Rebuttal to Jochen Katz's Article "Mistake or Blasphemy?"
Jochen's article could be read here. One should read it first before continuing on to read this rebuttal.
In a nutshell, Jochen's argument maybe summarized as follows:
Surah 39, Ayah 53 says:
قُلْ يٰعِبَادِيَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُواْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لاَ تَقْنَطُواْ مِن رَّحْمَةِ ٱللَّهِ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعاً إِنَّهُ هُوَ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ
Say: O My slaves who have been prodigal to their own hurt! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, Who forgiveth all sins. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.
The verse says "say" (قُلْ), which means that what comes after the word "say" (قُلْ), Muhammad would actually say. Right after the word "say" (قُلْ), the words "O My slaves"(يٰعِبَادِيَ) come. So that means that Muhammad said "Oh my slaves", however human beings are not the slaves of Muhammad, unless Muhammad was a blasphemer.
This is the problem when you have a non-Arabic speaking Christian who is already biased in his assessment of the Qur'an and happens to have a psychological obsession with splitting hairs.
This argument is too fragile and unintelligent and does not really require a proof to negate it. The Arabic language is not like other languages so it is not a form of math. One ought to be aware of grammatical shifts for rhetorical purposes (see here). We also often see in grammar something called an implied pronoun or sentence (ضمير أو جملة مقدرة).
For example, in Surah 28, Ayah 12 we read the story of the sister of Moses:
وحرمنا عليه المراضع من قبل فقالت هل ادلكم على اهل بيت يكفلونه لكم وهم له ناصحون
Waharramna AAalayhi almaradiAAa min qablu faqalat hal adullukum AAala ahli baytin yakfuloonahu lakum wahum lahu nasihoona
And We ordained that he refused to suck any foster mother before, so (fa) she said: Shall I point out to you the people of a house who will take care of him for you, and they will be benevolent to him?
Ibn 'Aashour said in his book al-Tahreer wal Tanweer
فاء فصيحة تؤذن بجملة مقدرة، أي فأظهرت أخته نفسها كأنها مرت بهم عن غير قصد
"The letter "Fa" is expressive and eloquent connoting an implied sentence that is (his sister made her passing by them look unplanned)." (Ibn 'Aashour, al-Tahreer wal Tanweer, Commentary on Surah 28:12, Source)
I gave this as an example so that one could just see how sophisticated and deep the Arabic language is. That is why I find it funny when someone who does not know the language comes and challenges it!
If Jochen's argument is held to be true then how come no one ever mentioned it before especially since the Prophet (peace be upon him) was telling them to worship Allah alone? Why didn't the theology of human beings being the slaves of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) originate and develop?
The ayah is actually saying: "O Muhammad, say to my slaves, "O you who...." This is something, which is so clearly implied. This is a rhetorical and eloquent style of communication. Also, Allah speaking in this more direct manner to the people indicates a greater closeness to God and paints a more Merciful image of God than if He were to say using the exact words "O Muhammad, say to My slaves, .", for that would appear to make God distancing Himself away from His slaves by referring to them in the third person.
Furthermore, it is not conditional that every pronoun that comes after the word "say" refers to the one who is doing the "saying". For instance, in Arabic I could tell my friend Omar "Go to Adam and say I am sorry." So just because I told Omar to "say" "I am sorry", that doesn't mean that Omar is the one doing the apologizing, but that he is communicating that I am sorry. Similarly, Allah is telling the Prophet (peace be upon him) to communicate to the people regarding His Mercy and willingness to forgive people for their sins.