From Merchant to Messenger

The Prophet Muhammad's struggle for legitimacy as revealed in the Koran

A Book Revealed

From Merchant to Messenger2:2 This is the Book which cannot be doubted and is a guidance to the God-fearing,

6:55 And thus We expound the revelations so that the way of the criminals becomes clear.

38:29 It is a Blessed Book that We have sent down to you (Muhammad), that they may ponder its Verses, and that those possessed of understanding may remember.


It is a fundamental belief of Muslims that the Holy Koran is truly from God. A person is not a Muslim if he or she does not hold this belief. Muslims believe the Holy Koran is the perfect, eternal and unchangeable word of God. It is a fact the word of God has been preserved in the Holy Koran, and no change whatever has occurred in it since its revelation. It is also a promise of God, and a firmly held belief of all Muslims, that no change will ever occur in the last book of God.

Abdul Rashid, Ottawa Citizen, January 30, 2010

At forty-something, the merchant Abū al-Qāsim Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allāh ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hāshim suffered what we might call a midlife crisis; this crisis may have been exacerbated by a severe sunstroke suffered while helping with renovations of the Ka’ba and from which he almost died. A hadith to that effect:

Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah:

When the Ka'ba was rebuilt, the Prophet and Abbas went to carry stones. Abbas said to the Prophet "(Take off and) put your waist sheet over your neck so that the stones may not hurt you." (But as soon as he took off his waist sheet) he fell unconscious on the ground with both his eyes towards the sky. When he came to his senses, he said, "My waist sheet! My waist sheet!" Then he tied his waist sheet (round his waist).

Bukhari 58.170

It was after one of these life-threatening traumas that the man who would achieve immortal fame as the Prophet Muhammad received his first visit from the angel Gabriel in a cave overlooking Mecca, where he had gone to spend the night in prayer and meditation. The celebrated angel informed him that he had been chosen as God’s ultimate spokesman to deliver the Almighty’s final message for mankind as to how He should be worshipped and how humanity must behave lest His Anger destroy them all. It was all in a book in Arabic that God had authored called the Koran, the most accepted meaning being “to recite,” which He keeps close by at all times in Paradise for safekeeping and consultation.


43 Az-Zukhruf

In the Name of Allah

the Compassionate, the Merciful

43:1 Ha – Mim (no consensus on meaning of symbols).

43:2 By the Manifest Book.

43:3 We have made it an Arabic Qur’an that perchance you may understand.

43:4 And, indeed, it is in the Mother of the Book, with Us, lofty and wise.


A saying of the Prophet would place the Tablet on Allah's Lap or within arm’s reach.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "When Allah completed the creation, He wrote in His Book which is with Him on His Throne, 'My Mercy overpowers My Anger.'"

Bukhari 54.416


The Koran contains no “crookedness.”

18:1 Praise be to Allah, Who revealed the Book to His servant and did not leave in it any crookedness.

18:2 He has made it straight to warn of severe punishment from Himself and announce the good news to the believers, who do righteous deeds, that they shall have a good reward (Paradise).

18:3 Abiding therein forever.

The actual Koran was not available in book form until the reign of Caliph Uthman, the third successor to Muhammad as leader of the believers (the meaning of caliph). Therefore, when you see Allah saying people were reading from the Book, they were actually repeating what Muhammad had preached or, as in the following, mimicking what he was saying.

3:78 And there is a group of them who twist their tongues while reading the Book, so that you may suppose it is part of the Book; whereas it is not part of the Book. They also say: “It is from Allah”, whereas it is not from Allah; they only speak falsehoods against Allah knowingly.

Allah’s Book tells the truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.

23:62 We do not charge any soul beyond its capacity; and We have a Book which utters the truth, and they shall not be wronged.

23:63 But their (Meccan unbelievers) hearts are in confusion with respect to this (the Qur’an); and they have works (misdeeds, Moududi) other than that, which they continue to do.

23:64 Until We seize those who live in luxury among them, and then they groan.

23:65 Do not groan today; you shall not be supported against Us.

23:66 My Revelations were recited to you, but you were turning upon your heels in flight;

23:67 In arrogance, talking nonsense about it by night.

What their illiterate tribesman told them about what was written in this book in the sky, the Meccans considered the rantings of a man possessed (more about this accusation in the next chapter).

23:68 Have they not pondered the Word (the Qur’an); or have they received what was not given to their forefathers?

23:69 Or have they not recognized their Messenger, and so they are denying him?

23:70 Or do they say: “He is possessed”? Rather, he brought them the Truth, but most of them hate the Truth.

The Truth as a corruptible thing!

23:71 If the Truth followed their whims, the heavens and the earth would be corrupted, together with everything therein; but We have brought them their reminder, yet from their reminder they turn away.

The Koran was sent not only to correct errors in the transmission of the Bible but to reveal what was concealed of Allah's original Message. What was left out, and why, is unclear, but it doesn’t matter; "seek His Good Pleasure" by accepting the "clear book" and he will forgive you for whatever you’ve done.

5:15 O People of the Book (Jews and Christians), Our Messenger came to you to show you much of what you used to conceal of the Book (the Scriptures) and to pardon a great deal. Indeed, a light and a clear book (the Qur’an) has come to you from Allah.

5:16 Allah guides with it those who seek His Good Pleasure to the paths of peace, brings them out of the shadows of darkness into the light, by His Leave, and guides them to a straight path.


35:31 What We have revealed to you of the Book is the truth, confirming what preceded it. Allah is Well-Informed about His servants, All-Seeing.

The Koran was sent not to simply correct errors but to remind about what Allah had revealed earlier that had not been corrupted.

21:48 And We gave Moses and Aaron the criterion (the Torah) and a light, and a Reminder for the righteous,

21:49 Who fear their Lord Unseen and are apprehensive of the Hour.

21:50 This is a blessed Reminder (the Qur’an) we have revealed. Are you, then, going to deny it?

The errors in the Torah arose out of a disagreement among the Jews.

45:16 In fact, We gave the Children of Israel the Book, the Judgement and the Prophecy. We provided them with the good things, and preferred them to all other peoples.


6:154 Then We gave Moses the Book, completing Our Grace on Him who would do good, making plain everything and serving as a guidance and mercy, so that they (the Children of Israel) may believe in the encounter with their Lord.


45:17 And We gave them clear proofs of the Decree, but they did not diverge except when the knowledge came to them, out of spite among themselves. Surely your Lord shall judge between them on the Day of Resurrection, regarding that over which they diverge.

That is why, according to Moududi, “the mission that had been entrusted to the children of Israel before you has now been entrusted to you [Muhammad]” in his explanation of the next revelation.

45:18 Then, We set you on a right course of the Decree (religious matters, Moududi) so follow it and do not follow the fancies of those who do not know.

The Koran should have settled the argument, but it didn’t. This is why, as Allah again reminds us, He will deal with “what they differ on” personally on Judgement Day.

27:76 This Qur’an relates to the Children of Israel most of what they differ on.

27:77 And it is, indeed, a guidance and mercy to the believers.

27:78 Your Lord will decide between them according to His Judgement. He is the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing.

These corrections were first sent to the Meccans, those upon whom God “bequeathed the Book,” in the next revelation:

35:32 Then We bequeathed the Book upon those servants We chose ; but some of them wronged themselves, some are lukewarm and some are forerunners in good deeds, by Allah’s leave. That truly is the great distinction.


Allah may have had second thoughts about delivering His Koran to the Arabs.

43:5 Shall We then divert the Reminder from you mercifully, because you are an extravagant people.


Allah singled out the Arabs for His corrected message so that they could not claim ignorance of what He had sent before.

6:155 This Book (the Qur’an) which We sent down is blessed; so follow it and fear God, so that you may receive mercy.

6:156 Lest you should say: “The Book was revealed only to two sects (the Jews and Christians) before us, and we were unaware of their reading.”

6:157 Or lest you should say: “Had the Book been revealed to us, we would have been better guided than they.” A clear proof has come to you from your Lord, and a guidance and mercy, too. Who, then, is more unjust than he who denies Allah’s revelations and turns away from them? We will surely inflict on those who turn away from Our Signs grievous punishment, because they turned away.

The Arabs to whom Muhammad gradually made known Allah’s Revelations were not impressed.

50 QÂF

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

50:1 Qâf (no consensus on meaning). By the glorious Qur’an.

50:2 Yet, they marvel that a warner has come to them from among them, and so the unbelievers say: “This is a strange thing!

50:3 “What, when we are dead and have become dust – that is a far-off return!”

50:4 We know well what the earth shall swallow up of them; for We have a recording Book.

50:5 Yet, they have denounced the Truth when it came to them, and so they are in a confused state. It did not matter that Allah had taken the time to make an Arabic Koran so as to make the content of the book Muhammad was revealing on His behalf easy to remember.

It did not matter that Allah had taken the time to make an Arabic Koran so as to make the contents of the book Muhammad was revealing on His behalf were easy to remember.

44:58 We have made it (the Qur’an) easy in your own tongue, so that they may remember.

44:59 So wait and watch; they are waiting and watching.

Allah's discourse leaves a palpable, if harsh, imprint followed by a mellowing effect on both the skins and hearts of those who hear it.

39:23 Allah has sent down the fairest discourse as a Book, both insistent and corroboratory, from which the skins of those who fear their Lord shiver. Then their skins and hearts mellow at the mention of Allah. That is the guidance of Allah whereby He guides whomever He wishes; and he whom Allah leads astray will have no guide.


46:12 And before it, came the Book of Moses, as a guidance and a mercy; and this is a corroborating Book in Arabic tongue to warn the wrongdoers and serve as good news to the beneficent.


If you don’t believe that this Koran is from Allah, you are deeply mistaken.

41:52 Say: “What do you think? If it (the Qur’an) is from Allah and then you disbelieve in it, who is more astray than one who is given to profound contention?”

The pre-Islamic Arabs were a practical, sceptical people; gods, as far as they were concerned, did not have conversations with mortals. To persuade them otherwise, Allah tells Muhammad to remind the Arabs Who revealed “the Book” to Moses before its follow-up, the Koran.

6:91 They do not show proper regard for Allah’s Greatness when they say: “Allah has not revealed anything to a mortal.” Say: “Who revealed the Book which was brought by Moses as a light and guidance to mankind? You put it in scrolls which you reveal, while you conceal much. And [now] you are taught (in the Koran) what neither you nor your fathers knew.” Say: “Allah [revealed it]." Then leave them to revel in their nonsense.

Those who believe in a Hereafter also believe in the Koran!

6:92 And this is a Book which revealed. [It is] blessed and confirms what preceded it, that you may warn therewith the Mother of Cities (Mecca) and those around it. Those who believe in the Hereafter believe in it and observe their prayers.

With Allah not willing to part with the only copy He made of His Book, Muhammad was expected to memorize what the angel Gabriel, the Messenger to the Messenger, told him was in the Koran, then to regurgitate for his Meccan audience what he had committed to memory. Muhammad wasn’t sure, when they first met—after he had spent a sleepless night in prayer[8] in a cave above Mecca—whether his out-of-this-world visitor was sent by God or Satan. Scared out of his wits, he rushed home and asked his wife Khadija, who took him to see a Christian cousin who knew about these things. The apparition in a hadith:

Narrated Aisha:

The Prophet returned to Khadija while his heart was beating rapidly. She took him to Waraqa bin Naufal who was a Christian convert and used to read the Gospels in Arabic.

Waraqa asked (the Prophet), "What do you see?"

When he told him, Waraqa said, "That is the same angel whom Allah sent to (the Prophet) Moses. Should I live till you receive the Divine Message, I will support you strongly."

Bukhari 55.605

Unfortunately, Waraqa died shortly thereafter and wasn’t available to reassure Muhammad when Gabriel appeared to him the next time, in the open, in all his imposing splendor. The angel, 600 wings and all, followed Muhammad home to convey to him that day’s content of the Koran.

Narrated Abu Ishaq-Ash-Shaibani:

I asked Zir bin Hubaish regarding the Statement of Allah: "And was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer; So did (Allah) convey The Inspiration to His slave (Gabriel) and then he (Gabriel) conveyed (that to Muhammad)." (53; 9-10)

On that, Zir said, "Ibn Mas'ud informed us that the Prophet had seen Gabriel having 600 wings."

Bukhari 54.455

In another hadith, Gabriel is “sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth” (see Appendix Muhammad’s Introduction to Christianity: Waraqa).

The apparition in the Koran:

53:1 By the star when it goes down,

53:2 Your Companion (Muhammad) has not gone astray or erred,

53:3 And he does not talk capriciously.

53:4 It (the Qur’an) is only a Revelation being revealed,

53:5 Taught him by a mighty one (the angel Gabriel),

53:6 Possessed of steadfastness. And so he arose,

53:7 While he was on the highest horizon;

53:8 Then, he came closer and hovered around;

53:9 Coming thus within two bows’ length or closer.

53:10 Then (Allah) revealed to His servant what He revealed.

Again Muhammad looked to his wife Khadijah for reassurance. Like everyone else, she was not party to her husband’s visions.

Narrated Aisha:

Allah's Apostle said, "O Aisha! This is Gabriel sending his greetings to you."

I said, "Peace, and Allah's Mercy be on him."

Aisha added: "The Prophet used to see things which we used not to see."

Bukhari 73.220

Nonetheless, to reassure her husband that it was indeed an angel and not Satan, she told him to get undressed. She did the same and they embraced. Do you still see him, she asked? No, replied her cowering spouse! Then it must have been an angel, she said, because an angel would not have remained to stare at a naked couple embracing. Reassured, her husband begin meeting with Gabriel on a regular basis and learning what this Koran was about.


[8] A lack of sleep produces a natural form of LSD. This has been one explanation given for saints of the Catholic experiencing visions of whom or to what they were praying after a night in devotion.

The Enwrapped

In The Enwrapped, God recommends to Muhammad that he spend only half the night or less keeping watch and the remainder sleeping during which, it is assumed, he will be visited by Gabriel with the latest “weighty discourse” (Revelation 73:5).


73 Al-Muzzamil

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

73:1 O enwrapped one (that is Muhammad, who used to be ‘wrapped up’ when the Koran was imparted to him by the Angel Gabriel),

73:2 Keep vigil throughout the night, except for a little while;

73:3 Half of it, or a little less;

73:4 Or add a little thereto and chant the Qur’an loudly.

73:5 Indeed, We shall deliver unto you a weighty discourse.

73:6 Surely, the early hours of the night are more onerous and more amenable to straight talk.

73:7 You have during the day a long-drawn business.

73:8 Remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself fully to Him.

73:9 He is the Lord of the East and the West; there is no god but He, so take Him as your guardian.

73:10 And bear up with what they say, and forsake them graciously.

73:11 And let Me deal with those who deny and live in luxury; and give them a little respite.

A hadith (among others) about verses from the Koran being communicated while Muhammad slept, when he would have been ‘enwrapped’.

Narrated Safwan bin Ya'la bin Umaiya from his father who said: "A man came to the Prophet while he was at Ji'rana. The man was wearing a cloak which had traces of Khaluq or Sufra (a kind of perfume). The man asked (the Prophet), 'What do you order me to perform in my Umra (the lesser pilgrimage)?' So, Allah inspired the Prophet divinely and he was screened by a place of cloth.

I wished to see the Prophet being divinely inspired.

Umar said to me, 'Come! Will you be pleased to look at the Prophet while Allah is inspiring him?'

I replied in the affirmative.

Umar lifted one corner of the cloth and I looked at the Prophet who was snoring. (The sub-narrator thought that he said: The snoring was like that of a camel).

When that state was over, the Prophet asked, "Where is the questioner who asked about Umra?

Put off your cloak and wash away the traces of Khaluq from your body and clean the Sufra (yellow color) and perform in your Umra what you perform in your Hajj (i.e. the Tawaf round the Ka'ba and the Sa'i between Safa and Marwa)."

Bukhari 27.17

None ever witnessed Gabriel actually reading from the Koran to Muhammad, therefore those who waited with him during that part of the night were not there to see Gabriel but to say the night prayer with their prophet while waiting for him to fall asleep. In Revelation 73:20, which concludes Surah 73 (see The Islamic Hereafter: "Judgement Day", Boreal Books for Verses 73:12-19), God tells Muhammad to “Read, then, what you can of the Qur’an.” This should not be taken literally, as His spokesman was an illiterate and there was no book that Muhammad could physically lay his hands on. Gabriel, in dreams and lucid visions, read passages carved on a tablet in Paradise, which Muhammad may have been allowed to scan, in order to commit it to memory and recall in a sermon which he normally delivered that day.

73:20 Your Lord knows that you keep vigil a little less than two-thirds of the night, and a half or a third thereof, together with a group of your followers. Allah determines the measure of a night and day; He knows that you will not keep it all, and so He has absolved you (Allah measures the night and the day. He knows that you cannot keep an accurate count of it, so He has shown mercy to you, Moududi). Read, then, what you can of the Qur’an. He knows that there will be, among you, sick people and others who journey in the land, seeking part of Allah’s Bounty, and still others who fight for the Cause of Allah. Recite, then, what you can of it, perform the prayer, give the alms and lend Allah a fair loan. Whatever good you forward for your soul’s sake, you shall find it with Allah growing into greater good and a greater wage. Seek Allah’s forgiveness; Allah is indeed All-Forgiving, All-Merciful.

Fakhry, in a footnote, explains that “lend Allah a fair loan” means “spend money in His way.” There are at least five revelations about giving Allah a fair loan. These verses are often used in fundraising campaigns. Example from a fundraising letter:

I am writing to you on behalf of Canberra Islamic Centre (CIC) Executive Committee in the holy month of Ramadan to seek your financial support and prayer for ongoing Islamic project in our National Capital… Your donation is an investment in the path of Islam that will benefit to the Muslim generations in Canberra/Australia. As mentioned in the Holy Qur'an (64.17) “If you lend Allah a fair loan, He will multiply it for you and forgive you. Allah is All Grateful, All Clement.”

The Koran Is Not the Work of the Devil

An argument could be made that the Koran is the devil’s work, due to the obvious pleasure God takes in the pain He inflicted in the past and will inflict on Judgement Day when He confines all His detractors to burn in Hell for an eternity (see The Islamic Hereafter: “Hell” and “Judgement Day.” Boreal Books). Hell, in the Koran, is not the Devil’s own but rather God’s personal torture chamber where He will ensure that those confined to its depths will always experience the maximum amount of pain possible.

4:56 Those who have disbelieved Our Signs, We shall surely cast them into the Fire; every time their skins are burnt, We will replace them by other skins, so that they might taste the punishment. Allah indeed is Mighty and Wise!

Allah assures us that the Koran is not the devil’s work and why.

81:24 He (Muhammad) is not, regarding the Unseen niggardly;

81:25 And it is not the discourse of a devil, accursed.

81:26 Where, then, will you go?

81:27 It is only a Reminder to all mankind;

81:28 To whoever of you who wishes to reform their ways.


26:210 And this (the Qur’an) was not brought down by demons.

26:211 They should not and could not.

26:212 For they are barred from hearing.

The demons, however, have been known to make people believe they are doing good when they are doing bad.

16:63 By Allah, We sent forth [Messengers] to nations before you (Muhammad). But the Devil made their foul deeds seem fair to them. He is their patron, and they shall have a painful punishment. 1

6:64 We have not revealed to you the Book but that you may make clear to them that wherein they differ, and as a guidance and a mercy to a people who believe.

What Does Grammar Have To Do With It?


11 Sûrat Hud

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

11:1 Alif – Lam – Ra. [This is] a Book with Verses which are elaborately formulated and clearly expounded from the Wise, the All-Aware.

11:2 That you should worship none other than Allah; I am truly a warner and a bearer of good news to you from him;

11:3 And ask forgiveness from your Lord; then turn to Him in repentance, that He may allow you a fair enjoyment [in this life] for a fixed term, and may bestow His Bounty on every worthy one; but if you turn away I fear for you the punishment of a Great Day.

11:4 Unto Allah is your return, and He has power over everything.

The Koran may be the work of a god with a sense of humour.

4:82 Do they not, then, ponder over the Qur’an? Had it been from someone other than Allah, they would have found in it many inconsistencies.

Clearly expounded? Yes, for the most part, and some inconsistencies were undoubtedly removed; however, it took a lot of work by ordinary mortals over a long period of time to make it so. They could not, or would not, of course, remove what Allah admits are deliberate ambiguities.

3:7 It is He Who has revealed to you the Book, with verses which are precise in meaning and which are the Mother of the Book, and others which are ambiguous. As to those in whose hearts there is a vacillation, they follow what is ambiguous in it, seeking sedition and intending to interpret it. However, no one except Allah knows its interpretation. Those well-grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in it; all is from our Lord”; yet none remembers save those possessed of understanding!

All modern translations of the Koran, including the one used in this series, are produced from what is known as the Cairo edition prepared at al-Azhar University in the 1920s. “It is based on one of the seven readings permitted by Ibn Mujahid, that of Abu Bakr ‘Âsim (d. 745) as transmitted by Hafs b. Sulayman (d. 796).”[10] The first official edition of the Koran, known as the Uthman Codex (644-61) was distributed during the tenure of the third caliph (the third successor to the Prophet Muhammad). No evidence of this codex exist. “Scholars agree that there is no evidence of the Koran until 691 — 59 years after Muhammad's death — when the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem was built, carrying several Koranic inscriptions,”[11] which has led to speculation about a late origin of much of the Koran. What survived were oral traditions, and one of these is what the Cairo edition is based on.

Uthman's act of standardization succeeded in reducing textual variation, but did not eliminate it altogether. The text established by Uthman accommodated multiple readings.

Because the script in which the early Korans were written lacked most of the vowels and marks that could distinguish several of the consonants, it was possible to read the text in different ways.

To be sure, oral tradition placed a check on variation, disallowing many otherwise feasible readings. Nonetheless, numerous variant readings arose. Some of these affect the meaning, but none change the basic ideas of the Koran.

For example, reciters disagreed over whether verse 57 in sura 6 says God "tells" the truth (yaqussu) or "judges" truthfully (yaqdi), two words that look similar in the Arabic script. But since both ideas are ubiquitous in the Koran, the overall message of the scripture is not affected by either reading.

"The origins of the Koran: From revelation to holy book," Behnam Sadeghi, Stanford University, BBC News, 23 July 2015

Not all are in agreement that the impact of a lack of diacritical marks did not significantly impact the message.

Scholars like Mr. Luxenberg and Gerd-R. Puin, who teaches at Saarland University in Germany, have returned to the earliest known copies of the Koran in order to grasp what it says about the document's origins and composition.

The original copies of the Koran were “written without vowels and diacritical dots that modern Arabic uses to make it clear what letter is intended. In the eighth and ninth centuries, more than a century after the death of Muhammad, Islamic commentators added diacritical marks to clear up the ambiguities of the text, giving precise meanings to passages based on what they considered to be their proper context.”

In many cases, the differences can be quite significant. Mr. Puin (taught at Saarland University in Germany),points out that in the early archaic copies of the Koran, it is impossible to distinguish between the words ''to fight'' and ''to kill.'' In many cases, he said, Islamic exegetes added diacritical marks that yielded the harsher meaning, perhaps reflecting a period in which the Islamic Empire was often at war.

"Scholars Are Quietly Offering New Theories of the Koran, Alexander Stille," New York Times, March 2, 2002


[10] Forgotten Witness: Evidence For The Early Codification Of The Qur’an, Estelle Whelan, Columbia University

[11] "Scholars Are Quietly Offering New Theories of the Koran," Alexander Stille, NYT, March 2, 2002