Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article, "Does Allah Prefer or Does He Not?"


Bassam Zawadi



Sam Shamoun's article can be found here.


Shamoun's main argument can be paraphrased as follows:

The Qur'an says that Allah prefers some Prophets over others in Surah 2:253 and 17:55, yet in Surah 2:285, Allah says that He makes no distinction between His Messengers. Hence, this clearly establishes that the Quran contradicts itself on this matter. The logical contradiction can only be escaped by admitting that the author of this verse messed up the formulation.

There are two answers to this. The first response is that Surahs 2:253 and 17:55 say that it is Allah who has preferred some Prophets over one another, while Surah 2:285 says that the believers are the ones who should not make any distinction between any of Allah's messengers. So Surah 2:285 is saying that the statement "we make no distinction between any of His messengers" should be uttered by the believers.

Shamoun, throughout his entire article, attempts to prove that the verse does not clearly indicate that it is the believers who are speaking in Surah 2:285. However, Shamoun fails to realize that he hasn't even clearly shown that it cannot be the believers who are supposed to be uttering that statement in Surah 2:285. He hasn't shown that it definitely has to be Allah who is speaking in the first person.

For instance, Shamoun says:

For instance, right after this sentence the author(s) insert(s) the words "they say" (qaloo) in order to indicate that he is quoting the words of the Muslims, but doesn't/don't include this term for what comes beforehand.

This is not a strong argument. Imam Tabari, in his commentary, explains why the word qaaloo is not there before the first statement from a linguistic perspective and also appeals to Surah 13:23-24 as an example by showing that it is clearly the angels who are saying, "Peace unto you for that ye persevered in patience! Now how excellent is the final home!", yet the words "they say" are not put there before the statement.

Furthermore, one can easily argue that when the verse says "and they say" (wa qaaloo), this means that Allah is saying "and they also say." So this shows that the previous statement was a quotation of the believers' statements, and Allah is continuing on and letting us know what else the believers are to say by saying, "And they say."

I don't believe that Shamoun has refuted this response.

There is a second response to this. Even if Shamoun is correct and it really is Allah who is uttering the statement in Surah 2:285, this does not contradict Surah 2:253 and 17:55.

The statement "we make no distinction between any of His messengers" could mean that the Messengers are not to be distinguished by negating the Messengership of some of them and affirming it for others.

Ibn Kathir, in his commentary, states:

The believers also believe in all Allah's Prophets and Messengers, in the Books that were revealed from heaven to the Messengers and Prophets, who are indeed the servants of Allah. Further, the believers do not differentiate between any of the Prophets, such as, believing in some of them and rejecting others. Rather, all of Allah's Prophets and Messengers are, to the believers, truthful, righteous, and they were each guided to the path of righteousness, even when some of them bring what abrogates the Law of some others by Allah's leave. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Source)

Tafsir Jalalayn states: 

The Messenger, Muhammad (s) believes in, affirms the truth of, what was revealed to him from his Lord, namely, the Qur'ān, and the believers (wa'l-mu'minūna is a supplement to al-rasūlu, 'the Messenger'); each one (the tanwīn of kullun stands in place of the second noun in an annexation [sc. kullu wāhidin]) believes in God and His angels, and in His Books, all of them and each of them, and His messengers, and they say, 'we make no distinction between any of His messengers', believing in some and disbelieving in others, in the manner of the Jews and the Christians. And they say, 'We hear, what we have been enjoined to hear and accept, and obey; we ask you: Your forgiveness, our Lord; to You is the homecoming', that is, the return at the Resurrection. When the previous verse was revealed, the believers complained of evil whisperings and it grieved them that they should be taken to account according to [the principle expressed in] it, and so the following was revealed: (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Commentary on Surah 2:285, Source) 

Imam al-Tabari clarifies the statement "we make no distinction between any of His messengers" more with an illustration: 

, فَيُؤْمِن بِبَعْضٍ , وَيَكْفُر بِبَعْضٍ , وَلَكِنَّهُمْ يُصَدِّقُونَ بِجَمِيعِهِمْ , وَيُقِرُّونَ أَنَّ مَا جَاءُوا بِهِ كَانَ مِنْ عِنْد اللَّه , وَأَنَّهُمْ دُعُوا إلَى اللَّه وَإِلَى طَاعَته , وَيُخَالِفُونَ فِي فِعْلهمْ ذَلِكَ الْيَهُود الَّذِينَ أَقَرُّوا بِمُوسَى وَكَذَّبُوا عِيسَى , وَالنَّصَارَى الَّذِينَ أَقَرُّوا بِمُوسَى وَعِيسَى وَكَذَّبُوا بِمُحَمَّدٍ صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ 

He (i.e., the believer) believes in some and disbelieves in some. Instead, he believes in all of them and insists that what they brought with them is from Allah and that they (i.e., the messengers) preached to the people to come to Allah and obey Him. The believers are to oppose what the Jews have done, for they accepted Moses but disbelieved in Jesus. They are also to oppose the Christians, for they accepted Jesus but disbelieved in Muhammad (peace be upon him). (Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan fi ta'wil al-Qur'an, Commentary on Surah 2:285, Source)   

So here we see that when Allah says that the Messengers are not to be distinguished, that means that they should not be distinguished by the fact that some of them are Messengers or not, just like how the Christians and Jews have done.

Obviously, this verse cannot be taken so hyper-literally. One can distinguish Muhammad (peace be upon him) by saying that he is the last messenger of God from Jesus; who does God send the second last messenger? Obviously, doing this would not render the verse factually wrong since this is not what the verse is trying to say. Rather, the verse emphasizes that all Messengers must be recognized as Messengers of Allah. So this does not contradict Surah 2:253 & 17:55 because these verses only say that some of these Prophets have been preferred. Yet they are not distinguished (according to Surah 2:285) by saying that some are Messengers while others are not.

There is no contradiction.


The debate continues...



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