Refuting the Christian Lie that Roman Catholic Vatican ‘Created’ Islam

When Christian publisher Jack T. Chick started producing his Crusader Comics in 1974 they were initially devoted to exposing the influence of the occult in the world. Their popularity increased in 1979 with the publication of number 12 in the series “Alberto”, the supposed story of how a young boy by the name of Alberto Rivera is taken and indoctrinated into the Roman Catholic Church’s religious order of the Society of Jesus (S.J.), otherwise known as the Jesuits. The “dirty tricks” of the Jesuits’ war against other denominations are exposed after Alberto realises the truth and eventually escapes the clutches of this organisation.

The comic book is a result of a man calling himself Alberto Rivera having approached Chick with his story. Rivera provides a copy of his ID and recounts what he claims to have been taught in the Vatican by Augustin Cardinal Bea S.J. Two years later, in 1981, the second of what will become a 6-part series is published by Chick Publications in which Rivera narrates the extent of the Vatican’s supposed involvement in the affairs of history. Much of the modern detail is taken from the writings of Avro Manhattan and Edmond Paris – whose books are also being published by Chick.

In 1988 the last of the “Alberto” series, part 6, is published. “The Prophet” details how the Vatican supposedly recruited a “suitable” Arab man to lead a new religion that they will create. According to Rivera this religion is created because the Roman Catholic Church “desperately” wants to gain Jerusalem “at the end of the third century” and that Augustine was involved in this plot. We then jump 300 years to the birth of Islam. Rivera recounts the traditional history of Islam which he sources from Martin Ling’s book Muhammad however with some changes. For example, Bahira, the Syrian Christian monk becomes a Roman Catholic monk and the Negus of Ethiopia becomes a Roman Catholic.

Rivera then reveals the “secret history”: that Muhammad’s wife, Khadijah, was actually a Roman Catholic nun who was ordered to find a suitable candidate to be a prophet to the Arabs. We are told that her uncle, Waraqah bin Naufal, another “devout Roman Catholic” is also part of the plot. Together, according to Rivera, they train Muhammad in the works of Augustine and prepare him to reveal a new message to the Arabs. He is taught that the Jews are the enemy and that the Roman Catholic Church is “the only true church”. Rivera tells us that the intention was to use the Arabs to conquer the non-Catholic nations and destroy the Jews and non-Catholic Christians but, according to Rivera, the Arabs rebel and develop a fanatical out-of-control religion hell-bent on conquering the world.

So begins one of the many “conspiracy theories” that abound within modern Christianity; that the religion of Islam was started by the Roman Catholic Church. This is endlessly repeated on web sites, in internet forums, blogs and YouTube videos yet when one asks for any evidence for the claims one is presented with the response of “everyone knows” and “even Muslim historians admit it” whilst no evidence is presented to actually back up these claims. This article is an attempt to discover the truth of the claim.

Their Fictional Claims

For clarity’s sake it may be worth specifying the fundamental claims that are to be addressed. There are many other errors and inconsistencies present in Rivera’s so-called account but it is the claims below on which the entire premise rests. They may be reduced to the following:

Khadija and Waraqah were Roman Catholic Christians;

Khadija was a nun;

Khadija lived in a convent;

These claims will now be explored one by one.

Christian Claim: Khadija was a Roman Catholic

In the early 7th century the Persian Empire dominated Arabia following their expulsion of the Abyssinians (Ethiopians) from Yaman. The Persian (Sassanid) Empire was also at war with the Christian Byzantine Empire and when the Persians inflicted heavy losses on the Christians in 614 AD this victory was particularly celebrated by the polytheists of Mecca [1].

The religion of the Persians was Zoroastrian however Syriac Christianity grew and emerged from that empire spreading across the Middle East and Arabia. Within the Sassanid empire the Christian church was the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. Despite the fact that the word “catholic” appears in the name one should not mistake it for the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of the East was not under the control of any other church whether Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Protestant. In Arabia the prevalent religions were pagan idol worship as reflected by the presence of multiple idols at the Kaaba in Mecca. However, Syed Razwy in his biography of Khadija states that not all were pagans,

“These individuals, who were very few in number, were called “Hanifs,” i.e., men and women “who had turned away from idol worship.” Makka also had a sprinkling of these “hanifs,” and some of them were in the clan of Khadija herself.” [2]

Yasin Al-Jibouri, on the same topic, states,

“One particular quality in Khadija was quite interesting, probably more so than any of her other qualities mentioned above: she, unlike her people, never believed in nor worshipped idols. There was a very small number of Christians and Jews in Mecca, and a fairly large number of Jews in Medina. Waraqah ibn Nawfal, one of Khadija’s cousins, had embraced Christianity and was a pious monk who believed in the Unity of the Almighty, just as all early Christians did, that is, before the concept of the Trinity crept into the Christian faith, widening the theological differences among the believers in Christ (as). He reportedly had translated the Bible from Hebrew into Arabic.” [3]

Evidence in the Ahadith

Waraqah ibn Nawfal, Khadija’s cousin is mentioned in the ahadith, in the sahih  (authentic) collection of al-Bukhari, in relation to the events immediately after Muhammad had his first encounter in the cave:

“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 Gospels in Arabic…” [4]

Book 1, Hadith 3 gives more detail,

“Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa bin Naufal bin Asad bin ‘Abdul ‘Uzza, who, during the Pre-Islamic Period became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight.” [5]

“Khadija then took him to Waraqa bin Naufal, the son of Khadija’s paternal uncle. Waraqa had been converted to Christianity in the Pre-lslamic Period and used to write Arabic and write of the Gospel in Arabic as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight.” [6]

Tradition confirms that both Khadija and Waraqa were both Christians but there is nothing to suggest that they followed Roman Catholicism. However, it does state that Waraqa was translating the Gospel into Arabic. Back to Razwy,

“Khadijah was strongly influenced by the ideas of Waraqa, and she shared his contempt for the idols and idolaters. She did not associate any partners with the Creator. Like Waraqa and some other members of the family; she too was a follower of the prophets Ibrahim and Ishmael. Khadijah was a Muwahhid (monotheist)!” [7]

Two important points in regard to their beliefs are given as them having contempt for idols and believing in one God as opposed to more than one. Considering the use that is made in Roman Catholicism of idols this description alone would set them apart from that denomination. Secondly, they are regarded as monotheist, or in Islamic terms, they believed in the Oneness of God. The Roman Catholics were regarded as believing in a three-god trinity. Writing about the Christians living in Mecca at the time when Islam arose Father John Hardon (S.J.) states that,

“the evidence of idolatry among the Arabs contrasted strongly with the monotheistic religion of the immigrant Jews and, mostly Nestorian, Christians” [8]

Hardon identifies the denomination or type of Christianity they practised as being Nestorian. Likewise, Griffith, having noted a continuous presence of Christianity in Arabia from the fourth century to the time of Muhammad, states the following,

“And it seems clear from these sources that the major Christian communities who made headway among the Arabs in the several centuries just prior to the rise of Islam were the so-called Melkites, Jacobites and Nestorians. Their principle ecclesiastical language was Syriac, or Christian Palestinian Aramaic among the Melkites, albeit that their ecclesial identities were largely determined by the positions they adopted in the Christological controversies of the fifth and sixth centuries.” [9]

It was during the 5th and 6th centuries AD that the Roman Catholic Church evolved as the pre-eminent church in the western Roman Empire. Following arguments over the nature of Christ large communities were declared heretics by the Roman Church. The Church of the East or the Nestorian Church was one of the first churches to distance itself from what would become the Roman Catholic Church. Mike Kuhn identifies Waraqah as a Nestorian Christian,

“Roughly six hundred years had transpired between Pentecost and Muhammad’s prophetic call. The Christian church had passed through a period of intense persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire and had risen to become a prestigious religion of Rome, whose capital was now Byzantine Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey). The presence of Christians in the Arabian Peninsula is confirmed by Waraqa bin Naufal. Waraqa was likely an adherent of Nestorian Christianity, considered a heresy by the early church councils. He was, nonetheless, a man who evidenced desire for the things of God.” [10]

Any idea that the Nestorians were Roman Catholic Christians can be quickly dispelled by reference to Walter F. Aldeney’s description of the Nestorian Christians,

“They have no doctrine of transubstantiation, no purgatory; they do not sanction Mariolatry or image worship; nor will they even allow icons to be exhibited in their churches. Men and women take the communion in both kinds. All five orders of clergy below the bishops are permitted to marry. Dr. Layard could not find any convents either for men or for women. Thus in many respects the modern Nestorians are nearer to European Protestantism than to Roman Catholicism. While those who have succumbed to the Jesuit missions are bound to accept the full Western doctrine —if they really know what that is—the sturdy resistance of the old Nestorians to the papal pretensions throws them into an attitude which is essentially protestant.”  [11]

The description of their beliefs prohibits them from being Roman Catholics. Benjamin Wilkinson refers to the Nestorian split from Roman Catholicism when speaking of the Council of Constantinople in 553 AD. He states,

“At that council, the churches of the Roman Empire surrendered their freedom to the Papacy. Offended at the unscriptural innovations of medieval European compromises, four large communities in the East — the Armenian, the Coptic, the Jacobite, and the Church of the East (often falsely called the Nestorian Church) — separated from the western hierarchy.” [12]

Before the birth of Muhammad a schism has taken place between the Roman Catholic Church and the churches in the East. Stewart & Clark’s Nestorian Missionary Enterprise gives us the following,

“(P)rior to A.D. 547 when the great Jacobite revival began, the only form of Christian faith known in the whole independent Arabia and Hirtha was that held by the “Church of the East,” the so-called Nestorians, and it is practically certain that every presbyter and bishop in the whole of that area recognized and acknowledged allegiance to the Patriarch of Seleucia. When therefore, mention is found of Christians in Mecca and Medina and even in the tribe of Koreish, one is warranted in assuming that all such, prior to at least, the middle of the sixth century, were in communion with the same patriarchate. When the sudden rise of Islam took place it was the Nestorians who suffered most from the impact.” [13]

Samuel Zwemer, writing his foreword to Stewart & Clark’s book confirms this thought when he states that,

“There are many points of similarity between Muslim teaching and Nestorian Christianity, but the circle of ideas most prominent and characteristic, according to Tore Andre, is eschatology with its extraordinary stress on the day of Judgment.” [14]

Likewise, De Lacy O’Leary, writing in The Syriac Church and Fathers,

“To note some points of difference between the Church of the East and the Papacy, it may be observed that the first rejected the use of images, and interposed no mediator like the Virgin Mary between God and man. The Church of the East also dispensed with candles, incense, relics, and many other usages of imperial Christianity. They had a different Bible than that of Rome; for their Bible they used the Peshitta, evidently the work of the school of Lucian.” [15]

Indeed, when all the sources are assembled together, whether they be Islamic, Christian, or even Roman Catholic Jesuit, they all state that it was the Church of the East which could claim the allegiance of Waraqa bin Nawfal bin Asad and his cousin Khadija. From the very beginning of the Church of the East there were doctrines that separated them from the Church of the West, the Roman Catholic Church. They kept the seventh-day as their Sabbath not the first day, Sunday, which was championed by the Roman Catholic Church. They also rejected the idea of Mary being the mother of God. These and other theological differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of the East make it hard to imagine that the Roman Church was in a position to invent Islam in Arabia.

Christian Claim: Khadija was a nun

Turning to the suggestion that Khadija (radhiyallahu anha) was a nun, tradition recounts that Khadija was a wealthy businesswoman who gained her wealth from her first husband. There is nothing to tell us when or at what age she was widowed or when she would have entered a convent. Could she have been a nun at some point? In answering the first question we saw that there is no evidence that Roman Catholicism existed in Arabia in the 7th century. However, it may be just as valid to ask, Did the Church of the East have women who renounced the world to live in seclusion? William Harmless in his book Desert Christians relates that,

“Discoveries of papyri have profoundly enriched our understanding of the social world of Roman Egypt and of ancient monasticism. The following is an example. The papyrus quoted below is a rental contract between a Jewish man and two sisters, named Theodora and Tauris. What makes this interesting is that the sisters are described as “female-monk renouncers” (monachais apotaktikais). This indicates that ascetics—including women —might live in town, remain members of the local community, own property, and carry on business.” [16]

It is important to remember that this quote refers to the practices of Roman Egypt and not the part of Arabia where Khadija (radhiyallahu anha) lived. Is there any evidence that women of the Church of the East became nuns? Messrs. Robbins, Ward & Williams, speaking of the Nestorians have this to say,

“The Nestorians… are to be found… in greater numbers than any other sect of Christians, whence they not only call themselves the Eastern Christians, as already observed, but are sometimes so called by others. They celebrate the Eucharist with leavened bread, and administer it in both kinds they do not worship images, and they allow their clergy to marry once, twice, and even thrice ; but whether this liberty extends to the regular clergy, I have not yet been able to ascertain. Their monks are habited in a black gown, tied with a leathern girdle, and wear a blue turban ; and their nuns must be forty years old before they take the monastic habit, which is much the same with that of the monks, except that they tie a kind of black veil about their heads, and about their chins.” [17]

It is of some importance that “nuns must be forty years old before they take the monastic habit”. Khadijah (radhiyallahu anha) was forty years old when she married Prophet Muhammed (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) which means that even if the claim is that she was a Nestorian “nun” rather than a Roman Catholic one, at the very age at which she could have entered cloisters she married Prophet Muhammed instead. This naturally leads us to the next question.

Christian Claim: Khadija lived in a convent

Again we must build on the answers to the first two questions. As previously mentioned, Roman Catholicism was not present in Arabia in the 7th century. Whilst there is evidence that within the Nestorian Church there were female “monk renouncers” it was only women over the age of forty who could take the monastic habit. Remember that in answer to the first question we have read the statement by Adeney that,

“Dr. Layard could not find any convents either for men or for women. Thus in many respects the modern Nestorians are nearer to European Protestantism than to Roman Catholicism.” [18]

In his account of Khadija’s (radhiyallahu anha) life al-Jibouri relates a story about a neighbour of Prophet Muhammad who,

“lived in the same alley in Mecca where Khadija’s house stood; his wife, also Jewish, used to collect dry thorny bushes from the desert just to throw them in the Prophet’s way.” [19]

Returning to Razwy’s account of Khadija’s life, he writes of the time after the death of her first husband, Khuwayled,

“After the death of Khuwayled, Khadija took charge of the family business, and rapidly expanded it. With the profits she made, she helped the poor, the widows, the orphans, the sick and the disabled. If there were any poor girls, Khadija married them off, and gave them dowry. One of her uncles acted as her adviser in business matters, and other members of the family also assisted her in the management of business if and when she sought their assistance. She, therefore, recruited an agent whenever a caravan was outfitted to go abroad, and made him responsible for carrying her merchandize to the foreign markets and for selling it in those markets. From her home in Makka, Khadija controlled an ever-growing business which spread into the neighboring countries. ” (Chap.2)

Following the death of her husband Khadija continued her husband’s business interests which she ran from her home in Mecca, where Muhammad used to visit her before they were married. Back to Sayyed Razwy’s account, where we learn that Khadija spent some years as a rich widow, obviously not in a convent as she was being frequently courted by various noblemen.

“Khadija spent many years of her life in the single state. As noted before, she received many offers of marriage from the lords and princes of Arabia but she turned them down. They could not impress her with their wealth. If they were rich, she was immeasurably richer than the richest of them. And in such personal qualities as the qualities of head, hand and heart, all of them were like the dust of her feet.” [20]

Conclusion

The only source for the idea that Islam was created by Roman Catholicism is “Alberto Rivera”. His claim is copied across the internet and quoted, often verbatim, across the web sites and YouTube videos that promote this theory. None of them produce any primary evidence to prove Rivera’s claims but rather rely solely on his word. Such conspiracy theories are by their very definition based on “secret” – and therefore untestable – information and involve active “conspiracies”. Rebuttals have been based on the credibility of Rivera and Chick rather than the credibility of the theory. Those who question the credibility of either the story or the storyteller are themselves drawn into the conspiracy as agents of the Roman Catholic Church.

The necessity is to find parts of the theory that are testable against what is independently known and accepted – historical fact. Some of the facts that are stated by Rivera are demonstrably incorrect. Rivera refers to the king of Abyssinia as “Negus, the Roman Catholic king of Abyssinia“. The Roman Catholic Church did not have a presence in Ethiopia at that time. Religion was separate from the state and the Christian religion had grown up independent of the Roman Church. Neither had they changed their day of worship to ally themselves with Roman Christianity. They continued to hold the seventh day of the week (Saturday) as their rest day rather than the first day (Sunday) as instituted by the Roman Church. It is an historic impossibility that the Negus (king) was Roman Catholic.

Then there are parts of the story that contradict tradition. Rivera refers to Muhammad as undergoing “intensive training” and that he “devoured” the works of Augustine. He refers to some of Muhammad’s “writings” being unpublished and states that the Qur’an “contains much of Muhammad’s writings“. For this to be true it would go against some of the most fundamental Islamic traditions: that Muhammad was illiterate and; that the Qur’an  (Qur’an, an Arabic word meaning: “recitation“) was written during Muhammad’s lifetime.

Lastly there is the absence of traditional or historical evidence: in regard to the presence of Roman Catholicism in 7th century Arabia; the description in tradition of the beliefs of both Khadija and Waraqa exclude them from being Roman Catholics; the absence of any convents in Arabia precludes Khadija from being in a convent; her history of at least one marriage prior and then marrying Prophet Muhammad at the age of 40 years means that, even if we turn to the example of Roman Egypt, at the time that she became eligible to enter a convent she married Prophet Muhammad.

So we are left with a story recounted by a man claiming to have “secret” knowledge and nothing more. Is Alberto Rivera right and tradition and history wrong?? Belief in this conspiracy theory is based solely on the testimony on one man and a willingness to believe that it could be so. However, there is no evidence to support what he claimed and what he claimed does not fit in with Sunnah, tradition or history.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Life of Muhammad by Muhammad Husayn Haykal

[2] Khadija tul Kubra : A Short Story of Her Life by Syed A.A Razwy (Chap.20, unpaginated)

[3] Khadija, Daughter of Khuwaylid, Wife of Prophet Muhammad by Yasin T. al-Jibouri [art. May 12, 1994]

[4] Sahih Bukhari Book 55 Hadith 605 narrated by ‘Aisha

[5] Sahih Bukhari Book 1 Hadith 3 narrated by ‘Aisha

[6] Sahih Bukhari Book 60 Hadith 478 narrated by ‘Aisha (See also Book 87 Hadith 111)

[7] op. cit. Rawzy, Chapter 2

[8] Islam by Fr John Hardon S.J., unpaginated

[9] The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the ‘People of the Book’ in the Language of Islamby Sidney Griffith, p.12

[10] Fresh Vision for the Muslim World: An Incarnational Alternative by Mike Kuhn, p.22

[11] The Greek and Eastern Churches by Walter F. Adeney, p.496/7

[12] Truth Triumphant by Benjamin Wilkinson, p.94

[13] Nestorian Missionary Enterprise by J. Stewart, T. & T. Clark, 1928, pp. 70, 71

[14] op. cit. Zwemer, p. 8

[15] The Syriac Church and Fathers by De Lacy O’Leary, p. 46.

[16] Desert Christians by William Harmless, p.24

[17] All Religions and Religious Ceremonies by Thomas Robbins, William Ward, Thomas Williams, pub. 1823, p.161

[18] The Greek and Eastern Churches by Walter F. Adeney, p.497

[19] op. cit. al-Jibouri

[20] Syed A.A Razwy: op.cit. (Chap.20, unpaginated)

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