I have found this story confusing from the beginning as far as its supposed embarrassment value to Muslims. As far as I can see (correct me if I'm wrong) the *range* of dates given *includes* most (all?) of the life of Mohammad, so the finding is entirely consistent with the conclusion that this animal skin does *not* predate Mohammad. So who really cares that the range *begins* before Mohammad? I mean, so what? If the other historical evidence is that at least the writing on it *doesn't* predate Mohammad, why make a big deal about the fact that it is now theoretically possible that it *could*? I mean, no Christian would take it as a big blow to Christianity if some ancient manuscript were found for which the material out of which it was made was carbon dated to a _range_ that _included_ some years prior to Christ. We would say, "Yeah, that's why it's a range."Second, it seems like an obvious point that what the pages are written on isn't the same thing as dating the writing, anyway. Does this dating range even apply to the application of the ink?Third, if anything, this would seem to confirm the earliness of the writing of the Koran. Again, in Christian terms, the discovery of a manuscript of one of the gospels for which the physical materials could be dated within the life of Christ would be seen as hugely supportive of Christianity, not undermining it.It seems like the only thing this might undermine (if it applies to the ink) is the tradition in Islam that this stuff was _not_ written down in Mohammad's lifetime. But why should they hang on to that? They can just say, "Oh, it was written down even sooner than we thought. All the better."
I had similar thoughts along the lines of what Lydia McGrew wrote. She just expressed them better. Also, this issue is similar to the historic claim of Seventh Day Adventism (SDA) that E.G. White's revelations were straight from God, even though later investigation and research demonstrates that she plagiarized other people's works. SDA defenders argue that back then there were no copyright laws like we have now and therefore there was no moral or legal transgression involved. Critics object that that doesn't matter since White's claims were that her revelations were directly from God and therefore clear instances of copying other works (sometimes word for word, paragraph for paragraph) invalidates her claim that she was inspired since they aren't new teachings but old and recycled. SDA advocates then respond by saying there's nothing wrong with God guiding someone to take uninspired texts written by others and elevate them to the level of White's inspiration. Muslims could do the same thing.Also, Muslims could point out that even some (liberal and conservative) Christian scholars admit (or are willing to grant) that some OT texts have been borrowed from pagan sources or were written in specific opposition to pagan sources with the name of the deity replaced with Yahweh's. For example, the author of Genesis seems to allude to pagan creation myths and then opposes and corrects it with the true account. Or think of the story of the flood. Or of Baal universally being understood to be the deity who rides the clouds in semitic cultures and Israelites later adopting and correcting that by applying to Yahweh. Similar things have been said concerning the Psalms and other OT wisdom literature like Proverbs etc. Even Paul cited pagan philosophers to make his point.I don't know how similar or exact the new textual discoveries are to the received Qur'anic text, but it's also true that similarity doesn't necessitate literary dependence or causation.So, it seems to me that Muslims have an escape hatch. Finally, since, Muslims can be just as presuppositional as Christians (or more, and irrationally so), some Muslims won't even look at the evidence or dismiss it off hand. So, at best these new discoveries can only confirm the beliefs of those who already reject Islam. They won't really provide a Muslim good reasons to question Islam's truth. It seems to me that a more effective apologetic is to apply internal critiques of Islam which show its internal inconsistency and contradictions (as Sam Shamoun and David Wood do).
I should have said it seems that Muslims have multiple escape hatches. Also, in addition to internal critques, Shamoun/Wood also apply tu quoque arguments to show that certain arguments Muslims make in objection to Christianity can be turned around and applied to their own Islamic view (often with greater force). In which case, Muslims should drop that line of argumentation, or admit that Islam is wrong.
This is the same kind of tactic usually used against Christianity. We discover X to be true. X is compatible with some theory that conflicts with Christianity. So Christianity must be wrong. They're just directing the fallacious reasoning against Muslims this time. You'd never get that from the U.S. press (or European for that matter), but in Israel it's thoroughly unsurprising.Religion reporters need logic classes.
Yes, that's well put. To say that the discovery is _compatible_ with a claim that would conflict with Islam doesn't mean that the discovery even disconfirms Islam. This is not a bandwagon I want to jump on.
Lydia and Jeremy make good points, but as we all know, Christianity and Islam do not have a one-to-one correspondence.Islam’s doctrines of text and inspiration are…a bit more extreme than ours.The vast majority of orthodox Muslims will reject, totally, even the most banal observations of the Quranic text (clear reliance on late, heretical Jesus traditions, pre-Islamic Arabic poetry and other literature). They don’t believe this can be squared with the Qur’an’s self-testimony as being without literary peer anywhere at any time. Therefore even the bare possibility of material later preserved in the Qur’an appearing before the Qur’an would be regarded by Muslims as disastrous.Muslims also load their early non-Quranic traditions with far greater significance than anything in Christianity (even my love for the apostolic fathers and early apologists can’t compare). These traditions are what Muslims point to and say “See Christians? This is what we’ve got that you don’t. Early, unified, widespread, controlled historical data that shows how the Qur’an was given and promulgated.” So a Muslim (unless you’re one of those marginalized “Qur’an only” Muslims) could not simply shrug and say “Gosh I guess those early traditions got it wrong.”Finally this is useful, at least as it pertains to how Muslims typically treat heretical or anti-Christian sources.
Claiming something is without literary peer is a subjective judgment and conservative Muslim apologists have been willing to reject wholesale or bend/tweek long held traditional Islamic views and interpretations to get around difficult objections that challenge the truth of Islam. For example, originally Muslims believed that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures would confirm the truth of their faith. Then when it was discovered they don't, they changed their apologetic and started alleging that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures have been corrupted. Another example is the fact that traditionally many Islamic scholars believed Jesus was not put on the cross and that somebody else was made to look like him and *that* person was put on the cross."...And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them...."- Qur'an, Surat An-Nisā' 4:157Now some Islamic apologists reject the traditional interpretation and are willing to allow Jesus being crucified, only that he didn't actually die on the cross. I think Shabir Ally is one of those who takes this as a possible and more plausible interpretation. Presumably he does so because the historical evidence for Jesus' crucifixion is so overwhelming that it's the one historically reliable fact about Jesus that virtually all scholars agree with. Sam Shamoun and David Wood have documented many other instances where modern and even earlier (but not the earliest) Muslims have been willing to bend or reject their traditional views and arguments to 1. fit the facts, 2. escape objections targeted at Islam, 3. to better attack Christianity et cetera. Also Islamic tradition isn't monolithic. Like the Christian church Fathers, islamic sources (including sometimes the earliest and most reliable) often contradict each other. Finally, even though Islam is probably one of the hardiest religions in warding off liberalizing influences, it's still slowly seeping into mainstream Islam. That's partly why the differences between Muslims in the modern world are in some locations causing more aggression, wars and infighting among themselves.
BTW, while modern Muslims believe that the Jewish/Christian Scriptures have been corrupted, they still think there's some vestiges of truth in the Bible which do point to and confirm Islam. As I understand it, the original view did not teach the corruption of the Bible but affirmed their preservation as the preserved written words of Allah. Why else would the Qur'an itself teach Christians and Jews should judge by their Scriptures the truth of Islam (see for example David Wood's lecture HERE).
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Also, as I understand it, originally a few Islamic sources admitted there were textual variants in the Qur'an in the form of alternate, or missing, or lost, or destroyed, or disputed suras and/or ayahs in the Quranic text. I'm not even including the notorious Satanic Verses. Later Islamic orthodoxy denied such variants. Then later on some of those variants were acknowledged to exist but often considered as not being true variants in the text itself, but variations in their recitation due to differences in regional dialects. Again this suggests there exists a flexibility in Islamic apologetics that can adapt to new contradictory evidence and argumentation.
"So a Muslim (unless you’re one of those marginalized “Qur’an only” Muslims) could not simply shrug and say “Gosh I guess those early traditions got it wrong.”"But which early tradition would this even challenge? An early tradition that says these things were *not* written down during Mohammad's lifetime?Waiving the question of the ink vs. the page, is that really an important early tradition to them? Wouldn't it be even _better_ to say that these things _were_ written down during Mohammad's lifetime?
Annoyed:“and conservative Muslim apologists have been willing to reject wholesale or bend/tweek long held traditional Islamic views and interpretations to get around difficult objections”Yeah, but those who do, like Shabir Ally, only highlight how very small dissenting opinions within Islam are. Muslims are pretty united in terms of how important the Qur’an and the early hadith collections are. Now they may disagree about which hadith are genuine, but they all agree they need them to know what was going on with the Quranic text. “For example, originally Muslims believed that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures would confirm the truth of their faith. Then when it was discovered they don't, they changed their apologetic and started alleging that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures have been corrupted.”The two views are based on Quranic exegetical differences, actually, and both appear pretty early. The Qur’an speaks favorably of the Law and the Gospel, but argues its been added to. Some take this to mean the Scriptures were not being interpreted correctly, but other take the total textual corruption view. Though I can’t remember the guy’s name, as early as the 10th century a Muslim thinker in Spain was arguing for the textual corruption of the Bible, not merely it being misunderstood. The discovery of radical redaction criticism in the 19th century by Muslim thinkers and the subsequent spread of these teachings amongst modern Muslims by folks like Deedat is what has made it the standard now.“Also Islamic tradition isn't monolithic.”True, but Muslims don’t believe this, and that’s where posts like this are useful. We demonstrate the Islamic double-standard by them.“Also, as I understand it, originally a few Islamic sources admitted there were textual variants in the Qur'an in the form of alternate, or missing, or lost, or destroyed, or disputed suras and/or ayahs in the Quranic text. I'm not even including the notorious Satanic Verses. Later Islamic orthodoxy denied such variants. Then later on some of those variants were acknowledged to exist but often considered as not being true variants in the text itself, but variations in their recitation due to differences in regional dialects.”There is a great deal of confusion in the early sources, true. Some suggest whole surahs were lost or simply forgotten. Of course Muslims believe Uthman rectified all of this, but this is, again, why Muslims should be far more nervous about the discovery of early textual data than they should be excited. They’re the ones who’ve built Bukhari and Muslim up, if the traditions are wrong, then what’s right?Lydia:“But which early tradition would this even challenge? An early tradition that says these things were *not* written down during Mohammad's lifetime?”Precisely. The whole reason for the Uthmanic Revision was that the Qur’an had not yet been standardized across the entire Muslim world (see Bukhari 6:507-510). There’s massive contradictions in the early sources about lost readings etc, but the point is it’s Islam itself that has made these traditions as important as the Qur’an (whether they want to admit it or not).“Waiving the question of the ink vs. the page, is that really an important early tradition to them? Wouldn't it be even _better_ to say that these things _were_ written down during Mohammad's lifetime?”Not necessarily. The reason Muslims have come to value these traditions so highly, as I said before, is that they believe it gives them an unbroken chain to the original text of the Qur’an. They compare this to what they perceive as the lazy, haphazard and unprofessional method by which the NT was transmitted.
Muslims are pretty united in terms of how important the Qur’an and the early hadith collections are. Now they may disagree about which hadith are genuine, but they all agree they need them to know what was going on with the Quranic text. Do the various hadith claim to exhaustively detail everything regarding the origination, collation and preservation of the Qur'an or even of its own traditions? I get the impression they don't. Only the Qur'an is considered the Word of God, and they don't see the hadith as inspired. Even those considered most reliable (al-Bukhari and Muslim). True, but Muslims don’t believe this, and that’s where posts like this are useful. We demonstrate the Islamic double-standard by them.Are you referring to the average ignorant Muslim or the knowledgeable yet still conservative Muslim? The former have a naive (cut and dried) understanding of the early collation of the Qur'anic text. But even the latter who know the damaging/incriminating things recorded in the various hadith aren't bothered by them. Why should this new discovery bother them? Where or what exactly is the double-standard you're claiming? You've virtually agreed to my assertion that there's a flexibility to Islamic apologetics that can adapt to disconfirmatory evidence. If the Uthmanic revision/suppression doesn't bother them, why would the new discovery? I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you. The article on the new discovery was too vague (i.e. lacking specifics) for me to dogmatically conclude it would or should cause a Muslim to seriously question the truth of his faith. What exactly is your claim regarding to the new discovery? The reason Muslims have come to value these traditions so highly, as I said before, is that they believe it gives them an unbroken chain to the original text of the Qur’an.Exactly. To them the primary advantage of having the hadith is that it gives them warranted assurance of the preservation of the Qur'an. But while the hadith tell us how Muhammad sometimes received revelation, it doesn't (AFAIK) tell us every instance of how or when a specific revelation (as recorded in the Qur'an) was received. Or whether there can be absolutely no earlier source upon which it could have been based. It's not like Islam believes there were no previous revelations prior to Muhammad. In fact, they believe the opposite. That there have been previous revelations and Muhammad's is the final and greatest of Allah's revelations. Muhammad's reforms and denunciation of polytheism was a back-to-the-true-God movement. If the Qur'an is able to certify the reliability of at least some of the OT and NT Scriptures, why couldn't it have done so with other previous revelations not recorded in the OT or NT and then have recorded them in the Quran (e.g. the new discoveries)? That is, unless the new discoveries are of suras and/or ayahs which the hadith records the circumstances of their revelation to Muhammad and that it would conflict with any of the previous hypothetical scenarios I've postulated previously above. But even then, the hadith aren't considered infallible. Their value is not so much their in their specific/particular statements but their collective general witness to the authenticity of the Qur'an and the life and character of their prophet.
This is also why apparent contradictions in al-Bukhari and Muslim (the most reliable of the hadith) don't bother Muslims. They believe they can answer those alleged contradictions, but that even if they couldn't that wouldn't be problematic since they aren't inspired.
"The reason Muslims have come to value these traditions so highly, as I said before, is that they believe it gives them an unbroken chain to the original text of the Qur’an."Couldn't they argue that this is a fragment of that original text?