Parallelism: Jesus Christ and Clay Birds

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Parallelism Between the Qur'an
and Judeo-Christian Scriptures
Talking Baby Jesus
Sanhedrin 37a
The Raven & the Burial of Abel
The Quranic Version of Trinity‎
Jesus Christ & the Clay Birds
Mary & Zachariah
Mary, Jesus & the Palm Tree
Satan & His Refusal to Prostrate
The Queen of Sheba
Abraham & the Idols
The Wealth of Korah

For the full article with many more examples than are included in this series, see

Qur'anic Account

According to the Qur'an, Jesus (with the permission of Allah) created a clay bird which he blew into and brought to life.

And (make him) a messenger to the Children of Israel (saying): I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I determine for you out of dust the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird with Allah’s permission, and I heal the blind and the leprous, and bring the dead to life with Allah’s permission; and I inform you of what you should eat and what you should store in your houses. Surely there is a sign in this for you, if you are believers.
When Allah will say: O Jesus, son of Mary, remember My favour to thee and to thy mother, when I strengthened thee with the Holy Spirit; thou spokest to people in the cradle and in old age, and when I taught thee the Book and the Wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel, and when thou didst determine out of clay a thing like the form of a bird by My permission, then thou didst breathe into it and it became a bird by My permission; and thou didst heal the blind and the leprous by My permission; and when thou didst raise the dead by My permission; and when I withheld the Children of Israel from thee when thou camest to them with clear arguments -- but those of them who disbelieved said: This is nothing but clear enchantment.

Apocryphal Account

Gabriel Said Reynolds in his 2018 academic commentary on the Quran remarks on this parallel: "The miracle of Jesus' creating a bird (or birds) from clay, and his bringing it to life with his breath (cf. 5:110) is known from the apocryphal Childhood of the Saviour (second century AD; commonly, and erroneously, referred to as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas). In the Christian context, the point is to have Jesus create a living being in the way God creates Adam (Gen 2:7)"[1] The Childhood of the Saviour survives primarily through a few Greek manuscripts, but was also translated at an early time into other languages including Syriac. The following is from a critical edition of the Childhood of the Saviour based on the best manuscripts by Tony Burke, Professor of Early Christianity, York University, Toronto (the opening attribution to the apostle Thomas is ommitted in his translation because the earliest textual witnesses are anonymous).

When the boy Jesus was five years old, he was playing at the ford of a rushing stream. And he gathered the disturbed water into pools and made them pure and excellent, commanding them by the character of his word alone and not by means of a deed. Then, taking soft clay from the mud, he formed twelve sparrows. It was the Sabbath when he did these things, and many children were with him. And a certain Jew, seeing the boy Jesus with the other children doing these things, went to his father Joseph and falsely accused the boy Jesus, saying that, on the Sabbath he made clay, which is not lawful, and fashioned twelve sparrows. And Joseph came and rebuked him, saying, “Why are you doing these things on the Sabbath?” But Jesus, clapping his hands, commanded the birds with a shout in front of everyone and said, “Go, take flight, and remember me, living ones.” And the sparrows, taking flight, went away squawking. When the Pharisee saw this he was amazed and reported it to all his friends.
Childhood of the Saviour 1:1-5 Critical edition translated by Tony Burke, 2009 The Childhood of the Saviour (Infancy Gospel of Thomas): A New Translation (archive)

A similar story appears in the Arabic Infancy Gospel (also known as the Syriac Infancy Gospel), combining elements from the Childhood of the Saviour, Protoevangelium of James, and the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. However, the dating of that version is disputed and academic scholars tend to doubt that it is pre-Islamic.

Muslim Apologetics

This parallelism has never been explained by Muslim apologists except to use it to perversely claim that the Bible is corrupted. They argue that the original Bible contained the apocryphal story of Jesus making and animating clay birds, and that the Qur'an was merely correcting a wrongful exclusion of these apocrypha from the canon.[2]

Interestingly, the sirah itself narrates how Muhammad, far from receiving these stories from Allah (via the angel Jibreel/Gabriel), heard it from three Christians. Saifullah & Azmy of Islamic-awareness write more on this here. While the narrative seems to serve a mixture of apologetic and polemical purposes, as well as a kind of "occasion of revelation", it could possibly reflect some historical memory of Muhammad learning from regional Christians about their religious traditions.

“The names of the fourteen principal men among the sixty riders were: `Abdul-Masih the `Aqib, al-Ayham the Sayyid; Abu Haritha b. `Alqama brother of B. Bakr b. Wa`il; Aus; al-Harith; Zayd; Qays; Yazid; Nubayh; Khuwaylid; `Amr; Khalid; `Abdullah; Johannes; of these the first three named above spoke to the Apostle. They were Christians according to the Byzantine rite, though they differed among themselves in some points, saying He is God; and He is the son of God; and He is the third person of the Trinity, which is the doctrine of Christianity. They argue that he is God because he used to raise the dead, and heal the sick, and declare the unseen; and make clay birds and then breathe into them so that they flew away; and all this was by the command of God Almighty, 'We will make him a sign to men.' They argue that he is the son of God in that they say he had no known father; and he spoke in the cradle and this is something that no child of Adam has ever done. They argue that he is the third of the three in that God says: We have done, We have commanded, We have created and We have decreed, and they say, If He were one he would have said I have done, I have created, and soon, but He is He and Jesus and Mary. Concerning all these assertions the Qur'an came down.”
A. Guillaume, The Life Of Muhammad: A Translation Of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, 1998, Oxford University Press: Karachi (Pakistan), p 271-272.

The parallelism between the Qur'an’s ‘Jesus animating clay birds’ verses and the apocryphal story is strong, suggesting a very mundane and earthly source of the Qur'an's revelation here. As to the historical reliability of the document itself, there are various reasons why the apocryphal stories in the Childhood of the Saviour are not included in the canon; These apocrypha contain verses that contradict the canonical Gospels and their late date reveals itself both in style and substance.


  1. Gabriel Said Reynolds, "The Quran and Bible:Text and Commentary", New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2018, p. 121
  2. M S M Saifullah & Hesham Azmy - Is The Bible In Our Hands The Same As During The Time Of Muhammad(P)? Islamic Awareness

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