The Predictable Nature of Muslim Apologetics

I have two articles on the issue of the textual preservation of the Quran. These articles can be found here:

  1. The Myth of Perfect Preservation: Examining a Variant
  2. Variant Readings of the Quran – Are They All the Same?

In these articles I raised the issue of variant readings of the Quran that result from different vowelisations as well as examining a textual variant as a result of contradictory manuscript readings.  In one of these articles I made a very important note as to how Muslims would respond. It said,

When the Muslim cannot respond to such a claim they tend to employ the Red Herring Fallacy.

A red herring is an argument, given in reply, that does not address the original issue. Critically, a red herring is a deliberate attempt to change the subject or divert the argument. [1]

Indeed, I did receive a response to my articles which, as pre-empted, was nothing but a red herring.

Ibn Anwar of the polemic Unveiling Christianity composed an article titled, Is the Qur’an truly preserved as the Muslims claim? Anwar states that, “A good brother by the name Army of Jesus is Islam directed me to the article and requested that I produce refutations.”

So, he is setting himself up to refute my articles. However, is this achieved?

Not once does Ibn Anwar interact with my numerous examples of clear and verifiable textual variants. Instead, he began with an ad hominem, moved to attacking a strawman and left my arguments untouched.

Evidently, the issue of textual variants in the Qur’an remains an issue that Muslim apologists cannot touch.

The Myth of Perfect Preservation: Examining a Variant

Muslims often claim that a sign that the Qur’an is from God is that today’s copy is perfectly preserved (16:8) from the eternal tablets (85:22). They see this as an irrefutable sign that it is from Allah. As has been previously demonstrated in an earlier post – there are a number of variant readings in the Koran that change the meaning significantly.  In this brief post I will put aside the evidence from the hadith mentioning lost and variant surahs and ayas as well as the plethora of variant vowelisations and take one example from the physical evidence.

The Uthman Quran or Today’s Quran

Brief history:

The Uthman Quran, also known as Tashkent Qur’an, Osman’s Koran and Samarkand Codex, is believed by many Muslims to be one of Uthman’s original editions which is testified by the blood stains found on the Quran from Uthman’s assassination. Then we have today’s common Qur’an – a 1924 Egyptian version mass produced early last century.

One Page Examined:

(Click to see full sized)

Take note of the textual variants marked in line 2 (37:103), line 4 (37:105), line 6, line 7 (37:106) and line 8 of the Uthman Quran.

One Variant Examined:

At the start of line two we see a variant – this variant occurs in Surah 37 aya 103.

(Uthman Quran variant from line 2, page 652)

Transliteration: wa ma ‘aslamA
Translation: And they did not submit (i.e. become Muslims)

(Current 1924 Standard Quran Edition)

Transliteration: falammAslamA
Translation: When they too submitted (i.e. became Muslims)


We see that the old Uthman Quran shows a stark contradiction to the Quran in use today in surah 37 aya 103. Similarly, in that single page of 8 lines there were 5 variants to the Quran used today.

If we hold the Muslim view that a text cannot be considered inspired in light of textual variants (as they charge against the Bible), they cannot consider their own text to be inspired as it is evidently ‘corrupted’ and contains numerous textual variants. However, unlike with New Testament scholarship the study of textual variants in Islam is a subject of taboo as they hold onto the claim that the Quran is unchanged through transmission.

This is a dilemma for the Muslims that must be addressed.

Variant Readings of the Quran – Are They All the Same?

I have found in my dialogue with Muslims is that they absolutely detest the idea of textual variants in Quranic manuscript. I am yet to find a Muslim who is actually prepared for this kind of discussion and I believe this is due to the openness of Muslim apologists and faux academics making the claim that all Quranic manuscripts are exactly the same. (I have previously challenged this claim in examining textual variants in the oldest Quran manuscripts compared to today’s version )

When the Muslim cannot respond to such a claim they tend to employ the Red Herring Fallacy.

A red herring is an argument, given in reply, that does not address the original issue. Critically, a red herring is a deliberate attempt to change the subject or divert the argument. [1]

NB: Some Muslims have recently responded to this and as was predicted-  the response was a red herring. They did not engage with the issue, my arguments or the examples. Meaningful variants among Quranic manuscripts  and versions is a fact of life apologists of the Islamic faith cannot deal with as they are in denial.

Their usual Red Herring is in regard to the variant readings of the Quran. These variants occur with the addition of vowelisations etc for professionalised recitations to the original Uthmanic text. Now, these variant readings do not usually change the meaning of the Quran and the Muslim will give you the blanket statement that there are no differences in the Quran as a result of these variants. But is this statement true?

In regard to the variant recitations, Professor James A. Bellamy states:

These variants, however – I have counted more than two-hundred that make a difference in the meaning – are important in that they tell us there was no solid oral tradition stemming directly from the prophet to prove which variant was correct. [2]

So, we can see that there are many variants among the readings and Bellamy has recorded over 200 which render a different meaning within the text.

Professor Bellamy then goes on to provide an example:

in Surah 6:63, of the seven readers, the two from Kufah recite ‘njyn‘ (anjana) “he saves us.” and the other five ‘njytn’ (anjay- tana) “you (sg.) save us.” These two words sound so dif- ferent that no one, unless he were deaf, could mistake one for the other, and the words on both sides of the word in question are unambiguous. One cannot argue that the prophet used one variant one day and the other the next. Nor can one maintain that there is a firm oral tradition that guarantees the reading of the unambiguous words but breaks down when more than one reading is possible. [3]

In short – beware of taking Muslim claims in regard to the integrity of the Quran at face value. As has been demonstrated above, there are a number of changes in meaning that result from the variant readings of the Quran.


2. Bellamy, p. 1
3. Bellamy, p.2


James A. Bellamy (2001), ‘Textual Criticism of the Koran’. Journal of the American Oriental Society. Vol. 121 No. 1 (Jan-Mar. 2001), pp. 1-6.

See also:

‘It’s OK to hit your Wife’, Australian Muslim Cleric Samir Abu Hamza

An Australian Muslim cleric is at the centre of controversy over a lecture where he directed his followers to hit their wives and force them to have sex. In an earlier lecture circulated on the internet last year, Hamza was also recorded instructing his followers that under Islamic law, a man can demand sex from his wives. This runs contrary to Australian law where both partners mutual unvitiated consent is required, even within marriage.

In response Hamza claimed his words where metaphoric – but is this so?

The fact that the Quran and Sunnah allow for a man to beat his wife for disobediance including refusing sexual interourse leads me to the fact that Hamza was merely being honest in the potrayal of his beliefs. However, it is cowardly of him to step back for the sake of PR.
The contentious aya (verse) of the Quran which justifies such abhorrent actions is Surah 4 aya 34:

Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for God’s guarding. And those (women)  you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them. If they then obey you, look not for any way against
them; God is All-high, All-great.
Surah 4:34 (Arberry English Translation)

The ignorant Muslim apologist will respond in such a manner, ‘well, it says nothing about forced sex’.  In this case we examine the context in which the aya was revealed.  As many of you may know – the Quran contains no context and it is quite useless when removed from it so we must turn to the ahadith (traditions) and the tafsir.

This single aya sufficeintly justifies Hamza’s words in the Islamic context as explained by Ibn Kathir:

(As to those women on whose part you see ill conduct,) meaning, the woman from whom you see ill conduct with her husband, such as when she acts as if she is above her husband, disobeys him, ignores him, dislikes him, and so forth. When these signs appear in a woman, her husband should advise her and remind her of Allah’s torment if she disobeys him. Indeed, Allah ordered the wife to obey her husband and prohibited her from disobeying him, because of the enormity of his rights and all that he does for her. The Messenger of Allah said,

If I were to command anyone to prostrate before anyone, I would have commanded the wife to prostrate before her husband, because of the enormity of his right upon her.)

Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,

If the man asks his wife to come to his bed and she declines, the angels will keep cursing her until the morning.)

Muslim recorded it with the wording:
If the wife goes to sleep while ignoring her husband’s bed, the angels will keep cursing her until the morning.
This is why Allah said:

As to those women on whose part you see ill conduct, admonish them (first), abandon them in their beds, (then) beat them.
(This is surah 4 aya 34)

Source: Tafsir Ibn Kathir

A Quote On Qur’anic Integrity

I must share this quote by Gerd Puin, a German scholar and the world’s foremost authority on Qur’anic paleography, the study and scholarly interpretation of ancient manuscripts. He is a specialist in Arabic calligraphy:

My idea is that the Koran is a kind of cocktail of texts that were not all understood even at the time of Muhammad. Many of them may even be a hundred years older than Islam itself. Even within the Islamic traditions there is a huge body of contradictory information, including a significant Christian substrate; one can derive a whole Islamic anti-history from them if one wants. The Qur’an claims for itself that it is ‘mubeen,’ or clear, but if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn’t make sense. Many Muslims will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Qur’anic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Qur’an is not comprehensible, if it can’t even be understood in Arabic, then it’s not translatable into any language. That is why Muslims are afraid. Since the Qur’an claims repeatedly to be clear but is not—there is an obvious and serious contradiction. Something else must be going on.

I will leave it to you to decide whether the words of the Qur’an is the true word of Allah for which it is justifiable to murder and oppress…