If you have ever had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with a Muslim, you have probably heard many of their standard objections to Christianity. One of the most common that they turn to rather quickly is that the Bible has been corrupted. The objection has the effect of hitting most of us with psychological baseball bat for two reasons. First, the objection is so ludicrous that one doesn’t even know where to begin. Second, trying to explain the history of the Bible and its transmission in a simple understandable way to a person whose culture, in most cases, does not value critical thinking is beyond challenging. So what can you do in this situation? What I have found most helpful is to turn the tables and tell them that the Qur’an has been corrupted (which it has, as I will show below).
If their accusation of corruption feels like a baseball bat to us, this accusation feels like a freight train to them. I don’t say this in a sense of one upsmanship. I LOVE Muslims and want them to come to Christ. Many of you want them to come to Christ as well and so it is important that we are able to challenge them in a way that will cause them to reexamine their falsely held beliefs. While you can find a number of articles at www.answering-islam.org on this topic of Qur’anic corruption, I have narrowed it down to a couple boilerplate proofs below that you can write on a notecard and carry with you. Before we get to the points, I need to briefly explain Qur’anic transmission especially as it relates to the Uthmanic recension.
Believe it or not, the Qur’an was not collected in Muhammad’s lifetime. It was actually collected thereafter and the “official version” of the Qur’an was put together under the rulership of Uthman (who was the third caliph). Uthman gave primary responsibility of this task to Zayd ibn Thabit. At the end of collection of the Qur’an, Uthman had an official version written. This version is what persists today. It is also why virtually every Muslims will claim the Qur’an is better than the Bible, “because no Qur’an is different.” However, after putting together the authorized version of the Aur’an Uthman did something rather strange. He ordered all other manuscripts of the Qur’an to be burnt. Now if they were all the same, why would someone do that? Well, they weren’t all the same prior to Uthman’s book burning festivities.
How do we know this? We know this from the most reliable Muslim sources, the Hadith collections of Sahi al-Bukhari and Sahi Muslim. In Sahi Bukhari, we read that Muhmmad recommended that people learn the Qur’an from one of four teachers when he says, “Learn the recitation of the Qur’an from four: from Abdullah bin Mas’ud – he started with him – Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hudhaifa, Mu’adh bin Jabal and Ubai bin Ka’b” (vol. 5 p. 96). This is important because at least two of these teachers did not agree on the final copy of the Qur’an that Uthman had completed.
Most importantly was the disagreement by the top teacher Abdullah bin Mas’ud. After Zayd ibn Thabit’s Qur’an had been collected and presented as the official version, Mas’ud stated:
The people have been guilty of deceit in the reading of the Qur’an. I like it better to read according to the recitation of him (Prophet) whom I love more than that of Zayd Ibn Thabit. By Him besides Whom there is no god! I learnt more than seventy surahs from the lips of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, while Zayd Ibn Thabit was a youth, having two locks and playing with the youth. -Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol. 2, p.444
This is not just anyone saying this. This is the top teacher of the Qur’an according to Muhammad! He is saying that he likes another version of the Qur’an better. So what was the difference? Among the significant differences, Mas’ud did not include Surah’s 1, 113 and 114. That’s right. He did not include three chapters of the Qur’an (Ibn Abi Daud’s Kitab al-Masahif; no specific citation as the book details numerous variants throghout)!
In summary the argument is this: Uthman burned all other Qur’ans after coming up with his official version. However, if we look at Hadith sources we find that the best teacher of the Qur’an thought his holy book contained three less Surah’s then Zayd’s official version. Therefore, we can say with pretty strong certainty that the Qur’an has in fact been corrupted.
I have found that sticking to this and adamantly pressing it has helped prevent conversations from veering to all sorts of different objections. And rather then being on the defensive about the Bible, you can be on the offensive about Qur’an. I do not give you this information to win a culture war. I give you this information that you may lovingly show Muslims their error and persuade them to find hope and peace through the Gospel!