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November 1, 2014
It has been over a month since the debate between Dr. Shabir Ally and myself on the question
The Bible or the Quran Which is the Word of God?
In the past Dr. Ally and I have debated this subject before, as well as other topics, but I dont
ever recall receiving an evaluation by him of those debates, and particularly not one which was 9
pages long, and so replete with anxiety concerning the criteria of the debate.
There have been other Muslims who have responded to this debate as well (Paul Williams and
Mansur Ahmed in London, Yusuf Ismail in South Africa and and Ijaz Ahmad on Calling
Christians), and while none of them seem to be particularly happy with the outcome, they
respond with similar accusations. Rather than reply to each of them, I will simply respond to Dr.
Allys evaluation and challenges below, since it is with him that this debate is concerned.
The fact that on the two official E & AM sites1 over 25,000 people have already watched this
debate in the last month suggests it was indeed a popular debate, as I had hoped it would be, and
the reason I challenged Dr. Ally to debate this topic in January of this year.
Now to his evaluation:
Shabir begins his Evaluation by questioning the criteria I used in deciding whether the Bible or
the Quran is The Word of God, and returned to this theme time and again throughout the 9
pages, maintaining that historical manuscript evidence should not have been that criteria.
What he forgot, or perhaps chose not to remember was that when I challenged him to this debate
back in Jan. 25th of this year I had asked specifically to debate on the historical problems with the
Quranic canon. Let me quote from that e-mail:
I have been working on some new material concerning the authority of the Qur'an (when it was
conceived, written, and canonized), and would like to debate you on this material sometime later
this year (2014)
He agreed, and then on March 31st I suggested the topic: When was the Qur'an Canonized?
which he asked to change to Is the Quran the Word of God? followed by another debate on Is
the Bible the Word of God?
I responded that I wanted this debate to focus just on the new material coming out on the
Qur'an, since it is exciting, and there are a good number of people who are requesting such a
debate. We can do the Biblical topic at another time, to which he said we must question both
books, and thus the topic would be The Bible or the Quran-Which is the Word of God?; and


See: ( and


thats what we finally agreed upon, but no criteria was set between us either then or since. He
had all the right to ask questions about our Bible, and I had an equal right to keep this discussion
centered on the Quran, which I did.
I went first and introduced the three criteria Muslims, including Shabir, have always submitted
for the authority of their Quran, namely:
1) The Quran is Eternal,
2) It was written down Complete in 650 AD and
3) It is Unchanged since that time, and that Muslims could support this with complete
and unchanged manuscripts which we have access to even now (I quoted Shabir verbatim
on this claim in my introduction).
These are not just populist claims by Muslims today, but internal to the Quran itself. The Quran
offers proofs for its claim to be the word of God, one of which is that Allah will always keep it
free from all corruption: We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly
guard it (from corruption) (Surah 15:9), or No falsehood can approach it (the Quran) from
before or behind it: It is sent down by One Full of Wisdom, Worthy of all Praise (Surah 41:42).
This is why Muslims insist that the earliest manuscripts of the Quran, and every manuscript
since, match the current 1924 Egyptian text exactly and why Shabir himself, until this year,
used to. It is wrong, therefore, for him to say that the issue of the variants in the early Quranic
manuscripts is relevant only to the common Muslim belief that the Quran has not been changed
in any way. The manuscript variants speak to whether the Quran meets its own stated proof for
being the word of God, and that is certainly germane to the debate topic.
From the very outset it was these three claims about the Quran which I had wanted to debate,
since the new research on the historicity of the Quranic text now suggests that the Quran is
neither eternal, nor complete, nor unchanged, and therefore could not be a revelation from God,
but a mere document put together by men, not just in a period of 23 years, but possibly over a
period of a few centuries.
Shabir suggested his own criteria, which he had chosen from our Bible, namely:
1. The book should be divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21);
2. The books contents should be beneficial for teaching (2 Timothy 3: 16);
3. The book should not contain a false prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:22);
4. The book should not invite people to worship a god other than the God of the
Israelite forefathers (Deuteronomy 13:3); and
5. The book should not contain a major internal contradiction (Mark 3:25 and 1
Corinthians 14:33).
Those are certainly fine criteria to use, though interestingly, not the 7 criteria the early church
used for canonicity (i.e. Eyewitness Testimony, Apostolic authority, Antiquity, Usage,
Catholicity2, Orthodoxy, and Inspiration). Nonetheless, these were not the criteria I chose for this
debate. If at a later date Shabir would like to argue those 5 or 7 criteria, all of which the Bible

i.e. adopted by the entire church

fulfils, then someone else can do so, perhaps John Tors or Dr. Tony Costa, both of whom are
more than capable. They both live in Toronto, were at the debate, and know Shabir.
Whats interesting is that Christians do not necessarily apply to the Bible these same three
criteria Muslims apply to their Quran (i.e. eternality, complete and unchanged). We wouldnt
claim that the New Testament is eternal, since we know they were written by men, and we even
apply the authors names on some of their books. We would support that in their original form
they were complete, though many of us would admit some mistakes were made by copyists,
while a few verses were added in the intervening 2,000 years. Yet, since we have so many
manuscripts with which to compare, we can see where they are and weed them out. So Shabir
shouldnt insist I apply the same criteria to both scriptures, since we dont make the same claims
about both scriptures, as each book seeks to authenticate itself in different ways.
In effect, this debate was initiated with one criteria in mindto confront the notion that the
Muslims Quran (their Word of God) is:
Thats it! That was why I asked for the debate back in January 25, and I believe this debate has
proven that neither of the three claims can be legitimately made any longer.
Now, on to some other areas Shabir has focused on which should be resolved:
Let me say from the outset that I do believe in the Bible as the authoritative Word of Godyet,
in the words of men. We have been saying this for years, so it is nothing new. When talking to
Muslims (as I was in the debate), who claim eternality for their Quran, I find it easier to say that
the New Testament, which we call the Word of God is similar to their traditions (i.e. that Jesus
Sira would be the 4 Gospels, that Jesus Hadith would also be the 4 Gospels [the red letters], that
our Tafsir would be Pauls letters, and the Tarikh would be the book of Acts).
The equivalent for their Word of God, the Quran, would be our Word of God, Jesus Himself,
(Revelation 19:13), who became flesh (John 1:14). It is He who is indeed both Eternal,
Complete, and Unchanged. Interestingly the Quran calls Jesus a Word from Allah (3:39). So if
the Qur'an is also the Word of Allah, then this is an issue in Islam as well.
Yet, it is not quite as simple as that. Dr. Mark Durie has helped me articulate how the 'Word of
God' has different meanings in the Bible, as many expressions can have different meanings, and
uses the phrase 'Word of God' in a number of distinct ways:
1) To refer to prophecy, or a specific word given to a person from God (1 Kings 12:22, 1 Chron.
17:3). Yet often it is referred to as the 'Word of YAHWEH' ('word of the Lord'). There are
hundreds of references to the 'word of the lord'.

2) To refer to divine decree e.g. Psalm 33:6 - the creative word of God. Like prophecy.
3) To refer to scripture (Jesus used it this way): Matthew 15:6, Mark 7:13, John 10:35. Also, it
is used in 2 Chronicles 34:21.
4) To refer to the gospel message, preached and taught: Luke 3:2, Luke 5:1, Luke 8:11, Acts
4:31; Acts 12: 24, 1 Corinthians 14:36, with many further references in the New Testament.
According to Dr. Durie this is the dominant way in which the phrase 'word of God' is used in the
New Testament. It is also referred to as the 'word of the Lord' - e.g. Acts 13:48, or just 'the word'
- Acts 6:4, Acts 8:4, 11:19, 126:6, Romans 10:8, 2 Timothy 4:2 etc., or the 'word of life', etc.
5) To refer to Jesus as the Word of God. John's gospel references Jesus as "the Word"3. But
NOT the 'Word of God". It is only in one place, in Revelation, that Jesus is referred to as 'the
Word of God' (Rev. 19:13)
We shouldnt pit these meanings against each other and say that only one is the true meaning,
unless we are trying to apply them to the connotations Muslims use for their Word of God, as I
attempted in the debate. Interestingly, in the New Testament, the main usage of the 'word of God'
phrase is for the gospel preached, thus neither Jesus nor the scriptures are inferred, so that the
Word of God is the message of God to the world about Jesus.
While both Griffith and Donner are correct that many stories in the Quran were borrowed
accounts, what Shabir fails to understand is that these stories were considered as mere fables by
the Jews who wrote them, while the Quran and Muslims consider them both true and eternal.
Yet, we know when the original borrowed fables were written and by whom (i.e. from the later
Jewish apocryphal writings for the Old Testament stories, and from the 2nd 5th century AD
sectarian writings for the New Testament stories). Thus, they were created by individuals after
the two testaments were already canonized, and according to Dr. Andy Bannisters research,
were subsequently borrowed and incorporated into the Quran using the same similar formulae
of the earlier fables. The question is why those who compiled the Quran failed to use the
original stories from Gods earlier inspired canonical scriptures, even though they were in
existence when the Quran was written? Could it be because they were not yet translated into
Arabic, while the apocryphal accounts were easily accessible in the popular vernacular of that
period? If so, then once again, this suggests the Quran is not The Word of God, but merely the
borrowed words of men.
Since the debate, I have received numerous e-mails from both Christian and Muslims alike, and a
recurrent theme was their dismay that Shabir gave no legitimate response to the historical
challenges I posed against the early manuscript evidence, but spent most of his time pointing to
the supposed miracle of the recurrence of the number 19 in the verses of the Quran. What
shocked me even more was to find that in Shabirs subsequent evaluation of the debate he once


It is worth noting that it is the Word and not a Word as the Quran says

again returned to the number 19 as clear proof that the Quran was authoritative. Ironically, I was
wrong in assuming he went for 25 minutes on this subject in the debate; in fact he went on for
only 19 minutes! Could that be the miracle he was looking for?
Im not going to bother with a rebuttal to the number 19 argument here, since John Tors, who
was to have co-debated with me and was at the debate has written up an excellent rebuttal to
Shabirs view, not only proving that Shabirs math is wrong, but that the whole exercise is
flawed; and then underlines it by finding similar parallels with the number 7 (the perfect
number) in the Bible; yet never suggesting this points to a miracle (see accompanying
Interestingly, Shabir admits that he is not concerned with whether the 1924 Egyptian text is
identical to earlier manuscripts, thus admitting that in the past 1400 years the Quran was neither
complete, nor unchanged. That is indeed an enormous admission.
He goes on to claim that his miraculous number 19 can only be found in the 1924 Egyptian
edition, making it exclusively the inspired Word of God. Yet, another concession! Would he
accept that if similar mathematical patterns can be found in other books, they would qualify as
further Words of God?
By suggesting that only the 1924 Egyptian edition is miraculous Shabir has inadvertently
admitted that his Quran is less than 100 years old, and therefore not that of the prophet
Muhammads; yet again, another admission.
His hope is that someone at some time will somehow find a similar mathematical 19 miracle in
those early un-versed manuscripts. Had he looked closely at the early manuscripts he would
notice that most of them have little to no versification at all, and even when the verses were
finally introduced there was no consistency, which eradicates any possibility that a similar
miraculous 19 will be found.
Moving on to the manuscripts themselves, Shabir does admit that the Quran would not be
magical if we could prove that someone was deliberately and calculatedly putting the
patterns in the Quran [manuscripts]. But that is exactly what Dr. Brubaker has proved with the
over 800 corrections he has found and catalogued in his doctoral thesis, many of which continue
up to and including the 9th century.
Dr. Brubaker shows 7 different forms of corrections; including tapings, insertions, erasures,
erasures overwritten, overwriting without erasures, selective coverings, and selective coverings
which were overwritten, many with the apparent intention of standardizing the script to one
unified and conformed text sometime in the 8th or 9th centuries, or possibly later. Whats more,
these are not simple variant readings of the text, but consonantal differences within the 10
manuscripts Dr. Brubaker examined. Thus, many of these manuscripts at one time included words
and phrases which are different from the 1924 Egyptian text, supporting once again that the
Quran could not be the Word of God, but merely evolving words of men.

Finally, Shabir claims that the debate was not about the manuscript evidence; whether the early
manuscripts are exactly the same as the present 1924 edition, and that this was merely a red
herring which I introducedyet, that is exactly what this debate was about, and still is! The fact
that on just the two official E & AM sites over 25,000 people have already watched this debate in
the last month proves that this debate has been a real game-changer for both Muslims and
Christians, and especially for those of us who are holding Islam to account. I have never had as
many affirmative e-mails as I have since Sept. 27th, nor as many vitriolic responses from Muslims
upset with the material presented. It is this groundswell of interest (both for and against) which I
believe has led Shabir to write up his Evaluation of the Debate, something he has never done
before with any of our previous 5 debates.
Shabir has in the past always claimed that the Prophets 7th century Quran was identical to that
which is extant today. That is why I began my introduction with two quotes by Shabir from a
previous debate with Dr. Tony Costa where he claimed that not only the London based 2165
Mail Quran, but the Tashkent based Sammarqand manuscripts are both exactly identical and
that we find no difference from that copy with what were reading today.
I believe that with this debate we can now categorically conclude that:
1) There simply is no eternal Quran
2) That Muslims do not have a complete Quranic manuscript from 650 AD, or the 7th century
3) That there have been many changes to the Quran over the intervening years, standardizing and
unifying it, through improvements and corrections right up to the final 1924 Egyptian Canon.
We also know that this process included the destroying of older versions by order of Islamic
rulers which makes the historical unearthing of how the Qur'an was put together difficult, but not
Thus, in conclusion, I believe this debate has proven that the Quran is not The Word of God,
but appears to be nothing more than the words of mere mortals.
As for who Muhammad was, or what he did, and what history tells us concerning how Islam
began; that is for the next debate