Let Me Rephrase That!
A Harvest of Contradictions
The first official Koran was compiled after Muhammad's death by a scribe by the name of Thabit. He was urged to do so by the new leader of the believers, Abu Bakr, following the death of many of the best memorizers of the Koran at the battle of Yamama during the so-called War of the Apostates, a rebellion against Muslim rule following the passing of God's alleged last spokesperson.
Narrated Zaid bin Thabit Al-Ansari who was one of those who used to write the Divine Revelation:
Abu Bakr sent for me after the (heavy) casualties among the warriors (of the battle) of Yamama (where a great number of Qurra (reciters of the Koran) were killed).
Umar was present with Abu Bakr who said, “Umar has come to me and said, ‘The people have suffered heavy casualties on the day of (the battle of) Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be more casualties among the Qurra' (those who know the Qur'an by heart) at other battle-fields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost, unless you collect it. And I am of the opinion that you should collect the Qur'an.’"
Abu Bakr added, "I said to Umar, 'How can I do something which Allah's Apostle has not done?'"
Umar said (to me), "By Allah, it is (really) a good thing." So Umar kept on pressing, trying to persuade me to accept his proposal, till Allah opened my bosom for it and I had the same opinion as Umar.
(Zaid bin Thabit added:) Umar was sitting with him, Abu Bakr, and was not speaking to me).
"You are a wise young man and we do not suspect you (of telling lies or of forgetfulness): and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle. Therefore, look for the Qur'an and collect it (in one manuscript)."
By Allah, if he (Abu Bakr) had ordered me to shift one of the mountains (from its place) it would not have been harder for me than what he had ordered me concerning the collection of the Qur'an.
I said to both of them, "How dare you do a thing which the Prophet has not done?"
Abu Bakr said, "By Allah, it is (really) a good thing." So I kept on arguing with him about it till Allah opened my bosom for that which He had opened the bosoms of Abu Bakr and Umar. So I started locating Quranic material and collecting it from parchments, scapula, leaf-stalks of date palms and from the memories of men (who knew it by heart).
I found with Khuzaima two Verses of Surat-at-Tauba which I had not found with anybody else, (and they were): "Verily there has come to you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty He (Muhammad) is ardently anxious over you (to be rightly guided)" (9:128)
The manuscript on which the Quran was collected, remained with Abu Bakr till Allah took him unto Him, and then with Umar till Allah took him unto Him, and finally it remained with Hafsa, Umar's daughter.
The contradictions in the Koran were evident early on. Umar asked Thabit about them. He replied that it was not up to him to change the mainly hearsay evidence he had collected about what Allah revealed to Muhammad via an angel intermediary.
The contents of the Koran, according to the Book, were delivered by the angel Gabriel to God’s spokesman via a voice in his head, in private meetings where the winged messenger appeared to him in the form of a man, and in his dreams.
Al Harith bin Hisham asked the Prophet, "How does the divine inspiration come to you?"
He replied, "In all these ways: The Angel sometimes comes to me with a voice which resembles the sound of a ringing bell, and when this state abandons me, I remember what the Angel has said, and this type of Divine Inspiration is the hardest on me; and sometimes the Angel comes to me in the shape of a man and talks to me, and I understand and remember what he says."
Narrated Safwan bin Ya'la bin Umaiya from his father who said: "A man came to the Prophet while he was at Ji'rana. The man was wearing a cloak which had traces of Khaluq or Sufra (a kind of perfume).
The man asked (the Prophet), 'What do you order me to perform in my Umra (the lesser pilgrimage)?' So, Allah inspired the Prophet divinely and he was screened by a place of cloth.
I wished to see the Prophet being divinely inspired.
Umar said to me, 'Come! Will you be pleased to look at the Prophet while Allah is inspiring him?'
I replied in the affirmative. Umar lifted one corner of the cloth and I looked at the Prophet who was snoring. (The sub-narrator thought that he said: The snoring was like that of a camel).
When that state was over, the Prophet asked, "Where is the questioner who asked about Umra? Put off your cloak and wash away the traces of Khaluq from your body and clean the Sufra (yellow color) and perform in your Umra what you perform in your Hajj (i.e. the Tawaf round the Ka'ba and the Sa'i between Safa and Marwa)."
The first time Muhammad and the mighty angel met, the Koran informs us, Gabriel appeared to God’s spokesman in his true form and size, six hundred wings and all.
53:1 By the star when it goes down,
53:2 Your Companion (Muhammad) has not gone astray or erred,
53:3 And he does not talk capriciously.
53:4 It (the Qur’an) is only a Revelation being revealed,
53:5 Taught him by a mighty one (the angel Gabriel),
53:6 Possessed of steadfastness. And so he arose,
53:7 While he was on the highest horizon;
53:8 Then, he came closer and hovered around;
53:9 Coming thus within two bows’ length or closer.
53:10 Then (Allah) revealed to His servant what He revealed.
I asked Zir bin Hubaish regarding the Statement of Allah: "And was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer; So did (Allah) convey The Inspiration to His slave (Gabriel) and then he (Gabriel) Conveyed (that to Muhammad)." (53:9-10)
On that, Zir said, "Ibn Mas'ud informed us that the Prophet had seen Gabriel having 600 wings."
The final official version of the Koran was rushed into production during the Caliphate of Uthman, the third caliph, for reasons explained in the following hadith:
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 Abdur Rahman 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)
The Bible, the King James Version, is about 791,328 words, more than 10 times the number of words in the Koran. It covers a period of more than a thousand years and contains a cast of thousands. For such a monumental work it is surprisingly well ordered. The Koran, on the other hand, is the inspiration of just one man based on revelations ostensibly sent from God communicated over a period of just twenty-three years, between 610 and 632 AD exclusively.
Unlike the Bible, the Koran is somewhat disorganized. There is no timeline. The only allowance given to any kind of order is the sequencing of (most of) the 114 surahs, i.e., chapters, from longest to shortest and a determination made by scholars as to which surahs were received during Muhammad's time in Mecca and which were communicated after he took refuge in the oasis city of Medina about 280 miles north of Mecca.
Adding to a lay reader’s woes, chapter headings, which appear to be based on catchwords within the text, are almost useless as an indication of content for the uninitiated. The longer chapters in particular are a challenge with God, in the words of Justin Wintle, author of History of Islam, “jumping from one subject to another in a sort of unfurling stream of supra-consciousness,” i.e., a consciousness or awareness that is beyond our understanding.
Even “jumping from one subject to another” in the same verse, such as in the following revealed truth where God begins by first telling Muhammad what to say when asked about the timing of the pilgrimage to Mecca and ends His Revelation with a warning about entering a house by the back door.
2:189 They ask you about the crescents (the new moons), say: “They are times fixed for mankind and for the pilgrimage.” It is not righteousness to enter houses from the back; but the righteous is he who fears Allah. Enter then the houses by their front doors; and fear Allah that you may prosper.
Allah, in the book He authored, revealed that it was "without any defect."
39:28 We made it an Arabic Qur’an without any defect that perchance they might be God-fearing.
That claim about the Koran being error-free, as you would expect a book written by a god to be, meant scholars had to come up with an explanation for all the contradictions without impugning the work of those who put it together. The concept of abrogation allowed them to do just that.
The revelations received during Muhammad's stay in Medina, which became his home and power base until his death, are known as the Medinan surahs. Scholars are in general agreement that the Medinan chapters normally supersede Meccan surahs, not only because of the timeframe in which they were received, but also because it was at Medina that God communicated His more unyielding instructions regarding what to do with those who refused to submit to His Will, that is, become Muslims.
In the Medinan surahs it is clear that Allah has undergone a transformation and is no longer the sometimes-tolerant deity whom His spokesman introduced to his Meccan kin.
Some commentators further divide the Medinan period by the sanctioning of total war against infidels exemplified by the ominous Verse of the Sword. Ascertaining from which period in Muhammad’s life a revelation was received is important in determining if the revealed truth is valid or has been abrogated by a subsequent immutable fact—but it is not, as you will discover, the only criteria.