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17. Understanding Islam

13.1. Belief in the preservation of the Qur’an and the corruption of the original Bible

The Muslim claim about this point comes in different forms but essentially it is something like this:

  • “(The Qur’an) was memorised by Mohammed and then dictated to his companions, and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime. Not one word of its 114 chapters (Suras) have ever been changed over the centuries.” (The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils Inc., Understanding Islam and the Muslims (pamphlet), November 1991)
  • “No other book in the world can match the Qur’an ... The astonishing fact about this book of ALLAH is that it has remained unchanged, even to a dot, over the last fourteen hundred years. ... No variation of text can be found in it. You can check this for yourself by listening to the recitation of Muslims from different parts of the world.” (The Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahayan Charitable Humanitarian Foundation, Basic Principles of Islam, Abu Dhabi, UAE: 1996, page 4)
  • “Unlike earlier scriptures the Qur’an has been preserved unchanged in its original Arabic text since the time of revelation, as God had promised within it. History witnessed the fulfilment of that promise, for the Book of God remains to date exactly as it was revealed to the Prophet and recited by him. Immediately memorized and recorded by large numbers of his companions, it was passed on in exactly the same form by thousands of Muslims generation after generation up until the present day. ... There is only one version of the Qur’an; the same revealed words continue to be read, recited and memorized in their Arabic language by Muslims throughout the world.” (Saheeh International, Clear Your Doubts About Islam: 50 Answers to Common Questions, Saudi Arabia: Dar Abul-Qasim, 2008, pages 28-29)

Such Muslim claims can be boiled down to:

i) Mohammed memorised the Qur’an at the point of revelation.
ii) Mohammed immediately dictated the Qur’an to his companions who wrote it down without any editing.
iii) There has been only one version of the Qur’an.
iv) All current copies of the Qur’an are identical with no variants.
v) The Qur’an is perfectly preserved.
vi) The Qur’an is superior to other scriptures because they all have been changed, while the Qur’an alone has been preserved.

These promotional claims are very common among Muslims, whether scholars or lay Muslims; they are all essentially just sales pitches and don’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny. Before we look at where the Bible stands against these criteria, let us first apply them to the Qur’an itself and see if there is a double standard at play.

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