Muhammad’s Teacher

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It is inevitable that anyone who seeks to learn the source of the Qur’an should expand the area of his investigation.

If he cannot establish that source when he considers the insight and intelligence of the person who delivered the Qur’an, he should surely look for it, and find it, inevitably, in education and study. A speaker either composes what he says or copies it from another source. There is no other alternative.

The man reciting and conveying the Qur’an to people was not someone who could himself refer to books and encyclopaedias. Even his enemies admit that he grew up and lived without receiving any education. He was indeed unlettered. At no time did he learn to read a book or to write anything with his own hand. He must, then, have had a teacher who taught him all this information, not by writing but by reading the same to him. This is the logical conclusion at least.

We may well wonder who this teacher was. This is indeed the second point in our question about the Qur’an. Now if we reflect on the proofs and evidences we have regarding the first point of this question, we will find with it information relevant to this second point. We will, in short, be able to determine who this teacher was. In the following pages, we will try to bring this teacher into the limelight, so that the reader will agree with us when we say about him: “This teacher is no human being! This is indeed a noble angel, delivering a message from God, the Lord of all worlds.”

That Muhammad (peace be upon him) could not have had a teacher from among his illiterate people, who had natural literary gifts but no education, is something everyone readily accepts.

Perhaps no one needs to seek any further evidence beyond the fact that Muhammad’s people were generally called, ‘the illiterate’, an appellation indicating that they had no knowledge of religion and faith. The period that preceded the advent of Islam in Arabia is described as jāhiliyyah, meaning the period or state of ignorance.

Such people, lacking even the very basis of knowledge such that their description was coined from the word ‘ignorance’, can never stand in a position to teach others, let alone teach their own teacher, he who frequently describes them as ignorant and who relates some aspects of their ignorance in several surahs of his book. Some people suggest that if we want to know the extent of the Arab’s ignorance, we only have to read what comes after verse 100 of Surah 6, ‘Cattle’”.

As for the fact that he had no teacher from among any other community we say that it is sufficient for us to refer anyone who seeks such information to any history source, old or new, Islamic or international.

After he has exhausted all possible sources we will ask him whether he has read a single line saying that Muhammad ibn ᶜAbdullāh had met, before declaring himself as Prophet, any scholar and learnt from him any religious knowledge, or heard from him accounts of past nations and communities.

We do not have to give any evidence other than throwing out this challenge in order to prove that nothing of this ever took place. The burden of proof is fairly and squarely on anyone who makes a different claim.

Let anyone show us his proof if what he claims be true. We certainly do not say that he never met or saw any such scholar either before or after he became a Prophet. We know that in his childhood, he met a monk called Baḥīra in Busra in southern Syria. In Makkah also, he met a scholar named Waraqah ibn Nawfal shortly after he began to receive revelations from on high, which was about 30 months before he announced his prophethood.

We also know that after he started to receive his message, he met numerous Jewish rabbis and Christian priests in Madinah. But the claim we are making is very specific: Muhammad did not learn anything from any such scholar, neither before nor after he was chosen as a prophet. Indeed, before prophethood he never heard anything from them whatsoever relating to religion.

As for those he met after prophethood he spoke and listened to them, but they were the ones who asked and he was the one who answered. He indeed taught, admonished and warned them, and also gave some of them happy news.

In the case of those whom he met before or shortly after his prophethood, he had a witness with him on each occasion.

His uncle, Abu Ṭālib, was his companion when he met the monk from Syria, while his wife, Khadījah, was in his company when he met Waraqah. So what did his two companions hear of the teachings of these two? Should we not find in history an account of what took place at these two meetings? How come history remains silent on such a remarkable encounter in which all the knowledge of the Qur’an and its accounts of events taking place from the beginning to the end of the world were summed up in a short interview?

Besides, why did his opponents, keen as they were to refute his argument, not take such an encounter as clear proof against him. After all, they did not hesitate to drum up even the slightest hint of suspicion in order to brand him a liar.

This was easy proof. Indeed, had it been true, it would have been much more forceful in disproving his claims than all the stubborn opposition they put up. The fact that history has remained silent on this point is sufficient proof that it did not happen. This is not something simple to be overlooked, even by those who were keen to find anything they could to use against the Prophet and his message.

History though has not remained silent. It tells us exactly what happened with these two people. It relates that the Syrian monk saw in the young boy he met sufficient evidence of his future prophethood, as described in earlier Scriptures.

This prompted him to tell his uncle: “This boy shall have a great future.”

History also tells us that when Waraqah ibn Nawfal listened to the Prophet giving him a detailed account of how revelations were given to him, he identified the characteristics of the angel who brought revelations to Moses.

He acknowledged him as a prophet and expressed his wish to live longer so that he could be among his supporters.

Whoever respects history and believes in the events as they took place will find that these provide an argument in our favour. But the one who is so shameless as to add to history something he invents may say that Muhammad was a learner in these encounters. Let such a person say what he wants.

What his fabrication will produce is, inevitably, a selfcontradictory account. What logic would support a claim that a man who saw in someone signs of prophethood long before it became a reality and gave him such news, or one who believed in him after he began to receive his message, would assume the position of teacher of such a Prophet! Do people who make such a claim not reflect on the import of their false allegations?

We ask again: was there at the time any scholar who could impart his knowledge to Muhammad and leave the stamp of that knowledge on the Qur’an?

Even atheists say: “The Qur’an is a single historical work that most accurately reflects the spirit of its age.” This is indeed true in as far as its literal meaning goes. The Qur’an reflects that spirit, but is not influenced by it, or we may say that the Qur’an reflects that spirit before it destroys it completely.

We accept their admission and call on them to contemplate the clear picture the Qur’an draws as an example of contemporary scholars.

We ask them to read Surahs 2 and 3, respectively entitled The Cow and The House of Imran, and reflect on the arguments these Surahs put to Jewish and Christian scholars concerning faith, history and religious laws and rules.

Or let them read any surah that contains a reference to the people of earlier Scriptures, whether they are of the Makkah or Madinah revelations, and consider how the Qur’an describes them. Indeed, the Qur’an describes their knowledge as sheer ignorance, their beliefs as errors and superstition, and their deeds as abominable crimes.

Should we need more and clearer information, here are some examples of how the Qur’an refutes their historical errors. “O people of earlier revelations! Why do you argue about Abraham, seeing that the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed till long after him? Will you not use your reason?”

(3: 65.)

“Do you claim that Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants were Jews or Christian?”

(2: 140.)

“The first House of worship ever set up for mankind was indeed the one at Makkah.”

(3: 96.)

This refutes their claim that their place of worship, which they face in their prayer, predated the Kaᶜbah. “All food was lawful for the children of Israel, except what Israel had made unlawful to himself before the Torah was revealed from on high.”

(3: 93.)

This verse refutes their claim that camel meat was forbidden to Abraham.

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Refuting Absurdity

Let us now look at how the Qur’an refutes their religious superstitions...

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