“Will they not then ponder on the Qur’an? If it had been from other than Allah, they would have found therein much incongruity.”
—The Qur’an, Sura 4:82
Although there are Christians and Jews who argue that their holy book is flawless and inerrant (a claim that “Foundation of Sand” refutes), it is Islam, more so than any of the other Abrahamic religions, that claims and rests on the claim that its sacred text, the Qur’an, is truly and completely free of error. This is understandable in light of the fact that Muslims, unlike Christians and Jews, do not claim that their prophet performed miracles such as raising the dead, creating food, or parting a sea. Rather, they say, in Islam the miracle is the Qur’an itself, an inerrant and incomparable holy text dictated directly to Mohammed by God himself. As the above quote shows, the Qur’an itself says that it would not be from God if it contained irreconcilable contradictions.
It is true that the Qur’an has fewer unambiguous contradictions than the Bible. However, this is not because it is a substantially more coherent book (although as long as it had even one it would still disqualify itself as the inerrant word of God). Rather, it is because, first, the Qur’an is much shorter than the Bible; and second, because Arabic has less correspondence to English than Hebrew and Greek do. Most Arabic words have several English meanings, and therefore whenever a contradiction is discovered, it is easy for a Muslim apologist to switch meanings and claim that there is no contradiction if the “proper” sense of the words is used. Nevertheless, there are multiple clear and unambiguous contradictions in the Qur’an that cannot be so easily resolved.
Some of these contradictions are listed below, in a bid to show that Islam is not the truth as it claims to be – indeed, that it has no more truth to it than any other of the thousands of religions humankind has invented throughout its history. As an atheist, I treat them all the same, and lack belief in each one equally.
(Note: Many of the contradictions listed on this page were first pointed out by Answering Islam. Though I do not agree with their chosen belief system, their work on Islam seems to be well-researched and thorough. It is unfortunate that they choose not to apply the same principles of skepticism and rational analysis to their own religion.)
Does Allah forgive shirk (polytheism)?
No: Sura 4:48
“Lo! Allah forgiveth not that a partner should be ascribed unto Him. He forgiveth (all) save that to whom He will. Whoso ascribeth partners to Allah, he hath indeed invented a tremendous sin.”
No: Sura 4:116
“Lo! Allah pardoneth not that partners should be ascribed unto Him. He pardoneth all save that to whom He will. Whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah hath wandered far astray.”
Yes: Sura 4:153
“The people of the Scripture ask of thee that thou shouldst cause an (actual) Book to descend upon them from heaven. They asked a greater thing of Moses aforetime, for they said: Show us Allah plainly. The storm of lightning seized them for their wickedness. Then (even after that) they chose the calf (for worship) after clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty) had come unto them. And We forgave them that!“
Yes: Sura 39:53
“Say: O My slaves who have been prodigal to their own hurt! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, Who forgiveth all sins. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”
Yes: Sura 25:68-70
“And those who cry not unto any other god along with Allah, nor take the life which Allah hath forbidden save in (course of) justice, nor commit adultery – and whoso doeth this shall pay the penalty… save him who repenteth and believeth and doth righteous work; as for such, Allah will change their evil deeds to good deeds.”
Commentary: Much like the Hebrew god, Allah proclaims more than once in the Qur’an that the most serious sin one can commit is to worship idols or other gods, and that he will not forgive this. Yet within the same sura, Allah also says that he forgave the Israelites for their idolatry even after he had sent them “clear proofs” that he was the one and only true god. A more blatant contradiction could hardly be imagined. 39:53 multiplies the contradiction by stating that Allah forgives all sins, making no exception for shirk, and 25:68-70 backs this up by stating that Allah will forgive shirk for the repentant. See also 2:51-52, which repeats the story of the golden calf, and 6:76-78, in which Abraham, viewed by Muslims as a great prophet, worships the sun, moon and stars.
Does everything obey Allah?
Yes: Sura 30:26
“Unto Him belongeth whosoever is in the heavens and the earth. All are obedient unto Him.”
No: Sura 2:34
“And when We said unto the angels: Prostrate yourselves before Adam, they fell prostrate, all save Iblis. He demurred through pride, and so became a disbeliever.”
Commentary: 2:34 is typical of the numerous verses that tell the story of Iblis (Satan), who, alone among the angels and jinn, disobeyed Allah’s command to bow before Adam. Yet 30:26 says that all beings are obedient to Allah.
Will Christians go to Heaven?
Yes: Sura 5:69
“Lo! those who believe, and those who are Jews, and Sabaeans, and Christians – whosoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right – there shall no fear come upon them, neither shall they grieve.”
No: Sura 5:72
“They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself) said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Lo! whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden paradise. His abode is the fire. For evil-doers there will be no helpers.”
No: Sura 3:85
“If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost.”
Commentary: Along with verse 2:62, 5:69 states that whoever believes in God and Judgment Day and does what is right, a category which it says includes faithful Jews and Christians, will be saved (if they will neither fear nor grieve, they obviously have not gone to Hell, and there’s only one other place to go). Yet 5:72, three verses later, flatly denies this, as does 3:85, which states that all non-Muslims are damned.
Could Allah have a son?
Yes: Sura 39:4
“If Allah had willed to choose a son, He could have chosen what He would of that which He hath created.”
No: Sura 6:101
“The Originator of the heavens and the earth! How can He have a child, when there is for Him no consort, when He created all things and is aware of all things?”
Commentary: Verse 39:4 states that Allah could have chosen a son from among any of the beings he created, had he so desired. But verse 6:101 rejects this idea as logically impossible – verse 6:100 says that some “impute falsely, without knowledge, sons and daughters unto Him”, while the following verse then explains why such a thing could not be.
What were people created from?
Water: Sura 25:54
“And He it is Who hath created man from water, and hath appointed for him kindred by blood and kindred by marriage; for thy Lord is ever powerful.”
Clay: Sura 15:26
“Verily We created man of potter’s clay, of black mud altered…”
Dust: Sura 30:20
“And of His signs is this: He created you of dust, and behold you human beings, ranging widely!”
Sperm: Sura 16:4
“He has created man from a sperm-drop…”
Nothing: Sura 3:47
“She said: ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, “Be,” and it is!'”
Commentary: Muslims who argue that Allah created people from all the above-listed things – water, clay, dust and sperm – are still faced with the embarrassing difficulty of explaining why these four ingredients are randomly scattered around the book, listed individually in disparate verses that do not mention or reference each other. And anyway, one would think an omnipotent God could simply create something ex nihilo, rather than all this tedious and pointless mucking about with water and dust and sperm and whatever else it is he used, and verse 3:47 agrees, contradicting the other four: When Allah wants to create something, he only says “Be!”, and it is – no ingredients necessary.
Can Muslims adopt sons?
Yes: Sura 33:37
“So when Zeyd had performed that necessary formality (of divorce) from her, We gave her unto thee in marriage, so that (henceforth) there may be no sin for believers in respect of wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have performed the necessary formality (of release) from them. The commandment of Allah must be fulfilled.”
No: Sura 33:4-5
“Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his (one) body: nor has He made your wives whom ye divorce by Zihar your mothers: nor has He made your adopted sons your sons. Such is (only) your (manner of) speech by your mouths. But Allah tells (you) the truth, and He shows the (right) way. Call them by (the names of) their fathers: that is juster in the sight of Allah. But if ye know not their father’s (names, call them) your brothers in faith, or your friends.”
Commentary: Again we find a contradiction within the pages of the same sura. 33:37 states, in passing, that adoption of sons is allowable; yet verses 33:4-5 say that adoption is only a human invention, a fiction of words having no real meaning, and these verses have been used to derive a well-known universal prohibition on adoption in Islamic law.
Is lying ever acceptable?
Lying forbidden: Sura 2:42
“Confound not truth with falsehood, nor knowingly conceal the truth.”
Lying condoned: Sura 66:1-2
“O Prophet! Why holdest thou to be forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to thee? Thou seekest to please thy consorts. But Allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful. Allah has already ordained for you (O men), the dissolution of your oaths (in some cases): and Allah is your protector, and He is full of knowledge and wisdom.”
Commentary: In 2:42 Muslims are instructed not to lie, generally a wise precept. But sura 66 tells a different story, one that sheds a great deal of light on the self-serving nature of some of Muhammad’s “revelations”.
Muhammad had several wives, among them Hafsah and Ayshah. In the interests of fairness (fairness!!) a revolving schedule was established wherein his wives would take turns to be with him – each woman would get one day at a time. But one day Muhammad decided to violate this schedule; he slept with one of his wives, Mary, on a day that was supposed to be another woman’s turn. Hafsah found out about this and threatened to tell Muhammad’s apparent favorite, Ayshah. To prevent her from doing this, Muhammad promised he would not touch Mary again, but Hafsah told the other women anyway. According to tradition, the Prophet reacted by becoming angry and secluding himself, ignoring all his consorts except Mary for several weeks.
Fortunately, it was at this point that Allah, the infinite, all-powerful creator of the universe, decided to step in and resolve this domestic dispute. If the text is to be believed, he explicitly gave Muhammad permission to break his promise not to touch Mary (to lie, in other words), then threatened the prophet’s other wives with hellfire and eternal torture if they did not repent and obey their husband.
Who is at fault for disbelief?
People choose not to believe: Sura 30:8-9
“But truly many of mankind are disbelievers in the meeting with their Lord. Have they not travelled in the land and seen the nature of the consequence for those who were before them? They were stronger than these in power, and they dug the earth and built upon it more than these have built. Messengers of their own came unto them with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty). Surely Allah wronged them not, but they did wrong themselves.”
Allah does not allow people to believe: Sura 10:100
“No soul can believe, except by the will of Allah, and He will place doubt on those who will not understand.”
Allah does not allow people to believe: Sura 35:8
“Is he, the evil of whose deeds is made fairseeming unto him so that he deemeth it good (other than Satan’s dupe)? Allah verily sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth whom He will; so let not thy soul expire in sighings for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do!”
Commentary: In verses 30:8-9, Allah disclaims responsibility for people’s disbelief, saying that he gave them “clear proofs” and did not force them, yet they still choose to reject him and ignore the evidence he provided. Clearly there is some element of individual choice implied here. Yet verses 10:100 and 35:8 say that we do not have free will and it is not our choice to believe or not – Allah sends us astray if he so chooses, and only by his will can we believe in him. (It must be very disturbing to Muslims to know that God will deliberately cause some of them to commit sins and then send them to eternal torture in Hell for it.)
Who is to be worshipped?
Allah alone is to be worshipped: Sura 51:56
“And I (Allah) created not the jinns and men except they should worship Me (alone).”
Sometimes other beings are to be worshipped: Sura 2:34
“And when We said to the angels: Make obeisance to Adam, they did obeisance, but Iblis (did it not). He refused and he was proud, and he was one of the unbelievers.”
Commentary: As the creed in the very first pillar of Islam states, La ilaha illallah – “none has the right to be worshipped but Allah”. Yet Allah himself seems to feel differently about this, as he ordered the angels to bow to and worship Adam, and punished Satan for not doing so.
Can anyone change God’s words?
No: Sura 6:115
“Perfected is the word of thy Lord in truth and justice. There is naught that can change His words.”
Yes: Sura 2:75
“Have ye any hope that they will be true to you when a party of them used to listen to the word of Allah, then used to change it, after they had understood it, knowingly?”
Commentary: Are the Torah and the Gospel – the Bible’s Old and New Testaments – the word of God? If not now, were they ever? The Qur’an seems to think so. Verses such as 3:3, 5:44, 5:46, 5:110 and so on state that both the Torah and the Gospel were earlier revelations from God to prophets who preceded Muhammad, which by definition makes them God’s word.
The problem – and the contradiction – is this. Verses such as 6:115 state that no one can change God’s word. The Torah and the Gospel are God’s word. Yet Muslims do not follow these books because, they claim, they have been altered and corrupted by men – as verses such as 2:75 demonstrate. But how can this be? If these books ever were God’s word, then how was it even possible to change them?
And of course, the flip side to this question – if God’s past revelations to humanity have been corrupted, then how do Muslims know the Qur’an has not been corrupted also? If people have changed God’s word in the past, what has stopped them from doing it now?
To claim that God allowed his earlier revelations to be corrupted, but not the Qur’an, is an answer that only creates more questions than it solves. Why would God bother to give earlier revelations if he did not intend to preserve them from change? Why is this the one he finally decided to protect, and how do we know that? (How do we know people did not change the Qur’an and then add verses about Allah protecting it from such activities, to dupe the faithful and cause their alterations to be overlooked? Both the Old and New Testaments contain very similar verses; each proclaims that it is the last ever revelation of God and immune to change.)
Indeed, for what is supposedly God’s last ever message to humanity, the Qur’an shows no special insight or particular evidence of divine origin, and it contains many of the same absurdities and atrocities as the “corrupted” earlier books. Just like Judaism and Christianity, Islam has the same scientifically inaccurate fable about creation in six days, the same barbaric doctrine of Hell, the same absurd and arbitrary dietary prohibitions and other religious laws, the same kinds of atrocities being carried out in the name of God, the same logical contradictions inherent in the idea of an all-knowing and all-powerful deity, and of course, the same lack of supporting evidence to back up any of its fantastic claims. Just like every other religion which claims to be obviously unique and obviously correct, it cannot defend these claims except by resorting to faith. Just like every other religion, it has oppressed the human mind and the human spirit, and until we recognize it for the superstition it is and set it aside once and for all, we will never truly be free.
• Is There Compulsion in the Islamic Religion? You’d Better Believe It!: Guest contributor Archi Medes critically analyzes the Qur’an’s verse 2:256, which states, in part, “[t]here is no compulsion in religion”, and shows how this phrase has been taken out of context and how the Qur’an most emphatically does provide for compulsion in Islam.
• Does the Koran’s Verse 5:32 Forbid the Killing of Non-Muslims?: Guest contributor Archi Medes shows how another verse is often taken out of context to support the incorrect assertion that the Qur’an is tolerant of non-Muslims.