As Muslims say the Quran is the inerrant word of God, its history and accuracy should have rock solid foundations. The following looks at some of the history of the Quran and the believability of the claims made about it.
How Allah communicates his word
The way the Quran was said to have been communicated by Allah to humanity raises some questions. Islam is supposed to be God’s final and most important guidance to humanity. With information as important as that, and considering Allah is said to have infinite power, there should be a way to tell all humanity something in a way that leaves no doubt. Surely, Allah would want to leave irrefutable evidence that no sane person could deny. That would not only save a lot of confusion and conflict, but it would also save a great many people for horrible eternal torture (for following the wrong religion).
With this in mind and infinite power in hand, it seems odd that a god would then choose to communicate to ALL humanity through ONE man in a cave in ONE language. If communicating through prophets was necessary, why not have more than one? For example, having prophets appear with the same revelation throughout the world would have given everyone an equal chance to hear the message, left no doubt to the divine origins of Islam and caused it to spread throughout the entire world very quickly.
Furthermore, as Muhammad never performed miracles and the Quran came in stages, it gives every appearance of simply being his word and not that of a god. Why would a god give his word to humanity in a way that many would be certain to doubt it, thus causing so much conflict and confusion?
Changes in the message
Not only did the Quran come to humanity in a way that gives every indication of coming from a man, but the message itself did not have nearly the consistency that would be expected if it came from a god.
A good example of this is an incident that The Satanic Verses, which caused so much uproar in the Islamic world, was based on. According to earlier Islamic teachings, at a time when Muhammad was feeling persecuted at Medina, Muhammad was said to have had the following revelation. As it is recognizing the validity of Medina’s traditional female deities, it clearly conflicted his monotheistic message.
Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-‘Uzzá
and Manāt, the third, the other?
These are the exalted gharāniq, whose intercession is hoped for.
While this greatly eased tensions with the Medians and brought about the return of Muslims who had fled, Muhammad later took back his words and claimed that the devil had tricked him into saying them.
53:19 now reads:
Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-‘Uzza
And Manat, the third, the other?
Are yours the males and His the females?
That indeed were an unfair division!
Many contemporary Muslims deny the whole incident as a fabrication. This seems very unlikely considering that the story comes from devout Muslims, was accepted for generations, explains why Muslims would have returned to Mecca and fits well with what would be expected from a man in Muhammad’s shoes at the time.
Regardless, it raises serious questions about the reliability of Islamic texts as the inerrant word of God. Assuming it was not true, after delivering his word to humanity in a less-than-miraculous way, why would Allah allow a false story about Muhammad speaking the words of the devil ever be told, let alone believed by generations of Muslims and passed on to this very day?
More on this incident can be found at Wiki.
Allah changes his mind
A further problem with accepting the Quran as divine word comes in how Allah would have to be changing his mind if Islam is correct. Ignoring the issues with 53:19, there is still the problem of abrogated and unclear versus. Basically, there are instances where Allah has supposedly changed his mind or improved on earlier versus of the Quran making older versus obsolete.
While many modern Muslim scholars now reject abrogation, it was universally accepted by them in the past and abrogation itself is mentioned in the Quran in the following:
2:106: None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?
16:101: And when We put a revelation in place of (another) revelation, – and Allah knoweth best what He revealeth – they say: Lo! thou art but inventing. Most of them know not.
Furthermore, as is covered in Islam Review, it is explained is in One of Islam’s classical reference books:
“It is titled “al-Nasikh wal-Mansoukh” (The Abrogator and the Abrogated) and was authored by the revered Muslim scholar Abil-Kasim Hibat-Allah Ibn-Salama Abi-Nasr. The book goes through every Surah (chapter) in the Quran and cites in great detail every verse that was cancelled-out/overridden by particular verses that were written later.”
The reason for abrogation given by Muslims who accept it is that Islam was supposed to be a progressive revelation. It would seem that a god would not have to ever go back on or improve any of his revelations, but this does show how the apparent contradictions in Islamic teachings make abrogation a virtual necessity.
More about abrogation, and examples of where it is required to include the case of alcohol, can be found here.
Revision for violence
Abrogation takes on a more troubling aspect with the subject of violence. When confronted by the problem of violence in Islam, Muslims will point to earlier versus of the Quran that were made when Muhammad was still a weak figure in Mecca. However, as Muhammad’s message became more violent as his power grew when he was in Medina, the later (generally much more violent) versus of the Quran abrogate the earlier, less violent ones (as a later verse abrogates an earlier one when they contradict).
Dimensions in vagueness
Further proof of Allah’s seemingly poor communications skills can be found in the following two classifications in Islamic revelations. There are the:
- Muhkam: Those with very clear and straightforward meanings.
- Mutashabeh: Revelations with multiple interpretations.
As Islam is supposed to be instructions to humanity and people not properly understanding its teachings is the reason given for violence in the name of Islam by more moderate Muslims, why wouldn’t Allah make sure all his teachings had very clear and straightforward meanings?
There is no denying that the way Islamic teachings appeared in the world, changes and problems with interpretations all point to earthly and not divine origins. In addition to showing hard evidence that Allah exists and Islam is his word, Muslims need to explain why their god would communicate his word to humanity in such a way.