The Qur’an is at the heart of Islam. If its claims can be substantiated, then Islam is true and all opposing religious claims, including those of Judaism and Christianity, are false. As we saw in Chapter 5, the Qur’an claims to be the verbally inspired Word of God, copied from the original in heaven. Furthermore, other religious claims to the contrary, the Qur’an claims to be the full and final revelation of God through Muhammad, the last and greatest of the prophets who supersedes Moses, Jesus, and all other prophets before him.
It is of utmost importance, then, for anyone who rejects Islam to understand what Muslims claim about the Qur’an and to examine the evidence Muslims offer in support of it.
A Review of the Islamic View of the Qur’an
Before evaluating the Qur’an’s claims about its own divine and unique authority, it is necessary to review the basic claims about the nature of the Qur’an. These include its inspiration by God, its errorlessness, and its finality.
Inspiration of the Qur’an
The great Sunni authority, Abu Hanifa, expressed the orthodox belief that “the Quran is the word of God, and is His inspired word and revelation. It is a necessary attribute of God. It is not God, but still is inseparable from God.” Of course, “It is written in a volume, it is read in a language … but God’s word is uncreated.”1
Muslim scholar, Yusuf K. Ibish declared: “It is not a book in the ordinary sense, nor is it comparable to the Bible, either the Old or New Testaments.… If you want to compare it with anything in Christianity, you must compare it with Christ
Himself.” He adds, “Christ was the expression of the Divine among men, the revelation of the Divine Will. That is what the Qur’an is.”2 In short, whereas in Christianity the Word became flesh, in Islam the Word became a Book! The Qur’an itself claims (in 39:1–2) “The revelation Of this Book Is from God, The Exalted in Power, Full of Wisdom. Verily it is We Who have Revealed the Book to thee In Truth.” In 55:1–2 it says, “(God) Most Gracious! It is He Who has Taught the Qur’an.” (See also 3:7; 41:2–3; 12:1–2; 20:113; 25:6; 2:2–4; 43:43–44; 6:19; 39:41.)
Errorless and Eternal
Of course, it would follow that if the Qur’an is the very Word of God, it would be completely without error, since God cannot utter error. Indeed, this is precisely what the Qur’an claims for itself, saying, “Praise be to God, Who hath sent to His Servant The Book, and hath allowed Therein no Crookedness” (18:1). As we shall see, orthodox Muslims believe this extends to everything the Qur’an teaches, even to matters of science.
Muslims also believe that the Qur’an is a copy from its original, the heavenly “Mother of the Book.” In 85:21–22, we read, “Nay, this is A Glorious Qur’an, (Inscribed) in A Tablet Preserved!” And in 43:3–4, we read, “We have made it A Qur’an in Arabic, That ye may be able To understand (and learn wisdom). And verily, it is In the Mother of the Book, In Our Presence, high (In dignity), full of wisdom” (cf. 13:39). This eternal original is the template of the earthly book we know as the Qur’an.
Final Revelation to Humankind
Muslims do not believe the Qur’an is simply one holy book among other existing and uncorrupted divine revelations. The Qur’an is the eternal Word of God that descended (tanzil) to Muhammad in order to be the final Light and Guidance for humankind. According to orthodox Islam, the Qur’an by its very nature supersedes all previous revelations.
On many occasions the Qur’an refers to itself as a “Clear Argument” (al-Burhan), or “Light” (an-Nur), or “The Explanation” (al-Bayan).3 In fact, after its introduction (in sura 1), the Qur’an begins with this claim: “This is the Book: In it is guidance sure, without doubt, To those who fear God” (2:2).
Abdul Ahad Dawud says of the finality of the Qur’an, “For after the Revelation of the Will and Word of Allah in the Holy Qur’an there is the end of the prophecy and of revelation.”4 In 10:37, we read: “This Qur’an … is A confirmation of (revelations) That went before it, And a fuller explanation Of the Book— wherein There is no doubt—From the Lord of the Worlds.” Kateregga concludes, “the Qur’an, as the final revelation, is the perfection and culmination of all the truth contained in the earlier Scriptures (revelation).” Though sent in Arabic “it is the Book for all times and for all mankind. The purpose of the Qur’an is to guard the previous revelations by restoring the eternal truth of Allah.”5 Classical Muslim theologian, Ibn Taymiyya, claimed that “the guidance and true religion which is in the shari’a brought by Muhammad is more perfect than what was in the two previous religious laws.”6 In brief, the Qur’an is unique and the final revelation of God. “It is on account of these special features of the Qur’an that all the people of the world have been directed to have faith in it, to give up all other books and to follow it alone, because it contains all that is essential for living in accordance with God’s pleasure.”7
The Qur’an Is a Divine Miracle
The Qur’an is not only the ultimate divine revelation, but for Muslims (including Muhammad himself), it is also the ultimate divine miracle. The “miracle of the Qur’an” is perhaps the most fundamental and popular doctrine about the Qur’an. Indeed, Muhammad claimed that the Qur’an was the only miracle he offered his hearers.
The miraculous nature of the Qur’an is in a sense the foundation of Islam and the most essential evidence for the prophethood of Muhammad. Classical theologian Al-Baqillani, in his book Ijaz al-Qur’an, insists that “What makes it necessary to pay quite particular attention to that [branch of Qur’anic] science [known as] Ijaz al-Qur’an is that the prophetic office of the Prophet—upon whom be peace—is built upon this miracle.”8
Muslim apologists have offered many arguments for the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. However, most Islamic scholars place more emphasis on the first few arguments, especially the first one—the unique literary style of the Qur’an.
The Argument for the Divine Origin of the Qur’an
Unique Literary Style
For most Muslims, by far the most impressive evidence for the supernatural nature of the Qur’an has been that it “is wonderfully arranged, and marvelously composed, and so exalted in its literary elegance as to be beyond what any mere creature could attain.”9 By revelation Muhammad claimed that “this Qur’an is not such As can be produced By other than God” (10:37). He boasts that “if the whole of mankind and jinn Were to gather together To produce the like Of this Qur’an, they Could not produce The like thereof, even if They backed up each other With help and support” (17:88; cf. 2:118, 151, 253; 3:108; 28:86–87).
Yusuf Ali, the noted translator of the Qur’an, declares that “No human composition could contain the beauty, power, and spiritual insight of the Qur’an.”10 Muslims believe that “the Qur’an is the greatest wonder among the wonders of the world. It repeatedly challenged the people of the world to bring a chapter like it, but they failed and the challenge remains unanswered up to this day.” They believe that the Qur’an “is second to none in the world according to the unanimous decision of the learned men in points of diction, style, rhetoric, thoughts and soundness of laws and regulations to shape the destinies of mankind.”11
The Qur’an itself states the fundamental challenge to unbelievers In 2:23: “And if ye are in doubt As to what We have revealed From time to time to Our servant, Then produce a Sura Like thereunto; And call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides God, If your (doubts) are true” (cf. 10:38).
Concerning Muhammad’s challenge to the unbelievers about producing a chapter like the Qur’an, the Muslim apologist, Ajijola, claims that “the diction and style of the Qur’an are magnificent and appropriate to its Divine origin.” Above all, “the Qur’an has by virtue of its claim of Divine origin, challenged man to produce, even unitedly, just a few lines comparable to those of the Qur’an.” Hence, he adds, “The challenge has remained unanswered to this day.… What a challenge the like of which man has never seen and shall never see!”12
In comparing the miracle of the Qur’an with those of other prophets, one defender of Islam went so far as to say that “the miraculousness in the composition of the Qur’an is more effective in its kind and more eminent than the healing of the born-blind and the leprous and the quickening of the dead and the changing of the rod into a serpent, etc.” Why? “Since many may believe that these signs were accomplished by tricks and clever manipulations. But there can be no doubt about the miraculousness of the eloquence of the Qur’an, because eloquence is something natural and not one of the skills which can be acquired.”13
This argument goes hand-in-hand with the former one. In fact, they form a unit. In any event, the latter gives strength to the former. For Muslims argue that it is a marvel in itself that such a literary wonder as the Qur’an was produced at all. But it is even more marvelous that it was written by someone who was illiterate. How else, they claim, could this be explained except by supernatural revelation? The Qur’an says flatly that Muhammad was an “unlettered Prophet” (7:157). Or, as Pickthall translated it, Muhammad was “one who can neither read nor write.”
Hence, Muslims believe that only by divine revelation could someone who was illiterate produce such a literary masterpiece as the Qur’an. To reinforce their claim they insist that even the best trained scholars in the Arabic language cannot to this day equal the eloquence of the Qur’an. Muhammad’s challenge still stands to the unbelievers: “Say [to them]: ‘Bring then A Sura like unto it’ ” (10:38).
Another evidence often given by Muslims for the miraculous nature of the Qur’an is its marvelous preservation. As we read In 15:9, “We have, without doubt, Sent down the Message; And We will assuredly Guard it (from corruption).” Maulana Muhammad Ali claims that “the Qur’an is one, and no copy differing in even a diacritical point is met with in one among the four hundred millions of Muslims.” While “there are, and always have been, contending sects, but the same Qur’an is in the possession of one and all.… A manuscript with the slightest variation in the text is unknown.”14
Muslim scholars point out that, in contrast to other holy books, “the Holy Qur’an is the only divinely revealed scripture in the history of mankind which has been preserved to the present time in its exact original form.” By this is meant that “the Qur’an has been preserved in the Arabic wording in which it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) and in the exact order in which he himself placed it as commanded by Divine revelation.”15 This unprecedented and unparalleled marvel of perfect preservation is taken by Muslims as a sign of God’s supernatural intervention.
Prophecies in the Qur’an
Some Muslim defenders make a big point of the fact that the Qur’an contains accurate predictions which, they claim, could only come by the aid of God who knows all things, even the future. The prophecy most often cited is found in 30:2–4. It is claimed to have predicted the victory of the Romans over the Persians “a few years” before it happened. It reads as follows: “The Roman Empire … Will soon be victorious—Within a few years.” Yusuf Ali claims that “a few years” means a short period of time ranging from three to nine years. And the period of time between when the Romans lost Jerusalem (a.d. 614–15) and their victory over the Persians at Issus (a.d. 622) was seven years. This, many Muslims claim, is proof of the supernatural nature of the Qur’an.
Another “prophecy” offered in defense of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an is in 89:1–5, which some scholars take to refer to the ten years of persecution Islam suffered before the famous Hijrah of Mu-hammad to Medina. Other, less notable “fulfilled prophecies” are also offered by Muslim apologists. Most of these are promises to the Islamic forces that they will be victorious.
Say to those who reject Faith: “Soon will ye be vanquished And gathered together To Hell,—an evil bed Indeed (to lie on)!” (3:12).
But their Lord inspired (This Message) to them: “Verily We shall cause The wrong-doers to perish! And verily We shall Cause you to abide In the land, and succeed them” (14:13–14).
Soon will We [God] show them Our Signs in the (furthest) Regions (of the earth), and In their own souls, until It becomes manifest to them That this is the Truth (41:53).
In his lengthy work The Religion of Islam, the Muslim scholar Muhammad Ali exuberantly claims that “we find prophecy after prophecy announced in the surest and most certain terms to the effect that the great forces of opposition should be brought to naught, that the enemies of Islam should be put to shame and perish … that Islam should spread to the farthest corners of the earth and that it should ultimately be triumphant over all religions of the world.”16
The Unity of the Qur’an
Muslims sometimes appeal to the self-consistency of the Qur’an as an evidence of its divine origin: “Do they [unbelievers] not consider The Qur’an (with care)? Had it been from other Than God, they would surely Have found therein Much discrepancy” (4:82). Commenting on this verse, Yusuf Ali claimed that “the unity of the Qur’an is admittedly greater than that of any other sacred book. And yet how can we account for it except through the unity of God’s purpose and design?” He adds, “From a mere human point of view we should have expected much discrepancy, because (1) the Messenger who promulgated it was not a learned man or philosopher, (2) it was promulgated at various times and in various circumstances, and (3) it is addressed to all grades of mankind.” Yet he believes that “it fits together better than a jig-saw puzzle.”17 Susanne Haneef insists that if we look at “its total consistency from beginning to end … it becomes impossible to ascribe the Qur’an to human authorship.”18
The Scientific Accuracy of the Qur’an
Some contemporary defenders of Islam argue from its scientific accuracy to its divine authority. This argument is gaining popularity in recent times, bolstered by a widely circulated book titled The Bible, The Qur’an and Science, by a French writer, Maurice Bucaille. The purpose of the book is to show that while the Bible holds numerous internal and scientific contradictions, the Qur’an is free from such complications. Bucaille writes,
The ideas in this study are to be developed from a purely scientific point of view. They will lead to the conclusion that it is inconceivable for a human being living in the Seventh century a.d. to have expressed assertions in the Qur’an on highly varied subjects that do not belong to his period and for them to be in keeping with what was to be revealed only centuries later. For me, there can be no human explanation of the Qur’an.19
In addition to Bucaille’s book, there is now a host of such books in Islamic countries (but with much less sophistication), which show the miraculousness of the Qur’an as supported by the latest scientific discoveries.
The Amazing Mathematical Structure of the Qur’an
One recently very popular proof for the Qur’an’s divine origin is its alleged mathematical miraculousness. For example, the world-renowned Muslim debater, Ahmad Deedat, in his Miracle of the Qur’an, claims that the Qur’an is a mathematical miracle based on the number nineteen. This number is chosen because it is the sum of adding up the numerical value of the letters in the word “one,” and the message of the Qur’an is that God is one.20 Rashad Khalifa, the Imam of the mosque of Tucson, Arizona, in his book The Computer Speaks: God’s Message to the World, summarizes the argument in nineteen points (what else?). Here are the first few:
1. The opening statement of the Quran consists of nineteen arabic alphabets.
2. The famous words that constituted the first Quranic revelation were nineteen words.
3. The last Quranic revelation consisted of nineteen words.
4. The Quran consists of 114 chapters, that is, 19 x 6.21
What does all this prove? According to Khalifa, “The Quranic initials and their mathematical distribution prove two things beyond a shadow of doubt: The Quran is the word of God and the Quran has been perfectly preserved.”22 Many mystical or esoteric sects of Islam also find interrelations among different mathematical numbers as a solid proof for the inspiration of the Qur’an.
One final proof for the Qur’an sometimes offered is that of the changed lives and cultures that are considered a direct result of the Qur’anic influence. In regard to this point, Ajijola writes,
The transformation wrought by the Holy Qur’an is unparalleled in the history of the world and thus its claim to being unique stands as unchallenged today as it did thirteen centuries ago.… No faith ever imparted such a new life to its votaries on such a wide scale—a life affecting all branches of human activity; a transformation of the individual, of the family, of the society, of the nation, of the country; and awakening material as well as moral, intellectual as well as spiritual. The Qur’an effected a transformation of humanity from the lowest depth of degradation to the highest pinnacle of civilization within an incredibly short time where centuries of reformation work had proved fruitless.23
An Examination of the Evidence
The Islamic claim for the Qur’an is unparalleled by any other major religion. And the evidences offered for this claim are many and varied. They call for careful scrutiny by any thoughtful person interested in the truth. We will treat the responses in the same order in which the evidences were presented above.
Unique Literary Style
Is the Qur’an a miracle? Muhammad claimed it was, and most Muslims believe that, indeed, it was the only miracle he offered as proof of his claims to be a prophet. Before we evaluate this claim for the divine origin of the Qur’an, it is necessary to understand what is meant by this kind of miracle.
Muslims use various terms for miracles. For Muslims a miracle is always an act of God. It is not really a violation of nature, which is only the way God works customarily and repeatedly. Thus, miracles are seen as khawarik, “the breaker of usage.” There are many words for miracle in Arabic, but the only one used in the Qur’an is ayah, a sign (2:118, 151, 253; 3:108; 28:86–87).24 The technical term used by Muslim scholars to designate a miracle that confirms prophethood is mudjiza. To qualify it needs to be (1) an act of God that cannot be done by any creature; (2) contrary to the customary course of things in that class; (3) aimed at proving the authenticity of that prophet; (4) preceded by the announcement of a forthcoming miracle; (5) carried out in the exact manner it was announced; (6) accomplished only through the hands of the prophet; (7) in no way contrary to his prophetic claim; (8) accompanied by a challenge to reduplicate it; (9) by anyone present. Muslims believe that Moses, Elijah, and Jesus performed miracles that fulfilled these criteria.25 The question is: Does the eloquence of the Qur’an meet these criteria? The answer is negative whether one considers either the form or the content of the Qur’an. First, let’s consider its alleged miraculous literary form.
Eloquence is highly questionable as a test for divine inspiration. At best it only proves that Muhammad was extremely gifted. After all Mozart wrote his first symphony at the age of six! In fact Mozart was even more talented, since his entire music corpus was produced before age thirty-five; Muhammad did not begin to produce the suras of the Qur’an until age forty. But what Muslim would say that Mozart’s works are miraculous like the Qur’an?26 If eloquence were the test, then a case could be made for the divine authority of many literary classics. Homer would qualify as a prophet for producing the Iliad and the Odyssey. Shakespeare is without peer in the English language. But Muslims would scarcely accept the challenge to produce a work like Romeo and Juliet or else accept the divine inspiration of the works of Shakespeare. Furthermore, the Qur’an is not unrivaled, even among works in Arabic. The Islamic scholar, C. G. Pfander, points out that “it is by no means the universal opinion of unprejudiced Arabic scholars that the literary style of the Qur’an is superior to that of all other books in the Arabic language.” For example, “some doubt whether in eloquence and poetry it surpasses the Mu’allaqat, or the Magamat or Hariri, though in Muslim lands few people are courageous enough to express such an opinion.”27 The Iranian Shi’ite scholar Ali Dashti contends, however, that the Qur’an possesses numerous grammatical irregularities. He notes that
The Quran contains sentences which are incomplete and not fully intelligible without the aid of commentaries; foreign words, unfamiliar Arabic words, and words used with other than the normal meaning; adjectives and verbs inflected without observance of the concord of gender and number; illogical and ungrammatically applied pronouns which sometimes have no referent; and predicates which in rhymed passages are often remote from the subjects.
He adds, “these and other such aberrations in the language have given scope to critics who deny the Quran’s eloquence.”28 He lists numerous examples (74:1; 4:160; 20:66; 2:172, and so on), one of which is “In verse 9 of sura 49 (ol-Hojorat), ‘If two parties of believers have started to fight each other, make peace between them’, the verb meaning ‘have started to fight’ is in the plural, whereas it ought to be in the dual like its subject ‘two parties’.” Anis A. Shorrosh lists other literary flaws in the Qur’an. For example, In 2:177 he points out that the word Sabireen in Arabic should have been Sabiroon because of its position in the sentence. Likewise, Sabieen is more correct Arabic than Sabioon In 5:69. Also, Shorrosh notes that there is “a gross error in Arabic” In 3:59.29 Dashti concludes: “to sum up, more than one hundred Quranic aberrations from the normal rules and structure of Arabic have been noted.”30 To say the least, the Arabic of the Qur’an, while often eloquent, is neither perfect nor unparalleled.
What is more, even some early Muslim scholars admitted that the Qur’an was not perfect in its literary form. Dashti notes that “among the Moslem scholars of the early period, before bigotry and hyperbole prevailed, were some such as Ebrahim on-Nassam who openly acknowledged that the arrangement and syntax of the Quran are not miraculous and that works of equal or greater value could be produced by other God-fearing persons.” Although some condemned this view (based on their interpretation of 17:90), other “pupils and later admirers of on-Nassam, such as Ebn Hazm and ol-Khayyat, wrote in his defense, and several other leading exponents of the Motazelite school shared his opinion.”31
Even if the Qur’an were the most eloquent book in Arabic, this would hardly prove it has divine authority. For the same could be argued for the most eloquent book in Hebrew or Greek or any other language. As Pfander observed, “even were it proved beyond the possibility of doubt that the Qur’an far surpassed all other books in eloquence, elegance, and poetry, that would no more prove its inspiration than a man’s strength would demonstrate his wisdom or a woman’s beauty her virtue.”32 In other words, there is no logical connection between literary eloquence and divine authority. The sovereign God (whom Muslims accept) could choose to speak in plain everyday language, if he wished. At best one might attempt to argue (unsuccessfully, I believe)33 that if God said it, he would say it most eloquently. But even so it would be a logical fallacy to argue that simply because it is eloquent that God must have said it.
Other religious leaders have given the beautiful literary style of their work as a sign of its divine origin. Would Muslims accept the inspiration of these works? For example, the Persian founder of the Manichaeans, Mani, “is said to have claimed that men should believe in him as the Paraclete [“Helper” Jesus promised in John 14] because he produced a book called Artand, full of beautiful pictures.” Further, “he said that the book had been given him by God, that no living man could paint pictures equal in beauty to those contained in it, and that therefore it had evidently come from God Himself.”34 Yet no Muslim will accept this claim. Why then should non-Muslims accept literary beauty as a valid test for divine authority?
Finally, the beauty of the Qur’an is by no means an agreed conclusion of “all learned men.” In fact many people in the West sympathize with the judgment of Carlyle who said this of the Qur’an: “It is as toilsome reading as I ever undertook, a wearisome, confused jumble, crude, incondite. Nothing but a sense of duty could carry any European through the Koran.” For the readers who are not familiar with the content of the Qur’an we will cite a few suras (rendered by the noted Muslim scholar Yusuf Ali) and let the readers judge for themselves the truth about the alleged unsurpassed beauty of every sura of the Qur’an.
Perish the hand Of the Father of Flame! Perish he! No profit to him From all his wealth, And all his gains! Burnt soon will he be In a Fire Of blazing Flame! His wife shall carry The (crackling) wood—As fuel!—A twisted rope Of palm-leaf fibre Round her (own) neck!
Say: O ye That reject Faith! I worship not that Which ye worship, Nor will ye worship That which I worship. And I will not worship That which ye have been Wont to worship, Nor will ye worship That which I worship. To you be your Way, And to me mine.
Seest thou not How thy Lord dealt With the Companions Of the Elephant? Did He not make Their treacherous plan Go astray? And He sent against them Flights of Birds, Striking them with stones Of baked clay. Then did He make them Like an empty field Of stalks and straw, (Of which the corn) Has been eaten up.
We have indeed revealed This (Message) In the Night of Power: And what will explain To thee what the Night Of Power is? The Night of Power is better than A thousand Months. Therein come down The angels and the Spirit By God’s permission, On every errand: Peace! … This Until the rise of Morn!
By the Sun And his (glorious) splendour; By the Moon As she follows him; By the Day as it shows up (the Sun’s) glory; By the Night as it Conceals it; By the Firmament And its (wonderful) structure; By the Earth And its (wide) expanse: By the Soul, And the proportion and order Given to it; And its enlightment As to its wrong And its right; Truly he succeeds That purifies it, And he fails That corrupts it! The Thamud (people) Rejected (their prophet) Through their inordinate Wrong-doing. Behold, the most wicked Man among them was Deputed (for impiety). But the apostle of God Said to them: “It is A She-camel of God! And (bar her not From) having her drink!” Then they rejected him (As a false prophet), And they hamstrung her. So their Lord, on account Of their crime, obliterated Their traces and made them Equal (in destruction High and low)! And for Him Is no fear Of its consequences.
Those familiar with Arabic find these texts less than the most elegant expressions in the history of literature and religion.
Many Muslims contend that the content of the Qur’an is a proof of its divine origin. They insist that there is no way a book with this message could have come from an illiterate prophet like Muhammad. Critics, however, offer the following reasons to the contrary.
Some question whether Muhammad was actually illiterate. As one authority notes, the Arabic words al umni, translated “the unlettered” prophet in the Qur’an (7:157), “may be [rendered] ‘heathen’ rather than ‘illiterate’.” Pfander agrees, affirming that the Arabic phrase does not mean “ ‘the Unlettered Prophet’ but ‘the Gentile Prophet’ … and does not imply illiteracy.”35 Indeed, this is how the term is rendered In 62:2. “He it is Who hath sent among gentiles (al umni),” as do several other suras (2:73; 3:19, 69; 7:156).
There is some evidence to suggest that Muhammad may not have been completely illiterate. For example, “when the Treaty of Hudaibah was being signed, Muhammad took the pen from Ali, struck out the words in which Ali had designated him ‘the apostle of God’ and wrote instead with his own hand the words, ‘son of Abdu’llah.’ ” And “tradition tells us too that, when he was dying, Muhammad called for pen and ink, to write a command appointing his successor, but his strength failed him before writing-materials were brought.”36
Furthermore, W. Montgomery Watt informs us that “it is known that many Meccans were able to read and write, and there is therefore a presumption that an efficient merchant, as Muhammad was, knew something of the arts.”37 Indeed, even Muslim scholars refer to Muhammad as being “perfect in intellect.”38 Furthermore, even if Muhammad lacked formal training in earlier years, there is no reason why an intelligent person such as he could not have caught up on his own later. He would not be the only “self-taught” literary figure in the history of humanity.
Even if it were granted that Muhammad was illiterate, it does not follow logically that the Qur’an was dictated to him by God. There are other possible explanations. Even if he was not formally trained, Muhammad was a bright person possessing great skills. In addition, his scribe could have stylized it. This was not an uncommon practice at that time. Homer was blind, so he probably did not write his epics himself. Finally, some critics argue that it is possible that Muhammad’s first impression was right, that he received the information from a superintelligent evil spirit.39 In this event the Qur’an would not reflect Muhammad’s intelligence but that of the spirit. In any event, it is not implausible that even a formally untrained person could have been the source of the Qur’an.
Does perfect preservation prove divine inspiration? Qur’an critics give a negative answer for several reasons.
First, there is often serious overstatement as to the preservation of the Qur’an. While it is true that the present Qur’an is generally a very good copy of the seventh-century Uthmanic recension, it is not true that this is exactly the way it came from Muhammad.40 Many lines of evidence can be offered in support of this conclusion.
(1) As was already pointed out (in Chapter 5), the Quran was originally memorized by devout followers, most of whom where killed shortly after Muhammad’s death. According to early tradition, Muhammad’s scribes wrote on pieces of paper, stones, palm leaves, shoulder blades, ribs, and bits of leather. Muslims believe that during the lifetime of Muhammad the Qur’an was written down. But, according to the testimony of Zayd, a contemporary and follower of Muhammad, he was requested by Abu Bakr to “search out the [various chapters and verses of] the Qur’an and gather it together.” He responded, “Accordingly, I sought out the Qur’an: I gather it together from leafless palm-branches and thin white stones and men’s breasts.”41 Some time later, during the reign of Uthman, the third Muslim Caliph, it was reported that several Muslim communities were using different versions of the Qur’an. Once again, Zayd was called in to oversee the official revised version of the Qur’an. It is this version that has remained uniform and intact to this day, not any alleged original version that came directly from Muhammad.
(2) Noted European archaeologist Arthur Jeffery wrote a book titled Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’an in which he related the state of the Qur’an text prior to its standardization under Uthman. It reveals, contrary to Muslim claims, that there were several different texts prior to Uthman’s revision.
Jeffery concludes that “when we come to the accounts of ‘Uthman’s recension, it quickly becomes clear that his work was no mere matter of removing dialectical peculiarities in reading [as many Muslims claim], but was a necessary stroke of policy to establish a standard text for the whole empire.” Further, he adds, “there were wide divergences between the collections that had been digested into Codicies in the great Metropolitan centres of Madina, Mecca, Basra, Kufa and Damascus.” So “ ‘Uthman’s solution was to canonize the Madinan Codex and order all others to be destroyed.” Therefore, he concludes, “there can be little doubt that the text canonized by ‘Uthman was only one among several types of text in existence at the time.”42
In agreement with this general observation, Watt in discussing the variations between just two codices—that of ibn Mas’ud of Rufa and ibn Ka’b of Syria— writes, “No copies exist of any of the early codices, but the list of variant readings from the two just mentioned is extensive, running to a thousand or more items in both cases.”43
Recent discoveries confirm the textual corruption of the Qur’an. Jay Smith has documented just how extensive these corruptions have been, thus undermining the traditional Islamic claim of an uncorrupted version of the Qur’an.44
(3) Contrary to popular Islamic belief, not all Muslims today accept one and the same version of the Qur’an. The Sunnite Muslims accept the Sahih tradition of Masud, one of the few people authorized by Muhammad to teach the Qur’an, as authoritative. Yet the Ibn Masud Codex of the Qur’an used by them has multitudinous variations from the Uthmanic recension. In the second sura alone there are nearly 150 variations. It takes Jeffery some ninety-four pages to show the variations between the two. He also demonstrates that the variant readings were not just a matter of dialect, as many Muslims claim. For instance, some of the variations involve a whole clause and others omit complete sentences. Jeffery concludes that “it is quite clear that the text which ‘Uthman canonized was only one out of many rival texts … [and] there is grave suspicion that ‘Uthman may have seriously edited the text he canonized.”45
(4) Widely accepted Islamic tradition reveals certain things not found in the present Qur’an. One tells us that A’isha, one of Muhammad’s wives, said: “Among what was sent down of the Qur’an were ten well known (verses) about—
Suckling, which prohibited: then they were annulled by five well known ones. Then the Apostle of God deceased, and they are what is recited of the Qur’an.”46 Another example of something not found in today’s Qur’an is what Umar said: “Verily God sent Muhammad with the truth, and He sent down upon him the Book, accordingly the Verse of Stoning was part of what God Most High sent Down: the Apostle of God stoned, and we stoned after him, and in the Book of God stoning is the adulterer’s due.”47 This original revelation was apparently changed and one hundred stripes has replaced stoning as the punishment for adultery (24:2).
(5) The so-called Satanic Verses illustrate another change in the original text. According to one version of these verses Muhammad had an early revelation in Mecca, which allowed intercession to certain idols.
Did you consider al-hat and al-Uzza And al-Manat, the third, the other? Those are the swans exalted; Their intercession is expected; Their likes are not neglected.48
Some time after this Muhammad received another revelation canceling the last three lines (verses) and substituting what we now find in 53:21–23, which omits the part about interceding to these pagan gods. According to Watt, both versions had been recited publicly. Muhammad’s explanation was that Satan had deceived him and inserted the false verses without his knowing it.49
(6) Clair-Tisdall, famous worker among Muslims, points out that even in the present Qur’an there are some variations.
Among various readings may be mentioned: (1) in Surah XXVIII, 48, some read “sahirani” for “sihrani”: (2) in Surah XXXII, 6, after “ummahatuhum” one reading adds the words “wa hua abun lahum”: (3) in Surah XXXIV, 18, for “rabbana ba’id” some read “rabuna ba’ada”: (4) in Surah XXXVIII, 22, for “tis’un” another reading is “tis’atun”: (5) in Surah XIX, 35, for “tantaruna” some read “yamtaruna”.50
(7) Although Shi’ite Muslims are in the minority, they are the second largest Islamic sect in the world, with over one hundred million followers. They claim that Caliph Uthman intentionally eliminated many verses from the Qur’an that spoke of Ali.51
L. Bevan Jones summed up the matter well in his book, The People of the Mosque, when he said: “while it may be true 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.”52 The purging took place early and, hence, the Muslim claim that it has been preserved perfectly since is misdirected.
(8) Even if the present Qur’an were a perfect word-for-word copy of the original as given by Muhammad, it would not prove the original was inspired of God. All it would demonstrate is that today’s Qur’an is a carbon copy of whatever Muhammad said; it would say or prove nothing about the truth of what he said. The Muslim claim that they have the true religion, because they have the only perfectly copied Holy Book, is as logically fallacious as someone claiming it is better to have a perfect printing of a counterfeit thousand dollar bill than a slightly imperfect printing of a genuine one! The crucial question, which Muslim apologists beg by this argument, is whether the original is God’s Word, not whether they possess a perfect copy of it.
Prophecies in the Qur’an
Does the Qur’an contain predictive prophecies that prove its divine origin? Few outside the Muslim camp are convinced that there are really any unusual predictions made in the Qur’an, to say nothing of supernatural ones. Consider the following facts that undermine the alleged miraculous nature of Qur’anic predictions.
First of all, most of the so-called supernatural predictions are not supernatural at all. To begin with, what religious military leader is there who might not say to his troops: “God is on our side; we are going to win. Fight on!”? Further, remembering that Muhammad is known as “the prophet of the Sword,” with his greatest number of conversions coming after he had forsaken the peaceful but relatively unsuccessful means of spreading his message, it should be no surprise that he would predict victory.
Also, considering the zeal of Muslim forces, who were promised Paradise for their efforts (22:58–59; 3:157–58; 3:170–71), it is no surprise that they were so often victorious. Finally, it is little wonder why so many “submitted,” considering Muhammad commanded that “The punishment of those Who wage war against God And His Apostle, and strive With might … Is: execution, or crucifixion, Or the cutting off of hands And feet from opposite sides, Or exile from the land” (5:36).
Second, the only really substantive prediction was about the Roman victory over the Persian army at Issus (in 30:2–4), which reads: “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.” Close scrutiny, however, reveals several things that make this prediction less than spectacular, to say nothing of supernatural.53 (1) According to Ali “a few years” means three to nine years, but some argue that the real victory did not come until thirteen or fourteen years after the prophecy. The defeat of the Romans by the Persians in the capture of Jerusalem took place about a.d. 614 or 615. The counter-offensive did not begin until a.d. 622 and the victory was not complete until a.d. 625. This would be at least ten or eleven years, not “a few” spoken by Muhammad. (2) Uthman’s edition of the Qur’an had no vowel points (they were not added until much later).54 Hence, in this “prophecy” the word sayaghlibuna, “they shall defeat,” could have been rendered, with the change of two vowels, sayughlabuna, “they shall be defeated.”55 In fact, it is interesting to note that “a variant text reverses the passive and active verbs, so that the Byzantines are said to have defeated (others) in the past, but are to be defeated in a few years.”56 (3) Even if this ambiguity were removed, the prophecy is less than spectacular, since it is neither long-range nor unusual. One would have expected the defeated Romans to bounce back in victory. It took little more than a perceptive reading of the trends of time to forecast such an event. At best, it could have been a good guess. In any event, there appears to be no sufficient grounds for proving it is supernatural.
Finally, the only other alleged prophecy worth mentioning is found In 89:2, where the phrase “By the Nights twice five” is taken by some to be a prediction of the ten years of persecution early Muslims experienced.57 But this is a far-fetched interpretation. Even the great Islamic scholar and translator of the Qur’an, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, admitted that “By the Ten Nights are usually understood the first ten nights of Zul-Hajj, the sacred season of Pilgrimage.”58 In any event, there is certainly no clear prediction of anything that would have been evident to an intelligent observer in advance of the event.59 Its very usage as a predictive prophecy by Muslim scholars shows how desperate they are to find something supernatural in support of the Qur’an.
The Unity of the Qur’an
Insisting that the Qur’an must be divine revelation because it is self-consistent and noncontradictory is also not convincing. Some critics raise significant questions about how totally consistent the Qur’an is. For one thing, they point out that the most blatant contradiction in Muhammad’s revelations came by way of later revelations expunging former ones—such as the command to stone adulterers being changed to one hundred stripes (24:2), and the so-called Satanic Verses on worshiping pagan gods being replaced with some that omit this (53:21–23).60
The whole concept of abrogation (mansukh) discussed earlier (in Chapter 5) is one way some previous mistakes were corrected by later verses (called nasikh). This is taught In 2:106 which says, “Such of Our revelations as We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring (in place) one better or the like thereof. Knowest thou not that Allah is Able to do all things?” For example, what is called “the sword verse” (9:5) supposedly annuls 124 verses that originally encouraged tolerance (cf. 2:256).61 The Qur’an says emphatically, “Let there be no compulsion In religions” (2:256), yet in other places it urges Muslims to “Fight those who believe not” (9:29) and “fight and slay The Pagans wherever ye find them” (9:5).
A contradiction can also be found in the fact that the Qur’an claims that “no change there can be in the Words of God” (10:64), which Muslims say the Qur’an is. For “there is none That can alter the Words (and Decrees) of God” (6:34). Yet the Qur’an teaches the doctrine of abrogation by which later revelations annul previous ones. We read of (2:106) “revelations … We abrogate or cause to be forgotten.” Further, Muhammad admits that “we substitute one revelation For another,” admitting in the same verse that his contemporaries called him a “forger” for so doing!
As Nehls keenly observes, “we should like to find out how a divine revelation can be improved. We would have expected it to have been perfect and true right from the start.”62 Of course, some Muslims, like Ali, claim that abrogation is just “progressive revelation,” adapting God’s message to different people living at different periods of time. Nehls points out, however, that “2:106 [on abrogation] does not speak of culture or progressive revelation with reference to scriptures given prior to Mohammed, but to Quranic verses only!”63 It makes sense to believe that God progressively revealed himself over 1,500 years of time (as in the Bible). However, Nehls adds, “we find it unacceptable that within a space of 20 years a need for change or correction can become necessary. This surely suggests that either God is not all-knowing or else the recorder made corrections.”64 This seems particularly true in view of the fact that the corrected verses are often near the ones being corrected. What is more, there are verses that the Qur’anic abrogations apparently forgot to redact. In 7:54 (and 32:4) we are told that the world was made in six days. But in 41:9–12 it says it took God a total of eight days to create the world (two plus four plus two). But both cannot be correct.65
The Qur’an also claims that humans are responsible for their own choices (18:29), yet it also claims that God has sealed the fate of all in advance. “Every man’s fate We have fastened On his own neck: On the Day of Judgment We shall bring out For him a scroll, Which he will see Spread open” (17:13; also see 10:99–100).
Again, even if the Qur’an were consistent, at best unity or self-consistency is only a negative test for truth, not a positive one. Of course, if a book is from God who cannot err, then it won’t have any contradictions in it. However, just because a book has no contradictions does not mean God is the author. It is a logical fallacy66 to assume so. As John W. Montgomery insightfully observes, Euclid’s geometry is self-consistent, but this is no ground to call it divinely authoritative.67
Self-consistency is the same kind of argument others (like some Christians) use for their Holy Books that oppose the Qur’an on many points. But both cannot be true. Hence, unity in itself does not prove divine authenticity. Both the Jewish Bible and the New Testament, known through existing manuscripts, are at least as equally self-consistent as the Qur’an. But no Muslim would admit they are thereby inspired of God.
This argument has gained popularity in recent times, primarily due to Bucaille’s book The Bible, The Qur’an and Science, in which Christianity is attacked for holding back the progress of science and the Qur’an is exalted as promoting science. Indeed, he insists that the Qur’an marvelously foreshadowed modern science in many of its statements, thus miraculously confirming its divine origin. Here again Muslim apologists are misdireced in their overzealous attempt to prove the divine origin of the Qur’an.
The first thing perceptive critics note is that it was Christianity, not Islam, that was the mother of modern science. The great philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, declared in his famous work Science and the Modern World that Christianity is the mother of science. M. B. Foster, writing for the prestigious English philosophy journal Mind noted that the Christian doctrine of creation is the origin of modern science.68 The very founders of almost every area of modern science were men working from a Christian worldview. This includes men like Copernicus, Kepler, Kelvin, Newton, Pascall, Boyle, Maxwell, Agassiz, and others.69
So while Islamic monotheism made many contributions to modern culture, it is an overstatement for it to claim credit for the origin of modern science. In fact, many Islamic critics point out that Muslim armies destroyed vast resources of knowledge. Pfander, for example, notes that under the Caliph Umar the Muslim soldiers destroyed both the vast libraries at Alexandria and Persia. When the general asked Umar what he should do with the books, he is said to have replied: “Cast them into the rivers. For, if in these books there is guidance, then we have still better guidance in the Book of God. If, on the contrary, there is in them that which will lead astray, then may God protect us from them.”70
It is a serious mistake to assume that a book is inspired simply because it conforms with modern science. Both Muslim and Christian apologists have made this error. There are many reasons why these claims are invalid. (1) Science changes. Thus, what appears to be “harmony” between them today may vanish tomorrow. (2) Many embarrassing mistakes have been made by defenders attempting to see modern scientific theories in their Holy Book. The Roman Catholic Church’s treatment of Galileo is only one example.71 (3) Even if perfect harmony could be demonstrated between the Qur’an and scientific fact, this would not prove the divine inspiration of the Qur’an. It would simply prove that the Qur’an made no scientific error. Simply because a book is free of scientific error does not make it inspired of God. At best, scientific accuracy is only a negative test for truth. If error were found in the Qur’an, it would prove that it was not the Word of God. But simply because the Qur’an were shown to be scientifically faultless would not prove that it was the Word of God. And, of course, the same applies to the Bible or any other religious book.
Some critics question just how scientifically accurate the Qur’an really is. Take, for example, the Qur’an’s highly controversial statement that human beings are formed from a clot of blood: “Then We made the sperm Into a clot of congealed blood; Then of that clot We made A (foetus) lump; then We Made out of that lump Bones and clothed the bones With flesh” (23:14). This is scarcely a scientific description of embyronic development. In order to avoid the problem, Bucaille retranslates the verse, rendering the Arabic word alaq (“blood clot”) as “the thing which clings.”72 However, this is questionable. It is contrary to recognized Islamic authorities who did three major English translations of the Qur’an: Ali, Pickthall, and Arberry. Further, Bucaille himself recognized that “a majority of translations describe … man’s formation from a ‘blood clot’ or ‘adhesion’.”73 This leaves the impression that his own homemade translation was generated to solve the problem, since he recognizes that “a statement of this kind is totally unacceptable to scientists specializing in this field.”74
Likewise, other critics note that the Qur’an In 18:86 speaks of one traveling west “till, when he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring.” But even in his attempt to explain this problem, Ali admits this has “puzzled Commentators.” Nor does he really explain the problem but simply asserts that this cannot be “the extreme west, for there is no such thing.”75 Indeed, there is no extreme west, nor can anyone traveling west eventually come to the place where the sun sets. But this is what the text says, unscientific as it may be.
Others have noted that the so-called scientific foreshadowing of the Qur’an is highly questionable. Kenneth Cragg notes that “it has been frequently claimed by some Muslim exegetes of the Quran that modern inventions and scientific data, even nuclear fission, have been anticipated there and can now be detected in passages not hitherto appreciated for their prescience. Meanings earlier unsuspected disclose themselves as science proceeds.” This conclusion, however, “is strongly repudiated by others as the kind of corroboration the Qur’an, as a ‘spiritual’ Scripture, neither needs nor approves.… Muhammad Kamil Husain called all such exegesis ‘pseudo’.… Fazlur Rahman … also deplored it.”76
Finally, even if the Qur’an were proven to be scientifically accurate, it would not thereby make it divinely authoritative. All it would prove is that the Qur’an made no scientific blunders. This would not be unparalleled. Some Jewish scholars claim the same for the Torah, and many Christians claim exactly the same thing for the Bible, using very similar arguments. But Bucaille would not allow that this thereby demonstrates that the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God.
Amazing Mathematical Structure
One popular proof for the Qur’an’s divine origin is its alleged mathematical miraculousness based on the number nineteen. Needless to say such an apologetic method does not find a great deal of acceptance in scholarly circles, and this for good reason.
No Muslim would accept a message claimed to be from God if it taught idolatry or immorality. In fact no message containing such claims should be accepted on mathematical grounds alone. So even if the Qur’an were a mathematical “miracle,” this would not be sufficient to prove that it was of God.77
Even if the odds are astronomic against the Qur’an having all these amazing combinations of the number 19, it proves nothing more than that there is a mathematical order behind the language of the Qur’an. Since language is an expression of the order of human thought, and since this order can often be reduced to mathematical expression, it should be no surprise that a mathematical order can be found behind the language of the Qur’an.
Further, the same kind of argument (only based on the number seven) could be used to prove the inspiration of the Bible. Take the first verse of the Bible “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Nehls points out that:
The verse consists of 7 Hebrew words and 28 letters (7×4). There are three nouns: “God, heavens, earth”.… their total numeric value … is 777 (7×11). The verb “created” has the value 203 (7×29). The object is contained in the first three words—with 14 letters (7×2). The other four words contain the subject—also with 14 letters (7×2) [and so on].78
But no Muslim would allow this as an argument in favor of the divine inspiration of the Bible. At best the argument is esoteric and unconvincing. Even most Muslim scholars avoid using it.
Many Muslim apologists point to the transformation of lives and culture by the Qur’an as a proof of its divine origin. But critics point out that this is an insufficient test for its alleged heavenly origin.
First of all, this is the kind of thing that should be expected. For when one fervently believes something to be true he lives by it. But this still leaves open the question as to whether it is the Word of God. Any set of ideas fervently believed and applied will transform believers and their culture. This is true whether the ideas are Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, or Jewish. But this simple fact does not prove that God inspired all their Holy Books. What Muslim would accept the argument that Karl Marx’s Das Capital is inspired because it has transformed millions of lives and many cultures?
Many critics find it no surprise that so many converted to Islam when it is remembered what the promised reward was for those who did and the threatened punishment for those who fought against Muhammad. Those who “submitted” were promised Paradise with beautiful women (2:25; 4:57). But “the punishment of those Who wage war against God And His Apostle, and strive With might … Is: execution, or crucifixion, Or the cutting off of hands And feet from opposite sides, Or exile from the land” (5:36). Islamic tradition reports that Muhammad gave the following exhortation to his followers: “The sword is the key of heaven and of hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two month’s fasting and prayer. Whoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven at the day of judgement.”79 Furthermore, human greed played a part. “Arab warriors were … entitled to four-fifths of all the booty they gathered in the form of movable goods and captives.”80 What is more, it was of great advantage for the enemy to submit. Polytheists had two choices: submit or die. Christians and Jews had another alternative: they could pay heavy taxes (9:5, 29). Also Islamic conquests were successful because in some of the conquered lands the people were fed up with the maltreatment of their Roman rulers and willingly accepted Islam due to its emphasis on equality and brotherhood.
Anis Shorrosh summarizes several reasons why Islam spread so quickly among Arabic people. These include the fact that Islam glorified Arabic people, customs, and language; it provided an incentive to conquer and plunder other lands; it utilized their ability to fight in the desert; it provided a heavenly reward for dying, and it adopted many pre-Islamic practices.81 Even if one points to more positive reasons, such as, moral, political, and cultural improvements, there seems to be no reason to posit anything but natural causes for the spread of Islam.
Finally, if one is going to press the argument from changed lives, defenders of Christianity offer one that would seem to be equally strong, if not stronger. In his famous Evidences of Christianity, William Paley sums it up this way:
For what are we comparing? A Galilean peasant accompanied by a few fishermen with a conqueror at the head of his army. We compare Jesus, without force, without power, without support, without one external circumstance of attraction or influence, prevailing against the prejudices, the learning, the hierarchy, of his country, against the ancient religious opinions, the pompous religious rites, the philosophy, the wisdom, the authority, of the Roman empire, in the most polished and enlightened period of its existence,—with Mahomet making his way amongst Arabs; collecting followers in the midst of conquests and triumphs, in the darkest ages and countries of the world, and when success in arms not only operated by that command of men’s wills and persons which attend prosperous undertakings, but was considered as a sure testimony of Divine approbation. That multitudes, persuaded by this argument, should join the train of a victorious chief; that still greater multitudes should, without any argument, bow down before irresistible power—is a conduct in which we cannot see much to surprise us; in which we can see nothing that resembles the causes by which the establishment of Christianity was effected.82
The Rapid Spread of Islam
The last of the major “proofs” offered by Muslim apologists that Muhammad is a prophet of God is the rapid growth of Islam. According to one Muslim apologist, “the rapid spread of Islam shows that God Most High sent it as His final revelation to men.”83
First, it is a highly disputed test for truth that is not widely accepted or very convincing. Further, it is a double-edged test for truth. According to the earliest records (in the Book of Acts), Christianity also spread very rapidly immediately after Christ. And in spite of a couple centuries of Roman persecution, Christianity took over the remains of the Roman Empire. Third, unlike Christianity, Islam did not spread very quickly at the very beginning (see Chapter 4). Initially, Muhammad attracted very few followers. It was only after Muhammad began to use the sword in defense of Islam that it grew more rapidly—scarcely a convincing proof of its divine origin. Of course, Christian crusaders (twelfth–fourteenth centuries) also engaged in an equally unjustified use of the sword, since Jesus forbid his disciples to spread his message this way (Matt. 26:52). However, by contrast with Islam, the early and phenomenal growth of Christianity occurred without the use of the sword. Indeed, early Christianity grew the most when the Roman government was using the sword on Christians during the first three centuries.
As the great Yale church historian of the twentieth century, Kenneth Scott Latourette, points out, “It is one of the commonplaces of history that in its first three centuries Christianity met persistent and often severe persecution, persecution which rose to a crescendo early in the fourth century, but that it spread in spite of opposition and was even strengthened by it.”84 Also as Latourette explains, “One of the factors to which is attributed the triumph of Christianity is the endorsement of Constantine. But, as we have suggested, the faith was already so strong by the time when Constantine espoused it that it would probably have won without him. Indeed, one of the motives sometimes ascribed to his support is his supposed desire to enlist the cooperation of what had become the strongest element in the Empire, the Christian community.”85
Finally, there are perfectly natural incentives for the many converts to Islam. Muslim soldiers were promised Paradise as a reward for dying. And the people who did not submit to Islam were threatened with death, slavery, or taxation. There is no need to appeal to the supernatural to account for the growth of Islam under these conditions.
Islamic scholar Wilfred Cantwell Smith pinpoints the Muslim dilemma well. He incisively points out that if Muslims believe Islam is God-willed and destined to dominate the world, then its failure to do so must be an indication that God’s sovereign will is being frustrated. But Muslims deny that God’s will can be frustrated. Hence, logically they must conclude that it is not God-willed. Haykal’s response that men are free and any defeat or setbacks are to be attributed to them misses the point.86 For it does not matter how God does it, through freedom or without it, if in fact God has willed the supremacy of Islam, then his sovereign will has been frustrated. For Islam is not and has not been since the time of its inception the enduring dominant religion of the world numerically, spiritually, or culturally. Furthermore, even if Islam should have a sudden burst of success and surpass all other religions this would not prove it is of God. Logically, all that success proves is that it succeeded, not necessarily that it is true. For even after something succeeds we can still ask: Are its beliefs true or false?
The Qur’an claims to be the Word of God, but it does not prove to be the Word of God. It has claims without supporting credentials. None of the arguments offered by its apologists is convincing. Each contains fallacies. Of course one can continue to believe in the divine origin of the Qur’an without evidence to support it. But those who seek a reasonable faith will have to look elsewhere. Further, it lacks the very distinguishing characteristic it believes both Judaism and Christianity possess, namely, supernatural confirmation by God.
© 2010 – 2011, Matt. All rights reserved.