Were There Any Influences of Christianity in the Hejaz?

Yishan Jufu & Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi

The Christian missionaries and the other opponents of Islam have been trying to establish on how the Prophet(P) was able to know many stories of the past Prophets(P). They made many allegations which were only substantiated by their vain desires, such as accusing the Prophet(P) of borrowing from Judeo-Christian sources. Recently, we hear the charge that Makkah was the seat of Christianity and that Warraqa ibn Nawfal, the uncle of the Prophet’s wife Khadeejah(R) was the Archbishop of the Christians in Makkah. We now seek to answer this allegation so as it will be refuted, insha’ All?h.

Pre-Islamic Arabia

It is a well documented fact that the 6th – 7th century Arabian Peninsula was entangled in the politics between the Byzantine and Persian empires. Despite the fact that parts like present-day Egypt, Syria and Yemen were under either Byzantium or Persian rule, the Hejaz itself was never under any direct rule of either of these empires. There were also Arab tribes at the time of the Prophet’s birth who were either Jews or Christians. Golam W. Chaudry records that

The Persians…supported the Lakhmid dynasty, while the Byzantines supported the Ghassanid princes. Besides the extension of political influence by these two empires, there was also cultural and religious penetration. Some of the Arabs at the time of the Prophet’s birth were Christians and there was also Judaism in this era.[1]

Safiy Al-Rahman Al-Mubarakfoury also writes that

In addition to the Arabs who forgot the Abrahamic faith and became idol-worshipping pagans, Arabia had presence by the Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians [Persian religion] and Sabe’ans [planet & stars-worshippers].

The people of the book were represented by:

a. The Jews in Madina (Yathrib), Taima’a & Khaibar: their religion arrived in Arabia during the Babylonian and Ashorian conquests in Palestine and the pressure and persecution of the Jews there, which made them flee to various areas. A similar migration by the Jews came to Arabia from Palestine when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. Judaism spread amongst the Arabs of Hijaz from the contact they had with the Jewish tribes that settled in Arabia. Judaism also entered into Yemen through Tabban Asad Abi Karb. The Jews set up villages in the areas that they inhabited and worked in agriculture and some trades.

b. The Christians in Najran: Christianity entered Hejaz after occupation of Yemen by the Ethiopians and Romans. A Christian priest called “Femion” (???????) came into Najran and called the people to Christianity and some of them accepted it and became Christians. It is also known that other Arabs embraced Christianity in other areas of the Middle East such as “Al-Ghasaniyeen”, Taghlib tribes, Tay’a and others who were close to the Roman Empire influence.[2]

Christian Influence in The Hejaz?

Now, we have acknowledged that there was Christian presence in Arabia, but does that mean Christianity was a major influence in the region? Under Christianity in Arabia the New Catholic Encyclopaedia says that during the time of the Muhammad (P):

The Hijaz [Arabian peninsula] had not been touched by Christian preaching. Hence organisation of the Christian church was neither to be expected nor found.[3]

This is also mentioned in the books dealing with Christianity among Arabs in pre-Islamic times from the point of view of poets.

The testimony of poets to the influence of Christianity in a spiritual and a sociological sense is negative.[4]

Dr. Nab?h Aqel, a Professor of Arabic and Islamic History in the University of Damascus, states in his book Tar?kh al-Arab al-Qad?m:

The big difference between Christianity and Judaism is that Christianity unlike Judaism didn’t have any bases in Hijaz , Christianity was an external source of enlightenment echoed in Hijaz either by missionary activities form Ethiopia, Syria and Iraq or from Alheerah’s Christian centres; dair Hind al-Kubra [the order of Hind al-Kubra] – Um Amro al-Mundhir [the order of Um Ammro] – Dair Hind al-Sugra [the order of Hind al-Sugra] or from some of the scattered churches in Bahrain, al-Yamamah and Yemen.[5]

An observation from the point of view of Islamic traditions had been made by Richard Bell quite a long time ago. He says that

…in spite of traditions to the effect that the picture of Jesus was found on one of the pillars of Ka’aba, there is no good evidence of any seats of Christianity in the Hijaz or in the near neighbourhood of Makkah or even of Madina.[6]

Sir William Muir, despite being known as a harsh critic of Islam, admits that

The legend, that the image of Jesus and the Virgin was sculptured on a pillar of the Kaa`ba, and adored by the Arabs, is not an early or a well supported one, and in itself is improbable. Christianity never found much favour at Mecca…[7]

How About Waraqa Ibn Nawfal?

Waraqa ibn Nawfal was one of the four people who abandoned the pagan Arabs’ idolatry and searched for the true religion of Abraham(P). He then later became a Christian and was learned in past Scriptures. Since we have previously seen that there was little or no organised influence of Christianity in the Hejaz, it is highly unlikely that Waraqa had ever been the Archbishop of a community of Christians in Mecca.

The following hadith is a narration involving Waraqa:

Narrated ‘Aisha: (Sahih Bukhari,Volume 1, Book 1, Number 3)

…Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa bin Nawfal bin Asad bin ‘Abdul ‘Uzza, who, during the PreIslamic Period became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as All?h wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said to Waraqa, “Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!” Waraqa asked, “O my nephew! What have you seen?” All?h’s Apostle described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, “This is the same one who keeps the secrets (angel Gabriel) whom All?h had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.” All?h’s Apostle asked, “Will they drive me out?” Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said, “Anyone who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly.” But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while.

This narration was the only account where Waraqa, who was an old man by the time of the Prophet’s(P) Revelations, was involved directly in the Prophet’s (P) life, but the missionaries of course make many speculations that the Prophet (P) might have visited Waraqa before the Revelations.

We also note that Waraqa clearly said: “if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly.” One would only ask a simple question: that is, if Waraqa was indeed the teacher of the Prophet (P), why would he say that he would support the Prophet(P)? Obviously, a teacher would be expected to lead the pupil, and not otherwise.

Furthermore, Waraqa died shortly after Muhammad (P) had received the revelation of the Qur’?n; as clearly can be read from the above hadith. While the revelation of the Qur’?n continued for more than twenty years after the death of Waraqa bin Nawfal, the Prophet (P) was receiving the revelation in different places and even while he was among his Companions. Also, he (P) was answering direct questions raised later by the Jews in Madinah. In addition, the Jews and the disbelievers of Mecca would be very pleased if they knew for sure that there was a knowledgeable person who was teaching Muhammad(P) the Qur’?n.


Since we have seen that there was no organized community of Christians in the Hejaz, especially Makkah, any claim that Islam was considerably influenced by Christianity should be rejected as an absurdity. Furthermore, Waraqa ibn Naufal, who was was only mentioned once in the Hadeeths, later died after the first Revelation of the Prophet(P). However, the Prophet(P) continued to receive the Revelations for the next 23 years, both in Mecca and Medina. Therefore, any attribution of the Revelations to Waraqa is also considered unsubstantiated.

The Qur’an many times clearly denies that someone was teaching the Prophet(P) and at the same time points to the fact that the language is foreign.

We know indeed that they say “It is a man that teaches him.” The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notable foreign while this is Arabic pure and clear. Those who believe not in the Signs of All?h All?h will not guide them and theirs will be a grievous Penalty. (Qur’?n, 16:103-104)

Had someone been teaching Prophet Muhammad (P), his family and close friends would have eventually known. However, far from being skeptical about his claims to Prophethood, these people gave their wealth and lives for Islam, even when under great persecution by the pagan Arabs.

In Sura’ Fussilat, the Qur’?n explains the reason why the revelation is in Arabic. This is to make sure that the people who were experiencing it could not make excuses.

Had We sent this as a Qur’?n (in a language) other than Arabic they would have said: “Why are not its verses explained in detail? What! (a Book) not in Arabic and (a Messenger) an Arab?” Say: “It is a guide and a healing to those who believe; and for those who believe not there is a deafness in their ears and it is blindness in their (eyes); they are (as it were) being called from a place far distant!” (Qur’?n, 41:44)

Now with the absence of Jewish and Christian sources in Makkah, the question remains: who was teaching Muhammad(P) the stories of the old Prophets and Nations which were mostly revealed in Mecca as the following table shows:

Arranged according to Qisas al-Anbiya’ – Stories of the Prophets – by Imam Ibn Kath?r

The only answer to the question of who was teaching Muhammad(P) the Qur’?n can be found in these verses

Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) desire. It is no less than Inspiration sent down to him. He was taught by One Mighty in Power. (Qur’an, 53:2-5)

It should also be kept in mind that the Qur’an was publicly memorized and recited by all Muslims, both during and after the life of Muhammad (P). If it was not clearly and widely known in Mecca that Muhammad(P) was illiterate, the verses which claimed that he was certainly would have caused doubts amongst the Muslims. However, not only did the Prophet’s(P) followers continue to grow – in spite of great persecution – but there is also no record of the pagan Arabs in Mecca accusing Muhammad (P) of not being illiterate. They instead accused him of having a tutor or of being possessed, as previous verses have shown, since it was common knowledge that he was illiterate.

And certainly, only God knows best!


[1] Golam W. Chaudry, The Prophet Muhammad: His Life and Eternal Message, p. 18

[2] Safiy Al-Rahman Al-Mubarakfoury, Al-Raheeq Al-Makhtoom (1418 A.H.)

[3] New Catholic Encyclopedia, under heading Christianity in Arabia

[4] J. S. Trimingham, Christianity Among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times (1971), Longman Publishers, p. 247

[5] Dr. Nab?h Aqel, Tar?kh al-Arab al-Qad?m .

[6] Richard Bell, The Origin of Islam in its Christian Environment [1968 (Reprinted)], Frank Cass and Company Limited, p.42

[7] Sir William Muir, The Life of Mahomet (Volume I)

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