Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Outrageous Language Errors in the Quran

It was Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda, who once said: “A lie, repeated often enough, will end up as truth.” He claimed that the bigger the lie, the greater the likelihood that people would believe it. Muslims employed this big lie theory, with great degree of success, centuries before Hitler’s minister even spoke about it.
One of those big Islamic lies claims that the Quran has a superior language style. Muslims believe this lie as a truth although every chapter of the Quran contains enough mistakes that would make any other book unsuitable for publication. In addition to the dozens of grammatical mistakes, the Quran is ambiguous and fails miserably in its primary objective to deliver a clear message to its readers.

The Quran and the Arabic Grammar

I followed some internet debates about the Quran’s violations of the Arabic grammar. I was surprised to notice that many Arabs believe that the Arabic grammar was based on the Quran, which is a misconception that they use to justify the Quran’s grave grammar mistakes. The Arabic language had its grammar and rules long before Islam, otherwise we wouldn’t consider the pre-Islamic literature as the best the Arabs ever had. The fact that the grammar rules were compiled in books decades after Mohammed’s death doesn’t mean they did not exist. All pre-Islamic Arabic poetry and literature followed those accepted, but not yet written, rules. Writing was in its infancy in Arabia, and formal books were unknown. Even the Quran was not compiled in a book until decades after Mohammed’s death.

It is generally accepted that Sibawayh (760-793) who was the first to compile the rules of the Arabic grammar in a book, and that was long after Mohammed’s death. Many other books, by other authors, followed later. The Arabic language scholars referred mainly to the pre Islamic poetry and literature, including the Quran, to derive the rules that were traditionally observed in Arabia. However, the Quran presented a dilemma to those scholars because, although it largely followed the grammar rules, but in many occasions it didn’t. The scholars faced a tough choice because the Quran is supposed to be Allah’s word and faultless, their only option was to make many exceptions for the Quran.

No other book was treated with such a privilege and had all its mistakes completely forgiven. With the above biased treatment in mind, and after so many concessions on the part of Arabic scholars, one would expect the Quran to be completely free of any further grammatical errors, but it is not. The Quran still has serious errors that are impossible to accept no matter how we twist the rules. The Quran is judged to be faulty by the Quran itself. In other words, some parts of the Quran are faulty, and that is according to other parts of the Quran!

There are dozens of grammatical errors in the Quran, but it is not easy to discuss an Arabic language issue in an English language article. Fortunately, I came across two examples that should be simple enough to explain to the readers, with no knowledge of Arabic, the kind of grammar blunders that exist in the Quran.

Example 1

The word Sabians, which is the name of a religious group, comes in Arabic in two forms, Sabiyoon or Sabiyeen, depending on its place in the sentence, which is all governed by the Arabic grammar. In verse (5:69) it is written Sabiyoon, which is a gross grammatical mistake because it should be Sabyeen.

“Surely, those who believe, those who are the Jews and the Sabiyoon and the Christians…" [Q 5:69]

As one would expect, Muslim scholars would justify the above error by any means, as they always do. For the sake of this argument we would accept whatever explanation the Muslims may put to us. But even this concession doesn’t help the Quran but puts it in another trouble, because the same word is repeated in verse (22:17) with the same sequence of words and the same grammatical position as in verse (5: 69), but this time it is written correctly Sabyeen!

“Verily, those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Sabiyeen, and the Christians…” [Q 22:17]

If we forgive the Quran for the mistake in verse 5:69, then verse 22:17 must be wrong and vice versa! No matter what Muslim scholars say, one of the verses must be wrong, and that is according to the Quran!

The above two verses are of particular historical importance. After the completion of the project of writing the Quran in a book during the rule of Caliph Uthman, some Muslims pointed out the error to Aysha, Mohammed’s widow. Aysha said: “it is a mistake from the scribes”. Even Uthman was asked about some of the errors, including the above. The Caliph’s response was: “These are minor errors that do not make a halal to become haram, or a haram to become halal, and surely the Arabs will make the necessary corrections with their tongues.”

I believe that both of the above responses, from Aysha and Uthman, were sensible. Aysha’s point of view was that people shouldn’t blame the Quran for typographical errors made by the scribes. This is a common excuse even in today; publishers and writers frequently blame typing errors to save faces. Uthman, who also admitted the existence of the errors, expected the Arabs to make the necessary corrections as they read them. Uthman didn’t feel that the errors were serious enough to justify restarting the whole project of writing the Quran all over again. Today’s Muslims, however, stick to the errors and say they are marvelous miracles!

The Arabs practiced writing well before Islam. Some of their most famous writings were the seven master pieces of poetry known as Al Mualakkat (the hanging poems). The Arabs loved those poems and treasured them by scribing them and hanging them on the walls of Kaaba. As far as I know, the Quran was the first book to be written by the Arabs and we can imagine that writing a book in that size, with primitive technology, was not an easy task. Editing, reviewing and deleting were not options. The fact that Uthman and his aides approved those faulty copies of the Quran signifies that the Quran was not revered by the Muslims then as it is now.

Example 2

The Quran repeats the same pattern of the above errors in the following verse:

And verily! In the cattle, there is a lesson for you. We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies…. [Q 16:66]

The Arabic word butunihi (translated their bellies) is an obvious mistake and should be butuniha. Muslim scholars, as usual, would say anything to justify the mistake. However, they have a problem because the same word is repeated in verse 23:21 with the same sequence of words and the same grammatical position, but this time is written correctly butuniha.

And Verily! In the cattle there is a lesson for you. We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies….. [23:21]

If we excuse the Quran for the mistake in verse16: 66 then verse 23:21 must be wrong and vice versa!

There are dozens of other grammatical errors in the Quran, which comes as a shock to most Muslims who were brought up on the belief that the Quran is a language miracle. The early Muslim scholars spotted those errors, but by that time the holiness of the Quran was well established in the minds of the brainwashed Muslims. The early Muslim scholars wrote books with lengthy articles and twisted rules to justify the Quran’s errors. Probably the only use of the Muslims’ writings about the Quran’s errors is to provide today’s Muslims with ready-made answers to use it in their debates. They also use those writings to pre-empt any criticism to the Quran, as if they say: “do not think you are clever by bringing this up, we Muslims are aware of them and wrote books about them centuries ago.” However, not one error in the Quran has been convincingly explained.

Al Balagha

Albalagha is defined as the ability to deliver the message clearly and precisely so that all people who receive it have the same clear understanding of the message. Albalagha is an art that is considered central to the Arabic language; the Arabs have long considered it to be the purpose of language communication. The Quran frequently claimed that it has a high level of al balagha when it described itself, in a number of verses, as the clear book (Arabic: al kitab al mubeen).

The reality is that Al Balagha is the Quran’s Achilles heel; no two Muslims agree on the meaning of any verse. Referring to interpretation books is no help either because they give multiple possibilities for the meaning of any verse, which only proves that the verse has no precise meaning. Muslims are still in confusion, after fourteen hundreds years, because of the Quran’s remarkable lack of clarity.

Let us read the following two examples of the Quran’s failure in Al Balagha:

Example 1

Verse 4: 3 is an example of how the Quran fails miserably to deliver the message. Read this: ‘4: 3. And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, then marry women of your choice, two or three, or four…’ the verse starts talking about the sin of being unjust to the orphans. Having read that, one would expect to read about some kind of penalty or at least a warning to deter Muslims from committing that sin, but the Quran’s solution is to ask men marry up to four women!

Why polygamy has become an answer to the sin of being unjust to the orphans! What is the relation between this and that? Seeking the help of the interpretation books (tafseer) highlights the state of confusion of the Muslim scholars as reflected by their hard struggle to provide satisfactory theories that explain the bizarre association between polygamy and being unjust to the orphans.

The typical answer we hear from the Muslim scholars, when confronted with such confusing verses, goes like this: “the verse is very clear and not confusing at all, but you have problem in understanding it because of your poor standard in Arabic…” To those scholars I say: it is not only me, please go and read the interpretation books to see how many different interpretations they came up with. Al-Tabari alone mentioned four different possibilities for the meaning of the above verse, which only means that various scholars understood it differently.

There is another interesting error in the above verse. Although the deceptive translation says ‘marry women of your choice, two OR three OR four..’ but the correct translation is two AND three AND four…

Fortunately, the general understanding of the verse in the Islamic societies is that Muslim men are allowed to marry up to four women and it is illegal to exceed that number. It may sound like a joke but I did hear it from a Muslim cleric, who disagreed with the above legislation and believed that the Islamic governments are under the influence of stupid advisers. According to him the verse clearly says that men should marry up to nine women, which is the total of two plus three plus four. He supported his argument with the fact that this was the number of Mohammed’s wives. Also according to this genius Islamic cleric, the verse considers polygamy as the normal practice and not the exception! According to the verse, Muslim men are allowed one wife only if they cannot treat multiple wives equally!

Well, who can argue otherwise? Isn’t this what the verse clearly says? Was it too hard for Allah to ‘reveal’ OR instead of AND?

Example 2

Let us read the following from verse 35:8

Is he, to whom the evil of his deeds made fairseeming, so that he considers it as good? Therefore, Allâh sends astray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills. So destroy not yourself in sorrow for them…. [Q 35:8]

The above verse is either very stupid or has something missing! In its Arabic version, the first part looks like Allah is comparing the person whose evil deeds are made nice looking to him with…one would expect a comparison with a genuinely good person. But by the time Allah reached this part, He has forgotten completely about the comparison issue and moved on to talk about something else.

The above verse is only an example; the Quran contains many other verses with similar errors. I find it hard to believe that Mohammed or whoever authored the Quran, would say such nonsense and get away with it because the Arabs would have stopped him and corrected him immediately. This is not an issue of language fluency, but such verses look like incomplete sentences joined together. The missing parts were probably dropped decades after Mohammed’s death, or even after collecting the Quran.

Today’s Muslims subscribe to the myth that the Quran is preserved. Hinting at the possibility of missing words or letters signals the total collapse of Islam. Therefore, Muslims would rather blame their intelligence or do anything to maintain that false picture of a preserved Quran. Hence their golden rule: if we cannot understand it then it must be a miracle.

Mumin Salih is a Middle Eastern ex-Muslim.

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