Sunday, 23 October 2011

In my post The Word of Allah? I outlined how an inadequate system of writing Arabic and a disorganized approach to recording the revelations made to Mohammed gave rise to a sacred text, the Qur’an, that contains grammatical and other errors and is often incomprehensible.

When the Qur’an was assembled from its myriad of sources, words were omitted from verses, verses ended up in the wrong order or stranded in the wrong chapters, and entire passages were inserted out of place. A great deal of work has been done on analysing the Qur’an’s mistakes but many of the findings are apparent only in Arabic and need a detailed knowledge of Arabic grammar for full understanding.

However, one faux pas easily survives translation and the confines of grammar. In chapter 38, in the midst of a series of sentences beginning ‘Say’, the Qur’an suddenly offers up an account of the expulsion of the jinn Iblis, or Satan, from Paradise; the resulting muddle is shown below with the interrupted passage in bold:

[38:65] Say: ‘My mission is only to give warning. There is no god but Allah, the One, the Almighty. He is the Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them: the Illustrious, the Benignant One.’

Say: ‘This is a fateful message: yet you give no heed to it.
[38:69] I had no knowledge of the disputes of those on high. It was revealed to me, only that I might warn you plainly.’ Your Lord said to the angels: ‘I am creating man from clay. When I have fashioned him and breathed of My spirit into him, kneel down and prostrate yourselves before him.’

The angels all prostrated themselves except Satan, who was too proud, for he was an unbeliever. ‘Satan,’ said Allah, ‘why do you not bow to him whom My own hands have made? Are you too proud, or do you think he is beneath you?’ Satan replied: ‘I am nobler than he. You created me from fire, but him from clay.’

‘Begone, you are accursed!’ said He. ‘My curse shall remain on you until the Day of Reckoning.’ Satan replied: ‘Reprieve me, Lord, till the Day of Resurrection.’ Allah said: ‘Reprieved you shall be till the Appointed Day.’

‘I swear by Your glory,’ said Satan, ‘that I will seduce all men except Your faithful servants.’ Allah replied: ‘Learn the truth, then (and I speak nothing but the truth): I shall fill Hell with your offspring and the men who follow you.’

[38:86] Say: ‘For this I demand of you no recompense. Nor do I pretend to be what I am not. This is an admonition to mankind; you shall before long know its truth.’

In light of the numerous mistakes in the Qur’an, it must take an extraordinary leap of faith to believe that it constitutes the divine truth sent down for the guidance of mankind. If it is, nevertheless, the work of a Supreme Being, it is the work of a Supreme Being with poorly developed proofreading skills.


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