The criticism of the Quran has frequently occurred, and critics have found and reported many mistakes in the form of contradictions, anomalies, and inconsistencies in the Quran. Their claim is while Muhammad was a false prophet, Quran is man-made and Islam is a fallacious religion. Even Masud Masihiyyen, a critic of an online forum on criticism of Islam has quoted “Do they not know that We have made the Qur’an a book full of mistakes?” in his article, “The Anatomy of Quran’s Mistakes”, which contrasts and abuses the statement in the Quran (4:82) “Why do they not study the Quran carefully? If it were from other than God, they would have found in it many contradictions.” Such criticism is not only a direct rejection of the assurance given in the Quran as a proof of divine authorship of Quran without contradictions but it is also a hateful insult to the God’s proven scripture, the Quran. Since the Quran advocates maximum freedom for the people —freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom to travel, and freedom of economy (Quran – 2:256, 10:99, 88:21-22), we must disregard such insult and put our trust in God as He suffices as an advocate:
[Quran 33:48] And you should not obey the disbelievers and the hypocrites and shall ignore their insult, and shall put your trust in God while God suffices as an Advocate.
Critics have made allegations of historical, theological and scientific errors including criticism of the Quran’s moral values that have been reported under the following four basic categories which can be found and reviewed at the link http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/ and its sub-links:
1. Internal contradictions: Verses that contradict each other or the laws of logic.
2. External errors: Verses that contradict the facts of history or science.
3. Verses contradicting the earlier revelations: Verses that contradict the Bible.
4. Contradictions between Muslim Traditions and the Qur’an: Verses that contradict the Hadiths or Muslim traditions.
Brief Description of Quran’s Criticism
According to the notion of criticism we could expect at least 6234 errors in the Quran equal to the total number of numbered verses in the Quran but inshaallah they are much less than that and I cannot see more than 1000 discrepancies so far reported but God knows whether the list may grow in the future.
Even though Islam is based on the Quran revealed through prophet Mohammad but the criticism of the Quran has occurred along with Mohammad claiming him to be the author of Quran. They also claim that he is a false prophet and the Quran is man-made causing Islam a fallacious faith. However, below are the key points what are considered by critics to draw such claim:
- Mohammad is the author of the Quran.
- Mohammad is the founder of Islam.
- Islamic teaching is considered to be teaching of Muhammad.
- Hadiths are considered to be the authentic source of Islamic teaching.
- There is no error or mistakes in the Bible.
- The model in the biblical literature is understandable and acceptable to people and the Quran should use the same model to make it understandable to the people.
- Quranic initials are cryptic.
B. Claims against Muhammad
- Muhammad was confused about Jesus’ mother’s identity.
- He was unfamiliar with the concept of anachronism.
- He copied more information from the apocryphal Bible rather than the canonical Bible.
- Plagiarism between the apocryphal texts and the narratives in the 19th and 3rd chapters of the Qur’an.
- He collected information when he went on with the writing of the Quran and incorporated the material in it.
C. Mistakes made by Muhammad
- Muhammad misplaced the biblical figures in the Qur’an.
- He thought that Mary was Amram’s daughter and Aaron’s sister.
- There are narratives in the sura Maryam and sura Ali Imran due to plagiarism of apocrypha.
- Muhammad’s mistakes in the Qur’an compel them to consider him a great blunderer who betrayed the notions of “peculiarity” and “distinction” through rough harmonization of the biblical events and figures.
- His weird and faulty conclusion that Jesus’ mother Mary was the same person as the woman named Mary in the Old Testament, who was said to be the daughter of Amram and sister of Aaron and Moses.
- Since he lied to cover his mistakes, he is a false prophet.
- The Quran does not pass the test to be a revelation of God.
- Since Muhammad is a false prophet, the Quran is man-made.
- He deceived many people from the life of Christ.
The biggest historical error that has been found in the Quran is the presentation of Mary (Maryam in Arabic) in connection with the Family of Amram ( Imran in Arabic) who was the father of Aaron (Haroon in Arabic), Miriam (Maryam in Arabic) and Moses (Musa in Arabic) according to the Bible literature. Mohammad, the author of the Qur’an mistakenly thought that ‘Maryam’ the mother of Jesus was the same as ‘Maryam’ the daughter of Amram as well as the sister of Moses and Aaron, the names being the same in Arabic. While there is more than 1500 years gap between the time period of Aaron, Miriam and Moses and the time period of Mary and Jesus, it is undoubtedly the biggest historical blunder of the Qur’an that has caused much trouble for Islamic scholars and prompted them to make up several inconsistent arguments in response to this critical question.
However, let us focus on the relevant verses of the Quran describing Mary’s identity and the criticism to understand the contradiction that has caused a serious issue in the Quran as claimed by them:
a. Mary as daughter of Amramor Mary’s Mother as wife of Amram
1. Quranic verses
[3:33] Indeed, God has chosen Adam, Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Amram over the worlds.
[3:34] A progeny from its each other, and God is Hearer, Knower.
[3:35] When the wife of Amram said, “My Lord, I have vowed to You is dedicating what is in my womb, so accept from me. Indeed, You are the Hearer, the Knower.”
[3:36] Then when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered her, a female.” And God is Knower of what she delivered, and the male is not the same as the female. “And indeed me, I have named her Mary, and indeed me, I seek refuge in You for her and her offspring from the Satan, the rejected.”
[3:37] So her Lord accepted her with a gracious acceptance, and reared her a good rearing, and put her in care of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah entered upon her sanctuary he found provision with her. He said, “O Mary, from where is this for you?” She said, “It is from God.” Indeed, God provides for whomever He wills without measure.
[66:12] And Mary, the daughter of Amram, who maintained her chastity, then we blew into it from our spirit. And she believed in her Lord’s word and His scriptures, and she had been with the obedient.
2. Abstract of Criticism
One of the prominent historical mistakes of the Islamic scripture is certainly related to the name it ascribes to Mary’s father. Although Christian Churches tend to name Mary’s father “Joachim” in accordance with traditional teachings mostly drawn from non-canonical literature, Mohammad argued that Mary’s father had the name Imran. The reason for the modification of the name Joachim to Imran in Islam was dependent on Muhammad’s weird and faulty conclusion that Jesus’ mother Mary was the same person as the woman named Mary in the Old Testament, who was said to be the daughter of Amram and sister of Aaron and Moses.
Imran was not a famous person or the head of a family or tribe. He is virtually unknown in the Bible. He has been mentioned in the couple of verses in this sura (Sura Ali Imran) and outside these verses he is only mentioned only one other time in the Qur’an (66:12) where Mary is described as “the daughter of Imran. This is confirmed by the fact that he is only ever mentioned in connection with this relationship to Mary.
Moreover, if you want to argue that Mary was a distant descendent of Imran, and not a literal daughter, then you have problems, because all of the data indicates that she was of the tribe of Judah, and not of the tribe of Levi. This leaves us with the father of Mary having the name ‘Imran’. If you have followed me to this point in my argument, you still have the option of believing that the Qur’an is saying that Mary’s father was called Imran, and this is a different Imran from the father of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. But the verse 3:33 makes that extremely unlikely.
It is clear from the verses 3:35 and 66:12 that Mary was the daughter of Amram. It is noted that there are two Amrams mentioned in the Bible. The lesser known Amram is named among the Israelites who married and divorced foreign wives during the purification rallies of Ezra (Ezra 10:34). The famous Amram is the father of Moses, Aaron and Miriam. He is a son of Kohath, who is a son of Levi. However, because Amram’s wife Jochebed was his father’s sister (Exodus 6:20) and a daughter of Levi (Numbers 26:59), Moses was both a grandson and a great-grandson of Levi. (Actually, there are some generations missing because between Levi and Moses there are about four centuries).
The presentation of Mary’s mother being wife of Imran and Mary being daughter of Imran in the Qur’an to connect Mary with the family of ‘Imran who was the father of Aaron, Miriam and Moses as referred in the verse 3:33. Mary’s father was designated as Imran in the Quran to show parallelism that he was not chosen but his descendants were, so were Mary and Jesus from someone like him who was even unknown in the Bible literature and to the contemporary people. On the other hand, Mary’s connection with Zachariah (3:37) is a clear evidence that there is a generation gap between Imran and Jesus’ mother Mary. Thus, the big generation gap between time period of Aaron and Moses and the time period of Mary and Jesus is a physical fact that has eliminated any possibility of Imran to be the biological father of Mary, and their relationship as indicated in the Quran is not literal but metaphorical which also eliminates any confusion between two Maryams. It is noted that there are many instances in the Quran to use information in the unusual way including the peculiar spelling of “Mecca” as “Becca” in this sura (Quran 3:96). So, the conclusion as drawn from the Quran that Jesus’ mother Mary was confused with the same person as the woman named Mary in the Old Testament, who was said to be the daughter of Imran is a misinterpretation NOT a contradiction.
b. Mary as sister of Aaron
1. Quranic verses
[19:27] She came to her family, carrying him. They said, “O Mary, you have committed something that is totally unexpected.
[19:28] “O sister of Aaron, your father was not a bad man, nor was your mother unchaste.”
2. Abstract of Criticism
Prophet Mohammad confused Jesus’ mother Mary (New Testament) with Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron (Old Testament) as both names sound similar in Arabic (Maryam). Perhaps, this is one of the most widely known alleged historical contradictions in the Qur’an recorded in Christian literature. The honorary epithet of Mary, mother of Jesus, as “sister of Aaron” has proven controversial from the earliest period of Muslim-Christian dialogue, beginning with the Christians of Najran during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. We show that when the Qur’anic verses are understood in their proper context in conjunction with what the Prophet himself has explained concerning the issue, one may come to a better, more accurate understanding of the presentation of Mary in the Qur’an and her connection with the House of ‘Imran.
When the NT (New Testament) refers to people being called after saints of old, it calls them, “son” or “daughter”. Jesus is called “son of David” in Matthew 21:9, and Elizabeth is called, “daughter of Aaron” in Luke 1:5, etc. Abraham is referred to as “father” by the Jews in John 8:38. The uses of these “son ” and “daughter” idioms were accepted and understood by all in that culture. And their use makes sense. Since the great pious people of old helped to create or establish the nation of Israel, people following afterwards are understandably called, “son” or “daughter” after them. We use this same idiom model in this day. There is an American organization called, “Daughters of the Revolution”. Perhaps you can think of other people or groups called “sons or daughters” after famous people who are now dead. But never are these people called, “brothers or sisters” after any of the previous saints. Hence, the Qur’an designates Jesus’ mother Mary as literal sister of Aaron.
Mary has been chosen among all the women of the world (Quran 3:42), which has been confirmed through Bible (New Testament) and Quran. Not just her virginity but also her extra ordinary righteousness raised her to a higher status at God. Because of her such piousness she has been addressed in the Quran as sister of Aaron not to be a literal but a metaphorical sister of Aaron who was a prophet and the first high priest of Israelites as well as Mary’s dedication to the Temple. Thus, to address her “O sister of Aaron” in the Quran is the best way to present her to the contemporary and subsequent generations of people of the world, which should not be considered a contradiction just to make a plea of the model mentioned in the Bible. Those who are aware that sincerity is the prerequisite to understand the Quran (Quran 56:79), they should not have any problem to interpret the relevant verses correctly. Moreover, the word “Harun” (Arabic counterpart of Aaron) that starts with the letter ‘Ha’ in the sura Maryam has a mathematical significance to the people of this generation who are aware of the mathematical composition of the Quran as the sura is prefixed with 5 quranic initials and one of its 5 initials is ‘Ha’. Hence, Quran has its own model to convey the divine message efficiently.
Bible and Quran in Bucaille’s View
In 1976 Bucaille published his book, The Bible, The Qur’an and Science which argued that the Quran contains no statements contradicting established scientific facts. Bucaille argued that the Quran is in agreement with scientific facts, while the Bible is not. He states that in Islam, science and religion have always been “twin sisters”. According to Bucaille, there are monumental errors of science in the Bible and not a single error in the Quran. Bucaille’s belief is that the Quran’s descriptions of natural phenomena make it compatible with modern science. Bucaille concludes that the Quran is the Word of God. Bucaille argues that some of the most celebrated scientific discoveries in the 20th century were described in detail and accuracy. Bucaille gives examples of astronomy, embryology, and multiple other subjects that had major advances in the 20th century.
Bucaille argues that the Old Testament has been distorted because of numerous translations and corrections as it was transmitted orally. He highlights, in his words, “numerous disagreements and repetitions”, in the Old Testament and the Gospels. In his analysis, Bucaille claims he makes use of many propositions of Biblical criticism, such as the documentary hypothesis.
The criticism of Quran has occurred in different forms covering different areas. Most of the critics have claimed that Mohammad’s confusion of Jesus’ mother Mary with Moses and Aaron’s sister Miriamis undoubtedly the biggest historical blunder of the Qur’an, which has caused so much trouble for Islamic scholars and prompted them to make up several inconsistent arguments in response to this critical question. Some critics have made the Quran a book full of mistakes whereas others have made it a joke that the Qur’an designates Jesus’ mother Mary as Aaron’s sister. Even they have serious concern about the text of Quran’s Sura Ali Imran (Chapter 3) and sura Maryam (Chapter 19) as the two biblical figures Moses and Jesus are not presented as they should be presented.
It is clear that the Quran has connected Mary, mother of Jesus with the House of ‘Imran but the relationship is not literal rather than metaphorical. The big generation gap is a physical evidence that Mary’s relationship with the Family of Imran was metaphorical which was known to the contemporary people of Arabia especially to the Jewish and Christian believers during the time of revelation of the Quran. That’s why any immediate objection was not recorded but until the Quran reached Najran. Although Imran was not famous as the head of a tribe but he was known to the people as the father of Aaron, Miriam and Moses. Is it not more logical to mention someone who is somehow known than an unknown person to tell the truth through parallelism?
It appears from the Quran’s criticism that critics have no clear concept about the author of Quran as well as the founder of Islam. Hence, any observation or finding from any faulty hypothesis cannot be true or acceptable to someone who has common sense. So, the relationship of Mary with Imran’s family is presented in the Quran in a befitting manner which is NOT a contradiction as claimed by many it is, concluding that Muhammad is a false prophet. and Quran is full of mistakes including a joke that Quran designates Mary as sister of Aaron.
According to Bucaille’s view, there is proof to believe that the Quran is more reliable than the Bible. It has also been reported that there are distortions in the Old Testament because of numerous translations and corrections as it was transmitted orally but the Quran is well preserved.
There are some biblical stories that are briefly presented in the Quran but no text of the Quran is copied from the biblical or non-biblical literature as claimed by some of the critics. There are both logical and physical evidences in the Quran that the Quran is the revelation from God including sura names and their physical arrangement in writing of Quran. In addition, Quran has its own logically accepted models to convey the message efficiently to serve as guidance for the people of the whole world until the end of the world.
The argument and defense suggested by many traditional Muslim scholars against this contradiction highlighting Muhammad has made it more controversial. As true Muslims, we must know that the Quran is the revelation from God and Muhammad did not contribute a single word to the Quran even though he is accused of many errors that he had done as author of Quran. Even he is not the founder of Islam but many people believe so, is a misconception either. In fact, Islam is restarted based on Quran at the time of Muhammad (Quran 16:123). Since Prophet’s sole mission was to deliver the message (Quran 38:70 and many other verses), he had no authority to verify whether there is anything right or wrong in the Quran. In addition, he was gentile and he had no knowledge of the previous scripture (Quran 7:157). Moreover, he had been forbidden to explain the Quran (Quran 75:16). As such, if such contradiction was brought to his notice during his lifetime, the most likely the prophet’s answer would be, “I do not know whether it is right or wrong, I have communicated what has been revealed to me through Gabriel” (Quran 26:193).
In most cases, debates about contradictions are rarely fruitful because people tend to insist reading the texts of the opponent in the most rigid and literal manner to make it look bad, while being very lenient with their own book, allowing extra assumptions, metaphorical interpretations and other means to somehow explain how this can be understood without being a contradiction. Keeping in mind such notion about debates on contradictions, anyone who consider it to be a sincere effort that has been made to know the truth without being very lenient on the Quran or no extra assumptions are made to somehow explain the relationship of Mary with the Family of Imran to understand it without being a contradiction, he/she may accept it upon verification.
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless
1. The article, “The Anatomy of Qur’an’s Mistakes” by Masud Masihiyyen published at http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/masihiyyen/quran_mistakes.html
2. The article, ‘Sura 3:33 and Mary, the daughter of Imran’ by Luke Plant published at http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/plant/imran.html
3. The article, ‘Imran’s Fatherhood’ by Masud Masihiyyen published at http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/masihiyyen/imran_father1.html
4. The article, ‘Mary, Sister Of Aaron?’ Published at http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Contrad/External/mary.html#2
5. The article, ‘Is Mary, Sister of Aaron’ by Silas published at http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/mary.htm
6. The article, Surah Mariam: the curse of the Apocrypha by Masud Masihiyyen published at http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/masihiyyen/19mary_apocrypha.html