Cataloguing the Historical Anachronisms in the Qur'an

Muslim apologists often contend that the Qur’an is free, in its entirity, from contradiction, inconsistency or historical inaccuracy. I have seen many Muslims assert that the historical and scientific accuracy of the Qur’an was what impressed them about this book and convinced them that Islam is true. Previously, I have addressed Muhammad’s wildly inaccurate understanding of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and have also posted this video regarding the claims of the Qur’an concerning the historicity of Jesus’ crucifixion (see this link for articles published by myself and others concerning Islam generally).

In this article, I am going to focus specifically on the historical accuracy of the Qur’an. As we shall see, the claim that the Qur’an is historically accurate — particularly when it describes events hundreds of years removed from its writing — is not a tenable position.

Dirham Coins in Joseph’s Day?

According to Surah 12:20,

“[Joseph’s] brethren sold him for a miserable price, for a few dirhams counted out: in such low estimation did they hold him!”

The problem with this claim is that dirham (derivative of the Greek drachma) didn’t exist prior to the twelfth century B.C. This means that the Qur’an makes the claim that Joseph was sold into slavery using a currency that had not yet been invented — and would not be invented until seven centuries later.

Did David Produce Chain Mail?

According to Surah 34:10-11,

“We bestowed Grace aforetime on David from ourselves: ‘O ye Mountains! Sing ye back the Praises of Allah with him! and ye birds also! And We made the iron soft for him;- Commanding, ‘Make thou coats of mail, balancing well the rings of chain armour, and work ye righteousness; for be sure I see clearly all that ye do.'”

The problem is that chain mail was first invented by the Celts in the fifth century B.C. But David lived in the tenth century B.C.

Was Crucifixion Practiced in Ancient Egypt?

According to Surah 12:41 and Surah 20:71, the method of execution by crucifixion was practiced, during the time of Joseph and Moses respectively, by the Egyptians. The former lived during the nineteenth century B.C., and the latter lived during the fifteenth century B.C. Unfortunately, however, this mode of execution was first invented by the Persians in the sixth century B.C., well after the time of both Moses and Joseph.

Moses and the Samaritans

We read in Surah 20:35-88, 95 that a Samaritan led the people of Israel to create the golden calf during the time of Moses, shortly following the Exodus out of Egypt. The problem is that the city of Samaria did not exist until several centuries following the Exodus. Furthermore, the people group who became known as the “Samaritans” did not come into existence until an even later stage when the Northern Kingdom was invaded by Assyria.

Confusing Mary and Miriam

In Surah 19:28, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is spoken of as being the sister of Moses and Aaron. Furthermore, Surah 66:12 states that the mother of Mary is Amram. It is abundantly clear from this that Muhammad is confusing Mary the mother of Jesus with Miriam (Moses’s sister), who lived centuries earlier.

Moses and Haman

According to Surah 28:5-8,

“And We wished to be gracious to those who were being depressed in the land, to make them leaders in faith and make them heirs, to establish a firm place for them in the land, and to show Pharaoh, Haman, and their hosts, at their hands, the very things against which they were taking precautions. So We sent this inspiration to the mother of Moses: ‘Suckle thy child, but when thou hast fears about him, cast him into the river, but fear not nor grieve: for We shall restore him to thee, and We shall make him one of Our apostles.’ Then the people of Pharaoh picked him up from the river: It was intended that Moses should be to them an adversary and a cause of sorrow: for Pharaoh and Haman and all their hosts were men of sin.”

The problem is that Haman lived approximately during the sixth century B.C. in Persia (not Egypt). He is a key character in the book of Esther. Why is it, then, that the Qur’an refers to Haman as having opposed Moses in Pharaoh’s court — nine centuries earlier?

Conclusion

I could continue in this vein for considerable time — and believe me I could. But the cumulative force of the above arguments combined seems to render implausible the Islamic view that the Qur’an is historically accurate in every respect. Even if there is wiggle room with respect to one or two of those cases (which I don’t think there is), there are enough instances of such historical anachronisms to render it immensely implausible that all of them will be shown to have plausible resolutions.

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12 replies
  1. psiloiordinary says:

    Listen carefully Jonathan and surely somewhere deep down is a closed off bit of your brain there is a little tiny version of you making an indistinct noise – it might be laughing or crying.

    Reply
  2. Prayson Daniel says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this Jonathan. The more I read Suras in Qur’an the more I came to find out that they look more like Muhammad’s commentaries of both the O.T and N.T.

    Reply
  3. Martin says:

    Christian apologists often contend that the Bible is free, in its entirity, from contradiction, inconsistency or historical inaccuracy. I have seen many Christians assert that the historical and scientific accuracy of the Bible was what impressed them about this book and convinced them that Christianity is true.

    Reply
  4. DKeane says:

    “As we shall see, the claim that the Qur’an is historically accurate — particularly when it describes events hundreds of years removed from its writing — is not a tenable position.”

    Wasn’t the bible written hundreds of years after the stories actually happened? How can you write this section with a straight face?

    Reply
    • ftbond says:

      “Wasn’t the bible written hundreds of years after the stories actually happened”?

      Short answer: It really very much depends on which books you’re actually talking about. For example, the book of Galatians – one of Pauls letters regarding Jesus – was written about 18-20 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. Some books of the Old Testament (ie, some of the prophets, such as Isaiah or Hosea) were written concurrent with events.

      From the information given by this author, regarding the Quran, I think it’s pretty easy to say “the Quran’s historic accuracy is not tenable” with a straight face.

      Reply
  5. J says:

    I would encourage you to take Martin’s post to heart – yes, it is kind of a sarcastic jab at what you’ve done here, but that should not stop you from using the same critical eye you’ve used to examine the historical accuracy of the Qur’an in examining the Christian Bible.

    Reply
  6. littlejohn says:

    Your criticism of the Qu’ran is on target, but are you really not aware of similar criticisms of the Bible? Its authors are unknown and all of it was written generations after the alleged occurrences. None of the gospelers could have met Jesus, and there is no historical reference to Jesus during the first century. There are two (contadictory) accounts of creation in Genesis. I could go on all day, but surely you get my point.

    Reply
    • Grant says:

      Peter, who was the primary source for Marks gospel met Jesus. John and Matthew met Jesus. James met Jesus. Most scholars put most of the NT prior to 70AD… Well within the life of many eye witnesses.

      Reply
  7. Ray says:

    So, like the Bible, the Koran is not historically accurate. What’s your point? They both therefore are equally valid.

    Reply
  8. Ian says:

    Let’s see. What do we know? We know that the earth was formed over 4.5 billion years ago and not in the biblical six days.

    We know that mankind shared a common ancestor with the primates, and before that with ALL other organisms in the planet. Therefore there was no ‘garden of Eden’ in the sense of Genesis, therefore the ‘creation myth’ is just that ( a beautiful story but not true), following on no fall from grace therefore no need for the crucifiction (but of course if there had been ‘God’ he/she/it would have known that.

    Also in the bronze age serpents were revered as the guardians of wisdom and knowledge so the charge agains the serpent is a bum rap! But it would be natural for the scribes/storytellers of the day to incorporate that into the narrative.

    The story of the flood was taken from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

    Had he story of the Exodus been true, which it wasn’t, when the Israelistes reached the land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ they would have met the Egyptian army (at the point in history most of the Levant was a fully garrisoned province of the Egyptian empire). The wall of wate that resulted in the destruction of Pharoah’s army was from the volcanic explosion of Thera (Santorini), in other words a Tsunami.

    I think that’s enough to be going on with. But please do yourself a favour and study the history and development of Judaism and Chrstianity.

    Reply
  9. MIKE says:

    it’s interesting to hear him be critical of another holy book, when the bible has so many contradictions, fairy tales, etc–the bible is just one of the reasons i walked away from christianity–it is intellectually insulting

    Reply

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