The ninth chapter of god is not Great is especially important because in this one Hitchens raises all the questions that seem to have been begged in his discussion of the Jewish Tanach and the Christian Bible. In those cases he seems to take for granted that inconsistencies and incoherences in the text make the claim to revelation ridiculous. This may, indeed, be true, but there is a prior question here that needs to be asked and answered, and Hitchens does, in fact, raise it now.
The preposterousness of the claim to divine revelation is made very clear in the opening paragraphs where Hitchens details the problems with pretending that the Koran could possibly be of supernatural origin. There is, first of all, the claim that the revelation was given to an illiterate man who then, in turn, spoke the words revealed to him to another who wrote it down. And then, as it happens, these bits and pieces of the supposed “revelation” were stored up in rather haphazard ways, and then compiled at a later date to form the text which is now known as the Koran, and for which so many exorbitant claims are then made. Since the text was “revealed” in Arabic, the assumption is made, as Hitchens says, that the god of the Koran is a monoglot, whose language is Arabic. The consequence is that this privileges not only the Koran but the Arabic language itself, so that no translation can be considered to be the Koran at all. So Arabs and Arabic are privileged above all other Muslims, and people whose original language is not Arabic are taught to recite the Koran even though they may not understand the language, and Arabia itself is also so privileged, so that Muslims everywhere must bow in the direction of Mecca when they pray, being forced, in consequence, to find their identity elsewhere than in their own language and culture. This has the inevitable effect of making all non-Arab Muslims subordinate to Arab Muslims, and their expression of Islam of considerably less importance.
Hitchens’ comment on all this is decisive:
Even if god is or was an Arab (an unsafe assumption), how could he expect to “reveal” himself by way of an illiterate person who in turn could not possibly hope to pass on the unaltered (let alone unalterable) words? 
The claim is incoherent. Knowing what we now know about human memory and its abilities, it is quite clear that no one can be trusted to repeat, verbatim, a recitation of words heard at another time. Even oral tradition does not work in this way, and those who recite sagas and epics in oral traditions are known not to repeat the poems or recitations in word-for-word form, but to introduce flourishes, innovations and alterations in the text as the occasion demands. John Dominic Crossan, in his book, The Birth of Christianity, discusses the issue of oral tradition in great detail, and makes it quite clear that the supposed stability of oral traditions is a myth. Every recitation of an epic poem, or saga, is a unique work of creative expression, not a rote repetition of a fixed tradition. The idea that Mohammed or anyone else could repeat verbatim a recitation of an angel that he claimed to have encountered on Mt. Hira is simply implausible — even if we grant the plausibility of Mohammed’s claim to have encountered an angel, something which is in itself simply implausible and fantastic.
The problem is one that the notion of revelation simply cannot overcome. As Hitchens says:
… the idea that the identical text can yield different commandments to different people is quite familiar to me for other reasons. There is no need to overstate the difficulty of understanding Islam’s alleged profundities. If one comprehends the fallacies of any “revealed” religion, one comprehends them all. 
This point is also decisive, and it explains why religions are so resistant to the idea of translating their supposedly “revealed” texts into other languages, because translation only compounds the difficulties attached to preserving the ideal of a single and unique revelation. The fact that Christianity, even after having undergone a reformation, as well as having passed through a period of enlightenment, is still resistant to textual criticism of the Bible with its unsettling conclusions for the idea of revelation, is clearly indicative of the fact that it is known how unstable the concept of revelation really is, and how difficult it is to keep the meaning of texts nailed down so as not to subvert the claim to revelation. This is particularly evident in Islam, because Islam has not undergone a reformation, nor has it passed through a period of critical enlightenment, and the text-critical study of the Koran is not even in its infancy. As Ibn Warraq says:
Today, Muslims have yet to learn the science of textual criticism, let alone apply it to the Koran. [loc. 2526, Kindle edition]
But it is clearly evident that the Koran has not only undergone a process of selection and development, but that it is dependent upon Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian sources, a dependence which puts a lie to any claim that it could be an independently “revealed” text.
It seems to me apt to quote Hitchens at some length in relation to the fact of the Koran’s dependence on other, pre-existing sources, because it is often forgotten that Islam came to a rather troubled birth in a context in which a number of forms of Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and animist polytheism were all part of the cultural mix of Arabia when Islam came to birth. Despite the idea that the early conquests of a nascent Islam may have indicated to the conquerors that it was backed by a divine will, it is important to note, as Hitchens says, that
Islam when examined is not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require. Thus, far from being “born in the clear light of history,” as Ernest Renan so generously phrased it, Islam in its origins is just as shady and approximate as those from which it took its borrowings. It makes immense claims for itself, invokes prostrate submission or “surrender” as a maxim to its adherents, and demands deference and respect from nonbelievers into the bargain. There is nothing — absolutely nothing — in its teachings that can even begin to justify such arrogance and presumption. 
This becomes especially problematic when we consider how the traditions about Mohammed and the collection of the various sayings that make up the Koran were brought together. As Hitchens points out, it was a full 120 years before anyone wrote an account of Mohammed’s life, and even this text was lost, and is only known through reworked texts from a much later time. (129) Nor is there any agreement about how the sayings in the Koran came to be gathered together, and how they related to the original sayings of the supposed prophet.
Indeed, the compilation of the Koran is an alarmingly disjointed affair. Hitchens points out that, at a certain time, it became obvious to some Muslims under the first caliphate that the number of those who still remembered the sayings of the prophet had come to the point where they might be lost, so it was decided to gather them together, along with
“pieces of paper, stones, palm leaves, shoulder-blades, ribs and pieces of leather” on which sayings had been scribbled, and given them to Zaid ibn Thabit, one of the Prophet’s former secretaries, for an authoritative collation. 
Needless to say, the reliability of such a process leaves a great deal to be desired, quite aside from the crucial question as to the relationship of any of these sayings, supposing that some reliably reported actual sayings of Mohammed were included, to any divine source. And even then, Hitchens points out, the story itself and its date are neither of them reliable.
But even if, as Hitchens says, we grant the correctness of some such version of events, still the possibility of variant readings of the texts remains. Since the Arabic script was not standardised until sometime in the ninth century, by which time “the undotted and oddly voweled Koran was generating wildly different explanations of itself, as it still does,” (131) the supposition that we have anything that can be considered a divine voice is simply wildly implausible. And, Hitchens adds, whereas
This might not matter in the case of the Iliad, … we are supposed to be talking about the unalterable (and final) word of god. There is obviously a connection between the sheer feebleness of this claim and the absolutely fanatical certainty with which it is advanced. 
This is a vital point, and it becomes even more important when we consider the weight given to remembered sayings of the prophet, the hadith, a collection so vast that Bukhari, who flourished over 200 years after Mohammed, was able immediately to rule out 200,000 of them as valueless, and that further reflection excluded even more.
Further exclusion [Hitchens writes] of dubious traditions and questionable isnads [or chains of transmission of sayings] reduced this grand total to ten thousand hadith. 
Upon which Hitchens’ justifiably sceptical comment is:
You are free to believe, if you so choose, that out of this formless mass of illiterate and half-remembered witnessing the pious Bukhari, more than two centuries [after the prophet], managed to select only the pure and undefiled ones that would bear examination. 
But when it is remembered that even so the hadiths contain obvious borrowings from Christianity and Judaism, gospel verses, and rabbinic sayings, bits of Greek philosophy, Persian maxims, and, as Hitchens points out, “an almost word-for-word reproduction of the Lord’s Prayer,” (132) it is simply a nonsense to claim that these hadith should in any sense be considered authoritative for anybody. The basic problem, of course, is that there is no way to tie this mélange of sayings to a creditable divine source. It is not only the internal contradictions and disagreements, nor the heterogeneous sources from which the various sayings are plagiarised, and not even the so-called “satanic verses” (in which Mohammed tries to conciliate the polytheists), that leads to this conclusion, but simply the fact that there is no clear way in which it could be shown that this complex of texts comes to rest in a supposedly divine source.
What would such a proof look like? The beauty or sonorousness of the language — which is reputed to turn some devout Muslims to tears — simply won’t do the trick. The supposition that the society blueprinted by the texts would be an ideal society won’t do it either, quite aside from the fact that any society that could be based on the texts themselves, given their outworking in existing Islamic societies or those proposed by interpreters such as Sayyid Qutb or Osama bin Laden, would be societies of the most excruciating oppressiveness. Besides, as Plato said, the goodness even of a purported god’s commands must be assessed independently of those commands themselves. This is the irremediable problem at the heart of all religions. The claims made are simply inconsistent with any credible foundation upon which the claims can be conceivably based. Thus, as Hitchens points out:
… the fact remains that Islam’s core claim — to be unimprovable and final — is at once absurd and unalterable. 
Islam is, in other words, largely inaccessible to critical consideration,
The fact, as Hitchens points out, that “even the most tentative efforts [to bring critical intelligence to bear on the discrepancies between the various editions and manuscripts of the Koran] have been met with almost Inquisitorial rage,” (137) suggests that the intolerance of Islam to critical discussion makes it very unlikely that there will be an early or peaceful resolution of the incompatibility of Islam with the democratic polities of the West, and their traditions of free inquiry and freedom of expression. The trouble is that this is becoming clear at the same time that there seems to be, as Hitchens says,
a “soft” consensus among almost all the religions that, because of the supposed duty of respect that we owe the faithful, this is the very time to allow Islam to assert its claims at their own face value. 
This dangerous assumption is increasingly seen to govern the official response by governments and by the judicatories of the various religions to such things as the contract put out by the head of state of Iran on the life of Salman Rushdie for the publication of a novel. The recent outrage by a Muslim terrorist at Queen Mary College, University of London, is another example where officialdom has failed to respond in an immediate and robust way to a terrorist threat made to those gathered to hear a lecture on Sharia law, just as the cartoon controversy over the publication by Jyllands-Posten in Denmark of a number of cartoons of the Mohammed — intended to break the cycle of self-censorship which fear of Islam had aroused so widely in Europe and elsewhere — initiated police inquiries and interrogations of those at the centre of it, rather than of those who chose to respond to it with religious indignation, outrage, and violence. Accusations of Islamophobia abound, but very little critical attention is paid to the religion of Islam itself, for that would simply arouse the same kind of outrage and violence as the original cartoons.
In other words, critical attention to Islam is automatically excluded from consideration at a time when Islam is making increasingly strident claims for itself, fully justifying Hitchens’ concluding claim that “[o]nce again, faith is helping to choke free inquiry and the emancipating consequences that it might bring.” (137) Of course, it is doing more than that. Faith is making it impossible to bring critical intelligence to bear on ideas that have the demonstrated capacity to subordinate freedom to the unsupported claims of faith. We can see this clearly at work in India. In the light of these trends, Ibn Warraq’s new book, Why the West is Best, is particularly important, because it addresses itself directly to the contrast between the lack of critical awareness in Islam generally and the rich diversity and freedom that the West enjoys precisely through its intellectual tradition of free critical inquiry.