Quranic Contradictions & Bewilderment of the Muslim Mind
21 Feb, 2009
I became aware of some of the Quranic contradictions decades ago, when I started to step away from the darkness of Islam. Once I freed my mind, and read the Quran with critical eye, all those contradictions and errors of all kinds started to become a focus of my attention and increasingly clear to me.
Islam was never irrelevant to me; I always had an interest in my religion from the time I was in high school. It may sound strange that my interest in Islam remarkably increased once I started doubting it. By the time I became convinced that Islam was not the religion, I was not an average Muslim; my knowledge in Islam was remarkably broad and deep compared to others. I continued my readings and research about Islam even after I left it; I still do.
I read the testimonies of Ali Sina, Abul Kasem, MA Khan and many others who left Islam; their stories echoed mine. None of us rushed to leave Islam. Instead, all of us did extensive research to find the carefully hidden truth. And yes, it was hard and shocking that some of us left Islam with tears, while others went through phases of depression. There is no religion that controls its followers like Islam, a fact that only former Muslims can fully comprehend.
It is this extensive research about Islam, which we did in the past and continue doing, which makes me believe that the only people, who know Islam well, are the ones, who left it. We do not want to be called ‘ulema’ or Islamic scholars; we leave that honour to Muslims, but we are the people, who know Islam inside out. None of us can recite the Quran by heart, as Muslim scholars do, and none of us will even try that wasteful mental activity, but we fully understand what is in the Quran.
There are days, sometimes weeks, of researching and amending before we publish our articles on this site, to make sure that we give the reader the truth as best as humanly possible. Our articles on Islam come with a lifelong guarantee: if you find a fault, we will apologise and convert to Islam. If Muslims find any inaccuracies in any material that we publish about Islam, they would be from our sources: the Quran, sunna and other recognized Islamic books.
Currently, Abul Kasem is publishing his series on contradictions in the Quran. I read some of them with amazement; I never realized that the Quran has so many of them. I am sure Abul Kasem, as well as other critical readers of the Quran, are equally surprised at the sheer number of them. This is why the author (Abul Kasem) as well as the editors of FFI sought others’ opinions (including mine) regarding Kasem's articles in this series. This is a credit to them; it only indicates the high level of scrutiny behind every published article. Muslims, predictably, are outraged by any suggestion that the Quran may harbor contradictions. I, therefore, advised Kasem to omit some of contradictions, because, I thought, they are not conclusive.
Verses 41:11 and 21:30 carry with them this sort of less than
conclusive contradiction. Both verses describe the creation of the
universe; one verse claims that the sky was a smoke, the other
claims that the sky was joined with the earth. Of course,
scientifically both claims are utter rubbish, but when the Quran
makes a mistake why it doesn’t stick to it? I suggested to Abul
Kasem not to include this contradiction on the basis that it might
be a different stage of creation. This is like accepting a
below-normal answer from a child, because he is too young.
My concern here is why do we have to lower our standard when it
comes to the Quran? We would reject this from a student or anyone
else, but why do we accept it from Mohammed (transmitter of the
Allah designed the sky as a smoke; He rose towards the smoke, asked the smoke and the earth (i.e. earth was already created) whether they would come together willingly or unwillingly (the smoke is the steam of water—ibn Abbas).
Contradiction: 21:30 says heavens and the earth were joined together as one solid mass, then Allah separated them.
Verses 41:37 and 12:100 also carry with them one of those
less-than-convincing contradictions: one verse asks people not to
worship others than Allah, while the other asks some people to
worship Joseph! I suggested not including this contradiction in the
series, lest some Muslims come up with a claim that prostrating is
not the same as worshipping; it can be a sign of respect. But would
Islamic clerics be happy, if they see a Muslim prostrating to
The sun and the moon are the signs of Allah, but do not worship them; prostrate only to Allah who has created them.
Contradiction: 12:100 says Allah allowed Joseph’s brethren and his parents to prostrate before Joseph.
Abul Kasem’s series raises the question:
Why, when it comes to the Quran, we always have to shelf the rules and give all kinds of exceptions?
Why do we have to go into disagreements and different interpretations, whenever we read the Quran?
If we mortals can write clear and straight forward articles, why cannot Allah?
I do not normally get involved in planned and lengthy debate with Muslims, but it is unavoidable for me to defend the views expressed in my articles. Occasionally, I receive polite emails from Muslims, who wish to correct ‘my misunderstanding’ of the Quran. Their politeness soon proves to be a mask that conceals their hatred. It is striking, but not at all surprising, how little those Muslims know about the Quran or Islam. When the debate is about a confusing verse, they say the verse is crystal clear and the confusion is in my mind, but of course they disappear once I point out that tafseer books had many different interpretations to that verse, which only means the verse was not clear even to those highly reputable scholars. Such Muslims, who do not speak Arabic at all and hardly any good English, suggest to me to learn more to improve my knowledge of the Quran.
Debating Arab Muslims is even more depressing, because it exposes
the masked illiteracy among the Arabs. The standard of writing
amongst Arabs is getting worse and worse; and it is those people,
who write to us, with broken sentences, to say there are no
contradictions or errors in the Quran. The great Wafa Sultan, who is
a talented Arabic writer, once wrote that the Arab writers do not
read what they write; otherwise they wouldn’t submit their articles
for publication. How true! Articles in Arabic newspapers shamelessly
appear with errors of all kinds, a sign of the low respect to their
readers. This is the kind of people, who claim that the Quran is
free from errors or contradictions.
What do Muslims think?
Some Muslim scholars are aware of the existence of contradictions and mistakes in the Quran. This is why, they wrote many, rather more contradicting and confusing, books to justify them. This fact establishes a common platform that we, Muslims and non-Muslims, agree on, albeit, giving it different names: contradictions vs. apparent contradictions. I find it difficult to believe that a person with integrity can read about the details of Mohammed’s murders and crimes and still remains a Muslim, let alone justify them. Even today, I keep wondering whether those Muslim scholars, who write books about Mohammed, really believe what they write. However, many of those Muslim scholars make their living from marketing Islam, and some did so well that they have become celebrities. Others had their moral code completely thrown into disarray by Islamic brainwashing. However, the vast majority of ordinary Muslims have no idea at all about those contradictions.
It is for the sake of those Muslims, who have never been told the
truth, and for the sake of clarity and academic objectivity, that we
need to publish these contradictions. The contradictions may be less
obvious in some verses than in others; some may appear as
inconsistencies or uncertainties. Muslims are welcome to refute them
with convincing clarifications, and we will be happy to change our
minds about them.
The Quran does not only contain contradictions, it is also filled
with errors of all kinds, but this is outside the scope of this
subject. I understand, and fully accept, that Muslims believe their
book contains no errors or contradiction whatsoever, which I also
used to believe. What is not acceptable is to see an error, and
defend it, despite being unable to refute it.
Why the Quran contains so many contradictions?
It is unlikely that Mohammed could have included errors in the Quran deliberate. The Quran was revealed over a long period of time, about 23 years. This, on its own, can explain many of the contradictions and repetitions. It is possible that Mohammed (or Allah?) simply forgot the exact wording of the earlier verses. It is also possible that some of the verses were added or changed at a later stage. The Quran was written on primitive material using primitive Arabic script, where many letters have similar appearance, which also can provide an explanation to this confusion. We also must keep in mind the possibility that the Quran had multiple authors.
The Quran was not an important part of the Arabic culture during the first half of Mohammed’s career as a prophet. Mohammed was branded as insignificant mad person and nobody took him or his alleged revelations seriously, just like we do not take seriously any insignificant person, who preaches in the streets.
It is interesting to know why the Quran has so many errors and contradictions, but it is essential that we expose them. It is time for Muslims to admit their existence and reach the inevitable conclusion that the Quran is manmade and Mohammed was a liar.
Mumin Salih is a Middle Eastern ex-Muslim.