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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Religion's Magical Mystery Tours

Some of you may recall Rashad Khalifa (sometimes also referred to as Khalafa) and his Miracle of 19 - a mathemagical and computational 'proof' of the Divine origins of the Qurãn. Why a True Believer should look for scientific proofs to validate his beliefs is beyond me, but it certainly caught the imagination of a lot of people. You can read some details by others, too, here, if you are unfamiliar or wish to become more familiar. The gist of it, for others with less time, was that a so-far not clearly explained verse in the Qurãn seems to assign some significance to the number, 19. Khalifa postulated that this was a kind of 'checksum validater', since far too many occurrences of the multiples of 19 abounded in the book. There were, to start with, 114 chapters (19x6) and scores of other such incidences. Ahmad Deedat, the brilliant debater and, primarily, an [anti-]Bible scholar ... (and I wish to emphasise this to clarify that he was NOT, as some have begun to insist, a scholar of the Qurãn or of Islam ... ran with the idea, making delightful presentations of this theory (initially without even categorically acknowledging the source) until the theory was challenged from within and without and even called deceitful. To add to the problems, referring to Khalifa became a serious embarrassment after Rashad Khalifa's proclaiming some form of prophethood - so Deedat and his students (among whom, though now in opposite camps, are Zakir Naik and Muhammad Sheikh) dropped the '19'-related videos and pamphlets like hot bricks. The last straw came when, holding his own theory above the Holy Book, Khalifa decided to 'expunge' two verses from the Qurãn after he discovered that they did not fit in with his calculations. Errrrr ... Rashad Khalifa - who also taught that the end of the world will come in 2280 - was, not too surprisingly, assassinated, after he professed that he was sent by God to purify Islam from all fabrications and injections and to restore The Message to its original. He thus claimed to have rightfully removed what he insisted were Satanic Verses (9:128 & 9:129). Incidently, he was stabbed to death 29 times, a number not divisible by 19 as a tabloid noted.

A recent email from young friend, KK, brought back memories of Khalifa and the time some of us spent diving into Al Mu'jim ul Mufharis to confirm or reject his 'theory'. So I thought I'd take this opportunity to weave RK into the preamble before commenting on the mail itself. OK. With that out of the way, over to the email (which quotes a website) and my responses: • Very interesting findings of Dr. Tariq Al Swaidan might grasp your attention: Dr. Swaidan discovered some verses in the Holy Qur’an that mention one thing is equal to another, i.e. men are equal to women. Although this makes sense grammatically, the astonishing fact is that the number of times the word man appears in the Holy Qur’an is 24 and number of times the word woman appears is also 24, therefore not only is this phrase correct in the grammatical sense but also true mathematically, i.e. 24= 24. While one cannot argue with the grammatical correctness, many would assert that the notion of gender equality in the Qurãn is riddled with enough statements - such as laws of inheritance, the status of witnesses, and more - to make the matter of 'unqualified equality' (and I am not talking of 'similarity') debatable within the various sects and scholars of Islam. However, here, I am concerned with the mathematics of Swaidan's claims. First, let me state the obvious: The words that appear in the Quran are neither 'Man' nor 'Woman', but their Arabic counterparts, right? So, are we going to count all instances of the words that stand for 'Man' & 'Woman'. And shall we not take 'Men' & 'Women' into account, too? Of course, if we look at an English Translation - and I am using Abdullah Yusuf Ali's text at the moment - I am assuming that simple words like Man and Woman have not been translated radically differently and some degree of accuracy (within reason) would still result. So, Dr Tariq: Take your pick, preferably one that suits your argument best, and then s-t-r-e-t-c-h it a bit. Well, more than a bit, actually ... because, in this translation of the Qurãn, Man appears 144 times, Woman 14 times! Men appears 213 times, Women 108 times. And what about including Male and Female? At least for those occasions where the beings under discussion are humans (and not animals)... • Upon further analysis of various verses, he discovered that this is consistent throughout the whole Holy Qurãn where it says one thing is like another. I am sure 'like another' cannot include opposites, making examples, such as "Life 145 .... Death 145", pose a bit of a problem (albeit, only for people with some form of a brain). But let us waive this objection, too, and even allow words that have some perceptible links (synonymous, antonymous, whatever...) to each other to be included. This would certainly permit the Life/Death example to be used. But what connections can you see between the first and second word in the following 'pairs', chosen from the submitted list? • See below for astonishing result of the words mentioned number of times in Arabic Holy Qurãn: Benefit 50 .... Corrupt 50 Misled People 17 .... Dead people 17 Mind 49 .... Noor 49 Muslimeen 41 .... Jihad 41 (Does that mean Muslimaat have no connection with Jihad, then?) • And, amazingly enough, have a look how many times the following words appear: Salat 5, Month 12, Day 365 I must admit that, in the case of Salat, I was unsure of whether I should search for 'prayer', 'worship', or both. So I left that. (Later, in the Mu'jim, I found it mentioned 68 times. Not 5. But I could have made a slight mistake in counting). Month appears 11 times, Months 13 ... I guess one could take an average to prove a point. Day: 535, Days: 31 really threw me off, though. So I request someone who is reading this post - and understands Arabic - to please list (in the comments box) all the possible words for Day that I should look for in the Mu'jim.
Until then, I am working out possible ideas that could explain what, at first glance, seems to be a flaw in 'Reason'. Here's one: Day (535) + Days (31) - Surahs (114) Names of God (99) = 353. Now add 12 to it and you not only get the correct number of days (365), you also get to see how important the correct number of Imams is to the takmeel of Islam.
• Finally ... Sea 32, Land 13 Sea + land = 32+ 13= 45 Sea = 32/45*100 = 71.11111111% Land = 13/45*100 = 28.88888889% Sea + land 100.00% Modern science has only recently proven that the water covers 71.11111111 % of the earth, while the land covers 28.88888889 If the number of references is correct, that would have to be an amazing coincidence. But, by now, the combination of suspicion about Swaidan's 'integrity', my limited knowledge of Arabic, the appearance of accurate-to-8-decimal-place numbers ... all lead me to one state: I am confused. This is furthered by the fact that in the first quarter of the whole 230-page PDF of the English translation I have already counted 45 incidences of Land ... so something is amiss. One could excuse misunderstood coincidences ... but juggling figures around and fitting them into places of choice is not defined as a coincidence, dear Doctor. And every belief system has charlatans like you, who work on the principal (wrongly attributed to Barnum):"There's a sucker born every minute!" To those who fall for such fraudulence, I can only say that your gullibility serves to strengthen Sam Harris's view: "Religion remains the only mode of discourse that encourages grown men and women to pretend to know things they manifestly do not (and cannot) know."

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Anonymous shez said...

what we understand to be "scientific facts" keep changing all the time.
(the land to water ratio is an easy example)and to base one's faith on something so fickle as this, or word counts!

13 September, 2007 18:09

Blogger sabizak said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

13 September, 2007 22:17

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

I am not a Muslim and do not mean any disrespect, but the first thought that came to mind after reading this post was that why not concentrate on the message contained in the holy book, instead of counting the number of times any word or words occur therein.

24 September, 2007 13:56

Blogger Zakintosh said...

@sidhusaaheb: Because it's easier, yaar!

04 October, 2007 17:45

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...


18 November, 2007 19:35

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of Rashad Khalifa, witness how he contradicted himself twice:

08 August, 2011 13:49


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