Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Allah’s Timing?

Dates, times and the mathematical miracle of the Qur’an

Jochen Katz

Certainly the most intricate mathematical miracle that is claimed for the Qur’an is the “Miracle of 19”. To be confronted with the many calculations and claims associated with it, can be quite overwhelming. However, when examined in close detail, a number of problematic aspects arise.

In this article, I want to scrutinize some alleged mathematical miracles in the Qur’an that are connected to times and dates of recent historical events.

In particular, I will examine the questions whether (a) the year of the discovery of the miracle of 19 is coded / prophesied in the Qur’an, and/or (b) aspects of the timing of the Apollo 11 moon mission are predicted in the Qur’an.

The observations and arguments presented in this article will, however, be foundational to the evaluation of other miracle claims as well.

[A] The Discovery of the 19 Miracle

We start with one of the more complex claims of the 19 miracle as presented by Dr. Caner Taslaman in his book, The Quran: Unchallengeable Miracle, and point out a number of problems, some of them “small” and some of them fatal. Taslaman’s chapter is somewhat lengthy, so that I will only quote excerpts from it.

Caner Taslaman writes:1


In the previous part of this book, we examined the mathematical miracles of the Quran. We witnessed the mathematical miracles of the Quran, which are easy to understand but impossible to imitate. The mathematical miracles of the Quran can be comprehended easily by anyone who knows how to count and is conversant with figures. You do not need to be a mathematician in order to comprehend these miracles. However, we believe that people with a stronger mathematical background can best appreciate the glory of these miracles. (p. 334)


[…] 19 is an answer to the assertion that the Quran is the word of a man. A number as an answer... This dispels all suspicions! Just think how incredible it was for people to believe in the miracle of 19 prior to the discovery of this miracle. It took 1400 years to reveal this miracle, and when the time came, the miracle 19 in the sura “The Hidden” became manifest. Following this manifestation, the functions of 19 described as “one of the greatest” in the 35th verse of the sura “The Hidden,” came into light. This miracle clears away the doubts of the believers and the people of the Book. (p. 342)

Wow, there are some grand statements in this last paragraph. Such mighty words in order to describe … nothing; the empty set; zero. Look at these eloquent words again. Let them sink in:

Just think how incredible it was for people to believe in the miracle of 19 prior to the discovery of this miracle.

Sorry to burst the bubble, but before these “numerical features” were discovered, nobody knew of them, with the obvious implication that nobody could find them credible or incredible. My best guess is that nobody really bothered to wreck their brain over something they had never heard about. Here is my counter-challenge: Just think how few people really cared about it!

I understand that these words are intended to create anticipation and inspire awe, but let’s be in awe of something that is worth the emotion. Let’s not get all worked up about nothing.

It took 1400 years to reveal this miracle, …

That sounds like somebody worked very hard for 1400 years to be able to finally reveal this miracle. I don’t think so. This is merely another attempt to make things appear much bigger than they really are. For example, Rashad Khalifa could have wondered about the verse “over it 19” (Q. 74:30) and realized that the Basmalah that is “over” every sura (except Sura 9) consists of 19 letters. He may have doodled around a bit with the numerical values of the letters of the Basmalah, and realized that their value adds up to a number that is again divisible by 19. Then he got curious whether he could find that number in other verses of the Qur’an, and the rest is history.2 But, whatever may have been his entry point into these calculations, it didn’t take him 1400 years.

This miracle clears away the doubts of the believers and the people of the Book.

That remains to be seen. I know of many Muslims3 and non-Muslims, including people of the Book, who still have doubts about this. I am one of them.

Taslaman continues in his exposition:


The first time the code 19 in the Quran attracted attention was in 1974. After this discovery, scholars came up with many more observations of miraculous patterns. No wonder the name of the chapter prophesying it is “The Hidden” and it is the 74th sura of the Quran. When you place 74 beside 19, you have the number 1974, which is the date of the discovery of the miracle of 19, according to the Gregorian calendar. That is to say, the miracle had been hidden for 1974 years after the birth of Jesus Christ and was pointed out in the sura “The Hidden.” (p. 342)

How could this miracle have been “hidden for 1974 years” when the Qur’an itself was only “revealed” during the years AD 610-632? This is a minor issue, but an indication that our math miracle workers are not always careful with their numbers. Also, when one places 74 besides 19 one can just as well get 7419. But why should these numbers be placed “side by side” at all? Why not add, subtract, or multiply them? How about one that is a bit more exotic? Since the verse that mentions “19” is found roughly in the middle of the sura 74, why not put the number 19 in the middle of the number 74 to obtain 7194? This shows that with a little bit of imagination there are many options and operations and, out of a host of options, there is quite often one mathematical operation that produces a result that can be viewed as “meaningful”. Anyway, Taslaman continues:

When this was discovered, the year according to the Muslim calendar was 1393. (The Muslim calendar starts with the hegira of the prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina). God started to reveal the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad 13 years before the hegira. In other words, this miracle was discovered 1406 years after God had started to reveal the Quran. What is 1406? 19 multiplied by 74 makes 1406!

Here we have a first serious problem that applies to many of these calculations. Taslaman uses the word “year” to refer to two different entities. Sometimes it is the solar year that is the basis of the Western/Gregorian calendar (365 days long), sometimes it is the lunar year of the Islamic calendar (354 days long). Oftentimes, that makes quite a difference. From the death of Muhammad until the year 1974, about 1342 solar years passed, which corresponds to about 1383 lunar years. This difference of 41 years can obviously mess up lots of calculations.

On the other hand, 1406 lunar years are 1363.6 solar years, again not a very useful number as neither 1363 nor 1364 are divisible by 19. Using sometimes the Gregorian calendar and sometimes the Islamic calendar looks arbitrary. Not consistency but expediency seems to be the principle. Whatever works, whatever “does the trick”, is used to increase the miracle.

Moreover, for the “miracle of 19” to work properly, one needs the complete Qur’an. Why then would the starting point of the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad be the significant date? Why not the date of the final part of the revelation, shortly before his death? The answer is easy. The number 22 (solar years) or 23 (lunar years) as the duration of the period of revelations is not divisible by 19, and thus the year of Muhammad’s death does not make the calculations work out, but the assumed date of the first revelation works, even if that first revelation was only a couple of verses and after that there was a long hiatus where Muhammad did not receive any revelations.

Apart from this confusion, the above paragraph contains a possible error in his identification of the year AD 1974 with the Islamic year 1393 AH because 1393 AH was nearly over when the year 1974 just began. These two years had only 24 days of overlap because 25 January 1974 was already 1 Muharram 1394 AH, the first day of the next Islamic year (*). Unless Taslaman can give us clear evidence that the miracle of 19 was discovered in the first few days of 1974, the corresponding Islamic year is 1394 and not 1393 with the immediate implication that we obtain 13 + 1394 = 1407 which is not a multiple of 19.

Update/Excursus:4 Originally, I worked only with Taslaman’s claim as presented in his book, which raised this obvious question. After having nearly finished this article, I had the idea to search Rashad Khalifa’s translation of the Qur’an with its numerous appendices. In this book, Quran: The Final Testament, Authorized English Version, Translated from the Original by Rashad Khalifa, Ph.D., Revised Edition 1992, Appendix 1, page 381, there is a short “Historical Note”, claiming: “The momentous discovery that “19” is the Quran’s common denominator became a reality in January 1974, coinciding with Zul-Hijjah 1393 A.H.” after which the above calculation is presented. Whether this is a genuine historical fact, or arranged this way to increase the miracle and create a legend, remains an open question. I cannot verify the details one way or other.

Yet, the formulation “the discovery … became reality” is a strange formulation and this claim is further put in doubt when we read in Rashad Khalifa’s footnote to Sura 54:1 that “This important sign of the approaching end of the world came to pass in 1969 when humans landed on the moon and brought pieces of the moon to earth. At the same time, God's mathematical Miracle of the Quran was being gradually unveiled…” If the alleged mathematical miracle was already in the process of being revealed in 1969, what is the justification to place this “gradual process” (extending over several years) as a discovery exactly in the early days of 1974? It seems that Khalifa was struggling with the desire and problem to somehow connect his numerical system with two “miraculous dates” which happened to be four and a half years apart.

There is, however, one interesting difference between Khalifa’s book and Taslaman’s formulation quoted above. Taslaman writes, “God started to reveal the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad 13 years before the hegira” which prompted my question whether the completion of the revelation of the Qur’an would not have been the more natural and appropriate date. Khalifa has an interesting claim that seeks to justify this calculation. On page vii, right before the table of contents, we find these assertions:

On the 27th night of Ramadan, 13 B.H. (Before Hijra) (610 A.D.), the prophet Muhammad (the soul – the real person – not that body) was summoned to the highest possible point, millions of light years from the planet Earth, and this Quran was placed into his heart (2:185, 17:1, 44:3, 53:1-18, 97:1).

Subsequently, the Quran was released into Muhammad’s memory with Gabriel's mediation, over a period of 23 years, 610 to 632 A.D. (17:106). At the time of release, Muhammad wrote it down with his own hand (Appendix 28). What Muhammad left was the complete Quran, written in the chronological sequence of revelation, with detailed instructions for putting the revelations into the sequence decreed by God.

This is obviously a rather unorthodox account as anyone will recognize who has studied the Muslim sources.  I will not discuss this in detail here, only to remark that this “rewriting of history” allows Khalifa to claim that the full Qur’an was revealed in 13 BH (although it was only in Muhammad’s heart, but not yet in his memory!), and thus this date could be used as the basis of the above calculation deriving 19 x 74 = 1406 years between the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad, the last prophet of Allah, and the revelation of the mathematical miracle of the Qur’an to Rashad Khalifa, the last messenger of Allah (see Appendix 2 of Khalifa’s book). Clearly, these claims are intricately interwoven with the cultic aspects of this relatively new Islamic sect.

Taslaman summarizes this section:

The sura “The Hidden” which points to the mathematical miracle in the Quran has lots of miracles.

With the above observations on the problematic aspects of these calculations, this table isn’t quite as impressive anymore. Moreover, these three table entries do not yet constitute “lots of miracles”. Anyway, let’s continue in Taslaman’s text to see what else he has in store.

The first two verses of this sura are given below:

1- O! The Hidden
2- Arise and warn

 74-The Hidden, 1-2

The first verse of the sura calls “the hidden,” and the second verse pronounces that it is time to arise and start to warn. These two verses consist of 19 letters. Can you guess what the mathematical value of these two verses is? You may have difficulty being convinced when you hear it. Here, the mathematical value of these two verses is 1974.

During the gradual revelation of the Quran, the semantic unity was maintained in such a way that even the date of the discovery of miracle 19 was coded. The first two verses of this sura, informing of the unveiling of the secret, with their 19 letters indicate the code of the mathematical miracle, and with the numerical value of these letters indicate the year of its unveiling, 1974. Can you imagine a more elegant prophecy than this?

And again, 1974 is formed when 19 of the miracle 19 and 74 of the 74th sura are written together successively. And the first verse of the sura “The Hidden” is shown as (74;1). It is interesting to note that there are 741 verses counting from this verse till the end of the Quran, and when you multiply 19 and 39, you have 741 (741= 19x39)  (pp. 343-344)

Although Taslaman somehow forgot to explain for us the deeper meaning of the number 39, these observations look quite amazing at first sight. I see no justification to call it a prophecy though, since nowhere in the Qur’an are we told to add number values of letters in certain selected verses, let alone to consider the sum to be a prophecy. Moreover, there is no prediction of anything stated in the content of these verses.5 Finally, even though the Qur’an was “revealed” gradually, I never heard that Sura 74:1-2 was revealed gradually as well. These two short verses were composed / given at one time and I cannot see any justification for the claim that “the semantic unity was maintained in such a way that even the date of the discovery of the miracle 19 was coded” since there is nothing gradual in these two verses. This is again a piece of empty bluster from Caner Taslaman. Nevertheless, whether intentional design or accidental feature, it is an elegant structure – at first glance.

However, when we examine the details, things are not quite so straight forward. Let’s begin with the claim in the last one of the above quoted paragraphs, i.e., that there are 741 verses from Sura 74:1 to the end of the Qur’an.

There are many problems in regard to counting verses in a section of the Qur’an that spans several suras, both general problems,6 and also a specific one for this case.

(A) The arrangement of the suras is most likely a later process, completed by Muslim leaders after the death of Muhammad. There exist old Qur’an manuscripts with a different order of suras. This means the exact sequence of the suras is not part of revelation; their order is not divinely given.7 Rearranging the order of the suras obviously changes the number count between two verses in different suras. What implications does it have if we find “mathematical miracles” in features of the Qur’an which are due to human editing and structuring?

(B) There are several different verse numbering systems in use even to this day. These versification systems are also a later human addition to the structure of the text of the Qur’an. The largest difference results from the debate whether the Basmalah at the beginning of each sura is to be counted as a verse of the Qur’an or not (cf. this article). Some readings (qira’at) of the Qur’an count the Basmalah, others don’t. In this specific case, counting the Basmalah obviously adds another 40 verses from Sura 74:1 (which would then actually be 74:2) to the end of the Qur’an. Again, observing such numbers in a certain edition of the Qur’an is an interesting coincidence, a curiosity, but it is quite a stretch to call it a divine miracle.

(C) Regarding the number 741, the reader needs to know that the notation “74:1” is a feature of English translations of the Qur’an, or rather of the English way of referencing verses from the Qur’an in English texts. But in Arabic the notation is different. Arabic is written from right to left, and the reference to this verse is written as “1:74” or, in Arabic digits, “١:٧٤”. When we perform Taslaman’s special operation of dropping the colon between chapter and verse, then we obtain “١٧٤” or “174”, a number which is of no use for Taslaman’s “verse-count miracle”, and it is not even divisible by 19. Could it really be that English translations of the Qur’an, i.e. texts produced by human beings, contain more mathematical miracles than the Arabic Qur’an? Is that Taslaman’s message?

Incidentally, Rashad Khalifa’s edition of the Qur’an, is available online. When we access Sura 74 on that website (*) and click on the Arabic reference button of the first verse, we see the following:

(Source, as accessed on 25 October 2011)

On the right, you see the button with the Arabic verse reference, and at the top left the corresponding “1 74” in Arabic digits.

Finally, let us examine the main claim for the two verses Q. 74:1-2, i.e. that the numerical values of the letters in these two verses add up to 1974. Here is the table again:

Compare the letters with serial numbers 1-12 (i.e. the first verse) with the transliteration of the first verse as given on these two Islamic websites (1, 2):

Ya ayyuha almuddaththiru

The second word, ayyuha, has two Ya, and the third word, almuddaththiru, has a double Dal and a double Tha. Taslaman enters these three double-consonants into his calculation only once. In order to perform an honest addition, he would have to add another Ya (10) + Dal (4) + Tha [Tse?] (500) = 514 to the total number, but he would obviously not like that as it would destroy his main miracle.

How he can think that such manipulation is going to “clear away the doubts of … the people of the Book” is beyond me. Muslims may be fooled by this simply because many of them so desperately want the Qur’an to be miraculous, but how is Taslaman going to convince honest but critical researchers by tampering with the text?8

Again, even Rashad Khalifa’s edition of the Qur’an is a witness against Taslaman because it spells the name of Sura 74 as Al-Muddath-thir with double d and double th (p. 351). The reader can see this also on the above displayed image taken from the website of the “Submitters”.

So far I have examined only the “number games” that Taslaman and his friends have staged for us. Even if they had all been true – and they are clearly not –, there are still serious other reasons against accepting Taslaman’s conclusions.

My main objections against Taslaman’s claims are based on the meaning and message of the Qur’an; the meaning of this particular passage in Sura 74 and the clear command regarding calendar issues that is found in the Qur’an. Certainly the explicit meaning of the text must be more important than alleged “hidden numerical features”? (Cf. Q. 3:7, *.)

The Islamic lunar calendar is inconvenient for many reasons. Since it is about 11 days shorter than the solar year, one significant disadvantage is that the seasons (important for sowing and harvesting) are not fixed but constantly moving through the calendar. For Muslims, it becomes especially burdensome when Ramadan and/or Hajj fall into the hottest time of the year. As in many other cultures, the Arabs had also adjusted their lunar calendar to the solar year by inserting an additional intercalary month about every third year, similar to the luni-solar Hebrew Calendar (*). This caused the regular months to be “moved” from their place in the pure lunar calendar.9 The author of the Qur’an was very displeased with this and declared that Allah only accepts a pure lunar calendar, i.e. the year is defined as consisting of twelve lunar months.

In Sura 9, verses 36-37, we read (in the translation by Rashad Khalifa10):

The count of months, as far as GOD is concerned, is twelve. This has been GOD's law, since the day He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred. This is the perfect religion; you shall not wrong your souls (by fighting) during the Sacred Months. However, you may declare all-out war against the idol worshipers (even during the Sacred Months), when they declare all-out war against you, and know that GOD is on the side of the righteous.

Altering the Sacred Months is a sign of excessive disbelief; it augments the straying of those who have disbelieved. They alternate the Sacred Months and the regular months, while preserving the number of months consecrated by GOD. They thus violate what GOD has consecrated. Their evil works are adorned in their eyes. GOD does not guide the disbelieving people.

To follow the Islamic calendar has thus been made a sacred duty for the believers. To stray from it is “a sign of excessive disbelief”.

Even though Taslaman’s method of deriving 1974 from the first two verses of Sura 74 was shown to be manipulative, it may well be that it is possible to somehow extract the number 1974 from the Qur’an, whether from a verse, a block of verses, a chapter or larger sections. It is a large book, and there are lots of ways to combine numbers to derive many different results. But the point is this: Whoever may have been the author of the Qur’an, the author was strongly against using a calendar that deviated from a year that consisted of 12 lunar months – even calling this unbelief and disobedience against Allah. Therefore, I do not believe that the author intentionally coded dates of the Gregorian calendar into the Qur’an. If I take the message of the Qur’an on this issue seriously, I have to conclude that if such numbers are found, they are accidental, and not a deliberate miraculous design.

The Qur’an goes so far as to state that using a calendar of twelve lunar months in the year “is the right religion”.11 Rashad Khalifa even translated this clause as, “this is the perfect religion”. Do the devotees of the “miracle of 19” really want to tell us that Allah deviates from the right religion? That he breaks his own commands, and codes Gregorian (“Christian”) dates into the Qur’an instead of Islamic dates? It makes Allah arbitrary and inconsistent.

Anyone who has ever worked on finding multiples of 19 in the Qur’an certainly had more failures than successes, i.e. he or she combined and calculated many values of words and verses and most had a result that he could not assign any meaning to. So, they were discarded as being “not part of the miracle”; accidental, not intentional. Similarly, when taking the author of the Qur’an seriously in his pronouncement about calendar issues, I can only conclude that “1974” is accidental and not intentional. Or do you believe in a god who commands one approach to time-keeping and then does himself what he has just forbidden to the believers? A god, who commands a lunar year and then uses the solar year in order to confuse the believers? That does not make sense to me.

This reason alone is sufficient to discard a good chunk of “the miracle of 19” as presented by Taslaman. However, since we are at it anyway, let’s expose his corruption of the meaning of Sura 74:1-2 as well.

Taslaman presented only the first two verses in a butchered translation, but 74:1-7 is a unit and needs to be read together. Here is the text in Arberry’s translation:

O thou shrouded in thy mantle,
arise, and warn!
Thy Lord magnify
thy robes purify
and defilement flee!
Give not, thinking to gain greater
and be patient unto thy Lord.

Since Arberry is a non-Muslim scholar of Islam and the Arabic language, let me also give a translation by a respected orthodox Muslim scholar. Maududi renders the same passage in this way:12

[1-7] O you who lies wrapped up, arise and warn and proclaim the greatness of your Lord. And keep your garments pure, and avoid filth, and do not favor (others) expecting to get more, and be patient for the sake of your Lord.

Does anyone get the impression these verses are addressing a number, or a “code” as Taslaman wants to make us believe? These are intensely personal words; personal commands to rise up, instead of hiding himself, to warn others of the punishment that awaits those who ignore God, to praise God (publicly), to remove everything impure from his garments and (metaphorically from) his life, to keep himself away from anything that is defiling, not to be greedy but generous, and to be patient. Trying to force these words on a number or a mathematical system is highly contrived and artificial. A number or concept cannot hear a command, it cannot act, it is not defiled, it has no garments and cannot purify itself, it cannot be greedy or generous, it cannot be patient or impatient. These are all attributes of persons, not of abstract concepts.

No matter how often Taslaman may find the number 19 in the values of the letters making up these verses, the meaning of this passage has nothing to do with a numerical system or code; these verses do not convey a message about a mathematical miracle hidden in the Qur’an.

To summarize: Taslaman manipulated the letter values and calculations, and he corrupted the meaning of the text. The claims we have examined so far are proven to be a fraud on every level. There is nothing left of his claims, nothing whatsoever.

Finally, for good measure, there is another contextual problem for Taslaman and all others who want to understand these verses as referring to the “19-based mathematical miracle of the Qur’an”.13 When was this sura revealed? Where does it stand in the chronological order of suras?

Abul Ala Maududi writes in his introduction to Sura 74:

The first seven verses of this Surah belong to the earliest period at Makkah. Even according to some traditions which have been related in Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Musnad Ahmad, etc., on the authority of Hadrat Jabir bin Abdullah, these are the very earliest verses of the Qur'an to be revealed to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace). But the Muslim Ummah almost unanimously agreed that the earliest Revelation to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) consisted of the first five verses of Surah Al-Alaq (XCVI). However, what is established by authentic traditions is that after this first Revelation, no Revelation came down to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) for quite some time. Then, when it was resumed, it started with these verses of Surah Al-Muddaththir. … The rest of the Surah (vv. 8-56) was revealed when the first Hajj season came after public preaching of Islam had begun in Makkah. This has been fully well described in the Sirah by Ibn Hisham and we shall cite it below. (Tafhim al-Qur'an)

Muhammad Asad states similarly in his intro to Sura 74:

AFTER the Prophet’s earliest revelation – consisting of the first five verses of surah 96 (“The Germ-Cell”) – a period elapsed during which he received no revelation at all. The length of this break in revelation (fatrat al-wahy) cannot be established with certainty; it may have been as little as six months or as much as three years. It was a time of deepest distress for the Prophet: the absence of revelation almost led him to believe that his earlier experience in the cave of Mount Hira (see introductory note to surah 96) was an illusion; and it was only due to the moral support of his wife Khadijah and her undaunted faith in his prophetic mission that he did not entirely lose his courage and hope. At the end of this intermission the Prophet had a vision of the Angel Gabriel, “sitting between heaven and earth”. Almost immediately afterwards, the present surah was revealed; and from then on, in Muhammad’s own words, “revelation became intense and continuous” (Bukhari, Bad’ al-Wahy and Kitab at-Tafsir; also Muslim).

Although some verses of this surah may have been revealed at a slightly later time, there is no doubt that all of it belongs to the earliest part of the Mecca period, that is, to the very beginning of Muhammad’s mission. But in spite of its early origin and its brevity, the surah outlines almost all the fundamental concepts to which the Qur'an as a whole is devoted: the oneness and uniqueness of God, resurrection and ultimate judgment; life after death and the allegorical nature of all descriptions relating to it; man’s weakness and utter dependence on God, his proneness to false pride, greed and selfishness; each human being’s responsibility for his own behaviour and doings; “paradise” and “hell” as natural consequences of one’s earthly life, and not as arbitrary rewards or punishments; the principle of the historical continuity of all true religious experience; and various other ideas and concepts which were to be more fully developed in later revelations. (The Message of the Qur’an, p. 906; also online)

Maulana Muhammad Ali concurs:

This chapter is by general consensus admitted to be the second in the order of revelation. A period probably of six months had elapsed since the first revelation before the second was received, and this period is known as fatrah or intermission. Once more, however, after the fatrah had passed away, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, and the Prophet sought to wrap himself up in his clothes, hence the title. He is told not to seek seclusion but to arise and warn a people sunk low in vice and immorality. … (The Holy Qur’an, p. 1115)

What does that mean? At the time when Muhammad received 74:1-7, the only passages of the Qur’an that were available so far, were Q. 96:1-5 and 74:1-7 – a meagre total of twelve short verses! Taslaman claims that not Muhammad is addressed in 74:1-2 but the mathematical miracle of the Qur’an. But which Qur’an is he talking about? What exactly could rise up in these few verses?

If Q. 74:1-7, or Sura 74 as a whole, had been the final part of the Quran to be revealed to Muhammad, completing the Qur’an including its alleged mathematical structure and “miracle of 19”, and if this passage had been formulated in a more suitable way so that it could be applicable also to an abstract concept, then PERHAPS one could accept Taslaman’s interpretation that it states that it is time for the code to appear (arise) and make itself known, and start to speak. But such a command does simply not make sense for the first couple of verses of the Quran when no miracle was available yet.

Taslaman’s interpretation totally disregards not only the plain meaning of the text but also the chronological position of these verses.

[B] The Apollo 11 Mission

The next “miraculous date” we want to look at is the Apollo 11 mission of travelling to the moon and back. On the website of the “Submitters” (the group founded by Rashad Khalifa), there is an article about Quranic prophecies of the journey to the Moon. I will quote only the relevant part of their article, where we find Q. 54:1 “explained” in the following way:

When did the first prophecy come to pass?

To answer that, one must keep the prophecy in mind: “The moon has split.” This is a metaphor. Parts of the moon have left its surface. They no longer are part of the moon. So, the prophecy does not refer to the landing on the moon or to the first step made by Neil Armstrong but to the fact that Armstrong and Aldrin collected 21 kilograms of lunar rocks to bring them back to earth. The prophecy was fulfilled at the very moment the Astronauts left the moon in the lunar module containing 21 kilograms of rocks that had belonged to the moon.

This prophecy has come to pass on July 21 1969. Let us write those numbers down in the format used by almost all countries : 21 / 07 /1969.
We get 21071969 and 21071969 = 19 x 1109051

It is interesting to note that the american date of landing is coded. The lunar module landed on July 20 : 7 / 20 1969.
Indeed : 7201969 = 379051 X 19.  (Splitting the Moon – Chapter 54: The Fulfillment of Two Great Prophesies; underline emphasis mine)

Here again, I have the same foundational question as in the last section: Why would Allah institute the lunar calendar as the only acceptable way of reckoning the years, and then code the Apollo 11 mission into the Qur’an based on the dates according to the Christian / Gregorian (solar) calendar when using such a calendar is explicitly called a sign of disbelief in Q. 9:36-37?

Apart from this foundational flaw, there is another strange detail in the above quoted section of the article. After the author(s) just emphasized that the prophecy does not refer to the landing on the moon, but rather to the departure from the moon, it is somewhat strange to see the claim that God coded the landing date14 (into what?15), and that even in the American notation of dates that deviates from the international notation. Their thinking seems to be: If I can find a number that is divisible by 19, then God must have intentionally arranged it, even if it is in contradiction to what I just stated.

The approach seems to be:

  • The Qur’an mentions the number “19”;
  • A certain number – even if it is a date from the Christian calendar in the peculiar American notation – is divisible by 19;
  • Therefore, we have another miracle that supports the divine origin of the Qur’an.

The fact that this number or date is not found in the Qur’an seems to be irrelevant in this kind of thinking.

There are a number of serious questions to be asked about this interpretation of Q. 54:1. For example, the authors have not given any explanation why or how the moon mission of Apollo 11 marks “the hour” (of divine judgment) or the end of the World. Furthermore, equating the collection of 21 kg of rocks from the surface of the moon with the Quranic statement “the moon has split” is a highly imaginative interpretation, to say the least. These issues are discussed in detail in the companion article, “Splitting the Moon – Or Tearing the Qur’an to Shreds?” and need not be repeated here. This present article deals with the claims around calendar issues and conventions of assigning times to events.

Thus, let’s get back to the foundational matter of using dates as given in the Gregorian calendar versus dating according to the Islamic calendar. The Gregorian-Hijri Dates Converter gives the following result for 21 July 1969:16

You entered: 21 / 7 / 1969
The conversion result is: Monday 6 Jumaada al-awal 1389 A.H.
*There is a small probability of one day error.  (Source)

Jumaada al-awal is the fifth month, i.e. the date of the moon landing would be 06 / 05 / 1389. Cross-checking this result yields:

You entered: 6 / 5 / 1389
The conversion result is: Monday 21 July 1969 C.E.
*There is a small probability of one day error.  (Source)

This date converter does not write leading zeros for days or months, i.e. July is 7 not 07, Jumaada al-awal is represented by 5 not 05. Both conventions are common and possible but obviously yield different numbers to test for divisibility by 19.

Although 21 / 07 /1969 could be represented by 21071969 and 21071969 = 19 x 1109051, writing the date as 21 / 7 / 1969 would then become 2171969 which is not divisible by 19. Since the authors of our miracle article have chosen the convention to write leading zeros, we use the same methodology for the Islamic date.17

6 Jumaada al-awal 1389 would then be represented by 6051389. Since the Gregorian-Hijri Dates Converter cautions us that “there is a small probability of one day error”, we are going to test also the day before and the day after that date. However, not one of the three numbers, 6051389, 5051389, or 7051389 is divisible by 19 as the reader can easily confirm by using this tool.

And, for good measure, let’s write the date backwards, i.e. year / month / day: 13890505, 13890506, and 13890507. But we see again that none of them is divisible by 19. In fact, even if we “Americanize” the number, writing it as month-day-year, i.e. 05-06-1389, and then test 05051389, 05061389, and 05071389, we still get the same result: not one of them is divisible by 19 – as if Allah had sworn to himself to make it impossible for the 19er-Muslims to fit the Islamic date of the moon landing into the 19 miracle! Is this a divine conspiracy against Rashad Khalifa?

The Muslim article continues:

What about the time of departure?

The moment of the fulfillment is confirmed by the hour of departure. The Lunar Module left the lunar surface at 17: 54: 1 (Universal Time) or 1: 54: 1 (EDT) and as you have seen it above, verse [54:1] is the verse that deals with the prophesy.

So, the prophecy described in verse [54:1] was fulfilled on 21 July 1969 at 17: 54: 1 (Universal Time) (1: 54: 1 EDT) when the lunar module left the moon carrying 21 kilograms of lunar rocks. (Ibid.; underline emphasis mine)

As the statement in Q. 54:1 speaks of “the hour” it is nice to see how the authors of the article worked out a ‘linguistic connection’ by including that word into their text by speaking of “the hour of departure”, but after they managed to “drop the word”, they only focus on the minutes and seconds and totally forget about the number of the hour. However, we simply note that the Qur’an does not speak of minutes and seconds. So, what is the point?

The Apollo 11 facts page (*) states:

LM Departed Moon: July 21, 1969
17:54:01 UT (1:54:01 p.m. EDT)

The Muslim authors dropped the “p.m.” which changes the time by 12 hours, but it is irrelevant in this case, since they are interested only in the minutes and seconds anyway. They also dropped the leading zero for the seconds to make it more similar to the Qur’an reference. However, the “01” seconds means that it is the first of 60 seconds in this minute, but in the Qur’an the “1” refers to the first of 55 verses in this sura; so the correspondence isn’t quite so clear. If Allah had intended this correspondence, surely he could have given Sura 54 the length of 60 verses and mentioned the words “minute” and “seconds” somewhere in this sura in order to give a hint?

Moreover, just like in the last section18 there is a notational issue. In Arabic, references to the Qur’an do usually not contain the number but the name of the sura. It would usually be written as “Al-Qamar aya 1” and most Muslims would not know that this is the 54th sura without looking that up. However, even if the reference is written in numbers, the writing direction of Arabic (right to left) reverses the order. Ironically, the website provides its own refutation:

(Source, as accessed on 29 October 2011)

On the right side, where the Arabic text and reference for Sura 54:1 are given, the notation for the reference on the button in Arabic numerals is “١:٥٤”, i.e. “1:54”, because Arabic is read from right to left. However, in Arabic, numbers and time stamps are still written with the larger unit on the left, i.e. 1234 means one-thousand two-hundred thirty four, not four-thousand three-hundred twenty one. And in our case, fifty-four is still written as 54 not 45. Also the time stamp “17:54:01 UT” would remain the same in Arabic texts. To summarize: In Arabic notation the time stamp would still be “17:54:01” but the Qur’an reference would be “1:54” destroying the nice visual connection dreamed up by the miracle hunters.

Perhaps the submitters could save their departure time miracle by focussing not on the minutes and seconds, but on the hour and minutes, i.e. “1:54:01 p.m. EDT”?

Anyway, all of this is child’s play since there is again a far more foundational issue. Whether Universal Time or EDT, these ways of measuring time are based on the Prime Meridian through Greenwich in London, an ultimately arbitrary convention agreed upon only in 1884:

An international conference in 1884 decided the modern Prime Meridian passes through the Royal Observatory, Greenwich in southeast London, …, although the Prime Meridian is ultimately arbitrary unlike the parallels of latitude, which are defined by the rotational axis of the Earth with the Poles at 90° and the Equator at 0°. …

The modern Greenwich Meridian, based at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, was established by Sir George Airy in 1851. By 1884, over two-thirds of all ships and tonnage used it as the reference meridian on their maps. In October of that year, at the behest of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, 41 delegates from 25 nations met in Washington, D.C., USA, for the International Meridian Conference. This conference selected the Greenwich Meridian as the official Prime Meridian due to its popularity. However, France abstained from the vote and French maps continued to use the Paris Meridian for several decades. (Wikipedia, Prime Meridian; as accessed on 28 October 2011; underline emphasis mine)

In other words, a group of mostly western scientists and politicians, a.k.a. “infidels”19 decided this issue long after the Qur’an was revealed. Why would Allah base his codes and prophecies upon this arbitrary decision taken centuries after the time of Muhammad by a body of uninspired human beings, and mostly unbelievers by Islamic standards?

Therefore, apart from the fact that there is no indication anywhere in the Qur’an that verse and sura numbers should be interpreted as minutes and seconds of historical events, we have to ask a similar question as in the first part: Why should or would Allah count on the basis of Greenwich mean time? If any time standard, should it not be Mecca Time?

Mecca Time is a time standard that uses the line of longitude that goes through Mecca, Saudi Arabia (39°49′34″ E of the Greenwich Meridian) as its Prime Meridian. Its proposed use as a global standard is based on the claim that the city is the true center of the Earth and thus should become the basis of the world's timezones. A clock based on this meridian would be at approximately UTC+02:39:18.2.

The proposal was made by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and other Muslim clerics meeting in Doha, Qatar on April 21, 2008 for a conference titled "Mecca: the Center of the Earth, Theory and Practice." (Wikipedia, Mecca Time; as accessed on 28 October 2011)

The difference of 02:39:18.2 between Universal Time and Mecca Time obviously obliterates this element of the Quranic “moon miracle” as well.


The numbers and calculations presented on the website are certainly interesting coincidences, I agree with that; but that is all they are – coincidences. Claiming that Allah designed his signs and prophecies around arbitrary calendar and time conventions agreed upon by Western and mostly Christian scientists more than a thousand years after the Qur’an was “revealed”, instead of the Islamic calendar and a time based on “the most important point on earth” (according to Islam), the location of the Kaaba towards which Muslims are commanded to bow and pray five times every day, raises quite a few questions about the consistency of the god of Islam.

In fact, another question could and should be asked: Universal Time and Mecca Time are both “earth times”. Why should times for events on the moon be measured by any particular time standard tied to the earth?20 Landing and departure of the Lunar Module are historical events that happened “on the moon” and it would be appropriate to speak about them based on “moon time”.21 I will leave it to the Muslim miracle workers to propose an objective way to measure moon time, and do the calculations necessary to convert the departure time of 17:54:01 UT on July 21, 1969 to their proposed moon time.



1 The page numbers refer to the print edition. The text is also available online on his website but is spread over two pages (1, 2).

2 Cf. Taslaman’s chapter, “Endless miracles in the Basmalah”, starting on page 369, or online here. Update: Rashad Khalifa states that he discovered the miracle of 19 in his efforts to make sense of the mysterious letters that occur at the beginning of some suras (cf. Appendix 1 of Quran: The Final Testament, Authorized English Version, Translated from the Original by Rashad Khalifa, Ph.D., Revised Edition 1992).

3 See, for example, the book "The Qur'aan's Numerical Miracle - Hoax and Heresy" by Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips who had his high school students in Saudi Arabia examine it, thinking they would confirm it, but found it is full of holes. Dr. Phillips is a well-known orthodox Muslim author and speaker.

4 Since this is a later addition into the article, and brings into the discussion another version of the claims by Rashad Khalifa, I am marking these parts in grey, distinguishing my comments on or references to Khalifa’s text from my discussion of Taslaman’s text.

5 The verbs are in the imperative form, i.e. they are commands, not predictions.

6 Compare this with the first part of my article on Q. 54:1, discussing the alleged prophecy of the date of the moon landing.

7 Rashad Khalifa was aware how crucial the exact sequence of suras and verses is for his calculations. Therefore, he asserts at the very beginning of his book: “What Muhammad left was the complete Quran, written in the chronological sequence of revelation, with detailed instructions for putting the revelations into the sequence decreed by God.” (p. vii) But where is the evidence for this claim?

8 A similar manipulation can be found in an article by Harun Yahya, who “calculated” from Sura 54:1 the year in which the first moon landing has taken place. He also left out part of the verse and some letters to arrive at the desired number, cf. this article.

9 For details, see the History section of Wikipedia article, Islamic Calendar.

10 Rashad Khalifa’s translation is used here since he is the inventor/discoverer of the alleged 19-miracle and the authority among those who follow him.

11 See the translations by Pickthall and Al-Hilali & Khan.

12 Maududi’s Tafhim al-Qur'an.

13 Rashad Khalifa’s formulation in his footnote on Q. 74:1, see the image displayed above.

14 One could also ask: Why is it the landing date when it is also the date for the first step on the moon according to American time? The first step took place at 02:56:15 UT July 21, 1969 or 10:56:15 p.m. EDT July 20, 1969 (*). Certainly American dating goes with American time?

15 They do not say that it is coded into the Qur’an, but what then does it mean that it is coded? Is the mere fact that a number is divisible by 19 a (coding-) miracle, even if the connection to the Qur’an is more than tenuous?

16 I am going with the departure date of the Lunar Module, as this was claimed to be the decisive point in time by the Muslim miracle inventers. Additional note: Whether UT (Universal Time) or the American EDT (Eastern Day Time) or Mecca Time is chosen, the date is the same for the moment of departure.

17 But even leaving out the leading zeros would not change the result. None of the corresponding numbers is divisible by 19.

18 There we showed that 74:1 is actually written as 1:74 in Arabic, see here.

19 Of the 25 nations participating in International Meridian Conference only one was Islamic, the Ottoman Empire. In fact, the Turkish Muslim delegate Rustem Effendi made some interesting statements which are quite relevant to this discussion and, if taken seriously, would also destroy the accidental similarity between verse reference and departure time. His remarks are recorded on pages 178-180 of the Proceedings of the 1884 International Meridian Conference (*).

20 E.g. the length of the earth day is derived from the time it takes the earth to complete one rotation.

21 Just as for international flights both the time of departure and the time of arrival are always given according to local time.

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