/ Oct 12, 2014
The biggest and most pernicious religious lie ever perpetrated on humanity is the assertion that Islam’s holy book, the Quran, is the verbal word of God, a.k.a. Allah. The dangerous civilizational damages emanating from that lie are: 1) the commands and examples of Allah and his prophet eclipse all moral values of good and evil based on reason; 2) since Allah claims to control all events, his followers do not have to take responsibility for their actions; and 3) all mankind is divided between believers who are blessed and unbelievers who are considered filth and are worthy of torture, slavery, and murder.
The claim that Allah handed down every word of the Quran to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel is demonstrably false, as will be shown below. Challenging the lie within the Muslim community is impossible because that would be an act of apostasy, punishable by death. The task of dismantling the Allah lie, therefore, must fall on the shoulders of non-Muslim scholars. From the 18th to the 20th Centuries, there was no shortage of gifted Western Arabic scholars who made and published their cases, and I will summarize the findings of just two – George Sale and Richard Bell – later in this article. However, their efforts were erased, actually edited away, in the 1970’s when multicultural sensitivities overwhelmed academic integrity. (The watershed book condemning Middle Eastern scholarship in the West, “Orientalism,” by Edward Said, was published in 1979.) The dramatic resurgence of Islamic fanaticism and militancy since then is the direct result of Muslims falsely believing in the literal truth and exigency of texts of the Quran.
Muslim “Proofs” that the Quran is from God
The following statements from the Quran are meant to confirm its divine origin: “We [God] have revealed the Koran in the Arabic tongue that you may understand its meaning. It is a transcript of the eternal book in Our keeping, sublime, and full of wisdom.” (Surah 43:2) “… this is a glorious Quran, safeguarded in a book which none may touch except the purified; a revelation from the Lord of the Universe.” (Surah 56:77) “Proclaim what is revealed to you in the Book of the Lord. None can change His words.” (Surah 18:27)
Set forth below is a sampling of statements on websites that insist that the Quran is the verbal word of God (Allah). I have followed those “proofs” with statements from other sources (often Muslim sources) that discredit the statements:
- “If this was from other than Allah, [the unbelievers] would find within it many contradictions.” (Surah 4:82) See the list of errors in the following section.
- “If you are in doubt, bring a chapter like it.” (Surah 2:23), or ten chapters (Sura 11:13), one chapter (Surah 10:38). As we shall see later, the poetic structure of the Quran is disjointed and it represents a rather primitive and flawed representation of Arabic literature. Written in the Seventh Century, it is comparable to “Beowulf” or Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” in the English language. Eighty percent of Muslims cannot understand the Arabic in which the Quran is written.
- Muhammad couldn’t write, so he couldn’t have written the Quran. This proof is taken from the Surah 7:157 in Quran that calls Muhammad the “unlettered Prophet.” The context of that verse, however, is to cite Muhammad’s alleged confirmation in the Torah and the Gospel – two sacred books. The inference, then, is that Muhammad was a prophet still without a sacred book, or “unscriptured.” Whether Muhammad could write or not, he had numerous scribes who could put his Quranic verses into writing, including a scribe who wrote and rewrote the terms of the Treaty of Hudaybiyya per Muhammad’s instructions. (Bukhari, Vol. 3, No. 89)
- The Quran contains numerous prophesies that were later proven to be true. While such claims are hard to nail down, one often-cited example is the prediction of the Byzantine (Roman) defeat and subsequent victory in Surah 30:2-4: “The Roman Empire has been defeated in a land close by: But they (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious – within a few years.” The Byzantines had engaged in ten wars in the 6th Century and would engage in eleven in the 7th Century, so it was a safe bet that somewhere in the Empire the Byzantines would soon win a war. Also the event that was later claimed as the proof of this prophesy coming true was the defeat of the Persians in 628 AD, long before the Quran was compiled. On the other hand, there were numerous other prophesies that were not fulfilled, most notably Surah 48:27 which alludes to Muhammad’s first attempt to make a pilgrimage from Medina to Mecca in 628 AD: “If God will, you shall enter the Sacred Mosque secure and fearless, with hair cropped and shaven.” That first pilgrimage was actually stopped. Muhammad had to sign the non-aggression Treaty of Hudaybiyya with the Meccans and agree to delay the pilgrimage until the following year. As anyone who has been to Las Vegas knows, being occasionally right and occasionally wrong doesn’t mean you’ve got a direct line to God.
Why the Quran Could Not Possibly Come from an All-Knowing God
There is a well-known website (http://www.1000mistakes.com/) that lists over 1,000 historical and scientific errors, contradictions, and other mistakes in the Quran. The following ten examples will be sufficient for the purpose of this article to demonstrate that the Quran could not be the verbal word of God (Allah):
- The sun does not set in a pool of black mud. – Surah 18:84
- Mountains are not supporting poles (or pegs) for the earth. -- Surah 78:7
- The moon cannot be used to compute the seasons and years. – Surah 10.5
- Egypt has never experienced a “year of abundant rain.” – Surah 12:49
- Crucifixion was not a method of killing in Pharaoh’s time. – Surah 7:122
- Mary, the mother of Jesus, was not Aaron’s sister and lived 1,500 years later. – Surahs 3:36 and 19:27
- It was Samuel, not Mary, who was a temple ward. The temple priest was Eli, not Zacharias. Samuel and Mary lived 1,100 years apart. (I Samuel 3) – Surah 3:36-3:37
- God did not give the Gospel (Injil) to Jesus when he was a baby, for all of the real Gospels contain the complete life story of Jesus. – Surahs 5:46, 19:30, and 57:27
- The Christian “Trinity” is not God, Jesus, and Mary. – Surahs 4:171 and 5:116
- Christians and Jews do not pray toward a qiblah (earthly focus for God). – Surah 2:141-145
Careful reading of the Quran confirms that it was compiled by Mohammed and others who had only a fragmentary understanding of history and science. During his lifetime, Muhammad was constantly accused of concocting “stories of the ancients.” (Surahs 6:25, 8:31, 16:24, 22:5, 27:68, and 64:17) In exasperation, Mohammed inserted a verse into one of the final Surahs of the Quran: “Believers, do not ask questions about things which, if made known to you, would only pain you; but if you ask them when the Quran is being revealed, they shall be made plain to you. . . Other men inquired about them before you, only to disbelieve them thereafter.” (Surah 5:101)
If God, the Creator of the Universe, truly dictated the Quran it would be error-free, unambiguous (see Surah 3:8), without corrections or abrogation (see Surah 2:106), and most certainly a blessing for all of mankind – not just the Muslim males who represent about 10 percent of the world’s population. (See Surahs 3:110 and 4:34).
Conclusions of Quranic Scholars
From the very earliest studies of the Quran by non-Muslim scholars of Arabic, there was no question that the Quran was written by Muhammad and others. One of the first English translations of the Quran was by George Sale, first published in 1734. His translation, sometimes called the “Jefferson Quran” because a copy was owned by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson and was used by U.S. Representative Keith Ellison for swearing his oath office in 2007, contained a 145 page “Preliminary Discourse,” which included the following observations about Muhammad and the Quran:
It is scarce to be doubted but that Mohammed had a violent desire of being reckoned an extraordinary person, which he could attain to by no means more effectively, than by pretending to be a messenger sent from God, to inform mankind of his will. The scheme of religion which Mohammed framed, and the design and artful contrivance of those written revelations (as he pretended them to be) which compose his Quran, shall be the subject of the following sections. . . That Mohammed was really the author and chief contriver of the Quran is beyond dispute. . . . However it be, the Mohammedans absolutely deny the Quran was composed by their prophet himself; that it is eternal and uncreated, that the first transcript has been from everlasting by God’s throne, written on a table of vast bigness. . . But whatever use an impartial version of the Quran may be of in other respects, it is absolutely necessary to undeceive those who, from the ignorant or unfair translations which have appeared, have entertained too favourable an opinion of the original, and also to enable us effectually to expose the imposture. (emphasis added)
Another eminent scholar of Arabic and the Quran was Richard Bell who taught at the University of Edinburgh. Between 1937 and 1939 he published a two volume translation of the Quran. His notes for that translation were later published in a volume titled, “Introduction to the Quran,” published in 1953. Bell died in 1952. Like Sells, he was convinced that the Quran was written principally by Muhammad. The way he demonstrates this is to ignore the Muslim apologists and the dubious hadith accounts, and look at the Quran itself. He observed that the conventional organization of the Quran reveals the extent to which the book was cobbled together – with discontinuous passages, with repeats of large portions of the text, and with obvious revisions. One can conclude from this, that rather than being a timeless document written on tablets in heaven, the Quran was a work in progress up to the time of Muhammad’s death, reflecting both the gradual religious enlightenment of Muhammad himself and the change in the preoccupation of Muhammad from establishing a new, Arabic monotheistic religion to expanding Islam’s political hegemony over a larger and larger territory.
Here is a short list of Bell’s observations which demonstrate the Quran was Muhammad’s on-going project:
- Sixty-nine percent of the Quran had been “handed down” before Muhammad identified Gabriel as the interlocutor between Allah and himself. (The percent figures in this paragraph are based on a chronological arrangement of the Quran translation by Rodwell. See http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/koran/koran.pdf .) Gabriel is mentioned only twice in the Quran and only in the Medina period – Surahs 2:98 and 66:4. If Muhammad had experienced a real encounter with Gabriel, he would have known his identity from the start. Ten Quran English translators (including M.H. Shakir, Muhsin Khan, and even George Sale) have recognized this logical error, and they have interpolated “Gabriel” into one of the Quran’s first Surahs in 97:4. It is not there in the original Arabic. (Source: www.islamawakened.com/quran/97/4/ ) Muhammad does not refer to himself as a prophet (nabi) until 61 percent of the Quran had been “handed down.” See Surah 7:157.
- The Quran suggests that it was revealed through inspiration rather in a word-for-word dictation of the specific text. The term used for Allah’s revelation is not “dictate,” which is used in Surah 2:282 in the context of writing out a loan agreement. Furthermore, the Quran also makes a distinction between what Allah “inspired” in Muhammad and what Muhammad “recited” to his followers in Surah 13:30: “We have sent you to a nation . . . that you may recite to them what We have inspired in you. . .” The Arabic word for inspired is awha (verb) or wahy (noun). This is quite similar to the word used to describe how the Bible was revealed, “All scripture is inspired (literally, divinely breathed-in) by God . . .” (II Timothy 3:16) Surah 42:51-52 explains this inspiration process even further:
And it is not given to mortal man that God should speak unto him otherwise than through sudden inspiration, or [by a voice, as it were,] from behind a veil, or by sending an apostle to reveal, by His leave, whatever He wills [to reveal]: for, verily, He is exalted and wise. And thus, too, [O Muhammad,] have We revealed unto thee a life-giving message, [coming at Our behest. [Ere this message came unto thee,] thou didst not know what revelation is, nor what faith [implies] . . .” (A footnote to the Muhammad Asad translation says, “This is the primary meaning of wahy, a term which combines the concepts of suddenness and inner illumination [Raghib]; in the usage of the Quran, it is often, though by no means always, synonymous with “revelation.”)
Bell observed that initially Muhammad thought he received revelation directly from God, but as he learned more about the Biblical prophets, he realized that only Moses actually talked directly with God. Note that this realization in Surah 42 above came rather late in the Quran, after 28 percent had already been revealed. (Source: Richard Bell, Introduction to the Quran, 1953 edition, page 35.)
- Muhammad at times had difficulty discerning whether his inspiration was coming from God or from Satan. The following is the account of the “Satanic Verses” from Muhammad’s authoritative biography by Ibn Ishaq:
When the apostle saw that his people turned their backs on him and he was pained by their estrangement from what he brought them from God. He longed that there should come to him from God a message that would reconcile his people [the polytheistic Quraysh] to him. Because of his love for his people and his anxiety over them it would delight him if the obstacle that made his task so difficult could be removed; so that he meditated on the project and longed for it and it was dear to him. Then God sent down ‘By the star when it sets your comrade errs not and is not deceived, he speaks not from his own desire,’ and when he reached His words ‘Have you thought of al-Lat and al-Uzza and Manat the third, the other,’ Satan, when he was meditating upon it, and desiring to bring it [i.e., the reconciliation] to his people, put upon his tongue ‘these are the exalted Gharaniq [high-flying cranes] whose intersession is approved.’ [The Quraysh were delighted.] Then Gabriel came to the apostle and said, ‘What have you done, Muhammad? You have read to these people something I did not bring to you from God and you have said what He did not say to you.’ . . . So God annulled what Satan had suggested and God established His verses. . . (Source: Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, translated by A. Guillaume, 1955 edition, page 165-166.)
Muhammad’s intense desire to get inspiration from God may have resulted in getting suggestions instead from Satan or his own independent brainstorming. This well-documented “Satanic Verses” incident raises the question about how often this kind of misguidance may have occurred during the revelation of the Quran.
- Bell’s most conclusive proof that the Quran was not directly from God is the fact that there are numerous places where the text was later revised, rearranged, or otherwise edited. These changes occurred either before Muhammad died or by the subsequent compilers of the Quran after his sudden death. There was no Quran at that time. Instead, the Quran was written on bones, pieces of leather, and the stalks of date palm leaves. Here is the reliable Hadith narration of how the Quran was collected:
Sahih Bukhari - Hadith No: 201, Volume: 6, Book: 60
Narrator : Zaid bin Thabit Al-Ansari:who was one of those who used to write the Divine Revelation:
Abu Bakr sent for me after the (heavy) casualties among the warriors (of the battle) of Yamama (where a great number of Qurra' were killed). 'Umar was present with Abu Bakr who said, 'Umar has come to me and said, The people have suffered heavy casualties on the day of (the battle of) Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be more casualties among the Qurra' (those who know the Qur'an by heart) at other battle-fields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost, unless you collect it. And I am of the opinion that you should collect the Qur'an." Abu Bakr added, "I said to 'Umar, 'How can I do something which Allah's Apostle has not done?' 'Umar said (to me), 'By Allah, it is (really) a good thing.' So 'Umar kept on pressing, trying to persuade me to accept his proposal, till Allah opened my bosom for it and I had the same opinion as 'Umar." (Zaid bin Thabit added:) Umar was sitting with him (Abu Bakr) and was not speaking. Abu Bakr said to me: "You are a wise young man and we do not suspect you (of telling lies or of forgetfulness): and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle. Therefore, look for the Qur'an and collect it (in one manuscript)." By Allah, if he (Abu Bakr) had ordered me to shift one of the mountains (from its place) it would not have been harder for me than what he had ordered me concerning the collection of the Qur'an. I said to both of them, "How dare you do a thing which the Prophet has not done?" Abu Bakr said, "By Allah, it is (really) a good thing.” So I kept on arguing with him about it till Allah opened my bosom for that which He had opened the bosoms of Abu Bakr and Umar. So I started locating Quranic material and collecting it from parchments, scapula, leaf-stalks of date palms and from the memories of men (who knew it by heart). I found with Khuzaima two Verses of Surat-at-Tauba which I had not found with anybody else, (and they were):--
"Verily there has come to you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty He (Muhammad) is ardently anxious over you (to be rightly guided)" (9.128)
The manuscript on which the Quran was collected, remained with Abu Bakr till Allah took him unto Him, and then with 'Umar till Allah took him unto Him, and finally it remained with Hafsa, Umar's daughter.
Such a jumble of mixed mediums would have been a challenge for any editor. How would an editor know which fragments went where. Also, if something were written on both sides of a document, which text came first? Perhaps that is why the Quran was originally organized roughly by the length of the surahs. Here are three visible types of revisions that Prof. Bell observed:
- Discontinuous passages – One of the most obvious discontinuous passage is Surah 2: 178-180 about retaliation – “Believers, retaliation is decreed for you in bloodshed.” Ahead of this passage are instructions about the characteristics of righteousness. Following this passage are further instructions about righteousness in the form of distributing bequeaths equitably. The discussion of retaliation doesn’t fit either the previous or the following contexts. It was obviously inserted into the text.
Another obvious example is in Surah 84. The basic theme of the Surah is “bending” in submission and prayer. However two verses 84:16-17 are a complete disconnect: “I swear by the glow of sunset; by the night, and all that it brings together; by the moon, in her full perfection: that you shall march onwards from state to state.” [Note also that Allah is swearing by things He created, not something greater than Himself. It would be akin to a man swearing by his son instead of his ancestors.]
- Repeats of the same text -- The following texts are from Surahs 15 and 38. Those two Surahs were handed down in Middle Meccan period. Muhammad only had a few followers at that time, so this was not a particularly important revelation. Why is it repeated? Was it just two slightly different versions of the same text? Allah would have noticed that.
[15:28] Behold! thy Lord said to the angels: "I am about to create man, from sounding clay from mud moulded into shape;
[15:29] "When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him."
[15:30] So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together:
[15:31] Not so Iblis: he refused to be among those who prostrated themselves.
[15:32] (God) said: "O Iblis! What is your reason for not being among those who prostrated themselves?"
[15:33] (Iblis) said: "I am not one to prostrate myself to man, whom Thou didst create from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape."
[15:34] (God) said: "Then get thee out from here; for thou art rejected, accursed.
[15:35] "And the curse shall be on thee till the Day of Judgment."
[15:36] (Iblis) said: "O my Lord! give me then respite till the Day the (dead) are raised."
[15:37] (God) said: "Respite is granted thee."
[15:38] "Till the Day of the Time appointed."
[38:71] Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I am about to create man from clay:
[38:72] "When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him."
[38:73] So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together:
[38:74] Not so Iblis: he was haughty, and became one of those who reject Faith.
[38:75] (God) said: "O Iblis! What prevents thee from prostrating thyself to one whom I have created with my hands? Art thou haughty? Or art thou one of the high (and mighty) ones?"
[38:76] (Iblis) said: "I am better than he: thou created me from fire, and him thou created from clay."
[38:77] (God) said: "Then get thee out from here: for thou art rejected, accursed.
[38:78] "And My curse shall be on thee till the Day of Judgment."
[38:79] (Iblis) said: "O my Lord! Give me then respite till the Day the (dead) are raised."
[38:80] (God) said: "Respite then is granted thee-
[38:81] "Till the Day of the Time Appointed."
- Evidence of text revision: The passage in Surah 2:139 to 2:145 about the direction of prayer is so confused that it is undecipherable without assistance from the translator or comentator: In Surah 2:139 the qiblah (towards Jerusalem) is a sign that Jews and Muslims worship the same God – reflecting Muhammad’s initial attempt to find common ground with the Jews in Medina. In Surah 2:144, a new qiblah is decreed “only in order that We (Allah) might know the Apostle’s true adherents and those who were disown him.” Furthermore, “. . . even if you gave them [the Jews] every proof they would not accept your qiblah, nor would you accept theirs; nor would any of them accept the qiblah of the other.” (Surah 2:145)
In his conclusion to his “Introduction to the Quran,” Bell’s final analysis is quite clear:
The conceptions of some cardinal Christian doctrines reflected in the Quran and the entire omission of others show that he [Muhammad] had never been in contact with theologically educated Christians, but depended on popular accounts. How far less obvious influences colored his environment and his source of information is difficult to determine. Mandaean, Manchaean, Persian and other influences have been suggested, but have not been convincingly proved. It is not always easy to distinguish between the material which Muhammad may have received and the form which he himself may have given it in reproducing it. For, dealing with the sources of the Quran, we must never forget that the main source, after all, is the brooding mind of the Prophet himself, enlightened, as he believed, by the divine guidance which came to him through reflection and meditation. (pg. 172)
In 1970, a former student of Richard Bell, W. Montgomery Watt published a “revised edition” to the “Introduction to the Quran.” This was one of the first products of the new “politically correct” Middle Eastern and Arabic academic community. Watt warns readers that he had corrected his mentor’s text wherever Bell claimed that Muhammad was the principal author of the Quran. Watt reasoned, “With the greatly increased contacts between Muslims and Christians during the last quarter of a century, it has become imperative for a Christian scholar not to offend Muslim readers gratuitously, but as far as possible to present his arguments in a form acceptable to them. Courtesy and an eirenic outlook [Definition: a part of Christian theology concerned with reconciling different denominations and sects] certainly now demand that we should not speak of the Quran as the product of Muhammad’s conscious mind; but I hold that the same demand is also made by sound scholarship.” [Nowhere in his revised edition is there any “sound scholarship” demonstrating that Bell’s conclusions were incorrect.] In place of Bell’s conclusions quoted above, Watt inserted a section titled, “Problems facing the non-Muslim scholar.” In it he makes what is probably the most bizarre and unscholarly defense of truth ever concocted. First he posits that there is a difference between cerebral knowledge of religious ideas and the actual experiential knowledge of those ideas. According to him, only people steeped in the particular faith can truly experience the religious knowledge. Then he drops the bombshell:
It follows from this that truth is to be regarded as belonging not to separate propositions in a book, but to a whole system of ideas as embodied in the life of a community. [From this sophisticated point of view, the scholar] sees that the systems of ideas followed by Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and others are all true in so far as they enable human beings to have a more or less satisfactory ‘experience of life as a whole.’ So far as observation can tell, none of the great systems is markedly inferior or superior to the others. Each is therefore true. In particular, the Quran in this sense is true. . . In so far as some conception in a system seems to contradict the accepted teaching of science – or, that of history in so far as it is objective – that contradiction raises problems for the adherents of the system, but does not prove that the system as a whole is inferior to others. (pg. 183)
What Montgomery Watt completely skirts, however, are problems raised regarding the Muslims’ claim that the Quran is the “uncreated word of God.” A religious adherent may feel or experience personal harmony with his religion, but if the religion is based on a lie, his personal feelings are cannot be trusted, nor can the feelings a million or a billion adherents be trusted, for that matter. Lies can be exposed by science, objective history, and even by the march of time. The most dangerous prophesy to the future of a particular religion that a false prophet could make would be a time-certain event. The Millerites, later called the Seventh Day Adventists, predicted the end of the world on October 22, 1844. People quit their jobs, left their fields, and sold their belongings, only to find October 22 to be just like any other day. That cult was later followed by the Russelites who predicted the end of the age in 1914. Their group continues today as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Hal Lindsey, author of “The Late Great Planet Earth,” predicted the end of the world within 40 years of the formation of Israel, or between 1948 and 1988. The fact that people still believe such time-specific prophesies even after the zero hour has passed is strong evidence that large numbers of people, and even scholars, can succumb to false Prophets and prophesies.
However, when non-believers of a faith are obligated to show respect to a lie, it is no longer a religious issue but a political issue. Watt’s insistence that “courtesy and an eirenic outlook certainly now demand that we should not speak of the Quran as the product of Muhammad’s conscious mind,” is a political expediency unbecoming of any objective scholar. It should be exposed and condemned by all who seek the truth. Allah and all that pertains to him is the big lie.
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