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Rebuttal to Samuel Green's Article "MUHAMMAD'S PERFECT MEMORY?"

By
Bassam Zawadi

 

 

 

This article is in response to http://www.answeringislam.org/Green/forgot.htm 

 

Samuel Green said:

One of the reasons that Muslims give for the perfection of the Qur'an is that Muhammad had a perfect memory. It is said that God gave Muhammed not just the words to speak but also the ability to remember these words perfectly. This claim is seen in the following Islamic scholar:

Still further, and perhaps most significantly, so long as the Prophet lived, the Community had in him an infallible guide as to the correct recitation of the Koran. The Prophet was granted special protection against forgetfulness, as the Koran itself indicates: By degrees shall we teach thee to declare (the message), so thou shalt not forget, except as God wills (Sura 87:6-7). (Labib as-Said, The Recited Koran - A History of the First Recorded Version. Princeton, New Jersey: The Darwin Press, 1975. p. 20. Bold added)

Is this claim true or is it an exaggeration? In this article we will consider what the Qur'an and Hadith say about Muhammad's memory and that of his Companions.

WHAT DOES THE QUR'AN SAY ABOUT MUHAMMAD'S MEMORY?

The verse referred to by Labib as-Said is an interesting verse because it actually says the exact opposite of what Labib as-Said is claiming. Labib as-Said says that the verse shows that Muhammad, "was granted special protection against forgetfulness". However he has missed one very important word in this verse, the word "except". Let us have another look at this verse:

By degrees shall we teach thee (Muhammad) to declare (the message), so thou shalt not forget, except as God wills (Sura 87:6-7).

This verse is not saying that Muhammad will never forget any of the Qur'an. It is saying that he will only forget what God wills. So the verse is actually saying that Muhammad did forget some of the Qur'an. This interpretation is also the interpretation found in the Hadith. Consider the following.

WHAT DOES THE HADITH SAY ABOUT MUHAMMAD'S MEMORY?

Sahih al-Bukhari: book 61, volume 6

556. Narrated Aisha: The Prophet heard a man reciting the Qur'an in the mosque and said, "May Allah bestow His Mercy on him, as he has reminded me of such-and-such Verses of such a Surah."

557. Narrated Hisham: (The same Hadith, adding): which I missed (modifying the Verses).

558. Narrated Aisha: Allah's Apostle heard a man reciting the Qur'an at night, and said, "May Allah bestow His Mercy on him, as he has reminded me of such-and-such Verses of such-and-such Suras, which I was caused to forget."

559. Narrated Abdullah: The Prophet said, "Why does anyone of the people say, 'I have forgotten such-and-such Verses (of the Qur'an)?' He, in fact, is caused (by Allah) to forget."

562. Narrated 'Aisha: The Prophet heard a reciter reciting, the Qur'an in the mosque at night. The Prophet said, "May Allah bestow His Mercy on him, as he has reminded me of such-and-such Verses of such and-such Suras, which I missed!"

Sahih Muslim: book 4, volume 1

(1720) 'Aisha reported that the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) heard a person reciting the Qur'an at night. Upon this he said, "May Allah show mercy to him; he has reminded me of such and such a verse which I had missed in such and such a surah.

(1721) 'Aisha reported that the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) listened to the recitation of the Qur'an by a man in the mosque. Thereupon he said: May Allah have mercy upon him; he reminded me of the verse which I had been made to forget.

(1724)'Abdullah reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: What a wretched person is he amongst them who says: I have forgotten such and such a verse. (He should instead of using this expression say): I have been made to forget it. Try to remember the Qur'an for it is more apt to escape from men's minds than a hobbled camel.

(1726) Ibn Mas'ud reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Wretched is the man who says: I forgot such and such a sura, or I forget such and such a verse, but he has been made to forget.

Sunan Abu Dawud: book 3, number 1015; volume I (Also Sahih al-Bukhari, vol.1, hadith 394)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Mas'ud: The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) offered prayer. The version of the narrator Ibrahim goes: I do not know whether he increased or decreased (the rak'ahs of prayer).

When he gave the salutation, he was asked: Has something new happened in the prayer, Apostle of Allah? He said: What is it? They said: You prayed so many and so many (rak'ahs). He then relented his foot and faced the Qiblah and made two prostrations. He then gave the salutation. When he turned away (finished the prayer), he turned his face to us and said: Had anything new happened in prayer, I would have informed you. I am only a human being and I forget just as you do; so when I forget, remind me, and when any of you is in doubt about his prayer he should aim at what is correct, and complete his prayer in that respect, then give the salutation and afterwards made two prostrations.

Thus from the above hadiths that there were occasions when Muhammad forgot parts of the Qur'an.

 

My Response:

Lets check out the Tafsir to know exactly what Surah 87:6-7 means. 

memory_1.jpg (31743 bytes)

The translation is:

And the meaning of this statement: 'Thou shalt not forget', except as God wills what you should forget and don't recite it, They said: That is what Allah has abrogated from the Quran, so he lifted its wisdom and recitation. It is reported by Bashar, he said: reported by Yazid, he said: reported by Sa'eed, that Qutada said that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) never forgot anything (except as God willed). And others reported: The meaning of forgetfulness in this context means 'abandonment' and they said: The meaning of the statement 'By degrees shall we teach thee (Muhammad) to declare (the message), so thou shalt not forget, except as God wills' is that which Allah wants to stop practicing because it got abrogated. And those of the Arabic speaking language said regarding this: God did not will that the Prophet forget anything. And it is like Allah's similar statement 'Abiding therein, so long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord may will. Surely, thy Lord does what HE pleases.' Surah 11: 107 and he does not will it. 

So we clearly see from the commentary of Tabari, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did not forget any portions of the Quran that he was never meant to forget. As we see, one explanation for this verse is that God intended for the Prophet to forget the abrogated verses or God just simply never willed the Prophet to ever forget any verse from the Quran. When God says that something happens if He wills it, it is intended to show His power and majesty because He has control over all things.

Even according to the hadith posted by Samuel Green (Sunan Abu Dawud: book 3, number 1015; volume I) goes to show that the Prophet was just a normal human being just like us and helps the Muslims not make the same mistake as the Christians did with Jesus Christ. 

Sahih Bukhari

Volumn 004, Book 055, Hadith Number 654.
-----------------------------------------
Narated By 'Umar : I heard the Prophet saying, "Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a Slave. So, call me the Slave of Allah and His Apostle."

 

Even if Islamic critics want to be stubborn and persist that the Prophet forgot needed verses from the Quran, this could be refuted by the fact that the Prophet always used to rehearse the Quran to angel Gabriel and angel Gabriel would have corrected the Prophet where he went wrong. Furthermore, angel Gabriel recited the Quran TWICE to the Prophet in the year he died.

Sahih Bukhari

Volume 006, Book 061, Hadith Number 519.


Narated By Ibn 'Abbas : The Prophet was the most generous person, and he used to become more so (generous) particularly in the month of Ramadan because Gabriel used to meet him every night of the month of Ramadan till it elapsed. Allah's Apostle used to recite the Qur'an for him. When Gabriel met him, he used to become more generous than the fast wind in doing good.

Volume 6, Book 61, Number 520:

Narrated Abu-Huraira: Gabriel used to repeat the recitation of the Qur'an with the Prophet once a year, but he repeated it twice with him in the year he died. The Prophet used to stay in I'tikaf for ten days every year (in the month of Ramadan), but in the year of his death, he stayed in I'tikaf for twenty days. 

 

Furthermore, the Prophet would order his scribes to write down the Quran as soon as the revelations came to him. 

 

Taken from http://www.answering-christianity.com/quran/quran_textual-reply.html#1

The Written Qur'an in the Times of The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

A large number of missionaries and the self-styled "critics" have been quoting Islamic traditions, or reports (Hadith), which support their claim, that the Qur'an was not written at the time of its Revelation. Are all these claims true? They are not, if we re-examine them.

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Evidence from the Qur'an

The Qur'an itself contains many passages which refer to its written form. There appear to be four chapters (Sura's) of the Qur'an which refer to the Qur'an's written form explicitly. I'll quote them:

"By no means! Indeed it is a message of Instruction
Therefore, whoever wills, should remember
On leaves held in honour
Exalted, purified
In the hands of scribes
Noble and pious"

Sura' 80: 11-16

Here we have a reference to those scribes who wrote the Qur'an, on leaves. Minister Abdullah Yusuf Ali, in his commentary  wrote that at the time of the Revelation of this Surah, forty-two or forty-five others (Surahs) had been written and were kept by Muslims in Makkah (out of the total 114 Surahs).

"Nay, this is the glorious Qur'an, on a Tablet preserved"
Sura' 85: 21-22

The above verse is the ultimate proof on the written preservation of the Qur'an even before the migration of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

"This is a glorious Reading, In a book well-kept,
Which none but the purified teach
This is a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds"

Sura' 56: 77-80

The above verse refers to a "book well-kept," which can be no other than the Qur'an.

"They said: Tales of the ancients which he had caused to be written and they are dictated to him morning and evening"
25: 5

A reference to the enemies of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when they accused him of plagiarising and retelling stories from the past. Still, we see words referring to the Qur'an in its written form.

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Evidence from Hadith

Besides the above verses which refer to the Qur'an's written form, there are also a number of Hadith which agree with the above verses:

Zayd (ra) is reported to have said: 

We used to compile the Qur’an from small scraps in the presence of the Messenger. (Hakim, Mustadrak)

The above Hadith also tells us that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was not unaware of the condition of the Qur'an with his companions and that he used to guide them while compiling it. Also, it tells us that the Qur'an also used to be compiled for Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), meaning that he had a personal copy.

Malik said that no one should carry the Mushaf by its strap, nor on a pillow, unless he is clean… (Mu’atta, Kitab Al-Nida’ Li’l-Salah)

It is clear that the Qur'an was available in a book form at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Narrated Qatadah: I asked Anas Ibn Malik: ‘Who collected the Qur’an at the time of Prophet?’ He replied: ‘Four, all of whom were from the Ansar: Ubay Ibn Ka‘ab, Mu‘adh Ibn Jabal, Zayd Ibn Thabit and Abu Zayd.’ (Bukhari, Kitab Fada’ilu’l-Qur’an)

It is very clear that the complete Qur'an was available in the form of a book even at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This proof is inescapable, and any Hadith which contradicts the facts presented here is a fabrication.

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The Oral Transmission of the Qur'an

Even until today, many people have completely memorized the Qur'an. These people are known as Hafizun, which means that they are the protectors of the Qur'an. The real protector is Allah, the Lord of all Being, but Hafizun are called protectors because if the Qur'an was ever lost, the Hafizun can easily restore it. People have not started becoming Hafizun recently, but many of them were also present at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself was a person who had memorized the whole Qur'an, word by word.

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The First Hafiz

The first one to memorize the complete Qur'an, was, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself. After a Revelation came to the Prophet (pbuh), he memorized it:

'Move not thy tongue concerning the (Qur'an) to make
haste therewith. It is for Us to collect it and promulgate
it; but when We have promulgated it, follow thou its
recital'
(75: 16-19)

Instead of the above verse, they are so many Hadith which say that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had memorized the Qur'an, they quoting them is not needed. Any one with even the knowledge of an atom concerning Islam may be knowing this.

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Hafizun Among the Companions

The Prophet (pbuh) had thousands of companions, and it is for sure that hundreds of them too had memorized the whole Qur'an, word by word, just as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself did.

"... the first man to speak the Qur'an loudly in Makka after the apostle was 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud. The Prophet's Companions came together and mentioned that the Quraish had never heard the Qur'an distinctly read to them ... When (Ibn Mas'ud) arrived at the maqAm, he read "In the name of God the Compassionate the Merciful", raising his voice as he did so. "The Compassionate who taught the Qur'an ..." (55:1) ... They got up and began to hit him in the face; but he continued to read so far as God willed that he should read ..." Guillaume, E.:  The Life of Muhammad (abbr. as Ibn Hisham), London, 55, pp. 141-2; Ibn Hisham: Sira al-nabi, Cairo, n.d., 1, p.206.

The above report clearly shows that even in the earlier days of Islam, people memorized the Qur'an. It is also reported that Abu Bakr (ra) recited the Qur'an publicly in front of his house (Sira Ibn Hisham).

In addition to this, it is compulsory to recite the Qur'an in prayers. So the companions, at least, had memorized some of the Qur'an if not the whole as others did.

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Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Encouraged Memorization

The best thing we could do here was to quote a passage from the second chapter of Ahmad von Denffer's book, Ulum al Qur'an:

There are numerous ahadith, giving account of various efforts made and measures taken by the Prophet to ensure that the revelation was preserved in the memory of his Companions. The following is perhaps the most clear:
'Narrated 'Uthman bin 'Affan: The Prophet said: "The most superior among you (Muslims) are those who learn the Qur'an and teach it".'
Bukhari, VI, No. 546.

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Listening to Others by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), also listened to the recital of others. Here is a Hadith showing this:

"Narrated 'Abdullah (Ibn Mas'ud): 'Allah's Apostle said to me: "Recite (of the Qur'an) for me". I said: "Shall I recite it to you although it had been revealed to you?!" He said: "I like to hear (the Qur'an) from others". So I recited Surat-an-Nisa' till I reached: "How (will it be) then when We bring from each nation a witness and We bring you (O Muhammad) as a witness against these people?" ' (4: 41).  'Then he said: "Stop!" Behold, his eyes were shedding tears then." Bukhari, VI, No. 106.

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Conclusion

In addition to writing, the whole Qur'an was also memorized by hundreds of Muslims and even those who had met the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself. Just as the whole Qur'an was preserved by writing, the whole Qur'an was also preserved by memorization too.

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Samuel Green said:

HAT DOES THE HADITH SAY ABOUT THE MEMORY OF THE COMPANIONS?

Sahih Muslim: book 5, volume 2

(2286) Abu Harb b. Abu al-Aswad reported on the authority of his father that Abu Musa al-Ash'ari sent for the reciters of Basra. They came to him and they were three hundred in number. They recited the Qur'an and he said: You are the best among the inhabitants of Basra, for you are the reciters among them. So continue to recite it. (But bear in mind) that your reciting for a long time may not harden your hearts as were hardened the hearts of those before you. We used to recite a surah which resembled in length and severity to (Surah) Bar'at. I have forgotten it with the exception of this which I remember out of it: "If there were two valleys full of riches, for the son of Adam, he would long for a third valley, and nothing would fill the stomach of the son of Adam but dust." And we used so recite a surah which resembled one of the surahs of Musabbihat, and I have forgetten it, but remember (this much) out of it: "O people who believe, why do you say that which you do not practise: (lxi 2.) and "that is recorded in your necks as a witness (against you) and you would be asked about it on the Day of Resurrection" (xvii. 13)

Here we see one of the Companions testifying the existence of part of a surah that is no longer in the Qur'an because it had been forgotten by them.

CONCLUSION

The evidence from the Qur'an and Hadith clearly teaches that Muhammad and his Companions had normal memories and did forget parts of the Qur'an. Rather than make exaggerated claims about Muhammad's memory Muslims should listen to what Muhammad said about himself: I am only a human being and I forget just as you do. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Sunan Abu Dawud)

 

My Response:

Some of the companions of the Prophet believed that the statement "If there were two valleys full of riches, for the son of Adam, he would long for a third valley, and nothing would fill the stomach of the son of Adam but dust." was part of the Qur'an. 

However, it is turns out that the statement was most likely a hadith. Here are some hadith to show this. 

 

Saheeh Bukhari

Volume 8, Book 76, Number 444:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

I heard the Prophet saying, "If the son of Adam (the human being) had two valley of money, he would wish for a third, for nothing can fill the belly of Adam's son except dust, and Allah forgives him who repents to Him."

 

Volume 8, Book 76, Number 445:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "If the son of Adam had money equal to a valley, then he will wish for another similar to it, for nothing can satisfy the eye of Adam's son except dust. And Allah forgives him who repents to Him." Ibn 'Abbas said: I do not know whether this saying was quoted from the Qur'an or not. 'Ata' said, "I heard Ibn AzZubair saying this narration while he was on the pulpit."

 

Volume 8, Book 76, Number 446:

Narrated Sahl bin Sa'd:

I heard Ibn Az-Zubair who was on the pulpit at Mecca, delivering a sermon, saying, "O men! The Prophet used to say, "If the son of Adam were given a valley full of gold, he would love to have a second one; and if he were given the second one, he would love to have a third, for nothing fills the belly of Adam's son except dust. And Allah forgives he who repents to Him." Ubai said, "We considered this as a saying from the Qur'an till the Sura (beginning with) 'The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you..' (102.1) was revealed."

 

Volume 8, Book 76, Number 447:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Allah's Apostle said, "If Adam's son had a valley full of gold, he would like to have two valleys, for nothing fills his mouth except dust. And Allah forgives him who repents to Him."

 

You can see the commentary of hadith 'Volume 8, Book 76, Number 446' here http://hadith.al-islam.com/Display/Display.asp?Doc=0&Rec=9633.

The commentary basically says....

memory_2.JPG (17284 bytes)

When this Surah was revealed and expressed the same meaning as it (the Adam statement) they knew that the first statement (the Adam statement) was from the statements of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Some of them explained it to be part of the Quran and then its recitation was abrogated when 'The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you..' (102.1) was revealed." so its recitation persisted so it abrogated the recitation of that (the Adam statement). But it's wisdom and ruling was not abrogated if its recitation was abrogated. 

 

memory_3.JPG (25200 bytes)

And it also occurred at Ahmad and Abi Ubayd in "Virtues of the Quran" from hadith Abi Waqid Al Labani who said "We used to go to the Prophet (PBUH) if something was revealed to him so he would tell us, so he told us that day: Allah says "We have sent down money for the establishment of prayer and payment of Zakat,  Adam's son had a valley full of gold, he would like to have two valleys." the hadith in its exact form, and it is possible that the Prophet (PBUH) informed that this is a verse from the Quran, and it is also possible that it is from the Qudsi Hadith, and God knows and if it is the first (meaning first explanation that it was part of the Quran) then it is what was abrogated from recitation even though its wisdom and rulings are still implemented. 

 

Again this just takes us to the whole issue of abrogation. Or as the commentary says, it could be a Qudsi Hadith. What is a Qudsi Hadith? See this definition......

 

Taken from http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/hadithqudsi.html 

Hadith Qudsi are the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) as revealed to him by the Almighty Allah. Hadith Qudsi (or Sacred Hadith) are so named because, unlike the majority of Hadith which are Prophetic Hadith, their authority (Sanad) is traced back not to the Prophet but to the Almighty.

Among the many definitions given by the early scholars to Sacred Hadith is that of as-Sayyid ash-Sharif al-Jurjani (died in 816 A.H.) in his lexicon At-Tarifat where he says: "A Sacred Hadith is, as to the meaning, from Allah the Almighty; as to the wording, it is from the messenger of Allah (PBUH). It is that which Allah the Almighty has communicated to His Prophet through revelation or in dream, and he, peace be upon him, has communicated it in his own words. Thus Qur'an is superior to it because, besides being revealed, it is His wording."

 

Conclusion

Therefore, there is no proof given to show that the Prophet Muhammad or his companions have forgotten any relevant verses from the Quran. The Quran is preserved the way God had intended it to. When Muslims argue that the Quran has been passed down by memory of the early Muslims we are not talking about some kind of divine memory because they were human beings just like us. Some would forget. However, NOT ALL THE MUSLIMS WOULD FORGET the Quran. That's why every year in the month of Ramadan the Muslims recite the whole Quran in their Taraweeh prayers. Sometimes the Imam would make a mistake and then the people praying behind him would correct him. So if people ever forgot there were others to correct. This is how God Almighty kept the Quran preserved. 

 

Recommended Reading

http://www.load-islam.com/C/rebuttals/The_Problem_of_Abrogation_in_the_Quran/ 

http://www.islamic-paths.org/Home/English/Quran/History/Uloom_alQuran/Transmission.htm

http://muslim-canada.org/ch2hamid.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Back to My Rebuttals, and exposing the lies of the Answering Islam team section.

Rebuttals by Bassam Zawadi.

Islam and the Noble Quran - Questions and Answers.

Answering Trinity.

Contradictions and History of Corruption in the Bible.

Questions about Jesus that trinitarian Christians don't have logical answers for.

What parts of the Bible do Muslims believe are closest to the Truth? and Why?

"Allah" was GOD Almighty's original Name in the Bible according to the Hebrew and Aramaic sources.

Scientific Miracles in Islam and the Noble Quran.

Most of the Bible's books and gospels were written by mysterious people!

Jesus mentioned Muhammad by the name in the Bible.

Did Isaiah 53 really prophesies about the crucifixion of Jesus? It supports Islam's claims about Jesus peace be upon him never died on the cross.  I also addressed John 19:36-37 from the Bible and proved that Jesus never got crucified, since GOD Almighty promised that he will protect Jesus' body and not let even a single bone be broken.     My question to all Christians is: How in the world is it possible for the feet to get nailed on the cross without any penetration to the bones by the nails, hence breaking part of the feet's bones?! I also added refutations to Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12, Zechariah 12:10 and Psalm 34:20, which supposedly prove the Christians' belief about Jesus crucifixion.  I proved that this dogma has no truth what so ever and exposed the wrong Trinitarian English translation of Zechariah 12:10.


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