Rebuttal To Jochen Katz's Article "Allah's Forgotten Creatures"

By

Bassam Zawadi

 

We recommend our readers to first read Jochen Katz's article over here before proceeding to read this article.

 

What I find extremely surprising is how Jochen wrote an entire article because he simply failed to read the verse in more than one grammatically acceptable way. This is what the verse states:

 

والله خلق كل دابة من ماء فمنهم من يمشي على بطنه ومنهم من يمشي على رجلين ومنهم من يمشي على اربع يخلق الله مايشاء ان الله على كل شئ قدير

 

Allah has created EVERY moving (living) creature from water. Of them there are some that creep on their bellies, some that walk on two legs, and some that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills. Verily! Allah is Able to do all things.

 

What does the verse say? The verse says that OF (i.e. from amongst) all of Allah's creation you have creatures that creep on their bellies, walk on two legs and walk on four legs. In no way does this indicate that the verse is necessarily talking about all categories. The Arabic word منهم (minhum) could possibly clarify that the purpose is to give some random examples for better understanding.

 

Other examples of the usage of the word minhum that imply speaking about certain groups and not used in an exhaustive sense could be found in Surah 2:75, 78, 201, 253 and several dozens if not hundreds more.

Imam Al-Shawkani states in his commentary:

 

وقيل: ليس في القرآن ما يدلّ على عدم المشي على أكثر من أربع، لأنه لم ينف ذلك، ولا جاء بما يقتضي الحصر

And it is said that there is nothing in the Qur'an that implies that there are no creatures who could walk with more than four legs, for it does not exclude that category nor does anything restrict the categories provided. (Shawkani, Fathul Qadeer, Commentary on Surah 24:45, Source)

Shaykh Muhammad Mitwalli Ash-Sharawi states:

 

لذلك قال بعدها: { يَخْلُقُ ٱللَّهُ مَا يَشَآءُ } [النور: 45] لأن الآية لم تستقْص كل ألوان المشي، إنما تعطينا نماذج، وتحت { يَخْلُقُ ٱللَّهُ مَا يَشَآءُ } [النور: 45] تندرج مثلاً (أُم أربعة وأربعين) وغيرها من الدواب،

 

Because of that he said afterwards "Allah creates what He wills", for the verse does not examine all categories of moving creatures. Rather, it only gives us examples. Under "Allah creates what He wills" come other examples (e.g. four or forty) and other kinds of creatures. (Shaykh Muhammad Mitwalli Ash-Sharawi, Tafseer Khawaatir Muhammad Mitwalli Ash-Sharawi, Abridged Version, Commentary on Surah 24:45, Source)

 

Jochen disagrees with Shaykh Mitwalli and states:

That does not seem to be a valid interpretation. The last part of the verse is not an additional category but a conclusion (giving praise to God) presented as a reflection on what was stated before. The three categories are joined with "wa" (and): "those walking with no legs" AND "those walking with two legs" AND "those walking with four legs". There is no third "wa" joining the text that follows to the other three categories. This change in structure does not allow for understanding the concluding reflection as a fourth category.

First of all, I don't agree with Jochen that the phrase "Allah creates what He wills" is part of the conclusion, I only see "Verily! Allah is Able to do all things." as being the conclusion.

Secondly, as an Arabic speaker (even as an English speaker just by reading the translation) I don't see any truth in Jochen's statement. There is no reason to believe that the absence of wa (i.e. and) necessitates that the statement "Allah creates what He wills" isn't adding to the category. A simple hypothetical example could suffice to show this:

Adam owns all the hotel chains in Louisiana. From them are three star hotels and from them are four star hotels and from them are five star hotels. Adam owns all of the hotel chains in Louisiana as he pleases. Adam is indeed a powerful hotel profiteer.

The above paragraph is grammatically correct. The above paragraph does not communicate that Adam doesn't also own the one and two star hotels in Lousiana as well. It only mentioned the three, four and five star hotels as examples. The phrase "Adam owns all of the hotel chains in Louisiana as he pleases" could grammatically be understood as communicating that Adam doesn't only own the three, four and five star hotels, but others as well.

Am I saying that the way Jochen is reading this passage is grammatically incorrect? No I am not saying that, rather I am saying that it is not necessary. Indeed, there are scholars who have read the verse as only stating the three categories explicitly mentioned, but the only reason why they read it like that was not due to any grammatical restrictions but due to their interpreting and defining the third category "and some that walk on four" differently. They understood the third category as including any creature that walks on four legs and above because they believe that the category describes any creature that walks on four legs, even though it could walk on more. In their view a creature that walks on six legs still ends up walking on four legs (see the commentaries of Al-Mawardi, Al-Baghawi, Ibnul-Jawzi and others).

Jochen argues that such a "mere statement" is of utter triviality because it is common knowledge:

First, a mere statement that there exist animals that walk on four legs, others that walk on two legs and yet others that glide over the ground without any legs is an utter triviality. That is an observation that can be made by a four-year old child. We do not need divine revelation for that. But either it is an utter triviality, or it is indeed intended as a categorization of every living being, but then it is not only incomplete but wrong by all scientific standards.

But Jochen refutes himself when he states that he knows what the true purpose of the verse is:

I agree that giving a complete categorization of all creatures is not the main thrust of this verse. Its main message is the power of Allah who created everything and who is able to do all things. That is how this verse starts and ends, "Allah has created every moving (living) creature ... Allah creates what He wills. Verily! Allah is Able to do all things."

So since Jochen knows that it is not Allah's intention to provide a full categorization and that He only intended to exemplify His power, then Jochen shouldn't have any objection to Allah mentioning some categories of His vast creation in order to communicate to us His vast power.

 

 

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