There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:7-8
Only thirty years after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit moved the Apostle Paul to warn the churches of Galatia of variant doctrines of "other Gospels." The warning was not superfluous. By the seventh century A.D., much of the church was dominated by an unbiblical papal system, and its accompanying unbiblical doctrines. Throughout the Middle East the Gnostic cultists promulgated counterfeit scriptures containing a counterfeit gospel, a counterfeit Christ, and a counterfeit God. It was in this world, that the religion of Islam was born.
In 610 A.D. Muhammad ibn Abdullah reported that the angel Gabriel visited him with commands to preach religious and social reforms. While meditating on Mt. Hira, he received the first of many revelations which would eventually develop into the Quran and the second largest religion on earth. Needless to say, not everyone was or is overjoyed about this. Like every other religion, Islam had its detractors from its very birth and like every other religion, Islam has its defenders. This paper is a summary critique of some common Muslim defences, and the orthodoxy of those defences with regard to the Quran. I argue that in their zeal to defend their faith, Muslims sometimes deny fundamental Quranic teachings.
It rarely makes for dazzling prose to begin one's monograph with qualifiers yet I think qualifiers are necessary. So, since I want great prose and qualifiers, you'll find them in Appendix A. Now, some content. . .
Christian apologist William Lane Craig opened a recent book with an interesting statement: "Probably no chapter in the history of the cosmological argument is as significant or as universally ignored as that of the Arabic theologians and philosophers....the contribution of these Islamic thinkers is virtually ignored in western anthologies and books on the subject." I think Lane is correct but what Lane says about the cosmological arguments can safely be said of all Muslim apologists and their arguments: they are virtually universally ignored. This silence, however, is not a result of any reluctance on the part of Muslims to argue for their cause. Muslim apologists have long been obeying the Quranic directive to "Invite (all) to the way of the Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in the ways that are best and most gracious." On this invitation, I will turn my attention to the intellectual defences of Islam.
Seven arguments dominate the Muslim literature used in the defence of Islam and its scriptures: (1) The beauty of the Quran, (2) Scientific details revealed in the Quran, (3) Quranic inerrancy, (4) the spread of Islam, which ties in with (5) fulfilled prophecy, (6) the Miracle of Quranic composition, and (7) the preservation of the Quran. Obviously a summary critique such as this cannot treat all seven to any proper analysis nor does it need to. I am only focusing on those arguments which I hold to be unorthodox in the light of the Quran. And I see the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, and the last argument are all "problem free" in this regard. The remainder of the paper is dedicated to an examination of the two arguments which are left.
One of the main advocates of the miraculous revelation of scientific facts in the Quran' position is Maurice Bucaille. In his popular polemic, The Bible, The Quran and Science, Bucaille enumerates and expounds selected Biblical and Quranic texts that have relevance to creation, astronomy, the earth, the 'animal and vegetable kingdoms' and human reproduction. Over two thirds of Bucaille's "objective study of the texts" constitutes an assault on the Bible and its alleged scientific errors.
Important as that is, this paper is focusing on the claims regarding the Quran and its relation to science. Bucaille opens our discussion with some biographical pontifications:
I had to stop and ask myself: If a man was the author of the Qur'an, how could he have written facts in the Seventh century A.D. that today are shown to be in keeping with modern scientific knowledge?....What human explanation can there be to this observation? In my opinion there is no explanation; there is no special reason why an inhabitant of the Arabian Peninsula should....have had scientific knowledge on certain subjects that was ten centuries ahead of our own.
In their monograph on embryology, the Islamic Information & Da'wah Centre International people answer Dr. Bucailles rhetorical question:
All of this go to show that the Qur'an could not have been the product of the mind of Muhammad....or any other human being living in the 7th century. How could he access information that will not be discovered until the 18th-20th century? How could he or anyone else study the human embryo in its very early stages without using a microscope? Impossible. But then the Qur'an must be from God as it claims.
Other Muslim publications espouse the same position: incredible scientific facts are revealed in the Quran centuries before they were discovered by scientists and this is a sure sign of divine revelation. Bucaille maintains that there are no discrepancies between the Quran and genuine science. In spite of this impressive list, there remains a problem inherent in the "scientific argument" a problem epitomized in these verses.
Maurice Bucaille introduces the problem for us in his "Animal and Vegetable Kingdoms" section with a very revealing paragraph:
It will become clear that numerous translations of these passages in the Quran, made by men of letters, must be deemed inaccurate by the scientist. The same holds true for commentaries made by those who do not possess the scientific knowledge necessary for an understanding of the text.
The significance of his hermeneutical principle is profound. He argues explicitly here and elsewhere, that scientific phraseology must be used in translating the Quran even though the literal text suggests something else. He acknowledges that older and contemporary commentators and Arabic scholars disagree with the rendering that he advocates. Bucaille blatantly advocates a type of eisigisis over the orthodox method of exegesis. This is a prevailing problem wherever a translator is first and foremost a scientist, or an apologist, and forces their reading on the text. It is no wonder then that one finds scientific details in some translations of the Quran. First our scientist describes or translates a text using scientific language, then he stands back in amazement, surprised at the striking parallels he has found.
In spite of this crippling defect, one may still accept these parallels. I am willing to grant that if the Quran revealed detailed scientific facts to the seventh century Arabians, we have something which did not originate with man. Both Bucaille and Keith Moore draw very concise interpretations from very vague references. Phrases such as "...could refer to..." and "...Is it possible..." are prevalent in their literature. And, I might add, necessarily so. It is also worth noting that there are 'unscientific' passages in the Quran that are dismissed as folklore, or allegorized. And no passage is any more specific in scientific detail than the writings of Euclid, for example, the atomists or the Pythagoreans.
It must be noted that even if this unorthodox method of translating the Quran was allowable, we are still only left with Bucaille's conclusion not the conclusion found in the paper on Dr. Moore. Bucaille states that "All of this go to show that the Qur'an could not have been the product of the mind of Muhammad....or any other human being living in the 7th century." I agree. If detailed evidence were seen, we could safely conclude that Muhammad did not write it. But logically speaking, that only tells us that the Quran would be the product of some superhuman intelligence and that does not lead one to conclude that the information is from God. The Quran speaks of jinns, angels, and a deceiver named Satan. All have been around for many centuries, learning and observing. All have super human intelligence and interestingly, Muhammad had plaguing doubts at first that it was Satan deceiving him. Certainly, this is not compatible with orthodox Islam but then again, neither is the hermeneutic that give us the "scientific revelation".
Key to any understanding of the Quranic position on inerrancy is, of course, a knowledge of the claims which the Quran makes for itself. And the claim which it makes for itself is very clear: "Will they not then meditate upon the Quran? Had it been from other than Allah they would have found therein much discrepancy" (4:82). Surah 41:42 says in part that "No falsehood can approach [the Quran] from before or behind it." Muslims understand by these texts that "Here God challenges people to find an error in the Quran. If it contains errors then it cannot be from God." Muslims allow for error in interpretation, but not error in content. With this in mind, we take up the challenge, and look for error not playing on the wording of any text, but on its content.
There are two kinds of inaccuracies which are usually brought up by scholars critiquing the Quran: 'internal' and 'external' contradictions withing the text, and incongruencies and anachronisms between the quran and earlier documents. There are a number of examples of apparent contradictions within the Quran. Aside from the type mentioned in note 22 of this paper, we also see simple things like the discrepancy between six and eight day creation accounts, the creation of man out of water or clay etc. However there are possible interpretations that can deal with these problems, and therefore I will not spend any time on them.
The majority of alleged errors occur in the area of history. Those familiar with the culture and education of seventh century Arabians notice that there tends to be massive "time compression" in the narration of events. The content of stories was regarded as more important than the chronology of the accounts. In Surah 28:35-42 for example, we see Pharaoh commanding Haman (a Persian ruler born about a thousand years later) to build a tower that closely resembles the Biblical account of the tower of Babal (which was erected hundreds of years before) all in the time of Moses.
The standard method of analyzing historical documents is to accept the older documents as authoritative, unless there is strong evidence of corruption. This brings us to the heart of the issue. When compared with the ancient writings of the Bible, Josephus, and Biblical Archaeology, there are vast areas of disagreement - see Appendix B for some examples. The standard method for Muslim apologists - understandably - has been to deny the accuracy of these ancient texts, and to assert the reliability of the newer text - the Quran. Generally the Muslim apologists appeal to the "higher criticism" which was very much in vogue (in the last century), pseudo-scholastic groups such as the Jesus Seminar, and the generic nobody-really-believes-the-Bible-is-accurate-anymore type arguments. The object of this paper is not to critique the validity of this manoeuvre as a tool of historical analysis. Rather, I raise a more fundamental question for Muslims. Can a Muslim hold that the Bible is corrupted - and still hold an orthodox interpretation of the Quran? I say you can not - and the reason is simple.
The Quran is very clear about a number of facts. Allow me to list them. Fact one: God's Word cannot contain err, and cannot change. Allah is said to preserve the Quran in Surah 15:9; 41:41-42; 85:21-22; 56:77-78 and later the words of Allah are said to be unalterable: "there is none that can alter the Words (and Decrees) of Allah..." and "...none can change His Words..." Let's stop here for a moment. If the Quran is true, then what Allah inspires cannot change, and cannot be corrupted. So we ask the obvious question: are the Torah and the Gospels said to be inspired? Any Muslim who knows the Quran, knows the answer.
Surah 3:3 tells us that Allah "...sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, Confirming what went before it; And he sent down the Torah and the Gospels." Typical of every mention of the Torah and the Gospels, there is no word about textual corruption. Surahs 3:7, 21, 23, 48, 84, 65, 93, 184, 199; 4:44, 51, 136; 5:15, 43-49, 57-59, 66-69, 113; 6:91, 154; 10:37; 11:17; 16:43; 17:2; 20:133; 21:7, 33; 23:49; 26:196; 32:23; 41:42-45; 46:10-12; 54:43; 57:27; 80:11-16; and 87:18-19 all confirm, rather than repudiate the Torah and Gospels. Surah 5:43-49 for example starts off with a revealing passage:
But why do they come to thee for decision, when they have Torah before them? Therein is the plain command of Allah; yet even after that they would turn away.
It is plain that the author of the Quran believed the text of the Torah was fine in the seventh century. The same fact is echoed in the following verses, while verses 66, and 68-69 make it crystal clear that the problem with the Jews was their refusal to "stand fast by the Torah, The Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from the Lord." Verse fifteen records that they "pass over" the truths of Allah. The Quran commands the Jews to remedy their misunderstandings by a study of the Torah: "Bring ye the Torah and study it, if ye be men of truth." Further evidence of the integrity of the text is found in Surahs 16:43; 21:7; and 46:10, 12 where Muhammad's detractors are told to "ask of those who possess the Message" as a confirmation of the Quran. This point cannot be overstressed, but I will stop short of flogging it to death.
For a Muslim to be in accordance with the Quran in his theology, he cannot maintain that the Torah and the Scriptures are corrupted - unless the corruption took place after the Quran was written. Muslims must make a distinction between ignorance of, and rebellion against the Quran and the Bible, and corruption of the Quran and Bible. Already in the days of Muhammad, there was "a section who distort the Book with their tongues," - when it comes to the Quran, Muslims are quick to point out that false teaching is not to be equated with textual corruption. A consistent interpretation of the Quran requires that the texts used to support textual corruption in the Bible must be treated in the same way.
The Muslim is not given a pleasant choice either way. The one fork in the road leads to historical inaccuracies between revelations - the three books that the Quran says are inspired by God. The other allows a Muslim to account for the differences between the revelations - but it leaves him with an equally serious dilemma. It gives him a Quran which says the Word of God is uncorrupted, yet Muslims are belying that revelation in their zeal to defend that revelation. It leaves the Muslim with a god that cannot preserve his word from interpolations and errors. Furthermore, the apologist who holds to the corruption of previous inspiration is left without a theological court of appeal when he is faced with allegations of textual corruption within the Quran itself. And there are such allegations. He can't announce that God's revelation is incorruptible - for he defends that revelation by maintaining that God's Word was corrupted. Clearly, this argument is not in accordance with the Quran. Clearly, it is not orthodox.
This short paper has only concentrated on two out of seven arguments the two unorthodox ones. The 'scientific proofs' require an unorthodox translation of the Quran and the 'corruption' position on inerrancy requires an unorthodox treatment of the Quran. If Muslims wish to defend an orthodox faith honestly, they need to reconsider one argument - and forget the other. Does this critique offer solutions for these problems? No. I simply don't think there are any.
1. Craig, William Lane. The Kalam Cosmological Argument, (London: The Macmillan Press, 1979), p. 1.
2. The Presidency of Islamic Researchers, IFTA, Call and Guidance: Eds. The Holy Quran: English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary, (Saudi Arabia: King Fahd Holy Quran Printing Complex). Surah 16:125. Hereafter, quotes from this version of the Quran will be parenthetically inserted within the text following the verse(s) cited - without additional notation.
3. The alleged unsurpassable beauty and uniqueness of the Quran is an argument made within the Quran in Surah 52:34, 10:37, 38 and 17:88. The matter is highly subjective from the eyes of a non-Muslim who has read the Quran. And I question whether the beauty or uniqueness of a work lends credence to its inspiration - one need only think of Homer's works, or some of the plays of Shakespeare. Beauty would be expected of an inspired book, but comparisons of beauty are difficult to make.
4. The amazing spread of Islam was an argument which I did not pursue for a simple reason: Islam has suffered major declines since its formation. If growth is a sign of the truth of Islam, then shrinkage would be falsification. Rather than have the absurdity of a religious system which is alternately true and false, I simply dismiss the argument as weak. I should also note that those who point to the recent growth in numbers of Muslims often neglect mentioning that, like Roman Catholics, most Muslims are "born into the faith" by the virtue of having Muslim parents. The majority of the growth in the Muslim world is to be found in the fact that Muslim countries are, to a large extent, third world countries with high birth rates. Even much of the growth in North America is due to less restrictive immigration policies which resulted in more Muslims migrating to Canada and the US.
5. See Appendix C.
6. I do not critique this argument as Muslims themselves are not in agreement on whether Muhammad was literate or not. The debate focuses on whether the words "unlettered" (7:157, 158) and "unlearned" refer to illiteracy or an unfamiliarity with the Biblical text. The same labels are used to describe others in 3:20 and 62:2. Those who maintain Muhammad was very likely literate sometimes refer to 62:2 where Muhammad is sent to the "unlettered," but the focus is on him teaching from the Quran, not encouraging literacy. This interpretation seems to be driven from the difficulty of imagining how a successful and intelligent businessman was able to build a trading empire without being able to read. Those who maintain that he could not read, usually cite 29:48 (see note 34) and hold that this is a major argument for the truth of the Quran. I agree with both. Surah 29:48 seems very clear that Muhammad could not read, yet I agree it is hard to believe that he built up his caravan business as an illiterate man. If he was truly illiterate, the caravan business seems to be the greatest feat of the two - the Quran could simply have been dictated to a follower. And there is substantial evidence that it was. I conclude however that the Quran does teach his illiteracy.
7. I found this interesting quote: "We have no quarrel with the Islamic position that since the Recension of Uthman that Quran has remained intact. However, because of the destruction of all deviant copies no one can know with any certainty if he present Quran is exactly the same as what Muhammad gave them. Bevan Jones in his work The People of the Mosque, succinctly answers the Muslim argument for the alleged miraculous preservation of the Quran: 'But while it may be that no other work has remained for twelve centuries with so pure a text, it is probably equally true that no other has suffered so drastic a purging." Found in Gudel, Joseph P. "To Every Muslim an Answer," Forward, Winter 1986, p.22.
8. Bucaille, Maurice. The Bible, The Quran, and Science: The Holy Scriptures Examined in the Light of Modern Knowledge, trans.: Alastair D. Pannell and Maurice Bucaille. (Tripoli: The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamarihiyah, 1987).
9. The publisher's opinion, found note on the rear flyleaf of the cover.
10. I found it humourous that the very scholars which Bucaille cites to support his criticisms of the Bible are equally critical of the Quran. Also defective is his habit of equating Catholicism with Christianity.
11. The only fallacy of significant proportions which is not related directly to science in the Quran is that of ignoratio elenchi - he assumes that the refutation of his opponents position gives his own validity. The only exception to this logical fallacy is found where the negation of the opponent's position logically implies not only a contradiction - but one's own position. This is only possible in certain situations where there are only two positions. In the case of Islam and Christianity this is obviously not the case. The limited scope and specific design of this paper precludes, of course, any assessment of the legitimacy of Bucaille's claims regarding Christianity and the Bible.
12. Op. cit. p. 129.
13. Scientific Accuracy of the Quran Amazes University of Toronto Professor: The Quran and the Study of Embryology, (Toronto: Islamic Information and Da'wah Centre International).
14. Ally, Shabir. Common Questions People ask About Islam, (Toronto: Islamic Information and Da'wah Centre International, 1994). p. 16; and The Quran, The Holy Book of God, (Ottawa: The Council of Muslim Communities of Canada, 1982).
15. The words which the Holy Spirit moved the Apostle Paul to write to Timothy are very applicable to this topic: "...Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith." I Timothy 6:17.
16. The 'special' wonder is the truths about human development. Both Bucaille and Keith Moore from U of T cite Surahs 2:223, 22:5, 23:12-16, 32:8, 39:6, 53:45-46, 75:37, 76:2; Bucaille alone cites 2:222, 8:32, 16:4, 32:9, 35:11, 40:67, 71:14, 75:38-39; 77:20-21, 82:6-8, 86:6-7, 96:1-2, and Moore mentions 39:6. I do not assume that this list is exhaustive.
17. Bucaille, p. 197.
18. Ibid. p. 212, 215 etc.
19. Fallacy first brought to my attention in Ronald Nash's "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?" Christian Research Journal, Winter (1994), 13.
20. Scientific Accuracy of the Quran Amazes University of Toronto Professor: The Quran and the Study of Embryology, (Toronto: Islamic Information and Da'wah Centre International).
21. Bucaille, p. 164.
22. Surah 2:65 and 7:163-166, see Ali's note 79; 21:30 see note 2691 - text cites formation from water (reminiscent of the ancient Greek, Thales) not a preponderance of water; see the Golden calf in 20:90-100 actually mooing. See Ali's note. Note also the descriptions of sun and moon, etc. in 35:13, 36:38, and 39:5 etc. Any of these texts can easily be interpreted in an unscientific way with Newtonian or Relativity theory in astronomy.
23. Words such as "claim" are not meant in the loaded sense, and are used by Muslims themselves. Please keep in mind when reading this section that this is meant to be a constuctive critique, and I am simply pointing out an unorthodox defence here.
24. Why God's Book Cannot Contain Error (Toronto: Islamic Information and Da'wah Centre International). See also Basit Ahmad, The Integrity of the Quranic Text, Bucaille's work, and almost every other Muslim book, missive or pamphlet that touches on the subject of the Quran.
25. This point is very important. The Quran is held to be error free, but not necessarily simple in all areas. Surah 3:7 tells us in part that "in it are verses, basic or fundamental, clear; they are the foundation of the Book: others are not entirely clear. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is not entirely clear. Seeking discord, and searching for its interpretation, but no one knows its true meaning except for Allah." The rest of the verse informs us that the men of knowledge will accept the Message as true in spite of their inability to understand it. Ali's note informs us that "commentators usually understand the verses of established meaning to refer to the categorical orders of the law. He personally says that the meaning may be wider, advocating that the mother or the foundation of the book "must include the very foundation on which the law rests, the essence of Allah's Message..." Note 347. It is obvious that if we are to limit our understanding of the Quran to the law, then this part of the paper dealing with the infallibility of the Quran is a waste of time - for then no one can know if this book is true. With Ali, I hold that it is key to our understanding of even the law, to know that things such as inspiration can be understood, and that the mysteries refer to the absolute transcendence of Allah and the anthropomorphisms found in verses like 2:115 - or the predestination question in light of 35:8 and 18:29.
26. Six days in Surah 10:3, 7:54, 11:7, 25:59 etc. compared with 2+2+4 days in 4:9-12. This of course is not a contradiction if one advocates that each day is an epoch as Ali does in note 1031.
27. Man is sometimes described as being created from water or alternatively from clay: 38:76.
28. Haman was the right hand man to Ahasueras - not Pharaoh.
29. It is interesting to note that Yusuf Ali, in his two appendices on alleged Biblical corruption cites a number of scholars. I noticed the famed scholar, Sir Frederick Kenyon, cited as an authority twice. So I looked up a number of his works and found that he supported the authenticity of scriptures, first century dating of the New Testament, argues that the Gospel of John is written by John (p.25) and is, humanly speaking, the most reliable of the four gospels. The Bible and Modern Scholarship. cf. Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts: A history of the Text and its Translations, and The Text of the Greek Bible. It is also interesting to note that Muslims who appeal to "higher criticism" (which Kenyon rejects) in their attack on the Bible, reject similar analysis of the Quran. Also humourous to note, are the logical binds that apologists are left with. Ali, for example, cites a passage in Genesis to demonstrate that a passage in Genesis is corrupted.
30. In addition to holding dated theories of textual criticism, the Jesus Seminar is not exactly filled with scholars: see Blomberg, Craig L. "The Seventy Four 'Scholars': Who Does The Jesus Seminar Really Speak For?" Christian Research Journal, (Christian Research Institute: Fall, 1994), p. 34.
31. Ahmed Deedat even went so far as to hand out copies of Awake! - the popular magazine of the door-knocking "Jehovah's Witnesses" cult (erroneously labelling them as "Christian")! What the Bible Says About Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him), (Internet Production) note 15 - the first one. He has two "note 15's". Others cite liberal or neo-Orthodox productions such as the New American Bible - a Roman Catholic version: The Bible and the Quran Compared: Part 1 - Word of Man or Word of God?. A similar tactic is used in World Religions: A Comparative Study - Some Forgotten Sayings of Jesus. Again, most sources quoted are Roman Catholic.
32. Specifically the Torah, Gospels and Psalms. The Psalms may be less obvious, but 4:163, 5:78 and 21:105 all seem to support their inclusion as Scripture for Muslims.
33. See Why God's Word Cannot Contain Error (Toronto: Islamic Information and Da'wah Centre International).
34. Basit Ahmad, The Integrity of the Quranic Text.
35. Surah 3:34.
36. Surah 18:27.
37. Often the texts are referred to as "inspired."
38. The Quran may even teach in Surah 4:163 that the books of Job, Jonah and the Proverbs are inspired; 5:78 and 21:105 the Psalms, and 5:113 gives further support to the book of Proverbs. This passage could be referring to the revelation of nature or parts of the Quran which were in existence at the time it was written.
39. Surah 5:68.
40. Surah 3:93.
41. Surah 21:7.
42. Surah 3:76.
43. Surahs 2:59, 79, 174; 11:110; 6:91 and 5:44. Texts by apologists like Yusuf Ali support biblical corruption in their translation and in their notes. Translations by "non-apologists" however do not support this mode of translation. For example, 11:110 says that "differences arose therein" while others say "regarding it" - yet the context and the remainder of the verse show that the problem was obedience to the text - not the text itself. Even in the popular 6:91, Muhammad is reminding the Jews that the Torah they tried to hide and forget still taught them many things - things which could only have come from God. It must be noted again, that if these texts do teach the corruption of previous revelation, then the Quran asserts a very problematic contradiction.
44. We are also left a little puzzled as to why Muhammad would direct his opponents back to the Torah, Gospels and the "people of the book" for confirmation of truth - surely a prophet of Allah would be aware of the textual defects and instead warn his followers not to be deceived by the texts.
This paper argues a point which requires a considerable degree of care, tact, honesty and a few other rare virtues. Hence, the qualifiers - three of them.
The first comment I feel obliged to make, is something which I hope will be evidence itself throughout the paper: I am writing a constructive critique. I maintain that Muslim apologists have made errors in their arguments, and this essay is a small contribution towards pointing them out. It can be brushed aside as anti-Islamic rhetoric, and nothing will be gained. Or, they can be seriously considered, and solutions, if there are any, can be sought out, and defective arguments remedied.
The second qualifier is about Muslim apologetics itself, and my methodology. With the many factions and divisions within Islam regarding doctrine and practice, it would not be surprising to find many differing defences for the many differing doctrines. In my research on Muslim apologetics, I found exactly this—many different defences— in fact, even conflicting defences. To avoid critiquing some radical fringe, or freelancing apologist of Islam, I limit myself to examining the most popular arguments which are shared by many Muslims, from many different schools of thought.
Lastly, I also have tried to avoid erroneous criticisms by reading the entire Quran, comparing relevant difficult passages between eight different translations, and referring to commentaries where possible. This paper does not extract allegorical or esoteric interpretations of the texts referred to. I assume the perspicuity of the majority of the Quran, and hold that the best interpreter of the Quran is the Quran itself. I allow the text to speak for itself, and where I disagree with Abdullah Yusuf Ali's comments, I provide reasons. In Christianity, if someone has a differencing opinion, we allow the Bible to be the judge as God's Word, and avoid appealing to the authority of scholars to settle disputes as scholars can be wrong, and often differ with each other. There is a common and very simple saying when someone espouses an unheard of, or otherwise dubious position: "Chapter and verse?" I apply the same hermeneutic to the Quran, as Muslims hold it to be the very word of Allah. It is my prayer that any error in exegesis will not be a result of carelessness.
This short list of anachronisms and inaccuracies is a compilation of verses found in my reading of the Quran, and in supplementary readings. A similar list is found under Problems in the Quran? Interestingly, Yusuf Ali's notes often drew attention to problems I missed in my own reading. They are listed in no particular order.
"Muhammad supposed Imran or Amran to be the father of the Virgin Mary (Sura [cix.] lxvi. 12)-Mary and Elizabeth to be sisters; who, with Jesus, John, and Zacharias, make up the family of Imran. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Muhammad is guilty of the anachronism of confounding Miriam with the Virgin Mary. On the other hand is the difficulty of conceiving that as the sequence of time and fact is observed with tolerable accuracy in regard to the main features of Jewish and Christian History, he should have fallen into so serious an error, or have so inadvertently adopted, as Mr. Muir supposes, the phraseology of his Jewish informants (amongst whom the only well-known Mary (Mirian) was the daughter of Imran and the sister of Moses) as to have overlooked the discrepancy in their respective dates. But it is possible that Muhammad believed, as some Muslim writers assert, that Miriam's soul and body were miraculously preserved till the time of Jesus in order to become Mary his mother. Certainly the Talmudists fabled that the Angel of Death and the worm of corruption had no power over Mirian."
Surah 20:90-100 records a Samaritan helping the Israelites build the golden calf. The Samaritans only came into existence after about 600 B.C. when Israel and Judah were taken into captivity. Not the time of the Exodus.
Commentators understand that Surah 18:89-98 refers to Alexander the Great. The passage records that he was a devout Muslim and lived to a ripe old age—history records that he was a polytheist and died young.
In Surah 11:42-43 "Noah's (unnamed) son is said to have refused to take refuge in the ark while the flood waters were rising, and despite his father's plea, chose rather to flee to a mountaintop, from which he was swept away by a wave. (Gen 6-7 indicates that Noah had only three sons, and that they all entered the ark. Gen. 10 gives the line of descendants from each."
Surah 12:11-20. records that "Joseph did not go seeking his brother up at Dothan (As Gen 37 records), but rather the brothers, having already plotted his death, persuaded Jacob to let him go with them simply for fun and sport. Having gotten him into their power, they put him down into a well with water in it (rather than a dry pit). Nor was it they who sold him to the passing merchantmen, but rather a chance wayfarer who had come to the well to draw water. He sold the boy to the merchants "for a few dirhams" (rather than the substantial price of twenty shekels of silver, as Gen. 37:28 states.)"
Contrast Surah 26:55-60 with Exodus 1:9 and Surah 2:57,61 with Exodus and Numbers. The Quran records that "During the exodus, the Israelites became tired of manna and demanded vegetables from the soil. After scolding them, Moses said, Get down to Egypt, for you shall have what you asked.' They proceeded to do so: ‘And they returned with wrath from God.' Ancient history is very clear that "while discontented Israelites spoke of returning to Egypt, none of them actually did so. . . .In this connection, it is stated v. 61: They disbelieved the signs of God, and slew the Prophets unjustly; this, for they rebelled and transgressed.'" The Bible records no prophets being killed prior to Moses.
History is replete with examples of men claiming to be prophets. Generally they have promoted conflicting and erroneous doctrines and proclamations. The result, from earliest times has been a real mess. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 gives us the litmus test for judging true and false prophets:
And if thou say in thine heart, "how shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?" When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
Since God spoke these words, many prophets have come. And the test has been applied many times. From the ancient prophets of Baal, to the more modern Bab, Bahaullah, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, ‘Rev.' Moon and the current ‘Christian' prophecy pundits—all have three things in common. (1) All promise success for their followers, (2) those who claim to be prophets all maintain that their coming was foretold in the Bible, and all have made miscellaneous prophecies about the future, which have not come to pass. This short appendix will only focus on the first two types of prophecy. And very briefly.
The success of Islam's expansion has already been given a brief treatment in note four of this paper. The only thing that I want to add here, is a point on pragmatism. Every man with any kind of intelligence invariably predicts the success of his followers for one good reason—he can't lose. Simply put, if the prophecy comes true, and the religion or cult survives and grows, the prophecy is touted as proof of his success. If the prophecy ends up failing, "then we never hear of his promises because they, along with his movement, are forgotten."
How about Biblical prophecy regarding Muhammad? Muslims usually cite Surah 7:157 as clear Quranic support for such a prophecy: "Those who follow the Apostle, the unlettered Prophet, Whom they find mentioned in their own Scriptures, in the Torah and the Gospel..." This of course presents a profound problem for Muslim apologists.
As has been documented earlier in this paper, Muslim apologists maintain that the Bible is corrupted. Typical of those advocating corruption, there is no specific reference to what portions, percentage or degree the text is corrupted. This leaves them in an awkward position when they do want to cite Scripture to support their claims. If Muslim apologists accept the arguments of "higher criticism" to support the alleged corruption of the Biblical text, then they must provide justification for the integrity and purity of any text that they do cite.
The absurdities and arbitrary assertions which inevitably result without such a governing principle can be seen in Maulana Ataullah Kaleem's Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) In The Bible. After announcing that John 16:7 teaches us that the "Comforter" is Muhammad, he uses this text to demonstrate textual corruption in John 14:26 where the Comforter is clearly identified as the Holy Ghost. And in the very verse used as proof that Muhammad was mentioned—John 16:7—Muslim apologists maintain that there has to be corruption. No one informs us what would motivate first century Christians to remove a reference to a man named Ahmed of whom they had never heard.
Leaving this problem aside, we will examine the other key texts used in support of their position—all which can be accounted by any serious student of the Bible with very little difficulty. Before listing them, I will reduce their number. The many references to verses outside of the Torah and Gospels are of no value to an orthodox Muslim apologist, as the Quran says specifically that the passage will be found in the Torah or Gospels. This leaves us with Genesis 21:13 & 18, Matthew 5:17-18, 21:43-46 and Mark 8:27-30 in conjunction with Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Deuteronomy 33:2; and the passages relying on textual corruption in John.
The passages in John are too trivial a point to dwell on—it would be more consistent and logical to say the text is missing than to rely on a corrupted text for support. In spite of the in-depth articles written on the two passages in Deuteronomy, all make a significant error which destroys their position. the Deuteronomy 33:2 passage reads as follows:
And he said, the Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.
Muslims argue that this is a prophecy regarding the march of Muhammad and ten thousand of his men on Mecca. There is very simple problem with this. The entire context of the passage and the tense of the verb clearly reveals that this is a record of something which has past—as in history, not prophecy. Whatever commentators say about the passage, they always understand it to be what it plainly is, and that, is history. One can of course maintain that the verb tenses, grammar and context are all corrupted. But then the apologist must be asked where the evidence is for such detailed knowledge of the corruption, and furthermore, why the passage is cited if it's in such "rough shape."
Deuteronomy 18: 15-19 presents similar problems for those who would like it to speak of Muhammad. It reads as follows:
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken. According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
Typically the apologist follows the pattern of Ahmed Deedat who catalogues alleged dissimilarities between Jesus and Moses, and similarities between Moses and Muhammad. It must be noted at the outset, that a degree of similarity and dissimilarity can always be found between any two people.
For example, both Jean Chretien (the Prime Minister of Canada) and I have the same father in Noah, both grew up in Canada, both have some similarities in religious heritage, both drive cars, both went to university, both have been active in politics, etc. etc. In spite of this there are numerous dissimilarities. I need not list them. What must be key to our brief discussion, are two things: major similarities, and fulfilment of this passage.
Let's discuss the second one first. Looking to verse 15, is Muhammad from their midst—of their brethren? The answer is simple. In spite of appeals to Genesis, where it is clear that Muslims and Jews had the same father in Abraham, the immediate context makes it very clear that the "brethren" are Jews. In the previous chapter (17:15) the Jews are given the rules on Kingship, and are told that the King was to be of their brethren, and not a stranger. History makes it clear that God himself appointed the first three kings—Jews—as were all the rest. No Muslims ever reigned over Israel.
Muslims say that Christ was not a lawgiver—Jesus said he was: John 13:34. Deedat holds that Christ didn't claim to be a prophet—Jesus said he was: Luke 13:33. Jesus also spoke words which His Father gave Him: John 12:49. Like Moses, he was Jewish; left great wealth to deliver Israel; both left Egypt to minister to their people; he was literate; worked miracles; and spoke directly to God. This last is a key characteristic of Moses—specifically mentioned in Scripture as his great distinguishing mark:
And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, In all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses showed in the sight of all Israel.
Yes, there were similarities between Moses and other prophets. But the Scriptures make it clear that Jesus was ultimately the best expositor of Scripture, and that his rebuke of the Jews was legitimate:
Do not think that I will accuse, you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? - John 5:45-47
Ahmad, Sheikh Mubarak. Invitation to all good Christians. Internet Production.
Ahmad, Basit. The Intergrity of the Quranic Text. Internet Production.
Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, 2 Vols. Massachusetts: Murray Publishing Company, N.D.
Ally, Shabir. Common Questions People Ask About Islam. Toronto: Islamic Information & Da'wah Centre International, 1994.
Arberry, Arthur J. The Koran Interpreted. London: Oxford Univeristy Press, 1964.
Archer, Gleason L. Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press.
Badawi, Jamal. Jesus (Peace be upon Him) in the Qur'an and the Bible. Halifax: Islamic Information Foundation. Pamphlet.
Badawi, Jamal. Muhammad in the Bible. Halifax: Islamic Information Foundation. Pamphlet.
Blomberg, Craig L. "The Seventy-four "Scholars": Who Does The Jesus Seminar Really Speak For?" Christian Research Journal. Christian Research Institute. Fall 1994.
Bruce, F. F. The Canon of Scripture. Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1988.
Buacaille, Maurice. The Bible, The Qur'an and Science. Trans. by Alastair D. Pannell and the Author. Paris: The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah, 1987.
Council of Muslim Communities of Canada, The. The Qur'an, The Holy Book of God. Pamphlet.
Craig, William Lane. The Kalam Cosmological Argument. London: The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1979.
Dawood, N.J. Koran: Translation with Notes. Great Britain: C. Nicholls & Company Ltd., 1974.
Deedat, Ahmed. What the Bible Says About Mohammed (Peace be upon him). Internet Production.
El-Ashi, Arafat. A Dialogue With a Christian Priest: Part One. Etobicoke: Muslim World League Canada Office. Pamphlet. (MWL Series on Islam # 19.)
El-Ashi, Arafat. A Dialogue With a Christian Priest: Part Two. Etobicoke: Muslim World League Canada Office. Pamphlet. (MWL Series on Islam # 20.)
Esposito, John L. Islam: the Straight Path. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Gatje, Helmut. The Qur'an and its Exegesis: Selected texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.
Geisler, Norman L. Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976.
Gudel, Joseph. "Islam's Worldwide Revival: Islam Series Part One." Forward, Fall, 1985.
Gudel, Joseph. "To every Muslim an Answer: Islam Series Part Two." Forward, Winter, 1986.
Holy Bible, The. King James Version. Indianapolis: B.B. Kirkbride Bible Co., Inc., 1988.
Islamic Information & Da'wah Centre. Scientific Accuracy of Qur'an Amazes University of Toronto Professor - The Qur'an and the Study of Embryology. Toronto: Islamic Information & Da'wah Centre International. Pamphlet.
Islamic Information & Da'wah Centre. The Bible & the Qur'an Compared: Part 1. Pamphlet.
Islamic Information & Da wah Centre. Why God's Book Cannot Contain Error. Islamic Information & Da'wah Centre International. Pamphlet.
Islamic Information Foundation. Bridgebuilding Between Christian and Muslim. Halifax: Islamic Information Foundation. Pamphlet.
Kaleem, Maulana Ataullah. Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) in the Bible. Internet Production.
Kenyon, Frederic G. Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1896.
Kenyon, Frederic G. The Bible and Modern Scholarship. London: Butler & Tanner Ltd., 1948.
Kenyon, Frederic G. The Text of the Greek Bible. Surrey: Unwin Brothers Limited, 1975.
Khalifa, Rashad. Quran: The Final Scripture. Tucson: Islamic Productions, 1981.
Muir, Sir William. The Coran: Its Composition and Teaching; and the Testimony It Bears to the Holy Scriptures. London: Wyman and Sons, Printers, 1878.
Muslim Society of Waterloo & Wellington Counties. What the Bible Says About Muhammad. Message #4. Muslim Society of Waterloo & Wellington Counties, Nov. 1993. Pamphlet.
Pickthall, Mohammed Marmaduke. The Meaning of The Glorious Koran. New York: New American Library, 1953.
Presidency of Islamic Researchers, The; IFTA; & Call and Guidance. Holy Quran: English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary, The. Al-Madinah Al-Munawarah: King Fahd Holy Quran Printing Complex.
Rodwell, J.M. The Koran. New York: London J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1953.
Sale, George. The Koran: Commonly Called the Alkoran of Mohammed. New York: A. L. Burt Company,--.
Uloom, Madresa Ashraful. Some Forgotten Sayings of Jesus, Peace be upon Him. Rexdale: Islamic Communication Trust. Pamphlet.
World Assembly of Muslim Youth. Prophethood in Islam. Riyadh: Obeikan Printing Co. Pamphlet.
Go back to home page.