Rebuttal to Jochen Katz's Article "Who are those messengers that were rejected by Noah's people? Examining some Muslim responses"
Jochen wrote an article that could be found here.
Jochens argument is about Surah 25:37 and Surah 26:105, which speak about the people of Noah rejecting the messengers:
And the people of Noah, -
when they rejected the messengers,
we drowned them,
and we made them as a sign for mankind; ... Sura 25:37
The people of Noah rejected the messengers. Sura 26:105
Jochen argues that the people of Noah weren't sent more than one messenger, hence how did they reject several messengers?
Jochen provides the answer in his article by citing Ibn Kathir's commentary:
Here Allah tells us about His servant and Messenger Nuh, peace be upon him, who was the first Messenger sent by Allah to the people of earth after they started to worship idols. Allah sent him to forbid that and to warn people of the consequences of idol worship. But his people belied him and continued their evil practice of worshipping idols besides Allah. Allah revealed that their disbelieving in him was akin to disbelieving in all the Messengers, So Allah said: ... (The people of Nuh belied the Messengers. When their brother Nuh said to them: "Will you not have Taqwa") meaning, 'do you not fear Allah when you worship others instead of Him' (Tafsir Ibn Kathir on S. 26:105; source; underline emphasis mine)
Jochen, not being satisfied with this response states:
The other explanation does not have much credibility either. Nowhere in the Qur'an does Noah mention other (future) messengers. The people of Noah did not even know that there would ever be any other messengers. How then could they deny them? Noah was the first genuine messenger, i.e. all other messengers would only come long after him. It makes no sense to say that people denied and rejected something or someone who had not even appeared yet.
...people can only reject what they know about, i.e. people can only reject past messengers and messages that have already been delivered. The explanation proposed by Ibn Kathir and Al-Jalalayn that S. 25:37 and 26:105 speak of a (hypothetical or extrapolated) rejection of future messengers whom the people of Noah never encountered is simply too far-fetched.
However, Jochen's response is very weak. The people of Noah didn't have to know that future messengers would be coming in order to have rejected them. The verse didn't say that the people of Noah intended and claimed to reject any future messengers. Rather, the verse is only saying that they rejected them and this means that their rejection of Noah is just as they have rejected the messengers since if they rejected Noah's message of Tawheed (69:70), it is as if they have rejected all the messengers since this is the same message that all of them brought.
Tafsir Al-Jalalayn states:
to deny him is [equivalent] to denying all the other messengers, for they all came with the same [Message concerning] affirmation of God's Oneness (Tafsir Al Jalalayn, Commentary on Surah 25 :37, Source)
There is nothing "too far-fetched" about communicating an extrapolated rejection of future messengers. On the contrary it is a beautiful and powerful way of communicating the seriousness of the offense.
Let us assume that I claim "I reject the teachings of Paul in regards to the deity of Christ", the Christian here will not only say that I have rejected Paul, but that I have rejected Jesus and the message of the disciples as well. This is because I have rejected Paul for a particular reason. Therefore, it is also correct to extrapolate my rejection of any people coming in the future who are preaching the message of Jesus' deity. I don't have to know them in order for one to consider that I have already rejected whatever it is that they want to claim.
Furthermore, Jochen is being inconsistent when he made this claim "people can only reject what they know about, i.e. people can only reject past messengers and messages that have already been delivered." Because according to Jochen's logic one could equally state "people can only accept what they know about, i.e. people can only accept past messengers and messages that have already been delivered."
Yet, how do Christians account for the salvation of those who came before Christ? Well many Christians state that people were judged based on the amount of knowledge that they had of God's revelation during that time. Christians claim that no one prior to Christ was saved without the saving power of Christ's death on the cross. They claim that their trust in God on solving the problem of sin was enough to impute righteousness to them and that it was as good as them believing in the death of Christ.
So now, what are Christians claiming here? They are claiming that even though these people prior to Christ didn't know the exact crucial details of what was going to happen such as Jesus who is God incarnate would come in the future and shed his blood for us they are still saved as if they believed in all these things. The reason why is because they accepted the main core of the issue: God's revelation and main message.
So why are Christians willing to accept that , but not willing to accept the possibility that the people of Noah despite not knowing details such as whether prophets would be coming in the future and what their names were they were still considered as having rejected them because they were rejecting the main core of the issue: the message of Tawheed, which all messengers brought with them?
1) Please note that despite me using this analogy that doesn't mean that I don't find this notion of the alleged benefits of Jesus' supposed death on the cross being projected back in time to be theologically problematic.