Critical Analysis: Burden Of Proof
A major issue in determining Islam’s validity is in determining the burden of proof. The burden of proof is on Islam to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it is the correct religion.
The Qur'an claims to be provable, if it is not, then it is wrong.
In the verses below, it would be hypocritical for Allah to demand proof for other faiths, but not for the Quran:
If one cannot prove something, then being intellectually honest means one should doubt. This implies that the Qur'an is proven beyond any doubt.
The Qur'an constantly emphasizes the burning in hell of unbelievers. It does not seem merciful for a most-merciful God to torture people for not believing in something that cannot be proven.
The Qur'an is very critical of people that believe in false religions and it claims they will be punished. The Bible is also critical of those that believe in false gods and false prophets. Hence, one could be punished by believing in a false religion, or not believing in a true religion. So one should not just follow Islam even though they are not sure whether it is true.
If one does not believe but follows Islam anyway then that person is a hypocrite. If one is intellectually honest, and has no proof, he should doubt. If one pretends to not doubt, then the person is a hypocrite striving to deceive Allah. The implication is that there needs to be proof, or one becomes a doubter or a hypocrite.
The Actual Evidence of the Qur'an
Let's judge the evidence to determine whether the Qur'an is from Allah beyond a reasonable doubt:
According to tradition,
- Allah revealed the Qur'an to Angel Gabriel.
- Gabriel revealed it to Muhammad.
- Others transcribed the Qur'an.
- The Caliphs burnt incorrect copies of the text, so that the true Qur'an remained.
- The Qur'an of today is the same as the original.
There is no tape recording of what Allah told Gabriel, the only primary witness. Muhammad was the only one who heard the Qur'an directly from Gabriel, making him a secondary witness. Others transcribed the Qur'an. Therefore, even if one relies on Muhammad as a witness, he or she must also trust that anonymous people transcribed the text accurately. Even then, the fact that the Caliphs burnt the text implies that people can have the wrong version of the Qur'an, which discredits the theory that it is perfectly preserved. If one accepts the perfect preservation theory, one must trust that the Caliphs preserved the original Qur'an. Further, one could accept that Muhammad was a true witness but that Gabriel was really Satan or a person who misled Muhammad.
Let's for arguments sake assume we are willing to accept just one witness. But the Qur'an notes that people questioned Muhammad’s credibility (See Chapter 5: What Others Say).
In the 7th century people were superstitious and believed in all kinds of absurd things. Muslims often refer to the pre-Islamic Arabian age of ignorance as jahiliya. The fact that some 7th century people believed in Muhammad is no proof of the truth of his message.
In judging the credibility of witnesses, one must ensure that they are not being bribed. Yet the Caliphs and Muhammad were given special rights and statuses in Islam. For example, the Qur'an is biased towards Muslims and males. Then by burning the text, without preserving the original versions, one cannot confidently dismiss claims that the Caliphs changed the Qur'an to suit their own agenda. Perhaps, the Caliphs were afraid that people would abandon Islam if they realized that the text was poorly preserved.
So how can one not at least doubt that the text is perfectly preserved? Further, if a text was not perfectly preserved one would expect to see grammatical errors which seem to exist in the Qur'an (See Chapter 3 for further evidence of an imperfect text and Chapter 4 for Qur'anic Grammar).
The difficulty of being a true believer
Is the Qur'an clear or unclear?
Some people believe that texts are so inherently vague that all texts are unclear. If this skeptical viewpoint is accepted, then the Qur'an has no clear meaning. Therefore, we can ignore the text and do whatever we think is right. Yet this does not seem to be the approach advocated by the Qur'an, or why would Allah want people to follow a text that they cannot understand? Further, the Qur'an self-proclaims itself to be clear. Therefore, the Islamic position apparently is that the Qur'an is clear and to believe and follow it.
Do you believe in hell?
The Qur'an repeatedly condemns unbelievers to hell. According to the Qur'an, Allah is repeatedly described as wise, forgiving and merciful. If you, your child, parent, spouse or sibling became a non-believer, would you advocate that they should burn in hell for eternity? The punishment is ineffective as a deterrent, as a non-believer would not accept that the Qur'an is from God, and would not expect to be punished for non-belief. It is hypocritical for a Muslim to disbelieve in hell.
Would you follow such a ruler?
Chapter 8 lists many violent verses from the Qur'an. Based on Islamic tradition, the Quran is clear, the text is perfect, it is from God, and it is free from errors.
Imagine a new ruler who believes with perfect faith in the Qur'an and has read the Qur'an hundreds of times. He decides to run the state according to the Quran, and he wants you to carry out the punishments. He (and his team of judges?) would decide on who gets what punishment and your job would be to punish people (e.g., you would amputate thieves, and carry out whatever punishments are prescribed). Would you accept such a position?
The reason for this question is that there are many victims of violence in the name of Islam. I'd like to distance myself from the people that commit these violent acts in the name of Islam. We have no proof:
- That the Qur'an is from Allah,
- That the current Qur'an is the same as the original,
- That the Qur'an has no errors
- That Muhammad was a true prophet.
Also, the text is unclear and could be misinterpreted and that it is wrong to follow a false prophet. With all these doubts we should err on the side of compassion. Therefore, you need to carefully evaluate whether Islam is true, and which version of Islam is true so that you don't unethically hurt people. However, if you won’t follow such a ruler, I question whether you sincerely believe in the Quran as it would seem pointless for the Quran to have laws if they are not supposed to be implemented. Would you follow such a ruler and why or why not?
Can you prove that the Qur'an is from God?
Can you offer a proof, not a hypothesis, but a proof that the Qur'an is from God? Can you list several verses that are so brilliant that they have to be from God? Can you prove that the Qur'an that Allah supposedly recited to Gabriel is the exact same text we have today?
Many people including Muslims are not fluent in Arabic, and are not knowledgeable enough to rigorously prove or disprove a religion. Similarly, most people are not knowledgeable enough to rigorously prove that their understanding of Islam reflects the view of Allah.
Should you become a believer, doubter, unbeliever or hypocrite?
The Qur'an claims it is clear, but too much suggests otherwise. For example, it is difficult to know how to handle certain cases of inheritance according to the Qur'an. There seems to be no proof that Islam is true. I do not have the courage of my convictions to commit violence in the name of Islam. Striving to be honest, I have doubts. However, it is against the Qur'an to have doubts. If I follow Islam but do not believe in it then I am a hypocrite. What should I do? The choices are believer, doubter, unbeliever or hypocrite.
A true Muslim should sincerely believe without any doubt in each and every Qur'anic verse not just the several most beautiful and ethical verses as Islam claims to be a perfect religion.
- "And Ayub, when he cried to his Lord, (saying): Harm has afflicted me, and Thou art the most Merciful of the merciful" - Quran 21:83
- A successor of Muhammad as secular and spiritual head of Islam.