|Answers to Alleged Contradictions in the Qur'an (Part Two)
Mr. Katz?s failure
I think that Katz will, however, be disappointed. The contradiction list he provides does not contain a single real contradiction among the 49 claims. On the other hand, the list of 101 Bible contradictions that appear in my book could not be satisfactorily answered by Christian missionaries. Four missionaries have attempted, and their attempt is published on Katz?s web-site answering-islam.org. The reply by Smith and others actually admits that some of the contradictions I pointed at really do exist in today?s Bibles. They maintain, however, that the original copies of the Bible did not contain contradictions. Such contradictions entered the Bible, they say, due to the long process of transmission of the Bible. Over the centuries copies were made from copies which were again made from further copies. Today we do not have the original texts, they admit, and the texts we do have actually contain contradictions which were not in the originals. Never mind how they know what the non-existent originals used to contain. Consider their admission that the present texts of the Bible, all of them, contain some contradictions.
A Hostile Approach to the Qur?an
For Katz to be successful, he has to get Muslims to admit that the Qur?an likewise contains contradictions. But he himself admits that the contradictions he arrives at were reached only if one takes a hostile approach to the Qur?an. He writes: ". . . I will make the strongest possible case for something being contradictory and wrong . . . ." Moreover, he says that even when he discovers that an item on his list is not a real contradiction he will keep it on the list. He writes: ". . . I will not remove even those contradictions that I find answered to my personal satisfaction." Why? For two reasons. One, so that readers can decide for themselves what is and is not a real contradiction. Two, so that Muslims and Christians can both find a ready reference to the claimed contradictions and possible responses.
It should be clear, however, that in order to find the responses and evaluations on Katz?s pages requires painstaking effort. At first glance all one encounters is the glaring list of 49 numbered claims. The format in which the materials is displayed ensures that only the most serious of students will painstakingly pore over the full range of responses and evaluations. Hence the average browser will be left with the impression that Katz believes in the reality of those contradictions. For this reason I would advise Katz to remove the items which he finds answered to his satisfaction."
No Hostility to the Bible
This brings me to now explain some of the key differences between Katz?s approach and mine. First, my list of 101 contradictions in the Bible is not motivated by hostility to the Bible. I believe that the Bible is a very good book. I am aware that many people have been positively motivated by the Bible. Many people have become better persons by reading the Bible. The world has become a better place because of that book. My wish often is that more people in the western world should have followed their Bibles. Then we would have less drunkenness, adultery, gambling and a number of vices which Islam and Muslims stand firmly against.
Reverence for God
My motivation springs from two things. First, my reverence for God. Both Muslims and Christians revere God enough to want to defend his dignity. We recognize that it is not right for anyone to claim something about God which is below his dignity. Since we both believe that God is not the author of contradictions, it would be an insult to his dignity to claim that he authored a book wherein there are contradictions. I genuinely believe that the Bible contains contradictions and errors. Bible footnotes and commentaries generally admit that such contradictions and errors exist in the text of the Bible. For these reasons I am persuaded that it is my duty along with Christians to defend the honour of God. To do this we need to advise everyone that it is not appropriate to claim that God wrote the entire Bible. To do so would be to attribute the errors and contradictions to God. Since many people would deny that such contradictions exist, the best way to convince them was to show them where such contradictions do exist. Some people would usually dare me to show them one such contradiction, just one, and yet when I show them they are still not moved from their position. Just one little contradiction is not usually enough for the faithful. But how about 101? My purpose has been served, I think. The four missionaries who attempted a reply to my list of 101 Bible contradictions do admit that some of the contradictions are genuine.
Moral Obligation to Warn Others
The second source of my motivation springs from my moral obligation to save my fellow human beings from the Fire of Hell. If they are following a book which contains much good and also some human teachings which can lead a person into that fire it becomes my moral duty to warn them that the book contains human elements. One way of doing this effectively is to show actual content which could not come from God. Contradictions are foremost among such things. The method works. Smith and others admitted that some of the contradictions are due to the human copyists who way back in history made mistakes when they copied the texts.
A Correct Methodology
Motivation is not the only difference between Katz?s approach and mine. A second difference is in the methodology. The approach of Katz has been to pore over the Qur?an translations and the translators? notes and other commentaries to find any mention of a possible difficulty in understanding the text. Then he adds this to the list even if the difficulty is already worked out and a satisfactory solution is mentioned in the source.
Seriously Studying the Bible
On the other hand, my approach has been to seriously study the Bible. I have then listed only those contradictions which I find personally convincing or for which Bible commentaries admit that they have no satisfactory answer. I have not included any item for which the commentators have offered a convincing explanation. This explains why Smith and others despite their painstaking work could not come up with solid answers. Even where they attempt to deny that a contradiction exists, they usually draw two or three answers from different commentators and lump them all together to make a single answer. But often the answers are mutually exclusive. It cannot be both ways. Smith and others only show their inability to decide on a solution when they offer such mutually contradictory answers in an attempt to clear up the contradictions.
Such indecision is a sure sign of lack of personal conviction. Where Katz noticed that Muslims in dealing with Claim #4 offer different explanations for the apparent difficulty, he remarked:
"The existence of contradictory explanations is always the result of confusion and the sign that no theory is really fitting the data. If one explanation would really make full sense, then all others would have been abandoned long ago."
Katz said this in reference to Muslims when for a single problem different explanations are found in different sources. What would Katz think of the fact that Smith and others lump different explanations in the same answer and then pretend that they have an answer? Differences among Muslim commentators may be attributed to the fact that various writers have different perspectives. What accounts for the differences found within the combined answers of Smith and the rest of his team?
Judgement Against Falsehood
The third main difference between Katz?s approach and mine lies in my refusal to claim a Bible contradiction which I am not sure of, and my willingness to forthright withdraw any claim which I discover to be false. I have already cited Katz?s explanation of his reasons why he might list a contradiction which he himself is not convinced is a contradiction, and why he would maintain an item on the contradiction list even after his discovery that such an item is not a real contradiction. I must now explain my reason why I had to adopt an approach different from Katz?s. I am fully convinced that I will have to answer on the Day of Judgement for every word I utter whether it be by speech or in writing. I cannot promote something I do not believe in. Only where I believe a contradiction exists in the Bible can I continue to circulate my booklet containing that item. If not for my conviction that what I write is true, I cannot continue to write, or to circulate my booklet. As it is now, my booklet is about to be reprinted because, having read the response from Smith and others, I am sure that the contradictions are real. I am more sure than I have ever been. Smith and others, I must admit, have been more studious than me, checking out many sources of possible answers for the contradictions. Their failure to answer any of them to my satisfaction, and their admission that some of them are real, gives me the assurance that my work is based on solid ground.
Moreover, if ever I receive a satisfactory answer to any of the claimed contradictions I would have a moral obligation to inform the public of the falsity of my previous claim. To satisfy my obligation I would have to circulate an apology as widely as my original work was circulated. All of this I am prepared to do if only someone would respond with satisfactory answers.
How to Answer Claims
Having explained the difference between Katz?s approach and mine, I must now turn to Katz?s specific claims and show where he is further mistaken. But first, a word about the method of my answer.
Katz?s list has each proposed problem explained in brief. My answers will also be brief in the main section. Behind each of Katz?s summary of the problem is a more detailed explanation. That explanation, however, is accessible only after a click of the mouse. I will insha Allah answer those under the headings "More Objections Answered." On the web such sections will also be accessible with a click of the mouse.
This method will have the advantage of demolishing the main points quickly and effectively in a short list of answers. All of Katz?s main points are in the summary, and as such it would be a needless distraction to deal with the subsidiary issues in the main list of answers. The subsidiary points will then be dealt with equally effectively in the subsidiary sections.
To answer Katz we do not initially need to get into detailed explanations of Quranic verses and Islamic practices. Katz represents his list as a list of contradictions. To demolish that list, it is sufficient to show that the items do not establish contradictions. This we can do in two ways.
First, we can question the criticism itself. If we can show that Katz?s claim is not based on a proper foundation, then his claim stands dismissed; and a further defense of the Qur?an becomes unnecessary. Often we will see that Katz makes the following types of mistakes:
(a) he misunderstands the Qur?an
(b) for the Quranic passages in question he relies on a faulty translation which supports the misunderstanding or
(c) he takes the passages out of their context to support such a misunderstanding.
If we can demonstrate any of this, then Katz?s criticisms fall flat, and the Qur?an stands tall.
Moreover, we will demand of Katz that the Qur?anic statements which he claims to be mutually contradictory must satisfy a basic condition. The statements have to be such that they cannot be said to be true of the same thing at the same time. We will see that often what Katz presents are statements which appear to be different but not contradictory. But unless our basic condition here can be met, we shall have to remind Katz that a difference is not a contradiction unless it is a contradiction. If one passage claims A and another claims B they are no doubt different. But for them to be contradictory, it has to be shown that A and B cannot be true of the same thing at the same time. This Katz will have to show. Since Katz is proposing a contradiction, we shall demand of him to prove not only that a difference exists, but a contradictory difference. If he fails to show this, then his claim falls flat and the Qur?an stands tall.
The Positive Explanation
The second way in which we can answer the claimed contradictions is to show that a reasonable understanding of the text in question proves them harmonious. If we can show that a reasonable reading does not lead to a contradiction, then we will have demolished Katz?s claim. As long as such an explanation is reasonable, one can no longer claim that the passages are contradictory.
To illustrate these two approaches in constructing a response, consider Katz?s claimed contradiction #20. He cites one verse to show that the losers on the Day of Judgement will receive the record of their deeds behind their backs. Then he cites another verse to show that such losers will receive their records in their left hands. Our first approach is to question Katz?s claim. It is up to Katz to show not only that the verses say two different things. He also has to show that the verses say two contradictory things. We notice that he has shown the difference, but he has not shown a contradiction. To show a contradiction, he has to explain why it is unreasonable for both verses to be true. Katz has to argue that it is impossible for a person to receive something behind his back if he also gets it in his left hand. Until Katz says this he has not laid a real claim to a contradiction, and the claim he makes us pointless. We do not need to say more.
The second way of approaching the same problem is to offer a reasonable explanation showing how both verses can be right at the same time. In this example we can argue that it is quite reasonable that a person can receive his record behind his back and in his left hand. He can obviously do this by simply putting his left hand behind his back and waiting for the angels to place his record therein. This explanation makes further sense when you realize that a loser in this case is doubly disgraced. He is disgraced getting his record in his left hand, and he is further disgraced by not having at least the honour of advancing face forward.
Notice that anyone of the two approaches would be sufficient for the purpose of demolishing the claimed contradiction. Yet we will often look at the matter both ways so that a variety of approaches may be available for the serious student.
Moreover, we shall under separate heads include comparisons with the Bible where appropriate. Where Katz objects to a Qur?anic statement or principle and we find something similar in the Bible in which Katz believes, then we ought to bring this to the attention of Katz and other readers. For example, whereas Katz objects that the Quran prescribes for daughters half the share for a son, the Bible allows no share for the daughters if sons exist. In the Bible a daughter inherits only if there are no sons. If sons exist they take all (Numbers 27:8-11). If there are no sons then the daughters will inherit, but they are required to marry within their father?s tribe (Numbers 36:6, 11).
So, since Katz calls the Qur?an unjust for what it awards daughters (half what their brothers get) we should be interested to know what he will call the Bible for what it awards daughters (nothing).
Nor does the Bible prescribe anything for the mom or wife. Following the Bible?s prescriptions, if a man dies we would pass over his wife and mother and give his property to his brothers or to his fathers? brothers.
On the other hand, the Quran specifies shares of inheritance for the wife and mother. What does Katz think of that?