4. Thinking about the Qur’an

Dear Abdullah


It is hardly necessary for me to tell you how I appreciated your response to my last letter. It is good that our mutual relationship is strong enough to discuss such emotionally laden topics, and that despite the differences our beliefs and their foundations. I am glad that you agree on the need for an also sober approach to spiritual matters, which led you to acknowledge the truly convincing argument that fulfilled prophecy, as also the eyewitness reports and the historic sources express.


While it is decidedly good to have a rich emotional life, our spiritual conversation should never be governed by emotions only. We dare not overlook the facts. That can be hurtful at times. That is why we are taught in the Bible to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Someone rightly said that truth without love can be cruel, while love without truth is sentimentality. As emotions should be built on facts, so truth must be accompanied by love. These two belong together.


In your letter you express the view of almost all Muslims, that the Qur’an in its present form is identical to the original [‘heavenly’] one. Islamic traditions (aHadith) dating from the time of the first caliphs do not support this assumption, as every scholar should know and acknowledge.


If I understand you correctly, you suggest that evidence other than fulfilled prophecy should equally verify divine revelation. Firstly, you point to the outstanding literary quality and content of the Qur’an. You further argue that the fact that many Muslims can recite the whole of the Qur’an from memory is miraculous and therefore underscores its divine origin. Thirdly, you categorically state that the Qur’an has never been tampered with, but has been preserved in every detail as it came from the mouth of the Prophet.


Anyone with some basic knowledge of Arabic will have no problem to appreciate the poetic beauty of at least the early Meccan Surahs of the Qur’an. It must be said, however, that grammatically and in the choice of words the Arabic Qur’an is not considered to be perfect. But even if it were, we must realise that it is not unreasonable to assume that even the very best product of man’s ingenuity is still human. Proof of a divine token would be its superiority beyond what man can produce – something like fulfilled prophecy.