Cold Case Islam – Separate Artifacts from Evidence

Part 1: Test your Witness

Part 2: Chain of Custody


When collecting evidence from within a crime scene there will always be items picked up and included that do not pertain to the crime itself; these items are called artifacts. Jurors must determine whether certain items qualify as evidence in a cumulative case or not.

Like crime scenes, historical scenes can be reconstructed with the evidence we have at our disposal. We have to be careful, however, to distinguish between evidence and artifacts. The testimony of an eyewitness can be properly viewed as evidence, but anything added to the account after the fact should be viewed with caution as a possible artifact.

Wallace describes several strategies he uses as a detective to identify artifacts and has also used these principles to identify textual artifacts in ancient writings. These include

  • identifying late additions,
  • recognizing differences in character (things that do not seem to belong),
  • finding and verifying an explanation regarding certain items, and
  • ignoring artifacts that do not seem to affect the outcome of the case, relying instead on what you do know.

When looking at the Bible, the Gospels are said to be eyewitness testimony, even though skeptics will claim there are too many contradictions or textual artifacts for that to be true. One thing to be noted is that every crime scene has artifacts, but that does not negate the crime or the need to proceed with the evidence at hand.

In the same way, just because the Bible has some textual artifacts does not mean that it should be written off entirely. By applying some of the principles mentioned above, the textual artifacts can be separated out from the evidence. In Wallace’s words,

luckily, we have ‘photographs’ of the early crime scene to help us. We have hundreds of early, ancient manuscripts that can give us a snapshot of what the text looked like before anyone added anything to the narrative.

From there is it simply a matter of weeding out the artifacts. What we are left with is quite an accurate picture of the original text.

It should be a simple matter, then, of applying the same method with the Qur’an – except we cannot.

As mentioned previously, the third Muslim Caliph, Uthman, supposedly gathered in all copies of the Qur’an, and after creating one unified and edited official version, destroyed all other known copies. The version of the Qur’an that is in existence today is itself an artifact; it is a “late addition”. This is now confirmed since archeologists have found at least two collections of Qur’anic sayings in the form of codices from before the date of the Uthmanic version (as mentioned above), and in regards to just two of those collections discovered,

the list of variant readings…is extensive, running to a thousand or more items in both cases.

In the case of the Qur’an, then, the evidence was destroyed before it had a chance to be examined, and some items that have been only recently discovered to have survived the cull, confirm that someone tampered with the evidence.


If the Islamic “case” were to make it to trial, it seems that their case would not hold up in court. In testing the eyewitness claims, we find that Muhammad, though present at the scene, really has no alibi, is not trustworthy or accurate, his claims cannot be verified by external evidence, and he had reason to lie to keep and further his position as prophet.

Looking at the chain of custody in regards to Muhammad’s alleged written eyewitness testimony, the Qur’an, we find that we cannot actually trace it directly to Muhammad. All known versions before Uthman were destroyed. Of course, that leaves the version that we have today, though accurately traceable to Uthman, as an artifact rather than evidence, since it is an altered and late addition to the collection of evidence.

With no reliable eyewitness and no actual evidence, Islam’s claims cannot be considered true or trustworthy beyond a reasonable doubt.