The Koran claims that it was written by the perfect, immutable God who created the universe and knows all things. On the contrary, the Koran has a number of historical, theological, and other errors that contradict reality. Some of the more apparent ones will be brought forward. Unless stated otherwise, all Koran quotes are from Pickthall’s translation.
General History Errors
Abraham and the Ka’bah
According to the Koran, Abraham and his son Ishmael were the ones who built the Ka’bah in Mecca (Sura 2:127). However, this contradicts all the history books known to man:
“…there is no historical evidence for the assertion that Abraham or Ishmael was ever in Mecca, and if there had been such a tradition it would have to be explained how all memory of the Old Semitic name Ishmael (which was not in its true Arabian form in Arabian inscriptions and written correctly with an initial consonant Y) came to be lost. The form in the Quran is taken either from Greek or Syriac sources.”
-Alfred Guillaume, Islam (Baltimore: Penguin Books Inc., 1956), pp.61-62.
Also, common sense screams against it. Abraham used to live in the city of Ur of the Chaldees (South East Iraq), and he moved west toward Canaan, a land very plentiful in food, not south toward Mecca, a city in the middle of the desert. Why would God promise to give Abraham’s posterity a land of abundant resources and then send him into a desert hell-hole where tribes would have to go to war every year just to fight over a well of water?!
Alexander the Great – A Monotheist?
In Sura 18:83-97, we learn of the adventures of a man named “Dhu’l-Qarneyn,” a title that means “Two-Horned.” Furthermore, the story says that this Dhu’l-Qarneyn was a Muslim (i.e. a monotheist before Islam) and lived to a ripe old age. However, we know that “Two-Horned” was a common title of Alexander the Great in the Middle East during the time of Muhammad. The title “Two-Horned” came from Alexander’s belief that he was the son of the Egyptian god, Ammon, who was represented by a ram with two large horns. Not only was Alexander not a monotheist (i.e. he worshipped the Greek gods), but he also did not live to a ripe old age (i.e. he died at the age of 33).
Because this is a clear contradiction of history, modern Muslims want to rewrite history and say that Dhu’l-Qarneyn does not refer to Alexander the Great but some other person. However, as was proven in the article on the sources of the Koran, the story about Dhu’l-Qarneyn (in Sura 18:83-97) is the exact same story as the Romance of Alexander, a legendary Christian narrative that turns Alexander the Great into a monotheist. In the Romance of Alexander, Alexander, in one of his prayers, says, “O God…Thou hast made me horns upon my head,” and in the Ethiopic version of the legend, Alexander is always called the “the two-horned.” Second, scholars throughout the centuries (including many Muslims) agree that Dhu’l-Qarneyn is Alexander the Great. The Encyclopedia Britannica states:
“His [Muhammad’s] account of Alexander, introduced as “the two-horned one” (xviii, 82), is derived from the Romance of Alexander, which was current among the Nestorian Christians of the 7th Century in a Syriac version.”
–Encyclopedia Britannica (London: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 1957), 15:479.
The Encyclopedia of Islam says:
“AL-ISKANDAR. It is generally agreed both by Muslim commentators and modern occidental scholars that Dhu’l-Karnayn, “the two horned”, in Sura XVIII, 83/82-98 is to be identified with Alexander the Great.”
–Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1978), Vol. 4.
Even the orthodox Muslim commentator and apologist, Yusuf Ali, admitted:
“I have not the least doubt that Zul-qarnain is meant to be Alexander the Great, the historic Alexander, and not some legendary Alexander.”
-Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran (Brentwood, Maryland: Amana Corp., 1983), p.763.
Gog and Magog and the Giant Iron Gate
In the same Sura mentioned above Dhu’l-Qarneyn travels to a place where a mountain pass separates the lands of an oppressed people from the lands of Gog and Magog. Dhu’l-Qarneyn proceeds to build a giant gate made of iron and copper so that the armies of Gog and Magog cannot pass through. Then, in Sura 21:96-97, it is said that God will let the armies of Gog and Magog through the barrier to ravage the land in the last days. Thus, it is obviously implied that this iron/copper gate still exists somewhere on earth holding back the wicked minions of Gog and Magog.
The problem, however, is that no such gate exists! Satellites have searched every square inch of this planet and have never found some grandiose iron gate that is holding back a giant army just itching to destroy civilization as we know it. We know that the Koran meant this story to be taken literally because the Hadiths and Muslim commentators (such as Yusuf Ali) go at great lengths to prove that such a structure exists or existed but doesn’t any longer. However, the Koran predicts that the gate is supposed to stand until the last days. So, either the gate never existed and the Koran was historically false, or the gate was destroyed and Allah was powerless to keep his promises. Also, where are the people and armies of Gog and Magog whose nation is supposedly enclosed completely except for a single mountain pass? Either way the Koran is completely in error.
No One Named John Before?
In Sura 19:7 we read:
“(It was said unto him): O Zachariah! Lo! We bring thee tidings of a son whose name is John; we have given the same name to none before (him).”
This translation (by an orthodox Muslim) and other translations quite clearly state that there was no one named John before John the Baptist. In reality, this claim is absolutely silly! There were Johns long before John the Baptist (see 2 Kings 25:23, 1 Chronicles 3:15, 24, 6:9, 10, Ezra 8:12, King John Hyrcanus, John the Essene, John Maccabeus, etc.). Modern Muslims have seen the obvious historical error, and so they have tried to say that the Arabic text doesn’t actually say what it says. For instance, Yusuf Ali translates the verse:
“…on none by that name have We conferred distinction before.”
-Sura 19:7 (Yusuf Ali’s translation)
However, Ali even admits in his commentary that he rendered the verse that way because the normal reading would have resulted in an obvious historical error. Most all of the other translations in English read the same way as Pickthall’s (i.e. the first reading above). This would include Sher Ali’s, Arberry’s, Palmer’s, Rodwell’s, and Sale’s translations of the Koran. Answering-Islam has some very good articles refuting the Muslim defense of this passage here:
www.answering-islam.org/Responses/Saifullah/yahya_av.htm and here:
Historical Compression Errors
Abraham and Nimrod
In the Koran, Abraham lived in a land ruled by King Nimrod. In the story (Sura 21:58-69), Abraham destroys the idols of his people, and as a result, is thrown into a fire by Nimrod. However, Nimrod (Sargon I?) was the great grandson of Noah and the founder of the cities of Babylon and Nineveh (Genesis 10:8-11), but Abraham was nine generations separated from Noah (Genesis 11:10-27) and came from Ur of the Chaldees. How could Nimrod (a man who had been dead for many years) throw Abraham (a man who had not even been born yet) into a fire?! Of course, the error stems from the fact that Muhammad got this story from a Jewish legend (i.e. Midrash Rabbah) rather than a revelation from God. [See the article on the sources of the Koran for more.]
Haman, Moses, Pharaoh, the Tower of Babel, and Some Burnt Clay
In multiple places in the Koran (Suras 28:35-42, 40:36-37), there is a story where Pharaoh orders his minister, Haman, to build a tower reaching to heaven so that Pharaoh can “look upon Moses’ God” (Sura 40:37). However, there are numerous problems with this story.
First, Haman was the minister of the Persian king, Ahasuerus (i.e. Xerxes I), who lived many centuries after the incident with Moses and Pharoah. Not only does the Koran have Haman in the wrong time period but also in the wrong place!
Second, the tower that Pharaoh had built to “look upon Moses’ God” (Sura 40:37) was undoubtedly the Tower of Babel (see Genesis 11:1-9 and compare Sura 28:38 with Genesis 11:3). However, the event of the failed building of the Tower of Babel took place at least 400 years before Moses and Pharaoh, and furthermore, it took place in Babylon, not Egypt! Indeed, the reason that Babylon is called Babylon is because it is Akkadian for “gateway to a god” (i.e. the Hebrew for Babylon is “Babel”), an obvious reference to the attempt made by its inhabitants to build the tower. So, even if it is argued by the Muslim that the Bible was corrupted, then there is still incontrovertible evidence (from the name of the city) that the event took place in Mesopotamia and not Egypt, contrary to the Koran.
Last, the story in the Koran has the Egyptians using burnt clay for bricks to build the Tower of Babel (Sura 28:38). However, ancient Egyptians didn’t use baked clay for bricks. They used sun dried mud with straw or cut stone instead, and the major use of baked bricks by the Egyptians didn’t come about until the Roman era. This is an obvious anachronism in the Koran. For more reading on this topic, go here:
www.answering-islam.org/Index/B/bricks.html and here:
Pharaoh and Crucifixion
In Suras 7:124 and 26:49, we are told that Pharaoh, king of Egypt, threatened his sorcerers with crucifixion for believing in the God of Moses. However, crucifixion would not be invented for another 900 years and far, far away in Persia! This would be like saying, “Julius Caesar got tired of riding his horse, and so, he jumped in his F-16 fighter jet and flew to Gaul instead.” The anachronism in the Koran is absurd! For more reading and documentation on this, go here: www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/h005.html
Miriam and Mary
In Sura 19:28, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is said to be the sister of Aaron and Moses and the daughter of Amram (Sura 66:12). However, Jesus was not born for another 1400 years after Moses! It is clear that Muhammad confused Miriam, the sister of Moses, with Mary the mother of Jesus and wife of Joseph.
Muslims try to counter this argument by saying that because Mary was the cousin of Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist) and Elizabeth was descendant of Aaron, then Mary could also be called the “daughter” of Amram in an extended fashion. However, there are a number of problems with this argument. First, Mary was more associated with the tribe of Judah than that of Levi, and this is the reason that Jesus is called the son of David (Luke 1:32) and was not of priestly descent (Hebrews 7:11-14). This means that it is more likely that Elizabeth’s father, the Levite priest, married the sister of either of Mary’s parents which would mean that Mary would not have any of the Levite blood in her that her cousin Elizabeth had. Even if this is not so, then Mary would still not have been called the daughter of Aaron in any extended sense since she was more related to the descendants of Judah.
The second and most obvious problem with this argument is from the Koran itself! In Sura 3:35-36 we read (emphasis mine):
“(Remember) when the wife of ‘Imran said: My Lord! I have vowed unto Thee that which is in my belly as a consecrated (offering). Accept it from me. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower! And when she was delivered she said: My Lord! Lo! I am delivered of a female – Allah knew best of what she was delivered – the male is not as the female; and lo! I have named her Mary, and lo! I crave Thy protection for her and for her offspring from Satan the outcast.”
Thus, we clearly see that the wife of ‘Imram (the Biblical Amram) gave birth (and not in any extended sense) to the same Mary who gave birth to Jesus (Sura 3:45)! The Koran is clearly in error, and the attempt to protect it is destroyed by evidence within the Koran itself.
Moses and Samaritans
In Sura 20:85-88, 95, we are told that it was a Samaritan that deceived the Israelites into making the golden calf after the exodus out of Egypt. However, there was no such thing as a Samaritan until the city of Samaria was founded several centuries after the events in Exodus, and the separate people called Samaritans (the implied definition in the Koran) did not exist until even later when Assyria invaded the Northern Kingdom. This is yet another embarrassing time compression found in the Koran.
Some translations of the Koran try to get around this by not translating the Arabic word, “as-Samiri”. Yusuf Ali, ever the Islamic apologist, left the word as “Samiri”, and Muhammad Pickthall left his as “As-Samarii.” Both refused to translate the word probably because of the obvious historical anachronism. However, the Arabic text is clear, and the word means “the Samaritan”. As the author on Answering-Islam put it:
“Every once in a while, knowledgeable Arab Muslims who have not been contaminated yet by the apologetics around this issue naturally confirm that “as-Saamiri” indeed means “the Samaritan”. It never crossed their mind that this would mean anything else.”
-Answering-Islam, Moses and the Samaritan
Muhammad was probably confused and mixed up the accounts of the golden calf right after the exodus and the golden calf worshipped by the Northern Kingdom (whose capital was Samaria). For more on this, go here:
Moses and the Gospel
While talking to Moses, God supposedly says:
“Those who follow the messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom [the Israelites] will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them.”
Clearly, the Koran is saying that the Israelites can find predictions of this “Prophet” in the Torah (Old Testament) and the Gospel (New Testament) “(which are) with them”. The obvious error, here, is that the Israelites of Moses’ time did not possess the Gospel! The New Testament would not be written for another fifteen hundred years!
Muslims try to reconcile this hopeless passage by saying that this is referring to the Gospel that would come to later Israelites. However, the passage is clearly referring to the Israelites contemporary with Moses because the verbs are in the present tense (i.e. “(which are) with them”). Second, as I have shown in the article on the Biblical texts used for Muhammad, there are no prophecies that predict the coming of a prophet who can “neither read nor write” in the Bible.
Click here for Part 2