Critical Analysis: Logical Fallacies
Logical Fallacy of 4:82
4:82 has a façade of proving that the Quran has no discrepancies.
- Does “they” refer to people, Muslims or Divine beings?
If people--Some kaffirs (unbelievers) have written a list of contradictions and errors in the Quran in which case the challenge has been met. Muslims—If a Muslim claims a contradiction exists he would be regarded as a non-Muslim. Of course, this involves circular reasoning. Divine beings-- but how can we know whether “they” found any discrepancies when we cannot sense them?
- The absence of something does not prove it does not exist.
- Let’s for arguments sake assume that the Quran has no discrepancies. However, we as humans misinterpret the Quran. Hence, the Quran, as understood by each human would contain discrepancies.
- Given their incomplete understanding of the text and the universe, humans are not in a position to prove that the Quran has no discrepancies.
- Very few, if any Quranic verses can be proven to be 100% true. It is futile to prove that a particular translation or interpretation is true or that all interpretations must be true.
- To imply that there are no discrepancies, but there are abrogated verses is problematic. An abrogated verse is practically an open admission of a mistake.
In short, when humans are fallible, the test of 4.82 is fallible.
Why would Allah use a logical fallacy to prove the Quran? This logical fallacy may deceive a lay person, but it would not fool a logical scholar. Why should a logical scholar burn in hell, for not believing in a logical fallacy? If Allah is all-Knowing, shouldn't He recognize the logical fallacy? Why didn't He provide a real proof?
Surah (chapter) like it challenge:
 Thomas Carlyle writes:
1. Many people feel that the Quran is at best a mediocre book implying that they believe that better chapters have been written.
2. Often people will graduate from a university without taking a class in the Quran, implying that the university felt there were many more important books than the Quran. Similarly, many philosophy, science, computer or history classes will not discuss the Quran.
3. For specialized fields like computer programming, designing airplanes and calculus there are clearly more informative books than the Quran. So there are books in certain respects that are better than the Quran. Why doesn't this prove that the challenge of 2:23 has been met?
4. The Quran has many verses with differing/contradictory translations. It is safe to say that with contradictory translations, at least one translator is wrong. There are also different schools of thought, different commentators, and sects. Some Muslims accept Hadiths others do not. Some rely on abrogation and iltifat more than others.
Assume a "Muslim" misinterprets the Quran and believes in the Quran but interprets it as the opposite of what the Quran teaches. This "Muslim" then believes in the Quran because there was never a surah like it! But the text as this "Muslim" sees it is not a Divine text since Divine texts are perfect, so the "Muslim"'s understanding of the text is human/fallible, and there would be better/more knowledgeable/more ethical texts than that Quran as viewed by that "Muslim". Is it blasphemous for a Muslim that misinterprets the Quran to admit that there is no surah like the surah that he sees?
The “Surah like it” challenge is a logical fallacy. For example, regarding World Peace, no matter what approach a world leader takes, problems will arise. Suppose a world leader does a great job, she's deserving of the Nobel peace prize, but tensions, problems and conflicts still exist. When she is criticized she can argue: “Do you think you have better ideas? Then produce a better and more comprehensive solution.” Many might admit that they could not. But does that mean that her solution was Divine? Couldn't a Divine plan bring a complete and enduring peace?
The Quran addresses a serious problem. The believers were struggling to get along with their neighbors. The Quran offered a solution:
[9.123] O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).
Even if one were to make the absurd argument that most or even all humans could not design a better solution, certainly an All-Mighty, Most-Merciful, and All-Wise God could have invented a better solution.
Asking Whether the Critic Understands Arabic.
Ibn Warraq's "What the Koran really says: Language, Text and Commentary”, pages 23-24 writes:
Sending instructions to people who do not know
[24.19] Surely (as for) those who love that scandal should circulate respecting those who believe, they shall have a grievous chastisement in this world and the hereafter; and Allah knows, while you do not know.[7.62] I deliver to you the messages of my Lord, and I offer you good advice and I know from Allah what you do not know.
When the Quran issues laws it uses terms like unbeliever, steals, gambling, and friends. To interpret the Quran correctly requires an accurate understanding of these terms. Given that we humans “do not know”, (which is mostly true) means that we are doomed to misinterpret the Quran (which we do). For some laws, misinterpretation can lead to amputating someone’s hand, beating one’s wife, or cutting off hands and feet on opposite sides for no justified reason.
Fastest Growing Religion
It is frequently argued that Islam is the fastest growing religion, therefore Islam must be true.
1. Suppose a kaffir does a study and determines that Islam is a declining religion, does that make Islam false? The idea that a faith is proven via human demographers is strange--especially, since Islam mistrusts non-Muslims. Islam believes in jinns. So how can one trust a person or jinn to conduct such a study?
2. Suppose the fastest growing sect of Islam is reformed Islam, does that make that sect true? If one accepts the fastest growing argument as a proof, then to be logically consistent, if over the next 10 years, Hinduism is the fastest growing religion, one should become a Hindu. There have been vices and diseases that have been fastest growing. Over history, different religions have been the fastest growing, not all of them can be the true religion.
3. Defining fastest growing is not easy. Is it based on percentage growth or absolute numbers? Is fastest growing defined over a period of one month, one year or 40 years? Are reformed Muslims, Quran-only Muslims, homosexual Muslims, Shiite-Muslims, Muslims with doubts, hypocritical Muslims, etc., Muslims? Should we count the religion of children?
4. Assume Adam and Eve existed and followed monotheism. If at some point the majority of the world were polytheist, then at times polytheism would be faster growing than monotheism.
5. Prior to Muhammad and the existence of Islam, there existed a fastest growing religion, and Muhammad did not accept that religion. However, many Muslims will argue that Islam existed prior to Muhammad based on 3:67 or 7:143, as opposed to 39:12.
[7.143] And when Musa came at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said: My Lord! show me (Thyself), so that I may look upon Thee. He said: You cannot (bear to) see Me but look at the mountain, if it remains firm in its place, then will you see Me; but when his Lord manifested His glory to the mountain He made it crumble and Musa fell down in a swoon; then when he recovered, he said: Glory be to Thee, I turn to Thee, and I am the first of the believers.
YUSUFALI: "And I am commanded to be the first of those who bow to Allah in Islam." PICKTHAL: And I am commanded to be the first of those who are muslims (surrender unto Him).
And even if one accepts a traditional Islamic argument that Islam predated Christianity, then why wasn’t Islam always more popular than Christianity?
6. The majority of the world does not follow Islam. Why isn't that a more meaningful statistic?
7. Many wonder if the fastest-growing-religion statistic is just propaganda, and question whether (since the punishment for apostasy is death) many people that strongly disbelieve in Islam are counted as Muslim. Others point out the growth is due to producing more children.
8. Surveys often have a margin of error. So if a religion grows from 100,000,000 to 120,000,000 it seems like 20% growth. Instead it could have gone from 100,000,000 +/- 10,000,000 to 120,000,000 +/- 10,000,000, so there would be much uncertainty in its precise growth rate.
9. Scientologists and Mormons have also claimed to be the fastest growing.
From Ignorance--Even if we cannot find a book like the Quran that does not prove that such a book does not exist. Even if we cannot find a discrepancy in the Quran that does not mean that there are none.
Appeal to force--Burning in hell does not prove the truth of Islam.
Popularity—even if Islam is the fastest growing religion that doesn’t make it true.
Attacking the person—labeling anyone who disagrees with the Quran as a kaffir doesn’t prove that their opinion is wrong.
Appeal to authority--Determining that a statement belongs to the Quran or Hadith doesn’t prove that it is true. Often Muslims will attempt to prove a point by appealing to the authority of the Bible or scientists when those sources agree with Islam, yet will disregard the authority of the Bible or scientists when they disagree with Islam.
Begging the question--If we assume that the Quran is true then the Quran is true. However, that begs the question of whether the Quran is in fact true.
False Dilemma—proving that the Quran cannot stand on its own, does not prove that the Hadith are Divine. Or Proving that the Hadith are not Divine does not prove that Quran-only is the best theological worldview (as other possibilities exist).
Other Logical Tricks
Bait and Switch-- A person may be searching for answers. She is then told that the universe must be from God and shown the best teachings from Islam. Later, she is committed to following many teachings that were invented by men that are alleged to be from God that goes against her intuition. Had she been exposed to all of the Islamic teachings from the beginning she may have never submitted to it.
Liar, Lunatic or prophet—all people lie to some extent and are at least somewhat delusional. People make errors. If one can prove that Muhammad never lied and that he never made a mistake, that he wrote the entire Quran, and that the extant text is the same as the original, then that argument would make sense.
Rationalizing Quranic ideas—a creative person or lawyer can list many benefits or many problems with any idea. A long list of benefits to following a Quranic law does not prove that that law is the best law possible. Often many of the alleged benefits of Quranic teachings are based on a misinterpretation of the text.
Lowering the Bar—in theory, if the Quran were really from God, one should be able to show how the worst verse of the Quran is much better than the best sayings outside of the Quran. Instead, Muslims often compare a verse in the Quran to the worst verses in the Bible or to the worst human traits. But even if the Quran is relatively better that hardly proves it is a Divine book or even the best book ever written.
Double Standards—in many circumstances, dressing modestly, not charging interest, not gambling, avoiding alcohol, etc. makes sense. But it is extreme to believe they always make sense regardless of the circumstance. So a moderate Muslim may argue that such laws were enacted because they generally are correct.
However, the Quran does not forbid slavery, child-marriage, spousal abuse, etc. Presumably, such actions are generally wrong although exceptional cases can exist. So why should the Quran single out certain actions as being wrong but not others?
Relying on unverifiable accounts—to doubt unverifiable accounts, would cause one to be a doubter of Islam. To fully believe in all unverifiable accounts that cannot be disproven would cause one to believe in many items that go against Islam.
Need for sources outside the Quran
To prove the Quran, without relying on the logical fallacy of circular reasoning requires access to sources outside the Quran:
People—since the Quran is skeptical of non-Muslims, only Muslims are considered reliable. But by definition Muslims believe in Islam. If one were to ask believing Christians what is the correct religion, one would find that Christianity is the true religion.
One’s own judgement – Unfortunately, one may be influenced by Satan, and God can choose to mislead whomever He pleases and we do not know.
Rely on history outside the Quran to verify Quranic statements—Muslims consider the Bible to be corrupt (which I agree with) so the Quran’s Biblical stories cannot be verified. Heaven, hell, the last day, angels, Satan, and jinns, also cannot be verified.
Check to see if text corresponds to reality—Many Muslims believe that the Quran can easily be taken out of context and that it is too easily mistranslated. There are many potential ways to interpret the Quran; there are disagreements as to how many verses were abrograted, and which of the Ahadith (if any) are reliable. Hence, without knowing what the text precisely says, it is difficult to prove that the text is true. Further, there are differing views with respect to history, science and ethics. Hence, few if any Quranic verses can be proven to be true.
This creates a huge problem. Suppose one accepts that the Quran is from Allah. Given the diversity of sects and interpretations and that there is no clear way to extrapolate verses or to know which Ahadith are accurate, it is unclear what to follow. And when any alleged Muslim scholar attempts to do so, one has no way of verifying whether his views represent the views of Allah.
Satan: Logical Fallacy
The word Shaitan (Satan) appears 95 times in the Quran. For example:
[4.76] Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of the Shaitan. Fight therefore against the friends of the Shaitan; surely the strategy of the Shaitan is weak.
Given we cannot sense Satan, how do we know that Satan exists? If he doesn't exist, this would disprove the Quran. Yet assuming Allah created Satan, and Satan exists, how can one know whether our beliefs are based on Allah or Satan? For example, how can one know whether 9:5 was written by Satan or whether one’s interpretation of 9:5 is being influenced by Satan?
There are ethical arguments one can use for or against capital punishment. One can argue that Satan misleads those against capital punishment to support criminals. Alternatively, one can argue that Satan misleads supporters of capital punishment to support the killing of humans. So how can anyone know which view is correct? Similarly, if one promotes amputating the hands of thieves, wife-beating and child-marriage, it becomes unclear whether one is fulfilling the will of Allah, or being fooled by Satan into hurting others. Similarly, how can anyone know which Ahadith, Islamic translations or commentaries on the Quran were influenced by Satan? How can one know which clerics or Muslim leaders were influenced by Satan?
Allah causes people to err and then he punishes them for it:
He intentionally misguides people:
[16.93] And if Allah please He would certainly make you a single nation, but He causes to err whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases; and most certainly you will be questioned as to what you did.
[4.143] Wavering between that (and this), (belonging) neither to these nor to those; and whomsoever Allah causes to err, you shall not find a way for him.[7.178] Whomsoever Allah guides, he is the one who follows the right way; and whomsoever He causes to err, these are the losers.
Allah is supposed to be truthful:
A person who does not lie but hires lawyers and advertisers to lie for her is not really honest. Allah supposedly created Satan to deceive us. How is that being truthful?
It is generally incorrect to follow a particular way of life or text to an extreme. However, while that is true with respect to a human text, why should it be true with respect to a Divine text? If the Bible or Quran is a Divine text and is perfect in every way, and infinitely better than any human text, then it should be literally followed in all cases. So then why does fundamentalism/extremism have a negative connotation? It is largely because these texts contain many unethical teachings and they are human texts written thousands of years ago and therefore should not be literally followed.
Muslims frequently respond to questions with, "ask a scholar." This raises the question of who is a scholar. For example, was Rashad Khalifa a scholar? What about Maulana Muhammad Ali? How can we determine who is a scholar? We can ask another scholar. But how would we know whether that person is a scholar? By asking another scholar.... We get stuck in an infinite loop.
[43.3] Surely We have made it an Arabic Quran that you may understand.[2.99] And certainly We have revealed to you clear communications and none disbelieve in them except the transgressors.
Is the Quran designed to be difficult? Can people directly learn what God expects of them without relying on intermediaries?
When it comes to medicine, the best doctor in the world cannot cure every patient or heal the average person so that he can live to 200 years. Why should one expect the greatest Quranic expert to fully understand the Quran or Hadith? Some questions cannot be answered with certainty.
Also, to be fair and consistent, one should subject traditional Islamic perspectives to critical secular Islamic scholars.
A person who understands math should be able to determine whether a math workbook on addition is accurate. If one perfectly witnesses an event, and NBC, the BBC, CNN, CBS, and Al-Jazeera report the event, she can determine who accurately reported that event by comparing personal knowledge to what was reported.
When one does not know the facts, and different people calling themselves scholars allege certain facts, how can one know who is right? Also, the term "scholar" is too one-dimensional. A person may have tremendous knowledge in certain fields but be weak in other fields. For example, if a person is extremely knowledgeable about Islam but weak in science, then their advice regarding medical related issues may not be scholarly.
Scholars are also fallible. To what extent should one disagree with a scholar? Is it healthy to rely on more than one scholar as one can let the truth compete in the public domain?