Critical Analysis: Numerical Patterns in the Qur'an
Rashad Khalifa tries to show that there are numerical patterns in the Quran, particularly related to the number 19.
With over 6,000 verses and close to 80,000 words, there are many potential numerical patterns in the Quran.
Are all the numerical patterns/interpretations correct? In other words, if one finds a pattern that "Muhammad is a false prophet", or "the Quran is a lie", would this disprove the Quran?
To be able to determine a real pattern from a coincidence requires much research and scholarship in probability theory. Even so, this question is unanswerable. A pattern that can easily be explained by chance can be deliberate. For example, if I flip a coin once and get a tail, it could be easily explained via randomness, but it is possible that it was a two-tailed coin. If I flip a coin 100 times and get 100 tails, it could be explained via randomness although the odds are extremely remote.
The law of truly large numbers says that with a large enough sample many odd coincidences are likely to happen.
For example, you might be in awe of the person who won the lottery twice, thinking that the odds of anyone winning twice are astronomical. The New York Times ran a story about a woman who won the New Jersey lottery twice, calling her chances "1 in 17 trillion."
However, statisticians Stephen Samuels and George McCabe of Purdue University calculated the odds of someone winning the lottery twice to be something like 1 in 30 for a four month period and better than even odds over a seven year period.Why? Because players don't buy one ticket for each of two lotteries, they buy multiple tickets every week (Diaconis and Mosteller).
The Skeptic's Dictionary, November 2011
The above article illustrates that a 1 in 17-trillion pattern in the Quran or other text may be expected to be commonplace.
Often the authors of these claims tend to be ignorant of probability theory, and the issue of multiplicity is an extremely complex issue even for very knowledgeable people in probability. When discussing patterns of 19, 99, 114, etc. one might find one pattern via addition, another via multiplication, etc. If these were real patterns, one should be able to explain why this pattern occurred in this verse, and what the significance of multiplication was, etc. One would be able to explain the great lessons encoded in these patterns. What I've seen was people finding patterns with important numbers (19, 114, etc.) but there was no message.
These numerical patterns are anything but clear. There are many words or phrases in Arabic with the numerical value of 66, if one finds a 66, how would one know which word or phrase it represented?
Over the past 1,400 years, there have been many historical facts, discoveries, inventions, famous people, theories in all kinds of scientific fields, etc. Given the many verses in the Quran, and ideas seem to be mentioned in the Quran. If you hired a team of lawyers working full-time analyzing the Quran-- do you think they would find some verse that vaguely corresponds to some discovery over the past 1,400 years?
But this raises the question of whether these interpretations are reading the intent of the author, or whether one is imposing science into the Quran. This question is important, as once it is proven that the Quran contains a particular scientific fact, if that scientific fact is disproven so is the Quran.
Often a theory is presented that Muslims claim was not known in the 7th century therefore it must be from God. Often, these theories were in fact known. Further, it is generally impossible to prove that a theory was not known in the 7th century.
It is much easier to make the claim that science corresponds to the Quran, when the Quran is very vague and the person making the claim is ignorant of science.
Also, the Quran demands belief or else... Most people are not science majors. A semi-literate person in the 13th century needs to rely on proofs aside from embryology and the Quran.
I prefer to focus on the Quranic miracles that are explicitly mentioned in the Quran.
The Quran gives proofs. So we can assess the accuracy of these proofs such as the surah like it challenge or that the Quran has no discrepancies.