Testimony #1: Al Kindi on the Corruption of the Original Christian Quran

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Testimony #1: Al Kindi on the Corruption of the Original Christian Quran

Al Kindi on the Origin of the Quran. Written c. AD 820. (Muir’s translation/paraphrase, with slight alteration to the orthography of some words, and only the most relevant of Muir’s footnotes. My notes in braces {}. The original Arabic text of Al Kindi is downloadable here, ed. Tien, 1885.)

“The Quran as an evidence of Muhammad’s Mission (Apology 75-90).

{Al Kindi is addressing his protagonist, who was a fervent Muslim.}

“We come now to what thou regardest as thy stronghold, to wit, the Book which is in thy hands. Thine argument is that the narratives therein of the prophets and the Messiah prove that it was revealed by God, because thy Master {viz. Muhammad} was unlearned, and could have no knowledge of the same excepting by way of inspiration. Again, thou sayest that ‘neither Man nor Genius could produce the like thereof’ [Sura 2:23]; and, ‘If ye be in doubt as to that which We have revealed unto our servant, then bring a Sura the like thereof, and call your witnesses other than the Lord, if ye be true men.’ And, yet again, ‘If We had sent down this Quran unto a mountain, thou wouldest seen it humbling itself, and cleaving asunder, from fear of the Lord’ [Sura 59:21]; and the like effusions. This in thy view is the main evidence of thy Master’s claim, ranking with the miracle of the Red Sea, the Staying of the Sun, the Raising of the Dead, and other wonderful works by the Prophets of old and the Messiah. And, by my life! this argument hath deceived many. But it is a weak and hollow subterfuge. The answer is near at hand, and not far off, as I will show thee. The disclosure may be bitter, but it will be wholesome in the end.”

The following important section about the original composition of the Quran and its subsequent, but still pre-Othmanic, corruption is presented here in three forms. The first (A) is my rendering of the most up-to-date (French) translation of the Arabic text of Al Kindi’s Apology (Risalat al-Kindi) by G. Tartar. It is followed by (B) my rendering of the Medieval Latin translation, commissioned by Peter Abbot of Cluny in the 12th century AD, of a version of the Apology containing a few details absent in extant (and chronologically posterior) Arabic texts. The equivalent section of Muir’s translation/​paraphrase follows immediately after these (C). With all three renderings before the reader, a fuller view of the text and its variety of readings may be obtained.

The following is my rendering of Tartar’s French translation of the Arabic text.

(A) G. Tartar, Dialogue Islamo-chrétien sous le Calife al-Ma’mun (813-834), NEL, Paris 1985, p. 180ff.:

The Activity of the monk Sergius
and his influence on Muhammad

“There was a Christian monk, called Sergius, who, following an occurrence for which he was blamed by his fellows, was excommunicated and expelled: he was forbidden to enter the church and all communion with him was severed, such being their custom in cases of this sort. Being remorseful for what he had done, he desired to accomplish something whereby he could make up for his mistake and receive pardon from his Christian friends.

“{p. 181} He betook himself to the region of Tihama {footnote 10 ibid.: Tihama, a plain bordering the Red Sea, extending from the north to the south of Arabia}, passed through there and arrived at Mecca. He found two religions were practiced in the region, the most important being Judaism, and the other idolatry. He showed continual benevolence to your master {Muhammad}, and paid special attention to him, till he won him round. He gave himself the name Nestorius, wishing, by this change of name, to promote the doctrine of Nestorius to which he had attached himself and of which he was a professor. He persistently kept company with him and maintained a one-to-one relationship, imparting to him his doctrine little by little, until he persuaded him to renounce idolatry, and made him his disciple, and a propagator of the religion of Nestorius.

“When the Jews became apprised of the matter, they manifested hostility towards him, on account of the ancient feud they maintained against the Christians. Meanwhile his project went unfailingly forward and progressed to the point it had now arrived at. That is the reason why he speaks, in his book, of Christ, of the Christian religion, and defends it, eulogizing the Christians, and bearing witness in their favor, “because they are the nearest in amity, and because there are amongst them pastors and monks, and because they are not proud at all.”

“When the Christian cause had reached this pass and was on the point of prevailing, Nestorius died. Then arose Abd Alla b. Sallam and Kaab surnamed al-Ahbar, two Jews who conducted themselves deceitfully and maliciously in the presence of Muhammad, encouraging him to believe they were following him, and adopting his doctrine. They persevered in their ruse and stratagem, hiding their secret intent under the profession of sincerity, till they found an auspicious moment after his death.

“In fact, it was only after Muhammad was dead, and the people abandoned Islam, the power passing to Abu Bakr, and when Ali b. Abi Talib abstained from recognizing him, that these two Jews found they had achieved, finally, what they had been looking for and aiming at in secret. They {p. 182} inveigled themselves into the presence of Ali b. Abi Talib and said to him: “Why not lay claim to the status of a prophet? We are ready to support you, in the same way Nestorius the Christian gave your master a sound doctrinal education, and you are in no way inferior to him.

“Indeed, Ali b. Abi Talib was well aware of the existence of the monk Nestorius, because he was a youth when he accompanied Muhammad, though he had been recommended not to tell a living soul where Nestorius was to be found and not to speak of him to any member of his family. Ali accepted their suggestion, on account of his youthful age and his lack of experience.

“Ali allowed himself frankly to be influenced by their proposal. Meanwhile God did not permit these Jews to prevail and achieve their objective, for Abu Bakr became apprised of their plot and summoned Ali. When the latter presented himself before him, Abu Bakr called him back to fealty to Muhammad. Ali bowed to the position of Abu Bakr and his compelling demeanor and renounced the design he had entertained in his heart.

The Quran which Ali possessed.

“The two Jews got hold of the book which Ali b Abi Talib possessed, and which he had received from his master {Muhammad}, the book written in accordance with the Gospel. They introduced into it stories from the Torah {the Hebrew Old Testament}, a certain number of regulations, the stories of their own country. They distorted the text, added to it and subtracted from it. They inveigled into it contentious texts, like this declaration, “The Jews say: ‛The Christians are founded on nothing’, and the Christians say, ‛The Jews are founded on nothing’”, as well as the stories of miracles and contradictory texts, which convince him who looks into the matter that many different people are speaking here, each contrary to the other. They inserted the Suras, like the Sura “The Bees”, and the Sura “The Spider”, and many similar texts.

“Do you not see that Ali, despairing of the caliphate’s ever coming round to him, presented himself before Abu Bakr forty days after or, according to some, six months after, rendered fealty, and put his hand with his? Abu Bakr demanded of him: “Why did you keep yourself away from us, and fail to render fealty, O Abu l-Hasan?” {P. 183} He replied, “I was busy assembling the book of God, as the prophet had instructed me.”

Reflect, O man of reason, on this manner of speech, and attempt to comprehend what precisely is signified by the statement “being busy assembling the book of God”! You realize al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf was another who assembled the sacred collections, and he suppressed many things.

“Indeed, the book of God, O deluded one, cannot be assembled, and nothing can be suppressed from it. These things you and other Muslims know perfectly well, and cannot contest them, because your credited narrators report these facts, verifying their authenticity, and there is no disagreement amongst them. You know also that they report that the original manuscript of the Quran was in the hands of the Koreishites. Ali b. Abi Talib ordered this manuscript to be seized, when the situation became difficult for him, with the intention of putting an end to all addition or suppression, and no-one was allowed to get their hands on it apart from him.

“This collection was in conformity to the Gospel, and it had been committed to Muhammad by Nestorius, to whom Muhammad made reference when addressing his companions sometimes under the name of Gabriel and sometimes under that of the “Faithful Spirit”.

The arrangement for the collection of the Quran by the Caliph Abu Bakr.

“When Ali declared to Abu Bakr in the course of first swearing his fealty, “I was busy assembling the book of God, as he had commanded me”, he was told, “We have one manner of speech, you another. Cannot we assemble the book of God?”

“They began accordingly to assemble together the texts which people had learned by heart, as for example [p. 184] the Sura Bara’a (the Immunity) [Sura 9], which they transcribed according to the bedouin who had come from the desert {for whose history and spurious Quranic verses, see Testimony #7, below, >>} as well as texts which had been lost and rediscovered, and whatever was written on leaves, or pieces of tree, palm-branches, shoulder-blades etc. The text was not assembled together in a single volume. There were leaves and scrolls similar to those of the Jews, the shrewd trick of the two aforementioned Jews.

“People had different readings between themselves. Some read the text of Ali b. Abi Talib. These were his people, his partisans, and members of his family. Others read according to the lone bedouin who had come out of the desert, saying, “I have a word, a verse, more or less than you”.

“These were incorporated into the text, but no-one knew the history behind them or why they were revealed.

“Others read according to the reading of Ibn Masud, on account of this declaration: “Whoever would read the Quran in its pristine delicacy and sweetness, as it was revealed, let him read according to the reading of Ibn Umm Abd.” Once a year the text was presented to Muhammad, but in the year he died it was presented twice.

“Others read according to the reading of Ubbay b. Kaab, on account of this saying: “The best reader is Ubbay”. Indeed, the readings of Ubbay and Ibn Masud are comparable.”

(B) My rendering of the 12th century AD Latin translation of Al Kindi as excerpted by Vincent of Beauvais in Speculum Historiale, Liber 23, capp. 51-52, and reproduced by Bibliander in his Alcoranus vol. II p. 8ff.


Sergius the monk, having committed a serious sin {sic} in his monastery, was excommunicated and expelled on that account, and made his way to the district of Cuhenne. From there he went down to [9] Mecca, where there were two communities, one that worshiped idols, and the other comprised of Jews; and there he came across Muhammad {text: “Machumet”}, who worshiped idols. Desirous of achieving something whereby he might ingratiate himself with those monks who had expelled him, and merit reconciliation with them (these being Nestorian heretics {sic, from Al Kindi’s own Christian sectarian point of view} who say Mary did not give birth to God, but merely to a human being), he put all his attention and effort into persuading him to abandon his idols, and to become a Nestorian Christian. Once he had set himself this goal, Muhammad became his disciple, and he, on account of this, named himself Nestorius. The upturn was that, having learned from the aforesaid monk elements of the Old and New Testament, he incorporated the same in his Al-Quran in a fabulous and mendacious manner {sic}. He also persuaded him to insert in his Al-Quran the divine pronouncement that Christian monks and presbyters ought to be more favorable towards him, on account of their humility. Now when the Jews were informed that monk was winning over many followers, and even Muhammad himself, to what can only be described as some pale shadow of Christianity {sic}, and, it might be argued, what had been accomplished latterly by Muhammad, had up to that time been achieved through the influence of Nestorius, three {sic} Jews became proselytes, and, out of fear Muhammad at some time or other might stumble across genuine Christianity {sic}, they attached themselves closely to him, claiming with malicious subtlety they were his associates or disciples in this sect, and encouraging the inclusion in the written text of Al-Quran of all the elements that are too debased or worthless to be credited to him. They were permanently at his side to the end of his days. Now following the death of Muhammad, at the time when, as we have already rehearsed, each returned to his own sect, and Abu Bakr {text: “Ebuberc”} had succeeded to the dominion, and Ali {text: “Hali”} also, the son of Abitalib, though he was of higher rank than he, remained under his authority, the aforesaid Jews aimed to throw everything into commotion once more and brought Ali round to their views, with the following words: “Since you have power and rank, why not promote yourself to the status of a prophet, as your associate Muhammad did, who was a Nestorian Christian? And we shall be with you, as we were with him, to help you in every way we can.” Now it was a simple matter for them to impose on him thus because he was a youth, and lived his life in accord with tenets of a wholly beneficent nature. He had as it were been predisposed by earlier training to adopt this attitude. At any rate, when he was a boy, of the roving, restless, nature common to children of that age, he strayed one day along some pathways off the common track, and stumbled across the hideaway of that false monk {sic} Nestorius, from which answers to Muhammad’s questions were given by the latter out of public view. When he realized he had been caught in this predicament, he induced the boy by a mix of threats and blandishments, not to reveal this to any living soul. And so already, it could be said, at this formative moment in time, Ali had yielded to external pressure. Now the chief Abu Bakr, when he found out about the recent event, issued a command for him to appear in his presence. Having done so, he laid down guidelines for him, with a profusion of blandishments and promises, to desist wholly from the course he had thus embarked on, and show himself in all matters subject to him. Still the Jews did not cease meddling any way they could. They had, in fact, come into possession of the book from the hands of Ali himself, which Muhammad had left to the latter, and had added to it, or subtracted from it, or altered within it, anything that seemed good to them. One such was the following passage: “The Jews say the Christians are nothing. The Christians say, on the contrary, the Jews are fools.” Likewise, amongst many other passages and fabulous narrations, that chapter containing the fable of the Ant, and the other with the fable of the Bee, and the other relating the story of the Spider.


But how this scripture was worked up in various ways, not only by the Jews, but also by a multitude of other parties, interpreted in different senses, expounded multifariously, and finally almost totally dismembered, we shall explain in detail, from the angle appropriate in each case. After forty, or, others say, six months, of the rule of Abu Bakr, he summoned Ali son of Abitalib, and said to him: “Why were you not present when I was made chief, and standing there alongside us all, in spite of the fact you are a mighty leader and a member of the nobility?” Ali replied, “Because I was busy gathering together the scriptures, as the prophet instructed me.” Already, indeed, Eleage the son of Nizef {al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf} had gathered together many book-form manuscripts, and had subtracted many things from them. Many others had done likewise. Some read the text according to Ali, namely his family, and the members of his extended household, and his near relatives, that scripture which had been in circulation amongst the Koreish, and was said to have been his original text, [10] which the monk Nestorius had handed down to him, and whom it [or, he] called sometimes Gabriel, sometimes the Faithful Spirit. Others read what had been gathered together by different men; many, indeed, according to the text of a certain Arab who came in recently from the desert, who had written down there numerous things without commonsense or reason. Others read according to the text of Zabefatis {Zeid ibn Thâbit} and Arabis {Abdallah ibn Abbâs}, others according to the text of others. They all transferred to parchments and rolls whatever each thought appropriate. Therefore they differed amongst themselves and were at discord, and they would say, when reading the text one to the other: “I have a better reading than you. No. on the contrary, you a worse than I.” So in this manner some added to the text, others subtracted from it, others altered it, and others corrupted it in any which way, until that book was rendered undeserving of any credit whatever.”

(C) Muir’s rendering and/or paraphrase of the corresponding passage in the Arabic copies used by him now follows, and subsequent passages relating to Othman and Quranic compilers after him:

“[Al Kindi] then proceeds to give a lengthy account of the origin of the Quran. His story in short is this.

“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 Muhammad, 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 favorable mention of the Christians in the Quran, to wit, that ‘they are the nighest unto believers in friendship; and that because there are amongst them priests and monks, and because they are not haughty.’ [Sura 59:21.] And so the matter prospered, and the Christian faith was near to being adopted by Muhammad, 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 Ali 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 Muhammad. Ali, yet young and inexperienced, listened to them, and was instructed secretly. [Sura 2:113.] Before they had fully gained their object, Abu Bekr heard of it and sent for Ali, who finding opposition useless, abandoned his ambitious claim. But the Jews had already succeeded in tampering with the text of the Quran which Muhammad had left in Ali’s hands, that namely which was based upon the Gospel. It was then that these Jews interpolated the Quran with histories from the Old Testament, and portions of the Mosaic law, and introduced such passages as this [Suras 16, 27, 29]:—‛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 Quran,— passages proceeding from one source differing from passages that proceeded from another; as in Chapters, the Bee, the Ant, the Spider.

“Now when Ali despaired of succeeding to the Caliphate, he at the last presented himself before Abu Bekr, forty days (some say six months) after the Prophet’s death. As he was swearing allegiance to him as Caliph, Abu Bekr asked him, ‘O Father of Hasan, what hath delayed thee so long?’ He answered, ‘I was busy collecting the Book of the Lord, for that the Prophet committed to my care.’ Reflect, my Friend, what could have been the meaning of his being busy in ‘collecting the Book of God’? Thou knowest how the tyrant Hajjâj ‘collected’ the leaves of the Quran, and left out much thereof. Ah, deceived one! the Book of God is not ‘collected,’ nor can any part thereof be lost. Thou, and those of thy persuasion, know and acknowledge whatsoever I have said, for it is altogether taken from traditions of your own in which all of you agree. According to some authorities the first copy of the Quran was left in the hands of the Koreish; and Ali, when he came to power, ordered it to be taken possession of lest it should be tampered with by being added to, or taken from; and this was the copy which was in accord with the Gospel as delivered to Muhammad by Sergius. [Muir’s footnote: Our Author tells us here that this Sergius was also called by the Companions “Gabriel,” and at other times “The faithful Spirit,” epithets, namely, of the Angel that descended with the Quran to Muhammad.]

“Now when Ali spake to Abu Bekr, as related above, those about him represented that there were scraps and pieces of the Quran with them as well as with Ali; and then it was agreed to collect the whole from every quarter together. So they collected various parts from the memory of individuals (as Sura Barât, [Sura 9] which they wrote out at the dictation of a certain Arab from the desert), and other portions from different people, and from the embassies and deputations which had visited the Prophet; besides that which was copied out from tablets of stone, and palm-leaves, and shoulder-bones, and such like. It was not at first collected in a volume, but remained in separate leaves,—entries being made after the method of the Jews,—a cunning device of theirs.

“Then the people fell to variance in their reading. Some read according to the version of Ali (and they follow the same to the present day); some read according to the collection of which we have made mention. Others read according to the reading of the Arab from the desert, who in his ignorance made changes and additions. A party read according to the text of Ibn Masûd, following the saying of thy Master,—‛Whosoever would read the Quran in its pristine purity and freshness, let him read after Ibn Omm Mabad’; and he used to repeat it over to him (Muhammad) once every year, and in the year he died, twice. And, yet again, some read after Obey ibn Kab, following thy Master’s word,—‛The best reader amongst you all is Obey.’ Now the readings of Obey and Ibn Masûd are closely alike one to the other. “Thus when Othmân came to power, and people everywhere differed in their readings, Ali sought grounds of accusation against him, compassing his death. [Muir’s footnote: The sentence is remarkable, preceding as it does the notice of Othmân’s recension, and also as plainly imputing to Ali a design prepense on the life of Othmân.] One man would read a verse one way, and another man another way, each saying that his reading was better than his neighbor’s, and contending for the same; and there was change and interpolation, some copies having more and some less.

“When this was represented to Othmân, and the danger urged of division, strife, and apostasy, he thereupon caused to be collected together all the leaves and scraps that he was able, together with the copy that was written out at the first. But they did not interfere with that which was in the hands of Ali, or of those who followed his reading. Obey was dead by this time. As for Ibn Masûd, they demanded his exemplar, but he refused to give it up, and so Abu Mûsa was appointed governor of Kufa in his room. Then they commanded Zeid ibn Thâbit, and with him Abdallah ibn Abbâs (others say Mohammed, son of Abu Bekr), to revise and correct the text, eliminating all that was corrupt. Now both were young; and they were instructed, when they differed on any reading, word, or name, to follow the dialect of the Koreish. On many points they did differ. For instance, Zeid wrote Tâbûh, and Ibn Abbâs Tâbût.

“When the recension was completed, four exemplars were written out in large text, and one sent to Mecca, and another to Medina. The third was dispatched to Syria, and is to this day at Malatia (Melitene). The copy at Mecca remained there till the city was stormed by Abu Sarâya (that is, the last time the Kaaba was sacked, A.H. 200); he did not carry it away; but it is supposed to have been burned in the conflagration. The Medina exemplar was lost in the reign of terror, that is, in the days of Yezîd ibn Muâvia. The fourth exemplar was deposited in Kûfa, then the centre of Islam and home of the Companions of the Prophet. People say that this copy is still extant there; but this is not the case, for it was lost in the insurrection of Mukhtâr. [Muir’s footnote: Mukhtâr was slain in the rebellion here referred to, A.H. 67.]

“After what we have related above, Othmân called in all the former leaves and copies, and destroyed them, threatening those who held any portion back; and so only some scattered remains, concealed here and there, survived. Nothing remained to show the discrepancies which are known to have existed. It is said for example that Sura Nûr (24) used to be longer than Sura Bacr (2), [Muir’s footnote: The longest Sura in the Quran] and that Sura Ahzâb (33), is mutilated and incomplete; so also that there was originally no division between Sura Barât (9) and Sura Anfâl (8), and accordingly we see that the invariable heading, In the name of God most Merciful, is wanting in the former. Similar is the case of the two ‘Incantation Suras,’ [Muir’s footnote: The last two Suras, of only a line or two each] of which Ibn Masûd said when they were placed in the Quran: Add not thereto that which is not therein.

“And then there is the speech of Omar delivered from the pulpit (of the Great Mosque at Medina), ‘Let no one say that the Stoning Verse is not in the Book of God; for verily I have myself read, The man and the woman that commit adultery, let them both be stoned to death; and if it were not that men might say, “Omar hath added to the Quran that which is not therein,” I would have inserted the same with my own hand. Likewise at the close of another address: ‘Truly I know not of any one who saith that the Ordinance of temporary marriage (Al Mutáh) is not in the Book of the Lord, for, indeed, I have myself read it; but it hath fallen out. And verily the Lord will not reward him well that caused it to fall out; for a trust was given, and he fulfilled not the trust of the Lord and of his prophet; and verily much that belonged to the Quran hath thus fallen out.’ And yet once more, Omar said: ‘The Lord minded to deal gently with mankind, and verily he sent Muhammad with a wide and comprehensive faith.’ “And Obey ibn Kab said that there were two Suras which he used to recite (as part of the Quran): Al Canût and Al Witr; in them were these words: ‘O Lord, we ask thee for help and pardon and guidance, and we believe in thee and put our trust in thee,’ and so on to the end of Al Witr. This he said in respect of the first compilation, no longer extant.

“Again, as regards the same Ordinance of temporary marriage (Al Mutáh), Ali caused the passage about it to be entirely excluded. They say that while Caliph, he overheard a man reciting the verse, and had him scourged for the same and forbade its further repetition. And this was one of the things for which Ayesha reproached Ali after the battle of the Camel, when she had retired to the house of Ibn Khalaf (at Bussora); for, among other things, she said that Ali had beaten men in this matter of the. Quran, and forbade the repetition of certain passages, and tampered with the text. Moreover, Ibn Masûd retained his exemplar in his own hands, and it was inherited by his posterity, as it is this day; and likewise the collection of Ali hath descended in his family. “Then followed the business of Hajjâj ibn Yûsuf, who gathered together every single copy he could lay hold of, and caused to be omitted from the text a great many passages. Amongst these, they say, were verses revealed concerning the House Omeyya with the names of certain, and concerning the House of Abbâs also with names. Six copies of the text thus revised were distributed to Egypt, Syria, Medina, Mecca, Kufa, and Bussora. After that he called in and destroyed all the preceding copies, even as Othmân had done before him.

“And the result of all this is patent to thee who hast read the Scriptures, and seest how in thy book histories are all jumbled together and intermingled; an evidence that many different hands have been at work therein, and caused discrepancies, adding to the text, or cutting out therefrom whatever they liked or disliked. Are such, now, the conditions of a Revelation sent down from heaven?

“Furthermore, thy Master was an Arab, living amongst the Bedouins; and to them, and in their language, he submitted his lucubrations. Now it is notorious that the Arabs as a nation are incorrigibly heathenish and graceless; how then could such a people receive from him the secret of the Lord, or truths proper to be revealed to a prophet? Thou knowest the enmity subsisting between Ali and Abu Bekr, Omar, and Othmân; now each of these entered in the text whatever favored 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 Hajjâj? 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.

“All that I have said (continues Al Kindi, after an affectionate personal appeal) is drawn from your own authorities; and no single argument has been advanced but what is based on evidence accepted by yourselves. And in proof thereof, we have the Quran itself, which is a confused heap, with neither system nor order. The sense moreover consisteth not with itself; but throughout one passage is contradicted by another. Now, what could betray greater ignorance than to bring forward such a book as an evidence of Apostleship, and to put it on a par with the miracles of Moses and Jesus! Surely no one with a grain of sense would dream of it; much less should we who are versed in history and philosophy, be moved by such deceptive reasoning. Tell me now, what thy Master intended, when he said ‘that neither Men nor Genii, let them strive together never so hard, could produce a book like unto the Quran.’ If the contention be that the language surpasseth all other composition in eloquence, our answer is that every nation regardeth its own language the most beautiful, while the Arabs hold every other tongue but their own as barbarous; and similarly the Arabic, held by them as the most beautiful, is regarded by other nations to be barbarous. [On the following section see Sura 12:2, 43:2, also Sura 13:40; 20:111; 39:28; 41:2; 42:6; and 46:12.] If the claim be that (apart from all other tongues) the Quran is an unparalleled and miraculous model of Arabic (according to the text, Verily, We have sent down the Quran in the Arabic tongue, if perchance ye may comprehend); then, why do we find in it foreign words, as namâric from the Persian, and mishkât from the Abyssinian, vocabulary. Here is a defect either in the messenger or the message. If there be in the Arabic language no words to express the ideas, then the medium of communication, and therefore the message itself, is imperfect; if otherwise, the messenger.”

“That not the former, but the latter, was the case, Al Kindi enforces by the congenial argument that there were poets, such as Imrul Cays, and men of eloquence and oratory, without number before Muhammad, whose productions surpassed his, both in conception and language. This was cast in the Prophet’s teeth by the Meccans; for he turned round and called them ‘a contentious race.’ And, indeed, Muhammad himself admits as much when he attributes their compositions to magic. [Muir’s footnote: The imputation was often made by the Meccans, as against Muhammad (Sura 34:43; 43:29; 46:6). But here Muhammad is represented as attributing to magic the eloquence of profane writers, whose writings therefore could form no proper argument against a true revelation.] The introduction then of foreign expressions into the Quran must be owing to one of two things; either to the poverty of the Arabian vocabulary, while confessedly it is the richest and most copious of all tongues, or to the fact that different persons had a hand in the work; and our Author leaves his Friend on the horns of this dilemma. “If, again, the claim put forth be that there is in the Quran a supernatural harmony and cadence of language, and beauty of conception; that will be determined by the accuracy of the measures, the purity and fitness of the composition, and the point and charm of thought and imagery. But thy book throughout is broken in its rhythm, confused in its composition, and in its flights of fancy unmeaning.”

“Yet once more, if the claim rest on the matter revealed in the Quran, Al Kindi asks what single truth we find there revealed, unknown to the ancients, and which indeed had not already been handled threadbare. “In our own day,” he says, “mankind are pursuing every branch of knowledge to results unparalleled before; yet what had that to do with such superhuman conditions as were required for miracles like those of Moses or of Christ? The truth, in short, is that the Quran with its manifold defects could only have appeared a miracle of eloquence and learning in the eyes of rude ignorant tribes and barbarous races.” The three false prophets who appeared at the rise of Islam played the same game as Muhammad; and our Author had read passages given out by Moseilama, which would have drawn away the Moslems after him, if only he had had Helpers to support him like those of Muhammad.”

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