Abraham and the Flame of the Chaldeans

How the Quran Turns a Fable into Reality

Sam Shamoun

Bassam Zawadi has replied to David Wood’s claim that the Quran has plagiarized a fable concerning Abraham being delivered from fire, a story which in itself was based on a misreading of the word Ur by certain Jewish scribes. In his article (*) Zawadi quotes Wood who says,

In the Bible Genesis 15, we're told that God called Abraham out of "Ur of the Chaldeans". In Babylonian language, "Ur", just means city. But in the first century, Jewish Rabbi named Jonathan Ben Uziel was translating Genesis 15 into Aramaic. He came across the word "Ur", now Jonathan did not know Babylonian so he confused the Babylonian word "Ur", which means "city" with the Hebrew word "Ur", which means "fire". This caused him to mistranslate the passage. Instead of saying that God delivered Abraham out of "Ur, city of the Chaldeans", Jonathan's mistranslation said that God delivered Abraham out of "the fire of the Chaldeans". Now why is this important? Well, Jewish writers ran with this idea of Abraham escaping from the fire and soon the Talmud contained all kinds of stories of Abraham being thrown into the fire by the Chaldeans and being miraculously rescued by God and these stories were quite popular in Arabia during the time of Muhammad among the Jews living there. And this is crucial because in Surah 21 we read about Abraham being delivered from the fire. Now Muhammad claimed that he was getting this story from God, but we know from history that this entire idea of Abraham being delivered from a fire was based on a mistranslation. So what makes more sense here? That God also mistranslated the word "Ur"? Or that Muhammad was getting his information from the people around him?

Zawadi also quotes Christian apologist Jay Smith:

The Bible itself gives us the answer. In Genesis 15:7, the Lord tells Abraham that it was He who brought Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans. Ur is a place, also mentioned in Genesis 11:31. We have evidence that a Jewish scribe named Jonathan Ben Uziel mistook the Hebrew word "Ur" for the Hebrew word which means "fire." Thus in his commentary of this verse he writes, "I am the Lord who brought you out of the fire of the Chaldeans."

Consequently, because of this misunderstanding, and because of a misreading of the Biblical verse a fable became popular around this era, which stated that God had brought Abraham out of the fire.

With this information in hand, we can, therefore, discern where the Jewish fable originated: from a misunderstanding of one word in a Biblical verse by one errant scribe. Yet, somehow this errant understanding found its way into the Qur'an. (Jay Smith, Is the Qur'an the Word of God? - C: An Internal Critique of the Qur'an, C2b: The story of Abraham; source)

Zawadi then raises three arguments against Wood’s case, all of which backfire against Zawadi and his own religious scripture, as we shall now see. Zawadi begins by attacking the credibility of the Holy Bible:

The first one is simple and that is that David cannot actually prove that the statement in the Bible itself is true. Even if the Bible is only referring to the city of Ur and not the fire, why should Muslims care if the Qur'an is contradicting the Bible on this point? For all we know, the Bible is wrong and the Qur'an is right. For all we know, the truth could be that Ur is referring to "flame" and the Bible distorted it to only be referring to the city.

The Quran’s witness to the Holy Bible

The reason why Muslims should care whether the Quran is contradicting the Holy Bible or not is because the Muslim scripture assumes (correctly so) that the Judeo-Christian Scriptures are the preserved Word of God which can and should be used to determine whether Muhammad is a false prophet or not:

And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers. S. 10:94

Here, the Quran clearly says that if a person (Muhammad included) has doubts concerning the revelation, i.e. s/he has questions concerning the contents of the Muslim scripture, then they are to consult with the Jews and Christians and their Book since they are the communities which the Quran recognizes as having an authoritative, divinely-revealed Scripture. It is at this point that we would expect the Quran to exhort individuals to consult the Muslim revelation as opposed to the previous Scripture, yet that is not what we see. More importantly, this verse would be absolutely meaningless if the author(s) had felt that the previous Scriptures were corrupted since such a witness would be suspect and could not provide any verification for anything that the Muslim book claims.

In fact, this verse proved quite embarrassing to the Muslim exegetes. They couldn’t come to terms with the fact that their prophet entertained doubts and so came up with some rather fanciful explanations:

So, if you, O Muhammad (s), are in doubt concerning what We have revealed to you, of stories — hypothetically speaking — then question those who read the Scripture, the Torah, before you, for it is confirmed [therein] with them and they can inform you of its truth. The Prophet (s) said, ‘I have no doubt, nor will I question’. Verily the Truth from your Lord has come to you; so do not be of the waverers, [of] those who have doubts about it. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source)

(And if thou) O Muhammad (art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee) concerning that with which We sent Gabriel, i.e. the Qur'an, (then question those who read the Scripture) i.e. the Torah ((that was) before you) 'Abdullah Ibn Salam and his followers. The Prophet (pbuh) did not ask nor was he ever in doubt about the Qur'an. Rather, Allah was addressing with these words the people of the Prophet. (Verily the Truth from thy Lord) i.e. Gabriel with the Qur'an from your Lord, containing the events of past nations (hath come unto thee) O Muhammad. (So be not thou of the waverers) be not of the doubters. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source)

*96. Though this admonition is apparently addressed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), in point of fact it is directed to those who entertained doubts about the Prophet's message. Reference is made to the People of the Book because the common Arabs were not conversant with the Scriptures. But so far as the People of the Book were concerned, there were doubtlessly some pious religious scholars among them who were in a position to corroborate the fact that the Qur'anic message was essentially the same as that delivered by the earlier Prophets. (Towards Understanding the Quran - Tafheem ul Quran by Syed Abul A'ala Maududi, English Translation by Zafar Ishaq Ansari & by Abdul Aziz Kamal; source)

Despite their embarrassment with the verse accusing Muhammad of doubting the "revelations" these commentators do agree that the citation itself exhorts people to consult the Holy Bible, such as the Torah and the Gospel, since they erroneously assumed that the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians confirmed the Quran. This can be seen from the following reference:

Previous books Attest to the Truth of the Qur'an

Allah said…

<Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write whom they find written of with them in the Tawrah and the Injil.> (7:157) They are as certain of this as they are about who their children are, yet they hide it and distort it. They did not believe in it despite its clear evidence… (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; source)

Zawadi, however, sees the dilemma since he knows that the Holy Bible does anything but confirm the Quran. He knows that the Holy Scriptures conclusively prove that Muhammad was a false prophet and that his revelations did not come from the one true God of Abraham. This is why he has been desperately trying (but failing every time) to convince people that his scripture does not attest and confirm the textual veracity and authority of the Holy Bible. Unfortunately for Zawadi, the Quran does testify that the Scriptures in the possession of the Jews and Christians are the preserved Word of God and this means that Muhammad was a false prophet. Zawadi can’t get around this and must come to terms with it.

In fact, here are some additional passages which further substantiate that the author(s) of the Quran fully believed in the textual veracity and authority of the Holy Scriptures:

He has sent down upon you the Book with the truth, confirming what is between its/his hands (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi), and He sent down the Torah and the Gospel before this, as guidance to the people, and He sent down the Salvation/Criterion (al-Furqan). As for those who disbelieve in God's signs, for them awaits a terrible chastisement; God is All-mighty, the Avenger. S. 3:3-4 our translation

Yet how will they make thee their judge seeing THEY HAVE the Torah, wherein is God's judgment, then thereafter turn their backs? They are not believers. Surely We sent down the Torah, wherein is guidance and light; thereby the Prophets who had surrendered themselves gave judgment for those of Jewry, as did the masters and the rabbis, following such portion of God's Book as they were given to keep and were witnesses to. So fear not men, but fear you Me; and sell not My signs for a little price. Whoso judges not according to what God has sent down - they are the unbelievers. And therein We prescribed for them: 'A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation'; but whosoever forgoes it as a freewill offering, that shall be for him an expiation. Whoso judges not according to what God has sent down -- they are the evildoers…And We have sent down to thee the Book with the truth, confirming the Book that is between it’s/his hands and preserving/witnessing to it (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-kitabi wa-muhayminan alayhi)… S. 5:43-45, 48

Notice how the Muslim scripture admonishes the Jews of Muhammad’s day to consult the Torah, the Book of God, since it contains God’s judgment. It even quotes a verse from that very Torah which helps us to identify it, a citation which can still be found today:

"But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise." Exodus 21:23-25

There is also a specific narrative where Muhammad praises and confirms a copy of the Torah which the Jews handed to him in order to pass judgment on a specific situation:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar:

A group of Jews came and invited the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) to Quff. So he visited them in their school.

They said: AbulQasim, one of our men has committed fornication with a woman; so pronounce judgment upon them. They placed a cushion for the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) who sat on it and said: Bring the Torah. It was then brought. He then withdrew the cushion from beneath him and placed the Torah on it saying: I believed in thee and in Him Who revealed thee.

He then said: Bring me one who is learned among you. Then a young man was brought. The transmitter then mentioned the rest of the tradition of stoning similar to the one transmitted by Malik from Nafi' (No. 4431)." (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4434)

Not surprisingly, Zawadi also tries to explain this away but to no avail. To see the response to Zawadi’s failed attempt and to also read the words of a Muslim scholar who chides Zawadi for trying to weaken this narration please consult the following articles (1, 2).

Muhammad even defended the Torah against the accusations of the pagans:

But when the truth (i.e. Muhammad with his Message) has come to them from Us, they say: "Why is he not given the like of what was given to Musa (Moses)? Did they not disbelieve in that which was given to Musa (Moses) of old? They say: "Two kinds of magic [the Taurat (Torah) and the Qur'an] each helping the other!" And they say: "Verily! In both we are disbelievers." Say (to them, O Muhammad): "Then bring a Book from Allah, which is a better guide than these two [the Taurat (Torah) and the Qur'an], that I may follow it, if you are truthful." S. 28:48-49 Hilali-Khan

It would be a foolish move on Muhammad’s part to defend the veracity of the Torah and challenge the disbelievers to produce a book which contained better guidance than it does if he truly believed that the previous Scriptures were corrupted. If the Torah no longer remained intact then this means that not everything it contained was from God, but from fallible men, and therefore the guidance it conveys isn’t completely reliable. Why, then, would Muhammad defend it?

The answer is quite obvious. Passages such as the above clearly prove that Muhammad did actually believe that the Scriptures which the Jews and Christians possessed at his time were the preserved authentic Word of God and could be consulted in order to see what God’s true emissaries taught concerning God, Christ, salvation, inspiration etc.

As if this wasn’t enough to establish our case the Muslim scripture goes so far as to say that Jesus himself confirmed and upheld the very Scriptures which were in his possession:

And he will teach him the Book, the Wisdom, the Torah, the Gospel, to be an apostle to the Children of Israel, "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I will create for you out of clay as the likeness of a bird; then I will breathe into it, and it will be a bird, by Allah’s leave. I will also heal the blind and the leper, and bring to life the dead, by Allah’s leave. I will inform you of what things you eat, and what you treasure up in your houses. Surely in that is a sign for you, if you are believers. And I confirm the Torah that is between my hands (Wa musaddiqan lima bayna yadayya mina al-tawrati), and to make lawful to you certain things that before were forbidden unto you. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord; so fear you God, and obey you me. S. 3:48-50 our translation

Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir explains that,

<the Tawrah and the Injil>. The Tawrah is the Book THAT ALLAH SENT DOWN TO MUSA, son of Imran, while the Injil is what Allah sent down to Isa, son of Maryam, peace be upon them, AND ISA MEMORIZED BOTH BOOKS…

<If you believe. And I have come confirming that which was before me of the Tawrah,> affirming the Tawrah AND UPHOLDING IT," (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged – Surat Al-Baqarah, Verse 253, to Surat An-Nisa, Verse 147, Abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, Lahore; March 2000, first edition], Volume 2, Parts 3, 4 & 5, pp. 163, 165; source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

This isn’t the only place where the Quran attests that Jesus testified to the authority and authenticity of the Holy Scriptures:

And in their footsteps we sent Jesus son of Mary confirming the Torah between his hands (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-tawrati) and we gave to him the Gospel, wherein IS guidance and light, and confirming the Torah between his hands (wa musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-tawrati), as a guidance and an admonition to the pious. Let the People of the Gospel judge according to what God has sent down therein. Whoever does not judge according to what God has sent down, such are the rebellious. S. 5:46-47 our translation

And when Jesus son of Mary said, 'Children of Israel, I am indeed the Messenger of God to you, confirming the Torah that is between my hands (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayya mina al-tawrati), and giving good tidings of a Messenger who shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.' Then, when he brought them the clear signs, they said, 'This is a manifest sorcery.' S. 61:6

Ibn Kathir wrote the following concerning Q. 5:46:

<'Isa, son of Maryam, confirming the Tawrah that had come before him,> meaning, he believed in it AND RULED BY IT…

<and confirmation of the Tawrah that had come before it,> meaning, HE ADHERED TO THE TAWRAH, except for the few instances that clarified the truth where the Children of Israel differed. Allah states in another Ayah that 'Isa said to the Children of Israel… <…and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you.>

So the scholars say that the Injil abrogated some of the rulings of the Tawrah… (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged – Surat An-Nisa, Verse 148 to the end of Surat Al-An'am [January 2000, first edition], Volume 3, Parts 6, 7 & 8, pp. 193-194; source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And here are his comments in respect to Q. 61:6:

‘Isa said, "The Tawrah conveyed the glad tidings of my coming, and my coming CONFIRMS THE TRUTH OF THE TAWRAH…" (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged, Volume 9, Surat Al-Jathiyah to the end of Surat Al-Munafiqun [September 2000, first edition], p. 617; source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The Quran even says that Jesus’ own holy mother, the blessed Mary, bore witness and believed the Scriptures in her possession:

And Mary, Imran's daughter, who guarded her virginity, so We breathed into her of Our Spirit, and she confirmed the Words of her Lord and His Books, and became one of the obedient. S. 66:12

Hence, Jesus (as well as his blessed mother) memorized, confirmed, and adhered to the Scriptures, specifically the Torah, which were extant during his time. In light of the evidence furnished by the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) discovery in 1947, where ancient copies of the Hebrew Scriptures that were written before the time of Christ were found, we know for certain that Jesus was reading and confirming the very Scriptures we have today as being the inspired, preserved Word of God since the DSS are virtual identical to the Hebrew Bible we currently possess.

Now, if Bassam still wishes to say that the Scriptures are corrupted then he must be consistent and accept that Allah did nothing to correct his messenger Jesus but commanded him to bear witness to Books which were not completely reliable and authentic. Yet by agreeing with what the Quran says Zawadi must accept the fact that the Torah which both Jesus and his prophet confirmed is that which we possess today, the very Scriptures which contain the story of Abraham leaving Ur of the Chaldeans.

Thus, if the Torah is wrong concerning this event then both Jesus and Muhammad were mistaken, which means that they were either false prophets or that God deceived them into believing a Book which contained gross historical blunders and mistakes. Worse still, God himself must be ignorant of past events and therefore doesn’t know everything perfectly since he actually believed that the Torah which Jesus and Muhammad had access to, and which he even had Jesus memorize, was completely reliable and accurate!

So Zawadi’s first argument won’t work, nor do his other two points.

The Torah as a Fully Detailed Book

Zawadi contends that,

Secondly, it is actually possible that both statements are true. God did deliver Abraham both out of the city of Ur and the flame, but the Bible only mentions the city. Just because the Bible is silent on the issue of the flame, that doesn't mean that the story is false.

The problem with this argument is that it falsifies the Quran which claims that the revelation which God gave to and through Moses is fully detailed and lacks no essential detail in its reporting of these events:

And we gave Moses the scripture, complete with the best commandments, and detailing everything, and a beacon and mercy, that they may believe in meeting their Lord. S. 6:154

He said, "O Moses, I have chosen you, out of all the people, with My messages and by speaking to you. Therefore, take what I have given you and be appreciative." And We wrote for him on the Tablets the lesson to be drawn from all things and the explanation of all things (and said): Hold unto these with firmness, and enjoin your people to take the better therein. I shall show you the habitation of the ungodly… Those who follow the Messenger, the gentile/unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel WHICH ARE WITH THEM… S. 7:144-145, 157

The hadith further corroborate this point:

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: There was an argument between Adam and Moses (peace be upon both of them) in the presence of their Lord. Adam came the better of Moses. Moses said: Are you that Adam whom Allah created with His Hand and breathed into him His spirit, and commanded angels to fall in prostration before him and He made you live in Paradise with comfort and ease. Then you caused the people to get down to the earth because of your lapse. Adam said: Are you that Moses whom Allah selected for His Messengership and for His conversation with him and conferred upon you THE TABLETS, IN WHICH EVERYTHING WAS CLEARLY EXPLAINED and granted you the audience in order to have confidential talk with you. What is your opinion, how long Torah would have been written before I was created? Moses said: Forty years before. Adam said: Did you not see these words: Adam committed an error and he was enticed to (do so). He (Moses) said: Yes. Whereupon, he (Adam) said: Do you then blame me for an act which Allah had ordained for me forty years before He created me? Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: This is how Adam came the better of Moses. (Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6411)

These passages explicitly say that the Tablets, the Book given to Moses, and the Torah are complete and fully detailed. It further confirms that the Torah was available during Muhammad's time. Thus, since the Book that God gave Moses contains the history of Abraham, this means that the Torah would record every significant event which occurred in the life of the patriarch. Surely, Abraham being thrown in the fire is one event that God would not forget to mention since it exemplifies the faithfulness and righteous character of God’s friend (cf. Isaiah 41:8; James 2:21; Q. 4:125). In fact, this story would go perfectly with Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved son, since they show how loyal and faithful the patriarch was to God from beginning to end.

Hence, if this story is true then the Quran is wrong for claiming that the Torah is a fully detailed book since the latter omits a major event in the life of one of God’s greatest prophets. This would be similar to omitting the story of Moses’ mother placing him in an ark and Pharaoh’s daughter finding him, or to Moses killing a man in defense of his fellow Israelite and fleeing Egypt as a result of it.

The reason why this event isn’t mentioned in the Holy Bible is obvious; this event never occurred but is the result of Jewish speculation and imagination which leads us to our next point.

The Origin of the Quranic Fable

Zawadi writes:

Thirdly, the Biblical passage could very well be interpreted to be referring to the flame of the Chaldeans and not necessarily the city of the Chaldeans. The book of Genesis is originally written in Hebrew. Thus, why would it be wrong to understand "Ur" here according to the Hebrew language? David himself admits that "Ur" in Hebrew, means "fire."

Zawadi cites certain Bible reference works to show that Ur means flame, a point which no one contests. However, the very sources that he appeals to all agree that Ur in respect to the story of Abraham refers to the city which he left, not to the fire that he escaped from:

  1. city in southern Babylonia, city of the Chaldeans, centre of moon worship, home of Abraham's father, Terah, and departure point for the Abraham's migration to Mesopotamia and Canaan. (Blue Letter Bible Lexicon; source)

Another reference states:

Ur [EBD]

light, or the moon city, a city "of the Chaldees," the birthplace of Haran (Gen. 11:28,31), the largest city of Shinar or northern Chaldea, and the principal commercial centre of the country as well as the centre of political power. It stood near the mouth of the Euphrates, on its western bank, and is represented by the mounds (of bricks cemented by bitumen) of el-Mugheir, i.e., "the bitumined," or "the town of bitumen," now 150 miles from the sea and some 6 miles from the Euphrates, a little above the point where it receives the Shat el-Hie, an affluent from the Tigris. It was formerly a maritime city, as the waters of the Persian Gulf reached thus far inland. Ur was the port of Babylonia, whence trade was carried on with the dwellers on the gulf, and with the distant countries of India, Ethiopia, and Egypt. It was abandoned about B.C. 500, but long continued, like Erech, to be a great sacred cemetery city, as is evident from the number of tombs found there. (See ABRAHAM.)

The oldest king of Ur known to us is Ur-Ba'u (servant of the goddess Ba'u), as Hommel reads the name, or Ur-Gur, as others read it. He lived some twenty-eight hundred years B.C., and took part in building the famous temple of the moon-god Sin in Ur itself. The illustration here given represents his cuneiform inscription, written in the Sumerian language, and stamped upon every brick of the temple in Ur. It reads: "Ur-Ba'u, king of Ur, who built the temple of the moon-god."

"Ur was consecrated to the worship of Sin, the Babylonian moon-god. It shared this honour, however, with another city, and this city was Haran, or Harran. Harran was in Mesopotamia, and took its name from the highroad which led through it from the east to the west. The name is Babylonian, and bears witness to its having been founded by a Babylonian king. The same witness is still more decisively borne by the worship paid in it to the Babylonian moon-god and by its ancient temple of Sin. Indeed, the temple of the moon-god at Harran was perhaps even more famous in the Assyrian and Babylonian world than the temple of the moon-god at Ur.

"Between Ur and Harran there must, consequently, have been a close connection in early times, the record of which has not yet been recovered. It may be that Harran owed its foundation to a king of Ur; at any rate the two cities were bound together by the worship of the same deity, the closest and most enduring bond of union that existed in the ancient world. That Terah should have migrated from Ur to Harran, therefore, CEASES TO BE EXTRAORDINARY. If he left Ur at all, IT WAS THE MOST NATURAL PLACE TO WHICH TO GO. It was like passing from one court of a temple into another.

"Such A REMARKABLE COINCIDENCE between the Biblical narrative and the evidence of archaeological research cannot be the result of chance. The narrative MUST BE HISTORICAL; no writer of late date, even if he were a Babylonian, could have invented a story SO EXACTLY IN ACCORDANCE WITH WHAT WE NOW KNOW TO HAVE BEEN THE TRUTH. For a story of the kind to have been the invention of Palestinian tradition is equally impossible. To the unprejudiced mind there is no escape from the conclusion that the history of the migration of Terah from Ur to Harran is founded on fact." (Sayce). (NET Bible; source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

How amazing that one of the very sources that Zawadi selectively cited argues that the kind of information found in Genesis concerning the story of Abraham is so accurate that it must be historical, the very thing Zawadi tries to deny!

Zawadi’s final reference provides the nail in the coffin which conclusively proves that the Quran’s version of Abraham being taken out of the flames is based on myth and fable. According to James L. Kugel, the story of Abraham escaping from the fire is derived from Jewish sources written shortly before or during the time of Christ that were trying to explain certain details found in Genesis 11-12, such as Abraham’s brother Haran dying before Terah in Ur of the Chaldeans. After citing specific Jewish texts which claim that Abraham’s father was an idol-maker and that Haran died in the fire set by Abraham to the idols which Haran tried to save, Kugel notes:

"As noted the motif ‘Haran Perished in the Furnace’ is quite separate from ‘Abraham Saved from Fire,’ although the two depend on the same pun (Ur = fire). Which came first? The very fact that ‘Haran Perished in the Furnace’ is found in an ancient work like Jubilees, whereas nary a hint of ‘Abraham Saved from Fire’ is found in that text, nor in Ben Sira or the Wisdom of Solomon, might suggest that the latter motif is more recent; its first undeniable appearance is in Pseudo-Philo and the Apocalypse of Abraham, both probably first century C.E. However, a somewhat ambiguous piece of evidence might argue to the contrary:

For this one [Abraham], who left the splendid enclosure

Of the awesome race [that is, Babylon], the Praiseworthy One [God] with thundering sound prevented the immolation.

– Philo the Epic Poet, cited in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica 9.20.1

"Various commentators have seized upon the highlighted phrase as a reference to God’s stopping of the sacrifice of Isaac, or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but it may well be that the ‘immolation’ in question was the burning of Abraham in a fiery furnace… If so, then this motif would arguably go back to the second century B.C.E.

"Whatever the date of these motifs’ earliest attestations, it seems likely that ‘Abraham Saved from Fire’ developed out of ‘Haran Perished in the Furnace’ rather than vice versa. The original purpose of ‘Haran Perished in the Furnace’ was to clarify the troubling biblical assertion cited earlier, ‘Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans’ (Gen. 11:28). Interpreters certainly must have found it strange that Haran should live to adulthood and yet die before his father. Stranger still is the fact that the Bible tells nothing of the circumstances in which this (apparently unnatural) death occurred. Given this void, the otherwise gratuitous pun, Ur = fire, seemed to offer one valuable piece of information: it supplied at least a hint about how Haran died–he perished in a fire. This was enough to allow interpreters to fill in the remaining details, connecting this ‘fire of the Chaldeans’ to Abraham’s zealous campaign against idolatry.

"It was apparently only after the punning equation of Ur with fire had gotten about –thanks to this motif – that interpreters took the further step of incorporating this ‘fire’ into another, entirely separate motif, the one seen above, ‘Abraham Rescued from Chaldea.’ They began to claim that Abraham had been saved not just from (unspecified) Chaldean animosity to his monotheism (as witnessed in Judith, Jubilees, and other early sources) but from a fire – eventually, a fire that the Chaldeans had built for him (on the model of Dan. 3:19-23). Thus was born the hybrid ‘Abraham Saved from Fire.’ That Abraham in this new motif became a martyr willing to surrender his very life for his beliefs may also suggest a post-Jubilees dating: the theme of Jewish martyrdom became particularly characteristic of midrashic creations from the period of the Roman persecutions. (Kugel, Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible as it was at the Start of the Common Era, pp. 268-269; source; underline emphasis ours)

In other words, the story of Abraham being saved from the fire is a legend that originates from the second century before Christ at the earliest, and was possibly derived from another myth concerning Abraham’s brother Haran perishing in the fire! And both of these legends originated out of the Babylonian word Ur!

In conclusion, the Biblical verses speaking about "Ur of the Chaldeans" are not open to interpretation since the word refers to the city that Abraham left. It is evident that the author of Genesis has taken over the Babylonian word Ur as part of his narrative concerning the place from where Abraham originally came and left.

Yet because the term in Hebrew can mean flame or light some Jews, in attempting to explain how Abraham’s brother Haran died, took the word and ran with it by coming up with the fanciful story of Haran perishing in the flames caused by Abraham when he set his father’s idols on fire. From there the Jews further developed the story of Abraham being delivered from fire for refusing to worship his father’s gods since he too came out of Ur. Thus, Haran died in Ur or fire whereas Abraham came out of it! It is further obvious that Abraham’s deliverance from the flame of Chaldea was modeled after the story of Daniel’s three friends whom Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, threw into the fire for refusing to worship his golden image (cf. Daniel 3).

Moreover, by attesting to the truth of the Holy Bible and claiming that the revelation given to Moses is a fully detailed Scripture the Quran proves that the story has no basis in historical fact. After all, if it really did happen then God would have surely revealed such an important moment in the life of Abraham to his servant Moses and made sure that he recorded it in his Book. God wouldn’t have waited for centuries until some uninspired, fallible Jewish writers decided to concoct a fable around the meaning of the term Ur as a way of explaining the death of Haran.

In light of these factors Zawadi’s assertion that God could have actually delivered Abraham out of the city and the flame is not a possible explanation since the Holy Bible would have mentioned such a momentous event, but doesn’t. Thus, the Quran wrongly reports a fable as history which is what we would expect from a book produced by an uninspired man pretending to be a prophet.

However, Zawadi can continue to erroneously believe that Muhammad was still inspired even though the Quran contains many fables and myths which it tries to pass off as history (1, 2), since there are Muslim scholars who candidly admit that there are folkloric tales in the Muslim scripture without losing faith in it’s alleged divine origin. One such Muslim scholar was the late Jewish convert(!) Muhammad Asad who points out the myths and fables of the Quran all throughout his commentary. For example, this is what Asad says concerning the Quranic fairy tale that Solomon had command over the winds to ride them wherever he wanted (cf. Q. 21:81-82; 38:36-39):

"In this as well as in several other passages relating to Solomon, the Qur'an alludes to many POETIC LEGENDS which were associated with his name since early antiquity and had become part and parcel of Judeo-Christian and Arabian lore long before the advent of Islam. Although it is undoubtedly possible to interpret such passages in a 'rationalistic' manner, I do not think that this is really necessary. Because they were so deeply ingrained in the imagination of the people to whom the Qur'an addressed itself in the first instance, these legendary accounts of Solomon's wisdom and magic powers had acquired a cultural reality of their own and were, therefore, eminently suited to serve as a medium for the parabolic exposition of certain ethical truths with which this book is concerned: and so, without denying or confirming their MYTHICAL character, the Qur'an uses them as a foil for the idea that God is the ultimate source of all human power and glory, and that all achievements of human ingenuity, even though they may sometimes border on the miraculous, are but an expression of His transcendental creativity." (Asad, The Message of the Qur'an [Dar Al-Andalus Limited 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar rpt. 1993], p. 498, fn. 77; source); bold and capital emphasis ours)


"Cf. 21: 81 and the corresponding note. For the meaning, in general, of THE MANY LEGENDS surrounding the person of Solomon, see note on 21: 82." (Ibid. p. 699, fn. 35; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Asad also writes in reference to the Quran’s story that Allah caused a man and his donkey to die for a hundred years and then raise them back to life that (Q. 2:259):

"… The story told in this verse is obviously a PARABLE meant to illustrate God's power to bring the dead back to life … The speculation of some of the earlier commentators as to the ‘identity’ of the man and the town mentioned in this story are without any substance, and may have been influenced by TALMUDIC LEGENDS." (Ibid., p. 58, fn. 253; source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Hence, Zawadi would be in good company to believe that his book is a collection of fairy-tales which Allah inspired his prophet to write.

Finally, I am not surprised that Bassam, as a Muslim, cannot see why this argument, along with the many others, poses a serious challenge to the veracity of the Quran and claims of Islam. But for those of us who see clearly by the grace of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, such fairytales are just one of the many reasons why we can never accept Islam as true or Muhammad as God’s final and greatest messenger to mankind.


Zawadi has "replied" to my refutation by an adding an appendix to his article. This was perhaps one of Zawadi’s most incoherent rebuttals since it is filled with logical fallacies and contradictions, as we shall now see. It is apparent from Zawadi’s appendix that he got rather upset and tried to save face and so rushed to produce a "reply", no matter how weak and fallacious his "response" may be.

Zawadi keeps appealing to his article which supposedly refutes my claim concerning the Quran confirming the textual authenticity of the Holy Bible. Not only have we, and will continue, to refute his fluff (*), Zawadi seems to assume that just because he has written something that this somehow means that he is actually refuting our case. Yet writing an article which contains nothing more than bluster, errors, distortions and logical fallacies is not the same as writing a substantive reply which actually understands and refutes the arguments raised by one’s opponent. Zawadi’s "rebuttals" are of the first type, and he has yet to produce a paper which actually refutes a point raised by his opponents.

In response to my pointing out the Quran’s assertion that the Torah is fully detailed Zawadi maintains that the Muslim position is that the Torah is corrupt, which he thinks accounts for why this story is missing. This completely ignores all of the verses from the Quran which I quoted which say Jesus came to confirm the authenticity and authority of the inspired Scriptures in his possession. Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) in 1947 prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the Holy Writings which Jesus confirmed and had access to are virtually identical to what we currently possess this means that Zawadi’s position cannot be maintained without falsifying what his own false prophet and scripture say.

In other words, if the Quran is correct that Jesus confirmed the Scriptures in his possession and that the Torah is a fully detailed revelation then this means that the OT Writings, specifically the first five Books of the Hebrew Bible, are the fully detailed revelation which Jesus confirmed since the DSS prove that these are the very inspired Books that Christ had access to. And yet these Scriptures do not contain this story of Abraham since it is not an actual historical event, but a myth which Jews concocted centuries after the Torah had been written.

Thus, Zawadi cannot have his cake and eat it too; he cannot maintain his belief in the Quran while attacking the Holy Bible since his own book testifies that Jesus confirmed the very OT Writings which we currently possess.

Zawadi, in his arrogance, says that I haven’t understood the statements of the Quran that it is a fully detailed scripture which doesn’t require any other source to explain. This is despite the fact that we have thoroughly documented that he is the one who is ignorant, as well as desperate, since he must explain away the plain statements of the Quran that it is the only hadith and the best tafsir or commentary on itself (1, 2). He must do this in order to hold to his erroneous position that Muslims are required to consult Muhammad’s sunna, something which his own false scripture denies. Zawadi’s statement is therefore nothing more than an ad hominem.

As a further illustration of his desperation Zawadi insists that, just because the Quran says that the Torah is a fully detailed revelation, this doesn’t require God to record the story of Abraham being saved out of the fire, even though this is supposed to be one of the most important moments in the patriarch’s life! If there is any event that we would expect to find mentioned it would be this one since it is similar to the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved son, i.e. just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son in his love and devotion to God he was also willing to sacrifice his own life by being burned alive in the fire.

It seems that even Zawadi isn’t buying his own distorted logic since he writes:

This is mere speculation, for Shamoun is assuming that God must have recorded every significant event of Abraham's life. Abraham lived for several years and I am pretty sure that there were several moments of his life where he was preaching to the people that must have been significant and inspiring for everyone to read, but God with His wisdom decided which stories to keep. Allah could have possibly decided that He would want to share this story later on in the Qur'an and not necessarily back then in the Torah. I don't see why this is not a possibility.

Zawadi sees how significant this moment in Abraham’s life was and so has to find a reason why this story was omitted from the prophetic Scriptures. He wants us to actually believe that Allah only decided to reveal this story later on, but failed to record it in the very Scripture which the Quran claims is fully detailed and which was written closer to the time of Abraham! Yet doesn’t the very fact that Zawadi has to explain why this event was only recorded at a much later time actually prove my point that this story is a very significant moment in Abraham’s life, just as important and significant as his willingness to kill his beloved son? Doesn’t this also show why Muhammad included it in his own scripture, since he seemed to realize just how significant this was in demonstrating the kind of faithfulness Abraham had in God? And wouldn’t we therefore expect this story to be mentioned in the Torah especially when it records all the major events in Abraham’s life? Zawadi keeps digging himself further down the hole.

Zawadi can’t help himself and has to commit a false analogy. He appeals to statements that I made in my debate with Sami Zaatari concerning the Deity of Christ, and in so doing only manages to further expose his inability to think logically and to comprehend what he hears and reads. He quotes my response to Zaatari’s assertion that Jesus never said he is God is nothing more than an argument from silence since just because the NT doesn’t record Jesus saying it doesn’t mean that he didn’t.

Now is this similar to my point concerning the story of Abraham being taken out of the fire? Not at all since the Holy Bible doesn’t claim to be an exhaustive record which mentions everything that God and his inspired spokespersons have done, but a sufficient witness to the saving acts of God:

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:30-31

The Quran, however, claims that, in the case of the Torah or the Book of Moses, it is a fully detailed record which lacks nothing substantial. So in answer to Zawadi’s question, the reason why we would expect that Allah would mention Abraham’s story in the Torah is because of the Quranic claim that Moses’ Book contains a detailed explanation of everything. So much for Zawadi’s smokescreens and false analogy.

Zawadi accuses me of attacking a straw man, and yet in so doing he once again proves that he cannot comprehend what he reads. I had stated that one of the very sources which Zawadi referenced confirms the historical veracity of the Genesis story of Abraham leaving Ur for Haran, and subsequently Canaan. Zawadi argues that he doesn’t deny that the story of Abraham is historical and that it is possible that Ur can refer both to a city and the flames. Yet Zawadi must have forgotten what he wrote and we will therefore highlight it for him so he doesn’t miss it this time:

The first one is simple and that is that David cannot actually prove that the statement in the Bible itself is true. Even if the Bible is only referring to the city of Ur and not the fire, why should Muslims care if the Qur'an is contradicting the Bible on this point? For all we know, the Bible is wrong and the Qur'an is right. For all we know, the truth could be that Ur is referring to "flame" and the Bible distorted it to only be referring to the city.

In light of Zawadi’s assertion my point still stands. The evidence shows that the Genesis account is quite accurate, which gives us a higher level of confidence to trust what it says, unlike the Quran with all its gross historical blunders and contradictions.

As is his habit Zawadi throws one of his own sources under the bus. He now calls into question James Kugel on the grounds that his comments show that he wasn’t certain. Zawadi is constantly providing evidence that he is either desperate, and will say anything to defend his position no matter how fallacious, or really suffers from a serious lack of reading comprehension.

In the first place, it was Zawadi who quoted Kugel to prove his case. If he has a problem with this scholar’s position then he had no business sourcing him.

Second, Kugel is not uncertain regarding the story of Abraham being a later Jewish legend written around the statements of the Genesis story. He is simply being cautious concerning the exact, precise dating of these later writings which contain this myth since, without a fixed date assigned to the manuscripts themselves, one can only give a general time frame when these documents were originally composed. Yet the evidence conclusively proves that this story first originated in documents written shortly before the time of Christ.

Third, Zawadi again exposes his blatant inconsistencies since he has no problem quoting the unsubstantiated views and hypothetical reconstructions of critical NT scholars to attack or discredit the NT writings, even though much of their arguments are based on guesswork, but quickly rejects such scholarship when it is applied to his false prophet or false scripture!

As a final act of desperation Zawadi appeals to the comments of a rabbi to prove that Moses passed on two Torahs, the written and oral one, and that it is possible that Abraham’s story was part of the oral Torah!

Zawadi obviously has forgotten what he wrote elsewhere concerning the oral Torah:

- Some try to argue back that the Jews only wrote their interpretations of the Torah such as the Talmud and then followed it. However, the Jews never claimed that the Talmud is scripture from God but is used to understand scripture. Rachmiel Frydland, a Talmudic scholar said...

We do not believe that the TALMUD is inspired by the RUACH HA KODESH (the Holy Spirit of God), or that it is the Word of God. The Talmud does not claim to be the Word of God, but rather an interpretation and an explanation of the Law of God, the TORAH. (Rachmiel Frydland, When Talmud is Right, Source) (Evidence That Islam Teaches That There Was Textual Corruption of The Christian and Jewish Scriptures; source)

For those who do not know, the Talmud is the codification of the oral Torah. So here Zawadi quotes the late Messianic Jewish scholar Rachmiel Frydland in order to discredit the oral Torah and to prove that Jews do not believe that it is scripture. But now he wants to prove that the oral Torah is another valid source of revelation so as to show that it is possible that Abraham’s story was originally a part of it! This merely proves that Zawadi is not seeking truth but will often lie and distort sources in order to defend his false religion and false prophet.

More importantly, where does the Quran ever mention Allah giving an oral Torah to Moses or to the Jews? We would like Zawadi to show us that passage. In fact, doesn’t his own scripture speak of Allah giving Moses a Book which is fully detailed? Just in case he missed it, here are the texts once again:

And we gave Moses the scripture, complete with the best commandments, and detailing everything, and a beacon and mercy, that they may believe in meeting their Lord. S. 6:154

He said, "O Moses, I have chosen you, out of all the people, with My messages and by speaking to you. Therefore, take what I have given you and be appreciative." And We wrote for him on the Tablets the lesson to be drawn from all things and the explanation of all things (and said): Hold unto these with firmness, and enjoin your people to take the better therein. I shall show you the habitation of the ungodly… Those who follow the Messenger, the gentile/unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel WHICH ARE WITH THEM… S. 7:144-145, 157

So what need is there of an oral Torah when the Book of Moses is a fully detailed revelation that contains the explanation of everything?

Moreover, the Qur’an also claims to be fully detailed, and the Qur’an never mentions an oral Torah which would be a rather substantial omission in the Qur’an if God did indeed give two Torahs to Moses, a written one and an oral one that was different from the written one, i.e. a distinct second book.

So much for Zawadi’s fluff. Lord Jesus willing, more rebuttals to Zawadi’s distortions and logically fallacies to follow shortly.

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Rebuttals to Bassam Zawadi
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