The text of the Qur'an

The aim of this page is to look at the claims that are made about the text of the Qur'an.

The Islamic claim

It is claimed that the Qur'an was collected together straight after the death of Mohammed and has been preserved unchanged ever since. The process of collecting the Qur'an was completed under Uthman , who died in 656 AD, 24 years after Mohammed died.

Even if this claim were true, it is hard to see why it should impress atheists. A book is not true just because it has not changed.

Counter claims

Uthman had variant copies of the Qur'an destroyed. The very fact that there were variant copies means that there could have been changes to the Qur'an. In addition, Uthman only standardised the consonants. The vowels were only added much later.

For example, the Topkapi Manuscript in Istanbul is devoid of vocalisation. The signs denoting the vocalisation must have been added to the Qur'an after the Topkapi manuscript was written.

This meant that there were 7 readings of the Qur'an

Nowadays it seems that there are two main readings . The one by Asim of Kufa was adopted in the Egyptian edition in 1924 and the reading by Nafi is used in parts of Africa , other than Egypt. The differences between these Qurans are very small. For examp le , there may be a 'fa' rather than a 'wa', but they do exist.

Being unable to speak Arabic, I can't really comment on the Arabic of the Qur'an. However, it seems that there are many foreign words in the Qur'an. Even the word 'Quran' seems to derive from Syriac. As Sura 12:1 says that the Qur'an is meant to be an Arabic Qur'an, the presence of foreign words is a problem.

Sura 2:105

This says that 'whatever verses we cancel or cause you to forget, we bring a better or its like'.

This means that parts of the Qur'an override other parts. Why would God cause Mohammed to forget parts of the Qur'an? Why does God have to have two goes at revealing his commands? How can some of God's words be better than others?

Further Reading

There is an excellent article in the Atlantic Monthly (January 1999)

Al-Qur'an - The Codification of the Qur'an Text

Divine words?

Are the words in the Qur'an those we would expect from an all-wise, all-compassionate deity? Take verse 38 in Sura 5 of the Qu'ran. 'As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example from God, for their crime: a nd God is exalted in power'. There are other barbaric punishments :- Chapter 42:2-4 lays down that fornication is to be punished by 100 lashes.

Verse 45 in Chapter 5 reads as follows 'We ordained therein for them: "Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal." But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an ac t of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (No better than) wrong-doers.

Eye of an eye and life for life is primitive retribution. It is interesting that it is considered good not to carry out the retaliation that God says he himself ordained. Surely if God ordained it, God must think it is good to carry it out.

Verse 60 in the same chapter tells of an even more strange punishment. It seems God turns people into apes and pigs.

Say: "Shall I point out to you something much worse than this, (as judged) by the treatment it received from Allah? those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped evil ;- these are (many times) worse in rank, and far more astray from the even path!"

The Qu'ran is quite clear that Christians are blasphemers. Verse 73 in chapter 5 says 'They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a gri evous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.'

Of course, unbelievers are in for a worse fate. Verse 10 in chapter 17 says 'And to those who believe not in the Hereafter, (it announceth) that We have prepared for them a Penalty Grievous'

As God is in charge of everything, believers in God usually have two competing explanations of unbelief. Unbelievers do not believe because they are wicked, and also because God has hidden the truth from them. After all, it must be part of God's plan for there to be unbelievers, as God is all-powerful. Verses 45-46 in chapter 17 show this double standard. God prevents unbelievers from understanding the Qur'an 'When thou dost recite the Qur'an, We put, between thee and those who believe not in the Her eafter, a veil invisible. And We put coverings over their hearts (and minds) lest they should understand the Qur'an, and deafness into their ears: when thou dost commemorate thy Lord and Him alone in the Qur'an, they turn on their b acks, fleeing '

Verse 16 in the same chapter shows that God likes to destroy whole towns 'When We decide to destroy a population, We (first) send a definite order to those among them who are given the good things of this life and yet transgress; so that the word is proved true against them: then (it is) We destroy them utterly.'

Sadly, many Muslim countries are quite poor. This is strange for verse 30 in chapter 17 shows that the Lord provides abundance for people who please him. 'Verily thy Lord doth provide sustenance in abundance for whom He pleaseth, and He provideth in a just measure. For He doth know and regard all His servants.' Perhaps poor Muslim countries are full of people who do not please Allah?


I hope I have shown that the text of the Qur'an has not been transmitted perfectly , despite attempts by Muslims to destroy all variant copies. I hope I have also shown, with these few short extracts, that the words in the Qur'an are not the words w e would expect from an all-knowing, all-compassionate God, regardless of how well they have been transmitted.

In the Name of Allah (God) the Gracious the Merciful

Dear Mr. Carr,

I just finished reading your article on the Qur'an 'The text of the Quran'. I do admire your attempt to prove that Qur'an is not preserved. I was expecting more scholarly references from this article, however I was disappointed. It should further be n oted that the preservation of the Qur'an is NOT the only proof that Qur'an is a Divine Revelation.

Anyway, a detailed refutation of article like yours was written by me about a year.'an.html

The article has been Awarded or recognized as the 'Article of the Month of July 1998' by BIC (Belfast Islamic Community) one of the most popular islamic web sites in the world.

Comments on this article by Prof.Howard Bromberg, Professor of Law at University of Michigan: "I congratulate you on the article you wrote on the "Preservation of the Qur'an." It is the most forceful, cogently written, and logical prese n tation of the Islamic position that I have yet to read". (Feb.17th, '98).

Secondly the article or book by John Gilchrist is refuted by Dr. Saifullah on his website:

Hope you find interesting info. in the above two links.

I have enjoyed reading your article (s) on the Bible 'Which bible?.

warm regards,

Sabeel Ahmed

Comments to Steven Carr

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