The Koran vs Genesis
‘My name is Muhammad’, the young man said to a fellow student at university in Australia. ‘Muhammad?’, she replied, ‘Where have I heard that name before?’
After he, a Muslim, explained that Muhammad1 is the name of the ‘Great Prophet’ of Islam, the young lady, raised in a church-going family, asked about the differences between Islam and Christianity.
The Muslim man explained that probably the most fundamental difference is that the Koran2 speaks of Jesus as a prophet—definitely not the Son of God.
That evening, the Australian-born student told her father of the encounter, and asked, ‘Dad, I’ve been thinking … our bodies are unclean! Why would God, who is pure, sully himself by coming down to Earth in human form?’
After her father failed to give a reasoned answer, she turned her back on the church, converted to Islam and later married a Muslim.3
Such a question requires only a basic understanding of the Atonement to answer. Salvation required a sacrificial ‘last Adam’ (1 Cor. 15:45) to shed His blood in death, one who was a physical descendant of the first, yet sinless. This could be fulfilled only through God incarnate, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:12, 22). Notice, though, how all this is built upon the foundational Genesis truths of the first Adam bringing in sin and death, and the first shedding of blood as a covering for sin (Genesis 3:21). The increasing confusion caused in the church by long-age compromises (which, by putting suffering, death and bloodshed before Adam, undermine these truths) is a major reason why so many today cannot give reasoned answers to basic Gospel-related questions (contravening1 Peter 3:15). This leaves young people in the church vulnerable to being tossed by winds of false doctrine (Ephesians 4:14).
Following September 11, 2001, the increased prominence of Islam in the media, and public declarations by government (and many church) leaders that Islam is a ‘great’ religion, will likely raise further questions in the minds of many young people in the churches. E.g. ‘Do Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God?’ and ‘What does the Koran say about the Bible?’
Many Christian commentators have sought to raise awareness of fundamental doctrinal differences between the Koran and the Bible (see below), but few people are aware of how the Muslim’s holy book starkly contradicts the Biblical account of our origins.
Creation, The Fall, Flood and Babel
Genesis provides a unified description of Creation; the Koran does not. Instead, fragmented passages are scattered across many of its 114 chapters (‘Sura’). The tables (below) attempt to assimilate these fragments for a clearer picture of what the Koran says, compared to the Bible.
The many contradictions highlighted in these tables surely demolish any claims that the ‘revelation’ given to Muhammad is not a corruption of, but reliably builds upon, Judeo-Christian history.
For instance, the Koranic account prohibits Adam from going anywhere near the Forbidden Tree, while Genesis says that God only commanded Adam not to eat its fruit (see Table 2). (Man had been placed in the garden to tend it (Genesis 2:15), which seems to require physical access to each tree for e.g. pruning.) Interestingly, the Bible relates that Eve, who was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14), had misconstrued God’s instruction to not eat of the fruit from the tree to instead also mean not to touch it (Genesis 3:3). Yet Eve’s distorted view, obviously wrong, is portrayed as truth in the Koran [update: see Did Eve lie before the Fall?—Ed.].
The Biblical account of origins also makes more sense of today’s world than does the Koran—e.g. the presence of sin, violence, death and the origin of languages (and concomitant minor ‘racial’ differences). The Bible explains why the whole creation is so obviously groaning, in bondage to decay (Romans 8:19–22). In contrast, the Koran makes God responsible for death and suffering (see Tables 1 and 2), in common with long-age and evolutionary Christian views, and Eastern religions.
The Koran and evolution
With the increased adoption of evolution-based curricula, some Muslim leaders and scholars began to recognize the threat to Islam from a rising tide of evolutionary thinking. Their response has been either to attack evolution, or, more commonly, to blend it with Islam.
1. The Islamic creationists
The creationist Muslims claim that ‘The theory [of evolution] and the holy Qur’an are in direct conflict with each other and no compatibility is possible anywhere.’4 New Scientist reported that Islamic creationist books cite and copy Christian creationists, but with Biblical references deleted.5
2. The Islamic evolutionists
Evolution-believing Muslims seem to be far more numerous, and vocal, than creationist Muslims.
They have a substantial strategic advantage precisely because the Koran is so vague, nebulous and seemingly open to various interpretations.6 They delight in pointing out that, in contrast, ‘There is absolutely no ambiguity whatsoever in the Biblical description of the Creation in six days followed by a day of rest, the sabbath, analogous with the days of the week.’7 These evolution-accommodating Muslims are adamant that the ‘days’ of Creation in the Koran ‘mean in reality “very long Periods, or Ages, or Aeons”?’.7
Muslim apologists gleefully point out that the Koran is compatible with evolution where the Bible is not, e.g.: ‘Neither here nor anywhere else in the Holy Qur-án is it affirmed that Adam was the first man, or that there was no creation by God before Adam, nor that Adam lived or man was created, or the earth made, only six thousand years ago.’8,9 Long-age Muslims exploit the Bible’s explicit detail of the Flood, too. They say that because the Bible clearly says there was a recent global Flood, while ‘science’ says there was not, the Bible is wrong and the Koran is thus confirmed to be right!10 Some of the Muslim literature even claims that the Koran shows that Allah revealed to Muhammad details about the ‘big bang’, ancient universe and evolution long before scientists began to ‘discover’ such ‘facts’.11
In the same way that being aware of evolutionary challenges to our faith helps us to be ready with answers,12 so, too, we need to be aware of what religions, including Islam, actually say, in order to be better prepared to answer our children’s questions.13 When men teach things that are contrary to the Bible, we are commanded to actively oppose such ideas (2 Corinthians 10:5). Christians need to be ready to help guide young people through the kinds of ‘intellectual crisis of faith’ that many confront in their teenage years—whether because of exposure to evolutionary teaching, or to other religions.
Knowing that the Word of God accurately explains our world ahead of all opposing ideas not only strengthens our own faith, but gives us the confidence to reach out in love to challengers—including Muslims.
Using Genesis to reach Muslims?
Just as the Apostle Paul used Athenian beliefs to draw his Greek listeners to the truth of the Gospel (Acts 17:22–23, 28), Christians could use a similar approach when talking with Muslims. One could start by reminding the Muslim that the Koran says that the Scriptures of Jews and Christians were given by God, e.g. Koran 2:87—‘We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of Apostles; We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit.’ Similarly, in Koran 6:91, the Book given to Moses is described as ‘a light and guidance to man …’ .
So why so many irreconcilable differences between Genesis 1–11 and the Koran? A Muslim might say that today’s copies of the Bible have been corrupted. But the earliest Biblical manuscripts (e.g. in the British Museum14) date from before Muhammad, demonstrating the reliability of our current copies.
A further challenge for the Muslim would concern the presence of death, suffering, grief, etc., in the world. Consider the following exchange between American TV host Larry King and Georgetown University’s Islamic professor of theology, Maysam Al-Faruqi:
KING: Maysam, if you believe in heaven and paradise, then dying is good?
AL-FARUQI: Absolutely. And dying is perfectly natural, it’s the end of things.
KING: Why do we treat it tragically? … …
AL-FARUQI: Well, there is the pain …15
So in this Muslim (also theistic evolutionary) view of death as ‘perfectly natural’, why grieve and wail at the death of a loved one? The Islamic professor’s answer, ‘Well, there is the pain …’ begs the question: ‘So pain and suffering are a “natural”? part of God’s good (Koran 32:7) creation, too?’ Clearly, Muslims have no satisfactory answer.
But the Bible explains that death, violence, pain and decay entered a once-perfect Creation as a result of Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:17, 3:19; Romans 5:12–17; 8:19–22; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22). Thankfully, this situation is only temporary, as God gave his Son, Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, that those who believe in Him can look forward to the coming restoration, to a world with ‘no more death, mourning, crying or pain’, i.e. no more Genesis Curse (John 1:18, 3:16; Acts 3:21; Revelation 21:4, 22:3).
Key differences between the Bible and the Koran
Table 1. Creation
|The Bible Says:||The Koran says:|
|Man was created on Earth, in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8).||Man was created in Paradise (‘janna’),1 not on Earth (first couple later banished to Earth, e.g. Koran 2:36).|
|The Bible describes clearly what was made on each day of Creation Week. The ‘Big Bang’ is excluded by this sequence (E.g. Earth before Sun).||No clear details of each creation day. Some vague clustering of the days in 41:9–12.2|
|Creation in 6 Days which are clearly Earth-rotation days (c. 24 hours).||Creation also in 6 ‘Days’2 but could easily be interpreted as ‘millions of years’ (see main text).|
|Man and the animals were created vegetarian (Genesis 1:29–30). No death and suffering in the original creation.||Carnivory (and thus death and suffering) apparently integral to life on the created Earth from the first. The Koran (6:142, 16:5, 40:79) says that cattle were created for man to eat.|
|Man was created naked (but not ashamed—Genesis 2:25).||The Koran speaks of Adam’s (and his wife’s) nakedness becoming apparent to them after they sinned (20:121; also implied by 7:22), yet also implies that they were wearing some kind of raiment prior to the Fall (Koran 7:273).|
|All things were created through Christ and for Christ. He was pre-existent to Creation (e.g. Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7; Micah 5:2; John 1:1–3, 10; 3:13; 6:62; 8:35, 58; 17:5, 24; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16–17; Hebrews 1:2).||Jesus Christ was a created being. Koran 3:59 ‘The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; he created him from dust … .’|
References and notes for Table 1
Table 2. Corruption (The Fall of man)
|The Bible Says:||The Koran says:|
|Prior to sin, Adam and Eve given free access to fruit of the ‘Tree of Life’ (Genesis 2:9, 16–17).||The ‘Tree of Eternity’ (equated with giving eternal life in 7:20, hence comparable to the Biblical Tree of Life) was the Forbidden Tree (20:120).|
|Forbidden tree clearly identified as ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’. ‘And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”?’ (Genesis 2:16–17)||No mention of the name ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’. Koran 7:19 ‘O Adam! Dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and enjoy (its good things) as ye wish: But approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression.’ (Also 2:34).|
|Snake/serpent in Eden (Genesis 3).||No mention of snake or serpent in the Koran (except for a reference to Moses’ stick-to-snake transformation).|
| The serpent enticed Eve, denying she would die. (Genesis 3: 1–5)
‘“You will not surely die,”? the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”?’
|Satan enticed Adam and his wife. Koran 20:120 ‘But Satan whispered evil to him: He said, “O Adam! Shall I lead thee to the Tree of Eternity1 and to a kingdom that never decays?”?’ Koran 7:20–21 ‘Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them … He said: “Your Lord only forbade you this tree, lest ye should become angels or such beings as live forever.”?’|
|‘The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve, and clothed them.’ (Genesis 3:21)||‘Raiment’ mentioned, but no mention of skin (Koran 7:26).|
|After the Fall, Adam and Eve still on Earth, but barred from Eden (Genesis 3:23–24).||Adam and Eve were shifted from Paradise (not on Earth) down to Earth (7:24, also 2:36).|
|After the Fall, man will now eat ‘through painful toil’ and (as a result of the Curse on the land) ‘by the sweat of your brow’ (Genesis 3:17, 19).||Toil and sweat were an integral part of the original created Earth. Koran 90:4 ‘Verily We have created man to toil and struggle.’|
|Death is an ‘enemy’, that entered after Adam sinned. (Genesis 2:17; 3:19; Romans 5:12, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22, 26).||No reference in the Koran to death being an ‘enemy’, or anything other than an integral part of the original created Earth.|
|Ground now ‘cursed’; the whole creation now ‘groaning’, in ‘bondage to decay’. (Genesis 3:17 ; Romans 8:20–22; Revelation 22:3).||Apparently, the ‘bad things’ are not a consequence of the Fall, but integral to the original Creation.|
Reference for Table 2
Table 3. Catastrophe (Noah’s Flood)
|The Bible Says:||The Koran says:|
|Noah was the tenth generation from Adam (Genesis 5:3–32; Luke 3:36–38). Other Biblical genealogies allow us to date the Flood to around 4,300 years ago.||No clear genealogies are given.|
|Ark was sealed with ‘pitch’ (possibly tree resin1—Genesis 6:14).||Ark caulked with palm fibre (Koran 54:13–14).|
|Bible gives Ark dimensions (Genesis 6:14–16).||No mention of Ark size.|
|Duration of rain (40 days/nights), time afloat (150 days), total duration (370 days) of Flood (Genesis 7:12, 24; 8:4, 14).||No mention of any time periods for the Flood.|
|Eight people survived the Flood (1 Peter 3:20), i.e. all of Noah’s family (Genesis 7:1, 7).||The number on board is not mentioned. The Koran claims one of Noah’s sons was drowned (11:42–43), and puts a question mark over whether Noah’s wife survived (66:10, 11:40).2|
|Man granted permission to eat meat after the Flood (Genesis 9:3).||Man ate meat on Earth from the beginning (6:142, 16:5, 40:79).|
|‘I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. … Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.’ (Genesis 9:11–17)||There is no mention of the rainbow, or its significance, anywhere in the Koran.|
References for Table 3
Table 4. Confusion (Origin of languages)
|The Bible Says:||The Koran says:|
|Before God confused the tongues at Babel, the whole world had one language and a common speech (Genesis 11:1–9).||No mention of there ever being a single common language, or of the Tower of Babel.|
|After being scattered from Babel, people congregated into clans and nations, each with their own languages (Genesis 10:5, 20, 31).||Regarding the different languages, the Koran (30:22) says: ‘And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors …’|
A very different deity
To list all instances where the Koran contradicts the Bible would take very many pages. But the following examples suffice to show how Koranic teaching is utterly incompatible with the Bible:
- The Bible says that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ (John 14:6, Acts 4:12), while the Koran says that only through Islam (obedience to Allah and his prophet Muhammad) can one avoid the ‘Blazing Fire’ (Koran 3:85; 48:13).
- The Koran denies Christ’s death and Resurrection. Various passages in the Koran (e.g. 4:155–159) say that Allah made it appear to the Jews as if Jesus was crucified—in the meantime, Allah took Jesus up to Heaven.
- While the Bible says that as descendants of Adam, all are born with a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23), the Muslim view is that man is born innocent.1 The Koran refers to sin as ‘earned’ (4:111, 6:120, 24:11).
- The Koran denies that God is Triune (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).2 (Muslims do not address God as ‘Father’, believing that no man can be a ‘son’ of God.) ‘… and the Christians call Christ the Son of Allah. … Allah’s curse be on them: How they are deluded away from the Truth!’ (9:30–31).
- While the Bible says that it is by grace that we are saved through faith alone, ‘not by works lest any man should boast’ (Ephesians 2:8–9), the Koran (23:102–103) tells a very different story: ‘Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy, —they will attain salvation: But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls; in Hell will they abide.’
- While the Bible calls Christians to ‘go and make disciples of all nations …’ (Matt. 28:19), this is to be done ‘with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15)—Christians do not use the weapons of the world to preach the Gospel (2 Corinthians 10:3–5). But for Muslims, a very different approach is prescribed in the Koran. E.g. ‘… then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them …’ (9:5). And, ‘… I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: Smite ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them.’ (8:12)
- While the Bible instructs a husband never to be harsh with his wife and to sacrificially love her ‘as Christ loved the church’, and not to deprive one another (1 Corinthians 7:5; Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19); the Koran (4:34) says: ‘As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them … .’
- The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). The Koran does not.
References and notes
- E.g. a Muslim Web site expounding this view: Al-Kahtany, A.H., The truth about the original sin, www.al-sunnah.com/truth.htm, 1 November 2001.
- For an interesting account of how a Christian fluent in Arabic and familiar with Islamic thought managed to engage an Egyptian Muslim in conversation about the basis for a Triune God, see: The spirit of Islam, www.thespiritofislam.com/text/Q47.html, 9 November 2001.
Muslims claim to respect Jesus and other Biblical figures, which has caused many to think Islam may be an ‘additional’ revelation from the Creator, building on a Biblical foundation. However, the differences between the Koran and the Bible are massive, beginning with the foundational history in Genesis, upon which the Gospel is squarely based. This evidence is consistent with the Christian claim that the Bible is the Creator’s truthful, sole revelation, and that the Koran, despite some superficial resemblances, is a radical departure from its teaching.
The Bible teaches of a God of love for whom death and suffering were not a part of His original creation; sin caused the world to fall from original perfection. By contrast, and in common with theistic evolutionary corruptions of Bible doctrine, the Koranic view of death and suffering has them as intrinsic to creation, a natural part of the way things are. Not surprisingly, therefore, the worldview of Islam leads to a radically different understanding of the nature of God, humanity, salvation and the world in general. This must affect not merely the stance of individuals, but entire cultures.
References and notes
- Alternative spelling: ‘Mohammed’. We use here the spellings of the 1935 Yusuf Ali translation of the Koran from The Word Online Bible CD. Return to text.
- Alternative spelling: Qur’an (also: Quran, Qur-an, Qur’an, Qur-án). Return to text.
- Though only loosely based on an ABC Radio (Australia) Encounter program, 19 March 2001, similar stories abound today. Return to text.
- Sheikh Mohammed Shihabuddin Nadvi, Evolution or Creation? www.witness-pioneer.org/vil/Books/SN_evolution/default.htm, 21 November 2001. Return to text.
- Mackenzie, D., Unnatural selection, New Scientist 166(2235):34–39, 2000. Return to text.
- The Koran can also accommodate different views in other areas. Muslims eager to promote Islam as a religion of ‘peace’ have quoted publicly only Koranic passages that apparently speak gently of non-Muslims, ignoring other passages commanding Muslims to wage ‘jihad’ against them. Return to text.
- The Creation of the Heavens and the Earth: Differences from and resemblances to the Biblical description, www.witness-pioneer. org/vil/Books/MB_BQS/16creation.htm, 16 November 2001. Return to text.
- Maulvi Muhammad Ali, The Holy Qur-án, containing the Arabic text with English translation and commentary, 3rd edition, Ahmadiyya Anjuman-I-Ishaat-I-Islam, Lahore, Punjab, India, p. 24 (footnote 52), 1935. Return to text.
- Genesis is dismissed as ‘myth’ by some Muslims. The Islamic View of Creation, www.ldolphin.org/islamcreat.html, 21 November 2001. Return to text.
- E.g. Is the Qur’an the Bible’s Savior? www. geocities.com/Athens/Agora/4229/koran. html, 4 December 2001. Return to text.
- E.g. Bucaille, M., The Bible, The Qur’an and Science, www.witness-pioneer.org/vil/Books/MB_BQS/default.htm, 16 November 2001. Return to text.
- Ham, K., I have the Bible—what more do I need? Creation 15(2):28–30, 1993. Return to text.
- A very helpful resource is Gitt, W., What about the other religions? CLV press, Bielefeld, Germany, 1994. Return to text.
- Extant Early Manuscripts of the Bible, www.westminster.edu/staff/brennie/mss.htm, 11 December 2001. Return to text.
- CNN Larry King Weekend, www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0112/01/lklw.00.html, 11 December 2001 (broadcast 1 December 2001). Return to text.