Quranic Errancy, Pt. 1

Originally published 1/28/2009.

The Quran is free of errors and is thus the Word of God

In evaluating the Quran, as with any other book which purports to be God’s word, we must be very meticulous and have an open mind and open heart. We have to correctly understand the historical context (audience, contemporary cultural values and standards), original language, author’s intent, and the phraseology. We must read the surrounding text, recognize mere copyist errors (which do not nullify inerrancy), correctly quote the text, and thoughtfully and open-mindedly consider ways in which two seemingly contradictory passages might be compatible with each other and ways to alleviate possible difficulties a passage has with external evidence. Original inerrancy is all that is necessary; not having inerrant copies encourages freely made decisions and critical and independent thinking, and mankind could not logistically handle inerrant copies due to the chaos they would cause. Original inerrancy (including the complete absence of false prophecies and presence of true ones), perfect morality, and miracles corroborated by compelling internal and external evidence are necessary to establish divine inspiration; eloquence is not evidence of inspiration. On the contradictions page of the site Answering Islam, there are plenty of “contradictions” that can be readily explained. However, the site is commendable for presenting myriad true contradictions. More on this in a different post.

That being said, the Quran, while it is an extremely intriguing book, is most certainly not the word of God.

Here I quote verses from Arthur John Arberry’s 1955 classic The Koran Interpreted because Professor Khaleel Mohammed says that “the translation is without prejudice and is probably the best around.”

(1) Food in Hell
Nourishing Fruit from Tree of Ez-Zakkoum in Sura 37:62-66 As Saaffaat: Is that better as a hospital, or the Tree of Ez-Zakkoum? We have appointed it as a trial for the evildoers. It is a tree that comes forth in the root of Hell; its spathes are as the heads of Satans, and they eat of it, and of it fill their bellies.
Only Foul Pus in Sura 69:36 Al-Haaqqa: neither any food saving foul pus
Only Non-Nourishing Cactus Thorn in Sura 88:6-7 Al-Ghaashiya: No food for them but cactus thorn unfattening, unappeasing hunger.

(2) Wine
Sinful in Sura 2:219 Al Baqara: They will question thee concerning wine, and arrow-shuffling. Say: ‘In both is heinous sin; and uses for men, but the sin in them is more heinous than the usefulness.’ They will question thee concerning what they should expend. Say: ‘The abundance.’ So God makes clear His signs to you; haply you will reflect…
Sinful in Sura 5:90 Al-Maaida: O believers, wine and arrow-shuffling, idols and divining-arrows are an abomination, some of Satan’s work; so avoid it; haply So you will prosper.
Paradisical in Sura 47:15 Muhammad: This is the similitude of Paradise which the God-fearing have been promised: therein are rivers of water unstaling, rivers of milk unchanging in flavor, and rivers of wine — a delight to the drinkers, rivers, too, of honey purified; and therein for them is every fruit, and forgiveness from their Lord — Are they as he who dwells forever in the Fire, such as are given to drink boiling water, that tears their bowels asunder?
Paradisical in Sura 83:22-28 Al Mutaffifin: Surely the pious shall be in bliss, upon couches gazing; thou knowest in their faces the radiancy of bliss as they are given to drink of a wine sealed whose seal is musk — so after that let the strivers strive — and whose mixture is Tasnim, a fountain at which do drink those brought nigh.

(3) Inquiry in Paradise
No in Sura 23:101 Al Muminoon: For when the Trumpet is blown, that day there shall be no kinship any more between them, neither will they question one another.
Yes in Sura 37:27 As Saaffaat: And some of them shall advance towards others, questioning each other.
Yes in Sura 52:25-28 At-Tur: And some of them shall advance towards others questioning each other. Saying: Surely we feared before on account of our families: But Allah has been gracious to us and He has saved us from the punishment of the hot wind: Surely we called upon Him before: Surely He is the Benign, the Merciful.

(4) Men and Jinns Created For Hell or Only For Serving Allah?
For Hell in Sura 7:179 Al-A’raaf: And certainly We have created for Hell many of the jinn and the men; they have hearts with which they do not understand, and they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear; they are as cattle, nay, they are in worse errors; these are the heedless ones.
Only to Worship Allah in Sura 51:56 Adh-Dhaariyat: And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should serve Me.
WRH: The only way I see to solve this is a distinction between antecedent and consequent will a la St. John of Damascus, but Sura 7:179 is worded as if it were positive predestination to Hell, which is unjust.

(5) Is Allah the Only Guardian?
Allah raises guardians, too in Sura 4:75 An-Nisaa: And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, (of) those who say: Our Lord! cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors, and give us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper.
Messengers & Believers, too in Sura 5:55-56 Al-Maaida: Only Allah is your Vali and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow. And whoever takes Allah and His messenger and those who believe for a guardian, then surely the party of Allah are they that shall be triumphant.
Believers, too in Sura 9:71 At-Tawba: And (as for) the believing men and the believing women, they are guardians of each other; they enjoin good and forbid evil and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and obey Allah and His Messenger; (as for) these, Allah will show mercy to them; surely Allah is Mighty, Wise.
Only Allah in Sura 9:116 At-Tawba: Surely Allah’s is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth; He brings to life and causes to die; and there is not for you besides Allah any Guardian or Helper.
Friends of Allah, too in Sura 10:62-64 Yunus: Now surely the friends of Allah– they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve. Those who believe and guarded (against evil): They shall have good news in this world’s life and in the hereafter; there is no changing the words of Allah; that is the mighty achievement.
Only Allah in Sura 32:4 As-Sajda: Allah is He Who created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six periods, and He mounted the throne (of authority); you have not besides Him any guardian or any intercessor, will you not then mind?

(6) Whether Allah forgives shirk
No in Sura 4:48,116 An-Nisaa: Surely Allah does not forgive that anything should be associated with Him, and forgives what is besides that to whomsoever He pleases; and whoever associates anything with Allah, he devises indeed a great sin. … Surely Allah does not forgive that anything should be associated with Him, and He forgives what is besides this to whom He pleases; and whoever associates anything with Allah, he indeed strays off into a remote error.
Yes in Sura 4:153 An-Nisaa: The followers of the Book ask you to bring down to them a book from heaven; so indeed they demanded of Musa a greater thing than that, for they said: Show us Allah manifestly; so the lightning overtook them on account of their injustice. Then they took the calf (for a god), after clear signs had come to them, but We pardoned this; and We gave to Musa clear authority.
Yes in Sura 25:68-71 Al-Furqaan: And they who do not call upon another god with Allah and do not slay the soul, which Allah has forbidden except in the requirements of justice, and (who) do not commit fornication and he who does this shall find a requital of sin; The punishment shall be doubled to him on the day of resurrection, and he shall abide therein in abasement; Except him who repents and believes and does a good deed; so these are they of whom Allah changes the evil deeds to good ones; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And whoever repents and does good, he surely turns to Allah a (goodly) turning.

(7) Identity of First Muslim
Adam in Sura 2:37 Al-Baqara: Thereafter Adam received certain words from his Lord, and He turned towards him; truly He turns, and is All-compassionate.
Abraham & Ishmael in Sura 2:127-133 Al-Baqara: And when Abraham, and Ishmael with him, raised up the foundations of the House: ‘Our Lord, receive this from us; Thou art the All-hearing, the All-knowing; and, our Lord, make us submissive to Thee, and of our seed a nation submissive to Thee; and show us our holy rites, and turn towards us; surely Thou turnest, and art All-compassionate; and, our Lord, do Thou send among them a Messenger, one of them, who shall recite to them Thy signs, and teach them the Book and the Wisdom, and purify them; Thou art the All-mighty, the All-wise.’ Who therefore shrinks from the religion of Abraham, except he be foolish-minded? Indeed, We chose him in the present world, and in the world to come he shall be among the righteous. When his Lord said to him, ‘Surrender,’ he said, ‘I have surrendered me to the Lord of all Being.’ And Abraham charged his sons with this and Jacob likewise: ‘My sons, God has chosen for you the religion; see that you die not save in surrender.’ Why, were you witnesses, when death came to Jacob? When he said to his sons, ‘What will you serve after me?’ They said, ‘We will serve thy God and the God of thy fathers Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, One God; to Him we surrender.’
Abraham in Sura 3:67 Aal-i-Imraan: No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim and one pure of faith; certainly he was never of the idolaters.
WRH: This is a historical error, i.e., an external contradiction; Abraham was not a Muslim. This page focuses on internal contradictions of the Quran.
Abraham in Sura 6:61 Al-An’aam: Say: ‘As for me, my Lord has guided me to a straight path, a right religion, the creed of Abraham, a man of pure faith; he was no idolater.’
Muhammad in Sura 6:14,162-163 Al-An’aam: Say: ‘Shall I take to myself as protector other than God, the Originator of the heavens and of the earth, He. who feeds and is not fed?’ Say: ‘I have been commanded to be the first of them that surrender: “Be not thou of the idolaters.”‘ … Say: ‘My prayer, my ritual sacrifice, my living, my dying — all belongs to God, the Lord of all Being. No associate has He. Even so I have been commanded, and I am the first of those that surrender.’
WRH: There can be the first Muslim to believe ever, the first Muslim to believe in a specific region and tribe, and the foremost=most prominent and devout Muslim and leader (Muhammad), but how many other senses can there be and are these senses even implied in the Quran? And even if the persons listed erred as fallible men in their statement that they were the first to believe (i.e., the sense of their claim to be the first of believers cannot be reconciled with that of other claimants), why doesn’t the Quran rebuke their error?
Moses in Sura 7:143 Al-A’raaf: And when Musa came at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said: My Lord! show me (Thyself), so that I may look upon Thee. He said: You cannot (bear to) see Me but look at the mountain, if it remains firm in its place, then will you see Me; but when his Lord manifested His glory to the mountain He made it crumble and Musa fell down in a swoon; then when he recovered, he said: Glory be to Thee, I turn to Thee, and I am the first of the believers.
Egyptian magicians in Sura 26:46,51 Ash-Shu’araa: And the magicians were thrown down prostrate … Surely we hope that our Lord will forgive us our wrongs because we are the first of the believers.
Everyone is born a Muslim in Sura 30:30 Ar-Room: So set thy face to the religion, a man of pure faith — God’s original upon which He originated mankind. There is no changing God’s creation. That is the right religion; but most men know it not —
WRH: This is not only factually inaccurate, but it is incompatible with the statements in the Quran that person X is the first Muslim in the order of time and in a certain region or tribe.

(8) Will Faithful Christians and Jews Go to Hell?
No in Sura 2:62 Al-Baqara: Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabaeans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness — their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them; neither shall they sorrow.
Yes in Sura 3:85 Al-i-Imraan: Whoso desires another religion than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him; in the next world he shall be among the losers.
No in Sura 5:69 Al-Maaida: Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Sabaeans, and those Christians, whosoever believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness — no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.
Yes in Sura 5:72 Al-Maaida: They are unbelievers who say, ‘God is the Messiah, Mary’s son.’ For the Messiah said, ‘Children of Israel, serve God, my Lord and your Lord. Verily whoso associates with God anything, God shall prohibit him entrance to Paradise, and his refuge shall be the Fire; and wrongdoers shall have no helpers.’
WRH: There is a contradiction but three ayat apart. What does this say about the textual integrity of the Quran?

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