Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Qur'an is facing a blistering attack from contemporary scholarship


Muslims are quick to criticise the Bible’s authenticity and authority; and make the most of the writings of liberal Christian scholars in doing so. But what of their own scriptures? The Qur’an has, in the past, been protected by a kind of doctrinal embargo - but now its historicity, claimed inimitability and historical accuracy are facing a blistering attack from contemporary scholarship.

Missing Manuscripts

According to Muslim tradition the Qur’an was received by Muhammad between AD 610 and 632, recorded by his companions, collected by Zaid-Ibn-Thabit, standardised by Uthman the third Caliph, and then distributed to Baghdad, Medina, Basra, Kufa and Damascus in AD 646-650.

Where then are the original manuscripts? The Qur’anic manuscripts Muslims regard as their earliest; the Topkapi manuscript in Istanbul, Turkey, and the Samarkand manuscript in the Soviet State Library in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, bear the marks of a date of authorship of ~AD 850. They are written in a form of Kufic script which arose in the Abbasid period (~AD 750-850) and are adorned with 9th century embellishments.

The oldest Qur’an, according to forensic dating, is in the British Library. It dates to around AD 790; almost 150 years after Muhammad’s death.

Muslims defend their inability to produce early manuscripts by saying that the Qur’an was originally passed down orally and that early copies have disintegrated. But Muslim tradition itself tells us that the Qur’an was written down 20 years after Muhammad died and we have other Arab literature that has survived from the 7th century. We know that there were secretaries during the Ummayad Dynasty (AD 660-750) and that Muhammad himself worked on a caravan where written records of transactions would have been kept.

The defence of disintegration can be applied to the early New Testament documents which were written on papyrus. However the earliest Qur’ans were written on parchment, a far more robust material. Many of the early Christian parchment manuscripts (such as the Codex Vaticanus, Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Sinaiticus) have been preserved in extremely good condition despite predating the Qur’an by several centuries.

The missing manuscripts are a huge embarrassment to Islam and raise serious questions about whether what Muslims now have are accurate copies of the original. Some scholars are proposing that the Qur’anic text was not standardised until the Abbasid period (AD 750).

Imitable Style

The Qur’an bases its claim of divine authorship on its supposed inimitability. Christians who question the book’s origin are challenged to ‘Bring then a Sura (chapter) like unto it’ (Sura 10:38). The Qur’an’s literary beauty is supposed to prove that it could not have been ‘produced by other than Allah’ (S 10:37).

But is the Qur’an beautiful? Many genuine seekers find its haphazard arrangement, jumbled chronology and endless repetition an insurmountable obstacle. Muslims usually object that the real beauty can only be appreciated in Arabic; and yet great works of literature like Solzenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago and the Hebrew Psalms retain their beauty in English translation. (If in doubt compare Psalm 23 and Sura 109 in English translation and judge for yourself).

Even if we give the Qur’an the benefit of the doubt, is beauty proof of divine origin? Many people would agree that Shakespeare’s plays, Hopkins’ poetry and Vivaldi’s music are magnificent. Indeed, they may lead us to worship God as the giver of such creative talent, but we don’t therefore conclude that only God’s supernatural dictation could have produced these works of art.

In any case, beauty is to some extent subjective an the final judges will always be Muslims, duty-bound to reject any challenge out of hand.

Gerhard Nehls has produced an impressive list of ‘beautiful suras’ in English in his book Christians ask Muslims as noted in the last issue of Isa Masih. A selection of Arabic suras was recently removed from the internet after America On Line faced a barrage of Muslim protests.

Borrowed Stories

Those reading the Qur’an for the first time cannot help but be struck by the number of stories about biblical characters which do not tally with what we know from other historical sources. The usual Muslim defence is to say that the Bible has been changed [but see article on 'Your Bible has been corrupted'- Ed]. However, now we are beginning to identify the real sources for the Qur’an’s mythology.

The account of a raven showing Cain how to hide his brother’s body (S 5:30-32) has its origins in the Targum of Jonathan-ben-Uzziah, the Targum of Jerusalem and the Pirke-Rabbi Eleazar; all apocryphal Jewish writings from the Talmud dating from AD 150-200.

The story of Abraham breaking the idols (S 21:51-71) comes from a set of second century Jewish folktales called theMidrash Rabbah; and the bizarre account of the Queen of Sheba lifting her skirts to walk across a mirrored floor (S 27:44) is derived from a second century apocryphal document called the Targum of Esther.

Equally strange stories from the childhood of Jesus, such as his making real pigeons from clay (S 3:49), and speaking from the cradle (S 19:29-33) originate in the History of Nativity, the First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ andThomas’ Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ, further fanciful fiction from the early Christian era.

Contradictions and Inaccuracies

The contradictions in the Qur’an are well recognised and have been extensively documented elsewhere.

But perhaps even more damaging to Islamic beliefs about the Qur’an are the factual errors that litter the text. Mary, rather than the Holy Spirit, is identified as the third person of the trinity in Sura 5:119. She is also called the sister of Aaron (Moses’ brother) despite the fact that the two lived 1,500 years apart in history (S 19:28).

We are told in Sura 20:85-87 that a Samaritan was responsible for casting the golden calf of the Exodus, when in fact the Samaritans did not come into existence until after the Jewish exile hundreds of years later. In a similar vein Haman (Esther’s Persian enemy) is identified as a servant of the Egyptian pharoah at the time of Moses.

Once we appreciate that the Bible was not available in Arabic until the mid eighth century, it becomes clear how such glaring fallacies may have found their way into the Qur’an through corrupted oral tradition and hearsay.

Conclusions

Could God really be responsible for a book for which there is so little early manuscript evidence and containing so many inaccuracies? Surely the evidence speaks for itself.

10 comments:

  1. You say 'blistering attack,' yet the bible is by no means perfect. I would argue that the same amount of criticism exists concerning the bible and that your article is biased by your unquestioning devotion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_consistency_of_the_Bible

    Just as you would shrug these off by pointing out previous explanations / rebuttals people have written, I'm sure devout muslims could do the same for the Qur'an.

    You believe with all your heart that Christianity is the one true religion. I wouldn't find it difficult to find a muslim who believes with all their heart that Islam is the one true religion. I could also do the same for a hindu, a buddist etc etc.......

    Who's right?

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    Replies
    1. Well clearly they can't all be right. The same criticisms cannot justifiably be leveled at the Bible - http://bit.ly/KweDmX

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    2. I agree with Peter. The claims of the Qu'ran and those of the Bible are very different. Even without reference to any divine inspiration, the story of how the Bible was compiled is no secret from an historical point of view and this does not embarrass Christians. And anyway, our view of Divine inspiration is not the mechanistic type of say Muslims or Mormons - human agency in the Bible's authorship sits very comfortably with our view of a God who communicates with us.

      It would also serve to find out what Christians themselves have thought about the Bible over the centuries, starting with some of the earliest Christians - St Origen might surprise you!

      And there's a bit of a red herring there at the end! It is of no matter how firmly one believes in one's position - what matters is the truth, and there is no other holy book that has had so much scholarship brought to bear upon it over the centuries. You can't say that about any other, but what we can say about the Bible is that what we have now is incredibly consistent with the earliest manuscripts we have.

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  2. Greetings Peter and all.
    I think there are specific reasons Mary was refered to as third of trinity. remember in religion and spirituality, a lot is about patterns and archetypes.
    Note: (Father, Son, Holy Spirit);(Joseph, Jesus, Mary); (Moses, Aaron ,Miriam); (a father, a son, a mother);
    so simple, always keep this in mind and a lot of supposed inconsistencies will be resolved.

    thanks, regards,
    Daniel Ofori-Dankwa, Ghana, oforidankwa@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. I’m really impressed together with your writing abilities and also with the structure on your blog. Is that this a paid subject or did you customize it yourself? Either way stay up the nice quality writing, it’s uncommon to see a nice blog like this one these days.

    Quran Teaching for Kids

    ReplyDelete
  4. You are an absolute idiot to claim you know the truth.
    The historical Samaritans living today base their name on the Hebrew word Sameri (also in Arabic a live language ) which means a Guard (Sameri=guard, Sameriyin (guards in Arabic) (Samerimim (guards in Ancient Hebrew ) this is transliterated into Samaritans in English language (the word Samaritan is not mentioned in the bible or Quran, but the word Sameri is mentioned in the bible and in Quran (literally)
    .Sameri word is mentioned in Bible (Deuteronomy , etc) more than ten times referring to the Guards Moses assigned to guard the mountain while he went up the mountains for forty days. The Sameri(s) (samerimim or sameryyin in the original language) their mission was to not allow any being from crossing the parameters of the mountain so they don't do sinful acts (like shitting for example ) causing trhe angel to leave and abort the critical misson of Moses.

    The current Samaritans insist that their name is derived non other from those Samaritans assigned by Moses (Guards ) but they are Guards of the word of god (bible) transcribing it without deviation or changing the words letters etc like the other Jews were doing, hence their name Samaritans).

    The word Sameri (Guard ) is derived from the ancient Hebrew/Arabic ) word Samara (meaning stuck in place, hence a guard) which is the contemporary Arabic word Mismar (nail) comes from (a nail is stuck in place , it does change place)
    The verb samara is 50000 years old.
    so any derivative of the word could not possibly be used in the first time in history when the Samaritan sect was established 750 BC, 50000 years after the invention of the word Samara. One of the derivatives of the root Samara was used was Samerta (Samaria) a city that was conquered in Samaria mountains in Palestine) in 1100 BC as mentioned in Bible kings books.
    So the word Sameri mentioned in the Quran is not derived from the Samaritans you idiot. It is been used for 50000 years, most notably the story of Moses assigning the Guards (Sameri(s) AKA Samaritans in English).
    he was the first to alter the bible wholesale)
    The current jews claim the Samaritan sect are decended from the kingdom of Samaria while trhe Samaritans deny that wholeheatedly and say they named themselved Samaritans based on the word Samer (Guard in Hebrew) which was used by Moses inj the bible and also in the Quran to refer to the same thing (the guards of the Mountains).
    the Samaritan sect base their name on the word Sameri ie Guardian in Ancient Hebrew and Arabic. The word Sameri (in Ancient Hebrew and Arabic was first conceived 10000 years ago even more 50000 years ago.
    Moses assigned Sameri(s) ie Guardians to guard the borders of the mountain while Moses went up the mountain for 40 days. The Sameri(s) ie Samaritans assigned by Moses guarded the borders. One of them a Sameri (a guardian ) ( a Samaritan ) was tempted by taking stuff from inside the guarded area where The Angel (or angles touched the ground ) and he used that to make the Golden Calf.

    The Jewish sect known as Samaritans claim they named themselves Sameri(s) (Samaritans in English ) based on the story of the Guards assigned by Moses. The Samaritans claim they are the guards (Sameris) of the word of God (ie the Bible) that they guarded it and protedcted it from alteration as the Rabbies were doing for 2600 years up till this minute.
    In Kings (bible) also it says that Joshua conquered Samera city 400 years years before king Omri of the Samaria Jewish kingdom is claimed to havew built the city of Samaria (his capital city ) not far from current day Samera (a Palestinian town on the mountains ). It is stated in Kings that Omri bought the hill from a non jewish man and named the hill Samera asfter the name of the son of the non jewish man (this is balony story , added by The Magi Ezra a non jew but Mendanai person who altered the bible.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You are an absolute idiot to claim you know the truth.
    The historical Samaritans living today base their name on the Hebrew word Sameri (also in Arabic a live language ) which means a Guard (Sameri=guard, Sameriyin (guards in Arabic) (Samerimim (guards in Ancient Hebrew ) this is transliterated into Samaritans in English language (the word Samaritan is not mentioned in the bible or Quran, but the word Sameri is mentioned in the bible and in Quran (literally)
    .Sameri word is mentioned in Bible (Deuteronomy , etc) more than ten times referring to the Guards Moses assigned to guard the mountain while he went up the mountains for forty days. The Sameri(s) (samerimim or sameryyin in the original language) their mission was to not allow any being from crossing the parameters of the mountain so they don't do sinful acts (like shitting for example ) causing trhe angel to leave and abort the critical misson of Moses.

    The current Samaritans insist that their name is derived non other from those Samaritans assigned by Moses (Guards ) but they are Guards of the word of god (bible) transcribing it without deviation or changing the words letters etc like the other Jews were doing, hence their name Samaritans).

    The word Sameri (Guard ) is derived from the ancient Hebrew/Arabic ) word Samara (meaning stuck in place, hence a guard) which is the contemporary Arabic word Mismar (nail) comes from (a nail is stuck in place , it does change place)
    The verb samara is 50000 years old.
    so any derivative of the word could not possibly be used in the first time in history when the Samaritan sect was established 750 BC, 50000 years after the invention of the word Samara. One of the derivatives of the root Samara was used was Samerta (Samaria) a city that was conquered in Samaria mountains in Palestine) in 1100 BC as mentioned in Bible kings books.
    So the word Sameri mentioned in the Quran is not derived from the Samaritans you idiot. It is been used for 50000 years, most notably the story of Moses assigning the Guards (Sameri(s) AKA Samaritans in English).
    he was the first to alter the bible wholesale)
    The current jews claim the Samaritan sect are decended from the kingdom of Samaria while trhe Samaritans deny that wholeheatedly and say they named themselved Samaritans based on the word Samer (Guard in Hebrew) which was used by Moses inj the bible and also in the Quran to refer to the same thing (the guards of the Mountains).
    the Samaritan sect base their name on the word Sameri ie Guardian in Ancient Hebrew and Arabic. The word Sameri (in Ancient Hebrew and Arabic was first conceived 10000 years ago even more 50000 years ago.
    Moses assigned Sameri(s) ie Guardians to guard the borders of the mountain while Moses went up the mountain for 40 days. The Sameri(s) ie Samaritans assigned by Moses guarded the borders. One of them a Sameri (a guardian ) ( a Samaritan ) was tempted by taking stuff from inside the guarded area where The Angel (or angles touched the ground ) and he used that to make the Golden Calf.

    The Jewish sect known as Samaritans claim they named themselves Sameri(s) (Samaritans in English ) based on the story of the Guards assigned by Moses. The Samaritans claim they are the guards (Sameris) of the word of God (ie the Bible) that they guarded it and protedcted it from alteration as the Rabbies were doing for 2600 years up till this minute.
    In Kings (bible) also it says that Joshua conquered Samera city 400 years years before king Omri of the Samaria Jewish kingdom is claimed to havew built the city of Samaria (his capital city ) not far from current day Samera (a Palestinian town on the mountains ). It is stated in Kings that Omri bought the hill from a non jewish man and named the hill Samera asfter the name of the son of the non jewish man (this is balony story , added by The Magi Ezra a non jew but Mendanai person who altered the bible.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mary was titled "sister of Aaron " in Quran because she was a descendent of Aaron not his literal sister.
    She was titled "Daughter of Imran (Imram) the forefather of Aaron. she was not his immediate daughter nevertheless from his progeny as well she was from the progeny of Aaron, hence a great honor (for being descendent of Aaron and Imram a very prestigious lineage )
    of whom most prophets came like Jesus himself a descendent of Aaron (and by proxy Imram and by proxy Levi) whom Jaob prophecised a star will come from Levi (the star is Jesus, his name Essa derive from the star Ees (the guard of the all the stars (on top of the Chandeleer (Thurayya) stars group at the top of the dome of the night sky.
    Look, you don't know what you are talking about, nor you or you fellow Christians the imposters on Jesus read the bible or you would had known all these things, like Sameri of Moses (the guards assigned by Moses) or how Joshua conquered the city of Samaria 400 years before the Samaritans sect was established. If speaking was made of Silver then silence is of Gold.
    You better be silent and not open your mouth so no more shit will come out from your mouth. Don't talk in things you don't kmnow about , idiot!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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