This is a guest post by J J Muhammed
Last Sunday, the BBC hosted an edition of The Big Questions that examined arguments for and against the existence of God. Being an agnostic myself, I found the arguments presented by the ‘for’ side extremely weak and self-contradictory. Even more off-putting was the arrogant and smug manner in which certain individuals presented their arguments, especially the Middle Eastern sounding Muslim chap and Adam Deen. Both of these individuals touched upon the oft-repeated fallacy that the Quran must be the word of God since it contains no errors.
This is a very popular argument used by Muslim preachers who generally rely on audience’s ignorance of the Quran to win the argument. They also have a natural advantage in that people are fearful of criticising Islam and are therefore often reluctant to enter into the debate. It is also an argument that I often made when I was a young Muslim and am therefore very familiar with it.
It is, however, deeply flawed. The Quran not only contains many scientific and historical errors, there is also strong evidence to suggest that it was been changed, altered and authored by more than one source.
Most Muslims when faced with these contradictions will seek out an apologists attempt to answer them. They will post a link to said apologist and say ‘see, these have been dealt with’. What they won’t do is ask themselves, ‘how credible are these explanations’? Technically any contradiction is any ancient book from the Middle East can be explained away through the use or creative language interpretation, metaphors and other sophisms. But these explanations are rarely credible or convincing to the neutral observer yet appease believers due to their confirmation bias.
Some of these explanations rely on logic such as given in this example. If you were told ‘go to your home’, you would most likely interpret that as meaning going to your physical address where you reside. However, the word ‘home’ could also refer to a safe place and it could refer to somewhere you feel comfortable. Yet no sensible person would interpret ‘go to your home’ as meaning find a safe place or go to somewhere where you feel comfortable. Now that is the kind of fanciful interpretation words and phrases in the Quran are given by Muslim apologists who deploy mind-bending logic to preserve their holy book.
In the interests of time and your patience, I will limit myself to providing four such Quranic contradictions. I have heard Muslim attempts to explain away all of the below contradictions on numerous occasions, yet most of their explanations are so ridiculous that they don’t even deserve referencing.
The Quran states:
The Jews call Ezra a son of God, and the Christians call the Christ a son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. God’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!
Putting aside the harsh and uncouth tone of the above verse, the content is simply incorrect. No Jews have ever claimed that Ezra was the son of God. You will not be able to find a single document or Jewish reference that makes this claim. Even if there was an obscure and minority sect in 7th century Arabia that did make this bizarre claim, it is hardly accurate to call them ‘the Jews’ without further clarification. That is a bit like saying ‘The Muslims believe that Ghulam Mirza Ahmed was a Messiah’. If someone made that statement, Muslims would be the first to challenge it and quite rightly so.
The Quran States:
So let man consider from what he is created. He is created from a gushing fluid that issued from between the loins and ribs. (Quran: 86, 5-7)
The gushing fluid, semen, is not issued from between the loins and the ribs. It is created in the testicles and issues from the tip of the penis. There have been many Muslim attempts to re-interpret this verse in light of modern science. Most of these attempt to provide creative interpretations for the words ‘Sulb’ (backbone) and ‘Tara’ib’ (ribs). Apologists claim that sulb refers to the erect penis whilst Tara’ib refers to the sexual areas of a woman. However, you will never find these words being give those interpretations in any credible Arabic dictionary and there are no other examples in Islamic sources of these words being used to mean sexual areas of the man or woman.
Futhermore, all Tafsirs (commentaries) from Ibn Kathir onwards have interpreted sulb and Tara’ib as meaning ribs and backbone. Alternative interpretations have only been advanced very recently when this contradiction was pointed out. Whatever, you make of this mess, pardon the pun, you can’t disagree that the Quran is anything but vague, misleading, opaque and thus a poor guide or reference.
The Quran states:
Allah is He who raised the heavens without any pillars that you can see; is firmly established on the throne; He has subjected the sun and the moon! Each one runs for a term appointed. He regulates the matter, explaining the signs in detail, so you can be certain of meeting with your Lord. (Quran 13:2)
Don’t you see that Allah merges night into day and he merges day into night and he has subjected the sun, and the moon each running its course for a term appointed. And Allah is aware of what you do. (Quran 31:29)
Every single tafsir (commentary) of the Quran written prior to the 20th century also supports this view, as did almost all Muslim scientists of all the past. In fact even some Muslims defend this view today along with many who still believe the earth is flat, since that what the Quran suggests in many verses.
Modern apologists have claimed that the since the Sun does actually have an orbit around the Milky Way, the verse is technically correct. However, this far-fetched interpretation fails to take into account the fact that the sun’s orbit takes roughly 226 Million years. In the verse, God is supposed trying to convince mankind of his majesty and asking them ‘don’t you see’ and referring to clearly observable phenomenon. The orbit of the sun is not observable by humans and therefore this explanation makes absolutely no sense unless you are a believer who is desperate to find any explanation.
The Quran states:
And of every thing We have created pairs: That ye may receive instruction. (Quran: 51:49)
Not every creature procreates or reproduces through male and female sexual relationship. The whiptail lizard in the U.S. Southwest, Mexico, and South America consists only of females who reproduce by parthenogenesis. The Qur’anic Allah does not know anything about the biological process by which new individual organisms are produced. Today we know you can find an organism which creates a genetically-similar or identical copy of itself without a contribution of genetic material from another individual. There are also hermaphrodites.
So there you have it. There are of course, many other such contradictions but the above should suffice to bury the claim that the Quran is inimitable.