Shabir Ally frequently uses the ‘number miracles’ in the Quran to prove that it is the word of God. Here are 2 clips which shows what he’s trying to claim:
How would you respond to this claim?
Actually, I have met Shabir Ali personally. We arranged a debate between him, Shmuley Boteach (a well known rabbi) and Doug Jacoby. The debate was on the question: Judaism, Christianity, Islam: Which is the true legacy of Abraham. A copy can be acquired at www.ipibooks.com. In this debate, as in the one you found on youtube, Alli is well aware that there is wonderful evidence for the inspiration of both the Old and the New Testaments. Therefore, he understands that he must produce similar such evidence from the Qur’an. The problem is that the Qur’an does not include examples of reliable historical information, fulfilled historical prophecy or miraculous works of God which confirm the message. The Qur’an does not have the kind of very convincing apologetic argument for its inspiration that the Bible has. In both our debate and in the youtube you found, Ali is left with some very dubious arguments, to say the least.
Ali’s only “evidence” for inspiration is to apply numerology to the Qur’an. He notes, for example that certain words appear the same number of times. For example, man and woman appear each 24 times. He also notes that certain things happen multiples of the number 19 times, and the fact that the word day (yom) appears 365 times. What he fails to point out that, actually, yom appears many more than 365 times, but only in one certain grammatical form this number of times. In order to prove this he counted the words “al-yawm” and “yawman” but he ignored words such as “yawmukum” (your day) and “yawmuhum” (their day) and yawma’idhin (on that day), because if he had done that, he would have got a different number. Besides, in the Qur’an, the number of days in a year is stated to be 360 days, not 365 days. It is not all that surprising that man and woman are mentioned the same number of times, especially because the number is rather low and the two genders are about equal in number. Besides, in order to get the number twenty-four, Alli has to cherry-pick the possible words used for man and woman. When we look more closely, we realize that these supposed miracles are really rather mundane facts.
Such “coincidences” may appear convincing until you understand that such numerology can be applied to cherry-pick certain facts to almost any piece of literature. Such numerology has been applied to the Bible, with similar results. We can cherry-pick numerological coincidences in the Bible as well as in the Qur’an, but these are not convincing to those who understand statistics. The supposed coincidences are only convincing if you do not understand that these facts are cherry-picked. With millions of possible combinations of words or chapters or verses and so forth, the probability of finding some sort of apparent coincidence is large. It was pointed out a few years ago that at the superbowl the same side of the coin (I cannot remember if it was heads or tails) had come up something like eight times in a row. The probability of this one in many thousands. Is this proof that God is behind the flip of the coin? No. Coincidences happen all the time, simply because the number of possible “coincidences” is so high. To those who do not know this fact, such examples can seem convincing, but certainly not to mathematicians or those who have looked at this kind of thing applied to such random things as superbowl flips.
What is notable about Alli’s presentation is what it lacks. It lacks real, solid, evidence that the message itself is from God. The fact that he is reduced to using numerology as his “proof” that the Qur’an is inspired shows that he does not have any public miracles performed by Muhammad or prophecies fulfilled by Muhammad as evidence for inspiration. He does not have historical statements which are supported by outside archaeological findings. He does not have scientific statements in the Qur’an which show evidence of inspiration. He has none of these things. If he did, he would use them, but he does not.
Add to this the fact that the Qur’an includes statements which are rather obviously in contradiction with clear biblical statements. This is problematic. For example the Qur’an claims that Jesus was not crucified (sura 4:157) and that Jesus is not God (sura 5:116). Both cannot be true, unless we allow that the Bible is not inspired. But the Bible has all this support for belief that it is inspired, such as dozens of fulfilled prophecies, miracles which are well attested to, the resurrection of Jesus, etc. Both the Bible and history tell us unambiguously that Jesus was crucified. The statements of Jesus about himself in the Bible cannot be justified with the Qur’an’s statements about him. Which is inspired? Obviously, the Bible is, so the Qur’an is not. Is it a surprise that Shabir Alli, as sincere as he might be, has to resort to dubious use of numerology as “proof” of the inspiration of the Qur’an. The validity of a claim can be judged by the quality of the evidence used to support this claim. In this case, the Qur’an falls far short.