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A Book Without Errors

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To Roger Williams belongs the famous quote “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” Hereafter, we will concern ourselves with the first half of his famous saying.

To err is, undoubtedly, human. This succinct expression sums up the third and final aspect of the last miracle, namely, the ’Qura~n. If to err is human, then not to err must be divine. 

Muslims claim that the ’Qura~n is a book without errors. And this is one of the major tents of Muslim dogma, especially in relation to the authenticity of the prophethood of Mu’hammad (P.B.U.H.). The fundamental argument for this tenet is actually found in the ’Qura~n itself: “Then do they not reflect upon the ’Qura~n? If it had been from [any] other than Allaah, they would have found within it much contradiction.” (Chapter of Annisaa-, verse 82)

The ’Qura~n claims that none of the information found therein are erroneous, contradictory, or false. For Arabs of the time of the message of Islaam, the claim of error-free text implicitly meant that this verbose text had no grammar, style, or linguistic errors or weaknesses. This claim extends, however, beyond linguistics to other areas which include history and science, to name a few.

But let us take a step back and ask ourselves: What is the ’Qura~n?

The ’Qura~n is a revealed book that champions one cause only, namely, the oneness of God, and in doing so it relates to us stories of people from the past and what happened to them, in addition to information about the future and what will become of creation, plus a short list of rules and regulations, few of which are explicit and the majority are of general nature.

In championing monotheism, the ’Qura~n tells us the stories of many people who lived long time ago and who were called upon by prophets of God to worship Him alone. The details vary from one story to the other, but since the purpose of the ’Qura~n was not to tell stories per se, but to champion monotheism, the text invokes necessary references whenever the need calls for such. Therefore, a significant body of historical data is dispersed within the ’Qura~n, some of which may be scrutinized against proven historical facts, while some still await scrutiny.

Similarly, in describing behaviours of individuals or in bringing forth examples from nature to illustrate divine mandates or interventions, the ’Qura~nic text refers to scientific information. Most scientific references in the ’Qura~n are used to encourage people to distinguish between what the Creator did and does and how He cannot be emulated.

The ’Qura~n is neither a history book nor a science book. It is a book that asks you to believe in the oneness of God. The verses of the ’Qura~n, Muslims believe, were revealed to the prophet over a period of twenty-three years. Even if one does not believe in the divine origin of the ’Qura~n, it remains that the ’Qura~nic text started with a couple of verses, which were immediately communicated to a close circle of relatives and friends, and then as more text became available, it was further communicated to more people and ordered to be written on parchments and other boards for inscription.

Twenty-three years is a long period of time for the compilation of any work. And even though it gives the author, had the author been human, ample time to review the material, it would most likely introduce a measure of error and contradiction, however small.

Let us consider an example that illustrates this point.

The story of Joseph (the son of Jacob) is told in great detail in the chapter the bears Joseph’s name in the ’Qura~n. It relates the story of the forced journey he took to Egypt and how he eventually ascended to power there, following a period of incarceration. The title of the Egyptian monarch explicitly given – several times – in the chapter of Joseph is “King”. The story of Moses in Egypt, as told in the ’Qura~n, clearly states that the title of the Egyptian monarch at the time of Moses was “Pharaoh”.

Historical records prove that the title “Pharaoh” was never used prior to 1490 BC, whereas Joseph lived in Egypt during the reign of the Hyksos dynasty circa 1700 BC when the title of the monarch, as confirmed by historical records, was “King”. The author of the ’Qura~nic text either knew this (highly unlikely for a man during the seventh century AD) or was lucky not to make this mistake. The Old Testament, however, made no distinction between  the monarchs of Joseph and Moses; both were labelled “Pharaoh”.

There are many examples in the ’Qura~n that attest to the divine origin of its text. The crux of its claim to divinity and miraculous nature is evidenced by its lack of errors and contradictions. When the text was revealed, the knowledge of Arabs was limited – mainly – to linguistics, and we can safely assume that had there been any linguistic error, it would have surfaced. But the ’Qura~n includes many other references to historical, geographical and scientific issues, cited in the context of calling people to the true religion of God. People have scrutinized the ’Qura~n for errors and contradictions in these areas, such as in the famous work of Maurice Bucaille, which compared scientific references found in the ’Qura~n and in the Bible to modern data. He found no errors in the ’Qura~n.

The same cannot be said about either the Old or the New Testaments. Luke (3:23) claimed that Jesus began his ministry at the age of thirty. Historical evidence refutes this claim. Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod the Great of Judaea and began his ministry following the imprisonment of John the Baptist, who was incarcerated for rebuking Antipas for marrying his own niece. This amounts to – at least – thirty-eight years of age when Jesus began his ministry.

The dates fixed for creation in the Old Testament are simply wrong. Jesus’s genealogy is not the same between the Gospels. The reason for those contradictions and errors in the Bible (only eluded to here but can be found in details in the references given below) is really simple. To quote the ’Qura~n again: “If it had been from [any] other than Allaah, they would have found within it much contradiction.”

The number of gospels known to exist or to have existed is far greater than four; the number of the canonical gospels found in the Bible. Each gospel has its unique traits and details, which – quite often – contradict other gospels. The Old Testament is a collection of several texts; with the “Yahvist”, “Elohist”, and “Sacerdotal” versions being the recognized ones. The “Yahvist” and “Sacerdotal” texts intertwine in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. This intertwining of the text resulted in many contradictions between parts of the text itself, in addition to significant historical and scientific errors.

You will not find this in the ’Qura~n, because it is the preserved and authentic revelation from God.

There remains one point that needs to be addressed. The scriptures, whether we are speaking about the ’Qura~n or the Bible, are neither science books nor history references. One should not go head-over-heals to find scientific data therein. It is true that the reader of the Bible or the ’Qura~n would find references to scientific information, for such information accompanied the call to monotheism in its pure form. If we believe, however, that the scriptures’ author is none other than God, at least prior to human manipulation, then one should naturally expect to find scientific and historic data that cannot be explained by human knowledge at the time of revelation; such is miraculous.

The test of truthfulness and authenticity was outlined by the ’Qura~n itself to test the veracity of scriptures, starting with its own veracity being submitted to the test: “If it had been from [any] other than Allaah, they would have found within it much contradiction.”

Many believers in Judaism, Christianity and Islaam have sifted through their scriptures with zealous efforts to obtain scientific theories and proofs thereof. Each one of those believers, undoubtedly honest in his or her attempt to establish the divine link to their respective scriptures, overlooked the two axioms for the true scriptures:

First: God’s revelation would enjoin people to worship Him alone. All scriptures are but an elaborate call for monotheism.

Second: The test of veracity and authenticity is simple and easily applicable to any text claimed to have originated from God: “If it had been from [any] other than Allaah, they would have found within it much contradiction.”

The only text that passes this test is the ’Qura~n.

1. Laurence B. Brown, “The First and Final Commandment – A Search for Truth in Revelation within the Abrahamic Religions”, Amana Publications, First Edition, 2004.
2. Maurice Bucaille, “The Bible, the Qur’an and Science”, Kazi Publications; Sixth Edition, 1977.


Ibrahim Babelli -

Ibrahim Babelli [Ibraaheem Baabilly] is a research scientist working for Schlumberger Dhahran Carbonate Research Center. He did his undergraduate work in Saudi Arabia and his graduate work in the USA.Read More >>

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