There appear to be two often repeated key romantic ideas used to add credit to the Islamic faith. The first, concerns highlighting the Prophet Muhammad as an ideal role model for humanity, and the second is the notion that the Qur’an, throughout its history, is the perfect, unchanged word of God. That whilst Christian and Jewish texts have been revised, and rewritten throughout history (this is true), the Qur’an has remained the pure, and perfect word of God and that it is so wonderfully written, no one could repeat the perfection of it. This myth is cemented into the minds of children at a very young age. It is unquestioned. It is provided as fact, and yet, it seems anything but fact when examined.
This is a long article, so I have tried to break it down into two parts, though they are just rough guides to the proceeding paragraphs.
Muhammad, Revelation, and Hadith:
We are told that Muhammad received the word of God, through sporadic revelations throughout his life. He used scribes, we are told, to write some revelation down, and others memorised parts. Nevertheless, we have no documented evidence of this or anything relating to the Qur’an from that time period, other than hear say (some will point to the odd parchment here and there, that definitely aren’t verified, nor have any strong claim to be of value. I once saw a museum in Istanbul claim to have a piece of the cross that Jesus was crucified on, and the staff of Moses, I dismiss that for the same reason). This is entirely based on trust. We must trust that the Qur’an we have today, is word for word, that which Muhammad received. There is no evidence for this, other than tradition and sentiment. Muslims are very good at repeating the phrase… “The Prophet said this….” without actually providing falsifiable evidence that what they are saying, was in fact something spoken by the Prophet, rather than something someone made up years later.
The reason written versions are largely irrelevant, is because firstly, Muhammad and his followers were for the most part, illiterate, and the ones that could write, only had at their disposal a defective (incomplete) script, leading to questions of pronunciation. It had to be memorised, to preserve its integrity. It strikes me as incredibly bad planning on the part of the Islamic God, to reveal his demands and divine plan for mankind, to illiterate people with no complete script (other civilisations at the time, did have complete scripts), spoken by very few people, whose best hope of preserving it, was through memory…. of which, many forgot:
The Hadith suggests that some of those claiming to have memorised it, at times forgot:
We used to recite a surah which resembled in length and severity to (Surah) Bara’at. I have, however, forgotten it with the exception of this which I remember out of it:” If there were two valleys full of riches, for the son of Adam, he would long for a third valley, and nothing would fill the stomach of the son of Adam but dust.” And we used to recite a surah which resembled one of the surahs of Musabbihat, and I have forgotten it, but remember (this much) out of it:” Oh people who believe, why do you say that which you do not practise” (lxi 2.) and “that is recorded in your necks as a witness (against you) and you would be asked about it on the Day of Resurrection”
– Whole Sura’s have been forgotten! And therefore, those who were entrusted to remember it, cannot be trusted. They could recount wrong, they could change words, they could just invent whatever they wish. And again, it shows complete lack of planning on the part of Allah.
But don’t worry! If you do forget a verse, a new vaguely similar verse will be handed to you.
“We do not abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten except that We bring forth [one] better than it or similar to it. Qur’an 2:106″
- I shall come back to Muhammad inventing new revelations when it suited him later in the article. The idea of losing a verse, and replacing it is not unique to Islam. Joseph Smith of Mormon fame, when his manuscript was stolen, and asked to match it word for word, if it truly were the divine, unchanging word of God…. he said he didn’t have to, because the old version was now tainted with the Devil, and so he would receive a new and similar revelation, but not word for word, conveniently. It is of course, ridiculous. And in both Muhammad’s and Smith’s case; the resulting revelations include power over others and unique sexual ‘rights’ for the ‘Prophet’.
Secondly, Muhammad was illiterate. God has chosen to give his message to someone who is illiterate, whilst proscribing war knowing those who memorise it might be wiped out? If He wishes his religion to spread, revealing it to an illiterate in the hope that he might memorise it, doesn’t seem too wise, and will inevitably lead to people not accepting it.
Remember, revelation is only revelation to the person receiving it. To everyone else, it is hear say, there is no reason to believe what another tells you as fact, especially when it lacks all evidence. We have no reason to believe that Muhammad didn’t just make it up. We also have no way to know that the words written down, were the words of Muhammad; he was dead by the time the words were written. We have no way to know that the writers didn’t just make it up. There is no surviving written Qur’anic text for almost 100 years after the death of Mohammad. Again, to believe the Qur’an is the perfect, unchanged word of God, Muslims have to place their trust in 100 years of passing down words, followed by over 1000 years of interpretations and copies of the text.
The belief, is based solely on trust.
Muhammad himself seems capable of having ‘revelations’ whenever he wished. And then replacing them with new ‘revelations’ for new reasons.. We know that in order to appease Polytheists who didn’t seem receptive to the idea of Muhammad as their new self assigned Prophet, Muhammad claimed that he had a revelation, insisting that under his new religion, the Polytheist Gods: Allāt, al-’Uzzā and Manāt whom previously he had said weren’t allowed, were actually all real, and could be worshipped! HURRAH! But then, Muhammad decided that they weren’t real afterall. For this, he blamed Satan. Hence, the Satanic Verses. And there is the answer to “no one can produce anything like it”. Well, Satan did apparently.
There are then curious moments in the life and revelations of the Prophet, that certain things he desires, suddenly become divine revelations:
The Prophet prayed facing Bait-ulMaqdis (Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeen months but he wished that his Qibla would be the Ka’ba (at Mecca). So Allah Revealed (2.144) and he offered ‘Asr prayers (in his Mosque facing Ka’ba at Mecca) and some people prayed with him. … (Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 60, no. 13, Khan)
- Muhammad originally prays facing Jerusalem, but “wishes” he could pray toward Mecca. Suddenly, he gets a call from Allah, telling him he can now pray toward Mecca. Convenient.
It seems that Allah didn’t actually wish women to be veiled originally. But Muhammad’s friend Umar ‘wishes’ it, and suddenly Muhammad gets another call from Allah, and women are to be veiled for the most mundane reason:
And as regards the (verse of) the veiling of the women, I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I wish you ordered your wives to cover themselves from the men because good and bad ones talk to them.” So the verse of the veiling of the women was revealed. (Qur’an 24:31)
And one need not even wonder where this nasty little verse, offering special sexual privileges to Muhammad came from:
Prophet, We have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave-girls whom Allah had given you as booty; the daughters of your paternal and maternal uncles and of your paternal and maternal aunts who fled with you; and any believing woman who gives herself to the Prophet and whom the Prophet wishes to take in marriage. The privilege is yours alone, being granted to no other believer. (Qur’an 33:50, Dawood)
In the Hadith we see further changes to revelation, to suit Muhammad or his friends. Ibn Umm Maktum was a blind man, who later in life converts to Islam and becomes a friend of Muhammad. He takes exception to the idea that Muslims who sit at home rather than fight for their religion are not equals. And so, Bukhari tells us:
“When the Verse: “Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home)” (4.95) was revealed, Allah’s Apostle called for Zaid who wrote it. In the meantime Ibn Um Maktum came and complained of his blindness, so Allah revealed: “Except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame…” etc.) (4.95) (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 6, Book 60, Number 117)
- How convenient! And also, how weak of a God to not consider exceptions in the first place. He needs them pointing out to him?
Judging by certain revelations, that Muhammad received at times when it suited his own ‘wishes’ or those of his male friends, it is reasonable to suggest that the alternative to Muhammad as a Prophet, is that he concocted the entire thing, for purely selfish, misogynistic reasons. There are too many ‘revelations’ that are concerned with Muhammad’s personal life to be ignored or played off as a God that wished to offer a divine guide for the entire human race. This God is far too pre-occupied with satisfying Muhammad’s lust for women and power.
Here is a God that could be describing the wonder of Dinosaurs, or the mysterious beauty of the Event Horizon, or evolution through natural selection and random mutation, or the curvature of space time when a great mass is involved, or the spectacular insights offered by quantum physics. Instead, he chooses to spend much of his time, telling his Prophet who he personally is allowed to sleep with; turns out, it’s whomever he wishes at the time. Which is convenient.
We cannot reconcile the horrifying genocide of the 600 – 900 Bani Qurayza men who Muhammad personally demanded beheading, and in fact, helped to behead; with a ‘peaceful’ interpretation of Islam. What happened to the poor women of the tribe, whose husbands had now been so viciously slaughtered by such a violent warlord? According to “The Life of Muhammad” by Ibn Ishaq:
“Then the apostle sent Sa’d bin Zayd Al-Ansari brother of bin Abdul Ashhal with some of the captive women of Bani Qurayza to Najd, and he sold them for horses and weapons.”
- Sold into slavery. A Prophet of God, making money, out of selling captured women of men he has just slaughtered, into slavery…. and no intervention or revelation from ‘Allah’ saying “don’t do that”. Extremism is not a fringe element of Islam, or a misinterpretation… it is inbuilt into this ideology itself.
Muhammad is a contradictory character; he is entirely different in Medina, to his life in Mecca. He becomes violent, dictatorial, sex obsessed, polygamous and his words become forceful and threatening. When in Medina, noticing the Jews living there did not accept him as some new wondrous Prophet, he turns vicious, the Jewish population, understandably, are not exactly happy with the subtle threats:
The apostle assembled them in their market and addressed them as follows: “O Jews, beware lest God bring upon you the vengeance that He brought upon Quraysh and become Muslims. You know that I am a prophet who has been sent – you will find that in your scriptures and God’s covenant with you.” They replied, “O Muhammad, you seem to think that we are your people. Do not deceive yourself because you encountered a people with no knowledge of war and got the better of them; for by God if we fight you, you will find that we are real men!” (Ibn Ishaq, 545)
Suddenly, and predictably, Muhammad gets ANOTHER call from God.
Say to those who disbelieve: “You will be vanquished and gathered to Hell, an evil resting place. You have already had a sign in the two forces which met”; i.e. the apostle’s companions at Badr and the Quraysh. “One force fought in the way of God; the other, disbelievers, thought they saw double their own force with their very eyes. God strengthens with His help whom He will. Verily in that is an example for the discerning.” (Ibn Ishaq, 545; Qur’an, 3:12-13)
He then finds a wonderfully convenient way to explain why Allah suddenly decides to change or replace verses in the Qur’an, when people start questioning Muhammad’s divine messages, suggesting he may in fact be a fraud:
“When We substitute one revelation for another – and God knows best what He reveals (in stages), – they say, “Thou art but a forger”: but most of them understand not. Surah 16.101″
- Basically; don’t question. Allah knows best. The Qur’an has changed…. because Allah himself (at moments that were convenient to Muhammad’s current situation in life) decides to change passages, apparently deciding the original ones weren’t right afterall. Surely a perfect being would get it right the first time? Surely, if you’re preparing to release the most important message in history, to the whole of mankind, you plan a little better than this?
But we should not be surprised by the violence. As well as threats, and death for apostasy… Muhammad manages to demand his message start spreading, by force, from childhood:
“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Command a boy to pray when he reaches the age of seven years. When he becomes ten years old, then beat him for prayer.” Abu Dawud 2:494
At the time, certain Jewish Medina citizens did not take kindly to this new violent man threatening and murdering his way through their mist. Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf, a poet, began mocking Muhammad and satirising him. And like a modern crime family Mafia Don, Muhammad gathers a few of his followers, and says:
“Who will kill Ka‘b bin Al-Ashraf? He had maligned Allah, and His Messenger.”
- Ka’b bin Ashraf is then murdered; for insulting the delusions of the Prophet. And he wasn’t the only one to meet this fate, simply for disagreeing with the violent Prophet of Islam. Ibn an-Nawwahah was a rival Prophet. Muhammad, feeling threatened by a rival reacted badly, as is explained in a Hadith:
“I heard the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) say: Were it not that you were not a messenger, I would behead you. But today you are not a messenger. He then ordered Qarazah ibn Ka’b (to kill him). He beheaded him in the market.”
A lovely little story recounts the tail of Uqba bin Abu Mu’ayt, a man who absolutely despised Muhammad. He wrote against him, he mocked, and he tried to fight the murderous advances of the Prophet. Eventually, Muhammad gets overly annoyed and orders his death, whilst Uqba begs for his life, and for his children. The heartless Muhammad, does not care.
When the apostle ordered him to be killed, Uqba said, “But who will look after my children, O Muhammad?” [Muhammad’s reply] “Hell.” The man was put to death. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 458)
- So we see, the condemnation and murder of anyone who dares to mock, or even criticise this religion is not new, it didn’t begin with the death threats against Salman Rushdie nor the Danish Cartoonists. It is an inbuilt trait of the religion itself. It began with the Prophet. The enemy of free expression. This was not a peaceful man. He may indeed have been a great military leader and conqueror placed in the context of the time period, but this does not make him a great spiritual leader. And even if we place Muhammad in the context of the time period… which undoubtedly was a violent time, this ‘great’ Prophet did not rise above it as might be expected for a Prophet of the all-loving and all-knowing bringing a message of peace; no, he became a part of it. He spread his message, through fear and violence. This is not to be admired.
The sex life of Muhammad is a key theme for the Qur’an:
“O Prophet! surely We have made lawful to you your wives whom you have given their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses out of those whom Allah has given to you as prisoners of war, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who fled with you; and a believing woman if she gave herself to the Prophet, if the Prophet desired to marry her– specially for you, not for the (rest of) believers; We know what We have ordained for them concerning their wives and those whom their right hands possess in order that no blame may attach to you; ”
- Basically, Muhammad, you’re free to sleep with whomever you want. Apparently this was a necessary revelation, from the overlord of the Universe. If this isn’t a key indication that the Qur’an was invented by a human man, i’m not sure what is. The point here, in relation to the Qur’an never changing, is that Muhammad simply invented revelations, when it suited him. Revelations pertaining to his sexual desires were delivered whenever he required it. If this is the basis of ‘morality’, it is truly horrifying.
The historical context is irrelevant, because for Muslims, the man in question is in contact with an angel of God. He is capable of receiving ‘revelation’ that changes the ‘context’ of the time period quite significantly, leading to a brand new empire based on a brand new religion. His life is dedicated to changing the ‘context of the time’, and yet God doesn’t see fit to reveal to him that having sex with a 9 year old girl is wrong, or that it might lead to Islamic Patriarchal societies in the future using this to justify lowering the age of consent? Saudi Arabia is not just a ‘Patriarchal’ society. Islam is a Patriarchal religion, clearly invented by men, for men.
The ‘place it in the context’ of the time period argument, is a failure. It is a weak attempt to defend a man who cannot be defended. If Muhammad can receive divine command that changes the context of the time, then Allah has no problem with 50 year old men having sex with 9 year old girls. It just isn’t on his list of cares. He seems more concerned with acquiescing to Muhammad’s request to pray facing Mecca. Allah dedicates an extraordinary amount of time to Muhammad’s sex life. If however, Muhammad isn’t divine. Then yes, he can be placed within the context of the time period, and we cannot judge him by today’s standards in that respect. The moment you accept that he is a Prophet who can receive divine revelation, that negates the ‘context of the time’ argument.
Muslims tend to trust the infallibility of the Hadith. Many will quote what the Prophet ‘said’, during debates with non-believers to add support to their argument or the way they choose to live. Their stories and explanations become intricate, and detailed. But let’s not be fooled by people acting as experts for something so ambiguous. Because Muhammad al-Bukhari, one of the most trusted collectors of the sayings of the Prophet, whose Hadiths are held up as a key component of Islam, was born in 810ad. Two centuries after Muhammad. It takes a lot of trust to accept that a man writing two centuries later, hearing stories passed down over many generations, knew the exact words that the Prophet had uttered. The Hadith are supremely important to Islam, and so if there is doubt over even one Hadith, then they must all be questionable, and the writers cannot therefore be completely trusted. Well, a book written by liberal Muslim Jamal al-Banna, brother of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2008 published a book entitled: “The Cleansing of Bukhari and Muslim from useless Hadiths“. In it, he claims that 653 of the Hadith are wrong, and should be discarded. Even within the Muslim World, they do not agree on the authenticity. And who can blame them?
In fact, the first full account of Muhammad’s life was not only written a century after his death by Ibn Ishaq, all based on oral traditions, it has since been lost, and was rewritten under the authority of Ibn Hisham, even later. Again, this is not something we are compelled to believe is ‘truth’. This is ambiguity at its best. Believers have their work cut out for them, if they are to convince me that this is quite obviously the truth.
Muhammad was a war lord. A very violent man. He was not simply a peaceful type who wished to convey personal faith, and let others know what he believed. He wished to spread his religion, by the sword, crushing anyone who disagreed or disobeyed, and indoctrinating children along the way through violence. And there’s no doubt about what Muhammad achieved. As a military leader and conqueror, he was undoubtedly spectacular. One of the greatest of all time. But not as a spiritual leader. His power also extended to his sex life, inventing verses when it suited him, for his own personal desires and those of his friends. Muhammad was not a good man, and the example he set, is the very reason the religion of Islam has a very intolerant sect of fanatics wishing to replicate what Muhammad achieved. When Nasser al-Bahri (or Abu Jandal) was arrested for his links to al-Qaeda, his reasons for extremism were not primarily American “imperialism” or anything of the sort. His motivation, was certain Hadith that states quite openly, that those who carry the Black Flag, will fight and be victorious for the ownership of Jerusalem. That is the goal of Islamic fanaticism. And it is directly related to the Hadith; the supposed words of the Prophet, not to the actions of America or Europe or any other global power. It is an autonomous ideology, it isn’t a mistranslation of Holy texts, and we must stop making excuses for it.
This religion and this Prophet, are not inherently peaceful (note; I do not claim individual Muslims are not peaceful, this would be incredibly short sighted of me), nor do they lend themselves well to secular values, regardless of how much we delude ourselves into desperately trying to believe otherwise.
The Qur’an and its changes:
Perhaps in Arabic, The Qur’an is written far more wonderfully than the version I have in English, which is really quite ordinary and frankly, the narrative is all over the place. I wondered why Muslims often ask people to create something as ‘wonderful’ as the Qur’an, where did that demand come from? Much like Christians use Biblical verses in a show of circular reasoning to attempt evidence for the existence of God (usually “A fool has said in his heart, there is no God”) it seems that Muslims use a Qur’anic verse, to insist that no one can write something as wonderful as the Qur’an:
“If the mankind and the jinns were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another.” [Qur'an 17:88]
- This is a fallacy. You cannot use the words in a book, to prove that book is true. It must have substance. The substance in the above is empty. The beauty of a text is of course very subjective. Having read the Qur’an, I was not impressed, and in fact, found it to be anything but well written.
We then find that there is no agreement over who actually gave the order to write the Qur’an. Whilst some claim it was Ali, most claim it was Uthman that gave the order to have a standard, written copy of the Qur’an. This presents problems, because Uthman’s motive for the written Qur’an seem to be down to the fact that around the Islamic Empire at the time, different regions had their own versions of the Qur’an with different ways of reciting, and different styles. There was not one standard version from the time of Muhammad, which you’d expect, if it was the perfect, unchangeable word of Allah. To deal with this, Uthman standardises the Qur’an (in much the same was as early Christian dictators decided what deserved to be called the correct version of the Bible) and had his new version sent around the Empire. This is one man’s attempts to define a system of belief. Let us also not forget that Arabic itself, was not standardised until centuries later (the 9th Century). And so the interpretations, even of a standardised text, was interpreted and repeated far differently, depending on where in the Empire you happened to be from. It seems an awful time to send revelation. Why would a God not offer his revelation to a literate group, with a standardised system of writing? It is an astounding show of incompetence.
The Hadith themselves tell us that certain Qur’anic verses were just discarded at times. Maybe Allah had a change of mind.
“Narrated Anas bin Malik: … There was revealed about those who were killed at Bi’r-Ma’una a Qur’anic Verse we used to recite, but it was cancelled later on. The verse was: ‘Inform our people that we have met our Lord. He is pleased with us and He has made us pleased.’” Bukhari vol.4:69 p.53. See also the History of al-Tabari vol.7 p.156.
The Uthman Qur’an, considered by some Muslims to be the actual Qur’an of Uthman, currently residing in Tashkent, Uzbekistan also has its issues. The script itself is its major weakness. The Uthman Qur’an is written in Kufic script. This script was a form of writing that did not appear until decades after Uthman’s death. There is no reason to accept that the Qur’an in question, belonged to Uthman. It is likely an 8th Century version. Still old, and valuable, just not what it being suggested of it.
In Yemen in 1972, a set of parchments were found. The Sana’a manuscript is thought to be the oldest written Qur’anic manuscript, dating to around twenty years after the death of Muhammad. It has two layers, the top layer seems to collaborate the fact that the Qur’an was put together during Uthman’s era, as it reflects the Qur’an today in large parts. However, the bottom layer has vast differences between it, and the standard Qur’an of today. Much of the bottom layer had been erased, but not fully, so we still actually see the lower text due to the materials in the ink that turns the ink light brown over the years. Due to carbon 14 dating, we know that there is a 75% chance that the lower text was written before 650ad, which means it was erased some time later. Which means it was erased, because it didn’t agree with the new standardised version. Which means Uthman (or maybe someone else) decided words spoken by God, to the Prophet Muhammad, were not ‘right’ for his new version. It also means that there have absolutely been variations in content of the Qur’an right from the beginning. There has never been agreement.
The Sana’a manuscript is not just important because it shows the differences in the wording of the Qur’an which Muslims tend to suggest has never happened; it is important because of where it was found. The Great Mosque of Sana’a was, according to Muslim tradition, a Mosque that had design help from the Prophet himself, and became a centre of Islamic learning. Archaeological evidence appears to back up the claim that the Mosque was built during the Prophet’s life time. The manuscript therefore, is important. And so with that, we must look at the differences.
From the Standard text of the Qur’an today:
‘… if they turn away, Allah will punish them with a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And there will not be for them on earth any protector or helper.”
However, the Sana’a manuscript appears to be missing words:
“… if they turn away, Allah will punish them in this world. And there will not be for them on earth any protector or helper.”
- There is no talk of the ‘hereafter’ nor do we need the adjective ‘painful’. But more tellingly, when Muslims insist that not one word has changed since it was first received by Muhammad; they are wrong.
We cannot even claim that Uthman’s version is the version we know today. The Qur’an we know today, includes many changes. Some of which come to us from the early Islamic teacher, and Governor of Iraq, Al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf Al-Thakafi. He didn’t entirely agree with Uthman’s Qur’an and so made changes himself. In Surat Yunus 10:22 he decides to take it upon himself to change “yanshorokom”, which means “spread you,” to “yousayerokom”, which means “makes you to go on.” In Surat Al-Hadid 57:7, the word “wataqu”, which means “feared Allah,” becomes “Wa-anfaqu”, which means “spend in charity.” The Qur’an we have today, is a mesh of what different Islamic rulers thought necessary to include, to omit, to change, based on revelations that Muhammad was conveniently, and changed, when it suited his and his friends needs. There is no compelling reason to belief any of it.
Verses also appear to have been changed around. Many Muslims note that Sura 5:3 is the final revelation. This causes a problem for both the unmatchable ‘beauty’ of the Qur’an and the idea that it is unchanged from Muhammad to today. Because, oddly, the apparent last revelation, doesn’t appear at the conclusion of the text of the Qur’an. It appears close to the beginning of the Qur’an:
“This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. ”
- It cannot be a perfected religion, or a completion of favour, if there are still the majority of revelations to come. And given that this Sura is not at the end of the text, it suggests the Qur’an was not compiled in order, which is a huge continuity and structual deficiency for any book, especially one claiming to be unmatched in beauty, and certainly contradicts the idea that it was passed down exactly as it was recited to Muhammad.
Certain parts of the Qur’an were said to be irretrievably lost. Abdullah ibn Umar, son of the second Caliph wrote:
“It is reported from Ismail ibn Ibrahim from Ayyub from Naafi from Ibn Umar who said: “Let none of you say ‘I have acquired the whole of the Qur’an’. How does he know what all of it is when much of the Qur’an has disappeared? Rather let him say ‘I have acquired what has survived.”
- This constitutes a ‘change’ to the Qur’an we have today, from the one apparently spoken to Muhammad. With missing parts (parts that Allah doesn’t appear to have reissued, to someone else, as one would expect, given that they are his rules for life), means an incomplete religion, and an incomplete Holy Book.
Of course, to even suggest the Qur’an has changed, usually brings with it death threats and brands of apostasy from the incredibly insecure faithful. Dr Nasr Abu Zaid, ex-lecturer in Koranic Studies at Cairo University questioned the idea that the Qur’an was unchanged, back in 1990. The Egyptian courts ruled that he was apostate, and forced him to divorce his wife. He then fled to Holland to escape the increasing hostility and death threats.
The Qur’an cannot objectively be described as a book that has never changed. It quite obviously has and it was quite obviously used to fulfil the desires of Muhammad and his male friends. But even if you trust that Muhammad memorised the entire book, did not change one word for himself or his friends, that his followers memorised the entire book, that they passed it on, word for word, without any omissions or glitches of any sort to the next generation, and that it was written down perfectly; even if you trust the absurdity of that, and even if you can somehow rationalise in your head love for a Prophet who spent much of his time ordering executions and slaughter for very little reason; you cannot get away from the fact that there have been variations of the Qur’an since Muhammad’s life time, that he changed ‘revelation’ at certain points, used it to justify violence when it suited him, and that the variations across the Empire were enough that they caused Uthman to standardise the book, in a language that itself was not yet standardised, and that the standard Qur’an today, differs from the manuscript found at Sana’a. There is no perfect, direct line from the Qur’an as given to Muhammad, to today’s standard version. There is simply hazy recollection to forgetting Sura’s entirely, replaced revelations by the Prophet to suit himself, hear say, arguments over which was right, suppression of unauthorised versions by the leading Patriarchs of Islamic society, and disagreements between today’s version, and ancient versions.
But even if you are willing to overlook all the obvious discrepancies with the traditional story that the Qur’an is unchanged…… that doesn’t imply that the Qur’an is divine. An unchanged book can easily survive for centuries, and not imply divinity or truth. To the cause of divinity, the question of the Qur’an being unchanged, is irrelevant.
It is simply incoherent, ignorant, and disingenuous to claim that the Qur’an as it is today, is the exact, unchanged word that was handed down to Muhammad in a cave, in the 7th Century. The history of both Muhammad and the Qur’an are shrouded in ambiguity. Nothing is clear. The overwhelming evidence quite clearly points to changes to the Qur’an all along the way.
The very idea of forced belief (which is what it is, when punishment and reward enter into the equation, as is the case with Islam and Christianity); God will hand down a very dubious list of demands, surrounded by very ambiguous circumstances, and questionable characters instead of irrefutable proof, which if you simply do not believe, will have you roasting in hell for eternity, is a concept that repulses me. We should all feel threatened by anyone who claims they have divine permission to tell you how to dress, how to act, how to talk. Or anyone who demands unquestioning respect and an end to all mocking of their faith, whilst they themselves demand the right to tell you that your ways are wrong and destined for eternal punishment. It must be resisted.
To believe it, is to suspend all reason, and all critical faculties, and replace it with sentiment.