Among those who have renounced Islam, it is generally held that the best way to help Muslims is to liberate them from the shackles of their religion. A crucial part of this endeavour is to shatter the myth of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an, i.e. that the text is a work of such supreme excellence that it could only have come from Allah, the almighty. Such is the purpose of this article: to demonstrate that the Qur’an, being riddled with contradictions, is but the product of Muhammad’s own mind, exposing the limitations thereof.
In the main, we will derive our examples from My Ordeal with the Qur’an and Allah in the Qur’an (محنتي مع القرآن ومع الله في القرآن) by Abbas Abdul Noor, translated by Hassan Radwan. Noor, an Egyptian author and once a prominent scholar of Sufism, came to renounce Islam in his seventies after a lifelong battle with doubts. “To my horror,” Noor writes, “God’s answer was the opposite of what I begged him for.” His book is both a devastating critique of the Qur’an and an impassioned plea for Muslims to throw off the chains of orthodoxy. In his words:
The Qur’an remains a stumbling block to our full participation in the progress and changes mankind has made in recent history. Whereas the West has witnessed a revolution in the way holy texts are perceived, releasing them from their shackles and separating church from state, we have been completely unable to change the way we view our holy text, and have been left stranded. The contrast between a secular society that is dynamic, free, and open to change, and a society that is backward, stagnant, and one that, apart from just doing the same things and repeating itself, is idle, is a truly disgraceful and shameful state of affairs. While the classical stage of our history was dynamic and potent, able to give and take, create and innovate, investigate and examine, our present stage is characterised by apathy, stagnation, and blind, regressive fundamentalism that is not proficient in anything apart from the language of intolerance, violence, blood and death. This language is taking us deeper into the darkness.
But of course, the contradictions which abound in the Qur’an are just one reason to doubt its divine authorship. The discontinuity and variant readings, the grammatical and scientific errors – all of these combine to reveal the book’s artificial origin. In a future piece, we may explore these issues with reference to the works of Ibn Rawandi, Al-Razi, and other titans of apostasy. For now, however, we will content ourselves with ten examples of Qur’anic contradictions. With any luck, this effort will prove to be an effective antidote to Muslim bibliolatry.
1: The source of evil
In verse 4.78, it is stated that all things, both good and evil, are from Allah:
If some good befalls them, they say, “This is from Allah”; but if evil, they say, “This is from thee” (O Prophet). Say: “All things are from Allah.” But what hath come to these people, that they fail to understand a single fact?
But in the verse which immediately follows, the Qur’an states that only good comes from Allah, while evil comes from man:
Whatever good, (O man!) happens to thee, is from Allah; but whatever evil happens to thee, is from thy (own) soul. And We have sent thee as a messenger to (instruct) mankind. And enough is Allah for a witness.
2: The will of Allah
In verse 6.148, the Qur’an rebukes the Meccan polytheists for arguing that if Allah had wanted them to abandon idolatry, he would have made it so. It challenges them to bring forth evidence for this claim, and accuses them of lying:
Those who give partners (to Allah) will say: “If Allah had wished, we should not have given partners to Him nor would our fathers; nor should we have had any taboos.” So did their ancestors argue falsely, until they tasted of Our wrath. Say: “Have ye any (certain) knowledge? If so, produce it before us. Ye follow nothing but conjecture: ye do nothing but lie.”
And yet, in the very next verse, the Qur’an makes this same argument. It states explicitly that if it had been the will of Allah, the polytheists would have been guided:
Say: “With Allah is the argument that reaches home. If it had been His will, He could indeed have guided you all.”
3: The Jews
In the Qur’an, the Jews are described in multiple instances as God’s chosen people:
O Children of Israel! Call to mind the (special) favour which I bestowed upon you, and that I preferred you to all others (for My Message). [2.47]
O Children of Israel! Remember My favour wherewith I favoured you and how I preferred you to (all) creatures. [2.122]
However, in other verses, the Jews are rebuked for making this very same claim:
Say (O Muhammad): “O ye who are Jews! If ye claim that ye are favoured of Allah apart from (all) mankind, then long for death if ye are truthful.” [62.6]
The Jews and Christians say: “We are sons of Allah and His loved ones.” Say: “Why then doth He chastise you for your sins? Nay, ye are but mortals of His creating. He forgiveth whom He will, and chastiseth whom He will. Allah’s is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and unto Him is the journeying.” [5.18]
4: The Day of Judgement
In verses 11.106-107, the Qur’an states that on the Day of Judgement, the wretched will be sent to hell and abide therein for as long as the heavens and earth endure:
As for those who will be wretched (on that day) they will be in the Fire; sighing and wailing will be their portion therein, abiding there so long as the heavens and the earth endure save for that which thy Lord willeth. Lo! Thy Lord is Doer of what He will.
However, according to verse 21.104, the heavens and earth are set to be rolled up on the Day of Judgement:
The Day when We shall roll up the heavens as a recorder rolleth up a written scroll. As We began the first creation, We shall repeat it. (It is) a promise (binding) upon Us. Lo! We are to perform it.
How can Allah send people to stay in hell for as long as the heavens and earth exist, when they have already ceased to exist?
5: Whom Allah guides
In verse 16.104, the Qur’an states that Allah will not guide those who do not believe in his signs:
Those who believe not in the Signs of Allah – Allah will not guide them, and theirs will be a grievous Penalty.
This contradicts the many other verses where Allah guides the unbelievers to Islam:
They impress on thee as a favour that they have embraced Islam. Say, “Count not your Islam as a favour upon me: Nay, Allah has conferred a favour upon you that He has guided you to the faith, if ye be true and sincere.” [49.17]
And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favour, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided. [3.103]
It is no crime in you if ye seek of the bounty of your Lord (during pilgrimage). Then when ye pour down from (Mount) Arafat, celebrate the praises of Allah at the Sacred Monument, and celebrate His praises as He has directed you, even though, before this, ye went astray. [2.198]
Indeed, it is a simple fact that the majority of those who embraced Islam in Muhammad’s time would have formerly been polytheists. But according to verse 16.104, Allah does not guide the unbelievers. Who guided these people, then – Satan?
6: The inhabitants of hell
In verse 17.97, the dwellers of hell are described as blind, dumb, and deaf:
It is he whom Allah guides, that is on true Guidance; but he whom He leaves astray – for such wilt thou find no protector besides Him. On the Day of Judgement, We shall gather them together, prone on their faces, blind, dumb, and deaf: their abode will be Hell: every time it shows abatement, We shall increase from them the fierceness of the Fire.
This contradicts other verses, wherein the inhabitants of hell talk to each other, disown one another, and beg those in heaven for help:
(On the day) when those who were followed disown those who followed (them), and they behold the doom, and all their aims collapse with them. And those who were but followers will say: “If a return were possible for us, we would disown them even as they have disowned us.” Thus will Allah show them their own deeds as anguish for them, and they will not emerge from the Fire. [2.166-167]
The Companions of the Fire will call to the Companions of the Garden: “Pour down to us water or anything that Allah doth provide for your sustenance.” They will say: “Both these things hath Allah forbidden to those who rejected Him.” [7.50]
7: Previous warners
In verse 35.24, it is stated that every people prior to Muhammad was sent a warner from Allah:
Lo! We have sent thee with the Truth, a bearer of glad tidings and a warner; and there is not a nation but a warner hath passed among them.
This contradicts verse 25.51, which implies that Allah refrained from doing so:
If it had been Our will, We would have sent a warner to every town.
To be clear, the words ‘nation’ (أمة) and ‘town’ (مدینة) have the same meaning in the Qur’an. They mean a sedentary group that resides in a particular place where it seeks its living and sustenance. In fact, they are also applied to transient groups that are non-sedentary, such as in verse 28.23:
And when he arrived at the watering (place) in Madyan, he found there a group (أمة) of men watering (their flocks).
8: Jonah (Yunus)
In verses 37.139-146, the Qur’an describes how Allah cast the prophet Jonah (Yunus) onto the shore:
So also was Jonah among those sent (by Us).
When he ran away (like a slave from captivity) to the ship (fully) laden,
He (agreed to) cast lots, and he was condemned:
Then the big Fish did swallow him, and he had done acts worthy of blame.
Had it not been that he (repented and) glorified Allah,
He would certainly have remained inside the Fish till the Day of Resurrection.
But We cast him forth on the naked shore in a state of sickness,
And We caused to grow, over him, a spreading plant of the gourd kind.
However, in verses 68.48-49, we are told that Allah’s grace saved Jonah from being cast onto the shore in disgrace:
So wait with patience for the Command of thy Lord, and be not like the Companion of the Fish – when he cried out in agony.
Had not Grace from his Lord reached him, he would indeed have been cast off on the naked shore, in disgrace.
9: The justice of Allah
In verses 37.19-24, the Qur’an states that on the Day of Judgement, the wrongdoers will be held accountable for their actions:
It will only take one Blast, then at once they will see it all.
They will cry, “Oh, woe to us! This is the Day of Judgement!”
They will be told, “This is the Day of Final Decision which you used to deny.”
Allah will say to the angels, “Gather all the wrongdoers along with their peers, and whatever they used to worship instead of Allah, then lead them all to the path of Hell.”
“And detain them, for they must be questioned.”
However, in verse 16.93, we are told that Allah is responsible for sending people astray:
Had Allah willed, He could have made you (all) one nation, but He sendeth whom He will astray and guideth whom He will, and ye will indeed be asked of what ye used to do.
Needless to say, it is a mockery of justice for Allah to punish those whom he leads astray. To quote verse 18.49:
And your Lord does injustice to no one.
10: A clear Qur’an
In verse 15.1, the Qur’an is described as being clear or unambiguous:
These are the verses of the Book and a clear Qur’an.
However, in verse 3.7, we are told that only Allah knows the meaning of some verses:
Those with deviant hearts follow the ambiguous verses, seeking discord and seeking their (false) interpretation. But no one knows their (true) interpretation except Allah.