Descriptions of Muhammad
• In Ibn Sa’d’s Kitab al-Tabaqat, he narrates a tradition
where ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam quotes the following as a
verse from the Torah: “O Prophet! Lo! We have sent you
as a witness and bringer of good tidings and a warner,
and as protector of the ummiyun. You are my servant and
apostle. I have named you mutawakkil, who is neither
harsh nor coarse, and who does not make noise in the
markets nor returns evil for evil but who forgives and
pardons. I shall not cause him to die until I make the
crude creed straight and the people recite ‘There is no
god but Allah.’ He will make blind eyes see, deaf ears
year, and hard hearts soft.”
• Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kubra (Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1957), 360-361, translated by
Gordon Nickel in The Gentle Answer To The Muslim Accusation of Biblical Falsification
(Calgary, AB: Bruton Gate, 2015), 62-63.
Descriptions of Muhammad
• He also relates a story where a Christian named Sahl
finds the following description in a copy of the Gospel: “He
will be neither short nor tall stature. He will be of white
complexion with two locks. Between his two shoulders
there is a seal. He will often sit with his legs folded. He will
not accept sadaqa. He will ride the donkey and the camel.
He will milk the she goat and put on a patched shirt, and
he who does that is free from pride and he will do that. He
will be a descendant of Isma’il, and his name will be
• Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat , 363, translated in Nickel, The Gentle Answer, 63-64.
Surat al-Baqarah, 2:79
• “Woe to those who write the book with their own
hands, then say, ‘This is from Allah,’ in order to
sell it for a small price. Woe to them for what their
hands have written and woe to them for what they
Surat al-Baqarah, 2:75
• “Do you hope that they would believe for you
while a party of them used to hear the words of
Allah and then distort the Torah after they had
understood it while they were knowing?”
Surat Āl Imrān, 3:113
• “They are not the same; among the People of the
Scripture is a community standing, reciting the
verses of Allah during periods of the night and
Surat al-Baqarah, 2:78
• “And among them are unlettered ones who do not
know the Scripture except in wishful thinking, but
they are only assuming.”
What is the Book?
• What is “the book” being talked about in Q 2:79?
It is never identified
• The Jews don’t just hold to the Bible as God’s
Word; they also have the oral Torah, as encoded
in the Mishnah and Talmud
• Q 2:79 could just as easily be referring to these
books rather than the Bible
Conflicting Occasions of Revelation
• Muslim commentators cannot agree on what the occasion of
revelation ( سببالنزول ) for Q 2:75-79.
• Muqatil b. Sulayman (8th century) holds that its occasion of
revelation was during Moses’ day, and the corruption was only
• Al-Tabari (9th century) relates two different traditions, one from
Moses’ day and one from Muhammad’s; both are corruptions
of meaning only
• Al-Wahidi (10th century) relates that a group of Arabian Jews
removing Muhammad’s description as a reaction against him
during his day—an isolated case of textual corruption.
• Ibn Kathir (14th century) relates a tradition of general corruption
occurring to the scriptures of the Jews and Christians en toto
• Q 2:79 is not a clear verse ( ايةمبين ), but an unclear
verse ( ايةمتشبهة )
• We don’t know its occasion of revelation, as there
are too many conflicting reports
• Even if it did refer to an instance of textual
corruption, the context indicates that it is an
Tearing the Book to Shreds
• Surat al-Hijr, 15:90-91: “As we sent down on the dividers,
who have made the Qur'an into shreds...”
ON THE CORRESPONDENCE
BETWEEN PSEUDO-LEO AND
Dating the Correspondence
• “Thorough examinations of the manuscript
concerning its contents, style and the way it was
recorded, show that it originates from the 10th
century, most likely from the times of caliph
Mutawakkil (847-861) or a little bit later. On the other
hand, the reply of Leo III mentioned the disciples of
al-Gahiz († 869). Therefore, according to A. Jeffery
that text was written not earlier than the second half
of the 9th century or in the first half of the 10th
• Krzysztof Koscielniak, “Dispute about Christ: Christological aspects of the
Christian-Islamic polemics from the early ages of Islam based on the
correspondence ascribed to Caliph Umar II († 720) and Byzantine emperor Leo III
(† 741).” pg. 82.
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