The problem with the Koran and inerrancy

Jon MC

   In this article I intend to look at “Why the Koran must be True” from the Islamic viewpoint and some of the consequences and conclusions that flow from this position from a more skeptical viewpoint.

   Given that this is a lengthy article, I have included summaries to the longer parts (1,2 and 4) of the argument for those who don’t wish to follow the detail of the argument.

Part 1. The transmission of the Koran.

   There are many excellent books and articles on the origins and compilation of the Koran. What I intend to do in this section is present a thumb-nail sketch of the process of “how the written Koran came to be” from an orthodox Islamic perspective.

   According to Islam the Koran is the literal word of “the god” i.e. Allah. The version we have today is (probably) the “Uthmanic recension” compiled by Caliph Uthman about 20 years after Mohammed’s death. To Muslims, this compilation (and its fore-runners) are all perfectly accurate recordings of the ‘revelations’ received by Mohammed during the 23 years of his ‘prophet-hood’.

   But let me take you back to the beginning …

   A’ishah bint Abu Bakr (Mohammed’s favourite and youngest wife) is recorded in the Hadith{1} of Muslim as giving the following narration of that most significant event in the Muhammad’s life as follows:

Muslim Bk 1, Number 0301: A’isha, the wife of the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him), reported: The first (form) with which was started the revelation to the Messenger of Allah was the true vision in sleep. And he did not see any vision but it came like the bright gleam of dawn. Thenceforth solitude became dear to him and he used to seclude himself in the cave of Hira’, where he would engage in worship for a number of nights before returning to his family and getting provisions again for this purpose. He would then return to Khadija and take provisions for a like period, till Truth came upon him while he was in the cave of Hira’. There came to him the angel and said: “Recite [or: read]”{2}, to which he replied: “I am not lettered.” He [the Angel] took hold of me and pressed me, till I was hard pressed; then he let me go and said: “Recite.” I said: I am not lettered. He then again took hold of me and pressed me for the second time till I was hard pressed and then let me go and said: “Recite”, to which I replied: “I am not lettered.” He took hold of me and pressed me for the third time, till I was hard pressed and then let me go and said: “Recite in the name of your Lord Who created, created man from a clot of blood. Recite. And your most bountiful Lord is He Who taught the use of pen, taught man what he knew not.” (Koran 96:1-4)

   Thus the first verses of the Koran that were ‘revealed’ were Sura 96 verses 1-4.{3}

   Throughout the ‘revelation’ of the Koran it is the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) who is assumed to have transmitted Allah’s words to Mohammed{4}, who then recited them back to the Angel to prove he had got it correctly memorised before reciting it to his Sahaba (“companions”) who in turn learnt it and recorded at least some of it{5} in writing.

   Thus, to put it in Islamic terms we have the following “chain of narration” (Isnad or Sanad){6}:

   Allah → Gabriel → Mohammed → The Sahaba → the written Koran.

   Let me consider the reliability of each step in the Koran’s (notional) Sanad.

   What we know about the God of the Koran is contained in the Koran. Islam defines the “ninety nine beautiful names” – the ‘names’ (more accurately attributes) of Allah{7}. Many of these are interesting in their own right, but the ones I wish to consider are: Al-Khaaliq, The Creator; Al-Bari’, The Maker; Al-‘Aleem, The All-Knowing; As-Samee’, The All-Hearing; Al-Baseer, The All-Seeing; Al-Khabeer, The Aware and Al-Haqq, The Truth.

   Thus the Allah of the Koran is declared to be the aware, all-knowing (seeing, hearing, etc.) creator who is The Truth.

   This latter-most is important: Allah isn’t merely “truthful” he is “The Truth”. Therefore the Koran declares that Allah is “100% pure truth” so to speak. Therefore, every word that Allah says MUST be true. Allah cannot tell a lie{8}.

   However, merely “not lying” does not give the full picture: If someone tells me that “the earth is flat” and I know no better, then if I tell you the same, it can be argued that I am not lying – as far as I know I am telling the truth and therefore my honesty is not imperiled.

   But Allah is also claimed to be the creator (of the whole universe), all-aware, all knowing etc. then there can be no excuse of ignorance or misinformation (like the fact that the earth orbits the Sun, not vice-versa), what Allah says MUST be true in an absolute sense (i.e. he has no excuses for “getting it wrong”).

   Therefore, Islamically speaking, the source of the Koran is the literal Truth, Allah, and the first step in the “Isnad” is quite unimpeachable.

   According to the Islamic view Angels are are heavenly beings who have no free will, (unlike humans or jinn) and can do only what Allah orders them to do. Thus if Allah gives the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) a revelation to take to Mohammed, Gabriel will do so – flawlessly.

   Thus there can be no question of any falsehood or error creeping in here.

   Mohammed himself is the next step in our Sanad and so we must assess his character from the Islamic viewpoint.

   There are many stories about Mohammed{9} that aim to show his good character, but we need not trouble ourselves, because the Koran itself, the ‘true word of Allah’ settles the matter:

Your companion (Muhammad) has neither gone astray nor has erred. Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is nothing but revelation sent down to him.”(53:2-4) neither can Mohammed forget it: “And truly, this (the Quran) is a revelation from the Lord of All, which the trustworthy Angel [Gabriel] has brought down upon your heart (O Muhammad) that you may be (one) of the warners”.{10}

   These verses state clearly that what Mohammed is preaching is “revelation” and that Mohammed has not erred in his transmission of said ‘revelation’. Furthermore it is “written on his heart” so Mohammed cannot forget it.

   Thus – Islamically speaking – we can rest assured that the Koran, as recited by Mohammed is a completely accurate transmission of the words of Allah as recited to him by Gabriel.

Passing on to the Sahaba

   No-one claims that the Sahaba are more than human. Therefore, at first blush, it seems possible that there could be mistakes made in the transmission or remembering of the ‘words of Allah'{11}. However, once again Allah assures that this did not and indeed could not happen:

Verily, we have sent down the Reminder [the Koran], and, verily, we will guard it.”(13:9). Again: “No falsehood could enter it, in the past or in the future; a revelation from the Most Wise, Praiseworthy [one].” (41:42) Again: “This is an honourable Quran, in a protected book{12}. None can grasp it except the sincere. A revelation from the Lord of the universe.” (K.56:77-80)

   Thus we see that the Sahaba also fulfilled their role in the transmission of the Koran perfectly, if only because Allah was guarding this ‘revelation’ and protecting it from any error they might have made.

The final step is the compilation of the written Koran

   Despite many Muslims’ statements to the contrary, the Islamic sources give a confused and colourful picture of this period of the transmission of the Koran. What is generally clear is that since the Muslims were perpetually at war and therefore suffering large numbers of casualties (especially at Yamana) amongst those who knew the Koran best, the fear arose that parts of the Koran would be lost “from men’s minds” unless it was written down. (Islamically speaking, we may see Allah intervening to preserve the Koran by spurring the Muslims to compile it.){13}. This resulted in the compilation under Abu Bakr, which amounted to a single privately held manuscript that passed from hand-to-hand until the time of Uthman. (As well as this compilation at least one other and perhaps several others in fact existed.) During Uthman’s Caliphate disagreements arose over the recitation (or reading) of the Koran{14} (amongst other things) and so Uthman ordered a new compilation from various existing sources (including the Abu Bakr MSS, other MSS and part MSS) and this became the “official” version. Uthman ensured that his Koran became the official one by firstly distributing his version (thus it was more than a private copy) and secondly by ordering all other versions burned{15}.

   As the final element in this story, I wish to quote the Koran again:

K.5:3 states “This day I have perfected your religion for you…”, {16} K.2:2 “This is the Book (the Quran), whereof there is no doubt…”, K.32:2-3 “ The sending down of the Book (Koran), there is no doubting it, from the Lord of all Being. They say ‘He (Muhammad SAW) has fabricated it!’ Not so! It is the truth from your Lord…

   Thus Allah states that the religion of Islam is perfect and that perfection must include the perfection of the Koran which is itself the truth and beyond doubt – Islamically speaking that is.

Summary of part 1

   From the Islamic perspective:

  1. the transmission of the Koran from Allah to the final (Uthmanic) written Koran is perfectly reliable and as such it can be stated that the Koran is the literal word of Allah, perfect in every detail, unchanged and indeed unchangeable for all time and eternity in it’s original form.

  2. Every word of the Koran MUST be true. In other words the Koran must be inerrant.{17}

Part 2. The types of verse in the Koran

   The Koran goes to great lengths, with over fifty statements, to state that it is a clear guide with clear and simple commandments and that Mohammed made Allah’s message plain and simple to understand. Such “plain and simple to understand” verses are called “muhkam” verses in Arabic.

   In these verses: “it is up to Us [i.e. Allah] to collect it, as well as [to know how] to recite it. So whenever We do recite it, copy its recitation; it is then We Who must explain it!” (K.75:17:20). The Koran states that it is up to Allah to both recite and explain the Koran and it is also up to Allah to “collect it” – the Koran text – infallibly into written form. The “explain” part is understood in a variety of ways but for our purposes it suffices to note that this is an implicit admission that not all verses are clear “muhkam” verses.

   Thus the Koran admits in one verse:

“It is He Who has sent down to you (Muhammad ) the Book. In it are Verses that are entirely clear [or: firm, or:decisive – i.e. “mukham”], they are the foundations [or: heart] of the Book and others not entirely clear. So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation (from the truth) they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof, seeking Al-Fitnah{18}, and seeking for [the Koran’s] hidden meanings, but none knows its hidden meanings save Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge. Say: “We believe in it; the whole of it (clear and unclear Verses) are from our Lord.“(K.3:7){19}

   And in one other, the Koran goes further:

“Allah has sent down the best statement, a Book (this Quran), its parts resembling each other, oft-repeated. The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it. Then their skin and their heart soften to the remembrance of Allah. That is the guidance of Allah. He Guides therewith whom He pleases and whomever Allah sends astray, for him there is no guide.”(K.39:23){20}

   The words emboldened are in Arabic the single word “muttashabih” which is generally understood to mean both “ambiguous” (including in the senses of allegory, simile and parable) and “similar” (here in the sense of parallel or equivalent verses – “verses … oft repeated”.).

   Thus, for example, when Allah says (in the Koran) “Obey Allah and the Messenger” we might regard the verse as “muttashabih”{21} since it does not tell us who the “Messenger” is, therefore the verse isn’t entirely clear. However, as any Muslim will tell you, “the Messenger” is none other than Mohammed. With this bit of understanding we can definitively ascribe a meaning to it. (This is a trivial example, but I hope it makes the point.) On the other hand K.33:40 “Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last of the Prophets…” is “muhkam” since the verse is completely unambiguous as to whom it refers and as to what (it claims) he is{22}.

   The Koran says that the clear (mukham) verses are the foundation, heart or core of the Koran, whereas ambiguous verses are misleading to those who lack understanding and lead them astray from the ‘Truth of Islam’. Thus the Koran hints very strongly that a good but unlearned Muslim should follow the clear verses and not worry over much about the ambiguous ones (ones he does not understand). Implicit is that clear verses cannot be “overruled” by ambiguous ones{23}.

   In turn this means that we must take what the Koran says in clear language to mean what it says. The clear verses hide no other meanings – they are clear and unambiguous – and it is these verses that form the core of Islamic belief.

   The last point to be drawn out here is that the “muttashaabih” verses can be understood by “those who are firmly grounded in knowledge” (K.3:7) and it is for the exegesis of such verses that the ‘science’ of Tafseer (interpretation/commentary) was born.{24}

Summary of Part 2

  1. Not all verses of the Koran are easy to understand, some are ambiguous, some have pertinent details missing.

  2. The good news is that the unambiguous verses are the “heart of the Koran” and (since the Koran is truth itself) such verses mean what they say.{25}

Part 3. The consequences for Muslims

  1. The above means the Koran must be inerrant. That is, it must contain no errors whatsoever. If the Koran contains a single factual error, then the Koran falsifies itself and thus cannot be from a god who is “all-knowing” (al-Alim). (That said, it is important to make sure that Muhkam verses are used to demonstrate an error, a muttashabih verse won’t do, since it is open to multiple interpretations anyway){26}. Therefore Muslims must and will strive to show that all the verses of the Koran are compatible with fact. Muslims regard this doctrine – the Koran as being Allah’s literal word as a great strength in their religion, but it is a brittle strength as the above shows.
  1. An orthodox Muslim{27} must accept the doctrine of Abrogation since it is in the Koran. It is simply not according to the Koran to deny this doctrine – in principle at least{28}.

  2. Since the Koran itself tells Muslims to “obey the Messenger/Prophet” about fifty times then an orthodox Muslim can’t be a “Quranite” (Koran only) Muslim. Such Muslims deny the importance of Mohammed’s teaching{29}, thus disobeying the Koran and effectively disobeying Allah as well {30}. Therefore such Muslims are “hypocrites” according to the Koran – we might also refer to them as “pick-n-mix” Muslims since they just pick out the bits they want to follow/believe and ignore those they don’t thus ignoring the command of K.3:7.

  3. Only those who are “firmly grounded in faith” as the Koran puts it and have spent a lot of time (often a lifetime) should be entrusted to interpret the muttashabih verses{31} which can lead people astray from ‘the Truth’ of the Koran{see note 19}.

Part 4: On the horns of many dilemmas

(1) To Muhkam or not to Muhkam: that is the question{32}

   The absolute requirement that the Koran be “perfect” means that Islam utterly rejects any attempts at a critique of the text by any critical method that would be accepted in the wider world and indeed many Muslim writers disparage non-Muslim critics for a “lack of knowledge” (to be fair this is sometimes justified), but it is also an easy option and an ad hominem attack.

   Often such “counter-criticism” revolves around the notion that the critic has a poor or non-existent understanding of Arabic (like yours truly) and thus “doesn’t understand what the Koran means”.

   But all that means is that the “counter-critic” is saying “the Koran is untranslatable and can’t be understood by non-Arabic speakers.” Since there are a plethora of translations in almost all languages and most such translations are done by Muslims who speak both Arabic and the language of translation this is a hard argument to sustain, especially when the Koran says that the heart of its message is unambiguous, clear and simple to understand, if that is so the muhkam verses must be translatable. Muttashabih verses may be “untranslatable” in the sense that it may be hard to translate all the meanings, but this cannot apply to muhkam verses because the Koran says they are clear, thus the Koran itself denies this argument. Thus those who make this argument are falsifying the Koran by their argument.

(2) Now is the Koran of our discontent turned to glorious Tafseer

   A second counter-criticism is basically: “you have use the Tafseers (or Hadith/Sunnah) to understand the Koran verses.” But this just approaches the same dilemma from a different direction: why does a book who’s core message is “clear and simple” need every verse (including, therefore Muhkam verses) “explained”? Further, many Koran translations use the most famous Tafseers{33} in the task of ensuring accurate translation.

   Since the study of all these sources would be a lifetime’s work in itself, this is really a way of saying “no one except the experts [whoever they are] can understand the Koran.” Again this argument falsifies the Koran which tells us it’s “core message” is simple and easy to understand. This is also an odd statement from the point of view that Islam prides itself on being a religion in which there are no intermediaries between god and man – yet this approach generates exactly that: if you can’t really understand the Koran without a life-time of study, then only those who spend their lives in Theological study can understand and interpret it, thus we have a Priesthood in all but name and hence we place an intermediary between man and god – contrary to Islamic teaching. This would be tantamount to Shirk{34} in fact.

(3) Of Allah and Men

   If the Koran is the literal word of Allah, then it must contain within it nothing “man-made”. Much is made by some critical writers of the fact that the Koran contains stories that are derivative from other religious sources (most commonly the Bible) but this is a weak argument since Islam’s response is that the Koran “corrects” those earlier versions. Whilst many might look askance at this given the frequently debased nature of the Koran’s versions, it is a tenable position since the Koran regards itself as Allah’s final revelation and as such part of it’s “job” would be to correct earlier ‘errors’. Indeed the Koran claims that the earlier scriptures (the Bible) have become corrupted, hence the Koran’s “corrective” ‘mission’.

   However, when the source is something that is demonstrably purely human in origin then this position is untenable. Consider the following:

Therefore the man was created singly, to teach that he who destroys one soul of a human being, the Scripture considers him as if he should destroy a whole world, and him who saves one soul of Israel, the Scripture considers him as if he should save a whole world. (Jewish Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5)

Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread fitnah in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. (Koran 5:32)

   Excepting the Koranic substitutions, additions (to permit killing for “retaliation” and the many reasons encompassed by “fitnah” ) and glosses{35} the two are (virtually) identical. What is of note here is that the Koran verse says that Allah ordained (or prescribed, or decreed) this for Israel. This language (ordain, decree, prescribe) in the Koran defines revealed “orders” i.e. Allah’s commands. The Mishna is understood by Orthodox Jews to be inspired words; that is they are not G-d’s very words, but man’s (albeit expressing a religious truth), often expanding or commenting on a subject within the Torah. So how can something written by men – a “Tafseer” on the Torah in fact – be the literal word of god?

(4) Malice through the looking glass

   In the looking-glass world of Islam, left is right and right is wrong.

   The Koran teaches that Muslims must “obey the prophet” and that to do so “is to obey Allah”{see note 30}. Islam has always understood this to mean not just Mohammed’s words, but his actions also. In modern Western societies a number of Mohammed’s actions are considered criminal as well as immoral{36}. Some are even now known to be positively harmful.

   Thus either Muslims must defend these actions since “to obey [follow] Mohammed is to obey Allah” and therefore these actions must be of Allah, which means that Muslims are left in the unenviable position of arguing that some immoral/illegal/harmful acts are right and proper, disparaging “mere man made laws” -which criminalise these actions- whilst insisting that the Shari’ah Law which supports them is “god-given” and thus ‘superior’ and rejecting (for example) medical fact; or else they must accept that Mohammed is a man of his times – not the eternal exemplar for humanity, the “al-Ihsan al-Kamel” and “uswa Hasana” of Islam – which rejects what the Islamic literature, including the Koran, says about Mohammed {37}.

   Both “defences” can be found within Muslim literature, sometimes (amusingly) in the same piece.

(5) Logic, Logic, for where art thou, Logic?

   I have already shown how Muslims are forced into some illogical positions (such as defending Mohammed’s immorality in various ways, or accepting as “from god” verses that are clearly human-authored), but I wish to pass on to a couple of specific examples of logical problems with the Koran text or illogical responses to such problems.

   The “Satanic verses” in the Koran (53:19-22). Here Mohammed receives a ‘revelation’ that was acclaimed by the Quraish since it honoured their Goddesses (at the time Mo was seeking a rapprochement), but his own followers were made unhappy so these verses were declared “satanic”:

K.17-73: “Indeed they were near to seducing thee from that We revealed to thee, that thou might forge against Us another, and then they [the Quraish] would surely have taken thee as a friend.”

   Naturally enough, some people queried this volte-face, but up pops Allah to “resolve” this problem too:

K.22:52-53. “Never did We send a Messenger or a Prophet before you, but; when he did recite the revelation or narrated or spoke, Shaitan (Satan) threw (some falsehood) in it. But Allah abolishes that which Shaitan throws in. Then Allah establishes His Revelations. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise. That He (Allah) may make what is thrown in by Shaitan a trial for those in whose hearts is a disease and whose hearts are hardened. And certainly, the Zalimoon are in an opposition far-off.”{38}{39}

   So we learn that this is something that “always” happens to Allah’s messengers{40} and that Allah will sort it out and use it as a trial for non-believers{41}.

   Thus it would seem that Muslims were and are content to accept that satanic verses could be insinuated into Allah’s word – the Qur’an, that Allah could “abolish” said satanic verses, and that Allah could replace a verse of his own revelation with a similar or better verse{see note 10}. You may recall that I earlier pointed out K.41:42. “No falsehood could enter it [the Koran], in the past or in the future; a revelation from the Most Wise, Praiseworthy [one].” Quite how Muslims can truly square this with Satan getting his words into the Koran, even temporarily, I can’t say{42}.

   But there is another problem: if Mohammed could not tell that it was Satan, not Gabriel, who was speaking to him, Mohammed cannot differentiate between true revelation and satanic verses; so how do we know that Satan did not manage the same “trick” on other occasions? Certainly, the Koran tells us that Allah “guards” it etc., but the Koran is already compromised as a source since Satan managed the “trick” on at least one occasion that we know about since he was “found out”. As a second point here, it shows that Allah wasn’t that good at “guarding” the revelation if Satan could get by his guard – even temporarily{43}.

   The shape of the earth. I’m not going to restate the “flat earth” arguments nor their (attempted) rebuttals. Both these are very well known and it is up to each individual to decide on which side of the argument they wish to come down{44}.

   Rather I wish to consider the really illogical “the Koran says the earth is egg-shaped” argument. This is based on Sura 79:30 “Wal’arda ba’da dhalika dahaha”{45} which some modern apologists (e.g. Dr. Zakir Naik) have translated as “and He made the earth egg-shaped.” On the basis of this, these same apologists say this shows that the Koran says the earth is a sphere, not flat. Neither am I interested in the argument about the meaning of “dahaha” and it’s roots which Modern Muslims have curiously translated as “egg-shaped” or “shaped like an ostrich egg”. Instead I will simply assume that this “interpretation” of the verse is correct.{46}.

   For the record let me state the fact that, yes, the earth is slightly oblate but it is spherical to within 0.4%. To give a context: the earth is more spherical (in gross terms) than a billiard ball.

   Sadly for Dr. Naik et al, whilst the earth is a (marginally) oblate spheroid an egg is a markedly prolate and asymmetric spheroid. Simply: an oblate spheroid is bigger “around the middle” (equator – which is always a circle by definition) whereas a prolate one is bigger “north to south”. Thus even if we were to accept the apologists’ argument the shape of the world in the Koran is still completely wrong. (In fact physics makes such an earth-sized egg shaped planet as impossible as a disc-world in our universe.)

   Thus to counter the “flat earth” charge, some Muslims have adopted an apologetic stance that merely replaces one error with another and this latter is worse in that it’s linguistic basis is weak to say the least and which requires substantial meaning being read into the text itself – in other words eisegesis rather than exegesis of the text. In addition to which the end result, the ‘egg-shaped planet’ is as impossible as the disc-world it attempts to rebut!

(6) Hubble, bubble, strife and trouble.

   Samuel P. Huntingdon made his famous statement “Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards” in 1998. Whilst I am sure that there are some who would deride this as “Islamophobic”, “bigoted” and “racist”; the sad truth is that this is an accurate observation. In the years since 9/11 -call that 4000 days (at the original date of writing)- there have been over 27,000 Islamic terror attacks resulting in death and/or serious injury. (In 2017 it’s over 31,500.)

   Simple maths tells us that means that on average there have been more than four such attacks each and every day in which devout  orthodox Muslims kill and maim “for the sake of Allah”. Most of these attacks take place (ironically perhaps) within the Dar-ul-Islam. We in the Dar-ul-Harb{47} are far better protected against such attacks since we have effective and efficient security services that thwart such attacks in the planning stages most of the time{48}. Yet despite this we are constantly told that Islam is “the religion of peace”.

   Thus the dilemma is that Muslims kill each other (as well as us) in terrorist attacks carried out in the name of Allah by people quite convinced they are doing the will of Allah, yet Islam is purported to be “the religion of peace”.

   Let me state quite clearly that I do not, for one instant, believe or infer that all Muslims are violent. Far from it: a majority of Muslims clearly live quiet peaceful and peaceable lives. But this does not negate the fact that pious Islamic terrorists (and I use the phrase deliberately even though I know it offends some Muslims) carry out their terrorist attacks in the name of Allah and for the sake of Allah, quite convinced by the teaching of Allah that they are engaged in legitimate sword-jihad against the enemies of Allah and Islam (even if they are their brother Muslims!). No other religion on Earth behaves in this way to both it’s own and the “other”.

   Apologists use various approaches to ‘resolve’ this dilemma:

  1. The “Islam has been hijacked!” approach (Irshad Manji is particularly scathing about this) which tries to cast the Islamic terrorist as a non-Muslim following a “fake Islam”, which is ironic since this is “Takfir”{49} which is highly frowned upon within Shari’ah and these self-same Islamic terrorists to a man (or woman) believe they are doing Allah’s will in killing. A problem with this approach, apart from it’s ‘legal’ difficulties within Shari’ah, is that it is a cop-out as well as being disingenuous (to be polite). It is a cop-out since it instantly absolves Islam of any responsibility and it is disingenuous since it simply ignores the violent verses of the Koran.

  2. The “Islam has been misunderstood!” argument. This is the same argument that is applied to non-Muslim critics of course (which is a little ironic), but here the idea is that the violent Muslims haven’t understood the Koran. This argument is, in essence, a modification of the first and the same counter-arguments apply – except that here the apologist would have us believe that somehow early peaceful verses abrogate later violent ones in contravention to the principles of abrogation.

  3. The “More Islam is needed!” argument. This is an inversion of argument #2. This argument suggests that Islamically educated Muslims are not the ones radicalised because they know Islam’s true teachings. One problem here is that more Islamic a Country becomes then (with a few exceptions of oil-rich Gulf states) the more violent it becomes, e.g. Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thus the evidence is that, on a gross scale at least, the converse is true. A second problem is that whilst it is certainly true that a goodly number of ISIL recruits (especially from the West) had the book “Islam for Dummies” it is also true that many did not and this applies in particular to those recruits that came from Muslim-majority Countries where a certain degree of Islamic religious literacy would be expected given that most were educated in Madrassahs – Islamic schools.

  4. The “Don’t look at what Muslims do, look at the scriptures.” approach. This is usually followed with an appeal to the “peaceful” verses of the Koran{50}. This approach has several problems: firstly many of these peaceful verses are abrogated by later verses which contradict them. Let me remind you that abrogation itself is controversial in Islam which simply adds another layer of controversy. Second: If Muslims are supposed to actually follow Islam (as the Koran commands over 50 times!) then shouldn’t the actions and acts of Muslims, particularly those carried out in the name of it’s god, reflect it’s teaching? Third: this argument implies that there aren’t many (or any) “true Muslims” in the world and from this it follows that Islam has failed as a religion since it’s ‘followers’ don’t follow it{51}.

  5. The “Don’t look at the Scriptures, lookit the peaceful Muslims!” approach. Often when Islam critics point out the violent verses of the Koran counter-critics will respond by pointing out (rightly) that most Muslims are not violent and therefore (here comes the leap-to-conclusion) so must Islam be. Again, this is really a variant on approach 1, with all the same problems{52}.

  6. The “Muslims only fight defensively!” line. This version of apologia sets out a series of premises, assertions or (occasionally) arguments by which it is alleged that “the West” is at war with, or has attacked “Islam” and/or is “oppressing Islam”. Therefore, terror attacks are a defensive response to this “aggression” and that if the West only stopped it’s aggression and/or oppression then all would be peace{53}. The main problem here is that history shows that Islam used offensive sword-Jihad to capture vast swathes of territory from Portugal to China. Thus history itself denies this argument.

   The astute reader will have realised that all the arguments (except the last) I’ve outlined above are mutually contradictory, based on circular reasoning (one of the arguments above can easily lead to another), tendentious in that they simply ignore contrary evidence or are eisegetic in nature.

The crux of the dilemma for Muslim apologists is this: why, if Islam is peaceful is it so violent? This violence is not only present today, it has been a feature of Islam throughout it’s history, even when Islam was the dominant power, which rather undermines #5 also.{54} Thus none of the above arguments really provide an answer, rather they evade the question.

  1. 7. The Trouble with Science.

       One of the most curious aspects of the “Koran inerrancy” position is how Muslims have responded to modern science. This position is ‘augmented’ by verses such as 17: 12. “… And We have explained everything (in detail) with full explanation….” (see also 7:52, 11:1 and 17:89) which leads some Muslims to believe that the Koran contains all possible knowledge (or at least all useful knowledge) in the Universe (this view was also held by the earliest Muslims).

       In this arena there seem to be two strands of (contradictory) polemical approach, though as usual the same Muslim writer often employs both consecutively.

       The “The Koran knew that!” argument. In this argument the science is taken as true and the Koran text (and the root-meanings of it’s words{55}) searched until something is found that can be taken (and often twisted) to match the science. (The example of the “egg-shaped” earth is a case in point.) Proponents of this approach usually attempt to show that the Koran exactly matches the current science (e.g. the embryology ‘debate’). This has the obvious weakness that if the science changes, this falsifies the ‘revelation’ the polemicist has ‘discovered’. Polemicists aware of this problem often switch to …

       The “It’s only a Theory!” argument. In this argument the science (e.g. evolution) is dismissed as being “just a (false) theory” (which is to misunderstand the nature of scientific theory against that of hypothesis) and the Koran held up as the “ultimate truth” which “proper science” will validate in time.

       Of the two, which are mutually contradictory of course, I think that the second has slightly more intellectual honesty attendant upon it in that it is at least consistent with a belief-set. The former approach simply begs the question “why, if this was in the Koran didn’t Muslims spot this before Western science made the discovery?” To which no satisfactory answer is ever forthcoming and the argument is inherently fluid and changeable – today’s headline screaming “Scientific revelation in the Koran’ becomes tomorrow’s ‘interpretive mistake’.

Summary of part 4

   Muslims face a number of dilemmas consequent on their insistence that the Koran text be inerrant and these are exacerbated by the doctrine that the Koran contains “all truth”. Apologetic attempts to resolve these dilemmas are logically flawed and often mutually contradictory. Many also seem weak, or even perverse, to non-Muslims who are used to a more rationalistic basis for argument than “the Koran says xxxx so it must be true” which then compels attempts to justify a position on that basis rather than any logical/rational system. Some such attempts merely replace one error with another and others require meaning to be “read into” the text in a retroactive way to show that a modern explanation was already present “within” the Koran text, i.e. eisegesis of the text.

   An approach common in dealing with controversy between the Koran and modern science is to dismiss modern science on the basis that it’s “only a theory” and hold that the Koranic understanding will be validated in time by “proper science”.

Conclusions

  1. Islam teaches that one of it’s strengths is that the Koran is (purportedly) the literal word of its god, Allah. The main consequence of this, given the formulation of the nature of god within Islam, is that the Koran must be inerrant. This makes this strength a brittle one in that if one single error is found in the Koran then the Koran falsifies itself.

  2. Muslims must (attempt to) preserve the ‘truth’ of the Koran against all criticism, even if this means that they are forced into moral or exegetical positions that are difficult or even impossible to logically or rationally sustain, which is why so often Muslims find themselves impaled on the horns of various dilemmas{56}.

  3. Examination of many of the apologetic methods used to “resolve” dilemmas and perceived “problems” with the text shows that they are either mutually contradictory, dismissive or eisegetic in nature.

  4. The disregard for history, logic and consistency in handling the Koran text often makes the arguments of apologists seem hagiographic at best and risible at worst to non-Muslims (how Muslims view them I couldn’t say), being based on a series of a priori assumptions that often do not comport with the real world.

Footnotes and references.

  1. The Hadiths, or Ahadith are collections of “the sayings of Mohammed”. The pre-eminent Sunni collections are those of Bukhari and Muslim. As well as the sayings of Mohammed the Hadith also include records of many of his actions such as washing, bathing, praying etc. and in addition they further contain some sayings (not many as a proportion) ascribed to Mohammed’s “Sahaba” (that is “companions”). Thus the description of the Ahadith as “Mohammed’s sayings” is somewhat inaccurate – or at least incomplete.

  2. There is considerable debate within Muslim circles as to whether or not Mohammed was illiterate. That argument is well beyond the scope of this article, but my own preference on the balance of such argument is that Mohammed was told to “recite” (since he himself did not write the Koran down) and his response was, in effect, “I’m not a man of letters”. This fits with the fact that pre-Islamic Arab society apotheosised Poets and thus a man who was not a poet would consider himself “unlettered” in the sense that he was not well-educated in poetic composition – indeed part of Mohammed’s fear may have been of the reception of what he had to “recite” by a highly critical Arab audience. Alternatively, he may have meant that he was not “good” at reading and writing – hence his use of scribes to record the ‘revelations’. Either way, on balance I think that the evidence points to Mohammed not being illiterate as such, but literate to a low standard.

  3. Note that Sura (“chapter”) 96 has a total of 19 verses. Thus Mohammed’s first ‘revelation’ was but part of a single Sura.

  4. Although the Islamic narrative is that is was Jibreel (Gabriel) who gave Mohammed the revelations (see K.81:19), this is problematic due to the “satanic verses” that were revealed to Mohammed. In this case at least we have to assume that Mohammed did not realise that Satan was reciting verses to him, not Gabriel – which is suspicious to say the least.

  5. Some Muslim sources insist that the whole Koran was written down in Mohammed’s time. However, this flies in the face of the fact (recorded in the Ahadith) that the prime reason that Abu Bakr compiled the Koran was due to the fear that parts of it were (at risk of) being lost as members of the Sahaba died in battle. This worry would simply never have arisen if the Koran was already known to be compiled in written form. Further, other Ahadith refer to various “lost” verses (e.g. “the verse of stoning” with reference to stoning adulterers to death), this again shows that the Koran was not compiled in Mohammed’s lifetime.

  6. The “chain of narration” is a vital part of Hadith classification. Traditionally, a Hadith can only begin to be considered as “true” (Sahih) if it’s Sanad is unimpeachable.

  7. Islamic mythology says that there are 100 names, the hundredth of which is known only to the Camel – hence it’s superior expression. This idea of other names is supported in that if you compare various compilers’ lists of the “beautiful names” you will find that they (sometimes) differ. Put another way, Muslims can’t fully agree on what “beautiful names” actually belong to Allah and which ones don’t – for whatever reason. A compilation of all the names attributed to Allah by various scholars exceeds 200.

  8. I’m deliberately overlooking those verses that refer to Allah being the best deceiver (or in other translations: schemer, plotter, deviser, planner). These words are derived from “mkr” which means deceit. On this point apologetics usually follows the line exemplified here: IslamQ&A says “Plotting against, betraying and mocking the enemy are attributes of perfection [and thus belong to Allah], because that is indicative of complete knowledge, power and might, and so on … plotting in the right circumstances may be something praiseworthy that points to the strength of the plotter, and that he is superior to his enemy.” Thus IslamQ&A admits that Allah is a deceiver, but “spins” this to try to make it a positive attribute. One is led to wonder how IslamQ&A would consider non-Muslims (or their Deities) deceiving Muslims. Would that be equally positive?

  9. For example: how Mohammed’s heart was “cleansed” – not once but twice, or how he gained and maintained the reputation for honesty and integrity. So say the Islamic sources.

  10. Quite how this squares with the Doctrine of Abrogation I could not say: 2:106 “We do not abrogate any of Our verses (of the Qur’an) or cause it to be forgotten except that We substitute it with something better or similar; don’t you know that Allah has full power over everything?”, 13:39 “Allah doth blot out or confirm what He pleaseth: with Him is the Mother [or essence/basis] of the Book.” and 16:101 “And when We change a Verse in place of another (and Allah knows the best of what He sends down) they [the non-believers] say: ‘You [Mohammed] are but a Muftari! [forger, liar].’ Nay, but most of them know not.” A hadith records: “Abdullah bin Masud said “Muhammad taught me a verse and I got it by heart and wrote it in my book. When I returned to my place I could not remember anything of it. Next morning when I opened my book, I found the page, on which it was written, white. I reported the matter to Muhammad. He said to me. “O Ibn Masud that verse has been taken up (back to God) yesterday.”” There are also hadith that show that Mohammed forgot verses of the Koran, but was reminded of them when he heard another recite them. Again, we will neglect this issue.

  11. Ironically, the Hadith give us evidence that precisely this happened and on occasion with Mohammed’s approval. For instance: from the book Usûd Ulghâbah fi Ma’rifat Is-Sahâbah by Ibn al-Athîr, in the entry concerning Abdullâh Ibn Sâd Ibn Abî Sarh we find the following: “He converted to Islam before the conquest of Mecca and immigrated to the Prophet [i.e. in Medina]. He used to record the revelation for the Prophet before he apostatized and went back to Mecca. Then he told Quraysh: ‘I used to orient Muhammad wherever I willed, he dictated to me “All-Powerful All-Wise” and I suggest “All Knowing All-Wise” so he would say: “Yes, it is all the same.” Here we see Mohammed agreeing to changes in Allah’s words and it was that which caused Sarh to apostatise since he felt that if Mohammed’s ‘revelation’ truly was from God, then it should be unchangeable (curiously, the Muslim position on this issue!). This account is disputed on the grounds of the times of Sarh’s conversion to Islam being after the revelation of the verse. But this does not negate the point because, according to tradition, Mohammed used to repeatedly recite the Koran so Sahr may have written it down at a later (possibly private) recitation.

  12. This is a reference to the Koran being preserved in heaven (85:21-22) and/or a reference to the Koran’s preservation on Earth.

  13. I suppose it would be churlish of me to point out that had the Muslims not embarked on serial and parallel wars of conquest, they could have accomplished this at their leisure.

  14. It is important to remember that during this period written Arabic was a defective script, without vowel pointing or diacritical marks. This meant that words themselves were often ambiguous, requiring the use of context to sort them out. Muslims will tell you that the argument was about dialect, but this doesn’t make much sense because, around that time, there were seven “accepted” modes of recitation (i.e. seven “dialects” were accommodated), hence we may deduce that, as one author puts it, the dispute was about the reading (i.e. the words themselves) of the Koran. Given the defective nature of Arabic, this makes sense. Can you puzzle out this sentence, done 7th century Arabic style? “Nd th prpht sd “Sd ths fr a lrk, ths scrpt is prblmtc, hw t tll th dffrnc btwn ft nd ft!” Up to “ft nd ft” probably, but think how many words are circumscribed by “ft”. But Uthman’s Koran didn’t solve this problem (the script was defective!), so in fact there must have been differences in the consonants as well. Thus “Allah’s words” differed between the collections (this is not necessarily to say that the meanings were different – one may substitute different words with the same, or similar, meaning) though given the problems of the script it is pretty much inevitable that actual changes in meaning occurred. Of course, the Muslim response would be that Allah guided Zaid ibn Thabit (the actual compiler of Uthman’s Koran) and made sure he got it right…

  15. Given that Uthman started the practice of Koran-burning, one is forced to wonder why Muslims find it so objectionable. That said, it should be remembered that Uthman (like Umar before him and Ali after him) was murdered by Muslims. Uthman did not even receive a Muslim burial, being buried, unwashed, in a Jewish cemetery.

  16. This verse (K.5:3) which Muslims often quote to show that Islam is the “perfect religion” actually falsifies itself (and thus the Koran). It states that “…This day I have perfected your religion…”. Sura 5 is a late Medinan Sura, but it is not the last Sura revealed (according to some Muslim Sura chronologies) during Mohammed’s life (so one might ask “why does the now perfect need additions?”) and v.3 certainly isn’t the last verse revealed (Sura 5 is 200 verses long), nor does it take account of the differences that crept into the Koran text prior to Uthman’s recension which re-standardised the text. Thus Allah says something in this verse that simply cannot be true at the time of it’s ‘revelation’.

  17. As the observant reader will be aware the arguments I have presented depend on a priori “reasoning”. I remind the reader I am arguing from the Islamic perspective and ultimately a lot of such “Islamic arguments” boil down to “the Koran says xxxx, so it must be true”.

  18. “Fitnah” is sometimes translated as “mischief”or “discord”. But in reality it’s breadth is greater in that it encompasses a range of actions that “disturb the peace” of the Umma from outright treason to criticising Islam. In particular “fitnah” is often associated with “Shirk” – the association of others with Allah (or the replacement of Allah by another). From shirk we get “Mushrik” – an “associator”, ultimately one of the labels bestowed on all non-Muslims by the Koran.

  19. This is a curious statement in that Allah is implying that these “ambiguous” verses are in the Koran to lead people astray. Muslims will riposte that those are “people with diseased hearts”, true; but isn’t it the job of God and His Prophets to guide people to “The Truth”? Secondly, how do you square Allah as “The Truth” with this somewhat deceptive practice? And third, if people are “diseased” spiritually should they not be succoured rather than suckered?

  20. Thus the Koran can’t decide if it is “clear verses”, a mix or all “ambiguous” verses. See also note 17.

  21. To be fussy, it’s “Mutashabih-ijmal” – a general statement without mentioning the necessary specific details (in this case, who the messenger is). The second type is “al-Ishtirak al-Lafdhi” which is where a word (or verse) has two (or more) meanings, either/or in the literal sense or in the sense of a literal meaning and a simile/parable etc. meaning. Sometimes the ambiguity comes about as a result of where you put the punctuation. Ironically, this is neatly demonstrated in K.3:7 where, if we punctuate as I have (which is the logical way given the Arabic “wa” = “and”) we get “… hidden meanings save Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge. Say…”; but some translations punctuate is as: “… hidden meanings save Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say…” which substantially changes the meaning. (This latter punctuation is inconsistent since the Koran contains many commands to Mohammed to “Say…”, so it’s use is theologically, not textually, driven.)

  22. As might be expected, the determination of Muhkam and Mutashabih verses is a ‘science’ in itself that is hotly contested within Islam, with different and contradictory views being held.

  23. In practice (most) Islamic scholars acknowledge three kinds of verses: (1)-“Muhkam Ayah”, Unambiguous ( “clear”) or “perfected” verses; (2)-“Mutashabih Ayah”, Verses that can have many meanings, or are similes or parables and (3)-abrogated verses (notwithstanding the purported “perfection” of the Koran). Some Islamic Authorities state that the Koran is completely “Muhkam”, claiming that “Mutashabih” verses are similar / parallel to other verses and that abrogation does not exist. This is not entirely untenable since there is much repetition within the Koran (parallel verses or similar) and abrogated verses can usually be re-interpreted according to other verses, but it is a weak position in that it ignores (or disagrees with) verses of the Koran that state that abrogation occurred and the fact that “the verse of stoning” isn’t in the Koran, though the law it brings in is upheld in Shari’ah, thus the effect of the verse remains.

  24. One of the ironies of Islam is that the Koran which claims clarity of message for itself spawned such a massive industry in “Tafseers” and interpretation. A further irony is that no interpreter will claim to know the correct interpretation: they always conclude with “and Allah knows best”. Whilst this may be just a pietistic phrase, one can’t help but wonder if they really mean “well, this is what I/we think, but god alone knows what it really means”. So much for “clear guidance”!

  25. I should add a caveat here. For instance K.3:26 speaks of Allah’s hand: “In Your Hand is the good.” There is nothing ambiguous in the language here. However, Islamic Theology would generally deny that Allah has “hands” in the human sense (Salafi scholars might disagree), therefore, although the sentence is “muhkam” linguistically, the meaning of “hands” is either allegorical or esoteric, thus it’s meaning could be termed “muttashabih” since Allah does not tell us what his “hands” are like. This points up the sort of difficulties that arise in deciding what is “muhkam” and what is “muttashabih”, never mind what the “muttashabih” verse/words mean.

  26. I’m sure we can all think of many errors in the Koran, but listing them falls outside the purview of this article. However, the point here is that since Muhkam verses mean what they say, you can’t “explain them away” through apologetic gymnastics. To do so means that you are tampering with the “heart of the book” in a most egregious way and so such gymnastics are most un-Islamic.

  27. I use this term to mean “a Muslim who believes (and seeks to implement) what his/her canon of scripture say and teach”.

  28. One may – and Muslims do – argue about what verses are abrogated and which are abrogating etc., but the principle cannot be denied. Inevitably, abrogation is a moderately complex issue, however for our purposes it is sufficient to note that, in general, when two verses conflict the new(er) verse abrogates the old(er). Of course, this merely opens another can of worms, since the Koran isn’t arranged chronologically, but (roughly) according to length of Sura and (just to make matters worse) it has been shown that in some of the longer Suras, different verses (probably) date to different times. Thus “just” working out which are the newer and older verses relatively speaking is a somewhat speculative process.

  29. I realise that this reads oddly given the near-deification accorded to Mohammed and the extreme violence with which so many Muslims react to an ‘insult’ to Mohammed. But perhaps it is those Muslims who don’t react this way who aren’t “real Muslims”- i.e. orthodox Muslims at all.

  30. K.4:80. “He who obeys the Messenger (Muhammad SAW), has indeed obeyed Allah…”

  31. Fortunately this has been done by the eminent Tafseer and Shari’ah writers of antiquity, so there is no need to re-interpret the Koran today. Hence the closing of the door to (Sunni) Ijtihad.

  32. With apologies to Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Robert Bolt, John Wyndham and John Steinbeck for borrowing or bastardising quotes and/or titles.

  33. At-Tabari, Al-Qutubi, Ibn Kathir and the major “canonical” hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim for example.

  34. This is Islam’s unforgivable sin: the association of anyone/thing with Allah. I should note that Atheism and agnosticism would be regarded as Shirk as well.

  35. The substitution of the word “mankind” for “world” and “life” for “soul”. The Koranic “mischief” part seems to be a gloss inserted to make it possible to excuse the killing of people for a variety of reasons covered by “mischief” [fitnah] which basically means anything that upsets the tranquillity of the Muslims. Also: Some Muslim writers attempt to argue that since the Koran “universalises” the Mishna – by omitting the two words “from Israel” that makes it an “original” statement. However, to do so ignores the start of the Koran verse: “ordained for the children of Israel” which shows this Koran verse is either specific to the Jews or originally revealed to them – which it was not.

  36. Examples would include multiple wives, sex with minors and slave trading to name but three.

  37. To be fair I should point out 35:45 (Hilali-Khan): “And if Allah were to punish men for that which they earned, He would not leave a moving (living) creature on the surface of the earth, but He gives them respite to an appointed term, and when their term comes, then verily, Allah is Ever All-Seer of His slaves.” (See also 16:16) This vaguely threatening verse states that all men – thus including Mohammed – deserve death. The “respite” mentioned means that Allah “holds off his hand” (so to speak) until either death or judgement day, what happens then, note, is not mentioned here!

  38. These verses fall in Sura 53. The original text (53:19-22) reads: “Have ye thought upon al-Lat and al-Uzza And Manat, the third, the other? These are the gharanaq (intermediaries) Whose intercession is to be hoped for.” After Gabriel “corrected” the text it reads: “Have ye thought upon al-Lat and al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other. Are yours the males and His the females? That indeed were an unfair division!” Thus making a “joke” out of the idea of goddesses.

  39. The “Satanic verses” in Sura 53 were ‘revealed’ in Mohammed’s fifth year of ministry in Mecca, 618 A.D., Allah’s rebuke (Sura 17) in 621 A.D. in Mecca, but Allah’s “explanation” comes in Sura 22 ‘revealed’ in Medina (more precisely those verses after v.40 are generally considered “Medinan”) in 623 A.D. Thus these verses apparently span five years with two year gaps between the parts. This is highly unlikely and consequently what we most likely have here is evidence of verses all dating from ~618 appearing in Suras generally dated up to five years later, thus demonstrating the chronological dis-arrangement of the Koran-text not merely Sura-by-Sura, but also within Suras. This makes any dating of verses within Suras (except, perhaps, for short mono-themed Suras) a speculative enterprise. Somewhat simply: What is normally done is to try to associate verses within a Sura with known historical events (thus providing a date) and to assume that all the verses in a Sura were ‘revealed’ at (approximately) the same time. As the above shows, this is not necessarily justified and all that can really be done with any certainty is to date various passages within Suras.

  40. This is an odd (though not perhaps unexpected) statement. Elsewhere in the Koran “Allah’s messengers” are primarily identified as the Biblical prophets. Needless to say, such an event (Satan inserting his words for God’s) is not recorded in the Bible.

  41. The irony here is that the “Satanic verses” were (initially) more of a trial for Mohammed’s followers who basically asked “what’s the point of this Islam if we still have to believe in the Meccan Goddesses?” Once the change occurs, then the shift from conciliation to insult does become a “trial” for the Quraish who were upset by Mohammed’s recidivism.

  42. An alternative translation of this verse is “…from before it or behind it…” This version is understood to mean “before” = previous revelations and “behind” = later revelations. The problem with this interpretation is that Islam denies that there can be any later revelations which makes something of a nonsense of the verse. To be fair I should add that some exegetes refer to the “period of revelation” as being neither “before” nor “after” the Koran – thus implicitly saying that the Koran text was fluid during the period of ‘revelation’ (and, presumably, up to the Uthmanic recension).

  43. Perhaps he’d run out of meteors K.15:18, 37:10, 72:8-9.

  44. If anyone cares: I think the Koran speaks of a flat earth a la “Discworld” of T. Pratchett, but we know (unlike the odd – in more senses than one – Saudi Sheikh) that the earth is a very slightly oblated sphere.

  45. If you really want to know about the “dahaha” argument – go online.

  46. Of course we have to simply ignore all the other verses that say/mean flat – unless we are expected to believe that Arabs sat on spherical carpets and slept in spherical beds that is and the fact that no earlier translators (pre-late 20th century) or authoritative Tafseer writers even noticed this egg ‘meaning’.

  47. The “dar-ul-Islam” literally means “the house of Islam” thus “Islamic world”. “Dar-ul-Harb” literally means “house of war”. Since the “house of war” is not the Islamic world, we may render this as “non-Islamic world”.

  48. In the last few years there have been a whole string of Islamic terror attacks in Europe and elsewhere.

  49. In essence Takfir is the sin of calling a Muslim an “apostate” or a “Non-Muslim”. In Shari’ah you need a very good reason indeed to “excommunicate” a Muslim.

  50. Yes there really are some. They are early Meccan verses by and large.

  51. If that sounds contradictory, don’t blame me, I’m not responsible for irrational positions taken by Muslims.

  52. Amusingly I’ve seen Muslim apologists use both arguments (3) and (4) in the same “rebuttal” piece – which is really ironic.

  53. I’ve written about this argument in “Jihad – the four forms and the West”.

  54. I should add that there is one argument that does resolve this dilemma, but it is one that you will hardly ever hear spoken of in the West. Islam is (supposed to be) at peace when it controls a region and it regards war – in all its manifestations – as a legitimate tool to achieving this goal. Thus, by this rationale, a suicide bomber jihadi can be a “seeker after peace” if his/her actions promote (at least in his/her own mind) the goal of Islamic control. Thus we find an Orwellian “war is peace” type of attitude. This is partially undermined by the violence within the Dar-ul-Islam; but here sectarianism is usually to blame in that the various groups believe that only their version of Islam is the “real Islam” and until everybody is under it’s sway the struggle must continue. This is usually combined with Takfir against their opponents (declaring or considering them as “non-Muslim” in some way).

  55. Arabic starts out as tri-consonantal groupings. To these are added prefixes, suffixes and a variety of vowelisations in order to change the meanings of the word. Thus “SLM” for instance gives us “SaLaaM” (peace),“iSLaM” (submission), “muSLiM” (one who has submitted), “SaLiM” (whole/complete), “muSaLlaM” (undisputed). But the polemicist who uses these techniques might say that since “musallam” and “salaam” come from the same root, that in Sura x, verse y, musallam really means peace to Muslims – if it furthered his argument.

  1. Let me say that most “value systems” have their illogical and/or inconsistent elements, but Islam has a particular problem here since it and thus it’s value system must be inerrant. I can hardly stress this enough: since Islam insists that the Koran is the literal word of a god who is all-knowing and The Truth, then it can contain no errors of any sort. If an error is found this means that either the god of the Koran is a liar since he knows this isn’t the truth, or it means he isn’t all-knowing which also means he is a liar since he says he is all knowing. Thus one error in the Koran causes it to falsify itself and the Muslim deity.

Jon MC

Jon MC is a retired Chemist, Physicist and teacher (not necessarily in that order) who still has professional commitments. His interest in Islam was kindled when he met some "radical Muslims up close and personal" and he has studied the foundational texts of Islam ever since. He writes under a nomme de plume in order to keep his professional life and views separate.

2 Responses

  1. Walter Sieruk says:

    Another problem of the Koran , or better said “With the Koran” is that it’s a false religious book. a clever counterfeit of the Christian gospel . This statement may be further explained by the following essay.

    For a more full understanding of the actual nature of the Quran. Others call it, the Koran a person need to look back in time before the coming of Muhammad and then the Koran. Back to the First Century AD which was the time of early Christian church. For the Early Christian Church had and now in modern times the Christian church still has the Gospel of Christ, First Corinthians 15:1-4. Much later, in time, came Muhammad and he gave much information, that many believe to be divine, some of which is said to have been obtained from an angle from heaven. This information was written down on different objects and things Those written words in different objects was then compiled together and then eventually went into the composition of what is now called the Koran, As some also call it the Qur’an. The Koran is actually, that is in reality, another gospel, apart and greatly different from the Gospel of the Christian Church. Such a thing was predicted in the Bible. For the Bible does warn about those who will come and offer to people another gospel other than the one shown above, First Corinthians 15:1-4. For it is warned about any other “gospel” in the Bible. For it is written in the Bible “Though we or an angle from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so I say now again, if any man preaches any other gospel unto you than ye have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8, 9. [K.J.V.] Therefore, the Koran is the result of the deception of a false prophet, Mathew 7:15., who may have come in contact with a fallen angle, a demon, So the imams and mullahs who preach it a truth to other are accused of and by God.

  2. Георгий says:

    Superbly written. Thank you

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