The Orientalists allege that Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, (may Allaah exalt his mention) was subject to the Judeo-Christian influence of his time and that the Quran reflects this influence. It was suggested that Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, had faced two big problems if he were to embrace Judaism or Christianity. If he became a Christian, he would be bringing in the Christian Byzantine regime to Makkah, which would not be tolerated by the people of Makkah. The second problem was that he could not pretend that he knew more than the older members and priests of those two religions -- Judaism and Christianity. Thus, in both instances, he could not acquire leadership. Hence, Orientalists suggest that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, decided to reproduce the role of Moosaa (Moses) or ‘Eesaa (Jesus), may Allaah exalt their mention, because he saw that "they were men, and he could do what they had done."
Orientalists allege that the monotheistic influence on Islam was due to the presence of Christians and Jews in Makkah. They also suggested that there was a monotheist informant from one of those religions. However at a different stage, they also suggested that what the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, received from his informant "would be factual knowledge" but the "meaning and interpretation of the facts" came to him "by the usual process of revelation".
They suggested that the gradual growth in accuracy of the Quran’s narration pertinent to biblical stories is evidence that Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, got these stories from an informant.
They alleged that the Quran replicated contemporary errors that were originally found in the Judeo-Christian scriptures.
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was only 12 years old when he met Baheera (a Christian monk) for a very short period of time on the way to Syria. Such a brief meeting would not have been sufficient to discuss religious doctrines. It is illogical to assume that a young boy could discuss religious doctrines and scriptural prophecy about the coming of the Messenger, etc, at this tender age.
The Orientalists acknowledged a part of this meeting, but they fail to acknowledge the other aspects, which speak about:
When confronted with the above information, William Muir (a Scottish Orientalist, 1819 – 1905 CE) even tried to explain it as a mistake or as a forgery of a designing monk. In order to downplay the importance of Baheera’s recognition of the sign of prophethood, Muir wrote a footnote saying that the report is full of absurdities, but later realizing his recklessness, he omitted the footnote in subsequent editions without altering the main text.
It is common knowledge that a trade caravan traveling in the harsh desert would concentrate their trade in populated areas only, and avoid wandering into deserted habitations and ruined townships or empty church assemblies, just for the sight seeing pleasure of a young boy. Yet Muir suggests that the caravan passed near Petra, Jerash, Ammon and other ruined cities and that these sights influenced the young Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
In Makkah, there were only a few Christians of humble social and intellectual status, being either slaves or petty retailers and mostly immigrants. Only one or two original residents of Makkah such as `Uthmaan bin Al-Huwayrith and Waraqah bin Nawfal had become Christians, the former out of personal or political considerations, and the latter as a result of his search for better faith. The Makkan community had some second-hand knowledge of these two religions of Judaism and Christianity.
The question is, would a person of the stature, knowledge and intelligence of Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, proceed to propound a new religion and challenge the credibility of both the prevailing systems of Judaism and Christianity only on the basis of hearsay and superficial knowledge of them, as suggested by Orientalists?
The Orientalists are not consistent in their allegation that:
Monotheistic Judeo-Christian Influence
It is naïve to say that Islam is blend of second-hand information about Judaism and Christianity with an inkling of Arab elements in it. It is absurd to suggest that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was cognizant of the two religious systems.
The concept of prophethood, the memory of Ibraaheem (Abraham), may Allaah exalt his mention, as a prophet and founder of the Ka`bah, which the Arabs universally cherished, as well as the rites of Hajj (pilgrimage to the Ka’bah) instituted by Ibraaheem, may Allaah exalt his mention, were unquestionably from before the time of Jews and Christians. Pre-Islamic Arabs, independent of any Jewish or Christian influence, knew the concept of Allaah as the supreme God. The teachings of Ibraaheem, may Allaah exalt his mention, found haven in Arabia long before the arrival of Judaism or Christianity and the Arabs were already acquainted with the word ‘Haneef’ as the worshipper of One God.
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, accused the contemporary Arabs, Jews and Christians of having deviated from the original teachings of their prophets and of having degenerated into polytheism. He also rejected what they claimed to be the teachings of their scriptures. So he cannot be misconstrued as having conceived the idea of monotheism from the Judeo-Christian influence.
The Quran does not maintain that it is teaching a new religion. Instead it upholds and revives the original teachings God has given through all Prophets of all nations. It claims that its teachings are the same as that of Ibraaheem (Abraham), Moosaa (Moses) and ‘Eesaa (Jesus), may Allaah exalt their mention, and speaks about all of them in glowing terms. Since every Orientalist agrees on the fact that Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, has not read any of the scriptures, therefore, his source of knowledge must be something else.
The rejection of Biblical teachings about the son or father of god was rejected even in the Makkan Soorahs (chapters of the Quran) long before the Prophet’s migration to Al-Madeenah. Hence, it is not correct to say that these renunciations came about, at the wake of the separation from the Jews and Christians in Al-Madeenah.
It was impossible to get even a glimpse of monotheism by observing Judaism and Christianity in those days. The practices of these two religious groups were steeped in the most debasing corruption and superstitions, which are vastly removed from monotheism.
The various reform movements in Christianity, particularly the Cluniac Movement, the Iconoclastic Movement and the Reformation started by Martin Luther bear testimony to the depth of degradation into which the Christians and Christianity of the day had descended. In a way, all these reform movements and the subsequent emphasis on monotheism, in spite of an adherence to the doctrines of Trinity and divinity of Christ are largely, results of the uncompromising monotheism enunciated and propagated by Islam. In other words, it was Islam that influenced the revival movements in Christianity and not the other way around.