A Critical Examination of Joseph Kenny’s Views on the Origin, Miracle and Veracity of the Qur’an

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Bibliographic Information
Journal Al-Idah
Title A Critical Examination of Joseph Kenny’s Views on the Origin, Miracle and Veracity of the Qur’an
Author(s) Shitu, Mujahid Hamza
Volume 36
Issue 1
Year 2018
Pages 1-24
Full Text Crystal Clear mimetype pdf.png
Chicago 16th Shitu, Mujahid Hamza. "A Critical Examination of Joseph Kenny’s Views on the Origin, Miracle and Veracity of the Qur’an." Al-Idah 36, no. 1 (2018).
APA 6th Shitu, M. H. (2018). A Critical Examination of Joseph Kenny’s Views on the Origin, Miracle and Veracity of the Qur’an. Al-Idah, 36(1).
MHRA Shitu, Mujahid Hamza. 2018. 'A Critical Examination of Joseph Kenny’s Views on the Origin, Miracle and Veracity of the Qur’an', Al-Idah, 36.
MLA Shitu, Mujahid Hamza. "A Critical Examination of Joseph Kenny’s Views on the Origin, Miracle and Veracity of the Qur’an." Al-Idah 36.1 (2018). Print.
Harvard SHITU, M. H. 2018. A Critical Examination of Joseph Kenny’s Views on the Origin, Miracle and Veracity of the Qur’an. Al-Idah, 36.
عصمت أنبیاء سے بظاہر متعارض صحیحین کی بعض أحادیث کا علمی جائزہ
نقد رجال میں امام بوصیری كا منہج مصباح الزجاجہ کی روشنی میں
اسلامى بىنکارى مىں تنگدست مقروض سے وصولیابی کے شرعی اختیارات
بیوی کے نفقے کاقضیہ: شرعی اور عصری (پاکستانی) قوانین کے تناظر میں ایک علمی جائزہ
بلڈ بینک کا قیام اور انتقال خون کے مسئلہ کا ایک تحقیقی جائزہ قرآن و سنت کی روشنی میں
مشترکہ و جداگانہ خاندانی نظام کے معاشرے پر اثرات
تفسیر روح المعانی میں امام آلوسی کا منہج: ایک تحقیقی جائزہ
فقہ اسلامی میں قسامت کا تصور
بدھ مت کا تصور امن اور عصری صورت حال
خلق التسامح أصل دين الإسلام والسبب الرئيس في انتشار دعوته
موقع الكتاب في العملية النّقدية عند المحدّثين وأهمّ وسائل صيانته دراسة تأصيليّة
المقاصد عند الإمام الشاطبي
الأعمال السياسية والإصلاحية للشيخ ولي أحمد في إقليم سوات خيبر پختونخوا
A Critical Examination of Joseph Kenny’s Views on the Origin, Miracle and Veracity of the Qur’an
Memorization Without Comprehension: A Window onto the ‘Extremities’ of the Capability of Human Brain
Arbitration; Legislation, Scope, and Functioning in Pakistani Legal System a Pragmatic Approach in Law and Sharī‘ah
Metaphors of Wine, Cup and Tavern in Poetry of Rumi and Hafiz
Pak-US Strategic Partnership in the War on Terror to Curb Militant Bloodbath
Health Care and Cleanliness in Tertiary Care Hospitals in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa


Christian missionary scholarship on Islam and the Qur’an in Nigeria dates back to the advent of Christianity in the country. The reason was that Islam had become well established and indigenized in most parts of northern Nigeria and south Western Nigeria, and the Qur’an provides Muslims with information on Christianity and its doctrines. Thus, Islam became a serious obstacle to their endeavour. The early 20th century Christian Missionaries therefore, held that they could only get to the Muslims through the learning and research on the Qur’an. & nbsp; This spurred them to produce works on the Qur’an. Joseph Kenny was a Christian Missionary who was sent to Nigeria in 1964 through the directive of the Holy See, to assist the Catholic Church in reaching the Muslims in Nigeria. He underwent trainings in the fields of Arabic and Islamic Studies, and was able to produce more than 170 works on different areas of Islamic Studies. & nbsp; This paper critically examines some of his views on the Qur’an, as compared to the views of other Christian missionary scholars of Qur’an and thus elaborates on the misrepresentations contained in them.


Non- Muslims’ objection to the Qur’an goes back to the time of its revelation. The Meccan pagans gave negative epithets to it in order to cast doubt on its origin and veracity. They called it poetry, an oath of soothsayers and fabrication, and they called the Prophet (PBUH) a possessed poet. Verses such as 69:40-43 and 52:29-34 were revealed in the Qur’an as a reply to their allegations.

Christian clergies who worked under Islamic Empire, such as John of Damascus (676- 749), Theodore Abu Qurra (740- 825) and so forth, also wrote works arguing against the Qur’an.[1] The argument is basically that the Prophet learnt the contents of the Qur’an from Christians and Jews. They contain the criticism of the pre-Islamic pagans. These same arguments hold on what are repeated by the Christian missionaries and Orientalists up to the present time.

Peter the Venerable and Abbot of Cluny (1094 – 1156) made concerted efforts to gain and transmit knowledge of Islam so as to fight what he saw as the heresies of Islam and Judaism with valid intellectual arguments. Peter the Venerable, for instance, financed a company of translators who translated series of Arabic texts and produced compilations of their own, including a synthesis by himself. The works are known as Cluniac Corpus. A member of the team, Robert of Ketton, an Englishman, produced a Latin translation of the Qur’an in 1143.[2]

The methods of missionary’s argumentations against the divine origin of the Qur’an can be typically summarized as follow:

  1. Distortions through translation.
  2. Missionary researches concerning the Qur’an to argue that it has a human origin. Most of these researches centre round two themes; the sources of the Qur’an and the history of the Qur’an.
  3. Publication of specialized serials, periodicals, dictionaries and encyclopedias
  4. Propagation of suppositions and invention of falsities.[3]

In Nigeria, there has been serious works on the Qur’an by Christian missionaries who mostly aimed at disputing its divine origin and veracity. In the area of translation, Reverend M.S. Cole was the first; he translated the whole Qur’an into Yoruba in 1924. The translation was carried out, according to him, to combat the 'error' of faith.[4] The second effort was the translation of the Qur’an into Yoruba language by Reverend Elijah Kola Akinlade in 1965.The work contains defects and outright distortions of the meaning and contents of the Qur’an.[5] What could be called the third effort is the case mentioned by Rasheed Raji that Rev. Dr. Oyedele of Obafemi Awolowo University came up with a translation of the Qur’an who is the most offensive of all.[6] Joseph Kenny, the subject of this research, did not come up with a full translation of the Qur’an. He however, translated many passages in his different works as he does not use the translation of others except in few instances.[7]

Missionary researches concerning the Qur’an in Nigeria include Theresa Adamu’s M.A research work at Theological College of Northern Nigeria, “A Critical Study of the Concept of Revelation in Islam and Christianity”[8]; Frederic Ntedika Mvumbi’s PhD thesis, “Christological Issues in the Qur`an from the Perspective of the SummaTheologiae[9] at the University of Ibadan in 2000 and the work of Pastor Nureni Alabi, Jesus of the Holy Qur’an.[10] The work of Joseph Kenny "Qur'an and Hadīth Studies: Scholarship in Early Islam"[11] also falls under this category.

The work of Jeremy Hinds, Qur’an Word Studies and Qur'an Correspondence Course, which tries to interpret Qur’anic passages to suit Christian beliefs such as the divinity of Jesus, his sonship, Trinity etc.[12]falls under specialized serials. In the book he argues that "the Qur'an and Islamic theology lead inevitably to the Gospel of Jesus Christ".[13]

The polemics of the penname G J O Moshe the Anatomy of The Qur’an is an outright distortion and offensive presentation of the Qur’an. Though he hides his true identity, the author is said to be based in Ibadan Nigeria. The author claims that the Qur’an is from the devil as he equates Allah with the devil.[14] Joseph Kenny did not agree that Allah is the same as the devil. He however states that the devil inspired the Qur’an since it refutes Christian teachings.[15]

This paper attempts to critically examine the allegations of Joseph Kenny on the origin, veracity and the miracle of the Qur’an.

Biographical Data of Joseph Kenny

Joseph Kenny was born on the 12th of January 1936 in Chicago USA, and he spent his first twenty years in Chicago. He had his primary education at The Christ, the King Primary School, Chicago, from 1942 – 1949. He attended the Diocesan Minor Seminary for his secondary education from 1949 – 1954 and St. Mary of Lake Seminary, Mundelein from 1954 to 1956.[16]He became a member of the Dominican Order in 1956.[17] He obtained a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Arts in Philosophy at Aquinas Institute River Forest, in 1959 and 1960 respectively. Joseph Kenny was ordained a priest in 1963 and completed an M.A in theology at Aquinas Institute, Dubuque in 1964. His coming to Nigeria was motivated through the talk of the first Bishop of Sokoto Edward Lawton, O.P, who went to Dubuque, Iowa, to talk with the Dominican theology students. Bishop Lawton mentioned two reasons from the Holy See on why he wanted Dominicans in Nigeria:

  1. To admit Nigerians into the Dominican Order of the Catholic Church.
  2. To provide the Church with specialists on Islam; those who are well versed in Arabic, and who will help the Church understand and relate with the Muslim community in Nigeria.

This is coupled with the hope of setting up a research institute on Islam that would serve as a Christian outreach to the Muslims.[18]

Joseph Kenny came to Nigeria in 1964 when he was already 28 years of age. He came with an extra-ordinary effort, zeal and enthusiasm to achieve his goal. His brilliance was overwhelming that within a short stay of two years in Northern Nigeria, which has the majority of the Muslim population, he was able to be proficient in Hausa language so that he spoke it fluently, prepared booklets, did radio programmes and preached in villages in Hausa language. At the age of 30 he ventured into the study of Arabic and Islamic Studies. He learnt Arabic grammar at Rome for one year (1966- 1967), and spent another year in Tunisia under the scholarship of the Tunisian government at the University of Tunis (1967- 1968), and became proficient in Arabic. After another two years (1968- 1970), he obtained a PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Edinburgh. He tried to reach Muslims in different parts of old Sokoto State, Malumfashi and Jos, though his direct efforts in Sokoto were not fruitful.[19]

An opening came his way in the University of Ibadan[20] to teach Islam at the Department of Religious Studies in 1979. He stayed there for more than 22 years. While there he was able to convey his teachings and views on Islam to Muslims and Christians students of the University and for more than four decades in Nigeria he continued to research, teach and write about Islam as a missionary endeavor. He was able to produce more than 170 works on different aspects of Islamic Studies in Arabic, English and French languages. The works range from books, articles, booklets, presentations, talks, reviews etc. Apart from the University of Ibadan, Joseph Kenny also taught Islam at SS Peter and Paul Seminary Ibadan from 1971, the Dominican Institute Ibadan from 1976, St. Augustine Major Seminary Jos from 1972-1976 and he was a visiting professor (every two years) at Les Facultés Catholiques de Kinshasa, 1987 to 1999. He had a reading and speaking knowledge of languages such as English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, French, German, Hausa, Spanish, Arabic, Yoruba, Dutch and Portuguese[21]. He later worked on Persian language.[22]Kenny has trained many students who have risen to prominence in Nigeria. Monsignor Mathew Hassan Kukah the present Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese for instance was taught by Kenny in 1976 at St. Augustine Seminary Jos. The present Archbishop of Jos Ignatius Kaigama was also a classmate of Kukah at the seminary in Jos.

Other prominent students of Kenny include the Bishop of Ilorin Ayo-Maria Atoyobi O.P who was very close to Kenny and the former Bishop of Makurdi Dr. Athanasius Atule Usuh.Kenny died on the 28th January 2013 of cancer, after being sick and unconscious for about six months at hospital in his home country U.S.A. He was buried on the 28th of February, 2013 at the St. Thomas Aquinas Priory, Samonda Ibadan, Nigeria.

Kenny’s Views on the Qur’an

Joseph Kenny through his various writings mainly contended that the Qur’an is a human document composed by the Prophet (pbuh), and that the religious stories and some teachings contain therein were obtained from Christians and Jews and from Apocryphal stories circulating in Arabia. Furthermore, he also alleges that the Arab customs influenced the composition of the Qur’an especially the rich oral tradition. Kenny further tries to affirm the allegations of the Meccan pagans who sometimes called the Qur’an poetry inspired by spirits, indicating that some styles of the Qur’an resemble the message of pre-Islamic soothsayers. Kenny believes that the Qur’an was edited, revised and reworked at different times; at the time of the Prophet and the time of his companions and that the editing led to some obvious grammatical errors due to insertion of passages, which can be understood by comparing the different rhymes of verses in a chapter.[23]

Kenny further alleges that the Qur’an is not a miracle; that its literal inimitability does not make it a miracle because there are many works of art which remained inimitable and that does not make them a miracle. Kenny further rejects the fact that the Prophet (p.b.u.h) was unlettered in order to reject the Qur’an as a miracle. [24]He thus provided a different interpretation of the term Ummī as contained in the Qur’an.

A Critical Examination of the Views of Kenny on the Qur’an

The allegations of Kenny concerning the Qur’an are not novel as different Christian missionaries and Orientalists have expressed similar views about the Qur’an. One can note, in particular, the influence of William Montgomery Watt on Kenny’s thoughts as some allegations are just a reproduction of some of Watt’s views.[25] The allegations however, are self-contradictory because if Muhammad (PBUH) composed the Qur’an, then it is impossible to say he learnt it from some teachers, and if he learnt it from others, it could not be said that he composed it. This research shall respond to the allegations one after the other in the following way:

1. The allegation that the Prophet (SAWW) composed the Qur’an

This allegation is based on the assumption that since his early days, the Prophet has had the ambition of becoming a leader and obtaining materials gains. Moḥar Ali Kenny’s teacher and Watt, are the most notable orientalists who held this view.[26] The argument that the Prophet had such ambition could not, however, be substantiated by the orientalists. Historical facts show that “his call to prophet hood was the beginning of that process which ultimately invested him with leadership.”[27] Had it been he nursed such ambition at his first experience with the Angel he would not be confused to the development. Secondly if he held such ambition, his wife, whom he ran to, could have congratulated him for achieving his desire and not taking him to her cousin Waraqah. Thirdly, the attitude of Waraqah is noteworthy as he knew the Prophet from his boyhood. If the Prophet had nursed such ambition, Warakah’s response with his knowledge of the Christian scripture would have been different. Moreover, when the Prophet started preaching he was offered material benefits and elevation to leadership which he rejected.[28]

Muslim scholars such as Manna‘ al-Qaṭṭān[29] and Muhammad as-Sayyid Rāḍī Jibrīl[30] further refute the argument of the orientalists with the fact that had it been that the Prophet had an ambition of leadership, which made him compose the Qur’an, he could have easily ascribed the Qur’an to himself and that will elevate his status since the Arabs, despite their eloquence, could not produce something similar to the Qur’an. It is enough pride for him to claim the authorship of an inimitable book.

In addition, there are many instances in the Qur'an that indicate that the Prophet is not its author. For instance, when his wife was accused of infidelity, the case remained pending for more than a month before a revelation came to confirm her innocence. Had it been that he was the composer of the Qur'an, he could have done that immediately to save the dignity of his family.

There are equally many cases in which Qur'anic verses were revealed reproaching the actions of the Prophet (pbuh). Examples of such include the reproach over allowing some people not to participate in the battle of Tabuk (Q9:43), the reproach over taking ransom for the hostage of Badr (Q 8:67-8) and the reproach for turning away from Abdullah bn Ummu Maktūm, the blind man who wanted to accept Islam, turning his mind towards some Mecca Aristocrats (Q 80:1-11).[31]

2. The issue of the Prophet’s unlettered status

Most Muslim scholars have used the above stated arguments to prove the divine origin of Qur'an. For them, if it is said that he was able to compose the Qur'an, then he must have read books before.[32] The Qur'an says: "neither did you (O Muhammad) read any book before it (this Qur'an), nor did you write any book (whatsoever) with your right hand. In that case, indeed, the followers of falsehood might have doubted" (29:48). Joseph Kenny[33] and his teacher Watt,[34] however, dispel the fact that the Prophet was unlettered to falsify the divine origin of the Qur'an and its miraculous nature. They argue that he has had reading and writing abilities, while other orientalists, such as Muir and Margoliouth, hold, in conformity with the sources, that he was an unlettered person.[35]Margoliouth nevertheless, argues that though the art of writing was known among Meccans, the Prophet did not learn it due to the neglect that orphans fall into.[36] He however, opines that the prophet had the power of picking up information in his experience of travels, which subsequently aided the composition of the Qur’an.[37]

Joseph Kenny, like his teacher Watt, restricts the meaning of the Prophet for not reading any book as in above cited verse (Q 29:48) to Jewish and Christian scriptures.[38] He thus translated the verse: "You were not formerly reciting from scripture nor writing it with your right hand, otherwise the deniers would have reason for their doubts". With the deliberate distortion of the translation of "min Kitābin" as "scripture" Kenny only wants to say that: "the absence of direct Biblical quotations in the Qur'an confirms the fact of Muhammad's unfamiliarity with the Bible, but no conclusion can be drawn that he was unable to read or write in Arabic".[39] But it is clear from the Arabic text that "min Kitāb" (any book) that the Qur’an is not referring to the Bible but referring to any writing. Moreover, Moḥar Ali excellently puts the whole argument:

The passage tersely exposes the absurdity of the allegation by simply pointing out the indisputable fact known to every Makkan. At that time the Prophet did not previously use to read and write anything so that it was quite unlikely on his part to have come forward all of a sudden with a remarkable literary work and give it out as Allah's revelation. The implication is all the more clear from the last clause of the 'āyah which says: "in that case the prattlers could have entertained doubts". It is also note worthy that the expression mā kunta (ما كنت) implies a state of being unused or unable to (read and write). Also the indefinite form in which the word Kitāb (كتاب) has been used clearly means "any book" not the book (الكتاب), which is the form in which the Qur'ān invariably refers to the Bible.[40]

Another argument of Kenny is the interpretation of Qur'anic verse 25:5 and particularly his interpretation of the word "Iktatabahā" which is different from that of his teacher, Watt, who translated it as "he had then written down for him "as most Muslim translators put it. Though Watt intends to use it to affirm the allegation of the Meccans, Mohar Ali explains Watt’s arguments as contained in his Muhammad at Mecca:

He side tracks the fact of the denial of the allegation, which is the sole essence and spirit of the passage. Instead, he treats the allegation as an isolated statement and suggests that it "can mean" that Prophet did not "himself" write down the text but that he had it written by "secretaries". Thus in effect Watt adopts the unbelievers' allegation and suggests that though the Prophet had the text of what he gave out as revelation written by others, he in reply to his opponents' allegation to the same effect stated that he himself had not written it! Nothing could be a more stark disregard of the context and sequence of the text and a more absurd misinterpretation of it.[41]

Moḥar Ali went further to explain that the assertion of Watt that the Prophet had the revelation in written form led him into a counterproductive argument, as he forgot its implication. He ought to ask why the opponents of the Prophet needed to allege that others helped him in composing the Qur'an and giving it to him in writing, The answer lies in that the contemporaries knew he could not produce such a literary piece. Their allegation did not stop at saying the old-world stories were written for him, as contained in the verse, but also recited unto him in the morning and the evening. Thus, the verse is a strong proof that the Prophet was unlettered though Watt never wanted to admit that. He therefore omitted the second part of the verse "then these are read into him morning and evening". On this, Moḥar Ali states that "He avoids mentioning it obviously because it would dismantle his contention".[42]

Joseph Kenny uses the verse in a different way through its translation and avoids falling into what his teacher fell into. He translated it "olden stories which he wrote while they were dictated to him morning and evening".[43] The translation of Iktatabahā is therefore rendered as "which he wrote", in which case, the statement "implies literacy" and that the next verse (Q 25:6) did not refute that. The translation is not a problem, as it has also been translated like that by some Muslim translators.[44] The point of contention is Kenny's assumption that the verse implies literacy. In addition, contrary to Kenny's allegation that the next verse did not refute the claim of literacy, the verse indeed refutes the allegations by Meccans in verse 4 and 5. To understand the content of the verse, it is important to read the verse together with the one before it and the one after it:

But the Unbelievers say: "Nothing is this but a lie which he has forged, and others have helped him at it". In truth it is they who have put forward an iniquity and a falsehood. And they say: "tales of the ancients, which he has caused to be written: and they are dictated before him morning and evening" say: "The (Qur'an) was sent down by Him who knows the mystery (that is) in the heavens and the earths… (25:4-6).[45]

It is obvious that the 5th verse is rebutting the allegation by unbelievers in verse 4, that the Qur'an was forged, and that others assisted him in composing it, an allegation that is described by the Qur'an as "iniquity and falsehood". The 5th verse then gives the second allegation that it is ancient tales which he had caused written down and read unto him in the morning and night to memorize and repeat them to others. Thus the next verse denied this and says "The (Qur'an) was sent down by Him who knows the mystery (that is) in the heavens and earth".[46]

Moḥar Ali provides a conclusive explanation of the 3 verses in the following way:

Most important of all, in connection with both allegations the unbelievers specifically alleged that the Prophet got the assistance of others in having the text written and read unto him. Clearly, the unbelievers said so because they knew that the Prophet himself was unable to read and write. The passage is thus the strongest proof that he did not know reading and writing.[47]

Moreover, if we go with Kenny's reading that the Qur'an was dictated to the Prophet in the morning and night while he wrote it, the response of Moḥar Ali to Watt's allegation clears this. He states thus:

Watt also does not seem to be aware of the implication of the assumption of mentors or secretaries for the Prophet. If the Prophet had employed others to compose the text of the revelation for him, or, indeed, if he had taken lessons from any one of his contemporaries, he would invariably have been exposed by those supposed mentors or secretaries, the more so because his claims to Prophethood involved his leadership over the whole community including the alleged mentors or secretaries as well.[48]

The verse therefore does not suppose any literacy and it is not an evidence to claim that the next verse did not specifically refute the allegation of literacy; this is because his unlettered state is known to all and The Qur'an have referred to that in many places. An example is the above verse (29:48).

Another argument of Kenny against the illiteracy of the Prophet is the interpretation of the term Ummī. He claims that the Muslim interpretation of the term as "unlettered" is wrong. He holds the view that the meaning refers only to "non-Jew", without scripture.

It is important to note that classical and modern Muslim scholars also hold that the term also conveys the sense of being "unscriptured" or "non-Jewish",[49] and these scholars include Ibn Ishāq the foremost authority on Sīrah. He explains Ummiyyūn as “Alladhīna lā kitāba lahum” (Those without scripture).[50] Al-Farra (Abu Zakariya Yahya bn Ziād) was quoted by Rāghib al-Isfahānī that the term Ummiyyūn means “the Arabs who do not have a revealed book.” [51]Al-Maududi who is a modern scholar also has such interpretation.[52] Kenny however, wants to dispel the fact that the word means "unlettered". Even in a verse which it cannot otherwise be translated, Qur'an 2:78,[53] he wrote "These Ummiyyūns are likely Arab proselytes as can be judged from other contexts where the meaning appears to be "non-Jewish"…”[54] The interpretation of Ummiyūn by Kenny in the above verse is however not tenable. The whole context of the verse and the verses preceding it and those after it are talking about Jews. If the reference was to the “Arab proselytes" as Kenny asserts, the expression in waminhum (and among them) is irrelevant and Arabs and other non-Jews do not have scripture.[55]

Moḥar Ali further explains in response to Watt, even when the context of the verse is put aside, the interpretation of Ummiyyūn as non-Jews will remain impossible to reconcile. The translation would be "And do not know the scripture (Al-Kitāb) except 'amāniyya…" Moḥar Ali thus remarked:

It is simply pointless to allege that an "unscriptured people" did not know the scripture! Such a statement, besides being nonsense, does not have the force of censure which is the unmistakable tenor of the ’āyah in question.[56]

When the verse is read to the end, the oddity of the interpretation becomes clearer, the last clause, wa in-hum illa yaẓunnūna, elaborates the expression 'amanniyya used earlier in the verse. Mohar Ali explains this further:

Hence this concluding clause of the ’āyah also will have no force of censure and no sense if the expression 'ummiyūn here is taken to imply a people who have not received any scripture; for it is no fault in such people that they should only conjecture about the contents of the book.[57]

Therefore, in whatever way the verse is taken, it clearly means that wa minhum (among the Jews), is about, the 'ummiyyūn, the illiterates and ignorant who did not study the scripture but only indulge in guising.

Kenny also holds that the term is related to the Hebrew term Umma that is 'tribe" or "nation"[58] while his teacher thinks it was derived from ummot ha 'olam (the peoples of the world of genteel),[59] Kenny argues further that "in Arabic the noun Umma means "people" or "community", so that adjective Ummī must mean "native" or belonging to the Arab community, and not "unlettered".[60]

It is however, more authoritative view that it is derived from the word "Umm (mother) and therefore ummīy means a person who has no acquired knowledge except what he received at his mother's cradle".[61] In addition, even if it is taken that Jews used to refer to non-Jews as 'ummī to mean unscriptured people, they did so to imply people without revealed scripture who are devoid of knowledge and learning and are ignorant and illiterate.[62] Therefore, the term was definitely used in Qur'an 2:78 to mean "unlettered". In places like 3:20, 3:75 and 62:2, the term could mean either illiterate or people without scripture.[63] But in 7:157 and 7:158, which are in singular forms describing the person of the Prophet, it means an unlettered person. It cannot mean a person without scripture because the Prophet has a scripture, "the light (the Qur'an, which has been sent down to him" as in 7:157 "Kalimātihi, His words (the Qur'an)” as in 7:158. The term cannot as well mean non-Jew as the first verse talks about a Prophet sent to Jews and Christians who have him mentioned in their scriptures, the second talks about the universality of his message therefore:

It would be quite inappropriate to emphasize here his non-Jewish origin or Arab ethnic affiliation. In fact, it would be simply self-defeating to say that a non-Jewish or unscriptured Prophet was sent to the Jews and Christians who had their scriptures.[64]

On the argument of Kenny from the Sīra of Ibn Hishām that the Prophet wrote a letter for Abdullah bn Jahsh, when he was sent to the battle of Nakhla, there is no evidence that the Prophet wrote it by himself, as it is a well known fact that he had scribes who wrote letters for him. Kenny's assumption arose from Ibn Hishām's expression "Wakataba lahu Kitāb",[65] Kenny translated it as "He wrote a letter for him…"[66]

Another argument put forth by Kenny is that at the treaty of Ḥudaybiyya the Prophet erased the portion "Muhammad the Massager of God" when Ali refused to erase it. He holds that this points that he could read.[67] He refers to Ibn Hishām vol. 2, p, 306. Ibn Hishām however did not mention that. Even in the translation of the portion by Kenny in Early Islam,[68] there was no mention of that. Nevertheless, it is in the books of Hadīth with that expression but other Aḥadīth explain it further, the Prophet asked Ali to show him the place, and then he erased it.[69]

Kenny also argues for the literacy of the Prophet through the interpretation and rendering into English of the Prophet’s response to angel Jibrīl at mount Ḥira. When the Prophet was commanded to read, he responded that: “mā aqra”, Kenny translated it as “what should I read”, this is to imply that he knew how to read, and that he was asking about the text to read. There are however, other versions of the Ḥadīth that categorically state the Prophet’s response as “mā ana bi qārī” (I do not read or I don’t read). Despite this, Kenny still insists on the literacy of the Prophet and gives the interpretation of the phrase in this way that it "would normally mean that Muhammad was not a professional reciter, that is a rabbi a scribe who could read Jewish scripture; this was in Hebrew and not translated into Arabic".[70] He therefore, tries to force his own interpretation to refute the Qur'an as a miracle given to an unlettered Prophet.

The final evidence Kenny gave on the literacy of the Prophet is that he was a trader for many years and he "presumably could keep accounts".[71] This assertion is based on mere conjecture. Even if we agree with Kenny that the Prophet was able to keep account, and that little knowledge was sufficient for him to produce the Qur'an, which "constitutes acknowledgedly "the supreme classic" of Arabic literature?”[72]

3.The Allegation that the Prophet had the Influence of Judaism and Christianity in Composition of the Qur'an

This accusation of Joseph Kenny in particular and other orientalists in general is based on their primary assumption that the Qur'an can never be from God. Therefore, they had propound theories to ascribe it to human. That is why many of them did not bother to examine it as a word of God, but rather, start by proposing other possible sources for it.

Ḥumaid bn Nāṣir al-Ḥumaid rightly argues that the assumed influence of Christianity in Mecca is not tenable as the city is not a centre of civilization and there was no story of Christian influence there. In addition, why is it that no other Meccan person was able to come up with a similar teaching or scripture if Mecca was under the influence of Christianity?[73]

Despite this, it cannot be refuted that Christianity and Judaism were unknown to the people of Mecca, as there were Christians and Jews in Arabia and Mecca. The people also engaged in trading to Christian centres and there were Arabs who got converted to Christianity. The argument of Joseph Kenny and others that the brand of Christianity that influenced the rise of Islam was Judaeo-Christianity or the Ebionites is also not tenable as they drew comparison between the teachings of the sect and Islam. It is however, a well known fact that the group had disappeared before the time of the Prophet, and even those who argue for that based their argument on the assumption that Islam is a revival of an extinct Christian sect. They argue that perhaps the sect moved into the Arabian Peninsula.[74] This argument fails because it is based on assumption (which is not certain) and historical fact cannot be based on uncertainty. Furthermore, Judaeo- Christianity was defeated by Pauline Christianity since the early second century C.E, and it disappeared since then.[75] Therefore, the Christianity that was known in Arabia at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) is a collection of sects with the same teachings with the official Church.

It is also a fact that the Prophet (pbuh) did not read the Bible. Kenny and other orientalists hold that his knowledge is from mere "hearsay" and at best second hand. Kenny asserts that the Prophet "at the most could have heard paraphrased Biblical stories which circulated orally".[76] The question that this assumption raises, as Moḥar Ali puts it in response to Muir, Margoliouth and Watt is that:

Is it reasonable to assume that a person of Muhammad's (pbuh) intelligence and common sense, as on all hands he is admitted have been endowed with, could proceed to propound a new religion and challenge the correctness of both the prevailing systems of Judaism and Christianity on the basis of a mere hearsay and superficial knowledge of these systems of faiths?[77]

The form of Judaism and Christianity that was present in Arabia at the time of the Prophet also shows that it is impossible for the Prophet to be said to have picked information on monotheism from the religions, as Judaism depicts God as a tribal god of the children of Israel, while Christianity was blurred with the doctrine of Trinity which Islam refutes. It cannot be said therefore, that the Prophet adapted from these religions.[78]

The allegation that the Prophet (PBUH) met some experts about Christianity and Judaism on his two trips to Syria for trade is not enough for him to obtain knowledge about Christianity. There is also no historical fact that the Prophet (pbuh) used these journeys to obtain knowledge about Christianity from monks or any Christian. Additionally, had it been so, he could have been exposed by other Meccans who did not accept his message and who were together with him on that trade journey to Syria.[79] More so, regarding the assumption that Waraqah Ibn Nawfal taught the Prophet about Christianity, his response to the Prophet's consultation after Jibril came to him could have been different, and he could have exposed him as well, and the Meccans could have used it to oppose him. He could not have preached something radically different from Judaism and Christianity.

The Qur'an itself has excellently refuted the accusation of a possible foreign teacher for the Prophet when the pagans of Mecca made such accusation:

We know indeed that they say, "it is a man that teaches him" the tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear (16:103).

But the misbelievers say: "Nothing is this but a lie which he has forged and others have helped him at it." In truth it is they who have put forward an iniquity and a falsehood. And they say: "Tales of the ancients, which he has caused to be written: and they are dictated before him morning and evening. Say: "The (Qur'an) was sent down by Him who knows the mystery (that is) in the heavens and the earth: verily He is oft-forgiving, most merciful (25:4-6).

Commentators do not agree on the identity of the persons that the people of Mecca assumed were teaching the Prophet. It was related that they were Abyssinian Christian slaves, Jabr and Yassir, who accepted Islam and their master was punishing them that they were teaching the Prophet. But they would reply "No, by Allah! He teaches us and guides us!”[80] Al-Qurtubi puts Jabr's significant reply thus "It is not I who teach Muhammad, rather it is He who teaches and guides me".[81]

The allegation that the Prophet tried to lure the Jews to Islam and that upon failure the Qur'an was made to oppose and refute Jews in Medina[82] is not tenable as there had been refutation of Jews in the Qur'an as those who deviate from their original scriptures since Mecca period.[83] Furthermore, the allegation of Kenny that the Prophet obtained more knowledge about Christianity from the Christian delegation of Najran before the Qur’an hinted more on Christian doctrines and the refutation of divinity of Jesus[84] is also malicious and mendacious as the rejection of the sonship or fathership of Jesus had been distinctly made since early Meccan days. Mohammad Khalifa quoted Richard Bell that "…the surah 'Al-Ikhlāṣ' of the Qur'an is sometimes quoted as an early rejection of one of the cardinal doctrines of Christianity".[85]

Muslim scholars do not stop at the above; they adduced evidences that the contents of the Qur'an were not borrowed from the Bible. They also compare Qur'anic stories with the narrations in the Bible to prove that the differences in the stories are sufficient evidence that the Qur'anic stories do not emerge from Biblical or apocryphal sources.[86] There are many stories which the Qur'an mentions and cannot be found in the Bible. These are of two kinds:[87] (a) the stories which are completely absent in the Bible, these include stories of Ṣāliḥ, Hūd, Shu'aīb, Khidir and Dhul-Qarnain. (b) Fundamental points in the stories which are peculiar to the Qur'an54 include:

  1. The Qur'an mentions that God commanded Angels to prostrate before Adam, and only Iblis refused to do so.
  2. The story of Ibrahim's destruction of idols of his people, his gazing of stars, his argument with his people, the attempt to burn him with fire, moving of members of his family to Arabia to the sacred house of God, and his construction of Ka'aba along with his son Isma'il and his connection with Lūṭ.
  3. Concerning Nūḥ (Q 11:25-49) the Qur'an has peculiar stories which are not mentioned in the Bible. These include the calling of his people to Tawḥīd. The Qur'an talks that the deluge did not come until after Nūḥ has suffered from the opposition of his people, and had lost hope. God revealed to him that they would not believe. The Qur'an mentions that only those who believed were saved and about the refusal of his son to accept the truth etc.[88]
  4. Concerning Īsā and his mother (Q 3:33) there are remarkable differences between the account of the Qur'an and the Bible. The Qur'an talks about the incident of her care and protection which cannot be found in the New Testament. The Qur'an talks of the purity of Mary. The Qur'an mentions miracles of Jesus which could not be found in the New Testament such as his speaking to people while he was in the cradle, giving life to clay birds by God's permission and the table that descended unto him from heaven.[89]

Concerning the miracle of making speech in the cradle and giving life to clay birds, some orientalists including Kenny argue that it was mentioned in Apocryphal traditions, the Gospel of the Infancy.[90] Rev. St. Chair Tisdall, whose aim is to ascribe Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian and other sources to the Qur’an, in his work The Original Sources of the Qur’an clarifies that despite the mentioning of the events in the Apocryphal Gospel of the Infancy, it cannot be said that the Qur’an directly borrowed from it as it was not composed in Arabic, and that the work which probably has a Coptic origin had not been translated during the time of the Prophet, yet Tisdall holds that the origin of the Qur’anic stories about the infancy of Christ originated from the work, and that the Prophet gave it a blending of Islamic monotheism. He alleges that since it may have been composed in Coptic language, this gives a clue to where the Prophet obtained information about the events.[91] He wrote:

For it is a well-known fact that the Christian governor of Egypt sent him a present of two Coptic girls, one of whom, "Mary the Copt," became one of his favourite concubines, This girl, though not well acquainted with the Gospel, must doubtless have known so popular a legend as that contained in the "Gospel of the Infancy" at that time was. Muhammad probably learnt the tale from her, and fancying it to be contained in the Gospels universally accepted by Christians as of Divine authority, he on that account incorporated it into the Qur'an. Of course it is possible that he had others besides Mary who told him Coptic legends, but, whoever his informant or informants may have been, it is clear that the source of the story of the miracle is the one we have mentioned.

These allegations are however, frivolous as they lack credibility. They are based on Tisdall’s prejudice that the Qur’an cannot come from God, the allegations cannot be accepted as they are based on assumption and not having any genuine source. Contrary to Kenny’s view that the Apocryphal traditions were wide spread in Arabia, Tisdall alleges that the Prophet probably learnt it from Māriya al-Qibṭiyyah.

Nevertheless, despite the mentioning of the similar miracles of Christ in the Gospel of Infancy, the disagreement between it and the Qur'an is so obvious that it cannot be said that the Qur'an borrowed from it.

Other issues which the Qur'an mentions are wanting in the New Testament include the fact that God gave Jesus Injīl, refutation of the sonship of Jesus, rejection of crucifixion of Christ, the trinity and his seeking for the help of the disciples (al-Hawāriyūn). Had it been the Qur'an borrowed from the Bible, it will not disagree with it in these fundamental aspects of Christian doctrines.

  1. Concerning Yūsuf, eighteen important differences and points not mentioned in the Bible are mentioned in the Qur'an in its chapter (Sūrah) 12.[92]
  2. Concerning Mūsā the Qur'an gives many facts not mentioned in the Bible and many are different from the Biblical accounts. These include the fact that Sāmiri and not Hārūn introduced the worship of Calf to the Israelites. The Qur'an clears Hārūn and Moses of improprieties to God and described them as chosen Prophets against how they were depicted in the Old Testament. The Qur'an gives the story of Musa's travel to the "meeting place of two seas" etc.[93] The accuracy of Qur'anic facts are further confirmed by scientific and historical evidences which include the mentioning of Hāmān, which is absent in the Bible,[94] and also the story in the Qur'an that God saved the body of Pharaoh so as to serve as a deterrent to others.[95]
  3. Concerning Sulaymān, the Qur'an mentions how the Jinns were made to submit to Sulaymān, the Qur'anic story of the bird hoopoe, the letter of Solomon to the Queen of Sheba, her acceptance of Islam, and the bringing of her throne to Sulaymān by a man that has the knowledge of the Book within a blink of an eye.
  4. Concerning Dāud, the Qur'an talks of how God eased him through iron’s malleability and he enjoyed rule on trees, birds and the iron.

Apart from giving stories and accounts not found in the Bible, the Qur'an corrects many biblical accounts the Bible ascribes some heinous acts to, Dāud whom the Bible accuses of committing unlawful sexual relation with the wife of one of his soldiers as contained in 2 Kings 17, and the accusation of Lūṭ of incest with his daughters as contained in Genesis 19.

The comparison between the accounts of the Bible and Qur'an shows that the Qur'an cannot in anyway be a reproduction of the Bible. The Qur'anic stories are characterized by a good deal of difference and originality despite the presence of some points of similarity with the bible.[96]

4.The Allegation that the Arab Custom of Oral Literature Especially the Oath of the Soothsayers Influenced the Composition of the Qur'an

Mohammad Khalifa excellently shows the falsity of this assertion in response to Maxim Rodinson. He holds that “the same writer could see nothing different in the Qur'an he even assumed it to be identical to messages of Kāhins without quoting any to support his claim”.[97]

This allegation is not peculiar to Kenny and Rodinson, the Encyclopaedia of Islam also contains such allegations,[98] citing the oaths contained in some of the chapters of the Qur'an and style of the Qur'anic prose which the writer says resemble the Saja‘ of the Kuhhān.

The accusation upon the Qur'an of resembling the words of soothsayers had been made ever since the time of the Prophet by pagans of Mecca. Additionally, the Qur'an itself refutes this when it says:

That is verily the word of an honoured messenger; and it is not the word of a poet: little it is you believe! Nor it is the word of a soothsayer: little admonition it is you receive. (This is) a message sent down from the Lord of the worlds (69:40-43).

In another place, the Qur'an says:

Therefore, you proclaim the praises (of your Lord): for by the grace of your Lord, you are no (vulgar) soothsayer, nor you are one possessed. Or do they say:- "A poet! For him we await some calamity (hatched) by Time!... or do they say, He fabricated the (message)"? Nay they have no faith! Let them produce a recital like it, if (it be) they speak the truth! (52:29-34).

Naḍir bn al-Hārith once said to the pagans of Quraysh "Oh Quraysh, by God a great calamity which you have never seen has befallen you. Muhammad was a child who grew before you; he is one of your best brains, he is the most honest amongst you when he talks and the most trustworthy amongst you, until you notice grey in his hair, and he brought you what he brought, you said it is magic. By God it is not magic for we know how magicians operate by blowing in the knots. You then said he is a Kāhin (soothsayer), by God he is not a soothsayer, for by God we have seen soothsayers and how they operate, and we have heard their assonance or rhymed prose. You then said he is a poet, for by God it is not poetry, we have seen poetry and have listened to its various types, and its chanting type… You then said he is a madman! For by God he is not mad…Oh people of Quraysh, look into your affairs for a great calamity had befallen you". Naḍir was among those who were persecuting the Prophet of Mecca”. Other enemies of the Prophet who made similar statements included Walīd bn Mughīra, 'Utabah bn Rabi'ah and Anīs the brother of Abu Dhar-al-Ghafari.[99]

Therefore, even the pagan Arabs of the time of the Prophet acknowledged that the Qur'an is not in any way similar to what they knew or their oral tradition. In fact Mughīra told the Quraysh to find something to describe what the Prophet brought, if not, they would be ridiculed by other Arabs who will be coming to Mecca for pilgrimage since the Arabs would not accept that it is magic or soothsaying or poetry for they knew them all. The Orientalists therefore without having any proof ascribed the Qur'an to the rhymed prose of the soothsayers.

5. The Allegation that the Qur'an was Revised and Edited Several Times

This allegation is meant to prove the Qur'an as a human creation and not of a divine origin. The first point of Kenny is on the rationality and possibility of Naskh (abrogation). He saw it as an editing and revision by the Prophet (pbuh).[100] This accusation is a deliberate attempt to change what abrogation means; to imply that the Prophet changed whatever he was better informed. It is however important to note that abrogation as it occurred in the Qur'an affects only issues concerning do’s and don’ts and does not affect basic issues of faith like the oneness of God, his Prophets, scriptures the day of judgement and even basic aspects of worship and transaction (Usūl al-Ibādāt wal Mu'āmalāt). Abrogation as it happened in the Qur'an is also in Judaism and Christianity. Before Mūsā (A.S) all foods were made lawful to Israelites, but after the Torah was revealed, certain foods were prohibited. The Qur'an puts it:

All food was lawful to the children of Israel, except what Israel made unlawful for himself before the Taurāt (Torah) was revealed… (3:93).

And unto those who are Jews, We forbade every (animal) with individual hoof and We forbade them the fat of the ox and the sheep except what adheres to their backs or their entrails, or is mixed up with a bone…(6:146).

When Īsā (A.S) came, he made lawful some of what was prohibited to the children of Israel. The Qur'an puts it: “And I have come confirming that which was before me of the Taurāt (Torah), and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you…” (3:50).

The command that Ibrahim should sacrifice his son as contained in Genesis 22 and Qur’an which was later substituted with a ram is an example of abrogation.[101] There are equally other multiple examples that can be cited on this. Abrogation therefore is not strange to God's revelation.

Joseph Kenny's example of abrogation however, is the false "Satanic verses"[102] which he holds was part of Sūrat an-Najm and was abrogated. The story which Kenny and other orientalists hold is refuted by Muslim scholars as a fabrication. It was only mentioned by historians and exegetes who want to narrate strange stories. Yet they narrated it with chains that are false and spurious. It is the attitude of the orientalists to take whatever suits them from Islamic sources and claim it is true, even if the sources they quoted attest to their falsity. Similar examples can be cited concerning the allegations of the pagans of Mecca against the Qur’an and the Prophet, the orientalists took the allegations from the Qur’an and ignored their refutation as contained in the Qur'an and try to confirm the allegations.

Concerning this story, not only the sources show it is false, but also the reading of the Sūrah.[103] Firstly, the beginning of the Sūrah shows the falsity of the story as it says:

By the star when it goes down (or vanishes). Your companion (Muhammad (pbuh) has neither gone astray nor has eared. Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only a Revelation revealed. He has been taught (this Qur’ān) by one mighty in power [Jibril(Gabriel)] (53:1-5).

The verses are therefore falsifying the allegation that the Satan misled the Prophet and inserted some words into his mouth as contained in the story. Secondly, the alleged inserted words negate the basic teachings of Islam, which is the oneness of Allah. Thirdly, the Arabs had never called the idols or gods Ghirnīq or Ghurnūq (crane). Thus the description is not suitable to their gods and goddesses. Fourthly, it is senseless as contained in the allege insertion that the Gharānīq will intercede before Allah, and then it will be followed by a most devastating criticism. The Qur'an says:

Have you seen Lat, and 'Uzza.And another, the third (goddess), Manat? What! For you the male sex, and for Him, the female? Behold, such would be indeed a division most unfair! These are nothing but names which you have devised, - you and your fathers, - for which Allah has sent down no authority (whatever). They follow nothing but conjecture and what their own souls desire! Even though there has already come to them guidance from their Lord! (53:19-23).

In addition, the verse 22:52 cited by Kenny to confirm the occurrence of the incident does not support it in any way. The meaning of the terms tamannā and umniya shows that what the devil throws is not in the recitation or reading, but in his desire. What the verse is teaching is that whenever any man of God is trying to do good to the people and teach them what is right, the devil always wants to obstruct and prevent it.[104]

Another allegation of Kenny is the arrangement of the Qur'an. He doubts whether the arrangement was completed during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) or not. He sees the compilation of the Qur'an in a book form at the time of Caliphs Abu Bakr and Uthmān as a sort of editing and revision. The allegations however, lack proofs as he could not substantiate them.

Related to this is the allegation that some verses were inserted and thus the verses were wrongly assembled and this led to obvious grammatical and literary defects. The response of Mohammad Khalifa to similar allegation suffices here. He states that:

But one can only understand the frustration of someone who struggles through the Qur'an with a limited knowledge of Arabic and then describes it as "literacy chaos filled with clumsy syntax", or dub it words "inherently and perniciously defectives". One must master any language in order to appreciate its literary beauties.[105]

6. Allegations Concerning the Inimitability and the Miracle of the Qur'an

Joseph Kenny does not deny that the Qur'an is inimitable, but what he holds is that its inimitability does not make it a miracle. The unletteredness of the Prophet and his not being schooled before the revelation of the Qur'an is a miracle. Though Kenny holds that this fact "is really irrelevant to the question of whether the Qur'an is a miracle".[106] He then gave his definition of a miracle as:

A miracle should be something that no man, however learned, could produce. Those who know Arabic and listen to the Qur'an chanted do find it impressively beautiful, and it can even put them in a trance, as I observed in Cairo mosques. This is because of the rhythm, the rhyme and, above all, because in a context of public worship it evokes consciousness of God.[107]

However, the question to be asked here is that, has any learned man or group of men been able to produce the like of the Qur'an for more than 13 centuries ago when the challenge was raised? If the answer is no then the Qur'an is a miracle according to his definition of a miracle. The Prophet (pbuh) was reported to have said the Qur'an is his greatest miracle. The Qur'an has challenged the whole world to produce its like in three degrees:

  1. It challenged the whole world to produce a book like it: "Say: "If the mankind and the Jinn were together to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another". (17:88).
  2. The Qur'an challenged the whole world to produce 10 chapters similar to it: "or they say, "He (Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) forged it (the Qur'an)". Say: "Bring you then ten forged Sūrahs (chapters) like unto it, and call whomsoever you can, other than Allah (to your help), if you speak the truth! If then they answer you not, know then that it (the revelation this Qur'an) is sent down with the knowledge of Allah…." (11:13-14)
  3. The challenge was further reduced to a Sūrah, the Qur'an puts it: "or do they say: "He (Muhammad p.b.u.h) has forged it? Say: "Bring them a Sūrah (chapter) like unto it…" (10:38) in another place it say: "and if you (Arab pagans, Jews and Christians) are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down (i.e. the Qur'an) to our slave (Muhammad (pbuh)), then produce a Sūrah (chapter of the like thereof…" (2:23).

Kenny conclusively writes that "it should also be observed that although sections of the Qur'an are very beautiful, the book as a whole is far from a perfect piece of literature, with rambling from one topic to another and so much repetition".[108]

It is important to mention at this juncture that the I'jāz (inimitability) of the Qur'an is not limited to its literary style. Its miracle includes it unique laws and legislative system, its information concerning unseen and future things, its inimitability in giving accurate information on scientific and other types of knowledge. Muslim scholars have written a lot about these issues in their works.[109]


This paper has examined Christian missionary efforts to dispute the divine origin of the Qur’an. Joseph Kenny’s view and arguments are not novel; the new things he added are his approaches and methodology in presenting them. Yet his arguments against the Qur’an are based on distortions and false interpretations as the examination of his arguments reveals incoherencies of the evidences he adduced. He agrees that the Prophet did not read the Bible, yet he holds that the Prophet composed the Qur’an from Biblical and Apocryphal traditions circulating in Arabia, an argument which is inconceivable for a book like Qur’an. Kenny agrees that the Qur’an is inimitable and beautiful but not a miracle, yet the definition of a miracle which he gives agrees with what the Qur’an is. He argues further, despite the defects in his understanding of Arabic and Qur’anic language, that the Qur’an is imperfect in terms of its literary style and that there are obvious grammatical errors which he however failed to point out.


  1. See W Montgomery Watt, Formative Period of Islamic Thought(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 1973), 184
  2. Maxim Rodinson, "The Western Image and Western Studies of Islam". In Joseph Schacht and C.E. Bosworth (eds.) The Legacy of Islam(Oxford: the Clarendon press, 1974), 15- 17
  3. Abdul Radhiy Muhammad'Abdul Muhsin, Al-Ghārah at- Tanṣīriyah 'ala Aṣālatil Qur'ān al-Karīm(Madina: Majma' al-Malik Fahd, 1421), pp 39 ff.
  4. T. G. O.Gbadamosi, The Growth of Islam among the Yoruba, 1841- 1908(London: Longman, 1978),130.
  5. Abdul Ganiy Akorede Abdul Hamid. "Al-Mustashriq al-Qiṣṣīṣ Elijah Kola Akinlade wa manhajuhu fī Tarjamatil Qur'an al-Karīm ila Lughati Yoruba" a paper given at conference of Qur'an al-Kareem in oriental studies, organized by Malik Fahd Complex for Printing of Holy Qur'an, Riyadh 7th – 9th Nov. 2006.
  6. Rasheed A Raji, Tangled Complexities: Muslim-Christian Relations and the Issue of Arabic Language in Nigeria (University of Ilorin Inaugural Lecture, 2002), 29- 30.
  7. This researcher intends to dedicate another paper to examine the misrepresentations in the translations of Joseph Kenny.
  8. SeeTCNN Research Bulletin, No. 37 March 2002, this researcher made efforts to get a copy of the work, but the writer declined.
  9. Joseph Kenny informed this researcher in an interview at the St. Thomas Aquinas Priory Ibadan, January 1-5, 2012; his CV is available on http://www.cuea.edu/mvumbi/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&Itemid=4
  10. (Lagos: First Concept, 2009) he did the research West African Theological Seminary (WATS), Lagos, see p V.
  11. It was available only on his website www.josephkenny.joyours.com/Qur’an.htm, the website is however, closed after his death.
  12. R. Petch, "An Evaluation of the Biblical Basis and Validity Of Using the Qur'an as a Starting Point For Christian Apologetic and Witness to Muslims With Special Reference To Jeremy Hinds' Qur'an Word Studies",  (A Dissertation submitted to St. John’s College, Nottingham in part fulfilment of the requirements for the Masters in Theological Studies,1996)
  13. Roger Petch "Jeremy Hinds (1932-1993): Teacher and Apologist to Christians and Muslims." TCNN Research Bulletin. No. 47, (2007), pp 4- 15
  14. G.J.O Moshe. Anatomy of the Qur’an (Ibadan: Fireliners International, 1994).
  15. See Joseph Kenny. Qur'an and Hadīth Studies: Scholarship in Early Islam.
  16. = Joseph Kenny O. P. Curriculum Vitae, on formally http://www.dunigeria.comand the interview with Sam Nwaoko, entitled "Meet Rev. Father Joseph Kenny, Catholic priest-turned-Islamic Professor - Says I taught Islamic studies to present facts", Nigerian Tribune. 5th Jan., 2009, http://www.tribune.com.ng/ 05012009/ general2[1]html =
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. An exclusive Interview with Joseph Kenny at the St. Thomas Aquinas Priory Ibadan, January 1-5, 2012.
  20. South West of Nigeria, the region is inhabited by Muslims and Christians, and the Muslims form the majority.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. See Joseph Kenny. Qur'an and Hadīth Studies.
  24. Ibid.
  25. See W M Watt. Muhammad at Mecca( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953), 39 ff
  26. Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists(Ipswich: Jam’iyyat Iḥyaa’ Mnhaj Al-Sunnah, 2004),8
  27. Ibid., p 14
  28. Ibid., pp 11- 14
  29. Manna‘ al-Qaṭṭān. Mabāḥith fī 'Ulūm al-Qur’an(Riyadh: Maktabatu al-Ma’arif, 2000), 38-40
  30. Muhammad as-Sayyid Raḍī Jibril. Maṣdar al-Qur’ānil Karīm fī Ra’y al-Mustashriqīn: ‘Arḍun wa dirāsatun wa Naqd. Available on http://www.muslim-library.com/download,849,0.html(accessed on 20/06/2012), 41- 4
  31. Manna‘ al-Qaṭṭān. Mabāḥith fī 'Ulūm al-Qur’an 39-40.
  32. Muhammad as-Sayyid Raḍī Jibril. Maṣdar al-Qur’ānil Karīm fī Ra’y al-Mustashriqīn, 41
  33. Joseph Kenny. Qur'an and Hadīth Studies; Joseph Kenny, Early Islam (Lagos. Dominican Publications, 1997), 15.
  34. W M Watt. Muhammad at Mecca. p 46
  35. Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists, 15.
  36. Samuel D. Margoliouth. Mohammed and the Rise of Islam. London and New York: G.P. Putnans Sons, 1905, p 59.
  37. Ibid., pp 57-8
  38. See Joseph Kenny, Qur'an and Hadīth Studies.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists, 17.
  41. Ibid., p19
  42. Ibid.,
  43. Joseph Kenny. Qur'an and Hadīth Studies.
  44. See Mohammed Marmaduke William Pickthall ; Muhammad Taqī-ud-Dīn al-Hilālī and Muhammad Muhsin Khān. Translation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur’an in the English Language. Madinah: King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, 1417 A.H., p 478.
  45. Abdullah Yusuf Ali (trans.). The Qur’an. Sayed A.A.Razwy ed. (New York: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an Inc., 1995),240
  46. See Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists, 18 for the explanation of the verse.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Ibid., pp 19- 20
  49. Ibid., p20
  50. Ibn Hishām. Al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah. Ed. Umar Abdul Salam al-Tadmuri. Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Arabi, 1990, p 220.
  51. Abū al-Qāsim al-Ḥusayn bn Muhammad ar-Rāghib al-Isfahānī. Al-Mufradāt fī Gharīb al-Qur’ān. Beirut: Dār al-Ma‘rifah, nd, p 29.
  52. See Muḥammad Mohar Ali, p 20.
  53. “And there are among them illiterates (ummiyūn), who do not know the Book, but (see therein their own) desires, and the do nothing but conjecture” Abdullah Yusuf Ali (trans.). The Qur’an, p 7.
  54. Joseph Kenny, Qur'an and Hadīth Studies.
  55. See Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists, 22 against Watt’s argument.
  56. Ibid.
  57. Ibid.
  58. Joseph Kenny, Qur'an and Hadīth Studies.
  59. See Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists, p. 23
  60. Joseph Kenny, Qur'an and Hadīth Studies.
  61. Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists.
  62. Ibid.
  63. Ibid, pp 23-4
  64. Ibid., p 24
  65. Ibn Hishām. As- Sīra al- Nabawiyya,ed.Musṭafā Saqā et. Al. (Beirut: Dār-Ihya’ at-Turāth al-‘Arabī), 2: 252
  66. Joseph Kenny, Early Islam (Lagos. Dominican Publications, 1997), 47
  67. Joseph Kenny, Qur'an and Hadīth Studies.
  68. Joseph Kenny, Early Islam, p89
  69. Muslim bn Hajjaj al- Qushairi al- Naisaburi.Sahih Muslim (Beirut: Dar- Ihya Turath al-Arabi, nd), no. 4731
  70. Joseph Kenny, Qur'an and Hadīth Studies.
  71. Ibid.
  72. Muḥammad Mohar Ali, The Qur’an and the Orientalists,45
  73. Humaid bn Nasir al-Humaid .Al-Qur’an al-Karīm fī Dāirati al-Ma‘arif al-Islāmiyya.http://www.muslim-library.com/download,845,0.html accessed on 20/06/2012 P 4
  74. Abdul Ḥakīm Farḥāt. Ishkāliyyat Ta’athur al-Qur’an al-Karīm bil Anājīl fī al-Fikr al-Istishrāqī al-Ḥadīth.http://www.muslim-library.com/download,822,0.html (accessed on 20/06/2012) 8-11
  75. See Maurice Bucaille. The Bible the Qur'an and Science, 15th ed.(New York: St. Martins, 1993),67- 70
  76. Joseph Kenny, Qur'an and Hadīth Studies.
  77. Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists,33
  78. Ibid., pp36- 7
  79. Ibid., p36
  80. Qtd in Mohammed Khalifa. The Sublime Qur’an and Orientalism, 2nd ed. (Karachi: International Islamic Publishers, 1989), 14
  81. Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists, 46
  82. Joseph Kenny, Early Islam, 42-4
  83. Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists,36
  84. Joseph Kenny, Early Islam, 117
  85. Mohammed Khalifa. The Sublime Qur’an and Orientalism,15
  86. Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists, 53-61; Muhammad as-Sayyid Raḍī Jibril. Maṣdar al-Qur’ānil Karīm fī Ra’y al-Mustashriqīn, 64 ff; 'Abdul Radhiy Muhammad 'Abdul Muhsin. Al-Ghārah at- Tanṣīriyah 'ala Aṣālatil Qur'ān al-Karīm, p58ff
  87. ' Abdul Radhiy Muhammad 'Abdul Muhsin, Ibid. p68
  88. Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists,54
  89. Ibid., pp 54- 5; 'Abdul Radhiy Muhammad 'Abdul Muhsin. Al-Ghārah at- Tanṣīriyah 'ala Aṣālatil Qur'ān al-Karīm 70-1
  90. See Joseph Kenny. Jesus and Mary in Islam. Lagos: Dominican Publication, 2001, p
  91. W. ST. Clair Tisdall. The Original Sources of the Qur’an. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1911, pp 168ff
  92. See Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists,55-7 for a comparison of the stories.
  93. See Ibid., pp57-60 for 17 differences
  94. See Maurice Bucaille. The Bible the Qur'an and Science, 239ff
  95. Ibid., p 248ff
  96. Muḥammad Mohar Ali. The Qur’an and the Orientalists,61
  97. Mohammed Khalifa. The Sublime Qur’an and Orientalism, 20
  98. “Koran” Encyclopedia of Islam. Vol. 4, p 1066
  99. See ‘Imād as-Sayyid Muhammad Ismail ash-Shurbaini. Rad Shubuhāt haula ‘Iṣmat an-Nabī ; Muhammad bn Ahmad bn Abi Bakrbn Farh al-Qurtubī. Al-I‘lām bimā fī Dīnin Naṣārā minal Fasād wal Auhām wa Izhār Maḥāsin al-Islām(Cairo: Dār al-Turāth al-Arabi, 1397A.H).
  100. Joseph Kenny, Qur'an and Hadīth Studies.
  101. Mohammed Khalifa. The Sublime Qur’an and Orientalism,96
  102. Joseph Kenny, Qur'an and Hadīth Studies, cf. Joseph Kenny, Early Islam, 24- 5
  103. Humaid bn Nasir al-Humaid .Al-Qur’an al-Karīm fī Dāirati al-Ma‘arif al-Islāmiyya, 26- 28; Mohammed Khalifa. The Sublime Qur’an and Orientalism,93- 103
  104. Muḥammad Mohar Ali. Sīrat Al-Nabī and the Orientalists. Madinah(King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Qur’an, 1997),690
  105. Mohammed Khalifa. The Sublime Qur’an and Orientalism,21
  106. vJoseph Kenny, Qur'an and Hadīth Studies.
  107. Ibid.
  108. Ibid.
  109. See Maurice Bucaille. The Bible the Qur'an and Science, Manna‘ al-Qaṭṭān.Mabāḥith fī 'Ulūm al-Qur’an, 265- 289.