Muslims insist that the Koran is the word of God and that it has remained unchanged.
But the very first Sura shows this is not the case. That Sura is called the Fatiha; it is short and is plainly a prayer addressed to Allah by humans, not something Allah is revealing to humans. It runs as follows (in the King Fahd translation):
- In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful.
- All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists)
- The most gracious, the Most merciful
- The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (ie the day of resurrection)
- You (Alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help (for each and everything)
- Guide us to the Straight Way
- The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not the way of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians)
While Maulana Wahiduddin Khan does not comment, the common explanation offered for the fact that the Fatiha is a prayer addressed to Allah is that the word ‘Say’ is to be understood at the beginning, so that the Fatiha then becomes a prayer taught by Allah to humans.
However, there is evidence for early versions of the Koran in which the Fatiha was not considered part of the text of the Koran at all. The evidence is in the lists of the Suras included in these early variant versions. The versions themselves were suppressed, so we do not have copies, but the oldest commentators on the Koran had these versions before them, and their Koran began with Sura 2 (al-Baqara). Other ancient manuscripts are understood either to have the Fatiha written on the cover at the beginning as an introductory prayer but not as part of the Koran, or else it has been inscribed at the end of the text.
A similar argument applies for the last two Suras 113 and 114. Both these are in the form of prayer to Allah, but in these cases the word ‘Say’ has been placed at the beginning of the Sura, so as to make it plausibly the word of Allah. The word ‘Say’ is suspected of having been added to the text in a number of other places too by later editors in an attempt to ensure the text conformed to the Tradition that the Koran is the word of Allah.
The fact of the suppression of earlier versions of the Koran is itself an indication that the Koran has not always been as it is now.
Who actually is speaking?
The reader of the Koran is not always sure who is speaking: God or Muhammad. It seems as if it is Muhammad who is speaking much of the time.
Some verses look like Muhammad describing God eg 6.100ff, especially when he says in 6.102 “Such is Allah your Lord. There is no God except Him..”
Others like 6.114 are clearly Muhammad talking about God:
Shall I seek other than Allah for judge when it is he Who has revealed to you this scripture, fully explained?
And in 19.64 it is clearly the Angel speaking not God, so that the word ‘angels’ is placed in the text by translators to explain:
We (angels) come not down except by commandment of your Lord..
Other verses reflect or record debates and arguments Muhammad or those who created the Koran must have had. For example:
(a) With the Bedouins. See 9.97 where Muhammad singles out the Bedouins for their disbelief: ‘The Bedouins are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy…’
(b) With the Jews of Medina, eg 2.88-91.
(c) With adherents of other sects (as seen throughout this book)
Verses 9.97 and 2.88-91 refer to Allah throughout in the third person, as if Muhammad (or an unidentified preacher) is speaking about God, and he gives the impression of speaking in a single historical context, not God speaking a universal truth.
There are plenty of other verses where Muhammad refers to Allah in the third person as 2.15 and 64.9 – like a preacher talking about Allah.
Sometimes the Koran shows Allah speaking as “I” and “Me” (eg 51.56, 2.40-41) while at other times he refers to himself as “We”(such as in 4.31). In 51.58 he starts in the third person ‘He’ just two verses from the use of “I” in 51.56.
Compare other verses such as 3.195 where Allah speaks as ‘I’ until the end of the verse when he is referred to as Allah.
Muhammad appears to associate himself so closely with Allah that at one moment he is speaking as if he is uttering Allah’s words while even in the same verse or making the same point, he is talking about Allah.
Sura 6.97 has the same mix:
It is He who has set the stars for you, so that you may guide your course with their help through the darkness of the land and sea. We have (indeed) explained in detail in Our Ayat for people who know.
This gives the impression of Muhammad introducing a point referring to Allah in the third person, and then backing it up with the same message as if delivered by Allah, either alone or as Allah’s partner. (Associating partners with Allah is a major issue within Islam!). Maulana Wahiduddin Khandoes not notice any incongruity.
The impression, that we are listening to Muhammad, not Allah, is shown also by some verses which reveal what appears to be uncertainty in the mind of the speaker. Can this really be God?
Examples are 17.50-51
Say “Be you stones or iron or some created thing that is greater (or harder) in your breasts (thoughts to be resurrected, even then you shall be resurrected). Then they will say “Who shall bring us back (to life)?” Say: “He who created you first!” Then they will shake their heads at you and say: “when will that be?” Say “Perhaps it is near”. (King Fahd translation).
Why would an all-knowing God not tell them when it will be (if he were straight-dealing)? Muhammad himself of course as a mere human would not know when.
Again 5.108 apparently shows ‘Allah’ unsure of himself in promulgating rules about wills.
Thus it is more likely that they will bear witness all clear that after their oaths, the oaths of others will be taken (Pickthall translation)
That should make it closer…(King Fahd)
Again Maulana Wahiduddin Khan does not see any issue. Trying to assess the result of a law is a very human activity, not one you would expect of an all-knowing God. These verses are more consistent with the theme that the Koran does not have a divine origin, but that it was created by Muhammad or whoever the true authors of the Koran were.
Other verses show Muhammad identifying himself with Allah in his arguments: 9.63 is an example:
Know they not that who opposes Allah and his messenger his portion verily is Hell, to remain in it? That is the extreme humiliation.
Muslims feel comfortable with such a close identification of the messenger with his God and see nothing wrong. But a more sceptical reading picks up on such a close identification, because they give the impression that Muhammad constantly forgets whether he is addressing his followers as himself, or as a mouthpiece of God. And this is more consistent with a human origin than a divine origin.
One has to bear in mind that the Koran by Tradition is a series of revelations given over a period of 22 years, so that some stylistic variation is not unreasonable between revelations given at different periods, and that Muhammad was supposed to be remembering what had been revealed and transmitting the material to his followers. While one might not expect God’s words to vary in style, those of a mere human might do so. The problem with this possible explanation for the Tradition is that it is consistent with the Koran not being exactly as God revealed it.
Another plausible explanation is that the Koran is composed of different scriptures and texts from different sources composed by different people which were combined without meticulous concern for editing or consistency. Tradition suggests the work was done hurriedly.
Having read this far the attentive reader will have gathered that a more likely time for the gathering of texts into the Koran is the 8th century, and that much of the material may have been recycled scripture or prayers and other material, specifically polemical material directed against competing sects, or justifying theological points of view against those of the Byzantine Church.
The claim however that the Koran is the word of God looks unsupported by the evidence of simply reading the text.
This section looks at further evidence from the text of the Koran suggesting human rather than divine authorship, namely what the text reveals about the identity of who is speaking.
 See Arthur Jeffery in The Origins of the Koran pub Prometheus New York 1998 page 145-6 and page 126ff
 Ibid page 145ff