Rebuttal to Jochen Katz's Article, "Revelation given to the Tribes?: Another example of the Incoherence of the Qur'an"



Bassam Zawadi



Jochen Katz's article can be found here. One would want to read his article before reading this rebuttal.


Jochen asks why Al Asbaat is included in the verse. Tafsir Jalalayn says this refers to the descendants of Prophet Joseph's brothers.


This doesn't mean that ALL of Prophet Joseph's brothers' descendants became Prophets. Allah is speaking about the Prophets from Al Asbaat.


For example, let's say that I have five kids. Two of my kids attend Harvard University.


Someone might say, "Bassam's kids go to Harvard," without this implying that all of my kids go to Harvard. He is referring to those two from my kids.


Similarly, Allah is speaking about those Prophets from Al Asbaat and not necessarily all of them. They were probably too many for Allah to specify by name for each one in the verse.


Jochen puts forth some questions that he would like answered.

  1. Given that Moses is the one prophet who is mentioned more often in the Qur'an than any other, and given the constant claim of Muslims that Muhammad was the awaited "prophet like Moses", it is rather curious that his name is omitted from this particular list which has the purpose of connecting the revelation given to Muhammad to the revelation given to earlier prophets.

Imam Razi explains why in his commentary:


واعلم أن الأنبياء المذكورين في هذه الآية سوى موسى عليه السلام إثنا عشر ولم يذكر موسى معهم، وذلك لأن اليهود قالوا: إن كنت يا محمد نبياً فأتنا بكتاب من السماء دفعة واحدة كما أتى موسى عليه السلام بالتوراة دفعة واحدة، فالله تعالى أجاب عن هذه الشبهة بأن هؤلاء الأنبياء الأثنى عشر كلهم كانوا أنبياءً ورسلاً مع أن واحداً منهم ما أتى بكتاب مثل التوراة دفعة واحدة، ثم ختم ذكر الأنبياء بقوله { وَءاتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ زَبُوراً } يعني أنكم اعترفتم بأن الزبور من عند الله، ثم إنه ما نزل على داود دفعة واحدة في ألواح مثل ما نزلت التوراة دفعة واحدة على موسى عليه السلام في الألواح، فدل هذا على أن نزول الكتاب لا على الوجه الذي نزلت التوراة لا يقدح في كون الكتاب من عند الله، وهذا إلزام حسن قوي.


And know that the Prophets mentioned in this verse except Moses (peace be upon him) are twelve, and Moses was not mentioned with them. This is because the Jews said: "If you Muhammad are a Prophet then bring for us a book from the heavens revealed in one installment just as Moses (peace be upon him) was given the Torah in one installment". So Allah Almighty responded to this argument by saying that all of these Prophets - all twelve - were Prophets and Messengers, except one who was not given a book like the Torah in one installment. Then He ended the mentioning of the Prophets by saying "And We Gave David the Psalm", meaning you (i.e. the Jews) admit that the Psalm is from Allah. The Psalm was not sent down to David in one installment in tablets, just like the Torah was sent down to Moses (peace be upon him) in tablets. So this proves that a book doesn't need to be revealed in the same way that the Torah has been revealed for it to be a book revealed by Allah, and this is a good persuasive argument. (Fakhar ad-Din ar-Razi, Tafsir Al Kabir, Commentary on Surah 4:163, Source) 

  1. Up to Jesus, the names are given in chronological order but, starting with Jesus, the second half of the list is a chronological mess.

Who said that it was intended to be in chronological order? The Arabic word wa (i.e., and) does not necessarily signify sequence.

  1. Whom does the phrase "and the Prophets after him" refer to? To prophets living in the time between Noah and Abraham? After all, this phrase is inserted into the chronological part of the list. Who are they supposed to be? The Bible does not mention any prophets between Noah and Abraham. Or does it refer to all prophets that came after Noah? Then this phrase would also include all the names that come after it. Why then mention them again? 

Both interpretations are possible, even though I would ascribe to the latter. We don't care if the Bible does not record a Prophet.


Secondly, Islam teaches that 124,000 Prophets were sent to Earth. Allah would not name all of them, so Allah is saying that those Prophets received revelation just like the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself.


Allah then mentions the specific names of those Prophets to highlight their status. Imam Qurtubi states:


" وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيم " فَخَصَّ أَقْوَامًا بِالذِّكْرِ تَشْرِيفًا لَهُمْ ; كَقَوْلِهِ تَعَالَى : " وَمَلَائِكَته وَرُسُله وَجِبْرِيل وَمِيكَال "


"And we sent the revelation to Abraham," He ( Allah) specified the following as an honor for them, just as when He said, "And His angels and Messengers and Gabriel and Mikael) [Surah 2:98] (Abu 'Abdullah Al-Qurtubi, Tasfir al Jami' li-ahkam al-Qur'an, Commentary on Surah 4:163, Source) 


It is also possible that the verse wants to make known that these Prophets (also known to the Jews and Christians) received revelations from Allah and not the God of the Bible. 

  1. "We have revealed to thee as we have revealed to ...": As mentioned above, the point that is made here is a claim of similarity. However, the only revelation that is named, the Psalms, are very much unlike the Qur'an. Even worse, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob did not get any book, so that the comparison of Muhammad's experience of revelation with the revelation given to the first five persons named on this list seems to be rather pointless, at least in regard to authenticating Muhammad's revelation by comparison with earlier revelation.

The Qur'anic verse in no way states that the Prophets received revelation in the same way that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did. The only similarity between Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the rest of the Prophets mentioned is that they received revelation. That is all.


Perhaps an analogy might help illustrate this point.


I might say, "The goalkeeper wore his uniform just as the other players in the team wore their uniforms."


Now, we both know that the uniform of a goalkeeper is different from that of the other players in the team. However, the similarity I am trying to show between them is that they wore their respective uniforms. My above statement does not necessitate that the uniforms were the same.


Similarly, the Qur'anic verse only stresses that the similarity between Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the other Prophets is that they all received revelation from God. It does not necessitate that they were the same revelation or were revealed to them in the same way.

  1. If revelation to the tribes, i.e. the Israelites, refers to the full Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible, then Muslims need to face the issue that this Bible says that Ishmael did not receive revelation, and that he is not a prophet. This constitutes another element of incoherence in this verse.

We don't say that it is the Old Testament of the Bible; thus, we have no problem.




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