The Qur’an famously claims that its truth can be verified by the fact that it contains no contradictions (Qur’an 4:82). This is, of course, patently absurd and one way we can prove this is by looking at the question of who the first Muslim was.
It seems that Allah was as liberal with the designation of ‘first Muslim’ as someone throwing candy from a parade float. A multitude of people are assured that they are, in fact, the first Muslims!
Each of these instances obviously contradicts the rest. QED as far as proving contradictions in the Qur’an is concerned.
Here are some of the candidates in a very crowded field:
Muhammad: “And I am commanded to be the first of those who bow to Allah in Islam.” (Qur’an 39:12)
Moses: “Glory be to Thee! To Thee I turn in repentance, and I am the first to believe.” (Qur’an 7:143)
Abraham: “And this was the legacy that Abraham left to his sons, and so did Jacob; “Oh my sons! Allah hath chosen the Faith for you; then die not except in the Faith of Islam.” (Qur’an 2:132)
Adam: “Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of ‘Imran above all people” (Qur’an 3:33)
Some Egyptian Magicians: “Lo! We ardently hope that our Lord will forgive us our sins because we are the first of the believers.” (Qur’an 26:51)
Jesus and his Disciples: “When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: “Who will be My helpers to (the work of) Allah?” Said the disciples: “We are Allah’s helpers: We believe in Allah, and do thou bear witness that we are Muslim.” (Qur’an 3:52)
Muslim apologists try to resolve this rather embarrassing tangle by claiming that each of these people was the ‘first Muslim’ among a specific group. In other words ‘the first Jewish Muslim’ (!) for example. This idea is obviously not present in the text, and the only reason that one will make such a claim would be in an attempt to get rid of a contradiction.
So this attempt to resolve the contradiction also cannot withstand even a moment of critical questioning.
Qur’an 3:6767 states that Abraham was not a Jew or a Christian but a Muslim. Yet, when Moses is discussed in Qur’an 7:14368, he declares that he is the ‘first to believe’. Are they from different people? No they are not. They stand in the same historical tradition. Moses comes into the frame after the descendants of Abraham ran into trouble in Egypt. As a matter of fact, Moses is portrayed as fulfilling the promises that Allah made through Abraham. It would, in this context, be exceedingly strange and awkward if he identified himself as the first believer, especially in an already believing community with a clear memory of Abraham as the ‘father of the faithful’.
There is, furthermore, evidence from the Qur’an that Allah revealed himself to Aaron (the brother of Moses) at the same time (Qur’an 7:143) and also an indication that there was at least one Egyptian believer around during Moses’ time (40:28-35, 38:46). So we have Moses, Aaron, the people of Israel, and at least one Egyptian in Egypt who were believers in Allah. Yet, when the Egyptian magicians accepted the path of Allah, they declare, “We are the first to believe.” (Qur’an 26:5169) The Qur’an is a mass of contradictions on this subject, something that cannot be untangled by the ‘among their own people’ response.
So who was the ‘first Muslim’? I do don’t know. And neither it seems, does the Qur’an.
For much more about some of the glaring contradictions in the Qur’an, please see my book ‘Questioning Islam – Tough Questions and Honest Answers About the Muslim Religion’