Salam (Peace) Dear Adrian,
Thank you very much for your sincere inquiry about Islam.
Now, to the last criticism you have quoted, which is: “The Quran is at best contradictory.”
This is kind of turning the tables on Islam: As Muslims point out a large number of contradictions in the Bible, the Christian apologists feel naturally obliged, trying to show some contradictions in the Quran.
Their ardent researches have yielded a few “apparent” contradictions, as in the case of the law of inheritance. A point-by-point, rebuttal is not viable in the scope of this answer.
I would also like to say that detractors deliberately ignore a few very important facts about the Holy Quran, when they want to denigrate it:
-The Quran is a Book of guidance; not a book of science, it is not a book of history, nor is it a book of law. This is although we have references to science, history, and law in it. The purpose of the Quran is to provide unquestionable and authentic divine guidance to man; and there is no doubt about it.
–The Quran was revealed to the prophet in differing contexts, in the course of his 23 years of prophetic career, to suit the needs of the developing Muslim society. Therefore, the contexts of the revelations also become important in the proper understanding of the verses.
–The Quran was revealed in Arabic language. We do not refer to a translation, as “the Holy Quran”, but merely as a translation; say a translation by Arberry, a translation by Yusuf Ali, etc.
Detractors almost invariably depend upon a convenient translation for their criticisms. Often the so-called contradiction does not arise in the original Arabic. Arberry himself has mentioned the difficulty of finding the proper English words and phrases for conveying the correct meaning of the Quranic verses.
Anybody who has done translation work knows the problem of finding equivalents for the original expressions in a language that belongs to an entirely different culture. This is most obvious in the case of translating works from Arabic to English language.
For this reason, part of the problem arises from mistranslation too. For example, in Arberry, we find the word, “walad” translated as “children”; whereas it means “boy”. And one of the contradictions is cleared by recognition of this inaccurate translation.
Parts of the Quran are supported, elaborated, and explicated by other parts. Similarly, the best interpreter of the Quran was the Prophet himself, who received the divine revelations. Besides, his life itself was a living model of the Quran. Thus the two foundations of Islam are the Quran and the sunnah (the exemplary life of the Prophet).
The Quran is not like the Bible; there are so many differences between the two, that to apply the same criteria for both would be quite inappropriate. Still, many Christian critics do not recognize this fact.
For example, the Bible consists of a large number of books written by a large number of authors, who lived in different periods of history. These books were not composed in a single language either.
There are even controversies existing between different churches, about the authenticity of many of its books. The language spoken by Jesus and his people was Aramaic, but “his” Gospel was originally composed in Greek, decades later based on hearsay.
As for the case of the Holy Quran, it is entirely different. All the above factors have provided sufficient scope to vested interests for deliberate misinterpretation. And yet, these detractors were hard put to it, to find enough material for mischief.
I hope the foregoing has cleared the doubts and questions you raised in your question.
Thank you for allowing us to clarify these points and please, do keep in touch.
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