Problems in the Koran

This post serves as an index to problems in the Koran. In short, it is a list of problems (by no means exhaustive) that lead me to believe that Muhammad was a false prophet. I welcome Muslims who disagree with me to discuss these problems and try to convince me that they are not true problems at all.

  1. Jesus was Crucified and Killed (2:72-73; 3:54-55; 4:157-158)
  2. Solomon Did Disbelieve (2:102)
  3. Apocryphal Apings (3:35-55)
  4. A Chink in the Armor (21:80; 34:10-11)
  5. Child Marriage (65:4)

Chapter 3

Verses 35-36: “Behold! When the wife of Imran said: ‘O my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: So accept this of me: for Thou hearest and knowest all things.’ When she was delivered, she said: ‘O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!’–And Allah knew best what she brought forth–’And no wise is the male like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from the Evil One, the Rejected.’”

Historical Error: Mary, the mother of Jesus, was not the daughter of Imran. Mary is said to be from the womb of Imran’s wife so Imran is portrayed as Mary’s father and not simply an ancestor. The Koran has confused Mary, the mother of Jesus, with Miriam, the daughter of Amram and sister of Moses and Aaron (Numbers 26:59; 1 Chronicles 6:3). The Protoevangelium of James, a second century document, claims that Mary’s parents were Joachim and Anna. V.A. Mohamad Ashrof says that Joachim may have had a second name and that that name was Imran. There is no evidence that was the case and it ignores the fact that first-century Palestinian Jews normally used a Greek or Latin name for their second name, as opposed to having two Semitic names1. See also 19:27-28; 66:12.

Chapter 7

Verse 157: “Those who follow the apostle, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures), – in the law and the Gospel; – for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him, – it is they who will prosper.”

Factual Error: Muhammad, the unlettered prophet, is not prophesied in the Law or in the Gospel or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter.

Chapter 9

Verse 30: And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!

Factual Error: There is no record of the Jews ever calling Ezra the son of God (Allah). This verse speaks of the Jews (and the Christians). This indicates the verse is speaking of the Jews (and the Christians) in general and not some small sect (the translations of Nooruddin and Sarwar are wrong). It calls Ezra the son of God and not a son of God (Yusuf Ali’s translation is wrong). “And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah” parallels “and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah,” suggesting Ezra holds a position among the Jews analogous to Christ’s position among Christians.

Chapter 19

Verses 27-28: At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: “O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!”

Historical Error: Mary, the mother of Jesus, was not the sister of Aaron. According to Sahih Muslim 5326 this was already raising questions during the time of Muhammad:

Mughira b. Shu’ba reported: When I came to Najran, they (the Christians of Najran) asked me: You read ‘O sister of Harun’ (i. e. Hadrat Maryam) in the Qur’an, whereas Moses was born much before Jesus. When I came back to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) I asked him about that, whereupon he said: The (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of Apostles and pious persons who had gone before them.

The Christians of Najran believe that Muhammad has mistaken Mary, the mother of Jesus, for Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 15:20; Numbers 26:59; 1 Chronicles 6:3). Muhammad’s response appears to be that it was the custom of first-century Jews to call their daughters the sister of some past prophet and is admitting that Mary did not have a biological brother named Aaron. I am unaware of any example of such a custom and so it appears Muhammad was just making things up (Silas has made an exhaustive search and also found nothing). This is bolstered by the fact that neither the Christians of Najran nor the Muslims reading the Koran were aware of this custom until Muhammad was accused of being in error.

V.A. Mohamad Ashrof attempts to find this custom, or idiom, in the Bible but ultimately fails. Many of his examples are of the form “A son/daughter of B”, which is not the idiom used here. All his examples of the form “A brother/sister of B” involve contemporaries or biological relationships (e.g., Abraham and Lot were contemporaries). He is unable to provide an example of someone being called the brother or sister of a long-dead person as would be necessary to vindicate Muhammad. Islamic Awareness tries to show that this is an Arabic idiom despite the fact that Muhammad claimed it was an idiom used by Mary’s contemporaries. Even then they cannot find a legitimate example.

Answering Christianity contends that a female descendant of Aaron could be called a “sister of Aaron.” The problem is that the Protoevangelium of James 10.1 says Mary was a descendant of David and thus not a descendant of Aaron. Hebrews 7:11-16 explicitly rules out Jesus’ (and therefore Mary’s?) descent from Aaron. Moreover, we have already noted that the phrase “sister of X” is never used in the sense Muhammad claims.

Regarding Mary’s siblings, John 19:25 says Mary had a sister named Mary Cleopas. I am unaware of any other list of Mary’s siblings.

See also 3:35-36; 66:12.

Chapter 61

Verse 6: And when Jesus, son of Mary, said: “O children of Israel, I am sent to you by God to confirm the Torah (sent) before me, and to give you good tidings of an apostle who will come after me, whose name is Ahmad (the praised one).” Yet when he has come to them with clear proofs, they say: “This is only magic.”

Historical Error: Jesus did not bring good tidings of a coming messenger named Ahmad or the praised one.

Chapter 66

Verse 12: And Mary the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants).

Historical Error: Mary, the mother of Jesus, was not the daughter of Imran. See 3:35-36; 19:27-28.

Bibliography

Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels As Eyewitness Testimony. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008.

1Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 83.

2See endnote 4 of the link

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15 thoughts on “Problems in the Koran

  1. A very poor attempt at “uncovering” problems in the Quran. For instance, regarding Solomon’s integrity you beg the question by presupposing that the biblical account about his dealings with idolatry is true.

  2. Ibn Abu Talib, our primary source concerning King Solomon is Kings. When we compare Kings to external written sources and archaeological data we can determine that it is a rather trustworthy historical account of Israel’s monarchy (see, for example, ch. 2 from On the Reliability of the Old Testament by K. A. Kitchen). I also see no reason for the author of Kings to lie about Solomon apostatizing.

    If you have a better method to test the Koran’s historical claims or have reasons to believe the Koran is correct about Solomon I’m all ears.

  3. Jayman:When we compare Kings to external written sources and archaeological data we can determine that it is a rather trustworthy historical account of Israel’s monarchy

    So? Just because Kings is right on some facts doesn’t necessarily mean it is right about everything reported therein.

    Jayman:I also see no reason for the author of Kings to lie about Solomon apostatizing.

    Look at the immediate circumstances leading up to Solomon’s apostasy. According to Kings, it was foreign women who had seduced him into practicing polytheism. Given that “accounts” of women leading notables astray run throughout the bible (in Genesis alone, there are at least two cases-Eve causing Adam to sin, and the shameful acts of Lot’s daughters), there is no good reason to believe that this particular narrative reflects an actual historical event. More likely, the authors cooked up this story to scare the Israelites from assimilating with the people around them, wanting to convey the idea that if they fraternize with people outside of their group, then like their ancient King, they too will fall prey to sin and end up angering God.

  4. Also, Solomon was given Wisdom. Just as it is inconceivable for a hardcore materialist to believe in a transcendent deity, so is it impossible that a sage as wise as Solomon would practice polytheism knowing that there is no God other than the one true God whom you call Yahweh and I, Allah.

  5. Ibn Abu Talib:

    So? Just because Kings is right on some facts doesn’t necessarily mean it is right about everything reported therein.

    So, on the one hand, we have the book of Kings which, as far as we can tell, is trustworthy concerning Israel’s monarchy and, on the other hand, we have the Koran which was written over 1500 years after Solomon’s death and contradicts earlier written sources. How can we reasonably consider the Koran to be more historically accurate in this matter than Kings?

    Look at the immediate circumstances leading up to Solomon’s apostasy. According to Kings, it was foreign women who had seduced him into practicing polytheism. Given that “accounts” of women leading notables astray run throughout the bible (in Genesis alone, there are at least two cases-Eve causing Adam to sin, and the shameful acts of Lot’s daughters), there is no good reason to believe that this particular narrative reflects an actual historical event. More likely, the authors cooked up this story to scare the Israelites from assimilating with the people around them, wanting to convey the idea that if they fraternize with people outside of their group, then like their ancient King, they too will fall prey to sin and end up angering God.

    Multiple books of the Bible as well as the archaeological record attest that idolatry existed in ancient Israel. Why is it more likely that an author made up a story about idolatry instead of choosing an historical example of idolatry?

    Also, Solomon was given Wisdom. Just as it is inconceivable for a hardcore materialist to believe in a transcendent deity, so is it impossible that a sage as wise as Solomon would practice polytheism knowing that there is no God other than the one true God whom you call Yahweh and I, Allah.

    Solomon prays for wisdom in 1 Kings 3:1-15. In verse 14, God says to Solomon, “And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” In 1 Kings 9:6-7 God explicitly notes the possibility of Solomon serving other gods: “But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples.” Even though he possessed wisdom Solomon still had the capacity to sin (see also 1 Kings 6:11-13; 8:46). Solomon’s wisdom seems to have concerned governance (1 Kings 3:9, 28), literature (1 Kings 4:32), and nature (1 Kings 4:33), not theology. I’m sure we can find modern-day examples of monotheists becoming polytheists so it is hardly inconceivable Solomon would do the same thing (compare 1 Kings 8:60 with 11:1-8), especially when we note that Solomon did not reject YHWH’s existence but worshiped other gods in addition to YHWH.

  6. Jayman:So, on the one hand, we have the book of Kings which, as far as we can tell, is trustworthy concerning Israel’s monarchy and, on the other hand, we have the Koran which was written over 1500 years after Solomon’s death and contradicts earlier written sources. How can we reasonably consider the Koran to be more historically accurate in this matter than Kings?

    Just because Kings came earlier and the Quran later doesn’t mean that whatever the former says is necessarily true. You argued that Kings is reliable because it contained information that was later supported by archaeological evidence. The same is true of the Quran. Therefore, whatever it says carries as much weight as the bible.

    Jayman:Multiple books of the Bible as well as the archaeological record attest that idolatry existed in ancient Israel. Why is it more likely that an author made up a story about idolatry instead of choosing an historical example of idolatry?

    Maybe the only historical fact the author(s) of Kings knew was that Solomon’s empire crumbled shortly after his death, leaving Israel at the mercy of its enemies once again. Not knowing the actual events leading up to his nation’s fall, the author(s) of Kings looked for information in the previous books. In earlier works, he found that the destruction of many personalities were as a result of tempestuous relationships with women. Just as Eve had caused Adam to sin, relegating humanity to this debased life thereby, so was Solomon deceived by impure women into practicing polytheism, angering God in the process and causing Him to punish his people consequently.

    Jayman:Even though he possessed wisdom Solomon still had the capacity to sin (see also 1 Kings 6:11-13; 8:46). Solomon’s wisdom seems to have concerned governance (1 Kings 3:9, 28), literature (1 Kings 4:32), and nature (1 Kings 4:33), not theology.

    It is too naive to say that Solomon’s wisdom did not extend to theology, considering that it was through God, with whom he communicated in a manner inaccessible to us ordinary human beings, that he acquired extraordinary knowledge. Thus, it is inconceivable that he would become a polytheist, knowing that polytheism is false.

  7. Ibn Abu Talib:Maybe the only historical fact the author(s) of Kings knew was that Solomon’s empire crumbled shortly after his death, leaving Israel at the mercy of its enemies once again. Not knowing the actual events leading up to his nation’s fall, the author(s) of Kings looked for information in the previous books. In earlier works, he found that the destruction of many personalities were as a result of tempestuous relationships with women. Just as Eve had caused Adam to sin, relegating humanity to this debased life thereby, so was Solomon deceived by impure women into practicing polytheism, angering God in the process and causing Him to punish his people consequently.

    If I recall correctly, and please correct me if I am wrong, much of the scriptures was written after Ezra. This would also explain why the author of Kings attributed Solomon’s downfall to foreign women since Ezra had instilled in his contemporaries and succeeding generations the idea that assimilation is the gravest sin in the sight of God.

  8. Ibn Abu Talib:

    Just because Kings came earlier and the Quran later doesn’t mean that whatever the former says is necessarily true.

    That’s correct. Absolute certainty is rarely possible. We often have to work with varying degrees of probability. However, an earlier source is in a better position to know historical facts than a later source for at least three reasons. First, the earlier source may have been written within living memory of the people and events it describes and therefore have access to witnesses. Second, if the earlier source relies on oral transmission of traditions those traditions will pass through fewer people before reaching the author and thus have fewer chances to be lost or corrupted. Third, if the earlier source relies on written records the author may have had access to written records that are lost to later generations. 1 Kings 11:41 mentions the Book of the Acts of Solomon as containing the “rest of the acts of Solomon.” This book is now lost to us but was accessible to the author and readers of Kings.

    You argued that Kings is reliable because it contained information that was later supported by archaeological evidence. The same is true of the Quran. Therefore, whatever it says carries as much weight as the bible.

    I also think Kings is reliable because it is our earliest detailed source of the period and because multiple other ancient writings, including non-Israelite writings, agree with it on certain points. The Koran is certainly not an early source on Solomon and it is known to contradict earlier sources.

    Maybe the only historical fact the author(s) of Kings knew was that Solomon’s empire crumbled shortly after his death, leaving Israel at the mercy of its enemies once again. Not knowing the actual events leading up to his nation’s fall, the author(s) of Kings looked for information in the previous books. In earlier works, he found that the destruction of many personalities were as a result of tempestuous relationships with women. Just as Eve had caused Adam to sin, relegating humanity to this debased life thereby, so was Solomon deceived by impure women into practicing polytheism, angering God in the process and causing Him to punish his people consequently.

    According to 1 Kings 11:41 the author and his readers had access to the Book of the Acts of Solomon. The author’s statement that that book contained the “rest of the acts of Solomon” implies that it had more information about Solomon than what is contained in 1 Kings 1-11. The fact that his readers also had access to the book means if he lied about Solomon he was liable to be caught in the act. This gives us another reason to doubt that the author was lying.

    It is too naive to say that Solomon’s wisdom did not extend to theology, considering that it was through God, with whom he communicated in a manner inaccessible to us ordinary human beings, that he acquired extraordinary knowledge. Thus, it is inconceivable that he would become a polytheist, knowing that polytheism is false.

    What evidence is there that Solomon’s wisdom did extend to theological matters? 1 Kings 3 suggests that Solomon was simply given wisdom. There is no indication that he had to consult God each and every time he wanted to make a wise choice. It is quite strange that no mention is made of his theological wisdom since you’d think that would be of more interest than his knowledge about plants and animals (1 Kings 4:32-33).

    If I recall correctly, and please correct me if I am wrong, much of the scriptures was written after Ezra. This would also explain why the author of Kings attributed Solomon’s downfall to foreign women since Ezra had instilled in his contemporaries and succeeding generations the idea that assimilation is the gravest sin in the sight of God.

    Some books were written after Ezra but the last event mentioned in Kings (2 Kings 25:27-30) dates to about 560 BC, about 100 years before Ezra arrived in Jerusalem.

  9. None of the above “errors” are errors, they only appear to be so because the writer of this blog post holds to the belief that “the Bible is true, so whatever that contradicts the Bible is not”. A silly presumption, if you ask me.

  10. menj, I do not assume that the Bible is correct on all historical matters. If that were the case I would have to add more items to the list. As an example, the Koran 20:90 exonerates Aaron from building the golden calf (at least on M. M. Ali’s interpretation). This contradicts Exodus 32 where Aaron does have a hand in the golden calf affair. But I don’t believe the evidence for the historicity of Exodus 32 is sufficiently strong to call this an historical error on the Koran’s part.

    However, as someone interested in the Bible and history, such errors jump out at me when reading the Koran. I have (and will) probably focus on such errors more than other critics of the Koran.

    Finally, even the currently small list is not limited to points where the Koran contradicts the Bible (e.g., Muslim confusion over what happened to Jesus, Jews don’t call Ezra the son of God, marriage of pre-pubescent girls).

  11. “menj, I do not assume that the Bible is correct on all historical matters.”

    If this statement of yours is true, then you wouldn’t be making the silly claim that the Qur’an is in “error” because it absolves Solomon (Sulayman AS) of polytheism, which Kings accused him of doing. Also, you will not be kicking up a fuss like a spoiled brat when pointing out the list of “similarities” in apocryphal literature with some of the stories in the Qur’an. Yes, similarities do exist because the Qur’an repeatedly states that it affirms the truth that exists before it and there are differences because the Qur’an also repeatedly states that it rejects the falsehood that were promulgated before it. Neither proposition alludes to the claim that the Qur’an is “problematic” or contains “historical” (!) errors, and that only the Bible is the sole infallible, immaculate, trustworthy and most accurate historical account and whatever that contradicts it must therefore be false.

    Hence why I said earlier that your (wrong) presumption right from the start is: The Bible is true because it is from God. And it is from God because the Bible says so. No other evidence to disprove the Qur’anic position is shown apart from holding this fallacious assumption.

  12. menj:

    If this statement of yours is true, then you wouldn’t be making the silly claim that the Qur’an is in “error” because it absolves Solomon (Sulayman AS) of polytheism, which Kings accused him of doing.

    That’s not true. I believe Kings is generally accurate regarding historical matters pertaining to the ancient Israelite monarchy. This is not the same as believing there are no errors or difficulties of any kind in Kings.

    The Bible is true because it is from God. And it is from God because the Bible says so. No other evidence to disprove the Qur’anic position is shown apart from holding this fallacious assumption.

    If you had read my responses to Ibn Abu Talib’s comments you would note that I alluded to external written sources and archeological data that confirm the narrative in Kings on many matters. My basic method on this issue is: (1) that earlier sources take preference over later sources, (2) that early sources with additional support from external sources are given additional weight, and (3) people usually don’t lie when their readers can call out their lie. One does not even have to believe in God to agree on these three points.

  13. There is one “fact” that none have mentioned as pertains to the correctness of the Quran or the Bible. That is, they can not both be correct. One is false and the other true. They can not both be from GOD. Each of us must ask GOD to show us HIS truth. Not what we think is truth, not what someone else has told us is truth, but what we, each as individuals, discover to be GOD’s truth. GOD is faithful to show each of us HIS truth if we will earnestly ask it of HIM.

  14. Amazing, what did gospel of mattew 1 v1 says; jesus christ son of david. Thus that mean david was the father of jesus? If you ask to explain the context of this verse how do you explain it. Do you force people to believe jesus was david’s son? No, but what this verse is saying is jesus christ is a DESCENDANT of david.

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