Evidence for Islam

By James M. Rochford

1. Muhammad’s central apologetic was the Qur’an itself.

The Qur’an offers itself as its central apologetic:

(2:23) And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful.

(2:99) And We have certainly revealed to you verses [which are] clear proofs, and no one would deny them except the defiantly disobedient.

(10:37) And it was not [possible] for this Qur’an to be produced by other than Allah, but [it is] a confirmation of what was before it and a detailed explanation of the [former] Scripture, about which there is no doubt, from the Lord of the worlds.

(17:88) Say, “If mankind and the jinn gathered in order to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like of it, even if they were to each other assistants.”

Thus Muslim apologist Ajijola writes, “The Qur’an has by virtue of its claim of Divine origin, challenged man to produce, even unitedly, just a few lines comparable to those of the Qur’an… The challenge has remained unanswered to this day.… What a challenge the like of which man has never seen and shall never see!”[1] However, we might make a number of arguments against this perspective:

First, this criterion is subjective. Many critics of the Qur’an have challenged the eloquence of the Qur’an. Others have promoted the eloquence of the Book of Mormon, New Age literature, or other “holy books.” It is easy to see that such a criterion is subjective to the individual—much unlike the more objective evidence of the Bible’s inspiration.

Second, eloquence doesn’t mean that something is divine or even necessarily good. For instance, a presidential speech or literary poem might be eloquent, but they clearly aren’t divine—nor should they be considered good messages on this basis.

Third, making an eloquent document is much easier than performing miracles. Muhammad didn’t offer miracles to substantiate his prophethood. When asked to perform a miracle, he refused (3:181-184). By contrast, the Bible offers several independent lines of evidence for belief in Christianity, including historical arguments (Jn. 3:12), moral arguments (Rom. 1:19; 2:14-15), natural theology (Rom. 1:20; Ps. 19:1-4), and fulfilled predictive prophecy (Lk. 24:25-27; 44-46; Rom. 1:1-3; 1 Pet. 1:10-11; Isa. 41:21-29; 42:8-9; 44:7, 24-25; 45:21; 46:8-10; 48:3-5).

2. Muslim teachers often deny that Jesus died on the Cross.

Muslim teachers often claim that Jesus never died. For instance, Egyptian writer Abd al-Hamid Judah al-Sahhar makes this claim in his book The Messiah, Jesus Son of Mary. Geisler and Saleeb write, “The great majority of Muslims believe that Jesus did not die on the cross but that he was taken up bodily into heaven.”[2] To rebut this claim, we would make a number of observations:

First, 4:157-158 doesn’t necessarily teach that Jesus didn’t die. This passage states:

(4:157-158) And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. Rather, Allah raised him to Himself.

This passage does not definitively teach that Jesus never died. Instead, if one reads the context, it teaches that the Jews did not kill Jesus, as they did the other prophets. In the following surah, we discover that God killed the Messiah—not the Jews (5:17-19). Of course, as a Christian interpreter, we also hold that the Jews didn’t crucify Jesus—the Romans did. So no disagreement is necessary. Geoffrey Parrinder writes, “All that 4:156/157 says is shubbiha la-hum, either ‘he was counterfeited for them’, or, better, ‘it appeared to them as such.”[3] This is why Muslim interpreter Dr. Kamel Hussein writes,

The idea of a substitute for Christ is a very crude way of explaining the Quranic text. They had to explain a lot to the masses. No cultured Muslim believes in this nowadays. The text is taken to mean that the Jews thought they killed Christ but God raised him unto him in a way we have taken for granted on faith alone.[4]

Second, Jesus speaks of his own death in the Qur’an (19:33). The language in this passage (19:33) is identical to the language used of John the Baptist’s death in 19:15, who definitely died. Therefore, Muslim interpreters need consistency in their interpretation of these passages.[5] Moreover, 3:55 states, “O Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself.” White writes, “The normative meaning of the Arabic is that the phrase ‘I am gathering you’ should be rendered, ‘I will cause you to die,’ and in fact this is the translation of Muhammad Asad.”[6]

Third, even hostile critics of the Christian faith believe that Jesus died. For instance, Gerd Lüdemann—an atheistic NT critic—explains, “Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.”[7] John-Dominic Crossan—a radical NT critic—concludes, “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus… agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact.”[8] Moreover, biblical critic Bart Ehrman writes, “One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate.”[9]

Fourth, ancient non-Christian historians and writers mention the crucifixion of Jesus. For instance, Tacitus—the anti-Christian Roman historian—writes, “Christus… was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also.”[10] Tacitus doesn’t seem like a Christian sympathizer in this passage, calling the Christian faith a “pernicious superstition.” And yet, he agrees identically with the biblical account of the crucifixion, even mentioning details like the governor in charge of the execution: Pontius Pilate. Elsewhere, Jewish historians record details about Jesus’ death, which mention the fact that he was “hanged (or crucified) on the eve of Passover.”[11] Moreover, a Greek satirist named Lucian wrote, “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day… and was crucified on that account they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage”[12] Just imagine that you were put on trial, and three of your most hated enemies testified in favor of your alibi; consider how much that would validate your story! It is similar to the historical evidence for the execution of Christ.

Fifth, modern medical analysis concludes that Jesus was dead before the spear punctured his side. In connection with this historical evidence, two medical doctors analyzed the biblical account in The Journal of the American Medical Association in March of 1986. They pieced together the accounts in the four gospels, and they concluded that it is medically clear that Jesus must have died on the Cross. They noticed that John wrote, “One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (Jn. 19:34 NLT). These three men cited this verse as evidence that Jesus was dead even before the spear pierced through the rib. They explained:

Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.[13]

Other physicians and medical experts have come to similar conclusions:

For this article cited above, see William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel, and Floyd E. Hosmer, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” Journal of the American Medical Association vol. 255, No. 11, 21 March 1986 found here.

Robert Bucklin, “The Legal and Medical Aspects of the Trial and Death of Christ,” Medicine, Science and the Law (January, 1970) found here.

C. Truman Davis, “The Crucifixion of Jesus: The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View,” in Arizona Medicine, March, 1965, pp. 183-187 found here.

Pierre Barbet, A Doctor at Calvary (Garden City: Doubleday, 1953) found here.

Robert Wassenar, “A Physician Looks at the Suffering of Christ” in Moody Monthly, 79/7, March 1979, pp. 41-42; James H. Jewell, Jr., and Patricia A. Didden, “A Surgeon Looks at the Cross,” in Voice, 58/2, March-April, 1979, pp. 3-5.

Sixth, the Roman executioners surely would have ensured Jesus’ death. We can also be confident that Jesus died on the Cross, because of those who were responsible for Jesus’ execution: the Romans. The Romans were excellent at torture and execution. Perhaps no other society in human history has ever gained such an adept skill in the art of carrying out capital punishment. What are the chances that we would expect someone to survive a modern day execution? They are probably no more likely than the first century Roman system. In fact, the first century executioners may have even been better at it, considering their expertise and practice.

3. The Qur’an contains many errors.

The Qur’an is almost entirely assertions of Allah with very little historical interface. However, it still contains many historical inaccuracies—many of which are borrowed from pseudepigraphal sources:

The Qur’an places crucifixion during the time of the Egyptians

The Qur’an places the practice of crucifixion back in the time of the ancient Egyptians (7:124; 12:41; 20:71; 26:49). Historically, crucifixion wasn’t invented until the time of Darius of Persia in 519 BC.[14]

The Qur’an affirms that Mary and Miriam are the same person

The Qur’an confuses Miriam with Mary (19:28). Miriam was Moses and Aaron’s sister, while Mary is the mother of Jesus. It’s clear that the author was conflating the two people—even though there were centuries between these two figures (c.f. 3:35; 66:12). This shows Muhammad’s lack of knowledge of the Bible.

The Qur’an has an aberrant understanding of the Trinity

The Qur’an reflects Muhammad’s gross misunderstanding of the Trinity—that it is composed of the Father, Jesus and Mary (5:116)! In 5:15, we read that Muhammad “expounds” on Christian doctrine. White writes, “How did Muhammad’s preaching, which shows no understanding of the content of the very Book under consideration, expound on it?”[15]

The Qur’an offers differing accounts of the same historical events

Atheistic critics will often claim that the Bible contradicts itself, when different authors explain history differently. However, it is certainly possible for multiple authors to give complimentary accounts, rather than contradictory accounts. However, if only one author wrote the Qur’an (i.e. Allah), why do these passages disagree?

Differing Accounts in the Qur’an[16]

What Did Lot Say to the People of Sodom?





And [We had sent] Lot when he said to his people, “Do you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds?

Do you approach males among the worlds and leave what your Lord has created for you as mates? But you are a people transgressing.

And [mention] Lot, when he said to his people, “Do you commit immorality while you are seeing?

And [mention] Lot, when he said to his people, “Indeed, you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds. Indeed, you approach men and obstruct the road and commit in your meetings [every] evil.” And the answer of his people was not but they said, “Bring us the punishment of Allah , if you should be of the truthful.”

What Did the People of Sodom Say to Lot?

(7:82) And We rescued him and his household, save his wife, who was of those who stayed behind.

(26:167) He said: I am in truth of those who hate your conduct.

(27:56) Then We saved him and his household save his wife; We destined her to be of those who stayed behind.

(29:29) He said: My Lord! Give me victory over folk who work corruption.

How Did Allah Punish the City of Sodom?

(7:84) And We rained upon them a rain [of stones]. Then see how was the end of the criminals.

(26:173) And We rained upon them a rain [of stones], and evil was the rain of those who were warned.

(27:28) Take this letter of mine and deliver it to them. Then leave them and see what [answer] they will return.

(29:31) And when Our messengers came to Abraham with the good tidings, they said, “Indeed, we will destroy the people of that Lot’s city. Indeed, its people have been wrongdoers.”

What Did Allah Say to the Angels?

(7:11) And We have certainly created you, [O Mankind], and given you [human] form. Then We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam”; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was not of those who prostrated.

(38:71-72) [So mention] when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I am going to create a human being from clay. So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul, then fall down to him in prostration.”

What Did Iblis Say to Allah When He Refused to Prostrate?

(7:12) [ Allah ] said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?” [Satan] said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.”

(38:76) He said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.”

How Did Allah Respond to Iblis’s Refusal?

(7:13) [Allah] said, “Descend from Paradise, for it is not for you to be arrogant therein. So get out; indeed, you are of the debased.

(38:77) [ Allah ] said, “Then get out of Paradise, for indeed, you are expelled.

What Did Iblis Promise to Do to Allah’s Followers?

(7:16-17) [Satan] said, “Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You].”

(38:82-83) [Iblees] said, “By your might, I will surely mislead them all.” Except, among them, Your chosen servants.”

What Did Allah Say in Response to Iblis’s Threat?

(7:18) [ Allah ] said, “Get out of Paradise, reproached and expelled. Whoever follows you among them—I will surely fill Hell with you, all together.”

(38:84-85) [ Allah ] said, “The truth [is My oath], and the truth I say—[That] I will surely fill Hell with you and those of them that follow you all together.”

The Qur’an states that Mount Sinai was suspended in midair

The Qur’an states that Mt. Sinai was suspended in midair at the giving of the Law (2:63; 2:93; 4:154; 7:171). White explains, “Surah 7 makes clear this is not simply the mount ‘towering’ above them, but that a miracle is being referred to, for it was raised ‘as if it were a covering,’ or more literally, ‘a canopy,’ and they thought it might fall upon them.”[17] This concept was held in first-century Jewish folklore—specifically in the Babylonian Talmud—not from the Bible.

The Qur’an states that Jesus spoke from his cradle

In 3:46, we read, “He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous” (c.f. 19:27-34). White explains, “The tale is contained in a source called the Arabic Infancy Gospel, normally dated to the fifth or sixth century AD, and itself based upon earlier legendary material like the Protevangelium of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, both of which bear signs of Gnostic influence.”[18]

The Qur’an states that Mary hid in a tree during pregnancy

In 19:22-26, we read, “So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, ‘Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.’ But he called her from below her, ‘Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to [any] man.’” This account was taken from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew chapter 20.

The Qur’an states that a bird scratches the ground over Abel’s grave

In 5:30-32, we read, “And his soul permitted to him the murder of his brother, so he killed him and became among the losers. Then Allah sent a crow searching in the ground to show him how to hide the disgrace of his brother. He said, ‘O woe to me! Have I failed to be like this crow and hide the body of my brother?’ And he became of the regretful. Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land—it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one—it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.” This mention of a bird is absent from Genesis 4 in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, it is found in second and third century Jewish folklore, as well as the Targum Jonathan Ben Uzziah.

The Qur’an states that Abraham smashed idols

In 21:68, we read, “They said, ‘Burn him and support your gods—if you are to act.’” This event is absent from the Hebrew Scriptures, but we do find a reference in the second-century Midrash Rabbah.

The Qur’an states that Solomon gathered an army of jinn, men, and birds

In 27:17-44, we read that Solomon gathered an army of jinn, men, and birds. This account can be found in the 2nd Targum of Esther—not in Scripture.

4. Muhammad should not be considered a true prophet, according to the Bible.

The OT offers two tests for determining a false prophet. They needed to have (1) correct doctrine, and they needed to (2) accurately predict short term events. If they could pass both tests, then the people were to believe in them. Moses—the first prophet—outlined these two tests here:

1. Doctrinal Test (Deut. 13:1-5)

Moses writes,

(Deut. 13:1-5) If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,3you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4“You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death.

The first test of a true prophet was doctrine. Even if a prophet could predict signs and wonders (v.2), they could still be discerned by their doctrine. That is, if what they said contradicted existing Scripture (“Let us go after other gods… and let us serve them”), then this would disqualify them immediately. Since Muhammad directly spoke against previous doctrine given in the Bible, he failed this test. Likewise, Muhammad claimed that an angel appeared to him, giving him his revelation from God. And yet, Paul writes, “Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Gal. 1:8) Since Muhammad heard a different message about salvation from God, he is disqualified biblically from being an authentic prophet.

2. Accurate Predictions (Deut. 18:21-22)

In addition to correct doctrine, a potential prophet had another test to pass: accurate short term predictions. Moses writes,

(Deut. 18:20-22) “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”

False prophets were not given a “three strikes and you’re out” rule. Instead, if they simply made one false prophecy, they were given capital punishment (Deut. 13:5). Zechariah predicted Alexander the Great’s conquest of the ancient Near East. It is so accurate that critics date his book after Alexander’s life. Isaiah predicted King Cyrus a couple of hundred years before he lived (Isa. 44:28-45:1). Micah predicted that “Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins” (Micah 3:12) over 100 years in advance.

We have already considered pseudo prophecies about Muhammad from the Bible (c.f. Jn. 14:16; Deut. 18:15-18), and Muhammad’s so-called prophecies in the Qur’an (see this excerpt from Evidence Unseen, chapter 8), finding them specious. Therefore, we believe Muhammad failed the test of a true prophet of God on both counts.

Muhammad doubted his own propheticity

Muhammad originally deeply doubted his own prophethood. The 10th century Muslim scholar Al-Tabari writes,

The inspiration ceased to come to the Messenger of God for a while, and he was deeply grieved. He began to go to the tops of mountain crags, in order to fling himself from them; but every time he reached the summit of a mountain, Gabriel appeared to him and said to him, ‘You are the Prophet of God.’ Thereupon his anxiety would subside and he would come back to himself.[19]

The modern Muslim biographer Muhammad Haykal writes,

Stricken with panic, Muhammad arose and asked himself, “What did I see? Did possession of the devil which I feared all along come to pass?” Muhammad looked to his right and his left but saw nothing. For a while he stood there trembling with fear and stricken with awe. He feared the cave might be haunted and that he might run away still unable to explain what he saw.[20]

For these reasons, we reject the propheticity of Muhammad.

[1] Ajijola, Alhaj A. D. The Essence of Faith in Islam. Lahore, Pakistan: Islamic Publications Ltd. 1978. 78. Cited in Geisler, Norman L., and Abdul Saleeb. Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993. 186.

[2] Geisler, Norman L., and Abdul Saleeb. Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993. 68.

[3] Parrinder, Geoffrey. Jesus in the Qur’an. Oxford, England: Oneworld Publications, 1996. 112.

[4] Kamel Hussein City of Wrong (p.222). Cited in Parrinder, Geoffrey. Jesus in the Qur’an. Oxford, England: Oneworld Publications, 1996. 112.

[5] White writes, “The text (v.33) uses the very same language Surah 19:15 uses of John the Baptist. Why is this relevant? Because Muslims, based on a particular interpretation of Surah 4:157, deny that Jesus died on the cross. In fact, most believe He was taken up to heaven without dying at all. So when Jesus is quoted, speaking of the day of His death in the very same language as John the Baptist, who died (he was beheaded), it is difficult to harmonize the divergent statements.” White, James R. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2013. 107.

[6] White, James R. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2013. 115.

[7] Emphasis mine. Lüdemann, Gerd. The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994. 50.

[8] Emphasis mine. Crossan, John-Dominic. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. Harper One. 1995. 145.

[9] Emphasis mine. Ehrman, Bart. The Historical Jesus: Lecture Transcript and Course Guidebook, Part 2 of 2. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company. 2000. 162.

[10]Cornelius Tacitus Annals 15.44. Cited in McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1999. 120-121. Even though Tacitus errs on his title (Pilate was prefect of Judea, not procurator), it still shows that he was cognizant of the historical Pilate and his administration in Judea.

[11] Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 43a.

[12] Lucian The Death of Peregrine (p.11-13).

[13] William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; Floyd E Hosmer, MS, AMI On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ: The Journal of the American Medical Association (March 21, 1986, Volume 256) 1986.

[14] Hoffmeier writes, “Herodotus, the fifth-century Greek historian, describes a case in which Darius the Great (522-486 BC) crucified 3,000 Babylonians.” Hoffmeier, James Karl. The Archaeology of the Bible. Oxford: Lion, 2008. 158.

[15] White, James R. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2013. 170.

[16] Each of these examples was generously taken from White, James R. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2013. 222-228.

[17] White, James R. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2013. 231.

[18] White, James R. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2013. 236.

[19] The History of Al-Tahari: Muhammad at Mecca. Vol. VI, trans. W. Montgomery Watt and M. V. McDonald (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988), 76. Cited in White, James R. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2013. 24-25.

[20] Haykal, Muhammad Husayn. The Life of Muhammad. North American Trust Publications, 1976. 74. Geisler, Norman L., and Abdul Saleeb. Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993. 160.