Rebuttal to Jochen Katz's Article "A Plain Error and Contradiction in the Qur'an: Who suffers loss if Muhammad was wrong?"
Jochen Katz's article could be located here.
My refutation to Jochen Katz is basically asking him one question...
Where on earth does the verse say that no one else will also suffer from someone's misguidance?
It is pretty clear that Jochen doesn't even know what the verse is saying.
The verse is not saying that if Muhammad (peace be upon him) were to be led astray, then he would be the only one affected by his misguidance. The verse is saying that if Muhammad (peace be upon him) were to be led astray, IT WOULD BE BECAUSE OF HIMSELF. He would have erred due to his own loss in being able to follow the straight path.
Imam Suyuti states...
Say: 'If I go astray, from the truth, I will be going astray only to my own loss, that is to say, the sin of my going astray shall be held against me; and if I am rightly guided, it will have been by what my Lord reveals to me, of the Qur'ān and wisdom. Truly He is Hearer, of supplications, Nigh'. (Jalal ud-Din Siyuti, Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Commentary on Surah 34:50, Source)
Ibn Abbaas states...
(Say) to them, O Muhammad: (If I err) from the Truth and guidance, (I err only to my own loss) he says: the punishment of that is against my soul, (and if I am rightly guided) to the Truth and guidance (it is because of that which my Lord hath revealed unto me) that I am guided. (Lo! He is Hearer) of he who calls Him, (Nigh) in responding to whoever calls Him. (Ibn Abbaas, Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn 'Abbâs, Commentary on Surah 34:50, Source)
Also refer to the commentaries of Qurtubi, Baidawi and Zamakhshari, which essentially say the same thing.
What the verse is saying is that if the Prophet (peace be upon him) were to become misguided and decided to not follow the straight path, this would end up harming himself. This is what the translators wanted to communicate. It doesn't mean that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the only one that would get affected by this whole process. It is only saying that his choosing the wrong path would only end up hurting himself.
Let me give a real life example so that Jochen may understand better.
The father says to his child 'you'd only end up getting sick if you don't wear your jacket like I told you'.
What the father is telling his child is that he would only end up hurting himself by getting sick if he doesn't listen to his father and wear his jacket.
However, the mother might get affected by the child getting sick since she would have to spend time taking care of her child if he were to get sick.
Thus, according to Jochen's logic, the father's statement is factually incorrect. Yet, Jochen doesn't realize that this is the way people speak and he just simply needs to back off with his hair splitting analysis of the technicalities of people's speech.