Save the Women!

Foreign words in the Quran

Posted in Islam,religion by Save the Women! on October 27, 2009

One of the problems with muslims nowadays is the mistaken idea that the Quran is litterally the word of God.

And that it is written from the start in pure Arabic, and that nothing has ever changed.

This is demonstrable not true. For example: the Quran contains parts of the early christian bible, by no means a pure arabic source. The reason the Quran contains so many obscure passages is because the translators who composed the Arabic version of the Quran didn’t understand many of the foreign words used in the quran.
The early islamic scholars had no problem with the fact that the Quran contains words of different languages. It is only nowadays that, for political reasons, this fact is supressed.

Fact is that Arabic was a very primitive language at the time of the prophet, and hardly a language at all, most tribes had their own dialect. To describe complex abstract notions is not possible in primitive languages. These are the reasons Syriac was the lingua franca amongst traders in the middle east.

The best known of these mistakes is the mistaken translation of raisins into eternal, ever ready for sex, see-through virgins. The word houri is not Arabic and actually meant raisin.

There are words of at least 6 different languages in the Quran, amongst which are Aramaic, Syriac, and Hebrew.

There has also been a lot of research done into the linguistic origins of the Quran. Mostly by ”western” scientists.
There are several reasons why islamic scientist are so little represented in the research of the origin of the quranic languages:

  • you need a wider knowlege of history than is taught in Islamic countries
  • you need a thorough knowlege of all ancient languages used in the area at the time
  • you need an open mind
  • you need freedom to think

I will put up a library list of several books exploring the origins of the Quran.


25 Responses to 'Foreign words in the Quran'

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  1. susanne430 said,

    Interesting stuff. I watched both videos. Hey, won’t the Muslim guys be shocked when they find out Allah is giving them 72 raisins for all eternity instead of those much-anticipated virgins? Almost makes me feel sorry for them.


    Who am I kidding? 😉

    • aerinndis said,

      Greetings susanne430
      I’m not sorry! I only want to be sitting at the arrival gate and gloat! >:)

      • M Anis said,

        You will gloat in Hell! “Say: If the mankind and the jinn were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another.” “And indeed We have fully explained to mankind, in this Qur’an, every kind of similitude, but most of mankind refuse (the truth and accept nothing) but disbelief.” Surah Al-Isra – 17:88-89.

  2. Saudi Atheist said,

    I’m assuming you’re basing the “72 raisins” argument on Christoph Luxenberg’s “The Syro-Aramaic Reading Of The Koran: a contribution to the decoding of the language of the Qur’an”?

    Most scholars (both western and Islamic) tend to disregard this work as unacademic, citing several flaws in the author’s knowledge of both Syrianic and Arabic. Christoph Luxenberg being a pseudonym, without any known academic background only furthers the nonacademic nature of this book.

    I find the claim that Arabic was a primitive language at the time of Mohammed to be a very strange claim. We have records of the Arabic at that time (not just the Quran) in the form of poetry and others, and the language was as the same language used in the Quran and just as rich.

  3. aerinndis said,

    Saudi Atheist, greetings. There are more sources than Wikipedia. Wikipedia while interesting and educative to browse, cannot be relied on as the perfect encyclopedia. It is written by anybody who feels like adding an article.
    Anyway, it is not only Luxembourg, but many other scientists, including muslim ones from the past who all knew and had no problems with the quran’s many foreign words.

    Modern Islamic scholars carry no credibillity for the simple fact that any scholar who thinks out of the ”party line” is threatened with his life, and if they don’t comply they will get executed.

    Without knowing the ancient languages upon which many of the most important words in the quran are based one cannot make an educated comment on this issue.

    The poetic rich language was written down at that time, there are older poems used in the quran. Three of the verses of a poem by one of the most famous poets, Imru’l Qais, was plagiarised in the quran. But the language was still very primitive and insufficient to write the Quran, hence the many foreign languages, at least six, in the quran. At the time of the prophet Arabic didn’t even have an structured grammar.
    Arabic grammar wasn’t established until 80+ years after the prophet died, and it was written by Sibeweyhi, a Persian. The Quran itself is full of grammatical errors.

    Besides, the earliest qurans were written in arabic without the dots. And you will realise that that means that many words could have been misunderstood.

    Also there have recently been found very, very early qurans during a restoration of an ancient mosque in Yemen. When the scientists started to find that those qurans had different bits as the modern versions. there were pages where the texts have been changed. When that came out the Yemeni goverment stoped the research and conservation of these oldest qurans ever and kicked the scientists out. So I suppose these texts proving tampering with the quran have been destroyed by now.
    But of course, this being the 21-st century, the scientists did take away 30.000 images of the pages they had been studying so there is still some proof left.

    I will write more articles on this in the future.

  4. Saudi Atheist said,

    Hi Aerin,

    Studies have shown (surprisingly enough) that Wikipedia is more accurate than the Encyclopaedia Britannica. And that particular section is quite rich with outside citations (the sign of an academically sound article), just follow the footnotes. Many of them are not Islamic scholars in the sense that they aren’t even Muslim (such as this one And besides, dismissing a scholar based on his background, rather than on his work, is not sound academic methodology.

    I’m quite intrigued by the claim that the Quran plagiarized Imru’ Al Qais. Could you please expand upon this?

    I’m still also not getting the reasoning behind the claim that the Arabic of the time was too primitive. True, the grammar hadn’t been formalized yet, but a formalized grammar (as opposed to no grammar at all) is only a small part of a language’s expressiveness. The main draw for expression in a language is the power of it’s vocabulary. And it is quite clear from the period’s poetry how rich the vocabulary is. Arabic has many faults, but one cannot deny how expressive its main vocabulary is and its system of deriving words from a basic set of root words.

    I would like to end this somewhat longish rant by saying that I don’t believe in the legitimacy of the Quran. It was no more written by god than it is written by Tom Clancy (though I have my own doubts over whether Clancy wrote some his later books :)). I have no qualms over bashing Quran over its many problems, it’s just that this particular claim seems to me to be more sensationalist pop material than true academic study.

    By the way, wonderful blog. Keep it up.

    • aerinndis said,

      Well, it’s still a public writing platform. Anybody can write on any subject. And as only a scientist with full knowlege of classical Arabic, Aramais, Syriac, and the other ancient languages can really judge this kind of research. And let’s not forget the small detail of being objective!
      So until I know who wrote that artocle, and what his/her credentials are, I cannot take it as gospel. ( to make a pun) Also Luxembourg is by no means the only scientist who makes these claims. Over the centuries many researchers have come to simular conclusions.

      Check this site for the bits of poetry by Imru al Qais used in the Quran. I don’t know Arabic, but friends who do have checked it for me. There is actually a lot of discussions going on about this on the internet.

      • Saudi Atheist said,

        Thanks for the article, Aerin. I’m a native Arabic speaker, and my classical Arabic is better than most. And yes, the indicated phrases *are* found as is in the Quran. This merits further reading and research on my behalf. Thanks!

        On the issue of credentials; while Wikipedia might be an open platform the links mentioned in the footnotes are not. And they *do* mention academic background information. Something that is not present in Luxenberg’s book. Yes there have been other authors who have written on the possible non-Arabic origins of the Quran, but Luxenberg was the one who originated the whole “houris are actually raisins” thing and the “translated from Syriac” claim, which is why I keep returning to it.

      • aerinndis said,

        You will find a lot of discussions about this detail. As well as many intellectual acrobatics by scholars trying to make out they were written in the Quran first etc.

        But is it Luxembourg who first came up with the raisins? I have know this for many years and Luxembourg’s book is only a recent one. Anyway, stricktly logically speaking, would you really believe there are 72 see-through cloned robotic virgins waiting for you? The whole description of the houris is pretty bizarre, if not insane.
        And Luxembourg does make an excellent explanation to these bizarre twisted words.
        And he is right that early christian doctrine does speak about the white grapes in Paradise. There are murals depicting souls given these white grapes by angels in Paradise. Maybe, Luxembourg has not all academic qualities, but does that make everything he wrote untrue? And I mean maybe, because the mere fact that his writing opens up the Quran to discussion will make him many enemies who will pull out any truth and untruth to discredit his writings. The game is filthier than American politics.
        And of course if anybody would know his real name there would be a death fatwa out for him in a jiffy.
        This article was written with Luxembourg in mind as only one of the many researchers into the origins of the Quran.

  5. Achelois said,

    Very interesting blog and post.

    I too don’t really agree with the Luxemburg theory although it is a refreshingly new perspective. I have read the book and found several loopholes in there. It isn’t a book where one would nod consistently.

    I agree that even at the time it was written there were people who didn’t understand it but it wasn’t a semantic issue and was more of a pragmatic problem because the heathens of Arabia didn’t understand the new concepts from other religions referred in the Quran. For example, the Christians of Najran actually ridiculed a Muslim man who read from the Quran about Mary to them, saying ‘doesn’t your prophet claim that Aaron is the brother of Mary is the brother of Moses?’ and the man didn’t know how to respond. Similarly Aisha too believed that Mary was the sister of Moses (read Ibn Kathir). So, early Muslims didn’t understand the Quranic references to other religions and when they were questioned they didn’t know how to respond.

    Without going into more details, have you read Zoroastrian literature? There is something very interesting in Arda Viraf, I quote:

    “And there stood before him his own religion and his own deeds, in the graceful form of a damsel, as a beautiful appearance, that is, grown up in virtue; with prominent breasts, that is, her breasts swelled downward, which is charming to the heart and soul; whose form was as brilliant, as the sight of it was the more well-pleasing, the observation of it more desirable.

    Identical descriptions of houris can be found in Islamic literature – beautiful, graceful, having prominent breasts, virtuous, pleasing to the eye, never seen or touched by humans or jinns. In Arda Viraf the heavenly woman symbolizes a religious soul but it has taken a completely different version in Islam. It is quite possible that this was the real source of the houris which was not understood by the heathens of Arabia and given new descriptions in Islamic literature.

    A lot of people ask where Islam got such worldly descriptions of Heaven not found in other Abrahamic religions. I think every Muslim should read Arda Viraf because it is the source of a lot of hadith literature – women outnumbering men in Hell, Prophet’s nightly journey to Heaven and Hell to the point of exact descriptions of the two places and the people in there. The perils of Hell – pus and lava, and the pleasures of Heaven – gold, silk, fruits, wine and women; it is a real eye opener.

    • aerinndis said,

      Achelois, greetings.
      Luxembourg is but one of many authors who write about the foreign words in the Quran and their meanings.
      My problem is that I dod not read classical Arabic, Aramaic, Syriac, etc. And without knowing these ancient languages it is not possible to make ones own appraisal. In the same way I am not giving credence to any critics claiming he’s got everything wrong if they are not fluent in all these languages.
      But bear with me, I will add a list of authors who have written about this subject.

      I do ot know the Zoroastrian writings, and I find your quote most interesting!
      Thank you for adding this information!

      • M Anis said,

        Can you also clarify for us all – which language was the so-called Arda Viraf written in?

    • M Anis said,

      Yeah right – you say and we have to belief that part of the hadith or the Qur’an copied ideas from the so called ‘Arda Viraf’ which does not make sense as to who the author is and what reference is make to GOD in their book.

      Chapter 1 start – 1. “They say that, once upon a time, the pious Zartosht made the religion, which he had received, current in the world;”

      Who are they above? and also it says that the “pious Zartosht made the religion” whereas the Qur’an claims that its a revelation from God sent to Muhammad (peace be upon him) via Arch Angel Gabriel (peace be upon him).

      The ‘Arda Viraf’ is such an insignificant piece of man-made writing which does not stand a chance when compared to the Qur’an, its eloquent writing, the challenges and the scientific proofs. Do you find any scientific descriptions in the above book similar to Qur’an?

      The Arda Viraf seems to be a fairy tale which compares more to the Hindu or Buddish stories or the deluded Sufi sect fake beliefs. What proof if any there is that this book was not forged by the devious enemies of Islam to fool ignorant Muslims or keep the disbelievers from accepting Islam by this confusion.

      • aerinndis said,

        M Ans, greetings and peace,
        I have no idea what you are talking about so I can’t answer your question.

  6. Saudi Atheist said,

    Hey Aerinn,

    Yeah I’m still reading up on it. And I have to tell you many of these “acrobatics” do seem logical. The meter of the poem really is off, now that I’ve thought about it. And you’d think people would’ve spoken much earlier (while Mohammad was alive even) given how famous and influential Imru al Qais was even in those days. Let’s say I’m still reserving judgment on this one.

    Re: Luxenborg.
    I’m not putting salt on his claim because of his lack of academic background. I’m doubting it because another person (who *does* have relevant background in the matter) has cast doubt on Luxenborg’s knowledge of classical Arabic and ancient Syriac. I don’t have a degree in biology, but when someone who has a PHD in it refutes a non peer reviewed creationist claim I tend to side with the guys who have earned fancy letters after their names.

  7. Achelois said,

    Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall is the one who wrote about Imru al Qais and he recently recalled his article because he met someone who knows a lot about pre-Islamic poetry and who explained it all to him. But there are other evidences that there are some verses by Imru al Qais that were used in the Quran like Imru al Qais’ grand-daughter recognizing his poetry when she heard the Quran. Again, that could be a weak story.

    Perhaps it was not plagiarism but more like a case of collective unconsciousness on the part of the scribes.

  8. SAm said,

    What you guys above saying could make the greatest headline news EVER in history : (( Quran was frequently altered throughout history ))..This piece of new could change billions of Muslims minds who are locked till this moment to believe it WAS NOT..!!

    • aerinndis said,

      SAm, greetings and peace, well, these headlines have already popped up from time to time. And as my husband tells me there are quite a few arab people who have their doubts about it all, but you can’t open your mouth in countries which are governered by religious tirants because you would loose it, together with your head.
      I am planning many more posts digging into this, because I think it’s very wrong, and moreover very dangerous to follow religious books, and scholars who have financial and political ties to the letter.

      • SAm said,

        To my humble knowledge .Mohammad never wrote the book,the words of Quran were collected from his mouth after his death by his friends ..They were pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle ..I guess there were brains of human working on it and it became the way we saw it today..Who said it ? from whom ? were there mistakes ..that opens sums of debates and researches ,lashes and back lashes ..but certainly no freedom to do so in many Arab countries..

  9. aerinndis said,

    @SAm, I agree there is no freedom to think in Islamic countries, and certainly not to think about religion. This is the reason all reseaqrch is coming from outside Islamic countries.

    There is more than the fact that most of the Quran was collected after the death of the prophet, they bits collected can never have corroberated perfectly. that is not how human memory works, so there must have been some editting. The lingua franca at that time was Syro-Aramaic, many passages show signs tey have been translated from that language, but with mistakes. Also there were many other foreign words in the quran. A fact discussed and accepted by early quran schoilars.

    The men who translated the quran in classical Arabic did not know the exact meaning of many of these words.

    ANd another problem: the earliest qurans were written in early arabic without the dots. Some words have 32 meanings if you place the dots in different places.

  10. irfan said,

    Those who do not believe do not need to try to criticize. If you do not believe in Houris, then do not criticize those who do believe it.
    check the definition of houri:

    actually zabeeb means raisin.

    and such a reward in paradise is not much different to the beliefs of the orthodox church.

    anyway is not logical to believe that Muhammad(pbuh) plagiarised anything. This is because of the fact that the Quran actually does not mention to believe in fallacies such as trinity, the “crucifixtion” etc. Prophet Muhammad was an illiterate and could not have chosen what to omit and what to include in the Quran.if he did then there would be contradictions of which there are none. Nothing is contradictary in the Quran. Not something an illiterate man could have done.
    Nothing can change facts. The Quran is the last of the messages……..and parallels with some of the existing truth (very little) in the bible and torah. But on the whole, the quran is the truest.


    • @irfan, welcome to my blog.
      I do not agree, I have as much right to criticise as the next person, and more than a lot of muslims, because unlike them, I have actually studied the Quran and hadith, rather than take all the rantings of a deluded saudi-paid ”scholar” to heart while abandoning critical thought and independance of mind.

      If you had bothered to read my post, and the subsequent comments, you would know that I and a lot of my readers are perfectly aware that ”houri” is a mistranslation of white grape into sex-mad eternal virgin.
      Which is exactly what this post is all about: words from early Syro-Arameic mistranslated by ignorant Arabs who were not fully conversant with the language in which the earliest qurans were written.

      And the fact that the orthodox christians also believed you would get lots of white grapes in heaven is one of the proofs that Mohammed plagiarised the early christian scriptures to put his Quran together,

      The Quran is the last message according to the quran, just a measure to make sure nobody else used the same religious sect-ruse and supplant Mohammeds power.

    • MoQ said,

      @ Ifran,

      You say the Quran has no contradictions. Actually the book has many. Have you actually read the book and looked for those contradictions, or just took the claim at face value.

      For example: Allah in multiple verses said the earth and heaven were created in 6 days. Then is Surrat Fasalat the total was 8 days. Here is a link to give you all the details of that.

      If you are interested in more contradictions in the same small book, here is a link that gives you over 100 more of them.

      Read your book and WAKE UP they have been lying to you.

      • javed m said,

        You should go to:


        You will learn the truth about Islam and the Quran, whether there are contradictions in it or the author dos not understand his English MISTranslation of the Quran by Yusuf Ali.

        javed (from) Mauritius

      • javed m, I have several translations of the quran. also a knowlegeble Arabic husband who translates the Arabic for me.
        I know what I am writing about. I also read a lot of Islamic sites. Also because it is interesting to see how they have different ideas and make up a different religion out of Islam by applying their own rules to it.
        Islam is just as made up by men as other religions are.

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