Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Muhammad the Borrower Still!

The Influence of the Christian Apocrypha on
The composition and formation of the Quran Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue our discussion of Zawadi’s points against Muhammad adopting Christian fables about Jesus into the Quran.

Muhammad’s Source of Information for Christianity in Mecca

Zawadi responds to the late Christian scholar of Islam William St. Clair Tisdall who believed that Muhammad may have learned of Jesus speaking in the cradle from his Coptic concubine Mary:

3) The Qur'anic verse about Jesus in the cradle was revealed in Mecca, while the Prophet met Mary-the Copt only during the Medinan period.

However, this still doesn’t refute the fact that Muhammad learned of these fables by his contacts with Christians. According to the Muslim commentators Muhammad would frequently meet with a couple of Christians in Mecca and listen to their reading of the Scriptures:

And verily (wa-laqad is for confirmation) We know that they say, ‘It is only a human that is teaching him, the Qur’ān’ — this was a Christian blacksmith whom the Prophet used to frequent. God, exalted be He, says: The tongue, the language, of him to whom they refer, to whom they incline, [with the accusation] that he is [the one] teaching him, is foreign’; while this, Qur’ān, is [in] a clear Arabic tongue, one of lucidity and clarity: so how can a foreigner be teaching him? (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; bold emphasis ours)


(And We know well) O Muhammad (that they) i.e. the disbelievers of Mecca (say: Only a man) Jabr and Yasar (teacheth him) the Qur'an. (The speech of him at whom they falsely hint) incline and ascribe this to (is outlandish) Hebraic, (and this is clear Arabic speech) He says: the Qur'an is in the usage of the Arabic language. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs)


(And We know well that they say: Only a man teacheth him. The speech of him at whom they falsely hint is outlandish…) [16:103]. Abu Nasr Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Muzakki> Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Hamdan al-Zahid> ‘Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz> Abu Hisham al-Rifa‘i> Ibn Fudayl> Husayn> ‘Abd Allah ibn Muslim who said: “We owned two Christian youths from the people of ‘Ayn Tamr, one called Yasar and the other Jabr. Their trade was making swords but they also could read the Scriptures in their own tongue. The Messenger of Allah used to pass by them and listen to their reading. As a result, the idolaters used to say: ‘He is being taught by them!’ To give them the lie, Allah, exalted is He, revealed (The speech of him at whom they falsely hint is outlandish, and this is clear Arabic speech)”. (‘Ali ibn Ahmad Al-Wahidi, Asbab Al-Nuzul; bold emphasis ours)


He went on: “The Messenger of God used often to sit at al-Marwa near the shop of a young Christian named Jabr, a slave of the Banu al-Hadrami. People would say, ‘By God, it is merely Jabr who teaches Muhammad most of what he says!’” (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad (Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya), translated by Professor Trevor Le Gassick, reviewed by Dr. Ahmed Fareed [Garnet Publishing Limited, 8 Southern Court, south Street Reading RG1 4QS, UK; The Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization: First paperback edition, 2000], Volume II, p. 55)

Another source says that five years before Muhammad claimed to be a prophet there was a carpenter in Mecca who was a Coptic Christian.

Muhammad b. Ishaq b. Yasar said, “When the Messenger of God reached 35 the Quraysh reached an agreement to rebuild the ka‘ba. They did so because they were concerned about reroofing it, being afraid its roof would collapse since it was made only of stones set above its frame. They also wanted to make it taller as well as reroof it…

Ibn Ishaq said, “In Mecca there was A COPT who was a carpenter and so they had available to them some of what was needed to repair it.

“There was a serpent that would emerge from the ka‘ba’s well into which they would drop every day the sacrificial offerings. It would emerge and sun itself on the ka‘ba‘s wall. They were all afraid of it, because whenever anyone approached it, it would raise its head, move its coils audibly and open its mouth. One day as it lay on the ka‘ba‘s wall as was its habit, God sent down a bird which snatched it up and flew away with it.

At that the Quraysh said, ‘Now we can hope that God is pleased at our plan. We have a local carpenter, and wood, and God has taken care of the serpent.’” (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad (Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya), Volume I, pp. 199-200; bold and capital emphasis ours)

We are further told that a group of Meccans had converted to Christianity, one of whom was the first cousin of Muhammad’s first wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Waraqa b. Naufal.

We gave some information concerning Waraqa in material above relating to Zayd b. ‘Amr b. Nufayl, God have mercy on him. We told how he had become a Christian before the coming of Islam and how he had left and travelled to Syria accompanied by Zayd b. ‘Amr, ‘Uthman b. al-Huwayrith and ‘Ubayd Allah b. Jahsh. All of these became Christian because they found Christianity to be at that time the religion closest to the truth …

Waraqa b. Nufayl did adopt Christianity, and used to try to prognosticate it in the Messenger of God as we have said above, from the way in which Khadija would describe and characterize him. She told Waraqa of the fine, pure qualities he had, and of the signs and indications there were upon him. (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad (Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya), translated by professor Trevor Le Gassick, reviewed by Dr. Ahmed Fareed [Garnet Publishing Limited, 8 Southern Court, south Street Reading RG1 4QS, UK; The Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization: First paperback edition, 2000], Volume I, p. 287)

In fact, Waraqa was the man whom Muhammad saw shortly after his encounter with the spirit that tormented him in order to get his advice concerning Muhammad’s experience:

Narrated 'Aisha:

The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah's Apostle was in the form of good righteous (true) dreams in his sleep. He never had a dream but that it came true like bright day light. He used to go in seclusion (the cave of) Hira where he used to worship(Allah Alone) continuously for many (days) nights. He used to take with him the journey food for that (stay) and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food like-wise again for another period to stay, till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him in it 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 anymore. He then released me and again asked me to read, and I replied, "I do not know how to read,” whereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and asked me again 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 Most Generous… up to… that which he knew not.” (96.15)

Then Allah's Apostle returned with the Inspiration, his neck muscles twitching with terror till he entered upon Khadija and said, "Cover me! Cover me!" They covered him till his fear was over and then he said, "O Khadija, what is wrong with me?" Then he told her everything that had happened and said, 'I fear that something may happen to me." Khadija said, 'Never! But have the glad tidings, for by Allah, Allah will never disgrace you as you keep good reactions with your Kith and kin, speak the truth, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guest generously and assist the deserving, calamity-afflicted ones." Khadija then accompanied him to (her cousin) Waraqa bin Naufal bin Asad bin 'Abdul 'Uzza bin Qusai. Waraqa was the son of her paternal uncle, i.e., her father's brother, who during the Pre-Islamic Period became a Christian and used to write the Arabic writing and used to write of the Gospels in Arabic as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said to him, "O my cousin! Listen to the story of your nephew." Waraqa asked, "O my nephew! What have you seen?" The Prophet described whatever he had seen. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 87, Number 111)

It is also alleged that there was a stone within the Kabah which had an inscription from the Gospel of Matthew 7:16,

Layth Abu Sulaym alleged that they found a stone in the Ka‘ba forty years before the prophet's mission, if what they say is true, containing the inscription ‘He that soweth good shall reap joy; he that soweth evil shall reap sorrow; can you do evil and be rewarded with good? Nay, as grapes cannot be gathered from thorns.’1

1. A strange place in which to find a quotation from the Gospel; cf. Mt. 7. 16. (Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, p. 86; bold emphasis ours)

The Kabah is even said to have contained pictures of Christ and Mary!

I. I. from Hakim b. ‘Abbad b. Hanif and other traditionists: Quraysh had put pictures in the Ka‘ba including two of Jesus son of Mary and Mary (on both of whom be peace!). I. Shihab said: Asma’ d. Shaqr said that a woman of Ghassan joined in the pilgrimage of the Arabs and when she saw the picture of Mary in the Ka‘ba she said, ‘My father and mother be your ransom! You are surely an Arab woman!’ The apostle ordered that the pictures should be erased EXCEPT THOSE OF JESUS AND MARY. (Ibid., p. 552; capital emphasis ours)

This shows just how pervasive Christianity was in Mecca at that time. In light of this Muhammad could have easily learned the apocryphal fable of Jesus speaking while in the cradle from any number of Christians who were living in Mecca at that time.

In fact, the inspiration that Muhammad had received from Christians was so widespread and well-known that Muslims had to create a story in order to undermine and discredit it:

Narrated Anas:

There was a Christian who embraced Islam and read Surat-al-Baqara and Al-Imran, and he used to write (the revelations) for the Prophet. Later on he returned to Christianity again and he used to say: “Muhammad knows nothing but what I have written for him.” Then Allah caused him to die, and the people buried him, but in the morning they saw that the earth had thrown his body out. They said, "This is the act of Muhammad and his companions. They dug the grave of our companion and took his body out of it because he had run away from them." They again dug the grave deeply for him, but in the morning they again saw that the earth had thrown his body out. They said, “This is an act of Muhammad and his companions. They dug the grave of our companion and threw his body outside it, for he had run away from them.” They dug the grave for him as deep as they could, but in the morning they again saw that the earth had thrown his body out. So they believed that what had befallen him was not done by human beings and had to leave him thrown (on the ground). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 814)

Despite the fanciful details of the Christian’s burial this hadith attests that Muhammad’s contemporaries were aware that there was a strong Christian influence which helped Muhammad to shape and form the stories that are found in the Quran.

Why educated Christians reject Jesus’ childhood miracle stories of the Christian apocrypha

Zawadi thinks he has a response to the Christians who reject the stories which are found in the Apocrypha:

If one wishes to dismiss this story of clay-bird miracle as a “legend,” then how is Jesus’ raising of Lazarus not a legend? JUST BECAUSE A STORY IS NOT FOUND IN THE CANONICAL GOSPELS IT DOES NOT FOLLOW THAT IT IS A LEGEND.

He also says:

From a purely historical perspective, we cannot say with confidence that the story of Jesus making a clay bird and miraculously giving it life is a fabrication. It could be that this story was in circulation in the first century. Now, at the same time, neither could we say with confidence and certainty that this story existed in the first century. From a purely historical perspective, we would have to conclude: WE DON'T KNOW. May be it was in existence (either orally or in a written form) in the first century, or it was not. There is no evidence to speak against its existence (oral or written) in the first century, nor any positive evidence to "demonstrate" its existence in the first century (oral or written). All we know is that it existed in a written form in the fifth/sixth century (in a manuscript of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas) and that there may be evidence of its existence during the time of Ireaneus (180 AD).[1] Given the fact that oral traditions continued to be valued and in circulation even after the writing of the canonical gospels, we cannot a priori rule out the real possibility of authentic (and inauthentic/contaminated) oral traditions from the first century finding their way into documents which were not included in the canonical list of writings. Non-canonical documents may very well contain first century traditions, though identifying these traditions and determining their extant is not historically possible. The canonical documents cannot possibly consist of all or a big sample of traditions floating around in the first century.

Ironically, Zawadi appeals to the Gospel of John to prove that Jesus performed many other miracles which are not recorded in the Gospels!

The Christian would still insist that this story is not found in the Bible and that this is problematic. In response to this we reply back by saying "lack of evidence does not necessarily imply evidence of absence". The author of John's Gospel makes it clear that Jesus did many things (possibly miracles as well) which weren't recorded (John 21:25), therefore there is a good reason for us to believe that it's at least possible that this miracle of Jesus was also not recorded.

Little does Zawadi realize that the testimony of this very same Gospel backfires against him since it proves that Jesus could not have performed any of the miracles which the Infancy Gospel attributes to him!

According to John’s Gospel the very first miraculous sign Jesus performed was when he was an adult after his public ministry had begun and the Holy Spirit had already come down and rested upon him:

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.’ Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.’ The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’”John 1:29-36

“On the third day there was a wedding at, Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.’ So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ This, THE FIRST OF HIS SIGNS, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” John 2:1-11

From then on Jesus began performing many other signs and wonders:

“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the SIGNS that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” John 2:23-25

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these SIGNS that you do unless God is with him.’” John 3:1-2

John even tells us what the second miracle that Jesus performed in Cana was:

“So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ The official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’ The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.” John 4:46-54

What is even more ironic is the fact that Zawadi refers to Tisdall but failed to mention the reason Tisdall gave for rejecting these Christian myths and fables:

We notice here again that, while the legend is evidently the same as that briefly referred to in the Qur'an, yet the difference is sufficient to prove that Muhammad was reproducing a shortened form of it from memory, and was not consulting any written document. Hence he mentions only one bird instead of twelve, and speaks of life being given to it by the breath of Jesus and not by a command of His. The brief reference made to the tale in the Qur'an shows that the story had obtained wide currency and was generally believed at the time. This again proves how little knowledge of the New Testament there then was in Medina; for not only are no such accounts of miracles performed by our Saviour in His childhood recorded in the canonical Gospels, but John ii. 11 shows that none were wrought until after His Baptism at the age of about thirty. (The Original Sources of the Quran, Chapter IV. The Influence of Christianity and Christian Apocryphal Books; bold emphasis ours)


… Now it is clear that such stories of infantile miracles are altogether opposed to what is written in the Gospel of St. John (ii.) regarding the turning of water into wine, where it is recorded that “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested forth his glory.” Jesus was then over thirty years of age; and it is clear that before this no miracle had been done by him. But all the miracles noted in the Qur'an, beyond what have been mentioned above, and that of the Table to be spoken of below, were undoubtedly true and beyond question, as they correspond with what we read of in the four Gospels. (The Sources of Islam, Chapter IV. Tales Derived From Heretical Sources, Childhood of Jesus, p. 59; bold emphasis ours)

Hence, Jesus’ first miracle took place in Cana when he turned water into wine after the Holy Spirit had descended upon him. Jesus then started to perform other signs and wonders from that point on.

The fact that Jesus only performed his first miraculous sign after the Spirit had come down upon him is significant since it shows that Christ carried out his miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Nor is this simply the view of John since all of the Gospels, including the book of Acts, agree that Jesus’ miraculous ministry started only AFTER the Holy Spirit came down upon him at his baptism:

“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,” Luke 3:21-23 – cf. Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:9-11

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert… Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” Luke 4:1, 14-21

“But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Matthew 12:28

“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” Acts 1:1-2

“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Acts 10:37-38

The Quran itself agrees that Jesus was strengthened by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of carrying out his ministry and miraculous signs:

We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of apostles; We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit. Is it that whenever there comes to you an apostle with what ye yourselves desire not, ye are puffed up with pride? - Some ye called impostors, and others ye slay! S. 2:87

Those apostles We endowed with gifts, some above others: To one of them God spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honour); to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit. If God had so willed, succeeding generations would not have fought among each other, after clear (Signs) had come to them, but they (chose) to wrangle, some believing and others rejecting. If God had so willed, they would not have fought each other; but God Fulfilleth His plan. S. 2:253

Then will God say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the holy spirit, SO THAT thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou didst show them the clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: 'This is nothing but evident magic.' S. 5:110

However, in agreeing with the Holy Bible that God strengthened Jesus with the Holy Spirit Muhammad pretty much introduced a major contradiction which severely undermines his prophetic claims.

According to all of the first century accounts Jesus’ public ministry didn’t begin until the Holy Spirit was poured out on Christ after his baptism by John. It was only from that moment that Jesus began performing miracles.

This indicates that Jesus would not have performed any miracles as a child since the Holy Spirit had not descended upon him at that point in his life. This also explains why the Gospels say very little regarding Jesus’ early years since it is apparent that he hadn’t done anything significant during that time apart from visiting Jerusalem at the age of 12 where he had amazed the religious leaders with his knowledge (cf. Luke 2:41-52).

Muhammad accepted the fact that Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out his ministry which consisted of doing miracles.

Yet Muhammad also accepted Jesus’ childhood miracle stories. In so doing Muhammad contradicted the testimony of the first century eyewitness documents since this means that Jesus was performing miracles even before the Holy Spirit had descended upon him!

Here is a breakdown of the preceding points in order to help Zawadi and the other Muslims see more clearly all the major problems Muhammad created for both himself and his followers.

  • God empowered Jesus with the Holy Spirit in order to carry out his earthly ministry which included doing miracles.
  • Jesus did not receive the Holy Spirit until he was an adult.
  • This means that Jesus would not have carried out any miracles before this point in time, which is precisely what the Gospels and Acts teach.
  • Muhammad agrees with the first century eyewitness accounts that Jesus was strengthened by the Holy Spirit to perform miraculous signs.
  • Yet Muhammad also mentions stories of Jesus doing miracles as a child, at a time in which Jesus had not been given the Holy Spirit yet.
  • Muhammad also mistakenly assumed that God had already strengthened Jesus with the Holy Spirit while he was an infant which is why Muhammad believed that Christ could speak in the cradle as a babe.
  • Muhammad therefore contradicts the first century eyewitness accounts concerning the time that Jesus started to perform his miracles.

If Zawadi is going to object to this then he is going to have to explain why the Quran teaches that God strengthened Jesus with the Holy Spirit if it wasn’t for the purpose of enabling him to do miracles. He is also going to have to provide solid reasons why we should reject the unanimous testimony of all the first century documents, i.e. the Gospels and Acts, which teach that Jesus only started to perform miracles after the Holy Spirit descended upon him at his baptism by John. Zawadi will need to further explain why anyone should reject such multiply attested first century witnesses for the claims made by sources which were written centuries after the eyewitnesses lived and which directly conflict with all of our first century documents.

Zawadi’s problems are far from over.

The theological implications of Jesus’ miracles

It is apparent that Muhammad didn’t realize the significance of including these miraculous stories of Jesus which were meant to prove that Jesus is God’s unique Divine Son who, like his Father, gives life to whom he pleases. He erroneously assumed that he could include such miracles while still maintaining that Christ is not God. However, Muhammad was grossly mistaken as we shall now see.

Moreover, by including this fable of the clay birds Muhammad ended up with a story which depicts Jesus creating in the same exact way that Allah creates!

For instance, Allah is said to have created man from clay and breathed his Spirit into him, obviously for the purpose of animating him or giving him life:

And when thy Lord said to the angels, ‘See, I am CREATING (khaliqun) a mortal of a clay of mud moulded. When I have shaped him, and breathed in him My spirit (wa NAFAKHTU feehi min roohee), fall you down, bowing before him!' S. 15:28-29

When thy Lord said to the angels, 'See, I am CREATING a mortal of a clay (innee KHALIQAN basharan min teenin). When I have shaped him, and BREATHED in him My spirit (wa NAFAKHTU feehi min roohee), fall you down, bowing before him!' S. 38:71-72

The Quran is merely echoing the Biblical story of man’s creation:

“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Genesis 2:4-7

Amazingly, this is precisely how Jesus created a bird and brought it to life according to the Quran!

And He will teach him the Book, the Wisdom, the Torah, the Gospel, to be a Messenger to the Children of Israel saying, "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I will CREATE for you out of clay (annee AKHLUQU lakum mina al-teeni) as the likeness of a bird; then I will BREATHE (anfukhu) into it, and it will be a bird, by the leave of God. I will also heal the blind and the leper, and bring to life the dead, by the leave of God. I will inform you too of what things you eat, and what you treasure up in your houses. Surely in that is a sign for you, if you are believers. S. 3:48-49

When God said, ‘Jesus Son of Mary, remember My blessing upon thee and upon thy mother, when I confirmed thee with the Holy Spirit, to speak to men in the cradle, and of age; and when I taught thee the Book, the Wisdom, the Torah, the Gospel; and when thou CREATEST out of clay (wa-ith takhluqu mina al-teeni), by My leave, as the likeness of a bird, and thou BREATHEST (tanfukhu) into it, and it is a bird, by My leave; and thou healest the blind and the leper by My leave, and thou bringest the dead forth by My leave; and when restrained from thee the Children of Israel when thou camest unto them with the clear signs, and the unbelievers among them said, “This is nothing but sorcery manifest.”’ S. 5:110

It is obvious that Jesus breathed into a clay bird for the purpose of giving it life. This means that Jesus possesses the Spirit in the same way that God does since it is through the Spirit that God gives life to his creation. In other words, the Quran is implying that Jesus breathed the Spirit into these birds in order to animate them!

As Christians this teaching doesn’t come as a surprise to us since the Gospels attest that Jesus Christ baptizes his followers with/in the Holy Spirit:

“And this was his message: ‘After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’” Mark 1:7-8

And, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus actually breathed the Holy Spirit upon his disciples:

“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” John 20:21-23

The reason why Jesus is able to baptize with the Holy Spirit and breathe him out is because he is Life itself, and is therefore able to give life to all creation in the same exact way that the Father does:

“Jesus gave them this answer: ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, EVEN SO the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear HIS [the Son’s] VOICE and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.’” John 5:19-30

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:39-40

In fact, one reason Jesus performed miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit was to provide supernatural confirmation that he is indeed the Life who became flesh and is the very One who will give life to all and resurrect the dead:

“Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’ Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’ Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself… Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.’ At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven”?’ … I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’ … Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.’” John 6:1-15, 35-42, 48-51, 53-58

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ … When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’… Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’” John 11:1-4, 20-27, 38-44

Muhammad though that there was no problem in including these miracle stories of Jesus in the Quran since in his mind they did not prove that he is fully Divine. However, he was sadly mistaken since the purpose of the miracles was to provide supernatural divine confirmation that Christ is the Divine Son of God who happens to be Life itself. By including stories of Jesus breathing life into a clay bird and raising the dead Muhammad failed to see how such miracles establish that Christ possesses the Spirit and can send him forth in order to give individuals biological and spiritual life.

What makes this all the more amazing is that according to the Quran the One who can create is not like the one who cannot:

Is then He, Who creates as one who creates not? Will you not then remember? S. 16:17 Hilali-Khan

Since Jesus creates and gives life in the same exact way that Allah does this means that he is exactly like Allah!

This also means that Jesus is infinitely greater than Muhammad since the latter couldn't create a single thing and was incapable of giving life to anyone or anything! In fact, Muhammad actually took away life by inciting his followers to murder countless number of individuals.

Hence, since Muhammad could not create or give life he is therefore vastly inferior to Jesus Christ!

Therefore, the Christians of Najran were right for bringing up these miracles to Muhammad in order to establish that Jesus is God:

The names of the fourteen principal men among the sixty riders were: ‘Abdu’l-Masih the ‘Aqib, al-Ayham the Sayyid; Abu Haritha b. ‘Alqama brother of B. Bakr b. Wa’il; Aus; al-Harith; Zayd; Qays; Yazid; Nubayh; Khuwaylid; ‘Amr; Khalid; ‘Amr; Khalid; ‘Abdullah; Johannes; of these the first three named above spoke to the apostle. They were Christians according to the Byzantine rite, though they differed among themselves in some points, saying He is God; and He is the son of God; and He is the third person of the Trinity, which is the doctrine of Christianity. They argue that he is God BECAUSE HE USED TO RAISE THE DEAD, and heal the sick, and declare the unseen; AND MAKE CLAY BIRDS AND THEN BREATHE INTO THEM, SO THAT THEY FLEW AWAY; and all this was by the command of God Almighty, ‘We will make him a sign to men.’ They argue that he is son of God in that they say he had no known father; and he spoke in the cradle and this is something that no child of Adam has ever done. They argue that he is the third of three in that God says: We have done, We have commanded, We have created and We have decreed, and they say, If He were one he would have said I have done, I have created, and so on, but He is He and Jesus and Mary. Concerning all these assertions the Quran came down. (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995], p. 271; bold and capital emphasis ours)

With that said we do need to reiterate our point again, namely, informed Christians do not reject the miracle stories of the apocrypha on the grounds that they are too mythical and fanciful to be true. Rather, the reason why educated Christians who know the Scriptures discard these miracles is because they contradict the explicit testimony of the Canonical Gospels, specifically John, that Jesus performed no miraculous signs or wonders while he was a child. According to the eyewitness records Jesus performed his first miracle after he had received power from the Holy Spirit who had descended upon him in the form of a dove when he was approximately 30 years old.

Now there is a way for Zawadi to get out of this mess. Zawadi can simply come to terms with the facts and admit that the Quran contains fanciful stories and legends for the purpose of making an ethical or moral point and/or to highlight certain spiritual truths. He wouldn’t be alone here since other Muslims such as the late Muhammad Asad firmly believed that the Quran was filled with legends and fables. For the details please go here.

Lord Jesus willing, there will be more rebuttals to Zawadi’s arguments and “replies” in the near future.



Zawadi produced an appendix “responding” to my documentation proving that Muhammad adopted the fable of Jesus creating clay birds from Christians whom he interacted with. It is becoming more and more evident that Zawadi is on a path of self-destruction since his arguments are not simply bad, they are outright ridiculous. Zawadi is also showing a greater propensity to lie and mislead his readers, which is a sad indication that he is following in the footsteps of Nadir Ahmed and Osama Abdallah, two Muslim polemicists that no apologist or honest person takes seriously anymore.

There is only one main point of the “rebuttal” that we want to address here. Not only does Zawadi call into question the reliability of Ibn Ishaq’s report, which is what he always does when he cannot refute the facts, he also argues that Ibn Ishaq wasn’t quoting the actual words of the Christians of Najran. Zawadi wants us to believe that Ibn Ishaq was only summarizing what they said to Muhammad!

This is also assuming that the story is reliable. Furthermore, Ibn Ishaq is not presenting the actual words of the Najrani Christians, but is ONLY SUMMARIZING what they said and talked about with the Prophet. How could Shamoun say with any shred of confidence that "the Quran's story of Jesus creating clay birds is identical to the version narrated by the Christians from Najran"?

There is only one thing we need to do to expose Zawadi’s feeble and desperate attempt of trying to deny the obvious, namely that Muhammad “borrowed” the story of Jesus fashioning clay birds from Christian apocryphal sources which he heard orally. We only need to quote Muslim sources which confirm that Ibn Ishaq wasn’t simply summarizing what was said, but reporting what the Christians of Najran actually told Muhammad.

Our first reference comes from Muslim scholar, Dr. Mahmud M. Ayoub, who quotes al-Tabari’s explanation of Q. 3:59:

In a somewhat longer version of the second account related by Wahidi, Tabari reports on the authority of Ibn Jurajy that the two monks angrily said to the Prophet, “If you tell the truth, then show us a servant who revived the dead, healed the one born blind, AND COULD FASHION OF CLAY THE FORM OF A BIRD AND BREATHE INTO IT, AND IT BECAME A BIRD [cf. verse 49, above]. Rather, Jesus is God.” The Prophet said nothing until Gabriel came to him and said, “O Muhammad, ‘They have indeed rejected faith who say that God is Christ, the son of Mary’ [Q. 5:17 and 72].” The Messenger of God said, “O Gabriel, they asked me to inform them of another example like that of Jesus.” Gabriel answered, “The example of Jesus with God is like that of Adam. He created him of dust, then said to him: Be! and he was.” When the men returned next morning, the Prophet recited to them these verses (Tabari, VI, pp. 467-71). (Ayoub, The Qur’an and Its Interpreters: The House of ‘Imran [State University of New York (SUNY) Press, Albany 1992], Volume II, p.184; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Christian scholar, Gordon Nickels, mentions another version of this story taken from Tafsir Muqatil ibn Sulayman:

Muqatil’s version of the encounter, whether it be seen as interfaith conversation, heated dispute, or threat of force, follows the main lines of the more familiar sira accounts.21 However, it contains some unique features as well. Notably, in Muqatil the discussion begins with a question from the Najran delegation, “O Muḥammad, why do you abuse (shatama) and dishonor (‘aba) our master (ṣaḥib)?”22 The prophet of Islam answers, “What master of yours?” and the Christians say, “‘Isa son of Mary the virgin.” The Christians pursue their request: “Show us a servant like him in what Allah has created. He gives life to the dead and heals the blind and the leper AND CREATES A BIRD FROM CLAY.”23 Muqatil comments at this point that the Christians did not say “by leave (idhn) of Allah.” This is the phrase which repeats in the Qur’anic accounts of the miracles of ‘Isa at 3.49 and 5.110. The Christians continue, “While every human has a father, ‘Isa had no father. So agree with us that ‘Isa is the son (ibn) of Allah and we will follow you.”24 (Nickels, The Christians of Najran in Muqatil's Tafsir; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The above reports establish the following two facts. First, these sources corroborate Ibn Ishaq’s version of the events, thereby exposing Zawadi’s desperate attempt of questioning its veracity for what it truly is. Secondly, they also confirm that Muhammad heard this fairy-tale story of Jesus fashioning a bird from clay and then breathing life into it from the Christians of Najran which he then added word for word into the Quran.

In light of this, it is time for Zawadi to come to grips with reality and accept the fact that Muhammad was duped by the spirit which came over him to take a Christian fable that he heard orally and add it to the Quran as a way of enticing Christians into embracing his false religion. Little did Muhammad and his spirit realize that this would come back to prove that the Quran is a lie and that Muhammad was a false prophet. Muhammad’s spirit had him include fables and myths about Jesus into a book which Muhammad claimed was sent down by him who knows all things. Surely, an omniscient being would know better than to try to pass off lies and fables as actual history.