Waraqa bin Neufal

Was Waraqa bin Neufal an Ebionite or a Nestorian?

I hope someone can provide something definitive as the answer provides slightly different shades of validity to Mohammad’s understanding of Christianity. If Waraqa was an Ebionite, then his understanding is from a heretical strand of Christianity, based on a sect that is no more. Nestorianism in its present day Assyrian form, on the other hand, is viewed as legitimate by the Catholic Church. Makes a difference to our apologetic explanations to Muslims.

My reading of Muslim understanding of what Waraqa said leans towards Ebionites but I need something definitive if available.

While definition information on the subject is scarce the Encyclopaedia of Islam indicated he was Nestorian…



Thanks. I have to state that that Wikipedia article was changed. Originally it stated that he was Ebionite and was later changed to Nestorian.

I would presume that it would be difficult to find any reference to Waraqa outside of Islam. On what basis did Islamic Encyclopedia state that he was Nestorian? It would be hard to take Islamic references as verified since as it is Islamic references that misunderstand Christian teachings in the first place.


You can access the Islamic Encyclopaedia online… The articles are by scholars and refer to Islamic sources… Wikipedia articles can change and be updated…

There was also a reference online at


that suggests an Arabic source suggesting Waraqah was a Nestorian Bishop and some believe a Nazarene…

Thanks for the google book - find it interesting. Much of the reference there seem to be that Waraqa is an Ebionite, which corresponds with my understanding when I compare what Muslims describe Waraqa’s doctrines and Ebionite teachings.

Do you know what basis that Muslims (or that Arabic source mentioned) have for Waraqa being a Nestorian?

I have never heard of Waraqa bin Neufal.

Basically, this is the guy who taught Mohammad about Christianity and Judaism. Said by the Muslims to be an expert in the scriptures and reads the scriptures in the original language. A distant uncle of his wife, he was one of the first to declare the revelations to Mohammad as authentic. Basically, the ideal Christian (from the Muslim point of view), who do not believe in the Trinity, denies the divinity of Christ but accepts Mohammad as the authentic messenger of God.

So, a lot of what he said seems to be a Christian who supports the Muslim point of view. The problem is whether he was a genuine Christian. He is said to be variously a Nestorian or an Ebionite. A Nestorian is at least recognised as a Christian today, but I cannot find any supporting documentary evidence that he was a Nestorian (or a Nestorian bishop as some Muslim scholar claims).

An Ebionite, on the other hand, is not accepted as Christians, and would throw into full doubt the validity of Islamic views of Christianity. My reading of Muslim understanding of Waraqa’s doctrines indicate that he was Ebionite.

Are you trying to learn to refute Islam apologetics?

Your post lead me to this article staringattheview.blogspot.com/2010/10/ebionites-muhammad-and-quran.html. The commentaries are interesting. Which lead me to


the selling price which is waay beyond my reach. $293 for a book? Perhaps you can borrow it at a library.

It’s a wonderful thing that we can share this story because it recounts what happened soon after the Revelation was received by Prophet Muhammad

There are some good things to say about Waraqa bin Neufal… He had become a Christian and was a cousin of Khadijih the wife of Prophet Muhammad… All we really know about him is from Arabic sources…

Waraqah had become a Christian… We’re really not sure what kind of Christian…some think he was a Nestorian…some a Nazorean and some think an Ebionite…which is Jim’s contention. I simply don’t think there’s enough evidence either way.

“Waraqa attached himself to Christianity and studied its scriptures until he had thoroughly mastered them.”

(Ibn Ishaq, Life of Muhammad, tr. Guillaume, 1967, p. 99)

Waraqah it is said studied the scriptures and translated Syriac and Hebrew texts… up to that time there was no Arabic translation of the scriptures.

After the Prophet received Divine revelation Khadijih asked that her Husband share what He had experienced with Waraqah

“Quddus, quddus! By Him in whose hand is Warqa’s soul, if you are telling me the truth, O Khadija, (it means that) there has indeed come to him the great Namus,” and by Namus he meant Gabriel, upon whom be peace, who used to come to Moses, “so he will assuredly be the prophet to his own people. Tell him so and have him stand firm.” So Khadija returned to the apostle of God — upon whom be God’s blessing and peace, and inform him of what Waraqa had said, and that eased somewhat the anxiety he felt.
(Al-Tabari, ibid, p. 1152)

The words above “Quddus Quddus” refer to the exclamation by Waraqah that mean "Most Holy " "Most Holy "! or as some suggest “Holy Spirit!”

Here is the account of Bukhari:

"Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin
Waraqa bin Naufal bin Asad bin 'Abdul 'Uzza,
who, during the PreIslamic 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.
Khadija said to Waraqa, “Listen to the story of
your nephew, O my cousin!” Waraqa asked, “O
my nephew! What have you seen?” Allah’s
Apostle described whatever he had seen.
Waraqa said,

**“This is the same one who keeps
the secrets (angel Gabriel) whom Allah had sent
to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up
to the time when your people would turn you
out.” **

Allah’s Apostle asked, “Will they drive me

Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said,
Anyone (man) who came with something similar
to what you have brought was treated with
and if I should remain alive till the day
when you will be turned out then I would support
you strongly.” But after a few days Waraqa died
and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a

(Hadith, Bukhari Vol 1)

There was also a Hadith attributed to the Prophet regarding Waraqah:

“Do not slander Waraka ibn Nawfal, for I have seen that he will have one or two gardens in Paradise.”

I don’t think there is a way of knowing 100%, especially with the Arabs being an oral culture. It seems to me history is nothing more than a theory based on a certain amount of facts, or rather a certain perception of the facts. THe historian’s perception of the facts is highly influenced by his religious beliefs (Muslim, Christian, Jew or none), his knowledge base (his understanding of the language the culture, and time etc.) There is just so many factors that come into play when reading and studying history. And then when new facts appear, the theory may change.

Good luck.

Thanks ericc for the links. I agree with you that they are very interesting. In fact, I am beginning to see Waraqa’s influence on Mohammad in a very different light. I can accept that.

It however does not change in my mind the idea that Waraqa was Ebonite, not Nestorian (which was ultimately my reason for the post), which the blog seem to reinforce. The parallels of what he was understood by Muslims to believe and the beliefs of Ebionites are rather clearly in consonance: e.g…, denial of Jesus’ divinity (which Nestorians do not), adherence to legal precepts of the Torah (which Nestorians do not). For Waraqa to be the source of Mohammad’s understanding of Christian doctrines may invalidate much of Islamic arguments against Christian beliefs as Waraqa’s view of Christian doctrines may not adequately reflect orthodox Christian beliefs.

Thanks also for digging up much of the literary references to Waraqa. I am sorry however to have to leave out scriptural and quasi-scriptural (Hadiths) reference, if you do not mind. Scriptures (including the Bible which I venerate) are not intended to provide a scholastic view of a person but rather to interpret the person’s action and words to support a particular theological position. (Sorry for the cynicism but I would also not use the Bible as a basis to study Pontus Pialte as a person either, for example)

At the end I would agree with TruthBearer’s point that the Arab culture is very much an oral culture and thus there may not be documentary evidence that will satisfy a Roman mind but may be perfectly satisfactory to an Arab/Muslim one. I agree to what you say to a certain extent but I do believe that it is possible to be intellectually detached to identify facts - that is the Western Roman mindset. It is interesting that the book link that ericc referred us to (and I am also looking for $293 in my bank account) was authored by a Jesuit. We have many Jesuits who study Islam and I was told that some of them were asked by ulamas to provide a critical analysis on certain Quranic passages in a Biblical criticism way, which the Muslim mindset is not allowed or do not have sufficient intellectual detachment to perform on the Quran.

Having said that, how one interprets the facts thus identified to support a version of the Truth to which one may be partial, would be a separate matter altogether. Take my quest here for instance. I am looking for facts to support my contention that Mohammad had an incorrect understanding of orthodox Christian beliefs and thus, Muslim arguments against the Christian doctrines may not correctly based. The fact that I have such an ulterior motive does not and should not cloud my judgement in coming to a balanced conclusion whether Waraqa was Ebionite or Nestorian. If he is Ebionite, I would certain use that fact. If he turns out to be Nestorian, I would not deny that fact and would have to look elsewhere to see if any facts exist to support my contention. If it turns out to be inconclusive, I would have to reword my position to reflect that inconclusivity & let the reader decide whether the balance of facts support my view or not.

One can combine professional detachment from passion for a particular viewpoint. Unfortunately, some of my compatriots of a different faith persuasion seem to lead with the preferred conclusion and change (yes, actually change) the facts to suit that preferred conclusion. Sorry again just sharing the experience of my little community here.

It would be difficult to attribute Mohammad’s religious background to Waraqa’s influence only. Mohammad also had interactions with:

Bahira (aka Sergius the monk) who is reputedly to be Nestorian and /or Arian.
Ibn Qumta, a Christian slave who probably wrote some bits of the Koran for Mohammed.
Salman the Persian aka Salman al-Farsi ex-Zoroastrian, ex-Christian, one of the companions

Any of them could have educated Mohammad in their own version of Christianity.

His education background would thus be a mixed-bag.

Undoubtedly, there were many who could have influenced Mohammad. Not to mention the likely numerous Christian merchants who he must have met along his business trips. Not to mention the state of Christian Unity at that time with which he must have been familiar (think whether the history of the world would have been different if Christians had been united instead of fight over arcane theological differences).

Still, the names that you mentioned were all conjective as to whether or how much was their influence over Mohammad. Waraqa was, however, quoted as the go-to guy by Mohammad and Muslim scholars when it comes to doctrines Christian. So this is a figure we definitely have to contend with.

It is no doubt that Mohammad is very much a child of his times. Those who are not clouded by the hagiographic accounts of his life can see very clear influence from non and pre-Islamic sources for his belief and understanding.

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