Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Why the Quran cannot be considered
completely preserved and inspired

By Cornelius

Dear Muslim Friend,

Contemporary Muslim literature often boasts of two things:

  1. The Quran they hold today is letter for letter the same Quran that Muhammad recited.
  2. The Quran is of divine origin.

These statements are exemplified in the following quotations:

“The Holy Qur’an is the living miracle bestowed by Allah upon the Prophet and this, Allah’s book was revealed to him through the holy spirit (Gabriel) and today 1400 years have passed and nobody has been able to change a single letter or produce its imitation as is said in the Qur’an (See Sura Hijr, 15:9)”1

“The Qur’an is the literal word of God, which He revealed to His Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. It was memorized by Muhammad, who then dictated it to his Companions. They, in turn, memorized it, wrote it down, and reviewed it with Prophet Muhammad. Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad reviewed the Qur’an with the Angle Gabriel once each year and twice in the last year of his life. From the time the Qur’an was revealed, until this day, there has always been a huge number of Muslims who have memorized all of the Qur’an, letter by letter. Some of them have even been able to memorize all of the Qur’an by the age of ten. Not one letter of the Qur’an has been changed over the centuries”2

These claims are derived from the Quran itself:

  1. The claim of preservation is found in Surah 15:9
  2. Surah 15:9 (Yusuf Ali) “We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).”

  3. Muslims claim that nobody can make a surah like the surahs of the Quran. According to modern Muslims, and the Quran itself, that is the “proof” the Quran is divine in origin.
  4. Surah 2:23 (Pickthall) “And if ye are in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto Our slave (Muhammad), then produce a surah of the like thereof, and call your witness beside Allah if ye are truthful.”

It is very important for Muslims to follow a complete Quran. If a Muslim rejects any verse or “Ayat” from the Quran then, according to the Quran, they bring upon themselves a terrible curse.

Surah 3:3-4 (Pickthall) “He has revealed unto you (Mohammed) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel. 3:4 Aforetime, for a guidance to mankind; and has revealed the Criterion (of right and wrong). Lo! those who disbelieve the revelations of Allah, theirs will be a heavy doom. Allah is Mighty, Able to Requite (the wrong).”

The word translated “(in) the revelations” is  بِـَٔايَـٰتِ  “biayati” and can be understood as “in the verses”.

What follows is a warning that, according to the Quran, many modern Muslims will be damned, because they are rejecting not just some verses but two whole surahs!

It is well known among Islamic scholars that Ubai Ibn Ka’b had a compilation of the Quran that differed from the current version, which was compiled primarily by Zaid Ibn Thabit. Among the differences we know of between Zaid & Ubai’s Qurans, was the fact that Ubai’s Quran had two additional surahs, al-Hafd and al-Khal'. (For more on this see as-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, or read Gilchrist’s book Jam' Al-Qur'an, Chapter 3, pages 72-78, and also Surata al-Hafd and al-Khal'.)

This problem is acknowledged by Umar in the Hadith. In Sahih Bukhari, Vol. VI, #527, Umar noted that, despite the fact that Ubai was called the greatest reciter of the Quran by Muhammad, two of the Surahs in Ubai’s Quran were not put in Zaid’s codex. After noting the problem Umar attempted to provide a justification.

Sahih Bukhari, Vol. VI, #527 “Narrated Ibn Abbas: ‘Umar said “Ubai was the best of us in the recitation (of the Quran) yet we leave some of what he recites.” Ubai says, “I have taken it from the mouth of Allah’s Apostle and will not leave for anything whatever.” But Allah said: “None of Our Revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten but We substitute something better or similar.” (2:106)’”

Umar’s attempt to explain the rejection of the Surahs in Ubai’s codex of the Quran by referring to these surahs as abrogated poses several problems:

  1. By referring to the surahs as abrogated, Umar admits they were once part of the Quran.
  2. One can hardly refer to these passages as “lost” or “caused to be forgotten” since Ubai, Umar and many others knew them. Ubai’s codex of the Quran was the standard version used in Syria before Uthman ordered all manuscripts that did not agree with the one compiled by Zaid et al. to be burned. Many still know Ubai’s surahs today! These surahs have not been lost, they have been REJECTED by the Muslim leaders! According to Surah 3:3-4, these leaders bring a heavy doom on themselves and their followers.
  3. The surahs were not abrogated by Allah, they were abrogated by Zaid and those who chose his text.
  4. The Quran promises abrogated or forgotten things are replaced by Allah with something similar or better (Surah 2:106). How could this be done after Muhammad has passed away?
  5. Zaid et al. should have accepted Ubai’s surahs even if they were only found with Ubai, since they accepted portions found only with Abi Khuzaima Al-Ansari (Bukhari, Vol. VI, #509, #510), and Ubai’s credentials exceeded that of Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari.
  6. Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Hadith 510 Narrated Anas bin Malik: “Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to 'Uthman, "O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before." So 'Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you." Hafsa sent it to 'Uthman. 'Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, 'Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, Said bin Al-As and 'AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. 'Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, "In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue." They did so, and when they had written many copies, 'Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. 'Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Zaid bin Thabit added, "A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): 'Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.' (33.23)”

If one is obstinate in claiming that the two additional surahs of Ubai’s Quran do not belong in the Quran, then the Quran cannot be claimed to be inspired, since there are then two surahs like those in the Quran but which do not belong to the Quran.

In fact the two surahs are so much like the rest of the Quran that they “fooled” Ubai Ibn Ka’b, the one Muhammad claimed was the greatest reciter of the Quran, and the one whom Allah instructed Muhammad to recite to.

Sahih Muslim, Book 31, Hadith 6031 “Anas b. Malik reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said to Ubayy: Verily Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, has commanded me to recite the Qur'an to you, whereupon he said: (Has) Allah mentioned my name to you? He said: Allah has mentioned your name to me. Thereupon he began to shed tears (of joy)”

Can the Islamic community produce a greater expert than Ubai ibn Ka’b that would claim these surahs are not like the rest of the Quran?

Recall that in Sahih Bukhari, vol. VI, #527 Umar called Ubai “the best of us in recitation”. Gilchrist addresses this more thoroughly in his book Jam' al-Qur’an, pp. 67-72, and includes the following tradition in which Muhammad calls Ubai the best reciter:

‘Affan ibn Muslim informed us ... on the authority of Anas ibn Malik, he on the authority of the Prophet, may Allah bless him; he said: The best reader (of the Qur'an) among my people is Ubayy ibn Ka'b. (Ibn Sa'd, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol. 2, p.441)

By claiming to know better how to recite the Quran than Ubai they are in effect calling Umar and Muhammad liars for saying Ubai was the greatest of all reciters.

Umar himself did not dare to declare these surahs as “never part of the Quran”, perhaps he was aware that doing so was effectively calling Muhammad a liar and effectively denying the inspiration of the Quran, since the challenge of Surah 2:23 would have been met.

The choices are clear:

1) Reject Zaid’s codex as being incomplete, and restore Ubai’s surahs, and in the process acknowledge that all those who died rejecting Ubai’s surahs have a painful doom awaiting them. Recognize that your leaders who claim the Quran is complete are either ignorant or they have lied to you and according to the Quran they have put your soul in great peril. Whether they are dangerously ignorant or malicious liars, they are not fit to advise you spiritually.

2) Continue to believe that Zaid’s codex is complete but deny that it is inspired since Ubai’s surahs were enough “like it” that it could fool Ubai, the “greatest reciter of the Quran”. After recognizing the Quran is not of divine origin reject it’s authority in your life.

3) Continue to believe Zaid’s codex is complete, believe that Ubai’s surahs were never part of the Quran, and are not like those of the Quran, by doing this you will be assuming you and countless others are greater reciters than Ubai, effectively calling Muhammad and Umar liars. Thus you are rejecting Muhammad as an example to all believers, since you already assumed his words, as recorded in the Hadith, untrustworthy.

Study further, read the Hadiths and early Muslim literature dealing with the collection of the Quran and you’ll see the Quran has not been preserved over time, there have been parts excluded and parts lost. Recognize that the parts lost after Muhammad’s death have not been replaced which makes Allah a liar since he said he would replace everything that was lost with something better or like it (Surah 2:106). Realize that Allah is the ٱلۡمَـٰكِرِينَ خَيۡرُ (Khayru al-makireen, the greatest of all deceivers) (Surah 3:54 and 8:30) and you never should have considered yourself safe from Allah and his مَـٰكِر (makra, deception) (Surah 7:99). Turn to the true God who inspired the Torah and Gospel, the God who cannot lie.

Dear Friends, we are all sinners, we all deserve God’s wrath, but through Jesus you can have forgiveness of sin. In the Gospel Jesus says “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 KJV)” And again He says “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (John 6:37 KJV)” Please do not neglect so great a salvation.



1 The Miracles of the Prophet Muhammad, p. vi of the introduction to The Translation of the Meanings of Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. I, by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan. Published by Dar AHYA Us-Sunnah Al Nabawiya.

2 A Brief Illustrated Guide To Understanding Islam by I. A. Ibrahim, Second Edition. Published by Darussalam Publishers and Distributors P.O. Box 22743, Riyadh 11416 K. S. A., p. 5; also available in the U.S.A. from Darussalam Houston P.0. Box 79194, Houston, Tx 77279.

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