Ancient Road Publications


What About Islam and the Qur’an?

Presented at the 2005 Truth Magazine Lectures
By Kyle Pope


Part of a consideration of the authority and inspiration of the Bible concerns the limitation of what constitutes inspired Scripture and what does not.  Since the last words of the New Testament were penned, there have been many texts which have emerged that have been set forth by their creators as inspired.  If a text is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit, believers would be obligated to accept it together with the existing Biblical Canon.  However, if it is not inspired, and yet claims to have been, it is a false text and must be rejected by believers as heretical.  A solid test of such works lies in analysis of the harmony or conflict which exists between the work in question and the teachings of the Bible.  Particularly when a so-called “new revelation” comes along which claims to confirm, fulfill or harmonize with the Bible, the existence of contradictory or conflicting claims within the text discredits any claim to inspiration.  In this study we will attempt to perform such an analysis of the Qur’an—the text upon which the Islamic faith is built.   

The Qur’an.

            The writings called the Qur’an (Koran), meaning “recitation,” came from the Arabic tribesman Muhammad.  In 610 A.D. Muhammad claimed to begin receiving revelations from God, through the angel Gabriel.  These sayings and verses which he claimed to receive were collected throughout his life until the time of his death in 632 A.D.  By 650 A.D. they were compiled together into their present form by Muhammad’s followers.  These writings were divided into 114 sections called Suras.  Each Sura bears a name, which describes the focus of the that section of the the text.  For example, Sura 19 is called Maryam  and addresses Mary the mother of Jesus.  Sura 14 is called Ibrahim  and addresses the patriarch Abraham, and so on.

I.  The Qur’an’s Dependence Upon the Bible.

            The first point which we will focus upon is the fact that the Qur’an does not present itself as an independent document.  Instead it claims to confirm, fulfill and build upon the Jewish and Christian Scriptures which came before it.  This is an important fact to understand in the consideration of our topic.  It is a point which we will stress in our analysis, because it is a principle upon which the whole of Islamic faith either rises or falls.                                 

            The Qur’an teaches Muslims: 

“Say ye: ‘We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma‘il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from the Lord: we make no difference between one and another of them: and we bow to God (in Islam)” (Sura II.136)[*]. 

The Qur’an claims that it was sent by God:

 “…Confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the Criterion (of judgment between right and wrong)” (Sura III.3).

We note from these two texts that Muslims are admonished to “believe in” the revelation that was given to Biblical characters including Abraham, Moses and Jesus.  There is to be “no difference between one and another.”  What the Qur’an claims to do is to serve as a confirmation of “what went before it.”  Specifically, it claims to confirm the “Law” and the “Gospel” which are said to have been given as a “guide to mankind.”

            These claims lead to some inescapable conclusions:

1.  If the Bible is from God then its claims must be accepted or one is rejecting what God has revealed.

2.  If the Bible is from God, and it conflicts with another text which claims to be from God, then either the Bible has been corrupted, or the text which claims to confirm it is corrupt, manmade and invalid. 

3.  If the Bible is corrupt, and another text claims to confirm it, the validity of the dependent text must itself be brought into question.

            Christians understand these conclusions.  We believe that the Bible is from God.  The Apostle Peter declared: “…no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit”  (2 Peter 1:20-21, NKJV[**]).  Christians know that we must accept what the Bible says, or we are rejecting God.  The Apostle Paul praised the Thessalonians because when he taught them the word of God they “…welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).  Christians understand that the message of true prophets of God must harmonize with what God has already said.  Paul told the Galatians: “even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).  While man can twist the meaning of Scripture (2 Peter 3:16), God has promised to preserve His word.  Jesus declared: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).  That tells us that if someone says “the Bible is corrupt” they are telling us that God hasn’t kept his word and instead He has allowed His word to “pass away.”

            Christians believe wholeheartedly in a “new revelation” which served to fulfill, confirm and establish an older one.  Jeremiah promised: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31).  Christians believe that the New Testament is that very covenant that was revealed by the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and Prophets of Jesus Christ.  Yet, Jesus Himself realized that the validity of His own message depended upon the validity of the revelation which He claimed to fulfill.  Jesus said:

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-18).

The validity of the New Testament depends upon the veracity of the Old Testament.  If New Testament writers claimed that the Gospel fulfilled the Old Testament, but then claimed that the Old Testament text had been corrupted, it would bring the New Testament itself into question.

            While Christians would reject any claim that the Bible is corrupt to begin with, the last inescapable conclusion mentioned above, is one of the greatest challenges to the validity of Islam.  The Qur’an does not uphold some of the basic teachings of the Bible.  The Qur’an denies that Jesus is the Son of God (Sura 9.30).  The Qur’an denies that Jesus was crucified (Sura 4.157).  The Qur’an denies the Divinity of Christ (Sura 5.19).  Yet, the Qur’an claims to confirm the Bible.  How can Islam discredit the Bible when the Qur’an claims to confirm it?

            This is like the old puzzle of logic where someone makes the claim: “I am a liar and I never tell the truth!”  If their statement is true, then their characterization of them self is false because they have just made a statement which is true.  So, they can not say “I never tell the truth” because they just did.  Yet, they can’t be trusted because they have just declared, “I am a liar.” 

            This is Islam’s great logical paradox.  If the Bible and the Qur’an are in conflict, Muslims must rely upon the very thing which they are forced to discredit in order to defend the Qur’an’s own validity!  Yet, the Qur’an claims to confirm the Bible.  In this paradox there is an unusual parallel between Islam and Mormonism.  Both put forth new texts which they claim are “new revelations,” the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon.  Both claim that the Bible underlies their “new revelation.”  Yet, when the Bible contradicts the teachings of the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon  proponents of both faiths must question the reliability of the text of the Bible!  Would it not be more reasonable to question the reliability of these “new revelations?”  

The Qur’an vs. Modern Islamic Apologists.

            I would submit that a logical conflict exists within Islam itself which unravels the validity of the entire system of faith.  This conflict is seen in the the fact that modern Islamic apologists, in order to avoid the logical paradox described above, have drawn conclusions which reject the very statements of the Qur’an itself.  As a result, we must recognize the fact that the Qur’an (and thus Muhammad himself) did not question the validity of the Bible.  In this there is a clear distinction between modern Islam and the book upon which it claims to rely.  The Qur’an:

1.  Accepts the Jewish and Christian Scriptures as they existed at the time of Muhammad;

2.  Claims to confirm Jewish and Christian Scriptures which came before it; and yet,

3.  Rejects and denies certain clear teachings of the Bible. 

This should demonstrate that the Qur’an is not inspired, but rather a manmade and heretical document.  Yet Modern Islamic apologists, rather than truly accepting what their own book claims, and being forced question its validity:

1.  Reject Jewish and Christian Scriptures as they exist now and during the time of Muhammad as corrupt and unreliable;

2.  Claim that the Qur’an confirms lost originals of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures no longer in existence, and thus,

3.  Accept the teachings of the Qur’an and reject the teachings of the Bible where they differ with one another.

Understanding the distinction between what the Qur’an says and what modern Islamic apologists argue does not give validity to the Qur’an, but rather it clarifies the contradictory claims of the Qur’an, free from the logical “gymnastics” that modern Muslims have gone through to try and reconcile these inconsistencies. 

            We will offer first some statements by Islamic apologists which demonstrate their avoidance of this dilemma.  After considering some evidence which counters these statements, we will then demonstrate the fact that the Qur’an while accepting the validity of the Bible, contradicts it in points of fact, doctrine and claims about Jesus.  

Muslim Apologists Teach That the Bible is Corrupt.

            In 1974 a four night debate was conducted between Dr. Salah El Dareer, the President of the Islamic Center of Birmingham and evangelist Hiram Hutto in Birmingham, Alabama.  During the first two night, brother Hutto affirmed the proposition: “Jesus the Messiah is the only begotten Son of God, was crucified for the sins of the world, and the New Testament is God’s final revelation.”  On the last two nights, Dr.El Dareer affirmed the proposition: “The advent of the Prophet Mohammed is clearly foretold in both Old and New Testaments, and the Koran is God’s final revelation.”  During the first night, Dr. El Dareer expressed clearly the common Islamic view of the Bible.  He explained:

Are the Jewish and Christian scriptures without foundation?  Can they be said to accurately reflect or preserve a message from the Supreme being to mortal man?  When one reads the Bible today, what is really being read, God’s word or men’s fables?  Muslims believe in divine revelation, we believe in the Law which was given to Moses and in the Gospel which was given to Jesus, but can we find either the Law or the Gospel in today’s Bible?  I say we can find some of the Law; and yes we can find some of the truth in the Bible (p. 25).

Dr. El Dareer’s views are not unique.  Abdullah Yusuf Ali, who in the early 20th century produced the English translation and commentary on the Qur’an still used by the Muslim Student’s Association of the United States and Canada, wrote an essay on the meaning of the Arabic word Injil, translated “Gospel” in the Qur’an.  Ali wrote that this “Gospel”:

…is not the New Testament.  It is not the four Gospels now received as canonical.  It is the single Gospel, which Islam teaches, was revealed to Jesus, and which he taught.  Fragments of it survive in the received canonical Gospels and in some others, of which traces survive (e.g. the Gospel of Childhood or the Nativity, the Gospel of St. Barnabas, etc.) (p. 287).

Ali makes the same claims regarding the text of the Old Testament in an earlier essay (p. 282-285).  

            These statements reflect a glaring ignorance of the manuscript evidence which underlies the text of both the Old and the New Testament as they exist now and during the time of Muhammad.  The New Testament text is attested by more than 4000 handwritten manuscripts in Greek.  Of these 146 of them predate the Qur’an itself!  The British Museum houses a near complete text of the New Testament known as Codex Sinaiticus.  This manuscript dates to the 4th century—300 years before Muhammad.  Yet, the text reads substantially the same as the other manuscripts, as it reflected in the translations in our modern Bibles.

            Ali might be excused for his ignorance of Old Testament textual evidence.  When he wrote, the oldest Hebrew manuscripts dated to around 900 A.D. largely because of the scribal practice of destroying damaged manuscripts to prevent corruption.  In the 1940’s however, near the Dead Sea, a treasury of scrolls was found which predated the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  Among these scrolls were near complete copies of most of the Old Testament.  In this case as well the text was substantially the same as the Hebrew text which underlies the English translations used in churches every Sunday.

            Ali’s reference to the “Gospel of St. Barnabas” is not so easily excused.  This document, written in Italian, was found in the 1700’s.  Analysis of the physical manuscript has dated it to the 1500’s.  Internal evidence reveals that the work itself could not have been written any earlier than the 1300’s, and was authored in the Western Mediterranean by someone ignorant of Palestinian geography.  The reason some like Ali appeal to such a speculative text is the fact that in the text Jesus is said to deny that he is the Messiah and to predict that Muhammad would be (a claim which the Qur’an itself contradicts - Sura 3:45).

            The Qur’an throughout will refer to the “Book” of God.  This “Book” is envisioned as combining the Law the Gospel and the Qur’an.  In practice, modern Muslims appeal only to the Qur’an, because only it is held to be free of corruption.   Ali writes: “I conceive that God’s revelation as a whole throughout the ages is ‘The Book.’  The Law of Moses, and the Gospel of Jesus were portions of the Book.  The Qur’an completes the revelation and is par excellence the Book of God” (p. 128).

            To rationalize this convoluted theory of Divine revelation Islam must ignore a principle that runs throughout the Bible and even the the Qur’an itself—the fact that God preserves His word.  Isaiah wrote: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8).  Jesus said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).  The Apostle Peter spoke of “the word of God which lives and abides forever” (I Peter 1:21).  Even the Qur’an, claims: “none of Our revelations do we abrogate or cause to be forgotten…” (Sura II.106a).  How can it be that God’s revelations are not “abrogated” or “forgotten” but if you ask a Muslim to show you an uncorrupted version of the revelations of the Bible they can find none?  James A. Beverly in his article “Muhammad Amid the Faiths”points out the absurdity of the Muslim claim of Biblical corruption.  He observes:

They argue that Muhammad and his text are correct, but Christians and Jews corrupted their Scriptures—every single copy (Beverley, p. 13).

The Qur’an Teaches the Validity of the Bible.

            In spite of the claims of the apologists.  The Qur’an accepted the validity of the Bible as it existed in the time of Muhammad.  Let’s consider a few proofs.  The Qur’an refers to Jews and Christians together with the phrase “People of the Book.”  What “Book” is it that Christians and Jews are associated with?  The Bible.   In one passage, discussing conflicts between Jews and Christians, the Qur’an states: “…they (profess to) study the (same) Book…” (Sura 2.113).  Was this some original lost source which they had corrupted by the time of Muhammad?  Notice three statements the Qur’an makes:  1.  The Qur’an is said to be “… a Book from God, confirming what is with them…” (Sura 2.89);  2.  Muhammad is called “…an  Apostle, confirming what is with you…” (Sura 3.81); and 3. The admonition is given, “O ye People of the Book!  Believe in what we have (now) revealed, confirming what was already with you…”  (Sura 4.47).  In each instance we note that something is said to be “with” the People of the Book.  Clearly what was with them was the Bible.

            In each of these passages the Qur’an is said to be given “confirming” what was with the People of the Book.  The word which is translated “confirming” is the Arabic word sadaqa meaning– “to speak the truth, to prove to be true; to approve, confirm, ratify” (Madina, p. 370), “to deem credible, accept; sanction, certify, confirm, substantiate” (Cowans, p. 594) and “to believe, to trust; to endorse” (Qafisheh, p. 378).  Students of the Old Testament will encounter the cognate of this in the word most commonly translated “righteous” in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word tsadiq (BDB, p. 841).  It is clear that the writer of the Qur’an was not questioning the authority or reliability of the Bible as it existed in his own day.  Rather he was trying to argue that the words that he was putting forth harmonized with the Biblical text and served as an endorsement of it. 

            Muhammad, although he had limited knowledge of the Bible, does not try to challenge the veracity of what the Jews and Christians of his day had.  This is illustrated by one text where Muhammad chastises Jews and Christians for not believing his claimed  revelation.  He says: “A section of the People of the Book say:  ‘Believe in the morning what is revealed to the Believers, but reject it at the end of the day…” (Sura 3.72).  His argument is that the “People of the Book” want to accept a revelation from God given (figuratively) “in the morning” but not one which has come “at the end of the day” (i.e. the Qur’an).  Muhammad in this statement acknowledges that what they “believe in” is “revealed to the Believers.”  What do the “People of the Book” believe in?  The Bible.

            In another passage he claims:  “And when there came to them an Apostle from God, confirming what was with them, a party of the People of the Book threw away the book of God behind their backs, as if (it had been something) they did not know” (Sura 2.101).  Ali commenting on this verse writes: “I think that by ‘Book of God’ here is meant not the Qur’an but the Book which the People of the Book had been given, viz.  the previous Revelations.” (p. 44).  This is claiming that the People of the Book reject part of the Bible, not that it is corrupt.

            Another text reads:  “There is among them a section of those who distort the Book with their tongues: (as they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, ‘That is from God,’ but it is not from God:  It is they who tell a lie against God and (well) they know it!” (Sura 3:78).  I say amen!  There is no sound gospel preacher today that would not argue that many in the world “distort” what the Bible says.  Many say that things are from God when there is no authority for them.  But is that the same as saying that the Bible is corrupt?  Not at all.

            Muhammad’s acceptance of the validity of the Bible is seen, ultimately in the fact that he taught that those who follow the Bible will be saved.  He wrote: 

Those who believe (in the Qur’an) and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures) and the Christians and the Sabians, any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with the Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve (Sura 2.62).

How can it be suggested that the Bible is corrupt if following it is said to lead to salvation?  Beverley observes that “later portions of the Qur’an build a strong polemic against both Jews and Christians” (p. 13), turning from Muhammad’s earlier ecumenical attitude.  This simply reflects the fact that the Qur’an is a manmade document, subject to the changing attitudes of its author.  Even so, Muhammad’s acceptance of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures as valid creates a dependence upon the Bible that cannot be explained away.  When Islam tries to establish its own validity by discrediting the Biblical text, it opposes the position which the Qur’an taught and exposes the false nature of the entire Islamic faith.

II.  Contradictions Between the Bible & The Qur’an.

            We have seen that the Qur’an claims to confirm the Bible and demonstrates a clear acceptance of its validity.  We have seen further, that Muslim apologists reject the claims of the Qur’an itself in order to rationalize the fact that the Qur’an conflicts with the very document which it claims to confirm.  In the final stage of our study we will examine some very specific instances in which the Qur’an contradicts the teachings of the Bible, demonstrating conclusively that it is not inspired of God, but a flawed, manmade composition.

Differences in Point of Fact.

            To demonstrate the discrepancies between between the Bible and the Qur’an we first address a number of instances in which the two conflict in specific points of fact.  We use the term “point of fact” to distinguish these examples from what could be called “issues of interpretation.”  Issues of interpretation could be subject to personal judgment, harmony with other texts or full application of all principles of Scripture.  Issues of interpretation are more complicated and subjective.  Points of fact are not subject to such issues.  Points of fact are matters over which there can be no debate.  If text one says A=B; and text two says A=C they are in conflict over a point of fact.  Many such differences in point of fact exist between the Bible and the Qur’an.  We will examine examples concerning ten subjects:

1. Noah.  The Qur’an describes the events of the flood of Noah.  It adds, however, a fanciful account of one of Noah’s sons who “separated himself (from the rest)” (Sura 11.42b).  Noah warns him, “O my son!  Embark with us, and be not with the unbelievers!” (Sura 11.42c).  The son refuses, and goes up on “some mountain” (Sura 11.43a).  As Noah pleads,“the waves came between them, and the son was among those overwhelmed in the Flood” (Sura 11.43c).  The Bible tells us the names of the three sons born to Noah: Shem, Ham and Japheth (Genesis 5:32; 6:10; 10:1; 1 Chron. 1:4).  After the flood, the Bible says, “Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated”  (Genesis 9:18-19).  There is no mention of some part of Noah’s family that was not saved.  

2. Abraham.  The Qur’an places great importance upon Abraham.  Muslims see themselves as Abraham’s children through Ishmael.  Yet, the Qur’an contradicts the Bible in details concerning Abraham’s life.  When God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, the Qur’an says that Abraham said to Isaac: “O my son!  I see in a vision that I offer thee in sacrifice” (Sura 37.102).  The Bible does record a discussion between Abraham and Isaac.  The Bible records:

But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together (Genesis 22:7-8). 

It is clear that Isaac was submissive to Abraham, but telling him that God “will provide for Himself the lamb” is much different that telling him he would be the offering! 

3. Jacob.  The Qur’an conflicts with the Bible regarding the life of Jacob with respect to his relationship to Joseph.  The Bible describes the resentment that developed between Joseph and his brothers. Much of what magnified this resentment was two dreams which Joseph had.  In the first, as he and his brothers were binding sheaves in the field his brothers sheaves bowed down to his sheaf (Genesis 37:7).  The second dream he tells to his father:

…Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me (Genesis 37:9).

Jacob’s reaction is clear.  The text says:

So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?” (Genesis 37:10).

The Qur’an portrays this quite differently.  Rather than rebuke Joseph, in the Sura called Yusuf, (Joseph), Jacob responds understandingly, “You shall be chosen by your Lord.  He will teach you to interpret visions and will perfect His favor to you and to the house of Jacob…” (Sura 12.6, Dawood).  The only admonition which Jacob gives to Joseph is a warning not to tell his brothers (Sura 12:5).  The Bible makes it clear that he told it “to his father and his brothers.”  It would be nice to imagine that Jacob understood what God had planned for Joseph, but that is not the record which the Bible gives.  The Qur’an far from “confirming” the account of Genesis, alters and retells it as man might like it to be.

            Another example is seen in the horrible turn of events whereby Jacob’s sons sell their brother into slavery.  The brothers then lie to their father, bringing him Joseph’s tunic, stained with animal blood to lead him to think that Joseph is dead (Genesis 37:31-33).  Jacob, as one would expect a Father to react, is heartbroken.  The Bible records:

Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, “For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. (Genesis 37:34-35).  

In contrast to this, the Qur’an  again, portrays Jacob as patient and understanding.  When his sons bring him the stained clothes, he responds, “Nay, but your minds have made up a tale (that may pass) with you!” (Sura 12.18). This is a man you sees through the deception.   Ali, in commentary on this text seems to recognize the problem which the Qur’an creates here.  If Jacob knew Joseph wasn’t dead why fain tears?  If Joseph was still alive why not go look for him.  Ali, actually dismisses the Quranic passage and inserts in his notes Biblical wording, portraying Jacob as distraught.  This in not what the Qur’an describes.  Iraqi scholar N.J. Dawood translates this, “‘No!’ he cried. ‘Your souls have tempted you to evil.”  The Qur’an is trying to portray Jacob as precognizant of the fact that Joseph is alive, just as it tried to portray that he understood Joseph’s boyhood dream.  This is a blatantly deliberate alteration of the clear teaching of the Biblical text!

4. Joseph.  This same “doctoring” of the Biblical narrative continues in the Yusuf  Sura.  When Joseph is in Egypt, the Bible records that he served in the house of Potiphar, the captain of the guard (Genesis 39:1).  Joseph is trustworthy and attains respect and trust in the house (Genesis 39:4).  All is well until Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him.  Joseph resists and flees, leaving his garment in her hand (Genesis 39:13).  The text says clearly: “So she kept his garment with her until his master came home” (Genesis 39:16).  The author of the Qur’an, either missed this little detail, or deliberately attempted to retell the story.  The Qur’an claims:

So they both raced each other to the door, and she tore his shirt from the back:  they both found her lord near the door… (Sura 12.25).

A prosecuting attorney would point out fittingly, Potiphar could not be away from home, so that she must wait “until his master came home” and yet “near the door” as he fled!  The Qur’an even tries paint Potiphar in a more favorable light.  When Joseph and Potiphar’s wife exchange accusations, Potiphar, like a master detective, looks to see if the shirt is torn from the back or the front (Sura 12.26-27).  When he sees that it is torn from the back, he realizes Joseph’s innocence and cries out, “It is a snare of you woman!”  (Sura 12.28).  The Bible, as one might expect portrays a master who believes his own wife, with no record of Joseph being questioned at all.  The text says, “his anger was aroused” (Genesis 39:19) and Joseph is imprisoned. 

            A final alteration in the Yusuf Sura, concerns Joseph’s interpretation of Pharoah’s dream of seven plentiful years and seven years of famine.  In the Biblical text, the cupbearer who had been imprisoned with Joseph remembers his ability to explain dreams and brings him to the Pharoah.  Joseph is brought to Pharoah and explains the dream to Pharoah himself (Genesis 41:15).  In the Qur’an, the cupbearer tells Pharoah what Joseph said and he is brought to Pharoah afterwards (Sura 12.43-49).  This may be a minor detail, but given the fact that the cupbearer had already forgotten his word to Joseph, it would seem much more reasonable that Joseph, having interpreted the dream in Pharoah’s presence, would be given such a high office.  The cupbearer could have taken credit for the interpretation if he related it.  Regardless, this is yet another conflict in point of fact and another clear indication of the Qur’an’s flawed, human origin.

5. Moses.

            The old saying “the devil is in the details” aptly describes how the manmade character of the Qur’an is seen in the alterations, deletions or blatant errors which the author of the Qur’an commits in his treatment of the Biblical narratives which he claims to “confirm.”  Let’s consider three such errors in the life of Moses.  Any child in Bible class knows of the marvelous account of Moses being saved from death by the daughter of Pharaoh, who finds him in an ark of bulrushes (Exodus 2:1-10).  Muhammad apparently didn’t spend enough time in Bible class.  The Qur’an says, “The wife of Pharaoh said: (Here is) a joy of the eye, for me and for thee: slay him not…” (Sura 28.9).  Muhammad makes Pharoah’s wife, not his daughter the one who saved Moses.

            Muhammad also has a problem with numbers in the life of Moses.  When Moses flees from Egypt, he encounters Jethro, the priest of Midian.  The Bible says:

Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. (Exodus 2:16).

Muhammad ignores (or denies) five of these daughters and claims:

And when he arrived at the watering (place) in Madyan, he found there a group of men watering (their flocks), and besides them he found two women who were keeping back (their flocks)…(Sura 28.23).

There is nothing that demands that two texts which talk about the same event must include all of the same details to be valid.  In the healing of the Gaderene demoniac, Matthew will mention two men (Matthew 8:28) while Mark and Luke will address only the one who spoke to Jesus (Mark 5:2; Luke 8:27).  However, given the fact that both the Qur’an and the Bible describe the narrative which leads to Moses marrying one of the daughters of Jethro, the priest of Midian, there is no clear reason why five would be left out.  Was Muhammad, like Mark and Luke, just mentioning the two who interacted most with Moses?  Or was he simply ignorant of the Biblical narrative?

            A final example in the life of Moses, demonstrates a clear conflict between Bible chronology and the garbled history within the Qur’an.  The Qur’an adds to the encounter with Jethro a “Jacob and Laban-like” agreement, in which Moses agrees to serve Jethro ten years (Sura 28.27-28).  According to the Qur’an, at the end of this ten year term, God speaks to Moses from the burning bush (Sura 28:29).  The Bible claims that this took place, “when forty years had passed” (Acts 7:30).  Was Muhammad ignorant of what the Lord had revealed through New Testament writers about this event?  Or was he deliberately altering the story?  Either way one doesn’t “confirm” forty by substituting ten.  

6. Aaron.  It has often been observed how dispassionate the Biblical text is in describing the sins of important and less significant characters alike.  David’s sin with Bethsheba is not glossed over.  Abraham’s lie to Pharoah is not rationalized away.  I would argue that this is a reflection of Divine inspiration because human beings, on their own accord would choose to ignore or justify the errors of important Biblical characters.  This very tendency is seen time and time again in the Qur’an.  The tendency to explain away, rationalize or justify the sins of important religious characters, betrays the human origin of the text.

            In the life of Aaron this is seen clearly. The Bible tells us that Aaron, the first High Priest of Israel, the father of all future priests, and the brother of Moses, assisted the people in their idolatry with the golden calf at Sinai (Exodus 32:2,24).  This is difficult for us to understand.  How could this man do such a thing?  The Qur’an, does what we might wish we could do—it gives us a reason to excuse Aaron of this sin.  The Qur’an claims that when the people wanted to engage in idolatry, Aaron tried to discourage the people.  It claims:

Aaron had already, before this said to them: “O my people!  Ye are being tested in this: for verily your Lord is (God) Most Gracious: so follow me and obey my command” (Sura 20.9).

The Bible does indicate that the Lord judged something different in Aaron’s involvement with the golden calf than that of the people in the fact that he was not killed with the others.  Yet, to try and suggest that Aaron, was really trying to discourage the people from idolatry when he was the one who collected the metals and formed the calf to begin with, is to pervert the text to suit our own wishes.

7. Israelites.  Followers of Islam have from the earliest stages been a very warlike people.  This tribal warring spirit is seen in the Qur’an in instances of historical revisionism.  The Bible tells us that at the end of the period of the Judges, the Israelites became dissatisfied with allowing God to be their only king and came to Samuel and pleaded, “now make for us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).  The Qur’an, paints the Israelites of the time of the Judges as dedicated “holy warriors” desiring a king to advance the cause of God.  It claims that they pleaded, “Appoint for us a King, that we may fight in the cause of God” (Sura 2.246).  It is true that Israel wanted a king so that he would, “go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20), but this was not motivated by religious zeal as much as by a desire to be like the nations around them.  Why else would God describe this as a rejection of Himself (1 Samuel 8:7)?   

8. Zacharias.  Numbers again become problematic in the Qur’an’s treatment of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.  The Bible records that, while serving in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias and declared to him that his wife Elizabeth would bear a child in their old age (Luke 1:5-17).  When Zacharias questions this, Gabriel declares:

…I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time (Luke 1:19-20).

Zacharias is unable to speak when he comes out of the temple (Luke 1:22), Elizabeth conceives and Zacharias voice returns to him only after the child is born (Luke 1:64).  The Qur’an ignores the fact that this was a type of punishment of Zacharias for his unbelief.  It claims:

(Zakariya) said: “O my Lord!  Give me a Sign.”  “Thy sign,” was the answer, “Shall be that thou shalt speak to no man for three nights, although thou art not dumb” (Sura 19.10).

There is a big difference between three days and nine months.  But, in addition to that, the Qur’an denies that Zacharias was “dumb” during those three days.  That is a complete rejection and denial of the what Gabriel says to Zacharias and what takes place in the account.

9. Mary.  In the Sura called Maryam, the Qur’an gives an account of Mary’s conception and child-bearing of Jesus.  Interestingly enough, the Qur’an does not try to deny the virgin birth (Sura 19.20-21).  Yet, in a two of what are the some of the most well-known details of Jesus’ birth, the Qur’an either deliberately alters the account, or betrays its ignorance of the Biblical text which it claims to confirm.  Even unbelievers can relate the fact that the Bible says Jesus was born in Bethlehem in a manger because there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn (Luke 2:4-7).  Yet, the Qur’an claims:

So she conceived him and she retired with him to a remote place.  And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree… (Sura 19.22-23).

The text goes on to describe Mary longing for death because of the pain, until a voice from God offers her fruit from the tree.  She refuses, having vowed to fast and remain silent.  Then at last Jesus is born (so it seems) at the palm-tree (Sura 19.23-27).  In this instance the author of the Qur’an has taken something universally recognizable in connection with the birth of Jesus and discarded it.  Who has altered God’s revelation here?

10.  Jesus.  As we shall see below, the position which the Qur’an takes regarding Jesus not only contradicts the Bible but is in fact self-defeating.  That is to say, it echoes enough of what the Bible says about the birth, life and names of Jesus, so as to destroy its own credibility regarding the things which it denies about Him.   Before considering this, we offer two instances in which the Qur’an contradicts points of fact claimed in the Bible. 

            First, as we mentioned above, the  Qur’an denies that Jesus is the Son of God.  Muhammad claims:

…the Christians call Christ the Son of God.  That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they imitate what the Unbelievers of old used to say.  God’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the truth! (Sura 9.30). 

The Bible is emphatic in it identification of Jesus as God’s Son.  When Jesus is baptized by John, the voice of God which speaks from heaven declares, “This is My beloved Son, in who I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  Peter confesses that Jesus is, “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), a claim which Jesus says was revealed to Peter by “My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).  

            Second, the Qur’an denies that Jesus was crucified (Sura 4.157).  Muhammad claims, “…they said (in boast), ‘We kill killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of God’; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them…” (Sura 4.157).  Ali in his commentary on this passage appeals to Gnostic writings and again the Gospel of St. Barnabas (mentioned above) which offers stories of Jesus’ body being substituted on the cross, or only being made to appear to be crucified.  Ali writes:

The Quranic teaching is that Christ was not crucified nor killed by the Jews, not withstanding certain apparent circumstances which produced the illusion in the minds of some of his enemies…(p. 230).

This obviously conflicts with Biblical teaching.  Luke wrote, “And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left” (Luke 23:33).  Beyond this, however, the Qur’an sets itself against historical witnesses which were unfriendly to the cause of Christ.  The Romans historian Tacitus, referring to Christians, claims:

Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate (Annals of Imperial Rome 15:44).

The Jewish historian Josephus, who at first fought against Rome, then was patronized by her, in his work Antiquities of the Jews, writes:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man…Pilate at the suggestion of the principle men among us, had him condemned to the cross… (Antiquities 18.33).

Finally, the second century satirist Lucian, writes mockingly of Christians and describes Jesus as, “the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world…” (Passing Periginus).  Are all of these sources lying?  Who are we to believe the claims of the Bible and historical sources dispassionate of the issue or Muhammad, who writes 600 years after the fact?

Differences in Doctrine.

            We could examine many different doctrines in which the Qur’an presents a different message from that of the Bible.  For our purposes let’s examine one doctrine which is independent of elements of worship, the nature of the godhead or salvation, but rather something which concerns a universal principle concerning the husband and wife relationship.  This is the first relationship that God created.  One would think that there would be harmony between the Bible and the Qur’an on this issue.  Quite the contrary.  The Qur’an conflicts with both the Old Testament and the New Testament in its teaching on divorce and remarriage.  The Qur’an claims:

So if a husband divorces his wife (irrevocably), he cannot after that, re-marry her until after she has married another husband and he has divorced her… (Sura 2.230).

The Old Testament taught restrictions on reconciliation.  Yet, unlike the Qur’an, if a man took back a woman after she had married another man, it was considered “an abomination” because she had been defiled (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).  The Qur’an is actually teaching that a remarriage and divorce must take place before he can take her back!

            The Law of Christ brought marriage law back closer to its original design.  Jesus taught that fornication is the only allowable cause for an innocent party to divorce a mate (Matthew 19:9).  Islam, tries to suggest that it is a restoration of a type of faith practiced at the time of the Patriarchs.  We might imagine then, that the Qur’an’s teachings on marriage would echo the original model of marriage, put forth in Genesis 2:24.  Quite the contrary.  The Qur’an allows divorce and remarriage simply for incompatibility (Sura 2.229).  It claims, “there is no blame on either of them” (ibid.)  How can the same God claim through Jesus that something is “adultery” then through Muhammad, that “there is no blame on either of them”?  He would not, does not and has not done so.  This is, as Paul warned, and example of men acting, “according to their own desires, because they have itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3). 

Claims About Jesus.

            The Qur’an demonstrates the fact that Muhammad had a very limited knowledge of the Bible.  He blends anecdotal and apocryphal folktales with the inspired record of the New Testament, and alters, adds and colors the stories of Jesus’ life as he chooses.  An example of this is seen in his reference to an incident not recorded in the New Testament, but contained in apocryphal so-called “infancy gospels” which record fanciful stories about Jesus’ childhood.  Sura 3.49 says of Jesus: “…I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird and breath into it and it becomes a bird…”  An apocryphal work known as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, claims that Jesus at the age of twelve, “having made soft clay, he fashioned thereof twelve sparrows” (Greek Text A 2.2, James,p. 49).  The Bible, speaking of the changing of water to wine in Cana of Galilee says, “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him” (John 2:11).  The healing of the nobleman’s son is later called “the second sign” (John 4:54).  Muhammad accepts a “cute” fable, and ignores the details of Jesus’ life.  That is not the way a writer inspired by the Holy Spirit would act.

            What the Qur’an echoes from the New Testament is just enough to destroy its own credibility.  Ahmed Deedat in his work Christ in Islam goes to great lengths to emphasize the honored status that Jesus holds in Islam.  Deedat points out that Muslims are taught to say eesa alai-hiss-salaam meaning “Jesus, peace be upon him” whenever the name of Jesus is spoken (p. 4).    The real issue that divides Christians and Muslims is not whether Jesus deserves respect but whether He deserves worship.  Is Jesus the son of God or simply one of many prophets?  Consider some major points about who Jesus was with which the Qur’an is in agreement (or near agreement) with biblical Christianity:

Jesus was born of a virgin:   “She said, ‘How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?’  He said: ‘So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, ‘That is easy for Me…”  (Sura 19:20,21).

Jesus was given the Holy Spirit:   “Then will God say: O Jesus the son of Mary!  Recount my favour to thee and to thy mother.  Behold!  I strengthened thee with the holy spirit…”  (Sura 5:113).

Jesus did miracles:  “…And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by God’s leave…”  (Sura 3:49).

Jesus was righteous:   “And Zakariya and John and Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of the righteous.”  (Sura 6:85).

Jesus was an apostle of God:   “And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said:  ‘O Children of Israel!  I am the apostle of God (sent) to you confirming the Law (which came) before me…”  (Sura 61:6).

Jesus was a prophet:   “He said: ‘I am indeed a servant of God:  He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet.”  (Sura 19:30).

Jesus was the word of God: “…Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of God, and his Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him…”  (Sura 4:171).

Jesus was a sign to mankind:   “…And (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us”:  It is a matter so decreed.” (Sura 19:21).

Jesus brought the gospel:   “And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming that had come before him:  We sent him the Gospel:  therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear God.”(Sura 5:49).  

Jesus was the Christ (Messiah):   “Behold!  the angels said: ‘O Mary!  God giveth thee Glad tidings of a Word from Him:  His name will be called Christ Jesus ,the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those Nearest to God.”  (Sura 3:45).

            It is interesting that the Qur’an acknowledges that Jesus is the Messiah.  However, Muslims do not understand the term “Messiah” in the same special and peculiar sense that Jews and Christians do.  Drawing upon its basic meaning “anointed one” they suggest - “Not only were prophets and priests and kings anointed (christos-ed), but horns, and cherubs and lamp-posts also” (Deedat, p. 13).  In the Bible, there is clearly one who was promised that would possess a status greater than simply a prophet.  This is where the problems come.  Islam fails to recognize that it cannot except certain claims about Jesus without being forced to accept others.  For example, while the Qur’an accepts that Jesus was born of a virgin, it denies that Jesus was God’s son and that He was God in the flesh.  The Qur’an declares:

They do blaspheme who say:  ‘God is Christ the son of Mary… They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a trinity: for there is no other God except One God…”  (Sura 5:75,76).

If Jesus was born of a virgin, then He was God with man.  Isaiah 7:14 declares:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

This name “Immanuel” is particularly important because it means “God with us.”  This is explained in the New Testament, where Isaiah is quoted: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).  In another text in Isaiah, this fact is brought out even more distinctly.  Speaking of the nature of the promised Messiah, it declares:

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7).

If the Messiah was not to be God in the flesh, it would be blasphemous to call Him “Mighty God!”  It is clear in the Bible that the claim that Jesus was the Christ (or Messiah) carried with it this special identification of Christ’s deity.  This is seen in the confession that Peter makes - “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). 

           Two other claims that both the Bible and the Qur’an share are equally distinctive.  As noted above the Qur’an claims that Jesus was the “word of God.”  If Jesus was the “word of God” then according to the Bible, He was divine.  The Gospel of John begins with a discussion of this very fact.  It states:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  (John 1:3).

We notice here that the one identified as “the Word” is said to have been responsible for creation, to have existed in the beginning and the powerful claim “the Word was God.”  Lest there should be any confusion about the identity of the one identified as “the Word” the text explains: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”  (John 1:14).  The rest of the Gospel of John goes on to tell about the life and teachings of this one who was “the Word” which became flesh.

           Second, for the Qur’an to admit that Jesus brought the gospel, concedes that in Jesus there is the way to salvation.  Romans 1:16,17 explains the power of the gospel in this way:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:16,17).

Islam must either deny that Jesus brought the gospel, or deny that it has the power which the Bible attributes to it.  The Qur’an claims that the Bible is from God, but it denies Jesus holds the way to salvation.  Which claim will we accept?

[*] All Quranic quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the Glorious Qur’an, Translation & Commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Muslim Students Association, 1975.

[**] All Biblical quotations are taken from the New King James Version, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.  1982.

Works Cited

Abdullah Yusuf Ali, trans.  Glorious Qur’an.   Translation & Commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, USA: The Muslim Students Association. 1975.

Beverley, James A.  “Muhammad Amid the Faiths.”  Christian History.  21.2 (74):10-15. 

Brown, Francis. S.R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs (BDB).  A Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament.  Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1975.

Cowans, J. Milton. ed.  Hans Wehr Arabic-English Dictionary.  4th ed.  Ithaca, New York: Spoken Language Services, Inc.  1994.

Dawood, N.J. trans.  The Koran.  New York:Viking Penguin Inc.  1987.

Deedat, Ahmed.  Christ in Islam. U.A.E.:Zayed Welfare Center for the New Muslims.

Hutto, Hiram.  The Hutto-el Dareer Debate.  Erlanger, Kentucky:  Faith & Facts Press.  1974.

James, Montague Rhodes.  The Apocryphal New Testament.  Oxford: Clarendon Press.  1955.

Josephus, Flavius.  The Complete Works of Josephus.  William Whiston trans.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications.  1981.

Madina, Maan Z.  Arabic-English Dictionary.  New York: Pocket Books.  1973.

Qafisheh, Hamdi A.  NTC’s Gulf Arabic-English Dictionary.  Chicago: NTC Publishing Group.  1997.

Tacitus, Publius Cornelius.  Annals of Imperial Rome.  Michael Grant trans.  New York: Penguin Books.  1983.

Pope, Kyle. "What About Islam and the Qu'ran?" The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, ed. Mike Willis
2005 Truth Magazine Lectures (Bowling Green, Kentucky: Guardian of Truth Foundation, 2005): 297-319.  

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