Does the Qur'an contain historical errors?

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Does the Qur'an contain historical errors?

Postby armchairscholar » Mon Dec 01, 2014 4:44 am

In al-baqaarah, the Qur'anic narrative seems to confuse Saul and Gideon (The cow 2:249).

And when Saul went forth with the soldiers, he said, "Indeed, Allah will be testing you with a river. So whoever drinks from it is not of me, and whoever does not taste it is indeed of me, excepting one who takes [from it] in the hollow of his hand." But they drank from it, except a [very] few of them. Then when he had crossed it along with those who believed with him, they said, "There is no power for us today against Goliath and his soldiers." But those who were certain that they would meet Allah said, "How many a small company has overcome a large company by permission of Allah . And Allah is with the patient."

In the Bible (Judges 7:4-8), this happens to Gideon - who lived centuries apart from Saul.

Then the LORD said to Gideon, “There are still too many people. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. If I say to you, ‘This one can go with you,’ he can go. But if I say about anyone, ‘This one cannot go with you,’ he cannot go.” So he brought the people down to the water, and the LORD said to Gideon, “Separate everyone who laps water with his tongue like a dog. Do the same with everyone who kneels to drink.” The number of those who lapped with their hands to their mouths was 300 men, and all the rest of the people knelt to drink water. The LORD said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and hand the Midianites over to you. But everyone else is to go home.” So Gideon sent all the Israelites to their tents but kept the 300, who tooke the people’s provisions and their trumpets. The camp of Midian was below him in the valley.

Has the Qur'an confused Gideon with Saul?

The Qur'an also seems to conflate two different women named Maryam. Maryam, the mother of Jesus, and Maryam, sister of Moses and Aaron and the daughter of Amram. It has been proposed that Imran is equivalent to Joachim, but the Qur'an calls Mary Mother of Jesus a sister of Aaron.

O sister of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste." (Maryam 19:28)

How do we explain these seeming errors of history in the Qur'an?

Sen McGlinn
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Re: Does the Qur'an contain historical errors?

Postby Sen McGlinn » Tue Dec 02, 2014 6:19 pm

"sister of Aaron" could be an idiom, meaning a Jewess, used to refer to her noble ancestry. Or as at least one hadith says, they called Mary in particular "sister of Aaron" because the historical sister of Aaron was called Mary. In the first explanation, "sister of Aaron" = Jewess, in the second, "sister of Aaron" = Jewess whose name is Mary.

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Re: Does the Qur'an contain historical errors?

Postby chris(tnt)rhol » Thu Dec 04, 2014 2:38 am

Hello emma.

There are many historical inaccuracies, archeological inaccuracies as well as general logicical errors.

Bees feed on nectar and pollen. However, the Qur'an relates that bees consume fruit.

And thy Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men's) habitations; Then to eat of all the fruits (of the earth), and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought. 

Qur'an 16:68-69

Sperm Originates Between the Backbone and Ribs

The Qur'an states, incorrectly, that semen originates from a spot between the backbone and ribs. Today we know sperm comes from the testicles and semen from the pelvic region, which is not between the spine and ribs.

He is created from a drop emitted- Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs 

Qur'an 86:6-7

The quran also say that alexander the great was a muslim, who went west, not east and died at an old age (history says otherwise)

There are plenty more, too many for just one post. If you would like to discuss this in further please do not hesitate to ask.

thank you for reading

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Re: Does the Qur'an contain historical errors?

Postby brettz9 » Mon Dec 22, 2014 3:11 pm

I think a Baha'i apologetic response to this might be that the Qur'an in such instances was speaking to the frame of reference of the people of that time.

Consider these passages from a letter on behalf of the Universal House of Justice:

In considering the whole field of divinely conferred "infallibility" one must be careful to avoid the literal understanding and petty-mindedness that has so often characterised discussions of this matter in the Christian world. The Manifestation of God (and, to a lesser degree, 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi,) has to convey tremendous concepts covering the whole field of human life and activity to people whose present knowledge and degree of understanding are far below His. He must use the limited medium of human language against the limited and often erroneous background of His audience's traditional knowledge and current understanding to raise them to a wholly new level of awareness and behaviour. It is a human tendency, against which the Manifestation warns us, to measure His statements against the inaccurate standard of the acquired knowledge of mankind. We tend to take them and place them within one or other of the existing categories of human philosophy or science while, in reality, they transcend these and will, if properly understood, open new and vast horizons to our understanding.

Some sayings of the Manifestation are clear and obvious. Among these are laws of behaviour. Others are elucidations which lead men from their present level of understanding to a new one. Others are pregnant allusions, the significance of which only becomes apparent as the knowledge and understanding of the reader grow. And all are integral parts of one great Revelation intended to raise mankind to a new level of its evolution.

It may well be that we shall find some statement is couched in terms familiar to the audience to which it was first addressed, but is strange now to us. For example, in answer to a question about Bahá'u'lláh's reference to the "Fourth Heaven" in the Kitab-i-Iqan, the Guardian's secretary wrote on his behalf:

"Regarding the ascension of His Holiness Christ to the fourth heaven revealed in the Book of Certitude, Shoghi Effendi says that the phrase 'fourth heaven' is used to conform with the ancient astronomers' terms and theories which were upheld by the followers of the Shi'ih sect, and since the Book of Certitude was originally revealed for the guidance of that sect, the above phrase, therefore, was used in conformity with their theories."
(Translated from the Arabic)

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, April 28, 1982, at , emphasis added)

Although Baha'i texts do indicate that scientific truths were revealed in scripture, they would no doubt not maintain that religion should defer to science when in contradiction to (legitimate) science if scripture were to have been stated in an unambiguously scientific manner.

FYI, the owner of Bahaikipedia has expressed his willingness to allow pages dedicated to specific Baha'i texts to indicate well-established scientific truths that clarify the material topic raised in the Baha'i Writings. I started one such example at and invite others to do so, again assuming that the science is well-established (and not to state scientific truths of our time as being fixed in stone either).

Best wishes,

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