Islam, like Christianity, believes that a person's faith must be reasonable as well as subjective, that we must worship God with our minds as well as our hearts. In sharing this common ground with Muslims let us then examine why they believe what they believe.
The Miracle of the Qur'an —The Islamic Claim
We must start our study of Islamic apologetics by examining their highest source of authority, the Qur'an. For Muslims, this is the pure word of God with no admixture of human thought or content Indeed, many Muslims have such an intense jealousy for the Qur'an that they keenly resent its being possessed by a non-Muslim.
The word "Qur'an" comes from "an Arabic word meaning 'reading' or 'that which is to be read.'"1 Muslims affirm that the Qur'an was given to Muhammad in the Arabic language, piece by piece, over a span of 23 years until his death (Qur'an 43:3; 44:58; 17:106). Muslim apologetics for the Qur'an cover four main areas: its preservation, eloquence, alleged prophecies, and compatibility with modern science.
1. Preservation of the Qur'an
Concerning the present authenticity of the Qur'an, Maulvi Muhammad Ali makes the following grandiose statement:
As regards the authenticity of the Holy Qur'an, I need not detain the reader very long. From one end of the world to the other, from China in the Far East to Morocco and Algeria in the Far West, from the scattered islands of the Pacific Ocean to the great desert of Africa, the Qur'an is one, and no copy differing in even a diacritical point is met with in the possession of one among the four hundred millions of Muslims.2 There are, and always have been, contending sects, but the same Qur'an is in the possession of one and all...A manuscript with the slightest variation in the text is unknown.3
Thus Muslims not only believe that the Qur'an is God's word in toto, they also are confident that no error, alteration, or variation has touched it since its inception. This, then, is one of their "proofs" that the Qur'an is a "miracle" from God.
2. Eloquence of the Qur'an
A second claim made to prove the supernatural origin of the Qur'an, found in surah (chapter) 17:88, is that its beauty and eloquence is self-sufficient proof that the author is God:
Say: "If the whole
Of mankind and Jinns
Were to gather together
To produce the like
Of this Qur'an, they
Could not produce
The like thereof, even if
They backed up each other
With help and support."
In a footnote within his translation of the Qur'an, Yusuf Ali states, "No human composition could contain the beauty, power, and spiritual insight of the Qur'an."4
However, Muslims do not believe that the Qur'an is a miracle solely because of its eloquence and beauty, but also because in surah 7:157 Muhammad is referred to as "The unlettered Prophet." Believing that he was illiterate, they ask how such a man could produce the Qur'an.
A final claim concerning the Qur'an's literary achievement is that it is so consistent throughout that no human could have devised it Suzanne Haneef asks "how the whole Qur'an could be so utterly consistent" if it did not originate from God.5
3. Prophecies In the Qur'an
The Qur'an speaks prophetically very little, if indeed it does prophesy at all. Hence, few Muslim apologists use fulfilled prophecy as a proof for their faith. However, there is a series of verses in the Qur'an which promise that the Muslims will be victorious, both at home and abroad.6 Maulana Muhammad Ali discusses these prophecies at length in his work The Religion of Islam:
…we find prophecy after prophecy announced in the surest and most certain terms to the effect that the great forces of opposition should be brought to naught…that Islam should spread to the farthest corners of the earth and that it should ultimately he triumphant over all religions of the world.7
4. Science and the Qur'an
Finally, there is one recent work, written by a French surgeon named Maurice Bucaille, that attempts to vindicate the divine origin of the Qur'an by showing its supposedly remarkable affinity with modem science. After citing a number of examples, Dr. Bucaille concludes that
…it is inconceivable for a human being living in the seventh century A.D. to have made statements in the Qur'an on a great variety of subjects that do not belong to his period and for them to be in keeping with what was to be known only centuries later. For me, there can be no human explanation to the Qur an.8