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 (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. 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 (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.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, 8:2, 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. 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: 1/175; Tabari, Tarikh: 2/128

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)


“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 (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.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, 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?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 (1872 -1970) 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 10:4,8:12,9:12 -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.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? 1 

    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 February 7, 2023,




    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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