Is the Qur’an a Manipulated text borrowed from Syro-Aramaic Christian Documents?

Christoph Luxenberg (a pseudonym) claims that the Qur’an or parts of the Qur’an are derived from pre-existing Christian Aramaic texts that were manipulated to create the Qur’an we know of today. This regurgitated and outdated argument falls on its face due to the baseless assumptions this study rests upon. Below are a list of Luxenbergs assumptions and the counter arguments exposing their lack of evidence.

Assumptions & Counter Arguments

Assumption 1:
The region of Mecca at the time of revelation (approximately 1400 years ago) was an initial Aramaic settlement.
Counter Argument:
There is an absence of historical Syriac-Christian works prevalent in Mecca at that period.

Assumption 2:
The language of the Meccans was a hybrid language of Arabic and Syriac.
Counter Argument:
No manuscript evidence or 5th /6th century inscriptions indicate this.

Assumption 3:
No presence of an Arab oral tradition and culture.
Counter Argument 3:
Historical information indicates that there was an adequate and thorough transmission of an oral culture.

Assumption 4:
The Arabs during the Prophet’s time forgot the Syriac language and lapsed into what is now known as classical Arabic.
Counter Argument 4:
This would entail that a mass loss of memory had plagued the Arabs during that time.

Assumption 5:
The Prophet could read and write fluently (knowing many dialects).
Counter Argument 5:
An assumption (or speculation) that is no stronger than the argument (or assumption) that he was illiterate.

Assumption 6:
Various scribes wrote the Qur’an from the Meccan hybrid (‘mutant’) language.
Counter Argument 6:
No analysis given that indicates different influences and linguistic sensitivities that arise out of multiple authors.

Assumption 7:
Employment of an exclusively philological approach.
Counter Argument 7:
This enables freedom to stretch interpretations as well as emend the Qur’anic text in order to make it correspond to the desired Syro-Aramaic texts.

Even though that Luxenberg’s study is based upon weak assumptions he attempts to substantiate his conspiratorial claims by re-interpreting single words in the Qur’an by using corresponding Aramaic words. As a result of finding similarities in words – which can be done with all the Semitic languages – he concludes that the Qur’anic text must then be borrowed from Syro-Aramaic Christian texts. This is equivilant of saying that Shakespeare was originally Homers work because many English words have Greek origins!

Marrying ‘White Grapes’!

Luxenberg’s re-interpretation of the word for “hur”, meaning ‘chaste beautiful girls’ in Arabic exposes his fundamentally flawed approach to studying the Qur’an. In Aramaic “hur” means ‘white’ or ‘white grapes’ however Qur’anic commentators say that “hur” is the plural of the Arabic word “houri”’ meaning ‘chaste and beautiful girl’.

The word “hur” occurs in the Quran 4 times at 44:54, 52:20, 55:72 and 56:22. At each of these places the word “hur” is mentioned the context of marriage and paradise. For example in 44:54,

“…and We shall marry them with hur, having attractively wide eyes”

And at 55:72,

“They are hur, guarded in pavilions”

If anyone was to take Luxenberg’s view that this word means ‘white’ or ‘white grapes’, how could anyone fit this re-interpretation of the word in the Qur’anic context? Have you known or seen anyone marry ‘white grapes’ before?

How can Luxenberg show the link between the Qur’an and a supposedly Syro-Aramaic text when only one word has been provided as a link and the context of the verse and its literary structure have been ignored?

There are many more examples that demonstrate Luxenberg’s insistence that the Qur’an must be a manipulated text whose origins are a variety of Syro-Aramaic Christian sources. This persistence has blinded Luxemberg’s academic judgement as the Syro-Aramaic texts he accuses the Qura’n of ‘borrowing’ from are in fact post Quranic (dated after the written text of the Qur’an!).

So what came first? The Qur’an or the text that is supposedly borrowed by the Qur’an, but yet emerged after the Qur’an? Confused? I don’t blame you.

Just by discussing Luxenberg’s assumptions and the above example he uses, it can be easily pointed out that the evidence he provides is based upon weak assumptions and lacks historical evidence.

For more information please see – Safaruk Chowdhury. Issues in the Study of the Qur’an:. The Ur-Qur’an of Lüling & Luxenberg’s Syriac Substrate. Available online here.