Jewish influence on the Koran

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Last week I wrote about secret Jewish texts claiming they had a hand in writing the Koran. Now I want to talk about another text saying the same thing, this time written by an Arab Christian called Abd al-Masih ibn Ishaq al-Kindi. This work is usually known as Al Kindi’s Apology. An apology, in the old sense of the word, was a justification of something rather than an expression of regret for it. In this case, it is a justification of Christianity.

To my knowledge, no full English translation of the work exists. In 1882, William Muir published a book about it which includes translations of extracts from it and summaries of other parts. Scholars still debate when it was written, but Muir believed it dated from the reign of the Caliph Al Mamun (813-833). If this dating is correct, it would go some way to bolstering the credibility of the claims made because the earliest surviving Islamic historiographical works only date from around this same period.

The text is in the format of letters written to one another by a Muslim and a Christian, each arguing the superiority of their own faith and appealing to the other to convert to it. It is not known whether this was a genuine exchange or just a literary device. In either case, the criticism of Islam contained in the text would have been considered extraordinarily bold under almost any Islamic government in history, and even today.

One of the points Al-Kindi makes is that Christianity is superior because Jesus worked miracles while Mohammed did not, this supposedly proving that Jesus partook of an authentically divine essence but not Mohammed. The Muslim responds to this criticism by saying that the Koran was the true Islamic miracle; that an unlettered Arab could produce a work so replete with references to history and facts he could not possibly have known about, a work so perfect in its language, structure and execution, was miraculous, he says.

Al-Kindi then challenges these claims about the Koran. He points out that multiple versions of it existed; that the language and structure were imperfect; that various agents of influence had acted to suppress or insert parts of the Koran they found congenial to their interests. And among these agents of influence were the Jews.

The remainder of the text below, apart from one comment of mine in italics and square brackets, is a direct quotation from Muir’s text, which is either a direct translation or précis of Al-Kindi’s work. References to Mahomet or “thy Master” are to Mohammed, the so-called prophet of Islam.


“Sergius, a Nestorian monk, was excommunicated for a certain offence. To expiate it, he set out on a mission to Arabia, and reached Mecca, which he found inhabited by Jews and idolaters. There he met Mahomet, with whom he had intimate converse, and persuaded him, after being instructed in the faith of Nestorius, to abandon heathenism, and become his disciple. This, while it excited the hatred of the Jews, was the reason of the favourable mention of the Christians in the Coran, to wit, that ‘they are the nighest unto believers in friendship; and that because there are amongst them priests and monks, and because the are not haughty.’ And so the matter prospered, and the Christian faith was near to being adopted by Mahomet, when Sergius died. Thereupon two Jewish doctors, Abdallah and Kab, seized the opportunity, and ingratiated themselves with thy Master, professing deceitfully to share his views and be his followers. Thus they concealed their object and bided their time. Then upon the Prophet’s death, when Aly kept aloof and refused to swear allegiance to Abu Bekr, the two Jews sought him out, and tried to persuade him to assume the prophetic office, for which they declared him fit, and promised to instruct him, as Sergius had instructed Mahomet. Aly, yet young and inexperienced, listened to them, and was instructed secretly. Before they had fully gained their object, Abu Bekr heard of it and sent for Aly, who finding opposition useless, abandoned his ambitious claim. But the Jews had already succeeded in tampering with the text of the Coran which Mahomet had left in Aly’s hands, that namely which was based upon the Gospel. It was then that these Jews interpolated the Coran with histories from the Old Testament, and portions of the Mosaic law, and introduced such passages as this:—’The Christians say that the Jews are founded upon nothing, and the Jews say that the Christians are founded upon nothing; and yet they read the book. Thus did the ignorant people aforetime speak as they do. Wherefore the Lord will judge between them in the day of the Resurrection as to that concerning which they differ.’ Hence also arose inconsistencies in the Coran,—passages proceeding from one source differing from passages that proceeded from another; as in Chapters, the Bee, the Ant, the Spider.

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Thou knowest the enmity subsisting between Aly and Abu Bekr, Omar, and Othman; now each of these entered in the text whatever favoured his own claims, and left out what was otherwise. How, then, can we distinguish between the genuine and the counterfeit? And how about the losses caused by Hajjj? Thou well knowest what kind of faith that tyrant held in other matters; then how canst thou make him an arbiter as to the Book of God,—a man who never ceased to play into the hands of the Omeyyads whenever he found opportunity? And besides all this, the Jews also had a hand in the business; and foisted in what they thought would further their own seditious and rebellious ends.

[Al-Kindi also claims that Mohammed did not prohibit the consumption of pork; that this restriction was only introduced to the Koran after his death by a Jew. So break out the ham sandwiches, Muslims.]

As to pork, there was no more reason why it should be prohibited than the flesh of the camel, ass, or horse, all allowed by Mahomet. It was, indeed, a matter indifferent, in which each was free to follow his taste and fancy. The prohibition is moreover set down to the pernicious teaching of Abdallah ibn Sallam, the Jew, who had depraved the faith; and for this Mahomet himself was nowise responsible.

 

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