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Does The Quran Contain Mistakes?

There are three main approaches detractors of the Quran use to claim the Quran contains mistakes:

  1. The Quran is still in its original form,
  2. The Arabic grammar is incorrect,
  3. The science in it is inaccurate.

The Quran Intact

What many non-Muslims don’t realize is that revelation of the Quran spanned many years, 23 to be exact. It was not a list of rules on stone, as the Ten Commandments were.

It was not a book that fell out of the sky. It was a revelation sent via angel Gabriel, as all revelations were, to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him – PBUH) over a long period of time.

Some detractors of the Quran use the fact that it was an oral recitation (the word “Quran” itself means recitation) to claim it couldn’t possibly be memorized and kept the same throughout history. But those who make this claim don’t understand what it means to live in a society with an oral tradition.

People from oral traditions could remember thousands of stories, poems, songs, and histories, and recite them all with perfect accuracy. In this way, the people around the Prophet (PBUH) memorized the Quran word for word, letter for letter, as they lived in an oral society.

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Lost Islamic History further explains:

“The Quran was not narrated to just a few select Companions. It was heard and memorized by hundreds and thousands of people, many of them travelers to Madinah. […] who all had the same exact wording. [and] The Prophet appointed numerous Companions of his to serve as scribes, writing down the latest verses as soon as they were revealed.

[…] To further ensure that there were no errors, Muhammad ordered that no one records anything else, not even his words, hadith, on the same sheet as Quran.

Regarding the sheets that the Quran was being written down on, he stated “and whoever has written anything from me other than the Quran should erase it” […].”

In addition to being memorized, written down, double checked many times, and reviewed verbally; Carbon 14 dating of the oldest Quran places this manuscript in the lifetime or just after the lifetimes of the Prophet (PBUH). So, we actually have a copy of the Quran from the times of the Prophet and his companions to authenticate this claim.

Proper Arabic Grammar

Many people who wish to discredit the Quran have very little understanding of the text. Many even attempt to solely understanding it through its English interpretation. Bad interpretations exist as most interpretations from Arabic to English are written by Non-native English speakers.

But when there are detractors of the Quran who do understand Arabic, they use modern Arabic which is as different from Quranic Arabic as Modern English is to Shakespearean English.

As Islamic Awareness explains:

[…] The famous orientalist of our times John Burton wrote a paper called the Linguistic Errors In The Quran in the Journal Of Semitic Studies, [… however] In 1992, M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, a Professor from School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London (UK) published a paper called Grammatical Shift For The Rhetorical Purposes:

Iltifât And Related Features In The Quran, in the Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies, Volume IV, Part 3. In this paper, he not only dealt with the so-called-linguistic (grammatical) errors published by John Burton, but also showed that people need to be thorough in classical Arabic before saying anything about the Quran and its grammatical structure. Most of the discussion on Iltifât below is taken from this paper. [emphasis added]

Burton and others who have attempted to find grammatical errors in the Quran are disingenuous at best and academic frauds at worst. You cannot base your research into the syntax of a historic document using a different linguistic standard.

If I were to try to find grammatical errors in Macbeth using Modern, American English syntax, I would not be hard pressed to find many. These “scholars”, in their pursuit to discredit the Quran, have only proven their own lack of academic integrity and ethical and moral bankruptcy, or perhaps their lack of academic skill.

Accurate Science

Another approach many Quranic detractors take is that of disproving the Quran through science. I have come across many sites and even individuals who deny the actual scientific fact that salt and fresh water do not mix simply because it is stated in the Quran:

He [God] has let loose the two seas (the salt water and the sweet) meeting together. Between them is a barrier which none of them can transgress. (Quran 55:19-20)

Liquids and even waters of different salinity and therefore density do not mix, as oil and water do not mix. This is the case with salt and fresh (or sweet as it states in the Quran) water. Yet detractors find any reason to discredit science just to “prove” the Quran is false.

In the case of mixing of waters, it has even been claimed that salt and fresh water do mix in some places. And this is (superficially) correct. In estuaries, salt and fresh water mix. But this is also very, very wrong because these two liquids of different densities only mix when turbulent flow is present.

Saying salt and fresh water mix in estuaries would be like saying oil and water mix if you are constantly shaking them up.

The fact is that they don’t mix on their own if you simply put them in a container together. But they will mix if you add outside pressure and velocity. You can also suspend gravity when certain forces are applied, but that doesn’t mean that gravity doesn’t exist.

Arguments against the scientific facts that were revealed in the Quran are often like this, built on a house of cards knocked over with one light gust of wind. For more research on this topic (which the Quran itself actually recommends readers to do – explore, find out, ask those of knowledge) you can read Maurice Bucaille’s analysis in The Bible, the Qur’an and Science.

Looking at these approaches and clarifying the issues is perhaps not as important as understanding why the detractors of the Quran attempt to disprove it in the first place.

And to this question of why, I have no rational answer. If you are not forced, as the Quran makes clear -there is no compulsion, why spend so much time and energy disproving it, when you can simply say I don’t believe?

About Theresa Corbin
Theresa Corbin is the author of The Islamic, Adult Coloring Book and co-author of The New Muslim’s Field Guide. Corbin is a French-creole American and Muslimah who converted in 2001. She holds a BA in English Lit and is a writer, editor, and graphic artist who focuses on themes of conversion to Islam, Islamophobia, women's issues, and bridging gaps between peoples of different faiths and cultures. She is a regular contributor for and Al Jumuah magazine. Her work has also been featured on CNN and Washington Post, among other publications. Visit her blog, islamwich, where she discusses the intersection of culture and religion.