Is the Qur’an Self-Inspired?

By Muhammad Abdullah Diraz – Al-Azhar Scholar—Egypt

There is an allegation that Muhammad (sallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa salam) received all the knowledge contained in the Qur’an from a human teacher.  Had this been an expression of an idea or a doubt felt by those who made it, they would have held on to it without moving to something different. If the human mind were to try to explain the total break between Muhammad (sallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa salam)’s life before receiving his message and his life after it, it would inevitably conclude that the new knowledge Muhammad (sallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa salam) expressed must have been imparted to him by fresh instruction.

As people do not know of any teachers on earth who are not human, the first thing that comes to mind is that a human must have undertaken this fresh instruction and imparted its content to Muhammad (sallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa salam). If a person making such an allegation could find plausible factors that would give him or her even the slightest conviction that this was the case, he or she would stick to it and abstain from seeking a different explanation.

The allegation that the Qur’an was taught to Muhammad (sallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa salam) by a human being is the least frequent argument employed by those who deny that the Qur’an was revealed by Allah.


But those who make such allegations continue, even to this day, to be uncertain concerning what to say about the Qur’an: Should they claim that it was taught to Muhammad (sallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa salam) by another human?  Should they say that it is the product of Muhammad (sallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa salam)’s own intellect, as mentioned earlier? Or should they combine the two claims together, describing Prophet Muhammad (sallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa salam) as being “taught” and as being a “madman,” as the Qur’an reports in Surat Ad-Dukhan?

Almighty Allah says,

{Yet they turned away from him and said, “One taught (by others), a madman.”} (Ad-Dukhan 44:14)

The allegation that the Qur’an was taught to Muhammad (sallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa salam) by a human being is the least frequent argument employed by those who deny that the Qur’an was revealed by Allah. Instead, the most frequent argument is that the Qur’an was self-inspired, though those who make this allegation do not agree on the psychological condition that, according to them, befell the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa salam) and led to the production of the Qur’an — be it a poetic inspiration, madness, or mere dreaming.  One has to remember that all these arguments are reported in the Qur’an itself.

Those deniers tried every angle and possibility to come up with something that may support their rejection of the message of the Qur’an. They did not stop at the logic of a serious speech like the Qur’an or a serious and wise mind like the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa salam)’s.  They even considered the most extreme psychological conditions that produce human speech, be the speaker rational or irrational.

This is clear evidence that they were not trying to prove an allegation they truly believed in.  They simply raised all possibilities and exhausted all options, overlooking all the defects therein.  Basically, they were heedless of all improbability. They simply wanted to raise doubts in the minds of those who sought to know the truth and learn the true faith.

Yet they were never satisfied with any opinion they advanced.  Whenever they took up an opinion and tried to apply it to the Qur’an, they found that it was far from suitable; no plausible argument could be used to prove it.  Hence, they would quickly move on to try a different opinion and then a third one, and every time they realized that all their attempts were futile. They remained in doubt — torn in the midst of these views, which they knew to be false. If one wishes to look at a picture describing their persistent confusion, one only needs to read the following verse from the Qur’an,

{Nay! They say, “Medleys of dreams. Nay! He has forged it. Nay! He is a poet.} (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:5)

Here one can see how the allegations recurrently change direction. This on its own depicts the deniers’ state of confusion and total inability to agree on one thing. It simply describes how the disbelievers switch from one extreme to another when they feel that their lies are about to be discovered. Haphazardly, they seek anything that may help them support their untenable position. Almighty Allah says,

{See what kinds of comparisons they make for you [O Prophet], so they have gone astray; therefore they shall not be able to find a way [to the truth].} (Al-Furqan 25:9)

This is the same position adopted today by modern atheists, who attribute the Qur’an to self-inspiration.  They allege that their view relies on modern scientific discoveries, but theirs is no new opinion. It is the same as the old one advanced by the first opponents in the society of Jahiliyyah(pre-Islamic ignorance).

Those people described the Prophet as a man of great and active imagination and profound sensitivity, all of which had made of him a poet. Then they added that his emotions overpowered his senses to the extent that he could imagine that he was seeing and hearing someone speaking to him, while the reality of what he saw and heard was no more than his own emotions and feelings.

In spite of all what the neo-atheists say about the Prophet, they acknowledge that he was exemplary in his honesty.


Thus, they attributed it all to madness or dreams. But they could not continue with such “explanations”; they abandoned the notion of “self-inspiration” when they realized that the Qur’an includes accounts of past and future communities. They thought that the Prophet might have heard these from the scholars he met during his travels. This would mean that a human being had taught it all to him.

So what is new in all this? Is it not a new version reflecting the old allegations of the ignorant Quraish? Indeed, neo-atheism is no more than an updated or distorted version of the former type in its oldest of guises. Modern ideas are fed by the leftovers of past days. Almighty Allah says,

{Even thus said those before them the like of what they say; their hearts are all alike.} (Al-Baqarah 2:118)

Moreover, today’s atheists say that the Qur’an is a “single historical work that most accurately reflects the spirit of its age.” This is indeed true as far as its literal meaning goes. The Qur’an reflects that spirit; however, it is not influenced by it, or one may say that the Qur’an reflects that spirit before it completely refutes its perversions then destroys it.

Yet, in spite of all what the neo-atheists say about the Prophet, they acknowledge that he was exemplary in his honesty. They added that he could be excused in attributing his vision to divine inspiration, because his dreams were so vivid that he thought they were real. Hence, he only said what he believed. In the Qur’an, Almighty Allah tells us that their forerunners took the same attitude,

{We know indeed that what they say certainly grieves you, but surely they deny not you (O Muhammad), but evildoers flout the revelations of Allah.}  (Al-An`am 6:33)

If Muhammad is justified in describing what he saw and heard as revelation, what justification had he in saying that neither he nor his people had ever heard such news, when the deniers alleged that he had heard it before? Where did he hear it? From whom did he hear it? And why didn’t this source ascribe it to himself?

In fact, to be consistent, the deniers have to claim that it is all fabrication, but they do not wish to make such a claim so as to give themselves a guise of fairness and objectivity. Yet, by adopting such an attitude, they practically make that accusation, though they may not perceive it as so. Almighty Allah says,

{They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths but Allah will perfect His light, even though the unbelievers may be averse.} (As-Saff 61:8)


Muhammad Abdullah Diraz was born in1894 in Mahallat Diyai, a village of Kafr al-Sheikh County in northern Egypt. His father was a Muslim scholar educated in Al-Azhar. He too received education in Al-Azhar and learned French. Later, he became one of the teaching staff of the Department of Higher Education in Al-Azhar. After assuming a number of other posts, he was elected to the membership of Senior Islamic Scholars in 1949. He continued in these positions until his death in January, 1958, when he was attending a conference in the city of Lahore, Pakistan.

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