Jul 15 2009

We get Muslim email (part 2)

Here’s part 1 in case you missed it.

Muhammad’s second message to me:

Hey thanks for reply I forgot to mention one more proof of why god exists and it has to do with Prophet Muhammad. Please look at this and then I will go back and make a comment on all the comments you made previously

Before I start I need to mention one thing. Arabic is not like English. You can come up with a story in english and write it down simply. The language you see in a textbook you can use in normal conversations. In arabic you cant. Meaning there is a way to talk arabic in normal conversations and there is a way to read arabic. You cant write down what you normally talk in arabic because it wouldnt make sense. In other words for something in arabic to be written, it must be in the language of readable material. If you cannot read arabic, you will not be able to make up readable material. You may be able to talk arabic normal in conversation but you wont be able to make up stories that can be written down UNLESS you know how to read arabic. Now that I cleard this up we move to my argument.

The fact that Prophet Muhammad did not know how to read or write and was illiterate means he couldn’t have possibly come up with the Koran (which is in readable material) It was revealed to him by God and the prophet Muhammad memorized it and which he then recited to many people. Notice how I said it was recited to many people. There couldn’t have possibly been a change or edit because any deviation in writting it would be easily detected by the people who memorized it at the time. The quran was written in book form within a few years after the prophet’s death. Now back to the original argument, there was no way that the prophet himself could have come up with the quran when he was illiterate. You may say, well someone who knew how to read came up with the story and told Muhammad. Saying that wouldnt make sense in 2 ways. First the people back then did not believe in a god so why would a non believer help someone come up with a story to disprove his religion? Another thing, if there was someone capable of comming up with something so great like the Quran, what would he be doing hanging out with an uneducated illiterate Prophet Muhammad? He would be in much higher rankings.

My reply (again with some repeated text truncated):


…Please look at this and then I will go back and make a comment on all the comments you made previously

Okay, but it feels to me suspiciously like you are trying to change the subject. If you thought that all this quasi-scientific talk about energy and universe shitting was supposed to be persuasive proof of God in the first place, then why would you break off a half-finished conversation in order to bring up a wholly unrelated point about a supposedly illiterate person in the seventh century? It’s a bit of a roundabout way to make a point, don’t you think? If your entire belief in God is based on the literacy status of one guy, why didn’t you just say so in the first place?

…You may be able to talk arabic normal in conversation but you wont be able to make up stories that can be written down UNLESS you know how to read arabic. Now that I cleard this up we move to my argument.

That makes very little sense to me (are you saying that you can’t make up a story and then dictate it?) but okay, we’ll move on.

[Argues that Muhammad, being illiterate, could not have written the Koran without a miracle.]

It all strikes me as an incredibly flimsy foundation on which to base believe in an infinitely powerful supernatural being living outside the universe. And I bet if you give it some thought, you can understand why.

Imagine yourself in my shoes for a minute. You are merely a poor benighted atheist, without any belief in God or supernatural magical powers whatsoever. I come to you and say “Look here, I know for a certainty that there is a magical being who lives in the sky and listens to every one of the seven billion people on this planet, every minute of every day. And the reason why I know this is that 1,500 years ago, an illiterate man wrote a book about him.”

Thinking outside your religion for a moment, which do you honestly find easier to believe?

1. This being you’ve described really exists, despite a complete absence of other corroborating evidence.
2. I am somehow mistaken, and the author of this book either wasn’t illiterate or somehow found SOMEBODY who was willing to listen to this story and write it down.

Before you answer, stop and ask yourself if your answer would be the same if the book was not the Koran but say, the book of Mormon, or a book about Scientology or something.

I think you know what my answer is.

Just curious, does anyone know what he talking about regarding the supposed impossibility of writing down spoken Arabic? Because Muhammad is really trying to hammer on this point in his latest message, and it doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I mean, you could presumably speak conversational Arabic to a translator who spoke English, and then you could write down an English version of what he said. Why wouldn’t you be able to write an Arabic version?


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  1. 1

    My understanding is that when arabic is written, it is done in a specific dialect, known as "Modern Standard Arabic" (the Qur'an, having not been written in modern times, was written in "standard arabic"). When arabic is spoken, it is done in "Colloquial Arabic", which are a range of dialects varying by locality. These dialects are different enough from eachother and different enough from Modern Standard Arabic as to sometimes be mutually incomprehensible.While Modern Standard Arabic is speakable, it is rarely (if ever) learned as a first language, and thus is not often spoken. While the dialects are writable, Modern Standard Arabic is preferred since it is more universally understandable.

  2. 2

    Interesting. So would it ever have been *impossible* to write down colloquial arabic, as Muhammad appears to be claiming?

  3. 3

    Obviously not, as it exists. How would Muhhamad have even known what his own book said? If he was divinely inspired and write it while still being illiterate it's not like he could go back and re-read what he'd just written. Did he actually need someone to read him his own book? That sounds like a set up for a very Pythonesq bit of douche like abuse on the reader's part.

  4. 4

    I wouldn't expect him to comment on anything you said in your first reply. Unless you really force him to. Cyphern pointed out that Modern dialects may be incomprehensible when translated to Standard Arabic but it should be pointed out that old dialects were most definitely compatible with the written language at the time. You countered the argument very well though, exactly as I would have done.

  5. 5

    I think the point muhammad is trying to make is that the quran is written in standard arabic, and was supposedly written by person who would only have been familiar with colloquial arabic, therefore it must be a miracle.Of course, that ignores the possibility that he could have asked a literate friend to translate for him, or that he could have been lying about being illiterate, both of which i find much more likely than divine intervention.

  6. 6

    Or it was written in the colloquial somehow and fixed by a literate friend/editor. much how my girlfriend reminds her students that "bitch be trippin" is not a proper opening for a rebuttal in a formal essay.

  7. 7
    Björn Lindström

    Since the literary form of Arabic is pretty much based on the language of the Qur'an (which is in turn hardly Modern Standard Arabic), that whole argument is moot.There is also a debate on whether the Qur'an could actually have been written down at the time of Muhammed, or if it was written down from an oral tradition, up to a hundred years or so later.Even if you do swallow all that, is it really impossible that Muhammed actually was literate, and someone came up with the story about him being illiterate later? For an illiterate guy he sure seems to be (reasonably) well versed in Jewish literature.

  8. 8

    Also was Muhhamed not a merchant? A traveling Caravan trader? It seems that lack of at least a basic symbology system would be a great deterrent to such commerce.

  9. 9

    Is it really all that inconceivable that Muhammad knew the language of literature but not how to write or read?Poetry was a big deal back then. Why would Muhammad not know the type of language used for poetry, regardless of his ability to write it down or read it. Likewise, how would his FOLLOWERS even understand what he was saying if the language was supposed to be completely unintelligible to those who didn't know the literary language?It would seem as though both the illiterate Muhammad and his largely illiterate followers understood the more formal Arabic, or he wouldn't have gained any followers at all. The argument is under the assumption that Arabic hasn't evolved since Muhammad and that's entirely false.

  10. 10

    A friend of mine is a journalist in Beiruit and she has remarked to me how different the Arabic keyboards are. They look something like this app I found:http://www.arabic-keyboard.org/This app of course allows one to type Arabic with a standard keyboard and maybe this is all our friend needs…

  11. 11

    This last email and his argument really convinced me! I know now that God exists and which religion is the one true faith! I will now worship Zeus, Athena and all the Greek gods. That's right, and here's my proof of their existence: Homer was blind, yet he wrote the Odyssey and the Iliad. Therefore, he must have been made miraculously able to write by the gods he believed in, which must have been real. And if they were real then, they must be real now. And it makes perfect sense considering the incredible influence Ancient Greeks had on Western civilisation. They ceased to be a superpower when they renounced their faith and became Christians.

  12. 12
    Arnold Jamtart

    "In arabic you cant."I always thought Arabic had a lovely, lyrical quality to it, but I'd hardly characterize it as cant."It was revealed to him by God and the prophet Muhammad memorized it and which he then recited to many people. Notice how I said it was recited to many people. There couldn't have possibly been a change or edit because any deviation in writting it would be easily detected by the people who memorized it at the time."Yeah. Imagine some random dude calling him out on that: "Excuse me, Mr. Muhammad, sir, but last week, I believe the clauses of your seventeenth sentence were actually reversed, and in the part about the earthquake, the man was far more upset… are you sure you're actually divinely-inspired? 'Cause this seems more like your standard, run-of-the-mill speaking tour to me…"

  13. 13

    Wouldn't the same argument have to be made for the gospel authors who were illiterate Aramaic speaking peasants?as all the gospels were written in Greek and not Aramaic, it must be a miracle as well and cannot be denied by Muslims who use the same evidence for the Quran.

  14. 14

    So if I understand this correctly, God dictated his message to someone who couldn't read or write, then that person dictated it to someone who could?Okay. That would explain a lot.

  15. 15

    I've never bothered to verify it so take this with a grain of salt.I was told that when writing Arabic, vowels are omitted and only consonants written down. Since it's mostly vowels that carry the language, colloquial accents get lost in the process. On the other hand this means that it can happen that two Arabic speaking persons are unable to communicate verbally since the accents are just too different, but have no problem to do so in written text. Perhaps that's what he means that it was impossible to write down, that is capture the full flavor of, what was said?

  16. 16
    Valentin David

    Actually the Koran describes what it calls the "Clear Signs" you have to follow. And this one is not. Which is interesting is that the Koran wanted to be convincing. And also pointing errors of other religious groups. The error it made, is that philosophy was not really well developed when the Koran was written. Not only we actually had notion of philosophy by the Greeks a long time before but also the All Knowing Allah should have known them to make sure that the "Signs" are really that "Clear". One of these "Signs" is the fact that we can predict very precisely when the Sun will rise, even though it is not the same every day of the year. It is not a Sign to my eyes. Every schoolchild does know now why it does so. And also, how can you forbid to question your faith when you are Muslim, but you have to question it when you are not (which the Koran does)? This shows clearly that the All Knowing Allah do not even have a clue how to be convincing. Coming back to the debate, this argument is no good. First of all, I find it quite funny that they say: "Hey look! My prophet was totally illiterate." Like Joseph Smith, Jr.? I do think you should say this out loud. I does not sound serious at all. Only Muslims think that the Koran was revealed as we know it to Muhammad. But we have no proof for it. Remember that Muslims have to follow the Clear Signs, when there is no Clear Signs for the integrity of the Koran. Furthermore, the Koran has not been written down before quite some times after the death of Muhammed. The Koran would have been written in verses so that people can remember it and never modify it. Perhaps Muslims find it hard to modify verses, I do not find it that hard. We have no reason to think that nobody ever changes. We actually think it was actually changed. If you read the Koran you will discover it is messy, repetitive, disordered, etc. It does not look at all like revelations. Remember that Allah is All Knowing. Which means Allah could have just provided a MD5 hash of the Koran. It would have not been hard for him, and we would be sure of the integrity of the Koran. And it would have been easier to remember. One could argue that maybe Allah is All Knowing and maybe it means that all computable problems can be reduced to a linear complexity. But then changing verses is also linear. But OK, let's imagine we know it is from Muhammed. How do we know he was not helped by a literate person? Like Joseph Smith, Jr. We know too few to make clear conclusions. This is why this argument does not work. There is no proof.

  17. 17

    Arabic sounds like a really useless language if it can't be read aloud or record actual human thought.

  18. 18

    Whoa whoa whoa"The fact that Prophet Muhammad did not know how to read or write and was illiterate means he couldn't have possibly come up with the Koran (which is in readable material)""The quran was written in book form within a few years after the prophet's death."He freely admits Muhammad had no part in writing ANYTHING to do with the Qu'ran. Therefore, Muhammads literary skills are completely IRRELEVANT."There couldn't have possibly been a change or edit because any deviation in writting it would be easily detected by the people who memorized it at the time."Say what? How? What do they have to compare to? Muhammad never wrote an original copy so it's not like they can double check that that's what God said.

  19. 19
    Valentin David

    Aardvark> That is the trick. It was in verses, so people would supposedly not be able to modify it, and people had to know it by heart they could be sure to spot where someone else might have changed the Koran. But we know it does not work. There are still people who believe. They even reverse arguments. For example Muslims believe in the hadiths. They are not message of God. But it was written down by the same persons who wrote down the first written copy of the Koran. Which means that if you have to accept the Koran you have to trust the hadiths as well. Whereas if you said the hadiths were not written by Muhammad, so I cannot accept them, but these people who tried to write extra things which is against what the Koran says, also wrote the Koran, so how can I believe it?

  20. 20

    I feel like I am missing something here. This guy makes the comment:"The quran was written in book form within a few years after the prophet's death."As such what does it matter if Muhammad was illiterate or not, since he didn't write the book. Being able to read and write has nothing to do with being able to make up a story or not.

  21. 21
    Valentin David

    Rabbitpirate> What the Muslims believe is that Muhammad told the Koran and the first Muslims learned it by heart, and that what is now in the Koran is exactly what he said. Which means he would have talked in literate Arabic, which was not possible for him. Later, some caliphs tried to compile the Koran from the remaining people who knew it by heart. Of course it gave different versions. One day they decided to keep one version and burn the others. Not very convincing, I know.

  22. 22

    I was interested in the section of the email about the Arabic language, although I found it quite hard to understand exactly what Muhammad's (our authors') point was. To me it seemed like what he was trying to say was that written arabic and spoken arabic are two different languages.Looking into the matter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_Arabic) it appears (as Cyphern noted) that there are indeed two varieties – Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and Classical (or Qur'anic) Arabic (CA), CA being the parent language of MSA.One may reasonably infer that MSA did not exist at the time of the Qur'an and that at that time there was only CA, making this whole argument about written and spoken arabic a bit of a non-starter.

  23. 23

    Valentin David> Ok fair enough, but my Muhammad illiteracy point still stands then, which is good – because I like that one.

  24. 24

    This is all pretty damn silly.1. Muhammad did not write down any version, but went around reciting it.2. The language in which he recited it was? or was not? the same as the written language, which he supposedly did not know.3. People who heard Muhammad recite the Koran, then turned around and memorized it themselves.4. The first written version only appeared years after his death.5. This written version matched the version that people recognized, because they had memorized it.WHERE'S THE MIRACLE??? If so many people had memorized Muhammad's spoken version, what's so surprising in the fact that somebody wrote it down the same way they had memorized it?

  25. 25

    sincerity, my point exactly.how on earth would anyone know that the way the koran's author "spoke" was any different from the written word of the day? srsly, in writing the koran they were basically locking down the language, whether they knew it or not. i doubt they had any concept of a language's evolution anyway.this post hit home. it was the tower of babel story that got me being skeptical of xianity. even in 5th grade i understood that my family north of the city spoke differently than our family to the east. subtract telephones and add dozens of generations and you got totally different languages.

  26. 26

    "You may be able to talk arabic normal in conversation but you wont be able to make up stories that can be written down UNLESS you know how to read arabic. Now that I cleard this up we move to my argument."=====*facepalm*Alright I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you don't speak Arabic. Amirite? Most Muslim's can't, yet they still extol the virtues, perfection and difficulty of it, when in actual fact they have no idea. Everything you have said is wrong. I'm guessing you are attempting to distinguish between Classical Arabic (Quran) and MSA (modern standard). There is no difference in the way they are spoken except for some minor dialect differences (ie. slang in different areas) but the way they are written differs. Muhammad did you know that the original Quran as it was written did not contain any diacritical markings? It was up to the reader to decipher what Allah said and what he meant. I find it hard to believe that the creator of the universe would reveal his perfect, unchanged word in such a deficient language. Furthermore, because of the interpretation required, when the diacritical markings were added, it could have changed the intended meaning!"The fact that Prophet Muhammad did not know how to read or write and was illiterate means he couldn't have possibly come up with the Koran (which is in readable material)."=====Yes, because we all know that illiterate people are also deaf, mute & stupid. The fact of the matter is that the Quran is:* plageurized Bible stories (often repeated and/or misremembered so they differ).* plageurized pagan practices (Hajj, Ramadan, etc..)* the "give Muhammad everything he wants" verses* the "if you don't do what Muhammad says you will burn in hellThat's pretty much it. Since stories were passed around orally in Arabia at that time, we know Muhammad had access to hearing the stories so that explains where that came from. The rest is pretty obvious. WHY do you think an illiterate man could not come up with that?"You may say, well someone who knew how to read came up with the story and told Muhammad."=====I have already explained where Muhammad got the majority of the Quran from. However we know that Khadija's cousin Waraqa bin Naful (according to your own Sahih ahadith) used to "write the Hebrew scriptures" – so yes, it is quite likely that Muhammad also got information from him before he died. Incidentally, it was Waraqa who told Muhammad that the being he encountered in the cave (and who beat him up) was an Angel – and more specificially the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel). Interesting, no? You think this being would identify itself huh.ويكيإسلام

  27. 27
    John Burger

    Jesus spoke Aramaic, a Semitic language related to Arabic, and he had no problem expressing some of the most beautiful thoughts known to man. Anyone who has studied–and I dont mean just looked at–the Bible and the Koran knows the Koran is unintelligible. Its like someone found a Bible–read a few verses–and tried to make their own Bible based on some of the characters.This isnt a post to defend atheists though. I know you guys like to group together, in nervous laughter, praying God doesnt exist(or your screwed)–how about tonight…when no one is looking…you know so none of the friends you've been trying to impress dont see you…and ask God if Christ is real– and if he is– you will trust him.If you did that–God promises to put the gospel as a fact in your mind. This isnt Columbo boys. You dont believe because your too arrogant to ask. Not because of any other data. God made sure this is not about Data. If it was he would go on CNN right now. No..the vehicle chosen was Faith. Why? So no one could be coerced into choosing Him. [B]Picture all humanity before God. Picture 2 doors. One to hell and one to heaven. God is fully know to these humans–no Doubt. Who would walk into the door to hell. NONE.[/B]Has faith been displayed? NO. People have been coerced. You cant tell if people are really for God if all the facts are undisputed. Humanity would follow the devil himself through the door to heaven–its not a choice. So you allow doubt–maybe its true or maybe its not. Enough doubt so the people that are not for God will make up any excuse to deny it and the people who are for God to search for him, ask Him about Christ, and have the truth implanted in their minds.I wish you could see its not about who is smart enough to uncover enough clues. Its about who is a puppy and who is an arrogant, prideful self appointed god.Now, I know your thinking of a witty retort..something to feed your lust. How about this time..you ask God. Dont be afraid–remember though…if you do ask like a child–very soon everyone will be making fun of you too.

  28. 28

    ask God if Christ is realBeen there, done that, didn't get an answer. And I'm not the only one.You dont believe because your too arrogant to ask.You talk as if you know us, though you clearly don't, and then you have the gall to talk about arrogance?Look in a mirror, pal.No..the vehicle chosen was Faith. Why? So no one could be coerced into choosing Him.So you allow doubt–maybe its true or maybe its not.But he'll still kick us into hell for a bit of eternal torture if we make the wrong choice.Even though he gave us no hint whatsoever about which was the right choice.And before you say "it's obvious", so say all the other religions.They can't all be right, but they can all be wrong.

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