Muhammad: Man of Faith or One Filled With Doubts?

An Answer to a Muslim Dawagandist

Sam Shamoun

Bassam Zawadi has a real difficult time admitting(1) that his prophet was uncertain of his calling and was therefore commanded to consult the previous Scriptures to assuage his lingering doubts:

Christian missionaries point to the two following verses from the Qur'an in order to try and show that the Qur'an commands the Prophet peace be upon him and the doubting believers to refer to the Christians and Jews for consultation...

Surah 10:94

And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers.

Surah 16:43

And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired - Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not!

However, if that was indeed what these verses were saying then they would be conflicting with the following verses in the Qur'an that indicate that the Prophet peace be upon him and the believers have believed (not doubted) in what has been revealed to them... (Source)

Zawadi goes on to source Q. 2:285, 7:158, 42:15 and 49:15 to show that Muhammad and his followers believed, and did not doubt, what Allah revealed to them. He further references two narratives which state that Muhammad claimed that he didn’t doubt that he was Allah’s messenger. 

Before we proceed with our rebuttal it is crucial that we first quote the immediate context of Q. 10:94:  

And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers. And be not thou of those who deny the revelations of Allah, for then wert thou of the losers. S. 10:94-95 Pickthall

With this in the background we can move into our discussion.

In the first place, the above verses establish several vitally important points. The first is that Muhammad was expressly told to consult the previous Scriptures if he wanted to know whether revelations were coming to him or whether God sent human apostles before him. As the late renowned Christian scholar and Islamist Sir William Muir stated:

"The Book revealed before Mahomet," is explained by Jelalooddeen to mean the Pentateuch; but there seems no reason to confine the reference to it. Here, as in many other passages, the word is obviously used in its widest sense, and intends the Scriptures in use among Christians as well as Jews.

The object of God, in referring Mahomet to that Scripture and its possessors, in order to be satisfied of the inspiration of the Corân, is explained by Baidhâwi thus: "for verily it (i.e. the Corân which We have revealed unto thee) is held as certain amongst them, proved in their books, in the same manner as that which We have revealed to thee. The object is to prove this, and to call in the testimony of the antecedent books."

فانه محقق عندهم ثابت في كتبهم على نحو ما القينا اليك والمراد تحقيق ذالك والإستشهاد بما في الكتب المتقدمة

"Ask those who read the book revealed before thee." Read, or "are reading," the Scripture. It is the present or imperfect tense, and has the signification of, "who are in the habit of reading" that Scripture. (Muir, The Corn: Its Composition and Teaching; And the Testimony It Bears To The Holy Scriptures, pp. 100-101; online edition)

This shows that the Holy Bible, which is the Scripture that was in the hands of the people before Muhammad, functions as the criterion to determine whether the Quran is true or not.

Second, the passages plainly and emphatically bear witness to the fact that Muhammad had severe doubts whether he was actually receiving genuine revelations. What makes this rather ironic is that Zawadi himself admits that Q. 10:94 refers to Muhammad:

The verse is addressing the Prophet Muhammad. When you read the Arabic it says...

Arabic Fa-in kunta fee shakkin mimma anzalnna ilayka fais-ali allatheena yaqraoona alkitaba min qablika laqad jaaka alhaqqu min rabbika fala takoonanna mina almumtareena

The word kunta is singular. Therefore, addressing one person. That being Prophet Muhammad. If it said kuntum then it would be a general command for everyone.

God asked the Prophet if he had doubts and then Prophet replied back saying no. God did not accuse the Prophet of having doubts. (Rebuttal to "Muhammad and Poetry Revisited Again and Again"; source)

Thus, even though he is trying so desperately to deny the obvious, his admission here that the ayah does refer to Muhammad basically confirms the fact that his prophet did indeed have doubts and was severely rebuked because of it.

This leads us to our third point. Zawadi erroneously assumes that just because there are verses and narratives that say Muhammad didn’t doubt this therefore somehow proves or explains away those particular texts which clearly say that he did have doubts. All Zawadi is proving at this point is that the Muslim scripture and Islamic source material are filled with contradictions, something that we have known for quite awhile (*). More on these contradictions a little later.

Fourth, the hadith literature provides examples of Muhammad actually asking the Jews and Christians for verification of his prophethood.

This is a description of the Prophet Muhammad in the Books of the Prophets. They delivered the good news of his advent to their nations and commanded them to follow him. His descriptions were still apparent in their Books, as the rabbis and priests well know. Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Sakhr Al-'Uqayli said that a bedouin man said to him, "I brought a milk-producing camel to Al-Madinah during the life time of Allah's Messenger. After I sold it, I said to myself, 'I will meet that man (Muhammad) and hear from him.' So I passed by him while he was walking between Abu Bakr and 'Umar, and I followed them until they went by a Jewish man, who was reading from an open of the Tawrah. He was mourning a son of his who was dying and who was one of the most handsome boys. The Messenger of Allah asked him (the father), <I ask you by He Who has sent down the Tawrah, do you not find the description of me and my advent in your Book?>
He nodded his head in the negative. His son said, 'Rather, yes, by He Who has sent down the Tawrah! We find the description of you and your advent in our Book. I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that you are the Messenger of Allah.' The Prophet said (to the Companions),
<Stop the Jew (the father) from (taking care of) your brother (in Islam).>
The Prophet then personally took care of the son's funeral and led the funeral prayer on him. This Hadith is sound and is supported by a similar Hadith in the Sahih narrated from Anas.
Ibn Jarir recorded that Al-Muthanna said that 'Ata bin Yasar said, 'I met 'Abdullah bin 'Amr and asked him, 'Tell me about the description of Allah's Messenger in the Tawrah.' He said, 'Yes, by Allah! He is described in the Tawrah, just as he is described in the Qur'an,
<O Prophet! Verily, We have sent you as a witness, and a bearer of glad tidings, and a warner.> [33:45]
as a safe refuge for the unlettered ones. [author's note- what follows is a paraphrase of Isaiah 42:1-7] 'You are My servant and Messenger. I have called you 'Al-Mutawakkil' (who trusts in Allah), not hard or harsh.' Neither uttering foul speech in the markets nor returning evil deed with one in kind. Rather, he forgives and forgoes. Allah will not end his life until He straightens through him the crooked religion, so that they might proclaim, 'There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.' He will open through him sealed hearts, deaf ears and blind eyes.'" 'Ata then said, 'I also met Ka'b and asked him the same question, and his answer did not differ from 'Abdullah's answer, even concerning one letter." Al-Bukhari recorded from 'Abdullah bin 'Amr. It was also recorded by Al-Bukhari [up to the word] forgoes. And he mentioned the narration of 'Abdullah bin 'Amr then he said: "It was common in the speech of our Salaf that they describe the Books of the People of the Scriptures as the Tawrah, as some Hadiths concur. Allah knows best." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Volume 4 (Surat Al-Ar'af to the end of Surah Yunus), abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, Lahore; First Edition: May 2000], pp. 178-179; source; bold emphasis ours)

Anyone reading this narrative without the prior assumption that Muhammad was a prophet whom God spoke to can see that he wasn’t simply asking in order to help the Jew recognize that he was a prophet. Rather, Muhammad asked since he wanted to personally know whether what this Jew held in his possession could be used to verify his prophetic mission. There are other hadiths which solidify this point, narrations which show that Muhammad asked Jews and Christians regarding the teachings of the Holy Bible since he was ignorant about what these Scriptures taught in their original languages:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The people of the Scripture (Jews) used to recite the Torah in Hebrew and they used to explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. On that Allah's Apostle said, "Do not believe the people of the Scripture or disbelieve them, but say:-- We believe in Allah and what is revealed to us." (2.136) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 12)

Here Muhammad affirms his belief in the Scriptures which the Jews were reciting, much like he did on another occasion:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar:

A group of Jews came and invited the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) to Quff. So he visited them in their school.

They said: AbulQasim, one of our men has committed fornication with a woman; so pronounce judgment upon them. They placed a cushion for the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) who sat on it and said: Bring the Torah. It was then brought. He then withdrew the cushion from beneath him and placed the Torah on it saying: I believed in thee and in Him Who revealed thee.

He then said: Bring me one who is learned among you. Then a young man was brought. The transmitter then mentioned the rest of the tradition of stoning similar to the one transmitted by Malik from Nafi' (No. 4431)." (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4434)

To see a more thorough discussion of this specific narrative as well as a refutation to Zawadi’s attempt of brushing aside this report please consult this article.

This shows that Muhammad didn’t know what the Holy Scriptures taught since if he did he would have known whether what the Jews were saying to him in Arabic agreed with the contents of their inspired Scriptures.

The following reports further corroborate the fact that Muhammad asked because he didn’t know what the Scriptures said and had doubts whether he was even mentioned:

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:
A Jew and a Jewess were brought to Allah's Apostle on a charge of committing an illegal sexual intercourse. The Prophet asked them. "What is the legal punishment (for this sin) in your Book (Torah)?" They replied, "Our priests have innovated the punishment of blackening the faces with charcoal and Tajbiya." ‘Abdullah bin Salam said, "O Allah’s Apostle, tell them to bring the Torah." The Torah was brought, and then one of the Jews put his hand over the Divine Verse of the Rajam (stoning to death) and started reading what preceded and what followed it. On that, Ibn Salam said to the Jew, "Lift up your hand." Behold! The Divine Verse of the Rajam was under his hand. So Allah’s Apostle ordered that the two (sinners) be stoned to death, and so they were stoned. Ibn ‘Umar added: So both of them were stoned at the Balat and I saw the Jew sheltering the Jewess. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 82, Number 809)

Narrated Abdullah bin Umar:
The Jews came to Allah’s Apostle and mentioned to him that a man and a lady among them had committed illegal sexual intercourse. Allah’s Apostle said to them, "What do you find in the Torah regarding the Rajam?" They replied, "We only disgrace and flog them with stripes." ‘Abdullah bin Salam said to them, "You have told a lie the penalty of Rajam is in the Torah." They brought the Torah and opened it. One of them put his hand over the verse of the Rajam and read what was before and after it. Abdullah bin Salam said to him, "Lift up your hand." Where he lifted it there appeared the verse of the Rajam. So they said, "O Muhammad! He has said the truth, the verse of the Rajam is in it (Torah)." Then Allah’s Apostle ordered that the two persons (guilty of illegal sexual intercourse) be stoned to death, and so they were stoned, and I saw the man bending over the woman so as to protect her from the stones. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 82, Number 825)

Notice that Muhammad needed Abdullah ibn Salam to point out to him what the Torah taught concerning the punishment of adulterers and adulteresses. All of this supports our contention that Muhammad asked the Jew whether he was mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures because he himself wasn’t certain.

This wasn’t the only time that someone from among the People of the Book (i.e., Jews and Christians) had to reassure Muhammad that he was God’s prophet (even though this in itself is an erroneous and mistaken position). It was a Christian monk who (mistakenly) informed him that he was receiving messages from God. What makes this all the more interesting is that Muhammad continued to have doubts to the point that he contemplated committing suicide even though he had already been informed that he was God’s apostle:

Narrated Aisha:

(the wife of the Prophet) The commencement (of the Divine Inspiration) to Allah's Apostle was in the form of true dreams in his sleep, for he never had a dream but it turned out to be true and clear as the bright daylight. Then he began to like seclusions, so he used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship Allah continuously for many nights before going back to his family to take the necessary provision (of food) for the stay. He come back to (his wife) Khadija again to take his provision (of food) likewise, till one day he received the Guidance while he was in the cave of Hira. An Angel came to him and asked him to read. Allah's Apostle replied, "I do not know how to read." The Prophet added, "Then the Angel held me (forcibly) and pressed me so hard that I felt distressed. Then he released me and again asked me to read, and I replied, 'I do not know how to read.' Thereupon he held me again and pressed me for the second time till I felt distressed. He then released me and asked me to read, but again I replied. 'I do not know how to read.' Thereupon he held me for the third time and pressed me till I got distressed, and then he released me and said, 'Read, in the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists), has created man out of a clot, Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen, has taught man that which he knew not." (96.1-5).

Then Allah's Apostle returned with that experience; and the muscles between his neck and shoulders were trembling till he came upon Khadija (his wife) and said, "Cover me!" They covered him, and when the state of fear was over, he said to Khadija, "O Khadija! What is wrong with me? I was afraid that something bad might happen to me." Then he told her the story. Khadija said, "Nay! But receive the good tidings! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you, for by Allah, you keep good relations with your Kith and kin, speak the truth, help the poor and the destitute, entertain your guests generously and assist those who are stricken with calamities." Khadija then took him to Waraqa bin Naufil, the son of Khadija's paternal uncle. Waraqa had been converted to Christianity in the Pre-lslamic Period and used to write Arabic and write of the Gospel in Arabic as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said (to Waraqa), "O my cousin! Listen to what your nephew is going to say." Waraqa said, "O my nephew! What have you seen?" The Prophet then described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, "This is the same Angel (Gabriel) who was sent to Moses. I wish I were young." He added some other statement. Allah's Apostle asked, "Will these people drive me out?" Waraqa said, "Yes, for nobody brought the like of what you have brought, but was treated with hostility. If I were to remain alive till your day (when you start preaching). then I would support you strongly." But a short while later Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was paused (stopped) for a while so that Allah's Apostle was very much grieved.

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah: While Allah's Apostle was talking about the period of pause in revelation. He said in his narration: Once while I was walking, all of a sudden I heard a voice from the sky. I looked up and saw to my surprise, the same Angel as had visited me in the cave of Hira. He was sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. I got afraid of him and came back home and said, "Wrap me! Wrap me!" So they covered him and then Allah revealed:

‘O you, wrapped up! Arise and warn and your Lord magnify, and your garments purify and dessert the idols.’ (74.1-5) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 478)

… But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while and the Prophet became so sad as we have heard that he intended SEVERAL TIMES to throw himself from the tops of high mountains and every time he went up the top of a mountain in order to throw himself down, Gabriel would appear before him and say, "O Muhammad! You are indeed Allah's Apostle in truth" whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home. And whenever the period of the coming of the inspiration USED TO BECOME LONG, HE WOULD DO AS BEFORE, but when he used to reach the top of a mountain, Gabriel would appear before him and say to him what he had said before. (Ibn 'Abbas said regarding the meaning of: ‘He it is that Cleaves the daybreak (from the darkness)’ (6.96) that Al-Asbah means the light of the sun during the day and the light of the moon at night). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 87, Number 111)

Noted historian and commentator al-Tabari writes:

Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Al‘a – Ibn Thawr – Ma‘mar – al-Zuhri: The inspiration ceased to come to the Messenger of God for a while, and he was deeply grieved. He began to go to the tops of mountain crags, in order to fling himself from them; but EVERY TIME he reached the summit of a mountain, Gabriel appeared to him and said to him, "You are the Prophet of God." Thereupon his anxiety would subside and he would come back to himself. (The History of al-Tabari: Muhammad at Mecca, translated and annotated by W. Montgomery Watt and M.V. McDonald [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1988], Volume VI (6), p. 76; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Islamic sources say that the period of time that the spirit stopped coming to Muhammad lasted anywhere between six months to three years! Sir William Muir noted:

The period succeeding the revelation of the 96th Sura, during which inspiration was suspended, and Mahomet in despondency contemplated suicide, is generally represented as of longer duration than in the above statement. This interval, styled the Fatrah or "Intermission," is variously held to have lasted from six months to three years. At its close, the 74th and 93rd Suras, containing assurance of mercy and the command to preach, were delivered. The accounts, however, are throughout confused, if not contradictory; and we can only gather with certainty that there was a time (corresponding with the deductions which we have drawn from the Coran itself), during which the mind of Mahomet hung in suspense, and doubted the Divine mission.28 (Muir, The Life of Muhammad, Volume II, CHAPTER THIRD: The Belief of Mahomet in his own Inspiration, pp. 85-86; source; bold emphasis ours)

Abdullah Yusuf Ali informs us that Q. 73,

… is one of the earliest Suras to have been revealed. The first was S. xcvi. 1-5 (Iqraa), in the fortieth year of the Prophet’s life, say about 12 years before the Hijra. Then there was an interruption (Fatra), of which the duration cannot be exactly ascertained, as there was no external history connected with it. The usual estimate puts it at about six months, but it may have been a year or two years. The years were then counted by the luni-solar calendar… (Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, p. 1632; bold emphasis ours)

For more on Muhammad’s suicide attempts we recommend this article.

Pay careful attention to what is being said by these references. On more than one occasion Muhammad thought of throwing himself off a mountain and every time he tried to kill himself a spirit would appear to stop him. This means that Muhammad continued to have doubts despite the fact that the spirit always came to reassure him that he was Allah’s messenger. Now if Muhammad could continue to have such fears for this entire period of time, despite the fact that the spirit kept going out of his way to reassure him over and over again that he was God’s apostle, then on what grounds does Zawadi want to say that Q. 10:94 cannot actually mean that Muhammad had severe doubts about receiving "revelations"?

In fact, if we tie in Q. 10:94 with the above data then this leads us to conclude that Muhammad continued to have lingering doubts about his alleged prophethood up until his flight to Medina. We say this since Muslim sources place the date of composition of Q. 10 at the final period of Muhammad’s stay at Mecca:

Time of Revelation

We have no tradition in regard to the time of it's revelation, but its subject matter gives clear indication that it must have been revealed during the last stage of the Holy Prophet's residence at Makkah. For the mode of the discourse suggests that at the time of its revelation, the antagonism of the opponents of the Message had become so intense that they could not tolerate even the presence of the Holy Prophet and his followers among themselves, and that things had come to such a pass as to leave no hope that they would ever understand and accept the Message of the Prophet. This indicates that the last stage of the Prophet's life among thee people had come, and the final warning like the one in this Surah had to be given. These characteristics of the discourse are clear proof that it was revealed during the last stage of the Movement at Makkah.

Another thing that determines more specifically the order of the Surahs of the last stage at Makkah is the mention (or absence) of some open or covert hint about Hijrat (Emigration) from Makkah. As this Surah does not contain any hint whatsoever about this, it is a proof that it preceded those surahs which contain it. (Syed Abu-Ala’ Maududi ‘s Chapter Introductions to the Qur’an; source)

Let us also not forget that this wasn’t the only time Muhammad got rebuked for being afraid or for faltering in his faith. There are many Quranic references where Muhammad’s deity warns or rebukes him severely:

And when you said to him to whom Allah had shown favor and to whom you had shown a favor: Keep your wife to yourself and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; and you concealed in your soul what Allah would bring to light, and you feared men, and Allah had a greater right that you should fear Him. But when Zaid had accomplished his want of her, We gave her to you as a wife, so that there should be no difficulty for the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished their want of them; and Allah's command shall be performed. S. 33:37 Shakir

The above verse was recited during Muhammad’s stay at Medina. This next one took place while he was still in Mecca:

Verily, they were about to tempt you away from that which We have revealed (the Qur'an) unto you (O Muhammad SAW), to fabricate something other than it against Us, and then they would certainly have taken you a friend! And had We not made you stand firm, you would nearly have inclined to them a little. In that case, We would have made you taste a double portion (of punishment) in this life and a double portion (of punishment) after death. And then you would have found none to help you against Us. S. 17:73-75 Hilali-Khan

Maududi places the time of composition during the same period that Q. 10 was composed:

Period of Revelation

The very first verse indicates that this Surah was revealed on the occasion of Mi`raj (Ascension). According to the Traditions and books on the life of the Holy Prophet, this event happened one year before Hijrah. Thus, this Surah is one of those which were revealed in the last stage of Prophethood at Makkah. (Source)

These texts expressly say that unless Allah had intervened Muhammad would have faltered away and turned towards the unbelievers. In fact, according to one Muslim source these verses were given in reference to Muhammad’s lapse into idolatry:

... Then the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, approached them (Quraysh) and got close to them, and they also came near to him. One day he was sitting in their assembly near the Ka‘bah, and he recited: "By the Star when it setteth", till he reached, "Have ye thought upon Al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other". Satan made him repeat these two phrases: These idols are high and their intercession is expected. The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, repeated them, and he went on reciting the whole surah and then fell in prostration, and the people also fell in prostration with him. Al-Walid Ibn Al-Mughirah, who was an old man and could not prostrate, took a handful of dust to his forehead and prostrated on it. It is said: Abu Uhayhah Sa‘id Ibn al-‘As, being an old man, took dust and prostrated on it. Some people say: It was al-Walid who took the dust; others say: It was Abu Uhayhah; while others say: Both did it. They were pleased with what the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, had uttered. They said: We know that Allah gives life and causes death. He creates and gives us provisions, but our deities will intercede with Him, and in what you have assigned to them, we are with you. These words pricked the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him. He was sitting in his house and when it was evening, Gabriel, may peace be upon him, came to him and REVISED the surah. Then Gabriel said: Did I bring these two phrases. The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, said: I ascribed to Allah, what He had not said. THEN ALLAH REVEALED TO HIM: "And they indeed strove hard to beguile thee (Muhammad) away from that wherewith We have inspired thee, that thou shouldst invent other than it against Us; and then would they have accepted thee as a friend.

And if We had not made thee wholly firm thou mightest almost have inclined unto them a little.

Then had We made thee taste a double (punishment) of living and a double (punishment) of dying then hadst thou found to [sic] helper against Us.

... This prostration became known to people till the news reached Abyssinia and the Companions of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, that the people of Makkah fell in protraction and joined Islam including al-Walid ... The people said: When such persons have joined Islam, who else remains in Makkah? They said: Our relatives are dear to us. SO THEY RETURNED. When they were at a distance of one hour’s walk from Makkah, they confronted some horsemen of Kinanah. They inquired about the Quraysh and their affairs. The horsemen said: MUHAMMAD SPOKE WELL OF THEIR DEITIES, SO THEY FOLLOWED HIM, but they turned apostate. He began to abuse their gods and they began to harm him. We left them in this struggle. They discussed that they should return to Abyssinia, but then they said: We have reached here, so let us enter (the town), see the Quraysh and visit our families and then return. (Ibn Sa’d, Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al- Kabir, English translation by S. Moinul Haq, M.A., PH.D assisted by H.K. Ghazanfar M.A. [Kitab Bhavan Exporters & Importers, 1784 Kalan Mahal, Daryaganj, New Delhi- 110 002 India], Volume I, parts I & II, pp. 237-238; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Hence, the foregoing emphatically and unambiguously demonstrates that Muhammad continued to have doubts whether what he was receiving was truly from God or not and that these fears of his didn’t stop after his first encounter with the spirit. Muhammad continued doubting his prophetic calling for many years afterwards, at least for the entirety of his stay at Mecca. This helps explain the rather harsh tone and dire threat of Q. 10:94-95; Muhammad got rebuked by his deity since the latter became quite angry by the constant doubts of his apostle even though a spirit had been sent to him on more than one occasion to alleviate these lingering fears.

The above data leaves Zawadi with several options:

  1. Muhammad lied that he wouldn't ask and that he didn’t doubt.
  2. Muhammad started wavering in his faith and ended up having to ask in order to reassure himself.
  3. Zawadi's sources lied and forged reports to show that Muhammad would not ask when he clearly did.
  4. Both the Quran and the Islamic narratives are contradicting themselves.

Zawadi ends with a rather lengthy quote from Muslim author Dr. Muhammad M. Abu Laylah’s book, The Qur'an and the Gospels: A Comparative Study, who cites several Muslim explanations of Q. 10:94. Here are some specific parts from this quote which are worth rebutting:

An-Nisaburi al-Tha'alibi's (d. 427 A. H.) Tafsir stresses the semantic significance of the conditional: the expression "If you are in doubt" does not in any way prove either the existence or non-existence of the conditional matter; the same exegete, moreover, saw in this verse a clear proof of the fact that the People of the books had firm knowledge of the truthfulness of the Qur'an to the extent that they were in a position to argue even with Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself on the subject of his prophet hood and he concludes: "The verse thus describes the Rabbis' deep knowledge of the authenticity of what God revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him); the verse does not describe the Prophet as having doubted." (An-Nisaburi al-Tha'alibi, Ghara'yib Al-Qur'an, Wa Ragha'ib Al-Furqan, in the margin of al-Tabari, Jami', vol. 11, pp. 116 f.)

At-Tabari continues by saying: If anybody asks, "Was the Prophet of God in doubt concerning the reality of God's telling?" the answer must emphatically be 'no' (Ibid. [See also R. 2], p. 60) At-Tabari's discussion is lengthy, and some of the points he makes arise in Ibn Taymiyyah's contribution to the same issue - it is, however, essential to take note of one particular statement made by him: The expression 'if you doubt', does not make it necessary that Muhammad (peace be upon him) doubted. (From the linguistic point of view) Arabs use such expressions, e.g., the master might say to his servant: 'If you are my servant you must do such and such' when the master has no real doubt at all that the servant addressed is his servant. Similarly an Arab might say to his son:'If you are my son you will be kind to me' (Ibid.)

At-Tabari does not merely refer to colloquial use of the expression in everyday life but draws an example from the Qur'an: God asked Jesus whether Jesus had told the people: "Take me and my mother as Gods, apart from God" (Qur'an 5:116) knowing full well that he had never done so. Thus the expression, as at-Tabari makes clear, is nothing more than a rhetorical device. He concludes his argument by stating that it was only natural that God should have talked to Muhammad (peace be upon him) in phraseology appropriate to the Arabs in whose language the Qur'an itself was revealed. (At-Tabari, Jami', vol. 11, p. 115)

The problem with the above assertions is that the immediate context doesn’t support the position that this was nothing more than a rhetorical device:

But if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed to you, ask those who read the Book before you; certainly the truth has come to you from your Lord, therefore you should not be of the disputers. And you should not be of those who reject the communications of Allah, (for) then you should be one of the losers. S. 10:94-95 Shakir

Muhammad is plainly told not to be among the doubters and rejectors of the revelation, which clearly proves that he did have doubts. Moreover, the narrations which we cited earlier further attest that Muhammad entertained severe fears and doubts to the point that he even wanted to kill himself. Thus, both the immediate context and specific narratives affirm the reality of the conditional, i.e. Muhammad did have doubts and needed to assuage them by consulting the Jews and Christians. This isn’t any mere rhetorical or colloquial expression.

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari (d.311 A.H.-923 A.D.) comments on the verse: "God says to His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that if you are in doubt about the truthfulness of what We told you in Revelations - that the children of Israel had not differed concerning your prophet hood before you were sent by God as an Apostle to His people, for they found you prophesied in their scripture, and they knew you from the description of you given in the Torah and Injil - you must confer with those who read the sacred book before you, that is, the people of the Torah and the people of the Gospel, such as Abdullah Ibn Salam and those who, like him, were honest and had faith in you: do not ask those who are dishonest or are unbelievers." (At-Tabari, Jami', vol. II, p. 115)

At-Tabari reported Ibn Abbas as saying that the book referred to in the verse was the Torah and the Gospel; the people with whom Muhammad (peace be upon him) was commanded to confer were those who lived in Muhammad's time and believed in him. The Prophet was to turn to them if questions as to the foretelling of his own prophet hood in those books arose. The only object of possible doubt was then Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself, and the people with whom he was to confer were restricted to those who believed in his mission. Furthermore, Muhammad (peace be upon him) had been prophesied in the scriptures  - Jewish and Christian - but these prophecies had been denied by the majority of Jews and Christians except for those who had come to accept that such prophecies were truthful and had become Muslim.

Zawadi doesn’t realize that he is merely providing more proof that his sources are filled with irreconcilable contradictions and that the Muslim scholars were a very confused group of individuals. Here he sources Laylah who cites al-Tabari’s quote from Ibn Abbas stating that the Scriptures in the hands of the Jews during Muhammad’s time contained prophecies of Muhammad.

Yet all throughout this article Zawadi quotes other sources which say that the Jews corrupted their Scriptures since they omitted these prophecies:

Ibn Abbaas said in his commentary on Surah 2:79...

(Therefore woe) severe punishment, and it is said this means: a valley in Hell (be unto those who write the Scripture with their hands) change the description and traits of Muhammad (pbuh) in the Book (and then say, " This is) in the Book that has come (from Allah " , that they may purchase) through changing and altering it (a small gain therewith) a small gain in terms of means of subsistence and surplus of property. (Woe unto them) theirs is a severe punishment (for what their hands have written) have altered (and woe unto them) and theirs is a severe punishment (for what they earn thereby) of unlawful earnings and bribes. (Ibn Abbaas, Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn 'Abbs, Commentary on Surah 2:79, Source)

And:

Regarding the verse 'Confound not truth with falsehood': The truth: it is the Torah that Allah revealed to Moses. Falsehood: it is what they have written from their own hands.... It was reported that Ibn Abbaas and others said 'Do not mix the truth of what you have in the Book with falsehood' and that is the changing and substituting.

And Abu Al A'alya said that the Jews said 'Muhammad has arisen but not from amongst us' so their acknowledgement of his arising is truth but their rejection of him is false, and Ibn Zayd said: What is intended by 'truth' is the Torah and 'falsehood' is what they substituted or changed from it from the mentioning of Muhammad peace be upon him and other issues. Mujahid said: Do not mix Judaism and Christianity with Islam, and Qutada said that as well. I say (Tabari): The statement of Ibn Abbaas is more correct because it is more general and applies to the rest of the statements and Allah is the source of all strength. (Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan fi ta'wil al-Qur'an, Commentary on Surah 2:42, Source)

Finally:

Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi (d. 373 A.H.), the well known Hanafi scholar in his commentary of the Qur'an known as Bahr al-'Ulum on Surah 2, verse 79 quotes Az-Zajjaj as saying...

- -

The leaders of the Jews erased the traits and descriptions of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, then they wrote things besides his traits and descriptions.

Notice how the word 'erased' is used and then the same people 'wrote' different descriptions of the Prophet to come. Az-Zajjaj clearly believed in the textual corruption of the Torah.

Now what does Zawadi want his readers to believe? Should they believe that the Jews corrupted their Scriptures since they omitted specific predictions of Muhammad? Or should they adopt the view that the Scriptures at the time of Muhammad contain prophecies of his advent which means that the Jews did not corrupt their texts? Moreover, what did Ibn Abbas actually teach? Did he claim that the Jews omitted the prophecies of Muhammad thereby corrupting their texts? Or did he actually teach that the Scriptures of the Jews did contain predictions of Muhammad which means that they did not tamper with their Bibles?

More importantly, assuming that these narratives are correct that the Jews omitted references to Muhammad (which they are not) this could only be true for the Bible manuscripts (MSS) which were in their hands at that time. This could not be the case with the MSS which were written before Muhammad’s time.

Moreover, the Jews were dispersed all over the world, from Europe to Africa to Asia. Even if some Jews in Arabia had been tempted to tamper with their copies of the Torah to erase Muhammad from it after they met him, what about the Jews in all those other places? They would not have been able to even ask all the other Jews to make the same changes, let alone get their agreement on doing so.

Al-Qurtubi's comment on the verse is to argue that it speaks to the Prophet not as an object of doubt, but as a medium through which people are commanded to ask for confirmation if they have doubts. Furthermore, he mentions that Tha'alibi and al-Mubarrad had been credited with having said that the verse referred specifically to pagan Arabs, its meanings thus being that if such pagans were in doubt about the Qur'an they should ask Muslims who had been converted from Judaism, whom they regarded as being more knowledgeable than themselves, to corroborate the veracity of the Qur'an. (Abu 'Abdullah al-Qurtubi, op. cit., vol. 8, pp. 382 f.) Such an interpretation is feasible; it does however contradict Muhammad's (peace be upon him) response to the verses reported in the tradition referred to by an- Nisaburi. Ibn Hazm's interpretation too, does not take account of this tradition and for this reason is unacceptable to the present author as being an insufficient exegesis.

The major problem with al-Qurtubi’s exegesis is that if the author of the Quran wanted to make sure that the reader didn’t think that Muhammad was being rebuked here s/he could have made the address in the plural instead of the singular, i.e. "If any of you are in doubt…" S/he could have even added the Arabic Qul ("Say") or the words "O mankind", or something of that nature, much like s/he did several verses later:

Say (O Muhammad SAW): "O you mankind! If you are in doubt as to my religion (Islam), then (know that) I will never worship those whom you worship, besides Allah. But I worship Allah Who causes you to die, I am commanded to be one of the believers. And (it is inspired to me): Direct your face (O Muhammad SAW) entirely towards the religion Hanifa (Islamic Monotheism, i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone), and never be one of the Mushrikun (those who ascribe partners to Allah, polytheists, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah, and those who worship others along with Allah). And invoke not besides Allah, any that will neither profit you, nor hurt you, but if (in case) you did so, you shall certainly be one of the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers)… Say: "O you mankind! Now truth (i.e. the Qur'an and Prophet Muhammad SAW), has come to you from your Lord. So whosoever receives guidance, he does so for the good of his own self, and whosoever goes astray, he does so to his own loss, and I am not (set) over you as a Wakil (disposer of affairs to oblige you for guidance)." S. 10:104-106, 108 Hilali-Khan

Any combination of these would have clearly demonstrated that the rebuke wasn’t directed to Muhammad. The author obviously didn’t use any of these expressions but chose to use the singular address which makes it quite apparent that Muhammad was getting rebuked at this point for wavering. Al-Qurtubi’s response is more of an attempt to salvage Muhammad’s reputation and of trying to uphold the later Islamic position that Muhammad had perfect faith and was absolutely sinless.

Conclusion

We conclude by noting that it is rather apparent that Zawadi is faced with a major difficulty since the Islamic corpus is filled with gross contradictions. Zawadi sourced certain narratives to prove that Muhammad would never ask the Jews and Christians because he had no doubts, all of which directly contradict the verses and reports which we cited here showing that he did ask the Jews and Christians since he was full of doubts.

In light of his confusion, is this the man that Muslims want us to believe in, a person who was full of uncertainty and fears, who wasn’t certain of his fate and even thought of killing himself?

Say: "I am no bringer of new-fangled doctrine among the apostles, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I follow but that which is revealed to me by inspiration; I am but a Warner open and clear." S. 46:9 Y. Ali

Narrated Abu Huraira:
When Allah revealed the Verse: "Warn your nearest kinsmen," Allah's Apostle got up and said, "O people of Quraish (or said similar words)! Buy (i.e. save) yourselves (from the Hellfire) as I cannot save you from Allah's Punishment; O Bani Abd Manaf! I cannot save you from Allah's Punishment, O Safiya, the Aunt of Allah's Apostle! I cannot save you from Allah's Punishment; O Fatima bint Muhammad! Ask me anything from my wealth, but I cannot save you from Allah's Punishment." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 51, Number 16)

Narrated 'Um al-'Ala:
An Ansari woman who gave the pledge of allegiance to the Prophet that the Ansar drew lots concerning the dwelling of the Emigrants. 'Uthman bin Maz'un was decided to dwell with them (i.e. Um al-'Ala's family), 'Uthman fell ill and I nursed him till he died, and we covered him with his clothes. Then the Prophet came to us and I (addressing the dead body) said, "O Abu As-Sa'ib, may Allah's Mercy be on you! I bear witness that Allah has honored you." On that the Prophet said, "How do you know that Allah has honored him?" I replied, "I do not know. May my father and my mother be sacrificed for you, O Allah's Apostle! But who else is worthy of it (if not 'Uthman)?" He said, "As to him, by Allah, death has overtaken him, and I hope the best for him. By Allah, though I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me," By Allah, I will never assert the piety of anyone after him. That made me sad, and when I slept I saw in a dream a flowing stream for 'Uthman bin Maz'un. I went to Allah's Apostle and told him of it. He remarked, "That symbolizes his (good) deeds." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 266)

Do Muslim polemicists like Zawadi really think that true believers will embrace such a man and turn away from Jesus Christ, the Living One?

"Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’" John 11:23-27

"‘Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, AND THE LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through me.’" John 14:1-6

"When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and THE LIVING ONE. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’" Revelation 1:17-18



Endnote

(1) Since Zawadi wrote a second article on Muhammad doubting, we decided to write a second rebuttal to address it. The first rebuttal is found here.


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