Rebuttal to Answering Islam's Article "MOHAMMED CLAIMED TO BE A WARNER ONLY FOR ARABIA"
Bassam Zawadi & Mansur Ahmed
An author going by the name of "Abu Salam" has written an article for Answering Islam over here where he seeks to prove that Muhammad (peace be upon him) claimed to have been only sent to the Arabs:
In this paper I am not dealing with the truth or falsehood of Mohammed's claim to prophethood. I will only demonstrate here that according to the Qur'an Mohammed is a Warner only for Arabia. If therefore this claim was true he was a prophet only for Arabia and if this claim was false he was not, but ascribing universality to Mohammed and the Quran is to exceed the claim of the Quran itself.
Notice that the author said "I will only demonstrate here that according to the Qur'an Mohammed is a Warner only for Arabia". Why is the author only appealing to the Qur'an? Who said that the Qur'an is the only source of Islamic authority? Why did the author fail to mention the hadith? The Qur'an gives authority to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to teach (3:164) and make clear (16:44) the Qur'an to us. To know more about the importance of the Sunnah in Islam, please refer to my section here. Hence, for the author to limit Muslims to the Qur'an alone is like Muslims trying to limit Christians to only the Gospels in exclusion to the New Testament. Just as Christians cannot present the teachings of Christianity in its fullness in detail without appealing to certain books, Muslims face the same issue when they are restricted to only the Qur'an.
The author presents a selection of cherry picked verses from the Qur'an that talk about the particular attention that Muhammad (peace be upon him) had for the Arabs, while ignoring all the other verses that speak about his universal attention. The most funny thing is that another author by the name of "Callum Beck" wrote an article called "Jesus' Ministry - Limited, Universal or Both?" on the Answering Islam site, which demonstrates that the ministry of Jesus in the Bible is similar to that of Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the Qur'an. He says that they are similar in the sense that both figures are shown to have particular attentions for people (i.e. Jesus for the Jews and Muhammad for the Arabs), while at the same time also had a universal attention in spreading their message across to all the people in the world. He refers to the same Qur'anic verses that Abu Salam refers to, yet at the same time doesn't forget to mention the other verses in the Qur'an, which clearly discuss Muhammad's (peace be upon him) universal attention. It's amazing that Answering Islam would publish two different articles on the same site arguing two opposing perspectives.
There is also another article entitled "Jesus, Israel and The Gentiles" authored by Ernst Hahn, which is also present on the Answering Islam website. He also goes against Abu Salam on this issue!
Notice the very interesting statements that this author makes (bold emphasis mine):
On the other hand, by isolating select passages from the Qur'an and ignoring others, it is possible to contend from these isolated passages that Muhammad is not the person many Muslims claim him to be and that the message of the Qur'an is not universal.
To him, be he Christian, Muslim or neither, who accepts the inherent claims of both Islam and Christianity to have limited and universal dimensions, much of the above may appear to be a silly exercise in elementary logic in support of an initial prejudice. On the other hand he who, through prejudice, has determined to discover an absolute cleavage between the limited and universal dimensions in either the Bible or the Qur'an by arbitrarily selecting and ignoring passages in either book may also discover that similar kinds of prejudice and reasoning can equally be applied against his thesis.
In fact the concept of universality is only one of the many concepts which Islam and Christianity hold in common. Adherents of both religions, since their inception, accept the obligation to spread their respective messages to all nations and the right of all nations to share in them.
Notice that this Christian author is saying three crucial things:
1) That it is silly for one to argue that Islam isn't a universal faith
2) One who reaches a conclusion otherwise by not appealing to the sources in their entirety (just like how Abu Salam has done) is doing so through prejudice
3) That a Christian who puts forth such an argument against Islam is committing a double standard, since the same kind of reasoning could be applied to his scripture (e.g. one could take Mark 15:21 and insist on interpreting all other texts based upon this verse instead of allowing all the verses to speak for themselves and then reach the correct conclusion. As we would see below, this is what Abu Salam has done. He has taken certain Qur'anic verses that speak specifically about the Prophet being sent to Arabs and then interpreted all the verses about the Prophet's universal message in light of those passages, instead of letting all the passages speak for themselves and then deriving a conclusion out of them)
Let's begin looking at the arguments put forth.
"(Mohammed) You are only a Warner and for every nation there is a guide." (13:7)
The principle given by the Quran here proves that as per his own standards Mohammed can only be a guide for his nation i.e. Arabs.
Where does the verse state that Muhammad (peace be upon him) can only be a guide for his nation? The verse only states two things: 1) Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a warner and 2) Every nation has a guide.
Us Muslims believe that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the guide to all nations during his time and after his time. There is nothing in the above mentioned verse that refutes that.
"And we have sent no messenger but with the language of his people, that he might make (the message) clear for them." (14:4)
This principle also proves that as per his own standards Mohammed can only be a guide for Arabic speaking people.
What this verse establishes is the fact that when Messengers came to their respective people they came to them speaking in their language so that they could understand them. Prophets of God did not fall down to earth from space but were chosen or raised as prophets from within their community or nations (of course Adam was an exception). The nation from whom they were raised spoke a particular language. Not so surprisingly then, this is the language the prophets used to communicate to them the message of God, otherwise they would not understand the message. If Jesus communicated with the people around him in Japanese, how many people would have understood him? He had to speak to them in their own language. We ask if Jesus had communicated to the people in their languages (Aramaic? Hebrew? Greek?) then would that have restricted his mission only to these language users according the logic of the author? The answer is no. Likewise, this verse does not restrict Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to only be a guide to Arabic speaking people. This is something so obvious that even Ernst Hahn understood this obvious point:
The Qur'an is in Arabic in order that the Arabs who complain that they cannot understand another language or a revelation in another language may understand. (Source)
"He is (Allah) who has raised among the unlettered people a messenger from among themselves" (62:2)
So Mohammed claims only to be a prophet for "Umeen" the unlettered people of Arabia.
It is also interesting to note here that "Umeen" could also mean people of Makkah (note-4).
No, this verse nowhere says that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) claimed to only to be a prophet for the unlettered people of Arabia. Rather, it states that God raised a messenger (i.e. Prophet Muhammad) amongst this nation who was unlettered. Yes, he was a prophet to them too but it does not restrict him from being a prophet to others as well.
"And this (Quran) is a blessed book which we have revealed, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, so that you (O prophet) may warn the mother of the cities (Makkah) and those around her." (6:92)
"And thus we have revealed to you an Arabic Quran, so that you may warn the mother of the cities (Makkah) and those around her." (42:7)
The above verses clearly show that Mohammed claims to have received a revelation in Arabic to warn people of Makkah and those living close to it, of course the Arabic speaking people.
Surah 6:92 states the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is to warn people in Makkah and around it. It is not necessarily true to say it excludes other cities apart from Makkah except those close to it. 'Those around her' (not 'near' her) can refer to and does refer to all people as we could see the Qur'an telling us in context elsewhere:
Say, 'What counts most as a witness?' Say, 'God is witness between you and me. This Quran was revealed for me to warn you [people] and everyone it reaches. Do you really bear witness that there are other gods beside God?' Say, 'I myself do not bear witness [to any such thing].' Say, 'He is only one God, and I disown whatever you join with Him.'
Exalted is He who has sent the Differentiator down to His servant so that it may be a warning to all people.
Does the author expect that in order for a revelation to be a guide for everyone then it must be revealed from God in every single language of the world?
It is faulty logic to suggest that the Prophet (peace be upon him) couldn't use an Arabic Qur'an to warn and guide non-Arabs. History testifies that the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent Qur'anic verses in Arabic with translations/translators warning the non-Arab Emperor Heraclius, Chosroes II, Negus etc. Furthermore, if non-Arabs weren't allowed to accept Islam then why was Salman the Persian allowed to do so with no objections from the Prophet (peace be upon him)? The same goes for the Ethiopian Bilal ibn Rabah who was held in high honor for being the first muezzin (announcing the call to prayer from the mosque) personally selected by the Prophet (peace be upon him). If Islam wasn't meant for non-Arabs as well then why did the Prophet (peace be upon him) say "There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab over an Arab. except in piety" (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith no. 22391; Hadith scholar Shu'ayb al-Arna'ut declared this narration to be authentic). Notice that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that race isn't a sign of superiority, rather what makes one superior to the other is piety. This shows that piety is accessible to non-Arabs through Islam. This indicates that Islam has a universal message. This is something that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has made very clear when he said:
Volume 1, Book 7, Number 331:
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
The Prophet said, "I have been given five things which were not given to any one else before me.
1. Allah made me victorious by awe, (by His frightening my enemies) for a distance of one month's journey.
2. The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying and a thing to perform Tayammum, therefore anyone of my followers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due.
3. The booty has been made Halal (lawful) for me yet it was not lawful for anyone else before me.
4. I have been given the right of intercession (on the Day of Resurrection).
5. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only but I have been sent to all mankind.
"Then we gave Moses the book, complete for him who would do good, an explanation of all things, a guidance and a mercy, so that they might believe in the meeting with their Lord." (6:154)
"And this (Quran) is a blessed book which we have revealed, so follow it and fear Allah that you may receive mercy." (6:155)
"Lest you (pagan Arabs) should say: The book was sent down to the two sects before us (the Jews and the Christians) and for our part we were in fact unaware of what they studied (because that book was in a different language)." (6:156)
These verses claim that the book given to Moses was complete. The Quran was revealed because the book of Moses was in a language foreign to the Arabs and they could have made this as an excuse for not following the book of Moses.
Notice that the parenthetical statement: (because that book was in a different language) is not part of the Qur'anic text; just the authors interpretation which may or may not be correct. In fact this interpretation seems unlikely to be correct because the Qur'an reports elsewhere about these same pagans who denied the Torah with a specific reason:
Surah 28: 44-48
You [Muhammad] were not present on the western side of the mountain when We gave Our command to Moses: you were not there- 45We have brought into being many generations who lived long lives- you did not live among the people of Midian or recite Our Revelation to them- We have always sent messengers to people- 46 nor were you present on the side of Mount Sinai when We called out to Moses. But you too have been sent as an act of grace from your Lord, to give warning to a people to whom no warner has come before, so that they may take heed, 47and may not say, if a disaster should befall them as a result of what they have done with their own hands, 'Lord, if only You had sent us a messenger, we might have followed Your message and become believers.' 48Even now that Our truth has come to them, they say, 'Why has he not been given signs like those given to Moses?' Did they not also deny the truth that was given to Moses before? They say, 'Two kinds of sorcery, helping each other,' and, 'We refuse to accept either of them.'
Here we find the pagans denial to accept the Quran and the Torah was even after recognizing the miraculous nature of the two scriptures (in their words 'sorcery'). They did not refuse to accept the Torah because it was in a different language.
The Qur'an was not revealed because of the fact that the Arab pagans did not understand the non-Arabic Torah and had the Torah been in Arabic there would have been no need for the Qur'an. No, the Qur'an came to them because they had no warner before. They became the initial recipients of the final universal revelation of Allah to all people.
Allah removed their excuse lest they say they were unaware of the Torah and the Injeel which was sent to other than their own nation. So the verses quoted by the author do not indicate that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) came for the Arab speaking people only.
"Verily, We made it a Quran in Arabic so that you may be able to understand" (43:3)
This verse is clear enough to prove that Quran is in Arabic so that Arabs can understand it.
To say that this book is for non Arabic speaking people is as ridiculous as telling a Japanese person, "I have written this book in English so that you can understand."
The author forgets that this may have been addressed to the initial recipients who were Arabic speaking. The Qur'an indeed reports what the case would have been if the Qur'an came in a different language to the Prophet (peace be upon him) whose tongue was Arabic:
Surah 41: 44
If We had made it a foreign Qur'an, they would have said, 'If only its verses were clear! What? Foreign speech to an Arab?' Say, 'It is guidance and healing for those who have faith, but the ears of the disbelievers are heavy, they are blind to it, it is as if they are being called from a distant place.'
Since the Prophet (peace be upon him) who speaks Arabic came to the Arabs first the Qur'an needed to be in Arabic. Does this restrict his mission to the Arab speaking people only? No, the Arabic Qur'an can be interpreted in any language for its basic message to be understood.
One seriously wonders, did the author of the Gospel of Mark, for example, only write it for the Greek speaking people ONLY AND for NO ONE ELSE because it is in Greek?
It is now quite clear that none of the above six points individually nor collectively demonstrate that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was only sent to the Arabs or Arabic speaking people. Hence, there is no need to address any of the rest of the points raised by the author since he hasn't provided any proof that the above six points teach that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was only sent to the Arabs and should then be used to interpret other verses in the Qur'an.
However, we would like to touch upon the author's discussion regarding the word "Aalameen". The author tries to get all creative and smart regarding the word "Aalameen", yet provides no shred of evidence from history that any of the Muslims ever understood the word in this manner when it occurred in those Qur'anic verses. The author thinks that it is enough for him to simply provide a grammatical alternative and that this would somehow cast doubt upon the already established understanding of the verse! Talk about insincerity and lack of academic and scholarly approach to this topic!
The restricted meaning of Aalameen is also used in the Quran, for example in:
"O Children of Israel! Remember my favour which I bestowed upon you and that I gave you superiority over the Aalameen." (2:47)
Here "Aalameen" cannot encompass all people of all times (let alone the entire universe) since it would be in contradiction to:
"You (Muslims) are the best group." (3:110)
How can Muslims be the best group if "Aalameen" in 2:47 includes people of all times?
Tafsir Al-Jalalayn states:
"Úóáóì ÇáúÚóÇáóãöíäó" ÚóÇáöãöí ÒóãóÇäåãú
"Over the Aalaameen", this refers to the world during their time. (Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, Commentary on Surah 2:47, Source)
Hence, we see that there is no restriction on the word "Aalaamen" here, rather the restriction is on the time in which this was in effect.
"And Ishmael and Al-Yasa, and Jonah and Lot, and each one of them we gave Superiority over the Aalameen." (6:86)
How can Ishmael and Lot be included in the "Aalameen" in 2:47 and if they are how can Children of Ishmael be included in the "Aalameen" here as they both are not from the Children of Israel?
The Children of Israel were given superiority as a nation over other nations and not as individuals within that group over other individuals. What this verse is saying is that these individuals (during their times) were given superiority over other individuals (because of their prophethood). So if someone were to say "America is the strongest country in the world" and then someone said "The strongest man in the world is from Mexico", you wouldn't have a contradiction since America is only the strongest collectively as a nation and not every single individual American is stronger than every other individual from elsewhere in the world. So again, the author has failed to show how "Aalaameen" is being restricted here.
For other examples of the restricted meaning of Aalameen see verse 3:42 and compare with the Hadith "Aaisha (the wife of Mohammed) has superiority over all women" (Bukhari, Chapter Superiority of Aaisha, 5.113) and to another Hadith "Fatimah is the Leader of all women in the paradise" (Bukhari in the name of the chapter of Manaqib-e-Fatimah).
Again, the author is wrong. Surah 3:42 could possibly be interpreted as referring to Maryam's time because Jesus (peace be upon him) had to be sent during that time and Allah chose Maryam for that task. As for Aisha's superiority, again there is no indication in the statement that the Prophet (peace be upon him) is comparing her to all women of all times. As for Fatimah being the Leader of all women in paradise, that is not proof for her superiority in an absolute sense, since we know that even Hassan and Hussein (the Prophet's grandchildren) will be leaders of the men in paradise, yet we know that they aren't superior to the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself.
In 29:10 Aalameen is restricted to those with breasts (cf. Thinking with your breasts?)
I don't understand how the author is trying to argue that "Aalaameen" is restricted in this verse. The verse says the breasts of mankind. Where is the restriction?
In 15:70 it has been used for only those who ever came in contact with Lot.
I don't see the evidence for this.
In summary, we see that the author doesn't allow the Islamic sources to speak for themselves fully and then derives a conclusion out of them, rather he only isolates certain verses and exegetes them incorrectly and then falsely interprets other verses according to his wrongful understanding of the verses he isolated. He also ignores Islamic history and how the Prophet (peace be upon him) accepted non-Arabs to come into the faith. He also ignores how the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent letters to non-Muslim rulers inviting them to Islam and ignored explicit statements coming from the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself where he stated he wasn't only sent to one nation, but to all people. He is committing double standards and doesn't realize that this kind of argumentation could even be used more forcefully towards his Bible. In conclusion, the author has not proven his case.
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