mary sister of aaron

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.Maxime Rodin­son, Muham­mad, Pen­guin : Har­mondsworth, 1971, p. 218 The same idea has been repeat­ed by var­i­ous schol­ars such as lgnaz Goldz­i­herIgnaz Goldzin­er, Intro­duc­tion to Islam­ic The­ol­o­gy and Law (Tr : Andreas and Ruth Hamo­r­il), Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press : Prince­ton, 1981, pp. 4 – 5, William MillerWilliam M. Miller, Chris­t­ian Response to Islam, STL Books : Kent, 1981, p. 48, Fr. John L. Mcken­zieJohn L. Mcken­zie, S.J., The Two Edged Sword, Image Books : N.Y, 1966, p. 27, Mont­gomery WattWilliam Mont­gomery Watt, Islam and the Inte­gra­tion of Soci­ety, Claren­don : Lon­don, 1963, p. 263, Rev. Stan­tonRev. H.V. Wol­becht Stan­ton, The Teach­ing of the Qur’an, SPCK : Lon­don, 1919, p. 3, and C.C. Tor­reyC.C. Tor­rey, The Jew­ish Foun­da­tion of Islam, Scrib­n­ers : N.Y, 1933, p. 20. 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.H.A. R. Gibb, J.H. Kramers, Short­er Ency­clopae­dia of Islam, Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty Press : New York, 1953, p. 328

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).S. Ver­non McCar­land, Reli­gious of the World, Ran­dom House : New York, 1969, p. 321

D.S Mar­go­liouth (18581940), 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. D.S. Mar­go­liouth, Muham­mad and the Rise of Islam, (Lon­don 1905), Voice of India : New Del­hi, 1985, p. 61

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. N.A. New­man, Muham­mad, The Qur’an and Islam, I.D.B.I.: Pasade­na, 1996, p. 371

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

…the impli­ca­tion that Mary is con­fused with Miri­am.William Mont­gomery Watt, Mus­lim-Chris­t­ian Encoun­ters : Per­cep­tions and Mis­per­cep­tions, Rout­ledge : Lon­don, 1991, p. 17

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.C.C. Tor­rey, ibid., p. 108

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.Karen Arm­strong, Muham­mad, Vic­tor Gol­lanez : Lon­don, 1995, p. 131

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.Ibn War­raq, Why I Am Not A Mus­lim, Promethens Books : New York, 1995, p. 63

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.J.I. Pack­er, I Want to be a Chris­t­ian, King­way Pub­li­ca­tion : East­bowine, 1985, p. 43

as she was the moth­er of oth­er chil­dren alsoSee Matthew 13:54 – 56, John 7:3 – 5, Mark 3:31 – 35, Matthew 1:25, 6:3, 12:47. 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.Arthur Pea­cock, The­ol­o­gy for a Sci­en­tif­ic Age, Fortress Press : Min­neapo­lis, 1993, p. 408

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.John Waddey, Search­ing the Scrip­tures, J.C. Choate Pub­li­ca­tions : Mis­sis­sip­pi, 1972, p. 295

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.Car­di­nal Gib­bons, The Faith of Our Fathers, John Mur­phy Co. New York, 1895, p. 204

He goes on to say that :

The Church exhort­ed chil­dren not only to hon­or the Blessed vir­gin but also to invoke her inter­ces­sion.Car­di­nal Gib­bons, ibid., p. 221

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).Karl Rah­n­er, Immac­u­late Con­cep­tion, In H. Vor­grim­ler, Con­cise The­o­log­i­cal Dic­tio­nary, Burns and Oats : Lon­don 1965, p. 223

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.J.W. Lan­gli­nais, Assump­tion of Mary, The New Catholic Ency­clopae­dia, Vol 1, Mc Graw Hill : New York, 1967, p. 971

Mary was first called Moth­er of God” (Theotokos) by St. Hip­poly­tus (170235 A.D.). Lat­er this term has entered in the let­ters of the Church Fathers. St. Jerome (186253 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.J.W. Lan­g­lin­eais, ibid., p. 973

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. R. Ray Stan­ford, Hand­book of Per­son­al Evan­ge­lisim (Indi­an Edi­tion), The Immanuel Bapist Min­istres of India : Mylavaram, 1990, p. 162

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 AaronExo­dus 28:1, Leviti­cus 1:3, Num­bers 3:10. Aaron is the first priest before Yah­wehExo­dus 28:29, Leviti­cus 8. 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, 8:217). 

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. William Bar­clay, The Gospel of Luke, Saint Andrew Press : Edin­burgh, 1975, p. 11

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.William Bas­clay, The Gospel of John, Vol 1, Saint Andrew Press : Edin­burgh, 1975, p. 77

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.Thomas Cleary, The Essen­tial Koran, Harp­er Collins : New Del­hi, 1994, pp. 176 – 177

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.“Ibn Hisham, Sira : 1175 ; Tabari, Tarikh : 2128

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 fore­fa­therActs 7:2, Romans 4:12, James 2:21. A mem­ber of the Jew­ish race removed from Abra­ham as much by 2000 years can still refer to Abra­ham as his fatherLuke 16:24 – 25, 1:67 – 73 ; 13:16. 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 sonGen­e­sis 49:5 when he is actu­al­ly the son of Bethuel, the son of NahorGen­e­sis 4:47. 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.“Sahih Mus­lim Vol. 5, Book 25, Hadith 5326

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)”.Mar­tin Lings, Muham­mad : His Life Based on the Ear­li­est Sources, Inner Life International:Rochester, 1983, p. 271 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.H.A.R. Gibb, J.H. Kramers, ibid., p. 328

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.D.S. Mar­go­liouth, ibid., p. 146

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 falseSee Isa­iah 40:20. Actu­al­ly, the obser­vance of the Sab­bath was appoint­ed for the Jews only as a sign of the Divine covenant made with the Israelitescf. Exo­dus 31 : 13 — 17, also see Deuteron­o­my 5:15.

2. As dis­tinct from the con­cept of God as the God of Israel“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 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

and :

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“cf. Gen­e­sis-40 : 2, 11, 13, 17, and 18. 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“cf. Qur’an, 12 : 43, 50:54. As for the king who ruled dur­ing the time of Moses, the Qur’an repeat­ed­ly refers to him as Pharaoh“Qur’an, 2:49 — 50,54:41 — 42,7:103 — 137,10:75 — 92,28:38,79:24, 44:17 – 33.

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.“Qur’an 7:40

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 (19001980), 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.Erich Fromm, Man for Him­self, Faweett Pre­mier : NY, 1975, p. 22

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, 2224), 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 20:1936, 20:90, 21:48). Sim­i­lar­ly, the puri­ty of Abra­ham and of Moses are high­ly stressed (Qur’an 6:120123, 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 (17951881) 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 ?Thomas Car­lyle, The Hero as a Prophet : Mohomet, Idarah-l-Adabiya : Del­hi, (reprint) 1990, p. 6

    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 (18721970) states,

  • Was it law­ful to lend mon­ey on inter­est ? No clear answer was to be found in the scrip­tures.Bertrand Rus­sell, Human Soci­ety in Ethics and Pol­i­tics, Rout­ledge : Lon­don, 1992, p. 34

    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 10:4,8:12,9:1214,22, 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.Sir­dar Iqbal Ali Shah, Islam­ic Sufism, Samuel Weis­er : NewYork, 1971, p. 41

    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.Annemarie Schim­mel, Deci­pher­ing the Signs of God, State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York Press : New York, 1994, p. 164

    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 ! Mary, the Sister of Aaron? 1Endmark

    The author is the sub-edi­tor of Al-Har­mo­ny : Jour­nal on Islam­ic Thought and Ethics, Kochi-682030, India, and receives his mail at vamashrof@​yahoo.​com
    Cite this arti­cle as : V.A. Mohamad Ashrof, Mary, the Sis­ter of Aaron ?,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, Octo­ber 14, 2005, last accessed Decem­ber 11, 2023, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​q​u​r​a​n​/​m​a​r​y​-​t​h​e​-​s​i​s​t​e​r​-​o​f​-​a​a​r​on/




    2 responses to “Mary, the Sis­ter of Aaron ?”

    1. Anis Avatar

      Excel­lent reply…I wish such replies also came from our schol­ars and were wide­ly pub­lished. May Allah reward you.

    2. Aby Avatar

      Asalaam broth­er, very good arti­cle, may Allah reward you for your efforts.

      Just a sug­ges­tion, there is a typ­ing error.


      The ayat num­ber should be 3:37 and not 3:77.


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