Shabir Ally and the Use of the Bible for Dawah

More Evidence of the Inconsistent Nature of Islamic Apologetics

Sam Shamoun

Islamic apologist Shabir Ally has written a short article (*) addressing the question of whether Muslims should use the Holy Bible in their witness to Jews and Christians. What makes this article unique is that Shabir not only provides further evidence for his inconsistency but that Muhammad was also inconsistent as well.

Shabir makes reference to a hadith where Umar was reading the Torah in the presence of Muhammad which caused the latter great anger and displeasure:

Umar’s hadith teaches that we cannot use the Bible for guidance. That hadith does not prevent us from using the Bible for Dawah.

In brief, the hadith says that Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, came to the prophet, sallallahu alayhi was sallam, with a copy of the Torah saying here is a copy of the book that was revealed to the prophet Moses, peace be upon him. As he began to read it the prophet’s face showed displeasure until Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, alerted Umar to notice this. Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, then promptly closed the scroll and reaffirmed his satisfaction with Allah as Lord, with Islam as religion, and with Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi was sallam, as prophet and messenger. The prophet then remarked that if the prophet Musa were alive today he would have to follow the prophet Muhammad, sallalalhu alayhi was sallam.

That in a nutshell is the gist of the hadith. Obviously, the hadith deals with the question of where to find guidance today. The Bible therefore cannot be used for our guidance. The hadith does not prevent us from making reference to the Bible in the limited manner which I will now describe… Now you do not call God "Father." But the Christian cannot turn around and demand that on the strength of the same verse you should now dare to call God "Father." … The Christian can only have a point if he shows that what the Muslim says is contrary to what the Qur’an says. But he will not have a point because Islam is built on the Qur’an. Islam cannot possibly be opposite to the Qur’an… He cannot now ask you why your statement about God is different from the Bible because you never claimed to believe in the entire bible.

The hadith of Umar merely highlights the fact that Muhammad was either insecure to have his teachings examined in light of God’s truth or that he had a rather inflated ego.

It further exposes Muhammad as an inconsistent person since he claimed that his Quran was sent down to confirm the Torah and yet frowns upon those who would actually read it!

He has revealed to you the Book with truth, verifying that which is between his hands (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi), and He revealed the Taurat and the Injeel S. 3:3

And before this, was the Book of Moses as a guide and a mercy: And this Book confirms (it) in the Arabic tongue; to admonish the unjust, and as Glad Tidings to those who do right. S. 46:12 Y. Ali

Moreover, the Quran commanded Muhammad to follow the guidance and example of the prophets before him:

God desires to make clear to you, and to guide you in the institutions of those before you, and to turn towards you; God is All-knowing, All-wise; S. 4:26 Arberry

The exegetes explained the above reference this way:

God desires to make clear to you, the laws of your religion and what is in your best interests, and to guide you in the ways, the paths, of those prophets, before you, in the way of what is lawful and what is unlawful, so that you might follow them, and to turn [in forgiveness] towards you, bringing you back from the disobedience which you practised, to obedience to Him; God is Knowing, of you, Wise, in what He has ordained for you. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source)

Here is another passage:

And We gave to him Isaac and Jacob -- each one We guided, And Noah We guided before; and of his seed David and Solomon, Job and Joseph, Moses and Aaron -- even so We recompense the good-doers -- Zachariah and John, Jesus and Elias; each was of the righteous; Ishmael and Elisha, Jonah and Lot-each one We preferred above all beings; and of their fathers, and of their seed, and of their brethren; and We elected them, and We guided them to a straight path. That is God's guidance; He guides by it whom He will of His servants; had they been idolaters, it would have failed them, the things they did. Those are they to whom We gave the Book, the Judgment, the Prophethood; so if these disbelieve in it, We have already entrusted it to a people who do not disbelieve in it. Those are they whom God has guided; so follow their guidance. Say: 'I ask of you no wage for it; it is but a reminder unto all beings.' S. 6:89-90 Arberry

According to al-Bukhari, this commandment was directed to Muhammad:

Narrated Al-Awwam:
I asked Mujahid regarding the prostration in Surat Sad. He said, "I asked Ibn 'Abbas, ‘What evidence makes you prostrate?’ He said, "Don't you recite:-- ‘And among his progeny, David and Solomon… (6.84). Those are they whom Allah had guided. So follow their guidance.’ (6.90) So David was the one of those prophets whom Prophet (Muhammad) was ordered to follow. David prostrated, so Allah's Apostle (Muhammad) performed this prostration too." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 331)

Muhammad even defended the Torah in his possession and challenged the unbelievers to bring something that contained better guidance:

But (now), when the Truth has come to them from Ourselves, they say, "Why are not (Signs) sent to him, like those which were sent to Moses?" Do they not then reject (the Signs) which were formerly sent to Moses? They say: "Two kinds of sorcery, each assisting the other!" And they say: "For us, we reject all (such things)!" Say: "Then bring ye a Book from God, which is a better guide than either of them, that I may follow it! (do), if ye are truthful!" S. 28:48-49 Y. Ali

According to the commentators, this refers to the Torah:

(Say) to them, O Muhammad: (Then bring a Scripture from the presence of Allah that giveth clearer guidance) more sound (than these two) the Qur'an and the Torah ((that) I may follow it) that I may act according to it, (if ye are truthful) that the Qur'an and Torah are two magics that support each other. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source)

Here is how Muhammad treated a copy of the Torah which was brought to him in order to judge by it:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar:

A group of Jews came and invited the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) to Quff. So he visited them in their school.

They said: AbulQasim, one of our men has committed fornication with a woman; so pronounce judgment upon them. They placed a cushion for the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) who sat on it and said: Bring the Torah. It was then brought. He then withdrew the cushion from beneath him and placed the Torah on it saying: I believed in thee and in Him Who revealed thee.

He then said: Bring me one who is learned among you. Then a young man was brought. The transmitter then mentioned the rest of the tradition of stoning similar to the one transmitted by Malik from Nafi' (No. 4431). (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4434)

When he was asked whether he accepted the Torah that was in the possession of the Jews during his time Muhammad emphatically said yes:

"Rafi b. Haritha and Sallam b. Mishkam and Malik b. al-Sayf and Rafi b. Huraymila came to him [Muhammad] and said: ‘Do you not allege that you follow the religion of Abraham and believe in the Torah WHICH WE HAVE and testify that it is the truth from God?’ He replied, ‘CERTAINLY, but you have sinned and broken the covenant CONTAINED THEREIN and concealed what you were ordered to make plain to men, and I dissociate myself from your sin.’ They said, ‘We hold by WHAT WE HAVE. We live according to the guidance and the truth and we do not believe in you and we will not follow you.’ So God sent down concerning them: ‘Say, O Scripture folk, you have no standing until you observe the Torah and the Gospel and what has been sent down from your Lord. What has been sent down to thee from they Lord will assuredly increase many of them in error and unbelief. But be not sad because of the unbelieving people.’" (Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah With Introduction and Notes [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth Impression 1995], p. 268; bold and capital emphasis ours)

This makes us wonder how Muhammad could speak so highly of the Torah, claiming to believe in it and that it contained unsurpassed guidance equal to what is found in the Quran, when he was displeased with Umar for merely reading it?

As if this weren’t bad enough, both Muhammad and his followers were further commanded to consult the Jews and Christians and their scriptures to verify the message of the Quran:

And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers. S. 10:94 Pickthall

And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired - Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not! – S. 16:43 Pickthall

And We sent not before you (O Muhammad SAW) but men to whom We inspired, so ask the people of the Reminder [Scriptures - the Taurat (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel)] if you do not know. S. 21:7 Hilali-Khan

The exegetes tell us that these people are the Jews and Christians and that the Reminder/Remembrance is their Holy Scriptures:

(And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee) O Muhammad (other than men) human beings like you (whom We inspired) with commands and prohibitions and signs. (Ask the followers of the Remembrance) the followers of the Torah and the Gospel (if ye know not!) that Allah always sent human messengers. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source)

(And We sent not (as Our messengers) before you other than men) human beings like you (whom We inspired) to whom We sent angels just as We have sent to you. (Ask the followers of the Reminder) the people of the Torah and the Gospel (if you know not) that Allah sent only human messengers? (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source)

And We did not send before you anything other than men, to whom We revealed, and [sent] not angels: 'So ask the followers of the Remembrance, those knowledgeable in the Torah and the GOSPELS; if you do not know', that, then they know it, and you are more likely to believe them than the believers are to believe Muhammad (s), (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source)

And We did not send before you anything other than men, to whom We revealed, and [sent] not angels: 'So ask the followers of the Remembrance, those knowledgeable in the Torah and the GOSPELS; if you do not know', that, then they know it, and you are more likely to believe them than the believers are to believe Muhammad (s), (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source)

Again, how could Muhammad frown upon and get upset with Umar reading the Torah when the Quran itself encourages and even commands Muslims to consult the Jewish-Christian Scriptures to see whether the Islamic scripture is true?

To top this all off, al-Bukhari quotes the statement of Muhammad’s first cousin and companion Ibn Abbas, considered one of Islam’s greatest scholars, that none of the books revealed by God can be corrupted:

LV. The words of Allah Almighty, "It is indeed a Glorious Qur'an preserved on a Tablet." (85:21-22)

"By the Mount and an Inscribed Book" (52:1-2): Qatada said that "mastur" means "written". "Yasturun" (68:1) means "they inscribe", and the Umm al-Kitab (43:4) is the whole of the Qur'an and its source. [He said that] "ma talfizu" (50:18) means: "He does not say anything but that it is written against him." Ibn 'Abbas said, "Both good and evil are recorded," and "yuharrufuna" (4:46) means "they remove". No one removes the words of one of the Books of Allah Almighty, but they twist them, interpreting them improperly. "Dirasatihim: (6:156) means "their recitation" "Wa'iyya" (69:12) is preserving, "ta'iha" (69:12) means to "preserve it". "This Qur'an has been revealed to me by inspiration that I may warn you," meaning the people of Makka, "and all whom it reaches"(6:19) meaning this Qur'an, so he is its warner. (Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, 100. Book of Tawhid (the belief that Allah is One in His Essence, Attributes and Actions); source; underline emphasis ours)

Since the Quran says that both the Torah and the Gospel are books revealed by God then Muslims must accept that neither of them have been corrupted, but have remained intact.

Here is a summary of what the Islamic source material teaches regarding the books of the Holy Bible such as the Torah:

With the foregoing in mind, this places Muslims in a very troublesome and uncomfortable predicament. These conflicting statements regarding the authority of the Torah leave Muslims with the following problems and possible solutions:

There is a general Islamic rule that anytime the hadith contradicts the Quran then the hadith is to be discarded. Since this hadith of Umar opposes the very plain and explicit teachings of the Quran, as well as other so-called sound narratives, it cannot be used to establish doctrine and should therefore be rejected by any sincere Muslim.

Therefore, contrary to Shabir’s assertions Christians do have a point since we have seen here that what Muslims like Shabir say is contrary to what the Quran actually teaches. The testimony of the Quran and hadith literature is that the Islamic religion is not simply built on the Muslim scripture but on the Holy Bible as well. What this means is that the religion of Islam, for the most part, is in direct conflict with what the Qur’an actually teaches. Anytime a Muslim says that the Bible is corrupted, or that Islam doesn’t depend on the Bible for its authority, they are contradicting and opposing the claims of their own religious texts.

The Islamic religion being in conflict with its own religious scriptures shouldn’t surprise Shabir since he himself believes that historic Christianity is not built on the teachings of the Holy Bible, specifically the NT documents, and is directly opposed to much of what the Judeo-Christian Scriptures teach. After all, Shabir contends that teachings such as the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, his vicarious death and bodily resurrection are either not taught explicitly in the Holy Bible or by the historical Jesus and his first followers, but are theological constructs and beliefs that were developed later and read back into the Scriptures. He pretty much raises this very point in this same article.

If Shabir believes this about Christianity then he should be at least open to the possibility that this may be the same with Islam. In fact, as we saw here, not only is it a possibility it is actually true… the religion of Islam as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims like Shabir does oppose and contradict many aspects of the teachings of Quran.

For a thorough refutation of one Islamic dawagandist who tried to desperately undermine these specific narratives which support the textual veracity of the Holy Bible we suggest reading the following:

Shabir also says that:

The easiest way to prove a point to a person who believes in the Bible is to make reference to the Bible. This does not mean you believe in the Bible or consider it true in even that portion. It makes no difference whether or not you the caller to Islam believes in the Bible passage you are citing. It is important to believe what you preach, but remember that you are not preaching the Bible. You are simply reminding Christians and Jews that if they had read their Bibles carefully they would have to accept Islam.

The problem with this position is that it directly opposes what the Quran says about the Bible. The Quran doesn’t tell Muslims to believe only part of the Bible, but that they must affirm all of it. Shabir obviously realizes the problem that this places Muslims in, since the Quran for the most part contradicts the core teachings of the Holy Bible. This means that the Quran is false and cannot be the word of God since it contradicts the very books which it confirms to be the very revelation from God!

Thus, the Christian can indeed ask the Muslims why their God is different from the Bible. Why is it that the Quran disagrees with God’s true Word, the Holy Bible, regarding God being a spiritual Father to his people?

Say the Jews and Christians, 'We are the sons of God, and His beloved ones.' Say: 'Why then does He chastise you for your sins? No; you are mortals, of His creating; He forgives whom He will, and He chastises whom He will.' For to God belongs the kingdom of the heavens and of the earth, and all that is between them; to Him is the homecoming. S. 5:18 Arberry

And they say, 'The All-merciful has taken unto Himself a son. You have indeed advanced something hideous! The heavens are wellnigh rent of it and the earth split asunder, and the mountains wellnigh fall down crashing for that they have attributed to the All-merciful a son; and it behoves not the All-merciful to take a son. None is there in the heavens and earth but he comes to the All-merciful as a servant; S. 19:88-93 Arberry

Why does the Quran contradict the Bible that God is the Father of Christ in a unique and intimate way?

The Jews say, 'Ezra is the Son of God'; the Christians say, 'The Messiah is the Son of God.' That is the utterance of their mouths, conforming with the unbelievers before them. God assail them! How they are perverted! S. 9:30 Arberry

Shabir continues:

To illustrate this point, consider that you quote the saying of Jesus in the Gospel of John where Jesus says: "The Father is greater than I." This verse will refute anyone who says he believes the Bible and yet he says that Jesus is equal to the Father… You will have to remind him that the Bible is a proof against him, not against you. You were just asking him why his statement about Jesus is opposite to his Bible’s statement about Jesus… The best way to deal with this problem is to show Christians where the Bible teaches that Jesus is not equal to God, that he could not have died for the sins of the world, and that Jesus directed his followers to believe in the prophet who was to come after him.

Here is what the entire verse says:

"You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." John 14:28

Shabir has committed a categorical mistake by failing to take into consideration that Christ assumed the role of a slave when he became a true human being:

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

"For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." Luke 22:27

Jesus’ point in context is that the Father was greater in glory and position, not in essence and nature, since Christ was functioning in a state of humbleness while he was on earth. This is why he tells the disciples to rejoice that he was returning to the Father since, once he ascends to heaven, he would no longer remain in that humble position but regain the glory he had with the Father:

"And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." John 17:5

Thus, the Father would no longer be greater than Christ in glory once the Son returned to him.

The Apostle Paul beautifully sums all of this up in his Carmen Christi, the Christological hymn found in his epistle to the Philippians:

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God (isa theo) something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:5-8

Lest Shabir accuse us of reading Paul’s theology back into the Gospel of John, note what the Evangelist wrote regarding Jesus’ essential equality with the Father:

"So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (ison heaton poion theo)." John 5:16-18

The reason the Jews concluded that the Lord Jesus was claiming equality with God is because he was essentially saying that he had every right to do what was forbidden for the Jews to do on the Sabbath since he was God’s unique Son. Jesus was telling them that just as God had the right to work on the Sabbath since he is exempt from any Sabbath restriction he too could work on this day since, being the Son of God, he is also exempt from any restrictions imposed by God on the people. In other words, like Father like Son!

It is interesting that John even uses the same Greek word that Paul used to describe Christ’s equality with God, namely isos (*).

Here is another time where John shows that Jesus is equal with the Father:

"‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’" John 10:27-33

Christ is basically ascribing to himself the very exclusive prerogatives of Deity, e.g. he gives eternal life and no one can deliver them out of his hand:

"See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand." Deuteronomy 32:39

"Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?" Isaiah 43:13

It is in this context that Jesus says that he is one with the Father! What makes this a truly astonishing statement is that he says this right after claiming that the latter is greater than all, which in the context refers to those who would try to pluck believers from the Father’s all-powerful hand.

To more fully appreciate the implications of Jesus’ words, keep in mind that Christ’s point is that there is no person who can prevent God from protecting his flock since there is no being that is as powerful as God who can thereby thwart his purposes in saving his sheep. Yet the Lord Jesus places himself in a unique position and category since he actually believes that he is his Father’s equal, being one with him in ability and power, which is completely unlike anyone else!

This demonstrates that John and Paul completely agree that the Lord Jesus is equal to the Father in essence, and that they both taught that Christ set aside his heavenly glory in order to become a man whereby he assumed a state of humbleness for a season. And by taking this role of lowliness the Father became greater than the Son in glory, but only for a short time.

Moreover, the Father is also greater in authority since Jesus is subject to God by virtue of his being the Son. In other words, just as earthly fathers have authority over their earthly sons, even though they are fully equal in nature, in a similar manner the Divine Father has authority over his Divine Son despite the fact that they are fully equal in essence.

For more on this topic we recommend the following articles:

Shabir concludes by committing another logical fallacy:

… On the other hand, Christianity was not built on the Bible. Christianity began long before the Bible was written and developed independently of the Bible. Some of Christianity’s central doctrines are contrary to the Bible; herein lies the problem.

Shabir is guilty of committing the fallacy of equivocation since he has equivocated on the term Bible. By Bible he obviously means the New Testament, but the Bible contains more than the books of the NT. The Bible consists of both the Old and New Testaments, containing the Christian Greek Scriptures along with the books of the Hebrew Bible.

In fact, the NT expressly teaches that the God-breathed OT Scriptures are the foundation of the Christian faith:

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Thus, Christianity from its very inception was based and built upon an inspired Book, specifically the revelation of the Hebrew Bible.

Furthermore, the revelation that Jesus brought was transmitted orally at first by the Apostles of Christ and written down shortly thereafter. This is why the NT is filled with references to the oral proclamation of the Gospel that the believers had to believe in and pass on:

"From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." Acts 20:17-32

"Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you." 1 Corinthians 11:2

"For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread," 1 Corinthians 11:23

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me." 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

"And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you HEARD from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers." 1 Thessalonians 2:13

"So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter." 2 Thessalonians 2:15

"Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us." 2 Thessalonians 3:6

"You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have HEARD from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." 2 Timothy 2:2

"This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles," 2 Peter 3:1-2

Moreover, Shabir fails to mention that Muhammad preached the message of the Quran long before it was written down:

And even if We had sent down unto you (O Muhammad SAW) a Message written on paper so that they could touch it with their hands, the disbelievers would have said: "This is nothing but obvious magic!" S. 6:7 Hilali-Khan

In fact, the verses and chapters of the Quran were only brought together into a single volume sometime after the death of Muhammad:

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit:

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq sent for me when the people of Yamama had been killed (i.e., a number of the Prophet's Companions who fought against Musailama). (I went to him) and found 'Umar bin Al-Khattab sitting with him. Abu Bakr then said (to me), "Umar has come to me and said: ‘Casualties were heavy among the Qurra' of the! Qur'an (i.e. those who knew the Quran by heart) on the day of the Battle of Yamama, and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra' on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost. Therefore I suggest, you (Abu Bakr) order that the Qur'an be collected.’ I said to 'Umar, ‘How can you do something which Allah's Apostle did not do?’ 'Umar said, ‘By Allah, that is a good project. Umar kept on urging me to accept his proposal till Allah opened my chest for it and I began to realize the good in the idea which 'Umar had realized." Then Abu Bakr said (to me), "You are a wise young man and we do not have any suspicion about you, and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah’s Apostle. So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Qur'an and collect it in one book)." By Allah If they had ordered me to shift one of the mountains, it would not have been heavier for me than this ordering me to collect the Qur'an. Then I said to Abu Bakr, "How will you do something which Allah's Apostle did not do?" Abu Bakr replied, "By Allah, it is a good project." Abu Bakr kept on urging me to accept his idea until Allah opened my chest for what He had opened the chests of Abu Bakr and 'Umar. So I STARTED LOOKING FOR THE QUR’AN and collecting it from (what was written on) palmed stalks, thin white stones and also from the men who knew it by heart, till I found the last Verse of Surat At-Tauba (Repentance) with Abi Khuzaima Al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him. The Verse is:

'Verily there has come unto you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty… till the end of Surat-Baraa' (At-Tauba) (9.128-129) Then the complete manuscript (copy) of the Qur'an remained with Abu Bakr till he died, then with 'Umar till the end of his life, and then with Hafsa, the daughter of 'Umar. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 509)

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit:

Abu Bakr sent for me and said, "You used to write the Divine Revelations for Allah's Apostle. So you should SEARCH FOR (the Qur'an and collect) it." I started searching for the Qur'an till I found the last two Verses of Surat At-Tauba with Abi Khuzaima Al-Ansari and I could not find these Verses with anybody other than him. (They were):

‘Verily there has come unto you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty…’ (9.128-129) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 511)

This indicates that Islam at the beginning wasn’t based on a book but upon the oral preaching of Muhammad, which was only written down sometime later.

But there is a host of problems with the belief that oral transmission insured the preservation of the Quran. If Muhammad was truly illiterate, as Muslims like Shabir believe, then he couldn’t adequately supervise the written compilation of the Quran or proofread it. Yet Shabir takes it on faith that the Quran was completely preserved by uninspired and fallible companions of Muhammad, who themselves were not scholars with many of them being illiterate for the most part:

Narrated Ibn 'Umar:
The Prophet said, "We are an illiterate nation; we neither write, nor know accounts. The month is like this and this, i.e. sometimes of 29 days and sometimes of thirty days." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 137)

Ibn 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with both of them) reported Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: We are an unlettered people who can neither write nor count. The month is thus and thus, folding his thumb when he said it the third time. This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Aswad b. Qais with the same chain of transmitters, but herein no mention has been made of the other month (consisting of) thirty days. (Sahih Muslim, Book 006, Number 2376)

People were also reciting the Quran so differently from one another that it led to divisions and to the subsequent burnings of Qurans:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid OF THEIR (the people of Sham and Iraq) DIFFERENCES IN THE RECITATION OF THE QUR’AN, so he said to 'Uthman, "O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before." So 'Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you." Hafsa sent it to 'Uthman. 'Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, 'Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and 'AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. 'Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, "In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue." They did so, and when they had written many copies, 'Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. 'Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, BE BURNT. Said bin Thabit added, "A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting it. SO WE SEARCHED FOR IT and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): 'Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.' (33.23) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 510)

To compound the problem, the hadith literature claims that Muhammad was caused to forget certain verses of the Quran.

Narrated Aisha:
Allah's Apostle heard a man reciting the Qur'an at night, and said, "May Allah bestow His Mercy on him, as he has reminded me of such-and-such Verses of such-and-such Suras, which I was caused to forget." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 558)

Narrated 'Aisha:
The Prophet heard a reciter reciting the Qur'an in the mosque at night. The Prophet said, "May Allah bestow His Mercy on him, as he has reminded me of such-and-such Verses of such and-such Suras, which I missed!" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 562)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Mas'ud:
The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) offered prayer. The version of the narrator Ibrahim goes: I do not know whether he increased or decreased (the rak'ahs of prayer).
When he gave the salutation, he was asked: Has something new happened in the prayer, Apostle of Allah? He said: What is it? They said: You prayed so many and so many (rak'ahs). He then relented his foot and faced the Qiblah and made two prostrations. He then gave the salutation. When he turned away (finished the prayer), he turned his face to us and said: Had anything new happened in prayer, I would have informed you. I am only a human being and I forget just as you do; so when I forget, remind me, and when any of you is in doubt about his prayer he should aim at what is correct, and complete his prayer in that respect, then give the salutation and afterwards made two prostrations. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 3, Number 1015)

If Muhammad could forget verses of the Quran then what guarantee do Muslims like Shabir have that the companions didn’t also forget but were able to preserve the entirety of the Quran when they were neither inspired nor given supernatural abilities?

And didn’t Muhammad himself say that the Quran escapes the mind of a person faster than a camel?

Narrated Abdullah:
The Prophet said, "It is a bad thing that some of you say, ‘I have forgotten such-and-such verse of the Qur'an,’ for indeed, he has been caused (by Allah) to forget it. So you must keep on reciting the Qur'an because it escapes from the hearts of men faster than camel do." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 550)

Narrated Abu Musa:
The Prophet said, "Keep on reciting the Qur'an, for, by Him in Whose Hand my life is, Quran runs away (is forgotten) faster than camels that are released from their tying ropes." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 552)

In light of the foregoing it doesn’t surprise us in the least that there was so much confusion and fighting among Muslims regarding the exact contents of the Quran.

For more on this very issue we recommend the following articles:

Responses to Shabir Ally
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page