Though Muslims often argue for the divine origin of the Qur’an on grounds that  “no error, alteration, or variation” has touched its copies since its inception,  such a view does not accurately represent the facts. While it is indeed correct  to say that the Qur’an of today is a nearly perfect copy of its seventh-century  counterpart, the notion that these copies reflect the exact words as handed down  by Muhammad is becoming increasingly problematic.

Historical sources  prove that there were several different texts circulating in Syria, Iraq and  Armenia prior to the final revision produced by Uthman. Zaid, Muhammad’s  long-time secretary, was called in by Uthman to oversee the final and definitive  authorized version of the Qur’an. All other copies of the Qur’an were then  burned so that there could be no challenge to the authorized text. It remains to  be answered why Uthman would have had to produce an authorized version of the  Qur’an, if indeed the Qur’an had been perfectly preserved from the  beginning!

To quote Alfred Guillaume, one of the best-known non-Muslim  scholars on Islam:

“Only the men of Kufa refused the new edition, and  their version was certainly extant as late as A.D. 1000. Uthman’s edition to  this day remains the authoritative word of God to Muslims. Nevertheless, even  now variant readings, involving not only different readings of the vowels but  also occasionally a different consonantal text, are recognized as of equal  authority one with another!”

When one compares the different transmitted  versions of the Qur’an, it becomes evident that there are, in fact, variants  among them. While these variants usually involve differences in individual  letters, vowels or diacritical marks, the Muslim claim of perfect unity in the  copies of the Qur’an is incorrect.

Moreover, since part of the Islamic  claim is that God has been giving revelations to mankind throughout history,  including the Psalms of David and the four Gospels, one wonders why it is  claimed that Allah miraculously preserved the Qur’an in infallible copies,  whereas Allah was apparently singularly incapable of accomplishing the same feat  with the previous revelations.

Let us weigh the validity of the claim at  hand. Just how excellent is the literary quality? In his book, Jesus Among  Other Gods, well-known Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias  argues:

“Let us consider just one troublesome aspect, the grammatical  flaws that have been demonstrated. Ali Dashti, an Iranian author and a committed  Muslim, commented that the errors in the Qur’an were so many that the  grammatical rules had to be altered in order to fit the claim that the Qur’an  was flawless. He gives numerous examples of these in his book, Twenty-three  years: The Life of the Prophet Mohammed. (The only precaution he took before  publishing this book was to direct that it be published  posthumously.)”

In the book which Zacharias cites above, Dashti  writes:

“The Qur’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 concord of gender and number; illogical and  ungrammatically applied pronouns 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 Qur’an’s eloquence…To sum up, more than 100 Qur’anic  aberrations from the normal rules and structure of Arabic have been  noted.”

Are there errors in the Qur’an? – What about fulfilled  prophecy?
Islamic apologists make the claim that the Qur’an  predicts Muslims would be victorious at home and abroad (Surah 30:1-5). But this  can hardly be utilized as an argument for a divine origin. The prediction that  Muslims would be militarily victorious (especially when one considers Muhammad’s  overwhelming military force) is not very impressive.

Not only is the  time between these predictions and their subsequent fulfillment almost nil, but  some argue the prediction of Islamic victory is better understood as a  pre-battle victory speech from Muhammad to boost the morale of his  troops.

Islamic prophecy does not even come close to the level of the  prophecies in the Bible, many of which were written hundreds of years in  advance, such as the prediction that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

Are there errors in the  Qur’an? – What about scientific insights?
In A Brief Illustrated  Guide to Understanding Islam, Islamic apologist I. A. Ibrahim  argues:

“The Qur’an, which was revealed fourteen centuries ago, mentioned  facts only recently discovered or proven by scientists. This proves without  doubt that the Qur’an must be the literal word of God, revealed by him to the  Prophet Muhammad, and that the Qur’an was not authored by Muhammad or by any  other human being.”

How valid is this claim? First, conformity to science  is not proof of divine inspiration. As modern scientists will admit, scientific  models are constantly changing, so they are not an absolute gauge for what is  true or false. Second, there are some highly suspect scientific statements in  the Qur’an which are ignored by modern Islamic apologists. For example, Surah  23:14 makes the claim that human beings are formed from a clot of blood. Surah  18:86 claims that the sun sets in a spring of murky water. Clearly, even if the  claims with respect to scientific insights were valid, the above statements  would immediately falsify any such notion of divine  inspiration.

Are there errors in the Qur’an? – Are there  historical inaccuracies?
While the list of historical inaccuracies  and anachronisms is vast, one has been selected for discussion here. Surah 20  relays the incident of the golden calf. In Surah 20:85-88, 95 we  read:

“He [Allah] said, ‘We have tempted thy people since thou didist  leave them. The Samaratin has led them into error.’ Then Moses returned…and we  cast them [(gold) ornaments], as the Samaritan also threw them, into the fire.’  (Then he brought out for them a Calf, a mere body that lowed; and they said,  ‘This is your god, and the god of Moses, whom he has forgotten.’)…Moses said,  ‘And thou, Samaritan, what was thy business?’”

Now, let us consider this  for just a moment. How can a Samaritan have led the Israelites astray at the  time of Moses (approx 1400 B.C.) when the city of Samaria was founded by King  Omri about 870 B.C.? The Samaritans did not exist until after the exile of the  Northern Kingdom of Israel and the resettlement of the area under King Sargon II  in 722 B.C. with non-Israelites who then adopted a syncretism (mixture) between  the religion of the Jews and their own polytheistic background. The Samaritans  did not exist until 530 years after Moses. By this mistake alone, the Qur’an can  be rendered unreliable and certainly not an inerrant work of  God.

Are there errors in the Qur’an? – Conclusion
Having outlined just a handful of many problems and difficulties pertaining to  the Qur’an as a divinely inspired work, we are all but forced to reject the  Islamic claim that the Qur’an represents an error-free word of God to humanity.  When a similar standard is applied to the Bible, the result is self-vindicating,  for the Bible emerges flawless.

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