Many Muslims have argued that Muhammad only met Jews or Christians only on very few occasions, by far too short to be sufficient to gain any real knowledge of the earlier scriptures. In particular, they were not translated into Arabic at this time. The content of the Qur'an therefore does not come from human sources but can only be through direct revelation from God.
I agree that the scriptures probably did not exist in Arabic at that time, at least not completely or widely known, but with the other statements I am not in agrement. And even the non-existence of scriptures in Arabic is irrelevant as we will see in the following.
The Muslim sources tell us about a certain Waraqa bin Nawfal and in what way Muhammad was related to him.
Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 1, Number 3:
(the mother of the faithful believers) The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah's Apostle was in the form of good dreams which came true like bright day light, and then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him. He used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He used to take with him the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food like-wise again till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, "I do not know how to read.
The Prophet added, "The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, 'I do not know how to read.' Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, 'I do not know how to read (or what shall I read)?' Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, 'Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists) has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous." (96.1, 96.2, 96.3) Then Allah's Apostle returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadija bint Khuwailid and said, "Cover me! Cover me!" They covered him till his fear was over and after that he told her everything that had happened and said, "I fear that something may happen to me." Khadija replied, "Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your Kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones."
Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa bin Nawfal bin Asad bin 'Abdul 'Uzza, who, during the PreIslamic Period became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said to Waraqa, "Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!" Waraqa asked, "O my nephew! What have you seen?" Allah's Apostle described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, "This is the same one who keeps the secrets (angel Gabriel) whom Allah had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out." Allah's Apostle asked, "Will they drive me out?" Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said, "Anyone (man) who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly." But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while. ...
The bold faced indicates some essential statements above:
1. "his desire to see his family."
2. "You keep good relations with your Kith and kin"
This shows that Muhammad was a "family man", and given that the middle eastern culture is well known for its family orientedness (something I very much appreciate in Muslims) and that in this setting Muhammad was seemingly even a very good example (otherwise this would not have been mentioned as special virtue) we can deduce that he probably spend much time with his relatives keeping a good relationship, and that means regular visiting.
Furthermore, nobody will deny that Muhammad was already religious before he had this first encounter in the cave on Mt. Hira. After all, he went there to meditate and pray. As the hadith says, it was a habit of his: "He USED to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days..."
The big question now is:
What will such a religious man talk about when he visits his relatives? Would it be too much to guess that religion will be a major part of these conversations?
And what do we see happening here when Muhammad is disturbed and frightened by a "religious experience"? After calming down a bit at home with his wife, who is the person they visit first?
Waraqa bin Nawfal. Seemingly, he is seen by Khadija and Muhammad as an authority in spiritual matters. And he is the cousin of his wife. And he is a Christian familiar with the scriptures since, after all, he is making copies of the scriptures, whether for personal study or for a fellowship/church of Christians.
So, these are the facts:
Waraqa lived in Mecca and probably Muhammad has met him long before his marriage to Khadija already, but at the latest when he married her, he is now a relative of Waraqa, a local authority on the scriptures. That gave Muhammad at least 15 years of opportunity of religious discussions with a man who knew the scriptures. And even if they had been written in another language, Waraqa could read it, and he would have talked about them in Arabic with Muhammad. From the time he married Khadija [25 years old] to the time of his first "revelation" [40 years old] there are 15 years of possibility, or rather probability of learning at least something of what Waraqa believed and knew from the scriptures.
I had posted the above article on the newsgroup and received a public reply to it.
Dear brothers and sisters in faith, assalaamu 3alaykom wa raHmatollaahi wa barakaatoh. firstname.lastname@example.org said: > there are 15 years of possibility, or rather probability of learning > at least something of what Waraqa believed and knew from the scriptures. Let us assume that the Prophet visited the cousin of his wife Khadija from time to time. Jochen Katz seems to trust the hadith he has quoted from http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/bukhari/001.sbt.html No problem. Given the fact that the Prophet Muhammad (S) was kind to his relatives and that, in a way, Waraqa Ibn Nawfal was his relative, he concludes that the Prophet learnt a lot from Waraqa. This is a mere assumption but let it be. Now, it is obvious in the hadith stated by Jochen that an authority like Waraqa was ready to support Muhammad (SAWS) when the Meccans would drive him out. Doesn't this mean that Muhammad (S) was truthful according to the Scriptures which Waraqa knew so well? Why do you, Jochen Katz, neglect this important aspect? I guess you agree that it is not interesting nor honest to argue for the sake of argument, don't you agree? Sincerely, Mohammad Ghoniem
In the follwing my response to Mr. Ghoniem
In article <email@example.com>, fi96 Mohamed Ghoniem <Mohamed.Ghoniem@eleve.emn.fr> writes: } firstname.lastname@example.org said: } > there are 15 years of possibility, or rather probability of learning } > at least something of what Waraqa believed and knew from the scriptures. } } Let us assume that the Prophet visited the cousin of his wife Khadija from } time to time. Jochen Katz seems to trust the hadith he has quoted from } } http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/bukhari/001.sbt.html } } No problem. Given the fact that the Prophet Muhammad (S) was kind to his } relatives and that, in a way, Waraqa Ibn Nawfal was his relative, he concludes } that the Prophet learnt a lot from Waraqa. Was it necessary to twist my words? Saifullah claimed: There was just no way that Muhammad could have learned all these things from Jews/Christians since he had only a very few and very short encounters. My response was: He had lots of opportunity to learn since he had 15 years of living with a Christian relative in the same city. And this relative was not one who was a nominal disinterested Christian, but one who studied the scriptures diligently and had manuscripts of them available which he copied out. My conclusion was: There was ample possibility, and it is probable that he learned at least some parts of the contents of these scriptures (authentic or heretical) from Waraqa. I said: "possible", and "some" You claim about me: "he concludes that the Prophet learnt a lot from Waraqa." This is an obviously gross exaggeration of my statement. That is called a straw man argument. } This is a mere assumption This assumption was in your misrepresentation, not in my statement. And this is a conclusion that makes sense. But it was not claimed as a hard fact by me. } but let } it be. Now, it is obvious in the hadith stated by Jochen that an authority } like Waraqa was ready to support Muhammad (SAWS) when the Meccans would drive } him out. Sigh, you are continuing to twist my words. I didn't say Waraqa is an authority for me. I never said he was an orthodox Christian. We know very little about him. I have no basis to say whether he was orthodox or heretic in his understandings since we do not have any substantial statements from his mouth on doctrinal issues. The few lines we have do not allow much at all to conclude about his personal beliefs. I said Waraqa was seemingly considered an authority *by Khadija and Muhammad* since they go to him for counsel when he is troubled by this vision / experience. } Doesn't this mean that Muhammad (S) was truthful according to the } Scriptures which Waraqa knew so well? I can't see from which of my statements, or even from yours, this conclusion is supposed to follow. Where does he say that he found it in the scriptures that Muhammad is truthful? He THOUGHT that Muhammad's experience resembled some reports found in these scriptures. But that is his personal opinion, not something inspired. He might have been wrong. Furthermore, if Waraqa was not orthodox, but somehow heretic, then this would even better explain that the Qur'an incorporates so much stuff from the heretical, apocryphal sources used by heretical Christian groups and has so little resemblence to the texts from the authentic scriptures. In any case, if a heretic recognizes that Muhammad's experience is similar, then this wouldn't be much of a recommendation, or would it? } Why do you, Jochen Katz, neglect this } important aspect? I guess you agree that it is not interesting nor honest to } argue for the sake of argument, don't you agree? I agree one should not argue for argument sake but because the argument is important in the overall issue. And I am always glad if somebody points out where my information is deficient so that I can correct what I might have understood falsely. Now, what exactly did I overlook? May the peace of the Lord be with you and may He guide you into all truth. Jochen Katz
Until I find time to condense the material and rewrite the argument more compactly, the full newsgroup exchange can be found at these links: First posting by J. Katz, M. Ghoniem's response, and my response to him which are all above. The next postings are M. Ghoniem's response to me and my answer to him.
Some more questions need to be asked. Sirat Rasul Allah has this text:
Waraqa met him [Muhammad] and said, "O son of my brother, tell me what you have seen and heard." The apostle told him, and Waraq sai, "Surely, by Him in whose hand is Waraqa's soul, you are the prophet of this people. There hath come unto you the greatest Namus, who came unto Moses. You will be called a liar, and they will use you despitefullly and cast you out and fight against you. Verily, if I live to see that day, I will help God in such wise as he knoweth."
I am wondering how Waraqa could come to this conclusion. Neither the "way of revelation" via an angel who is keen to choke Muhammad, nor the content of the words he is supposed to repeat [Sura 96:1-5] is similar to anything found in the Bible. How, therefore, did Waraqa conclude that Muhammad was
1) a prophet *from God* [let alone "the" messenger]
2) with the *same message* as the earlier prophets?
After all, there is hardly any content in these 5 lines to base such a judgment on. I don't find anything particularly objectionable in these lines:
He said: "Read in the name of thy Lord who created, Who created man of blood coagulated. Read! Thy Lord is the most beneficient, Who taught by the pen, Taught that which they knew not unto men" [Sura 96:1-5]
but neither are they any confirmation of "SAME message as the earlier prophets" since I cannot clearly connect this to anything in the Bible.
And I do not see "threatening/choking" of angels done to earlier prophets at all. That is very DISsimilar.
Question therefore: Is there any other information on which Waraqa based his reaction, or is this all we know?
If so, then I don't think Waraqa has really had any basis to come to such an affirmatory conclusion.
In the above, I am presenting arguments based on the Muslim sources as they are. However, there are some learned people who think it to be likely that there is corruption in these sources. The following newsgroup postings by Dr. Christoph Heger on the topic of Waraqa argue therefore somewhat differently, but are certainly an interesting option to consider: Article One, Two, Three, Four, Five
Further discussion will be linked from the Index entry on Waraqa b. Naufal
Sources of the Qur'an
Answering Islam Home Page