waraqa ibn naufal

Waraqa Ibn Naufal And The Christian Polemics

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In an article of his, Jochen Katz has made much of the narratives about Waraqa ibn Naufal, and has conjectured on his alleged influence on Prophet Muhammad’s(P) religious thought.

Following is a representative extract of his said article:

    Waraqa lived in Mecca and probably Muhammad has met him long before his marriage to Khadija already, but at the latest when he married her, he is now a relative of Waraqa, a local authority on the scriptures. That gave Muhammad at least 15 years of opportunity of religious discussions with a man who knew the scriptures. And even if they had been written in another language, Waraqa could read it, and he would have talked about them in Arabic with Muhammad. From the time he married Khadija [25 years old] to the time of his first “revelation” [40 years old] there are 15 years of possibility, or rather probability of learning at least something of what Waraqa believed and knew from the scriptures.

The problem with this passage (as well as with his entire article) is his putting a blind faith — apparently because they seem to support his own “religious” convictions — on such narratives whose historicity is of extremely dubious nature; an attitude which is of no scholarly worth.

What little do we possess on Waraqa ibn Naufal has an indubitable colour of legend and often appears to be fashioned as an anachronous substantiation of the prophethood of Muhammad(P).

Apparently Waraqa ibn Naufal is associated with the Prophet(P) from very early on: It is Waraqa bin Nawfal who finds the infant Prophet Muhammad(P) when he strayed from his suckling mother, an account which implicitly presumes Waraqa’s recognition of the extraordinary nature of the young Prophet.1

Even before the birth of the Prophet(P), Waraqa’s sister sees the light of prophethood on the forehead of Muhammad’s father and offers herself to him so that she could have the honour of becoming the Prophet’s(P) mother.2

It is in this vein that Waraqa ibn Naufal is presented as, what Jochen Katz referred to, as “a local authority on the scriptures.” For the narratives say:

… The Prophet returned to Khadija while his heart was beating rapidly. She took him to Waraqa bin Naufal who was a Christian convert and used to read the gospel in Arabic Waraqa asked (the Prophet), “What do you see?” When he told him, Waraqa said, “That is the same angel whom Allah sent to the Prophet) Moses. Should I live till you receive the Divine Message, I will support you strongly.

This is most probably an example of an anachronism because, in addition to the moot question of his literacy, the investigation of Sidney H. Griffith has made him conclude that:

All one can say about the possibility of a pre-Islamic, Christian version of the Gospel in Arabic is that no sure sign of its actual existence has yet emerged.3

and:

The oldest known, dated manuscripts containing Arabic translations of the New Testament are in the collections of St. Catherine’s monastery at Mt. Sinai…dating from 867 AD.4

Clearly, the apparent intent of such narratives is to find corroboration from among the older followers of monotheism of Muhammad’s(P) prophecy. They may contain a kernel of truth but it would be fallacious to attach overdue significance to all their details, and consequently, it is just not possible, owing to lack of trustworthy data, to agree with Jochen Katz’s thesis that Waraqa ibn Naufal played a role in the composition of the Qur’an. Waraqa ibn Naufal and the Christian Polemics

Cite this article as: Asif Iqbal, "Waraqa Ibn Naufal And The Christian Polemics," in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005, last accessed July 18, 2019, https://www.bismikaallahuma.org/quran/waraqa-ibn-naufal-and-the-christian-polemics/

Footnotes

  1. Ibn Ishaq, ed., Guillaume, pp. 72-3 []
  2. ibid., pp. 68-9 []
  3. Sidney H. Griffith, The Gospel In Arabic: An Enquiry Into Its Appearance In the First Abbasid Century, in: Oriens Christianus, vol. lxix, 1985, p. 166 []
  4. ibid., 131-2 []

2 Comments

  1. its a good information

  2. Assalaamu alaikum,

    We don’t want to discount the report concerning Waraqa, lightly or for mere convienance. It’s isnad is reliable and it’s matn is enlightening. Especially now that we know of the passage in Isaiah that basically prophesised the first encounter of Rasulullah(Sall-Allahu alaihi wa salaam) with the angel of Gibril(alaihi salaam). Add in the account of Waraqas reaction after being informed of Rasulullahs first encounter and testifies to his scholarly knowledge of the scriptures
    Isaiah 29:12 And the book is delivered to he who is not learned saying, read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

    To grasp the prophethood of our beloved by this prophesy of him and the report given to him without having to consult those pages reflect his keen understanding and familiarity.

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