Did The Quran Plagiarize From The Infancy Gospel of Thomas? 




Bassam Zawadi




Several Christian polemicists put forth this argument (*,*,*,*).


Yet the problem that many of these Christians don't realize is that they are employing double standards. Christian apologists are continuously answering critics who claim that Christianity was influenced by paganism and several of its myths. However, Christian apologists are either replying by saying:


-  This is an act of Satan's deception: Many of the early church writers such as Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian claimed that the similarities between Christianity and paganism were a Satanic attempt at "diabolical mimicry," which means that Satan purposely ensured that stories similar to what would be included into the future Gospels would be pre-recorded in pagan sources so that it appears that Christians copied from the earlier pagan sources. They view this as some pre-emptive strike from Satan against Christianity. It's also possible that Satan's deception could be that he is whispering into the ears of skeptics and tempting them to opt for the belief that pagan myths influenced Christianity.


Similarity does not equal sameness: Christian apologists would claim that just because one story has similar features to another, that doesn't necessarily imply that they are the same story since it's very likely that a story told could be similar to another story in certain aspects yet not totally the same.


- There is no evidence that pious Christians would have copied off pagan sources: Christian apologist Sam Shamoun said (bold emphasis mine):


If Smith wants to prove that Christianity borrowed from these pagan religions, not the other way, then he must establish the following:

·He must provide some pre-Christian evidence, whether archaeological inscriptions, artifacts etc., showing that these pagan stories existed before the time of Jesus.

·He must also show that such stories were not just in circulation, but that they were circulating in first century Palestine.

·He must then demonstrate that God-fearing, monotheistic Jews such as Christ's followers would be interested in plagiarizing such myths in the first place. (Sam Shamoun, The Alleged Pagan Origins of Christianity: Examining More of Abdullah Smith's Continuing Intellectual Suicide MissionSource) 

They also have other responses, such as appealing to chronology and trying to illustrate that Christianity influenced many of these pagan beliefs and not the other way around.

So Christian polemicists putting forth the claim that the Qur'an plagiarized from the Infancy Gospel need to be consistent and:

-  Prove that this is not merely a Satanic attempt where Satan tried to ensure that the story of Jesus eating in the cradle didn't find its way into any first-century sources because he knew that many historians in the future would adopt a historical method that would drive them to say that this story is a forgery. Or that Satan is currently the one responsible for whispering into the ears of skeptics that the obvious conclusion to derive from a story being found in both the Qur'an and Infancy Gospel is that the Qur'an plagiarized the story.

-  Prove that the story found in the Qur'an and Infancy Gospel are the same and not merely similar.

- Using Sam Shamoun's similar words: "Demonstrate that a God-fearing, monotheistic believer such as Muhammad (peace be upon him) would be interested in plagiarizing such myths in the first place."

It appears that Christians have no way of performing all the above three tasks hence why do they apply double standards?

For instance, let's look at the third point mentioned above regarding Shamoun's comment.

We know that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a sincere person. Almost everyone who has studied the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would non-hesitantly admit that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was sincere. Regardless of whether he was sincerely right or wrong or whether any other aspect of his character could be criticized, they would admit that he was at least subjectively sincere and believed that he was receiving revelations from God.

W. Montgomery Watt states:


His readiness to undergo persecutions for his beliefs, the high moral character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as leader, and the greatness of his ultimate achievement - all argue his fundamental integrity.  To suppose Muhammad an impostor raises more problems than it solves.  Moreover, none of the great figures of history is so poorly appreciated in the West as Muhammad. (W. Montgomery Watt, Mohammad at Mecca, Oxford 1953, p. 52) 

Sir William Muir said:


It is strongly corroborative of Mahomet's sincerity that the earliest converts to Islam were not only of upright character, but his own bosom friends and people of his household; who, intimately acquainted with his private life, could not fail otherwise to have detected those discrepancies which ever more or less exist between the professions of the hypocritical deceiver abroad and his actions at home. (Sir William Muir, The Life of Mahomet, page 54) 


I agree with Sprenger in considering 'the faith of Abu Bakr the greatest guarantee of the sincerity of Mohammed in the beginning of his career' - and, indeed, in a modified sense, throughout his life. (Ibid., page 56)

J.W.H. Stobart said:

Abu Bakr was a man of the purest character. His friendship for Mahomet, and unwavering belief in his mission, are a strong testimony to the sincerity of the prophet. (J.W.H. Stobart, Islam and its Founder, page 209)

Tor Andrae said:


The genuineness and sincerity of Mohammed's piety, and the honesty of his belief in his religious call, are indisputable. (Tor Andrae, Mohammed: The Man and his Faith, page 185)


John Gilchrist said:


We can safely reject the view that Muhammad was a deliberate impostor. Throughout the twenty-three year period of his assumed ministry, he held to the unflinching conviction that he was called to be a prophet and that the revelations he was receiving were coming to him from above. (John Gilchrist, Muhammad and The Religion of Islam, Chapter: A Study of Muhammad's Personality: An Assessment of His Personality)


Arthur Glyn Leonard said:


If ever a man on this earth found God, if ever a man devoted his life to God's service with a good and great motive, it is certain that the Prophet of Arabia (Muhammad) is the man. Muhammad was not only the greatest but truest man that humanity has ever produced. (Arthur Glyn Leonard, Islamher moral and spiritual value: A Rational and Psychological Study, pages 18-19) 


Here, we see that even non-Muslim critics of Muhammad (peace be upon him) had to at least admit that he was sincere and believed he was receiving revelation from God. In that case, it is difficult to imagine that the Prophet (peace be upon him) knowingly plagiarized material and included it in the Qur'an.


Now, citing scholars isn't enough, and it's important to also look at some evidence pointing to the Prophet's (peace be upon him) sincerity. Let us see some highlights of the Prophet's (peace be upon him) life, which make it clearly evident that he was truly sincere.


The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) bore a son named Ibrahim. Approximately a year and a half after his birth, he died. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was very distressed by the death of his son. The day the Prophet's (peace be upon him) son died, there was an eclipse:


            Saheeh Bukhari


Volume 2, Hadith no. 153


Narrated Al-Mughira bin Shu'ba:


"The sun eclipsed in the life-time of Allah's Apostle on the day when (his son) Ibrahim died. So the people said that the sun had eclipsed because of the death of Ibrahim. Allah's Apostle said, "The sun and the moon do not eclipse because of the death or life (i.e. birth) of some-one. When you see the eclipse pray and invoke Allah." 


Notice how the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) erroneously believed that the sun had eclipsed due to the death of his son. If Muhammad (peace be upon him) were a false prophet and insincere, he would have easily used the opportunity to take advantage of the situation and affirmed what his companions were saying, which is that the sun was eclipsing due to the death of his son. However, we see that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was forthright and denied that this was the case and that the sun and the moon do not eclipse because of the death of anyone. Here, we see that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was sincerely speaking the truth instead of using the chance to impress the people by affirming their statements.


Another instance occurred after the Prophet (peace be upon him) migrated from Mecca to Medina. The Meccans were planning to assassinate the Prophet (peace be upon him) thus the Prophet (peace be upon him) had bodyguards to guard him until Allah revealed the following verse:


            Surah 5:67


O Messenger! deliver what bas been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message, and Allah will protect you from the people; surely Allah will not guide the unbelieving people. 


After this verse was revealed, the Prophet (peace be upon him) told his bodyguards to stop guarding him, for he received a promise from God that he would be protected. (See Sunan Al Tirmidhi [Hadith Number 3046] Sheikh Al-Albani said it is authentic from the way of Aisha in Saheeh Al-Tirmidhi under Hadith Number 3046; Al-Mustadrak fi al Saheehayn [Hadith Number 3221]: Imam Al Dhahabi said it is authentic as well as Al-Hakim; U'mdat Altafseer (an abridged commentary on Ibn Kathir's commentary) [Volume 1, page 710]: Ahmad Shakir said the narration is authentic.)


If Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not sincerely believe that he was a Prophet of Allah, would he have ordered such a thing, especially when he knew that his life was in actual danger and shouldn't take any risks? The answer is no.


Allah Almighty revealed the following verse:


            Surah 17:79


And during a part of the night, pray Tahajjud beyond what is incumbent on you; maybe your Lord will raise you to a position of great glory. 


Ibn Abbaas states in his commentary:


(And some part of the night awake for it) to recite the Qur'an and to pray after sleeping a little, (a largess for thee) a merit for you; it is also said that this means: you alone are enjoined to do so. (Ibn Abbaas, Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn 'Abbâs, Commentary on Chapter 17, Verse 79) 


My question is, why would the Prophet (peace be upon him) make a prayer late into the night compulsory upon himself in exclusion of the rest of the Muslims? Why would he do that to himself? Doesn't this show that the Prophet (peace be upon him) sincerely believed in and followed the revelation he was receiving besides making them up?


Also, an incident occurred with Aisha, the wife of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), in which she was falsely accused of committing adultery, and she and the Prophet (peace be upon him) had to wait in distress for the verse from the Qur'an to come down to vindicate Aisha of the crime. (Read the story in the Qur'anic commentaries under Chapter 24, Verse 11)


Now, if the Prophet (peace be upon him) were the author of the Qur'an, he would have quickly (instead of waiting for more than a month and causing distress for himself) made up a verse vindicating his beloved wife and also saved himself from the distress of having people suspecting his own wife for cheating on him. However, his sincerity shows that he did not make up the Qur'an but was waiting to receive revelation from Allah Almighty.


The Arabs were challenged to produce something like the Qur'an, then ten Surahs (chapters) similar to it, and then one Surah similar to it:


Surah 2:23


And if ye are in doubt as to what we have revealed from time to time to our servant then produce a surah like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (if there are any) besides Allah if ye are truthful.


Surah 52: 33-34


Or do they say: "He fabricated the (message)" nay, they have no faith! Let them then produce a saying like unto it, If (it be) they speak the truth! 


The question I would like to ask is, which insincere prophet would author a book and challenge the best Arab poets to find discrepancies in it? Would any sensible layman in mechanics challenge the mechanics of BMW or Mercedes to critique him and expose him? Doesn't this show that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was so confident about the revelations he was receiving?


Yes, one may think that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sincerely wrong, but I am trying to make the point that it is reasonable to assume that he was at least sincere.


So, according to Christian standards, wouldn't this serve as evidence that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not plagiarize?


Just because the Qur'an mentions stories about Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) or David (peace be upon him), which are also found in the Bible, does not necessarily imply that it was copied from the Bible. It is very possible that those true stories were maintained in the Bible, and the Qur'an came to confirm their authenticity, especially when we take into consideration that this is one of the functions of the Qur'an. (Surah 5:48). There is no reason to think otherwise regarding the story of Jesus in the cradle.


The Christian might object and say that the Qur'an came to confirm the Gospel and Torah and that the story of Jesus in the cradle or making a bird from clay is not found in the Bible, rather it is found in an apocryphal book. However, as we have clearly clarified, Islam teaches that the Gospels that Christians adhere to today only contain some truth, while other truth is missing. Hence, it's possible that the cradle story is true yet hasn't found its way into the Bible.


The Christian would still insist that this story is not found in the Bible and that this is problematic. In response to this, we reply that "lack of evidence does not necessarily imply evidence of absence." The author of John's Gospel makes it clear that Jesus did many things (possibly miracles as well) that weren't recorded (John 21:25). Therefore, there is a good reason for us to believe that it's at least possible that this miracle of Jesus was also not recorded.


Someone might argue that the Gospels teach that Jesus' ministry began later in life, while the Qur'an seems to indicate that it happened shortly after his birth.


Well, first of all, this begs the question of whether whatever the Gospels have said is true.


Secondly, it would be possible to harmonize between the two claims if necessary. Perhaps Jesus did this initially as a baby in order to vindicate his mother from the false accusations leveled against her and show that his birth was indeed a miracle from God (if you can believe that a baby can speak, then why not believe in the virgin birth?). Then, later on in the future, Jesus began preaching full-time, and this is what the Gospel authors were referring to.


Furthermore, just because the Infancy Gospel was authored in the second century does not exclude the possibility that it might have included stories circulating during the first century.


There is much doubt surrounding this book and where it has obtained its information from:

           No final judgment about the original form and content is possible.

Even if the earliest version of this gospel remains uncertain (Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, page 311-312)

The individual stories themselves, however, may derive from the end of the first century-though there is no possibility of proving so early an origin for any of them. (F. Lapham, An Introduction to the New Testament Apocrypha, page 129)


If there is even a possibility that some of the stories contained in this book could have come from the first century and be true, then Christians have no right to claim with certainty that this story of Jesus (peace be upon him) speaking in the cradle is a forgery. 

Some Christians, such as the early Islamic critic Tisdall, tried to suggest that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) plagiarized the story from Mary the Copt, who back in Egypt had access to the story of Jesus in the cradle since it was either popular and she heard the story, or she read the Coptic translation from the Arabic version of the Infancy Gospel (Injil Al-Tufuliyyah). However, this assertion is not convincing because:

1) Possibility does not equal probability.

2) No motive has been provided for Muhammad (peace be upon him) to plagiarize the story, and it doesn't fit in with his overall character as a sincere person, for his sincerity is recognized by almost all people who have studied his life (more on this below).

3) The Qur'anic verse about Jesus in the cradle was revealed in Mecca, while the Prophet (peace be upon him) met Mary the Copt only during the Medinan period.

Now, the Christian may reply and say:


"Obviously, we cannot prove with 100% certainty that Muhammad plagiarized from the Infancy Gospel, since when dealing with history, we are forced to work with probabilities. What we are saying is that the probability that Muhammad plagiarized from the Infancy Gospel is so high that it is more reasonable to assume that he did than to suggest otherwise. To suggest otherwise is to be prejudiced"


I of course agree that we are only dealing with probabilities when it comes to history, however probabilities are dependent upon certain variables. One could not say that something is probable or improbable without working with some background information. I contend that it is more reasonable to state that it is probable that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not plagiarize based on the convergence of the following points:  1) His sincerity and truthfulness; 2) his illiteracy; 3) lack of ready access to Jewish and Christian documents; 4) improbability of the presence of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas in the Hijaz 5) The many striking differences between the Quranic stories and the parallels in the Judeo-Christian documents, with a virtual lack of verbal similarities; 6) and the many more differences between the Quranic story and the account in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.


We need to remember that the similarity between a Qur'anic account and a Biblical (or non-Biblical) story is not proof of the former borrowing from the latter. They could have the same source as well. Why could it not be that a certain event occurred and eventually came to be recorded either in Biblical or non-Biblical writing and later Allah revealed the story to Muhammad (peace be upon him)? If a priori we reject the possibility of Muhammad's (peace be upon him) prophethood, then we would have no choice but to look for a non-divine solution (i.e., that Muhammad (peace be upon him) either directly or indirectly borrowed a certain story). But if we are open to the possibility of revelation, miracles, and Muhammad's (peace be upon him) prophethood, then the mere fact that two stories are the same or similar does not by itself negate the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) or that he received the information through fresh revelation. Only by a priori denying the possibility of revelation and miracles can we come to this conclusion. We need to ensure that we are not appealing to the fallacy of false cause when examining this issue.  

From a purely historical perspective, we cannot say with confidence that the story of Jesus making a clay bird and miraculously giving it life is a fabrication. It could be that this story was in circulation in the first century. Now, at the same time, we cannot say with confidence and certainty that this story existed in the first century. From a purely historical perspective, we must conclude: WE DON'T KNOW. It may be in existence (either orally or in a written form) in the first century, or it was not. There is no evidence to speak against its existence (oral or written) in the first century, nor any positive evidence to "demonstrate" its existence in the first century (oral or written). All we know is that it existed in a written form in the fifth/sixth century (in a manuscript of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas) and that there may be evidence of its existence during the time of Irenaeus (180 AD).[1] Given the fact that oral traditions continued to be valued and in circulation even after the writing of the canonical gospels, we cannot a priori rule out the real possibility of authentic (and inauthentic/contaminated) oral traditions from the first century finding their way into documents which were not included in the canonical list of writings. Non-canonical documents may very well contain first-century traditions, though identifying these traditions and determining their extant is not historically possible.  The canonical documents cannot possibly consist of all or a big sample of traditions floating around in the first century.

Also, Muslims do accept this story as a genuine miracle from the life of Jesus (peace be upon) simply because the Quran says so. For the very same reason, we accept the miracle of Jesus' virgin birth, the miracle of his healing the sick, and the miracle of raising the dead. Miracles are accepted on faith. Christians ALSO accept the miracle of the virgin birth on faith, among other miracles mentioned in the gospels.


Furthermore, Jesus making a clay bird and giving that bird life is not more "grand" than Jesus actually raising dead men and walking on water. None of these stories are more "legendary" than the other. Thus, on the face of it, there would appear to be no reason to suspect the story of Jesus making a clay bird and miraculously giving it life. Just because it is found in a non-canonical document does not by itself follow that this tradition could not go back to the first century.

If one wishes to dismiss this story of the clay-bird miracle as a "legend," how is Jesus' raising of Lazarus not a legend? JUST BECAUSE A STORY IS NOT FOUND IN THE CANONICAL GOSPELS, IT DOES NOT FOLLOW THAT IT IS A LEGEND.

Third, modern scholars are far more cautious on the question of the "sources" of the Quran than the earlier generation of scholars and writers, such as Tisdall and Geiger. The predominant stance of modern scholars is that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is unlikely to have had possession of actual written documents, be it Biblical documents or non-canonical Judeo-Christian writings. The reason is the lack of direct quotations from the latter in the Quran and the so many differences between the Quranic stories and their Biblical (canonical and non-canonical) counterparts. Instead, the common view is that Muhammad (peace be upon him) "must" have been reliant upon Biblical and non-Biblical traditions orally, which he then altered and reshaped to suit his own needs. Such a hypothesis is quite possible only if we dismiss the possibility of Muhammad (peace be upon him) receiving revelation from God.

In a recent essay on the question of Quranic sources, Gerhard Bowering (Professor of Islamic Studies at Yale University) writes (Essay: "Recent Research On The Construction of The Quran." In "The Qur'an in its Historical Context," p. 70 (bold added):

"No single collection of biblical writings, normative, apocryphal or midrashic, however, has been identified as the major source in which the Qur'an may have been rooted.1 To the best of our present knowledge, the Bible had not been translated into Arabic by the time of Muhammad, either in its entirety or in the form of single books.2 It is generally believed that Muhammad gathered his biblical knowledge principally, if not exclusively, from oral sources.3 This oral lore was communicated to Muhammad in his mother tongue, but its original forms were in Syriac, Aramaic, Ethiopian and Hebrew materials, as evidenced by the vocabulary of foreign origin to be found in the Arabic Qur'an.4 This foreign vocabulary formed an integral part of Muhammad's proclamation and was understood by his audience in Mecca and Medina whom he addressed in eloquent Arabic.5"

and (p. 83, bold mine):

"During his lifetime, Muhammad had a good number of his Qur'anic proclamations copied down by scribes, but there is no evidence that he used foreign written source materials for the composition of the Qur'an. Until the appearance of evidence to the contrary, one has to support the position that it was oral information on which the Qur'an drew directly, even if behind this oral information there was a core of passages extracted from written traditions that were translated into Arabic from one or the other of its sibling languages. This core, however, has not yet come to light in a distinct form. The almost total absence in the Qur'an of direct parallels with the normative, midrashic or apocryphal biblical traditions 60 makes it impossible to argue for a direct dependence on written sources. Essential sections of the Qur'anic message were received from the oral lore of a variety of religious communities who were rooted in the widely dispersed and non-normative Jewish and Christian traditions. Not a single written source, whether scriptural or liturgical, however, has been identified that would satisfy the search for an underlying Ur-Qur'an, whether postulated as a Christian hymnal or a Syro-Aramaic lectionary, that served as a written source book for the Qur'an.[2]

As an example, we may actually point to Jesus' clay-bird miracle in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which states:

When this boy, Jesus, was five years old, he was playing at the ford of a rushing stream. (2) He was collecting the flowing water into ponds and made the water instantly pure. He did this with a single command. (3) He then made soft clay and shaped it into twelve sparrows. He did this on the sabbath day, and many other boys were playing with him.
(4)But when a Jew saw what Jesus was doing while playing on the sabbath day, he immediately went off and told Joseph, Jesus' father: "See here, your boy is at the ford and has taken mud and fashioned twelve birds with it, and so has violated the sabbath."
(5)So Joseph went there, and as soon as he spotted him he shouted, "Why are you doing what's not permitted on the sabbath?"
(6)But Jesus simply clapped his hands and shouted to the sparrows: "Be off, fly away, and remember me, you who are now alive!" And the sparrows took off and flew away noisily.
(7)The Jews watched with amazement, then left the scene to report to their leaders what they had seen Jesus doing.

Compare the above with the Quranic account. In two locations, the Quran mentions this miracle. In Surah 3:49, we read:

"And (appoint him) an apostle to the Children of Israel, (with this message): "'I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah's leave ...

Then in Surah 5:110, we read:

Then will Allah say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the holy spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave ...

If Muhammad (peace be upon him) was copying from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, or reliant upon it even indirectly, why were its crucial details omitted? The Quran does not mention the "soft" clay, the "twelve sparrows," Jesus' "clapping of hands" and his "crying" to the sparrows: "Be off..." It does not mention Jesus (peace be upon him) asking the sparrows to remember him and the sparrows noisily flying. In fact, the entire framework of the story is absent in the Quran (the sabbath story).

If the Quran was dependent upon the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, why would its Author omit so much - He omitted everything except for mentioning the miracle of the clay-bird?

The Quran only states that Jesus made a bird from clay and it transformed into an actual bird when he breathed into it. The Quran then emphasizes that this was God's miracle, done through Jesus (peace be upon him). Thus, it is highly unlikely that Muhammad (peace be upon him) had a copy of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas in his lap and was copying directly from it.

Could it be that Muhammad (peace be upon him) acquired this story indirectly, as it was circulating orally (with its ultimate source being the Infancy Gospel of Thomas)? This is "possible." Though one wonders, is it likely that the written story would later transmit orally in such a way that it was completely stripped from all the exciting details in its written form and a total absence of its framework? That seems quite improbable.

We may also compare the story about Jesus (peace be upon him) speaking in the cradle where it says in the Infancy Gospel:

"... Jesus spake when he was in the cradle, and said to his mother: "Mary, I am Jesus the Son of God, the Word, which thou didst bring forth according to the declaration of the angel Gabriel, and My Father hath sent me for the salvation of the world."

While in the Qur'an it states:

Surah 19:28-34

"O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a harlot. Then she pointed to him. They said: How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle? He said: "I am indeed a servant of Allah. He has given me the Book and has made me a prophet. And has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I remain alive, And (has made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and hath not made me arrogant, unblest. Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive! Such was Jesus, son of Mary: (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt.

Notice that in the Infancy Gospel Jesus tells his mother that he is the Son of God. That is absent from the Qur'an. Christians may argue back that this is because Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not agree with this label, however notice that in the Infancy Gospel Jesus also tells his mother that he is the word. The Qur'an also refers to Jesus (peace be upon him) as a word from Allah. There's no reason why Muhammad (peace be upon him) wouldn't have had Jesus saying to his mother that he is a word from Allah if he was indeed plagiarizing, since that could be possibly harmonized with the Qur'an. There's also no mention of angel Gabriel in the Qur'an.

Similarity between the Quranic account and the story in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas would only be "problematic" for Muslims if the possibility of God's revelation is a priori dismissed. If it is not a priori dismissed, then we have no problem. Muhammad (peace be upon him) did receive this story, lacking all details added to it in the written Christian record, through revelation from Allah.


[1] But there is an earlier reference from Irenaeus, as Cameron notes:

In his citation, Irenaeus first quotes a non-canonical story that circulated about the childhood of Jesus and then goes directly on to quote a passage from the infancy narrative of the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:49). Since the Infancy Gospel of Thomas records both of these stories, in relative close proximity to one another, it is possible that the apocryphal writing cited by Irenaeus is, in fact, what is now known as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Because of the complexities of the manuscript tradition, however, there is no certainty as to when the stories of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas began to be written down. (cited here)

[2] In a footnote, Bowering writes:

60 To stress again, only a very small number of Qur'anic verses parallels small passages of the apocryphal gospels, and only one Qur'anic verse, Q 21:105, is a direct quotation from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), namely Psalm 37:29. The earliest known Muslim Arabic citation from the New Testament is the passage of John 15:23-16:1 which is presented in summary form by Ibn Ishaq (d. 767 CE) in Muhammad's biography, see F. Wüstenfeld (ed.), Das Leben Muhammeds nach Muhammad Ibn Ishaq, 1, 149-50. For the small harvest of parallels between Qur'anic passages and the Syriac liturgy, see E. Graf, "Zu den christlichen Einflüssen im Koran," Festschrift Joseph Henninger: Studia Instituti Anthropos Bonn, Al-Bahith 28, 1976, 121-44.


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Shamoun responds over here.

Shamoun states:

On what basis does Muhammad's subjective sincerity constitute proof for the divine origin of his teaching if the same conclusion does not hold for these other men?

This is nothing more than a red herring. I never argued that Muhammad's (peace be upon him) sincerity constituted proof for the divine origin of his teaching. Rather, I said that this at least illustrates that he didn't knowingly plagiarize something and attributed it directly to God as being spoken by Him. This is what I said:

In that case, it is difficult to imagine that the Prophet (peace be upon him) knowingly plagiarized material and included it into the Qur'an.


Yes, one may think that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sincerely wrong, however the point that I am trying to make is that it is most reasonable to assume that he was at least sincere.

So wouldn't this then according to Christian standards serve as evidence that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not plagiarize?

Even Shamoun is aware of this, for he said earlier in his article:

Nor does it follow that Muhammad's sincerity proves that the Quran is from God, as even Zawadi realizes. 

So Shamoun earlier in his article states that I realize that Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) sincerity isn't proof that the Qur'an is the word of God. Then a few paragraphs later, Shamoun asks:

On what basis does Muhammad's subjective sincerity constitute proof for the divine origin of his teaching if the same conclusion does not hold for these other men?

This is extremely confusing! Why is Shamoun asking this question when he already acknowledges that I never made this claim? Shamoun is very confused and needs to make up his mind what he wants to argue!

Shamoun said:

Finally, the issue is not that Muhammad plagiarized the Arabic Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Rather, the argument is that Muhammad heard Christians referring to this story and therefore decided to include it in his Quran since he erroneously assumed that it was an actual miracle performed by the historical Jesus.

But that is precisely the problem. If the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was truly sincere then he couldn't have done that! The Qur'an is not like the Bible. If it was then someone could argue that Muhammad (peace be upon him) sincerely believed that he was inspired to write the contents of the Qur'an. But that is not the case. Rather, Islam teaches that the actual words in the Qur'an were spoken by God. Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught this. If the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught that Allah spoke the Qur'an, but then he went ahead and wrote it himself knowingly, then this just goes to show that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) wasn't sincere. However, I have argued that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was indeed sincere, hence we must rule plagiarism and knowingly writing the Qur'an from his own mind out of the question. The critic would need to offer another explanation instead.

Shamoun said:

There is actually no need to disprove this since in actuality it is not that Satan made sure that the story of Jesus speaking in the cradle wasn't written in any first century documents. Rather, my conviction is that Satan may have actually influenced Muhammad to adopt fables such as this one from these Christian apocryphal sources in order to dupe Christians of Muhammad's time to believe that the Quran acknowledges the miraculous life and ministry of Jesus.

Shamoun is free to have his "convictions", but the point is that he cannot prove them nor could he disprove the Biblical mimicry argument.

Shamoun mentions the story found in Ibn Ishaq:

The names of the fourteen principal men among the sixty riders were: 'Abdu'l-Masih the 'Aqib, al-Ayham the Sayyid; Abu Haritha b. 'Alqama brother of B. Bakr b. Wa'il; Aus; al-Harith; Zayd; Qays; Yazid; Nubayh; Khuwaylid; 'Amr; Khalid; 'Amr; Khalid; 'Abdullah; Johannes; of these the first three named above spoke to the apostle. They were Christians according to the Byzantine rite, though they differed among themselves in some points, saying He is God; and He is the son of God; and He is the third person of the Trinity, which is the doctrine of Christianity. They argue that he is God because he used to raise the dead, and heal the sick, AND DECLARE THE UNSEEN; AND MAKE CLAY BIRDS AND THEN BREATHE INTO THEM, SO THAT THEY FLEW AWAY; and all this was by the command of God Almighty, 'We will make him a sign to men.' They argue that he is son of God in that they say he had no known father; AND HE SPOKE IN THE CRADLE and this is something that no child of Adam has ever done. They argue that he is the third of three in that God says: We have done, We have commanded, We have created and We have decreed, and they say, If He were one he would have said I have done, I have created, and so on, but He is He and Jesus and Mary. Concerning all these assertions the Quran came down.

Ibn Ishaq said that Muhammad bin Ja'far bin Zubair bin Al Awaam told him the story, but Muhammad bin Ja'far came a generation after the Prophet's death and we have not been informed where Muhammad bin Ja'far got this story from and how accurate its wording really is.

Shamoun said:

The foregoing explains why Muhammad's version of this apocryphal fable lacks "the exciting details" found in the "written form" and why "its framework" is missing.

Well, as I already stated this is technically speaking a "possibility":

Could it be that Muhammad (peace be upon him) acquired this story indirectly, as it was circulating orally (with its ultimate source being the Infancy Gospel of Thomas)? This is "possible." 

Shamoun then says:

The problem that Zawadi faces is that the Islamic sources which were just cited emphatically prove that Muhammad took the very exact story which he heard from this Christian group and included it within the Quran. This explains why the Quran's story of Jesus creating clay birds is identical to the version narrated by the Christians from Najran, i.e. Muhammad acquired his information directly from the Christians who had obviously derived it from the apocryphal Christian Gospels which they had either read or heard.

"Emphatically prove"? This is where Shamoun's bias clearly kicks in, since he assumes that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a false prophet and isn't willing to grant the possibility that the Qur'an revealed the story of Jesus in response to the Najrani Christians and would very likely word it the same way the Najrani Christians would.

This is also assuming that the story is reliable. Furthermore, Ibn Ishaq is not presenting the actual words of the Najrani Christians, but is ONLY SUMMARIZING what they said and talked about with the Prophet. How could Shamoun say with any shred of confidence that "the Quran's story of Jesus creating clay birds is identical to the version narrated by the Christians from Najran"?

Shamoun proceeds on to the second part of his article, however I haven't seen Shamoun presenting any real arguments with any measure of substance that would call for responding to them. This is because Shamoun's arguments are based on the assumption that Muhammad (peace be upon him) wasn't sincere and knowingly includes information into the Qur'an, while claiming to the people that they are the direct words uttered by God. Unless, Shamoun illustrates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) wasn't sincere I see no reason to interact with arguments based on false assumption. 



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