Friday, September 05, 2014

Muhammad's Lesser Credentials

There's a lot to criticize in the Quran, but the issue I'd suggest Christians focus on most is authority. We don't have sufficient reason to conclude that Muhammad was a messenger of God. And we have far more reason to trust Jesus than to trust Muhammad.

There are many passages in the Quran in which Muhammad refuses to perform miracles when asked to do so, suggests that the Quran is the only miracle he'll provide, or contrasts himself to individuals who performed miracles, for example (e.g., 6:35-7, 6:109, 6:124, 7:203-4, 7:52, 8:32-3, 10:20, 11:12, 13:7, 13:27, 15:6-8, 17:59, 17:90-3, 20:133, 21:5-6, 29:50-1, 30:58, 45:25). Though the Quran often refers to miracles performed by Moses, Jesus, and other figures, there are relatively few passages that possibly or probably refer to supernatural activity in the life of Muhammad. Some of the miracles referred to had no supposed witnesses other than Muhammad, such as his alleged receiving of revelations from Gabriel. The splitting of the moon in surah 54 is far too vague and unverifiable to be significant. Why even think the Quran is claiming that it's a miracle performed by Muhammad in the seventh century? The notion that Muhammad fulfilled Old or New Testament prophecies is absurd, and, even if granted, would be of far less quantity and quality than Jesus' prophecy fulfillments. (For some examples of the problematic nature of Islamic claims of prophecy fulfillment by Muhammad, see Sam Shamoun and David Wood's video here and James White's debate with Zakir Hussain here.) The alleged prophecies in 30:2-4 and 66:3 can easily be explained naturalistically, and they have nothing like the supporting evidence we have for Jesus' prophecy fulfillments (e.g., pre-Christian Old Testament manuscripts). Notice that one of the passages I cited at the beginning of this paragraph (30:58) is from a surah in which Muhammad provides a supposed prophecy. As unimpressive as the few alleged miracles in Muhammad's life are when considered by themselves, they're even more dubious when viewed in the larger context I referred to at the beginning of this paragraph. Muhammad's contemporaries frequently suggested that he wasn't performing miracles, and he frequently offered explanations for why he wasn't providing miracles to support his claims. That larger context makes the small handful of alleged miracles of Muhammad more suspicious. There's nothing in Muhammad's life that's as verifiable as, say, Jesus' fulfillment of the Suffering Servant prophecy or his resurrection.

And the overall contrast between Muhammad's life and Jesus' life is striking:

"all ancient sources which comment on the issue agree that Jesus and his early followers performed miracles: Q, Mark, special material in Mark and Luke, John, Acts, the Epistles, Revelation, and non-Christian testimony from Jewish and pagan sources. (The non-Christian sources attribute the miraculous works to sorcery, which must represent the earliest anti-Christian explanation for Christian miracles.) This unanimity is striking given the conversely unanimous silence in Christian, Jewish, and even Mandean tradition concerning any miracles by respected prophetic figures like John the Baptist….Sanders regards it as an 'almost indisputable' historical fact that 'Jesus was a Galilean who preached and healed.' Using traditional historical-critical tools, Meier finds many of Jesus' miracles authentic. Raymond Brown notes that 'Scholars have come to realize that one cannot dismiss Jesus' miracles simply on modern rationalist grounds, for the oldest traditions show him as a healer.' Otto Betz regards it as 'certain' that Jesus was a healer, a matter which 'can be deduced even from the Jewish polemic which called him a sorcerer.' The miracles are central to the Gospels, and without them, most of the other data in the Gospels are inexplicable. For that matter, there are no contemporary accounts which transform Jewish teachers into miracle workers. Morton Smith thus argues that miracle working is the most authentic part of the Jesus tradition….After carefully comparing the accounts of Jesus’ miracles with those of others, Meier concludes that 'the early dating of the literary testimony to Jesus' miracles, that is, the closeness of the dates of the written documents to the alleged miracles of Jesus' life, is almost unparalleled for the period.'" (Craig Keener, The Gospel Of John: A Commentary, Vol. 1 [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003], 257-9)

For a discussion of some of the evidence for Jesus' fulfillment of prophecy, see here. There are many other posts on the subject in our archives, such as here and here on the Davidic descent prophecy and here on the Bethlehem prophecy. An index of our posts on Biblical prophecy in general can be found here. And here's an index of our posts on Jesus' resurrection. On early non-Christian corroboration of Jesus' miracles, see here. I've written a series of posts about miracles done in Jesus' name in the modern world.

The Quran frequently recounts how Moses outperformed the magicians of Pharaoh. Similarly, Jesus has outperformed Muhammad, by a wide margin, and their contradictory claims don't allow us to accept both as messengers of God.


  1. Very compelling, nice work, and the links are helpful as well.

  2. If anyone is interested, I collected links to 5 videos by Sam Shamoun and David Wood where they give 50 reasons for why Muhammad is not a prophet. They are very informative.

    Here are the titles of the videos:

    Top Ten Reasons Muhammad Is Not a Prophet

    Ten MORE Reasons Muhammad Is Not a Prophet

    Another Ten Reasons Muhammad Is Not a Prophet

    Yet Another Ten More Reasons Muhammad Is Not a Prophet

    Yep, Its Ten More Reasons Muhammad Is Not a Prophet

  3. Thanks Jason

    And nice compilation AP