About twenty Suras belonging to the period of the fifth to tenth years of the mission of Muhammad refer to the Jewish scriptures. Muhammad obtained his knowledge of scripture from the Jews he had contact with at this time. Whoever his Jewish friends may have been, it is evident that they had a knowledge imperfect, perhaps, but comprehensive of the outlines of Jewish history and tradition. These, distorted by rabbinical fable, and embellished or travestied by the Prophet’s fancy, supplied the material for the scriptural stories which begin, to form a chief portion, of the Quran. A bare enumeration of some of the topics will illustrate both the remarkable correspondence of the Quran with the Jewish Scriptures and the many strange and fanciful deviations from them. The fabulous turn of the stories can often be traced to rabbinical legend.
The suras in this period are considerably longer. The substance is little changed but we have powerful illustrations from nature of the might and wisdom of the deity, and the reasonableness of the resurrection from the dead.
Connection with Judaism with an appeal to the Jewish Scriptures belief in one God
“Of His signs it is one, that He sendeth the winds bearing good tidings that He may cause you to taste of His mercy, and that the ships may sail by His command, and ye may seek to enrich yourselves of His bounty; peradventure ye may be thankful. And verily We have sent before thee, Apostles unto their nations, and they came unto them with clear proofs; and We took vengence on the transgressors; and it behoved Us to assist the believers ……….. Wherefore survey the tokens of God’s mercy, how He quickened the earth after it hath become dead, verily the same will be Quickener of those who have died; and He is over all things Mighty. And if We send (a blasting) wind, and they should see their field withered, they would after that, become ungrateful. Thou canst not make the dead to hear; neither canst thou make the deaf to hear thy calling, when they turn away from thee backward. And thou canst not guide the blind out of their error. Those alone that believe in Our signs thou shalt make to hear, for these are the true Muslims (i.e. those that have resigned themselves to God). (Ar-Rum 30:46-53)
In language which though strange is full of meaning Muhammad repeatedly affirms that the universe was not made by chance, but that God was the creator and had a sovereign design and purpose.
Connection with Judaism and appeal to the Jewish Scriptures.
A close connection is now springing up between Muhammad and the Jews; and frequent reference to their books, and recital of their legends, forms a new and leading feature of the Quran. The Pentateuch is constantly mentioned as a revelation from God to Moses. The object of the Quran is to ’attest’ its divine origin and that of the succeeding Scriptures. The Jewish books contain ‘clear evidence’ of the tuth of the Quran, and of the mission of Muhammad. Jewish witnesses are appealed to in proof that the dispensation of Islam is ‘foretold’ in their sacred books, and that the Quran is in close conformity with their contents.
Testimony of the Jews in favour of Muhammad.
The confidence with which Muhammad thus refers to the testimony of the Jews and their Scriptures is very remarkable. It leaves us no room to doubt that some amongst the Jews, acquainted perhaps but superficially with their own books and traditions, encouraged Muhammad in the idea that he might be, or even affirmed that he was, ‘that Prophet whom the Lord their God should raise up unto them of their brethren’. His profound veneration for the Jewish Scriptures, to the implicit observance of which he had virtually pledged himself in the Quran, would, lull the apprehension of the Israelites, and draw them kindly towards him. We meet with frequent passages like the following:
‘ Those unto whom We have given the Book (the Jews) rejoice for that which hath been revealed unto thee.’
Some passages went further and bore a direct and unequivocal testimony to his mission:
“They unto whom We have given the Scripture recognise the Prophet as they do their own children.”
“Hath it not been a sign unto them that the learned among the Children of Israel recognised it?” (Ash-Shu’ara 26:197)
Whether the Jewish supporters of Muhammad, were among his professed followers, slaves perhaps at Mecca; or were casual visitors there from the Israeli tribes, or belonged to the Jewish residents of Medina, we can but conjecture.
Illustrations of material received from the Jews which became the basis for pseudo biblical accounts found in the Quran
1) God crated Adam of clay, and commanded the angels to fall down and worship him: the devil, alleging his nobler formation of fire, refused and fell: on receiving his sentence, he threatened God that he would seduce his new-created subjects; and in tempting them to eat of the forbidden tree, he fulfilled the threat.
2) To the facts of Abel’s history, is added the Jewish fiction that God, sending a raven to scratch the ground, thus instructed Cain that the corpse should be buried in the earth.
3) The stories of Abraham, who broke in pieces the idols of his people, and miraculously escaped the fire into which the tyrant cast him.
4) Of Joseph in envy of whose beauty the Egyptian women cut their hands with knives.
5) Of Jacob, who, when the garment of Joseph was cast over him by the messengers from Egypt, recovered his long-lost sight.
6) Of Mount Sinai held above the heads of the terrified Israelites to force their acceptance of the law.
7) Of the seventy who, when struck dead upon the same mount, were quickened to life again.
8) Of David with whom the mountains joined in singing the praises of God.
9) Of Solomon, on whose gigantic works the genii and devils were forced to labour at his bidding.
10) Of the genii, who brought the throne of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon in ‘the twinkling of an eye,’ and of the lapwing that flew to her with the royal summons.
11) Of the Jews, who broke the Sabbath, and were changed into apes.
12) Of Ezekiel who quickened a great multitude of the dead.
13) and of Ezra, who with his ass was raised to life after being dead a hundred years.
Certain favourite passages from the Old Testament are the subject of special amplification and repetition. Such as the history of Moses, the catastrophe of the Flood, and the overthrow of Sodom, through which the Arabian prophet, with a wearisome reiteration, seeks to use as warnings to the citizens of Mecca. If the reader has the patience and interest let him peruse, for an example, the history of Moses in the 20th and 28th Suras.
The time spent in contemplation and study.
To acquire so minute a knowledge of considerable portions of Jewish Scripture and legend, to assimilate these to his former materials, and to work them up into the elaborate and rhythmical suras which begin now to extend to a considerable length, much time and careful study were no doubt needed.
The revelation is seldom now the spontaneous eloquence of burning faith; it is rather the tame and laboured result of ordinary composition. It is possible that the convictions of Muhammad may have become so blended with his grand object and course of action, that the very study of the Quran and the effort to compose it, were regarded as his best seasons of devotion. But the stealthy and disingenuous manner in which he now availed himself of Jewish information, producing the result, not only as original but as evidence of inspiration, begins to furnish proof of an active, though it may have been unconscious course of dissimulation and falsehood.
On this point his enemies were not slow to seize. In Sura 25 they accused him of fabrication, and of being assisted by others: ‘They are fables,’ they said, ‘of the ancients which he hath had written down; they are dictated unto him morning and evening.’ To these imputations Muhammad could only answer : ‘He hath revealed it who knoweth that which is hidden in heaven and in earth : He is forgiving and merciful.’
Up to this period of the fifth to the tenth year of his mission there is little mention of the Christian Scriptures; the available sources of information were probably as yet imperfect.