Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Qur'an: An Arabic Revelation?

In the year 2000, a radically dissenting view of the language of the Qur’ân and Classical Arabic was propounded by Christoph Luxenberg. (For reasons of his or her security, this scholar used a pseudonym.) Most of his theses were not wholly original, but he argued them more radically than his predecessors in Western Islamic and Arabic linguistic circles. Luxenberg emphasized that Syriac was the lingua franca for the whole Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula before the Arabs imposed their language gradually after the seventh century. When the Qur’ân came into being, Arabic was not a commonly written language yet. The educated Arabs that could read and write at all were mostly Christians who were used to writing religious texts in Syriac. Luxenberg argued that it is inconceivable that those who were involved in the writing of the Qur’ân did not naturally integrate elements from their Christian and Syriac background in its language.(1)

As Mekka was an early Aramaic settlement, the language spoken in that city was a mixture of Syriac and Arabic at the time of the writing of the Qur’ân, according to Luxenberg.(2) He argued that the earliest versions of the Qur’ân were written in that mixture of languages in a sort of Syriac-Arabic shorthand that consisted of six symbols, without vowels and diacritical marks to differentiate between the letters. The present ‘authorized version’ of the Qur’ân developed during the few centuries after the inception of Islam, as the process of creating and deciding about diacritical points and some other symbols to stipulate pronunciation took time. According to Luxenberg, the grammarians made many mistakes in this process, as they were no longer aware of the original Syriac impact on the language of the Qur’ân. They assumed the text was written in the Classical Arabic that had developed in the eighth and ninth century. In order to uphold this historical construction, Luxenberg had to assume that the oral tradition of Qur’ânic pronunciation and explanation during the first few centuries of Islam was ‘purely legendary’.(3)

The most respected Muslim exegete of the Qur’ân during the tenth century, Ja‘far Muhammad bin Jarîr al-Tabarî, admitted in his exegesis (tafsîr) that many verses and parts of the Qur’ân were hard to explain. Luxenberg focused in his book on those parts of the Qur’ân that were considered philologically problematic by al-Tabarî. In those cases, Luxenberg endeavored to explain the text by first considering other Arabic punctuation, and if that did not work, he assumed a Syriac background. By doing so, he was often able to propose a more contextually consistent and understandable reading of the text. He also argued that the grammatical deviations from Classical Arabic in the Qur’ân could be explained as correct applications of Syriac grammar.(4)

The Arabic word Qur’ân itself stems from the Syriac Qeryânâ, Luxenberg argued. That word was used in the Syriac churches of pre-Islamic and early-Islamic times to designate the Lectionary of Bible texts used in the liturgy.(5) Traditionally, most Arab scholars related the word Qur’ân to the Arabic verb qara’a (to recite). It is difficult to conceive how Qur’ân n might have developed grammatically from that verb.(6)

Luxenberg explained how the Qur’ânic chapter al-Kawthar (Abundance) was based on parts of the Syriac liturgy that reflected 1 Peter 5:8-9 from the New Testament, and how the chapter al-‘Alaq (Blood Clot) had the character of the introduction in the Syriac liturgy to the celebration of holy communion. He translated the last verse of al-‘Alaq as ‘celebrate (your) worship (more often) and participate in Holy Communion’.(7) In an interview, Luxenberg summarized his view of the Qur’ân:

In its origin, the Koran is a Syro-Aramaic liturgical book, with hymns and extracts from Scriptures which might have been used in sacred Christian services. In the second place, one may see in the Koran the beginning of a preaching directed toward transmitting the belief in the Sacred Scriptures to the pagans of Makkah, in the Arabic language. […] At the beginning, the Koran was not conceived as the foundation of a new religion. It presupposes belief in the Scriptures, and thus functioned merely as an inroad into Arabic society.(8)

It was predictable that Luxenberg would be vilified by Muslim scholars as he radically disturbed the traditional Islamic view of the Qur’ân, Arabic language and early Islamic history. Western scholarship has also been very guarded if not downright negative in its initial response. In 2004 the German Institute for Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg) in Berlin held an academic conference focusing on Luxenberg's thesis and an international working group was formed to continue the discussion. Many of the conference discussions were critical of Luxenberg, and blamed him for serious methodological flaws and sensationalist generalizations.(9) However, even his critics agreed that his work has at least had the merit of showing that Qur’ânic scholars have not so far accorded the literature of Syriac Christianity the attention it deserves as an important resource for reconstructing the Qur’ânic milieu, and no Western scholar studying the Qur’ân, Islam, Arabic language and history can circumvent Luxenberg’s suggested new direction in studying the Qur’ân and its context.

(1) Christoph Luxenberg, Die Syro-Aramaeische Lesart des Koran: Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Koransprache (Berlin, 2004, first edition 2000), pp. 9-11.
(2) Ibid., pp. 334-7.
(3) Ibid., p. 341.
(4) Ibid., p. 238.
(5) Ibid., pp. 81, 111.
(6) Another suggestion is that the word is related to qarâ’in (comparisons). The Arabic linguist Muhammad ‘Ali bin ‘Ali bin Muhammad al-Tahûnî (died 1157) said that the word Qur’ân was in fact a proper name. That indicates the difficulty to relate the word to any Arabic root. See al- al-Tahûnî’s encyclopedia Kashf Islahât al-Fanûn Vol. III (Beirut, 1998), p. 381.
(7) Luxenberg, Die Syro-Aramaeische Lesart des Koran, pp. 310, 330-1. Translation of Luxenberg’s German: ‘Verrichte (vielmehr) (deinen) Gottesdienst und nimm an der Abend-mahlliturgie teil’.
(8) Alfred Hackensberger, ‘Der Fuchs und die süssen Trauben des Paradieses’ [The Fox and the Sweet Grapes of Paradise], in Süddeutsche Zeitung (24 February 2004).
(9) Luxenberg’s views were hotly debated, for instance, by a congress in Berlin from 21-25 January 2004, on ‘Historical soundings and methodical reflections to the development of the Qur’an - ways to the reconstruction of the pre-canonical Qur’an’. For a description of the attitudes toward Luxenberg’s thesis, see Michael Marx and Nicolai Sinai, ‘Historische Sondierungen und methodische Reflexionen zur Korangenese - Wege zur Rekonstruktion des vorkanonischen Koran’ (Berlin, 25 February 2004), found on (20 February 2006).


Dr. Christoph Heger said...

It seems to be worthwhile that Luxenberg's book now is available in an English version: Christoph Luxenberg, The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran (revised and enlarged ed.), Berlin (Verlag Hans Schiler) 2007, ISBN-10: 3-89930-088-2, ISBN-13: 978-3-89930-088-8
Hardcover, 355 pages, 40.00 € (ca. 54.50 USD).

For more information see:

Yours sincerely,
Christoph Heger

soobianahmed said...

Who Wrote the Holy Qur'an?

Quran, in Arabic, could only have been written by ONE of 3 possible sources:
1. the Arabs
2. Mohammad (peace be upon him)
3. God (Allah)
(NOTE: The first part is not meant to be a rigorous proof. It is something to ponder upon. However, the second part, about Mohammad [pbuh] wrote it' contains more extensive proof.)
Besides the above mentioned sources, Quran couldn't possibly have been written by ANYONE else.
No other source is possible, because Quran is written in pure, rich, and poetic Arabic, which was not known to anyone other than the above mentioned sources, at that time. The Arabic language was at its peak in expression, richness, vocabulary, artistic, and poetic value during the time the Quran was being revealed. Anyone speaking the classical Arabic ( the Arabic of Quran at the time it was revealed) would argue that a non-Arab entity couldn't possibly have written such an extensive and brilliant piece of literature in the Arabic language. Quran could only have been written by an Arabic speaking entity. An entity, who's knowledge, style, vocabulary, grammar, and way of expression was so powerful that it impacted the entire Arabian peninsula, the east, the west, and continues to impact people all over the globe today!
At no other time, in the history of Arabic language, had it ever achieved its peak in expression, literature, and development, than the time of Arabia during the 6th Century, the time when Quran was being revealed. At no other time in the history of Arabic language had the language ever achieved its highest potential than the time of Arabia during the 6th Century, the time when Quran was being revealed. The language reached its peak in richness, artistic value, and poetry, during that time. With the Arabic language at its peak, and the best of Arabic writers, poets present in Arabia, it is impossible that a non-Arabic speaking entity would write a book like Quran and have such a dynamite impact on the Arabs!
So only an Arabic speaking entity could have write Quran. With that in mind, we're left with three choies:
1 - the Arabs wrote it
2 - Mohammad (pbuh) wrote it
3 - Allah (swt) wrote it

Lets examine the three choces one by one.
(1) Arabs Wrote it?
What Quran teaches goes DIRECTLY against the pagan Arab culture, religion, and gods, that existed before the Quran was revealed. Quran condemns idol worshipping, but the Arabs, loved their idol gods, and worshipped them regularly. Quran raised the status of women; the Arabs treated women next to animals. The Arabs would never write something that goes against their most important belief of idol worshipping. Quran goes against most of the social habbits (such as backbiting, slandering, name calling, etc) which the Arabs were heavily indulged into. For example, the Arabs would call insulting nicknames such as Abu Jahal (the father of ignorance). Quran condemns and prohibits taking interest on money, whereas, the Arabs freely levied heavy interest rates in loans and businesses. Quran condemns and prohibits Alcohol drinking, whereas, the Arabs consumed alcohol freely. The Quran condemns and prohibits gambling, whereas, the Arabs were some of the worst gamblers. The Arabs would never write something so comprehensively against just about all of their customs and culture and religious beliefs, as the Quran is.
During the time of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), the Arabs would indulge in all the social habbits that the Quran condemns and prohibits. How can Arabs then write something that would negate their entire society's norms and ideologies?
Did a group of Arabs or an individual Arab write Quran? Perhaps a rebel Arab beduoin, or a society's misfit, or someone with different ideals and norms decided one day to write Quran? The answer to those questions are also 'no'. Because, if we read Quran, we notice that there is no author! No individual has his/her name written on the cover of Quran! Anytime an individual writes a book, he/she writes his/her name on the cover. The author's name always appears on his/her book, and there is always an author who is credited for writing that book. No one in the history of the world has EVER claimed to have written the Quran, nor anyone's name ever appeared in front of the Quran as bein the 'author'. This is the only book in the world without an author. No one in the world has ever been accused of writing the Holy Quran, except the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), by non-muslims.
Quran has no author, and no group or individual in Arabia ever claimed to have written it, nor any group or an indvidual recited, taught, and explained Quran except the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and his followers. The Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) was the only Arabian who first practiced, explained, and preached Quran, and ended up making a lot of Arab tribes enemies. Any historian, Muslim or non-Muslim would argue that the only possible source of Quran can be the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), the man responsible to recite it, teach it, and expalin it to the people of Arabia. In fact, many historians today still think that only Mohammad (pbuh) could possibly have written it.
This leads one to conclude that the Prophet (pbuh) must have written it!

(2) Mohammad (pbuh) wrote it?
First, he was illiterate !! How can an illiterate person come up with such a rich, poetic, intellectual, and inspiring text that it rocked the entire Arabia?
Mohammad (pbuh) never went to school! No one taught him. He had no teacher of any kind in any subjects. How can he have the knowledge of all the science, astronomy, oceanography, etc that is contained in the Quran? (For example, the mention of ocean currents, stars, earth, moon, sun and their fixed paths in Soorah Rahman; and many other scientific statements that are found in Quran, that I cannot state in this short article)
When Quran was revealed, the Arabic language was at its peak in richness, poetic value, literature, etc. Quran came and challenged the best literature in Arabic, the best poetry in Arabic of the time. Mohammad (pbuh) being illiterate couldnt possibly have come up with something so immaculate that it even exceded the best of poetry, and literature in Arabic at the time of the language's PEAK development. Arabic language had never been so rich in expression, poetic value, vocabulary, and variety in literature, as it was in the time of Quran. At a time like this, Quran came and exceeded the best of Arabic in all aspects of the language: poetry, literature, expression, etc. Any classical Arabic speaker would appreciate the unbeatten, unchallenged, and unmatched beauty of the language of Quran.
An illiterate man is simply not capable of writing such a book.
Mohammad (pbuh) had no reason to come up with something like Quran, and cause the entire society of Arabia to become his enemy. Why would he do something like that? Why would he write something going against almost all of the norms of the society, and lose his family, relatives, friends, and other loved ones, and not to mention all the wealth he lost
Quran was revealed over a period of 23 years! A very long time! Is it possible for someone to maintain the same exact style of Arabic speech , as demonstrated in Quran, for over 23 years?
Also, what the prophet Mohammad (saaw) used to say is recorded in what we call his hadeeth (sunnah). If we look at the Arabic style of the hadeeth, and compare it with the style of Quran, we can clearly see that they are clearly DIFFERENT, and DISTINGUISHABLE Arabic styles. The prophet (saaw) spoke in public. It does not make sense that a man has two UNIQUE, Distinguishable, and completely different styles of speech in public. Yet another reason why Mohammad (saaw) couldn't possibly have written Quran.
Quran was revealed over a period of 23 years ! A very long time! Is it possible for someone to maintain the same exact style of Arabic speech , as demonstrated in Quran over 23 years?
Here's what our famous Muslim Scholar, Ahmad Deedat said:
"Behold! The angels said: "O Mary! God has chosen you and purified you - Chosen you above the women of all nations." Qur'an-3:42
"Chosen you above the women of all nations." Such an honour is not to be found given to Mary even in the Christian Bible!
Knowing full-well, and believing as we do, that the whole Quran is the veritable Word of God, we will nevertheless agree, for the sake of argument, with the enemies of Muhammed (pbuh) for a moment, that he wrote it. We can now expect some cooperation from the unbeliever.
Ask him, "Have you any qualms in agreeing that Muhammed (pbuh) was an Arab?" Only an opinionated fool will hesitate to agree. In that case there is no sense in pursuing any discussion. Cut short the talk. Close the book!
With the man of reason, we proceed. "That this Arab, in the first instance, was addressing other Arabs. He was not talking to Indian Muslims, Chinese Muslims, or Nigerian Muslims. He was addressing his own people - the Arabs. Whether they agreed with him or not, he told them in the most sublime form - words that were seared into the hearts and minds of his listeners that Mary the mother of Jesus -A JEWESS- was chosen above the women of all nations. Not his own mother, nor his wife nor his daughter, nor any other Arab woman, but a Jewess! Can one explain this? Because to everyone his own mother or wife, or daughter would come before other women.
Why would the Prophet of Islam honour a woman from his opposition! and a Jewess at that! belonging to a race which had been looking down upon his people for three thousand years? Just as they still look down upon their Arab brethren today.
The Jews get their cock-eyed racism from their Holy Bible, where they are told their father, Abraham, had two wives -Sarah and Hagar. They say that they are the children of Abraham through Sarah, his legitimate wife; that their Arab brethren have descended through Hagar, a "bondwoman", and that as such, the Arabs are inferior breed.
Will anyone please explain the anomaly as to why Muhammed (pbuh) (if he is the author) chose this Jewess for such honour? The answer is simple - HE HAD NO CHOICE - he had no right to speak of his own desire. "IT IS NO LESS THAN AN INSPIRATION SENT DOWN TO HIM." (Qur'an, 53:4).

There is a Chapter in the Holy Quran, named Sura Maryam "Chapter Mary" (XIX) named in honour of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ (pbuh); again, such an honour is not to be found given to Mary in the Christian Bible. Out of the 66 books of the Protestants and 73 of the Roman Catholics, not one is named after Mary or her son. You will find books named after Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul and two score more obscure names, but not a single one is that of Jesus or Mary!
If Muhammed (pbuh) was the author of the Holy Quran, then he would not have failed to include in it with MARYAM, the mother of Jesus, his own mother - AMINA, his dear wife - KHADIJA, or his beloved daughter - FATIMA. But No! No! this can never be. The Quran is not his handiwork!
Another Muslim writes:
From: Abu Abdullah;
Subject: Re: Mohammad Wrote the Quran? [KORAN]
Date: Sat, 05 Aug 95 12:44:14 EDT
I was reading about the charge that the prophet, Mohammed (pbuh), has written the Quran himself. Before you go any further in reading this post, please ask yourself whether you are a honest truth seeker or just another argumentative person, if the former, continue, otherwise, save your time and jump to the next post.
Islam is based on faith that is supported by a number of strong miracles such as knowing what events to take place ahead of time or coming up with supernatural deeds in front of people. The holy Quran has these signs and much more. First, The holy Quran predicted many events to take place ahead of the time of the revelation of that verse; for example, predicting the destruction of Persian empire at a time where the later had a monumental victory over Rome. If the prophet, as some people claim, has written the Quran, then he would have put his future in real jeopardy (50% chance) since neither satellite photos nor on-ground intelligence personnel were available to him at the revelation time. Further, numerous details about many natural phenomena were detailed in the Quran and, until recently, they were proven by experts to be amazingly accurate. For example of the physical development of the fetus inside the womb along with timing given by many verses matches exactly what leading authorities in Embryology are claiming to be recent discoveries. Moreover, verses that gives descriptions about the creation of the universe and the function of mountains in balancing earth and many other descriptions/explanations are available to be read and to be understood. If the prophet was the author, wouldn't he be prone to make weak inferences similar to those who claim that earth is square and whoever says otherwise should be killed?
The prophet also has demonstrated many supernatural miracles not by his own power, but by the power of the creator. He went to Jerasalem back in one night and gave a detailed description of the carnival that was traveling on that route and also specific accedint happend to them at that noght (in those days, it takes a month or so for a round-trip). In another ocasion, he provided water for an entire army from a small plate between his hands. There are many other miracles that require serious truth seeker to read about and to think about it.
Embryology and Life Sciences in Quran
"The Developing Human. Clinically Oriented Embryology"
Keith L. Moore
5th Edition, Philadelphia, W.B. Saunders Co. (1982)
ISBN 07216 4662-X $33.95
The work by Prof. Keith Moore is probably the most detailed study of the subject. Prof. Keith Moore is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Anatomy, University of Toronto.
His books on anatomy and on embryology are used at many medical school as standard instruction books. The Yale Medical school uses both his books. The Yale Bookstore phone number for Medical books is: (203) 772-2081. Their general information number is (203) 432-4771. (New Haven, Connecticut)
He is *the* authority on embryology. I strongly recommend the latest edition of the latter book as it mentions how accurately the Qur'an describes embryo development.
Prof. Moore has said: "It has been a great pleasure for me to help clarify statements in the Qur'an about human development. It is clear to me that these statements must have come to Muhammed from God or Allah because almost all of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later. This proves to me that Mohammed must have been a messenger of God or Allah."
Prof. Marshal Johnson, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Director of the Daniel Baugh Institute, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia
He says: "The Qur'an describes not only the development of external form but emphasizes also the internal stages -- the stages inside the embryo of its creation and development, emphasizing major events recognized by contemporary science.... If I were to transpose myself into that era, knowing what I know today and describing things, I could not describe the things that were described. I see no evidence to refute the concept that this individual Mohammed had to be developing this information from some place, so I see nothing in conflict with the concept that Divine Intervention was involved..."
To receive a copy of the article that Moore wrote about 'Highlights of Human Embryology in the Koran and Hadith' please e-mail Adam at
That leaves us to our third option: God wrote it!
May Allah Guide Us All to Straight Path. Ameen.
QURAN: Chapter 4, Verse 82: "Do they not consider (ponder) on the Quran? If it had been from anyone except Allah, they would surely have found in it much discrepency (contradictions)."
Still unsure or doubtful? Quran is the word of Allah. Allah challenges to His creations:
Chapter 2, Verses 23 & 24: "And if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed to our servant, Then produce a Chapter like thereunto; And call your witnesses or helpers besides Allah, If you are true. But if you cannot, and surely you cannot, Then fear the fire Whose fuel is men and stones, Which is prepared for those who reject."
Try reading and understanding the meaning with explanation of the following verses also! Chapter 10, verse 38 Chapter 11, verse 13 Chapter 17 verse 88

John Stringer said...

Dear Soobian,

You state that the Koran is written in the best Arabic. Is this not a circular argument? Muslims must believe that the Koran is written in the best Arabic. So they say it is written in the best Arabic.

Never mind grammatical mistakes, and that even the best scholars have difficulty understanding many verses.

The Koran is per definition the best Arabic, because Muslims believe it is the standard for best Arabic.

If it is so good, why do Arabs in the Arab World not use that Arabic? They do not speak it and they do not write it.