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Islamic Dilemma –

How the Muslim “Falsification Test” Falsifies the Quran

Sam Shamoun

Certain Muslim apologists like to appeal to what is known as the falsification test to prove the Quran's divine origin. This test proposes that in order for a person's claims to be proven correct, one must provide a test whereby the claim or theory can be proven false. If the claim or theory passes this falsification test then the claim is shown to be correct.

One of the examples of such a test is Surah Abu Lahab (Q. 111) in which the Quran states that Muhammad's uncle would die as an unbeliever. Abu Lahab could have easily proven that Muhammad was not a true prophet by embracing Islam, thereby falsifying the Quran. Yet he never did.

For a response to Abu Lahab's alleged inability of falsifying Muhammad's claim please read this section, as well as this article.

The problem that Muslims who use this method face is that this test actually does falsify the Quran. The falsification test can be used to establish that the Quran is mistaken and that Muhammad is a false prophet.

For instance, the following verses threaten apostates and those who claim to be able to reveal what is found in the Quran with wrath and great torment:

And who can be more unjust than he who invents a lie against Allah, or says: "I have received inspiration," whereas he is not inspired in anything; and who says, "I will reveal the like of what Allah has revealed." And if you could but see when the Zalimun (polytheists and wrongdoers, etc.) are in the agonies of death, while the angels are stretching forth their hands (saying): "Deliver your souls! This day you shall be recompensed with the torment of degradation because of what you used to utter against Allah other than the truth. And you used to reject His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) with disrespect!" S. 6:93 Hilali-Khan

Whoever disbelieved in Allah after his belief, except him who is forced thereto and whose heart is at rest with Faith but such as open their breasts to disbelief, on them is wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a great torment. S. 16:106 Hilali-Khan

According to the Muslim commentators, one of the individuals being threatened in these texts was a certain scribe of Muhammad named ‘Abdullah ibn Sa’d ibn Abi Sarh. The expositors mention that Ibn Abi Sarh apostatized after Muhammad allowed him to change the Quran in order to incorporate Sarh’s suggestions and corrections:

(Who is guilty) who is more tyrannical and more daring (of more wrong than he who forgeth a lie against Allah, or saith) Allah did not reveal anything, this is Malik Ibn al-Sayf, or him who says: (I am inspired) with a Scripture, (when he is not inspired in aught) with any Scripture, this is Musaylimah, the liar; (and who saith: I will reveal the like of that which Allah hath revealed) I will say the like of what Muhammad is saying: this is 'Abdullah Ibn Sa'd Ibn Abi Sarh. (If thou couldst see) O Muhammad, (when the wrong-doers) the idolaters and the hypocrites, on the Day of Badr (reach the pangs of death and the angels stretch their hands out) to take out their souls, (saying: Deliver up your souls) your spirits. (This day) the Day of Badr, as it is said it is the Day of Judgement (ye are awarded doom of degradation) a severe doom (for that ye spake concerning Allah other than the Truth, and scorned) you thought yourselves too great to believe in Muhammad and the Qur'an, (His portents) Muhammad and the Qur'an. (Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn 'Abbas)


(Whoso disbelieveth in Allah after his belief) in Him, deserves Allah's wrath (save him who is forced thereto) except the person who is coerced into disbelief (and whose heart is still content with Faith). This verse was revealed about 'Ammar Ibn Yasir (but whoso findeth ease in disbelief) whosoever utters words of disbelief willingly: (On them is wrath from Allah. Theirs will be an awful doom) the most awful torment in this worldly life. This verse was revealed about 'Abdullah Ibn Sa'd Ibn Abi Sarh. (Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn 'Abbas)

Suffice it to say, this means that, much like Abu Lahab, Ibn Abi Sarh was destined to perish for his apostasy and for going around claiming to have taught Muhammad. If the Quran’s statements concerning Ibn Abi Sarh were true then there would be no possible way for him to avoid dying as an infidel since the Quran clearly says that Allah would recompense him with wrath and a painful torment for his apostasy and accusations.

However, such is not the case since Ibn Abi Sarh eventually turned away from his apostasy and ended up becoming a very devout Muslim!

According to ahadith Muhammad ordered Ibn Abi Sarh to be killed on the day of the conquest of Mecca. However, Uthman ibn Affan prevented that from happening since Ibn Abi Sarh was his foster brother:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas:
Abdullah ibn AbuSarh used to write (the revelation) for the Apostle of Allah. Satan made him slip, and he joined the infidels. The Apostle of Allah commanded to kill him on the day of Conquest (of Mecca). Uthman ibn Affan sought protection for him. The Apostle of Allah gave him protection. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4345)


Narrated Sa'd ibn AbuWaqqas:

On the day of the conquest of Mecca, Abdullah ibn Sa'd ibn AbuSarh hid himself with Uthman ibn Affan.

He brought him and made him stand before the Prophet, and said: Accept the allegiance of Abdullah, Apostle of Allah! He raised his head and looked at him three times, refusing him each time, but accepted his allegiance after the third time.

Then turning to his companions, he said: Was not there a wise man among you who would stand up to him when he saw that I had withheld my hand from accepting his allegiance, and kill him?

They said: We did not know what you had in your heart, Apostle of Allah! Why did you not give us a signal with your eye?

He said: It is not advisable for a Prophet to play deceptive tricks with the eyes. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4346)


(Who is guilty of more wrong than he who forgeth a lie against Allah, or saith: I am inspired…) [6:93]. This was revealed about the liar, Musaylimah al-Hanafi. This man was a soothsayer who composed rhymed speech and claimed prophethood. He claimed that he was inspired by Allah. (… and who saith: I will reveal the like of that which Allah hath revealed?) [6:93]. This verse was revealed about 'Abd Allah ibn Sa'd ibn Abi Sarh. This man had declared his faith in Islam and so the Messenger of Allah called him one day to write something for him. When the verses regarding the believers were revealed (Verily, We created man from a product of wet earth…) [23:12-14], the Prophet dictated them to him. When he reached up to (and then produced it as another creation), 'Abd Allah expressed his amazement at the precision of man's creation by saying (So blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators!). The Messenger of Allah said: “This ['Abd Allah's last expression] is how it was revealed to me”. At that point, doubt crept into 'Abd Allah. He said: “If Muhammad is truthful, then I was inspired just as he was; and if he is lying, I have uttered exactly what he did utter”. Hence Allah's words (and who saith: I will reveal the like of that which Allah hath revealed). The man renounced Islam. This is also the opinion of Ibn 'Abbas according to the report of al-Kalbi. 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Abdan informed us> Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Nu'aym> Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Umawi> Ahmad ibn 'Abd al-Jabbar> Yunus ibn Bukayr> Muhammad ibn Ishaq> Shurahbil ibn Sa'd who said: “This verse was revealed about 'Abd Allah ibn Sa'd ibn Abi Sarh. The latter said: 'I will reveal the like of that which Allah has revealed', and renounced Islam. When the Messenger of Allah entered Mecca, this man fled to 'Uthman [ibn 'Affan] who was his milk brother. 'Uthman hid him until the people of Mecca felt safe. He then took him to the Messenger of Allah and secured an amnesty for him”. ('Alī ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul; bold emphasis ours)

Afterwards, Ibn Abi Sarh went on to become a very faithful Muslim, at least this is what the Muslim sources tell us. The Renowned Muslim commentator al-Qurtubi provides additional details:

The pronoun "man" is grammatically in the jarr case. The meaning is who is more wicked than he who said I can reveal; the person addressed here is ‘Abdullâh Ibn Sâd Ibn Abî Sarh who used to write the revelation for the Prophet of God, later on he apostatized and joined the pagans. The reason given by the commentators is that when the verse 23:12 {We created man of an extraction of clay} was revealed, the Prophet called him and dictated it to him and when the Prophet reached the end of 23:14 {... thereafter We produced him as another creature} ‘Abdullâh said in amazement {So blessed be God the fairest of creators!}. The Prophet said: (and thus it was revealed to me) which made ‘Abdullâh doubt and say: “If Muhammad is truthful then I received the revelation and if he lied I say of the like of his speech.” So he apostatized and joined the pagans and this is concerning the segment {Or the man who says, “I can reveal the like of what God has revealed”}, narrated by Al-Kolaby from Ibn ‘Abbâs. It was also narrated by Muhammad Ibn Ishâq who said Sharahbîl said: {Or the man who says, “I can reveal the like of what God has revealed”} was revealed concerning ‘Abdullâh Ibn Sâd Ibn Abî Sarh who apostatized. When the Prophet entered Mecca he ordered him and ‘Abdullâh Ibn Khatal and Miqyas Ibn Sabaabah to be executed even if they were under the curtains of the Ka'bah. So, ‘Abdullâh Ibn Sâd Ibn Abî Sarh fled to ‘Uthmân, his foster brother - his mother suckled ‘Uthmân. The latter hid him until he brought him to the Prophet after the inhabitants of Mecca became secure and he sought immunity for ‘Abdullâh. The Prophet remained silent for a long time and then said: “Yes.” When ‘Uthmân left, the Prophet said, “I said nothing so that one of you executed him.” A man among the Ansâr said: “Then why didn't you give me a sign, O Prophet of God?” He answered, “the treachery of the eyes does not befit a Prophet.” Abu Umar said: “And ‘Abdullâh Ibn Sâd Ibn Abî Sarh converted back to Islam during the conquest of Mecca and his Islam was fine, and later, his behavior was beyond reproach. He was among the wise and the noble from Quraysh, and was the knight of Bani 'Aamir Ibn Lu'ayy and was respected among them. Later, ‘Uthmân named him to govern Egypt in the year 25 H. He conquered Africa in the year 27 H and conquered Nuba in the year 31 H and he was the one who signed with the Nubians the armistice that is still valid today. He defeated the Romans in the battle of as-Sawâry in the year 34 H. When he returned from his advent, he was prevented from entering al-Fustât [the capital of Egypt], so he went to 'Asqalân where he lived until the murder of ‘Uthmân. It was also said: He lived in Ramlah until he died away from the turmoil. And he prayed Allah saying: “O Allah! make the prayer of Subh the last of my deeds.” So he performed Wudu' and prayed; he read Surat al-Fâtihah and al-'Aadiyaat in the first rak'ah and read al-Fâtihah and another surah in the second rak'ah and made salâm on his right and died before he made salâm on the left side. All this report was conveyed by Yazîd Ibn Abî Habîb and others. He didn't pledge allegiance to ‘Alî nor to Mu'âwiyah. His death was before the people agreed on Mu'âwiyah. It was also said that he died in Africa, but the correct view is that he died in 'Asqalân in the year 36 H or 37 H and it was rather said 36 H… (Tafsir al-Qurtubi)

What this means is that the Quran fails the “falsification test”!

Based on one of the criteria set up by Muslims themselves to prove the Quran’s so-called divine origin, Ibn Abi Sarh was able to falsify the Quran’s “prediction” concerning his eventual doom and destruction by turning out to be a committed Muslim!

In light of this, Muslims must be consistent in their application of this “falsification test” and therefore conclude that the Quran is wrong and that Muhammad was a false prophet. In other words, since Ibn Abi Sarh was able to falsify the Quran’s “predictions” concerning his ultimate destiny these Muslims must therefore reject Muhammad and the “revelation” which he brought.

Or, they must abandon this so-called falsification test altogether and therefore refrain from using Abu Lahab as an example of such a test. Muslims should no longer appeal to Q. 111 as a case where an individual had the opportunity to falsify the Quran’s so-called prediction concerning his ultimate fate but supposedly wasn’t able to do so.

If Muslims continue to set forth Abu Lahab as an example of such a test then, not only must they contend with all the major problems that their interpretation of Q. 111 raises, they must also deal with the fact that Ibn Abi Sarh actually ended up falsifying what Muhammad and his deity said concerning his destiny.

Nor can the Muslims deny that Q. 6:93 and 16:106 refer to Ibn Abi Sarh (among others), since they would have to also reject the traditional interpretation of Q. 111. After all, the same sources which Muslims turn in order to learn the details concerning who exactly was Abu Lahab, and what was the exact nature of his crime, are also the very ones which tell us that these particular verses are referring to Ibn Abi Sarah’s “crime” and apostasy.

Hence, the Muslims simply cannot have their cake and eat it too; they cannot use the “falsification test” when it proves handy but then reject it when it undermines the Quran and exposes Muhammad as a fraud. Either they must apply it consistently or abandon it altogether. There is simply no way around this.