Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gabriel and Jibril

Gabriel and Jibril

A comparative study of Gabriel the archangel of the Bible and Talmud compared to Jibril in the Qur’an and Ahadith

Introduction 4
Chapter 1 – Appearances of an Angel in the Bible 6
1.1 Gabriel in the book of Daniel 6
1.2 Gabriel in St. Luke’s Gospel 7
1.3 The Effect of the Appearances of the biblical angel Gabriel 8
1.4. An unnamed angel linked to Gabriel in biblical tradition 9
1.4.1. The ‘Angel of the Lord’ in the Hebrew Scriptures 9
1.4.2. Other Titles of the Angel of the Lord. 10
1.5. Apocryphal and Post-Biblical Occurrences of the Angel Gabriel 11
1.5.1 The Angel Gabriel mentioned by name in Apocrypha 11
1.5.2 The third day 11
1.6 More supernatural beings that appeared to individuals in the Bible 12
1.7. Gabriel and the Prince of Peace 13
Chapter 2. The supernatural beginning of the Qur’an 15
2.1. Angels and Jinn 15
2.1.1. Perceptions of men in white raiment 16
2.1.2. The religion of Abraham 16
2.2.The beginnings of the Qur’an and of Muhammad’s prophethood 17
2.2.1. The first Surah revealed by Jibril 17
2.2.3. Effects on Muhammad of the initial supernatural visitations 18
2.3. Deficient correction to Muhammad 22
2.3.1 Anti-Jewish sentiments 22
2.3.2 The rejection of the Jews 23
2.3.3. The ‘angel of light’ not discerned 24
2.3.4. The negative role of women not corrected by Jibril. 25
2.4. A special community changed 26
2.5. Jibril, the supernatural being that visited Muhammad 27
2.5.1. The function of angels in the Qur’an 28
2.5.2 The possible source of Muhammad’s revelations 29
2.5.3 Testing of the supernatural being 30
2.5.4. Occult involvement of Muhammad in the Qur’an 30
2.5.5. Muhammad demonically possessed? 31
2.6. Parallels to Divine biblical interventions 32
2.6.1. A prophet like Moses or Balaam 32
2.6.2 Initial insignificance 33
2.6.3. Two diabolic imitations 33
2.6.4. Jibril and the birth of Jesus 34
2.7. The Prophet as a warner and messenger of justice 35
2.7.1. Warning of the coming judgement 36
2.7.3 An abode of peace and pleasure 37
2.7.4 The Day of Resurrection
2.7.5 Signs of the Judgement day 38
2.8 Muhammad rejected because of his message 39
2.9. A Book revealed to the ‘unlettered prophet’ 40
2.10. Mahgraye become Muslims 41
2.11. A Comedy of Errors 41
2.12. The biblical Gabriel ‘distorted’ 41
2.13. The Pax Islamica by way of the jihad 42
Chapter 3. Gabriel in the Talmud 44
3.1. Talmudic references of the Angel Gabriel 44
3.2. The Angel Gabriel and Creation 44
3.2.1 Adam and Eve in Islamic legendry 45
3.3. The Angel Gabriel and Abraham 45
3.3.1. Jibril and the Isaac/Ishmael dilemma 46
3.4. The Angel Gabriel and Joseph 47
3.5.The Angel Gabriel and Moses 47
3.6. Jibril and Aaron 49
3.7. Jibril with David and Solomon 49
Chapter 4. Jibril under the microscope 51
4.1. Jibril as the Angel and Spirit of Revelation 51
4.1.1. Apocalyptic visions 52
4.2. Is Jibril identical to the Holy Spirit? 52
4.2.1. Al-Razi’s Response and Comment 53
4.3. Jibril’s special relationship with God 54
4.4. Jibril proclaims Jesus as a great sign 55
4.5. Jibril as the Spirit of Faith and Truth? 56
4.5.1 Compromises with Truth 57
4.5.2. Allah outwits the disbelievers 57
4.5.3. A Biblical precedent of Muhammad’s moral decline 58
4.6. Was Jibril an adversary of the Jews? 58
4.7. Is Jibril a messenger of peace or of war? 60
4.7.1. Muhammad’s example of restraint in Mecca 60
4.7.2 The Hijrah as ‘the pathway to jihad’ 62
4.7.3. An intermediary conciliatory spirit 63
4.7.4 Muhammad’s example influencing his followers 64
4.7.5. Forgiveness and Magnanimity as a strategy for expansion 65
4.8. Jibril, a reviewer of the Qur’an 66 Complications of the Readings 68
4.8.2. The Abrogator and Abrogated Qur’anic Verses 69
4.8.3 Jibril as the agent of embellishments. 69
4.8.4 Jibril as the agent of curses 70
4.9. Supernatural features 71
5.1. Jibril as the source of inspiration? 73
5.2. The rôle of Jibril in Muhammad’s ‘ascension’ 73
5.3. The Miraj according to in Sahih Muslim 75
5.4. The al-Miraj according to Sahih Bukhari 76
5.4.1. Salat as a derivative of the Miraj
5.5. Possible origins of the Miraj 77 Comment on the Miraj ahadith and the Ascent of Artâ Vîrâf 79
5.5.4. Theological Justification of the Miraj 81
5.6 Biblical counterparts of the Miraj 82
5.7 Gabriel in Jewish Ascension legends 83
6.1. Supernatural beings purporting to be divine 85
6.2. Imitation of God’s sovereign work 85
6.3. Satan masquerading as an angel of light 86
6.3.1 Counterparts of the ‘Angel of Light’ 87
6.4. Gabriel as a link between Mandaean Theology and Islam 88
Chapter 7. Doubts and Cover-ups 90
7.1. Doubts about the revelations of Jibril 90
7.2. The ‘Satanic verses’ 91
7.2.1. Correction by Jibril and a Repentant Muhammad 93
7.2.3 Jibril comforts Muhammad 94
7.3. Unusual Sensual exploits 94
7.3.1 Islamic Cover-ups in general 95
7.3.2. Defence and exoneration of morally unacceptable behaviour 96
7.3.3. Criticism from the Islamic side 97
7.3.4. Criticism of Concubinage and Slavery 98
7.4. Biographical detail in the Qur’an 98
7.5. Classification of big and small sin 99
7.6. Biblical precedents of sexually deviant behaviour 100
7.6.1. Jewish precedents to exonerate or excuse sinful behaviour 100
Chapter 8. The role of Jibril in Anti-Christian tenets 101
8.1. Denial of the death of Jesus 101
8.1.1. Jesus as the Lamb of God 102
8.1.2.The blood of an unblemished lamb 102
8.2. Denial of the Atoning blood of Jesus 103
8.2.1 Pressure against Pharaoh 104
8.3. Denial of the atoning understanding of the sacrifice 105
8.4. Denial of the Cross in Islam 106
8.4.1. The cross and the hijrah: a crucial difference 108
8.5. Is Jesus the walad, the literal Son of God? 108
8.5.1. A servant (or apostle) of Allah 109
8.5.2 Coronation of the Messiah, the Son of God 110
8.6. Pagan practices in Islam and Christianity 111
8.7. Jibril as an explainer 112
8.8. A universal Prophet! 113
8.9. Condescending view of biographical details about Muhammad 114
Conclusions: A Personal view 114
Appendix 1 122
Comparison of the angel Gabriel in the Bible, the Qur’an and Hadith 122
Appendix 2 125
The redeeming power of blood and the red colour 125
Appendix 3 126
Modern ‘Angels of Light’ 126
Appendix 4 127
The Angel Rafael in the Apocryphal Book Tobit 127

Angels, perceived as supernatural celestial beings, play a role in Jewish thought and literature from the earliest of Biblical times. In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in angelic activity. Traditionally, Western rationalist theologians have had difficulties in handling the biblical reports of angels. Apocryphal or Talmudic material has usually been disqualified in Western Protestant Theology, not regarded to be authentic. I prefer to be guided by the content of any material. Discoveries the last few decades give a decisive blow to the notion that we know everything and that nothing new could be found. I definitely do not discard out of hand material like supernatural revelations that Western rationalist academics regard as dubious.
In the study supernatural revelations are taken seriously, first and foremost investigated on content. In fact, this enables me to accept that Muhammad has received revelations supernaturally. This investigation of the Angel Gabriel in the Bible, Apocrypha and Talmud however also takes for granted that personal experiences of Muhammad played a role in the final formation of the Qur’an.
A superficial look at the ‘Islamic’ Gabriel, could give the impression that he is identical to the Angel Gabriel in the Bible. Muslims believe that Jibril, the name which I tried to use as far as possible when the ‘Islamic’ Gabriel is meant, brought the first revelations of the Qur’an to Muhammad in the month of Ramadan while he was in a cave on Mount Hira near Mecca. He went there from time to time to meditate and pray for long periods.
In Islamic Theology the supernatural figure known as Jibril and more generally described as the Angel of Revelation or the Spirit of Revelation, is also seen as being identical to the Holy Spirit. We refute the too glib assertion of certain scholars that Muhammad confused Jibril with the Holy Spirit. Rather we believe that one should also look at other influences on Muhammad, e.g. Judaism and heretical Christianity. Various authors have referred to Muhammad’s eclectic and selective way of taking tenets from other religious groups, which then found their way into the Qur’an. Goldziher (1925: 13) states that these tenets came to him via the superficial contacts in these circles, which also included many an element from oriental Gnosticism.
As far as I could discern, Mani, the third century founder of Manichaeism, a Christian heretic seems to have been the first after Paul (Ephesians 1: 17) to describe the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Revelation. Given the influence of Manichaeism on Islamic doctrine, this is not surprising. Later medieval Islamic theologians used the term ‘Spirit of Revelation’, but the Qur’an itself did not use the phrase. The derivation from the ahadith, the reports of the words and deeds of Muhammad, appears to be invariably either interpretation or speculation. This treatise also includes two ahadith that feature Jibril prominently. The significant influence of Ebionism, which developed from Judaism and early Christianity, is also noted in passing. Waraqah was the cousin of Khadijah, Muhammad’s first wife. Purportedly he was an Ebionite priest, who is surmised to have attempted to groom Muhammad to become his successor in that Christian sect.

We also look at the views of al-Razi, a medieval Muslim scholar, who perhaps spawned the Islamic Theology about Jibril like no other. The viewpoint of the 20th Muslim Pakistani scholar Fazlur Rahman, in defence of this position, is also discussed. The Holy Spirit of Luke 1: 35 (‘the power of the Most High will overshadow you’) becomes in Rahman’s view Jibril, which impregnated Mary. Rahman had no doubt that Muhammad saw the agent of Revelation as identical to this Spirit. I also accept that revelations often do not occur in a vacuum, that personal experience can and do have a role to play. In this regard we agree with Fazlur Rahman (1980: 100) that ‘the Revelation … was intimately connected with his (Muhammad’s) deeper personality’. Fazlur Rahman especially stresses the active part of Muhammad. In his view the Qur’an becomes a programme for a social order, ‘the divine response, through the Prophet’s mind, to the moral and social situation of the Prophet’s Arabia, particularly to the problems of the commercial Meccan society of his day’ (quoted by Cragg, 1985: 94).

Noting that the naming of the Islamic angel Gabriel most probably took place in the Medinan part of Muhammad’s life, we show how the denial of central Christian tenets followed the rebuffs experienced by Muhammad from those quarters - as it also happened to the Jews. In the Meccan period the two groups were still very highly regarded by him as People of the Book (Christians and Jews) to whom the Muslim followers were encouraged to go in case of doubt.
According to biblical tradition the Angel Gabriel brought the message to Mary about the supernatural birth of a son. In the Hebrew Scriptures angels are not mentioned by name with the exception of the prophetic book of Daniel. Christian tradition regarded the ‘angel of the Lord’ to be identical with the Angel Gabriel that one then also finds named thus in the Talmudic references with the corresponding angel. In the 'New Testament' only Luke mentions the angel by name but apocryphal material accords a similar treatment to the Talmud, albeit that Gabriel is also there only sparsely mentioned by name. Other occurrences of an ‘angel of light’ and a short comparison to the angel Raphael in an apocryphal book are also mentioned in appendices. The investigation reveals major differences between the Islamic Gabriel and the corresponding figure in the Biblical and related material. Some repetition is regarded to be feasible with a view to more clarity.
Traditionally Christians have been speaking – sometimes derogatorily - about the ‘Old Testament’, neglecting the fact that the Bible is a unit, where both parts are equal in value, i.e. the Tenach, consisting of the first letters in Hebrew for the Law (Torah, the Prophets (Nebiim) and other Scriptures (Chetubim), is very much a basis for the 'New Testament'. We attempt to stay clear of this tradition, referring to Hebrew Scriptures in stead of ‘Old Testament’ and writing 'New Testament' or ‘NT’ in inverted commas. When I refer to the Good News as the summary of the Christian message, I will write it with a capital G, thus Gospel as against the individual gospels.

Chapter 1 – Appearances of an Angel in the Bible

Judaic tradition refers to Gabriel as one of the four archangels, with Raphael, Michael and Uriel the other three. The apocryphal book Enoch (20: 1-18) knows seven holy angels, viz. the above-mentioned four plus Raguel, Sarakael and Remiel.1 Gabriel plays an outstanding part among thousands of angels in post-biblical Judaism representing nations and natural phenomena (Lewis et al, 1965: 362), depicted as the governor of Paradise and of the serpents and the cherubs (Enoch 20: 7). Gabriel is one of the angels ‘of the face’, standing on the left side of the Lord, and he dominates all angelic forces (Enoch 19: 1-9). Lucifer was the leader of the fallen angels. Gabriel occurs in the Bible by name only in two books, viz. in the prophetic book of Daniel and in the Gospel according to Luke. The Hebrew word for angel mal’akh signifies primarily a messenger or agent. In the earlier narratives of the Bible they appear as human beings. It seems as if angels appear to human beings in two ways. Some times they come as glorious beings in a bright light and on other occasions in human form. Divine justice is identified with Gabriel, who was taken to be made out of fire. Although Michael, another prominent archangel, is made of snow, the two are said to co-exist peacefully without the fire of Gabriel injuring the snow of the other one (Rappoport, Vol. I, 1928: 41). Rappoport (I: 42) also mentions Metraton, the archangel of the Presence, who is taken to be the greatest of all angels, who is allowed to penetrate the innermost chamber of the Divine Presence.
1.1 Gabriel in the book of Daniel
Hebrew: Gabriy’el (), meaning “warrior of God” or “man of God”.2
The Hebrew Scriptures did not name its angels, who were invisible beings of light carrying out God’s work, except in the prophetic book of Daniel. Only two angels are named: Michael and Gabriel. Gabriel, who means man of God, was sent to Daniel (Daniel 8: 16) to explain the vision of the ram and the he-goat as well as to communicate the prediction of the seventy weeks (Daniel 9: 21).
The run-up to these angelic appearances is significant. In Daniel 7: 15 we read ‘I Daniel was troubled in spirit’. This happened after Daniel had seen a vision of ‘one like a son of man’, who was led into the presence of the Ancient of Days, as the Almighty is described there. Daniel 7: 14 was possibly the reason why the figure, which was seen by the prophet Daniel, has been regarded as a type of Jesus: ‘He was given authority, glory and sovereign power’. The biblical angel Gabriel, coming to Mary and Zechariah, pointed to Jesus in a similar context.
Did not Jesus also furthermore say before his ascension: ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me?’ (Matthew 28: 18). Already in the early church the term ‘Son of Man’ was therefore understood to refer to Jesus. Verses like John 3: 13f could hardly be interpreted in any other way: ‘…so the Son of Man must be lifted up.’ The Lord also used the apocalyptic term as an euphemism for ‘Son of God’.
The visions that Daniel saw disturbed him. Even after he received the explanation of the special dream, he was still ‘deeply troubled by … (his) thoughts’ (7: 28). That he kept the matter to himself brings to mind how Mary also ‘treasured up’ all the memories around the birth of Jesus. The run-up to the event she ‘pondered…in her heart’ (Luke 2: 19). Daniel was terrified and fell to the ground (Daniel 8: 17) in prostration. He was in a deep sleep with his face to the ground when the angel Gabriel spoke to him. The only thing, which is surprising in this account, is that we don’t hear the words ‘Do not be afraid’ immediately (This typical phrase by angelic beings occur only later, in Daniel 10: 12, 19).
Yet, we read in Daniel 8: 15, ‘I heard a man calling: Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.’ In Daniel 8: 17 (and 9: 22) the angel respectively came to let Daniel ‘understand that the vision concerns the time of the end’ and ‘to give you insight and understanding’. When Daniel was awe-struck and fearful, with his face to the ground, the angel literally lifts him to his feet (8: 18). Daniel may not have prostrated himself wilfully in awe and adoration, but there is a subtle difference; he was not struck against the ground forcefully. Because Daniel humbled himself before God (10: 12) through confession on behalf of his people (Daniel 9), God entrusted him with more visions. When Daniel was confused yet again, he was comforted. After he had been ‘deeply troubled’ and fearful, ‘overcome with anguish because of the vision… and…helpless’ (10: 16), he was strengthened in a special way: “Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened…” (10: 18f). The angel Gabriel also points to the eschatological end-time struggle, when the Son of Man will appear on the clouds as the King of Kings, the one who now already exerts authority in heaven and on earth. Significant is the prophetic word of Gabriel about ‘the time of the end’ (Daniel 8: 19). The ‘stern-faced king, a master of intrigue’ has the hallmark of the anti-Christ. ‘He will become very strong… destroy holy people, …cause deceit to prosper and …he will consider himself superior (in his) …stand against the Prince of princes (Daniel 8: 24f). Significantly he will be defeated, not by human power but by the coming Messiah, the Prince of Peace. We compare how this theme is taken up in the apocryphal Gospel of the Nativity of Mary (9: 11-13) where the angel says to Mary: ‘and He shall be called the Son of the Most High, because He who is born on earth in humiliation, reigns in heaven in exaltation; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end; for as much as He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and His throne is from everlasting to everlasting.’
1.2 Gabriel in St. Luke’s Gospel
In both occurrences of the angel Gabriel in St. Luke’s Gospel, awe and fear are central tenets: ‘When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and gripped with fear…’ The angel introduces himself to Zechariah in Luke 1: 19 with the words ‘I am Gabriel’. Typical of angelic appearances in the Bible, we find Gabriel reassuring Zechariah with the words ‘Do not be afraid!’ The phrase ‘fear not’ or its equivalents are quoted in the Bible quite a few times in connection with a divine intervention to uplift destitute or awe-struck people. In the following verses the angel made Zechariah dumb after he had doubted the message that his aged wife would become pregnant. When Gabriel brings the good news to the Virgin Mary pertaining to the birth of a son in Luke 1: 26ff, ‘Mary was greatly troubled…’ The prospect of a pregnancy was definitely not one with which the teenager had bargained. The general ‘atmosphere’ radiated by the angelic messages is one of expectation. In the two appearances to Zechariah and Mary in Luke’s gospel, they led to birth, to new life. With both Zechariah and Mary awe and fear were followed by joy. Very significantly the angel Gabriel said to Mary “ He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…, the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1: 32, 35). Similar wording has been found in a Dead Sea Scroll fragment in Aramaic: /X/ shall be great upon the earth…He shall be called Son of the /G/reat God, and by his name shall he be hailed as the Son of God, and they shall call him Son of the Most High’ (cited in Shanks, 1993: 204). This was the first time that the term Son of God was found in a Palestinian text outside the Bible, demonstrating Christianity’s original Jewish heritage. Previously all the Gospels had only been preserved in Greek, a language that Jesus probably did not speak. Referrring to the same document from Cave 4 and known as 4Q246 that had first been revealed by J.T. Milik in December 1972 and dated by him to the first century B.C.E., Neil Silberman (1995: 126) recorded aptly: ‘Since these were precisely the titles the angel Gabriel used in the Gospel of Luke to describe the coming of Jesus at the time of his annunciation to the Virgin Mary, their occurrence in a Qumran document was of the highest significance.’ Joseph Fitzmeyer, a junior member of the international team of Qumran experts, who played a rather dubious role in the non-publication of the scrolls, took the (then) daring step of mentioning the striking parallel between Qumran and the 'New Testament'.3
1.3 The Effect of the Appearances of the biblical angel Gabriel
In all the three biblical incidents where an Angel Gabriel occurred, he sought to allay the fears of those who saw him. He touched Daniel and raised him to his feet, and told Zechariah and Mary not to be afraid. Also, Gabriel always made sure that the recipients understood the message he brought. The biblical angel Gabriel does not leave his recipients in total disarray and confusion. The angel Gabriel encouraged and uplifted the doubtful, downhearted and distressed prophet Daniel. In a similar way Mary and Zechariah were blessed and uplifted by prophetic messages. The sense of awe at the sight of divine elements or the awareness of the shekinah presence of the Almighty is a central biblical tenet. The Gospel of Mark especially showed how this is depicted in the life of Jesus. Carsten Thiede, a German scholar who was based in the UK, highlights this by listing no less than nine instances in this Gospel (Thiede, 1990: 47f). I quote here the first and the last of these: ‘They were terrified and asked each other: “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.”(Mark 4: 41) and ‘Trembling and bewildered the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid’ (Mark 16: 8).
In Dr Billy Graham’s booklet on angels he gives a significant exposition on the work of the angel Gabriel. He shows how Gabriel is a clear pointer to the Lamb of God that was to be slain for the sins of the world (cf. John 1: 29). Graham also did this in his references to this angel in the book of Daniel. I quote here what Graham said about Gabriel’s appearance to Daniel: ‘Daniel was deep in prayer, confessing both his sin and that of his people. While he was praying, Gabriel appeared to him...Gabriel did not preach the word of salvation, but he bore eloquent testimony to it. He said that the seventy weeks were designed ‘to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity’ (Daniel 9: 24). Then he foretold the cutting off of the Messiah, an event that Isaiah 53 had prophesied and depicted so dramatically...Gabriel told Daniel that sin is a reality, and must be paid for. The Messiah will do this by being cut off; that is, He will die for the sins of men’ (Graham, 1987: 93f.). Graham might be interpreting more into the text than is appropriate, but his deduction is nevertheless not groundless. The NIV translates in Daniel 9: 25f the one to be cut off as the Anointed One with capital letters (and not an anointed one). This would then allude to the Messiah (= Christ).
The link of the biblical Gabriel to the ‘Prince of Peace’ becomes concrete when he is encouraged with the familiar ‘Do not be afraid’ in 10:12 at a point in time when Daniel had no strength left. Gabriel touched him as he was ‘trembling on (my) hands and knees’ Gabriel repeated typically: ‘Do not be afraid’, adding ‘Peace be unto you. Be strong; be strong’ (10: 18). It is not so out of place at all to conclude discover that the angel Gabriel who appeared to Daniel is at least very close to the divine. How near is amplified when one compares the vision of the ‘Ancient of days’ as Daniel saw Gabriel with the visions of John, the apostle, on the island Patmos. In Daniel’s vision the ‘Ancient of days’ has ‘clothing as white as snow; the hair of his head was white as wool. His throne was flaming fire…(7: 9f). John likewise saw someone like a son of man, ‘his head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, his eyes were like blazing fire (Revelation 1: 14). This was possibly one of the reasons why the early church linked Gabriel and other unnamed angels including the Angel of Yahweh to Jesus. John, the apostle, is a case in point. When he saw someone like a son of man (Revelation 1:12) he ‘fell at his feet as though dead’, just like Daniel. The comparison with the 'Old Testament' prophet is very striking: ‘Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid… I am the Living One, I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!’ (Revelation 1:17f).
1.4. An unnamed angel linked to Gabriel in biblical tradition
In biblical tradition the celestial being, which encouraged Joseph to take Mary as his wife, is suggested to be the same one that came to the shepherds in Bethlehem’s fields. The appearances are messages related to these, completely consistent with what we read of the angel’s instruction to Joseph: ‘you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’, (Matthew 1: 21). Compare also the prophetic reaction of Mary, ‘God my Saviour’ (Luke 1: 47).4 The proclamation to the shepherds of Bethlehem: ‘To-day ...a Saviour has been born...Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2: 11) conveys the same message. In the 'New Testament' the tenet of salvation is clearly linked to the death of Jesus on the Cross.
An unnamed angel appeared on other occasions in the Bible in a similar way and with the same result. The shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem were terrified and fell to the ground (Luke 2: 9ff). The unknown angel calmed the fearful men with ‘Fear not… I have brought good tidings…’ The Gospel, the good news, was very much part of the message about the babe in swaddling clothes. The angelic words had Messiah written all over them. The angels who joined the celestial being on the fields of Bethlehem reinforced the message, proclaiming ‘Glory to God and …on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests’ (Luke 2: 14). These words could be regarded as prophetic, pointing to the Messianic age when the returning King of Kings will reign.
An angel came to the devastated Joseph in Matthew 1: 20 after he had discovered that Mary, to whom he had been legally engaged, was pregnant. Joseph was evidently not impressed by her explanation that she had been supernaturally impregnated. He knew that he was not responsible for her condition. Church tradition holds the angel, which came to Joseph, to be Gabriel as well. In the apocryphal Gospel of the Nativity of Mary an ‘angel of the Lord’ appeared to Joseph in his sleep, saying: ‘thou son of David, fear not; that is, do not have any suspicion of fornication in the virgin, or think any evil of her; and fear not to take her as thy wife: for that which is begotten in her, and which now vexes thy soul, is the work not of man, but of the Holy Spirit. For she alone of all virgins shall bring forth the Son of God, and thou shalt call His name Jesus, that is, Saviour, for He shall save His people from their sins.
After running for his life, Elijah was completely suicidal (1 Kings 19: 4) - in spite of the magnificent victory on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18. We read how Elijah was twice encouraged by an angel to get up. The only surprise in this narration is that the phrase ‘do not be afraid’ (of Jezebel) is not used. But he was so fearful that the expression is almost redundant. An interesting snippet is that Elijah is sustained by the Lord in the desert for forty days and nights, just like Moses (Exodus 24: 18, 34: 28) and Jesus (Matthew 4: 2,11). The link with Elijah on Mount Horeb and Moses on Mount Sinai is also significant when one considers how the voice from heaven in Matthew 17 – confirming Jesus as the beloved Son of God, occurred with these three personalities on the Thabor mountain heights.
There are also a few other cases where an unnamed angel was linked to Gabriel. Thus the angel who slew the Assyrian army in 2 Chronicles 23: 21 have thus been seen as Michael or Gabriel and ‘the man clothed with linen (Ezekiel 9:3; 10: 2) identified with Gabriel. According to the Targum Jonathan the man who met Joseph in the field (Genesis 37: 15) was Gabriel.
1.4.1. The ‘Angel of the Lord’ in the Hebrew Scriptures
In the church tradition the ‘Angel of the Lord’ of the 'OT' has often being linked to Jesus. Angels in the Bible uplift, encourage, give insight and understanding. This correlates with the nature of Jesus, who also used the phrase ‘fear not!’ or its equivalents on a number of occasions to encourage destitute or awe-struck people. This would also give some credence to the tradition that sees the angel Gabriel as the supernatural figure often called ‘the Angel of the Lord’ in the 'OT'.
The Lord Jesus encouraged his disciples with ‘fear not!’ when they were afraid of drowning as the storm raged on the Galilean sea (Mark 4: 39). The resurrected Lord comforted Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the grave (Matthew 28: 10) as well as the bereaved and fearful disciples, pronouncing peace to them (John 20: 19) in the upper room. It is striking that even Satan knows that it is the function of angels to uplift. At the temptation in the desert Satan cited the Scripture: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands’ (Matthew 4: 6). After the Master had passed the test by frequently calling Satan’s bluff - by quoting Scripture in context - angels attend to Him (v.11). We note furthermore that Satan invited Jesus to commit suicide.5
An interesting comparison is found in the Book of Zechariah where the High Priest Joshua is attired ‘in filthy rags’ (Zechariah 3: 3) when he was accused by Satan. Obviously the ritual cleansing is alluded to, but also Isaiah 6: 5 comes to mind where the prophet feels himself dirty and condemned with ‘unclean lips’ in the presence of the Holy God. Even more, one is reminded of the righteous deeds – that one easily associates with a High Priest like Joshua – which are equated to filthy rags (Isaiah 64: 6). In Isaiah 6 an angel, a seraph uses purging fire to touch Isaiah’s mouth: ‘See, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for’. Similarly, the Angel of the Lord defends the High Priest Joshua with his filthy rags where he was accused by Satan: ‘The Lord rebuke you Satan!…Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?’ After ordering the filthy clothes to be removed, we read: ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.’ Why believers have detected a proximity to Jesus becomes clear when Colossians 2: 14 states that God forgave the accusing sins and regulations, by allowing it to be ‘nailed to the cross’ and even more so when the Resurrected Lord, ‘the Amen, the faithful and true witness’, invites ‘the wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire…and white clothes to wear…’ (Revelation 3: 17f).
Sometimes biblical personalities saw their interaction with an angelic being – occasionally visible in the form of a man – as a confrontation with no less than God himself. This was definitely the case with Isaiah, and Jacob experienced it likewise. That is why the location of his fight with God was called Pniel (i.e. the countenance or the face of God): ‘…I saw God face to face, and yet I was spared’ (Genesis 32: 30).
1.4.2. Other Titles of the Angel of the Lord.
The unity of ‘OT’ and ‘NT’ is demonstrated by other titles of the Angel of the Lord. As the ‘Angel of his presence’ (Isaiah 63: 9) and the ‘Angel of the Covenant’ (Malachi 3: 1 and Acts 7: 30-38) the Almighty had been accompanying his people through trials and temptations through the desert and valleys. Moses insisted that Yahweh would go with them, otherwise ‘do not send us from here.’ The presence of Yahweh was the way to distinguish the Israelites from ‘all the other people of the earth’ (Exodus 33: 14f). Very special is how the Angel of the covenant is a link and a way of tying things together in the first and last books respectively of the Old and New Testaments. The prophet Malachi said that the ‘messenger (Angel) of the covenant will come’ (Malachi 3: 1) to his temple.6 In Revelation 10 the angel whom John sees in his vision coming down from heaven, has traits very much like the ‘Son of man’ seen by Daniel (7: 13). The prophet was led into the presence of the ‘Ancient of Days’, ‘his face like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars’. He was every bit the angel of the covenant who had challenged Ezekiel in the ‘appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day (and in)… the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.’ In fact, as Filho (2002: 216) interestingly and surely not incorrectly suggests, the exalted Jesus as a Son of Man in John 1: 13-14 is not only equal to the Almighty, the ‘Ancient of Days’, but he is also the equivalent of ‘the archangel, the principal agent of God’. Just like Daniel, Ezekiel had little option but to ‘fell face down’ (Ezekiel 1:28, cf. Revelation 10: 1). Akin to Daniel he was encouraged with the typical words ‘Do not be afraid…or terrified’ (2: 6, 3:9) and ‘the Spirit lifted me up’ (3:12, 14). Ezekiel was addressed as a son of man and requested to take a scroll and eat it. The message was bitter (2:8) but the scroll was sweet as honey in his mouth. Also in John’s apocalypse the scroll was sweet as honey in his mouth, but his stomach turned sour after he had eaten it.
1.5. Apocryphal and Post-Biblical Occurrences of the Angel Gabriel
If one examines the content of Apocryphal material about the birth of Jesus, one finds there the core message of the Biblical Angel Gabriel. If one sets aside all prejudice against material that was ‘only’ written in the second century A.D. (or later), one is struck by the similarities with the synoptic gospels. In fact, the picture becomes clearer, e.g. that the venue of the birth of Jesus was possibly a cave stable. We refer here to four apocryphal documents, viz. The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary and the Protevangel of James (also called the Infancy Gospel of James)7. Excerpts from some of them are cited. Aware that a few ‘babies’ might have been thrown away with the bathwater in the process of using only very authentic material for the finalising of the biblical canon, we try and look at that material with as little prejudice as possible. In the Protevangel of James the story is told of the angelic annunciation and virginal conception. Fairly closely they resemble the nativity narratives of Luke and Matthew, with various embellishments: Mary’s chastity is vindicated, for example, by the ‘ordeal of jealousy’ prescribed in Numbers 5: 11-28. This one can also find in other nativity records. In a cave near Bethlehem Mary gives birth to Jesus, a certain Salome acting as midwife. When Herod fails to find the infant, after the visit of the wise men from the East, he tries to lay hands on the child John (later the Baptist), but when he too is not to be found (having been hidden with his mother Elizabeth in a hollow mountain), Herod has his father Zechariah put to death in the temple court.
1.5.1 The Angel Gabriel mentioned by name in Apocrypha
Only in the The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour and The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary the Angel Gabriel is mentioned by name, but the former ‘Gospel’ includes a tenet which is also found in the Qur’an, viz. the baby Jesus speaking from the cradle: He has said that Jesus spoke, and, indeed, when He was lying in His cradle, said to Mary His mother: I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom thou hast brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to thee; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world. The quoting of the baby Jesus speaking from the cradle, should probably however be regarded as legendary. With the quoting of the boy Jesus creating a bird from clay, Gabriel is not mentioned in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas. This tenet is however used in the Qur’an more than once also without mentioning Jibril by name. It seems as if Muhammad received this tradition in a way, which made him think that it was authentic.
1.5.2 The third day
The report in The Gospel of the Pseudo-Matthew leaves little doubt who the angel was, clearly equating Gabriel with the ‘Angel of the Lord’. ‘And when she heard these words, she trembled, and was exceedingly afraid. Then the angel of the Lord added: Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God: Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a King, who fills not only the earth, but the heaven, and who reigns from generation to generation...’ (Chapter13: 26). That the figure was ‘the angel of the Lord’ and the mentioning of the third day bring messianic dimensions to mind: ‘On the third day, while she was working at the purple with her fingers, there entered a young man of ineffable beauty. Another quote from that apocryphal Gospel may be proof to some academics that the document is not authentic. Yet, from another viewpoint, the proximity to the Biblical Gospel according to Matthew is amply demonstrated in the quote: ‘And on the third day after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the most blessed Mary went forth out of the cave, and entering a stable, placed the child in the stall, and the ox and the ass adored Him. Then was fulfilled that which was said by Isaiah the prophet, saying: The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib’.8 Other verses from Pseudo-Matthew confirm the Christmas tradition in verses 31 and 32: ‘And some shepherds also affirmed that they had seen angels singing a hymn at midnight, praising and blessing the God of heaven, and saying: There has been born the Saviour of all, who is Christ the Lord, in whom salvation shall be brought back to Israel. Moreover, a great star, larger than any that had been seen since the beginning of the world, shone over the cave from the evening till the morning. And the prophets who were in Jerusalem said that this star pointed out the birth of Christ, who should restore the promise not only to Israel, but to all nations.’
It is not surprising to discover that The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour (verse 7) writes in similar vein that ‘an angel in the form of that star ... guided them’ (the magi).
1.6 More supernatural beings that appeared to individuals in the Bible
For a thorough comparison of the Biblical angel Gabriel with Jibril, the Islamic angel with that name, it is helpful to look also at a few other examples where supernatural beings appeared to individuals in the Bible. A special case is the appearance to Hagar, whom the Muslims know as Hajira. The second time the angel appeared to Hagar, he says: ‘Do not be afraid!’ (Genesis 21: 17). This happened when she felt really downcast, wandering aimlessly in the desert. After being rejected by Sarah, she was dejected, as she feared her son would die from dehydration and thirst. At this point the angel of the Lord stepped in! Significantly he says to Hagar: ‘Lift the boy up!’ As we have seen, that is the nature of God, to uplift the rejected, the depressed and dejected.
It seems as if Arnold (1876: 395) presupposes perhaps somewhat too easily that ‘the Angel of Jehovah invariably personifies the Lord Jesus’. It is very significant to Arnold that ‘Christ should have appeared first to Hagar, when she went astray like a lost sheep.’ Nevertheless, Arnold is surely not illogical in building his presupposition on Yahweh appearing to Abraham, after making a covenant in Genesis 15. Then, in Genesis 16, the Almighty comes to Hagar as the Angel of Yahweh. Arnold furthermore points to a long series of revelations where an Angel appeared in human form.9 Arnold’s argument becomes quite convincing when he points out that ‘the angels nowhere speak in the name of Jehovah without drawing a broad line of demarcation between themselves and Him, by whom they are sent’. In the case of Hagar (Genesis 16) however, the supernatural being – in human form - spoke as ‘the Angel of Yahweh’.
When one compares the narration in Judges 13 around the birth of Samson with the reports around the angel Gabriel in Daniel and Luke, as well as other special pregnancies like that of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Hannah, one quickly discern why. Barrenness is common ground when a ‘man of God’, who appeared like an awesome angel of God (Judges 13: 6), comes to the wife of Manoah and later once again after the prayer of the husband for another appearance ‘to come again to teach us to bring up the boy who is to be born’.
In the report of Al Kindy, a medieval apologist (edited by William Muir, 1894: 45), he cites a tradition, which probably has its origins in the Talmud, asking whether Islam could also show equivalents for Moses and Joshua’s warlike expeditions in battle. Muir writes: ‘…How different this is from Moses, to whose aid, as the Moslems themselves tell us, Gabriel came, and destroyed Pharaoh, with his 400,000 followers, in the depths of the sea… The captain of the Lord’s host appeared to Joshua before Jericho, and the walls of the city fell down flat at the blast of the Jewish horns’ (Apology of Al Kindy, p.45).
The fourth figure in the fire with Daniel’s three friends (3: 25) induced believers to equate ‘the Angel of the Lord’ in the 'OT' with Jesus. The idea stems from the premise of Jesus’ divinity. Talmudic tradition stresses that God was ‘in the fire’ with his faithful servants. Gabriel is also regarded in Talmudic literature as the ‘Prince of fire’, who was with the three friends of Daniel, saving their lives (Eliezer, 1970[1916]: 248). Not quite in the same vein, we note that Daniel deduced that God had sent his angel to shut the mouths of the lions (Daniel 6: 21).
A supernatural figure that appeared to Ezekiel, seems to be the closest to Jibril, the Islamic counterpart. In Ezekiel 8: 2ff one reads: ‘I saw a figure like that of a man… his appearance was as bright as glowing metal. He stretched out what looked like a hand and took me by the hair of my head. The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem’.10 The Islamic notion of equating Jibril with the Holy Spirit has some sort of precedent in this verse, as well as the prophet being taken to Jerusalem. However, here it is quite clear that Ezekiel saw visions and that he was not taken there in person.
Variously John, the apocalyptic apostle, refers to an unknown angel in the book of Revelation. Often the language of the angel sounds like that of the Angel of Yahweh of the 'OT' and elsewhere the proximity to the Resurrected Lord is easily discernable. Thus a challenging word is given via an angel to the seven churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 2:1 – 3:22). Elsewhere an admonishment or exhortation to the church universal is passed on through an angel, especially in the book of Revelation. The allusion to Gabriel is however not very clear, although some of the tenets and qualities we have discerned with that Archangel, can be detected.
1.7. Gabriel and the Prince of Peace11
Gideon is another biblical personality who had more than one supernatural visitation. It is striking to hear the unnamed angel saying to him: ‘Do not be afraid!’ (Judges 6: 23). Significantly, this message to Gideon is followed up with ‘The Lord is peace’ (Judges 6: 24). Thereby another facet of angelic activity in the Bible comes to the fore, viz. as messengers of peace. This is echoed in the Gospel of John where Jesus pronounces (his) peace (not like that of the world), fulfilling the angelic prophecy of Luke 2: 9 on the fields of Bethlehem at his birth, where the angel of the Lord followed up the ‘Do not be afraid’ with ‘… on earth peace’. Paul, the writer of the epistle, refers to Jesus as ‘our peace’ in Ephesians 2: 14. We find the ‘Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9: 6) among the different titles accorded to the child who was born unto us.
Jesus radiates the same Spirit when he warns that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. He opposes vengeance, encouraging his followers to turn the other cheek. When we compare Isaiah 61: 1f with Luke 4: 18f, we notice that Jesus stopped his reading in the synagogue just short of the quotation, the ‘vengeance of the Lord’. Also in Matthew 11: 4 Jesus sent the disciples of John back with a quote from Isaiah (this time 35: 5f), omitting vengeance and divine retribution, which one also finds in Isaiah 35: 3. One suspects that this could have been an important reason why the Nazarenes wanted to kill Jesus. He did not pander to their carnal yearning to see revenge meted out. Yet, it would be completely false to depict Jesus as a soft, spineless person. By contrast, when it came to the house of his Father, he had no scruples to drive the temple traders out with a whip when they desecrated the house of prayer. Neither did Jesus mince his words to lash out at the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who distorted God’s Word to suit themselves. The main reason for the anger in Nazareth was possibly that he was claiming the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecy in his own person: ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ (Luke 4: 21).12
The Nazarene Gospel Restored (Greaves and Pedro, 1955: 38) bears out this tradition, citing Jesus as having said: ‘It is written: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth… For the law of mercy is not to be broken that the law of vengeance may be kept.” In the oral tradition Jews even thought that it was in order to hate your enemies, incorrectly quoting Moses for having said it. More than once Jesus not only taught ‘love your enemies’, but also even more radically ‘bless those who curse you’ (Luke 6:28). Another reason for the hostility in the Nazareth synagogue was surely Jesus opposition to the nationalism, after he had cited the Syrian officer Naaman and the widow of Zarefath.13
A Capetonian Rabbi, Israel Abrahams (1968: 34) notes in an essay on angels, that frequent reference is made to the ‘Angel of Peace’ in post-Biblical apocalyptic literature. It is said, “the very angel of peace shall strengthen Israel” (Test. of Daniel 6: 5). He guides the soul of a good man, although he objected to the creation of Adam. Even though the angel Gabriel is not mentioned by name in this connection, it is interesting that in another tradition it is said that Gabriel was not happy with the creation of humans (See section 3.1.1).

Chapter 2. The supernatural beginning of the Qur’an
In Islam the belief in angels belong to the core of the faith. Whoever denies them is regarded as an infidel. The religion acknowledges four archangels, viz. Jibril, the messenger of revelation, Mika’il, the guardian of the Jews, Israfil, the angel summoning to resurrection, and Izra’il, the messenger of death. Then there is an indefinite number of ordinary angels. They are created of light, do not eat or drink or reproduce their species, and are characterized by absolute obedience to the will of God. Two recording angels attend on every man; the one on his right records his good deeds, and the one on his left his sins (Surah 50: 17,18). Muhammad Ali calls them respectively an ‘associate angel’ and an ‘associate devil.’ There are also two angels called Munakr and Nakir, who visit every newly buried corpse in the grave.
2.1. Angels and Jinn
Islamic tradition passes on that between angels and men there are also a multitude of creatures called jinn. These created beings are capable of both belief and unbelief. The disbelieving jinn were turned out of the first three heavens when Jesus was born, and from the last four heavens when Muhammad was born. The jinn often appear as animals, reptiles, etc or in human form. Frequently a human being will be ‘possessed’ by one of them – as all poets and soothsayers were held to be. The devil (Iblis or al-Shaytan) is regarded as a fallen angel or jinn who disobeyed God’s command to the angels. He is now the arch-tempter of man and the producer of the shaytans and all evil jinn. Macdonald (1909: 26) came to the conclusion that ‘the Jinn and the devils have been hopelessly confused in Islam and we can never be sure whether with the word shaytan (devil) an Arabic writer means the personal evil spirit borrowed from Christianity and Judaism or merely a malignant member of the Jinn.’ This conclusion must be described as rash and uninformed. Muhammad Ali (The Religion of Islam, 189ff) explains that the concept of jinn was one that Islam inherited from its pagan roots.
Jinn is used in the Qur’an in two senses: a) A certain class if beings, said to be fire from its original understanding, that cannot be perceived with the senses. b) Men of a certain class. In respect of the first sense, one finds the devil speaking in Surah 7:12 ‘He (Allah) said: What hindered thee that thou didst not fall prostrate when I bade thee? (Iblis) said: I am better than him. Thou createst me of fire while him Thou didst create of mud.’ Surah 114: 4-6 described the function of these beings, viz. that of exiting evil passions or low desires: From the mischief of the Whisperer (of Evil), who withdraws (after his whisper), who whispers into the hearts of Mankind among Jinns and among men. In the second category jinn can refer in the Qur’an to men of a certain class, especially the leaders of evil. This use one finds also in other languages e.g. 'dare devil' in English. This might have caused the confusion of which Macdonald speaks, viz. that jinn have been used in pre-Islamic poetry to denote great or brave men (Ali, ibid p.189).
In Islamic tradition the Angel Gabriel (Jibril) appears again and again to the prophets, beginning with Adam, to whom he gave consolation after the Fall, taught the letters of the alphabet and the skills of working in the world (Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1989: 136).14 In this chapter we shall also look at various aspects of the beginnings of the Qur’anic revelations and the effects on Muhammad.
The Western mind tends to discount any features, which clearly smell like being legendary. It is sometimes difficult to put aside one’s prejudice in this regard, e.g. when an author like Martin Lings (1983: 34) uncritically quotes the slave Maysarah, whose credentials are suspect because of her obvious biased hero-worship: ‘the heat was strangely unoppressive, and one day towards noon it was given to him to have a brief but clear vision of two angels shading Muhammad from the sun’s rays.’ Yet, Sprenger (1851: 98) also quotes this tradition, which apparently played a role in Khadijah’s choice of Muhammad as a possible spouse. After Khadijah had told her cousin Waraqah about the two angels who were shading Muhammad from the sun’s rays, the priest reportedly answered “he will be the prophet of this nation”; and on this assurance she married him.’ Ibn Ishaq’s version (1978: 82) is terse, mentioning that after Maysarah narrated the story of the two angels to Khadijah, ‘she sent for the apostle of God’. Without any ado, she praised his good character and trustworthiness. Then she proposed marriage.
2.1.1. Perceptions of men in white raiment
Ibn Ishaq (1967: 72) wrote in his biography about the perception of Muhammad as a child that ‘two men in white raiment’ threw him to the ground, opened his belly ‘and searched therein for I know not what’. This opening and the purifying thereafter was later understood to have been executed by Jibril and Mika’il. When his mother Amina was asked whether she feared that a demon possessed him, she answered in the affirmative. Some doubts about the authenticity of these ‘angels’ are thus surely in place in this instance. It was suspected that Muhammad had epileptic fits as a child. Arnold (1876: 43) mentions the ‘oldest and most faithful Moslem biographers’ for this suspicion. Muslim biographers have few scruples to take these reports at face value. Thus Siddiqui (1994: 45) has no problem to suggest not only that ‘the Prophet’s heart was purified by the angels’. He goes on to see in the report ‘an Arabic version of the Psalmist’s prayer, “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord” (Psalm 51: 10).
When Muhammad was about nine - others say twelve - a Syrian monk named Bahira in Islamic literature,15 reportedly looked for a sign on the body of the youthful Muhammad. Between the shoulders Bahira is said to have found the ‘seal of prophethood.’ He purportedly deduced this from a secretive ‘Christian’ book. Bahira was supposedly ‘surprised at the precocity of his intellect and interested by his eager desire for information…principally to matters of religion’ (Irving, 1850: 46). Irving suggests that Sergius alias Bahira could have strengthened him in his resolve against idolatry but Irving also surmised that Bahira had ulterior motives, ‘eager to prevent his hoped-for convert, in the present unsettled state of his religious opinions, from being beguiled into the Jewish.’ It would have been natural for the monk to hope that the ‘intelligent and inquiring youth… might carry back with him to Mecca the seeds of Christianity sown in his tender mind’ (Irving, 1850: 47).
Muhammad is surmised in some Islamic tradition to have suffered from ‘the evil eye’. ‘…It came upon him swiftly before revelation came to him’ (Guillaume, 1980: 29). Khadija was used to send for an old woman to ‘charm it away’ When the Qur’anic revelation came, he is said to have disposed of this occult service.
2.1.2. The religion of Abraham
Zaid ibn Amir was one of a group of four hanifs (monotheists) of Mecca who brought along a positive influence during the youth of Muhammad. They were adherents of what was described as the original religion of Abraham, being neither Christians nor Jews. It is sad that both religions ostensibly had a bad smell around them in the pre-Islamic period. Evidence of this is that even a simple thing like Jewish names, i.e. those of biblical figures and prophets, were hardly found in Medina, although there were quite a group of Jews. On the other hand, the various Christian groups were fighting each other tooth and nail and harsh persecution was the order of the day. Sprenger highlights the zeal of Zaid in his search for truth. This hanif had to suffer persecution for his faith in one God and his rejection of polytheism. Zaid was banned from Mecca because of his apostasy from the Quraysh paganism. Zaid influenced Muhammad deeply, possibly meeting him on Mount Hira (Sprenger, 1851: 95) on his annual retreats for prayer and meditation, to where Zaid was banned (Tisdall, 1900: 95). The youthful Muhammad received his first impulses not only ‘to read Biblical history’,16 but also to ‘abjure the gods, from whom he had hoped for salvation’. Sprenger (1851: 98) suggested that the few specimens of the sayings of Zaid, which have been preserved, demonstrate that Muhammad borrowed freely from him - ‘not only his tenets, but even his expressions’. The young man was deeply challenged, causing a great inner struggle in him, which had its pinnacle in the first Jibril experience at the cave of Mount Hira. According to Sprenger (1851: 96), Muhammad determined after much hesitation to ‘study the tenets of another faith, which was hostile to that of his fathers.’ The four hanifs had decided to travel separately to meet priests and other scholars to find the original version of the faith of Abraham, understood to be undefiled monotheism. Zaid visited a monk at Mayfa’at who was renowned for his knowledge of the Christian religion. From him Zaid heard ‘a prophet has arisen in the country from which thou comest.’ He deduced that this must be Muhammad from whom he had heard in the meantime, but en route to Mecca Zaid was killed. Another tradition, quoted by Tisdall (1900), states that Zaid lived to a great age, and when he died he was buried at the foot of the mountain. According to this tradition his death is said to have occurred five years before Muhammad first put forth his claim to the prophetic office. Tisdall describes the influence of the hanifs: ‘… the men of whom we speak determined to restore the worship of God Most High (Allah Ta’ala’) to its proper place by abolishing, not only the cult of the inferior deities who had almost entirely supplanted Him, but also many of the most immoral of the practices then prevalent, opposed as they were to the human conscience and to humanity itself. ‘
2.2.The beginnings of the Qur’an and of Muhammad’s prophethood
The beginnings of the Qur’an are clearly linked to Muhammad’s call to prophethood. The figure of Jibril features prominently with various traditions, albeit that some of them are contradictory. This is easily explained by Muhammad’s confused state after the initial appearance to him of the supernatural being and the revelation he later perceived to be the angel Gabriel (cf. II Corinthians 12: 1ff. where Paul was unsure whether he had a physical experience). Some Western scholars doubt the possibility of an actual appearance of a supernatural being. Yet, one of these, Sprenger (1851: 96), who described it as a dream, concludes: ‘If this dream was as momentous as authentic traditions make it, it must have been the crisis, which caused Muhammad to seek for truth in the books of the Jews and Christians.’
2.2.1. The first Surah revealed by Jibril
According to Islamic tradition a supernatural being, which brought the first Qur’anic revelations in the cave of Mount Hira, at first requested Muhammad to recite. The supernatural figure came to him ‘with a coverlet of brocade on which was some writing.’ Illiterate to all intents and purposes,17 Muhammad twice protested that he could not read the words on the cloth.18 This happened while Muhammad was asleep – thus similar to Daniel. When Muhammad did not recite, Jibril caught him (forcefully) and pressed or choked him with the cloth so hard that he could not bear it any more, and this was repeated. Jibril left Muhammad in a terribly shaken state there in the cave. Muhammad initially thought that the spirit was of an evil origin.
In another tradition, Muhammad narrated how he was wrapped firmly in the cloth by the supernatural being - which he believed to have been the Angel Gabriel. He was throttled so much that he thought he would die. Muhammad was hereafter very fearful of this figure that required him to ‘recite’. He reportedly asked in desperation what he should recite. The Arabic word iqra was used, the word from which Qur’an is derived. (The Islamic sacred book thus means something like ‘recitation’). According to Islamic tradition Surah 96 (that has been named iqra), was revealed,19after Muhammad feared that he would be given the cloth-choking treatment again20 for a third time. The narrative has some sacral touch to it. But already at the very first reported revelation a central difference to the Bible can be discerned. According to Genesis 2: 7, ‘the Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground’. The name Adam is linked to adamah, which means ground or earth. Surah 96 states that man was created from a (mere) clot of blood (v.2). Surah 3: 59 - along with other verses and hadith - however mention that Adam was created from dust, thus contradicting Surah 96: 2.21 The figure which brought Surah 96 to Muhammad, thus has as parallel the serpent in Genesis 3: 1, where God’s words were changed slightly: ‘Did God really say that you must not eat from any tree in the garden?’
Contrary to Islamic tradition, Fazlur Rahman, the liberal Pakistani Muslim scholar who later became a professor in Chicago, states quite categorically that the first revelation on Mt. Hira was an one-off event. ‘Muhammad never returned to Mount Hira and the Cave’. (Cited by Cragg, 1985: 91). This was part of Rahman’s view that Muhammad was nowhere passive in the revelations. This led to Rahman’s vocational resignation, after his accusers had suggested that he was asserting that Muhammad and Allah co-authored the Qur’an. Rahman asserted quite strongly that the verbal inspiration went through Muhammad’s mind, that there was ‘intelligibility in the language medium when revealed’ (Cited by Cragg, 1985: 91). It is quite comprehensible why Rahman’s accusers opposed him. There are indeed traditions that stress the passivity of Muhammad at the revelations, e.g. Bukhari (Volume 1, Book 1, Number 4) – whereby we keep in mind that Book 1 of Bukhari has Revelation as theme: ‘When we have recited it to you (O Muhammad through Gabriel) then you follow its (Qur’an) recital’ (75.18) means ‘listen to it and be silent.’ Then it is for Us (Allah) to make It clear to you’ (75.19) means ‘Then it is (for Allah) to make you recite it (and its meaning will be clear by itself through your tongue). Afterwards, Allah’s Apostle used to listen to Gabriel whenever he came and after his departure he used to recite it as Gabriel had recited it.’
On the other hand, tradition relates how Jibril threatened Muhammad once when he was passive. He had to reckon with God’s punishment if he did not meticulously follow His commandments (Glassé, 1989: 363, referring to Tabari I, 1171).
2.2.3. Effects on Muhammad of the initial supernatural visitations
Muhammad was depressed after his experiences with Jibril. Muhammad, fearing that something might have happened to him, returned and asked Khadija to cover him with a cloak until his fear was gone. Kenneth Cragg, using Islamic sources as his point of departure, summarizes the effect of Muhammad’s first meeting with Jibril: ‘Muhammad’s first reaction was dubiety and apprehension. He feared lest he had been beset with malicious jinns... (spirits). The revelations were accompanied by intense emotional stress, physical limpness, perspiration, and a state of trance’ (Cragg, 1956: 78). Narayan, an Islamic author, described the effect on Muhammad after the cave experience: ‘Confused and undecided …trembling uncontrollably and convinced that he had met a Jinn or a spirit.’ (1978: 30). The historian Tabari quotes Muhammad as saying at this juncture: ‘Now none of God’s creatures was more hateful to me than a poet or a man possessed’. To forestall this being said of him, Muhammad wanted to throw himself from the top of the mountain. These emotions appear to be embarrassing to some Muslim authors.22
After a further encounter by the supernatural being, during which he had been addressed as the chosen prophet of God, Muhammad’s ‘anxiety increased even more.’ Narayan and others insert another tradition23 whereby Muhammad saw the gigantic figure wherever he looked. Khadiya’s emissaries went on a search of him in the meantime, finding him roaming the mountainside in a disturbed state. Muhammad was very much aware of the presence of evil spirits, which he feared had taken hold of him. Muhammad was left in a deep depression, completely destitute and unsure. Karen Armstrong, a former Roman Catholic nun, described his state: ‘Muhammad came to himself in a state of terror and revulsion.’ He might have committed suicide according to tradition if Khadijah, his wife, had not sent people to find out what had happened to him on Mount Hira.
Muhammad was so confused and fearful that he sought comfort from his wife, requesting her to cover him. For Siddiqui (1994: 61) Jibril’s ‘unsolicited appearance and the Prophet’s fear conclusively prove that his mind was free from all types of hallucinations.’ William Muir (1894: 84) cited one tradition according to which, after the revelation of Surah 96, Muhammad ‘waited several days without seeing Gabriel. And be became greatly downcast, so that he went out at one time to the Mount of Thubeir, and at another to Hira, seeking to cast himself headlong from thence. While thus intent on self- destruction, he was suddenly arrested by a voice from heaven. He looked up, and lo! Gabriel, upon a throne between the heavens and the earth, said, “Oh Mahomet! thou art the Prophet of the Lord, in truth, and I am Gabriel!”
In this record of the vision where the angel is mentioned by name, the gigantic figure on the horizon thus introduced himself with the same words as that of the angel in Luke 1: 19, viz. ‘I am Gabriel’. At a later stage in his life Muhammad deduced that it must have been the same figure that had choked him with the cloth in the cave. The divergent versions of the first visions are probably the result of his confused state after the cave experience. Even critical authors agree that he experienced something very extra-ordinary. ‘The confident manner on which Muhammad claimed that he had had at least two definite visions strongly suggests that he really did see a strange being on the horizon’ (Gilchrist, 1986: 100). However, the ‘horizon’ revelation is given in the context of Muhammad needing an unconvincing special Jibril revelation that ‘your companion is not one possessed (Surah 81:22)… Nor is it the word of an evil spirit accursed (verse 25); Yet, many authors give him the benefit that ‘Without doubt he saw him in the clear horizon’ (Surah 81:23). Bukhari (Vol. 6: 452) reports his description of the second vision thus: ‘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. I got afraid of him and came back home and said, Wrap me! Wrap me!’
The confusion as to whether the figure really was Jibril (or not) is comprehensible, when one considers that in only one of the different versions the angel in the encounter around Surah 96 is given a name. It was only after the encouragement of Khadijah, his wife and Waraqah bin Naufal, her cousin and reportedly a Christian priest and scholar, that Muhammad won back his composure. He was apparently still unsure whether he did in fact see something, but Khadija lifted his spirits: ‘God would not treat you thus since he knows your truthfulness, your great trustworthiness, your fine character, and your kindness…Perhaps you did see something. “Yes, I did,” Muhammad replied’ (Ibn Ishaq, 1978: 107). Khadija herself was also still unsure. After consulting Waraqa bin Naufal, her cousin we read: ‘Waraqa cried: “Holy! Holy! Verily by Him in whose hand is Waraqa’s soul, if you are telling me the truth, O Khadija, there hath indeed come to him the greatest Namus,” and by Namus he meant Gabriel, upon whom be peace, who used to come to Moses aforetime, and lo, he is the prophet to his own people. Tell him so and have him stand firm.” So Khadija returned to the apostle of God - upon whom be God’s blessing and peace, and inform him of what Waraqa had said’ (Ibn Ishaq, 1978: 107). Al-Tabari added: ‘and that calmed his fears somewhat.’
Waraqah spoke about the greatest Namus - which had also appeared to Moses. The Arabian Christians regarded this as some ‘secret’ or law.24 Waraqah was said to have been a priest of the Ebionite Christian Community (perhaps he was even a bishop, an equivalent of the bishops of the independent churches in different parts of Africa).25 Although it was reported that he was ‘well read in the 'Old testament' and the 'New Testament’ (from various sources), his understanding of Scripture appears to have been very warped. After hearing his cousin Khadijah telling about the two angels who were shading Muhammad from the sun’s rays, the priest reportedly answered ‘he will be the prophet of this nation’(Sprenger, 1851: 98). About the same incident Ibn Ishaq (1978: 83) quotes him: ‘If this is true Khadijah, verily Muhammad is the prophet of his his people.’ Waraqah is also reported to have passed on to Khadijah that an angel cannot face an unveiled woman. Only an evil spirit could bear such a sight. Waraqah possibly cited 1 Corinthians 11: 10 so distortedly that Khadijah used this for her infamous ‘test’ to discern whether the supernatural being that appeared to Muhammad was divine or demonic (see p. 61). She was apparently still unsure of the nature of the supernatural being. After a period of about two years, the revelations ‘stopped for a time so that the apostle of God was distressed and grieved’ (Ishaq,.1978: 111). In this confusion the ‘angel of light’ came to Muhammad. Surah 93 was revealed with ‘a burst of luminous reassurance’ (Armstrong, 1991: 89).
2.2.4. Confusion among Christian Contemporaries Mary was worshipped almost like a god, especially when pagans joined the ranks of the Church. An idolatrous veneration followed. The Christian sect called the Collyridians, of which unfortunately very little is known, was worshipping Mary like a goddess - with altar and all. There is however no evidence that they or any Christian sect actually believed that the Trinity consisted of God, Jesus and Mary. The Nestorians, who were widely distributed in the regions of Western Asia, believed that Mary was indeed no more than a woman and that it was ‘an abomination to style her, as was the custom of the church, the Mother of God’ (Irving, 1850: 51). Then there were quite a few ‘points of the jarring sects of oriental Christians…all of which have been pronounced heretical or schismatic’ (Irving, 1850: 79). Of these, the tenets of the Sabellians, Arians, Nestorians and the Monophysites all surely had a role to play. The Sabellians believed in the unity of God, but also that the Trinity expressed three different states or relations. The Arians affirmed Christ as the Son of God, but denied the Holy Spirit to be God and the Nestorians regarded it as a gross abomination to describe Mary as the Mother of God. The Monophysites stressed the single nature of Christ, man and God combined, ‘mingled and united as to form but one nature’.
The practice was later to be imitated also in respect of ‘saints’. As a rule these personalities were devoted Christians who themselves had pointed people to Jesus. They could of course not do anything about the idolatry around their persons that happened after their death. This was unfortunately not heeded. Saintly believers like Francis of Assisi demonstrated a Christ-like lifestyle, but they were all too often revered unbecomingly (Muhammad objected to him being idolised. This was picked up massively and successfully in the 20th century by his followers when they objected being called Mohammedans. All around the world they are now only called Muslims. Another idolatrous custom in similar vein was to add pbuh in written material, meaning praise be upon him. Surprisingly, Muslims do not seem to have a problem with this practice.
2.2.5. Muhammad stressed the Unity of God
Muhammad felt the need to stress the Unity of God, which actually became one of the beliefs of Islam called tawid, it is not difficult at all to appreciate his abhorrence of the concept of the Trinity, albeit that he understood a tri-theism – three gods - under it. With regard to tawid, there is ‘hardly a verse in the Qôran which does not shew how forcibly he was struck with this truth’ (Sprenger, 1851: 103). Yet, it should be remembered that the doctrine which he preached ‘was not of his own invention; it had been begotten by the spirit of the time’ (Sprenger, 1851: 155). Sprenger reminds that Bilal, the slave, had embraced Islam before Muhammad received a revelation and that he was one of the first who ‘publicly professed their Islam’ (1851: 156) and that the first four hanifs who came with him to the conviction of the truth of the unity of God, actually preceded Muhammad therein (Sprenger 1851: 157). Whatever confusion existed, e.g. about Mary’s status among Christians, it seems to have been compounded, rather than corrected, in the Qur’an.
Islamic tradition had been passing on that Jibril brought the black stone of the Ka’ba, to help Muhammad count the tawafs, the encirclings. The four hanifs were sceptical: ‘What is this stone which neither hears nor sees…?’ (Salahi, 1998: 55). The gist of the hanif opposition against the encircling of the Ka’ba and its black stone does not seem to have come across to Muhammad sufficently or he simply ignored it. Muhammad did not abolish this practice. He himself performed it and commanded his followers to do so, in spite of the surprise and objection of some of his followers. Al-Bukhari records a famous statement made by ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, one of the very faithful followers, which demonstrates the confusion of the Muslims. Bukhari passed on the following hadith: “When ‘‘Umar ibn al-Khattab reached the Black Stone, he kissed it and said, ‘I know that you are a stone that does not hurt or benefit. If I had not seen the prophet kiss you, I would have not kissed you.”‘
When Muhammad removed 360 other idols of the Ka’ba, he retained the black stone, using the argument that he restored it to the position it held in the days of Abraham. Alternately, it could have been premeditated – just as Muhammad used ‘revelation’ (Surah 2: 158) to justify pagan custom as part of the pilgrimage (Cited in Behind the Veil, p. 284f, taken from Asbab al-Nuzul by Suyuti, p. 27). Arab polytheists had been accustomed to running between the two hills Safa and Marwa to glorify the idols which they erected and that they called Isaf and Na’ila. When Muhammad destroyed the idols, Muslims were ashamed to continue this practice, and asked Muhammad about it. In a hadith Ibn ‘Abbas reported: ‘The demons in the Jahiliyya used to circumnavigate all night around these two mountains. The idols (were erected) between them. When Islam came, they (Muslims) said, ‘O, apostle of God, we would never run between the Safa and Marwa because this is an unfavorable matter which we were accustomed to do in the Jahiliyya.’ Soon Muhammad claimed that a Qur’anic verse was given to him in which this practice could be accommodated. In the Sahih of Muslim, volume 3: 411 we read ‘…then they would go and run between Safa and Marwa, then they would have their hair cut. When Islam was established, they hated to run between them, but God sent down this verse’ (2: 158).
2.2.6 A new Arab Prophet It was different when Muhammad heard that Zaid had heard on one of his travels from an aged Christian priest that ‘the time was ripe for the appearance of a new Prophet in the land of the Arabs’ (Salahi, 1998: 55). The name of this priest is not mentioned, but the suspicion is justified that it could have been someone like Bahira. Lings (1983: 34) mentions a certain Nestor as priest in Bostra at the same ‘cell’ where once Bahira had operated. The narrator probably referred to a monastery. Nestor’s contribution - of which only the autobiographical report of Muhammad is available – is not convincing in the life of the religious young man. Sprenger (1851: 146) calls him (probably sarcastically) ‘another Simeon of the Islam.’26 Supposedly Bahira recognised Muhammad as a prophet ‘by his reposing under a tree, under which only prophets were in the habit of sitting’ (Sprenger, 1851: 147). Legendary traits are reported about Bahira’s observations: ‘At length he observed the heavenly cloud hovering over an approaching caravan…’ His suspicions became certainty ‘for every stone and tree exclaimed, ‘hail to thee, o Messenger of God.’ The continuation of the oral report possibly gave birth to all sorts of prophecies: ‘The hermit … opened a book which he had in his hand, and read a prophecy in which Muhammad was so distinctly described’.27 Positive teaching could have gone out from Waraqah, one of the other three hanifs after Muhammad’s marriage to his cousin. Little if anything at all from Waraqah’s teaching appears to have been recorded. It has been said that he was translating the Injil (gospel) in Arabic.28 According to Salahi, Muhammad’s contact with him was minimal, ‘probably two or three meetings between the Prophet and Waraqah’ (Salahi, 1998: 68). Others have a different view on the matter, e.g. that the two will have had interaction for at least 15 years, i.e. since Muhammad’s marriage to Khadijah, his cousin, till the first revelations in 610 CE. Rodwell mentions Waraqah’s effort to influence Muhammad, referring to him as the Prophet’s ‘intimate friend’. Waraqah however not only became a victim himself of the distorted views of the church of his day, but he also passed the deception on to Muhammad and Khadijah,. He ‘is said to have believed on Muhammad as long as he continued true to the principles of the Hanyfs, but to have quitted him in disgust at his subsequent proceedings’ (Rodwell, 1909: 9). I could not find much evidence to support this position. Abu-Moosa’s suspicion that Waraqah had hoped to become his successor as priest in his church, looks more probable although I have not found proof for this assertion either. It is striking though that Waraqah never embraced Islam.
2.3. Deficient correction to Muhammad
Sprenger (1851: 109) notes that Waraqah, the monk Addas who hailed from Nineveh and his wife Khadijah ‘neither conveyed full conviction nor gave they sufficient courage’ to Muhammad. Ibn Ishaq (1978: 99) reported that ‘Waraqa attached himself to Christianity and studied its scriptures until he had thoroughly mastered them.’ From the above lines it can be clearly seen that such a statement is evidently exaggerated. Waraqah possessed only a very distorted understanding of the Christian faith. If we take the following report at face value, words purported to have been given when Khadijah came to consult Waraqah about Muhammad’s vision, the priest should take much blame for the deception, which ensued. Apart from Waraqah, his wife has to be apportioned much of the blame of the deeption. Moshay (1990: 140) put it in this way: ‘His guardian-wife seemed to have exacerbated the confusion. It was she who encouraged him to submit to the revelations which she alleged must be coming from the angel Gabriel... Khadija, being a catholic, knew something about Gabriel and felt it must have been the angel gining Mohammed his messages.’ Let us look for a moment how Bukhari (Volume 1, Book 1:3) describes the incident referred to: ‘He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew29 as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said to Waraqa, “Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!” Waraqa asked, “O my nephew! What have you seen?” Allah’s Apostle described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, “This is the same one who keeps the secrets (angel Gabriel) whom Allah had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.” Allah’s Apostle asked, “Will they drive me out?” Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said, “Anyone (man) who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly.” But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while. ...’ Muhammad was misled to believe that the being, which appeared to him, was identical to the biblical angel Gabriel. The information in the traditions about Waraqah’s role is quite scant and yet confusing. According to Ishaq’s version (1978: 107), Waraqa met Muhammad while he was encircling the Ka’ba after his period of seclusion. Ishaq (1978: 144) furthermore mentions how Waraqah was around when Bilal was persecuted in Mecca, i.e. just before the emigration of Muslims to Abyssinia in 615 CE.
Jochen Katz, on the Answering Islam Internet homepage, rightly asks how Waraqah could come to his conclusion. ‘Neither the “way of revelation” via an angel who is keen to choke Muhammad, nor the content of the words he is supposed to repeat [Sura 96:1-5], is similar to anything found in the Bible. How, therefore, did Waraqa conclude that Muhammad was 1) a prophet from God [let alone “the” messenger] 2) (Someone) with the same message as the earlier prophets?’ One could add: where did Waraqah get his ‘information’ that the angel Gabriel keeps the secrets, which Allah had supposedly sent to Moses? This appears rather spurious. One could hardly but agree that Waraqah’s conclusions appear very unsound.
2.3.1 Anti-Jewish sentiments
Bahira could be held responsible for sowing negative seed against Jewry when he reportedly warned Abu Talib, Muhammad’s guardian, to hide Muhammad from the Jews who would try to kill him. ‘…Take thy brother’s son back to his country, and guard him against the Jews, for by God, if they see him and know of him that which I know, they will contrive evil against him…’ Bahira’s supposed ‘information’ – described in quite some detail by Lings (1983: 29f) – has every indication of occult involvement, with some mysterious ‘Christian’ book very central.
It is not known in how far Bahira had been influenced by the negative sentiments in respect of non-Christian Judaism, which were already present in the 'New Testament'. Chronologically the first negative vibes appear to have been spread by Luke in the book of Acts. Possibly an influence of Paul played a role because the negative sentiment towards Jews is almost completely absent in the synoptic gospels, thus also in the Gospel of Luke. Of course, the sarcastic title ‘King of the Jews’ given by Pontius Pilate at the time of the crucifixion, is recorded in all gospels. Luke reported in Acts 9: 22 how Saul very soon after his conversion baffled ‘the Jews’ when he spoke about Jesus as the Son of God. This is especially striking since Paul himself refers to the incident, without blaming ‘the Jews’. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me.’ (2 Corinthians 11:32).30 Already in the very next verse of Acts 9 ‘the Jews conspired to kill him.’ Where the synoptic gospels would speak negatively about Pharisees and Scribes, these groups were now lumped together as ‘the Jews’ – which radiated an unfortunate negative vibe. The Gospel of John and Acts wrote negatively about ‘the Jews’ – coming from the background of Hebrew rivalry between Galileans and those who came from Judaea, possibly spreading the impression that the Jews as a nation were extreme adversaries of Christians from the beginning.31 Despite his love of the Jews to the extent that he was willing to give his life for their salvation (Romans 9), Paul also sowed seeds of antipathy against the legalistic Judaizers through his letters. Justin Martyr supplies us with anti-Jewish material, e.g. proof-texts, which were ‘destined to recur, little changed or supplemented, in many anti-Jewish treatises during the next two hundred years’ (Ackroyd and Evans, 1970: 416).
2.3.2 The rejection of the Jews
In both the Church and the synogue the Jewish background Christians were isolated already in the first century. In the former instance their faith in Jesus as Messiah caused intense strain and their general adherence to circumcision and the Law was not acceptable to Gentile Christianity. Because of the influx of Gentiles the Jewish Christians were already a small minority by 160 C.E., dispersed all over the Orient. Emperor constantine made the virtual rift between Christians and Jews complete. In some Christian circles the rejection of the Jews reverberated through into the age of Muhammad. The ostracism of the Jews was fairly popular among the Christians at this time. They were known or perceived to have assisted with the persecution of Christians under previous regimes. Muhammad sensed that the rift between Christians and Jews was real. He could exploit this, hitting at them along the lines of divide and rule, especially when he experienced the ridicule of the Jews of Medina as extremely painful. In the Surah regarded by Rodwell as the last one revealed to Muhammad, the Jews are even lumped together with idolaters, and the Christians are given a favourable commendation; the Jews were now their greatest enemies and the Christians the best friends. Surah 5: 85 (translation Shakir) states: ‘Certainly you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists, and you will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: We are Christians; this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly.’ It is not so well known that Khadijah has been reported to have ‘read the Scriptures and was acquainted with the history of the prophets’ (Tabari, quoted by Sprenger 1851: 100).
2.3.3. The ‘angel of light’ not discerned
Be that as it may, the Church universal incurred some ‘collective’ debt when Waraqah bin Naufal deceived Muhammad, causing him to believe that he was a prophet like Moses. It seems improbable that either Khadijah or Waraqah was aware of the biblical teaching about the ‘angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11: 14). Waraqah’s dubious interpretation of the covering of the head of females, because of the angels (1 Corinthians 11: 10), possibly deceived Khadijah - instead of helping her. Thus neither Khadijah nor Waraqah would have been able to give Muhammad the appropriate correction. By contrast, Khadijah and Waraqah encouraged him in his role as a warner to the Arab people. In their view he was a divinely ordained prophet. That Waraqah did not become one of Muhammad’s followers, does either say a lot for his integrity or he might have been so disappointed that the gifted young man showed little interest in becoming his successor in the Christian Community which he led. According to Bukhari’s report above, Waraqah died a few days after the first revelation. Abu Talib, Muhammad’s guardian of many years, could not accept the invitation to go along with the stream to become an Islamic companion. This was significant, especially if one accepts the visit to Bahira as historical. On the other hand, the point made by Karen Armstrong is just as valid: It would have been extremely difficult to break away from the traditions and ancient ways of their ancestors. The adoration of Khadijah, plus the uncritical hero-worshipping of his close friend Abu Bakr, effectively countered the possible influence of Waraqah, which appears to have been minimal anyway. Furthermore, although Waraqah said that Muhammad was to be a prophet to “his own people,” (i.e. Arabs). After his death, Muhammad dreamed of him in white robes - signifying that Waraqah was in heaven (Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, p. 631). This does indicate a high regard for the old relative who had influenced him for possibly 15 years.32 Misgivings with regard to the nature of Jibril
Muhammad was very much aware of the possibility that Satan can influence revelations. (See also section 7.2). After perceiving his prophetic mission, hMuhammad expressed misgivings with regard to the nature of the being, which inspired him. A compromise with three pagan gods of the Ka’ba had been included in one of the ‘revelations’ somewhere along the line. The Meccan controversy around the verses, which were purported to have been inspired by Satan, highlighted to Muhammad the issue. His followers were actually advised in case of doubt to confer with the people of the Book (Surah 10: 94f) - understood to be the Christians and Jews. The problem was that there were not so many people around at the time who knew the content of the Bible. Only very few of them could read anyway. Waraqah referred to a gospel, possibly the extinct Ebionite Gospel.33 It does not seem as if Waraqah was aware of the teaching about the anathema (curse) on any message, which was contrary to the one that has been passed on, “even if it was brought by an angel” (Galatians 1: 8f). Of course, there was no Arabic translation of the Scripture available for Waraqah and his followers to enable him to test the revelations. And even if that had been the case, the question still remains whether Waraqah would have understood fully that every spirit had to be tested (1 John 4: 1). Yet, Waraqah may have contributed to Muhammad’s confusion. Although he had been critical of the black stone of the Ka’ba, Waraqah’s stance was not convincing. He appears to have just continued with the tawafs, the encirclings of the Ka’ba. In fact, a tradition recalls that he reassured Muhammad and kissed his head a few days before his death as they were circumambulating the Ka’ba with the black stone (Salahi, 1998: 68). In a Meccan ayat, Surah 2: 102, the Qur’an was very much on the same wave length as 2 Corinthians 11: 14 (speaking about Satan masquerading as an angel of light), hinting that demons could mix truth with falsehood. The truthful seeker Muhammad deceived
It is nevertheless sad that Waraqah inadvertently deceived. Muir (1894: 51) pointed out that he was one of those who deduced that there was a prophet about to arise for this nation from the children of Ishmael. With regard to Waraqah’s supposed knowledge of the 'Old' and 'New 'Testaments, there is sufficient reason to be cautious. He appears to have been an example of some one-eyed person in the land of the blind. We read of Muhammad’s integrity and kindness, which prompted Zaid, his adopted son, to accept his message of monotheism. His childhood friend Abu Bakr accepted Islam immediately on the same premise, viz. that Muhammad said nothing but the truth. He doubted no moment when his friend spoke of a relationship with Allah, the Lord and the Creator.34Just as tragic it is that the devout 40-year-old man, who retreated to the mountain for seclusion and spiritual nourishment, came back confused and dejected. The dubious calling indeed changed the course of his life. It is moving to read about Khadijah’s well-meant encouragement in his confused state again and again. Jibril is being quoted as playing a role in these endeavours. ‘For this unwavering support, Gabriel once came to the Prophet telling him to convey Allah’s greeting to Khadeejah and give her the happy news that she had a special home in heaven where she would enjoy total bliss and happiness’ (Salahi, 1998: 73). When one studies the Meccan part of Muhammad’s life, one cannot but marvel that here was a devout man who was tragically misled by a Christian clergyman.
2.3.4. The negative role of women not corrected by Jibril.
If Jibril had been in line with the Gabriel of the Bible, one would have expected at least that the positive view of the 'New Testament' with regard to women to be approached. It is remarkable to note the extremely positive role especially the 'New Testament' ascribes to women in a society, which looked down condescendingly on women.35 It is appropriate to note at this point that the Qur’an is surprisingly progressive in this regard. The life-style of Muhammad might have depicted the Middle Eastern pattern of female subjugation, but there are clear indications that the medieval Arabian statesman did pick up tenets of the teachings of Nabi Isa whom he held in such high regard. In Surah 9:71 (‘The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another…’) and 3:195 ‘…Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: Ye are members, one of another…and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath;- A reward from the presence of Allah, and from His presence is the best of rewards’ ) the Qur’an teaches the equality of males and females in fellowship and that they have to be mutually protective of each other.36 A hadith speaks speak about wives as twin halves of their husbands. That was surely revolutionary for Muhammad’s society. This contradicts the general prejudice in Western Society with regard to the subordinate role of women in Islam. There are however more than ample examples in the Qur’an, including some spurious revelations for which Muhammad needed the assistance of Jibril to help him out of embarrassing situations. It becomes confusing if one looks at other verses, in which women are to be treated almost literally as dirt - as tilth, soil into which the man can deposit his seed at will, or withhold it if the wife is not submissive (slavishly obedient?) - that one wonders whether this was the inspiration of the self-same Jibril: Your wives are a tilth for you, so go into your tilth when you like…Those who swear that they will not go in to their wives should wait four months (Surah 2: 223, 226). A few women in the Bible
In the 'OT' the prophetess Deborah - and a married woman to boot - stepped in as a judge when the Israelites were in disarray (Judges 4: 4), and Miriam is likewise described as a prophetess (Exodus15: 20). Other prophetesses mentioned in the 'OT' were Hulda (2 Chronicles 34: 22), Noadjah (Nehemiah 6: 14) and an unnamed one in Isaiah 8: 3. The apocryphal widow Judith displayed exceptional bravery to kill the general of Nebuchadnessar. Women were a part of Jesus’ missionary team (Luke 8:1-3) and the Master used a woman as the advance guard to bring in the harvest from the Samaritans (John 4). Both Luke and John record women as the breakers and bearers of the good news of the resurrected Lord. In the book of Acts (21: 9) prophetesses are mentioned, also Anna (Luke 2: 36), who was at the temple after the birth of Jesus, was one. According to Joachim Jeremias, a prominent German scholar, Jesus was the first Jewish rabbi to accept woman disciples. We note that the Greek word for disciple, mathetes, could be translated as scholar, but not in the academic sense. Mary of Bethany was very much a mathetes, a listener (Luke 10:38ff), as she sat at Jesus’ feet – praised by Jesus. Martha’s activism was given no support by the Master. Even Paul – often reviled by feminists – mentioned the female apostle Junia (Romans 16: 7) and the couple Priscilla and Aquila as his fellow workers in Christ Romans 16: 3.
It is good to remind ourselves, that in these teachings Jesus was merely highlighting divine principles, which had already been given at the time of creation (Genesis 1:26ff). In Genesis 5:1, 2 the equality of male and female was enshrined in the summary: ‘God created...male and female and blessed them. And when they were created he called them ‘man’. We note that these lines were recorded in a society in which a female had nothing to say. Bill Musk, a keen observer of the Middle East, summarised it so pointedly: ‘ many of his words and acts, the creator God showed himself dissatisfied with a worldview in which women (and others) were so dehumanised.’37 Musk furthermore shows how incidences in the 'OT' are spotlighted where the Almighty was ‘trying to retrieve some sense of equality and dignity for the female part of his human creation.’ Musk continues to mention some of these discriminated groups: widows, wives accused of adultery and non-inheriting daughters.
Sometimes opponents of Islam have vented their resentment by pointing to the treatment of women as sex objects not only in Paradise, but also in life with unequal rights. Jibril’s revelations indeed seem to have been biased in this regard. One should however also note that Judaism and Christianity have similar bad records on this score. Exodus 21: 2-7 depicts very clearly the inequality of women and the early church fathers somehow did not pick up the radical departure from Jewish custom, which Jesus had demonstrated. He gave dignity to women, even to prostitutes and those despised by society at large. The 'New Testament' contains also some radical material in this regard. Women, who would normally have been regarded as second-rate or even as outcasts by their society, receive prominent roles. We find three of them high-lighted in the genealogy of Jesus according to St. Matthew’s Gospel. Tamar deceived Judah when she posed as a prostitute, Rahab had been a prostitute convert from Jericho and Ruth converted from the ‘prohibited’ tribe of Moab. John 20 puts Mary Magdalene, the former demon-possessed prostitute in the spotlight as the first evangelist of the resurrection of Jesus.
2.4. A special community changed
John Gilchrist (1986: 58-60) pointed to the similarities between Jesus and Muhammad during the latter’s life in Mecca. Significantly, the analogy stops at the Cross. Whereas Jesus had the opportunity to evade the Cross and death, he chose to give his life in obedience to his heavenly Father so that others might live, Muhammad fled to Medina. Not for nothing the Hijrah signifies the beginning of the Islamic calendar – but also the point in time when Jibril clearly started to reveal words that were contrary to the teachings of Jesus.38 Pointedly Gilchrist summarized the difference, when the similarities between Muhammad and Jesus drastically parted ways: ‘The former took a pledge from each man from Medina to defend and protect his life, even if he should lose his own life in doing so. The latter renewed his pledge to give up his life so that many of his followers might live…’ (Gilchrist (1986: 59).
One is saddened to discover how a lively spiritually healthy community of predominantly young followers of Muhammad in Mecca – coming from different tribes – and who had initially been drawn to a message and teaching where there was hope given for the degraded, the depressed and the young, was so completely changed after the move to Medina. In Mecca ‘women thought the time for the restoration of their rights was near’ (Ahmad, 1998: 11). Encouragement was given to stay on the track of the sharing of possessions, as well as caring for the poor and needy - incorporating former slaves. Muhammad and his followers had bought many of these slaves free. This might have helped the community to resemble the early church in Jerusalem to some extent.
By contrast, in the teaching of Surah 8 at Medina, raiding was taught as being permitted, so long as one fifth of the booty was reserved for ‘God and the Apostle’. The latter was expected to distribute from it at his discretion to the poor and needy (8: 41). Because of the lack of correction - and fallacious guidance in stead - one now has to apply the words of Sayyid Qutb negatively, when he stated that ‘The beginning of revelation (marked) the end of one era and the start of another.’ 39 There is sufficient reason to sadly bemoan that since that new era of Jibril ‘revelations’, millions have been deceived to this day, among other things to believe that a law was given to Muhammad like that given to Moses.
2.5. Jibril, the supernatural being that visited Muhammad
Biographies of Muhammad record that he was forcefully thrown to the ground by Jibril. Because this phenomenon was reportedly already happening when he was a child, some scholars suggested that Muhammad could have been an epileptic. Andrae, a Scandinavian scholar in the first half of the 20th century, rejects this suggestion. He notes that no ‘serious consequences to the mental and physical health’ (1936: 68), could be detected. Some revelations came to Muhammad after he had been struck to the ground in this way. A role is assigned to Muhammad’s cloak, in which he would ask to be wrapped whenever Jibril visited him. Being struck to the ground usually had negative connotations in the Bible, one of opposition to God’s purposes. Saul fell ‘full length on the ground’, evidently as divine punishment after he had consulted a witch (spiritist, 1 Samuel 28: 20). The Roman soldiers fell backwards when they wanted to arrest the innocent Jesus. Ananias and Saphira were struck down one after the other after they had lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5: 1-11) and Paul fell to the ground while he was persecuting the Christians (Acts 9). Also extra-biblical material attests to the striking down of someone in opposition to God’s purposes. Thus the book of Jasher gives an explanation why the Pharaoh eventually gave Sarah back to Abraham (Genesis 12: 10-20): he was purportedly struck to the ground every time he approached Sarah for sexual relations.
Andrae (1936: 59) has no problem that an angel forced the great Islamic prophet to recite. ‘The conception of a spirit which literally pounces upon the inspired man, throwing him to the ground and conquering his human obstinacy, is found among various peoples.’ Andrae compares ‘the jinni who kneeled upon his chest’ with the prophet of Israel who ‘felt the hand of Yahweh resting heavily upon him.’ The contradictions in the various reports of Muhammad’s calling nudged Andrae to write Legenden von der Berufung Muhammeds.40
We have noted that Muhammad had convulsions and depression after some of the visitations of Jibril. That the revelations sometimes led to suicidal traits is in stark contrast to the angelic appearances in the Bible. William Montgomery Watt – a British scholar who is held in high regard by Muslims - referred to one of the ‘numerous traditions’ (Watt, 1953: 46) around the revelation of Surah 96 according to which Muhammad went ‘to the tops of a mountain to throw himself down from them’ (how often is not mentioned, but a tradition mentions that it happened more than once). ‘Whenever he reached the summit of a mountain Gabriel would appear to him and say “Thou art the Prophet of God”. At that his restlessness would cease and his self would return to him.’ This is a parallel tradition to the only other one where Jibril is mentioned by name in the list compiled by az-Zuhri.41 That is the instance where the being introduces himself as Jibril. In one of the oral traditions Muhammad wanted to throw himself down from the cliff immediately after he had come out of the cave at the occasion of his first revelation on Mount Hirah. As we have seen, the biblical angel encouraged Elijah when he was suicidal. Jesus discerned the Satanic invitation to suicide as scriptural distortion, questioning his being the Son of God.
J.M. Arnold, noted how ‘even after his alleged mission, he expressed misgivings as to the nature of the demon which inspired him’ (1876: 47). Confusion as the basis for revelation is not very reassuring: ‘There can be little doubt that this was an imitation of the pagan soothsayers and diviners for the Arabs had learnt to expect messages from the unseen to have this form’. It need not be alarming that no less than 12 verses in the Qur’an refer to Muhammad being called demon-possessed, a magician, a poet bewitched or a fortune-teller in a trance,42 but it is significant that ‘ the strange conduct of Muhammad is not denied, but is given a spiritual explanation in the Koran (Masih, 1984: 44).
A different picture comes out when one changes the sequence of revelations. Maxime Rodinson e.g. did this by putting the calling of Muhammad as prophet right at the beginning. Rodinson’s reason for doing this is unclear, noting only that there is no basis for any chronological order. It would however be unfair to accuse Rodinson of a theological bias in this regard.
2.5.1. The function of angels in the Qur’an
Fazlur Rahman (1980: 80-105) states that the function of angels in the Qur’an is to give people courage (Surah 41: 30). This is similar to the role of angels in the Bible. ‘Indeed, God may also send Revelation (wahy) to angels themselves when they are sent to encourage believers in distress’, e.g. Surah 8: 12. Also Surah 58: 22 states that the Spirit strengthens the believers. Rahman (1980: 96) covers himself well by stating further ‘One should not think that the Spirit and the angels are wholly different. It is probable that the Spirit is the highest form of the angelic nature and the closest to God.’ With his argument Rahman would of course also defend Jibril against the argument that Jibril did not encourage like other angels. By equating the supernatural being with the Spirit, support and encouragement was thus indeed given. There is at least one occasion when Muhammad experienced upliftment, which would be completely in line with biblical appearances of angels. Narayan (1978: 31) described the occasion as follows: ‘One day, when he was in a fit of acute depression, the Angel Gabriel suddenly appeared before him. At sight of him a current of joy charged through the Prophet and left him trembling, not out of fear as on the first occasion, but out of ecstasy and fulfilment.’ Narayan was obviously referring to the occasion of the revelation of Surah 93 – which came through after about two years of silence in terms of fresh revelations.
The same Surah includes the tenet of divine correction by the angel, albeit not very clearly. Surah 93: 7 describes how Allah found Muhammad on the erring paths of paganism and havinghim to the true faith. We note that this is attributed to Allah and not to Jibril. For the Muslim this is no problem however, because Jibril is equated with the Holy Spirit anyway (see section 4.1). When Muhammad’s heart was filled with fear and unrest, when he was depressed, Allah lifted his burden and eased his heart. The element of divine correction occurred also after the revelation of the Satanic verses (see section 7.2). Bell rendered the Arabic word wahy that is normally translated with ‘revelation’ with suggestion. Watt (1970: 20f) points to some of the far reaching differences which now would occur. Thus it was merely ‘suggested’ to Muhammad that he should follow the religion of Abraham (Surah 16: 123f) and to the prophet it was ‘suggested’ that he should speak to the people in public.
2.5.2 The possible source of Muhammad’s revelations
Questions with regard to the source of the revelations are relevant. Siddiqui (1994: 63) went to quite some effort to show that ‘the source of the Holy Prophet’s revelation was other than his own mind’. Muhammad experienced ‘…intense suffering and purely physical pains at the time of an inspiration.’ Thus it is already some proof to him that ‘if the revelations of Muhammad (peace be upon him) had been his own fabrication, he would never have waited for three years when the revelation was suspended’. In similar vein Siddiqui (1994: 64) continued - highlighting how Muhammad had an intense longing for receiving new revelations during this period of waiting. ‘This clearly establishes that he did not speak of his accord.’ The question then is, what was the real source of his revelations? Macdonald (1909: 18) thought that it was ‘diabolic in nature’, meaning euphemistically that the revelations of Muhammad were demonic. As illustration Macdonald (1909: 18) gives the example of Hassan ibn Thabit, a close follower of Muhammad and a poet. Hassan was ‘initiated into poetry by a female Jinni. She met him in one of the streets of Medina, leapt upon him, pressed him down, and compelled him to utter three verses of poetry. Thereafter he was a poet and his verses came to him as to their Arab poets, from the direct inspiration of the Jinn. He … tells how weighty lines have been sent down to him from heaven in the night season. The curious thing is that the expressions he uses are exactly those used of the “sending down,” that is, revelation, of the Qur’an.’ Macdonald (1909: 45) naturally saw that as a basis, so that he had no doubts that Muhammad, after falling into ‘into absolute trance conditions in later life … was consciously manipulating his revelations to suit his purpose’. There is all evidence, as we shall see, that this is nowhere mere conjecture.
Similar phenomena than those which Muhammad received at his revelations, are not associated with biblical revelations, e.g. with John on the island of Patmos. (Of course, as we have seen, anguish and awe were present with Daniel, Mary and Zechariah). Of Muhammad it has furthermore been told and quoted that ‘At the moment of inspiration, anxiety pressed upon the Prophet, and his countenance was troubled. He fell to the ground like one intoxicated or overcome by sleep; and in the coldest day his forehead would be bedewed with large drops of perspiration’. Obadah-b-Swamet reported that when a revelation came unto the prophet, he used to become greatly perturbed and his face became changed.
Ali Halabi, in his Turkish work entitled ‘Insanu’l Uyun’, informs us that many people declared that Aminah, Muhammad’s mother, used a spell when he was a child, to cancel the influence of the evil eye. According to tradition it is stated that Muhammad said, ‘I fear lest I should become a magician, lest one should proclaim me a follower of the Jinn’. After shivering and shutting his eyes, there used to come over Muhammad what resembled a swoon, ‘his face [mouth?] would foam, and he would roar like a young camel’. In the same context Ali Halabi reports how ‘the prophet was exceedingly oppressed as often as the angel appeared…’ Abu Hurairah says: ‘As for the Apostle of God, when inspiration descended on him, no one could raise his glance to him until the inspiration came to an end’. Another tradition says: ‘When inspiration descended on the Apostle of God, there used to be heard near his face as it were the buzzing of bees’. Andrae notes that phenomena like ‘noises, sounds of bells and the extreme heat’ - the latter the cause of perspiration - have also been mentioned by other inspired persons (Andrae, 1936: 68). A witness to a séance noticed this resemblance: ‘anyone acquainted with occult phenomena has become aware of certain happenings that may be expected at a séance. Occult phenomena in childhood, daydreams, the hearing of voices and calls, nightly meditations, excessive perspiration during trance and the subsequent exhaustion and swoon like condition - even the ringing of bells, are not uncommon. The condition that looked like intoxication is revealing. Anyone in a deep trance has that look.’ The Dutch author Martie Dieperink, an expert on New Age Theology, in an article on channelling – the communication of spirits – points out how participation in spiritist séances at which spirits are called up, very often lead to depression. Sprenger (1851: 109) suggests a long history to the possibility of the supernatural being appearing to Muhammad to have been demonic: ‘The story that Khadija went to the Monk Addas, who gave her a book from which she might learn whether the visitant was an Angel or a Devil, is evidently fiction, and does not appear to exist in any early authority.’
2.5.3 Testing of the supernatural being
According to oral tradition Khadijah requested Muhammad to tell her when he saw Jibril. On occasion, when he did this, she told him to sit on her left lap. (The left side in Oriental thinking is linked to unclean things). The influence of Mani - where the lower half of the body is regarded as sinful - possibly filtered through in this ‘test’. When Muhammad could still see the supernatural being, he was asked to change to the right lap. While the angel was still visible, Khadijah threw off her cloak. Hereafter Jibril disappeared. This was to her the ‘proof’ that Jibril was indeed an angel and not Satan, ‘realising that an angel would not stay in a room where a man and his wife were in a closely intimate position’ (Salahi, 1998: 69). It is positive that Islamic History writes in such a natural way about sexual matters.
Another hadith (Ishaq, 1978: 154) is more explicit about the same incident: “I told Abdullah b.Hasan this story and he said, ‘I heard my mother Fatima, daughter of Husayn, talking about this tradition from Khadija, but as I heard it she made the apostle of God come inside her shift, and thereupon Gabriel departed, and she said to the apostle of God, “This verily is an angel and not a Satan”. This version corroborates Armstrong’s view (and others) regarding Muhammad and Islam’s positive attitude towards sexuality. It is significant that also Haykal (1976: 73-75), a prominent Muslim historian, highlighted that Muhammad initially believed that the supernatural manifestations were demonic. He ‘…intimated to his wife Khadija, the fear that he might even be possessed by an evil spirit…Stricken with panic, Muhammad arose and asked himself, “What did I see? Did possession of the devil which I feared all along came to pass?’ Casting a glance towards his wife ‘a man in need of rescue…he told her of his experience and intimated to her his fear that his mind had finally betrayed him, and that he was becoming a seer or a man possessed.’
2.5.4. Occult involvement of Muhammad in the Qur’an
The Qur’an itself intimates an occult involvement of Muhammad in two Surah’s (46: 28-31; 72: 1-15). He had first more or less fled from Mecca for Ta’if where he hoped to get some help. After a major disappointment he returned to Mecca. When he reached Nakhla, about a days journey from Mecca, he rose to pray when ‘a number of jinn passed by’ (Ishaq, 1978: 193). All Muslim scholars in the context of their exposition of the verses mentioned, say that Jibril told this to Muhammad. The jinn (spirits) were invisible to the eyes of the prophet. As Muhammad was praying the morning prayer and reading the Qur’an beside a palm tree near Mecca, a party of Jinn heard him. When they returned to their own people, they told them, “We have heard eloquent, well-styled words, and we have to repent and believe and never worship Satan again or be subservient to him” (Cited by Behind the Veil, p. 264). Both Surah’s indicate that Muhammad probably did not communicate with real angels of God, but with other spirits. Ibn Ishaq, the famous biographer indicated some reserve ‘if not scepticism’ (Guillaume in his introduction to the biography, 1978: xix).
The seven jinn of Nasibin with whom Muhammad communicated were possibly not divine. It was ‘revealed’ to him that a number of jinn listened: ‘Say, O Muhammad, it is revealed unto me that a company of the Jinn gave ear and they said, “Lo, it is a marvellous Qur’an.”‘ (Surah 72: 1). This speaks of spiritism – even if one would accept that some of the spirits were not evil. Bukhari, the meticulous ahadith compiler, saw it differently. According to Behind the Veil (p. 264) he ‘assures us that they were demons who listened to the Qur’an being recited by Muhammad during the dawn prayer while he was on his way to Suq ‘Ukadh.’ Muhammad Ali (The religion of Islam, p. 193) tries to rationalise the matter in the opposite direction, by suggesting that the seven jinn were actually seven Jews because ‘the injunctions contained in the Holy Qur’an are meant for men’. This does make sense when one looks at Surah 46: 29f ‘And when We turned towards you a party of the jinn who listened to the Quran; so when they came to it, they said: Be silent; then when it was finished, they turned back to their people warning (them). They said, “O our people! We have heard a Book revealed after Moses, confirming what came before it: it guides (men) to the Truth and to a Straight Path.’ To return to ‘our people’, who have heard ‘a Book revealed after Moses’ does conjure up the image of Jews. Ali (ibid p.194) furthermore tries to correct a common prejudice within Islam: ‘The Holy Qur’an and the Hadith do not speak of the jinn and they exist in the popular imagination, interfering in human affairs or controlling the forces of nature.’
That the style of the initial revelations of Muhammad is so close to 'Old testament' prophecies is typical of how Satan tries to enslave his victims. Satan also tried emulation with Jesus, even using Scripture out of context (Matthew 4: 1-11). Paul aptly states that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11: 14, See also Appendix 1). After carefully investigating Muhammad’s life, Arnold (1859: 70) opines that Muhammad ‘commenced his career with honest intentions’, noting furthermore that ‘though Satan contrived to delude him, it still remains to be proved that he was from the beginning a desperately wicked impostor.’ Accepting that ‘a man may be in error, and yet be sincere’, Arnold finally cannot resist his conviction that ‘the assumption of satanic influence can alone solve the mystery which envelops the origin of this fearful “delusion.”‘ If Satan ‘took the form of the angel Gabriel, we may account not only for the mysterious origin of Islam and its potent spell among the nations of the world, but also for the otherwise inexplicable contradictions in the character of the mistaken prophet. If ever, it has in this instance been fulfilled that “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (Arnold, 1859: 71f). The latter scriptural quotation was taken from 2 Thessalonians 2:11.
2.5.5. Muhammad demonically possessed?
The Qur’an itself attests quite emphatically that Muhammad was accused of being (demonically) possessed. Arnold (1876: 49) suggests that this was revealed after Muhammad had openly proclaimed himself a prophet, when he had to consider that he was possibly possessed by the devil. 43 The accusation occurs no less than 11 times in the Qur’an. Muhammad’s defence is not very impressive, merely stating that he was not ‘seized with madness’, he was but a warner (Surah 7: 184); he was not demon-possessed, e.g. Surah 81: 22,25 ‘And (O people!) Your companion is not possessed... nor is it the word of an evil spirit accursed’. Not surprisingly, Yusuf Ali deems it necessary to comment: ‘After describing the credentials of the Archangel Jibril - of no archangel in the Bible this is done - the Text now appeals to the people to consider their own companion, the Prophet.’44 Adelgunde Mertensacker is so sure about the source of the being(s), which guided Muhammad, that she called her booklet Geführt von Daemonen - Muhammed im Urteil seiner Zeitgenossen.45 She suggests however in a rather unsubstantiated way that the Arabic leader opened himself to his demon ‘mit freiem Willen’ (Mertensacker, 1993: 44), i.e. voluntarily. Before her, G.J.O. Moshay was even more brazen and brave, publishing similar findings in the Muslim city of Ibadan, Nigeria in July, 1990 in a well-researched popular work. This was very daring, published only a few years after Ayatollah Khomeini gave Salman Rushdie a ‘death sentence’ for saying things not essentially different.46 Being a serious little work, Moshay’s booklet shook the Islamic world.47 The way in which Bahira looked for the mysterious sign on Muhammad’s body, does not seem to have been voluntarily from the side of the young boy. But Mertensacker is not alone in her view. The profound scholar, J.M. Arnold, noted in similar vein how Muhammad ‘expressed misgivings as to the nature of the demon which inspired him’ (1876: 47) and that Waraqah ‘removed suspicion that his attacks were caused by a satanic agency.’ Somewhat more circumspect than Mertensacker, but nevertheless coming to the same conclusion, Al-Masih (1984: 68) says: ‘The more truth is interwoven in a lie, the more effective it is. The Koran is a masterwork of Satan, an ingenious mixture of truth and lies that binds all its beliefs in a dangerous imitation of the truth.’ Gilchrist initially gives Muhammad the benefit of the doubt, choosing a middle way, settling for occult influence. He suggests that the content of the revelations would have to show the origins of the supernatural revelations. The spurious nature of the revelations in the Medinan Surah’s indeed give more substance to the assertion of Mertensacker and Arnold. Even more damning is that Abu Talib, who had protected his ward Muhammad throughout his life ‘considered his visions to be the effect of satanic inspiration’ (Arnold, 1876: 51). Was this possibly ultimately a part of the reason for his refusal to embrace Islam? Siddiqui is one of the rare Muslim scholars who tried to refute the possibility of demonic influence, e.g. referring to Muir’s suggestion (1894: 90) that the ‘supernatural influence … may have proceeded from the “Evil one” and his emissaries’. Siddiqui’s retort (1994: 86ff) is not convincing at all, more or less only using the Qur’anic repudiation that the prophet is not a poet, soothsayer or demon-possessed. Similarly, to simply quote the Qur’an (7: 183) ‘He is but a plain warner’ as reply to the accusation that he was under the influence of evil spirits, is definitely not a strong argument. And even so, one wonders why Siddiqui (p. 88) thinks that a poet cannot be a prophet.
2.6. Parallels to Divine biblical interventions
Muhammad saw his own childhood as a parallel to biblical occurrences. He recalled the similarity with the prophets. Moses had attended flocks of goats and this was also the case with David. ‘Now I have been commissioned to this office, and I also tended the goats and sheep of my family…’ Another parallel is that Jibril who appeared to Muhammad, repeated the harsh treatment with the cloth thrice. The vision of the sheet with unclean animals also challenged Peter three times (Acts 10: 9ff), as did the divine voice, which spoke to Samuel calling him into Yahweh’s service 1 Samuel 1). In the light of the Daniel narrative Muhammad’s cave experience looks very much like another imitation. Furthermore, Muhammad reported that Jibril would visit him, telling him things ‘as though one man was speaking to another’ (Andrae, 1936: 66). One is reminded of how God would ‘speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks to a friend’ (Exodus 33: 11, Numbers 12: 8). With regard to the manner of revelation, Fazlur Rahman (1989: 97) contrastingly refers to ‘the categorical Qur’anic denial that God may speak directly to a human.’ He regards those Hadith as ‘later fictions’, which depict Jibril ‘as a public figure conversing with the Prophet’. The Bible describes the direct audible speaking of the Almighty to biblical figures - in some cases those surrounding the person concerned also heard it, like the voice referring to Jesus as his beloved son (cf. 1 Peter 1: 18). Rahman’s view would be an indication that Allah of the Qur’an is not identical to Yahweh in the Bible.
2.6.1. A prophet like Moses or Balaam
Muslim theologians have been suggesting that Muhammad was a prophet like Moses, promised in Deut. 18: 15,18. A closer look at the context of the latter verse in the Bible makes it clear that Muhammad could never have been meant.48 Yet, the circumstances surrounding the call of Muhammad, who had been going to a cave on Mount Hira regularly for prayer and meditation - following the pattern of the monks and hermits, possibly have their origins in the biblical examples of Moses and Jesus.
According to an (auto) biographical narrative, a certain revelation came through when ‘the Apostle of Allah ...was riding upon a camel. The animal groaned, and its legs slipped sideways, so that I expected it to collapse under the weight of the revelation.’(cited in Andrae, 1936: 68f). Muir (1861: 87) probably referred to the same hadith when he wrote ‘…Even his she-camel, if Mahomet chanced to become inspired while he rode upon her, would become affected by a wild excitement, sitting down and rising up, now planting her legs rigidly, then throwing them about as if they would be parted from her’. Another tradition was passed on how Abu Jahl, the Prophet’s prime enemy in Mecca, saw a huge camel when he was about to assassinate Muhammad while he was prostrating himself in prayer. The belief was that the animal was Jibril changed into a camel, which drove fear into the would-be assassin. ‘I was told that the apostle said, “That was Jibril. If he had come near, he would have seized him.” There is a parallel with an animal in the Bible where the prophet Balaam was disobedient (Numbers 19-22): ‘God was very angry when he went’. The ass, on which Balaam rode, refused to move when he was stopped by the angel of the Lord, who was standing in the road with a sword in his hand. Interesting in this context is that the Samaritan Pentateuch substituted ‘the angel of the Lord’ for God in Numbers 23: 4. Supernatural intervention was also suspected during the umra, a pilgrimage undertaken outside the season by Muhammad and his party. Just outside Hudeibiya Qaswa, the Prophet’s camel, fell to her knees and refused to get up! ‘The Prophet told them (the party) that it was divine will that they should halt there’ (Narayan, 1978: 100). The people regarded it an unsuitable place to stop due to lack of water, but the tradition has it that the Prophet dug out some earth at a dry well, from which water promptly gushed.
2.6.2 Initial insignificance
Tritton (1968: 15) suggests ‘the method of revelation’ as another sort of imitation. The narrative of how Bahira discovered ‘the seal of prophethood’ between Muhammad’s shoulders,49 almost sounds like the story of David, where the young lad was only called in after the old prophet Samuel had turned down the other sons of Jesse, to be anointed as the possible future king of Israel. However, this Biblical story or its equivalent is not found in the Qur’an. The orphan Muhammad indeed displayed similar traits to the biblical figures like Joseph, Moses, Gideon, David and Jesus. All of them came from initial insignificance. We note for instance how Saul was physically a head taller than his peers, but the Bible emphasizes not only that he came from the smallest tribe Benjamin and the smallest clan within the tribe (1 Samuel 9: 21), but that Saul suffered from an inferiority complex, hiding himself among the baggage when he was about to be crowned as king (1 Samuel 10: 22). Likewise Gideon was addressed as a mighty warrior by an angel (Judges 6: 12), but reacted with questions. And even he is encouraged to ‘go in the strength you have and save Israel…’ Gideon appears to be unimpressed by the divine faith in him. ‘My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’ Quite a few ‘tests’ to establish whether his supernatural visitor was indeed God and then whether he was the man God wanted to use. He first wanted to make doubly sure, using his famous fleece. Only then Gideon got into action. Islamic tradition does not seem to have picked up this tenet. By contrast, Islam takes pains to stress that Muhammad came from a family of very high rank. ‘When Allah wishes to select a prophet He chooses first the best tribe, and then the best man’ (Andrae, 1936: 42).50 Muhammad himself stressed his pedigree: ‘The Arabs are the best of nations, the Qoraysites are the noblest among all tribes, and his was the most distinguished among the Qoraysite families’ (Sprenger, 1851: 151). A hadith mentioned that ‘Allah selected Ishmael…and he has selected the banu Kina’nah from among the Ishmaelites…from among the Qoraysites … from among the Hashimites…and he has selected me from among the Hashimites.’ (Sprenger, 1851: 151). Waraqah was spot on with his image of the biblical prophet when he warned Muhammad that he would be persecuted as a prophet for spreading monotheism. The Arabian prophet’s rejection in Mecca because of his message against polytheism and idolatry – typical of true ‘OT’ prophets – features prominently in all biographies.
2.6.3. Two diabolic imitations
A very striking imitation is the cave experience of Muhammad - compared to that of Elijah mentioned in 1 King 19. Even though it does not seem historically well documented, I take the conclusion of Abd Al Masih (1984: 43), a Western scholar with an Arabic pseudonym, quite seriously that Muhammad ‘ran panic-stricken into the desert, hid himself in a cave and meditated over the question: What can I do…when Allah comes and demand an exact account of my life?’ This appears consistent with other reports of the prophet. According to Abd Al Masih, this was the aftermath of Muhammad listening to the preaching of Christian evangelists and the prelude to the first Qur’anic revelation. Not only does the possible slight conjecture fit perfectly into the other narratives about the prophet that are recorded in Islamic history, but one also finds the suppression of truth as a typical diabolical tenet. Unfortunately Al-Masih does not supply the source of the conjecture that ‘some Orientalists believe’ that Christian evangelists from South Yemen preached in the inner court of the Ka’ba. If we add to this experience the one where Muhammad spoke to jinn (spirits) after the rejection of his message in both Mecca and Ta’if (Surah 72: 1-15), the parallels are clear. It becomes problematic when Muhammad thought that ‘thenceforward, he declared himself sent for the conversion of these genii as well as of the human race’ (Irving, 1850: 109). Elijah ‘ran for his life’ into the desert, after he got the message of Jezebel that she was bent on killing him as she did with the other prophets. He was completely depressed, wanting God to take his life. Under the broom tree he fell asleep, after which the angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said “Get up and eat for the journey is too much for you”‘ (verse 7). After travelling ‘for fourty days and fourty nights’ Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of God where he went into a cave to spend the night (verse 9). In typical fashion he is encouraged by the (angel of) the Lord, when he was so depressed. Significantly, God came to Elijah not in the mighty wind, neither in the earthquake nor the fire but via a gentle whisper. Hereafter he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Listening to his depressed complaint of self-pity for a second time - when he thought that he was the only person who has not bowed down to Baal - God charges him to anoint a king and his successor Elisha. God also reassures him that there were still ‘seven thousand in Israel – all those who have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him’ (verse 18).
Then there was the temptation of Jesus in the desert after his baptism and fourty days and fourty nights of praying and fasting (Matthew 4: 1-11). He apparently heard voices, which he discerned as demonic - distortions of the Torah. Thrice the archenemy came with temptations, suggesting that Jesus should use his power to change stones into bread and also asked the Lord Jesus to prove his Sonship by throwing himself down from the temple. Muhammad did not discern the voice after the third invitation to recite as distortion of Genesis 2: 7. Jesus resisted the temptation to become great or rich. Instead, he chose the way of the cross. Muhammad succumbed to the temptation of power, not refraining from violence to achieve it. Furthermore Jesus encountered demons several times. In fact, they were afraid of him, e.g. in Mark 1:21-27 ‘What have we to do with you Jesus of Nazareth? …I know who You are – the Holy One of God!” Simultaneously this speaks of Jesus’ divinity. The term ‘Holy One of God’ cannot be understood otherwise.
2.6.4. Jibril and the birth of Jesus
The image of God breathing into his nostrils has a link to ru(a)ch (Spirit), a notion which the Qur’an otherwise emphasises: Allah created Jesus - just like Adam (Surah 3: 59), and breathed into the bird of clay which Jesus made as a child, and bringing it to life. Jibril comes to Mary in an Islamic legend, which resembles the biblical annunciation of Luke 1, without however using the words ‘Son of God’ or ‘Son of the Most High.’ ‘Your son will be proof of the power of God and bring back the backslidden sons of Israel, as prophet of the Lord, to the right path’ (cited in Weil, 1853: 193). After saying this, Jibril touched the cloth of her bosom and breathed on Mary. She had barely leaned against a palm tree, when the birth of a son took place. This corresponds with Surah 19: 23, but is of course in contrast to Luke 2 where Mary gives birth in Bethlehem. Jibril thus 'impregnated' her, following it up the words “Fear not, Maria. Look, the Lord lets a fountain with sweet water develop from your feet.” This conjures up the legend whereby the Zamzam fountain sprung up in the desert with Hagar (Weil, 1853: 193). The Islamic tradition around Hagar (Hajira) is quite close to the Biblical narrative. The desert where she wandered becomes the surroundings of Mecca, where her son was likewise on the point of death. The angel, identified as Jibril, however does not speak to her, calling her to lift him up as in Genesis 21: 18. Instead, Jibril struck the ground with his foot, so that water began to trickle upwards. This is regarded in Islamic tradition as the origin of the Zamzam fountain. Tisdall pointed to the influence of apocryphal works: ‘it is clear from the Qur’an (as we shall see) that, whether in written form or not, many of the mythical stories which are contained in the apocryphal Gospels and other similar works, together with certain heretical views on various subjects, must have reached Muhammad and have been accepted by him as true. That he should have believed these to form part of the Gospel, the name or which is so often mentioned in the Qur’an, is somewhat surprising: and the fact proves that none of his converts were earnest and well-taught Christians, and also that he must have felt far less interest in Christianity than he did in Talmudic Judaism.’ (Tisdall, ??)
2.7. The Prophet as a warner and messenger of justice
‘The word of God came to …’ is the typical formulation in the calling of prophets in the 'Old Testament' (Jeremiah 1: 1-8; Ezekiel 1: 1-3; Jona 1: 1,2; Micha 1: 1; Haggai 1: 1Zephaniah 1: 1; Zechariah 1: 1), as well as with John the Baptist (Luke 3: 2). Even though these words are notably absent in Muhammad’s call, this would not necessarily disqualify him as a prophet in the biblical mould. The heart of Muhammad’s prophetic message is very close to that of the 'OT' biblical prophets. From childhood he hated idolatry. He is reported to have said: ‘Since my birth I have developed a sense of deep hatred and enmity towards the idols and a dislike for (obscene) poetry’ (Siddiqui, 1994: 61). In the midst of a light-headed and thoughtless generation he alone – just like Noah and the prophets - saw ‘the fateful event which awaits all of those who are now jesting and laughing so carelessly’ (Andrae, 1936: 7 1). The preaching of sullen Syrian monks who warned believers against laughing and joking, evidently influenced Muhammad. Very tragic is the negative asceticism that Muhammad inherited from the Syrian churches. Here he found ‘world-negating piety, the same fear of judgment and eternity. The Syrian monks thought the ability to weep was proof of an exceptionally high degree of piety (Andrae, 1936: 116). It is tragic that the concocted teaching and example appear to have made Muhammad miss the joy of a personal relationship in Christ and the perfect love, which drives out fear (1 John 4: 18). Muhammad is reported to have told Abu Hurejra, one of his followers: ‘do not laugh too much because too much laughter kills the heart’ (cited by Goldziher, 1925: 19, from ahadith of Ibn Sa’d). Muhammad probably never heard that death and the grave have lost their sting because of Christ’s atoning death on the cross and his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15: 55).51 But he is surmised to have run away from the message of Christian evangelists from South Yemen, who came to Mecca in the month of pilgrimage and ‘held discourse in the inner court of the Kaaba’ (Abd Al-Masih, 1984: 43). Shocked by the message that ‘Allah is coming for judgement’, Abd Masih surmises that ‘Muhammad did not wait to listen to the continuation of these messages in which the grace of God in Christ would probable have been presented as a second step.’ The source is not mentioned from which Abd Masih quoted that Muhammad headed panic-stricken for the cave on Mount Hira. There Jibril came to him for the first revelation after he is said to have cried out almost like the jailer of Philippi (Acts 16): ‘What can I do, I, the merchant from Mecca, when Allah comes and demands an exact account of my life?’ (Abd Al-Masih, 1984: 43).
Very close to the message of judgment, the exhortation for economic justice was quite prominent in Muhammad’s preaching. He stressed that it is wrong to stockpile wealth to build a fortune, but good to give alms and distribute the wealth of society; that Allah hated injustice and exploitation. This part of Jibril’s revelations was completely in line with the teaching of Jesus and the 'OT' prophets. This was also an extension of Talmudic teaching. As Unterman (1971: 24) put it succinctly: ‘Truth, justice and equity – wasn’t this what Moses demanded and the Talmud preached? The fine attitude to the weak and to the oppressed has it primary source in human Judaism and in Jewish humanism.’ The same author noted in respect of the expectation of the return of the Messiah how the Jews used the practice of justice as a litmus test: ‘... so long as man rules over man, the stronger over the weaker, the rich over the poor, the Messiah cannot have arrived (Unterman, 1971: 27). Fear of the Day of Judgement and of the great reckoning became the dominant motive for good works in the Middle East. The Oriental churches provided the example for the Qur’an with almsgiving, as well as care for prisoners and wayfarers. ‘Hospitality to travelling brothers was a precious obligation for the Syrian monks… Here, too, we find the origin of the commercial expressions, which characterize Mohammed’s religious vocabulary. Alms wipe out sins and bestow upon the giver “a profitable reward in the next world” (Andrae, 1936: 119).
2.7.1. Warning of the coming judgement
When Muhammad set out with his radical preaching against individual aggrandisement in this regard, he practised what he preached - harvesting chagrin from the wealthy and influential people of Mecca. Muhammad sensed a special inspiration to warn the people of Mecca of the coming judgement. Andrae (1936: 119) noted how Muhammad not only took over the ideas of the Syrian Christians, ‘but also in expression, form and style of preaching.’ In Muhammad’s vision a horrible natural catastrophe such as a thunderclap, a cry or a crash will usher in the judgement. It sounds almost biblical when he expected that it would come simultaneously with a trumpet sound, which will call men before the Judge.52 A terrific earthquake will shake the earth. It reads like the Revelation of John that ‘the sky will bring forth a kind of smoke plainly visible’ (Surah 44: 10) and molten brass will be hurled down upon men, plus exposure to other torture (Surah 55: 35ff). The vision of Muhammad sounds almost like a combination of the prophecies of the end days given by the Lord Jesus and the apostles John and Paul. Andrae summarised Muhammad’s view: ‘at the first sound of the trumpet all living men, except a few of the very elect, will fall stunned to the ground. At the second sound of the trumpet all will arise, and the dead will emerge from their graves. The resurrection will occur in the twinkling of an eye. Quickly, “as in a race,” the dead will leave their graves. Behind the heavens, which have fallen down or have been rolled back, the throne of Allah will appear…all men will gather before the throne. The good will be placed on the right and the wicked on the left. Amid oppressive silence the trial will begin, and will be based upon the notes, which are written in the Book of Deeds. In addition to the words of the Book, the bodily members of the sinners, their hand, their feet and their tongues will testify against them…’ The Islamic material deviates from the biblical framework when after judgment has been passed, angels will come who are to execute punishment. They will seize the sinner, bind him with chains, and drag him away amidst scourges and blows. The hadith and the Qur’an go much further than biblical reports when one reads how the angels continue to torture the unfortunate ones in hell, forcing them to drink boiling water, crush their limbs with iron clubs and clothe them in garments of fire. Yet, we should keep in mind that this medieval-background torture ‘does not even approach the frightfulness of some of the Christian and Buddhist descriptions of the tortures of hell’ (Andrae, 1936: 76).
2.7.2 Lure of paradise
The fear of judgement is balanced by the lure of paradise. Andrae (1936: 120) points out how Muhammad was actually emulating Afrem, a famous Nestorian preacher: ‘…the Koran’s description of Paradise were inspired by the ideas of this Christian Syrian preacher.’ Thus it was passed on what he preached: ‘Whoever has abstained from wine on earth, for him do the vines of Paradise yearn.’ Afrem taught that sexual pleasures will be freely available for the men who lived in chastity. However, Afrem did mention that his pictures were merely a feeble attempt to give some idea of a joy, which no earthly mind is able to grasp. But very few of his listeners understood his spiritualising of sensual images. Muhammad for one got stuck in the literal understanding. Thus his mind became ‘clogged and debased by the sensualities of earth’ (Irving, 1851: 78).
Following Afrem’s vivid descriptions, the Qur’an also describes Paradise as a lovely place, where leafy trees provide shade. ‘And those who are blessed shall be in the Garden: They will dwell therein for all the time that the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord willeth: a gift without break’ (Surah 11: 108). To the desert folk of Arabia luscious fruit and palm trees, which lower their fruit to those who wish to pluck it, must have been extremely attractive. The Qur’anic revelations dangled the vision of a paradise when youths - handsome as pearls - walk about serving a delicious drink that does not lead men into speaking foolishly. For entertainment and in marriage they receive chaste virgins in paradise who were specially created by Allah. The verses referring to Paradise are close to the biblical description or ecclesiastical notions of the time. They are all found in Meccan Surah’s. The verse 9: 72 is typical – the topics mentioned are luring and appealing to the senses: ‘Allah has promised to the believing men and the believing women gardens, beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them, and goodly dwellings in gardens of perpetual abode; Significantly, this verse closes with ‘and best of all is Allah’s goodly pleasure; that is the grand achievement’ (Shakir translation). ‘No fatigue’ in Paradise sounds almost like the new Jerusalem of the Revelations of John, the biblical apostle. Surah 35: 34,35 says ‘And they will say: “Praise be to Allah, Who has removed from us (all) sorrow: for our Lord is indeed oft-Forgiving, ready to appreciate (service)’.
2.7.3 An abode of peace and pleasure
One of the most striking differences between the Qur’an and ahadith is possibly how there is an emphasis on peace in so many Meccan Surah’s, e.g. (This will be) their cry therein: “Glory to Thee, O Allah!” And “Peace” will be their greeting therein! and the close of their cry will be: “Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds!” In fact, paradise itself is called dar al-Salaam, i.e. the abode of peace (10:25). The greeting of peace along with tranquillity resounds in the following verses: 10: 9,10; 14: 23; 15: 46; 36: 57,58; 50: 34,35; 56: 25,26. The hijrah to Medina was going to change all this when jihad became more prominent, a major attraction as an invitation to get direct entry into paradise. Significantly, the jihad Surah 9 includes verse like the one above (aya 72) and 111 which speak of the lure of paradise in peace and leisure.
Various ahadith attempt to make the Islamic paradise very attractive by appealing to the sensuality of men. Muhammad ‘Ali Abu al-’Abbas (a contemporary Muslim scholar) wrote a book The Women of the People of Paradise; their Classifications, and Beauty, which was published as recently as 1987. The author encourages young men to be practicing Muslims in order to acquire all the available women in paradise, plus food, drinks, and clothes. Behind the Veil cites him (p.33): ‘We pray to God that He may grant us the pleasure of virgin women of paradise because the virgin has a sweeter mouth, and is more desirable in bed, than the deflowered woman.’ Behind the Veil, p. 281 quotes Qurtubi in his book al-Tadhkira (p.41) ‘that Muhammad, the apostle of God, said: “Every man of the people of paradise is given the power of a hundred men for eating, drinking, intercourse and sexual desire.”
The shift of Muhammad’s life-style to polygamy in Mecca also led to a perception amongst his followers of a shift to a sensual emphasis. Probably intended as a political move, it turned bizarre when Jibril revealed in the Medinan Surah’s that entry into paradise can be achieved through participation in jihad (holy war), including killing ‘infidels’ and forcefully subduing Christians and Jews to poll tax. If one should die in the cause of jihad for the expansion of Islam, Jibril promised direct entry to paradise. Muhammad Ali (Religion of Islam, p. 299) suggests that the real picture of Paradise in the Qur’an ‘strikes at the very root of sensual pleasures.’ He explains that hur (virgine) means ‘pure one’. We keep in mind that the teaching of Jesus that in the hereafter men will not marry and beget children, will not have been known to Muhammad’s followers. How would they have interpreted the following? ‘They will recline (with ease) on Thrones (of dignity) arranged in ranks; and We shall join them to Companions, with beautiful big and lustrous eyes’ (Surah 52:20, similar 44:54).
Knowing that dying as a martyr is the only sure way of entering paradise in Islam, the following saying of Muhammad becomes doubly attractive for young men: ‘The martyr will be married to seventy-two wives of the houris (virgins). He has the right to intercede for seventy of his relatives’ (quoted in Behind the Veil, p. 280).
2.7.4 The Day of Resurrection The’Day of Resurrection’ and ‘Day of Judgment’ are the most commonly terms used in the Qur’an for the eschatological ‘Last Day.’ Other terms are ‘Day of Standing up (Surah 2: 79); ‘Day of Separation’(Surah 77: 14), ‘Day of Reckoning’(Surah 40: 28), ‘Day of Awakening (Surah 30: 56), ‘The Encompassing Day’ (Surah 11: 85), ‘The Hour’ (Surah 8: 186). There are graphic descriptions in five of the poetical Surahs that belong to the early period in Muhammad’s mission, viz Surah 75, 81: 1-19; 82; 83: 4-20 and 84: 1-19. There is remarkable concurrence with biblical material, but also some completely different ones like the sun rising in the West. As to the length of the ‘Day of Judgment’ there is no clarity. Surah 32: 5 speaks of a thousand years but Surah 70: 4 mentions fifty thousand years. Interesting for our theme is especially that the time of this awesome day is a perfect secret to all but God alone. Jibril himself acknowledged his ignorance on this point when Muhammad asked him about it (Hughes, 1885: 539). Striking in the Islamic understanding of the Day of Resurrection is the three trumpet blasts performed by Israfil, the angel of death. In legendary material information is revealed to Solomon about this special day. At the second blast - that of examination - all creatures and even the angels will die. After forty years Israfil - together with Jibril and Michael - is called back to life when he gives the third blast, which call all the dead to life, standing on the rock of the temple of Jerusalem. Israfil will then go with Jibril to the grave of Muhammad where the prophet will be called to life. Jibril will then greet him and show him the winged horse Buraq, which God had sent from paradise. Jibril will then be telling: ‘Come to your and my Lord, you the elected of all creatures…the houries await you with great longing.’ Then Jibril will put him on Buraq, give him the heavenly banner in the hand, put a crown on his head and lead him to paradise. Only thereafter the other people will be called back into life (Weil, 1853: 187).
2.7.5 Signs of the Judgement day
Among many hadith related to signs of day of judgement, one of the most famous hadith is Hadith of Gabriel. A narration attributed to Abu Hurairah reports the following:
'One day while the Prophet (PBUH) was sitting in the company of some people, (The angel) Gabriel came and asked, "What is faith?" Allah's Apostle (PBUH) replied, 'Faith is to believe in Allah, His angels, (the) meeting with Him, His Apostles, and to believe in Resurrection." Then he further asked, "What is Islam?" Allah's Apostle (PBUH) replied, "To worship Allah Alone and none else, to offer prayers perfectly to pay the compulsory charity (Zakat) and to observe fasts during the month of Ramadan." Then he further asked, "What is Ihsan (perfection)?" Allah's Apostle (PBUH) replied, "To worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you cannot achieve this state of devotion then you must consider that He is looking at you." Then he further asked, "When will the Hour be established?" Allah's Apostle replied, "The answerer has no better knowledge than the questioner. But I will inform you about its portents.
1.When a slave (lady) gives birth to her master.
2.When the shepherds of black camels start boasting and competing with others in the construction of higher buildings. And the Hour is one of five things which nobody knows except Allah.
The Prophet (PBUH) then recited: "Verily, with Allah (Alone) is the knowledge of the Hour--." (31. 34) Then that man (Gabriel) left and the Prophet (PBUH) asked his companions to call him back, but they could not see him. Then the Prophet (PBUH) said, "That was Gabriel who came to teach the people their religion." Abu 'Abdullah said: He (the Prophet)(PBUH) considered all that as a part of faith. Sahih Bukhari 1:2:47

2.8 Muhammad rejected because of his message
That Muhammad was rejected in the late Meccan part of the Prophet’s life as a result of his ministry, has the stamp of a genuine warner. This could have helped to qualify him to be a prophet to the Arab people in the biblical mould. Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea and so many others, had been carrying the message of warning against all sorts of idolatry as a heavy burden. Rahman (1989: 85) highlights the contrast between Muhammad’s introverted, shy and withdrawn personality and the ‘sudden volcanic outbursts…’ of the early Surahs. The ‘actual situation was so distressing and prospects of success so problematic that if a dilemma had real horns, this surely was one’. The commitment after the further call by what he perceived as Jibril, was complete, viz. to ‘proclaim that which thou art commanded and withdraw from the idolaters’. This was a real burden to Muhammad: ‘We are going to put upon your shoulders a heavy call’ (Surah 73: 5), which replaced the ‘burden which was breaking your back’ (Surah 94: 2-3). Nor was it easy to have answers for all the ‘…scoffers who associate other gods with Allah’ (Surah 15: 95), whatever he understood under that. This is definitely comparable to e.g. Ezekiel who was sent to ‘a rebellious house’ (2:8), who had to digest the scroll on which were written on both sides ‘words of lament and mourning and woe’ (2: 9) or to Jeremiah to whom a whole book of Lamentations is ascribed. The Spirit of Ezekiel 2, very much resembles the ‘Angel’ or ‘Spirit’ of Revelation of Islamic Theology, which of course is regarded to be Jibril.53 The Meccans were not keen to hear warnings against idolatry, which threatened the economy of the state city. The pilgrimage and the related tourism had been filling their pockets. Scorn and mock was all that Muhammad harvested from the rank and file population. In the mould of Ezekiel (e.g. 3:18 if ‘you do not warn him or speak to dissuade him from his evil ways… and he does not turn from his wicked ways…you will have saved yourself’) Muhammad continued determinedly, following the Qur’anic injunction: ‘…And if they disobey thee, say: verily I am innocent of what they do’ (Surah 26: 24). Muslim Qur’an commentators have been making a distinction between a nabi (prophet) and a rasul (messenger). The former is said to be a divine envoy, who was no agent for a law (shari’a) and presumably without a revealed book. The rasul depicts someone who brought a law and a revealed book.54 We note that nabi in the Qur’an does not mean one who gives news about the future (as the biblical prophets do as well), but one who gives news from God in general, to warn against evil and to give good tidings to those who are ethically and morally ‘good’ (Rahman, 1989: 81f). Hence the terms ‘warner’ and ‘giver of good tidings’ appear frequently in the Qur’an, especially in the earlier period. Much less of all this was ‘revealed’ to the autocratic Medinan statesman.55
2.8.1 What caused Muhammad's moral ‘slide’ The question arises where it went wrong in his life-style. Various possibilities can be offered for the discrepancy - the moral ‘slide’ (in Western terms) of Muhammad. The compromise with the ‘Satanic Verses’ could be a possible explanation. I regard the death of Khadijah and Abu Talib, the two stabilising personalities in his life – in quick succession – as a better explanation. The two reasons might even complement each other. It is nevertheless evident that the shrewd Medinan statesman Muhammad was a completely different personality to the warning prophet of Mecca before 619 CE. Mark Gabriel (2002: 69f) highlights the stark difference with regard to Muhammad’s way of winning converts, his life-style, his marriages and the target of his attacks. At the time of the Meccan revelations Muhammad was living a morally exemplary life – compared to the Medinan period - where his wife Ayesha was quite critical how Jibril would always oblige to justify his polygamous life-style. Late Meccan Sura’s still display remarkable similarity with biblical material. The hijrah was clearly the watershed event that brought about so many changes in his life-style.
2.9. A Book revealed to the ‘unlettered prophet’
Surah 7: 157, 158 is usually seen by Muslims as the proof that Jibril brought down the Qur’an as a special scripture for the Arab people: ‘Those who follow the Apostle, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own Scriptures, in the Law and the Gospel… so believe in Allah and his Apostle, the unlettered Prophet.’ Muhammad was more or less ‘unlettered’ and initially as we have seen, he was not sure at all whether the revelations were from God or not (Surah 21: 5; 44: 14; 16: 103; 37: 36). The term ‘unlettered’ is not to be equated with completely illiterate. Nehls (1991:181) refers e.g. to the Ibn Sa’d biography II, p.302 in which Muhammad called for an ink-pot and something to write on. Tisdall (1900: 13) points out that Geiger's view – dating from 1833 - is that this word has an altogether different meaning.56
Gilchrist (1986: 92) refers to Muhammad’s ‘alleged illiteracy…' which was considered to be substantial evidence that the Qur’an must have been revealed to him from heaven. Gilchrist questions ‘how such an outstanding book could have been composed by one who could neither read nor write.’ This is a typical Western notion, which tends to rule out or limit supernatural revelation. Gilchrist however goes on to show that ‘those who interpret ummi to mean illiterate appear to be forcing a meaning into the word which it does not readily yield.’ In fact, quite convincingly Gilchrist argues that the word ummi is used in the Qur’an as the parallel of the ‘People of the Book’: In the words of Zwemer, which he quotes: ‘therefore it cannot signify one who does not read and write; but (as we have seen from the Arabic authorities themselves) one who did not possess or who had access to former revelations.’ (from Zwemer, The illiterate Prophet – Could Mohammed Read and Write? The Muslim World, Volume 11, p.352). Surah 62: 2 bears this out: ‘It is he who has sent amongst the unlettered an apostle from among themselves, to rehearse to them his signs, to sanctify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom – although they had been before in manifest error.’ Another scholar, cited by Gilchrist (1986: 98) has put the issue at hand quite succinctly: ‘what is being said is that he could not have acquired knowledge from earlier revealed books.’ Another facet to the issue is that the content of the revelations ‘really came from external authorities’ (Andrae, 1936: 128). Various passages in the Qur’an indicate that Muhammad’s pagan opponents did not hesitate to expose this dependence upon others, even to the extent that they accused the Qur’an to be ‘a lie which he has forged and others… dictated before him morning and evening’ (Surah 25: 4,5). There are Islamic sources that support the view that ummi does not mean ‘unlettered’. Sprenger (1851: 98) cites Zamakhshayy’s commentary on ummi in Surah 2:73 and 7: 156 where the collator is quoted: ‘others say it means a man not skilful in writing’. In the same context Sprenger also mentions that Shaykh Mofyd - who died in 413 a.H. - wrote a monography to prove that Muhammad was ‘not a skilful penman’. Even closer to the death of Muhammad was the testimony of Ibn Ishaq where he writes (Ishaq, 1978: 231): ‘The apostle wrote a document concerning the immigrants and the helpers…’ Supernatural intervention plus extra-ordinary intelligence of a genius which Muhammad obviously was, explains to a great extent how someone who could barely read or write, put to paper a document of special quality. Tisdall (1900: 13) offered a compromise: ‘But seeing that the word has been universally held to mean unlearned (and unable to read), I think we must accept that interpretation.’ Rodwell (1953 [1909]: 11) has no scruple - in typical Western fashion - to rule out the supernatural almost completely pointing out strongly that the Qur’an ‘must have been a work requiring much time, study, and meditation, and presumes a far greater degree of general culture than any orthodox Muslim will be disposed to admit.’
2.10. Mahgraye become Muslims
Crone and Cook (1977) referred to the fledgling religion, which started with the hijrah as Hagarism. This is derived from Hagar, regarded as the Mother ancestor of the Muslims - who left the fold of Abraham involuntarily. In Mecca the religion of Abraham and the example of the hanifs had been paramount. Taking their cue from the Jews, who left Egypt by their leader Moses under duress, the idea of ‘exodus’ constituted the new central duty of the faith. They were now first and foremost Mahgraye (emigrants).
Apart from the well known differences between Meccan and Medinan Surah’s, Crone and Cook (1977: 17) detect a ‘semantic evolution’ of the language used. Thus the central meaning of furqan moved from its originally Aramaic sense of ‘redemption’ to its secondary Arabic sense of ‘revelation’. The authors note how ‘the Koran is too modest’ to cast Muhammad in the role of a prophet like Moses but the ‘Mosaic complex provided the model and the sanction for the recasting of Muhammad as the bearer of a new revelation.’
The revelations of Jibril had to change after the conflict with the Jews. Not Moses, but reverting to Abraham becomes the key example. Especially the binding of Isaac in slavish obedience as a model of perfect submission became the paradigm. Islam (in its meaning of submission) replaced hijra as the fundamental religious duty. The related aslama, which initially was seen as related to the Jewish shalom, meaning in Targumic Aramaic ‘to make peace’, was duly reinterpreted ‘in terms of the ultimately dominant sense of differentiate the Hagarene covenant from that of Judaism’ (Crone and Cook, 1977: 20). The pilgrimage was accordingly demoted to the fifth pillar of the religion, obligatory only if one could afford it.
2.11. A Comedy of Errors
The Qur’anic revelations raise questions when one discovers how Zechariah and Mary - two biblical personalities to whom the angel Gabriel appears by name - are brought in close proximity with obvious confusion. Surah 3: 35ff looks like an imitation of Gabriel’s appearances in Luke 1. The differences are however so stark that they cannot be overlooked. Mary is called the ‘daughter of Imran’. The confusion is evident: Mary (Mariam in Semitic languages) is mixed up with Miriam, the daughter of Amram. The latter was the father of the three Israelite leaders, Moses, Aaron and Miriam. Accordingly, Mary is called the ‘sister of Aaron’ elsewhere, e.g. Surah 19: 28. The terminology has a special biblical precedent however. The first time Miriam is only called ‘His (Moses’) sister’ (Exodus 2: 4). The next time she is called ‘the prophetess, Aaron’s sister’ who led the women in praise and worship (Exodus 15: 20). That Surah 3 had heard the bell ringing without much of a clue what was going on, is furthermore shown when Mary is entrusted to the aged Zechariah (Surah 3: 37). Possibly the information somehow filtered through to Muhammad that Elisabeth and Zechariah were descendants of Aaron. The woman of Imran (Surah 3: 35), the mother of Mary, is surprised to get a baby daughter at her birth. Apocryphal information possibly reached Muhammad – evidenced in some Hadith - that her name is Hannah. She is duly ‘confused’ on the one hand with Hannah, the mother of Samuel, offering her child male or female as a gift to the Lord and on the other hand with Anna, the prophetess who did not depart from the temple, fasting and praying day and night, awaiting the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2: 36ff).
2.12. The biblical Gabriel ‘distorted’
Western Scholars usually refer to Muhammad’s confusing Mary as the sister of Aaron. Rodwell (1909: 385) however concedes that it ‘is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Muhammad is guilty of the anachronism of confounding Miriam with the Virgin Mary…But it is possible that Muhammad believed, as some Muslim writers assert, that Miriam’s soul and body were miraculously preserved till the time of Jesus in order to become Mary his mother. Certainly the Talmudists fabled that the Angel of Death and the worm of corruption had no power over Miriam.’ In Das Leben Muhammads, (Licht des Lebens, Villach (Austria, 1992), the German translation of Ibn Hisham’s reclension of the biography written by Ibn Ishaq, the translator inserted the Qur’an references into the text. Thus one can clearly recognise how so much of Surah 3 and 4 is actually the prophet’s theological apology to the Christian delegation from Najran in Yemen. Islamic biographers tend to overlook this. Abd Al-Masih, a Western scholar with an Arabic pseudonym, used this fact to show conclusively in his book ‘The Great Deception’ how Muhammad masterly (or cunningly?) distorted the words of Gabriel in Luke 1. Brilliantly he ‘tried to understand, to absorb and to change the information… about the angel Gabriel to Mary, so that it fitted into his Islamic thought pattern... He even offered compromises which extended the entire Islamic understanding in order to blind the Christians and draw them over to Islam’ (Masih, The Great Deception’, p. 66). In Surah 3 it is definitely not one angel coming to Mary and Zechariah but angels in the plural. Be it as it may, the context looks like a whole comedy of errors and confusion. The son to be born is consciously called son of Mary, thus emphasising that he is not the Son of God. The fear of Allah is paramount, not his love. One-sidedly we read ‘Fear and obey Allah’ (3:51). The most important biblical injunction, viz. to ‘love God with all your heart…’ does not feature in the Qur’an at all.
On the other hand, Muhammad’s compromises included significant contradictions. Most notably, implied recognition of Jesus’ divinity at this occasion was definitely present. From a modern Christian point of view, the two references to apocryphal tenets in the prophet’s defence are rather spurious. But they imply divinity to the baby and (boy) Jesus respectively. The baby speaking in the cradle is legendary, but strikingly Muhammad carefully omits the reference to Jesus as the Son of God: According to The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ said to his mother from the cradle: ‘inni huwa Yasu ibnallah’ – I am Jesus, the Son of God.’ In Surah 3: 49 (cf. also 5: 110) it states: ‘I will create for you out of clay the likeness of a bird, and I will breathe into it…’ This implies that Jesus can also operate divinely like the Creator. Of course, Surah 3: 49, qualifies the creating, by adding ‘by the permission of Allah’. (But this is almost in line with the 'NT' where Jesus says in John 5: 19,20 that he could do nothing by himself, but all that he sees the Father doing, he will do too.) Surah 3: 45 states Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world. Moshay (1990: 60) points out that the word in this verse translated from ismihi is a relative personal pronoun, denoting not only a grammatical unit or a power but a person. He cites the ‘celebrated Muslim scholar’ Al-Arasi in this context: ‘The word is God in theophany … and it is the divine person.’ This of course, is not orthodox Islamic doctrine. Surah 3: 49 also speaks of Jesus bringing the dead to life and the miraculous healing of the leper. ‘In Islam leprosy is sometimes understood to be a punishment for hidden sin. Since Jesus was able to heal leprosy, he was also authorised to forgive sins’ (Masih, The Great Deception, p. 75). That Jesus will reveal the hidden money and food of the Muslims to put them to shame at judgement day (3: 49), likewise implies divinity.
An interesting precedent is found in The Nazarene Gospel (1958: 8.). There it is described how ‘John in the likeness of the Angel Gabriel …came filled with the Holy Spirit to Jerusalem unto a virgin named Mary, a daughter of Aaron.’
2.13. The Pax Islamica by way of the jihad
The initial moves of Muhammad in Mecca were statesmanlike, e.g. setting up a document57 concerning the immigrants, the Muslims who came from Mecca and the ‘helpers’, the Medinans who embraced Islam. They were required to accept as a brother someone from the other group. In the document he also made a friendly agreement with the Jews and established them in their religion and their property. The shrewd move immediately established his leadership in the city-state. That he expected to be venerated as a prophet – also by the Jews – however backfired, although two rabbi’s actually embraced Islam.
The polygamous life-style of Muhammad – even though he married widows predominantly - along with legendary talk of the sexual abilities of the prophet - did the rest, viz. to feed the imagination of the men in another direction. Jibril evidently did not bring an unambiguous message of peace (See also section 4.7.2. The nearest to the Islamic position is possibly when the writer of Psalm 120: 7 sounds almost like an ancestor of Muhammad. He bemoans prophetically: ‘I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war’). The Pax Islamica came about on the Arabian Peninsula through Muhammad’s jihad, in which - according to the oral traditions - Jibril had a prominent part. In the process the Muslims killed many people - also quite a few Jews. This has a biblical precedent. David exterminated many enemies – quite significantly many were Philistines, the ancestors of the modern-day Palestinians. According to the understanding of the Qur’an, the angel of Revelation also brought the message on behalf of Allah: ‘I will instil terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them... It is not ye who slew them; it was God’ (Surah 8: 12,17). Similarly Surah 8: 60 invites the Muslims to ‘strike terror (into the hearts of) the enemies of God and your enemies’. The context is clear that the killing of enemies should not happen injudiciously. In fact Surah 8: 62 and 61 state respectively ‘And if they intend to deceive you-- then surely Allah is sufficient for you’. and ‘if they incline to peace, then incline to it and trust in Allah; surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing. The example and orders of Muhammad – to have so many killed - however blurred this peaceful message. It became an honour to kill on the Prophet’s orders.
The warner of Mecca became the fighting statesman in Medina. Western Scholars are generally unanimous in their appraisal of the biographical development. Buhl summarised: ‘For Mohammed the exodus to Medina meant a surprisingly rapid development of his position in power, which completely revolutionised conditions in Arabia, and before long was to have world-wide consequences; but in his own character it effected a decided downward move and a loss of the ideal’ (Buhl, “The Character of Mohammed as a Prophet”, The Muslim World, Vol. 1, p. 360).
Caetani, an early 20th century theologian, writes about Muhammad: ‘But when he was transferred into the atmosphere of Medinah, he offered very little resistance to the corrupting action of the new social position . . . The figure of Mohammed loses in beauty, but gains in power’. (Caetani, The Development of Mohammed’s Personality”, The Muslim World, Vol. 4, p. 364). The efforts of Muhammad Ali to defend jihad as self-defense, is not convincing. It seems to have been more than anything Muhammad’s reaction to the ridicule of the Jews, which sent the spiral of violence in Medina soaring. The explanation of Siddiqui (1994: 156), that the social aspect of Islam, ‘estimating the role of power in a comprehensive view of life’, is much more to the point: ‘the raising of the sword is only one aspect of the all-round struggle to establish Islam in the world…’ Similarly, it is valuable that Siddiqui distinguishes between jihad and qital (fighting). The former denotes an all-round striving or struggles as against only one aspect of that battle, i.e. fighting with arms. Western readers would however do well to remember that even qital in Islam is not to be equated with brute force. ‘Human life has been made sacred by God and its security is therefore the foremost duty of mankind.’ However (cited by Siddiqui, 1994: 163), justice demands that tyranny and oppression should not be allowed to create havoc. Jihad should also be understood in that way, to create security and peace.
Chapter 3. Gabriel in the Talmud
In this chapter we specifically look at the Angel Gabriel’s occurrences in the Jewish Talmud.58 A major influence of Judaism in the origins and development of Islam cannot be disputed. For our study the Talmudic occurrences of Gabriel is therefore of special interest. Numerically Gabriel occurs more in the Talmud than in the Tenach – i.e. the Torah, the prophets and the rest of the 'OT' canon.
3.1. Talmudic references of the Angel Gabriel
In the Talmud the Angel Gabriel is linked to all the major personalities, which figure both in the 'OT' and the Qur’an. Hanson (in the Cambridge History of the Bible, p.419 ) suggests that the Gnostics ‘invented the form of scriptural exegesis which we call the Commentary’, which was subsequently greatly expanded, developed and popularised by Origen. Long before this however, it was the public recital of scripture, accompanied by a verse-by-verse Aramaic Targum or commentary in the eastern Mediterranean world (notably the near and middle orient), which became the ‘text-book’ for the schooling of young and old. The oral handing down of these traditions in the synagogues became the source of midrash, the exposition and teaching of the Torah and the unwritten Torah. The teaching of the rabbi’s was later written down as mishnah, by Scribes dubbed the Tanaim, from circa 200 B.C to circa 220 CE. The rabbis and scribes called the Amoraim, who wrote from circa 220 CE to circa 500 CE, recorded the Gemara. The Beth Midrash (house of study) became the madressah (Qur’an school) under Islam. The Talmud consists of the Mishnah and Gemara.
In the church traditions played an increasingly bigger role and an authority equal to Scripture. The Muslims emulated the practice of recording oral traditions. The ahadith is a variation of recorded tradition. They consist of the words and deeds of Muhammad, the supreme Islamic prophet where reliable witnesses had been found.59
Many more stories of Gabriel are found in the traditions that were first passed on orally, than in the Tenach, which was written down earlier. In both Judaism and Islam the oral material was accorded equal authority and in practice exercised even more.60
Quite a few legends developed, which were told as truth. An interesting legend was passed on in Islamic folklore about Gabriel comforting Job after his wife was falsely accused of adultery. Here Satan changed himself into an angel of light (Preface to Weil, Legenden der Musselmannen, written by P.J. Veth), a notion about satanic activity that Paul took from Judaism (2 Corinthians 11: 14).
3.2. The Angel Gabriel and Creation
There is a Talmudic story that links Gabriel with the creation:
On the sixth day God made human beings. God had discussed the creation of humans with the angels, who weren’t too sure that it was a good idea. Some of the angels resented the idea that God would create another being and they complained. God, tired of their impudence, pointed his finger at these angels and they were consumed by fire. God then ordered the angel Gabriel to go and bring soil from the four corners of the world, with which to make man. When Gabriel began his task, he learned that the earth was reluctant to give up any soil for the creation of humans. The earth knew that mankind would someday ruin the earth and spoil its beauty. Upon hearing this, God himself scooped up the earth and fashioned Adam, the first man.
When God created the body of man, He prepared to join it with the soul, which had been created on the first day. The angels were again concerned that another creature with a soul would exist. Among the most contentious of these angels was Samael [meaning “venom of God”], who was also called Satan. He questioned God: “You created us, the angels, from your Shekhinah [Divine Presence] and now you would place us over a lowly thing made of dirt? You would waste a soul on a piece of mud? You would create a thinking being out of dust?”
Linked to Divine justice, Gabriel is girded with his sword of justice ever since the six days of creation exercising it also in war and on the battlefields, punishing the traitors and helping the just (Rappoport, 1928: Vol I: 41). He is made of fire that not only consumes dry and even wet matter, but even away fire. Islamic legendry adds that Allah created Adam without father and mother, just by his word ‘be’ and of course by his ‘ruch’, his breath (Weil, 1853: 201). A moot point in the creation of angels was the day on which the permanent angels were formed. Interestingly, it was said that they were not created on the first day lest it be thought that they were God’s partners in the creative process. Here was surely the pristine notion of shirk, the prime Islamic sin, viz. to have a partner next to Allah. The understanding of Muhammad also comes through quite clear in Surah 6: 22, ‘One day shall We gather them all together: We shall say to those who ascribed partners (to Us): “Where are the partners whom ye (invented and) talked about?”
3.2.1 Adam and Eve in Islamic legendry
Islamic legendry61 has some interesting additions. Adam was thus said to plead Jibril to beseech God on his behalf to give him a woman and especially what he should give her as dowry. The answer came in due course via Jibril: ‘God grants you Eve as spouse, because he created her from his body for this purpose; you must however love her as yourself and treat her with meekness and goodness. As dowry he requires of you that you pray 20 times for Muhammad, his darling prophet, whose body will one day be formed out of your flesh and blood, but whose soul has been floating around his throne many years before the creation of the world.’ Hereafter Ridhwan, the gatekeeper of Paradise, brought the winged horse Maimun to Adam and for Eve he brought a female camel. Jibril assisted them to mount the animals and then he led them to Paradise where all the angels and animals greeted them with the words: ‘Welcome, father and mother of Muhammad.’ When Adam and Eve went into the garden, Jibril passed on God’s command that they had to bathe in one of the four rivers. Allah himself told them: ‘Enjoy fully everything that this garden offers. Beware however to heed the one prohibition, one fruit is forbidden. Beware of this transgression and guard yourself against the moves of your enemy Iblis; he envies you ... to thrust you to your downfall…’ After Adam had lost Eve, according to legend, they found each other on Mount Arafat (which means recognise again). They started building a temple with four doors, respectively that of Adam, Abraham, Ishmael and Muhammad. Jibril brought them the plan for the building, as well as a shining jewel, which later became black because of the sin of man. The black stone of the Ka’ba had supposedly been an angel who had to guard the forbidden tree and warn Adam whenever he would approach it. As punishment for his negligence he was changed into a stone. Only at Judgement Day the stone will become an angel again.
Jibril gets a special role in the teaching of Adam and Eve. The first of these lessons according to the legend complied by Weil (1853: 28), is to teach Adam the ceremonies of the pilgrimage. Eve gets a lesson how wheat must be grinded and knead to dough and under Jibril’s guidance she learns spinning and weaving to sew a veil for herself and a robe for Adam. Very importantly, the couple is taught how a lamb must be slaughtered in the name of Allah (Weil, 1853: 30). Both Talmudic and Islamic tradition apparently saw the centrality of the slaughtered animal. The 'New Testament' summarised it:’without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness’ (Hebrews 9: 22). That was the only plausible explanation why Abel’s offering was accepted and that of Cain refused. Jibril is interestingly brought into the picture in legend when he teaches Adam and Eve to plough the ground. But when the plough got stuck, a variation of the Balaam narrative occurs (Numbers 19-22). Adam had started beating the oxen when the eldest of the two started speaking “Why do you maltreat me? …Did God also beat you like this when you were rebellious?” (Weil,1853: 29). To Adam’s surprise, the reason why the plough got stuck, was the decaying corpse of their son Abel.
3.3. The Angel Gabriel and Abraham
The angel’s role in salvation history is interesting. According to the Mishna, the precept part of the Talmud, Gabriel was one of the three angels who visited Abraham, and the one who wished to rescue him from the fire, into which Abraham had been flung by order of King Nimrod. The Talmud describes how Abraham was thrown into the fire after he had opposed idolatry. According to this tradition, Gabriel then went into the fire to assist Abraham. The origin of the whole story will be found in Genesis xv. 7: I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees. Tisdall (1900: 23 explains Ur in Babylonish means a "city", as in Ur-Shalim (Jerusalem), "the City of Peace." And the Chaldaean Ur1 was the residence of Abraham. This name Ur closely resembles in speech another word, Or, signifying light or fire. Ages later Jonathan ben Uzziel, a Jewish Commentator, ignorant of Babylonish when translating the Scripture into Chaldean, wrote the above verse from Genesis as follows: I am the Lord that delivered thee out of the Chaldean fiery oven. In biblical tradition this was later linked to the story in Daniel 3 where King Nebuchadnezzar saw a fourth figure in the fire. The Qur’an contains a slightly different version of the Talmudic tradition where Abraham is persecuted because of his monotheism. The Qur’an follows the Talmud that Abraham was thrown into the fire because of his opposition to idolatry, but mentions that God cooled the fire (Surah 21: 69) so that Abraham was unscathed. This variation has possibly been taken from a Jewish legend (printed in Rappoport, 1928: Vol. 1: 75f) in which Gabriel’s wish to save Abraham is honoured but God himself intervened with the cooling of the fire. Gabriel gets the right to save three other men from burning in the furnace. This alludes of course to the biblical story of Daniel 3 where a fourth figure in the fire. This is diametrically opposite to the Biblical (and Talmudic) emphasis that the Angel of Yahweh was in the fire with his faithful servants.
A Talmudic snippet, which indicates a close proximity to early Christianity, passed on the tradition that Gabriel brought the message to the aged Sarah that she would have a child. It was also Gabriel’s task to overthrow Sodom. In this case, he and Rafael first visited Abraham in human form and with Lot they were angels (Genesis I, Midrash, 1951: 434f). The archangel furthermore saved Tamar according to oral tradition from the fate of being burnt, as a punishment for her unchastely behaviour. (She was later to become the ancestor of King David and thus also of Jesus).
3.3.1. Jibril and the Isaac/Ishmael dilemma
The commentary of Al-Tabari around Abraham's sacrifice probably caused the confusion with regard to the Isaac/Ishmael dilemma of Islam. Al-Tabari’s account comes very close to the tradition of Scripture and Talmud, but it may also have been the origin of the confusion. That Gabriel is quoted as saying to Sarah, ‘I bring you good news of a son whose name is Isaac and after him Jacob’, sounds almost like the biblical angel coming to Mary. Likewise is the vow of Abraham with regard to Isaac: He will be a sacrifice for God.
Iblis - the Qur’anic equivalent for the devil - is reported to have tried to prevent Abraham from fulfilling the command of God, according to the Al-Tabari tradition, saying ‘By God, I have seen that Shaytan has come to you in a dream and ordered you to slaughter this little son of yours. And you intend to do that slaughtering!’ The little son is apparently still Isaac. That Abraham recognised Iblis and said: ‘Get away from me enemy of God!’, has interesting theological implications. First of all, this sounds very much like Jesus reprimanding Peter when the latter suggested that Jesus should circumvent the crucifixion (Matthew 16: 23) and then Al-Tabari says in so many words that Iblis ‘had taken on the form of a man’ (quoted by Rippin and Knappert, 1990:64). It becomes very problematic though when Al-Tabari then lets Ishmael appear from nowhere, going behind Abraham carrying the wood and the large knife. This indicates that the confusing tradition may have originated at this time. In the Qur’anic account of Surah 37, only Isaac had been mentioned up to this point. In Al-Tabari’s commentary the impression is given that Ishmael was to be sacrificed as well, using similar wording that he had used for the sacrifice with Isaac.
The 'New Testament' understands the near sacrifice as a precursor to Calvary where God gave his unique Son as the way to salvation, as a type of the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection. In the Qur’anic equivalent of Genesis 22 there is no semblance of salvation history. In other reports of Abraham in the Qur’an only his monotheism is stressed - he was a hanif, neither a Christian nor a Jew.
3.4. The Angel Gabriel and Joseph
It is believed by some Jews that the Nazarites came out of Egypt with Moses. If this is so, then they were in Egypt prior to the exile. The word root for Nazarite is used in connection with Joseph. The word has been generally used because Joseph was separated from his family when he landed in Egypt as a slave. A legend was circulated that three angels in human form approached him when he got lost in the wilderness, looking for his brothers. One of them, the angel Gabriel after asking Joseph whom he was seeking, mentioned in his reply ‘I have heard from behind the curtain that from today the Egyptian bondage of the Israelites will begin’ (Rappoport, 1928: Vol. II: 8). After he was thrown in a pit naked and the brothers had stripped his clothes from him, God sent his angel Gabriel to him according to another legend, ‘who extended an amulet suspended upon Joseph’s neck, so that it became a garment covering the lad entirely’ (Rappoport, 1928: Vol. II: 14). Gabriel was also believed to be the protector of Joseph against the evil schemes of Potiphar (Cohen, 1971: 51). In the Talmud we find a story that locates the Angel Gabriel in Egypt with Joseph. The story tells how Joseph is at odds with the advisors that he replaced in Egypt. The advisors put forth a challenge to Pharaoh concerning the former slave, Joseph: ‘Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba said in the name of Rabbi Johanan: “At the moment when Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'And without thee shall no man lift up his hand', Pharaoh’s astrologers exclaimed: ‘Wilt thou set in power over us a slave whom his master bought for twenty pieces of silver?’ He replied to them, ‘discern in him royal characteristics.’ They said to him, ‘in that case he must be acquainted with the seventy languages.’ Angel Gabriel came and taught [Joseph] the seventy languages, but he could not learn them. Thereupon [Gabriel] added to his name a letter from the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He, and he learnt [the languages]...” (Sotah, 36b).62

According to this Talmudic passage, Joseph received two things from the angel Gabriel, viz. mastery over seventy languages and an additional letter to his name. Both of these ideas are based on exegesis of a verse in Psalm 81: 4-7: ‘... For this is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. This he ordained in Yehosef (Joseph) for a testimony, when he went out over the land of Egypt. I heard a language I had not known. I removed the burden from his shoulder ... You called in trouble, and I saved you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah.’
The verse refers to Yehosef, that is, Yosef with an extra “heh”. This is seen as a new name given by the Angel Gabriel to Joseph. That the letter “heh” was used, is seen as special because it is the only letter used twice in the tetragram Yahweh, the ineffable four-lettered name of the Almighty in Hebrew, which tradition prescribed not to be spoken aloud. We see this same idea in the Bible where God changes the names of Jewish leaders such as Abram to Abraham, where “heh” was also added. The name change usually implied some major change and divine intervention, often including also a change of character. Nowhere it was perhaps more radical than in the case of Jacob. Instead of having been the ‘deceiver’, he becomes a fighter for Yahweh, albeit that he was limping after his battle with the Lord of hosts at Pniel (Genesis 32: 31f). It is striking that the character of the God of faithfulness is so much imbibed into Jacob that many a Psalm was to refer to Yahweh as the God of Jacob (e.g. Psalm 46: 7; 81:1,4; 146:3). In fact, the new name of Jacob, viz. Israel, became the name used for the nation.
3.5.The Angel Gabriel and Moses
In legend the Angel Gabriel appeared in Egypt with the infant Moses. Thus it was Gabriel who punished the Epyptian servant when she refused to fetch Moses out of the waters (Rappoport, 1928,Vol. 1:41). In the Talmud the following legend is found:
‘When Moses was in his third year, Pharaoh was dining one day with the queen Alfar’anit at his right hand, his daughter Biti’ah with the infant Moses upon her lap at his left, and Balaam the son of Beor, together with his two sons and all the princes of the realm sitting at the table in the king’s presence. It happened that the infant took the crown from the king’s head, and placed it on his own. When the king and princes saw this, they were terrified, and each one in turn expressed his astonishment. The king said to the princes, “What speak you, and what say you, O ye princes, on this matter, and what is to be done to this Hebrew boy on account of this act?”
Balaam spoke, saying: “Remember now, O my lord and king, the dream which you dreamt many days ago, and how your servant interpreted it for you. Now this is a child of the Hebrew in whom is the spirit of God. Let not my lord, the king imagine in his heart that being a child he did the thing without knowledge. For he is a Hebrew boy, and wisdom and understanding are with him, although he is yet a child, and with wisdom has he done this, and chosen unto himself the kingdom of Egypt. For this is the manner of all the Hebrews, to deceive kings and their magnates, to do all things cunningly in order to make the kings of the earth and their men to stumble.
“Now therefore, my lord king, behold, this child has risen up in their stead in Egypt, to do according to their deeds and make sport of every man, be he king, prince or judge. If it please the king, let us not spill his blood upon the ground, lest he grow up and snatch the government from your hand, and the hope of Egypt be cut off after he reigns. Let us moreover, call for all the judges and the wise men of Egypt, that we may know whether the judgment of death be due to this child, as I have said, and then we will slay him.
Pharaoh sent and called for all the wise men of Egypt. They came with the angel Gabriel disguised as an old man and one of them. When they were asked their opinion in the matter, Gabriel spoke up and said: “If it please the king, let him place an onyx stone before the child, and a coal of fire, and if he stretches out his hand and grasps the onyx stone, then shall we know that the child has done with wisdom all that he has done, and we will slay him. But if he stretches out his hand and grasps the coal of fire, then shall we know that it was not with consciousness that he did the thing, and he shall live.”
The counsel seemed good in the eyes of the king, and when they had placed the stone and the coal before the child, Moses stretched forth his hand toward the onyx stone and attempted to seize it, but the angel Gabriel guided his hand away from it and placed it upon the live coal, and the coal burnt the child’s hand, and he lifted it up and touched it to his mouth, and burnt part of his lips and part of his tongue, and for all his life he became slow of speech and of a slow tongue.
Seeing this, the king and the princes knew that Moses had not acted with knowledge in taking the crown from the king’s head, and they refrained from slaying him. God Himself, who protected Moses, turned the king’s mind to grace, and his foster-mother snatched him away, and she had him educated with great care, so that the Hebrews depended upon him and cherished the hope that great things would be done by him.’

3.5.1 Moses - one born with knowledge Moses was not considered a prince of Egypt but a Hebrew, and not just any Hebrew but maybe the one born with knowledge. The letter to the Hebrews (11: 24-26) surely took the cue from this tradition, describing Moses’ refusal to be treated as Pharaoh’s daughter as ‘disgrace because of Christ’. The Angel Gabriel disguised himself in this narrative as a wise man of Egypt and devised a contest in which he could manipulate the outcome. Of course, Moses’ life is saved and he is raised in the Egyptian house of the Pharaoh’s sister. This story also solved the problem of why Moses had to have Aaron speak for him, since he was disfigured as a child.
In another legend the Angel Gabriel was sent down in the disguise of the Royal Executioner when Moses was about to be executed for his killing of the Egyptian. Gabriel in disguised seized the sword from the junior executioner, beheaded him, while Moses escaped (Rappoport, 1928: Vol II: 243).
If one considers that relatively much material about Moses is found in the Qur’an, it is not so surprising that also Islamic legendary material abounds. After the plague of darkness had filled Egypt - a plague that is mentioned in the Bible but not in Surah 8: 127 –135 among the other plagues - the river Nile dried up. This does not feature in the Bible narrative. Nevertheless, hereafter Moses is called to pray for Pharaoh without any result in terms of remorse. Jibril comes on the scene after Allah’s patience with Pharaoh had completely run out. The angel took human form, complaining with the ruler about one of his slaves who played the boss in his absence. ‘This base lier deserves death’. Pharaoh instructs Jibril to issue a written command that every slave who rebels against his owner should be drowned.63 Jibril then left Pharaoh with the written order and ready to tell Moses that he had to leave Egypt with his people.
The next day the Israelites went through the red sea, chased by Haman, Pharaoh’s Prime Minister (Surah 28: 7, 29: 38; 40:38) and the Egyptian army. When Pharaoh’s horse refused to move, Jibril is on hand once again in human form, riding on his stallion Ramka. He rides ahead of Pharaoh. His beautiful horse takes the unwilling mare of Pharaoh along. In the middle of the Red Sea Jibril takes out the deed to which his own seal was attached: ‘You weakling, who wants to be worshipped as a God, have signed your own drowning warrant.’ Another legend relates how Gabriel preceded the tribes as he entered the water, holding back the waters. Turning to the wall of water on the left, he noted that the Israelites will wind the phylacteries around their left hand. To the wall on his right he warned against touching Israel because they were ‘to receive the law … by the right hand of the Holy Lord.’ (Rappoport, 1928: Vol II: 290).
3.6. Jibril and Aaron
Aaron himself was also apportioned a few legends with Jibril having a role. Thus it was told how an angel came before Aaron after the death of his father Amram with a crystal glass filled with the best wine. This was the moment when Moses touched Egyptian soil (Weil, 1853: 101). The name of the angel is not mentioned, but Jibril appeared on the scene soon enough. He went to the river Nile when he saw a rider in the distance who approached hims as fast as the wind. It was Jibril rding on the mare Heidsam. Aaron thought that he was followed by one of Pharaoh’s men. He wanted to drown himself but Jibril warned him in time. The angel put him on his winged horse, which thereafter took both of them to the other side of the river. There was Moses. When he saw his brother after all these years, he called ‘The truth has come, the lie is destroyed’ (Weil, 1853: 102).
Soon Moses had a battle on his hands with the idolatrous and rebellious Israelites. As soon as he was alone with God on the Sinai, they threatened Aaron, his substitute, with death if he would not allow them to make idols. They threw all their gold utencils in a copper kettle under which a massive fire was blazing. After the gold had melted, Aaron took a handful of sand – which he had taken from underneath the hooves of Jibril’s horse – and threw it into the kettle to stop the blaze.
3.7. Jibril with David and Solomon
It should not be surprising that all sorts of legends appeared around David and Solomon, the two major kings of Israel. For Islam the behaviour of David and Solomon creates a major problem because both of them are regarded as prophets. According to the doctrine of isma, prophets do not sin. In 2 Samuel 12 David was severely reprimanded by the prophet Nathan after the adultery with Bathsheba and his premeditated plot to see her husband killed in battle.
A snippet of interest in Islamic legendary is how Jibril challenged Dawood (King David) after his adultery (Weil, 1853:143). Consistently Jibril takes the role of the prophet Nathan in the narrative, which is originally told in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. The euphemising of sexual immorality occurs in the Qur’an, notably when it comes to the prophets. The most pronounced is the case of the adultery of David with Bathsheba that was followed by the callous calculated murder of Uriah, her husband, narrated in 2 Samuel 11. This is followed by the rebuke of the prophet Nathan, who started his attack with a story of a rich man who took the ewe lamb of a poor man in the same town to prepare a meal for a traveller coming through. When David’s sin is exposed, he is truly remorseful, a result of which was Psalm 51.
The original is hardly recognisable in Surah 38: 20-26. When they entered the presence of David, and he was terrified of them, they said: “Fear not: we are two disputants, one of whom has wronged the other: Decide now between us with truth, and treat us not with injustice, but guide us to the even Path. “This man is my brother: He has nine and ninety ewes, and I have (but) one: Yet he says, ‘commit her to my care,’ and is (moreover) harsh to me in speech.” (David) said: “He has undoubtedly wronged thee in demanding thy (single) ewe to be added to his (flock of) ewes: truly many are the partners (in business) who wrong each other: Not so do those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and how few are they?”...and David gathered that We had tried him: he asked forgiveness of his Lord, fell down, bowing (in prostration), and turned (to Allah in repentance). So We forgave him this (lapse): he enjoyed, indeed, a near approach to Us, and a beautiful place of (Final) return. O David! We did indeed make thee a vicegerent on earth: so judge thou between men in truth (and justice): Nor follow thou the lusts (of thy heart), for they will mislead thee from the Path of Allah: for those who wander astray from the Path of Allah, is a Penalty Grievous, for that they forget the Day of Account. Islamic legend attempted to rectify the distortion when Jibril (in stead of the Qur’anic intruder or the prophet Nathan of the Bible) challenges King David. On the day of his marriage to Bathsheba – called Saya, the daughter of Josu in Islamic legend – the angels Michael and Jibril appear in human form before the King at his court. Jibril said to the King in words that are much closer to the biblical report: ‘The man thou seest here possesses ninety-nine sheep, whilst I have only one, and yet he is pursuing me constantly and claiming my ewe lamb’. According to the legend David reacted angrily: ‘This is unfair and shows an evil and unbelieving heart and a bad nature.’ Jibril’s reply made David realise that the unknown man was alluding to his own conduct with regard to Uriah. Wrathful he wanted to pierce Jibril. Michael hereafter burst out in laughter whereupon the two angels ‘now rising up on their wings exclaimed: “Thou hast given judgment against thyself and hast declared thine own action to be that of a wicked unbeliever (Rappoport, vol. III, p1928: 179).
As part of David’s remorse he has doubts about his wisdom in judgement. A royal staff was given to him, but Jibril had to take the staff to heaven because David continued to fail in his judgements. The Qur’an teaches how Dawood was given knowledge and wisdom to judge (Surah 21: 78) but legend highlights his failure as a judge. Simultaneously his adultery and the wicked murder plot, ordering Uriah to be left stranded in the front line of the battle (1 Samuel 11: 4-14), are euphemised. Surah 38: 21-23 vaguely intimate correction when one of the intruders refers to the lamb, but the subsequent verses indicate that the King feels guilty. Ahadith stress Dawood’s zeal in prayer and his readiness to do penance, but the legend overcompensates when Dawood (David) is depicted as remorseful for three full years (Weil, 1853: 142). His voice is described as having a magic power not only over man, but also over wild beasts and inanimate beings. The Islamic legendary rendering simultaneously paves the way for his illustrious son Sulaiman (Solomon) to come to the scene with Jibril announcing at his birth: ‘The rule of Satan speeds towards its end; in this night a child is born whom Iblis and his whole army and all his off-spring will be subjected… all wisdom will be given unto him which Allah has given to man…’ (Weil, 1853: 144). Whereas the Talmudic legend shows Joseph learning 70 languages through Jibril’s intervention, Sulaiman would be blessed with nine tenths of all wisdom, so that he will be able not only to understand all languages of man, but also that of animals and birds.
Jewish legend has an interesting contribution when David and his son Solomon are said to have been destined to build a Temple on earth that would be the mirror image of the one in heaven. It was furthermore to be built above an ancient stone, which God had set into the earth at the time of creation. The parallel of the Ka’ba, which was said to have been (re)built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, immediately comes to mind.
Abraham Geiger, a Jewish scholar, pointed out that a Talmudic Scripture, Sanhedrin 44, refers to Gabriel as ‘der bestimmt aussprechende Geist’, the distinct speaking Spirit. He highlights how Muhammad mirrors this notion. Using a hadith as cue, Geiger translates Surah 17: 85 as ‘you may ask yourselves who is the Spirit (of inspiration)? Say: the Spirit (proceeds) from the commands of the Lord.’ This leads us to have a look how Jibril has been described in Islam as the Angel and Spirit of Revelation.

Chapter 4. Jibril under the microscope
In this chapter we attempt a closer look at the supernatural figure known to Muslims as Jibril, who is described as the ‘Angel of Revelation’ and is regarded by Islam as identical to the Holy Spirit. Jibril became ‘the guarantee of the coherence of Islam and the two older religions.
4.1. Jibril as the Angel and Spirit of Revelation
Notable scholars (like Professor Norman Anderson, 1990: 26) disseminated the notion that Muhammad confused Jibril with the Holy Spirit. Long before him, in 1894, William Muir had qualified the statement: ‘at a later period at least, if not from the first, Mahomet… (confused) Gabriel with the Holy Ghost’. I would like to qualify the assertion in yet another way by stating that one should rather look at the influence of Judaism and heretical Christianity in this regard.
The first person to use the term Spirit of Revelation’ seems to have been Paul, the apostle, who referred in his letter to the Ephesians (1: 17) to the ‘Spirit of wisdom and revelation’. Hughes mentions in his Dictionary of Islam (1895: 133): ‘It is important to observe that the only distinct assertion of Gabriel being the medium of divine revelation (in the Qur’an) occurs in a Madaniyah Surah’.
In Islamic theology the supernatural figure known as Jibril is generally described as the ‘Angel of Revelation’. In an excellent exercise of semantics Fazlur Rahman (1980: 80-105) refers to Jibril as the ‘Spirit of Revelation’. His essay Prophethood and Revelation is at the same time a very good exposition of the doctrine by which Jibril is regarded as identical to the Holy Spirit. Rahman is not happy with the term ‘angel’: ‘The term ‘angel’ is, strictly speaking, not quite accurate for the agent of Revelation sent to Muhammad…(and described in the Qur’an) …never as an angel, but always as Spirit or spiritual Messenger’ (Rahman, 1980: 95).
Yet, Rahman’s liberal views cannot be regarded as representative of the Islamic position. He has no scruples to say for instance about Jesus: ‘… presumably his mother was impregnated by the Spirit. There is no doubt that the agent of Revelation to Muhammad is this Spirit.’ Rahman used the following verses for his assertion: Surah 19: 17; 21: 91 and 66: 12. The first of these verses (Surah 19: 17) could indeed be interpreted in this way: ‘…our angel … appeared before her as a man in all respects’.64 Surah 3: 45-47 seems to emphasise that Mary was supernaturally impregnated by a word, like it happened with the creation of Adam. The other two verses referred to by Rahman, reflect the general Islamic teaching that Allah breathed into Mary ‘our Spirit.’ This is in line with Surah 3: 59, where Jesus was created like Adam, i.e. with the word ‘(let there) be’ and divine ‘ruch (breath or spirit). Surah 19: 35, as well as 15:29; 32:9 and 38: 72, all describe how God infused into Adam his own Spirit: ‘It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, "Be", and it is.
Rahman’s powerful display of semantics in his differentiation of Jibril - not as an angel but as a messenger - indeed refutes some of the problems one would otherwise have with the figure Jibril in a straight comparison between the Qur’an/Hadith on the one hand and the Biblical/Talmudic material on the other hand. However, Rahman does not show clearly why he deemed Jibril to be identical to the Holy Spirit. “Impregnating” seems to be the key word. The Spirit of Revelation ‘impregnated” both Mary – in this case for the birth of her son by blowing God’s Word into her - and Muhammad’s mind in the creation of the Qur’an. The famous (in some Islamic quarters notorious) South African theologian Ahmed Deedat, reads a sexual connotation into the idea in the Bible that ‘the power of the Most High will overshadow you’ (Luke 1: 35). Deedat’s model could have been Joommal, another S.A. Muslim theologian, who stooped even lower, suggesting that ‘Mary conceived Jesus as a result of her being OVERSHADOWED by the Holy Spirit, in the same way as when a man OVERSHADOWS his wife while planting his seed in her womb’ (Joomal, 1965: 26). Joomal continues by asking whether the Holy Spirit did not commit adultery in this way. Deedat and Joomal were of course merely repeating the primitive view, against which the Qur’an rightly objects, e.g. that the Merciful had offspring (Surah 19: 35, 92), or that God could have a wife. Surah 5: 101, ‘Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth! How could He have a son when He has no consort’. The Bible never even vaguely suggested something like that.
4.1.1. Apocalyptic visions
Islamic theology unconvincingly sees a link between the seven angels of Revelation with the seven trumpets (8: 2,6) who stood before God and the seven spirits who were before his throne (Revelation 1: 4; 3: 1; 4: 5, 5: 6).65If one considers that revelation is such a central Islamic tenet, it is logical that apocalyptic visions occur quite frequently. One finds e.g. fear-inspiring visions of the hell, which find their roots in apocryphal material, notably in the Revelations (Apocalypse) of Peter (21-34) and Paul (31-44). Andrae (1971: 116ff) shows quite credibly how these notions came to Muhammad via the Syrian Orthodox Church. Some characteristics of Allah (e.g. ruling sovereignly like a powerful autocrat) that have been revealed by Jibril, are in accordance with Pharisaic Judaism. But they differ drastically with that of the compassionate God of the Bible and in particular that of the early church. The latter saw Jesus depicting God’s character. William Barclay (New Testament Words, 1973: 277) summarised the issue so pointedly, contrasting the words of Jesus with that of the Pharisees. The latter, meticulous guardians of the law, could say ‘There is joy in heaven over one sinner who is destroyed.’ On the other hand, Jesus felt nothing but pity ‘even when that lostness was his own fault… He did not see the criminal to be condemned, he saw man as a lost wanderer to be found and brought home. He did not see men as chaff to be burned, he saw them as a harvest to be reaped for God.’ Allah of the Qur’an, with whom Jibril is of course closely linked, resembles the God of the Pharisees, rather than the compassionate Yahweh of Judaism. We should add that the view of Christians about Pharisees is often quite distorted. It is true that in their zeal for the Torah they sometimes went overboard, but are not excesses like these typical of all religions where tradition distorts the root?66
4.2. Is Jibril identical to the Holy Spirit? 67
Earlier we have hinted that Ezekiel 8 might be seen as one of the first instances where the Holy Spirit and an angel were equated. This tradition may also have had some origins where the prophet Ezekiel wrote that ‘a figure like that of a man’ took him by his hair. The angelic figure is also called the Spirit (v.3), which ‘lifted me between heaven and earth and in visions of God took me to Jerusalem.’ In close proximity to Christianity, Allah does not speak to people directly according to Islamic teaching, It is Jibril who speaks on behalf of Allah. Jibril is called the Holy Spirit, but he is not considered a part of God and he can only be at one place at one time.68 'So when a Muslim prays, he does not expect Allah to communicate with him, nor does he expect Gabriel to come and speak to him. A Muslim's ony hope of hearing from Allah comes on the final night of Ramadan each year. Muhammad taught that on this night Gabriel would visit one person who was pious and who was waiting for him (Surah 97:4).' (Gabriel, 2004:160).
One of the most extensive commentaries on the Islamic Jibril - equated with the Holy Spirit – appears to be that of Razi, a prominent Islamic medieval theologian. Razi has been described as ‘one of the most prolific scholars in Muslim History’. According to Dr Zarkan, a prominent present-day scholar, Razi ‘took pride in his ability to reproduce the views of his opponents exactly and impartially.’ As Razi was already born in 864 CE, it shows that the tenet has a long history in Islamic teaching. Dr Zarkan says that 193 works have been ascribed to al-Razi. 93 of them can be proved to have actually been written by him. Like very few others – if any - Razi laid the basis for Islamic Theology about Jibril. Muir (1894: 4) summarized how the development could already have happened in Islam in the Middle Ages: ‘Mary conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Ghost, which overshadowed her. But it was Jibril who visited Mary to announce the conception of the Saviour. The Holy Ghost was, therefore, another name for Gabriel.’
Similarly, although no trace of Jibril is found by name in Surah 2:87 - We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of messengers; We gave Jesus the son of Mary clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit - the assumption in Islamic terms is that Jibril is meant. From this perception it follows easily that Jesus was continuously accompanied by the Holy Spirit (Jibril) till his ascension. The Holy Spirit is understood to have accompanied Jesus as the overseeing power throughout his life. As Al-Razi states, Jibril ‘did not leave Jesus [even] for one hour.’ He deduces: ‘The exclusive allotment of Gabriel [that is, the Holy Spirit] to Jesus is a most distinguishing characteristic, so that not a single prophet among the prophets was thus distinguished’. His association of Jesus and the Holy Spirit thus comes very close to ‘NT’ thinking.
To understand this togetherness of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we need to know something about the place of the Holy Spirit [Jibril] in God’s kingdom. According to Razi, Jibril is the chief of the archangels, who themselves are the most superior among the angels.
Muhammad had a significant precedent for this special angelic company. Mani, the third century founder of Manichaeism, dubbed himself an ‘apostle of Christ’. Already as a child he had visions. He recalled that he ‘was protected through the might of angels’ who ‘nurtured me with visions and signs’. When Mani was twelve he enjoyed the first revelation of his ‘Heavenly twin’, which he described as the ‘most beautiful and largest mirror image of my own person.’ Eventually he related this supernatural being ‘closely to the Holy Spirit’ (all quotes in this paragraph taken from Fox, 1986: 565).
4.2.1. Al-Razi’s Response and Comment
In Razi’s comment on Surah 3: 39, While he was standing in prayer in the chamber, the angels called unto him: “Allah doth give thee glad tidings of Yahya, …” Jibril becomes the spokesmen of the angels (plural). Luke 2: 13 cannot be called a Biblical precedent, because in that verse first one angel (Gabriel?) puts the shepherds at ease before the celestial being is joined by ‘a great company of the heavenly host’. Another example of the tenet is found in the Qur’an where angels (in the plural) announce the birth of the baby for an aged couple, i.e. to the barren Elisabeth and the announcement of the birth of Jesus by angels. To Zechariah, Mary and Joseph it was one angel, twice mentioned by name. In apocryphal material this is also consistently the case. The influence possibly came via Judaism where the Talmud teaches that angels (plural) brought the law.
Allah gave certain privileges and responsibilities to Jibril, to accompany his special position. Thus Jibril was entrusted with relaying God’s message to the prophets: ‘And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: “Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth.” They said: Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, - while we glorify You with praises and thanks (Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners) and sanctify You.” He (Allah) said: ‘I know that which you do not know’ (Surah 2: 30). Commenting on Surah 2: 30, al-Razi noted furthermore that ‘Jibril’s mission is therefore to be the messenger of God (Rasul Allah) to all the prophets ... his domain ‘ummah’ is all the prophets. He is honoured before God because God made him the mediator between Himself and His noblest servants ... the prophets ... God made him second to Himself ... Gabriel is the Imam and the example of the angels. He is trustworthy.’
Al-Razi also stated that it was Jibril ‘who ... proclaimed the good news to Mary concerning the birth [of Jesus], and Jesus was conceived by the breathing of Gabriel; he brought him up in all situations, and he used to walk with him [with Jesus] wherever he walked.’ Jibril, on the other hand, only visited Muhammad. He reportedly once asked Jibril, ‘What prevents you from visiting us more than you visit us now?’ to which Jibril replied, ‘We angels descend not but by the command of your Lord’ (Sahih Bukhari, English translation of M. Muhsin Khan, Vol.VI, Hadith 255).
Al- Razi also noted, without giving reasons for it, that ‘God made Jibril second to Himself’, and that Jibril was given the power to make the friends of God victorious and to destroy His enemies.’ Finally ‘God commended Jibril, saying: ‘Truly this is the word of a noble Messenger having power, with the Lord of the throne secure, obeyed, moreover trusty’ (Surah 81: 20).
4.3. Jibril’s special relationship with God
From the above follows that Razi saw Jibril as the leader and Imam of all the angels. He is more honoured than Michael, he occupies the highest possible place because he is second to God the Most High, and he is the messenger to the prophets, that is, the prophet to the prophets. Early church theologians had already suggested that because Jesus was sinless, the Holy Spirit constantly accompanied him. Al-Razi concludes: ‘Had there been any blemish in Jesus, the Holy Spirit would have left him at least for that time or in that aspect of his life. But Jesus was constantly the centre of attention of the chief of angels, who is second to the Most High God’. It is not clear where Razi got the idea that Jibril is the chief of the archangels. Yet, in Christian apologetics a similar view has been approached when Justin Martyr ‘put angels on a level with the Father and the Holy Spirit’ (cited from his Apology 1,6 by Carrington, Vol 2, 1957: 115). In the aftermath of the Council of Nicaea, 325 CE, there were theologians who affirmed with the creed the Son’s identity to be one of essence with the Father. But many still had problems with the Holy Spirit as part of the supreme Godhead. The Holy Spirit was placed at the summit of the created, angelic order (Chadwick, 1993: 146).
It is important to note that the angels mentioned in al-Razi’s comment are not ordinary angels; rather, they are angels who surround the throne of God. How near then is Jesus to God? The answer is clearly found in the fact that God sent the closest one to Himself, the Holy Spirit (Jibril), to dwell with Jesus. God did not send Mikhaiel or Israfil but Jibril the Imam of all the angels, and the one who is next only to the Most High God.
According to Razi, Jibril is not only next to God in rank, but he also enjoys an intimate relationship with God. Explaining the meaning of the expression ‘Our Spirit’, and commenting on Surah 19:17: ‘We sent unto her (Mary) Our Spirit that presented himself to her a man without fault’, Razi wrote: ‘He [God] called him [Gabriel] His Spirit because he is the cause of the life of religion or to indicate His love and nearness to him, as you would say to your beloved ‘my spirit’. Thus Gabriel is both ranked next to God and the most loved by God’. God’s allotment of Jibril to accompany Jesus is an indication of how precious Jesus was to God, for the value of the gift is an indication of the worth of the recipient. There is nothing more precious than the permanent company of the Holy Spirit, except the presence of God Himself.

4.3.1 An intimate relationship between Allah, his Spirit and Christ In the 'NT' this unique honour belongs only to Jesus. Razi’s positioning of Jibril is therefore contrary to 'NT' teaching where Jesus is described as higher in rank than the angels. (The author of the 'NT' Letter to the Hebrews takes Psalm 2: 7 to refer to Jesus as the Son of God - ‘You are my Son, to-day I have become your Father.)
In Hebrews 11:13 (referring to Psalm 110: 26-28) the author argues: ‘to which of the angels did God ever say, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’ In similar vein, the apocryphal Ebionite Gospel twice includes the voice saying: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased”. It furthermore states “To-day I have become your Father”, thus likewise echoing Psalm 2: 7. The apocryphal Gospel to the Hebrews completes the picture, “You are my first-born son, who will reign eternally...” In Protestant Theology God is usually described as the primus inter pares of the Trinity, the first of three equal persons. We note furthermore that the temple of Jerusalem was restored, but not the kingship. That has to be the domain of the Messiah, the King of Kings.
In a place where one would least expect it – in the Qur’an itself, an intimate relationship is described between Allah, his Spirit and Christ. A Trinity in action, if not in essence (Masih, The Great Deception, p. 77) – is implied. Allah would send the Spirit to strengthen the more or less incapable Christ so that he could perform …outstanding miracles (Surah 2: 87; 5: 110). It is problematic that Jibril is also spoken of as ‘the companion (qarin) of Muhammad, just as though he were the Jinni accompanying a poet, and the same word, nafatha, “blow upon” (Macdonald, 1909: 19). Just as Hasan, the poet, was thrown down by female jinni and had verses pressed out of him, ‘so the first utterances of prophecy were pressed from Muhammad by the angel Gabriel.’
4.4. Jibril proclaims Jesus as a great sign
It is significant that the Qur’an refers to Nabi Isa (the prophet Jesus) and his mother in Surah 23:50 as an Ayatollah, a sign of Allah. Here the Qur’an is very close to the Bible. By promoting Mary to be an Ayatollah, her son was somehow also demoted and denied at the same time to be the ‘Son of God’. Nevertheless, Allah brings good tidings to her (Surah 3: 45), she was to give birth to the Messiah. Shorrosh (1988: 84) highlights how Al-Badawi and Al-Razi commented on the miraculous birth of Jesus. Al-Badawi: That distinction sets apart from other humans and messengers, because he was born without any human embrace. Al-Razi explains that faultless ‘first means that Christ was without sin; second, that He grew in integrity as it is said that He who has no sin is chaste and in the growing plant there is no purity; and third, he was above reproach and pure.’ Coming from prominent Muslim sources these pronouncements are indeed significant. The Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 says e.g. ‘ the Lord himself will give you as a sign. The virgin will be with child.’ 69 the 'NT' picks up the theme when the shepherds hear from the unnamed angel – in Christian tradition taken to be Gabriel - about the baby who was born: ‘this shall be the sign’ (Luke 2:12). The illiterate shepherds might not have known about the messianic significance of the fulfilment of the prophecy, but the devout Simeon did. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that the child would be ‘a sign that will be spoken against’ (Luke 2: 34). All this is found in the context of Luke 2, which follows the appearances of the Angel Gabriel to Mary and Zechariah.
Yusuf Ali, referring to the words ‘for God proves sustenance (to Mary) ...without measure’, (Surah 3: 37), supposed that this is gleaned from apocryphal writings, where she was brought to the temple at the age of twelve.70 The Protevangel of James, a pseudo-epigraphic71document, narrates how a dove in the sanctuary sustained Mary, alternately that she received food out of the hand of an angel. The Qur’an picks this tenet up when Zechariah discovered that she was fed ‘from the realm of God’ (Surah 3: 37). Here was probably some confusion by the author of the apocryphal Protevangel of James, the obvious source of this narrative. (Elijah was fed by the ravens in solitude, 1 Kings 17: 6). In the context of angels speaking to Mary - announcing the birth of a baby to her, it was said: ‘I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay as it were the figure of a bird’ (Surah 3: 49). The tradition of Jesus making a bird out of clay is taken from another apocryphal document, the spurious Gospel of Thomas.
A similar confusion is found with regard to the birth of Yahya (John the Baptist). According to the Qur’an, angels (in the plural) announce the birth of the baby who was to be born to the aged couple, i.e. to the barren Elisabeth. The ‘great company of the heavenly host’ joining the angel, which announced the birth of Jesus on Bethlehem’s field (Luke 2:13), might have been the cause of the confusion. Yet, the Qur’an is consistent in this regard. Also angels announced the birth of Jesus to Mary. It is however unclear where the Qur’an got the inspiration that Zechariah had to speak with signs for three days (Surah 3: 41) in stead of all of nine months as implied in the Bible. Luke’s Gospel only refers to signs in this context because Zechariah was dumb till just after the birth of his son John. Islamic legend (Weil, 1853: 192) quotes Jibril saying to him that he would be dumb as ‘punishment for your lack of faith’. Being a part of Muhammad’s defence and apology to the Christian delegation of Najran, this confusion cannot be attributed to Jibril’s inspiration.
4.5. Jibril as the Spirit of Faith and Truth?
Rodwell suggests in a footnote to Surah 61: 6 of his Qur’an translation that Muhammad believed himself to be the parakletos of John 14: 16. The verse speaks about the Spirit of truth, which would come after Jesus had left the earth. It could be translated as ‘comforter’, counsellor or advocate. The context makes it quite clear that it is not referring to a person. It is very unlikely that Muhammad saw himself as ‘the Spirit of truth’.
The addition of ‘Spirit of truth’ in this context could have led the Muslim theologians to Jibril, who was equated in Islamic Theology - as we have seen - with the Holy Spirit of the Bible.72 Instead however, Islamic theologians discovered fairly soon after Muhammad’s death, that the rendering of the similar sounding periklytos would produce Ahmad, a Syriac variant of Muhammad. In Ishaq’s biography of Muhammad (Ishaq 1978: 104), the author says: The Menahhemana…in Syriac is Muhammad, in Greek he is the paraclete. According to the common Islamic viewpoint, this would then prove that Jesus prophesied the coming of Muhammad. Ahmed Deedat saw proof in the masculine form of John 14: 16 that Jesus prophesied a male person to be the parakletos. English translations as a rule correctly use the masculine definite article from the Greek original. Because Muhammad was not effectively literate and had to depend such a lot on hearsay, it is quite probable that he was not aware of the context of the Bible verse, which added that the parakletos is the spirit of truth. In the footnote to his translation of Ishaq’s biography of Muhammad, Guillaume notes that the quote by Muhammad from John 15:23ff comes from the Palestinian Syriac Lectionary and not from the ordinary Bible of the Syriac-speaking churches, which is corrupt in a few places. Guillaume also notes that the word that is rendered “comforter”, ‘… we find in the Palestinian Lectionary, but all other Syriac versions render ‘paraclete’, following the Greek’ (Ishaq, 1978: 104). Guillaume notes furthermore that Muhammad omitted the words ‘it is written’ before ‘in the law’ in his citing John 15: 23. In this way ‘quite another meaning is given to the prophecy’ (Ishaq, 1978: 104).
The Qur’an itself speaks of ‘the Spirit of Faith and Truth’, referring to the bringing down of the Revelation from the ‘Lord of the Worlds’ (Surah 26: 193). Obviously Gabriel is thought of as the agent, which puts the translated copy from the original in heaven in the heart and mind of the Prophet ‘in the perspicuous Arabic language’ (Surah 26: 194). This becomes confusing because Muhammad himself was regarded to be the parakletos. Was he now also the Spirit of Truth, i.e. identical to Jibril?(A closer identification along the lines of the doctrine of the Hol Trinity would be preposterous in Islamic thinking) It is problematic that the influence of the Islamic ‘Spirit of Truth’ on Muhammad appears to have radiated the opposite of truthfulness. About the life of Muhammad before the Mt. Hira experience, the one character trait that comes through strongly is that he was well respected for his integrity and trustworthiness. In fact, this reportedly impressed the rich widow Khadijah so much when he worked for her, after she had turned down other suitors.73
In his early years Muhammad was absolutely truthful. In their marriage Khadijah was sure of his fidelity. In an environment where polygamy was the order of the day, he never married another woman until her death when he was about 50 years old. ‘What she knew of the Prophet’s character made her absolutely certain that what she saw and heard was genuine and came from a good source’ (Salahi, 1998: 68). She also testified ‘You are truthful to your trust, kind to your kinsfolk and you always tell the truth.’ Furthermore, he was initially not ambitious, so that the words got a special meaning: ‘You had not entertained any hope that Scriptures would be given you, but this was an act of grace by Your Lord’ (Surah 28: 86). And when he courageously preached the truth regarding idolatry, he was rejected. He led some of his persecuted followers to go toAbyssinia (to-day’s Ethiopia) in 615 C.E, and finally he himself fled to Medina in 622 C.E.
4.5.1 Compromises with Truth
On a wrong premise - adoring him and putting him on a dangerous pedestal as if he were almost without a fault, Khadijah unwittingly prepared Muhammad’s slide. Compromises with truth already started in Mecca, which was partly to be contributed to the fervour with which his companions like Abu Bakr had put Muhammad on a pedestal. Washington Irving – whose intention of a journal for family consumption in 1831 resulted in a publication in 1850, without any intention whatsoever to harm Islam in any way, suggested that Muhammad 'gave himself out as a prophet, sent by God to put an end to idolatry, and to mitigate the rigor of the Jewish and the Christian law’ (Irving, 1850: 68). Muhammad appears to have been fairly successful already in Mecca with his compromises so that quite a few Jews were prepared to follow him for a time. However, when the prophet refused to prohibit his followers to ‘eat flesh of the camel and other animals forbidden by their law … (they) drew back and rejected his religion as unclean’ (Irving, 1850: 68).
Initially ‘urged on by an intense desire to proclaim that great truth of the Unity of the Godhead, which had taken full possession of his own soul…he worked himself up into a belief that he had received a divine call …The earnestness of those convictions which at Mecca sustained him under persecution, and which perhaps led him, at any price as it were, and by any means, not excluding deceit and falsehood, to endeavour to rescue his countrymen from idolatry (Rodwell, 1909: 13f). This summary of Rodwell seems quite to the point, albeit possibly too harsh. Goldziher (1925: 22) pointed out that Muhammad wanted his followers to regard him as a normal human being with weaknesses; only as someone who points the way but not as a ‘Musterbild’, a perfect example.
The attitude to religious opponents in Mecca is reflected finely when Muhammad was called to ‘Be patient with what they say and part from them courteously’ (Surah 73: 10). In the late Meccan period Muslims were advised to go to the People of the Book in case of doubt (Surah 10:94). In Muhammad's early Medinan period Jibril was still revealing ‘no compulsion in religion’ (Surah 2: 256). This ayat followed the brilliant throne verse, which spoke of the sovereignty of the self-subsisting, eternal one God, who slumbers nor sleeps – thus quite close to Psalm 121: 4 and similar verses.
The Qur’anic Surah’s however started teaching in Medina that Muslim believers had to stay clear of Christians and Jews. Much of all the life of integrity and honesty of the younger Muhammad is contradicted by his lifestyle in the latter third of his life. The authoritative Wahidy (cited in Ayoub, 1984: 253) stated boldly that the ‘no compulsion’ verse, which is so often quoted by inter-faith Muslim leaders who suggest that Islam teaches tolerance, was abrogated by Surah 9: 29, ‘Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day (even if they are) of the People of the Book…until they pay the Jizya (poll-tax) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.’ In Surah 109 Muslims had something on which they could fall back in debate and still sound tolerant: Say : O ye that reject Faith! I worship not that which ye worship, Nor do you serve Him Whom I serve… To you be your Way, and to me mine.
In Medina Muhammad himself not only erred through deceit and untruthfulness, but he taught also that lying is only minor sin, almost permissible if it can be used for the spreading of the religion. (Muslims are allowed to lie in four cases: In the Holy War, to reconcile two enemies, a man to his different wives and a wife to her husband.) If Jibril was still Muhammad’s inspiration, he was much rather the equivalent of the ‘father of lies’ (John 8: 44) at this time. Allah himself is being described as a schemer, ‘cunning.’(Surah 3: 54).
4.5.2. Allah outwits the disbelievers
Surah 3: 54, ‘And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers.’ The idea in this context is that Allah outwits the disbelievers, e.g. the Jews when they wanted to kill Jesus. In the context of Surah 3: 54 this is stressed, because Surah 3: 55 states that Allah would cause Jesus to die and raise him to himself. Interesting in legendary Islam is that Jibril gets a rôle. It is said that Jesus was dead for three hours. In the 4th hour Jibril appeared to him and took him to the heaven. The link to biblical tradition is clear with an unbelieving Jew who went into the house to guard Christ so that he would not escape (Weil, 1853: 201f). Yet, the corpse had purportedly been changed supernaturally. The body resembled Jesus so much that not even the disciples noticed it. In this way, Allah is the deceiver, saving Jesus from crucifixion. In this argument Islam simply follows so many Christian heretics. Seeing that Jesus is blameless and sinless. Allah could never allow him to die on a cross like murderers. Such an ignominious punishment would be improper for a messenger of Allah. Therefore Jesus is taken to have been in a swoon – or for the most dead for three hours – revived and then taken away. Alternately, someone else - like Judas Iskariot or Simon of Cyrene – died on the cross. Abd Masih is however perhaps too harsh – typical of a Westerner looking at the Oriental mind-set - to suggest that ‘Allah is the most clever in all deceivers, then his followers will learn from him, imitate him and be cunning among themselves too’ (The Great Deception, p.98). However, Muhammad is reported to have said often: ‘The Holy War means cunning, imposture and betrayal’ (e.g. Al-Bukhari, Jihad 157). The trading Orientals have less of a problem to be deceitful, even though this is not regarded as a virtue. The Jews were labelled in a similar way, e.g. when Balaam was reported to have said to the Pharaoh: ‘For this is the manner of all the Hebrews, to deceive kings and their magnates, to do all things cunningly in order to make the kings of the earth and their men to stumble’. The less attractive side of the cunning (deceitfulness) of Allah is that the Muslim is very unsure because of this with regard to his eternal destiny. Abu Bakr, the first successor (caliph) of the Muslims and the father of A’isha, wife of Muhammad, is reported to have said: ‘I swear to God that I do not feel safe from God’s cunning (deceitfulness), even if one of my feet is already inside paradise’ (Cited by Behind the Veil, p.237 from Successors of the Apostle, Khalid Muhammad Khalid, page 114).
4.5.3. A Biblical precedent of Muhammad’s moral decline
A Biblical precedent of Muhammad’s moral decline is found in the person of David, who in the earlier part of his life was full of child-like faith in God. As the persecuted and fleeing soldier whose followers had nudged him on with pious words to take his chance to kill his adversary, David preferred to leave the vengeance over to God. On the moral level, David was conscience-stricken after he had only cut off a little part of the robe of Saul (1 Samuel 24: 3-5). Later, as the sovereign King of a united Israel with many military victories under his belt, he however not only committed adultery with Bathsheba, but he also plotted to have her husband killed in battle to cover up his sinful behaviour. He finally married Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). As the equivalent of David’s lustful behaviour, the scandalous marriage of Muhammad to Zaynab comes to mind when he was the ruler in Medina. In Dashti’s view there had been clear manipulation in the run-up to this marriage till her prior divorce from Muhammad’s adopted son, Zayd. The latter and Zaynab had not been happily married anyway. The difference between David and Muhammad was that the Israelite king was remorseful after his moral failure had come into the open. Muhammad used ‘angelic revelation’ (e.g. Surah 33: 37, 50) to cover up morally despicable conduct. Surah 33: 38 indicates that he did not jump into this marriage glibly, perhaps even with some sense of guilt - which speaks for his integrity.
John Gilchrist (1986: 73) notes that ‘Islam does not, even to this day, reprobate every form of dishonesty.’ He goes on to quote Tabarrah, a Muslim writer: ‘Falsehood is not always bad, to be sure, there are times when telling a lie is more profitable and better for the general welfare, and for the settlement of conciliation among people, than telling the truth.’ Jesus by contrast, taught absolute honesty: even a little dishonesty is tantamount to being dishonest through and through (Luke 16: 10).
4.6. Was Jibril an adversary of the Jews?
After ‘Umar, one of Muhammad’s companions, had challenged an ill-informed rabbi at Medina, the latter reportedly agreed that Muhammad was the Apostle of God. How convinced the rabbi was, is not said. ‘Umar had been encouraged through his visits to Jewish schools ‘how the Qur’an concurs with the Torah’ (Ayoub, 1984: 127). Umar confronted Jews: ‘You are most deserving of perdition if you know that he is the Apostle of God and still do not follow him.’ How much effect the veiled threat had on them, is unclear. The Muslims apparently had high hopes for the conversion of the People of the Book in that region. The expectation of Muhammad that the Jews would accept him as their prophet was however definitely inflated and based on a very doubtful premise. The refusal of the Medinan Jews to embrace Islam, spawned some strange arguments, like regarding the angel Gabriel and Michael as adversaries. Muhammad was said to have heard from the Medinan Jews – who were not known to have been knowledgable - that Michael was their wali (ruler) and Gabriel their enemy (Lewis et al, Vol. 2. 1965: 363). The Prophet answered according to this hadith that both angels were God’s servants and so they could not have been enemies. Hereafter Surah 2: 97f was reportedly revealed, one of the two occurrences of Gabriel by name. The reported view of the prophet was more in line with Judaism than his supposed Jewish teachers.The explanation of Sales (printed in Hughes, p.133) makes more sense: The refusal of Jews and Christians to join the Muslim ranks en masse, was interpreted as a rebuff, enough to turn the qibla (prayer direction) the opposite way, from Jerusalem to Mecca.
Islamic sources suggest that even in the heavenly realms there was enmity: ‘We have enemies and friends among the angels’ (Cited in Ayoub, 1984: 127). According to Abrahams (1980, introduction), certain scholars have indicated that Muhammad ‘substituted Gabriel for Michael’ after his quarrel with the Jews. These scholars claim that in Islam Jibril is considered ‘an adversary of the Jews and a friend of the Moslems who brings them prosperity and good tidings’. Jewish tradition however does not substantiate the view that Gabriel and Michael are rivals. On the contrary, Gabriel occupies a similar position in Judaism to that of Michael: ‘… the primary reason for designating Gabriel as the angel of Muhammad’s revelation is to be found in the role Gabriel played in the lives of …Abraham and Moses.’ Gabriel is described in rabbinic literature as a guardian angel ‘…more prominent than Michael in the careers of these great Jewish leaders’.74 The above Talmudic references to the angel Gabriel indeed substantiate this position. Yet, because Gabriel was ‘more prominent’ than Michael surely does not make him an ‘adversary of the Jews’? In fact, Michael was known as the prince of peace (Rappoport Vol. I, 1928: 40) which would make it out of character to be an adverasary of Gabriel. Also in the Bible and Michael never occur in competition.75 In fact, in the only instance where they appear to be in close proximity – in Daniel 8-10, they are supportive of each other, in the service of the ‘Ancient of Days.’ A similarity between Gabriel and Raphael, another archangel, occurs in the book of Tobit (12: 15). The latter celestial being speaks there as ‘one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One’. In Luke 1: 19 the angel identifies himself as ‘Gabriel, who stand in the presence of the glory of the Holy One.’
It is completely unclear how the perception developed that the Jews, with whom Muhammad had contact, came to the conclusion that ‘Gabriel was their enemy because he was an angel of attacks, chastisement and punishment, not an angel of revelation’ (Al-Tabari, Commentary on the Qur’an, Oxford University Press, Vol. 1, p.466). Hence, the Jews of Medina objected: ‘Michael would have been the Angel of Revelation’ (Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1989: 77). Abraham Geiger, a 19th century Jewish scholar, has pointed out that the Jews of that region had to be counted ‘zu den unwissendsten’, the least knowledgeable (Geiger, 1902: 10).76 In circular reasoning it is said that since Jibril is the friend of Muslims and the Jews are their enemies, Jibril is the enemy of the Jews. Allah, even He, is his rotecting Friend, and Gabriel and the righteous among the believers; and furthermore the angels are his helpers (Surah 66:4, Pickthall translation). Muslim tradition itself appears to conjure Gabriel and Michael as adversaries. Why else would Jibril be placed at the right of the Creator (Rappoport, Volume I, 1928: 41), whereas the original Jewish tradition had Michael in that position? Of course, it is clear that the angel of revelation could never be placed on the resented left side as the Jewish tradition prescribed. Al-Razi asserts that God, the Most High, mentioned Jibril in the Qur’an before any other angel. Jibril is the archangel concerned with inspiration and knowledge, while Michael is the one concerned with providing subsistence and food. Knowledge - that is spiritual food - is more honoured than physical food. So it follows that Jibril is more honoured than Michael.77 Does this imply that they are rivals, let alone enemies? Islamic tradition could possibly also not palate that Gabriel in Jewish tradition ‘manifests the Divine justice and punishment of wicked, and only for the latter he is terrible, being mild with regard to the just (Rappoport, Vol. I, 1928: 41). As we have pointed out, in Muslim distorted perception Jews saw Gabriel as their enemy ‘because he was an angel of attacks, chastisement and punishment, not an angel of revelation’ (Al-Tabari, Commentary on the Qur’an, Oxford University Press, Vol. 1, p.466). Surah 2: 97f is one of the two instances where Jibril is mentioned by name - Say: Whoever is the enemy of Jibreel-- for surely he revealed it to your heart by Allah’s command, verifying that which is before it and guidance and good news for the believers . The basis is quite shaky. It is significant that the translation of N.J. Dawood 1983 (1956) - which is however not strictly based on chronological revelation - lists Surah 66, the other occurrence of Gabriel by name (66: 4), as the very last Surah,78 thus clearly in support of Watt’s statement that the name of the angel of revelation as Gabriel is possibly a late Medinan interpolation. On another score however, it has been argued that Surah 2: 97 was revealed after the Prophet had stated the obvious, that both archangels were God’s servants and so they could not be enemies.
4.7. Is Jibril a messenger of peace or of war?
Islamic apologists often makes a point that Islam is a religion of peace, containing that the same consonants are used as in Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace. Muslims greet each other with the equivalent of ‘Peace be upon you’ and they add this every time they refer to the prophets. In Islamic eschatology the returning Jesus will ‘put an end to war’, apart from killing swine and destroying the cross(es). Jibril has little resemblance with the counterpart of the 'OT' and the Talmud in this regard. In Mecca it was revealed to ‘repel evil with that which is best’ (Surah 23: 96), thus well short of the forceful jihad injunctions of Medina. It was of course still debatable what should be regarded as ‘best’ in this context. Muslim apologists have often tried to stress the same consonants of the Jewish shalom, but in Medina the other meaning of Islam - viz. Submission - became dominant. In religious terminology the Muslim is expected to be in slavish submission to Allah, enabling the unquestioning and uncritical following of the Prophet. Ibn Ishaq (1978: 212) emphasises that the prophet had not been receiving permission via Jibril to fight ‘or allowed to shed blood before the second ‘Aqaba’79. He was simply ordered to call men to God and to endure insult and forgive the ignorant. Three options were basically open to the early Muslims in Mecca a) give up their religion, b) be maltreated at home or c) to flee.
This attitude was very much in line with Jesus’ teaching: ‘Love your enemies...’ Paul encourages followers of Jesus to ‘fight the good fight of faith’ (1 Timothy 1: 18, 1 Timothy 6: 12) in a battle ‘not against flesh and blood’ (Ephesians 6: 11). The believer is exhorted to ‘put on the full armour of God’ so that he can take a stand ‘against the devil’s schemes’ (Ephesians 6: 10). The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the Spirit - that is the Word of God - are part of the full armour of the believer. Christians down the centuries never interpreted this as an encouragement for real (as opposed to spiritual) warfare. In the same spirit Peter, the apostle, taught in his first epistle (1 Peter 2: 19ff): ‘it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God…’
4.7.1. Muhammad’s example of restraint in Mecca
In Mecca the attitude of Muhammad approached that of Jesus with regard to retaliation and vengeance. When the ill-mannered Urwa was sent by the Quraysh, using intemperate and foul language, Muhammad set the example of restraint, so much so that Urwa returned to his people with a generous report of the Prophet and his followers. When hereafter the Quraysh were adamant, sending a man to shoot arrows and throw stones at the Muslim camp to annoy and insult them, Muhammad did not retaliate. The man was caught by the Muslims and brought before the Prophet who forgave him and allowed him to return to the Quraysh unharmed (Narayan, 1978: 102).
Whereas in the early part of his Meccan period Muhammad practiced forgiveness, things started changing in due course in this regard. There was still some extenuating circumstance when compromise with idolatry was suggested. His preaching often included threats, which led to the withdrawal of support. Watt (1970: 11) points out that Abu Lahab his uncle and the new chief after the death of Abu Talib, withdrew the support of the clan ‘alleging that he had forfeited the right to it by asserting that the ancestors of the clan were in hell.’ The Qur’an proclaimed vengeance on one of Muhammad’s enemies, his uncle Abu Lahab: Perish the hands of the Father of Flame’ perish he! (Surah 111.1). ‘Father of Flame’ was the nickname of Abu Lahab. Here was however probably a case of extreme provocation. It is known that Muhammad reacted carnally because of the ridicule and rejection, which he had experienced from Christians and Jews. Jealousy has been attributed to the Jews because they could not accept that God would choose an Arab as the ‘last prophet’ (Cook, 1983: .20). In a single case a conciliatory spirit was more or less forced on Muhammad after Abu Jahl, his fierce enemy in Mecca, threatened to ‘either stop cursing our gods or we will curse the God you serve’ (Ibn Ishaq, 1978: 162). Jibril ‘backed off’ with a revelation ‘curse not those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance’(Surah 6: 108).
The persecution experienced by Muhammad has sometimes been exaggerated. Andrae (1936: 175f) pointed out that ‘the persecution of Mohammed was of a very underhand nature. As long as he was protected by his uncle and his clan, a serious threat to his safety was out of the question… The external sufferings which the Prophet was compelled to undergo, were apparently not very severe.’ He was maligned and ridiculed, but matters were more serious for those of his followers who were socially weak and underprivileged. Some of them were ‘clothed in iron mail-shirts and put in the burning heat of the sun, and they were tortured in other ways.’ When Muhammad fled to Ta’if, he hoped that he would also be protected there by his clan from attacks of the Quraysh. Muir (1894: 109) saw something ‘lofty and heroic’ in Muhammad’s flight: ‘a solitary man, despised and rejected by his own people, going boldly forth in the name of God like Jonah to Nineveh, and summoning an idolatrous city to repent and support his mission’. However, this did not materialise. Instead, he ‘did not escape the cruelties of his persecutors’ (Ali Muhammad, 1950: 5). Without being concrete, Siddiqui (1994: 76), even mentions torture, but he adds that Muhammad ‘was not subjected to any severe bodily violence for fear that such action would provoke retaliation’. More than once he was wounded by stones thrown at him. ‘So violent did the popular fury become at last, that he was driven from the city, and even pursued for some distance beyond the walls by an insulting rabble of slaves and children’ (Irving, 1850: 108).
‘Persecution’ is mentioned by Ibn Ishaq. This transpired through Umm Jamil, the wife of Abu Lahab, one of his main persecutors in Mecca. She ‘carried thorns and cast them in the apostle’s way where he would be passing.’ Muhammad’s response to the taunts was typical: ‘God sent down’, that means of course that Jibril revealed – that Abu Lahab and his wife would roast in hell:
Abu Lahab and his hands, God blast His wealth and gains useless at the last, He shall roast in flames, held fast, With his wife the bearer of of the wood aghast, On her neck a rope of palm-fibre cast . (Surah 111, the rhyme of the original imitated by Guillaume). In the part of Ishaq’s biography under the caption ‘The ill-treatment the apostle received from his people’, one finds no less than 20 Surah’s or parts of them that are preceded by phrases like ‘Jibril came to the apostle’, ‘God revealed’ or ‘God sent down.’ The impression is given that Jibril is used to dish out ‘divine’ retaliation. All to often threats of hell – like Surah 111 cited above are part of the ‘revelation.’Another example is Surah 104: 1,4-6 including the words ‘Woe to every slanderer, defamer... Nay! he shall most certainly be hurled into the crushing disaster, And what will make you realize what the crushing disaster is? It is the fire kindled by Allah...’
4.7.2 The Hijrah as ‘the pathway to jihad’
Muhammad started in Medina where he left off in Mecca, in a peaceful way. Writing a document concerning the immigrants and the helpers in which he made a friendly agreement with the Jews, he endeavoured to establish them in their religion and their property (Ishaq, 1978: 231). Permission to fight oppression was given to the Muslims soon after the Hijrah. Surah 22: 39f is taken as the very first instruction (Ishaq, 1978: 212): 80 ‘Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory; Those who have been driven from their homes unjustly only because they said: Our Lord is Allah.’81 Their suffering in Mecca was also revealed as an incentive: ‘Those who have left their homes, or been driven out therefrom, or suffered harm in My Cause, or fought or been slain,- verily, I will blot out from them their iniquities…(Surah 3: 195). The Hijrah has been aptly described by John Gilchrist (1986: 60) as ‘the pathway to jihad’. Gilchrist continues: ‘Muhammad left Mecca, only to take steps immediately to interrupt its trade and ultimately to conquer and subdue it. The sword was unsheathed to protect the fledgling Muslim community at Medina. As we have seen, convenient expedients were justified in the name of the establishment and progress of Islam. Rules, even God’s own laws, could be bent whenever the Muslim ummah found itself in conflict with non-Muslim opponents.’ Terror into the hearts of the unbelievers Very soon Jibril, the angel of Revelation, also brought the message on behalf of Allah: ‘I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them... It is not ye who slew them; it was God’ (Surah 8: 12,17). Similarly, Surah 8: 60 invites the Muslims to ‘strike terror (into the hearts of) the enemies of God and your enemies’. Islamic theologians have sometimes tried to tone down the warring effect of Surah 8. Thus Yusuf Ali (1946: 424) refers to fighting ‘the good fight’, without clarifying what that entails. Possibly he meant fighting in self-defense. The Qur’an itself gives some clarity, showing however a significant change after Muhammad’s move from Mecca to Medina. The military use was likewise stressed, meaning now that submission entails the ‘making of peace’ when the enemy lays down arms in surrender. Initially the holy months were still respected. Jibril instructed the Muslims to refrain from fighting and raids in those months: ‘But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war) … (Surah 9: 5). Later Muhammad would even ride roughshod over that command as well, using a special Jibril revelation to justify the raid. In Islamic jihad it is taken that the fight will continue till the opposing party submits. ‘Be not weary and faint-hearted, crying for peace, when ye should be uppermost: for Allah is with you, and will never put you in loss for your (good) deeds (Surah 47: 35). The Islamic exhortations to jihad almost always occur in the context of the fighting of infidels (pagans), Jews and Christians. There was an enticing promise for ‘those slain in Allah’s way’ (Surah 3: 169), ‘in the cause of Allah’ (Surah 4: 74), viz. direct entry into Paradise. In due course preconditions for jihad were laid down. Cyril Glassé wrote in the Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, p. 209: ‘An important precondition for jihad is a reasonable prospect of success. It is not lawful unless it involves the summoning of unbelievers to belief and jihad must end when order is restored or when Islam is no longer under threat’. Jibril instigated fighting Ishaq (1978: 461) records an instance where Jibril actually instigated Muhammad to continue fighting a Jewish tribe. Jibril ‘came to the apostle…He asked the apostle if he had abandoned fighting. “God commands you, Muhammad, to go to B. Qurayza. I am about to go to them to shake their stronghold.”‘ Shortly hereafter passages of the Qur’an were revealed, which give Muslims the right to take up arms in self-defense against all who threaten the Muslim ummah, to slay them wherever they be found (Surah 2. 191). Yet, the run-up to this verse is still an injunction not to begin the aggression. ‘Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors (Surah 2. 190, Pickthall). Retaliation sanctioned In a similar way, fighting in the Sacred month is allowed if it is retaliation: ‘The forbidden month for the forbidden month, and forbidden things in retaliation. And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you (Surah 2: 194, Pickthall). More rationalisation is offered in the same Surah, to fight the Qureysh even in the sacred months because they prevented the followers of Muhammad from visiting the Ka’ba: ‘They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel His people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can.’ Permission to fight is given when the Muslims are wronged. ‘To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged;- and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid’ (Surah 22: 39). This has led Muslim scholars, (e.g. Muhammad Ali, The religion of Islam, p. 554) to describe jihad as ‘fighting in self-defence …in the cause of Allah.’ This is not completely convincing in respect of the Jewish tribes of Medina. Jibril actually repudiated any intention of Muhammad to abandon the fighting against ben Qurayza, a Jewish tribe. Jibril is reported to have said that ‘the angels had no yet laid aside their arms.’ He went on to pass on Allah’s command to attack the Jewish tribe for Allah was about to go to them and ‘shake their stronghold.’ Seeing that no reason is given for the opposition of Allah, e.g. of idolatry of that tribe, one is entitled to entertain grave doubts both with regard to Jibril and Allah in this context. After conquering the Bani Qurayza, still sterner commands are given against the adversaries: ‘The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.’ Muslim commentators try to water down this text by suggesting that this terrible command is onls given yn respect of idolaters, not to Jews and Christians.
4.7.3. An intermediary conciliatory spirit
Muhammad radiated a reconciliatory spirit in the run-up to the truce of Hudeibiya during the umrah, the lesser pilgrimage. In a moment of extremity, Muhammad is said to have fallen into a trance state ‘similar to the swoon which came over him when he was receiving a revelation’ (Armstrong, 1991: 218). When his co-religionists heard the conditions of the truce with the Quraysh ‘…the Muslims felt indignant and agitated, whereas the Prophet remained unperturbed and attentive’ (Narayan, 1978: 103). To the shock and dismay of everyone, the Prophet signified his acceptance of all the terms. It is significant to note that the Prophet indicated acceptance of all the terms, a few of which were quite humiliating. After what Muhammad had regarded as divine intervention when his camel refused to get up from her knees, the prime Islamic Prophet stated that ‘reconciliation, not war, was to characterise this expedition and he told the pilgrims to dismount’ (Armstrong, 1991: 216). Interestingly, forgiveness is put on a par with atonement in the Qur’an: “Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.” But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) wrong doers (Surah 5: 45). Attempt at a Corrective toWestern prejudice Siddiqui (1994: 155) tried to bring about some corrective toWestern prejudice against the connotations of jihad: ‘The true nature and significance of jihad can well be understood, when it is viewed in the context of the teachings of Islam as a whole as well as the objectives which it seeks to realize. Moreover, we also have to consider the role of war, in other words, that of power, as a means for the establishment of a sound social order.’ Furthermore he makes the point that jihad should not be confused with the word qital (fighting). ‘Jihad fi Sabil Allah (fighting in the way of Allah) refers to an all-round struggle, while the other signifies only one aspect of that struggle, i.e. fighting’ (Siddiqui, 1994: 157). The occasion of dialogue with the Najran Christians The occasion of dialogue with the Najran Christians was however an exception in the Medinan era of Muhammad’s life. Haykal (1976: 198) describes how the followers of Muhammad perceived the teaching of their supreme prophet in Medina: ‘It was not in their nature to suffer such injustice or to submit to such tyranny for long without thinking of avenging themselves.’ The teaching in both the 'Old' and 'New Testament' is that of leaving vengeance to the Lord, although the Israelites were divinely commanded to fight or retaliate when the name of Yahweh was at stake. It cannot be the same spirit that inspired Muslims to ensure themselves a place in Paradise through jihad (Holy War). Whereas Jesus taught in essence ‘it is better to suffer wrong than to commit wrong’ (e.g. Matthew 5: 38-48), Ayatollah Khomeini interpreted the spirit of the Qur’an radically in turning Jesus’ injunction completely around, suggesting that it is better to commit wrong than to suffer wrong.
Of course, all this is to be understood within the context of Jihad.82 It should nevertheless make every Muslim adherent ponder deeply that Muhammad, who killed so many in war, was not sure at the end of his life whether he would enter Paradise: ‘By Allah, though I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do with me’ (Bukhari, Volume 5: 266). He however consoled his followers in terminology that rings like that of the 'New Testament': ‘Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord; They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah: And with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the (Martyrs) glory in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve’ (Surah 3: 169f).
4.7.4 Muhammad’s example influencing his followers
Mark Gabriel, in his book Terrorism and Islam (2002: 69) shows clearly how ‘revelations increasingly served to motivate Muslims to fight’, so that in Medina - where Muhammad built his army –‘the major topic of Quranic revelation was jihad and fighting the enemy.’ In fact, Arnold (1874: 54) says: ‘his most important act during the first year of the Hedgra was the proclamation of war, as the heaven-ordained means of spreading the faith.’ This may have been an over-simplification, but it definitely was unfortunate that Muhammad’s example influenced his followers to abuse ‘revelations’ from Jibril. Whatever supernatural being inspired Muhammad at this time, it was not identical with Gabriel of the Bible. Terrible as it already was that Muhammad commanded the killing of a Jewish poetess who condemned him and his teachings, worse it was that Ali ibn Abu Talib, his first cousin and devout follower, deemed it his responsibility to defend the cold-blooded murder. He did this by telling that God had sent Jibril to Muhammad - commanding the killing. Ali hereafter wrote a poem to confirm that the murder was God’s command (Gabriel, 2002: 104f). Muhammad knew that it would have been inexpedient after his move to Medina, to engage in open warfare. Plundering the Meccan caravans still fitted into the customs of the region, even though it could never satisfy norms of absolute honesty. However, could one but agree with Arnold (1874: 55) that he ‘resorted to the base and treacherous measure’ when he attacked the Quraysh during the sacred month of pilgrimage? Very strange abrogation followed because Jibril initially revealed in Surah 9:5, that we have already referred to: ‘But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful’. It is incomprehensible that Jibril was on hand with a ‘revelation’ to justify the murderous attack (Surah 2: 217), including a threat of hell: They ask thee concerning fighting in the prohibited month. Say: “Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the sacred mosque, and drive out its members.” Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the hereafter; they will be companions of the fire and will abide therein..
4.7.5. Forgiveness and Magnanimity as a strategy for expansion
The exemplary attitude of the truce of Hudeibiya was temporarily cancelled when Muhammad construed an incident between nomads as a breach of the treaty (Watt, 1970: 11). With 10,000 men he marched on Mecca in January 630. Muhammad could be magnanimous, e.g. after the defeat of Mecca in 630 AD. ‘Seeking to win over its inhabitants to his side, he dealt with the city leniently, even in the cases of those who had been his bitterest enemies’ (Parrinder, 1983: 469). This was probably very much calculated forgiveness to win the allegiance of the Quraysh in the city of his birth. The same cannot be said with regard to his attitude to the Jews. Yes, he initially did make many concessions, like retaining the celebration of the Sabbath and other Mosaic ordinances. He even went so far as to command the observation of the Yom Kippur (Day of atonement) fast. However, when his scheme failed because the Jews rejected his claims, these concessions were rescinded. When Muhammad saw that the Christians and Jews were ultimately not going to acknowledge his claims, they became his enemies. It appears as if he did not induce conditions for a special revelation from Jibril to change the Sabbath rest day to one for the jumu’ah, the Friday weekly celebration in the mosque. The Constantine legislation to make Sunday the compulsory day of rest, came in handy as a precedent, to decree that Friday would be the Islamic religious meeting day. After the mosque service, Muslims could however just resume the normal (working) day. Many laws, rules and regulations instituted by Moses, were dumped. All the laws of the Jews were regarded as mere burdens and chains in his new reasoning. The eating prohibitions were a punishment of God for their sins. Therefore he prayed: ‘Lay not on us a burden like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear (Surah 2: 186).
4.7.6. The use of deceit and the invocation of curses The treatment dealt out by Muhammad to his enemies included the use of deceit and the invocation of curses. Accordingly, Islamic ‘peace’ can only come about when all people submit to the rule of Allah and obey his apostle. Muhammad did not hesitate to order the execution of more than eight hundred Jews from the tribe Banu Quraydhah who had acted treasonably from his point of view.
When the disciples of Jesus demanded that he order fire from heaven after the Samaritans refused to accommodate him, he rebuked them: ‘you do not know what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them (Luke 9: 55). He furthermore taught: ‘Love your enemies, pray for those who abuse you’ (Luke 6: 27-28). Jesus lived out his teaching at the very end of his life when he prayed for the salvation of his enemies as they crucified him as well as pleading for forgiveness: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ Soon thereafter Jesus called out with a loud voice: ‘Father, in your hands I commit my spirit’ (Luke 23: 34,46). It is significant that Stephen’s use of the term the ‘Son of Man’ (Acts 7:56), which he saw in a vision at the right hand of the Father, triggered off the process which not only led to his death by stoning, but on that day the persecution was sparked off which took the Gospel to all corners of the Roman Empire. Stephen’s last words were reminiscent of that of his Master on the Cross at Calvary: ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’ (Acts 7: 59f).
If some peace-loving Muslims in our day and age were still hoping that the spirit of compromise might prevail, which the Meccan Muhammad still had displayed, the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran and his cohorts completely dispelled that. In the 1985 translation called The Noble Qur’an, the compilers even deemed it necessary to add an appendix on jihad. Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda movement took the ideology of the Hisbollah and Hamas factions of Islam to its logical conclusions, unfortunately embarrassing peace-loving Muslims in the process. In the Western Cape the group PAGAD, which set out to fight gangsterism and drugs in 1996, was highjacked by Muslim extremists that soon tried to Islamise the region en route to do the same to the continent.
4.7.7 An invitation to aggression Because of a revelation towards the end of Muhammad’s life, the sacred Islamic book now contains a verse, which looks as an invitation to aggression. Yet it is not an open licence to make war on all who do not acknowledge Islam, including Christians: ‘And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers (Surah 9.29). This Surah is taken to have been revealed in Mecca on the day of its conquest in 630 (Rodwell, 1909: footnote on p.470). This has however been interpreted by radical Islamic groups as an invitation to subjugate the rest of the world. Islamic Jurists divided the globe in dar al-harb (abode of war) and dar-al Islam. For the rest, the Qur’an – along with Jesus in his high-priestly prayer, wishing that ‘all may be one’ - surely challenges believers when the splitting up of true worship into warring sects is slated: ‘… those who divide their religion and break up into sects…’ (Surah 6: 159). The lure of Paradise What possibly hardly miss the mark was the lure of Paradise, even for an avowed unbeliever who ‘repented’ in time. ‘To secure the crown of martyrdom, it sufficed at the very last moment the simplest and most formal profession of faith in God and Mohammed’ (Muir, 1975 (1923): 271).The hadith recorded the case of ‘Amr ibn Thabit, a well known unbeliever when he was mortally wounded in battle. His comrades asked him regarding his creed. He whispered in reply that it was for Islam he had fought. When this was told to Muhammad, he reacted with wording similar to that of Jesus to the thief when they were dying on the cross.83 Muhammad ‘blessed his memory, and said that he was already an inheritor of Paradise’ (Muir, 1975 (1923): 271).
4.8. Jibril, a reviewer of the Qur’an
A strand of orthodox Islam teaches that Jibril reviewed the Qur’an seven times. The Qur’an refers to seven mathani, seven ‘narrations’. Surah 15: 87 has been translated by Yusuf Ali as ‘We have bestowed upon Thee the seven oft-repeated verses and the Grand Qur’an’. The notion generally in use would be that this was part of the final review. This is a variation of the accepted seven ‘readings’, even though ‘no one with any real authority can say precisely what the seven different readings referred to in the Hadith actually were’ (Gilchrist, 1995: 131). The logical explanation is that there could have been criticism because different people remembered different wording or dialects. An incident between ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab and one of the great companions by the name of Hisham ibn al-Hakam in which Muhammad was the arbitrator, appears to be the direct cause. As it happened on other occasions when he was embarrassed, Muhammad apparently invoked the aid of Jibril. Behind the Veil (p. 255) uses Volume 6, page 482 from Bukhari’s ahadith to narrate the incident:
‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab said, “I heard Hisham ibn Hakim reciting Al-Furqan and I listened to his recitation and noticed that he recited in several different ways which Allah’s messenger had not taught me. I was about to jump on him during his prayer and when he had completed his prayer, I put his upper garment around his neck and seized him by it and said, ‘Who taught you this Surah which I heard you reciting?’ He replied, ‘Allah’s Messenger taught it to me.’ I said, ‘You have lied for Allah’s Messenger has taught it to me in a different way.’ So I dragged him to Allah’s Messenger and said to him, ‘I heard this person reciting Surah Al-Furqan in a way which you haven’t taught me.’ Allah’s Messenger said, ‘It was revealed in both ways. This Qur’an has been revealed to be recited in seven different ways, so recite out of it whichever way is easier for you.”‘ The author of Behind the Veil notes succinctly: ‘It is very interesting to notice that Muhammad, the prophet, approved the readings of both of them in spite of the obvious differences between them which provoked ‘Umar and forced him to treat Hisham brutally and pull him by his clothes.’ Muhammad quoted how Jibril got involved: “Jibril made me read in (one dialect), I consulted with him again and continued asking for more (dialectical reading) and he continued to add to that until I finished with seven readings”‘ (Bukhari, volume 6, page 227). In his 1989 study Gilchrist pointed out that some Muslim writers like Siddiqui gloss over the wealth of evidence in the early historical records of Islam, which showed how the Qur’an was eventually standardised against a background of variant readings, missing passages and texts which had been lost altogether. Others like Desai (The Quraan Unimpeachable) duly acknowledge the evidences and admit the many differences that existed in the earliest manuscripts and codices. On the other hand, Desai remained determined to maintain the hypothesis that the Qur’an has been perfectly preserved and is intact to the last dot and letter. This hypothesis has been given the deathblow by Brother Mark’s The Perfect Qur’an (London, 2000). A similar tradition stating that the Qur’an originally came in seven different forms, reads as follows: We are further informed that Ubayy ibn Ka’b recalled an occasion where Muhammad reported that Jibril had come to him one day and told him Allah had commanded that the Qur’an be recited in only one dialect, to which Muhammad replied that his people were not capable of doing this. After much going back and forth the angel finally decreed that Allah had allowed the Muslims to recite the Qur’an in seven different ways and that each recital would be correct (Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, p.391).
4.8.1. Attempts to overcome some difficulties Desai attempts to overcome the difficulty with the passages said to be missing from the Qur’an. He conveniently declares them all to have been abrogated by Allah during Muhammad’s lifetime. But how does he evade the implications of the numerous variant readings in the earliest texts and codices? He simply claims that they resulted not from uncertainty about the text or partial confusion about the actual wording of each passage, but rather that each and every variant was in fact part of the original Qur’an text as delivered by Allah to Muhammad! He says that “the ‘differences’ in the recitals of various people were all official, authorized and divine forms which were taught by Rasulullah (saw) to the Sahaabah, who in turn imparted their knowledge of Qira’at to their students” (The Quraan Unimpeachable, p. 13). He goes on to quote the following statement of Muhammad in support of his interpretation: ‘The Qur’an that has been revealed was to be recited in seven different ways, so recite of it that which is easier for you’ (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, p.510). This is nowhere convincing.
Karen Armstrong (1995: 158f) - taking Surah 29: 46 to be Medinan,84 - gives quite a plausible explanation for the religious tolerance of the verses: ‘Dispute not with the People of the Book save in the fairer manner, except those of them that do wrong…our God and your God is one’. She suggests that Muhammad possibly did not regard all the Jews in Medina as being hostile to him and the new religion – albeit that they gave Muhammad the benefit of the doubt. Furthermore, it is also likely that Muhammad believed that not all Christians subscribed to the scandalous idea that God had a Son (Armstrong, 1995: 159). But even if the original Surah was Meccan, it could have been reviewed in Medina. Watt (1970: 89) notes that there are grounds for surmising that Muhammad himself began the process of revision so ‘that it was continuous with his receiving of revelations’. The simplest form of ‘revision’ was the putting together of the small units in which the revelation originally came. Other ahadith complement angelic involvement. “My Lord told me to read the Qur’an in one dialect. I sent back and asked Him to make it easy for my people. He answered me (saying), ‘Read it in two dialects.’ I requested of him again, thus he sent to me (saying), ‘Read it in seven dialects.’ Also the archangel Michael is reported to have become involved. “Jibril and Michael visited me. Jibril sat at my right side and Michael at my left side. Jibril said (to me), ‘Read the Qur’an in one dialect.’ Michael said, ‘Add (more dialects)’ until he reached seven dialects.” Complications of the Readings
Seven different dialects in the Qur’anic text created a dilemma for Muslim scholars. The author of Behind the Veil (p. 257) points out how Suyuti, the eminent Muslim scholar, alluded to the fact that this issue has created a doubt in the minds of the scholars because the seven dialects required Jibril to deliver each verse seven times. When Uthman, the third Khalif, recognised only one version of the Qur’an and had all other readings and copies burnt, there was no consideration of Muhammad’s lenient attitude towards the seven readings. Suyuti (pages 141,142) is quoted in Behind the Veil: ‘The multitude of the scholars and the legists said that the ‘Uthmanic Qur’an was (written) in accordance to one letter (dialect) only’. Suyuti once again continues on pages 170 and 171: “When the lads and their teachers fought against each other during the era of ‘Uthman due to the difference in reading (the Qur’anic text), he (‘Uthman) standardized the reading and made people recite it accordingly because he was afraid of riots since the Iraqis and the Damascenes disagreed on the dialect. But before that, the Qur’anic copies (used to be read) on the basis of the Seven Letters in which the Qur’an was given.” The fact is that the matter is even more complicated. Muslim scholars have pointed out with regard to the incident which occurred between ‘Umar and Hisham ibn Hakim and the different reading - that both of them belonged to the same tribe of the Quraysh and used the same dialect. It is impossible to say that ‘Umar disapproved Hisham’s dialect. This denotes that the Seven Letters do not mean mere difference in the dialect of the Arab tribes, otherwise ‘Umar would not have objected to Hisham’s reading. The author of Behind the Veil notes that scholars such as al-Tabari argue that the difference is only in the vocabulary. The Concept of seven Mathani To the concept of seven mathani (readings), seven main Surah’s or seven verses have been connected.85 The origin of the theory goes back to the hadith where Ibn Abbas reported Muhammad as saying: ‘Jibril taught me to recite in one style. I replied to him and kept asking him to give me more (styles), till he reached seven modes of recitation. Ibn Shihab said: It has reached me that these seven styles are essentially one, not differing about what is permitted and what is forbidden’ (Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, p. 390). In another tradition, Muhammad negotiated with Jibril, because he argued that his people were not capable of obeying the first one. Because nobody could really explain the reason for the different forms of reading, various explanations were given, e.g. that they were given to accommodate the different dialects of the Arab tribes. Gilchrist opined conclusively that the theory of the seven reviews is merely an effort to patch up the embarrassment of the variant readings in the sacred book, which was said to be an exact replica of the one inscribed on a preserved tablet in heaven. To Gilchrist it is obvious that ‘distinction in both the actual text and thereafter in dialectal reading were eliminated in the interests of obtaining a single text’(Gilchrist, 1995: 131). The Perfect Qur’an (London, 2000) by Brother Mark showed that there were distinct differences, and even some manipulation. Four differing versions in circulation Uthman, the third Caliph, found four differing versions in circulation amongst his soldiers. He commanded action to prevent the confusion, which he had seen amongst the Christians (and Jews) because of their bickering about varying scriptural material. Uthman ordered the burning of all other versions, bar the one, which he requested Zaid to collate from the sheets in possession of Hafsa, one of Muhammad’s wives.
The ‘reviewing’ becomes problematic though when additional verses were promptly ‘revealed’ to meet a case, after someone had complained (Margoliouth, in the article Qur’an in the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 10: 542). With regard to the actual revision, scholars accept that the original unit of revelation was the short passage; Muhammad himself did much of the work of collating these Surah’s under supernatural inspiration.
4.8.2. The Abrogator and Abrogated Qur’anic Verses
A matter that is related to reviewing and yet different, is the issue of abrogation. Surah 2:106 states: ‘Such of our revelation as we abrogate or cause to be forgotten, we bring (in place) one better or the like thereof.’ Al-Baydawi, an authoritative Muslim commentator, gave the background: ‘This verse was given because the Jews and the infidels said that Muhammad ordered his followers to do something, then He prohibited them from it and commanded them to do something opposite to it. Abrogation means eliminating reading it as an act of worship or eliminating the ordinance inferred from it, or both of them. To forget it means to remove it from hearts.'
Beyond the Veil (Chapter 10) quotes Dr Shalabi in his book The History of Islamic Law (p. 115) on the topic. ‘The abrogation is to rescind something and replace it with something else, as ibn Hazm said. Muslims in general have consented that abrogation has taken place in the Qur’an as it is clearly indicated in the sound verses.’ And then he concludes aptly (p. 220):  ’This statement means that Muhammad was accustomed to stating something to his followers with the claim that it was revealed to him through the angel Jibril, then later (maybe after a few hours), he would tell them that God had invalidated it. Thus the infidels used to say, “Muhammad utters something today and abolishes it tomorrow” (refer to Zamakh-shari, part I, p. 303).’ It is not surprising that Jibril has an important role in this process: Allah would command Jibril ‘to set forth the verse as abrogated, by announcing its cancellation’ (Gätje, cited by Gilchrist, 1986: 159). Reasons for the abrogation of verses Beyond the Veil gives two reasons for the abrogation of verses, viz. the lightening of burdensome injunctions and commands, as well as forgetting by the prophet. With regard to the former reason the anonymous author states: ‘We believe that the reason behind the concept of abrogation is that Muhammad intended to make the performing of the Islamic rites and worship easier on his followers and to obtain their approval and satisfaction with his teachings.’ If something was decreed, which later seemed to be too difficult for them to implement and they remonstrated against it, Muhammad would “lighten” it immediately. Then he would ‘claim that God had ordered him to rescind what he previously uttered, and all the verses he recited were replaced by new ones’ (Beyond the Veil, p.223f).
Whenever Muhammad forgot what he related to his followers, he spared himself the embarrassment by claiming that God had abrogated what he conveyed to them before. Beyond the Veil (p.224) summarises: ‘Muhammad sometimes used to forget some verses and his friends had to remind him of them, but whenever he did not find anybody to remind him, he claimed that they had been abrogated. We saw this before when two of his followers came to him to help them to remember some of the verses, which he had taught them. Muhammad told them these verses had “... been abrogated, forget about them!” So abrogation in the Qur’an was the result of forgetfulness or to lighten the task for the Muslims.’
The impression of capricious abrogation by Muhammad does get a somewhat different colour though when one considers - e.g. with regard to the commandment prohibiting theft - that also the Talmud ‘mitigates the harshness of the law by adding the precept: Thou shalt not embarrass anyone who steals in order to satisfy his hunger (Unterman, 1971: 225). On the Christian side the royal law of love (James 2: 8) has been suggested in situational ethics, e.g. to kill a baby which might cry and thus give away the place of hiding of a group of persecuted fugitives. This is however not to be regarded as an effort to water down the absolutes of the ten commandments, but rather as a way of fulfilling them as lovingly as possible. Sound Christian counselling would lovingly encourage guilt-ridden perpetrators – e.g. women who have had one or more abortions – to receive inner healing via confession (cf. 1 John 1:9), rather than attempt to justify their actions.
4.8.3 Jibril as the agent of embellishments.
Jibril has quite often been used in the ahadith as the agent of embellishments. This is quite evident in the development of salat, the practice of five times of prayer as we have seen. In the case of the doctrine of the sinlessness of the prophets (isma), this is even more pronounced. A doctrine ‘founded on popular sentiment and theological presuppositions arose and developed away from the teaching of the Qur’an and Hadith (Gilchrist, 1986: 276). In an effort to bring Muhammad on par with Jesus who is described as holy, i.e. completely blameless (Surah 19: 19), all Prophets were now regarded to be exempt from sins, both light and grave. Gilchrist (1986: 272) quotes Baljon (Modern Muslim Koran Interpretation, p. 71) in this regard: ‘as a rule, blameworthy behaviour of prophets is smoothed over by means of all possible acumen.’ Thus the prophets are regarded only to have made ‘mistakes’, ‘faults’ or ‘acts of forgetfulness’. They even become ‘immune from serious errors’ (Rahman, 1980: 32). Gilchrist shows up the summersaults of the author Muhammad Ali, because the Qur’an makes no excuse for Muhammad’s sins and the reason for him to ask Allah for forgiveness, e.g. Surah 47: 19 and 48: 1,2. ‘That Allah may forgive thee thy faults of the past and those to follow; fulfil His favour to thee; and guide thee on the Straight Way.’ In the Qur’an Muhammad indeed ‘remains a fallible and sinful creature. The conception of him as an ideal man and prototype of humanity belongs to a later development (Gilchrist quoting Stanton, 1986: 274). Also other prophets like Noah and Jonah (Surah 11: 47 and 21: 87) had to pray for the forgiveness of all their sins. The sinnlessness of prophets The doctrine of isma - the sinnlessness of prophets - is also explained in the context of revelation, where the scriptures were said to have been directly dictated to by Jibril, the intermediary, because it is ‘believed that the prophets must have possessed an impeccable character, for if they could not keep themselves from error in their personal lives, how could they be trusted to communicate God’s revelations without error?’ (Gilchrist, 1986: 274). Jibril is said to have been directly involved to bring a special revelation to ward off evil designs. The story was told how the Jews bribed the sorcerer Labid and his daughters to bewitch Muhammad. This caused the Prophet to lose his appetite, to pine away, and to neglect his wives. ‘Jibril told him the secret, the well was emptied and the knots untied, whereupon the spell was broken and the Prophet was relieved’ (cited by Gilchrist, 1986: 331). It is said that Jibril revealed the last two Surahs of the Qur’an to Muhammad on this occasion as a recipe to ward off evil. Quite problematic is that even for doctrinal matters embellishments were ‘revealed.’ Bukhari (6: 227) disclosed the following episode. The verse came to the attention of a blind man that ‘those men who sit around and not get wounded’ in jihad, are ‘not equal’ to those ‘who strive in the cause of Allah’ (Surah 4:95). Understandingly he complained, which was conveyed to the Prophet. Jibril promptly responded with the addition to the verse: ‘Other than those who have a handicap.’
4.8.4 Jibril as the agent of curses
The anonymous author of Behind the Veil (p. 209f) showed how Jibril was abused as an agent to curse ‘Abdulla, one of Muhammad’s scribes. Thus he quotes Suyuti’s Asbab al-Nuzul (pp. 120-121): ‘Abdulla ibn Sa’d used to write for the prophet (like Zayd). When the prophet dictated, ‘God is oft-mighty and oft-wise’, he would write instead, ‘God is oft-forgiving and compassionate.’ Then he would read it to the prophet who would approve it by saying, ‘Yes... they are the same.’ Similarly, Ibn Sa’d relinquished Islam and returned to the Quraysh tribe. He said, ‘If God has inspired Muhammad, He has also inspired me. If God sends down His revelation to him, He also sends it down to me. Muhammad said, “...oft-mighty, oft-wise” and I said, “...oft-forgiving, compassionate”.’ Behind the Veil (p.210) continues a little further: ‘If Muhammad himself approved the change which ‘Abdulla made in the verse, why should Gabriel become angry at ‘Abdulla and accuse him in another verse? Still, when ‘Abdulla disclosed the matter, relinquished Islam and departed, Muhammad uttered Surah 6:93 to curse him, and issued ‘Abdulla’s death warrant. ‘Who can be more wicked than one who inventeth a lie against Allah, or saith, “I have received inspiration,” when he hath received none, or (again) who saith, “I can reveal the like of what Allah hath revealed”? If thou couldst but see how the wicked (do fare) in the flood of confusion at death! - the angels stretch forth their hands, (saying),”Yield up your souls: this day shall ye receive your reward,- a penalty of shame, for that ye used to tell lies against Allah, and scornfully to reject of His signs!”‘
Dr Fazlur Rahman wrote a scholarly and critical study of the origins and development of Islam. It established his reputation as a scholar but it cost him his job because ‘conservative circles were not prepared to tolerate even the mildly critical tone he employed’ (Nazir-Ali, Michael, 1983: 7). With reference to Jibril, Rahman was surely very brave to suggest in 1966 that ‘it is remarkable that the Qur’an itself makes no mention of any figure in this connection: it is only in connection with certain special experiences (commonly connected with the Prophet’s Ascension) that the Qur’an speaks of the Prophet having seen a figure or a spirit or some object “at the farthest end” or “on the horizon”…’86 In other countries, those who dared to ask uncomfortable questions about Islam had to run for their lives and were sometimes even killed.87 Yet, the truth will prevail in the end. Islam will have to face it squarely that the Qur’anic Jibril can never be equated with the Biblical namesake.
4.9. Supernatural features
Muhammad usually was in a trance when Jibril visited him. In the autobiography ‘The death of a Guru’ by Rabindranath R. Maharaj, the author refers to the phenomenon of trances as something belonging to his Hindu past. In a parallel to Hinduism, Maharaj described his experience in this regard (p.75): ‘Often while I was in deep meditation the gods became visible and talked with me. At times I seemed to be transported by astral projection to distant planets…It would be years before I would learn that such experiences were being duplicated in laboratories… through the use of hypnosis and LSD… In my Yogic trances most often I would be alone with Shiva the Destroyer, sitting fearfully…’ After giving his life to Christ, he concluded: ‘I now understood that these were beings I had met in Yogic trance and deep meditation, masquerading as Shiva or some other Hindu deity’ (cited in Moshay, 1990: 135).
Maharaj’s experience accounts for supernatural scientific features mentioned in the Qur’an, which were regarded by some scholars like Watt as proof of divine intervention.88 Vale Hamilton, a former Transcendental Meditation teacher, described his experiences, so similar to those of Muhammad, but added that he had ‘vivid experiences of demonic oppression while there’ (in meditation). He sensed fear and apprehension when he sometimes woke from sleep, accompanied by a spirit that was trying to enter his body. He just attributed this to ‘a weird trip’, not considering Satan and demons as a possibility. ‘I even mistook them for guardian angels at times’ (cited in Moshay, 1990: 135). People versed in the New Age movement have been pointing out that Muhammad was by far not the only religious leader who perceived that he had been visited by an angel. Knowledgeable scholars like the Dutch author Martie Dieperink, who had been involved in the occult herself – and having come from deep involvement in Hinduism and New Age before she was delivered through the liberating power of Jesus - pointed out how demons come to people introducing themselves as Paul or even Jesus. In an article on channelling – the communication of spirits – she points out how participation in spiritist séances at which spirits are being called up, very often lead to depression. In an article on the origin of Halloween in Europe, which goes back thousands of years, Prof. Bruce L. Johnson points to the satanic practice of changing his name.89
Simultaneously, all this throws a shadow over all such extra-biblical features in all non-Satanic religions. These phenomena are not linked to biblical prophets, but Karen Armstrong (1991: 84) compared the experiences of Isaiah (6: 1-9) and Jeremiah (20: 7-9) at their calling with those of Muhammad. Apart from the unnecessary irreverent terminology,90 a significant difference is however glossed over in Armstrong’s reasoning. Both experiences were very compelling to the Biblical prophets. In the case of Isaiah, he responded positively to the question: ‘whom shall I send? And who shall go for us? He replied: ‘Here am I, send me’ (Isaiah 6:9). In Jeremiah’s experience, God’s word was ‘in my heart like a fire…I am weary of holding it in, indeed, I cannot’ (Jeremiah 20: 9). By contrast, Muhammad’s calling on Mt. Hira was followed by two years of indecision and doubt. Armstrong gives a positive turn to the silence, noting that Muhammad was initially ‘not the eager self-publicist described by his Western enemies’ (p.89). His honesty in this regard would indeed have been praiseworthy, if it were not that he was so unsure about the source of his inspiration. After being nudged on by his followers, notably Abu Bakr, he succumbed to the temptations of compromise. It is in Muhammad’s favour that he was quite remorseful after he had discovered that Satan had tricked him in the course of the 'revelation' of the ‘Satanic verses’ (See section 7.2.1).
Chapter 5. Jibril in the Ahadith

Jibril occurs much more in the Ahadith than in the Qur’an. This is not surprising because as the supernatural being is described as the Spirit of Revelation, it is taken for granted that Jibril was involved with the revelation of every Surah. The Ahadith has close links to the Sirat literature, the biographies of the Prophet. There one finds at every corner words like ‘Allah sent down’, ‘revelation came down’ etc. The Muslim understands that Jibril was involved every time.
It would not only be quite an undertaking but it would also go too far to investigate every single instance of Jibril in the Ahadith. I think that there would not be much sense in such a study. There is however one example where Jibril is mentioned so often that one just cannot ignore it. We shall therefore look closer into the rôle of Jibril in the tradition of the ‘ascension’ of Muhammad.
One of the most notable features of the ahadith is that tenets, which are not clearly spelt out in the Qur’an, gets clarity there. Thus the Qur’an is not clear about Allah’s love as against his power and sovereignty. Some Christian theologians even suggested that Allah is not a God of love, a doctrine that indeed had to be rectified in Sufism, the out and out mystical brand of Islam. The ahadith does indicate that Allah’s love is restricted to those who do his will. Fazlul Karim’s Al-Hadis 4: 265 states that he does not love everybody: ‘If Allah …forsakes you, who is there that can assist you after Him.’ Jibril also gets a rôle. According to Volume 1: 503 the messenger of Allah said: ‘When Allah loves a man, then he calls Jibril, saying ‘I love so and so and you must also love him.’ Then Jibril announces to the heaven: Allah loves so and so and you must also love him. Then all the inhabitants of heaven will love him.’ It is clear that some good deed is needed to earn Allah’s love, but one cannot conclude that Allah only loves those who love him.
5.1. Jibril as the source of inspiration?
In section 7.1. we discuss more closely how there have been doubts about the revelations of Jibril. Watt pointed to the growing and changing understanding of spiritual things in the mind of Muhammad and the Muslims with regard to the revelations in his study Islamic Surveys - Bell’s Introduction to the Qur’an. Watt concludes that the early Muslims assumed at first that Muhammad had seen God himself. Later, when they realised that this was impossible, it was deduced that the vision originated from a messenger of God, that is, an angel. Watt’s theory is supported by the fact that the Talmud does not include much about the angel Gabriel. (It is well known that Muhammad was deeply influenced by the Jewish Scriptures, albeit that he probably got it second-hand via converts from Judaism or from Jews themselves.) Almost all information mentioned in the Qur’an, which originally has its basis in the Hebrew Bible, but which is not included in the present Tenach,91 can be deduced from Talmudic material.
Similarly, according to Watt, Muhammad initially thought that it was God who had spoken to him, just as he had assumed that it was God who had appeared to him in his visions. Then, according to Surah 42: 51ff, this idea was rejected in favour of the idea of a spirit implanted within him. Later, when through increasing familiarity with Jewish and Christian ideas, e.g. about angels being messengers of God, Muhammad thought that angels had brought the message. Finally, he adopted Jibril as the special angel who prompted him on God’s behalf.
Fazlur Rahman (1989: 97) refutes Watt’s argument by equating Jibril with the Spirit, noting that the angels and the Spirit already appear in early Surah’s like 97: 4. On the other hand Allah – or whatever supernatural divine inspiration Muhammad perceived to have been from God - also addresses the prophet directly in later revelations.
5.2. The rôle of Jibril in Muhammad’s ‘ascension’
The so-called ‘ascension’ of Muhammad is described in post-Qur’anic literature as the night journey. It is only obliquely referred to in Surah 17: 1. This seems to be a poor copy of the Roman Catholic tradition whereby Mary’s ascension - which is not mentioned in the Bible – is the result of the veneration and elevation of the ‘Mother of God’. The Catholic tradition is very much based on the prophetic Luke 1: 43, where Elisabeth said to Mary: ‘But why am I so favoured that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’ The tradition may also have had some origins in Ezekiel 8 where the prophet Ezekiel wrote that he was taken by his hair by ‘a figure like that of a man.’ The supernatural figure is also called the Spirit (v.3), which ‘lifted me between heaven and earth and in visions of God took me to Jerusalem.’92 In that context Ezekiel had to witness the idolatry at and in the temple building up to the bowing down to the sun in the east.93
The story of the Miraj of Muhammad is variously told, an inaccurate summary offered by Ferguson (1976: 124) when he refers to ‘… an account of his (Muhammad’s) descent into Hell, and his ascent from Mecca to Paradise.’ It is true that there are some variations, but I have not encountered Muhammad’s ‘descent into Hell’94 in any authentic Islamic report of the night journey, nor of ‘his ascent from Mecca to Paradise’. It is possible that confusion could have arisen with regard to Christian creeds where these two tenets are included in the summarised biography of Jesus or even more probable that Ferguson picked up this tenet from the Ascent of Artâ Vîrâf from Zoroastrianism (see 5.5). In an embellished report of the Miraj, quoted in Sprenger (1851: 132) and Ishaq (1978: 185) Muhammad met the angel of death, who is ‘appointed by God to punish the enemies of thy religion’ - in the sixth heaven.95 On his request to see hell, a cover was removed after which Muhammad saw the scorching flames ‘until I thought that they would consume everything’ (Ibn Ishaq, 1978: 185). Islamic tradition adds that Jibril interceded on behalf of the Prophet, giving him help on several occasions in a supernatural way.
Yusuf Ali (1946: 691) asserts that the majority of (Muslim) commentators take the night journey literally. One of these would be Siddiqui, who mentions that the mir’aj has been expressed by the word isra, ‘which signifies a journey both of body and soul’ (1994/1969: 114). In a strange reasoning Siddiqui refers to another verse from the Quran (without reference )‘take away my slaves by night’, where the root asra is used. Because ‘it is obvious that it refers to bodily movement, Siddiqui concludes that the Miraj was a physical movement of Muhammad’s body. Full of confidence (or is it more hopefully?) Siddiqui asserts in this context that ‘any person who would carefully reflect over the traditions and accounts narrated by the Prophet and his companions, would be convinced of its truth’. According to Denny it is not certain whether Muhammad’s ‘ascension’ was ‘originally considered to be a spiritual, dreamlike experience or an actual happening’ (Denny, 1985: 75). Irving takes a middle course, describing the night as ‘one of the darkest and most awfully that had ever been known… all nature seemed motionless and dead’ (Irving, 1850: 113). In every hadith of the night journey the name Jibril occurs again and again. The compilers of the Hadith took great trouble in checking the transmission of sayings ascribed to the Prophet. For Muhammad’s night journey the compilers of the Tafsir al-Jalalayn do not mention any source at all for the oral tradition. Dashti (1989: 6) suggests that they ‘perhaps … did not believe the story which they were telling.’ Dashti was perhaps too harsh in this judgement, but as we shall see (section 5.5.3) there were more doubts from the earliest beginnings after the actual occurrence. It is possible though that some compilers took it for granted that the sources of this particular tradition are well known. Sahih Muslim and Bukhari quote similar sources for this hadith, which we print fully below. I shall afterwards try to show important differences through a comparison of these two ahadith. An angel, presumably Jibril according to Islamic tradition, came to the sleeping prophet, split open his chest and belly from the throat to the groin. Hereafter the heart and bowels were washed in a golden basin filled with faith and replaced in Muhammad’s body, which was then closed up. In another tradition, Jibril ‘came and stirred me with his foot…’ as the prophet was sleeping in the mosque of Mecca. Muhammad did not see anything at first. After the third effort to wake him up, Jibril ‘took hold of my arm and I stood beside him, and he brought me to the door of the mosque and there was a white animal, half mule, half donkey, with wings on its sides with which it propelled its feet…’ (Ibn Ishaq, 1978: 182). In another tradition, a voice was crying ‘Awake, thou sleeper…’96 The angel Jibril stood before him.’ (Cited in Irving, 1850: 113). This should not be regarded as a contradiction of the other traditions, but it could have contributed to the doubts of the Meccans whether Muhammad was not dreaming.
In yet another tradition, Jibril brought the prophet to the small horse called Buraq. The angel mounted Muhammad on the horse, went out with him ‘keeping close by my side’ (Cited in Peters, 1990: 209). The prophet was then taken through the sky ‘from the Sacred Mosque (of Mecca) to the Farthest Mosque of Jerusalem.’ Jibril led Muhammad through the seven heavens into the very presence of God during a two-prostration prayer.
5.3. The Miraj according to in Sahih Muslim
In the ahadith of Muslim and Bukhari we read the following about the Miraj, Sahih Muslim first and therafter Sahih Bukhari:
‘Anas b. Malik reported: Abu Dharr used to relate that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: The roof of my house was cleft when I was in Mecca and Jibril descended and opened my heart and then washed it with the water of Zamzam. He then brought a gold basin full of wisdom and faith. After emptying it into my breast, he closed it up. Then taking me by he hand, he ascended with me to the heaven, and when we came to the lowest heaven, Jibril said to the guardian of the lowest heaven: “Open”. He asked who was there? He replied. “It is Jibril. He again asked whether there was someone with him”. He replied: “Yes, it is Muhammad with me”. He was asked if he had been sent for, He (Jibril) said: “Yes”. Then he opened (the gate). When we ascended the lowest heaven (I saw) a man seated with parties on his right side and parties on his left side. When he looked up to his right, he laughed and when he looked to his left, he wept. He said: “Welcome to the righteous apostle and the righteous son.” I asked Jibril who he was and he replied: “He is Adam (peace be upon him) and these parties on his right and on his left are the souls of his descendants. Those of them on his right are the inmates of Paradise and the party, that are on his left side, are the inmates of Hell”; so when he looked towards his right side, he laughed, and when he looked towards his left side, he wept. Then Jibril ascended with me to the second heaven. He asked its guardian to open (its gate), and its guardian replied in the same way as the guardian of the lowest heaven had. He opened it. Anas b. Malik said: He (the Holy Prophet) mentioned that he found in the heavens Adam, Idris, Jesus, Moses and Abraham (may peace be on all of them), but he did not ascertain as to the nature of their abodes except that he had found Adam in the lowest heaven and Abraham in the sixth heaven. When Jibril and the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) passed by Idris (peace be upon him) he said: “Welcome to the righteous apostle and righteous brother.” He (the narrator) proceeded and said: “Who is he? “ Jibril replied: “It is Idris.” Then I passed by Moses (peace be upon him) and he said: “Welcome to the righteous apostle and righteous brother.” I said to (Jibril): “Who is he? “ He replied: “It is Moses. “ Then I passed by Jesus and he said: “Welcome to the righteous apostle and righteous brother. “ I said (to Jibril): “Who is he? He replied: “Jesus, son of Mary.” He (the Holy Prophet) said: Then I went to Ibrahim (peace be upon him). He said: “Welcome to the righteous apostle and righteous son. “ I asked: “Who is he?” He (Jibril) replied: “It is Abraham.” Ibn Shihab said: Ibn Hazm told me that Ibn ‘Abbas and Abd Habba al-Ansari used to say that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: “Thereafter he ascended with me till I was taken to such a height where I heard the scraping of the pens.” Ibn Hazm and Anas told that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Allah then made fifty prayers obligatory for my Ummah and I returned with that and passed by Moses. Moses, (peace be upon him) said: “What has thy Lord enjoined on thy people?” I said: “Fifty prayers have been made obligatory to them.” Moses (peace be upon him) said: “Return to thy Lord, for thy Ummah would not be able to bear this burden.” Then I came back to my Lord and He remitted a portion out of that. I then again went to Moses (peace be upon him) and informed him about it He said: “Return to thy Lord, for thy Ummah shall not be able to bear this burden.” I then went back to my Lord and He said: “They are five and at the same time fifty, and what has been said will not be changed.” I then returned to Moses and he said: “Go back to thy Lord. Whereupon I said: “I feel ashamed of my Lord. Jibril then travelled with me till we came to the farthest lote-tree. Many a colour had covered it, which I do not know. Then I was admitted to Paradise and saw in it domes of pearls, and its soil of musk’ (Book 1, Number 313).
5.4. The al-Miraj according to Sahih Bukhari
Anas bin Malik from Malik bin Sa’sa’a (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) described to them his Night Journey saying, “While I was lying in Al-Hatim or Al-Hijr, suddenly someone came to me and cut my body open from here to here.” I asked Al-Jarud who was by my side, what it meant. “It means from his throat to his pubic area,” or “from the top of the chest.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) further said, “He then took out my heart. Then a gold tray full of Belief was brought to me and my heart was washed and was filled (with Belief) and then returned to its original place. Then a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey, was brought to me.” (on this Al-Jarud asked, “Was it the Buraq, O Abu Hamza?” I (i.e. Anas) replied in the affirmative). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The animal’s step (was so wide that it) reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal’s sight. I was carried on it, and Jibril set out with me till we reached the nearest heaven. When he asked for the gate to be opened it was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Jibril answered, Jibril It was asked, ‘Who is accompanying you?’ Jibril replied, ‘Muhammad.’ It was asked, ‘Has Muhammad been called?’ Jibril replied in affirmative. Then it was said, ‘He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!’ The gate was opened, and when I went over the first heaven, I saw Adam there.
Jibril said (to me), ‘This is your father, Adam; pay him your greetings.’ So I greeted him and he returned the greeting to me and said, ‘You are welcomed, o pious son and pious Prophet.’ Then Jibril ascended with me till we reached the second heaven. Jibril asked for the gate to be opened. It was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Jibril answered, ‘Jibril!’ It was asked, ‘Who is accompanying you?’ Jibril replied, ‘Muhammad!’ It was asked, ‘Has he been called?’ Jibril answered in the affirmative. Then it was said, ‘He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!’ The gate was opened, and when I went over the second heaven, there I saw Yahya (i.e. John) and Isa (i.e. Jesus), who were cousins of another. Jibril said (to me), ‘These are John and Jesus; pay them your greetings.’ So I greeted them and both of them returned my greetings to me and said, ‘You are welcomed, o pious brother and pious Prophet.’ Then Jibril ascended with me to the third heaven and asked for its gate to be opened. It was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Jibril answered, “Jibril.” It was asked, ‘Who is accompanying you?’ Jibril replied, ‘Muhammad.’ It was asked, ‘Has he been called?’ Jibril replied in the affirmative. Then it was said, ‘He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!’ The gate was opened, and when we went over to the third heaven, there I saw Joseph. Jibril said (to me), ‘This is Joseph; pay him your greetings.’ So I greeted him and he returned the greetings to me and said, ‘You are welcomed, o pious brother and pious Prophet.’ Then Jibril ascended with me to the fourth heaven and asked for its gate to be opened. It was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Jibril answered, ‚Jibril!’ It was asked, ‘Who is accompanying you?’ Jibril replied, ‘Muhammad.’ It was asked, ‘Has he been called?’ Jibril replied in the affirmative. Then it was said, ‘He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!’ The gate was opened, and when I went over the fourth heaven, there I saw Idris. Jibril said (to me), ‘This is Idris; pay him your greetings.’ So I greeted him and he returned the greetings to me and said, ‘You are welcomed, o pious brother and pious Prophet.’ Then Jibril ascended with me to the fifth heaven and asked for its gate to be opened. It was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Jibril answered, ‚Jibril!’ It was asked, ‘Who is accompanying you?’ Jibril replied, ‘Muhammad.’ It was asked, ‘Has he been called?’ Jibril replied in the affirmative. Then it was said, ‘He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!’ The gate was opened, and when I went over the fifth heaven, there I saw Harun (i.e. Aaron) Jibril said (to me), ‘This is Aaron; pay him your greetings.’ So I greeted him and he returned the greetings to me and said, ‘You are welcomed, o pious brother and pious Prophet.’ Then Jibril ascended with me to the sixth heaven and asked for its gate to be opened. It was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Jibril replied, ‘Jibril! It was asked, ‘Who is accompanying you?’ Jibril replied, ‘Muhammad.’ It was asked, ‘Has he been called?’ Jibril replied in the affirmative. It was said, ‘He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!’ The gate was opened, and when I went (over the sixth heaven), there I saw Moses. Jibril said (to me), ‘This is Moses; pay him your greetings.’ So I greeted him and he returned the greetings to me and said, ‘You are welcomed, o pious brother and pious Prophet.’ When I left him (i.e. Moses) he wept. Someone asked, ‘What makes you weep?’ Moses said, ‘I weep because after me there has been sent (as Prophet) a young man whose followers will enter Paradise in greater numbers than my followers.’ Then Jibril ascended with me to the seventh heaven and asked for its gate to be opened. It was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Jibril replied, ‘Jibril! It was asked, ‘Who is accompanying you?’ Jibril replied, ‘Muhammad.’ It was asked, ‘Has he been called?’ Jibril replied in the affirmative. It was said, ‘He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!’ So when I went (over the seventh heaven), there I saw Abraham. Jibril said (to me), ‘This is your father; pay him your greetings.’ So I greeted him and he returned the greetings to me and said, ‘You are welcomed, o pious son and pious Prophet.’ Then I was made to ascend to Sidrat-ul-Muntaha (i.e. the Lote Tree of the farthest limit). Behold! Its fruits were like the jars of Hajr (i.e. a place near Medina) and its leaves were as big as the ears of elephants. Jibril said, ‘This is the Lote Tree of the farthest limit.’ Behold! There ran four rivers, two were hidden and two were visible. I asked, ‘What are these two kinds of rivers, O Jibril?’ He replied, ‘As for the hidden rivers, they are two rivers in Paradise and the visible rivers are the Nile and the Euphrates.’ Then Al-Bait-ul-Ma’mur (i.e.the Sacred House) was shown to me and a container full of wine and another full of milk and a third full of honey were brought to me. I took the milk. Jibril remarked, ‘This is the Islamic religion which you and your followers are following.’ Then the prayers were enjoined on me: They were fifty prayers a day. When I returned, I passed by Moses who asked (me), ‘What have you been ordered to do?’ I replied, ‘I have been ordered to offer fifty prayers a day.’ Moses said, ‘Your followers cannot bear fifty prayers a day, and by Allah, I have tested people before you, and I have tried my level best with Bani Israil (in vain). Go back to your Lord and ask for reducing your followers’ burden.’ So I went back, and Allah reduced ten prayers for me. Then again I came to Moses, but he repeated the same as he had said before. Then again I went back to Allah and He reduced ten more prayers. When I came back to Moses he said the same, I went back and Allah and He ordered me to observe ten prayers a day. When I came back to Moses, he repeated the same advice, so I went back to Allah was ordered to observe five prayers a day. When I came back to Moses, he said, ‘What have you been ordered?’ I replied, ‘I have been ordered to observe five prayers a day.’ He said, ‘Your followers cannot bear five prayers a day, and no doubt, I have got experience of the people before you, and I have tried my level best with Bani Israil, so go back to your Lord and ask for reducing your followers’ burden.’ I said, ‘I have requested so much of my Lord that I feel ashamed, but I am satisfied now and surrender to Allah’s order.’ When I left, I head a voice saying, ‘I have passed My Order and have reduced the burden of My Worshippers.’” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 5).
5.4.1. Salat as a derivative of the Miraj Muhammad taught that five prayers a day was a requirement rom Allah. In Islamic parlance these prescribed prayer, one of the so-called pillars is called salat. As we have seen, - according to the miraj tradition Moses said to him, 'Your followers cannot bear fifty prayers a day'. Like an Abraham of old who had bargained with God to get the number of believers in Sodom down to ten before the Almightywould destroy the wicked city and its inhabitants, Muhammad went back and forth to negotiate until he understood five to be the final number 'and what has been said will not be changed.”
Muhammad also said that the angel Gabriel taught him the correct pattern for prayer, so his followers watched him carefully and recorded every detail. He also gave many teachings 'about the correct way to do prayer in various circumstances' (Gabriel, 2004:158). Thus he tuaght that one could use sand if no water was available (Surah 4:43; 5:6). Gabriel also revealed via Surah 4:101-103 that the Islamic fighter may modify his prayer if he would be in the process of jihad so that he would not be vulnerable to the enemy.
5.5. Possible origins of the Miraj
Tisdall (1905: 81) saw ‘the origin of the Burâc (ethereal horse) tradition… without doubt’ in the apocryphal ‘Testament of Abraham’. The Archangel Michael - having descended to the earth - took Abraham in a Cherub’s car, raised him aloft on the cloud, with sixty angels; and from the same car showed him the whole world beneath. Tisdall cites from the Mishkât the account where Muhammad saw Father Adam, at times weeping and groaning, at times happy and rejoicing: ‘When he opened, we went up to the lower heaven. Lo! a man seated, on his right hand were dark figures, and on his left dark figures. When he looked to his right, he laughed; when to the left, he wept. And he said, Welcome to the righteous Prophet, and to the excellent Son. I then asked Gabriel, Who is this? It is Adam, he said, and these dark figures on his right, and on his left, are the spirits of his sons. The people on his right hand are the inhabitants of Paradise; and the dark figures on his left are those of the Fire; when he looks to his right, he smiles; and when he looks to the left, he weeps.’
Tisdall (1900: 71) goes on to cite the corresponding tale in the ancient Testament of Abraham: ‘So Michael turned the chariot, and took Abraham towards the east through the first gate of heaven. There Abraham saw two roads; one strait and difficult, the other wide and easy. He beheld also two gates, one wide like its road, and another narrow like the other road. Outside the two gates they beheld a Man sitting on a golden throne, his aspect terrible like unto the Lord. They saw a multitude of souls driven by the angels through the wide gate, but few souls led by the angels through the narrow one. And when the great Man seated on the golden throne saw but few passing through the narrow gate, and so many through the wide gate, forthwith he grasped the hair of his head and his beard on either side, and cast himself weeping and groaning from his throne upon the ground. But when he saw many souls entering in by the narrow gate, he arose from the ground, and with joy and rejoicing seated himself again upon the throne. Then Abraham asked the Captain of the Host: “My Lord Commander! Who is that great Man adorned with so much grandeur, who sometimes weeps in great distress, and sometimes rejoices and is glad?” Then the Spirit (Michael) answered: “This is Adam, the first created man, adorned with so much glory; and here he beholds the world and the multitudes who derive their existence from himself. When he beholds many souls passing the narrow gate, then rising up he seats himself upon his throne in joy and gladness, because the narrow gate is for the righteous and leadeth unto life eternal. Those passing through it are on the way to Paradise, and hence the first created Adam rejoiceth, because he seeth souls that are saved. But when he beholds many passing through the wide gate, then he seizes the hair of his head, beats and casts himself to the ground crying bitterly.” For the wide gate leadeth the wicked to everlasting destruction.’ The most important difference between the two tales is possibly that in the Mishkât as well as n the ahadith according to Muslim and Bukhari Jibril is used, whereas in the Testament of Abraham it is the angel Michael who takes Abraham to the heavens in a cherub’s car.
5.5.1 A similar story in Zoroastianism Zoroastianism has a similar story: Artâ Virâf, the hero of the narrative, tells the story of his ascent to Ormazd, the ultimate good spirit. With regard to the Miraj, Tisdall pointed out that ‘the story may have incorporated elements from many quarters but it seems to have been in the main based on the ascension of Artâ Vîrâf contained in a Pahlavi book called ‘The Book of Artâ Vîrâf’ (Tisdall, 1905: 226). Artâ Vîrâf was a saintly priest whose spirit was taken to the presence of Ormazd, the divine good spirit, under the guidance of an archangel named Sarosh, passing from storey to storey. The Pehlavi book called Artâ Vîrâf nâmak, was written in the days of Ardashîr, some four hundred years before the Hijirah. We are there told that, the Zoroastrian faith fading away, the Magi of Persia sought to revive it in the people's hears, by sending a Zoroastrian of the above name up to heaven, with the view of bringing down tidings of what was going on there. This messenger ascended from one heaven to another, and having seen it all, was commanded by Ormazd to return to the earth, and tell it to his people. ‘When Arta Viraf had thus beheld everything in the heavens and seen the happy state of their inhabitants, Ormazd commanded him to return to the earth as his messenger’ (Quoted by Gilchrist, 1986: 137). Another quote, this time from Tisdall (1900: 80): ‘Rising from a gold-covered throne, Bahman the Archangel led me on, till he and I met Ormazd with a company of angels and heavenly leaders, all adorned so brightly that I had never seen the like before. My leader said: This is Ormazd. I sought to salaam to him, and he said he was glad to welcome me from the passing world to that bright and undefiled place. Then he bade Sarosh and the Fire-angel to show me the blessed place prepared for the holy, and that also for the punishment of the wicked. After which they carried me along till I beheld the Archangels and the other Angels. At the last, says Artâ, my Guide and the Fire-angel, having shewed me Paradise, took me down to Hell; and from that dark and dreadful place, carried me upward to a beautiful spot where were Ormazd and his company of angels. I desired to salute him, on which he graciously said: “Artâ Vîrâf, go thou to the material world; thou hast seen and now knowest Ormazd, for I am he; whosoever is true and righteous, him I know.” When Ormazd began thus to speak, I became confused in mind, because I saw a brilliant light but no appearance of a body, and forthwith I perceived the unseen must be Ormazd himself’. Comment on the Miraj ahadith and the Ascent of Artâ Vîrâf
A comparison between the two hadiths of Muhammad’s ‘night journey’ displays quite a few differences. This does not mean that one should disqualify the lengthier Bukhari. (In the appraisal of apocryphal material elaborate descriptions, which could possibly be additions to the original material, has often been used as a reason to regard the document as less authentic). Bukhari and Muslim were contemporaries and the former especially was said to have been very diligent in his collection of the oral material. Nevertheless, two very striking differences between the two reports are however the absence of the white horse Buraq with Muslim and the inclusion of the phrase pious brother (son) and pious Prophet. The discrepancies are notable because both scholars refer to the same source, viz. Anas bin Malik. In the biblical corollary Paul wrote about a certain man in 2 Corinthians 12: 2ff, who was taken to the third heaven. Bible commentaries on the chapter generally surmise this occurrence to be a hidden autobiographical detail. In Paul’s letter there is no mention of how the person was taken to the third heaven. The numbering of the heavens is a tenet that comes from Judaism.
It is strange to find Jesus, Abraham and Moses already in the second heaven in the Sahih Muslim version. There are some contradictions, e.g. one finds different persons in the various traditions in the second, the sixth and the seventh heaven. Limiting this to a Sufi ‘paradigm of the mystical strain of Islam’ - and thus not a literal understanding - not too much attention should perhaps be given to these contradictions. Perhaps the Sahih Muslim version did not regard the night journey as literal anyway. Armstrong finds some rationale, noting that the confusing and discrepant traditions have been ‘ordered’, Jibril climbs the ladder with Muhammad, finding one of the great prophets at each stage. This would then apply for the Bukhari version: ‘Adam presided over the First Heaven, where Muhammad was shown a vision of hell, Jesus and John the Baptist were in the Second Heaven, Joseph in the Third, Enoch in the Fourth; Aaron and Moses in the Fifth and Sixth and finally Abraham in the threshold of the divine sphere’ (Armstrong, 1991: 138f). The inclusion of Yahya (not included with Sahih Muslim), makes sense in this way, but the order is still problematic when one finds Jesus with him in the second heaven and not at the top with or above Abraham, as one would have expected. The inclusion of the river as one of two rivers in Paradise is an anomaly. Genesis 2: 14 mentions four rivers which includes the Euphrates, but not the Nile. A correction came through in a later version of the Miraj, cited in Sprenger (1851: 133). Here four rivers spring forth, two of them the Nile and Euphrates, with two of the four flowing to the earth and two are rivers in paradise.
The stages and stations of piety, which Sufism distinguishes, come close to common perception of Catholicism. The Sufi saint has all the characters of a Christ-like follower of Jesus. With Catholicism there is a common denominator: righteousness earned by good works and a pious life. Officially however, the Catholic church confirms that all are saved by grace. The good works – made possible through faith – are our response to God’s grace. We have the duty according to Catholic teaching, to live by grace. Simultaneously, this is akin to the Protestant emphasis of Pauline teaching of being saved only by grace, ‘…not as a result of works, that no one should boast’ (Ephesians 2: 8,9).97 In practice however, the formal teaching found it difficult to penetrate ‘the flesh’, the human heart, which likes to boast with personal endeavour and effort. The Qur’an is clearer on the issue: ‘Surely the good deeds will drive away the evil deeds’ (Surah 11: 114). The good deeds in Islamic understanding are not essentially and primarily ethical in nature, but more of a ritual performance of duties. Surah 35: 29,30 ‘Those who rehearse the Book of Allah, establish regular Prayer, and spend (in Charity) out of what We have provided for them, secretly and openly, hope for a commerce (= gain) that will never fail. For He will pay them their meed, nay, He will give them (even) more out of His bounty: for He is oft forgiving, most ready to appreciate (service). Whoever performs the five pillars of the religion will have earned a rich credit of good works. One is tempted to compare Jesus’ teaching that in charity the left hand should not know what the right hand is doing, let alone to be on the look out for reward. Islamic teaching close to that of Jesus Islamic teaching nevertheless surely comes very close to that of Jesus’ when the hadith taught that prayer uttered at home, which has no other goal than to get close to Allah, has optimal ‘spiritual worth’- more even than praying in the mosque at Mecca. (This is worth more than praying in any other mosque). The understanding is that the private prayer at home counts with a maximum of credit in good deeds. Another hadith mentions how the reconciling of two enemies counts more than all prayer, fasting and giving of alms. Close to the 'NT' is also the hadith that Allah does not accept prayer and fasting if humility is not added to them – even if the believer’s body become crooked like a saddle because of the prayer or when he is only skin and bone because of fasting (cited by Goldziher, 1925: 20). Biblican Precedents There are a few instances in the Bible where special personalities were physically taken away. In the case of Enoch (Genesis 5:24), Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) and Jesus (Acts 1:9) they were not seen thereafter. 98 After his resurrection and before his ascension, Jesus could supernaturally appear and disappear. The text does not put it very clearly when an angel encouraged Philip to leave Samaria for the desert road of Gaza from (Acts 8: 29). It has been suggested that he was supernaturally transported.99 we shall look at the expereienmces of the prophet Ezekiel and Paul, the apostle separately in section 5.6.
5.5.2. Embellishments of the Miraj The simple account in Surah 17: 1 of ‘Muhammad’s dream’ has been considerably embellished in the Hadith. Tisdall points out that the story may have incorporated elements from many quarters but it seems to have been in the main based on the ascension of Artâ Vîrâf. Sprenger (1851: 125) suggests that there is no event in Muhammad’s life, ‘on which we have more numerous and genuine traditions than on his nightly journey’. Encouraged by those who believed his fantasies, Muhammad ‘enlarged his narrative’ adding from time to time ‘such details as might counterbalance anything that might be said of the Jewish prophets or of Christ’ (Sprenger, 1851: 125). Thus one reads about writing on the forehead of Buraq: ‘There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah’ (Cited in Sprenger (1851: 127). Also it was said that nobody had ridden on Buraq since the times of Christ. Noting the close resemblance of Ahriman (the devil of Zoroastrianism) with Iblis of Islam, Gilchrist goes so far as saying that ‘It certainly seems that the whole account of the Miraj is a subtle adaptation done by Muslim divines some time after the subjugation of Zoroastrian Persia during the Arab conquests in the early days of Islam…Tradition has nonchalantly adorned the story of Muhammad’s dream with marvellous records of an ascent through the heavens…The isra of the Qur’an has been transformed into the Miraj of the Hadith’ (Gilchrist, 1986: 138). Other angels got involved with the night journey in later versions. In a tradition quoted by Sprenger (1851: 128) Michael put the reins into his hands, and the angel Israel took off the cloth with which the saddle had been covered. Here and there legendary elements can be discerned clearly. As an example I quote a part of another version (Irving, 1850: 117): ‘The first heaven was of pure silver, and in its resplendent vault the stars are suspended by chains of gold. In each star an angel is placed sentinel, to prevent the demons from scaling the sacred abodes. As Mahomet entered, an ancient man approached him, and Jibril said, “here is thy father Adam, pay him reverence.” Mahomet did so, and Adam embraced him, calling him the greatest among his children, and the first among the prophets. In this heaven were innumerable animals of all kinds, which Jibril said were angels, who, under these forms, interceded with Allah for the various races of animals upon earth. Among these was a cock of dazzling whiteness and of such marvellous height, that his crest touched the second heaven, though five hundred years’ journey above the first…’
5.5.3. Criticism of the Miraj
Fazlur Rahman, the well known liberal Pakistani Muslim scholar, had no scruple to regard the miraj narrative as fiction. He rationalizes the ‘ascension’, referring to experiences at two different times, the first one referred to in Surah 53: 5-18 and the second time Surah 17. ‘In stead of the Prophet “going up” in Ascension, in both cases the agent of Revelation “came down” (Rahman, 1989: 92). Reason for doubt comes already from early sources, e.g. Ibn Ishaq’s Sira (1978: 181): ‘The matter of the place of the (night) journey and what is said about it is a searching test and a matter of God’s power and authority wherein is a lesson for the intelligent…’ The same biographer (1978: 183) quotes no less than Ayesha, his wife, trying to put things in perspective - but possibly feeding the doubting Thomases: ‘The apostle’s body remained where it was but God removed his spirit by night.’ An early believer is quoted by Ibn Ishaq (1978: 183) in his attempt to solve the riddle: ‘Thus as I see it revelation from God comes to prophets waking or sleeping.’ Irving (1850: 113) stated aptly that the narrative of the night journey has ‘ever since remained a theme of comment and conjecture…’
The Miraj turned out to be quite a watershed event. The followers of Muhammad could still brush aside the testimony of Ayesha, that he did not leave his bed and that it was probably a dream. She was still a child when this happened and ‘though espoused, had not yet become the wife of Mahomet’(Irving, 1850: 124). How did she know that he did not leave his bed? It was howere also stated in authentic tradition that Muhammad spent the night on which he was supposed to have been on the journey under the roof of Umm Hani, and that she declared that he never left the house. Ibn Ishaq lets her speak: ‘The apostle went on no night journey… He slept and we slept. A little before dawn the apostle woke us.’ After the dawn prayer he told them excitedly that ‘I went to Jerusalem and prayed there.’ Ishaq also reports how she tried to influence him in vain not to divulge the miracle, ‘for they will give you the lie and insult you.’ Martin Lings (1986:101) used another tradition that Muhammad did accept the invitation to spend the night in Umm Hani’s home ‘but after a brief sleep he rose and went to the Mosque, for he loved to visit the Ka’bah during the night hours… “Whilst I was sleeping in the Hijr (of the mosque) …Gabriel came to me and spurred me with his foot…” By far not everybody believed Muhammad’s story, causing quite a rift amongst his followers. In his introduction to Ibn Ishaq’s Sira (1978: xix), Guillaume points out how the biographer seldom made any comment of his own on the traditions. When he therefore does express an opinion, it is all the more significant. In his account of the miraj the story is 'everywhere hedged with reservations and terms suggesting caution to the reader.’ He says in this case that the tale reached him from several narrators and he has pieced them together from the stories these people heard. Guillaume goes on to suggest that there is nothing in the story to indicate that it is a vision. He points out that Al-Hasan even suggested that ‘this so strained the credulity of some of the Muslims that they gave up their faith in his revelations…’ Guillaume went even further to suggest that his use of the word balaghani, meaning that this tradition is to be taken ‘with a grain of salt’ (1978: xx). Shorrosh (1988: 158) rightly also pointed to some other problems with regard to the ‘far distant place of worship’ referred to in Surah 17: 1 – sometimes referred to as the ‘sacred mosque’ in Jerusalem. Titus destroyed the temple in Jerusalem already in 70 C.E. The Aqsa Mosque was only built in the twelfth century as a church by the crusaders, and made a mosque in 1187 by Saladin after he had conquered the Holy Land. In other words, no such place existed at the time of Muhammad’s night journey.
5.5.4. Theological Justification of the Miraj
For Islamic doctrine the Miraj is important because it tries to explain the reason for the ritual salat, the prayer five times a day. This would not be such a heavy burden as the 50 times which Allah had required before Moses enjoined Muhammad to request a reduction.100 Yet, this was not implemented immediately. In fact, throughout the Meccan period Muhammad and his followers observed only the Evening and Morning Prayer. Only in Medina another prayer at three in the afternoon was added, ‘evidently in imitation of the three periods of prayer of the Jewish congregation’ (Andrae, 1936: 111). The night watch was recommended as a voluntary religious exercise. However, only after the Medinan Jews elicited Muhammad’s displeasure, the five times were made incumbent on all Muslims. In fact, it became one of the pillars of the religion. The Syrian Church’s bodily postures of standing, kneeling and prostrating so that the forehead touched the ground, became part and parcel of the ingredients of salat. Emulating their example, Muhammad states that his true followers would have marks on their faces from their continual prostrations. The Mohammedans and Syrian Christians both counted the length of their devotion by the number of kneelings (Andrae, 1936: 122). Tradition links Jibril to the prayer ritual in more than one way. Thus Ishaq (1978: 112) passed on the view of ‘a learned person’ that Jibril dug a hole for Muhammad on the heights of Mecca with his heel from which a fountain gushed. Jibril ‘performed the ritual ablution as the apostle watched him. This was ‘in order to show him how to purify himself before prayer… The apostle came to Khadija and performed the ritual for her as Jibril had done for him, and she copied him.’ In actual fact however, Muhammad probably took the cue of ritual ablution from the Jews.
5.5.5. An important precedent in Zoroastrianism The fact of the prayer five times a day and the night journey itself, had an important precedent in Zoroastrianism. Buhl (in his article The character of Mohammed as a Prophet in the Muslim World, Vol.1, p.356) discerned that ‘In the Koran itself only three daily prayers are known and it is no doubt due to the influence from the Persian side that their number in the oldest Islam is increased to five.’ According to another hadith (Bukahri, Vol. 1: 297), Jibril ‘specially came to Muhammad one day and performed the fajr, zuhr, asr, maghrib and isha prayers with Muhammad’ telling and demonstrating to him when and how to perform the prescribed prayers. Shorrosh (1988: 159) suggests that Muhammad borrowed the idea from the Sabaeans, who prayed seven times a day, reducing the number of prayers to five times a day.
The night journey boosted Muhammad’s confidence in himself. Subsequent events show that there was a marked change in his attempts to set the course for his Medinan message (Salahi, 1998: 174).
5.6 Biblical counterparts of the Miraj
Ezekiel (1: 1) saw visions of God and the heavens were opened. The angel of the covenant challenged Ezekiel in the ‘appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day (and in)… the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.’ We have already referred to the figure in Ezekiel 8 which took Ezekiel by the hair to Jerusalem.
Filho (2002: 216) suggests that the exalted Jesus as the Son of Man in John 1: 13-14 is not only equal to God, the ‘Ancient of Days’, but also as the one who is ‘like the Son of Man’, he is ‘the archangel, the principal agent of God’. The same author speaks of the ‘inaugural vision of heaven’ (2002: 218) in Revelation 4: 1-2, where a voice inviting John to ‘come up here’. Verse 2: ‘At once I was in the Spirit and there was a throne in heaven.’ A rainbow encircled the throne (Rev. 4:3), reminding of Ezekiel’s vision. In none of these visions of heaven we read of a horse, which takes John to the heavens. It is clearly symbolical language. The most striking corollary of the miraj is however found in 1 Corinthians 12: 1-10 (Paul’s Vision and His Thorn): ‘I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know - God knows. And I know that this man - whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows - was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.  I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say. To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Common ground between the respective experiences of the Pauline visionary and Muhammad is surely the reality of it. To Muhammad it was so dynamic that he even deemed it fit to embellish his experience. To Paul it was evidently very real, even though he was unsure whether it was a physical experience. More than one ex-Muslim had similar supernatural encounters with Jesus.101
5.6 Significant differences the Pauline visionary and the Islamic miraj. We note significant differences between this supernatural event of the unknown person of 2 Corinthians 12 and the Islamic miraj. Bible scholars are almost unanimous that Paul is actually referring to his personal experience in 2 Corinthians 12. The major difference between the two experiences is the attitude of the main character in the respective visionary experience. If we accept for argument’s sake that Paul is indeed the person in question, we sense a great measure of humility. This does not seem to have been the case with Muhammad, but it is not certain at all how all the embellishments have come about. Others could have exaggerated his original narrations, although as a rule ahadith give the sources, going right back to the prophet himself. The second difference is that Paul was humbled through his experience to ‘boast’ with his weakness, the ‘thorn in the flesh’ that was not removed. Instead, God ministered to him that His grace was sufficient. The humble Muhammad of the early Meccan days appeared to have become quite proud after the supernatural experience towards the end of his Meccan term. A proof of this is the embellishments of the miraj, of which at least the majority stem from him, undoubtedly a figment of his own imagination. Elsewhere we have shown how the influence of Jibril on his life unfortunately was a gradual shift away from full truthfulness till lies were regarded as small sin.
Orthodox Islamic tradition overlaps with biblical injunctions when it outlaws astrology. Without citing exactly, Muhammad Ali (Religion of Islam, p. 197) says that some ahadith teach that whosoever learns anything from sorcery and astrology, is an unbeliever and thus the astrologer who claims to acquire knowledge from the stars to decide the happenings of the future, ‘is called a kafir’.
5.7 Gabriel in Jewish Ascension legends
Gabriel features quite prominently in Jewish mystical folktales. In the book Gabriel’s Palace, the famous Rabbi Meir, one of their sages, fell asleep while in prison. His ‘soul took wing and ascended on high’ (Schwartz, 1993: 121) where he landed in Gabriel’s palace. ‘With awe and wonder Rabbi Meir received that celestial Torah from the arms of the angel Gabriel, and then he awoke.’ When Rabbi Meir opened his eyes, he looked around and there was the Scroll of the Torah lying upon the table. The legend continues that when Rabbi Meir began to recite the Sabbath prayers and the time came to read the weekly portion, the scroll would roll open to the right place. He read slowly and clearly, taking his time with every word. One day it occurred to Rabbi Meir that he should make a copy of the Torah scroll. He reportedly worked on it for twelve months, transcribing it without a single error. ‘And when he reread what he had written, he discovered that heaven had assisted him in creating a perfect replica of the celestial Torah.’ (Schwartz, 1993: 122) When Rabbi Meir awoke the next morning, he discovered that the scroll was gone. He ‘knew that Gabriel must have descended during the night to take it back.’ This sounds very much like the Islamic tradition of the revelation of the Qur’an, the original copy which is said to be in heaven. There is in this narrative no indication whatsoever that it was regarded as anything else than a legend. In another legend it is told how Isaac’s soul ‘ascended on high, rising up through the palaces of heaven’ (Schwartz, 1993: 43) the moment Abraham’s knife touched Isaac’s throat. There he remained for three years, studying the Torah as a reward for his suffering when he was about to be slain. During this time Abraham remained frozen in place, the knife in his upraised hand. Again, there is not the slightest hint that the narrative is more than a tale.
Chapter 6. Supernatural Imitation
The idea of a supernatural being purporting to be divine has figured in literature in different ways, also in Jewish writings about Scripture.
6.1. Supernatural beings purporting to be divine
This has been e.g. suggested with the testing of Abraham (Genesis 22: 1-11). The argument goes that since God could never tempt anybody and also could not be tempted, some other being must have tried to tempt Abraham. God allowed Satan to tempt ‘OT’ personalities, e.g. people like Job and in the Balaam narrative (Numbers 22:2 – 25:9). This tenet is also found in the 'New Testament', e.g. with the temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4: 1-11) and in James 1: 13, ‘…God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…’
Ludwig Schneider, a Christian from a Jewish background, states the obvious that it is impossible to put us in Abraham’s shoes during his time of testing. However, Schneider suggests (1999: 31) that Jewish scholars have been discerning ‘unterschiedliche Wesen’ (different beings) in Genesis 22: 1-10 and verses 11 respectively. According to this view ‘haElohim’ (the god) tested Abraham, but the ‘Angel of YAHWEH’ addressed him in verse 11, whereupon Abraham dropped his knife. This would point to the possibility that the supernatural being that tested Abraham, was different to the agent of YAHWEH. Genesis 22: 2 indeed does not say who the supernatural figure was. According to Jewish teaching, God only tests the righteous because he knows that they will pass the test (Schneider, 1999: 30). But even when God does allow such testing – as He did with Job - He would see to it that those who serve and love him, would not be tempted above what they can take. This is a tenet that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 10: 13. The idea also found its way into the Qur’an: ‘On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear’ (Surah 2: 286).
In Holland God mightily used J. E. van der Brink, a Dutch pastor in the 1960s.102 Van der Brink however induced his own isolation by taking the notion too far that God only causes the good to come about and having more or less no part at all in evil, not even allowing it. According to van der Brink it must have been Satan who gave Abraham the command to sacrifice his son (C. and P.N van der Laan, Pinksteren in Beweging, Kampen, 1982: 75). We have to look more closely at the characteristics of supernatural beings and their effect on the person influenced by them.
6.2. Imitation of God’s sovereign work
How the enemy of souls imitates God’s sovereign work can be found in the Bible more than once. It is e.g. recorded in 1 Kings 13 how disobedience was the cause of the death of a prophet, who listened to someone else who purported to speak on behalf of God. The narrative contains the story of a prophet who lived in Bethel. The unknown prophet used a lie - that an angel had spoken to him - to sway the prophet who came from Judah into disobedience to Yahweh. The deduction can definitely be made that this prophet was fooled by a compromise.103 Another example of imitation of God’s sovereign plan is found in Jeremiah 10: 9 where idols are being dressed up by the craftsman and the goldsmith in blue and purple. It happens immediately after Yahweh is described as King of the nations (v.8). The inference is clear: the colours suggest an imitation of Yahweh’s royalty and dominion. The instruction to the unknown prophet had been to pronounce judgement over King Jeroboam. Under Jeroboam the place of worship was changed from Jerusalem to Bethel. Arbitrarily the ‘date of his own choosing’ had been taken ‘for a festival’ (1 Kings 12: 32f). 1 King 12 and 13 typifies Jerobeam as a type of the anti Christ. Jerobeam usurped authority through his rebellion against Rehobeam, the King of Judah. The idolatry with two golden calves in Bethel and Dan were schemes based on fear that his followers might turn to the king of Juda. That an angel has to be brought in to play to mislead the representative from Judah into disobedience, is very typical. We note that Jerobeam was not a rightful heir to the throne. He merely received kingship because of Solomon's idolatry. The church is only grafted into the olive tree, intended only to drive the natural olive tree, Israel to the lion of Judah, Jesus. Josia, the rightful heir, the descendant of David would finally crush the idolatry instituted by Jerobeam. Both Muhammad and the institutionalised Church came up with religious practises which are basically idolatrous - in a spirit which opposes Jesus, the heir of David. It is surely neither incidental that the account of David in the Qur'an 'is exceedingly meagre' (Hughes, A Dictionary of islam, p.71) nor that Josia and Jesus have the same root in Hebrew.
6.2.1. The qibla changed towards Mecca This brings to mind an incident where Muhammad ordered – after special revelation - the qibla (prayer direction) to be changed towards Mecca at the time of his quarrels with the Jews in Medina. According to Jalahuddin, Muhammad had originally changed the prayer direction to Jerusalem to please the Jews after the hijra,104 i.e. when he still believed that Christians and Jews would welcome him as the ‘Seal of the prophets.’ Rahman (1979: 20) stressed however, that the decision to change the qibla in favour of Jerusalem was made in Mecca under duress, to emphasise the difference between pagans and the Muslims. Only later, when he was convinced of his failure to placate the Jews, and after Muhammad discovered that the Jews had conspired with the Meccans against the terms of their pact, he commanded the qibla to the original direction of the pre-Islamic pagans, to Mecca . Jibril came to his aid with: Thus, have We made of you an Ummat justly balanced, that ye might be witnesses. The fools among the people will say: “What hath turned them from the Qibla to which they were used?” Say: To Allah belong both East and West: He guideth whom He will to a Way that is straight over the nations, and the Messenger as a witness over yourselves; and We appointed the qibla to which thou wast used, only to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels (from the faith). Indeed it was (a change) momentous, except to those guided by Allah… From whencesoever Thou startest forth, turn Thy face in the direction of the sacred Mosque; that is indeed the truth from the Lord. And Allah is not unmindful of what ye do (Surah 2: 142-145, 149). This move was not without risk as Siddiqui (1994: 154) pointed out: ‘The pagans of Mecca said: “The way Muhammad has changed his direction for prayer towards our qibla, gives us reason to hope that he will eventually come back to our faith also.’ A sign was given that Muhammad would now ‘rely more on the ‘arabizing’ party’ among his followers than upon the ‘judaizing' faction (Watt, 1970: 12). It remains problematic that a special revelation was needed to resolve an issue where alliances and resentment played such a big role.
6.3. Satan masquerading as an angel of light
The way how the enemies of Israel tried to infiltrate, is typical for New Age thinking. The im­pression is often given that in different religions we are all wor­shipping the same God. Even some evangelical believers have been misled to think that the God of the Bible and Allah of the Qur’an are ident­ical, whereas the latter book clearly teaches that God has no son. In fact, Allah is aloof and distant. He has 99 attributes but he purportedly does not posses any paternal or maternal qualities. The Tenach and Judaism definitely in general does not only sees the Deity as 'Our Father in heaven', but he also has a Son, although the name is not spelled out in the Hebrew Scriptures (Psalm 2:7,12); Proverbs 30:4)). In the 'NT' this happens when the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary, instructing her to give the son to be born – who will be called Son of the Most high – the name Yeshuah. He was to save His people. Twice the divine voice from heaven proclaimed Jesus to be 'My beloved Son' (Matthew 3:17 and 17:5). Paul, the apostle, taught how deceptive the arch enemy is, that he is masquerading as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), often operating as a wolf in the garb of a sheep. Satan is the father of lies from the beginning (John 8:44). In Galatians 1:8 we find the possibility inferred to that a different gospel can be brought by an angel. The consistent omission of everything alluding to the Cross in the Qur’an is thus possibly no coincidence. In fact, a close comparative study of the angel Gabriel in the Bible and the Islamic Jibril points to ‘another mighty angel’ (Revelation 10:1). This sounds very much like the figure that Muhammad encountered after his experience in the cave of Mount Hira. The real nature of Jibril becomes clear when one notes that the mighty angel of Revelation 10 will be roaring like a lion (Revelation 10:2). 1 Peter 5:8 defines the roaring lion as Satan. The effect of this supernatural experience105 on Muhammad is more in line with demonic phenomena than when people have been visited by an angel. With the differing anti-Christian content of Islam, we have enough reason to say that this a distorted gospel, indeed the work of a masquerading angel (Galatians 1:6-8).
We must pray for discernment to see how idolatry and occultism can be cleverly mixed in worship. In the run-up to the pogrom under king Ahasveros the scheming of Haman shows every sign of the work of the master planner of evil (Ester 3). Less known is how Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, tried to restrict God in his operation against Israel (1 Kings 20:23): Yahweh is not the God of either the hills or of the valley. He is omnipotent and the Almighty. He does not want to be put into any box or compartment.
6.3.1 Counterparts of the ‘Angel of Light’
At least one early precedent is found in apocryphal/epigraphic literature where someone else appears in the likeness of an angel. We read in The Nazarene Gospel: ‘And John, the messenger of the Lord, in likeness of Gabriel which leadeth in the Last Days, came filled with the Holy Spirit... unto a virgin named Mary, a daughter of Aaron.’106
Mani, a third century heretic, who dubbed himself ‘an apostle by the will of Christ’, was the founder of a religion. Mani was possibly influenced by Montanus, who was one of the first personalities to see themselves as the paraclete, the comforter, whom Jesus promised would come. Already as a child Mani had visions. Mani recalled that he was ‘protected through the might of angels’ that ‘nurtured me with visions and signs’. When Mani was twelve years old he enjoyed a first revelation of his ‘Heavenly twin’, which he described as the ‘most beautiful and largest mirror image of my own person.’ Eventually he related this supernatural being ‘closely to the Holy Spirit’ (Fox, 1986: 565) and as the ‘living Paraclete’, the Holy Ghost, who is almost the same as the ‘twin’ with whom Mani claimed to be in union. The resemblance with the biography of the founder of Islam and Muslim teaching about the Islamic Jibril is striking. This was not entirely new though. Before him Montanus and Elkesai had regarded themselves as the paraclete. Muslim theologians claimed that Muhammad was indeed the comforter (parakletos) promised by Jesus.
In the year 240-241 ‘the passionately desired mandate to step forward with his message reached Mani’ (Widengren, Mani and Manichaeism, 1965: 27). Similar to Muhammad many years later, he is reported to have been called to apostleship by an angel: ‘Peace unto thee, Mani, from me and from the Lord who sent me to thee and who has selected thee for his apostleship. He bids thee now to call the peoples to the truth and to proclaim from him the good message of the truth and to dedicate thyself to this task’. A difference with Muhammad is that Mani initially saw himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Just like Muhammad, he started winning converts from close by, in Mani’s case seeing his father and the extended family converting to the faith he had started. Mani however also set the example to his followers for the ‘chameleon-like habit to adapt as nearly as possible with the views of those they wished to win over to them’ (Legge, Forerunners and Rivals of Christianity, Volume II, p. 319). A few centuries later, Muhammad became quite adept at this practice. A witness of this was the bulk of Surah 3, his apology to the Christian delegation of Najran. However, Muhammad was significantly less successful than Mani. The early successes of Islam to win over others,has to be attributed to his followers. After his death the doctrinal bickering of the Christians significantly prepared the way for the military prowess of his successors.
Islam teaches seven revealed forms of the Qur’an which differ to some extent.107 The existence of the differences seems to have inspired Muhammad to indicate vaguely that the Qur’an should be checked with regard to its content (Surah 4: 82f). It is however improbable that Muhammad heard of either the Pauline warning of Galatians 1: 8 that an angel could bring another gospel or the possibility that Satan could change himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11: 14). The Qur’an does mention that satan mixes truth with falsehood (Yusuf Ali’s translation, ‘the evil ones teaching men magic’(Surah 2: 102), e.g. to sow discord between man and wife).
Paul possibly derived the term angel of light from rabbinic sources. In the oral passing on of the narration of the Fall of man, Sammael, the angel of light, mounts the serpent. This occurred after it had been discovered that this animal was the most suitable for wicked deeds. The same narrative speaks of Satan being changed into an angel of light, speaking through the serpent (Angelo S. Rappoport, 1928: 158 and 182).
6.3.2 Evidence of a different Gospel The Qur'an contains ample evidence of a different Gospel in the light of the warning of Galatians 1: 8 that an angel could bring another gospel Central doctrinal tenets of Christianity like the death by crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection are repudiated. The Qur'an, understood by Muslims to have been supernaturally revealed to Muhammad by Jibril, denies quite emphatically that Jesus is the Son of God. In chapters seven and eight we shall address these matters.
6.4. Gabriel as a link between Mandaean Theology and Islam108
The Angel Gabriel features as a link between the Hebrew Scriptures through Mandaean Theology to Islam. There is a connection between the titles given to the Mandaean “angels” and the only two named angels in the 'OT'. In the Mandaean literature we read about John the Baptist:
‘ Then were seen three lights (lamps) which companied him...’
These three lights have been taken to be the three Uthras, (angels) Hibil Ziwa, Anush Uthra, and Manda-d-Hiia, since these three commonly work together and often are interchangeable. It is Anush Uthra who takes John the Baptist away at the time of his birth for protection. These “beings of light” are also referred to as malki or kings. This term, in the form of the word prince, also appears to be placed on the angels Michael and Gabriel in the Hebrew Scriptures, whereby mal’ak was also the word used for an (angelic) messenger.
Anush Uthra seems to have many of the attributes of Gabriel. Starting with the name Gabriel meaning literally Man (Geber) of God (el), Anush also can be traced back to the 'OT' word meaning man (enowsh), with Uthra meaning basically a being. Anush Uthra would then mean something like man-like being.
Not only do we see similarity in the name but we also have parity in the creation aspect. We find Gabriel at the creation of man both in the Talmud (as we have seen in 3.1.1) and in Mandaean literature. He is called “man of God” and retains this same idea in Mandaic. Gabriel brings the message to Zechariah while the three light beings accompany Zechariah prior to the conception of John the Baptist. It is Anush Uthra (the equivalent of Gabriel) who takes John the Baptist away, while in Christian folklore it is the angel Uriel.
In the 'OT' Joseph’s having “heard a language I had not known” (Ps. 81: 5) indicates for some that the Angel Gabriel had educated him. We have a parallel with the Mandaean literature in which Anush Uthra was in charge of the education of John the Baptist.
For the Mandaeans John the Baptist is connected to the act of creation in the renewal of the religion and the regeneration of the people. Thus John the Baptist begins a creation much in the same way as Noah.  But in this case the people are not dead. It is the religion that needs healing and reviving.
I furthermore refer to an article on the internet titled The Christian Scheme: Gnosis and Christianity: Jesus-Logos-Christos (Theosophy, Vol. 56, No. 11, September, 1968 Pages 334-344 where the author quotes: ‘This Spirit is the Christos, the messenger of life, who is sometimes called the Angel Gabriel (in Hebrew, the mighty one of God), and who took with the Gnostics the place of the Logos, while the Holy Spirit was considered Life.’

That the Angel Gabriel is also referred to as the ‘Messenger of life’ brings up the similarity with the name Manda-d-Hiia, which means Knowledge of Life. In this passage the Angel Gabriel takes the place of the Logos or the Word of God. We keep in mind that it was not unusual for writers to confuse the three light beings especially in the area of function, because they are so similar in their duties and responsibilities.109

Chapter 7. Doubts and Cover-ups
Apart from Muhammad himself and Khadijah at the very first revelations, doubts about the nature of Jibril are not new at all. Arnold (1876: 45) pointed to the ‘first alleged vision of the angel Gabriel’ and spoke also of ‘his pretended revelations’ (1876: 43). Arnold highlights the effect on Muhammad to prove his point. Thus he quoted Ali Habibi with the tradition that was founded upon the testimony of Ayesha, Muhammad’s wife: ‘…the prophet was exceedingly oppressed as often as the angel appeared’. Another eyewitness, Zaid, said that the prophet, as often as he had a revelation ‘…. Had a kind of fainting and looked like a drunken man’. Another account is quoted as saying that ‘his face was covered with foam, his eyes were closed and sometimes he roared like a camel when he got revelations from the ‘angel’. Siddiqui (1994/1969) is one of a string of Islamic authors who took the easy road to cover up the inconvenient parts in the life of the prime Islamic Prophet. Siddiqui opposed Western scholars on less important issues, but he would then just omit that Muhammad was unsure and depressed after the first revelation or that Khadijah deemed it necessary to test the nature of Jibril. Quite a fewMuslim biographers of their prime prophet understandably circumvent hot potatoes like the ‘Satanic Verses’ of Surah 53.
7.1. Doubts about the revelations of Jibril
With regard to the doubts about the events during the ‘night of power’, Arnold (1876: 45) quotes other earlier authors. Referring to Lane’s Modern Egypt, (vol. II, p.238) and Abulfeda (ed) Noel des Vergers (p.107), he said: ‘It is a disputed point whether the celebration of the night of power or destiny, which falls on the twenty seventh day of Ramadan, is correct.’110
Andrae (1936: 22) is quite frank in his assessment of the earliest traditions of the phenomenon in the cave. To him they were ‘without doubt psychologically probable’, but he doubted whether Muhammad experienced his call to prophecy ‘in that fashion’. The Scandinavian scholar noted further that ‘the Prophet of Islam is the only inspired (person) who has written an entire and comprehensive book of revelations without once referring to his revelations, or even mentioning the experience which first gave him the certainty of his vocation. For in the Koran there is not the slightest reference to a vision such as that beheld in the cave of Mt. Hira’ (Andrae, 1936: 61).
Andrae however nowhere discounts the content of the message out of hand. In fact, he opined about it that Muhammad ‘knew that his message had a different content and purpose than the babblings of a seer or the verses of a poet. It was ‘not merely a petty concern of this world, it was in the sphere of things holy, not in that of things profane’ (Andrae, 1936: 63). In the same context the author states that Muhammad was ‘possibly in doubt at first as to the identity of the hidden voice.’ The Scandinavian scholar was not impressed by this report. According to him, ‘It is very apparent that in this form the whole narrative is historically and psychologically contradictory’ (Andrae, 1936: 23). Andrae also doubted the combining of two different narratives, as was done by Ibn Ishaq: ‘Both of them cannot be true, or at least they cannot both constitute the call-vision of the Prophet…One of them is a nocturnal vision in a dark cave, while the other is a vision… received in clear daylight.’111 This discrepancy could however be explained if one thinks of the two appearances of the supernatural figure on two consecutive days, the second one in the morning of the next day. In fact, Ibn Ishaq’s version (1978: 106), making full use of Tabari, almost lends itself to this explanation: ‘And I awoke from my sleep, and it was as though these words were written on my heart.’ This is followed by his suicidal thoughts and the voice from heaven saying ‘O Muhammad! Thou art the apostle of God and I am Jibril.’ The sight of Jibril with feet astride on the horizon hereafter dispelled his suicidal intention according to the Tabari tradition and another tradition mentions the messengers sent by Khadiyah to look for him, who saw him there on the cliff calling him as he was about to jump, thus saving his life.
A renowned scholar, W. Montgomery Watt - who is held in such high regard by Muslims – tried to explain the related matter. I quote from (or refer to) Islamic Surveys - Bell’s Introduction to the Qur’an: ‘When tradition ... associates Gabriel with the original call to prophethood, the scholar’s suspicions are aroused since Jibril is only mentioned twice in the Qur’an, both times in Medinan passages, the last part of his life. The association of Jibril with the call appears to be a later interpretation of something which Muhammad had at first understood otherwise’ (p.19). Watt notes that in Surah 2: 97 there is no assertion that Jibril appeared in visible form: ‘it may be taken as certain that the revelations were not normally mediated or accompanied by a vision...’ According to Watt ‘the vision is re-interpreted as that of an angel’ in Surah 81: 15-25, alluding to Jibril appearing on the horizon. The sentence ‘without doubt he saw him in the clear horizon’ (Surah 7: 184 and 81: 23) is no clear proof that the figure was indeed Jibril, but this was the vision that apparently influenced Muhammad more than anything else. The accusations seem to have been quite persistent in the Meccan period of Muhammad’s life. According to Rodwell’s chronological order the two Surah’s 81 and 7 would respectively be an early and late Meccan revelation.
7.2. The ‘Satanic verses’
While Muhammad was in Mecca, his followers were few. His movement grew painfully slowly and he, too, felt the pain of estrangement from his tribe. According to early and treasured biographical and historical accounts of Muhammad, authored by competent Muslim scholars (such as writings of at-Tabari and Ibn Sa’d), Muhammad longed for better relations and reconciliation with his community. Thereafter, the accounts continue, that God revealed Surah 53 to Muhammad up to and including vss. 19, 20. These two verses read: Have ye thought upon al-Lat and al-Uzza and Manat,112 the third, the other? (Surah 53:19,20). Then, originally, the verses (known today as the satanic verses) followed: These are the exalted cranes (intermediaries) whose intercession is to be hoped for.
The cranes whose intercession was sought, were of course the three female deities, al-Lat and her two daughters. The same accounts tell us that after this revelation was completed, Muhammad, his followers and the pagan Arabs all prostrated. Tensions eased, reconciliation was at hand, and all were delighted.
But Muhammad soon retracted the reconciliation; how soon is not clear. In the very reliable Ibn Sa’d account Jibril informed Muhammad that Satan had used Muhammad’s desire for reconciliation with the pagan leaders to insert into the revelation of God the verses about the interceding cranes. These verses became to be referred to as “the satanic verses”. Muhammad ‘was sitting in his house and when it was evening, Jibril, may peace be upon him, came to him and revised the Surah. Then Jibril 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’(Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol 1, p.237).
The following verses serve as the corrected sequence to Surah 53: 19,20 (above): Are yours the males and His the females? That indeed were an unfair division! (Surah 53: 21,22).
In other words: When you Arabs have sons (whom you prefer to daughters!), how unfair of you to say that God has daughters! The idea of a plurality of gods or goddesses or sons or daughters of God is ridiculous. God alone is God. The three goddesses are false.
Two other passages from the Qur’an are considered to refer to the compromise between Muhammad and the Arabs, and Muhammad’s eventual rejection of it. The first reads:
And their purpose was to tempt thee away from that which We had revealed unto thee, to substitute in our name something quite different; (in that case), behold! they would certainly have made thee (their) friend! And had We not given thee strength, thou wouldst nearly have inclined to them a little. In that case We should have made thee taste an equal portion (of punishment) in this life, and an equal portion in death: and moreover thou wouldst have found none to help thee against Us! (Surah 17: 73-75).
The second passage was intended to comfort Muhammad: Never sent We a messenger or a prophet before thee but when He recited (the message) Satan proposed (opposition) in respect of that which he recited thereof. But Allah abolisheth that which Satan proposeth. Then Allah establisheth His revelations. Allah is a Knower, Wise;That He may make that which the devil proposeth a temptation for those in whose hearts is a disease, and those whose hearts are hardened – Lo! the evil-doers are in open schism. (Surah 22: 52,53).
On the basis of these verses especially, the polemics around “The Satanic Verses” arose. The anger of the Ayatollah Khomeini is understandable when Salman Rushdie stirred up an issue, which had remained dormant for many years, though Western authors like Kenneth Cragg (The event of the Qur’an, p.144) and John Gilchrist (1986: 117-129) had thoroughly dealt with Muslim cover-ups of Muhammad’s lapse. One wonders however if Rushdie’s novel would have caused such an upheaval if Khomeini had allowed sleeping dogs to lie.
Muhammad finally realised ‘that Satan sometimes took a hand in the prompting’ (Watt, 1970: 23). This he acknowledged most clearly in the ‘Satanic verses’ (Surah 53: 19-20). Guillaume recovered much of the original material of Ibn Ishaq’s biography in his 1955 translation, including the incident of the Satanic verses on page 165f. This enables us to compare Hischam’s reclension with the original of Ibn Ishaq. The original version of Surah 53:19f had given recognition to the Meccan goddesses, Al-Uzza, Manat and al-Lat. According to another biography, that of Ibn Sa’d titled Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir from which we quoted, Satan made Muhammad repeat two phrases, viz. that ‘these idols are high and their intercession is expected’.113
Armstrong (1991: 111) glibly accepts that ‘many Muslims believe this story to be apocryphal’. They would point out that there is ‘no clear reference to it in the Qur’an, that it is not mentioned by Ibn Ishaq in the earliest and most reliable account of Muhammad’s life, nor in the great collections of traditions (ahadith) by Bukhari and Muslim.’ It seems that Armstrong was unaware that Ishaq was not regarded as that reliable, as the story had been included not only in the original Ibn Ishaq biography, but also in those of all three other early biographers Tabari, Waqidi and Ibn Sa’d. Suyuti can be quoted to the contrary. In the Asnab of the Nuzul (p. 184) he said inter alia: ‘… The infidels said that Muhammad had mentioned their gods with good words’. Armstrong seems to have ignored quite a few Western authors (e.g. Muir, Gilchrist, 1986: 117-129) who have conclusively shown that Hischam’s reclension actually omitted the offensive text.
A mythical story was relayed in the ahadith about Gabriel involved in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. ‘Gabriel told me, “I wish you had seen me taking mud from the sea to close up Pharaoh’s mouth lest he believe and be reached by God’s mercy”‘ (quoted in Behind the Veil, p. 271 from Jalalan, page 179; Zamakh-shari, part 2, page 368).
Behind the Veil, p. 272 suggests ‘If Pharaoh intended to believe, God would have accepted his repentance immediately and there is no need for the angel Gabriel to hasten to take a handful of sea mud to close Pharaoh’s mouth so that he would not make a confession of faith and be pardoned. God does not send his angels to do such wicked things… We believe Muhammad’s companions and ibn ‘Abbas who claimed that Muhammad related that to them…but we cannot believe Muhammad’s claim that Gabriel had told him that he closed Pharaoh’s mouth. The one who prevents people from believing is Satan - not an angel of God’.
7.2.1. Correction by Jibril and a Repentant Muhammad
It is interesting that Jibril is given a rôle in the correction of the ‘Satanic verses’ according to the Ibn Sa’d biography. It is indeed striking that the controversial verse occurs within the context of the figure that was standing on the furthest horizon and coming closer (Surah 53: 9). Two possibilities can be deduced, neither of them very positive for Muhammad. One could either infer that Jibril and Satan were collaborating in the revelation of the compromising verses or the two figures were identical. A compromise, which Sprenger (1851:103) offered, was that there was nothing supernatural at all, but that Muhammad ‘could not reconcile himself to the idea that God should have only daughters, which was ignominious in the eyes of the Arab’.
Ibn Hisham recorded that ‘Satan instilled in his recitation their praises and he (Muhammad) acknowledged their intervention. The infidels were overjoyed and said, “He mentioned our idols (gods) with good words.” Then God sent down the following verse (Surah 22: 52): ‘Never sent we a messenger or a prophet before you but when he recited the message Satan proposed (opposition) in respect of that which he recited thereof but Allah abolishes that which Satan proposes.’ 
According to the Ibn Sa’d tradition, the prophet was disturbed by the adulation of the Meccan people and especially by another correction: ‘… since you have now permitted them (the goddesses) to share divine honours with Him.’ All day Muhammad meditated alone in his own house. ‘Then Jibril said: Did I bring these two verses? The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, said: I ascribed to Allah what he did not reveal.’ Jibril is thus reported to have brought correction, which brings him in line with biblical angels, at least in this incident.
7.2.2. In the company of false prophets? Unfortunately everything is not as straightforward. That God abrogates any desire Satan frames in the heart and the tongue of Muhammad is good and fine. But it became problematic that Satan had the power to infuse certain verses in what Muhammad claims to be an inspiration from God. Satan was able to place on Muhammad’s tongue certain words by which he praised the pagans’ gods. Jibril reportedly also told Muhammad, ‘I did not bring to you these verses (about the idols).’ 
The ahadith compiler Jalalan remarked that the words comforted Muhammad because it revealed that all the prophets and the apostles who came before him had experienced this trial and not just Muhammad. It is obvious here that this is spurious because no one ever heard that any of the apostles or true prophets had been exposed to such trials in which Satan made them utter what they proclaimed to be a revelation from God; so that they later claimed it was Satan and not God who revealed it to them.
Andrae noted the legitimate desire of Muhammad to retain understanding from his people, by trying to achieve a compromise between monotheism and idolatry114 (Ibn Ishaq, 1978: 165). With regard to the words about the three goddesses Al-lat, al-Uzza and Manat - with which Muhammad won over the support of the Quraysh - he was very remorseful. It definitely stands Muhammad in good stead that he became sad when he discovered that he had succumbed to temptation. When Jibril corrected him on this score, Muhammad submitted. After the reprimand we read: ‘The apostle was bitterly grieved and was greatly in fear of Allah’ (Ibn Ishaq, 1978: 166). The result was the present version of the above-mentioned Surah 53: 19f, which refers to the three goddesses. The tradition preserved by Tabari showed that Muhammad was seeking a genuinely creative solution that would reconcile the Quraysh of Mecca and its environs to his monotheistic message. In this tradition - while Muhammad was meditating in the Ka’aba, the answer seemed to come in a revelation that gave a place to the three ‘goddesses’ without compromising his vision. Armstrong (1991: 113) does note more pointedly, referring to the biographies of Rodinson and Watt, that ‘even as the story stands, it does not necessarily bear such a negative interpretation.’ Rightly Armstrong shows why the Meccans were so angry after the corrected ‘Satanic Verses’ had been revealed. They had no major qualms about monotheism as such, but they could not palate it when Muhammad denigrated their treasured idols.
7.2.3 Jibril comforts Muhammad
According to the commentary of Jalalan Surah 22: 52 was revealed by Jibril to comfort Muhammad (Behind the Veil, p. 230): ‘…Allah abolishes that which Satan proposes’. Yusuf Ali’s translation makes the possibility even clearer that when an apostle or prophet could ‘frame a desire’, Satan could throw ‘some (vanity) into his desire.’
The Qur’an insists that the text passed down must be checked (Surah 4: 82). Probably because Satan had also tempted Jesus (Matthew 4: 1-11), Islam in general apparently did not make a big issue about this incident. In fact, Surah 22: 52 states this as a generalised possibility in a different translation, something which could happen to any prophet or messenger: ‘We never sent any messenger or any prophet but that when he thought Satan intruded into his thoughts; but God erases what Satan has intruded and then makes his own verse firm – God is knowing, wise’. For the Qur’an, it is not strange for a prophet that he is not always consistent as a human (Rahman, 1989: 89). This position is corroborated in the Bible, e.g. when an old prophet is guilty of deceit and treachery in 1 Kings 13: 11ff. This does however approach the thin line of false prophecy, i.e. the same person who proclaims the unadulterated word of God, could in the next sentence be party to falsehood. The great patriarch Abraham lied about Sarah being his sister. David was conscience stricken after he had cut a little piece from the robe of Saul (1 Samuel 24: 5), but he later became an adulterer and murderer (2 Samuel 11). In the 'NT' – especially in the Johannine epistles – it is shown that members of the church become servants of the Antichrist, if they either deny that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) or that he became mere man.
7.3. Unusual Sensual exploits
Khadiyah, said to have been a Catholic or Nestorian Christian, has to take much of the blame for misleading Muhammad when she encouraged him when he doubted the source of his inspiration. It must be said in Khadijah’s favour however that when she was unsure of the origins of Muhammad’s supernatural visitor, she went to some effort to test it. But she lacked sufficient biblical knowledge. Loyally but uncritically she stood by her husband. Muhammad is reported to have said to Ayesha: ‘She believed in me when all others were unbelieving; she took my words to be true when all others treated me as a liar.’115 Khadijah’s strange concept of divine presence is best illustrated by the reported ‘test’ on her part, when Jibril is reported to have disappeared when they had sexual intercourse.
Ali Dashti - an Iranian Muslim author - displayed real courage at the time of the rule of the Ayatollah Khomeini in his home country.116 He pointed critically to Muhammad’s unusual sexual appetite at the age of 53, i.e. at an age when normal men are getting more or less ‘over the hill’. Muhammad committed himself greatly in the affair of Mariam, the Coptic slave when he was fifty-nine years of age (Arnold 1859: 74) in the house of Hafsa. When the latter heard of his escapade, he promised upon oath at the confrontation not to repeat the deed if she would not divulge the secret. But it came out. After the resultant quarrel Muhammad separated from all his wives for a whole month, spending the time alone with the young slave. Jibril was on hand with a revelation to placate Hafsa, that she would be one of the Prophet’s wives in paradise. Muhammad himself received a special revelation from Jibril, viz. Surah 33: 50 ‘We have made lawful to thee … any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet.’
Yet, Dashti was perhaps a little too harsh with Muhammad in his judgement. He seems not to have taken into account Muhammad’s fervent desire to have male off-spring. Sprenger (1851: 91) cited the following dialogue between Ayesha and Muhammad, where in his estimation boys117 were regarded as children and baby girls as little nothings:
Ayesha: Has God not given thee better wives than that old Asadite woman? Muhammad: No, God has given me children by her and none by any other wife.
One takes note of the phenomenon of unusual sexual appetite, also among other older religious leaders, e.g. Baghwan in India a few decades ago and with the Korean Moon, the founder of the sect, which was purported to be universal. In all these cases the autocratic elderly leader seemed to have been unchecked within his sect because of his almost insatiable lust.118 On the international scene Dr Kurt Koch, a well-known evangelical expert on the occult, who wrote about the revivals at Kwa Siza Bantu in Kwazulu Natal and in Indonesia in the 1960, became involved with his secretary when he was not so young any more. Too strong interest in the occult, combined with a lack of prayer covering probably contributed to Koch’s demise. Strictly speaking, Muhammad does not fit in this category. The women in his life - apart from Ayesha and concubines – were predominantly widows and divorced ones. Thus he cannot be accused of promiscuity. After the death of his first wife Khadijah (significantly, Muhammad had no other wife beside her during the whole period of their marriage) and Abu Talib within the space of months, it seems however as if Muhammad had started losing his balance. The marriage to Sawda just a month after Khadijah’s death can be explained as the desperate need to have a mother to care for his children, but the betrothal to the seven-year-old Ayesha even before that, is difficult to fathom. He married a few wives after his arrival in Medina (apart from concubines), sometimes coming up with strange ‘revelations’, which increasingly contained biographical detail. The Western mind-set has difficulty to understand why his wife Sawda sacrifice her turn to sleep with the prophet. ‘…whenever it should come to her turn to share the marriage bed, she would relinquish her right to Ayesha’ (Irving, 1851: 107).
7.3.1 Islamic Cover-ups in general
In general, it seems as if Muslim scholars have not been scrutinising the supernatural figure under discussion. More often than not, spurious revelations were defended or covered up. The suicidal tendencies of Muhammad after his experience in the cave and the Satanic Verses were e.g. not included in the reclension of Ibn Hischam. Or else it would be argued away, e.g. that Muhammad hated the possibility so much that he could be seen as a poet or deranged person, that he rather wanted to end it all (Salahi, 1998: 64).
The manner in which Islamic scholars have tried to cover up the incident of the ‘Satanic Verses’ (Surah 53: 19,20), because it would have been tantamount to a concession that Muhammad was at some stage misled by Satan, does not bring honour to them.
In Ibn Hischam’s defence it must be said that he did mention changes to Ibn Ishaq’s biography in his reclension. But later Islamic scholars sometimes conveniently overlooked this. The early biographers pointed out that the compromise with the goddesses was the reason why the Quraysh hereafter applauded Muhammad. Thus Ib’n Sa’d highlighted the acclaim as the cause for some of the followers of Muhammad and exiles to Abyssinia to return to Mecca suddenly, purely because they heard of the prostration of the pagan Meccans with Muhammad (Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol 1, p.238). The Quraysh were delighted: ‘Muhammad has spoken of our gods in splendid fashion’ (Ibn Ishaq, 1978: 166). Otherwise the turn around of the Quraysh would probably not have happened.
Yet, Hischam was not completely honest, deleting a part of the text and not giving the reason for the sudden ‘conversion’ of the people in Mecca in his reclension.119 The remorse of Muhammad counts very much in his favour, but the omission of the story by Muslim authors ‘is clearly motivated by the unpalatable nature of its factual historicity’ (Gilchrist, 1986: 121). The spurious defence of some of them for the omission does not honour them. Not impressed at all, Gilchrist (1986: 121) gives his considered opinion: ‘…the Muslims have made a sorry mess of their defence of Muhammad and their rejection of this story and it seems that they would have done better to have relied solely on the argument that it is out of character with Muhammad’s sustained rejection of idolatry’.
7.3.2. Defence and exoneration of morally unacceptable behaviour
Muslim theologians sometimes tried to play down or defend the behaviour of their venerated prophet, e.g. with reference to his sexuality, which was perceived by some as embarrassing. Haykal has pointed to the fact that Muhammad took care of widows who would have had no support. Karen Armstrong, a former Roman Catholic nun, praises the positive view of sexuality, which the prophet exuded.
On the other hand, Muhammad’s betrothal to the seven-year-old Ayesha and the consummation of the marriage to her when she was only nine years old120 remains a major embarrassment to Islam. In this case there was no spurious revelation, but it has been defended. The bonding of the prophet to the family of Abu Bakr, the father of Ayesha, who was his close companion, is suggested to have played a significant role.
Any possible criticism of Muhammad for unacceptable behaviour, e.g. by marrying his adopted son’s divorced wife and the issue regarding his many wives, is countered by the intervention of the figure the prophet perceived to be Jibril. The respective spurious revelations are found in Surah 33: 37 and 33: 50, which allowed special privileges to the Islamic supreme prophet. The latter revelation permitted Muhammad any number of wives.121 (Muslim men can have up to four wives if they can support them and their children.) A biblical parallel to this would be the demeanour of David leading to the marriage to Bathsheba, which was preceded by adultery and the premeditated murder of her husband Uriah. David was clearly admonished by God when the prophet Nathan mentioned the many wives given to him. The context was clearly a reprimand: ‘I gave... your master’s wives into your arms... And if this was too little, I would have given you more’ (2 Samuel 12: 8). What David did was evil in God’s eyes. In the case of Muhammad there was a mitigating factor, viz. Muhammad’s fervent desire to have male off-spring. In an age when many people were still thinking that some women have a better aptitude to give birth to males, it would have been natural for Muhammad to try out a few more women to give him a son and heir.
It is furthermore quite problematic that Jibril had to ‘reveal’ that Hafsa would be one of Muhammad’s wives in Paradise. This happened after she had become very upset about his infidelity in an affair with Mariam, the Coptic slave. In the case of Muhammad’s marriage to a beautiful captive woman, Juwayriya, there was apparently no need for a special revelation. ‘She captivated every man who saw her’ (Ishaq, 1978: 493). The male witness clearly feared what would follow when he saw her going to the prophet for help in some matter. ‘…I knew that he would see her as I saw her.’ No excuses are given that Muhammad offered ‘something better’: “I will discharge your debt and marry you.” His marriage to Juwayriya was ‘blazed abroad’ because it was politically correct, bringing Mustaliq and his clan into the Islamic fold. A euphemism Qur’anic precedent of exual immorality A Qur’anic precedent of euphemism of sexual immorality is found in the narrative of Joseph. The impression is given that the handsome young slave almost fell into the snares of the passionate wife of Potiphar. Yusuf Ali explains in his commentary to Surah 12: 24, ‘He was also human after all and her passionate love and her beauty placed a great temptation in his path’ (note 1066, p. 558). The not completely clear pronouncement of the verse ‘She verily desired him, and he would have desired her if it had not been that he saw the argument of his Lord’ was filled in by Islamic legend. Yusuf Ali refers to his ‘spiritual eyes’. On the other hand, her eyes were ‘blinded by passion’. Legend cites the vision of father Jacob, which came in front of Joseph’s eyes at that moment. The legend found its way into the Qur’an when the handsome Joseph bemused the women - whom she had invited to off-set the malicious talk – so much that they cut their hands when they saw him, seeing in him ‘none other than a noble angel’ (Surah 12: 31).
7.3.3. Criticism from the Islamic side
Ali Dashti is quite frank about the developments leading to Muhammad’s marriage to Zaynab, who had been married to Zaid (his adopted son). Even though Muhammad initially advised to the contrary, the young man proceeded with divorce. Zaynab apparently became cool towards Zaid after she had noticed Muhammad’s interest in her at their marriage festivities. The shunned young man finalised the divorce, thus making the way clear for her to marry the prophet. The charge against Muhammad was clear enough: ‘You have taken your daughter-in-law as wife, in contravention of your own law that the wife of a son is forbidden to his father.’ To refute this charge, the prophet went into the attack with the revelation of Surah 33: 37. Jibril assisted to explain that Zaid was only his adopted son, not his real son. Furthermore, it was proclaimed in the process that ‘he is the Apostle of God and the last in the line of the Prophets’. The Islamic doctrine of the closing of prophethood with Muhammad as the final prophet thus came into being (see also section 8.7). Ahadith have been confirming this doctrine, usually with some involvement of Jibril or other angels. According to a hadith which had probably been embellished, Maysarah - Khadijah’s slave who accompanied Muhammad on the trade journey and the one who reported to her that there was a ‘clear vision of two angels shading Muhammad from the sun’s rays’ - added: ‘Right from Jesus, the son of Mary, none ever sat there but a prophet…He is the Prophet and the last of the Apostles (Cited by Siddiqui, 1994: 51f). The phrase ‘last of the Apostles’, albeit in a significant variation, was originally used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 8.122
The controversy around Salman’s Rushdie’s Satanic Verses brought Muhammad’s concession back into focus. Because of Jibril’s role in those revelations, Rushdie ridiculed the supernatural figure. It would have needed only a small step to look more deeply into the nature of Jibril. Ayatollah Khomeini’s intolerant reaction, practically passing a death sentence on Rushdie, is not so surprising in this light. That the ban on Rushdie was lifted in September 1998 by Ayatollah Khomeini’s successor, augurs well for more openness toward academic research within Islamic quarters, even though there has generally hardly been room in Islam for the questioning of any of its tenets or traditions.
7.3.4. Criticism of Concubinage and Slavery
Marcus Dods (1878: 67) highlights Muhammad’s bold proclamation of the equality of all Islamic believers, but he bemoans that all beneficial results that might have come from it, ‘have been frustrated by the Koran’s sanction of concubinage’. Dods (1878: 68) does point out that ‘enlightened Muslims themselves are humiliated by the pollutions and misery attached to this system’ which abetted slavery’. Criticism is especially valid for slavery itself, which is described in the Qur’an as ‘that your right hands possess.’ Licence is given to Muslims to cohabit with any of their female slaves, even if the husband is still alive. Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice… Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess…(Surah 4: 3 + 24). In the same Surah (v. 36) the slave owner is however instructed to ‘do good- to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near, neighbours who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands possess.’ Hughes (1885: 597) summarizes the position of the slave as depicted in the Qur’an: ‘…the position of the slave is as helpless as that of the stone idols of Arabia; but they should be treated with kindness, and be granted their freedom when they are able to ask for and pay for it.’
Muhammad appears to have been fairly critical of slavery, often linking his criticism with legalism. Thus expiation for certain sins, e.g. breaking the Ramadan fast could be achieved by setting a slave free or feeding seven poor persons (Hughes, 1885: 598). His criticism was however ambivalent, in at least one instance belied by his actions. Hughes Dictionary of Islam (1885: 598) cites a case where the estate of a deceased man consisted of only six slaves who were subsequently freed. ‘The Prophet called them and divided them in three sections, and then cast lots; he then ordered that two of them should be freed, and he retained four in slavery, and spoke severely of the man who had set them free.’ Quoting Syed Ameer Ali, Dods suggests (1878: 68) that the day has come for the Muslims to show ‘the falseness of the aspersions cast on the memory of the great and noble prophet, by claiming in explicit terms that slavery is reprobated by their Faith and discountenanced by their code’. Dods knew that he hoped too much, because criticism of the Qur’an in any way is not allowed. (In a similar way, modern Mormonism is embarrassed by certain ‘revelations’ that were purported to have been given to their founding prophets.) Even in the 21st century slaves are still being held in the Sudan. In other countries a modern version is practiced, e.g. in South Africa when girls are fetched from the country-side by rich Muslims from the cities - to work as domestics under slave conditions.
7.4. Biographical detail in the Qur’an
Much of the Qur’an was revealed in accordance with or as a result of certain incidents in the lives of Muhammad, his wives or companions. This was used in chronological research to date the various Surah’s. The biographical co-incidence places a question mark over certain 'supernatural revelation'. In fact, this fact caused D.S. Margoliouth, a highly respected scholar, to write in the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics: ‘the Qur’an might in many parts be described as the author’s diary or commonplace book; it records doubts felt by himself…what he said when they occurred, and hard blows which he received.’
The anonymous author of Behind the Veil points out that al-Suyuti wrote a whole book, which he called ‘The Core of Transmitted Traditions and Reasons for the Revelations’. In chapter 9 of Behind the Veil the author describes how ‘The Angel Gabriel Complies with the wishes of Muhammad’s Companions’ (p. 206). This was especially the case with ‘Umar ibn al-Kattab. Revelations would come down, even with ‘the same words and vocabulary’ of ‘Umar (Behind the Veil, p.206), so that the following construction could be written: Muhammad answered, “Yes, Allah has already sent Gabriel, who revealed to me the matter which ‘Umar has requested”.
Here we touch only a few of these incidents. Even if the ‘Angel of Revelation’ is not specifically mentioned, Jibril is taken for granted by almost all Muslims to be the agent. Thus there was an embellishment after ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab stated clearly that the original verse prohibiting sexual intercourse during Ramadan was expecting a bit much. He confessed straight away to the Prophet after he had ‘stepped over the line’. Jibril obliged with the addition ‘It is made lawful for you to go in unto your wives on the night of the fast’ (Surah 2: 197). The author of Beyond the Veil is not convinced about the source. Bluntly he asserts that the addition was a claim that ‘Jibril had come down with the above-mentioned verse. Muhammad chose the latter to appease ‘Umar and his friends’ (p. 208). Similarly, just as dubious was the circumstance around the ‘revelation’of ‘take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer’ (Surah 2: 125). After ‘Umar had asked ‘shouldn’t we take it as a place of prayer?’ Muhammad’s response was ‘God has not commanded me to do so’, (p.26, quoted by Beyond the Veil, p.207). However, Badawi added, ‘hardly the sun set when the inspired verse was given, ‘And take the site of Abraham as a place of worship.’ One wonders how this can seriously be regarded as an ‘inspired verse’.
Quite spurious is the tradition around Surah 9: 114 which was said to have been revealed after the death of Abu Talib, Muhammad’s faithful guardian. Muhammad had locked himself in his house for several days to pray for Abu Talib’s soul. Muhammad probably picked up this anti-biblical practice from the pagan surroundings and a Christianity, which had deviated considerably from the Scriptures (cf. Leviticus 19: 31, 20: 27 and 1 Samuel 28: 3ff). This incident is accepted to have taken place three years before the Hijrah. Then the revelation should have been part of a Meccan Surah. Yet, there were apparently so many Medinan elements in the Surah that Rodwell placed it as the penultimate one - number 113 - in his chronological order. According to tradition, Muhammad had stopped with his praying when Jibril came to him with the words: ‘It is not for the prophet or the faithful to pray for the forgiveness of those, even though they be of kin, who associate other beings with God’ (Andrae, 1936: 52). This smacks very much of a correction from Jewish sources, which prohibits praying for the dead, but adding a swipe at the Christians who were accused of allocating a partner to God. All Muhammad’s biographers refer to details from his life intermingled with the revelations. Muslim scholars believe that knowing the reasons for the revelation of the Qur’anic verses is very important and indispensable for comprehending the verses. In the book, “the Itqan” (part I, p. 82),123 Al- Suyuti explains the significance of this matter. It is the basis for understanding various verses, which have been revealed after a certain incident or after a question was directed to Muhammad. Al-Suyuti recorded several examples to prove that it was impossible to understand some verses unless the reasons for their revelation were known.
Elsewhere we have referred to Surah 2: 158 where Muhammad and the Muslims were given special licence with a revelation from Jibril to continue with the circumambulations and other idolatrous practices associated with the pilgrimage.
7.5. Classification of big and small sin
Somewhat problematic is that Islamic tradition appears to abet the classification of big and small sin. Jibril occurs in a hadith, which probably led to the deduction that adultery and theft are small sins: I heard Abu Dharr narrating it from the Apostle (may peace be upon him) that he observed: Gabriel came to me and gave me the tidings: Verily he who died amongst your Ummah without associating anything with Allah would enter Paradise. I (the narrator) said: Even if he committed adultery and theft? He (the Holy Prophet) said: (Yes), even if he committed adultery and theft’ (Sahih Muslim, Book 1 (hadith 171). Raiding had been seen as a sport in pre-Islamic times anyway and robbery was therefore not regarded as immoral. Similarly, to lie is thus regarded as far less serious than shirk, i.e. associating anything with Allah in partner. More in line with biblical teaching, Muhammad has also said: ‘Whosoever does not refrain from untruthful talk, what worth has his refraining from eating and drinking?’ Another hadith sounds like the 'Old testament' prophets, (freely translated from the German of Goldziher, 1925:20): ‘The best Islam is that you feed the hungry and spread peace among those near to you and to those further afield’ (in all the world). The example of Abraham is abused in Islamic teaching to justify lying. The Bible also reports in Genesis 20:11 how the arch father used a 'white lie', claiming Sarah to be his sister, when he was afraid that the king would kill him. The Qur'an uses oral tradition in Surah 37: 89, saying 'I am sick', so that his family would leave him alone in the temple of idols, to enable him to destroy the idols. 'According to the Islamic teaching Abraham's use of deceit was a good thing.' (Gabriel, 2006:124). Muhammad disapproved of and objected against lying in some matters, but he approved of Muslims lying under three circumstances: a) During war124 b) To reconcile feuding parties c) To a spouse to please her. (The latter circumstance is quite commonly used in the case of marital infidelity.) Mark Gabriel highlighted the use of lying in matters pertaining to war in his book Journey into the Mind of a Terrorist , (2006: 118-122). He notes: 'Muslim radicals of today look at deceit as an art of war that was used by the prophet himself' (Gabriel, 2006:122).
7.6. Biblical precedents of sexually deviant behaviour
A biblical parallel to Muhammad’s incestuous marriage to Zaynab, the divorced wife of his adopted son Zaid. This is found in Genesis 38 where it is told how Judah had intercourse with Tamar, his daughter-in-law. She tricked him after he had promised his son to her in marriage. Tamar disguised herself as a harlot. In the 'New Testament', in Matthew 1, Tamar is mentioned among a few women in the genealogy of Jesus. In the same context the Palestinian prostitute Rahab is mentioned, and she is also listed among the heroes of faith in Hebrew 11. The message is clear: faith in Yahweh cuts through and transcends the immorality. Because of their faith these morally ‘fallen’ women came into the lineage of the Messiah. In the Matthew genealogy of Jesus also Ruth, a Moabite who would otherwise not have ‘qualified’ to be an ancestor of the Saviour, is mentioned. Again, her faith in the God of the Jews brought her in line. However, the Bible clearly reprimands sexually deviant behaviour. Juan Bosch (1965: 151) calculated that David must have been 45 years old when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. The Bible condemns outright that he tried to cover up his adultery by the murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. King Solomon’s lust led to idolatry, misleading the whole nation. In Islamic legendry however, the wisdom of Solomon is highlighted to such an extent that the idolatry to which his many pagan wives led him into, falls by the wayside. If anything, his polygamy is used as an excuse for Muhammad’s life-style. Quite a few times in the Bible – especially in the Hebrew Scriptures - idolatry is linked to sexual immorality.
7.6.1. Jewish precedents to exonerate or excuse sinful behaviour
A precedent of the effort to exonerate sinful behaviour is found in the apocryphal book of Jubilees. The sin of Reuben (he lost his birthright after sleeping with Bilha, the slave of his father – Genesis 35: 22) and Judah ‘was recorded in heaven and severely condemned there, though finally the wrongdoers were pardoned’ (Travers Hertford, 1933: 230). The Bible itself is clear enough that repentance is a condition of restoration and reconciliation, apart from God’s sovereign grace and forgiveness. Thus Simeon and Levi are reprimanded for their behaviour after the rape of their sister Dinah (Genesis 37). In their rage they schemed viciously, killing all the men from the tribe in question when they were in pain after they had agreed to be circumcised. The tribe of Levi was evidently forgiven when they were repentant after worshipping the golden calf. There they re-committed themselves – with no other tribes mentioned – to be on the Lord’s side (Exodus 32: 25). It is not mentioned whether they had a special sense of guilt, coming from the same tribe as Moses and Aaron. To Simeon’s descendants no land was accorded. Their restoration will only happen at the end of the present dispensation. In the book of Revelations we find among those sealed also 12000 apiece from the tribes of Simeon and Levi (Rev. 7:7).
Chapter 8. The role of Jibril in Anti-Christian tenets
'New Testament' Christianity sees the person of Jesus as central, especially his atoning death and his resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus was an essential sign of his sinlessness and holiness. If we take the general ‘final review’ of Jibril as our point of departure, one definitely has to deduce that he brought ‘another gospel’ (Galatians 1: 6). Islam understands the Qur’an to be the final revelation. Muhammad was - perhaps not knowingly – following the example of Mani with chameleon-like habits to adapt his views to those he wished to win over. But if his counterparts would oppose him vehemently, he would not budge.125 His summersault on the Jews was depicted so clearly with the change of the qibla - first to Jerusalem and then back to Mecca when the Jews withheld their allegiance. The Christians were the next to bear the brunt with Jibril once again put to good use.
8.1. Denial of the death of Jesus
In the Qur’an the message of the death of Jesus on the Cross is not denied expressis verbi. Surah 4: 157 merely mentions that the Jews ‘killed him not’. In fact, two other verses in the Qur’an take his death as a given (Surah 3: 55; 19: 33). However, Surah 4: 157 has often been interpreted to mean that God took Jesus to himself after he was changed (into Simon of Cyrene or Judas Iskariot126) before being crucified. Cerinthus, a contemporary heretic of John and Paul, the apostles, suggested that the divine part of Jesus escaped, rather than suffered. This is in line with a notion within Judaism, which had such a problem to accept the suffering servant of God in the messianic Isaiah 53. This pericope compares the suffering servant to a sheep led to be slaughtered.127 The teaching of Cerinthus could be regarded as the run-up to docetic doctrine in the subsequent centuries. According to this teaching Jesus did not really die on the Cross, it merely seemed so to the spectators. The direct influence possibly came via Manicheism, where the death of Jesus is likewise denied. This culminated in Islamic belief, the above understanding of Surah 4: 157. The deceptive part is that another interpretation actually accepts that Jesus died, but that he was not crucified. Factions of Islam could in the extreme case still accept the death of Jesus, but definitely not his atoning death on the Cross. It is not surprising that the Qur’an wrote about the birth of Yahya (John the Baptist) in a revering way like that of Jesus and Adam. In Surah 6: 85 Yahya is listed with the other prophets. Like Jesus, peace is proclaimed upon him ‘the day he was born, the day that he dies and the day he will be raised up to life again’ (Surah 19:15). Yet, strangely, the almost identical words in 19: 33 are still interpreted to mean that Jesus did not die, that God took him away.
Islam is not alone in its denial of the suffering and death of Jesus. When Peter opposed the suggestion of Jesus to be innocently killed in Jerusalem, he merely displayed the flesh in all of us that wants to evade the Cross and its ramifications.
Islam brought to a head what had happened in the church in the centuries before the religion took shape. That a denial of the cross is demonic is shown by the way in which Jesus emphatically rebuked Peter: ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’ (Matthew 16: 23). The Master deemed it fit to counter the disciple in this way to make it plain to the disciples that the cross was imperative, part of the divine plan. Also John 12:23-27 makes it plain that the Master understood his mission of death (and resurrection) as obedience to the Father, which the enemy of souls wanted to cancel.
Therefore Jesus followed his rectification of Peter up with the recipe for his followers: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ (Matthew 16: 24-5). The most pointed travesty of this command was when a Christian leader incited his church people to take up the cross - and the sword - to kill Muslims and Jews. That happened at the start of the crusades 900 years ago.
8.1.1. Jesus as the Lamb of God
In the 'OT' Egypt represents bondage in sin and Moses is God’s appointed deliverer, to lead His people from bondage and slavery. Superficially it looks as if denial of the atoning blood of Jesus is present when the Islamic sacred book refers to nine signs in Surah 7:133. These signs are easily recognised as the biblical equivalents of five of the first nine plagues in Exodus 7: 14. Also Surah 43: 47-50 refers to the plagues as signs: ‘But when he came to them with Our Signs, behold they ridiculed them. We showed them Sign after Sign, each greater than its fellow, and We seized them with Punishment, in order that they might turn (to Us). But when We removed the Penalty from them, behold, they broke their word.’
The Qur’an has a biblical precedent in Psalm 78: 43 where the plagues are also called signs. Specifically, the blood of a perfect lamb applied to the doorposts was described as ‘a sign for you’ (Exodus 12: 13). The Jewish celebration of Pesach has the sacrificial lamb in a central place. Paul ingeniously wrote about the Passover festival and Jesus as our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). This is a wonderful link to Exodus 12:43ff, where it is repeatedly and specifically stated that no alien is allowed to participate in the Passover, unless all the males in the household (are) circumcised.
The Qur’anic revelation speaks elsewhere of a great sign, which Moses showed Pharaoh (Surah 79: 20). What this sign is, is not absolutely clear in the context. With some imagination, it would not be too far-fetched to regard the great sign of Surah 79: 20 as the tenth plague. In fact, in the notes to his Qur’an translation, Yusuf Ali interprets the ‘wholesale death’ of Surah 7: 133 as the tenth plague. Interesting is how Jibril comes to the aid to harden Pharaoh’s heart according to a hadith. According to this tradition cited by Goldziher (1925: 90), Jibril pushed a lump of clay into the mouth of Pharaoh when he feared that he could utter the creed, by which he could have received the grace of God. It is interesting that the Talmud picked up an oral tradition depicting Moses as an innocent meek lamb in respect of the might of Egypt. In the Targum Pseudo Jonathan, the commentary on Exodus 1: 15, 7: 11 and Numbers 22: 22 with regard to Jannes and Jambres, the two Egyptian sorcerers who opposed Moses, a dream of the Pharaoh is quoted, whereby a boy would be born who is described as a lamb that would ultimately destroy Egypt. It is recorded how the Pharaoh saw an old man hanging the weighing scale in the dream. On the one side of the balance there were all the elders, princes and officers, bound together. On the other side there was hanging a meek lamb. Strangely enough, the little lamb outweighed all the mighty men. In the interpretation of the dream, Balaam saw baby Moses as the lamb. Significantly, the connection of the shedded blood of the lamb was to lead to the formation of the Unity of the Brethren in Bohemia and Moravia, the very first Protestant denomination. The movement spawned by the teachings of the martyr Johan Hus in 1415, had the cup on their banner. They insisted to also participate in the drinking of the wine in the Lord's Supper, in protest against the Roman Catholic practice whereby the priest would do it on behalf of the congregation. The Unity of the Brethren had the Lamb on its banner with the words adapted from the book of Revelations: vicit agnus, nos sequamur The lamb has conquered, let us follow him.
8.1.2.The blood of an unblemished lamb
The Bible describes the tenth plague as the death of the first-born in all those houses where the blood of an unblemished lamb was not applied. The blood of the lamb had to be applied to the doorposts (Exodus 12: 12). The seder meal i.e. the one at which the meat of the lamb was eaten, became the preamble of Yahweh’s miraculous deliverance of his people. It would cause the plague of death of the first-born son to ‘pass over’ the house where the Passover lamb was sacrificed.
The meal prior to their departure from Egypt, which had to be enjoyed in all haste, became the watershed event in Jewish history. The Seder meal at the annual celebration of the Passover that included very centrally the eating of the meat of the slaughtered lamb, became the prime liturgical event of Judaism. Through the ages the church saw the confrontation of Moses with Pharaoh – the run-up to the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13: 17 – 14: 31) – as an allegory, the paradigm for ‘spiritual warfare’. This event is the paramount item to usher in freedom from every form of bondage.
To the Christian believers Pharaoh was the type of the arch enemy. Almost all 20th century versions of liberation theologies saw the Egyptian ruler as the forerunner of unjust oppressors and Moses as the prime liberator from injustice. Nine plagues were not even enough to allow Moses to let his people leave the bondage of Egypt. Therefore we should not be surprised if structures of injustice and oppression sometimes seem impenetrable and unstoppable. The bottom line is that Satan is always ready to oppose Yahweh and all people who await His sovereign deliverance. It is striking that although the Qur’an makes no mention of the slaughtering of a lamb at the exodus from Egypt, it does not deny the Passover lamb either (Foster, 2000:21). David Foster discusses various factors and concludes that ‘there are several reasons, from an Islamic point of view, for accepting the genuineness of the Passover lamb’.
8.1.1. The Angel of Death and Passover
At the Passover, the blood of a perfect lamb - applied to the doorposts -was the divine provision to lead God’s people out of bondage. The 'New Testament' equivalent to Egypt is the slavery of sin. Just like Moses, who led the Israelites out of bondage, Jesus leads men and women out of the bondage of sin. Through faith in Him as our Saviour, we can move out in liberty. On that fateful night in Egypt, the blood on the doorposts was the guarantee of life. The angel of death passed over those houses where the blood of the lamb was applied to the doorposts.128
It is furthermore significant that at the celebration of the Jewish Seder meal at the Passover celebration every semblance of yeast has to be removed from the houses. One small piece of bread is hidden on purpose. Yeast is the image of sin in the Bible. Jesus gave his life voluntarily, so that every semblance of sin might be atoned for. In this way the description of Jesus in the Qur’an (23:50) as an ayatollah, as a sign of God, gets a special meaning. Ritual ablutions and the washing movement, e.g. at the korban (sheep slaughtering sacrifice) also depict an element of cleansing, i.e. atoning of sin (see also next section). Islam thus stops just short of the water or blood directly atoning for sins. Instead, the Qur’an omits the actual narration of the blood on the doorposts. The slaughtered lamb of the exodus from Egyptian bondage was the redeeming factor at the 10th plague. The angel of death visited every home, but only at those houses where the blood was on the doorposts, the first-born was saved. Thus even Israelites would have lost a first-born if they had been disobedient to the command. It is doubly sad that Islam denies the redeeming aspect of the blood of the Passover so fiercely.
8.2. Denial of the Atoning blood of Jesus
The 'New Testament' sees Jesus clearly not only as a second Moses (Matthew 2: 1-16) and a second Adam (Romans 5:12ff), but also as God’s Pesach, his sacrificial Lamb. We are reminded of John 1: 29, 36 where Jesus is referred to as the ‘Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world’. In the 'New Testament' the blood of Jesus shed at Calvary is seen as the fulfilment of the redeeming blood of God’s Lamb. Therefore another apostle reminds the believers that they have been redeemed not by ‘perishable things such as silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect’ (1 Peter 16,19). Hebrews 9: 22 puts it even more starkly: ‘without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness’. Woodrow Kroll (1997: 61) points out that the word blood occurs three times as often as the word cross and five times as often as the word death in the Bible. Obeying the injunction of 1 John 1: 9 to confess our sins, we may expect to be cleansed from ‘all unrighteousness’ by the blood of Jesus. This purifies in a supernatural way; one can start anew. In fact, in the same context John writes: ‘…and the blood of Jesus, the Son of God, purifies of all sin’ (1 John 1: 7). It is like a ransom (Matthew 20: 28, Mark 10; 45); buying the slave of sin free (1 Timothy 2: 6). Paul gives the wording ‘expiation by his blood’ (Romans 3: 25). Just like the blood of the slaughtered lamb on the doorposts dealt a final blow to the idols and gods of Egypt (Exodus 12: 12), the power of the blood of Jesus – God’s Lamb - on the cross of Calvary, his death and resurrection, finished off the fear of death – yes, the power of the devil. In 1 John 3: 8 the epistle states the destruction of the devil’s work as the mission of the Son of God. The early church – and the body of Christ through the ages - understood it that way. The letter to the Hebrews describes the understanding of the early Christians with regard to the sacrificial Lamb of God quite lucidly: Jesus Christ as high priest did not enter the Most Holy Place ‘by means of the blood of goats or calves’, but by his own blood, obtaining redemption – a new covenant ‘…as a ransom to set them free from sins committed under the first covenant (Hebrew 9: 11,15). Taking the image from the High Priest who sprinkles the blood on the Day of Atonement as an atoning and purifying action on and before the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies, the blood of Christ …purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.’ (Hebrew 9: 13f). At the same time the blood of the new covenant (1 Corinthians 11: 25; Luke 22: 20) is the only ‘entrance ticket’ to the presence of God. The seer John received the vision of the heavenlies where the Lamb – the only one worthy to open the scroll and the seven seals - was worthy ‘because you were slain and with your blood you purchased men for God (Revelation 5: 9). The cleansing power of the blood was also at work to whiten the robes of those who came through the end-time tribulation (Revelation 7: 14).
8.2.1 Pressure against Pharaoh
Incredible pressure mounted against Pharaoh in the first 9 plagues, but they were not enough to force Pharaoh to release his slaves. It took the 10th plague, the most devastating loss, to force Pharaoh to allow them to go. In this killer plague he lost his son - as did all the Egyptian families. The angel of death was instructed to go to every home - also the Israelite homes – in order to kill all first-born sons where no lamb was slaughtered. After the Egyptians suffered this catastrophic loss Pharaoh was willing to let the Hebrews go free. But let us not forget that the Israelites were put under this death threat – along with the Egyptians. If God wanted to secure the freedom of the slaves, surely all he needed to do was judge the Egyptians. Why did he place the Israelites under threat of death?

The Israelites, like all other people, are sinners and therefore had to face Gabriel, the angel of death. The sacrificial redemption solution implicit in the Passover Lamb is missing in the Qur’anic account, but even more tragic is the rejection of this truth by Muslim writers like A. Husain, as seen in his book Moses versus Pharaoh. Based on the reference in the Qur’an to a ‘blood sign’, Husain argues that this is the last of the nine plagues/signs (page 100, cf. Surah 7: 133). Husain explains the blood sign, saying that water sources, such as wells and rivers, were turned into blood. But turning water sources into blood was not the last plague according to the Bible. The final plague was indeed a ‘blood sign’, i.e. the death of all first borns and the slaughter of the Passover Lamb. Husain’s explanation of changing water into blood is not based on Qur’anic teaching but conveniently imported from the Bible. We note that he chose to explain the ‘blood sign’ in this way, rather than accepting the plain statement of scripture - that the blood of the Passover Lamb was the final and crucial act of rescue. Husain should have realised that his explanation makes no sense. If we imagine the final plague to be that of changing water to blood, one fails to understand how this would have intensified the pressure against Pharaoh (in keeping with the Qur’an - Surah 43.47-50). On the other hand, the devastating death plague and blood sacrifice that the Bible describes, makes perfect sense.

8.2.2 God provides the ransom Husain could have found help in interpreting the blood sign if he had pondered the Qur’anic example of a sacrifice ‘ransom’ experience in Abraham’s life. We notice that the idea of ransoming or redeeming the life of a son is a crucial feature of both stories. Furthermore, in both cases, it is God who mercifully provides the ransom. Islam, of course, has built up a system of blood sacrifice that involves accumulating merit for the one performing sacrifice, whereas the Bible consistently pictures God as the provider (Genesis 22:7,14 cf. Leviticus 17:11). Therefore, Muslims would never see the Lamb image in the Exodus story as fulfilled in Jesus – even if they did admit it was a plausible way of concluding the plagues against Pharaoh.

David Foster (2000: 21) has shown that there are more than a few clues in Islam why Muslims need not be sceptical about the importance of sacrificial blood as highlighted in the Passover lamb. We have already looked at the first reason - the experience of Abraham. The second reason is that ritual slaughter is not foreign to Muslims. The Qur’an affirms that ‘to every people did We appoint rites (of sacrifice) that they might celebrate the name of God…’(Surah 22: 34). At two rituals, viz. Aqeeqa and Eid ul Adha, sheep slaughtering takes place. Ahadith related to these rituals come very near to the atonement concept of blood in the 'NT'. Foster quotes Maulana Fazlul Karim’s Al Hadis, (Vol. 3, p. 490): ‘the son of Adam does not do anything of the actions of the day of sacrifice which is more pleasing to Allah than the shedding of blood.’ This does not sound much different to Hebrews 9: 22 (‘without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness’).

The generous gesture Foster has shown toward Muslims is gracious, but there are many other instances where the ‘blood line’ of the 'OT' is not mentioned in the Qur’an and we doubt whether this is coincidental.129
8.3. Denial of the atoning understanding of the sacrifice
Islam comes very close to the propitiatory understanding of the sacrifice when Muslims practise the ritual of their sheep-slaughtering ceremony at Eid u’l Adha (the Great Feast). Then they commemorate ‘the transformation of Ishmael on the altar into a ram’.130 The gist of the 'NT' message with regard to sacrifices is aptly summarised by the apocryphal Gospel to the Hebrews, where it is stated that Jesus came to remove sacrifices and radiate love. Sacrifices occur in Islam at aqeeqah, when an animal is slaughtered at the birth of a child and at Eid Ul Adha. Significantly, Samuel Zwemer (The Influence of Animism on Islam, London, 1920: 87) notes that ‘the use of this word (sacrifice) in every connection seems to have reference to expiation or redemption.’ It is interesting that the Qur’an (Surah 37: 101-107) also stresses the voluntary character of the near sacrifice of Abraham’s son.131 The name of Ishmael does not appear in Surah 37. Is it merely co-incidence that the ‘resurrection faith’ of Abraham comes through via ‘the third day’ in Genesis 22: 4? The three Abrahamic religions could perhaps join in using Genesis 22 as a vehicle to find each other, even to the extent to discover why Jesus, the perfect and unblemished Lamb of God. qualifies to be the Messiah. Was it merely by chance that Abraham saw Moriah on the third day? Certain Jews of the early centuries of the new era were quite close to accepting Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God’ so much so that a Midrash, a teaching on Genesis 22, taught that Isaac carried the wood to Moriah as someone would carry a cross?132 The 'New Testament' picks up this tenet in Romans 4: 17 and Hebrews 11:19. 133 Al-Tabari uses the name Isaac in the first part of his commentary on Surah 37 and later refers to Ishmael, possibly using an oral tradition, which was circulated that Ishmael and not Isaac was the son to be sacrificed. Yet, Christians would do well, to do whatsoever possible, to get the two ‘sons’ of Abraham reconciled, i.e. the religions which stemmed from them. The aged father did give a blessing to Ishmael, who was the sole inheritor till Isaac came on the scene. The pain of rejection among the spiritual descendents of Ishmael is still not healed. Yusuf Ali (1946: 771) makes the interesting statement in the footnote 2473 that Jesus – albeit like other prophets and ‘pre-eminently so in the case of the Holy Apostle Muhammad’ – brought ‘solace and salvation to the repentant’. Furthermore, the atoning aspect is present in Surah 37: 107 when the ram slaughtered by Abraham is seen as a ransom, ‘a momentous sacrifice.’ Which makes it all the more surprising that Islam does not accept the Passover lamb as an atonement. Allah ordained atonement somewhat differently, more in line with the Torah, but it included a significant addition when forgiveness is equated with atonement: “Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.” But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) wrong-doers (Surah 5: 45). The concept of the Passover as the inauguration of a new covenant is quite central in the 'NT'. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper – repeated by Paul in 1Corinthians 11 – Jesus referred to ‘the blood of the new covenant’ (verse 5). The Passover was of course the old covenant leading to the Exodus from Egypt and slavery. 1 John 1: 7 speaks of the cleansing power of ‘the blood of Jesus, his (i.e.God’s) Son’ which ‘purifies from all sin.’ Christ was referred to as the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5: 7). The Gospel of John evidently had this in mind when the Baptist referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God on two consecutive days (John 1: 29,36) after having seen God’s Spirit coming down on Jesus as a dove and hearing the voice declaring him to be the Son of God. At the end of Jesus’ life the Gospel picks up a seemingly mundane issue, viz. that Jesus bones were not broken to link it to the Passover lamb at the Exodus (Ex. 12: 46) whose bones were not to be broken and the institution of the Passover, where at the Seder meal the bones should not be broken either (Numbers 9: 12; John 19: 36)). The effect of the blood of the Lamb as a ransom for sin – with the picture conjured up where the blood on the door post was required to let the Angel of Death pass by – is picked up by Peter in his first epistle (1: 18f): ‘you were redeemed …with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect’. A remnant of all this is upheld in Islamic and Jewish culture when respectively at the korban slaughtering and the Passover meal the sheep/lamb to be slaughtered is meticulously picked, to be without any defect.
8.4. Denial of the Cross in Islam
A study of the 'Old testament' personalities, which occur in the Qur’an, shows how those elements, which point to Jesus’ death (and resurrection) are consistently absent (see Appendix 2) in the prime Islamic book. In the early church such allegorical exposition of the Hebrew Scriptures was quite common, albeit that the church fathers sometimes went overboard, notably in the accommodation of the worship of the sun god.134 One wonders whether the allegory of Melito and Justin did not contribute to a sort of backlash when he would identify almost any object or incident in the Hebrew Scriptures as a prediction of the Christian dispensation. This could especially have been the case with the Cross. ‘Almost any references to a stick or rod, e.g. Moses casting the stick into the waters of Marah, Aaron’s rod, the oak of Mamre, the rod and staff of Psalm 23, are indications of Christ’s cross’ (Ackroyd and Evans, 1970: 415, referring to Dialogue with Trypho, 86, 1-6). If one takes the plausible suggestion as cue that the Meccan Surah’s have the monotheistic Moses as axis and the Medinan Surah’s the biblical figure of Abraham as a pivot,135 one would expect the former personality to be highlighted in the Meccan Surah’s. This is indeed the case. Quite a few verses of the Qur’an however also refer to the confrontations of Moses with Pharaoh. All the more it is surprising that the Qur’anic report does not mention the tenth plague and the Passover pertinently. (Folk) Islam approaches the expiation of sin through Surah 2: 67ff, with allusions to Numbers 19: 1-10 where we find the sacrifice of the red heifer.136 The portion ends stating that the Israelites did not offer the heifer ‘in goodwill’ (2: 71). In the biblical context this is appropriate because Numbers 20 mentions the rebellion of the Israelites. Seeing that Moses played such a pivotal role in the narrative of the serpent on the pole, which follows soon thereafter in Numbers 21, it is strange that this event is not mentioned in the Qur’an. The allusion to the Cross is consistently denied or worked away in the ‘final review’ of the Qur’an, thus completely in line with anti-Christian sentiments of late Medinan Surah’s. In the run-up to John 3: 16, Jesus prophesied in John 3: 14 that he would be lifted up, just like Moses elevated the snake in the desert. Although the Qur’an has so many references to Moses, as one of the major Islamic prophets, this narrative from Numbers 21: 4ff does not occur anywhere in the sacred Isalmic book. In the light of all this, the aversion Muhammad had to the symbol of the cross is not surprising. Al-Waqidi passed on that Muhammad had such a repugnance to the form of the cross that he broke everything brought into the house which had that symbol on it. Another Hadith contains the following: “Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: By Him in whose hand is my life, the son of Mary (may peace be upon him) will soon descend among you as a just judge. He will break crosses, kill swine and abolish Jizya, and the wealth will pour forth to such an extent that no one will accept it” (Sahih Muslim I, p. 92). The footnote explains: “The cross is a symbol of Christianity. Jesus will break this symbol after the advent of Muhammad. Islam is the din [religion] of Allah and so no other religion is acceptable to Him.”
The second instance where Jesus referred to himself to be lifted up apparently caused some confusion among his Jewish compatriots. In John 12: 32 he is quoted as having said: ‘But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." His audience however only heard this. They did not have the advantage of John’s comment, written down many years after the event: ‘He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.’ (v.33). No wonder that some of them reacted with: "We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this `Son of Man'?" (verse 34). Shorrosh (1988: 108) noted that historians claim that this heresy was later widely spread among the early Christians of the Arabian Peninsula and that Jewish converts during Muhammad’s time ‘believed that Christ was able to transform himself from one form to another.’ The combination of the ‘lifted up’ with this phenomenon brought about at least four variations with the common denominator that the real Jesus was taken way by God/Allah and someone else (Judas or Simon of Cyrene) was crucified. It is unclear where the story came from that Jesus asked his friends - after a group of Jews had arrested him: ‘Who is ready to take my likeness upon him and be killed and crucified and enter Paradise?’ One of them responded and God cast the likeness of A’isa uon him. He was killed by crucifixion’ (Shorrosh, 1988: 110, citing al-Badwi). Al Zmakhashri, a prominent Qur’an commentator suggested that the words from Surah 4: 157 ‘it appeared so unto them’ must be explained as follows: ‘…they presumed that they killed and crucified him – so he is dead and not alive. But he is alive because God took him to himself.’
8.4.1. The cross and the hijrah: a crucial difference
Revelations by Jibril at the time of the hijrah signifies a major shift. The cross and the hijrah also depict the crucial difference between Jesus and Muhammad. After noting the significant similarity of the lives of Muhammad and Jesus, Gilchrist (1986: 58f) shows how the respective ways parted when respectively Greeks came to Jesus (John 12: 20f) and Medinans approached Muhammad. The Medinans more or less invited him to come to Yathrib, which later became Medina. ‘Muhammad and Jesus took contrary decisions. The former took a pledge from each man from Medina to defend and protect his life, even if he should lose his own life in doing so. The latter renewed his pledge to give up his life so that many of his followers might live’ (Gilchrist, 1986: 59). Not only could Jesus have found shelter among the Greeks, but he could also have mustered the support of many in Galilee to establish his ministry (John 6: 15). In the context of John 12 Jesus does not even accommodate those thoughts. His answer is a straight allusion to the cross and resurrection, the wheat seed that must die, before it can produce new seed.
When faced with the crucial decision, Jesus thus took the opposite one to that taken by Muhammad. Gilchrist (1986: 61) states: ‘The Prophet of Islam chose the Hijrah, the spring of jihad for the subjugation and, where necessary, the destruction of his enemies. Jesus chose the cross, the symbol of his love and the means of salvation for all who were by nature the enemies of God (Romans 5.10). When Pilate asked him whether he had the intension to set himself up as a ruler of his people: ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ (John 18.33), he gave the striking answer: ‘My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world’. (John 18.36). As Jesus hung on that cross, he was an apparent failure. It seemed his labours had been in vain. Muhammad’s decision to leave Mecca was as much a response to an invitation than the urgent need to flee, even though Muhammad was emotionally very much in despair at that time. The hijrah took Muhammad from the depths of despair to the prime of success, but the cross took Jesus to an early grave.
8.5. Is Jesus the walad, the literal Son of God?
We shall now compare the doctrinal content of the material around the biblical Gabriel with the revelations of the Islamic counterpart closer. The starkest difference is found in the message given to Mary with the exact opposite content found in the Qur’an. The biblical Gabriel says to Mary ‘the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1: 35). In the Qur’an - albeit always in protest against the concept of a literal son born out of a physical relationship between Mary and God – it is repeated again and again: ‘God does not have a son’, ‘ God does not beget’ (e.g. Surah 2: 116; 6: 68; 19: 35; 23: 91). Surah 19: 89-91 which has Mariam (Mary) as title, is one of quite a few Meccan Surahs which makes clear the Qur’anic opposition and its understanding: ‘They say: "(Allah) Most Gracious has begotten a son! "Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous! At it the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin, That they should invoke a son for (Allah) Most Gracious.

That Surah 3: 45 lets angels - in the plural - bring the message to Mary, could already cause one to sit up straight. Furthermore, the words ‘Son of God’ (Luke1: 35) and ‘Son of the most High’ (Luke 1: 32) are left out. Of course, this is consistent with the rest of the Qur’an in which it is disputed that Jesus is the walad of God, the physically birthed Son of God, something that the Bible however does not teach. The Word of God speaks of Jesus as the ibn, the figurative Son of God. Furthermore, it is reported twice (Matthew 3: 15 and Matthew 17: 5) how the voice from heaven referred to him as ‘my Son, whom I love’ - in both cases with witnesses present.
If one accepts the compelling indication that Waraqah might have been an Ebionite priest,137 we have to state categorically that here is one clear instance where he failed Muhammad. The Ebionite Gospel, which he possibly attempted to translate into Arabic, accepted Jesus as the Son of God. In the apocryphal Ebionite Gospel the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism is quoted twice and the second time, it is emphasised: ‘Today I have begotten you’. This is actually a quotation from Psalm 2: 7, a coronation psalm. In the Lukan tradition the baptism of Jesus is interpreted as a coronation. Jesus was thus enthroned as the ‘Messiah’ and ‘Son of God’ in the view of the Ebionites and other early church Christians at his baptism.
One of the most unique connections between the Hebrew Scriptures and the 'New Testament' is given in John 3: 13 where Jesus alludes to Proverbs 30: 4. In this way the Divine Sonship of Jesus is affirmed. Proverbs 30: 4 says ‘Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? … Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His Son’s name, if you know?’ Significantly Jesus gave the answer to the question, linking it with a prophecy of his crucifixion. ‘No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven - the Son of Man.  Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life’ (John 3: 13-15).
The selective consistency of the Qur’an is striking when one compares it with apocryphal material, e.g. in the incident where the infant baby Jesus says from the cradle ‘I am a servant of Allah’ (Surah 19: 30). The original version of The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour 138 is the obvious source, because the concept does not occur in the Bible or other relevant material. Here Jesus said to his mother from the cradle: ‘inni huwa Yasu ibnallah’ – (I am Jesus, the Son of God).’139 In the original narrative the baby furthermore declares that ‘he is that Word, which the Angel Gabriel had announced to her, and that his Father had sent him as a blessing to the nations.’
8.5.1. A servant (or apostle) of Allah
Nevertheless, the Qur’an is consistent in its belief that Jesus was only a servant (or apostle) of Allah and not the Son of God.140 Gilchrist (1995: 60) - typical for Western thinking - pointed to the supposed Buddhist origin of the apocryphal source. He does not show how he came to this deduction. Furthermore, one could even speak of selectiveness: In the actual text, the words cited by Gilchrist from The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour, are preceded by ‘We find what follows in the book of Joseph the high priest, who lived in the time of Christ. Some say that he is Caiaphas. He has said that Jesus spoke, and, indeed, when He was lying in His cradle said to Mary His mother: I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom thou hast brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to thee; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world.’141
Sadly, early Christian theologians have to take much of the blame for the confusion amongst the rank and file believer. Some churchmen meant to emphasise the humanity of Jesus, e.g. that he was born in a human way. The fact that a big sector of the church did believe that he was uniquely born and supernaturally conceived was almost completely obliterated when the theologians argued, causing confusion for many decades. Islam was indirectly influenced because this led to the Qur’an stressing time and again that Jesus was ‘not begotten’. The term theotokos (bearer of God) on the other hand intended to stress Jesus’ divinity, but Mary became to be understood as the waalada (mother) of God, which was of course very unacceptable.142 Thus the bickering medieval Christian theologians have to take some of the blame so that Islam could finally be described as ‘a Christian heresy... a protest against paganism’.143 It is not known about Muhammad that he ever broke through to a living faith in Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. The theological bickering among Christians perhaps caused a mental blockage. The misunderstanding that Jesus was ‘not begotten’ is clearly also behind the problem whereby the Qur’an negates Jesus as the Son of God. Yet, the Qur’an does not object to Jesus being the ibn, the figurative Son of God. Following from this, it was only logical that the most central verse of the 'New Testament', John 3: 16, became anathema to Jews and Muslims alike, because it was often been translated that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.144
8.5.2 Coronation of the Messiah, the Son of God
The suspicion has been raised - in fact it was alleged by Abu-Moosa145 - that Waraqah’s motives were not pure in promoting Muhammad, hoping to groom the latter as his successor in the Ebionite Church. If we accept the very compelling similarity between Ebionism and Islam, Waraqah failed Muhammad doctrinally, by not correcting his distorted idea about Jesus being the walad, not the ibn – the literal and not the figurative Son of God. An important difference between the Ebionite Gospel and the Gospels of Matthew and Luke146 was the inclusion of the phrase ‘Today I have begotten you’. A major difference with Islam is the acceptance by the Ebionite Gospel of Jesus as the Son of God. In the few known excerpts from that Gospel, which are extant, the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism is quoted twice and the second time, it is emphasised: ‘Today I have begotten you’. the 'NT' letter to the Hebrews significantly picked up this tenet, seen as a fulfilment of the Messianic enthronement Psalm 2. Verse 7 is quoted in Hebrews 1:5a ‘You are my Son, today I have become your Father.’ Even those groups within early Christianity that differed about the virgin birth, agreed that Jesus was the Son of God, enthroned as such and as Messiah at his baptism. All this would be completely unqur’anic, based on the deficient correction to Muhammad. In Revelation 5 the coronation concept of the event at the baptism of Jesus is mirrored when the Lamb enters after there had been a hush at the celestial throne. The question of the mighty angel (Gabriel?) with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll” was followed by great silence. Nobody was found in heaven or earth. The half hour silence is broken when one of the elders at the throne comforted the terribly weeping John: ‘“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Without any ado not a lion but a lamb is in the centre spot, in the middle of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. In his commentary on the book of revelations the German theologian Eduard Lohse (1971: 42) points out that the image of the Lamb was evidently known to the early Christians as a Christian description of the Messiah, not taken from Judaism. We note about the Lamb that it was looking as if it had been slain. It thus has the scars where it had been slaughtered – Lohse suggests a scar at the throat - which reminds of the crucifixion of Jesus. But it also depicts simultaneously the victory of the Resurrection of Christ because it was only looking as if it had been slain. It is improbable that Islam picked up this tenet in suggesting that Jesus did not really die after the crucifixion, because his resurrection is also denied in orthodox Islamic doctrine.
8.6. Pagan practices in Islam and Christianity
The Hadjj (pilgrimage) was elevated to a pillar of the religion, although the pilgrimage includes the idolatrous circumambulation of the Ka’ba and its black stone, along with other pre-Islamic pagan practices. Muhammad seems to have been quite headstrong on occasion.147 Quite early in his prophetic career he ‘accepted the Christian view that idol worship is the work of the devil’ (Andrae, 1936: 63). Variously it has been quoted that someone narrated how Muhammad hatred idolatry already as a child. Siddiqui (1994: 60) quotes the prophet as having said: ‘Since my birth I have developed a sense of deep hatred and enmity towards the idols…’ Yet, Muhammad appears to have disregarded correction after Waraqah and three other hanifs148 had pointed to the idolatrous nature of the pre-Islamic pagan custom of encircling the black stone. We have showed that Waraqah was far from convincing himself. Yet he ‘is said to have believed on Muhammad as long as he continued true to the principles of the Hanyfs, but to have quitted him in disgust at his subsequent proceedings’ (Rodwell, 1909: 9). Also ‘Umar, one of Muhammad’s companions, is reported to have said: ‘I know that you are only a stone, which does not have the power to do good or evil. If I had not seen the prophet kiss you, I would not have kissed you’. Rather expediently, Muhammad rationalised the practice as restoration of the role of the black stone in the religion of Abraham. Possibly Muhammad was not aware that the kissing of sacred stones was idolatrous.149
8.6.1. The cult around the black stone
The theological implication of the cult around the black stone becomes clear when one takes into account that Jesus is seen as the foundation stone or corner stone by various ‘NT’ writers - the stone that has been rejected by the builders. This tenet - seen throughout the 'NT' (e.g. Matth.21: 42; Acts 4: 11;) as the fulfilment of Psalm 118: 22 - is completely in line with ‘OT’ proto-types like Joseph, Moses and David who were also initially thumb-downed. Peter adds another dimension in his first letter to the believers, challenging them to be living stones (1 Peter 2: 5), as against being dead members of the building. Jesus as the capstone which becomes a stumbling stone if one resists him is yet another tenet (1 Peter 2: 7). We recall that Jacob anointed the stone (Genesis 28: 18), which he used as a pillow, as a commemoration of the presence of God at that place. Quite significant is also the colour of the stone. The stones used for an altar after entry into the Promised Land, the monument of God’s faithfulness in bringing them out of the slavery of Egypt had to be whitened (Deuteronomy 27: 1ff). Finally, the seer John saw prophetically that the conquering believer will get ‘a white stone with a new name written on it’ (Revelation 2: 17).
In the light of the above it is not so surprising any more that Muhammad saw himself as the ‘corner-stone of prophethood’ (Muhammad Ali, Religion of Islam, p.257). Bukhari (61: 18) passed on the hadith where ‘the Prophet said, I am the stone’ - after relating the example of a beautiful house in which a stone in the corner was missing. This is simultaneously the basis of the doctrine that Muhammad is the last of the prophets (Surah 33: 40). Bukhari (60: 50) passed on that Muhammad said ‘surely after me there is no prophet, but there will be successors’.

8.6.2. Pagan content of elements of the Hadjj It does not stand Islam in good stead that a special revelation by Jibril was needed (Surah 2: 158) - after some followers seemed to have been uneasy about the pagan content of certain elements of the Hadjj – to justify the running between the hills al-Sarfa and al-Marwa (Hadith Al-Bukari 3: 85). In fact, Gilchrist (1986: 129) pointed out that this was probably a shrewd calculated move after the calamitous result of Muhammad’s honest remorse and confession after the revelation of the ‘Satanic Verses’ (Surah 53: 19,20). He adopted the pagan pilgrimage practices around Mecca ‘without amending their rituals in any material way. He simply retained the outward form while changing the inward purpose of the pilgrimage’ (Gilchrist, 1986: 129). Anderson (1990: 29) assessed the move more positively: ‘The actual ceremonies were taken over from the idolatrous superstitions of pre-Islamic Arabia and retained by the Prophet with a new significance, possibly to conciliate the people of Mecca.’ The Encircling and kissing of the black Stone Even more surprising is the fact that Muhammad did not heed correction when the idolatrous nature of the encircling of the black stone was pointed out to him. It is however just as astonishing that the kissing of the black stone and these practices are still being practiced, although it is generally acknowledged that these customs stem from pre-Islamic pagan habits. All this is in spite of the hadith in which Jibril was reported to have instructed Muhammad to break all 360 idols that were stationed inside and around the Ka’ba. According to tradition Muhammad repeated at this time ‘truth has come and falsehood has disappeared; falsehood is bound to disappear’ (Surah 17: 81).150 The question remains whether the retention of the black stone was not a conscious move to stave off a possible revolt or furore, as it had once happened with the conscientious honest remorse after the Jibrilic reprimand and correction of the Satanic verses. The kissing of the Black Stone was so loved by the people, that it could not be forbidden Tisdall (1973: 8). The revelation of Surah 2: 158 that defends doubtful practices from the pagan pilgrimages – in this case the running between the hills Marwa and Safa - must go down as spurious in the least.
A hadith passed on by Al-Tabari on the authority of ‘Ata’, appears to try and make the circumambulations fashionable. After Adam was supposed to have complained to God that he was no longer hearing the voice of angels, he was told to ‘build a house for me and circumambulate it as you saw angels circumambulating my house which is in heaven’ (Ayoub, 1984: 158). The idea of the building of a shrine itself has Jewish roots. Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer (1970: 148) passed on how Adam wanted to build ‘a mausoleum to rest therein beyond Mount Moriah.’ Supposedly he said prophetically what was to transpire at shrines: “after my death they will come and take my bones and they will make them into an image for idolatry.” The argument was used in Islamic circles that Muhammad tried to restore the black stone to the position it held at the time of Abraham. Supposedly a thousand angels have been appointed to guard the structure. The Ka’ba was destroyed in the flood of Noah’s days because these angels were apparently careless in their duties. Tradition holds that Ishmael helped him to rebuild the edifice. All this is highly improbable and does not make sense because at the birth of Ishmael Abraham was not a pagan any more. Why should Abraham then want to build a pagan shrine? All this thus sounds more like conjecture and justification for the pagan practice. Centuries later, the Meccans are said to have reconstructed the Ka’ba after another flood. It is striking that the Jewish venue of Mount Moriah became the Ka’ba of Mecca. It is comprehensible of course, why the idolatrous content of the circumambulations of the Ka’ba and the traditional pilgrimage has hardly been discussed in Islamic circles. Yet, we should not forget that similar idolatrous pilgrimages are taking place in Christianity, e.g. when Zionists go to Polokwane (Pietersburg) every Easter or when Mauritians venerate their ‘saint’ Pierre La Valle in a way which is not intrinsically different to the Islamic Hadjj. When Christians go to Lourdes for healing, there is by far not always a yearning to have a meeting with God. When Jesus once went on pilgrimage to the feast of tabernacles, he did not make a fuss out of it at all. In fact, he was so inconspicuously present, that he took quite a few by surprise through his presence (John 7:10-14). At the occasion of the pilgrimage of His family - when Jesus was only twelve - he demonstrated the right priorities of the pilgrimage: The twelve-year old was ‘in my Father’s house’ (Luke 2:49).
8.7. Jibril as an explainer
Guillaume (1980: 30) cites a tradition which differs considerably from the pattern which was subsequently adopted: ‘Then Jibril came to the prophet when prayer had been ordained and he hollowed out a place in the wadi with his heel so that a spring of running water gushed forth. Jibril performed his ablution while Muhammad watched him. He washed his face, rinsed his mouth, sniffed water up his nostrils, wiped his head and his ears and his legs as far as the ankles, and sprinkled his pudenda. Then he arose and prayed two bowings and prostrated himself four times upon his face. Then the prophet returned… he took Khadija by the hand and brought her to the spring and performed his ablution as Jibril had done…' It is rather strange to hear about an angel making ablutions, unless one would accept that he had taken the form of a man.(As we have seen with Abraham, Lot and a few other personalities Hebrew Scriptural personalities, such supernatural intervention is not to be ruled out) with Muhammad this seems to have been the rule rather than an exception, thus raising questions again. We have seen how oral Talmudic tradition brought explanations for events that are not clear in the Hebrew Scriptures. 'New Testament' apocryphal material did the same, notably around the birth and childhood of Jesus. Jibril featured in a similar way. Thus Islamic tradition also collated legends to explain embarrassments. This happened to explain the retention of pagan elements, e.g. whereby according to legendary tradition Ishmael and his mother Hagar were dumped in the barren desert, after the boy had helped his father to dig the foundation of the Ka’ba. She was hereafter said to have run desperately between the two hills Safa and Marwa in search of water. Jibril is supposed to have called “Who are you? To whom did Ibrahim entrust you?”In the meantime the boy impatiently thrust his foot in the soil from where water gushed (Alternatively, Jibril pushed his foot in the ground after which the Zamzam fountain started).
8.8. A universal Prophet!
In Meccan times Muhammad initially understood his role as a warner to the Arabs. The title of warner, apostle and prophet seemed to have been used quite randomly. Thus Surah 35:24 said ‘there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them (in the past)’and 10: 47 ‘To every people (was sent) a messenger.’ Towards the end of the Meccan period Muhammad understood himself as a universal warner: Blessed is He who hath revealed unto His slave the Criterion (of right and wrong), that he may be a warner to the peoples. In many ways Muhammad saw himself as the emulator of Jesus, yes, as the seal of the prophets (Surah 33: 40). This led Muhammad Ali (The Religion of Islam, p.257) to state categorically: ‘Muhammad universalised the institution of prophethood in a real sense… one prophet was raised for the whole world, for all nations and for all ages’. Ali was probably guided into this statement by Qur’anic verses like Surah 25: 1 ‘Blessed is He who sent down the criterion to His servant, that it may be an admonition to all creatures.’ Muhammad appears to have been influenced quite substantially by apocryphal literature. The phrase ‘the salvation of the world’ (or equivalents) is found a few times in the apocryphal infancy gospels. This is clearly a messianic tenet. Thus the shepherds and the great star at the birth of Jesus bear testimony to it, e.g. In The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, 31f: ‘And some shepherds also affirmed that they had seen angels singing a hymn at midnight, praising and blessing the God of heaven, and saying: There has been born the Saviour of all, who is Christ the Lord, in whom salvation shall be brought back to Israel. Moreover, a great star, larger than any that had been seen since the beginning of the world, shone over the cave from the evening till the morning. And the prophets who were in Jerusalem said that this star pointed out the birth of Christ, who should restore the promise not only to Israel, but also to all nations’. In the apocryphal Gospel of the Nativity of Mary an ‘angel of the Lord’ appeared to Joseph in his sleep, saying: ‘ thou son of David, fear not; ...For she alone of all virgins shall bring forth the Son of God, and thou shalt call His name Jesus, that is, Saviour; for He shall save His people from their sins’. The devout Simeon, moved by the Holy Spirit to be in the temple at baby Jesus’ dedication, praised God ‘For my eyes have seen your salvation (Yeshua)… a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel’ (Luke 2: 31f). The old prophetess Anna is mentioned in the same context. She ‘gave thanks to God’ for what she perceived as Messianic fulfilment, ‘the redemption of Jerusalem’ (Luke 2: 38). In the canonical Gospel according to St. John, which was the last of the biblical Gospels to be written, John the Baptist refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God, ‘which takes away the sins of the world’ (1: 29).
Al-Masih, the Messiah, is used in the Qur’an as a title without explaining the function. Not even the ahadith do this. The returning Nabi Isa will come down to earth according to a tradition passed on by Abdullah bin Amr. From Bukhari (60: 49) we learn that ‘the son of Mary will be your Imam from among yourselves.’ He will marry and father children. Isa will break up all crosses and finally he will die after 45 years, to be buried in the empty grave next to that of Muhammad in Medina. Muhammad continued: ‘Then we, Jesus and I – will resurrect between Abu Bakr and ‘Umar’ (Al-Hindi, Muntakhabu kanzi’l-ummal, Vol. 6, p.57). It does not seem as if Jibril would have a special role at that time. Only John, the evangelist, recorded Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. This was also the only occasion where he acknowledged clearly that he is the Messiah (John 4: 25f), although he intimated it in other passages.151 Jesus’ impact on her was so life changing that other townsmen were made inquisitive. After having Jesus in their midst for only two days, they came to the same conclusion. ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour (the Yeshua) of the world’. Also Paul, the missionary apostle, understood it that way.
8.9. Condescending view of biographical details about Muhammad
Quite a few twentieth century Christian theologians share in the blame that millions of Muslims still do not see the deception at the origins of their religion. The arrogant and haughty attitude of Westerners towards Islam generally did not help to open up the hearts of adherents of Muslims to the person of Jesus, whom their prophet had admired so profoundly, but whose name is now derided and irrationally hated by many of them. Liberal Western academics have contributed in this way to the unwitting bondage of millions around the world. Thomas Carlyle was one of the first to plea passionately for understanding of Muhammad. His 1841 essay on ‘The Hero as Prophet’ however has no good word for the Qur’an. In his words it is the ‘most crude, incondite, insupportable stupidity in short’ (Cited by Armstrong, 1991: 38). Western Scholars have definitely erred through their condescending look at those biographical details of the gifted Arabian leader which are not so firmly entrenched in secular history - like his visit to the Syrian monk and the visits by the supernatural being. Armstrong discounts the narrative outright. In her view it is the equivalent of the ‘legend’ of how Jesus got lost and was later found among the scribes in the temple.152 With regard to biographical detail, Jesus has far less occasions where he blew his own trumpet in a straight comparison with material about the life of Muhammad. So much of the ahadith and sirat (life of Muhammad) literature is given in the first person, with Muhammad narrating. As a rule there were no witnesses of Muhammad’s supernatural experiences apart from the fits, which many have attributed to epileptic seizures.
Islamic tradition - or any other material about Muhammad’s life - does not give us enough information about what happened prior to his major encounter with the supernatural figure in the cave. Even scholars who were well disposed to Islam fell into the trap of applying Western academic rationale. This thinking leaves little or no room for things that are not tangible. Thus the call of Muhammad to prophecy has sometimes been referred to as something, which one must take with a pinch of salt. Tor Andrae is an exception to the rule of negative writing about this event. Writing fairly objectively, he rose above the average Western academic: ‘The conception of a spirit which literally pounces upon the inspired man, throwing him to the ground and conquering his human obstinacy, is found among various peoples’ (Andrae, 1936: 59). Muhammad’s experiences would have been quite normal for his environment. Even today, e.g. in West Africa and Melanesia, the strong convulsions of prospective priests are taken as proof that they possess some spirit. The crucial issue is of course the nature and origin of these spirits.
Conclusions: A Personal view
I tend to see some meta history behind the revelations of Jibril, viz. an interpolation of the tri-polar element as the German missiologist Peter Beyerhaus referred to the demonic.153 Through the imitation of the David story, the arch enemy possibly opened up the young lad to the occult. The encouragement given by Bahira, the Syrian monk, misled him – taking him along the erroneous path of supposed prophethood.
Furthermore, it seems to me as if God could have had a special purpose with the gifted Arabian leader. However, Muhammad appears to have been completely side tracked. In this he was assisted by the ignorance and indifference of Christians. Gradually there was also increasing untruthfulness in the life of Muhammad, especially during the Medinan period. The devout young man developed into a skilful but cunning and autocratic statesman.
The biblical Gabriel is closely linked to the ‘Angel of Peace’ and the ‘Prince of Peace’ but not necessarily identical. Jibril, especially in the Medinan Surah’s, encouraged jihad, including instilling terror in unbelievers and offering the option of submission through tribute tax to the People of the Book as a concession. In Mecca the attitude of Muhammad approached that of Jesus with regard to retaliation and vengeance. Whereas in the early part of his Meccan period Muhammad practiced forgiveness, things started changing in due course in this regard, taking a flight into harsh revenge after he had left for Medina. At the end of his life forgiveness and Magnanimity had become a strategy for expansion. Muhammad appeared to be magnanimous after the defeat of Mecca in 630 CE but on closer examination its seems that this was probably more likely calculated forgiveness to win the allegiance of the Quraysh in the city of his birth.

The humble Muhammad of the early Meccan days appeared to have become quite proud after the supernatural experience towards the end of his Meccan term. A proof of this is the embellishments of the miraj, of which at least the majority stem from him, undoubtedly the fruit of his own imagination. Elsewhere we have shown how the influence of Jibril on his life unfortunately was a gradual shift away from full truthfulness till lies were regarded as small sin.

It is nevertheless not easy to accept that God could have allowed such a potentially choice servant to be misled, especially as Muhammad is probably rightfully regarded to have been a true seeker. There are a few explanations. One of these could be that Muhammad possibly either did not hear the Gospel clearly enough, or otherwise responded negatively to it. Furthermore, the youthful lad, misled by the Syrian monk Bahira, was unwittingly opened to the occult. All reports in Islamic History take the narrative at face value. But also on the Christian side Arnold (1876: 40) pointed out that ‘Christian writers mention a Nestorian monk Bahira who being expelled from his monastery in Syria', who fled to Mecca. On the authority of Sirat al Zuhra, who is known for his compilation of the various appearances of Jibril, the same author writes about Bahira as a historical person, who formerly had been a Jew.
Another explanation is that Muhammad may have been divinely sidelined because of his acceptance of idolatrous compromise.154 This happened not only when he condoned and affirmed pagan practices through dubious ‘revelations’, but also when he failed to pass on the adulation of his followers to God, notably those from his companions and Khadijah. We compare how Paul and Silas firmly rejected the suggestion of the Lycaonians that ‘the gods have down to us in human form’ (Acts 14: 12). Muhammad apparently did not discern the possibility of praise, which could come from a demonic source. We compare how Paul was troubled after a slave girl, an occultic inspired fortune-teller, followed them calling: ‘These men are servants of the Most High God’. Paul rebuked her, delivering her of the spirit through which she operated (Acts 16:17f).
True seeker after God The best reply to the dilemma seems to compare Muhammad to a biblical corollary. Siddiqui (1994: 64) highlighted how Muhammad had an intense longing for receiving new revelations during his period of waiting on new revelations: ‘This clearly establishes that he did not speak of his accord.’ The question then is, what was the real source of his revelations? Cornelius (Acts 10) can easily be seen as the equivalent of any true seeker after God. In Acts 10: 4 one reads, ‘the angel answered: Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.’ This is the confirmation of the way God looks at things, as 1 Samuel 16: 22 states: ‘God is delighted more in obedience than in burnt offerings and sacrifices’. God looks at the heart. Almost simultaneously Peter was prepared by God to step down from his haughty view of Gentiles. Thrice he objected to the unclean animals, which he was required to eat in a vision. Only hereafter he was obedient to ‘go downstairs’ (Acts 10: 20), to step down from his lofty pedestal. His condescending view of non-Jews was very common in his environment.
The Qur’an Surah 10:94) itself would later teach that Muslims should consult people of the book in case of doubt. This is what the devout Cornelius did. He also gave alms, fasted and prayed. He went to Peter, the apostle, for counsel. All the more it is sad that Waraqah could reportedly only tell Muhammad that he was like Moses, i.e. encouraging him that he was a prophet, that he apparently did not encourage him to seek counsel from followers of Jesus whom he revered so much.
We don’t know whether there were Christian contemporaries who were disobedient and failed to go and tell Muhammad the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Nor do we know whether there were but that Muhammad was disobedient. Possibly we shall never know. We do know however of at least one other tragedy in history where a lot of prayer was needed to rectify the situation. Karl Marx, from Jewish stock, was estranged from the Christian faith by the behaviour of church people. He generalised matters hereafter, saying that religion is the ‘opium of the people’. He nevertheless gave an accurate analysis of capitalism, which he regarded as a product of Christianity. It is clear that capitalism is a caricature of Biblical faith. But Communism/Socialism was only a poor copy of the voluntary sharing of the early Christian community.155
Christianity devoid of living faith Similarly, Muhammad experienced a kind of Christianity, which was devoid of the essence of a living faith in Jesus. We have to stress that there is more reason for shame than jubilation for Christians, because in Muhammad’s understanding of the supernatural being, which he thought to be the Angel Gabriel, he has been misled by Christians. In this regard the role of Waraqah, the cousin of Muhammad’s first wife, has sadly to be singled out. Waraqah, a Christian priest, encouraged Khadijah to believe that the ‘Namus’ - which had almost led Muhammad to suicide - was the same spirit, which had communicated with Moses. This deception is something about which Christians cannot be proud.
Muhammad’s own words possibly clarify the true nature of the figure, which spoke to him. It is strange that Muhammad could only remember the content of these personal altercations when the revelation came to him ‘with the noise of a bell, so that my heart is confused... What is revealed to me in this way never leaves me’ (cited e.g. in Andrae, 1936: 66). Masih (1984: 45 quotes a variant tradition: ‘When the angel Gabriel appears, I first hear the sound of a ringing bell. Then I climb quickly from my horse or camel and cover my head. The arriving messenger of Allah then speaks to me, and I feel as if I almost die of pain. I hear, understand, and retain everything that he says to me and later recite it exactly.’ Quite disconcerting was that ‘Muhammad could create these conditions when circumstances demanded a required revelation.’
Occult influence by a Christian Christians cannot feel happy in the light of the fact that the Syrian monk Bahira was under occult influence when he perceived the ‘enlightenment’ from a sinister ‘book’ (Ishaq, 1978:80). One could ask whether the occult background of the Syrian monk caused a hindrance? Possibly this was no issue because the biographers (of Muhammad) and Islamic theologians apparently saw no problem in it. In fact, Islam has little difficulty with the mystic and the occult. Uncritically it has been assumed that the book(s) to which Bahira referred, were Christian. Grave doubt has however to be applied. Heavy dabbling in the occult by Bahira looks more probable. One should not be too negatively prejudiced with statements like these, but the fact is that it proably added to opening Muhammad up to the occult.
The deceptive advice of Waraqah, the ridicule and rejection, which Muhammad experienced from Christians and Jews, plus the crusades and other shameful treatment meted out to the adherents of the other two Abrahamic religions by people who professed to be Christians, are only a few negatives contributing to a major challenge to Christians. It remains a problem that there are no witnesses of Muhammad’s supernatural experiences with Jibril. All biographies of him had to rely on his own version of his experiences via reports that are sometimes divergent and even conflicting here and there.

Christian rejection of the Jews In some Christian circles the rejection of the Jews reverberated through into the age of Muhammad, after the Christians were cursed by the Jews and banned from the synagogues. 4th Century Emperor Constantine had unintentionally deepened the schism between Christians and non-Messianic Jews through hierarchical structures in the church to divide and rule. Through the Edict of Milan in 321 CE, Sunday became an obligatory day of rest in the Empire, estranging the Jews further. Because of the bickering of the Christian theologians, Jesus’ new royal law (James 2: 8), the law of love, combined with the refraining of revenge somehow fell by the wayside as the church became increasingly legalistic. In fact, Eusebius, who has been described as the ‘principal founder of the High Church Christianity’ abused the crucifixion of Jesus, showing no pity for the suffering women and children among the Jews, nor for thousands of them starving. This was to him mere ‘Divine Justice for their crimes against Christ and his Apostles’ (cited in Eisenman, 1997: 317).
All of this should make us humble enough to accept that Christianity has a ‘collective debt’ – at least because of Bahira and Waraqah and the doctrinal bickering of Muhammad’s day. Thus have been misled millions of Muslims, who are still believing that the supernatural figure which appeared to Muhammad was identical to the angel Gabriel of the Bible. Furthermore, if we consider that the Bible speaks of arrogance (1 Samuel 15: 22) and materialism (Colossians 3: 5, Ephesians 5: 5) as equivalents of idolatry, Western Protestant Christians are basically no better than any other groups that we might like to accuse of idolatrous practices. The appropriate attitude is thus repentant humility, praying that God might open the eyes of many not only to the nature of the Biblical Gabriel as a candidate to be the Angel of the Lord, but especially to our Lord Jesus himself who used similar words of encouragement to the fearful, despondent and faint-hearted.
In the light of the guilt in respect of Muslims and Jews, I do not hesitate to speak of the unpaid debt of the Church. I suggest that the Christians’ attitude should be one of humility and confession, rather than dishing out blame. I am aware that it might be difficult for any representative body of Christians to express collective regret on behalf of all of their constituents towards Muslims and Jews. Yet, any attempt in this direction would however make them instruments of peace and reconciliation.156
Merely grafted into the real olive tree We would be wise to heed the advice, reminder and warning in the letter to the Romans (Chapter 11) – that we as Christians have merely been grafted into the real olive tree, the people of the Covenant. Even though there is a genuine case of national rejection of Jesus as their Messiah – starting with the Sanhedrin, representing the nation of Israel – it does not behove Christians to be haughty at all. The tenacious claim of the church to be the ‘new Israel’ – thus replacing the ‘apple of God’s eye’ completely - is something of which we need to repent. The real Jew/believer is he who has been circumcised at heart (Romans 2: 29, Colossians 2: 11f). Already from the 2nd century baptism was called ‘the Christian analogue of circumcision’ (Laymon, 1972: 777a) as Christians understood the ritual of circumcision not as the cause of God’s approval, but the sign or seal of it.
The Gospel writers surely never intended to spread the view that the Jews brought a curse upon themselves when they cried at Jesus’ crucifixion: ‘Let his blood come upon us and our children’ (Matthew 27: 25). And Paul, although he deemed it fit to rebuke his Jewish compatriots, had a deep love and compassion for them, so much so that he was prepared to give his life to save them. The big divide between Jews and their Christian compatriots came with the destruction of the temple. Jesus had prophesied the schism in his life-time (John 16: 2, 12: 42). After the destruction of the temple the synagogue included an anti-Christian phrase in the traditional 18 point prayer.
The break also led to the first day of the week being increasingly kept as a great day of celebration parallel to the Sabbath. Paul regarded the Sabbath as expendable for the Gentiles. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day (Colossians 2: 16,17).

Agents of Reconciliation? How can we be agents of reconciliation, instruments to bring the prophecies of Isaiah 11 and 25 nearer to fulfilment? These scriptural references refer to the enactment of the global reign in peace of the Messiah. I suggest repentance of the church universal and confession as a possible catalyst. How wonderful would it be to see it coming into being – perhaps as an intermediate step – ‘in that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless my people, Assyria my handwork, and Israel my inheritance’ (Isaiah 19:25). Are we in the West ready for the challenge to accept as a future possibility the role of being led by Egypt, Iraq and Israel as world powers?

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Appendix 1
Comparison of the angel Gabriel in the Bible, the Qur’an and Hadith

The Bible and related material
Occurrences by name ‘Gabriel, tell this man…’; (Daniel 8:16) Gabriel came to me in swift flight (9: 21); to Zechariah with the words: ‘I am Gabriel’; Luke 1: 26 -’God sent the angel Gabriel …to Mary (Luke 1: 19) .
Only occurrence by name in Surah 2: 97, deduced from 81: 21-23, Also Surah 2: 87, (We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of messengers; We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit
Jibril mentioned by name in many ahadith. Especially mentioned in the report on the Miraj (ascension) of Muhammad - Sahih Muslim, 1, Number 313). Sahih Bukhari Vol. 5. Muhammad’s calling by Jibril by name is found in only one of the versions.

The ‘angel’ introduces himself in Luke 1: 19 to Zechariah with the words ‘I am Gabriel’. One angel (Gabriel) came to Zechariah, Mary (and Joseph) at the announcement of the birth of Jesus.

Angels (in the plural) announce the birth of the baby with Zechariah and Mary. (3:39; 3: 45).

The ‘angel’ introduces himself with the words ‘I am Gabriel’’ in ahadith pertaining to revelation of Surah 96.

Awe and fear are central tenets. ‘I Daniel was troubled in spirit’. (Daniel 7: 15) ‘I was deeply troubled by my thoughts’ (Daniel 7: 28). ‘Mary was greatly troubled…’ (Luke 1: 26ff) ‘When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and gripped with fear….

The general ‘atmosphere’ generated by the angelic messages is one of expectation.

The angel Gabriel announced that Zechariah would be dumb after he had doubted the message that his aged wife would become pregnant until the birth of the son.

Gabriel is reassuring: ‘Do not be afraid!, ‘fear not’ or its equivalents (Daniel 10: 19.).

Awe and fear were dispelled by joy; ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God...’

Gabriel said ‘you are to give him the name Jesus…’

The angel Gabriel announced that Mary would give birth to the ‘son of the most High’ (Luke 1: 32); ‘…the one to be born will be called the son of God’ (Luke 1: 35).

Daniel kept the matter to himself for a long time; Mary ‘treasured up’ all the things around the birth of Jesus. Also the run-up to the event she ‘pondered…in her heart’ (Luke 2: 19)

Daniel prostrated himself wilfully in awe and adoration. angel Gabriel spoke to him. Gabriel touched him, the angel literally lifts Daniel to his feet (Daniel 9:18).

Gabriel and other angels: ‘…Peace on earth and Goodwill toward (all) men’ (Luke 2: 14).

Muhammad feared that he may have become demon-possessed. Muhammad’s defence is not very impressive, merely stating that he was not ‘seized with madness’, he was but a warner (Surah 7: 184); that he was not demon-possessed.

An air of expectation on occasion, e.g. Surah 3: 39, While he (Zechariah) was standing in prayer in the chamber, angels (not Gabriel) called unto him: “Allah doth give thee glad tidings of Yahya, …”
Some Lord (Allah?) gives a sign to Zechariah: ‘Thou shalt speak to no man for three days’ (3: 41)

The function of angels in the Qur’an is to give the believers courage (Surah 41: 30).

Angels (not Gabriel) announce ‘glad tidings of a Word from Him’: (Surah3: 45). Surah 58: 22 states that the Spirit strengthens the believers.

Gabriel said: ‘his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary…’ (Surah3: 45).

God does not have a son, God does not beget (e.g. Surah 2: 116; 6: 68; 19: 35; 23: 91).

Surah 93 was revealed with ‘a burst of luminous reassurance’ (Armstrong, 1991: 89) after approximately two years of silence.

The Al-Razi commentary on Surah 2: 30 states that Jibril’s ‘mission is to be the messenger of God (rasul Allah) to all the prophets ... his domain (‘ummah) is all the prophets. He is honoured before God because God made him the mediator between Himself and His noblest servants ... the prophets ... God made him second to Himself ... Gabriel is the Imam and the example of the angels’.

Muslims were advised to go to the People of the Book in case of doubt (Surah 10:94). In the early Medinan period Jibril was still revealing ‘no compulsion in religion’ (Surah 2: 256). Later however: ‘Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day (even if they are) of the People of the Book…until they pay the Jizya (poll-tax) …’ (Surah 9: 29).
Awe and fear are central tenets, but Jibril accompanies Muhammad on his ‘night journey’ in a friendly way. ‘Muhammad’s first reaction was dubiety and apprehension. The revelations were accompanied by intense emotional stress, physical limpness, perspiration, and a state of trance’ (Cragg, 1956: 78).

The general ‘atmosphere’ after an encounter with the ‘angel’ was fear of being demon-possessed and confusion.

The spokesmen of the angels is taken to be Jibril.

Allah (not Gabriel) encourages. Muhammad won back his composure after the encouragement of Khadijah, his wife and from Waraqah bin Naufal, her cousin.

After the approximately two years of silence and confusion all traditions report how Muhammad was uplifted at the revelation of Surah 93.

‘Muhammad came to himself in a state of terror and revulsion.’ (Armstrong, 1991: 83).

Some revelations came to Muhammad after he had been struck to the ground. Muhammad was struck to the ground because it was known that the kahin (soothe-sayers) of his day were struck to the ground by their jinn, evil spirits. Jesus was regarded as continuously accompanied by the Holy Spirit (Gabriel) from his conception to his ascension.

Jesus as a sign: an unnamed angel traditionally linked to Gabriel about the baby who was born: ‘this shall be the sign’ (Luke 2:12). The Holy Spirit revealed to the old Simeon that the child would be ‘a sign that will be spoken against’ (Luke 2: 34).

Nabi Isa and his mother described in Surah 23:50 as an ayatollah, a sign of Allah. Some Lord (Allah?) gives a sign to Zechariah: ‘Thou shalt speak to no man for three days’ (3: 41)

In Daniel 8: 17 (and 9: 22) the angel respectively came to let Daniel ‘understand that the vision concerns the time of the end’’ and ‘to give you insight and understanding’.

After early encounters with Jibril Muhammad feared that he was demon-possessed. He was also very much confused and uncertain.

Radiates peace and strength. Gabriel to Daniel:”Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened…” (Daniel 10: 18f).
In Medinan period: Jibril taught jihad, which included instilling terror in the heart of non-Muslims, called ‘unbelievers’ (Surah 8: 12,60).

The angel (Gabriel?) pointed to the eschatological end-time struggle, when the Son of Man will appear on the clouds as the King of Kings, the one who now already exerts authority in heaven and on earth (Dan. 7: 13f).

Appendix 2
The redeeming power of blood and the red colour
The sacrificial system in the Tenach was a type and foreshadow of the redemptive death of Christ. By offering the sacrifices ordained by God, one was able to obtain forgiveness from sin and iniquity through the death of a substitute life. (Muslims remind themselves of the atoning aspect of the sacrifice at the sheep slaughtering ritual when they demonstrate it with a washing movement, using their hands across the face.)
In the examples of Abel, who was innocently killed, and the blood on the doorposts at the exodus the redeeming death of Jesus was regarded in Christian typology as divinely foreshadowed. Furthermore, the colour of the soup with which Esau sold his right as the first born to Jacob is specifically mentioned: red. Rahab, a harlot, had to use a red chord as an indication to the spies, which house was to be spared when Jericho would be destroyed (Joshua 2: 17ff, 6:17). The Bible does not give any reason why it had to be red, but it does state that through this chord, Rahab and her family were saved. Through her trepidation at the awesome Israelites - no, because of her faith in the God of Israel - her life and that of her family were spared. To crown it all, the Bible makes a point to note that she became an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5) and she was also included in the list of heroes of the faith in Hebrew 11 – with Sarah as the only other woman. Another female ancestor of our Lord mentioned in His geneology, Tamar, uses a scarlet chord at the birth of Perez without any reason given for the choice of the colour.
Similarly, God gives the instruction in Numbers 19:2 that a red heifer without any blemish, which had not been yoked before, had to be used. We note how the ashes of the heifer serve ‘as a source.... for the removal (purification) of sin’ (v.9). It has universal connotations when one reads: ‘This will be a lasting ordinance both for the Israelites and for the aliens living among them’ (v.10). Paul highlights the connection in Col.1: 20 where he states that peace with God is achieved through the blood of Jesus - John the Baptist and the author of the book of Revelations, called Jesus the Lamb of God. In the case of the heifer of the Qur’an, it is striking that it was not yoked before. The ass, on which Jesus entered Jerusalem, comes to mind. Similarly, it was one that has not been ridden before and the letter to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus as the unblemished Lamb of God. Arthur Glass, who comes from a Jewish background, has shown that Isaiah 62:11 includes the Jewish name (Yeshua) for Jesus. This is the parallel text to Zechariah 9:9 (‘Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion…’) which Matthew, the evangelist, saw as the prophecy pertaining to Jesus on the ass. Isaiah 62:11 could thus be translated: ‘Behold Jehovah has proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, behold thy Yeshua (Jesus) cometh...’
We contrast the above with what the Qur’an says quite emphatically about the colour of the heifer to be used as a sacrifice. In Surah 2: 67-71, a whole discussion is recorded about the heifer to be used as a sacrifice. This pericope does mention some similarities with the above: ‘a heifer not trained to till the soil or water the fields; sound and without blemish’. Two clear differences emerge with the biblical reference. The Qur’an quotes Moses as saying that the animal had to be ‘a fawn-coloured heifer, pure and rich in tone’ and that ‘they offered her ... not with good-will.’ Thus the biblical heifer that was given voluntarily is contradicted as well as the colour red.
Misinterpretation of Colours A sad misinterpretation occurred with regard to the colour of the blood in Scripture. Isaiah 1: 18 refers to sin twice, and in both cases in the context of its remission: ‘Though you sins are like scarlet, they shall be as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’ The 'New Testament' shows how this cleansing happens: ‘...and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin...if we confess our sins, he ... will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:7-9).
It is significant that the Bible nowhere equated sin with the colour black, which happened all the more in church theology, where the devil was associated with that colour. Also this is not biblical. White is the colour of purity, cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Thus we read in the book of Revelations of the white robes that have been washed in the blood.
Bad unbiblical teaching resulted in people with a dark skin colour getting discriminated against or looked down upon. In South Africa it had dire consequences when dark-skinned people hated themselves for the very reason and Whites felt they were especially elected by God. In colonial times the price of a slave increased in proportion to a lighter complexion. In the Bible, black is mentioned with regard to mourning (Ps. 35:14; 38:7; 42:10; 43:2) and neutral as a colour for the darkening of clouds.
Appendix 3
Modern ‘Angels of Light’
Many occultists come in contact with ‘what most of them call the being of light’ during their meditations, especially during their ‘astral travels’ (Moshay, 1990: 136). The ‘being of light’ is referred to by different names in different cults. Thus he is the ECK in the Eckankar Movement, the DAS or Krishna in the Mare Krishna Consciousness. The Rosicrucians (AMORC) revere an ‘angelic’ figure that masquerade as an ‘angel of light’. Some even regard such a being as the Grand Master Jesus (Moshay, 1990: 136).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the formal name of the Mormons. With them it was the ‘angel’ Maroni (alias Gabriel) that appeared to Joseph Smith, their founder. In the case of Joseph Smith, the imitation is even clearer when he was called a beloved Son of God.157 The Christian sect can hardly be taken seriously as a modern religious movement if one considers what they write about themselves on the Internet: ‘Mormonism is a polytheistic religion. For Mormons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are: The Heavenly Father, Jehovah-Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. Mormons also have minor deities whom they revere... Sacred (not secret) Mormon documents locked away in Temple vaults in the Mountains near Salt Lake City Utah contain documents and photographs of a 1954 visit of the Angel Gabriel. The sighting of the Angel Moroni (yes, that’s his name) by Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith, is the basis of Mormonism on Earth...’ In the same document Mary is described as one of many wives of God and also that ‘...Mormons believe that Mormonism is the dominant religion on thousands of planets throughout the Milky Way. Notwithstanding the documented visit of the Angel Gabriel, no photographic evidence of Moroni’s visitation survives today. Mormon Scholars believe that the silver halide plates in Joseph Smith’s possession suffered the same fate as Smith’s golden plates, which contained the hieroglyphics - the TRUE basis of Mormonism...’ This surely does help to comprehend why some Muslims insist that Christians believe in three gods. Not every Muslim knows that the Mormons are regarded by Bible-believing Christians as a cult.
That the sect has diabolic traits becomes quite clear when one looks at what a former member of the Mormon Church called the 'stones of stumbling' of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, their formal name. In a loving, yet revealing way, Einar Anderson exposed the true nature of the sect in his book I was a Mormon. Brigham Young, the successor of Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the Mormons, had 20 wives when he announced the background of their position. On 29 August 1852 he announced formally that Joseph Smith had received a ‘Revelation on Plural Marriage’ nine years earlier, on 12 July 1843. After polygamy was declared illegal the church formally stopped the practise, but male members continued to have more than one wife. Brigham Young became embroiled in another controversial issue after the Mountain Meadows massacre in September 1857. He gave the order to have it written in the report about the massacre in such a way that the blame would be laid on the allied Indians of the area. John Lee, one of the leaders, who was executed 20 years later, wrote damningly about the episode in his confession.
Their vision on atonement shows the demonic nature of the cult. John Lee wrote in his confession: ‘The Mormons believe in blood atone ment. It is taught by the leaders and believed by the people, that the Priesthood are inspired and cannot give a wrong order… Punishment by death is the penalty for refusing to obey the orders of the Priesthood’. In the case of the massacre, there could have been confusion. The top authorities sent instructions to Isaac Haight, the local leaders with regard to the emigration trains, which carried people who were opposed to the Mormons: ‘You must not meddle with them.’ One could have sympathy with Haight who burst out in tears when he read the instruction: “Too late, too late!” , he cried. On his instructions to the contrary the ‘deliberately planned massacre, treacherously carried into execution’ (Anderson, 1964: 59) had already taken place. Lee’s defence – inter alia that the Mormons were then at war with the United States - did not save him from being executed.
Closely linked to the Blood atonement doctrine is the killing of apostates. As it is still happening in many a Muslim state, those Mormons who left the Church, were not only ostracised, but also killed. ‘It is certain that the Mormons had a “death society” as Elder John Hyde labelled it’ (Anderson, 1964: 59).
Just like with the rejection of polygamy, the Mormons have since distanced themselves from the Blood atonement doctrine of yesteryear, as they have also done with the ‘execution’ of apostates (Anderson, 1964: 66). The church continues to deify Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, causing embarrassment to Mormons who ask ‘Why revere, immortalize, and affirm faith in such men and their revelations’ (Anderson, 1964: 66)?
Appendix 4
The Angel Rafael in the Apocryphal Book Tobit
Interesting comparison with the angel Gabriel/Jibril can be found with the Archangel Raphael in the 'OT' apocryphal book of Tobit. The tenet of awe we find e.g. in Tobit 12: 15- 17 as well as the typical addressing like the angel Gabriel: ‘I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints…’ His hearers ‘fell upon their faces, for they were afraid’. But he said to them, “Do not be afraid; you will be safe….” One however also reads in Tobit 5: 12 how the angel Raphael– appearing in human form - tells Tobit that he is Azarias, the son of Ananus. What must we do with that? Is that bending of the truth or would that be approaching a ‘white lie.’ Islam would probably have less of a problem with it within its context, because there it served the purpose of Tobias who would have someone to accompany him.
The use of incense, the heart and liver of a fish to drive away a demon (8: 2) and the sprinkling of fish gall for the purpose of healing (11: 11) on the instruction of Rafael may have contributed towards the book to be disqualified for consideration as part of the biblical canon. As far as I could discern, Jibril did not give orders like that. But Muhammad himself had some strange ideas along those lines, e.g. camel’s urine to be healthy (Bukhari, Vol. 7: 590) or a fly in your drink as a cure (Bukhari, Vol. 7: 537). Furthermore, the Roman Catholic and Islamic notion of almsgiving as a good deed with an atoning function, is supported in the apocryphal of book of Tobit. Tobit 12: 9 says ‘For almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin. Those who perform deeds of charity and of righteousness will have fullness of life…’ The African Council of Carthage of 397, at which Augustine was present (Ackroyd and Evans, 1970: 544), recognised an ‘OT’ Canon, which included among others the apocryphal book of Tobit. Even long before Augustine, Cyprian was one of the early church fathers who saw in good works atonement for sin.


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