home   |                                                    

Islam Reviewed


Prior Chapter - Contents - Next Chapter

The Bible book of Genesis records the murder of Abel by his brother
Cain. There is also an account of this event in the Koran (Sura 5:30-35).
However, at the concluding part of the Koranic story, we find an unusual
assertion which has no parallel in the Bible record:

"Then God sent a raven, who scratched the ground, to show
him how to hide the shame [corpse] of his brother" (Sura 5:34)

If that assertion is true, then one should marvel at how a holy God could
not only wink at a cold-blooded murder, but also support the murderer
by helping Cain to hide the body.

Well, according to Muslims, Islam did not start with Muhammad. By
their doctrine, Cain could have been a Muslim, and the murder of his
brother could have been an act of Jihad. If we  accept that line of
reasoning, we can then understand how Allah justifies what the Bible
God condemns (Genesis 4:10). The point is this: Sura 5:34 quoted above
is similar to stories in a Jewish book of fables, where it is recorded that
Adam wept for Abel and did not know what to do with his corpse until
he saw a raven scratch the ground and bury its dead companion (Pirke
Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 21).

In the Koran, it is Cain who saw the raven and in the Jewish book
of fables, it is  Adam.  Apart from that slight difference; the weird
similarity between the two narratives cannot be overlooked. Since the
Jewish book predates the Koran, it appears that Muhammad (with the
aid of his secretaries) plagiarized the story and made  a  convenient
adjustment that would fit his divine "revelation." This conclusion is
reinforced when we consider the very next verse in the Koran:

"On that account: we ordained for the children of Israel that if
any man slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spread-
ing mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole
people and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the
life of the whole people" (Sura 5:35)

At first glance, this verse seems to have no link with the preceding story.
Why the life or death of one should be as the salvation or destruction of

 28   Islam Reviewed

all mankind is unclear. But when we turn to another Jewish book of
folklore we find a similar tale. We read the following in the Mishnah
translated by H. Danby:

"We find it is said in the case of Cain who murdered his brother:
'The voice of thy brother's blood crieth' (Genesis 4:10). It is not
said here blood in the singular but blood in the plural, that is,
his own blood and the blood of his seed. Man was created
single in order to show that to him who kills a single individual
it shall be reckoned that he has slain that whole race, but to him
who preserves the life of a single individual, it is counted that
he hath preserved the whole race." (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).

In the reasoning of the Jewish rabbi who wrote these words, the use
of the plural blood in the Bible indicates not only the blood of one man
but that of his whole progeny. Whether the Rabbi's speculative interpre-
tation is right or not, is not the issue. The issue is this: why should a
Koran that is alleged to have been revealed by Allah contain a corrupted
restatement of an existing rabbinical interpretation of a Biblical passage?

The Koranic story of Abraham is patterned after the Biblical account,
but when it digresses, the departure can usually be traced to Jewish
fables. For instance, the Koran narrates a story about Abraham's father
and his idolatrous community. According to the Koran, Abraham (the
monotheist) is alleged to have destroyed all the idols except the chief
one. When questioned as to who broke the idols, he mockingly told them
to inquire from the spared idol as to what happened to the rest. This
made the mob angry and they supposedly threw Abraham into burning
fire, but Allah made the fire cool and rescued him from their evil plot.
This story is recorded in Sura 21, Al-Anbiya, 51-70. As expected, that is
a story with striking similarities to one recorded in Jewish folklore.

Incidentally, this fable was  built around a mistranslation of a
Hebrew word in Genesis 15:7. A Jewish scribe by the name Jonathan
"Ben Uzziel mistook "Ur" for "Or" (meaning fire), and rendered the verse
"I am the Lord who brought you out of the fire of the Chaldeans." The

 Islam Reviewed    29

Koranic fable was welded around that palpable error.1 What God did say
in Genesis 15:7 was:

I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees.

A brief quotation of the Jewish version in the "Midrash Rabah" will
prove its striking similarity to the Koranic narrative which is widely
alleged to be a revelation from Allah.

"Abraham broke all the idols with one axe except the biggest
one and then placed the axe in the hand of the idol he spared.
Now his father heard the commotion and ran to investigate and
saw Abraham leaving as he arrived. When he was accused by
his father, he said he gave them meat to eat but the others went
for the food without waiting for the biggest to do so first, so the
biggest one took the axe and shattered them all! Then his father
enraged by Abraham's reply went to Nimrod who threw Abra-
ham into fire but God then stepped in and save him from it."

The similarity between those two narratives is inescapable. That a story
from Jewish  folklore found its way into the Koran as historic reality
should cause any thoughtful Muslim to doubt the alleged inspiration of
the Koran. The Koran's penchant for fables reaches its climax in Surat an
- Namil, 18:

"At length, when they came to a [lowly] valley of ants, one of
the ants said: '[;O ye ants, get into your habitations, lest Solomon
and his hosts crush you [under foot]  without  knowing  it'"

If you explain the verse away as a metaphor, then you are wrong, for
Solomon is alleged to have smiled at the speech of the ant (Verse 19).
Who says Koran is not an "ultimate miracle'? An ant commanding and
talking, indeed! People will believe just about anything if they see it in
writing or hear it often enough.

 1 Ur was a place that archaeological evidence shows to have existed during the
time of Abraham. Ur is also mentioned elsewhere in Scripture (Genesis 11:31). The
location is believed to be in Southern Iraq, by the River Euphrates, at the present
day site of Tel-el-Muqayyar.

Prior Chapter - Contents - Next Chapter