waraqa ibn nawfal

Waraqa ibn Naw­fal : Prob­ing Chris­t­ian Polemics

In an arti­cle of his, Jochen Katz has made much of the nar­ra­tives about Waraqa ibn Naw­fal, 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 Naw­fal 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 Naw­fal 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 ibn Naw­fal’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 Naw­fal 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.ibid., 131 – 2

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.Endmark

Cite this arti­cle as : Asif Iqbal, Waraqa ibn Naw­fal : Prob­ing Chris­t­ian Polemics,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, Octo­ber 15, 2005, last accessed Feb­ru­ary 28, 2024, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​q​u​r​a​n​/​w​a​r​a​q​a​-​i​b​n​-​n​a​w​f​al/
  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[]


3 responses to “Waraqa ibn Naw­fal : Prob­ing Chris­t­ian Polemics”

  1. Marya Harb Avatar

    Abu Asiyah Yahya Abdul-Majid, you should try read­ing the sur­round­ing vers­es of Isa­iah 29:12. The per­son in that verse is being con­demned and mocked for using the excuse of his illit­er­a­cy to avoid find­ing out the truth of Isa­iah’s proph­esy. If that verse refers to Muham­mad, then he is blind, his head is hid­den under a gar­ment, he is stum­bling around like a drink per­son, he is stu­pe­fied, he is a hyp­ocrite, and he is under judge­ment. That verse is not con­fus­ing in the least, and Jews and Chris­tians did­n’t hide” it, because the per­son being described is just an abstrac­tion of rebel­lious Jews in Israel. You real­ly, real­ly don’t want that verse to apply to Muham­mad, because if it does, it means awful things about him (aside from being real­ly out of place, chronologically).

    Actu­al­ly, Waraqa under­stood a part of Surah 96 that pret­ty much no Mus­lims under­stand because they read the Quran out of order. Read ! In the name of your Lord.…” What’s his name ? Muham­mad does­n’t know, so this is a stu­pid state­ment, right ? Except it’s right there in the text, the very next words : He-Who-Cre­at­ed. The mes­sage was that the Cre­ator is the one who is the Lord. Waraqa believed this and con­nect­ed it to the burn­ing bush. He lived around Tal­mu­dic Jews who had the false doc­trine of Torah mit-Sinai, and he com­bined the two and equat­ed Muham­mad to Moses. He was prob­a­bly and Ebion­ite heretic Chris­t­ian – as much a Chris­t­ian as Yazidis are Mus­lims. But that’s anoth­er matter.

  2. Aisha Avatar

    its a good information

  3. Abu Asiyah Yahya Abdul-Majid Avatar
    Abu Asiyah Yahya Abdul-Majid

    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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