Monday, February 4, 2013

Qur'an's Error: Sura 4:82 "If [Quran] had been from other than Allah, they would have found within it much contradiction"

Sura 4:82 would be found in the average Islamophile's list of favorite verses. It is often quoted in the form of a challenge to Skeptics and others. 

Sura 4:82 states the following; (http://quran.com/4/82)


Sahih International
If it had been from [any] other than Allah , they would have found within it much contradiction.
Muhsin Khan
Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much contradictions.
Pickthall
If it had been from other than Allah they would have found therein much incongruity.
Yusuf Ali
Had it been from other Than Allah, they would surely have found therein Much discrepancy.
Shakir
And if it were from any other than Allah, they would have found in it many a discrepancy.
Dr. Ghali
And if it had been from (any where) other than the Providence of Allah, indeed they would have found in it many difference (s).


Utilizing this verse, the Muslim apologist will demand reasonable individuals to show an error in the Qur'an. They will also state with exuding confidence that no one in 14 centuries have been able to show an error in the Quran.

Such a conversation usually unfolds in 2 ways; i) the Skeptic ignores the apologist or ii) the Skeptic shows some of the errors in the Quran (creation from blood clots, setting of sun in a muddy spring, seminal fluid from the back, flat earth, denial of human evolution etc).

Whenever ii) occurs, the apologist will usually dismiss any evidence and can be seen asserting his literary liberty to interpret the sentences however he wishes to. Given the spectacular vagueness of much of the Qur'anic statements, the conversation almost always reaches an impasse with each side rejecting the other's interpretation (and perhaps moving on to a round of creative insults).

However it seems to be the case that neither the apologist nor the Skeptic has reflected carefully on the challenge itself. The great irony of the Qur'an is that the very verse that issues this challenge also meets the challenge i.e. Sura 4:82 is an error on its own since it constructs a false conditional statement.

The verse states that if the Qur'an was from a source other than Allah, then it would contain many errors or contradictions.
Now consider this question, is it possible for a man-made work to contain no errors or contradictions? This should be uncontroversial. There are countless human texts that would be free of any errors, specifically falsifiable or 'findable' errors.
Then, if it is the case that it is possible for man-made works to be free of any errors, then it is also possible for the Qur'an to contain no errors and be man-made i.e. be from a source other than Allah.
Given the above possibility, Sura 4:82 constructs a false conditional for it is easily possible for the Qur'an to be "from other than Allah" and yet contain no errors.
Thus, Sura 4:82 is an erroneous statement.
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It is recommended that the following videos (about "conditional statements") are watched;

Philosophy: Conditionals Parts 1-4 by Justin Khoo, Asst. Professor of Philosophy at MIT


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In Logic, certain statements are called "conditional statements" when it consists of a relationship between 2 (or more) atomic statements where one is the antecedent and the other is the consequent. These are usually denoted as "If ... then" statements. For example;

"If John is a human, then John is a mammal"

The antecedent in this case is "John is a human" and the consequent is "John is a mammal". In logic, this statement is equivalent to it's "contrapositive statement" which in the above case would say;

"If John is not a mammal, then John is not a human"

In Formal Logic, any conditional statement can be symbolized in the following manner;

"P --> Q"
=(this is equivalent to its contrapositive)=
 "~Q --> ~P"

P symbolizes the antecedent; Q symbolizes the consequent; '~' symbolizes negation (i.e ~P means "not P" or "P is false"); '-->' symbolizes the conditional relationship (i.e. "~Q --> ~P" means "IF not Q THEN not P)

A fair knowledge of these simple concepts alone are sufficient to examine the Qur'anic statement in Sura 4:82. Consider the verse,

"If [Qur'an] had been from other than Allah, they would have found within it much contradiction"

The verse expresses a conditional relationship between two atomic statements. The antecedent is the atomic statement "The Qur'an is not from Allah". The consequent is the atomic statement "many Errors will be found in the Quran" (Verse rephrased for simplicity). Thus the verse is stating the following relationship;

"If the Qur'an is not from Allah, then many errors will be found in the Quran"

Let A = "The Qur'an is from Allah". Thus ~A = "The Qur'an is not from Allah" (which is the antecedent above).
Let E = "many Errors will be found in the Quran" (which is the consequent).
The above statement can be symbolized as

"~A --> E"

As stated above, this statement is logically equivalent to it's contrapositive statement which would state the following;

"~E --> ~(~A)"
==
"~E --> A"
==
"If many errors are not found in the Qur'an, then the Qur'an is from Allah"

For those who were unable to spot the mistake in the original verse, its contrapositive statement should certainly render the issue clearer. A conditional statement is false if it is possible for the antecedent to be true and the consequent still false. Such is the case for this verse.

Take the original verse for example, it is possible for the antecedent to be true and yet for the consequent to be false i.e. for the Qur'an to be not from Allah, and at the same time be free of errors. Likewise, for the contrapositive statement, it is possible for there to be no errors in the Qur'an and yet at the same time, not be a product of divine intelligence.

It would clearly be absurd to state that any piece of text that does not contain errors is from Allah and yet this is what the Qur'an claims by logical extension. Certainly, for the Muslim apologist (especially ones acquainted with the principles of Propositional Logic), this is an irrefutable error in their Holy Book. Their only option to rescue the Qur'an is to show that it is impossible for the Qur'an to not be from Allah if it had no errors in it. Of course, this is not at all a tenable position as Humans have produced countless texts with no errors in it.

Thus, offering one of the greatest unintentional ironies, the very verse that challenges one to show errors in the Qur'an is on its own an irrefutable error.
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The argument in its simplest form can be symbolically represented in the following way;



Translation:

1.  If there are no errors in the quran, then it is true that “If the quran is not from god, then there are errors in the quran”
2.  For all X, it is not true that “if there are no errors in X, then X is from god”
3.  For all X, if there are errors in X, then X is not from god
4.  SHOW: There are errors in the quran
5.               ASSUME there are no errors in the quran
6.               SHOW: Contradiction
7.                             If the quran is not from god, then there are errors in the quran
8.                             If there are no errors in the quran, then the quran is from god
9.                             It is not true that “if there are no errors in the quran, then the quran is from god”
10.                           Contradiction (8, 9)
11. If there are errors in the quran, then quran is not from god
12. The quran is not from god 

                         

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Possible Objections from Muslims

1) The verse actually means "Since Qur'an is from Allah, no errors will be found in the Quran."

Reply: Such an objection is tantamount to claiming that the Qur'an meant to say "X" but instead said "Y". Even if this is what the Qur'an meant by the verse, it has no bearing on the argument above. The argument above is based on the structure of the statement in the Qur'an. It is the structure that is at fault. For example, consider the verse again

"If the Qur'an is not from Allah, then errors will be found in the Quran"

Let A = "The Qur'an is from Allah". Thus ~A = "The Qur'an is not from Allah" (which is the antecedent above). Let E = "Errors will be found in the Quran" (which is the consequent). The above statement can be symbolized as
"~A --> E"


If instead, the Qur'an were to say "If the Qur'an is from Allah, then no Errors will be found in the Quran" (i.e. "A --> ~E), then the conditional relationship would be correct. However, as it is currently found in the Qur'an, the conditional relationship is false.

2) The verse is an example of Abductive Reasoning

Reply: First and foremost, it should be noted that Abductive logic does not absolve the false relationship constructed in a conditional statement. Thus, this is an absurd and misinformed use of the term "Abductive Rasoning". 

A false conditional is a false statement i.e. it is an error in the truth of the statement. This is not an error in deductive logic for it to be reconciled with inductive or abductive reasoning. To state so, is to show an utter misunderstanding of the argument presented in this blogpost as well as ignorance of formal Logic.

Secondly, abductive reasoning could only have been utilized if the conditional statement had been in the form of a true conditional, as found in objection 1,  i.e. "If the Qur'an is from Allah, then no Errors will be found in the Quran". However, this would still be a very weak case of abductive reasoning.

Abductive Reasoning can be defined in the following way; it is a form of reasoning that allows one to reasonably hypothesize an inconclusive statement from a known event. For example, consider the following conditional

(1) "If there is fire, then there is smoke"

In formal logic, based on the above conditional, it is fallacious to conclude there is fire if there is smoke (Since that is not what the conditional states; this commits the fallacy called Affirming the Consequent). However, if one were to see smoke, it is certainly reasonable for one to assume or hypothesize that there is fire (even if the fire is not visible). Such a form of reasoning is called Abduction (as opposed to deduction or induction).

On the other hand, consider this conditional statement;

(2) "If it is night, then John is asleep"

Unlike example (1), it is not as reasonable to assume that it is night just because John is asleep as he could be sleeping during daytime in this particular instance. This would constitute a weak case of abductive reasoning.

However, consider a conditional such as this,

(3) "If Obama is living in Mars, then Obama is breathing"

Based on this conditional, it would in fact be unreasonable to abduce from the fact that Obama is breathing, that he is living in Mars. However, note that the conditional is a true statement i.e. if Obama were to be alive on Mars, he would have to be breathing. Yet it would be unreasonable to state that he is on Mars merely because he is breathing. This would constitute an absurd case of abductive reasoning. 

Likewise, even if the Qur'an contained no errors, it would not be reasonable to state that the Quran is from Allah. To establish such a form of reasoning, the Muslim would have to take on the absurd task of showing that any text that is free of errors are from Allah. Of course, this is false as countless human works contain no errors or contradictions etc.

3) Special Pleading: The Qur'an is special for reason 'X', therefore any human author would produce many errors.

Reply: Such an argument is a textbook case of the fallacy of special pleading. Some of the reasons given by apologists are the following;

1) The Qur'an is considered sacred by over a billion people.
2) The Qur'an is considered the best Arabic work.
3) The Qur'an is the basis for the Arabic language.

These are some of the reasons given by apologists to argue that the Qur'an is special enough that if it were the product of a human being, they would make many errors. What the apologists fail to do is to demonstrate how such reasons entail that the text cannot be the work of a human being, even if it is accepted that such reasons make the Qur'an "special" or "unique".

The reasons given by apologists revolve around the following two facts; i) The Qur'an has importance to Muslims and ii) The Qur'an is important for the Arabic language.

Neither fact requires supernatural interference. It is very understandable, for reasons all too human, how anything from an idol to a person to a book to a sport can be influential for people and communities, and even be turned into divine symbols; especially if the said people or communities are prone to superstitions or gullibility.

Likewise, the next fact about the importance of the Qur'an in the Arabic language is also understandable for the same sociological reasons. The great Arab civilizations of the past that produced its writers, linguists, poets and litterateurs lived in Islamic nations that consisted of the same people and communities mentioned in the previous paragraph.

This idea is well stated in the words of E.H. Palmer, who says,

"That the best of Arab writers has never succeeded in producing anything equal in merit to the Qur’├ón itself is not surprising. In the first place, they have agreed before-hand that it is unapproachable, and they have adopted its style as the perfect standard; any deviation from it therefore must of necessity be a defect. Again, with them this style is not spontaneous as with Mohammed and his contemporaries, but is as artificial as though Englishmen should still continue to follow Chaucer as their model, in spite of the changes which their language has undergone. With the prophet the style was natural, and the words were those used in every-day ordinary life, while with the later Arabic authors the style is imitative arid the ancient words are introduced as a literary embellishment. The natural consequence is that their attempts look laboured and unreal by the side of his impromptu and forcible eloquence."

Thus, attempts to save the Qur'an by invoking it's subjective religious influence or its historically contingent linguistic influence are guilty of the fallacy of special pleading. These characteristics of the Qur'an do not explain why such a text, with the vast majority of its statements having no falsifiable information, should contain "many errors if it were the product of a human being."

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In conclusion, by constructing a false conditional statement in Sura 4:82, the Qur'an has committed an irrefutable error. The irony of the fact that this erroneous Qur'anic verse challenges skeptics to show a Qur'nic error is, almost divinely, priceless.

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There seems to have been a debate about this issue on youtube between a Skeptic and a Muslim apologist. The apologist, apparently did the unthinkable, by stating that any book that does not contain errors are from a divine source. For such unfortunate souls, the skeptic, who goes by thinker1, has created (sorry, it was revealed to him) a book that is i) free of errors and ii) claims to be from God. Here you go,

http://infaliblebookfromgod.blogspot.com/