essentially the same book (the Hebrew canon of the Old Testament). And, having some acquaintance with both the Masoretic Hebrew text anf the Greek Septuagint, I know something of the differences between the two, and that they are not quite great enough to lend credence to Muslim charges (neither, for instance, prophesies anything about Muhammad).

    As for Qur’an 19:28-29 about Maryam being the sister of Moses and Aaron, which Ib Warraq discusses, I strongly suspect that Muhammad was just naive enough to confuse the sister of Moses and Aaron with the mother of Jesus (as if there weren’t dozens of Jewish and Christian Maryams all over Syria and Iraq in Muhammad’s day!), and that the later Muslim insistence that “sister” just means “distant kinswoman” arose after later Muslims had a little more exposure to the Christian and Jewish populations of the Fertile Crescent.

    I also suspect that a lot of Muhammad’s account of Mary being raised in the temple under the care of Zacharias may be from the Protevangelium of James, an apocryphal work circulating and read in the Middle East in those days. This book is one of those supposed “Lost Books of the Bible” that cause the eyes of the unlearned to pop and their mouths to gape when mentioned on the History Channel. However, nobody quite explains why the supposedly stupid and credulous Christians didn’t canonize it when it meshed so nicely with the Marian devotion that was growing in the 4th century and later.

    I suppose that the picture of Muhammad that is slowly forming in my mind is that of a partly naive, partly unscrupulous, partly deluded 7th century “seeker” who drew together various strands of tradition picked up mostly orally from Jews and Christians he met on his travels without looking too deeply at where these strands of traditions came from and simply assuming that any tale he heard about any biblical figure was somehow from the Bible.

    Does anyone know if Christoph Luxenberg’s book has been translated into English? If so, I’d like to get it through inter-library loan.

  9. says

    I have the feeling this could be a long series. Ibn Warraq is just slowly getting started;-)

    One of my favourite pastimes is to read Muslim books setting out to demolish Christianity by demolishing the Christian scriptures. Fortunately I have a bit of Biblical Hebraic and New Testament Greek enabling me to enjoy the fun to the utmost, but others are not that lucky :(

    I agree with you that this “Revisionism” is fascinating stuff. I have been wondering whether I should acquire Luxenberg’s book on the Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran …and whether my life is too short for it. I’ll make do with secondary sources for now.

  10. says

    I’m reminded, Elderly Zionist, of the time (some thirty years ago) when I spoke to American black Muslims who were followers of the Sudanese Mahdi and his descendants. They were selling incense in a Philly subway station and had all kinds of literature on their table along with what they had up for sale.

    Well, I got into a discussion with them (I could detect they barely tolerated me because I was white) and I was told by them, among other ridiculous things, that Arabic was the oldest written language on earth. When I countered by pointing out that languages such as Sumerian, Akkadian, Hebrew, Phoenician, Greek and Sanskrit were far older than any written Arabic, they asked me how I knew this. I responded by saying that any reference work, for instance the Encyclopedia Britannica, would confirm what I conveyed. Their response to this was that such works were written by white men and thus were false and in league with Satan. At that point I knew that further conversation would be useless and I bid them goodbye.

    Still, to maintain that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a sister of two men who lived over a thousand years before Jesus existed, is such a stretch of the truth that only true believers could believe such nonsense, such a distortion of chronology. It is not the devout Muslim I seek first and foremost to convey this to, but rather the so-so Muslim who adheres to Islamic practices much as many other folks who honor the trappings of their respective religion do without really understanding it or being fervent about it. I also would like non-Muslims to know about egregious factual errors in the Koran, thus implanting in them a potential contempt for the standard Muslim claim that the Koran is without error.

    The truth is often elusive and being easily wearied conveying it to the ignorant is an indulgence I have long thought should be fought tenaciously within oneself. Hence my query to any Muslim, which I will never stop asking, about the chronological absurdity mentioned in Surah 19.

    If Islam is eventually to be assigned to the trash heap of history, as I think it eventually will be, it is imperative that the truth about the Koran, a most distubing and factually erroneous tome, be exposed for any mistakes found within it. After all, the truth is more powerful by far than falsehood. And if Islam isn’t false, then nothing is.

    Though not Jewish myself, I still count myself as a Zionist. Long live Israel.

  11. says


    “who drew together various strands of tradition picked up mostly orally from Jews and Christians he met on his travels without looking too deeply”
    I fear part of split between Muhammad and Jews of the day must have been caused by the – perhaps not were silent nor cautious – incredulity expressed by some Jews who were perfectly aware of the dubious origins of many of his tales. Perhaps they even laughed at him, and I think this would have been the most unwise reaction of all.

  12. says

    Are you a writer? Have you published any works? Your knowledge is very impressive and I was wondering where, if anywhere, you have committed other thoughts to print?