Polemical Rebuttals Qur'anic Commentary The Qur'an

Does “Musi’un” Mean “Expanding”?


It has come to our attention that Avijit Roy, webmaster of the Mukto Mona website, wrote an article titled Does the Qur’an Have any Scientific Miracles? One portion of the article on the subject of Sura’ az-Zaariyaat is worth commenting on, as it is an exhibition of some of the common problems with non-Muslim critiques of Muslim arguments over the Internet. These would include an unjustified confidence with the relevant subject matter, a poor understanding of the arguments involved and a possible tendency to bluff with the hopes that no one else notices.

What is at issue here is the fact that the word (musi`un) in Sura’ az-Zaariyaat 51:47 can be translated as “expanding”, thus some Muslims have argued that this is a Quranic reference to the expanding of the universe. Whatever the soundness of that position, Mr. Roy’s attempt to refute it included some statements that were so ridiculous that one could not simply let them pass.

Deceit or Sincere Ignorance?

One of the first statements that raised a red flag was one that attempted to lean on the arguments of Denis Giron.

Mr. Roy writes:

    Denish [sic] Giron also explained in one of his wonderfully written pieces that the verb from which the Arabic word (musi’un) is derived cannot mean “expand”

Then Mr. Roy cites Giron’s article entitled Expansion of the Universe in the Bible and the Qur’an: Comparing Isaiah to Soorat az-Zaariyaat.

The first problem is that Giron’s article blatantly contradicts Mr. Roy’s claim. In fact, Giron’s article explicitly states that “the verb from which this word is derived can mean expand.”

One has to wonder: did Mr. Roy even bother to read Giron’s article? The simple fact is that Mr. Roy’s argument says that the word cannot be translated as “expanding”, yet he calls to witness an article that gives a rather clear argument for why it can be translated as “expanding”!

After that, Mr. Roy calls to witness an article by Ali Sina. In this case, Mr. Roy actually manages to cite a person who agrees with him, but Sina’s argument is simply ridiculous, to put it mildly. Roy’s mentioning of this article is appreciated, however, as it can serve as a prime example of Sina’s total ignorance regarding the Arabic language. Mr. Sina argues as follows:

The word used here is moosiAAoona which drives from word vaseun. It means vast. It has nothing to do with expanding. When you say al rezwano vaseun (the garden is vast). It does not mean that the garden is expanding.

While this may seem like a case of belaboring a minor point, it might be worth noting that most people who employ a double-A (“AA”) in their transliterations of Qur’anic words or phrases over the net are probably novices who merely lifted the relevant transliteration off one of the websites which provide this odd symbol as designation of the presence of the Arabic letter ayn. Regardless, Sina’s attempt to prove that musi’un cannot be translated as “expanding” betrays a rather pathetic ignorance on his part regarding the Arabic language, and thus Mr. Roy’s decision to call him to witness is a true example of “the blind leading the blind”. Most ironic of all, the article by Denis Giron itself refutes Ali Sina’s ridiculous claim.

The Islamophobes’ “Expanding” Stupidity

As it was noted in Giron’s article, and would be known by just about anyone familiar with Arabic grammar, a verbal root in Arabic can take different verbal forms (or known as wazan). The following chart will serve to illustrate the various forms of wazan in the Arabic language and this chart will form the basis of what follows.

When the verbal root is in the (af`ala) form (or, as Giron puts it, “the FORM IV verb stem”), it can take on a causative function.

E.H. Palmer states that:

This is also expressed by Socin as follows:

The word musi’un is the plural of a participle from the verb root in this verbal form, which is (awsa`a). Thus, the related verb can mean something along the lines of causing something else to be wide or vast (i.e. expanding that thing). This is supported by various modern Arabic-English dictionaries and concordances.3 Hans Wehr4 gives the meaning “expand” under the form II stem for the root, and notes that the form IV stem can have all the same meanings as the form II.5 For form II as given by Wehr, Lane6 gives “made wide, broad, spacious […] amplified, enlarged, made ample”.

As also has been noted in Giron’s article, participles can be translated as the verbal form in the present tense. This is explained by Thackston, who says that:


Regarding the example provided by Thackston (saajid), it appears in the plural (saajideen) in Sura’ ash-Shu’ara, 26:46. The reader might be interested in comparing all translations of this verse. Critics of the claim that m?si’un can be translated “expanding” (present tense) try and lean on the fact that “certain” translations don’t render it that way. Looking at the translations with a non-controversial example such as Sura’ ash-Shu’ara, 26:46 might be worthwhile because we see that while “certain” translations do not render the active participle as a present tense verb, others do (e.g. “prostrating” or “bowing”), and this is a very possible translation.

We are also told in another reference that:


One may ask, what does the derived participles from the verb signify? Kasis explains:

The participles are derived from the verb to signify the doer (active participle) or recipient (passive participle) of the action. In addition, they signify an action which may be temporary, continuous or in a habitual state of being […] The active participle is very frequently translated as an adjective or as a substantive noun. Thus katib may be translated, depending on the context, as either “writing” (adj) or “scribe” (n).9

Thus “expanding” is a very real meaning for the word musi’un. Our points above are hence summarised as follows:

    (1) That the (Form IV) af`ala stem is causative.
    (2) That awsa`a (or musi`) can have the meaning “expand”.
    (3) That active participles can be translated as present tense verbs.

But here is a food-for-thought for even those unfamiliar with Arabic to ponder. The word under discussion was (musi’un). Yet Ali Sina went on to expound on the word “vaseun” without making any recourse to the word originally under discussion. It should be noted that there is no consonant “v” in Arabic. Perhaps he meant wasee` or (waasi`). This is not a very subtle attempt of bait and switch, which makes one wonder how had this argument managed to fool Avijit Roy. Do these two men honestly believe that every word from the same root in Arabic have the same meaning? When trying to discuss the meaning of a word, why hinge your entire argument on the meaning of a completely different word? The question even those who do not know Arabic can ask Sina and Mr. Roy is: are we discussing thw word “vaseun” or are we discussing musi`un?


How seriously can Muslims take Ali Sina or his cohort Aijit Roy when they put forth such poor arguments which is reflective of their command in Arabic? Certainly when it comes to issues of Arabic grammar, even their supporters should not hold to closely to their arguments. Did either of these men honestly believe they could just bluff their way through these arguments? Or did they actually convince themselves that these were good arguments? What kind of (a lack of) attention is required for one to not realize that they are calling to witness an article which disagrees with the very core of their claim? How did Mr. Roy managed to attribute a claim to an article which states the exact opposite?

Now non-Muslim readers (particularly the supporters of Ali Sina or Mr. Roy) may object that we have not mentioned the fact that Denis Giron’s article was attempting to disprove the claim that Sura’ az-Zaariyaat is a scientific miracle. This was not the issue under discussion here. Note that we did not make any positive claim about this verse necessarily being an obvious scientific miracle, hence we are not under any requirement to defend such a position or refute every attempt to critique it.

However, it should be stated that Denis Giron’s actual argument should not be considered terribly controversial by any Muslim who understands it. What was at issue here was the absurd level reached in these articles by Ali Sina and Mr. Roy in their attempt to tackle this issue. Can their supporters at least agree with us that in these instances, these two men committed some rather laughable errors and put on an exhibition of just how little they know about Arabic grammar?

And only God knows best!

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Does “Musi’un” Mean “Expanding”?," in Bismika Allahuma, November 25, 2005, last accessed September 25, 2022,
  1. E.H. Palmer, Simplified Grammar of Hindustani Persian and Arabic, 3rd ed., (Kegan Paul Trench Trubner & Co., 1890), p. 65 []
  2. A. Socin, Arabic Grammar, (GE Stechert & Co., 1922), p. 26 []
  3. See, for example Rohi Baalbaki, al-Mawrid: Modern-Arabic English Dictionary, (Dar el-Ilm Lilmalayin, 1988), p. 1233 and Hanna E. Kassis, A Concordance of the Qur’an, (University of California Press, 1983), p. 1294. The latter gives the meaning “extend”. []
  4. J. Milton Cowan, Hans Wehr: A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, 4th ed. (Otto Harrassowitz, 1979), p. 1251 []
  5. It should be noted that ibid., 2nd ed. (Cornell University Press, 1966), p. 1067, is exactly the same as the previous edition. []
  6. Edward William Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (Islamic Book Center, 1978), p. 3053 []
  7. Wheeler M. Thackston, An Introduction to Koranic and Classical Arabic, (Iranbooks, 1994), p. 58 []
  8. Eckehard Schulz, Gunther Krahl & Wolfgang Reuschel, Standard Arabic (Cambridge, 2000), p. 280 []
  9. Hanna E. Kassis, A Concordance of the Qur’an (University of California Press, 1983), p. xxxiv []
Qur'anic Commentary The Qur'an

Wife Beating In The Qur’an? Commentary On Sura’ An-Nissa’ (4):34

It is claimed that:

    Surah 4:34 is the notorious verse which advices Muslim husbands with regard to wives from whom they fear “rebellion” (“wa-llaatiy takhafuwna nushuwzahunna“) eventually to beat them (“wa- dribuwhunna“, “and beat them!”)

The issue of a given scriptural verse and its implications are twain. First, there is the actual meaning of the verse. Second, there is the way in which it was received and understood by those who received it.

Much of the problem is due to the numerous attempts at an English interpretation of the Qur’an and not a one being all that good. Let us look at the verse in its context which often neglected intentionally for the sake of the bigoted polemics. This is how it should be rendered into English based on the Prophet’s (P) own words, how his Companions (R) understood them, and how the traditional scholars of Islamic Jurisprudence ruled according to these precepts:

“Men are the vigilant custodians of women, because of what Allah has endowed upon the one over the other, in that they spend from their means. Thus are those women righteous and devout, and protective in absentia over what Allahas deemed to be secure. As for those from whom you fear insolence, (first) edify them, (second) abstain from laying together with them, (lastly) beat them. However, if they seek reconciliation, do not be hostile against them. Verily, Allah is the Exalted the Great.”

Below are the reasons for my translation listed in detail based upon the understanding of the Prophet(P), his Companions(R) and the early Muslim authorities in jurisprudence:

(1) “Men are the vigilant custodians of women…”

al-Qawwaamoona” (sing. “al-Qawwaam“) — “Meaning vigilant to and protective” (“Ayy: mulaaziman, muHaafiTHan“)1

(2) “…because of what Allah has endowed upon the one over the other, in that they spend from their means”

bi-maa fa’al Allah ba`Dahum `alaa ba`D…” (lit. “In what Allah has endowed the one over the other) – “Meaning that they purvey for them a wedding dowry, and they spend dutifully upon them from their means, and they make sure that all their needs are met. That is the endowment Allahas put in place for them and over them…”2

(3) “…Thus are those women righteous and devout, and protective in absentia over what All?has deemed to be secure”

“Be good to them, and dignify them, for this is what was understood from the recitation of Ibn Mas’ud”3

(4) “…As for those from whom you fear insolence”

“an-Nushooz” – “….is infraction (`aSyaan); taken from ‘an-nashaz’ meaning that which is elevated from the earth…The meaning is thus: You fear her rebellion and haughtiness to what All?has ordained upon her in regards to compliance with her husband. Abu ManSoor al-Lughawy has stated, ‘Nushooz is the hatred of either one of a married couple for their spouse’. Ibn Faaris has stated, ‘A woman has committed nushooz if she has beleaguered her husband, and the husband has committed nushooz if he strikes her and beats her…”4

(5) “…edify them”

“fa-`iTHoohunna” – “Meaning with the Book of All? Meaning remind them of what All?has ordained upon them regarding being of amiable companionship and beautiful partnership with their husbands, and the level of his status over her…”5

(6) “…abstain from their beds”

“And ‘abstaining from the beds’ is that he should lie with her, but turn his back to her, and not have intercourse with her, according to Ibn `Abbaas and others. Mujaahid said, ‘Abstaining from lying with her’…al-Hasan al-Basri said, ‘For when the husband abstains from her bedside, if she is loving to her husband then this will be grieve her and she will be inclined to make things right; However, if she is hateful then her insolence will become manifest, and it will be made clear that she is haughty.”6

(7) “…and beat them”

Allah has said, ‘and beat them’ (wa-Driboohunna) as an order from Allah that the husband should begin by edifying the woman firstly, then he should abstain from her, then if none of that proves useful then to beat…and ‘beat’ (darb) in this verse is to beat simply as a gesture and to not cause pain. It is not meant to break bones or to offend her dignity as with a punch and the like. For the intention is reconciliation and not anything other than that..and the Prophet(P) said in Saheeh Muslim: ‘Fear Allah in regards to women! For you have taken them in marriage as security from Allah and intercourse with them has been made lawful for you by the Words of Allah. And you too have rights over them that they should not allow any adversary to illicitly frequent your dwelling. If they do that then you may hit them with a hit that does not hurt’

(8) “…if they seek reconciliation, do not be hostile against them”

“Allah has said, ‘if they seek reconciliation,’ meaning they have forsaken insolence. ‘Do not be hostile against them,’ meaning do not respond to them in furore in words or actions. This is a forbiddance in regards to oppressing them after they have become determined upon the goodness and are firm in good conduct. Meaning do not make it difficult for them to show you love, for this is not the way to be with them.”7

One can opportunistically cancel out the above in order to twist the words as they like according to their infinitesimal understanding, but this is a dishonest polemic. If one chooses to say that a verse from the Qur’an has a heinous meaning, in spite of the absolute majority of Muslims not sharing that narrow and twisted understanding, this serves only the facetious desires of that person’s own twisted, puny brain.

If one were to say that the Biblical verse “Thou shall not kill” means that everyone must be a vegetarian, and a Christian posted a plethora of references to show that the absolute majority of the Church throughout history did not share this view, yet that person insisted that it meant you couldn’t kill animals either, then that person would be an imbecile. The only thing such people are doing is making an obtuse joke for themselves which they can snicker at in their bedrooms and no more.

And only God knows best.

  1. Ibn al-Manthur, Lisaan al-`Arab []
  2. at-Tabari, Jaami`u-l Bayaan `An Ta’weel Aay al-Qur’an []
  3. ibid. []
  4. al-Qurtubi, al-Jaami’u li-Ahkaami-l Qur’an []
  5. at-Tabari, op. cit. []
  6. al-Qurtubi, op. cit. []
  7. ibid. []
External Errors Refutation of Qur'an Contradictions The Qur'an

Mary, the Sister of Aaron?

According to some of the Orientalist scholars, the Qur’an is a concoction of Prophet Muhammad(P) based mainly on Jewish and Christian sources. To Maxime Rodinson, the French Orientalist, Muhammad(P) was guilty of falsification by deliberately attributing to Allah(T) his own thoughts and instructions.1 The same idea has been repeated by various scholars such as lgnaz Goldziher2, William Miller3, Fr. John L. Mckenzie4, Montgomery Watt5, Rev. Stanton6, and C.C. Torrey7. Not surprisingly, the Christian missionaries have taken up this charge as well. The present paper takes this “single evidence” as a specimen to evaluate all the possibilities in a bid to examine whether the accusation can stand with the evidence from the Bible, the Qur’an and logic.

When Jews were alleging that Jesus(P) had no father and therefore he was an illegitimate child and that his mother Mary(P) was unchaste, the Qur’an declared her innocence against the charge:

    “His [Jesus’] mother was a truthful woman.” (5:75)

The Qur’an emphasized her outstanding chastity and complete abstinence in thought as well in deed:

    “And [remember] the woman [Mary] who kept her chastity. We breathed into her of Our spirit and made her and her son a sign to all men.” (21:91)
    “And God has given as example Mary, Imran’s daughter who preserved her chastity and into her [whose womb], We breathed of Our spirit; who put her trust in the words of her Lord and His Scriptures and was truly devout.” (66:12)

Regarding the Jewish indictment of the immoral conduct of Mary, the Qur’an reported:

    “Carrying the child she came to her people, who said to her: Oh Mary, you have done an unusual thing. Oh, sister of Aaron, your father was never a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste.” (19:27, 28)

To the Qur’anic citation of the remarks made by the Jewish contemporaries, the critics of Islam, especially the Christian missionaries, have deduced an anachronism. When we critically examine the allegations levelled against Qur’an by different people in various contexts, it will be clear that the same accusations are repeated in various forms and styles.

In the following part, I shall cite some attacks made (on the same issue) on Qur’an, mostly by Christian scholars.

Criticisms of Sister of Aaron

In his voluminous work, A Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam (which was co-authored with J. H. Kramers), Hamilton A.R. Gibb writes:

It has been supposed that the name of Imran, which apparently corresponds with the Biblical Amran, the father of Moses, as well as the fact that Maryam is called a sister of Harun (Sura 19:28) is due to a confusion between the two Biblical Mariyam’s.8

In a book of comparative religion by a Christian scholar, we read:

Muhammad apparently even confuses Mary, the mother of Jesus, with Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron (Sura 19:29). This confusion may also explain why the Prophet traces the ancestry of Mary back to the ancient family of Imran, a variant of Amran, father of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam (Sura 3:36, 1 Chronicles 6:3).9

D.S Margoliouth (1858-1940), formerly professor of Arabic at Oxford University, writes:

Having heard a Mary mentioned in the story of Moses and another in the story of Jesus, it did not occur to him to distinguish between them.10

N.A. Newman, an Islamologist of America, attacked Qur’an citing the verses 19:28-29:

An apparent mistake of Muhammad, whereby Mary the mother of Jesus was also thought to be Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron.11

W. Montgomery Watt talks of the errors in the historical facts found in the Qur’an:

…the implication that Mary is confused with Miriam.12

C.C. Torrey also made the same point:

He [Muhammad] associated with Jesus; evidently believing that very soon after the revelation to the Hebrew lawgiver, there had followed the similar revelations which had produced the Christian and their sacred book. This appears in his identification of Mary, the mother of Jesus with Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron.13

Even the agnostic Karen Armstrong, in her otherwise objective biography of Prophet Muhammad(P), was confused by the writings of other authors when she commented:

Muhammad did not know the chronology in which the scriptural Prophets appeared: he seems, for example, to have thought that Mariam, the mother of Jesus was the same as Mariam, the sister of Moses in the Jewish scriptures.14

A proclaimed anti-Muslim, pro-Zionist, and atheist, the pseudonymous Ibn Warraq, concurred with his Christian and Jewish counterparts when he wrote:

It is pretty obvious that Muhammad has confused Miriam, the sister of Moses, with Mary, the mother of Jesus. The commentators have verily taxed their brain to explain this marvellous confusion of space and time.15

The Qur’an is not indifferent to such attacks. It properly considers such accusations and then refutes.

  • “Do they say: ‘He has framed a falsehood about God?'” (42:24)
  • “And they say: ‘Fables of the ancients — he has got them written — so these are read out to him morning and evening.'” (25:5).
  • “Or do they say: ‘He (Muhammad) has invented it himself?'” (32:3)

If the Qur’an is of Divine origin it should not contain misinformation as the Book itself says, “Your Lord does not forget.” (19:64)

In yet another verse the Qur’an boldly claims that there is not any contradiction in it:

    “Do they not ponder on the Qur’an? Had it been from other than God, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.” (4:82)

The bone of contention is focused on whether the contemporaries of Mary would or would not have made such remarks, pointing their accusing fingers at the infant Jesus(P) in her arms (19:28). Let us objectively analyze whether their charge of anachronism can stand the test of the Qur’anic and Biblical evidence in the light of logical thought.

Before actually going into the subject matter, in lieu of an introduction, let us consider a general depiction of Mary and make a comparison of the scriptures.

Mary in Christianity and Islam

There are more references of Mary(P) in the Qur’an than in the New Testament. The name occurs 34 times in the Qur’an, always referring to the mother of Jesus(P). One of its chapters (Surah 19) is named “Maryam”. While the Qur’an has many things to say regarding the childhood of Mary(P), the Bible contains nothing of the sort.

When the wife of Imran became pregnant, she took a vow to dedicate her newborn child to God (3:35). But when she delivered a girl she was disappointed (3:36). Yet, God accepted the female child and appointed Zechariah(P) as her guardian (3:37, 44). Mary had parents and a home, but because of the Nasr (dedication) of her mother, she came under the guardianship of Zechariah(P), the high priest of the temple of Jerusalem (3:37). The Jewish rights regarding a Nazarite, according to which Mary had been offered to the temple of God in Jerusalem, are described in the Bible (Judges 13:3-5).

The Biblical record indicates that Zechariah was a godly priest of the division of Abijah. It was when this division had its turn for the temple duties and on the day the lot fell to him to burn incense that the angel appeared to announce the birth of his son John(P) (Luke 1:55f, Qur’an 3:39). Being a saintly woman, Mary had secluded herself from the people and devoted her life to God (Qur’an 5:75, 19:16-17). She spent most of her time in reading the scriptures and in worship (3:43, 66:12). God chose this virgin, made her pure and preferred her above all women of the world (3:42). As often as Zechariah(P) enters Mary’s mihrab (chamber), he finds her being provided with food miraculously (3:37).

When she reached the age of puberty, she was divinely informed (through the agency of an angel in male form) that she would give birth to a prodigious child (3:45-50). A narration of the nativity of Jesus and pangs of labour of Mary(P) can be read in the Qur’an (19:26-27, 3:45-47). The Qur’an then goes on to describe the “calumny”, which the Jews brought forth against Mary(P), and her response (19:27-34). It calls Mary(P) as a sign of God (23:50). Her purity is emphasized (3:42-44). At the same time, the Qur’an does not forget to deny Mary’s divinity in strong words (5:75, 116, 4:171). It threatened the Jews for their grave charges against Mary(P) (4:156).

The New Testament practically sheds no light on the life of Mary before she became pregnant. Matthew and Luke give an extremely brief and discursive description of the circumstances of the pregnancy (Matthew 1:18-20, Luke 1:28-35). The reader can perceive that the Qur’an gives a much more detailed account of Mary’s family, the circumstances that attended her birth, the vow of her mother, her childhood being dedicated to the service of the synagogue and lastly of her having conceived Jesus (3:35-37).

According to the Bible, Jesus(P) was the son of the Holy Ghost:

    “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called, the son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

The description is clear that the divine spirit had entered Mary’s body and she became pregnant and Jesus(P) was born as a result of that union and therefore, he was the Son of God! The Qur’an attacks such preposterous dogma and denounces it in very strong terms:

    “They say: The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son. Surely you say a monstrous falsehood! The very heavens might crack; the earth break asunder and the mountains crumble to dust when they ascribe a son to the Merciful. It does not become Al-Rahman to beget one!”(19:88-92).

The Qur’anic narration is far different from the Biblical:

    “The angel said, “Such is the will of God. He creates what He wills. When He decrees a thing He need only say,”Be” and it is.” (3:47)

Most of the New Testament writers seem to be unaware of the idea of the virgin birth of Jesus. For example in Galatians 4:4, St. Paul writes that Jesus was born of a “woman” instead of using the word “virgin”. In Matthew 1:16, the word “begot” is clearly used for Joseph. The reference to Joseph as Jesus? father (Matthew 13:55, Luke 2:33, 48) implies physical paternity. This resulted in the outright rejection of the idea by many liberal theologians:

Mary was a virgin, till after Jesus’ birth, but later ideas of her perpetual virginity are merely fanciful.16

as she was the mother of other children also17. No wonder that many Christian scholars deny the virgin birth of Jesus. The Church of England made it an optional belief from 1938 onwards.

Arthur Peacock, director of the Ian Ramsey Centre, St. Cross college, Britain, concluded his discussion of the matter thus:

The doubts about the historicity of the virginal conception of Jesus arise from many considerations, inter alia: the only two narratives which suggest it are those in the early chapters of Matthew and Luke, which were written CE 70-80 A.D, are mutually irreconcilable, symbolic and legendary in style, and not always consistent with the other parts of the same gospel (e.g., with respect to Mary’s knowledge of Jesus’ vocation or the status of Joseph as father), it is not mentioned any where in fourth Gospel (John) with its “high” Christology; nor elsewhere in the New Testament.18

If one carefully examines the Biblical version of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1:18-24), it tells only how Joseph alone is convinced of the virgin birth through the angel. This is not enough. What about the public at large? Under these circumstances, only a miracle can establish the virgin birth. Only Jesus himself can establish the fact that he was born of a virgin, and according to the Qur’an this was accomplished by his first miracle:

“She pointed to him (i.e., the infant Jesus). But they replied, “How can we speak with a baby in the cradle?” Whereupon he said, “I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Book and made me a Prophet” (19:29-30)

Incidentally, the difference in the narration of the first miracle performed by Jesus in these two scriptures is really striking: In the New Testament, it was the changing of water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:1-11). The Qur’an, (which recognizes many other miracles attributed to Jesus), on the other hand, completely avoids it and describes the speech of infant Jesus from the cradle testifying the chastity of his mother!

In the New Testament, Mary(P) has been negatively portrayed. His family, which includes Mary, seemingly accepted the verdict of the crowd that Jesus is deranged (Mark 3:21) and of the Jerusalem scribes that he is possessed by demons (Mark 3:21-30). Mary was accused to have committed such sins as negligence (Luke 2:41-51, 2 Chronicles 29:11), ignorance (Luke 2:9, Leviticus 4:2, 27, 28), dishonesty (Luke 2:48-49) and presumption (John 2:3-4, Psalms 19:13). Initially, she did not believe him (Matthew 12:46, 50). The Epistles ignore her altogether. In the Acts, she is mentioned only once, with the brothers and sisters of Jesus, as a member of the disciples? group (Acts 1:14). Reading between the lines of the Bible (Romans 3:23, 5:12; Hebrews 4:15, Leviticus 12:6-9, Luke 2:22-24) the sinfulness of Mary becomes apparent.

Interestingly, the Qur’an concurs with the Catholics in the concept of the sinlessness of Mary! The Qur’an relates how the mother of Mary invoked on behalf of Mary(P) and her progeny for God’s protection from Satan (3:35-37). She is cited as an example for the believers in her obedience to God (66:12).

Gospels show that Jesus(P) did not like his mother because she did not believe in him (Matthew 12:46-50). His response most often was not gentle (John 2:4, Luke 11:28). The Qur’an never accuses him of this behaviour and declares Jesus to have been most respectful and kind to his mother:

“He has made me (Jesus) kind to my mother and not insolent, unblessed.” (19:32)

About Mary, the Qur’an states that she was pious, chaste and truthful and a great worshipper of God and that He had chosen her and purified her and chose her above the woman of the world. (3:42-43, 5:75, 66:12).

While the Bible alleged apostasy and disbelief on Mary(P) (Matthew 12:46-50), the Qur’an called Mary as siddeeqah (truthfully pious). St. Paul described Jesus(P) as a curse (Galatians 3:12). In the Qur’an, he is called a spirit from God (19:17), a mercy (19:21), blessed (19:32), righteous (6:85) and honourable (3:45).

The Catholics revere Mary(P) more than what Gospels teaches. John Waddey, a Protestant theologian writes:

Roman Catholic church teaches that she should be adored and revered as the mother of God, Co-Redeemer of mankind, Intercessor and Advocate, Queen of mercy, an Omnipotent being, a Helper in the creation; the foundation of all Grace; Dispenser of Good and the Hope of all.19

Cardinal Gibbons describes the position of Mary in the Catholic church:

Mary is exalted above all other women not only because she united a mother?s love with maiden purity but also because she conceived without original sin.20

He goes on to say that:

The Church exhorted children not only to honor the Blessed virgin but also to invoke her intercession.21

Catholic scholars developed a detailed Mariology which deals with the theological teachings about Mary. Karl Rahner writes about Mariology:

The dogma [of immaculate conception] means that through the preeminent redemptive grace of Christ, Mary was preserved from original sin from the first moment of her existence and thus began her life possessed of the grace of justification (as the grace of Christ).22

According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia:

The immaculate mother of God, the ever virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life was assumed body and soul with heavenly glory.23

Mary was first called “Mother of God” (Theotokos) by St. Hippolytus (170-235 A.D.). Later this term has entered in the letters of the Church Fathers. St. Jerome (186-253 A.D.) had used the term in his commentary on Luke, “She who delivered God”. It was Nestorius the patriarch of Constantinople in the early fifth century, who first argued that the usage “Mother of God” was wrong. But the Synod of Ephesus in 431 A.D declared Mary as the “Mother of God” and cursed Nestorianism as heresy!

The Qur’an exposes the fallacy of “Mother of God” concept of Catholics:

“Thereupon she conceived him and retired to a far off place and when she felt the throes of childbirth she lay down by the trunk of a palm tree, crying: “O would that I had died before this and cast into oblivion!” (19:22)

The Catholic belief of painless parturition of Mary is historically and theologically incorrect and baseless. As Langlinais wrote:

From earliest times the Fathers defended her perpetual virginity as a proof of the divinity of her offspring, as evidence of exemption from painful parturition, which is the punishment for sin (cf. Genesis 3:16), as the effect of sinless-ness that, negatively, preempts her from the curse of death and that, positively, merits for her the immediate contemplation (after this life), in body and soul, of God.24

How can God’s slave (Luke 1:38; 45:55) become God’s mother? The claim of Christian apologists that Mary as the mother of God falls by the birth pangs she had undergone (Qur’an 19:22, Genesis 3:16).

The Catholic view is grossly different from the Protestant concept of Mary. Quoting Romans 3:23, president of the Florida Bible College, and Protestant scholar Dr. A. Ray Stanford wrote:

Mary like everyone was still a sinner.25

Even though the Qur’an is not consonant with the concept of Original Sin, Mary’s absolute sinless-ness and purity is its own doctrine (3:36, 66:12). At the same time, the Qur’an refutes the divinity of Jesus with great wisdom by asking how a man, who ate, drank (consequently answered the calls of nature), developed in his mother’s womb for nine months, and was born as all other human beings could be God? (19:22-25, 5:75).

The Protestant view of Christianity is closer to Islam than that of the Catholics in its denial of the divinity of Mary. The Qur’an rejects a de facto the divinity of Mary (5:116-118), which might result from an excessive adoration of her. Like her son, Mary was only “a sign for the world” (21:91) and “one of the obedient ones” (66:12); nothing more and nothing less!

The Usage of Sister of Aaron

Aaron(P), the brother of Moses(P) was the first in the line of Israelite priesthood. The Bible tells us that, the Jewish clerical organization was initiated by Aaron (Exodus 28:1, 40:13), just as his younger brother Moses promulgated the Jewish law. It was in fact of Aaron(P) being the founder of the Jewish priestly order and Mary being brought up by a priest and under the very shadow of the temple that her calumniators had in mind when they called her sister of Aaron.

In such words, Mary was being reminded of her high lineage and the uncompromising moral fortitude of her progenitors. How, they said, she had fallen, and disgraced the name of her forefathers?

What they intended by associating the two names in kinship was, in fact, to show how far more inexcusable was her alleged misconduct in view of the religious influence and moral discipline into which Mary had the privilege of being born and brought up. It required the sarcasm and malice of the Jews to hit upon that cruel jest.

The Levites and Their Descendants

As Elizabeth was related to Aaron (Luke 1:5), she was thus related to Levi (Numbers 18:20-32, Joshua 18:14). Mary was related to Elizabeth of the tribe of Levi and in the priestly line of Aaron (Luke 1:36-40). This may suggest that Mary also belonged to the tribe of Levi.

According to the Mosaic Law (as related in the Bible), the priesthood in Israel was limited to the sons of Aaron26. Aaron is the first priest before Yahweh27. The Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) in use today among the Jews and Christians is named after him.

In Hebrews of the New Testament, there is a comparison between the priesthood of Aaron and Christ (Hebrews 7:11). Moses initiated Aaron and his sons to worship at the altar (Exodus 28:1). The priesthood was given to Aaron in a perpetual statute (Exodus 29:9) and renewed again to Phinehas (Numbers 25:13).

At Aaron’s death, the office passed to his son Eleazar (Numbers 20:25-28). The priest taught the people, the law of the Lord (Leviticus 10:11, Deuteronomy 24:8, 33:10, Hosea 4:1-6). There were special laws for the maintenance of their purity (Leviticus 21&22). As the head priest at the time of Moses was Aaron and later always one of his descendants (Exodus 29:29-30) his usual title was the priest (Leviticus 29:30, 31:30). He is designated also as the anointed priest (Leviticus 4:3, 5, 16) and as the high priest (Leviticus 21:10, Numbers 35:25, 28). Priesthood is designated as vested by divine authority in the house of Aaron (Exodus 28:1, 43; Numbers 3:10, 8:2, 17).

Aaronites, a term equivalent to sons of Aaron (Leviticus 1:7) or house of Aaron (Psalms 115:10), indicates that the priesthood descended from Aaron. It was divided into 24 families, each serving in the Temple for a week, 16 claiming from Aaron’s elder son Zadok and eight from his younger son Ithamar (1 Chronicles 24:1-19). Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was a member of such a tribe of priests (Luke 1:5, 8:9).

As William Barclay the popular Biblical exegete, correctly observed regarding the Jewish priesthood of the time:

A priest might marry only a woman of absolutely pure Jewish lineage. It was especially meritorious to marry a woman who was also a descendant of Aaron, as was Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah.28

The Jews were keen about the genealogies of the priests who had to prove unbroken descent from Aaron which were kept as public records. In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, we read of priests who lost their office because they could not produce their genealogies (Ezra 2:61-63, Nehemiah 7:63-65). As Barclay has written:

In Judaism the only qualification for priesthood was the descent. If a man was not a descendant of Aaron, nothing could make him a priest; if he was a descendant of Aaron, nothing could stop him being one. Therefore, in the eyes of the authorities John the Baptist was, in fact, a priest.29

Thomas Cleary was correct when he remarked:

According to the Gospel of Mary, the mother of Jesus was a descendant of a priestly family whose lineage traced back to Imran the father of Moses and Aaron.30

Mary was a descendant of David(P) (Luke 1:32). She was related to Elizabeth, who was married to the Levite Zechariah (Luke 1:5, 36). Zechariah also was related to David (Qur’an 19:2-6). That Mary was a member of Aaron’s house is very clear from the above description.

As the Qur’an gives us to understand, Mary was entrusted, while she was yet a child, to the care of Zechariah (3:37), the Prophet and priest and brought up by him in the precincts of the Temple where he officiated. Zechariah might have probably been a paternal uncle of Mary. Moreover, Mary and Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth were cousins (Luke 1:36), which could be the reason why the priest had consented to act as her guardian.

Though we know very little regarding the parentage of Mary, yet the fact that she was, according to the only tradition about her, devoted to the Temple from 3 to 12 years of age, shows clearly that she belonged to the priestly class. This may be the valid reason that she is called by the Jews of her time, as the “sister of Aaron” and not the sister of Moses(P), for priesthood as we have shown, was an exclusive prerogative of the descendants of Aaron(P).

Mary and her father might have probably been named after the sister and father of Moses(P) respectively. In Semitic language the words father, mother, brother and sister are used broadly and do not necessarily imply the very close relations of real mother, father, brother and sister. Thus Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: “I am the answer to the prayer of my father Abraham.”31

Semitic Usage of The Term

In ancient Semitic usage, a person’s name was often linked with that of a renowned ancestor or founder of the tribal line. Thus, for instance, a man of the tribe Banu Tamim was some times addressed as son of Tamim or brother of Tamim. Since Mary belonged to the priestly class and hence descended from Aaron, she was called a sister of Aaron. In the same manner, her cousin Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, is spoken of in Luke 1:5, as one of the daughters of Aaron.

Numerous are the instances in the Bible where tribal names are used to mention descendants. For example, Lot is called Abraham’s brother (Genesis 14:14), though he was in fact Abraham’s nephew (Genesis 11:31).

Similarly, Abraham spoke to Lot saying: “We men are brothers” (Genesis 13:8). But Abraham was actually the uncle of Lot!

Likewise, the Babylonian queen referred to Nebuchadnezzar as the father of Belshazzar, when Nabonidus was evidently his father and Nebuchadnezzar his grandfather (Daniel 5:11).

Thus, in New Testament, Abraham is referred to as the father of us, when actually he was a distant forefather32. A member of the Jewish race removed from Abraham as much by 2000 years can still refer to Abraham as his father33. In Numbers (20:14), the Israelites are referred to as the brother of the king of Edom, even though Esau and Jacob were the brothers from whom both groups descended. Similarly, Obed is referred to as Naomi’s son in Ruth 4:17, even though he was the son of her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Laban is called Nahor’s son34 when he is actually the son of Bethuel, the son of Nahor35. Jesus in the synagogue on the Sabbath healed the woman who had a spirit of infirmity for 18 years.

In response to criticism of the healing, Jesus referred to her as a daughter of Abraham (Luke 13:16). In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus placed Lazarus on Abraham?s bosom (Luke 16:22). Zacchaeus, as tax collector, was socially alienated. The crowd murmured against Jesus’ voluntary visit to Zacchaeus’ house. After his declaration that he would give back to the poor half of his wealth and restore fourfold to those he had defrauded, Jesus called him a son of Abraham (Luke 19:9).

In the longest statement recorded in the New Testament (John 8:37-59), Jesus has used Abraham’s children thrice. St. Paul referred to Jesus as the offering of Abraham (Galatians 3:16-18, 24:29). Persons in authority are also known as Fathers in Biblical language: priestly officials (Judges 17:10), Prophets (2 Kings 2:12, 6:21), Persons holding office (Genesis 45:8, Isaiah 22:21), benefactors (Job 29:16). Sometimes, families are known after the names of their distinguished ancestors. In the Bible, the name Israel sometimes stands for the Israelites (Deuteronomy 6:3-4) and Kedar for the Ishmaelite (Isaiah 21:16, 42:11). Jesus was titled son of David (Matthew 9:27, 15:22, 20:30-31, Mark 10:47-48).

Lack of Scriptural Understanding

The Biblical warning regarding lack of proper scriptural understanding is pertinent here:

“My people are destroyed from the lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)

“You are in error because you do not know the scriptures.” (Matthew 22:29)

The Qur’an admonishes disputing against God without knowledge:

“Some would argue about Allah without knowledge or guidance or an illuminating Scripture.” (31:20)

“Those who dispute the Revelations of God without authority given to them, there is nothing in their hearts but ambitions which they shall never attain.” (40:56)

“No sooner will they come to you with an argument than we shall reveal to you the truth and properly explain it.” (25:33)

Resolution of the Problem by The Prophet

The present-day Orientalist writers are not the first to make this discovery of the anachronism. The credit goes to the Christians of Najran who, as long as 1400 years ago, raised the same objection and received a prompt reply. When Mughira ibn Shu’aib(R) was sent to Najran by Prophet Muhammad(P), the Christians of that area asked him: “Do you read in the Qur’an Mary (mother of Jesus) being mentioned as the sister of Aaron, while you know that Jesus was born long, long time after Moses? As he could not answer, on his return to Medinah, he posed the question to the Prophet, whereupon he said: “They (the people of the old age or Israelites) used to name their children after their Prophets and pious persons who had gone before them.”36

The Prophet(P) here told Mughira Ibn Shu’aib, that Aaron(P) did not imply the real brother of Mary, but as it was customary to name persons after the names of Prophets and saintly people, that was the reason why Mary was called the sister of Aaron(P), by the contemporary Jews.

In fact, there is actually a tradition to the effect that the husband of Hanna (mother of Mary) and the father of Mary were related to Imran whose father (i.e, Mary’s grandfather) had the name of Yoshhim or Yoshim (Jarir Ibn Kathir). Thus this Imran is different from the Imran who was the father of Moses and whose actual father was Kohath (Exodus 6:18-20).

The fact that Hanna’s husband (Mary’s father), has been named Joachim should not perplex us, as Joachim is the same as Yoshim mentioned in Jarir, as the father of Imran. The Bible gives the name of the grandfather instead of the father, which is not an uncommon practice. Besides, there are instances in the Bible of one person being known by many names. Gideon, for instance, was also called Jerubbaal (Judges 7:1). So there should be no surprise if the second name Joachim happened to be Imran.

Imam Tabari has related an incident in the life of Prophet Muhammad(P). Saffiyah(R) (the Jewish wife of the Prophet Muhammad), once complained to him that some of the co-wives had called her a Jewess in contempt. The Prophet consoled her and asked her to tell thus: “My father is Aaron(P) and my uncle is Moses(P)“.37 The Prophet(P) certainly knew that Aaron(P) was not Safiyyah’s father nor Moses(P) her uncle.

There are quite a number of passages in the Qur’an which shows that Moses(P) and Jesus(P) as two Prophets separated from each other by a long line of Prophets (2:87, 26:18, 20:40, 5:43-55). The Qur’an has given in detail the history of the two Prophets. There is no sense of propriety or balance in the allegation that the author of Qur’an did not know that Moses(P), Aaron(P) and their sister Miriam lived about 1200 years before Jesus(P) and his mother Mary(P). No one but those blinded by prejudice could bring this charge against the Qur’an.

Even an Orientalist scholar, who ventured to translate the Qur’an into English, considers the suggestion of anachronism in the incident as absurd:

Sale, Gerock and others think such a confusion improbable.38

Even a virulent enemy of Islamic ideology and the Qur’an, D.S. Margoliouth, admitted that:

Once or twice too, he recollects enough of the Bible to be able to tell the history of Moses and Aaron with an approach of accuracy.39

Owing to some subtle mystery, the lineage of Jesus Christ according to New Testament is tainted by four unchaste women, viz., Thamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba (each happened to be a fallen woman) (Matthew 1:1-6). They attributed to Jesus a false pedigree, which had strongly called in question the chastity of Jesus’ grandmother on father’s as well as mother’s side. The Qur’anic verse in question (19:28) actually exonerated from such fabrications and traced Jesus’ descendants from the family of Aaron, which was very well known for its piety and devoutness.

It is up to God, the Qur’an declares, to bestow mankind proper guidance:

“It rests with God to show the right path.” (16:9)

“We have revealed to you this Book [the Qur’an] so that, by the Will of their Lord, you may lead men from darkness to light.” (14:1)

The Qur’an has warned against mixing of truth with falsehood:

“Do not mix truth with falsehood, nor hide the truth while you know (it).” (2:42)

Evil propaganda does not have any permanent stability:

“Say, ‘Truth has come and falsehood is overthrown. Falsehood was bound to be (ever) discomfited’.” (17:81)

Biblical Inconsistencies — Qur’anic Resolutions

It is interesting to note that the Qur’an lays claim to its own ability to clear the contradictions and inconsistencies that are seen in the Bible. This claim is clearly put forward in the Qur’an when it boldly declares that:

“Truly does this Qur’an explain to the children of Israel a great many matters in which they are given to disputation.” (27:76)

It would be relevant, in the light of such a confident assertion; to go through a few of these instances where this Qur’anic restatement affects does occur:

1. It may be seen, by a proper study of the facts, that the Jewish priests, in order to satisfy their desire to allocate an entire day exclusively for prayer, concocted a myth regarding the Omnipotent Creator. To provide the legal sanctity for their, perhaps, sincere, though unwarranted desire, they went so far as to claim that the Creator had to rest Himself on the seventh day after creation! In the words of the Bible: “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it He rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:2 – 3, see also Exodus 20:11, 31:17 and Hebrews 4:10). This conception of God as one who gets tired and as one who needs rest is refuted by these powerful lines of the Qur’an:

“And certainly We created the heavens and the earth and what is in between them in six periods and there touched Us not any fatigue” (50:38)


“neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him.” (2:255)

The assumption of the idea of a Creator who needs to rest was basically false40. Actually, the observance of the Sabbath was appointed for the Jews only as a sign of the Divine covenant made with the Israelites41.

2. As distinct from the concept of God as the “God of Israel”42 the Qur’an presents God as the God of all mankind and all the worlds in the following verses:

“Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind; the King of mankind; the God of mankind.” (114: 1 – 3)


“All praise be unto God, the Lord of all the worlds.” (1:1)

3. It was twenty centuries before Christ that the prophet Joseph and the Israelites entered Egypt (during the dynasty of Hykos). However, the kings of this dynasty did not belong to this country. Ethnically, they were of Arab origin and had only seized the Egyptian throne. This dynasty ruled Egypt for about five hundred years and came to an end when the natives rose in rebellion against this alien rule.

After this revolt the native dynasty that came into being adopted the title of “Pharaoh” – a name that meant “son of the sun god”. It is in relation to these events, however, that the Bible relates several incidents, which do not withstand the scrutiny of impartial historical documentation. For instance, the Bible addresses the reigns of the dynasties, the Hykos and the Pharaohs (the contemporaries of Joseph and Moses respectively) by the single title of “Pharaoh”43. In fact, the reign of the kings known as Pharaoh only began during the time of the prophet Moses.

In the Qur’an, on the other hand, there are no such accounts that clash with history and, remarkably enough, at the time of the Qur’anic revelation people had no knowledge of ancient Egyptian history. Indeed, the only information concerning these ancient periods in Egyptian history was to be found in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin records of the Old Testament that was available in the seventh century of the Christian era. Only in later years did archaeological excavations make it possible for Egyptologists to compile a record of the history of that country’s ancient kings. But, miraculously enough, the Qur’an refers to the ruler during the time of Joseph only as the “king of Egypt”44. As for the king who ruled during the time of Moses, the Qur’an repeatedly refers to him as “Pharaoh”45.

As can be seen, therefore, the Qur’an has avoided repeating the Biblical errors. While it addressed the king of Hykos by the term Malik (which simply means king), it called the ruler during the time of Moses “Pharaoh” which is an important change. The Qur’anic account fits in quite easily with historical facts unlike the faulty references in the Bible

4. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”, says the Bible (Mark 10:25, also see Luke 18:28, Matthew 19:24). This statement of the Bible rendered ambiguous by the finality with which it is expressed has been freed from its ambiguity by the statement of the Qur’an, that:

“Surely (as for) those who reject Our Revelations and turn away therefrom haughtily, the doors of heaven shall not be opened for then nor shall they enter the garden until the camel passes through the eye of the needle and thus it is that We reward the guilty.”46

Thus it has been the Qur’anic priority to emphasize the fact that it is the haughtiness, pride and arrogance in the hearts of the rich and the capable that is subject to the wrath of God. Wealth in itself is never to blame. It is only when wealth becomes the reason for man’s arrogance in the face of God’s commandments that punishment may be due.

5. The Biblical portrayal of the “Fall of Man” is against reason, logic and scripture. Once placed in the “Garden of Eden”, Adam and Eve were told not to eat from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil (cf. Genesis-3: 5, 2). Not eating from the Tree of Knowledge defeats the very object of the creation of Man. It is clear that there can be no progress – spiritual or temporal – without the knowledge of good and evil. For as Erich Fromm (1900 -1980), the great psycho-analyst and social philosopher, commented:

Eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not bad per se; in fact, both the Jewish and Christian religions agree that the ability to differentiate between good and evil is a basic virtue.47

When a person does not realize the nature of good and evil and if, in that ignorance, he, or she, were to perform any of the prohibited acts, it would be but obvious that punishment can never be due. If, as the Bible states, God had indeed prohibited Adam from eating from the Tree of Knowledge, how can divine punishment for a sinner ignorant of the nature of sin itself be ever justified?

In the Qur’an, the nature of the “Tree” has not been specified. The Book does not give special attributes to the Tree itself: it is merely a symbol of the test. But the Qur’an does state that Satan was deceptive. Thus, the Qur’an speaks nothing about the tree beyond pointing out that it was Satan who described it as the tree of immortality. (2:35 – 39, 7:19 – 25, 20:120 – 121). Thus, one clearly sees that the mist of the Biblical contradictions has been in many an instance cleared by the clarity of the Qur’anic revelation. For as the Qur’an itself says:

“Have you not considered how God sets forth a parable of a good word like a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches are in heaven, yielding its fruit in every season by the permission of its Lord? And God sets forth parables for men that they may be mindful.” (14:24 – 25)

6. In the Biblical version, it was Eve who tempted Adam to sin and thus caused the “Fall of Man” (cf. Genesis 3:1-7, 12). Paul probably derived an anti-woman theology from the Genesis description that, “Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” (I Timothy: 2:14, see also 2 Corinthians 11:3) The Qur’anic version does not blame the woman for human fall from the garden. It never singled out a woman as the initiator or temptress of evil. In maintaining the dual form in the description of the story, the Qur’an overcomes the negative Judeo-Christian implications that woman was the cause of evil and damnation. According to Islam theirs was not a horrible crime, and both were equally responsible for it and both were pardoned (7:19 – 25, 2:35 – 39).

  • No true religion can be based on a document which sets a shameful example of its patriarchs, prophets and leaders. The characters of many of them have been stigmatized in the Bible, with full of contradictory statements. Noah is presented as a drunken husbandman unjustly cursing innocents (cf. Genesis 9:20 – 27). Description of the deceit and lie of Abraham (cf. Genesis 12:10 – 20, 20:1 – 18), of cheating and treachery by Isaac (cf. Genesis 26:1 – 13), of the golden calf worship and instigation by Aaron (cf. Exodus 32:1, 22 -24), of the inhuman brutalities by Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 3:6-7, 20:10-18 :) prone too much to read for the believer. David is depicted as a tyrant, committing the most heinous crimes and indulging in pleasures and licentiousness and the snatching of other’s wives for adultery (cf. II Samuel 3:12 – 16, 4:4 – 5, 16:23, 18:33). Solomon is depicted as a tyrant and as an apostate (cf. I Kings 2:13-25, 28-35, 11:1-13). Lot is even made to commit incest with his own daughters (Genesis 19:31-36).

    However, the Bible at the same time regards them high-ranking, pious and God-fearing personalities. For long periods, Noah served as a “preacher of righteousness” (II Peter 2:5), a just man, perfect in his generation and as one, who walked with God (cf. Genesis 6:9). Abraham and Isaac were described as faithful servants of God (cf. Genesis 17:1, 15:6, 24:40, 48:15). Abraham was God’s friend (James 2:23). David is spoken of a man after God’s own heart (cf. I Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), an upright man in all that God commanded, keeping God’s ordinances (cf 1King 9:4), a man who was moved by spirit (Matthew 22:43), a man who had triumphed over all his enemies because of his obedience to God’s laws (cf. II Samuel 7:10- 11). Psalms instruct believers to be holy like David (cf. Psalms 119:11). Jesus is even titled as son of David (cf. Matthew9: 27, 15:22). Solomon is considered to be the father of Israelite wisdom (cf. I King 4:29 – 34) and wisdom literature (cf. I King 3:1 – 28, Proverbs 1-10). The Lord promised to be a father of David and Solomon (cf. Psalms 89:26 – 27, II Samuel 7 – 14).

    An educated Jew or Christian will always wish that his scripture did not contain such statements. Many of them are puzzled to read about David whose beautiful Psalms are the text of sermons in Churches and Synagogues as an adulterer and murderer and that Solomon, with all his wisdom, worshipped idols. The Qur’an speaks highly of all these great prophets and it accepts none of these Biblical statements and has actually exonerated them from all such calumnies. Noah was a pious and righteous prophet of God (3:33, 6:84, 4:163, and 37:75 – 82). Lot is expressly numbered among the righteous prophets of God (26:160, 37:133). David is represented as God’s ideal servant on whom He bestowed kingdom, wisdom, scripture and power (3:88, 21:78 – 80, 34:10-11, 38:17-26, 31:6). Solomon was favoured with the rare knowledge of the language of birds and animals. In spite of his being crowned with power and kingdom, he was a humble servant of God (2:202, 4:163, 6:84, 21:78 – 82, 27:15 – 44,34:12 – 14,38:30-40). Aaron’s innocence is greatly emphasized (Qur’an 20:19 -36, 20:90, 21:48). Similarly, the purity of Abraham and of Moses are highly stressed (Qur’an 6:120 -123, 37:114-122).

    Thus, a comparison between the Biblical and Qur’anic accounts of the Prophets makes it clear that the latter is not a reproduction of the former.

    According to the Qur’an, prophets are born sinless and they remain sinless throughout life (21:27, 3:161). Thomas Carlyle (1795 -1881) English essayist, historian and social critic, boldly questioned the Biblical depiction of David in these words:

    Who is called there the man according to God’s own heart? David, the Hebrew king, had fallen into sin enough; blackest crimes; there was no want of sins. And thereupon the unbelievers sneer and ask, is this your man according to God’s own heart?48

    7. All the names of God revealed in the Qur’an reflect qualities and not gender. Some examples are: Al Badi (He who creates out of nothing), Al Baatin (He who knows the latent and the hidden), Al Muqeet (the controller). Many a time God is referred to as Rabb (the Sustainer) but never, not even once, has the Qur’an referred to Him as Abb (father).

    This cannot have been accidental. The word “Father” has gender as well as sexual connotations and it is this aspect of the word that renders its omission by the Qur’an all the more interesting. Although Muslims are aware of God in an ultimate and personal way, they always think of God as the Creator rather than as a father. To a Muslim, the concept of God as the father has dangerous implications that can lead to polytheism. Moreover, assigning the nature of fatherhood to God brings in the limitations associated with anthropomorphic concepts, which are repugnant to the majesty of the Divine Presence.

    8. The system of usury victimizes humanity and destroys an ethical culture. Therefore its prohibition is of vital importance as far as any revealed scripture is concerned (cf. Leviticus 25:36, Psalms 15:5, Luke 6:33 – 35, 2:275 – 280). Absolute prohibition of interest was an outstanding feature of ancient Hebrew economic legislation (cf. Deuteronomy 23:19). In spite of the strict prohibition of interest (cf. Exodus 22:25 – 27) the Jews conspicuously engage in transactions involving interest and have become notorious the world over for their meanness and hard-heartedness in monetary matters. It was from the strict legislation of the Old Testament that the Israelites forcibly transformed the prohibited into the permitted. For this purpose, they resorted to wild and unjustifiable interpretations of the Divine Law, which prohibited usurious transactions between the brethren in faith (cf. Deuteronomy 23:20). The Jews interpreted this prohibition as binding only within the members of their own religious community and as such interest-dealings with others outside the Jewish faith came to be legalized. This corruption of the Scripture and the racialism of the Jews resulted in Divine punishments following them throughout their history as a people and the promise of Hellfire in the Hereafter (Qur’an, 4:161). Because of the Jewish interpolations of the scripture concerning interest, the world has never been entirely free from the depredation of capital interest. Pointing out the ambiguity in the matters relating to usury, Bertrand Russell (1872 -1970) states,

  • Was it lawful to lend money on interest? No clear answer was to be found in the scriptures.49

    Interest is not only disapproved by the Qur’an (30:39, 3:130), but has actually been prohibited by it (2:275 280, 4:161).

    9. Paul of Tarsus developed a detailed theology of the universal nature of Original Sin. It was his claim that Adam’s transgression was not confined to himself alone but that it was transmitted with its dire consequences to all his progeny (Romans 5:13, Ephesians 2:3). Since man can in no wise save himself from this Original Sin, it is Christ, the son of God, who alone can save humanity (I John 1:9) through the shedding of his blood ( I John 1:7). St. Paul further claimed that as man, Jesus died his death on the cross as atonement for sin and as a god; he offered his blood in heaven for cleansing man of his sins (cf. Hebrews 10:4,8:12,9:12 -14,22, 10:19, Ephesians 2:13). But all these assertions of St. Paul are wrong whether they are taken in a spiritual or logical sense. From a study of other statements in the Bible that contradict all the aforementioned assertions of St. Paul, one is given to understand that God does indeed forgive sins (Psalms 103:8, 14, Genesis 50:17, Psalms 80:5). In fact, Jesus taught the inherent sinless-ness of the infants (Matthew 19:14, 18:3) for he has been quoted as saying that unless one is as sinless as the infant he will not be saved. If St. Paul’s version is to be believed then this would imply that Jesus is telling us that one must become a sinner (?) i.e., an infant who is but the inheritor of Adam’s sin, in order to be saved! In reality, as distinct from St. Paul’s mythology, God is compassionate and wishes that each of His servants should become repentant (cf. Exodus 34:6 – 7, Jonah 4:10 – II). He is not in need of any blood redemption for showing mercy to His servants (Psalms 32:5, Isaiah 55:7). Jesus taught that if man forgives his brothers, God would forgive him (cf. Matthew 6: 14 – 15, 18:21 – 35, Mark 11:25, Luke 6:37). The idea of Original Sin and of its transmission to all mankind is thus a baseless one (cf. Ezekiel 18:20, 30, Jeremiah 17:10, Deuteronomy 24:16, Psalms 62: 12, Isaiah 3:10 – 11; 43:25).

    The Qur’an has explicitly rejected the concept of Original Sin and emphatically declares that “certainly, We created man in the best of moulds” (95:4). It does not permit that one to be punished for the sins of the other. The Qur’an also says that “every man is responsible for what he has wrought” (52:21) and that “no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another and that man shall have nothing but what he strives for” (Qur’an 53:38 – 39). Confirming the teachings of Jesus (cf. Mark 8:34, 10:38, Luke 14:27), the Qur’an is proclaiming idea that everyone has to bear his own cross and that the vicarious sacrifices of none can do him any good (17:15, 4:125, 16:97, 5:74). God is ever willing to forgive the sinner (39:53, 9:112, 9:117 – 118, 7:156, 26:82, 39:53 – 54).

    In the descriptions in Genesis, God does not forgive Adam and Eve and this is the basis for the dogma (further developed by St. Paul) that everybody is born in sin. Both Adam and Eve were, however, forgiven by God according to the Qur’an (2:25 – 30). In the Qur’anic description the story of Adam being tempted is as simple to believe as every other day-to-day experience. No mention of the rib of Adam being used for the making of Eve is to be found in the Qur’anic revelation (as in Genesis 2:21). There is no serpent to beguile the woman either (as in Genesis 3:2). The woman does not tempt the man (as in Genesis 3:2, I Timothy 2:14).

    Further still, in the Bible, the serpent is punished by the Divine decree that he shall go on his belly and eat dust in contradistinction from all other creatures (cf. Genesis 3:14). There is no such narrative to be found in the Qur’an. Nowhere in the Qur’an is pregnancy or the pangs of childbirth associated, in any way, with the punishment for the woman (as against Genesis 3:17). Because of the Qur’anic denials of the inheritance of Original Sin (95:4, 39:70), there has not been any idea of the God-man (as seen from Colossians 2:9 – 10), or the corporeal idea of the death of god (as seen from Colossians 1:17, 19 – 20) or the mythological and strange idea of a family of gods (as seen from John 1:1, 5:18; Galatians 1:1) within Islam.


    Mere similarity is often cited as evidence for the interpretation that Jewish and Christian sources were used for the “making” of the Qur’an. A good deal has been written on the theme of the Qur’an’s supposed indebtedness to the Judeo-Christian scriptures. The aim of these writings has invariably been to disprove the Divine origin of the Qur’an. The Orientalist scholars who accuse the Qur’an as an adaptation of Judeo-Christianity seem to ignore that methodologically speaking, the similarity between any two compositions is not sufficient to infer that one of them copied from the other. Both compositions may be from a common source. The Qur’an does not claim any originality in the sense of presenting a new religion. It merely claims its rightful function to revive and fulfil the same message, which, it maintains God has given to all messengers throughout the ages. As a writer on Sufism has explained beautifully:

    The Qur’an is nothing but the old books refined of human alloy and contains transcendent truths embodied in all sacred scriptures with complete additions, necessary for the development of all human faculties. It repeats truths given in the holy Vedas, in the Bible, in the words of Gita, in the sayings of the Buddha and all the other prophets, and adds what was not in them, and gives new laws to meet the contingencies of the present time when the different members of God’s family who lived apart from each other in the days of old revelations had come close to the other.50

    The former scriptures were merely different editions of one and the same scripture of which God possesses the original. The Qur’an is the quintessence of all the earlier scriptures and prophetic messages, impregnated with contemporaneous imperatives. It is, as such, a criterion and a clarification. As the Qur’an is the last edition and the most perfect text, it is the standard by which the truth of earlier revelation is to be measured. What is genuine must conform to the Qur’an (4:46, 5:13, 41, 2:75). The Qur’an intends to sum up all the others to prevail over them all (9:33, 48:28, 61:9).

    As per the Qur’anic claim (16:64, 27:70), many obscure passages of the Bible can be explained by using the Qur’an as “the Criterion” (25:1). The Qur’an has anticipated the higher criticism of the Bible, as Annemarie Schimmel, in her Gifford Lectures (1992), has put it,

    A historical-critical exegesis of the type to which the Old and New Testaments have been subjected during the last 150 years means, for the Muslim, the Koranic words concerning the falsification by Jews and Christians of their respective scriptures (Sura 2:75, et. al.) is now proven by scientific method.51

    Modern research has shown conclusively the Qur’anic contention of the change in Christology from that of a slave and messenger of God to that of God incarnate by the influence of Paganism (9:30-31). This means that the Christians, by imitating pagan myths, changed the nature of Jesus, whom from a prophet they turned into a divine personage, had lapsed into the grave sin of polytheism. Modern scholars, to reach such a finding, used all forms of higher criticism and historical evidence. But the Qur’an expected and predicted it centuries before!

    A comparison between the Biblical and the Qur’anic account of the prophets, as we have seen, makes it clear that the latter are not a reproduction of the former. Our sense of propriety does recoil by the astounding obscenities of the Biblical narrative. The Qur’an absolves them from all the accusations that have been laid at their door by bigoted chroniclers. Being the ultimate criterion to evaluate former scriptures (5:44-48), it was through the Qur’anic revelation, that God’s promise of keeping the fame of Abraham and David has been fulfilled (cf. Genesis 12:2, II Samuel 7:9,8:13).

    As the Qur’an is the word of God, every word in it is carefully selected and accurately used, and no type of exaggeration and bias can be found in it. On the one hand, the Qur’an concurs with the Catholics in the concept of perfect sinless-ness of Mary, and on the other hand in the doctrine of her perfect human nature, it concurs with the Protestants. Jews have attacked the chastity of Jesus’ mother and have cast a slur on his birth. It was the Qur’an, which benevolently conferred upon Jesus and his mother the status of a blameless character by which it made billions of men and women to hold their tongues with respect to the virgin birth. Had the Qur’an expressed the same opinion as to the conduct of Mary and the birth of Jesus, as the Jews did, the whole world would have inclined towards the view held by an overwhelming majority and the refutation of these charges would then have become an impossible task. Billions of Muslims accepted the Immaculate Conception of Jesus on the authority of the Qur’an (19:16-22, 3:45-46).

    Gospel compilers, by fabricating a false lineage for Christ have, in reality, insulted Jesus by attributing unchaste ancestors. It is the Qur’an (19:28), which cleared the confusion. Incredibly, Jesus himself predicted this accomplishment through the prophethood of Muhammad: “He [the Paraclete] will bring glory to me” (John 17:14).

    The Qur’an is very specific in declaring that its arguments are futile to those whose minds are closed and corrupted:

    “Do you then hope that they would believe in you, and a party from among them indeed used to hear the word of God, then altered it after they had understood it, and they know (this)” (Qur’an, 2:75)

    “He [i.e., God] causes many to err by it [i.e., the Qur’anic parables] and many He leads aright by it! But He does not cause to err by it [any] except the transgressors.” (Qur’an, 2:26)

    The Qur’an does not call Mary as the sister of Aaron, but merely cites a Jewish usage that was prevalent at that time in history. The House of Imran comprises Moses and Aaron, whose father was Amram and Aaron’s descendants, the priestly caste among the Israelites, thus including Jesus and John the Baptist. The ancient Semitic custom of linking a person’s or a people’s name with that of an illustrious forefather is in operation here (Qur’an, 3:33). The reference to the house of Imran (Amram of the Bible) serves as an introduction to the stories of Zechariah(P), John the Baptist(P) and Jesus(P).

    The depth in which the Qur’an deals with the subject will bewilder any truthful and discerning Jewish and Christian scholar. The Qur’anic explanation will also be seen as the most convincing argument for the very prophethood of Muhammad(P) itself. As the Qur’an itself puts it:

    “And those who disbelieve say, ‘You are not a messenger.’ Say: God is sufficient as a witness between you and me and whosoever has knowledge of the Book.” (13:43)

    And only God knows best!

    The author is the sub-editor of Al-Harmony: Journal on Islamic Thought and Ethics, Kochi-682030, India, and receives his mail at
    Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Mary, the Sister of Aaron?," in Bismika Allahuma, October 14, 2005, last accessed September 25, 2022,
    1. Maxime Rodinson, Muhammad, Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1971, p. 218 []
    2. Ignaz Goldziner, Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law (Tr: Andreas and Ruth Hamoril), Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1981, pp. 4-5 []
    3. William M. Miller, Christian Response to Islam, STL Books: Kent, 1981, p. 48 []
    4. John L. Mckenzie, S.J., The Two Edged Sword, Image Books: N.Y, 1966, p. 27 []
    5. William Montgomery Watt, Islam and the Integration of Society, Clarendon: London, 1963, p. 263 []
    6. Rev. H.V. Wolbecht Stanton, The Teaching of the Qur’an, SPCK: London, 1919, p. 3 []
    7. C.C. Torrey, The Jewish Foundation of Islam, Scribners: N.Y, 1933, p. 20 []
    8. H.A. R. Gibb, J.H. Kramers, Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam, Cornell University Press: New York, 1953, p. 328 []
    9. S. Vernon McCarland, Religious of the World, Random House: New York, 1969, p. 321 []
    10. D.S. Margoliouth, Muhammad and the Rise of Islam, (London 1905), Voice of India: New Delhi, 1985, p. 61 []
    11. N.A. Newman, Muhammad, The Qur’an and Islam, I.D.B.I.: Pasadena, 1996, p. 371 []
    12. William Montgomery Watt, Muslim-Christian Encounters: Perceptions and Misperceptions, Routledge: London, 1991, p. 17 []
    13. C.C. Torrey, ibid., p. 108 []
    14. Karen Armstrong, Muhammad, Victor Gollanez: London, 1995, p. 131 []
    15. Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not A Muslim, Promethens Books: New York, 1995, p. 63 []
    16. J.I. Packer, I Want to be a Christian, Kingway Publication: Eastbowine, 1985, p. 43 []
    17. See Matthew 13:54-56, John 7:3-5, Mark 3:31-35, Matthew 1:25, 6:3, 12:47 []
    18. Arthur Peacock, Theology for a Scientific Age, Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1993, p. 408 []
    19. John Waddey, Searching the Scriptures, J.C. Choate Publications: Mississippi, 1972, p. 295 []
    20. Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, John Murphy Co. New York, 1895, p. 204 []
    21. Cardinal Gibbons, ibid., p. 221 []
    22. Karl Rahner, Immaculate Conception, In H. Vorgrimler, Concise Theological Dictionary, Burns and Oats: London 1965, p. 223 []
    23. J.W. Langlinais, Assumption of Mary, The New Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol 1, Mc Graw Hill: New York, 1967, p. 971 []
    24. J.W. Langlineais, ibid., p. 973 []
    25. R. Ray Stanford, Handbook of Personal Evangelisim (Indian Edition), The Immanuel Bapist Ministres of India: Mylavaram, 1990, p. 162 []
    26. Exodus 28:1, Leviticus 1:3, Numbers 3:10 []
    27. Exodus 28:29, Leviticus 8 []
    28. William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, Saint Andrew Press: Edinburgh, 1975, p. 11 []
    29. William Basclay, The Gospel of John, Vol 1, Saint Andrew Press: Edinburgh, 1975, p. 77 []
    30. Thomas Cleary, The Essential Koran, Harper Collins: New Delhi, 1994, pp. 176-177 []
    31. Ibn Hisham, Sira: 1/175; Tabari, Tarikh: 2/128 []
    32. Acts 7:2, Romans 4:12, James 2:21 []
    33. Luke 16:24-25, 1:67-73; 13:16 []
    34. Genesis 49:5 []
    35. Genesis 4:47 []
    36. Sahih Muslim Vol. 5, Book 25, Hadith 5326 []
    37. Martin Lings, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, Inner Life International:Rochester, 1983, p. 271 []
    38. H.A.R. Gibb, J.H. Kramers, ibid., p. 328 []
    39. D.S. Margoliouth, ibid., p. 146 []
    40. See Isaiah 40:20 []
    41. cf. Exodus 31: 13 – 17, also see Deuteronomy 5:15 []
    42. cf. I Samuel .25:32, I Kings 1:48, I Chronicles. 16: 32, 2 Chronicles 5: 4, Psalms. 72:18, Exodus.34: 14, 20:5 []
    43. cf. Genesis-40: 2, 11, 13, 17, and 18 []
    44. cf. Qur’an, 12: 43, 50:54 []
    45. Qur’an, 2:49 – 50,54:41 – 42,7:103 – 137,10:75 – 92,28:38,79:24, 44:17-33 []
    46. Qur’an 7:40 []
    47. Erich Fromm, Man for Himself, Faweett Premier: NY, 1975, p. 22 []
    48. Thomas Carlyle, The Hero as a Prophet: Mohomet, Idarah-l-Adabiya: Delhi, (reprint) 1990, p. 6 []
    49. Bertrand Russell, Human Society in Ethics and Politics, Routledge: London, 1992, p. 34 []
    50. Sirdar Iqbal Ali Shah, Islamic Sufism, Samuel Weiser: NewYork, 1971, p. 41 []
    51. Annemarie Schimmel, Deciphering the Signs of God, State University of New York Press: New York, 1994, p. 164 []
    Sources of the Quran The Qur'an

    Waraqa ibn Naufal and the Christian Polemics

    In an article of his, Jochen Katz has made much of the narratives about Waraqa ibn Naufal, and has conjectured on his alleged influence on Prophet Muhammad’s(P) religious thought.

    Following is a representative extract of his said article:

      Waraqa lived in Mecca and probably Muhammad has met him long before his marriage to Khadija already, but at the latest when he married her, he is now a relative of Waraqa, a local authority on the scriptures. That gave Muhammad at least 15 years of opportunity of religious discussions with a man who knew the scriptures. And even if they had been written in another language, Waraqa could read it, and he would have talked about them in Arabic with Muhammad. From the time he married Khadija [25 years old] to the time of his first “revelation” [40 years old] there are 15 years of possibility, or rather probability of learning at least something of what Waraqa believed and knew from the scriptures.

    The problem with this passage (as well as with his entire article) is his putting a blind faith — apparently because they seem to support his own “religious” convictions — on such narratives whose historicity is of extremely dubious nature; an attitude which is of no scholarly worth.

    What little do we possess on Waraqa ibn Naufal has an indubitable colour of legend and often appears to be fashioned as an anachronous substantiation of the prophethood of Muhammad(P).

    Apparently Waraqa ibn Naufal is associated with the Prophet(P) from very early on: It is Waraqa bin Nawfal who finds the infant Prophet Muhammad(P) when he strayed from his suckling mother, an account which implicitly presumes Waraqa’s recognition of the extraordinary nature of the young Prophet.1

    Even before the birth of the Prophet(P), Waraqa’s sister sees the light of prophethood on the forehead of Muhammad’s father and offers herself to him so that she could have the honour of becoming the Prophet’s(P) mother.2

    It is in this vein that Waraqa ibn Naufal is presented as, what Jochen Katz referred to, as “a local authority on the scriptures.” For the narratives say:

    … The Prophet returned to Khadija while his heart was beating rapidly. She took him to Waraqa bin Naufal who was a Christian convert and used to read the gospel in Arabic Waraqa asked (the Prophet), “What do you see?” When he told him, Waraqa said, “That is the same angel whom Allah sent to the Prophet) Moses. Should I live till you receive the Divine Message, I will support you strongly.

    This is most probably an example of an anachronism because, in addition to the moot question of his literacy, the investigation of Sidney H. Griffith has made him conclude that:

    All one can say about the possibility of a pre-Islamic, Christian version of the Gospel in Arabic is that no sure sign of its actual existence has yet emerged.3


    The oldest known, dated manuscripts containing Arabic translations of the New Testament are in the collections of St. Catherine’s monastery at Mt. Sinai…dating from 867 AD.4

    Clearly, the apparent intent of such narratives is to find corroboration from among the older followers of monotheism of Muhammad’s(P) prophecy. They may contain a kernel of truth but it would be fallacious to attach overdue significance to all their details, and consequently, it is just not possible, owing to lack of trustworthy data, to agree with Jochen Katz’s thesis that Waraqa ibn Naufal played a role in the composition of the Qur’an.

    Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Waraqa ibn Naufal and the Christian Polemics," in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005, last accessed September 25, 2022,
    1. Ibn Ishaq, ed., Guillaume, pp. 72-3 []
    2. ibid., pp. 68-9 []
    3. Sidney H. Griffith, The Gospel In Arabic: An Enquiry Into Its Appearance In the First Abbasid Century, in: Oriens Christianus, vol. lxix, 1985, p. 166 []
    4. ibid., 131-2 []
    Qur'anic Commentary The Qur'an

    Of The Sun Setting In Murky Water: Qur’anic Commentary on Sura’ Al-Kahf (18):86

    Dhul-Qarnayn (Arabic: ذو القرنين‎ ḏū’l-qarnayn), “he of the two horns” (or “he of the two ages”), appears in the Quran as a figure empowered by God to erect a wall between mankind and Gog and Magog, the representation of chaos. Dhul-Qarnayn is generally described as a righteous ruler who travelled to spread the message of God. Of interest is this verse from Qur’an, 18:86 which has recently raised much ruckus among the enemies of Islam.

    The following English translation was taken from A. Yusuf Ali:

    “Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water: Near it, he found a People: We said: “O Dhul-Qarnayn! (thou hast authority) either to punish them, or to treat them with kindness.” (Qur’an, 18:86)

    A common Christian missionary “objection” to the verse above is by claiming it to be a “scientific contradiction”.

      If the presence of scientific facts can prove the Qur’an’s divine origins, the presence of scientific falsehood can disprove divine origins. For example, Sura’ 18:86:

      “Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water: Near it he found a People: We said: “O Dhul-Qarnayn! (thou hast authority,) either to punish them or to treat them with kindness.”

      Since we all know that the sun does not set in a spring of murky water and, therefore, this is a big error. However, Muslim apologists are quick to tell us that this is only poetic and not a “scientific miracle”! This type of apologetic is intellectually dishonest as well as a bit silly.

    So who is the one that is actually “intellectually dishonest as well as a bit silly”? Let us analyse the verse part by part.

    Analysis Of The Verse

    “Until, when he reached the setting of the sun…”: The translation of this part of the verse does not say that Dhul-Qarnayn reached the place where the sun sets literally, rather it means here that Dhul-Qarnayn was facing the direction in which the sun is setting. The “setting of the sun,” is an Arabic idiom meaning ‘the western-most point’ of his expedition. However, in general, idioms should not be literally translated.

    “…he found it set in a spring of murky water”: The Qur’an is obviously describing what Dhul-Qarnayn saw. What Dhul-Qarnayn saw was the image of the sun setting in a dark body of water. Since the Qur’an is clearly describing this from Dhul-Qarnain’s direct point of view (the Qur’an is quite explicit here in doing that), there is, in fact, no problem with the description of what Dhul-Qarnain saw. Of course, one is correct in saying that “the sun does not set in a spring of murky water”, but try standing at a beach during the time when the sun is about to set and anyone would be able to see the sun “entering” the sea far in the horizon. This, therefore, gives us the conclusion that Dhul-Qarnayn was somewhere west and by a large body of water, possibly the sea.

    Critics of this verse should be aware that the Qur’an is not descriptive prose, and the words of the Qur’an is of high poetical eloquence, something which the Bible is not able to claim. Since the beauty of the Qur’an is in its poetical nature, it is therefore only natural that the Qur’an uses emphatic expressions to describe something like a “sunset”.

    Keep in mind that the Qur’an is in poetical prose and is meant to be a challenge to the pagan Arabs in Mecca who prided themselves as writers of good poetry. Those neophytes who like to use this verse as a stick to beat Islam with should attempt to study Arabic literature and the history of that period before coming up with silly conclusions.

    Therefore, it is clear the verse says that Dhul-Qarnain went west and saw the sun setting over the horizon so that it looked to him as though it was setting into the sea, which is murky-looking. Probably the critic has never stood by on the beach and observe the sunset.

    For further clarification of our explanation, we reproduce two other translations of the same verse by M. M. Pickthall and Shakir.

      Translation by M. M. Pickthall

      Till, when he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout. We said: O Dhu’l-Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness. (Qur’an 18:86)

      Translation by Shakir

      Until when he reached the place where the sun set, he found it going down into a black sea, and found by it a people. We said: ‘O Zulqarnain! either give them a chastisement or do them a benefit.’ (Qur’an 18:86)

    We can see that the general agreement of the translations of this verse is that Dhul-Qarnain saw the sun setting into the horizon that it looks like it is set into a body of water (sea) that looks murky-looking. That this verse was never taken literally was not alien in the understanding of the early commentators.

    How The Early Commentators Understood The Verse

    In his famous commentary known as Al-Game’ le Ahkam-el-Qur’an, Imam Al-Qurtubi (died 671 AH/1273 CE) wrote about this verse:

    It is not meant by reaching the rising or setting of the sun that he reached its body and touched it because it runs in the sky around the earth without touching it and it is too great to enter any spring on earth. It is so much larger than earth. But it is meant that he reached the end of populated land east and west, so he found it – according to his vision – setting in a spring of murky water as we watch it in smooth land as if it enters inside the land. That is why He said, “he found it rising on a people for whom we had provided no covering protection against the sun.” (Holy Qur’an 18:90) and did not mean that it touches or adheres to them, but they are the first to rise on. Probably this spring is a part of the sea and the sun sets behind, with or at it, so the proposition takes the place of an adjective and God knows best.1

    Fakhr-ud-Deen Ar-Razi wrote in his commentary on the same verse that:

    When Zul-Qarnain reached the furthest west and no populated land was left, he found the sun as if it sets in a dark spring, but it is not in reality. The same when sea traveller sees the sun as if it sets in the sea if he cannot see the shore while in reality, it sets behind the sea. 2

    Ibn Kathir (701-774 AH/1302-1373 CE) wrote in his commentary about this verse that:

    “Until, when he reached the setting of the sun” means he followed a certain way until he reached the furthest land he could go from the west. As for reaching the setting of the sun in the sky, it is impossible. What narrators and storytellers say that he walked for a period of time in earth while the sun was setting behind him is unreal, and most of it is from myths of People of the Book and inventions of their liars. “he found it set in a spring of murky water” means he saw the sun according to his vision set in the ocean and this is the same with everyone ending to the shore seeing as if the sun sets inside it (i.e. the ocean).3

    According to Al-Mawardi (d. 450 A.H) in his tafsir, the verse can be understood as:

    That He (Dhul Qarnayn) wajadaha (found it, saw it) setting behind the spring (‘ayn) as if it was setting in the very spring.”4

    And finally, to strengthen our observation that the part of the verse above is indeed poetical in nature and that the Qur’an had never meant the statement to be understood literally or from a “scientific” perspective, let us now see a picture of the sun setting in the horizon.


    The allegation put forth against the Qur’an is utterly baseless and is refuted by the Arabic language itself. The verse contains no reference at all to the sun literally setting, or entering, or going down, into a muddy pool of water. It is clear to us that the above-mentioned verse is only considered “unscientific” if we would also consider that similar emphatically-used phrases such as “Japan, the land of the rising sun” or “Sabah, the land below the wind” to be “unscientific” as well.

    Our advice to those neophytes is that before they try to find any more “discrepancies” in the Qur’an they should consider the following discrepancy of the Bible to clarify which Book actually has a severe defect:

    And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. (Leviticus 11:6)

    Now we all know that the hare (or anything related to rabbits) do not chew cud. Is this a “poetical” expression of the Bible? And only God knows best.

    Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Of The Sun Setting In Murky Water: Qur’anic Commentary on Sura’ Al-Kahf (18):86," in Bismika Allahuma, October 14, 2005, last accessed September 25, 2022,
    1. Al-Qurtubi, Al-Game’ le Ahkam-el-Qur’an, Vol. 16 (Dar-ul-Hadith, Cairo, Egypt), p. 47 []
    2. Fakhr-ud-Deen Ar-Razi, At-Tafsir-ul-Kabeer, Vol. 21, p. 166 []
    3. Tafsir-ul-Qur’an Al-‘Azeem by Ibn Kathir, Vol. 5, p. 120 []
    4. Al-Mawardi, ‘Ali bin Muhammad bin Habib, Al-Nukat wa al-‘Uyun, Vol. 3 (Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya), p. 450 []
    Qur'anic Commentary The Qur'an

    Does the Qur’an Say About Mary In The Trinity?

    The Christian missionaries have engaged in bitter polemics since the advent of Islam. One of their common allegations is that they claim that in Sura’ Al-Maiah (5):119, the Qur’an made a “mistake” in claiming that the Trinity consists of God, Jesus and Mary. The said verse is as follows:

    “And behold! God will say: ‘O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, ‘Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah’ He will say: ‘Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, Thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, though I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.'” (Qur’an 5:116)

    Upon careful observation, one would indeed see that God have indeed spoken the Truth:

    • The mentioning of the “Trinity” appears in the Holy Qur’an in verses 4:171 and 5:73. In these two verses the name of Mary is not mentioned as “the third Person of the Holy Trinity”.
    • Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches can be found filled with carved or molten images and/or statues of Jesus Christ and his mother Mary, in various sizes and shapes.
    • Most of these statues or images are placed in the prominent places of the prayer halls of these Christian Churches for venerating and worshipping of these entities. One would also notice that the majority of the attending congregates would kneel, worship, venerate and pray before these images as their reverent rituals and inherited traditions. Many devoted believers would place lighted candles in front of these statues or images before worshipping or paying their homage.
    • These Catholic congregates who venerate Lord Jesus as their God and call Virgin Mary as the “Mother of God”, do form the bulk of the Christians community. It has been so since the inception of the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestants, who separated from the Roman Catholics, nearly ten centuries after the advent of Islam, do not have the statues of Mother Mary in their Churches, although at one time Mary did play a pivotal role.
    • As for the Holy Ghost, the third person of the Holy Trinity, no Christian Church has so far instituted its venerating representation, image or semblance for their Churchgoers.

    Under the heading MARY, we find the following information that supports the above argument.

    Mary’s exalted position also earned her the titles Mother of God and Coredemptrix, suggesting that she played an active role in the redemption of mankind along with her son. The Mother of God title was applied early in church history, based on the notion that Jesus was fully God as well as human. This was established as a doctrine in the 4th century. In the Eastern churches this doctrine played a major devotional role and became a favorite subject for icon painters. During the Reformation era it was accepted by both Catholic and Protestant scholars, though Mary’s role in Protestant theology has declined markedly since then.1

    It is clear that for all practical purpose and in reality, when the issue is of worshipping, venerating, deifying and/or idolizing is concerned, it is Mary – the theotokos (Mother of God), and not the Holy Ghost, which has that kind of rank and status. Briefly, in terms of veneration, the idols of Jesus and Mary are treated as deities. The Holy Ghost is not venerated as a deity in the manner that Jesus’ and Mary’s idols were treated. The quoted verse from the Holy Qur?an questions such Divine Rank and Status that have been assigned by the followers of Jesus to him and his mother.

    The quoted verse does not speak of the Church developing the enigmatic doctrine of Trinity in the fourth century. It is in fact accepted that the doctrine of Trinity evolved and took its final shape nearly 350 years of CE. Bart D. Ehrman observes that

    Christianity in the second and third centuries was in a remarkable state of flux. To be sure, at no point in its history has the religion constituted a monolith. But the diverse manifestations of its first three hundred years – whether in terms of social structures, religious practices, or ideologies – have never been replicated.

    Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the realm of theology. In the second and third centuries there were, of course, Christians who believed in only one God; others, however, claimed that there were two Gods; yet others subscribed to 30, or 365, or more. Some Christians accepted the Hebrew Scriptures as a revelation of the one true God, the sacred possession of all believers; others claimed that the scriptures had been inspired by an evil deity. Some Christians believed that God had created the world and was soon going to redeem it; others said that God neither had created the world nor had ever had any dealings with it. Some Christians believed that Christ was somehow both a man and God; others said that he was a man, but not God; others claimed that he was God but not a man; others insisted that he was a man who had been temporarily inhabited by God. Some Christians believed that Christ’s death had brought about the salvation of the world; others claimed that his death had no bearing on salvation; yet others alleged that he had never even died.2

    So, in conclusion, there is no point calling the modern-day Trinitarian Christianity as ‘true’ Christianity and all others as ‘false’ since the evolution of this doctrine itself is very late. The early Christianity themselves had bizarre beliefs about their doctrine as well as their Scriptures.

    And only God knows best.

    1. Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia (1995), under the heading “Mary” []
    2. Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption Of Scripture: The Effect Of Early Christological Controversies On The Text Of The New Testament, 1993, Oxford University Press, London & New York, p. 3 []