Most extraordinary of the many remarkable hypotheses put forward in this collection is the claim that the Qur’an was originally a Christian text, probably a lectionary (a book that lists scriptural readings assigned to be read on a specific day or occasion), in which reference was once made to Christmas, the Eucharist, and other elements of the Christian tradition—references which in the Arabic Qur’an are unclear or overlaid with Islamic inter-pretations that obliterate their initial Christian character. In one essay, Luxenberg explains that the “mysterious letters” that begin many chapters of the Qur’an and about which Islamic tradition says that “only Allah knows what they mean,” are in fact, references to Psalms and other Christian texts for liturgical use. In another essay, Philippe Gignoux locates the origins of the quintessential Islamic credo, the shahada, in Nestorian Christianity.
These monographs reinforce the growing case against the text of the Qur’an coming from Muhammad. In this emerging view, the Muslim holy book was compiled from existing, mostly Christian sources, drastically edited, and reinterpreted in order to provide a scripture and a theology for the new religion of Islam. That new religion, it is clear from Christmas in the Koran, did not spring forth as the utterances of a seventh-century Arabian prophet but was shaped by various editors over a period of decades, drawing from earlier, non-Arabic traditions.