Criticism of the Quran

Criticism of the Quran

While the Qur'an is the scriptural foundation of most forms of Islam criticism of the Qur'an has frequently occurred. Critics have made allegations of scientific, theological, and historical errors, claims of contradictions in the Qur'an and criticisms of the Qur'an's moral values.


Historical authenticity

Most Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the literal word of Abraham's God as recited to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. Muhammad, according to tradition, recited perfectly what the angel Gabriel revealed to him for his companions to write down and memorize. Muslims hold that the wording of the Qur'anic text available today corresponds exactly to that revealed to Muhammad in the years 610–632.[1]

Maurice Bucaille states in The Bible, The Qur'an and Science that "The Qur'anic Revelation has a history which is fundamentally different from the other two. It spanned a period of some twenty years and, as soon as it was transmitted to Muhammad by Archangel Gabriel, Believers learned it by heart. It was also written down during Muhammad's life. The last recensions of the Qur'an were effected under Caliph Uthman starting some twelve years after the Prophet's death and finishing twenty-four years after it. They had the advantage of being checked by people who already knew the text by heart, for they had learned it at the time of the Revelation itself and had subsequently recited it constantly. Since then, we know that the text has been scrupulously preserved. It does not give rise to any problems of authenticity."[2]

John Wansbrough believes that the Qur'an is a redaction in part of other sacred scriptures, in particular the Judaeo-Christian scriptures.[3][4] In their book Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook challenge the traditional account of how the Qur'an was compiled, writing that "there is no hard evidence for the existence of the Koran in any form before the last decade of the seventh century."[5] They also question the accuracy of some of the Qur'an's historical accounts. For example, professor Gerd R. Puin's study of ancient Qur'an manuscripts led him to conclude that the Qur'an is a "cocktail of texts", some of which may have been present a hundred years before Muhammad.[5]

Qur'an from the 9th century. It is a 7th century original from Uthman era

Herbert Berg writes that "Despite John Wansbrough's very cautious and careful inclusion of qualifications such as 'conjectural,' and 'tentative and emphatically provisional', his work is condemned by some. Some of the negative reaction is undoubtedly due to its radicalness... Wansbrough's work has been embraced wholeheartedly by few and has been employed in a piecemeal fashion by many. Many praise his insights and methods, if not all of his conclusions."[6]

It is generally acknowledged that the work of Crone and Cook was a fresh approach in its reconstruction of early Islamic history, but the theory has been almost universally rejected.[7] Van Ess has dismissed it stating that "a refutation is perhaps unnecessary since the authors make no effort to prove it in detail...Where they are only giving a new interpretation of well-known facts, this is not decisive. But where the accepted facts are consciously put upside down, their approach is disastrous."[8] R. B. Sergeant states that "[Crone and Cook's thesis]… is not only bitterly anti-Islamic in tone, but anti-Arabian. Its superficial fancies are so ridiculous that at first one wonders if it is just a ‘leg pull’, pure ’spoof’."[9] Francis Edwards Peters states that "Few have failed to be convinced that what is in our copy of the Quran is, in fact, what Muhammad taught, and is expressed in his own words".[10]

In 2006, legal scholar Liaquat Ali Khan claimed that Crone and Cook later explicitly disavowed their earlier book.[11][12] Patricia Crone in an article published in 2006 provided an update on the evolution of her conceptions since the printing of the thesis in 1976. In the article she acknowledges that Muhammad existed as a historical figure and that the Qur'an represents "utterances" of his that he believed to be revelations. However she states that the Qur'an may not be the complete record of the revelations. She also accepts that oral histories and Muslim historical accounts cannot be totally discounted, but remains skeptical about the traditional account of the Hijrah and the standard view that Muhammad and his tribe were based in Mecca. She describes the difficulty in the handling of the hadith because of their "amorphous nature" and purpose as documentary evidence for deriving religious law rather than as historical narratives.[13]

Al-Kindi claimed that the narratives in the Qur'an were "all jumbled together and intermingled" and that this was "an evidence that many different hands have been at work therein, and caused discrepancies, adding or cutting out whatever they liked or disliked".[14] Bell and Watt suggested that the variation in writing style throughout the Qur'an, which sometimes involves the use of rhyming, may have indicated revisions to the text during its compilation. They claimed that there were "abrupt changes in the length of verses; sudden changes of the dramatic situation, with changes of pronoun from singular to plural, from second to third person, and so on".[15] At the same time, however, they noted that "[i]f any great changes by way of addition, suppression or alteration had been made, controversy would almost certainly have arisen; but of that there is little trace." They also note that "Modern study of the Qur'an has not in fact raised any serious question of its authenticity. The style varies, but is almost unmistakable."[citation needed]

Claim of divine origin

An 11th century Persian Qur'an folio page in kufic script

Critics reject the idea that the Qur'an is miraculously perfect and impossible to imitate (2:2, 17:88-89, 29:47, 28:49). The Jewish Encyclopedia, for example, writes: "The language of the Koran is held by the Mohammedans to be a peerless model of perfection. Critics, however, argue that peculiarities can be found in the text. For example, critics note that a sentence in which something is said concerning Allah is sometimes followed immediately by another in which Allah is the speaker (examples of this are suras xvi. 81, xxvii. 61, xxxi. 9, and xliii. 10. Many peculiarities in the positions of words are due to the necessities of rhyme (lxix. 31, lxxiv. 3), while the use of many rare words and new forms may be traced to the same cause (comp. especially xix. 8, 9, 11, 16)."[16] According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, "The dependence of Mohammed upon his Jewish teachers or upon what he heard of the Jewish Haggadah and Jewish practices is now generally conceded."[16]

Confusion over speaker of certain verses

Bell and Watt thought that cases where the speaker is swearing an oath by God, such as surahs 75:1-2 and 90:1, seem unlikely to be coming from God. Verses 19:64 and 37:161-166 were spoken by angels, describing their being sent by God down to Earth but this all is only limited to his own thought.[17]

Science in the Qur'an

Qur'anic verses 3:59, 35:11, 96:2, 20:55, 6:1, 24:45, 15:26, 7:11, and 19:67 are all related to the origin of mankind. Some critics of Islam and many Muslims state that the Qur'an and modern evolutionary theory are not compatible.[18][19] This has led to a contribution by Muslims to the creation vs. evolution debate.[20] Some Muslims have pointed to certain Qur'anic verses (such as 21:30, 71:13–14, 29:19–20, 6:133–135, 10:4) that they think are in fact compatible with evolutionary science,[21] but others think that only creationism is supported by the Qur'an and the hadith.[22][23]

Ahmad Dallal, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, writes that many modern Muslims believe that the Qur'an does make scientific statements, however many classical Muslim commentators and scientists, notably al-Biruni, assigned to the Qur'an a separate and autonomous realm of its own and held that the Qur'an "does not interfere in the business of science nor does it infringe on the realm of science."[24] These medieval scholars argued for the possibility of multiple scientific explanation of the natural phenomena, and refused to subordinate the Qur'an to an ever-changing science.[24]


Naskh (نسخ) is an Arabic language word usually translated as "abrogation"; it shares the same root as the words appearing in the phrase al-nāsikh wal-mansūkh (الناسخ والمنسوخ, "the abrogater and the abrogated [verses]").

The concept of "abrogation" in the Qur'an is that Allah chose to reveal ayat (singular ayah; means a sign or miracle, commonly a verse in the Qur'an) that supersede earlier ayat in the same Qur'an. The central ayah that deals with abrogation is Surah 2:106:

"None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things."[25]

Satanic verses

Some criticism of the Qur'an has revolved around what are known as the "Satanic Verses". Some early Islamic histories recount that as Muhammad was reciting Sūra Al-Najm (Q.53), as revealed to him by the angel Gabriel, Satan tempted him to utter the following lines after verses 19 and 20: "Have you thought of Allāt and al-'Uzzā and Manāt the third, the other; These are the exalted Gharaniq, whose intercession is hoped for." The Allāt, al-'Uzzā and Manāt were three goddesses worshiped by the Meccans. These histories then say that these 'Satanic Verses' were repudiated shortly afterward by Muhammad at the behest of Gabriel.[26] Academic scholars such as William Montgomery Watt and Alfred Guillaume argued for its authenticity based upon the implausibility of Muslims fabricating a story so unflattering to their prophet. Watt says that "the story is so strange that it must be true in essentials."[27] On the other hand, John Burton rejected the tradition. In an inverted culmination of Watt's approach, Burton argued for its fictitiousness based upon a demonstration of its actual utility to certain elements of the Muslim community – namely, those legal exegetes seeking an "occasion of revelation" for eradicatory modes of abrogation.[28]

The incident of the Satanic Verses is put forward by some critics as evidence of the Qur'an's origins as a human work of Muhammad. Maxime Rodinson describes this as a conscious attempt to achieve a consensus with pagan Arabs, which was then consciously rejected as incompatible with Muhammad's attempts to answer the criticism of contemporary Arab Jews and Christians,[29] linking it with the moment at which Muhammad felt able to adopt a "hostile attitude" towards the pagan Arabs.[30] Rodinson writes that the story of the Satanic Verses is unlikely to be false because it was "one incident, in fact, which may be reasonably accepted as true because the makers of Muslim tradition would not have invented a story with such damaging implications for the revelation as a whole".[31] In a caveat to his acceptance of the incident, William Montgomery Watt, states: "Thus it was not for any worldly motive that Muhammad eventually turned down the offer of the Meccans, but for a genuinely religious reason; not for example, because he could not trust these men nor because any personal ambition would remain unsatisfied, but because acknowledgment of the goddesses would lead to the failure of the cause, of the mission he had been given by God."[32]

"If it [i.e. the Qur'an] had been from someone other than God, they would have found much contradiction in it." This encouragement of Muhammad's enemies to claim inconsistency and contradiction, is argued, was pronounced in a hostile environment during the Qur'an's revelation.[33]

Intended audience

Some verses of the Qur'an are assumed to be directed towards all of Muhammad's followers while other verses are directed more specifically towards Muhammad and his wives (33:28, 33:50, 49:2, 58:1, 58:9 66:3).

Other scholars argue that variances in the Qur'an's explicit intended audiences are irrelevant to claims of divine origin - and for example that Muhummad's wives "specific divine guidance, occasioned by their proximity to the Prophet (Muhammad)" where "Numerous divine reprimands addressed to Muhammad's wives in the Qur'an establish their special responsibility to overcome their human frailties and ensure their individual worthiness",[34] or argue that the Qur'an must be interpreted on more than one level.[35] (See:[36]).


The Qur'an describes itself as complete, as the revealed book fully detailed (Qur'an 6:11-116; 7:52). This invites criticism from some because of the Qur'an's lack of detail, or complete absence of mention of mainstream practices listed below. Qur'anist Muslims who reject secondary sources and rely only on Qur'an – thereby rejecting the sunnah – are in turn accused of heresy and innovation by orthodox Muslims who themselves say the Qur'an cannot be followed as a stand-alone text.

Orthodox Muslims (sunni and shia) do not see a contradiction between the Qur'an's inability to be applied as a sole, stand-alone text, and the necessity for supplementary texts to practice Islam. Most Muslims point out that the Qur'an repeatedly exhorts Muslims to follow God and the Prophet (4:59; 33:36). Orthodox Muslims interpret the Qur'an's requirement of following Muhammad as following the sunnah, a voluminous corpus of secondary material purportedly explained by Muhammad himself and written down in later decades and centuries. Sunnah also includes exegesis of later scholars to authoritatively state what comprises Sunnah. Qur'anist Muslims hold the position that the Qur'an is complete in itself and prohibits secondary sources that orthodox Muslims use, stating that following the Muhammad meaning to follow Muhammad's exhortation to accept the Qur'an. Some Islamic sects, such as the Ismaili, take the Qur'an allegorically, so lack of procedures or detail do not hinder the Qur'an as a guide.

'Completeness' therefore entails different meanings and perceptions.

The Five Pillars of Islam, considered a bedrock of Islamic practice and identity, has been cited by critics as evidence that Qur'an can not possibly be considered a complete book:

1. Shahada (Arabic: الشهادة aš-šahāda About this sound audio ) (from the verb šahida, "he witnessed") must be said by all orthodox Muslims as confirmation of their religion or on conversion to Islam. The shahada is an interpolation of different ayah of the Qur'an. Whilst orthodox Muslims state: There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger (in English), there is no Qur'an reference to this specific sentence. Qur'anist Muslims, who reject supplementary sources and rely on the Qur'an alone, thus say a shahada directly from the Qur'an, being There is no god but Allah. To use the Qur'an's shahada, however, is labelled bid'ah or innovation to the point of heresy according to orthodox Islam, which critics point out as an anomaly.

2. Salah, meaning prayer. The Qur'an does not detail the method of prayer. This has led to differences in prayer method between Muslim sects and within madhabs within sects themselves. Most Sunnis insist the hands cross the stomach area whilst standing in prayer, however Shi'ah, Sunnis of the Maliki madhab and Ibadi Muslims pray with arms pointed downward. The form of wudu also differs between sects. There is no guidance in the Qur'an itself on which form of prayer is correct.

Orthodox Muslims refer to supplementary sources for determining the number of rakat- units of bowing and prostrating during contact prayers- and special procedures for certain requests in prayer, such as turning of the cloak in reverse when requesting for rain (found in Al-Muwatta of Malik ibn Anas). The Qur'an itself gives no mention of these matters.

The Qur'an does not explicitly state the number of times per day a person should pray. Sunni Muslims state the Qur'an mentions five prayer points within the day, whilst some Qur'anists and Shi'ah argue the Qur'an only mentions three points in the day in which to pray (morning (Fajr), noon (Dhuhr), and sunset (Maghrib)). Differences between Muslim sects also arise over when exactly the evening prayer time starts, with Sunnis starting when the sun completely sets beyond the horizon, whilst Shi'ah wait longer until the redness of the eastern sky has passed over the prayer. There are also discrepancies between different Sunni madhabs on valid maghrib prayer times, with some sunnis stating Maghrib prayer time ends when the sun has descended 15 degrees below the horizon, whilst others require 18 degrees.

The Qur'an refers to prayer time by means of the sun's position and light available. In regions where daylight hours differ significantly from the middle-east, as in Scandinavia which has scant daylight in winter and prolonged sunlight in the summer, prayer times by the Qur'an's guidance of the sun's position will differ markedly from those on a lower latitude. The Qur'an's guidance for prayer therefore differs markedly depending on the prayer's spot of longitude.

3. Zakat, or alms-giving, is repeatedly praised and exhorted in the Qur'an. Orthodox Muslims postulate that 2.5 per cent of a Muslim's wealth be donated annually, under specific conditions. No mention of this number, or practical conditions stipulated in the sunnah, are mentioned within the Qur'an itself. Critics of the Qur'an have pointed to the sunnah's accretion on zakat methodology as evidence of the Qur'an's incompleteness; Qur'anists point to the sunnah's stipulations as an aberration to the Qur'an and an unwitting admission that the Qur'an is incomplete if following the orthodox Islamic path.

4. Sawm of fasting is a requirement of the Qur'an, but is not mentioned in the same detail as in the sunnah. For example, whilst a menstruating woman is not permitted to fast within orthodox Islam, no prohibition exists in the Qur'an.

5. Hajj, a pilgrimage required of every able Muslim, is not detailed in the Qur'an. Common practices such as the ritual stoning of Satan in Mina, the shaving of the head, and veneration of the cornerstone of the Ka'aba, have been referred to by some critics as pagan practices embraced by Muhammad, or by some Qur'anists as aberrations introduced after Muhammad died that have become a mainstream practice. Ismailis hold that hajj is not a requirement, and may use the Qur'an as justification for this position.

There is no explicit mention of 'five pillars' of Islam in the Qur'an. It derives from hadith, yet hadith as a source of theology are never explicitly mentioned in the Qur'an.

Critics point out further examples to cite as evidence of the Qur'an's incompleteness. Orthodox Muslim practices whose prohibitions are completely absent from the Qur'an include:

  • the stoning of adulterers;
  • prohibition of menstruating women from praying or entering a mosque;
  • classifying of dogs as unclean animals;
  • circumcision of either male or female;
  • mention of any person who shi'ah consider the divinely-guided Imams;
  • the mention of ahadith, whose rejection entails heresy to the point of apostasy according to orthodox Islamic sources;
  • clothing restrictions, such as of men wearing silk, gold jewellery, or yellow clothes;
  • performing and listening to music.
  • games of competition unrelated to military exercise, such as chess.

Practices whose application is debatable among Muslims include:

  • hijab, ranging from a non-requirement amongst some revisionist Muslims, to mandatory by most Muslims, to being a minimum requirement with the face-covering niqab preferred amongst other Muslims;
  • whether variations in arm positioning during prayer are optional (as with the Maliki madhab), or prohibited (as with the Hanbali madhab);
  • to whom unclaimed inheritance may be bequeathed to when the Qur'an's formula for division of inheritance leaves amounts outstanding;

Critics[who?] have cited such rules, found entirely outside the Qur'an itself, to be evidence that the Qur'an cannot be applied as a stand-alone text, and that therefore the Qur'an's claim to completeness is untrue.


According to some critics, the morality of the Qur'an, like the life story of Muhammad, appears to be a moral regression, by the standards of the moral traditions of Judaism and Christianity it says that it builds upon. The Catholic Encyclopedia, for example, states that "the ethics of Islam are far inferior to those of Judaism and even more inferior to those of the New Testament" and "that in the ethics of Islam there is a great deal to admire and to approve, is beyond dispute; but of originality or superiority, there is none."[37] William Montgomery Watt however finds Muhammad's changes an improvement for his time and place: "In his day and generation Muhammad was a social reformer, indeed a reformer even in the sphere of morals. He created a new system of social security and a new family structure, both of which were a vast improvement on what went before. By taking what was best in the morality of the nomad and adapting it for settled communities, he established a religious and social framework for the life of many races of men."[38]

Tension exists between Muslim groups on the use and application of ethics. Liberal Muslims point to the spirit of the Qur'an as a vehicle for continued social change and advancement. Conservative Muslims may find the Qur'an's ethics established, and so change or re-interpretation is an aberration from the ideal ethical standard already established by Muhammad. Thus on the issue of slavery, liberal interpretaters state the Qur'an (through Sunnah) encourages the eventual abolition of slavery, and may thus refer to slavery as an immoral, unethical practice, whilst a conservative Muslim may consider it innovation and blasphemy to refer to a practice approved by the Qur'an as unethical or immoral. Few Muslims advocate slavery, despite Islam's permission for the practice, but other ethical issues long established in the developed world remain controversial amongst Muslims, such as the validity of child marriage, whose practice is discouraged by some Muslims as an antiquated custom like slavery, whilst others cite its blessing and validity within the established Islamic sources [cite sources].

War and peace

The Qur'an's teachings on matters of war and peace have become topics of heated discussion in recent years. On the one hand, some critics interpret that certain verses of the Qur'an sanction military action against unbelievers as a whole both during the lifetime of Muhammad and after. The Qur'an said "fight in the name of your religion with those who fight against you."[39] On the other hand, other scholars argue that such verses of the Qur'an are interpreted out of context,[40][41] and Muslims of the small Ahmadiyya movement argue that when the verses are read in context it clearly appears that the Qur'an prohibits aggression,[42][43][44] and allows fighting only in self defense.[45][46]

Kim Ezra Shienbaum and Jamal Hasan have claimed that a concept of 'Jihad', defined as 'struggle', has been introduced by the Qur'an. They claim that while Muhummad was in Mecca, he "did not have many supporters and was very weak compared to the Pagans", and "it was at this time he added some 'soft', peaceful verses", where as "almost all the hateful, coercive and intimidating verses later in the Qur’an were made with respect to Jihad" when Muhammad was in Medina (8:38-39, 8:65, 9:29-30, 48:16-22, 4:95, 9:111, 2:216-218, 8:15-17, 9:123, 8:12, 9:5, 2:190-194, 9:73).[47] This interpretation of events is strongly disputed by other scholars, claiming an intention of encouraging self defense in Islamic communities.

Micheline R. Ishay has argued that "the Qur’an justifies wars for self-defense to protect Islamic communities against internal or external aggression by non-Islamic populations, and wars waged against those who 'violate their oaths' by breaking a treaty" (9:12-15, 42:39).[48] Mufti M. Mukarram Ahmed has also argued that the Qur'an encourages people to fight in self defense (9:38-41, 9:36-37, 4:74). He has also argued that the Qur'an has been used to direct Muslims to make all possible preparations to defend themselves against enemies (8:60).[49]

Shin Chiba and Thomas J. Schoenbaum argue that Islam "does not allow Muslims to fight against those who disagree with them regardless of belief system", but instead "urges its followers to treat such people kindly" (4:90, 8:61, 60:8).[50] Yohanan Friedmann has argued that the Qur'an does not promote fighting for the purposes of religious coercion, although the war as described is "religious" in the sense that the enemies of the Muslims are described as "enemies of God" (8:57-62).[51]

Rodrigue Tremblay has argued that the Qur'an commands that non-Muslims under a Muslim regime, should "feel themselves subdued" in "a political state of subservience" (4:89). He also argues that the Qur'an may assert freedom within religion (2:256).[52] Nisrine Abiad has argued that the Qur'an incorporates the offence (and due punishment) of "rebellion" into the offence of "highway or armed robbery" (5:33).[53]

George W. Braswell has argued that the Qur'an asserts an idea of Jihad to deal with "a sphere of disobedience, ignorance and war" (47:4, 49:15, 2:244-245).[54]

Michael David Bonner has argued that the "deal between God and those who fight is portrayed as a commercial transaction, either as a loan with interest, or else as a profitable sale of the life of this world in return for the life of the next", where "how much one gains depends on what happens during the transaction", either "paradise if slain in battle, or victory if one survives" (9:52).[55] Critics have argued that the Qur'an was used to coerce Muhammad's followers into fighting when they showed "reluctance to make war",[56] or that it "glorified Jihad in many of the Medinese suras" and "criticized those who fail(ed) to participate in it" (47:20-21).[57]

Ali Ünal has claimed that the Qur'an praises the companions of Muhammad, for being stern and implacable against the said unbelievers, where in that "period of ignorance and savagery, triumphing over these people was possible by being strong and unyielding."[58][59]

A critic[who?] has argued that in "duty to halt aggression or to strive for the preservation of Islamic principles", fighting may be involved, where the Qur'an encourages them to "fight courageously and steadfastly against recalcitrant states, be they Muslim or non-Muslim."[60][61] He also argues that the "Qur’anic statement is clear" on the issue of fighting in defense of Islam as "a duty that is to be carried out at all costs", where "God grants security to those Muslims who fight in order to halt or repel aggression" (22:39-42).[62]

Shaikh M. Ghazanfar argues that the Qur'an has been used to teach its followers that "the path to human salvation does not require withdrawal from the world but rather encourages moderation in worldly affairs" (fighting inclusive) (73:20).[63] Shabbir Akhtar has argued that the Qur'an asserts that if a people "fear Muhammad more than they fear God, 'they are a people lacking in sense'" rather than a fear being imposed upon them by God directly (59:13).[64]

Various calls to arms were identified in the Qur'an by US Citizen Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, all of which were cited as "most relevant to my actions on March 3, 2006" (9:44, 9:19, 57:10-11, 8:72-73, 9:120, 3:167-175, 4:66, 4:104, 9:81, 9:93-94, 9:100, 16:110, 61:11-12, 47:35).[65]

Violence against women

Verse 4:34 of the Qur'an as translated by Ali Quli Qara'i reads:

Men are the managers of women, because of the advantage Allah has granted some of them over others, and by virtue of their spending out of their wealth. So righteous women are obedient, care-taking in the absence [of their husbands] of what Allah has enjoined [them] to guard. As for those [wives] whose misconduct you fear, [first] advise them, and [if ineffective] keep away from them in the bed, and [as the last resort] beat them. Then if they obey you, do not seek any course [of action] against them. Indeed Allah is all-exalted, all-great.

The film Submission, which rose to fame after the murder of its director Theo van Gogh, critiqued this and similar verses of the Qur'an by displaying them painted on the bodies of abused Muslim women.[66] Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the film's writer, said "it is written in the Koran a woman may be slapped if she is disobedient. This is one of the evils I wish to point out in the film".[67]

Scholars and other defenders of Islam have a variety of responses to these criticisms. (See An-Nisa, 34 for a fuller exegesis on the meaning of the text.) Although the Qur'an does allow a husband to punish his wife for transgressing the bounds given to her by God, the Qur'an and Muhammad still put forth the prescription that the man is only allowed to hit the woman so lightly that it would not leave as much as a faint mark upon her, otherwise the man has himself transgressed divine bounds. Some Muslims argue that beating is only appropriate if a woman has done "an unrighteous, wicked and rebellious act" beyond mere disobedience.[68] In many modern interpretations of the Qur'an, the actions prescribed in 4:34 are to be taken in sequence, and beating is only to be used as a last resort.[69][70][71]

Many Islamic scholars and commentators have emphasized that beatings, where permitted, are not to be harsh[72][73][74] or even that they should be "more or less symbolic."[75] According to Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Ibn Kathir, the consensus of Islamic scholars is that the above verse describes a light beating.[76][77]

Some jurists argue that even when beating is acceptable under the Qur'an, it is still discountenanced.[78][79][80]

Shabbir Akhtar has argued that the Qur'an introduced prohibitions against "the pre-Islamic practice of female infanticide" (16:58, 17:31, 81:8).[81]

Sunni scholars would argue that the Quran and sunnah must be used in conjunction. The hadith state that the only permitted form of beating is a miswaak, a piece of olive branch used for cleaning the teeth,approximately 8 centimetres in length.


Daniel Ali interprets that the "Houris" or 'Virgins of Paradise' described in the Qur'an (37:43-49, 38:52, 44:54, 52:20, 55:56, 55:72, 56:35-38, 78:33) fulfill "every conceivable carnal desire".[82] Max I. Dimont interprets that the Houris described in the Qur'an are specifically dedicated to "male pleasure".[83] Henry Martyn claims that the concept of the Houris was chosen to satisfy Mohammed's followers.[84]

Alternatively, Annemarie Schimmel says that the Qur'anic description of the Houris should be viewed in a context of love; "every pious man who lives according to God's order will enter Paradise where rivers of milk and honey flow in cool, fragrant gardens and virgin beloveds await home..."[85] She also states that the sensuality pictured in the Qur'an is comparable to that offered in sermons by the Eastern Orthodox Church; "its description of Paradise, so often attacked by Christian polemicists because of its sensuality, the Qur'an is not much more colourful than were the sermons on this topic in the Eastern Orthodox Church". She also emphasises that "women and children too participate in the paradisal bliss" (52:21).

Under the Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Qur'an by Christoph Luxenberg, the words translating to "Houris" or "Virgins of Paradise" are instead interpreted as "Fruits (grapes)" and "high climbing (wine) bowers... made into first fruits".[86] Alternate interpretations of these Qur'anic verses are offered, including the idea that the Houris should be seen as having a specifically spiritual nature rather than a human nature; "these are all very sensual ideas; but there are also others of a different kind... what can be the object of cohabitation in Paradise as there can be no question of its purpose in the world, the preservation of the race. The solution of this difficulty is found by saying that, although heavenly food, women etc.., have the name in common with their earthly equivalents, it is only by way of metaphorical indication and comparison without actual identity... authors have spiritualized the Houris" and "later literature is able to give many more details of their physical beauty... they are so transparent that the marrow of their bones is visible through sev-enty silken garments. If they expectorate into the world, their spittle becomes musk...".

Christians and Jews in the Qur'an


Jane Gerber claims that the Qur'an ascribes negative traits to Jews, such as cowardice, greed, and chicanery. She also alleges that the Qur'an associates Jews with interconfessional strife and rivalry (Quran 2:113), the Jewish belief that they alone are beloved of God (Quran 5:18), and that only they will achieve salvation (Quran 2:111).[87] According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, the Qur'an contains many attacks on Jews and Christians for their refusal to recognize Muhammad as a prophet.[88] In the Muslim view, the crucifixion of Jesus was an illusion, and thus the Jewish plots against him ended in failure.[89] In numerous verses (3:63; 3:71; 4:46; 4:160–161; 5:41–44, 5:63–64, 5:82; 6:92)[90] the Qur'an accuses Jews of altering the Scripture.[91]

Qur'anic statements which portray Christians and Jews in a negative image (9:30, 5:72, 3:85, 4:150, 58:22) include verse 30 of Al-Tawba which states:

"And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of God; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of God; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may God destroy them; how they are turned away!"

Although there is a verse stating that believing Christians and Jews will be rewarded as a result of their belief in God (2:62), there are other verses such as:(verse 85 of Al-i'Imran):

"And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers."

which denies the validity of their religions as they are practiced now.


The main Qur'anic statement that Muslim scholars hold[citation needed] portray Christians and Jews in a positive image in Surah Baqarah, Chapter No. 2, Verse No. 62:

"Those who believe, the Jews, Christians and Sabians - any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord. They need not fear, nor shall they grieve."

According to Surah Ankabut, the Qur'an gave Jews and Christians a special and honored place. (Quran 29:46).[92] Moreover, he states that the Qur'an mentions that Christians were the "nearest to Muslims in love, because their priests and monks are not proud, and because they listen to and recognize the truth of what the Messenger (Muhammad) has brought (Quran 5:82–83)".[92] Karen Armstrong mentions that there are "far more numerous passages in the Qur'an" which speak positively of the Jews and their great prophets, than those which were against the "rebellious Jewish tribes of Medina" (during Muhammad's time).[93]

Regarding the verses which tell that Jews were turned into apes, Muslim scholars disagree on the meanings. Some believe Jews were actually turned into apes and pigs, while others believe they began to act like animals.[94] Sayyid Abul Ala believes this punishment was not meant for all Jews, and that they were only meant for the Jewish inhabitants that were sinning at the time.[94]

See also

  • Islamic view of Ezra, concerns the claim in surah 9:30 of the Qur'an that the Jews believe Ezra (Uzair) is the son of God


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  3. ^ Wansbrough, John (1977). Quranic Studies: Sources and Methods of Scriptural Interpretation
  4. ^ Wansbrough, John (1978). The Sectarian Milieu: Content and Composition of Islamic Salvation History.
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  8. ^ van Ess, "The Making Of Islam", Times Literary Supplement, Sep 8 1978, p. 998
  9. ^ Sergeant, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1978, p. 78
  10. ^ Peters, F. E. (Aug., 1991) "The Quest of the Historical Muhammad." International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 291-315.
  11. ^ Liaquat Ali Khan. "Hagarism: The Story of a Book Written by Infidels for Infidels". Retrieved 2006-06-12. 
  12. ^ Liaquat Ali Khan. "Hagarism: The Story of a Book Written by Infidels for Infidels". Retrieved 2006-06-09. 
  13. ^ What do we actually know about Mohammed?, by Patricia Crone
  14. ^ Quoted in A. Rippin, Muslims: their religious beliefs and practices: Volume 1, London, 1991, p.26
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  18. ^ Saleem, Shehzad (May 2000). "The Qur’anic View on Creation". Renaissance 10 (5). ISSN 1606-9382. Retrieved 2006-10-11. 
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  24. ^ a b Ahmad Dallal, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, Quran and science
  25. ^ The Problem of Abrogation in the Quran
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  32. ^ W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad at Mecca, Oxford, 1953. 'The Growth of Opposition', p.105
  33. ^ Eerik Dickinson, Difficult Passages, Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān
  34. ^ Women in the Qur'an, traditions, and interpretation by Barbara Freyer, page 85, Mothers of the Believers in the Qur'an
  35. ^ Corbin (1993), p.7
  36. ^ Qur'an#Levels of meaning
  37. ^ "Mohammed and Mohammedanism". From the Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 21, 2008.
  38. ^ W Montgomery Watt, Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman, chapter "ASSESSMENT" section "THE ALLEGED MORAL FAILURES", Op. Cit, p. 332.
  39. ^ Sam Harris Who Are the Moderate Muslims?
  40. ^ Sohail H. Hashmi, David Miller, Boundaries and Justice: diverse ethical perspectives, Princeton University Press, p.197
  41. ^ Khaleel Muhammad, professor of religious studies at San Diego State University, states, regarding his discussion with the critic Robert Spencer, that "when I am told ... that Jihad only means war, or that I have to accept interpretations of the Qur'an that non-Muslims (with no good intentions or knowledge of Islam) seek to force upon me, I see a certain agendum developing: one that is based on hate, and I refuse to be part of such an intellectual crime." [1]
  42. ^ Ali, Maulana Muhammad; The Religion of Islam (6th Edition), Ch V "Jihad" Page 414 "When shall war cease". Published by The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement [2]
  43. ^ Sadr-u-Din, Maulvi. "Qur'an and War", page 8. Published by The Muslim Book Society, Lahore, Pakistan. [3]
  44. ^ Article on Jihad by Dr. G. W. Leitner (founder of The Oriental Institute, UK) published in Asiatic Quarterly Review, 1886. ("jihad, even when explained as a righteous effort of waging war in self defense against the grossest outrage on one's religion, is strictly limited..")
  45. ^ The Qur'anic Commandments Regarding War/Jihad An English rendering of an Urdu article appearing in Basharat-e-Ahmadiyya Vol. I, p. 228-232, by Dr. Basharat Ahmad; published by the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam
  46. ^ Ali, Maulana Muhammad; The Religion of Islam (6th Edition), Ch V "Jihad" Pages 411-413. Published by The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement [4]
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  48. ^ Ishay, Micheline. The history of human rights. Berkeley: University of California. pp. 45. ISBN 0-520-25641-7. 
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  52. ^ Tremblay, Rodrigue (2009). The Code for Global Ethics: Toward a Humanist Civilization. Trafford Publishing. pp. 169–170. ISBN 1-4269-1358-3. 
  53. ^ Nisrine Abiad (2008). Sharia, Muslim States and International Human Rights Treaty Obligations: A Comparative Study. British Institute for International & Compara. pp. 24. ISBN 1-905221-41-X. 
  54. ^ Braswell, George W.; George W., Jr Braswell (2000). What you need to know about Islam & Muslims. Nashville, Tenn: Broadman & Holman Publishers. pp. 38. ISBN 0-8054-1829-6. 
  55. ^ Bonner, Michael David (2006). Jihad in Islamic history: doctrines and practice. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. pp. 32. ISBN 0-691-12574-0. 
  56. ^ Ali Sina (2008). Understanding Muhammad. pp. 31. ISBN 0-9809948-0-2. 
  57. ^ Peters, Rudolph Albert (2008). Jihad in classical and modern Islam: a reader. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers. pp. 46. ISBN 1-55876-359-7. 
  58. ^ 48:29
  59. ^ Ali Unal (2008). The Qur'an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English. Rutherford, N.J: The Light, Inc. pp. 249. ISBN 1-59784-144-7. 
  60. ^ 61:4
  61. ^ 3:140-141
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  63. ^ Ghazanfar, Shaikh M. (2003). Medieval Islamic economic thought: filling the "great gap" in European economics. London: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-415-29778-8. 
  64. ^ Akhtar, Shabbir (2008). The Quran and the secular mind: a philosophy of Islam. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-43783-0. 
  65. ^ Taheri-azar, Mohammed Reza (2006). Wikisource link to Letter to The daily Tar Heel. Wikisource. 
  66. ^ Script for the movie, Submission
  67. ^ Hirsi Ali on Film over Position of Women in Koran
  68. ^ Quranic Perspective on Wife beating and Abuse, by Fatimah Khaldoon, Submission, 2003. Retrieved April 16, 2006.
  69. ^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his Quranic commentary states that: "In case of family jars four steps are mentioned, to be taken in that order. (1) Perhaps verbal advice or admonition may be sufficient; (2) if not, sex relations may be suspended; (3) if this is not sufficient, some slight physical correction may be administered; but Imam Shafi'i considers this inadvisable, though permissible, and all authorities are unanimous in deprecating any sort of cruelty, even of the nagging kind, as mentioned in the next clause; (4) if all this fails, a family council is recommended in 4:35 below." Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary (commentary on 4:34), Amana Corporation, Brentwood, MD, 1989. ISBN 0-915957-03-5.
  70. ^ Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, says that "If the husband senses that feelings of disobedience and rebelliousness are rising against him in his wife, he should try his best to rectify her attitude by kind words, gentle persuasion, and reasoning with her. If this is not helpful, he should sleep apart from her, trying to awaken her agreeable feminine nature so that serenity may be restored, and she may respond to him in a harmonious fashion. If this approach fails, it is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts.[5][dead link].[6][dead link]
  71. ^ Ibn Kathir writes that in case of rebellious behavior, the husband is asked to urge his wife to mend her ways, then to refuse to share their beds, and as the last resort, husbands are allowed to admonish their wives by beating. Ibn Kathir, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000, 50-53
  72. ^ Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, says that "It is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts. In no case should he resort to using a stick or any other instrument that might cause pain and injury."[7][dead link][8][dead link]
  73. ^ Ibn Kathir Ad-Damishqee records in his Tafsir Al-Qur'an Al-Azim that "Ibn `Abbas and several others said that the Ayah refers to a beating that is not violent. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that it means, a beating that is not severe."
  74. ^ Ahmad Shafaat, Tafseer of Surah an-Nisa, Ayah 34, Islamic Perspectives. August 10, 2005
  75. ^ One such authority is the earliest hafiz, Ibn Abbas.[9]
  76. ^ "The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary", Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana Corporation, Brentwood, MD, 1989. ISBN 0-915957-03-5, passage was quoted from commentary on 4:34
  77. ^ Kathir, Ibn, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000, 50-53
  78. ^ Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi comments that "Whenever the Prophet (peace be on him) permitted a man to administer corporal punishment to his wife, he did so with reluctance, and continued to express his distaste for it. And even in cases where it is necessary, the Prophet (peace be on him) directed men not to hit across the face, nor to beat severely nor to use anything that might leave marks on the body." "Towards Understanding the Qur'an" Translation by Zafar I. Ansari from "Tafheem Al-Qur'an" (specifically, commentary on 4:34) by Syed Abul-A'ala Mawdudi, Islamic Foundation, Leicester, England.
  79. ^ The medieval jurist ash-Shafi'i, founder of one of the main schools of fiqh, commented on this verse that "hitting is permitted, but not hitting is preferable."
  80. ^ "[S]ome of the greatest Muslim scholars (e.g., Ash-Shafi'i) are of the opinion that it is just barely permissible, and should preferably be avoided: and they justify this opinion by the Prophet's personal feelings with regard to this problem." Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (his translation of the Qur'an).
  81. ^ Akhtar, Shabbir (2008). The Quran and the secular mind: a philosophy of Islam. New York: Routledge. pp. 351. ISBN 0-415-43782-2. 
  82. ^ Out of Islam, by Daniel Ali, Page 30
  83. ^ The Indestructible Jews, by Max I. Dimont, page 134
  84. ^ Controversial Tracts on Christianity and Mohammedanism, by Henry Martyn, page 131
  85. ^ Islam: An Introduction, by Annemarie Schimmel, Page 13, "Muhammad"
  86. ^ The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Qur'an, by Christoph Luxenberg, pages 247-282 - The Huris or Virgins of Paradise
  87. ^ Gerber (1986), pp. 78–79 "Anti-Semitism and the Muslim World". In History and Hate: The Dimensions of Anti-Semitism, ed. David Berger. Jewish Publications Society. ISBN 0-8276-0267-7
  88. ^ Poliakov, Leon (1997). "Anti-Semitism". Encyclopedia Judaica (CD-ROM Edition Version 1.0). Ed. Cecil Roth. Keter Publishing House. ISBN 965-07-0665-8
  89. ^ Lewis (1999), p. 120
  90. ^ from Gerber 91
  91. ^ Gerber 78
  92. ^ a b[dead link], Suat Yildirim, Professor of Theology at Marmara University, Turkey, (retrieved on 10 July 2007)
  93. ^ Karen Armstrong (1993) "Muhammad - A biography of the Prophet", pp. 209.
  94. ^ a b Maududi, Sayyid Abul Ala (1967). The Meaning of the Quran. 

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