Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

How Allah killed his prophet

From Inspiration to Expiration

Sam Shamoun


Muhammad fails the prophetic criteria of the Holy Bible (12345) showing that, from a biblical perspective, the Allah of the Quran is not God, the Quran is not God’s Word, and Muhammad is not God’s prophet. Moreover, as astonishing as this may sound, Muhammad fails his own test, his own criteria of prophethood, and actually came under the very condemnation he warned of in the case of anyone who would want to tamper with God’s Word and/or concoct words in the name of God. This means that not only was Muhammad not a legitimate messenger of the true God according to the Holy Bible but that by his own standard which he set up in the Quran he was a person whom his own god rejected and condemned. 

The aim of this present article is to document in what way Muhammad violated his own criteria and how he suffered the consequences as a result of it. 

The Evidence

The Quran warned Muhammad not to change the so-called revelation or invent sayings since Allah would punish him:

And when Our signs are recited to them, clear signs, those who look not to encounter Us say, 'Bring a Koran other than this, or alter it.' Say: 'It is not for me to alter it of my own accord. I follow nothing, except what is revealed to me. Truly I fear, if I should rebel against my Lord, the chastisement of a dreadful day.' S. 10:15 Arberry

it is the speech of a noble Messenger. It is not the speech of a poet (little do you believe) nor the speech of a soothsayer (little do you remember). A sending down from the Lord of all Being. Had he invented against Us any sayings, We would have seized him by the right hand, then We would surely have cut his life-vein. S. 69:40-46 Arberry

Consider how harsh these warnings are… Allah threatens to kill Muhammad if he dared to concoct statements in his deity’s name or change the inspiration which supposedly came to him.

These threats become all the more intriguing in light of the fact that, according to Muslim sources, Muhammad did change the message of the Quran due to the suggestions of one of his scribes who then apostatized as a result of it! In fact, according to Muslim sources, the following text:

Who is more wicked than the man who invents a falsehood about God, or says: “This was revealed to me”, when nothing was revealed to him? Or the man who says, “I can reveal the like of what God has revealed”? S. 6:93 N.J. Dawood

Was “revealed” in reference to this event:

(Who is guilty) who is more tyrannical and more daring (of more wrong than he who forgeth a lie against Allah, or saith) Allah did not reveal anything, this is Malik Ibn al-Sayf, or him who says: (I am inspired) with a Scripture, (when he is not inspired in aught) with any Scripture, this is Musaylimah, the liar; (and who saith: I will reveal the like of that which Allah hath revealed) I will say the like of what Muhammad (pbuh) is saying: this is 'Abdullah Ibn Sa'd Ibn Abi Sarh. (If thou couldst see) O Muhammad, (when the wrong-doers) the idolaters and the hypocrites, on the Day of Badr (reach the pangs of death and the angels stretch their hands out) to take out their souls, (saying: Deliver up your souls) your spirits. (This day) the Day of Badr, as it is said it is the Day of Judgement (ye are awarded doom of degradation) a severe doom (for that ye spake concerning Allah other than the Truth, and scorned) you thought yourselves too great to believe in Muhammad (pbuh) and the Qur'an, (His portents) Muhammad (pbuh) and the Qur'an. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; bold, italic and underline emphasis ours)

This same commentary asserts that Q. 16:106:

Whoever disbelieved in Allah after his belief, except him who is forced thereto and whose heart is at rest with Faith but such as open their breasts to disbelief, on them is wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a great torment. Hilali-Khan

Also refers to Ibn Abi Sarh’s apostasy: 

(Whoso disbelieveth in Allah after his belief) in Him, deserves Allah's wrath (save him who is forced thereto) except the person who is coerced into disbelief (and whose heart is still content with Faith). This verse was revealed about 'Ammar Ibn Yasir (but whoso findeth ease in disbelief) whosoever utters words of disbelief willingly: (On them is wrath from Allah. Theirs will be an awful doom) the most awful torment in this worldly life. This verse was revealed about ‘Abdullah Ibn Sa'd Ibn Abi Sarh. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; bold emphasis ours)

Other exegetes who concur with the foregoing tafsir regarding Abi Sarh being the one spoken of in Q. 6:93 include the following:

(Who is guilty of more wrong than he who forgeth a lie against Allah, or saith: I am inspired…) [6:93]. This was revealed about the liar, Musaylimah al-Hanafi. This man was a soothsayer who composed rhymed speech and claimed prophethood. He claimed that he was inspired by Allah. (… and who saith: I will reveal the like of that which Allah hath revealed?) [6:93]. This verse was revealed about ‘Abd Allah ibn Sa‘d ibn Abi Sarh. This man had declared his faith in Islam and so the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, called him one day to write something for him. When the verses regarding the believers were revealed (Verily, We created man from a product of wet earth…) [23:12-14], the Prophet dictated them to him. When he reached up to (and then produced it as another creation), ‘Abd Allah expressed his amazement at the precision of man’s creation by saying (So blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators!). The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “This [‘Abd Allah’s last expression] is how it was revealed to me”. At that point, doubt crept into ‘Abd Allah. He said: “If Muhammad is truthful, then I was inspired just as he was; and if he is lying, I have uttered exactly what he did utter”. Hence Allah’s words (and who saith: I will reveal the like of that which Allah hath revealed). The man renounced Islam. This is also the opinion of Ibn ‘Abbas according to the report of al-Kalbi. ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abdan informed us> Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Nu‘aym> Muhammad ibn Ya‘qub al-Umawi> Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Jabbar> Yunus ibn Bukayr> Muhammad ibn Ishaq> Shurahbil ibn Sa‘d who said: “This verse was revealed about ‘Abd Allah ibn Sa‘d ibn Abi Sarh. The latter said: ‘I will reveal the like of that which Allah has revealed’, and renounced Islam. When the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, entered Mecca, this man fled to ‘Uthman [ibn ‘Affan] who was his milk brother. ‘Uthman hid him until the people of Mecca felt safe. He then took him to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and secured an amnesty for him”. (‘Ali ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul)

The commentator Al-Qurtubi said,

The pronoun "man" is grammatically in the jarr case. The meaning is who is more wicked than he who said I can reveal; the person addressed here is ‘Abdullâh Ibn Sâd Ibn Abî Sarh who used to write the revelation for the Prophet of God, later on he apostatized and joined the pagans. The reason given by the commentators is that when the verse 23:12 {We created man of an extraction of clay} was revealed, the Prophet called him and dictated it to him and when the Prophet reached the end of 23:14 {... thereafter We produced him as another creature} ‘Abdullâh said in amazement {So blessed be God the fairest of creators!}. The Prophet said: (and thus it was revealed to me) which made ‘Abdullâh doubt and say: “If Muhammad is truthful then I received the revelation and if he lied I say of the like of his speech.” So he apostatized and joined the pagans and this is concerning the segment {Or the man who says, “I can reveal the like of what God has revealed”}, narrated by Al-Kolaby from Ibn ‘Abbâs. It was also narrated by Muhammad Ibn Ishâq who said Sharahbîl said: {Or the man who says, “I can reveal the like of what God has revealed”} was revealed concerning ‘Abdullâh Ibn Sâd Ibn Abî Sarh who apostatized. When the Prophet entered Mecca he ordered him and ‘Abdullâh Ibn Khatal and Miqyas Ibn Sabaabah to be executed even if they were under the curtains of the Ka'bah. So, ‘Abdullâh Ibn Sâd Ibn Abî Sarh fled to ‘Uthmân, his foster brother - his mother suckled ‘Uthmân. The latter hid him until he brought him to the Prophet after the inhabitants of Mecca became secure and he sought immunity for ‘Abdullâh. The Prophet remained silent for a long time and then said: (Yes). When ‘Uthmân left, the Prophet said (I said nothing so that one of you executed him). A man among the Ansâr said: “Then why didn't you give me a sign, O Prophet of God?” He answered: (the treachery of the eyes does not befit a Prophet.) Abu Omar said: “And ‘Abdullâh Ibn Sâd Ibn Abî Sarh converted back to Islam during the conquest of Mecca and his Islam was fine, and later, his behavior was beyond reproach. He was among the wise and the noble from Quraysh, and was the knight of Bani 'Aamir Ibn Lu'ayy and was respected among them. Later, ‘Uthmân named him to govern Egypt in the year 25 H. He conquered Africa in the year 27 H and conquered Nuba in the year 31 H and he was the one who signed with the Nubians the armistice that is still valid today. He defeated the Romans in the battle of as-Sawâry in the year 34 H. When he returned from his advent, he was prevented from entering al-Fustât [the capital of Egypt], so he went to 'Asqalân where he lived until the murder of ‘Uthmân. It was also said: He lived in Ramlah until he died away from the turmoil. And he prayed Allah saying: “O Allah! make the prayer of Subh the last of my deeds. So he performed Wudu' and prayed; he read Surat al-Fâtihah and al-'Aadiyaat in the first rak'ah and read al-Fâtihah and another surah in the second rak'ah and made salâm on his right and died before he made salâm on the left side. All this report was conveyed by Yazîd Ibn Abî Habîb and others. He didn't pledge allegiance to ‘Alî nor to Mu'âwiyah. His death was before the people agreed on Mu'âwiyah. It was also said that he died in Africa, but the correct is that he died in 'Asqalân in the year 36 H or 37 H and it was rather said 36 H…

Another famous Tafsir states:

“‘To me it has been revealed, when naught has been revealed to him’ refers to 'Abdallah Ibn Sa'd Ibn Abi Sarh, who used to write for God's messenger. The verse (23:12) that says, ‘We created man of an extraction of clay’ was revealed, and when Muhammad reached the part that says, ‘… thereafter We produced him as another creature’ (23:14), ‘Abdallah said, ‘So blessed be God the fairest of creators!’ in amazement at the details of man's creation. The prophet said, ‘Write it down; for thus it has been revealed.’ ‘Abdallah doubted and said, ‘If Muhammad is truthful then I receive the revelation as much as he does, and if he is a liar, what I said is a good as what he said.’” (Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta‘wil by 'Abdallah Ibn 'Umar al-Baidawi; bold emphasis ours)

Ibn al-Athîr said regarding Ibn Abi Sarh that:

He converted to Islam before the conquest of Mecca and immigrated to the Prophet [i.e. in Medina]. He used to record the revelation for the Prophet before he apostatized and went back to Mecca. Then he told Quraysh: ‘I used to orient Muhammad wherever I willed, he dictated to me “All-Powerful All-Wise” and I suggest “All Knowing All-Wise” so he would say: “Yes, it is all the same.” (Usûd Ulghâbah fî Ma'rifat Is-Sahâbah, [Dâr al-Fikr, Beirut (Lebanon), 1995], Volume 3, p. 154; bold emphasis ours)

We read in Alfiyyat us-Sîrat in-Nabawiyyah by al-Hâfidh al-‘Iraqî that:

The scribes of Muhammad were 42 in number. `Abdallah Ibn Sarh al-`Amiri was one of them, and he was the first Quraishite among those who wrote in Mecca before he turned away from Islam. He started saying, “I used to direct Muhammad wherever I willed. He would dictate to me 'Most High, All-Wise', and I would write down 'All-Wise' only. Then he would say, 'Yes it is all the same'. On a certain occasion he said, 'Write such and such', but I wrote 'Write' only, and he said, 'Write whatever you like.’” So when this scribe exposed Muhammad, he wrote in the Qur'an, "And who does greater evil than he who forges against God a lie, or says, 'To me it has been revealed', when naught has been revealed to him." So on the day Muhammad conquered Mecca, he commanded his scribe to be killed. But the scribe fled to `Uthman Ibn `Affan, because `Uthman was his foster brother (his mother suckled `Uthman). `Uthman, therefore, kept him away from Muhammad. After the people calmed down, `Uthman brought the scribe to Muhammad and sought protection for him. Muhammad kept silent for a long time, after which he said yes. When `Uthman had left, Muhammad said “I only kept silent so that you (the people) should kill him.”

The biography of Ibn Abi Sarh, titled Al-Isaabah fi Tamyeez Al-Sahabah (Volume 4, p. 109, kaf = 0, ba' = 0, ha' = 4714) states: 

Abdullah bin Sa'd bin Abi Sarh bin Al-Harith Abu Yahya Al-Qurashi Al-Amiri

4714 ---- Abdullah bin Sa'd bin Abi Al-Sarh bin Al-Harith bin Habeeb Bilmuhmlah Musghira bin Huthafah bin Malik bin Hasl bin Amir bin Lu'ai Al-Qurashi Al-Amiri, and some inserted [into his genealogy] Huthafa and Malik Nasra. The first one is more famous and his Kunyah is Aba Yahya. He [Abdullah] was Othman's [the fourth Caliph] brother by nursing (rida'ah), and his mother was Ash'ariyyah (Al-Zubayr bin Bikar said that). Ibn Sa'd said that her mother is Muhabah bint Jaber. Ibn Habban said that his father was one of Quraysh's hypocrite infidels - that's what he said and I haven't seen any other [view]. Al-Hakim narrated from al-Suday, by Mus'ab bin Sa'd by his father, “When it was the day of the conquering (fath) of Mecca, the Prophet gave safety to all its people except for four men and two women; Ikrimah, Ibn Khatl, Maqees bin Subabah, and Ibn Abi Al-Sarh.” He went on with the Hadeeth and said, “As for Abdullah, he hid with Othman, so he [Othman] came to the Prophet with him, while he [Mohammad] was making vows of allegiance (bay'ah) with the people. So Othman said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, make a vow of allegiance (bay'ah) with Abdullah.’ And so he did after three attempts. Then he [Mohammad] went to his companions and said, ‘Isn't there any honorable man among you who would stand and kill him [Abdullah] when he saw me refusing to make the vow with him?’” And from Yazeed Al-Nahwi by Ikrimah by Ibn Abbas who said, “Abdullah bin Sa'd used to write for the Prophet, so Satan made him err and he followed the infidels. The Prophet ordered his death (meaning of the day of Conquering Mecca), but Othman intervened and asked for his safety, so the Prophet kept him safe [didn't kill him].” (Taken from the Encyclopedia of the Prophet’s Hadeeth Mawsoo'at Al-Hadeeth Al-Nabawi - Al-Areesh Company for Computers "Sharikat Al-Areesh lil-computer" - Beirut – 1998; bold and underline emphasis ours)

One modern Shia commentary admits:

This verse was revealed to condemn the half brother of Uthman, Abdullah bin abi Sarah (and men like him). He was a Jew but joined the group of pagans after renouncing his faith. After becoming Muslim he was sometimes asked to write down the revealed verses but he used to change the words of the revealed verses while writing them, and then claimed that whatever he had composed should have also been accepted as revelation. (Pooya/Commentary; bold emphasis ours)

The late Iranian Islamic scholar Ali Dashti, in his masterful examination of Muhammad’s prophetic career, wrote:

When Mecca was conquered, a general amnesty was proclaimed, but certain exceptions were made. The Prophet gave orders for the killing of six persons wherever they might be found, even in the sanctuary of the Ka‘ba. They were Safwan b. Omayya, ‘Abdollah b. ol-Khatal, Meqyas b. Sobaba, ‘Ekrema b. Abi Jahl, ol-Howayreth b. Noqaydh b. Wahb, and ‘Abdollah b. Sa‘d b. Abi Sarh.

The last named had for some time been one of the scribes employed at Madina to write down the revelations. On a number of occasions he had, with the Prophet’s consent, changed the closing words of verses. For example, when the Prophet had said “And God is mighty and wise” (‘azizhakim), ‘Abdollah b. Abi Sarh suggested writing down “knowing and wise” (‘alimhakim), and the Prophet answered that there was no objection. Having observed a succession of changes of this type, ‘Abdollah renounced Islam on the ground that the revelations, if from God, could not be changed at the prompting of a scribe such as himself. After his apostasy he went to Mecca and joined the Qorayshites…

‘Abdollah b. Abi Sarh was a foster-brother of ‘Othman. He took refuge with ‘Othman, who kept him hidden for several days until the commotion subsided, and then brought him to the Prophet and requested pardon for him. After a long silence, the Prophet said, “Yes”, meaning that he reluctantly accepted ‘Othman’s intercession. Thereupon ‘Abdollah b. Abi Sarh professed Islam again and ‘Othman and he departed. The Prophet, when asked the reason for the long silence, replied, “His Islam was not voluntary but from fear, so I was reluctant to accept it. I was expecting one of you to stand up and behead him.” (This was because it had been proclaimed that his blood might be lawfully shed in any place where he might be found, “even if clinging to the covering of the K‘aba”). One of the Ansar asked the Prophet why he had not winked, and received the answer that “God’s Apostle cannot have false eyes”, meaning that he could not falsely pretend silence while giving a sign with the eyes to kill… (Dashti, 23 Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad, translated from the Persian by F.R.C. Bagley [Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, CA 1994], pp. 98-99; bold emphasis ours)

Finally, the hadith compiler Abi Dawud provides implicit corroboration for this story’s veracity since he narrates the following: 

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas:
Abdullah ibn AbuSarh used to write (the revelation) for the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him). Satan made him slip, and he joined the infidels. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) commanded to kill him on the day of Conquest (of Mecca). Uthman ibn Affan sought protection for him. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) gave him protection. Book 38, Number 4345)

Ibn Abi Sarh wasn’t the only scribe who defected as a result of influencing Muhammad to change the Quran; a Christian did as well: 

Narrated Anas:
There was a Christian who embraced Islam and read Surat-al-Baqara and Al-Imran, and he used to write (the revelations) for the Prophet. Later on he returned to Christianity again and he used to say: “Muhammad knows nothing but what I have written for him.” Then Allah caused him to die, and the people buried him, but in the morning they saw that the earth had thrown his body out. They said, “This is the act of Muhammad and his companions. They dug the grave of our companion and took his body out of it because he had run away from them.” They again dug the grave deeply for him, but in the morning they again saw that the earth had thrown his body out. They said, “This is an act of Muhammad and his companions. They dug the grave of our companion and threw his body outside it, for he had run away from them.” They dug the grave for him as deep as they could, but in the morning they again saw that the earth had thrown his body out. So they believed that what had befallen him was not done by human beings and had to leave him thrown (on the ground). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 814)

Putting aside the obvious legendary embellishments, it is rather evident from the above narration that there was a growing problem of people claiming to have influenced Muhammad in composing the Quran which the Muslims had to address and explain away. The Quran itself refers to this problem:

And indeed We know that they (polytheists and pagans) say: “It is only a human being who teaches him (Muhammad SAW).” The tongue of the man they refer to is foreign, while this (the Qur'an) is a clear Arabic tongue. S. 16:103 Hilali-Khan

Those who disbelieve say: “This (the Qur'an) is nothing but a lie that he (Muhammad SAW) has invented, and others have helped him at it, so that they have produced an unjust wrong (thing) and a lie.” And they say: “Tales of the ancients, which he has written down, and they are dictated to him morning and afternoon.” Say: “It (this Qur'an) has been sent down by Him (Allah) (the Real Lord of the heavens and earth) Who knows the secret of the heavens and the earth. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” S. 25:4-6

In light of the foregoing, we must ask the following questions: If these were in fact God’s words how could Muhammad even allow an uninspired scribe to change them? How could Muhammad replace divinely revealed statements with the words of a fallible human being?

At the beginning of this paper we referred to a warning of the Quran against changing any of its contents:

And when Our clear revelations are recited unto them, they who look not for the meeting with Us say: Bring a Lecture other than this, or change it. Say (O Muhammad): It is not for me to change it of my accord. I only follow that which is inspired in me. Lo! if I disobey my Lord I fear the retribution of an awful Day. S. 10:15 Pickthall

That it is indeed the speech of an illustrious messenger. It is not poet's speech - little is it that ye believe! Nor diviner's speech - little is it that ye remember! It is a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds. And if he had invented false sayings concerning Us, We assuredly had taken him by the right hand And then severed his life-artery, S. 69:40-46 Pickthall

Then we reviewed the reports about Abdullah ibn Sa’d Abi Sarh suggesting changes to certain formulations in the Quran and Muhammad approving his suggestions.

The punishment announced in these verses is quite specific. Having seen that Muhammad clearly violated the command against meddling with the alleged divine revelation, it is even more amazing to see the manner in which Muhammad expired. According to Muslim tradition Muhammad died a very painful death due to the effects of poison, effects that he claimed cut at his jugular vein:

The messenger of God said during the illness from which he died - the mother of Bishr had come in to visit him – “Umm Bishr, at this very moment I feel my aorta being severed because of the food I ate with your son at Khaybar.” (The History of Al-Tabari: The Victory of Islam, translated by Michael Fishbein [State University of New York (SUNY), Albany 1997] Volume VIII, p. 124)

In a footnote the translator of al-Tabari writes that the expression, “it severed his aorta” need not be taken literally since it can be an expression denoting extreme pain. Other sources corroborate that Muhammad ‘s painful death was due to the poison he had ingested years before his demise:

Anas reported that a Jewess came to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) with poisoned mutton and he took of that what had been brought to him (Allah's Messenger). (When the effect of this poison were felt by him) he called for her and asked her about that, whereupon she said: I had determined to kill you. Thereupon he said: Allah will never give you the power to do it. He (the narrator) said that they (the Companion's of the Holy Prophet) said: Should we not kill her? Thereupon he said: No. He (Anas) said: I felt (the affects of this poison) on the uvula of Allah's Messenger. (Sahih Muslim, Book 026, Number 5430)

… The apostle of Allah lived after this three years till in consequence of his pain he passed away. During his illness he used to say, “I did not cease to find the effect of the (poisoned) morsel, I took at Khaibar and I suffered several times (from its effect) but now I feel the hour has come of the cutting of my jugular vein.” (Ibn Sa’d, Kitab Al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Volume II, pp. 251-252)

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

‘Umar bin Al-Khattab used to let Ibn Abbas sit beside him, so ‘AbdurRahman bin ‘Auf said to ‘Umar, “We have sons similar to him.” ‘Umar replied, “(I respect him) because of his status that you know." 'Umar then asked Ibn 'Abbas about the meaning of this Holy Verse:-- "When comes the help of Allah and the conquest of Mecca...” (110.1)

Ibn ‘Abbas replied, “That indicated the death of Allah's Apostle which Allah informed him of.” ‘Umar said, “I do not understand of it except what you understand.” Narrated ‘Aisha: The Prophet in his ailment in which he died, used to say, “O ‘Aisha! I still feel the pain caused by the food I ate at Khaibar, and at this time, I feel as if my aorta is being cut from that poison.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 59, Number 713)

Compare the foregoing statements with the following Quranic citation:

We indeed created man; and We know what his soul whispers within him, and We are nearer to him than the jugular vein. When the two angels meet together, sitting one on the right, and one on the left, not a word he utters, but by him is an observer ready. And death's agony comes in truth; that is what thou wast shunning! S. 50:16-19 Arberry

Allah warns those who disbelieve that he is nearer to them than their jugular vein, an obvious threat that he has the power to kill them, and further threatens that they would experience an agonizing death.

The fact that Islamic narrations state that Muhammad died a severe death, describing his death in language that is reminiscent of Q. 69:45-46 and 50:16-19, supports the position that he was being punished for some heinous sin.

Moreover, when we tie this in with the story of Ibn Abi Sarh it makes it difficult not to conclude that Allah was punishing his prophet for changing the Quran at the suggestions of an uninspired scribe.

For more details on the death of Muhammad, see Silas’ article, The Death of Muhammad.

Is This Story Based on Fact?

Some Muslims have taken to deny the veracity of this story (obviously due to its rather embarrassing nature and the damage it does to Muhammad’s credibility) on the grounds that it is based on questionable chains of transmission and/or sources.

This oft-repeated Muslim rebuttal fails to explain why Muslim historians, scholars, expositors etc., would include this report when it does great damage to Muhammad’s credibility. In fact, the most unpleasant events in early Islam have the strongest probability of really having occurred because it is inconceivable that Muslims would make them up on their own or adapt them from non-Muslims. After all, if the enemies of Islam created these reports to discredit Muhammad why would respectable Muslims such as al-Tabari and al-Qurtubi include them? Why didn’t they simply omit such details especially when they make Muhammad look so bad?

Moreover, one argument that Muslims often use to demonstrate the veracity of the Quran is to single out passages rebuking Muhammad for some mistakes or sins he committed (cf. Q. 9:43; 40:55; 47:19; 8:1-2; 80:1-10). Muslims see in these texts evidence that Muhammad couldn’t have authored the Quran since he wouldn’t rebuke himself if he did.

Yet this same logic would equally apply to the story of Ibn Abi Sarh changing the revelations with Muhammad’s approval, since it is highly unlikely that god-fearing Muslims would concoct such a story. Thus, the embarrassing nature of this narration provides strong corroboration for its historical veracity, especially when we recall that Muslim historians and scholars had the tendency to omit such negative portrayals of their prophet.

Another Islamic site offers an answer as to why Muslims would circulate and retain such a story, even if it were deemed fraudulent:

Many of the early writers were concerned by the compilation only. Fearing that the material available could be lost, they collected whatever reports they could find without authenticating them. They left the authentication process to the following generations… (Source)

This response fails to take into consideration that the Muslim expositors and exegetes didn’t merely narrate the story of Ibn Abi Sarh as part of a body of material which needed to be carefully examined for authenticity; rather some of them expressly stated that the report of Ibn Abi Sarh changing the texts of the Quran is actually a sound report, and believed that Q. 6:93 does in fact refer to this specific event. For instance, here is what the renowned Sunni exegete and historian al-Tabari said was the position of the scholars regarding Ibn Abi Sarh tampering with the Quran:

The One whose name is Exalted (Allah) means in his saying "Who doth more wrong than such as invent a falsehood against Allah" and "Who doth more wrong and who is more ignorant than such as invent a falsehood against Allah" referring to those who invent falsehood against Allah and claim to be a Prophet and a Warner, and he [the person who claims] is false in his claims, and lying in his sayings. In this, God is ridiculing the Pagan Arabs, and (ridiculing) the opposing of Abdullah bin Sa'd bin Abi Al-Sarh and the Hanafite Musaylamah to the Prophet of Allah. For one of them claimed prophethood and the other claimed that he came up with something similar to what the Messenger of Allah (SAW) came with [the Quran], and at the same time denying the lying and false claims against his Prophet Mohammad.

The people of the interpretations (scholars) had different opinions about that; some of them said what we said [agreed with us]. Among those are:

Al-Qasim told us: Al-Hussein narrated: Al-Hajjaj narrated: by Ibn Jurayh, by Ikrimah:

His saying [Allah's saying in the Quran], "Who doth more wrong than such as invent a falsehood against Allah, or said: 'I have received inspiration,' when he hath received none". He [Ikrimah] said: This verse was revealed about Musaylamah the brother of Bani (children of) Uday bin Haneefah, for he [Musaylamah] was reciting poetry and prophesying. And “I can reveal like what Allah hath revealed” was revealed about Abdullah bin Sa’d bin Abi Al-Sarh, the brother of Bani (children of) Amir bin Lu'ai. He [Abdullah] used to write for the Prophet (SAW), and while he [Mohammad] was dictating “Exalted in power, full of Wisdom”, he [Abdullah] would write it “Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”, thus changing it. Then he [Abdullah] would read the changed verses to him [Mohammad], and he [Mohammad] would say, “Yes [in approval], it's the same [meaning].” So he [Abdullah] reverted from Islam and followed Quraysh telling them, “He [Mohammad] used to recite to me ‘Exalted in power, full of Wisdom’, and I would change it when I write it down, and he would tell me, ‘Yes [in approval], it’s the same [meaning].” But then he [Abdullah] came back to Islam before the conquering (fath) of Mecca, while the Prophet was at Mur [a place in Arabia - on his way to Mecca].

And some said: This verse was indeed revealed about Abdullah bin Sa'd in particular. Among those are: 

Mohammad bin Al-Hussein spoke to me, he said: Ahmad bin Al-Mufdil narrated: Asbat narrated from Al-Sudy: "Who doth more wrong than such as invent a falsehood against Allah, or said: "I have received inspiration,' when he hath received none…” until his [Allah] saying, “ye receive your reward, a penalty of shame”. He [Al-Sudy] said: This verse was revealed about Abdullah bin Sa'd bin Abi Al-Sarh, he embraced Islam, and used to write [Quran revelations] for the Prophet (SAW). So when the Prophet dictated him: “Who heareth and knoweth all things”, he'd write it: “All-Knowing, All-Wise”. So he doubted and reverted. Then he said, “If Mohammad gets inspiration, then I get inspiration too, and if Allah sent him his revelation then I was sent the same thing. For when Mohammad said, ‘Who heareth and knoweth all things,’ I’d say, ‘All-Knowing, All-Wise.’” So he followed the Pagans, and he blew the cover of Ammar and Jubar [secret Muslims] to Ibn Al-Hudrumi or to Bani Abd Al-Dar, so they took them and tortured them until they reverted. Ammar’s ear was cut off that day, so he [Ammar] went to the Prophet (SAW) and told him what had happened to him, but the Prophet (SAW) refused to handle his issue. So Allah revealed about [Abdullah] Ibn Abi Al-Sarh and his companions, “Anyone who, after accepting Faith in Allah, utters Unbelief, - except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith - but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty.” Who was “under compulsion” is Ammar and his companions, and who “open their breast to Unbelief” is [Abdullah] Ibn Abi Al-Sarh… The opinion I believe which has more credibility than the others is to say: Allah said, “Who can be more wicked than one who inventeth a lie against Allah, or said: 'I have received inspiration,’ when he hath received none.” THERE IS NO DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN THE SCHOLARS OF THE UMMAH (nation) THAT IBN ABI SARH WAS ONE OF THOSE WHO SAID, “I had said like [what] Mohammad [said]”, and that he reverted from Islam and followed the Pagans. There is no doubt that what he said was lies. And there is also no disagreement between all [the Scholars] that Musaylamah and Al-Ansi the Liars claimed falsehood against Allah by saying that he sent them as Prophets; for each of them had said that Allah inspired them, and they are lying in their claims. (Bold and capital emphasis ours)

Al-Tabari emphatically claims that all the scholars of Islam concurred that Q. 6:93 refers to Ibn Abi Sarh’s assertion that he changed the words of the Quran with Muhammad’s approval. What al-Tabari’s statements presuppose is that Muslim scholars had already carefully examined the story of Ibn Abi Sarh and concluded that it was sound. Thus, Muslims themselves, not Orientalists or Christians, have affirmed the historical veracity of this event.

The same authors propose another argument which, on the surface of it, seems to carry weight:

According to the critic, the revelation of verse 23:12 and the amazed anticipation of cAbdullâh Ibn Sâd Ibn Abî Sarh on the end of verse 23:14 triggered his apostasy. Many books about the cUlûm al-Qur'ân have made an accurate classification of the Chapters and verses that were revealed in Mecca (those are called Meccan verses or Chapters), and the ones revealed in Medina (those are called Medinite). According to Al-Itqân, we learn that the full Chapter 23 (i.e., Sûrat al-Mu'minûn) is Meccan. Refer to pages 17-21 where many reports confirm the revelation of Chapter 23 in Mecca with no exception of any single verse.[5] Obviously, this report quoted from al-Baidawi is a gross fabrication since cAbdullâh Ibn Sâd Ibn Abî Sarh embraced Islam after the revelation of Chapter 23. When we add to the above the fact that the full quotation from al-Baidawî was not put forward by the critic even when we asked for it, and given the fact that the reports are stated without the chains of transmission, the authentication of such a report is impossible. Moreover, a comparison to other commentaries of the Qur'ân (such as the commentaries of al-Qurtubî[6] and at-Tabarî[7]) mentioning the same report provide disrupted chains of transmission. That is why the claim of the critic based on the report of al-Baidawî looses conclusively all its value.

The authors are basically insinuating that the story of Ibn Abi Sarh cannot be true on the grounds that he became a Muslim during the time Muhammad was at Medina, whereas the text that Ibn Abi Sarh changed, i.e. Q. 23:12-14, was composed in Mecca, long before his conversion.

There are two fundamental problems with the above reasoning. First, citing sources which place the date of Q. 23 at a time before Ibn Abi Sarh’s conversion doesn’t resolve the issue, but merely proves that the primary source materials of Islam cannot be trusted since they are full of contradictions and mistakes.

Secondly, and more importantly, the narrators do not say that Abdullah made changes to Q. 23:12-14 when they were first “revealed” to Muhammad. Rather, a careful reading of the sources suggests that these changes were made during the time that Ibn Abi Sarh had first heard them for himself, long after they were composed, an even more damaging position to Muhammad’s prophethood! To put it rather simply, the narratives may actually be implying that Muhammad allowed changes to be made to a text that had been recited and composed many years prior to Ibn Abi Sarh’s conversion!

Thus, the preceding factors give us good grounds for assuming that this story of Muhammad permitting Ibn Abi Sarh to change the so-called revelations is based on actual history. The report cannot simply be explained away in terms of the (alleged) unreliability of the source documents.

Yet if it is a genuine historical event then Muhammad turns out to be a false prophet who was punished for inventing revelations and changing the Quran. No wonder Muslims try to find any excuse to dismiss this story!  

Note: Apart from the quotes from Sunan Abu Dawud, Ali Dashti, Pooya-Ali, and the commentaries from, the preceding Islamic references regarding Abdullah ibn Sa’d Abi Sarh were adapted from the following articles: 12345.

With the exception of the last two, the above links provide more details regarding this subject and address the Muslim responses which call into question the veracity of this story.

So was he a Prophet or Not?

We have shown that the manner in which Muhammad died is a rather strong indication that he had come under the wrath and judgment of his own god. As we examined the Muslim sources we discovered that Muhammad permitted changes to be made to the Quran at the suggestion of his scribe, and how such changes violated the Quran’s express warning to Muhammad that if he tampered with the “revelations” he would be severely punished.

When all of these factors are kept in mind it seems hard to escape the conclusion that Muhammad’s extremely painful death was a sign that he was being punished for making changes to the Quran.

The reader at this point may be wondering whether the foregoing implies that Muhammad was indeed a true prophet of God, or at least started out as one, due to the fact that his punishment was in direct fulfillment of the Quran’s warnings to him. In other words, wouldn’t the fulfillment of these warnings provide attestation that the Quran is indeed God’s Word, or at least parts of it are, since they came to pass as announced?

There are several reasons why this doesn’t follow. In the first place, as we have already mentioned Muhammad fails the biblical criteria of being God’s true prophet, criteria presupposed and accepted by the Quran itself. See above for the links.

This by itself is sufficient to show that Muhammad wasn’t God’s prophet and that the Quran is not his word.

Secondly, the Bible itself speaks of false prophets and messengers making accurate predictions as a means of testing God’s elect:

“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.” Deuteronomy 13:1-5

“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.” Matthew 24:23-24

Hence, just because what Muhammad may have said about the consequences of tampering with the Quran came to pass this doesn’t mean that the true God inspired him. It merely shows that God was testing true believers to see whether they would be misled by the teachings of the Quran.

The above demonstrates that according to the Biblical standard, he is a false prophet because his message contradicts the established Word of God, and even one or two accurate predictions do not change that verdict.

However, Muhammad is not only exposed based on the Bible, but he is judged also based on the Quran. According to Quranic criteria, the manner of Muhammad’s death is a clear sign of his deity punishing him for tampering with the Quran. This implies that, at the very least, Allah later rejected him from being his spokesperson. After all, note once again what the passages say:

But when Our Clear Signs are rehearsed unto them, those who rest not their hope on their meeting with Us, Say: "Bring us a reading other than this, or change this," Say: "It is not for me, of my own accord, to change it: I follow naught but what is revealed unto me: if I were to disobey my Lord, I should myself fear the penalty of a Great Day (to come)." S. 10:15 Y. Ali

That this is verily the word of an honoured apostle; It is not the word of a poet: little it is ye believe! Nor is it the word of a soothsayer: little admonition it is ye receive. (This is) a Message sent down from the Lord of the Worlds. And if the apostle were to invent any sayings in Our name, We should certainly seize him by his right hand, And We should certainly then cut off the artery of his heart: S. 69:40-46 Y. Ali

The first text warns Muhammad to fear the penalty of that great day, an obvious reference to the Day of Judgment, showing that he would be condemned not just in this life but for all eternity as well. Thus, even if a Muslim wants to use these verses as proof of the Quran’s inspiration s/he must contend with the fact that their fulfillment means that Muhammad’s death was a sign that Allah was displeased and abandoned him, and that Muhammad was no longer functioning as Allah’s messenger. It further shows that Muhammad actually ended up in hell for changing the Quran!

This leads us to our final point. The fulfillment of the Quran’s warnings may have been God’s way of showing even to Muslims that Muhammad wasn’t his prophet. The true God may have punished Muhammad in a manner prescribed by the Quran in order to get the people’s attention that Muhammad wasn’t being punished merely for tampering with the Quran, but for claiming that the Quran itself is revelation from the God of Abraham. God’s true Word, the Holy Bible, does warn those who would dare attribute to God words not uttered by him and/or tamper with those words which were inspired by him:

“Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” Deuteronomy 4:2

“See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.” Deuteronomy 12:32

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” Proverbs 30:5-6

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19

Hence, God causing Muhammad to die in the manner prescribed by the Quran wouldn’t imply the Quran’s divine origin and veracity, but would be a supernatural sign that even by the Quranic standard Muhammad died the death of one accursed and condemned by God; yet not for changing the Quran but for perverting the teachings of the true prophets and messengers as recorded in God’s true Word, the Holy Bible.

Lest the reader think that we are stretching things a bit, note that God even caused a false prophet named Balaam to utter true oracles and prophecies (cf. Numbers 22-24). Now this doesn’t mean that God inspired these particular Suras but that God could have permitted an evil spirit to utter these warnings which God caused to be fulfilled in order to expose Muhammad. After all, even evil spirits are used by God to accomplish his purposes! (Cf. Job 1:6-12, 2:1-6; 1 Kings 22:19-24; 1 Chronicles 21:1- cf. 2 Samuel 24:1)

The foregoing shows that, no matter from what angle one looks at this, the conclusion comes out to be the same: Muhammad died the death of one who was displeasing to God and condemned by him.

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