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Ibn Warraq and the Sira

Reader comment on item: Study the Koran?

Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Oct 12, 2014 at 11:18

Dr. Pipes

I will conclude the review of this great book, Christmas in the Qur'an, by bringing to your attention an old article by Alfred Guillame and it is included in Ibn Warraq's book

Alfred Guillame translated Sirat rasul Allah and it is the most outstanding translation of the Sira

The author of the Sira was Ibn Ishaq and we know that he is the grandchild of a Christian from Mesopotamia who was brought to Medina as a slave and that Ibn Ishaq moved to may be Syria and he ended in Baghdad and died in may be 767CE

His copy of the sira is not extant but what we have now is an redacted copy by Ibn Hisham who died in Egypt sometime in the 830'sCE

Guillame brings to the attention of the readers an ascription attributed to Ibn Ishaq where he informs the readers that one can find Muhammad mentioned in the Bible

However the text is very strange. Ibn Ishaq does not use the Quranic and Arabic form of the name John or يحنا (Surat Maryam 19) or Yuhana or Yuhana al-Me'medan يحنا المعمدان or John the Baptist or even the Syriac from of the name Yuhanan Me'medana or ܝܘܚܢܢ ܡܥܡܕܢܐ and instead he is using the Greek form of the name or يحنس or Yuhannas

It really makes one wonder that the Quranic name Yahya was not even stable as late as 767CE when Ibn Ishaq died otherwise he would have used it

Now Guillame proves that the source of Ibn Ishaq's claim comes from a Palestinian Syriac Lectionary word for word but nontheless edited by Ibn Ishaq and we do have the Latin version and it can be compared with what is in Ibn Ishaq's text and the results are really amazing. Guillame proves that Ibn Ishaq's text provided in Ibn Hisham's redaction has been corrupted in several places as in changing the word Aba in the text to Rabb and the word batiru (which has no meaning must be read as Nazaru or they saw. And the word Yu3azunanni is not in the text and it must be the Syriac word Senau which should be read as Arabic Abghada.

However the most amazing sentence is هذا النبي يرسله الله اليكم من عند الرب which means and this prophet (Muhammad) sent by Allah to you from your Lord!

It just does not make any sense at all

Then Guillame proves very well that the word تشكوا which would be read by most Arabs as You suspect must be read by a Palestinian Arab at the time as scandalized and this is the word we find in the Latin translation of the text

As for Ibn Ishaq's روح القسط or Ruh al-Qist ( the etymology of word القسط or al-Qist must be from the name of the emperor Constantine and it now means justice but this is read now as al-Ruh al-Qudus الروح القدس or Gabriel) he does not identify who is reall this Ruh al-Qist in this text

Last Ibn ishaq tells the reader that Muhammad is المنحمنا or ܡܢܚܡܢܐ which is a Syriac word for he who rises from the dead and that Muhammad also must be the Paraclete

Guillame concludes that the source of such text must be an Arab (Christian) who was bilingual (Arabic and Syriac) and indeed Ibn Ishaq does not provide the name of his source. However the source could very well be Ibn Ishaq himself because his mother tongue was Syriac

So what does all of this mean? It really means that parts of the sira have been corrupted and as per Guillame: "Trustworthy information about the Christians of Arabia before and immediately after the rise of Islam is so scanty that it has seemed worth while to draw attention to the citation of the NT in such early work as the Sira in the hope that some scholar may be able to pursue the enquiry further."

And for this I say Amen

I urge readers to go out and buy this book. Ibn Warraq's efforts for bringing the history of early Islam to the readers are just great and should be applauded

Thank you Dr Pipes

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