Saturday, 16 October 2010

Another Open Challenge to Muslims, Pt. 3b

Examining the Modifications, Changes, Alterations and Editing of the Islamic Text;

Sam Shamoun

Continues from Part 3a

The editing and unintelligibility of the Qur’an

Scholars and critics have pointed out for centuries that the Qur’an has been poorly edited and that it contains grammatical mistakes and irregularities. Already in the 9th century the Christian writer al-Kindi had noted the Qur’an’s rather poor and chaotic structure and took this as evidence for textual tampering:

“And the result of all this is patent to thee who hast read the Scriptures, and seest how in thy book histories are all jumbled together and intermingled; an evidence that many different hands have been at work therein, and caused discrepancies, adding to the text, or cutting out therefrom whatever they liked or disliked. Are such, now, the conditions of a Revelation sent down from heaven?

“Furthermore, thy Master was an Arab, living amongst the Bedouins; and to them, and in their language, he submitted his lucubrations. Now it is notorious that the Arabs as a nation are incorrigibly heathenish and graceless; how then could such a people receive from him the secret of the Lord, or truths proper to be revealed to a prophet? Thou knowest the enmity subsisting between Aly and Abu Bekr, Omar, and Othmân; now each of these entered in the text whatever favoured his own claims, and left out what was otherwise. How, then, can we distinguish between the genuine and the counterfeit? And how about the losses caused by Hajjâj? Thou well knowest what kind of faith that tyrant held in other matters; then how canst thou make him an arbiter as to the Book of God,—a man who never ceased to play into the hands of the Omeyyads whenever he found opportunity? And besides all this, the Jews also had a hand in the business; and foisted in what they thought would further their own seditious and rebellious ends.”
(The Apology of Al Kindy – Written at the Court of Al-Mamun In Defense of Christian against Islam, edited and commented by Sir William Muir [Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK), Second Edition, London, 1887], Various Readings in the Coran, pp. 77-78)

Al-Kindi is not alone since even modern Islamic scholars such as Richard Bell and W. M. Watt view the chaotic structure of the Qur’an as proof that it has been altered:

“There are indeed many roughnesses of this kind, and these, it is here claimed, are fundamental evidence for revision. Besides the points already noticed – hidden rhymes, and rhyme-phrases not woven into the texture of the passage – there are the following: abrupt changes of rhyme; repetition of the same rhyme word or rhyme phrase in adjoining verses; the intrusion of an extraneous subject into a passage otherwise homogeneous; a differing treatment of the same subject in neighboring verses, often with repetition of words and phrases; breaks in grammatical construction which raise difficulties in exegesis; abrupt changes in the length of verses; sudden changes of the dramatic situation, with changes of pronoun from singular to plural, from second to third person, and so on; the juxtaposition of apparently contradictory statements; the juxtaposition of passages of different date, with the intrusion of late phrases into early verses. In many cases a passage has alternative continuations which follow one another in the present text. The second of the alternatives is marked by a break in sense and by a break in grammatical construction, since the connection is not with what immediately precedes, but with what stands some distance back.” (Bell & Watt, Introduction to the Qur’an [Edinburgh, 1977], p. 93 – cited by Ibn Warraq in Why I am not a Muslim [Prometheus Books; Amherst NY, 1995], pp. 112-113)

Al-Kindi also pointed to the foreign words and grammatical irregularities as evidence against the Qur’an being supernatural or miraculous:

“If the claim be that (apart from all other tongues) the Coran is an unparalleled and miraculous model of Arabic (according to the text, Verily, We have sent down the Coran in the Arabic tongue, if perchance ye may comprehend); then, why do we find in it foreign words, as namâric from the Persian, and mishkât from the Abyssinian, vocabulary?2 Here is a defect either in the messenger or the message. If there be in the Arabic language no words to express the ideas, then the medium of communication, and therefore the message itself, is imperfect; if otherwise, the messenger." That not the former, but the latter, was the case, Al Kindy enforces by the congenial argument that there were poets, such as Imrul Cays, and men of eloquence and oratory, without number before Mahomet, whose productions surpassed his, both in conception and language. This was cast in the Prophet's teeth by the Meccans; for he turned round and called them 'a contentious race.' And, indeed, Mahomet himself admits as much when he attributes their compositions to magic.1 The introduction then of foreign expressions into the Coran must be owing to one of two things; either to the poverty of the Arabian vocabulary, while confessedly it is the richest and most copious of all tongues, or to the fact that different persons had a hand in the work; and our Author leaves his Friend on the horns of this dilemma.

“If, again, the claim put forth be that there is in the Coran a supernatural harmony and cadence of language, and beauty of conception; that will be determined by the accuracy of the measures, the purity and fitness of the composition, and the point and charm of thought and imagery. But thy book throughout is broken in its rhythm, confused in its composition, and in its flights of fancy unmeaning."
(Muir, The Coran: Its Style and Purport, pp. 79-81)

Again, al-Kindi is not alone here since the later Iranian Muslim scholar Ali Dashti raised the same issues in his classic book:

“The Qor'an 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 concords of gender and number; illogically and ungrammatically applied pronouns which sometimes have no referent; and predicates which in rhymed passages are often remote from the subjects. These and other such aberrations in the language have given scope to critics who deny the Qor'an's eloquence. The problem also occupied the minds of devout Moslems. It forced the commentators to search for explanations and was probably one of the causes of disagreement over readings.” (Dashti, Twenty-Three Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad, translated from Persian by F.R.C. Bagley [Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, CA 1994], pp. 48-49)


"To sum up, more than one hundred Qor'anic aberrations from the normal rules and structure of Arabic have been noted. Needless to say, the commentators strove to find explanations and justifications for these irregularities.

"Among them was the great commentator and philologist Mahmud oz-Zamakhshari (467/1075-538/1144), of whom a Moorish author wrote: ‘This grammar-obsessed pedant has committed a shocking error. Our task is not to make the readings conform to Arabic grammar, but to take the whole of the Qor'an as it is and make the Arabic grammar conform to the Qor'an.’

"Up to a point this argument is justifiable. A nation's great speakers and writers respect the rules of its language in so far as they avoid modes of expression which are not generally understood and popularly accepted, though they may occasionally find themselves obliged to take liberties. Among the pre-Islamic Arabs, rhetoric and poetry were well developed and grammatical conventions were already established. The Qor'an, being in the belief of Moslems superior to all previous products of the rhetorical genius, must contain the fewest irregularities.

"Yet the Moorish author's censure of Zamakhshari is open to criticism on the ground that it reverses the usual argument. This is that the Qor'an is God's word because it has a sublime eloquence which no human being can match, and that the man who uttered it was therefore a prophet. The Moorish author maintained that the Qor'an is faultless because it is God's word and that the problem of the grammatical errors in it must be solved by changing the rules of Arabic grammar. In other words, while most Moslems answer deniers by citing the Qor'an's eloquence as proof of Mohammad's prophethood, the Moorish author, having taken the Qor'an's divine origin and Mohammad's prophethood for granted, held all discussion of the Qor'an's wording and contents to be inadmissible." (Pp. 50-51)

He further stated that,

“The Qor’an contains many instances of confusion between the two speakers, God and Mohammad, in the same verse… Among these many passages are some, like the above, which can be easily explained, but also others which present great difficulty… The presence of confusions between God and the Prophet in the Qor’an cannot objectively be disputed. Sometimes God speaks, giving to the Prophet the command ‘say’ (i.e. to the people). Sometimes the sentence structure proves that it is the Prophet who speaks, expressing devotion to God. The impression conveyed by the Qor’an is that a hidden voice in Mohammad’s soul or subconscious mind was continually impelling him to guide the people, restraining him from lapses, and providing him with solutions to problems.” (Pp. 150-151)


“Confusion between God’s and Mohammad’s words is again apparent in two verses of sura 10 (Yunos). ‘And if your Lord so wished, all the dwellers on the earth would believe together. Are you going to compel the people to be believers?’ (verse 99). ‘It is only (possible) for a soul to believe with God’s permission. And He inflicts vileness on those who are intelligent’ (verse 100). In verse 99 the words are from God and addressed to the Prophet, but in verse 100 the words appear to be Mohammad’s, a sort of self-consolation followed by an explanation of the obduracy of the polytheists who would not heed his teaching.” (P. 152)

It gets a lot worse. According to another renowned Islamist every fifth sentence of the Qur’an makes no sense whatsoever!

“The Koran claims for itself that it is ‘mubeen,’ or ‘clear.’ But if you look at it, you will notic that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn't make sense. Many Muslims—and Orientalists—will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Koranic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Koran is not comprehensible—if it can’t even be understood in Arabic—then it’s not translatable. People fear that. And since the Koran claims repeatedly to be clear but obviously is not—as even speakers of Arabic will tell you—there is a contradiction. Something else must be going on.” (Gerd Puin, quoted by Toby Lester in “What Is the Koran?, ”The Atlantic, January 1999)

Interestingly, there are some modern Muslim writers admitting that the Qur’an's grammatical structure and irregular shifts in gender and subject have caused many an exegete and scholar tremendous difficulties in understanding and interpreting the text. Farid Esack is one such Muslim who says that this,

“… poses difficulties for those engaged in critical scholarship and these texts have been invoked in support of the notion that the Qur'an is not entirely the product if [sic] a single entity. There are also several cases where the speaker alternates between singular and plural forms adding to the notion that the Qur'an was compiled in an incoherent manner… Besides God, though, numerous ayat suggest that the Angels or the Prophet himself are the direct speakers and it is only the interpolations of translators or the comments of the exegetes that suggest otherwise. Ayat such as 19:64-65, for example, if read without interpolation of the translator, clearly suggest that the Angels are the speakers… In a few ayat, such as 27:91, the obvious speaker seem to be the Prophet and then a sudden switch occurs when he becomes the one being addressed… The fact that these ayat are often characterized by a later addition of ‘say’ (qul) suggests that the entire section may have been preceded by the unarticulated instruction ‘say’. Muslims have always understood it in this manner. In other words, the fact that they are the direct words of the Prophet or of the Angels does not detract [sic] from the other-worldliness of the Qur'an. They were merely repeating words that in the first instance came from God.” (Esack, The Qur'an - A Short Introduction [Oneworld Publications, Oxford 2002] pp. 74-75)

Even more astonishing is the fact that Muhammad’s own companions such as the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan and Aisha admitted that were grammatical mistakes in the Qur’an! For the sake of brevity we will only include a few examples:

Ibn Abbas recited this verse [Q. 13:31] as ‘AFALAM YATBAIN ALLATHEENA’. He was told that it is ‘AFALAM YAY-ASI ALLATHEENA’ to which Ibn Abbas replied: “The writer has written YAY-ASI but I think that he may not have been wakeful at that time of writing this word.” (As-Suyuti, Al Itqan fi Uloom al Qur’an, Volume 1, p. 238)

Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, in his commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari, wrote concerning the above that:

“And Tabari and Abd bin Hamid narrated with a Sahih chain containing all the narrators from the rijal of Bukhari, from Ibn Abbas that he recited “AFALAM YATBAIN” and said that the writer had written it [YAY-ASI] when he was drowsy.” (Fateh al-Bari, Volume 8, p. 373)

(Side remark: This is part of the evidence against the claim that the whole Qur’an was memorized by a multitude and preserved that way. Clearly the faulty writing got the better of the alleged superior memory. Frankly, people are memorizing the Qur’an based on a written text, not writing the Qur’an based on memory.)

Another example is:

Abu Ubaid narrated in his (book) al-Fadail and Saeed bin Mansur, Ibn Abi Shayba, Ibn al-Munder and Ibn al-Anbari in the Masahif from Kharsha bin al-Hur that he said: ‘Umar bin al-Khattab saw me carrying a tablet written in it ‘{when the call is made for prayer on Friday, then hasten to the remembrance of Allah} (FAISAAAW ILA THIKRI ALLAH)’. He (Umar) asked: ‘Who dictated this to you?’ I replied: ‘Ubai bin Kaab’. He said: ‘Ubai recited the abrogated (part), he (Umar) recited it ‘FAMZO ILA THIKRI ALLAH.’” (Tafsir Dur e Manthur, Surah Jumaa, Volume 6, p. 219)

Ibn Hajar comments:

“Narrated by Saad bin Mansur and he clarified the medium [narrator] between the [narrator] Ibrahim and Umar who is Kharsha ibn al Hurr therefore the chain is Sahih.” (Fateh al-Bari, Book of Commentary of Qur’an, Surah Jumaa, Volume 8, p. 496)

Here is a third example:

Ibn Bashar narrated from Muhammad bin Jafar from Shu'aba from Abi Bashir from Saeed bin Jubair from Ibn Abbas about this verse ‘{O you who believe! Do not enter houses other than your own houses until you have asked permission (TASTA/NISOO) and saluted their inmates}.’ He said: ‘It is a mistake by the scribe. ‘{until you have asked permission (TASTAZINO) and saluted their inmates}.’ (Tafsir al-Tabari, Q. 24:27, Volume 18, p. 146)

In his Taqrib al-Tahdib Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani said that Wahab bin Jarir and Shu'aba are thiqah (trustworthy, reliable) while Muhammad bin al-Muthana, Abu Bashr Bayan bin Bashr and Saeed bin Jubair are thiqah thabt (“the affirmed trustworthy”).

Our fourth example is:

Abu Bakr bin Abdoos and Abu Abdullah bin Hamid narrated from Abu al-Abbas al-Asim from Muhammad bin al-Jahm al-Samri from al-Fara from Abu Mu'awiyah from Hisham bin Urwa from his father that Aishah was asked about Allah’s statements in Surah Nisa (verse 162) LAKINI ALRRASIKHOONA and WAALMUQEEMEENA and the Almighty’s statement in Sura Maidah (verse 69) INNA ALLATHEENA AMANOO WAALLATHEENA HADOO WAALSSABI-OON and His statement (Taha, 63) IN HATHANI LASAHIRANI. Aishah replied: “O my nephew, this is due to mistakes committed by the scribe.” (Tafsir al-Thalabi, Volume 6, p. 250)


Abu Ubaid stated in Fadail Qur’an that Abu Muawiyah narrated from Hisham bin Urwah from his father that Aisha was asked about the following mistakes in the Qur’an ‘IN HATHANI LASAHIRANI’ and His statement ‘WAALMUQEEMEENA ALSSALATA WAALMU/TOONA ALZZAKATA’ and His statement ‘INNA ALLATHEENA AMANOO WAALLATHEENA HADOO WAALSSABI-OON’. She replied: “O son of my nephew, this is due to the act of the scribes of the Qur’an who committed a mistake whilst transcribing them.” The chain of this tradition is Sahih according to the conditions of the Shaikhain. (Al Itqan fi Uloom al Qur’an, Volume 1, p. 210)

As-Suyuti went on to write that,

There is no strength with the replies that are advanced against the above cited reply of Aishah, namely that it contains a weak chain. The chain is Sahih.” (Ibid., Volume 1, p. 212)

Moreover, the names mentioned in the hadith from al-Thalabi are considered to all be reliable and trustworthy.

1. Abu Bakr Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Abdoos. Muslim scholar al-Dhahabi wrote, Imam (“leader”) (Siyar a’lam al-nubala, volume 17, p. 58).
2. Abu Abdullah bin Hamed al-Warraq. Al-Dhahabi stated, “Shaykh and Mufti of Hanbalis” (Siyar a’lam al-nubala, volume 17, p. 203).
3. Abu al-Abbas al-Asim. Al-Dhahabi noted that he is thiqah (“trustworthy,” “reliable”) (Tazkirat al-Hufaz, volume 3, p. 860).
4. Muhammad bin Jahm al-Samri. Al-Dhahabi said, “Darqutni said that he was thiqah” (Siyar a’lam al-nubala, volume 13, p. 164).
5. Al-Fara bin Yahya. Al-Dhahabi affirmed him being thiqah (Siyar a’lam al-nubala, volume 10, p. 119).
6. Abu Mu’awiyah Muhammad bin Khazem. Al-Dhahabi wrote that he is thabt (“affirmed”) (Tazkirat al-Hufaz, volume 1, p. 294).
7. Hisham bin Urwa. Al-Dhahabi said, Hujja (“proof”) (Tazkirat al-Hufaz, volume 1, p. 144).
8. Urwa bin al-Zubair: al-Dhahabi stated, Thabt (Tazkirat al-Hufaz, volume 1, p. 62).

With that out of the way we now turn to our final example. The third caliph agreed with Aisha that there are mistakes in the Qur’an:

There is disagreement over 'ALMUQEEMEENA ALSSALAT'. Aishah and Aban ibn Uthman said that was written in the Qur’an due to a mistake on the part of the transcriber. Its correction is essential and it should be written as 'ALMUQEEMOONA ALSSALAT'. Similarly in Surah Ma’idah 'AALSSABI-OONA' and in Surah Taha 'IN HATHANI LASAHIRANI' have also been written due to the mistake of scribes. Uthman stated that he had seen some mistakes in the Qur’an and Arabs would correct them through their language and they had asked him to change them but he said that these mistakes did not change Haram to Halal and vice versa.” (Al-Baghawi, Tafsir Ma’ alam al-Tanzil, Volume 3, p. 361, Q. 4:161)


Aban bin Uthman recited the cited verse [IN HATHANI LASAHIRANI] before his father Uthman. Uthman said, “It is incorrect.” Someone asked him, “Why don’t you correct it?” Uthman replied, “Leave it there, it doesn’t make any difference in respect of what is Halal and Haram.” (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Q. 20:63, Volume 11, p. 212)

We recommend the following article for those interested in seeing a lot more Islamic narrations admitting mistakes and errors in the Qur’an:

Concluding Remarks

In conclusion we want to mention and emphasize the fact that the Qur’an is unlike the New Testament in that the latter is a collection of 27 books written by different authors at different times and in different places. Thus, it is only natural that debate arose over the inclusion of some of these books since not every Church or father would have received the information regarding a particular book and would naturally have certain doubts about its authenticity.

However, since Muslim tradition asserts that a single man transmitted the Qur’an to his followers we therefore wouldn’t expect to find any confusion regarding the contents and arrangement of the Qur’an. Yet our examination demonstrated that there was mass confusion concerning the exact contents and order of the Muslim scripture! What makes this all the more amazing is that the people who were confused were those who knew Muhammad personally and had taken the Qur’an directly from him! If anyone should have known the exact arrangement and contents of the Muslim scripture surely it would have been Muhammad’s close companions. And yet, unfortunately for Muslims, it was these same companions who wrote down conflicting Qur’ans and who were disagreeing with one another concerning its precise order and number of surahs and verses. This clearly demonstrates the vast superiority of the NT over the Qur’an.

More importantly, imagine what Muslims would say if Christians told them that the books of the Bible were transmitted in seven modes, the exact meaning of which no Christian scholar knows till this day. Imagine their reaction if they were further told that Paul decided to standardize one mode and destroy the rest. Now think what their response would be if they were told that this one mode was transmitted in multiple versions, none of which were identical in wording, and that Christian scribes in the second or third centuries chose only ten readings from all of them since they were somehow able to trace these versions to the time of Christ’s disciples. It is safe to assume that the Muslims would react in the same way that non-Muslims do when they are told that this is precisely the situation with the textual transmission of the Qur’an!

With that just said what we find truly amazing and miraculous about Islam is not its book (since it is far from being a miracle in any sense) but the fact that there are Muslims who actually think that the Qur’an is supernatural in origin and continue to erroneously believe that it has been perfectly preserved. Now to us that is a miracle!

We wish to conclude by giving the following advice to the Muslim Dawagandists. Those living in glasshouses shouldn’t be picking up stones and hurling them at others. In light of the textual history of the Qur’an you have no business questioning the textual veracity and preservation of the NT, especially the four Gospels of our risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Related Articles

The following are links to articles and books which provide ample evidence to the reliability and preservation of the NT documents, especially in regards to the authorship of the Gospels:

Moreover, there is a lote more data from the Islamic sources that the Qur’an has suffered textual corruption by way of missing surahs (chapters) and verses, as well as additions and changes to the text. The interested readers can go here for this massive amount of information:’an/Text/index.html’anically-confused-muhammads-chosen.html’anic-escape-clause.html’an-vs-bible-ex-muslims-comparison-of.html’an-and-impact-of-textual.html’an-missing-prayer.html


(1) Just to show our readers how feeble and desperate the Muslim replies to the textual corruption of the Qur’an truly are, note what Muslim dawagandist Bassam Zawadi had to say concerning this particular variant:

Therefore, as we can see this is only one narration by a certain individual who believed that he heard the Prophet recite the verse the way he thought. However, how come there was no one else who also supported Abu Darda'a? How can ALL OF THE UMMAH be wrong while only he was right? Obviously he was speaking from bad memory and human error. More on this topic could be read here. (Zawadi, The Alleged Addition To Surah 92)

This exposes the fact that neither Zawadi nor his sources bothered to read the narrations carefully since this wasn’t simply the belief of a single individual. Rather, as an accurate and careful reading of the narratives themselves show, this was actually the way the entire community who had learned the Qur’an directly from Abdullah ibn Masud read it!

Narrated 'Alqama: I went to Sham and offered a two-Rak'at prayer and then said, “O Allah! Bless me with a good pious companion.” So I went to some people and sat with them. An old man came and sat by my side. I asked, “Who is he?” They replied, “(He is) Abu-Ad-Darda.” I said (to him), “I prayed to Allah to bless me with a pious companion and He sent you to me.” He asked me, “From where are you?” I replied, “From the people of Al-Kufa.” He said, “Isn't there amongst you Ibn Um 'Abd, the one who used to carry the shoes, the cushion (or pillow) and the water for ablution? Is there amongst you the one whom Allah gave refuge from Satan through the request of His Prophet? Is there amongst you the one who keeps the secrets of the Prophet which nobody knows except him?” Abu Darda further asked, “How does 'Abdullah (bin Mas'ud) recite the Sura starting with, ‘By the Night as it conceals (the light)?” (92.1) Then I recited before him:

'By the Night as it envelops: And by the Day as it appears in brightness; And by male and female.' (91.1-3) On this Abu Ad-Darda' said, “By Allah, the Prophet MADE ME recite the Sura in this way while I was listening to him (reciting it).’”
(Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 57, Number 85)


Narrated Ibrahim: The companions of 'Abdullah (bin Mas'ud) came to Abu Darda', (and before they arrived at his home), he looked for them and found them. Then he asked them,: "Who among you can recite (Qur'an) AS 'ABDULLAH RECITES IT?" They replied, “All of us.” He asked, "Who among you knows it by heart?" They pointed at 'Alqama. Then he asked Alqama, Alqama recited:By the male and the female.’ Abu Ad-Darda said, “I TESTIFY that I heard the Prophet reciting it likewise, but these people want me to recite it:-- ‘And by Him Who created male and female.’ BUT BY ALLAH, I WILL NOT FOLLOW THEM.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 468)

Thus, we have countless number of witnesses who were personally taught the recitation of the Qur’an by one of the very men commissioned by Muhammad himself testifying that Abu ad-Darda’s reading was correct!

So contrary to Zawadi’s assertion there were multiple witnesses (perhaps running in the hundreds, if not thousands) that supported Abu ad-Darda’s version over against Uthman’s (that is, Zaid’s version of the Qur’an).

Besides, if Zawadi is going to be consistent will he accept the fact that the present reading of Q. 33:6 is incomplete since several companions and their followers including ibn Masud, Ubayy ibn Kab, Ibn Abbas, Muawiyah, Mujahid, Qatadah, lkrimah and Al-Hasan attest that there was an extra clause which is now missing from the present text of the Qur’an? See the above for the details.

Finally, this again shows the willingness on the part of Muslim propagandists like Zawadi to cast doubt on what is supposed to be their most authentic collection of narrations whenever they can’t adequately deal with or address the problems that such sources pose for their beliefs. And yet they expect us to accept these very same hadith collections without question!



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