The Myth of the Unchanged Qur’an & Muhammad as a role model.

Quran_cover 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:

The translation of this from the Sahih International is:

‘… 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:

The translation here, is:

“… 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.


10 Responses to The Myth of the Unchanged Qur’an & Muhammad as a role model.

  1. yasmine says:

    This article was beautifully written. I must say you have done an excellent job researching. Thumbs up and please continue enlightening the masses!

  2. Saber says:

    I started reading the article, up to the point where you said we say the prophet said without providing evidence of validity, at which point I recognized you know nothing about the subject. Then why do we use all of these words to describe the degree of a Hadith, and why is the assignment of the correct degree the subject of complete Unoversities in the Islamic World?

  3. Brigham Young University in Utah, is a Mormon University. Does this give credit to the “revelations” of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet?
    Talking about it a lot, and creating subjects around it, does not make it true. I am confident that both you and I would agree that the existence of a Mormon University, does not make Mormonism true.

  4. scott pawlicki says:

    until the real GOD finally comes down and ends this constant arguing and bickering over what is divine and what is not will never know for sure. Remember we are humans here and GOD is not here now physically with us to show us the real truth. Maybe after death we find out but again now one has returned after death with GOD beside him demonstrating who he really is.

  5. Steve says:

    A well researched and (as far as I know) fairly accurate summary of the known or suspected events surrounding the origins of the Koran. I agree with the great majority of what you say, but… I think you understate the fact that other religions (most notably Christianity) have been equally violent, dictatorial, intolerant and even genocidal (both in terms of the Biblical justification for genocide in ancient times and in the use of religious arguments to justify mass murder and genocide in more recent history – native Americans, Tasmanians etc.).

    The fact is that all religions (possibly excepting the Bahais) are soaked in blood and Christianity has no more claim to be a religion of peace and love than any other. What is true is that the most influential centres of Christianity in Europe were affected by the Enlightenment and that many Christians (though far from all) have adapted their beliefs to a more tolerant and compromising sort of soggy/semi religion which, while still objectionable, is not as aggressive or as dangerous to the rest of us as the fundamentalist varieties. However, the Islamic world has never seen anything equivalent to the Enlightenment and the nearest thing to it (in India under the Mughals) was suppressed by violence and war and the murder of its leader. Orthodox Islam on the other hand (both Sunni and Shia) still holds more or less the same kinds of attitudes as pre-enlightenment Christianity, which is to say it encourages intolerance, authoritarianism, patriarchal misogyny and brutal religious sectarianism.

    Your article also underplays the role of Colonialism, Western Imperialism and support for Zionism in giving resurgent Islamic fundamentalism its turbocharged boost in the twentieth century. While these great injustices and atrocities (often perpetrated against Muslims) are not an excuse for the Clerical Fascist Jihadis there is no doubt that the overwhelming (and accurate) perception that the West is unprincipled, opportunistic and utterly hypocritical in applying its double standards is a major factor in the inability of western rationalists to make any headway in engaging with most of the Islamic world.

    Reagan and Rumsfeld pumped in billions in arms and war materiel to support the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan when it was part of their anti-Soviet “Crusade” but once the USSR pulled out they didn’t give a toss if Mediaevalist Islamists imposed a reign of terror on the poor bloody Afghans, especially the women. Likewise the support for the racist and aggressively expansionists state of Israel, which exists on the premise that people claiming descent from an ancient tribe have the right to conquer and dispossess all those who live in Palestine who cannot claim such a tribal inheritance, and the patent and obvious brutality and injustice of this, has been the major factor mobilising young Arabs against all things western for three generations.

    You could have said a bit more about these important aspects, but the article was already very long and I suppose no single piece can cover all sides of the issue so perhaps you can be forgiven.

    Well done.

  6. Just me says:

    Thanks for writing this article. In reading the Qur’an across 12 different English translations, to me it appears there are many layers, and one needs to peel back (and even discard) many layers to get to the nuggets that God revealed to Muhammad. As anyone who played the game “telephone” can witness, each layer adds subtle changes or whole-cloth additions, and some is lost, compared with what is there from the layer before.

    The layers I can clearly see are:
    – What God reveals to Gabriel/angels
    – What Gabriel/angels understand of God’s revelation
    – What Gabriel/angels reveal to Muhammad (including their (“We”) interpretations/explanations)
    – What Muhammad understands of what Gabriel/angels reveal
    – What Muhammad shares (including his interpretation)
    – What the listener understands of what Muhammad reveals
    – What the listener shares (including his interpretation)
    – What the religious teacher understands of what listeners share
    – What the religious teachers share (including their interpretation)
    – What the writer understands of what the listener reveals
    – What the writer shares (including his interpretation)
    – What the copier/re-writers (over time) understand of what is written
    – What the copier/re-writers write (including their interpretation)
    – How a language changes (over time) that creates variances in the meaning
    – What the translators understands of whatever version of text they read
    – What the translators write (including their interpretation)
    – What the reader understands of what is written

    I’ve come to suspect that long verses indicate additions. Some are a paragraph long instead of a small sentence or less. At one time, I suspect the Qur’an was written in poetical form (to ease memorization) and that each verse was a line of the poem. But over time, that line grew as each layer added to it. This is in addition to things that Muhammad (and/or his followers) believed was a revelation but was the product of the ego.

    Also, Sura 4:82 proclaims that if one finds discrepancies, the message is from someone other than God. I find that there are many discrepancies all over the Qur’an, not only in comparison with “what was revealed before” but within the book itself. This helps to highlight where people add their own spin. There are parts where it says God hates violence/murder, but then there is the command to slay non-believers. Many politicians/extremists would be proud! I believe George Orwell coined this “doublespeak.”

  7. rbclub9 says:

    Your bold write-up on Quran, Muhammad, etc. has shaken me to the root. Born in a Muslim house, I live sincerely, honestly, humanely, and pray to the Unseen God (believe there’s only one), and yet I question the same verses of Quran that you’ve mentioned (in my mind), but my own image of Muhammad is all good stuff MINUS the bad stuff you’ve indicated: I believe those bad things are additions by bad people. I believe similarly about Abraham, Lot, Jesus, Buddha, Ram, Krishna, etc.
    Sex is a great thing as long as we maintain humane sense of justice, empathy, felicity with the partner.
    I have not seen or heard God or Satan. But I know I have good senses and intellect to see the difference between Good and Evil. I opt for Good, and the definition of Good is as universal as the sun, water, air, fruits,etc., irrespective of any mention in any book, earthly or the so-called divine.
    So I liked your Free Thinking, but I will NOT say bad thing about Muhammad or any personality of Distant Past, simply because You and I do NOT know the Truth about those persons.
    So, logic demands that you should refrain from saying bad things the way you did in the article. THINK, my friend, and do not get emotional and say nasty things about others that you and I can never know the way we know ourselves.
    Hope you understand the weakness in your thought process.

  8. Tim says:

    Though I understand your impression of this article, I definitely do NOT perceive any weakness is the thought process of this author. I believe this person has simply made observations based on their research and I thank them for their effort.

    Over the years, I’ve read many similar articles and realized long ago how all religions seem to have originated from human creation and by the hands of rulers or persons of power, was ingrained into lives of everyday people. As generations come and go, they continue to expand on the doctrines and spread within their families and communities. Someone disagrees and they splinter off and modify the doctrines to their liking.

  9. Andrew says:

    The problem is if you want to follow islam is, you have to belive that Jesus was a muslim and that he didnt die on the cross but was taken to heaven by allah to protect or save him. If that was your all knowing allahs plan then he needed to tell Jesus followers, because assuming they were also muslim they didn’t stay true to it after Jesus was snuck away. They started Christianity the largest religon on earth. So i ask you this did allah knowingly or unknowingly destroy islam. Did he know he was starting the worlds largest fake religion that would fight his beloved muslims. And why when he realised did he wait 600 years to send mahammed, and even then didnt get it right because almost straight mahammed was murderd (not saved by allha like Jesus) the religion went into a cival war. You claim allah was the best planner, dosent sound like he had any idea.

  10. alf says:

    it is good to question and that is the way but we also have to be reasonable otherwise without openness and unbiased reasoning we cannot get closer to the truth. What I have to questoin though is the fact that the writer is using hadith and using quotes that is heard from ten people and has come to the writer as a valid source to evaluate and draw conclusions. What I am missing is the fact that the writer is attcking two religions only and is not considering torah and talmud as being the same and having more ideas that are out of date and much more brutal. what I am missing is that the writer does not say what the word of god was or is and he is just pointing to some discrepencies based on stories told by this and that source. It certainly seems to me that all religions have misunderstood their original mesage and teachings, if one accepts there was or is truth to these teachings. I what I miss is that the writer does not even once point to what the truth is. Such article has to have a purpose and when there is no hint of what truth is means that the writer has no idea about the truth. certainly there are many things that are not acceptable and we have to investigate and become more clear but we don’t need to go back into history since history for the most is writeen by someone in favor of someone and we will never be sure of the truth, we can only guess and guess is not a good thing when we are dealing with something profound. if there were two holes and on lead to survival and one lead to death, certainly one would not base his decision on guess work. The truth is hidden in us and we can access it, but we have to learn to go within to learn. if you want to explore the beauty of the ocean and the touch of water on your skin you have to learn to swim and jump in the ocean. I don’t know why people use so many energy to credit or discredit each other. there is no religon as organized religion that is representing oneness. all people who are engaged in organized religions are dictating their own limitations on others. get over it. what people do in the name of religoin is not religion. the fact that there are so many religions in different names means no one has understood oneness of existance. if they are modes of practice a man with capacity should know that they are just different ways of getting closer to the divinity of existance. then who cares about them. following this or that religoin is not what oneness is put forward to understand and surrender to this oneness after understanding it is the whole point. so, all this non- sense has to be dropped. I am sick and tired of all these so called religious people who think they are representatives of god on earth. god has no representative he told me himslef.

    So, get over these childish games, please for the sake of humanity.

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