Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article "The Quran's many Gods and Lords: An Analysis of the Worship given to And Deification of Creatures within the Islamic Text"

By

 

Bassam Zawadi

 

 

 

Sam Shamoun's article could be located here.

 

First, Shamoun reiterates the same old argument regarding the Qur'an showing how Adam and Joseph (peace be upon them both) receiving prostration and then he claims that this is idolatry since all prostration must be given to God alone.

 

For a full discussion on this issue, we ask the readers to read the following two articles by Shaykh Jalal Abu Al Rub on the issue...

 

http://islamlife.com/readarticle.php?article_id=7

 

http://islamlife.com/readarticle.php?article_id=8

 

 

Sam Shamoun tried replying back to Shaykh Jalal's points over here...

 

 

http://www.answeringislam.net/Responses/Abualrub/twoadams_ss1.htm

 

http://www.answeringislam.net/Responses/Abualrub/twoadams_ss2.htm

 

 

However, anyone reading the exchange would clearly see that Shamoun lost the argument even though he had the last say in it.

 

Shamoun goes on to quote Surah 48:9 as an argument; however I already addressed that near the end of my article over here.

 

Shamoun then goes on to quote Surah 3:18, which states...

 

 

ALLAH bears witness that there is no god but HE - and also do the angels and those possessed of knowledge, maintaining justice; there is no god but HE, the Mighty, the Wise.

 

 

Shamoun then states...

 

The literal rendering of the Arabic has Allah testifying that he, the angels and the men of knowledge are all God! This is due primarily to the Arabic conjunction translated "and" (wa) that connects the three groups together. We will be saying more about this Arabic conjunction a little later in order to see how this impacts Islamic monotheism.

 

The author has wrongly positioned the angels and men of knowledge in the sentence. Instead of making these two groups the subject of the witnessing or confession, the author made them the object of the testimony given by Allah. In other words, instead of having these two groups confessing along with Allah that there is no god but he, the author made them part of Allah's confession! To put it another way, the passage has Allah confessing that these groups are God along with Allah!

 

 

This is absolute absurdity. The verse only says that God, the angels and those who possess knowledge bear witness that Allah is the only God! Where on earth does one get the idea of polytheism in this verse?

 

The verse in no way shows that the angels and the knowledgeable ones are not included as those bearing witness. This all has to do with the way one is reciting the verse.

 

Whenever one recites this verse there is a pause after one says "no god but HE". This would signify a comma and time to stop. Then one continues to recite the verse and mention the angels and the people of knowledge.

 

So the verse should be read as follows...

 

ALLAH bears witness that there is no god but HE, [pause] and the angels and those possessed of knowledge, [pause] maintaining justice; [pause] there is no god but HE, the Mighty, the Wise.

 

The verse could clearly be interpreted and shown by the way that it is recited that not only does Allah bear witness that there is no God but He. But the angels and those possessed of knowledge as well.

 

Shamoun then gives his argument from Surah 9:31...

 

Q. 9:31

They have taken their rabbis and their monks as lords apart from God AND the Messiah Mary's son, and they were commanded to serve but One God; there is no god but He; glory be to Him, above that they associate.

Ittakhathoo ahbarahum waruhbanahum arbaban min dooni Allahi WAalmaseeha ibna maryama wama omiroo illa liyaAAbudoo ilahan wahidan la ilaha illa huwa subhanahu Aaamma mushrikoona

Again, because of the way the Arabic text is worded, the above passage is actually saying that Jesus is Lord along with Allah. Hence the Quran's author ended up confessing that both Allah and Jesus are Lord!

 

This is a result of Shamoun not understanding the verse properly. What does the Qur'an mean when it says that the Jews and Christians took their rabbis and priests as lords? The Prophet (peace be upon him) answers this...

 

Imam Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Jarir At-Tabari recorded a Hadith via several chains of narration, from `Adi bin Hatim, may Allah be pleased with him, who became Christian during the time of Jahiliyyah. When the call of the Messenger of Allah reached his area, `Adi ran away to Ash-Sham, and his sister and several of his people were captured. The Messenger of Allah freed his sister and gave her gifts. So she went to her brother and encouraged him to become Muslim and to go to the Messenger of Allah . `Adi, who was one of the chiefs of his people (the tribe of Tai') and whose father, Hatim At-Ta'i, was known for his generosity, went to Al-Madinah. When the people announced his arrival, `Adi went to the Messenger of Allah wearing a silver cross around his neck. The Messenger of Allah recited this Ayah;

[ ]

(They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah). `Adi commented, "I said, `They did not worship them.''' The Prophet said,

(Yes they did. They (rabbis and monks) prohibited the allowed for them (Christians and Jews) and allowed the prohibited, and they obeyed them. This is how they worshipped them.) The Messenger of Allah said to `Adi,

: :

(O `Adi what do you say Did you run away (to Ash-Sham) so that 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is the Great) is not pronounced Do you know of anything greater than Allah What made you run away Did you run away so that `La ilaha illallah' is not pronounced Do you know of any deity worthy of worship except Allah)

The Messenger invited `Adi to embrace Islam, and he embraced Islam and pronounced the Testimony of Truth. The face of the Messenger of Allah beamed with pleasure and he said to `Adi,

(Verily, the Jews have earned the anger (of Allah) and the Christians are misguided.) Hudhayfah bin Al-Yaman, `Abdullah bin `Abbas and several others said about the explanation of,

[ ]

(They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah...) that the Christians and Jews obeyed their monks and rabbis in whatever they allowed or prohibited for them. This is why Allah said,

[ ]

(while they were commanded to worship none but One God), Who, whatever He renders prohibited is the prohibited, whatever He allowed is the allowed, whatever He legislates, is to be the law followed, and whatever He decides is to be adhered to; (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Source)

 

The Rabbis and Priests were taken as lords not because they were worshipped as Gods in the sense that we understand. It was because they declared what was permissible and impermissible and the people obeyed them when they shouldn't have and rather should have obeyed God.

 

This is different in regards to Jesus whom Christians actually not only obey in regards to what is permissible or not, but also actually believe is God.

 

This is a possible reason why Allah separated Jesus in the verse from the Rabbis and Priests. For the polytheistic beliefs surrounding these individuals are of a different nature.

 

Secondly, there is no violation of Arabic grammar in the verse. This is what the verse says...

 

They have taken as lords beside Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One God. There is no God save Him. Be He Glorified from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)!

 

Ittakhathoo ahbarahum waruhbanahum arbaban min dooni Allahi waalmaseeha ibna maryama wama omiroo illa liyaAAbudoo ilahan wahidan la ilaha illa huwa subhanahu AAamma yushrikoona

 

 

Anyone who knows basic Arabic will know that 'Messiah' (maseeh) in the verse above has a fat ha at the end of it, which is indicated by 'ha' being added to the word Maseeh. This indicates that it is the accusative (maf'ool bihi) of the verse.

 

The verb in the verse is 'they have taken' (Ittakhathoo). Thus, the Messiah is the accusative of the verb, which means that the verse is saying that the Messiah was taken as a lord by those that also took their Rabbis and Priests as lords.

 

If the verse wanted to say as Shamoun is saying and that is that they took their priests and rabbis as lords besides taking Allah and the Messiah as lords, then the verse would have said...

 

waalmaseehi

 

With a 'hi' at the end just like the word 'Allah' has right before it.

 

The funny thing about this is that Shamoun already knows this, for he indicates in his footnotes...

 

Some may take exception with our exegesis of Q. 9:31, and assert that the Arabic text clearly places Jesus alongside the rabbis and monks who were wrongly taken as Lords besides Allah. For instance, the conjunction (wa) before Al-Maseeha, and the short vowel fatha (a), at the end of the word indicate that Al-Maseeha is in the accusative, so it is another object (together with the first two, ahbarahum waruhbanahum, "their rabbis and their monks") of the verb "have taken." The sentence should therefore actually read like this:

They have taken their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah Mary's son as lords apart from God, and they were commanded to serve but One God; there is no god but He; glory be to Him, above that they associate.

If the wa was a conjunction of Al-Maseeh to Allah, i.e. binding Allah and the Messiah together, then it would need to be in the genitive just like Allahi, i.e. Al-Maseehi.

 

He thinks he refuted the argument by then saying afterwards...

 

To begin with, we must consider two important considerations when assessing the soundness or weakness of this argument. The main problem with this argument is that it presupposes that the markings distinguishing the different cases in Arabic, i.e. nominative, accusative etc., were always there, were always part of the original text. The reality, however, is quite different since the original Arabic Quran had no markings to help differentiate between the different nuances of the word.

Here is how the text would look like in transliteration minus the critical points:

min doon allah w almaseeh bn maryam

As one can see, there is no short fatha at the end of the words almaseeh, bn or maryam, which means that the original Arabic text did indeed conjoin Jesus along with Allah.

This is a very weak argument from Shamoun's end because the Muslims put the diatrical marks in accordance with the way that they have been reciting it the whole time. Since the Muslims were reciting the verse the whole time with a fat ha on the word Maseeh, they then went ahead and put the diatrical mark that way.

 

Foolish Shamoun also states...

 

Since the Arabic text had no markings this would mean that someone reading it would have clearly seen that Jesus was being joined alongside Allah as the one Lord whom others had to believe in, as opposed to their rabbis and priests.

 

 

Ignoramus Shamoun forgets that if there are no diatrical marks on the text then it is possible that it could be joining Jesus with Allah or it is also possible that it could be putting Jesus in the accusative.


But since the Muslims have always been reciting the verse with Jesus being put in the accusative, then THERE IS NO PROBLEM.

 

Also, how can Jesus be God in light of Islam when the Prophet's (peace be upon him) statement is so explicitly clear...

 

 

Saheeh Bukhari

 

Volume 8, Book 82, Number 817:

 

Then Allah's Apostle said, 'Do not praise me excessively as Jesus, son of Marry was praised, but call me Allah's Slave and His Apostles.'

 

 

Shamoun's next feeble attempt is his appeal to Surah 3:38-48 and Surah 19:3-10. He argues...

 

Fourth, there is additional evidence demonstrating that Allah isn't the only Lord. There are specific references where prophets and righteous persons addressed angelic messengers as their Lord!

Then and there did Zachariah PRAY TO HIS LORD (rabbahu), saying, `MY LORD (rabbi) grant me from Thyself pure offspring; surely thou art the Hearer of Prayer.' AND THE ANGELS CALLED TO HIM as he stood praying in the chamber, `ALLAH gives thee glad tidings of Yahya, who shall testify to the truth of a word from ALLAH - noble and chaste and a Prophet, from among the righteous. HE SAID `MY LORD (rabbi), how shall I have a son, when old age has overtaken me already, and my wife is barren?' He answered, `Such is the way of ALLAH; HE does what HE pleases,' HE SAID `MY LORD (rabbi), give me a commandment.' He replied, `The commandment for thee is that thou shalt not speak to men for three days except by signs. And remember thy Lord much and glorify HIM in the evening and in the early morning.' S. 3:38-41 Sher Ali

When he called upon HIS LORD (rabbahu) in a low voice, He said: MY LORD (rabbi)! surely my bones are weakened and my head flares with hoariness, and, MY LORD (rabbi)! I have never been unsuccessful in my prayer to Thee: And surely I fear my cousins after me, and my wife is barren, therefore grant me from Thyself an heir, Who should inherit me and inherit from the children of Yaqoub, and make him, my Lord, one in whom Thou art well pleased. O Zakariya! surely We give you good news of a boy whose name shall be Yahya: We have not made before anyone his equal. He said: O MY LORD (rabbi)! when shall I have a son, and my wife is barren, and I myself have reached indeed the extreme degree of old age? HE SAID: So shall it be, YOUR LORD (rabbuka) SAYS: It is easy to Me, and indeed I created you before, when you were nothing. He said: My Lord! give me a sign. He said: Your sign is that you will not be able to speak to the people three nights while in sound health. S. 19:3-10 Shakir

These texts are supposedly reporting Zechariah's prayer to God for a son, the angels' response, and the subsequent discussion that allegedly takes place between them. These texts show Zechariah either addressing the angels collectively, or one specific angel, as his Lord! We repeat again the specific portion in order to highlight that this is what Zechariah did:

He said, 'O my Lord, how shall I have a son, seeing my wife is barren, and I have attained to the declining of old age?' SAID HE, ?So it shall be; THY LORD says, "Easy is that for Me, seeing that I created thee aforetime, when thou wast nothing."' S. 19:8-9 Arberry

The entity addressing Zechariah mentions what the latter's Lord had said, which obviously means that the one responding to Zechariah wasn't Allah. He must have therefore been one of the angels. And yet it is very clear from the above texts that Zechariah allegedly addressed this specific angel as Lord!

The Quran further asserts that Mary, the Lord Jesus' mother, called the angels, or at least one of them, her Lord:

"Behold! THE ANGELS SAID: ?O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee - chosen thee above the women of all nations. O Mary! worship thy Lord devoutly: Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.' This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee (O Messenger) by inspiration: Thou wast not with them when they cast lots with pens (or arrows), as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor wast thou with them when they disputed (the point). Behold! THE ANGELS SAID: ?O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah. He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.' She said: ?O MY LORD! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?' HE SAID: ?Even so; Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, "Be," and it is!'" S. 3:42-47 Pickthall

Lest one accuse us of misinterpretation, Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir provides indirect attestation for our analysis since he says that the entity who responded to Zechariah was the angel. He states in reference to Q. 3:40:

<"O my Lord! How can I have a son when I am very old, and my wife is barren'' (He) said.>

meaning the angel said, (Source)

And in connection to Q. 19:9 Ibn Kathir wrote:

Zakariyya was amazed when his supplication was answered and he was given the good news of a son. He became extremely overjoyed and asked how this child would be born to him, and in what manner he would come. This was particularly amazing because his wife was an old woman who was barren and had not given birth to any children in her entire life. Even Zakariyya himself had become old and advanced in years, his bones had become feeble and thin, and he had no potent semen or vigor for sexual intercourse.

The Answer of the Angel .

That is, the angel, in his response to Zakariyya and his was amazement. (Source; bold emphasis ours)

In fact, Muslim expositors were perplexed by the above passages, specifically Q. 3:40 where Zechariah addresses the angel as his Lord. They were apparently troubled at the idea of a prophet calling an angel his Lord. Muslim writer Mahmoud M. Ayoub says of Q. 3:40:

Two issues concerned commentators in this verse. The first is the question of whether it is God or Gabriel whom Zechariah addresses as Lord. The second is how Zechariah, as a prophet, could have any doubt in God's power to cause an old, barren woman to bear a child?

. Ibn Kathir assumes that Zechariah's dialogue was with an angel, not with God (Ibn Kathir, II, p. 36).

Qurtubi begins by relating on the authority of al-Kalbi that the word "Lord" in this verse refers to Gabriel. He says, "Zechariah said to Gabriel ?my lord,'" meaning ?my master.'".

Razi begins with the question of Zechariah's dialogue and whether it was with God or with Gabriel. The question is important because it concerns the theological debate about God's transcendence and the problem of anthropomorphism. If God hears and speaks in a manner familiar to human beings, then the question arises as to whether God has similar organs of hearing and speech. Razi argues that it is equally possible that Zechariah was addressing either God or the angel in this verse. He presents two explanations which he attributes to the mufassirun, that is, other commentators. The first is: "When the angels called to Zechariah and gave him the good news, he wondered and turned to God for reassurance. Zechariah was actually addressing the angel Gabriel, and not God. The invocation ?my lord' is here addressed to a superior or master, and not to God." (Ayoub, The Qur?an and Its Interpreters: The House of ?Imran [State University of New York (SUNY) Press, Albany 1992], Volume II, pp. 112-113)

 

More than one solution could be provided to solve to this alleged problem.


Firstly, (and this would only be applicable to the argument from Surah 3:42-47) it is possible that Maryam was speaking to angel Gabriel and when she called him 'lord', she meant master, since the word rabb could also mean this (see Surah 12:41) This is the view of Imam Qurtubi.

 

Secondly, it is possible that Maryam was initially speaking with angel Gabriel, but then the conversation shifted to Allah and her. However, I personally do not think that this is the case.

 

Thirdly, Maryam was intentionally speaking to Allah. She knows that Allah is the All Hearer and Allah is speaking back to her through the angel Gabriel. Instead of speaking to her directly, angel Gabriel is speaking Allah's words verbatim back to Maryam. This makes the angel Gabriel the medium of communication between Allah and Maryam. 

 

Similarly, in Zechariah's case. This can easily be the case if you read Surah 3:38-41.

 

However, in regards to Surah 19:3-10 it appears that Shamoun has pointed out...

 

These texts are supposedly reporting Zechariah's prayer to God for a son, the angels' response, and the subsequent discussion that allegedly takes place between them. These texts show Zechariah either addressing the angels collectively, or one specific angel, as his Lord! We repeat again the specific portion in order to highlight that this is what Zechariah did:

He said, 'O my Lord, how shall I have a son, seeing my wife is barren, and I have attained to the declining of old age?' SAID HE, ?So it shall be; THY LORD says, "Easy is that for Me, seeing that I created thee aforetime, when thou wast nothing."' S. 19:8-9 Arberry

The entity addressing Zechariah mentions what the latter's Lord had said, which obviously means that the one responding to Zechariah wasn't Allah. He must have therefore been one of the angels. And yet it is very clear from the above texts that Zechariah allegedly addressed this specific angel as Lord!

 

Verses 8 to 9 will not refute the third solution that I have provided (Allah speaking through the agency of the angels), for I see no problem how the angel can utter...

 

'So it shall be; THY LORD says, "Easy is that for Me, seeing that I created thee aforetime, when thou wast nothing."'

 

The angel said from his own self, "So it shall be" and then the angel is quoting the statement of God. This actually strengthens my argument. It is clear that when the angel is quoting the Lord as saying something, the angel is differentiating himself from being God. This is explicit proof that the angel itself is not lord.

 

The fact that Zechariah (peace be upon him) is calling out to his lord and the angel responds does not mean that the angel is Lord. The angel is only communicating the response of Allah to Zechariah (peace be upon him).

 

Shamoun says...

 

Now one might want to say that even here the author's intention wasn't that angels are Lord. The author actually meant to say that Zechariah and Mary were addressing Allah as their Lord. But this response refutes the Quran's claim of being perspicuous and inimitable. It shows that this was another time that the author of the Quran ended up affirming that there were other Gods and Lords besides Allah as a result of the awkward structure of the Arabic. At the very least, the formulation is so problematic that even the Muslim commentators struggled with its meaning!

 

The fact that scholars might differ as to the meaning of certain verses in the Qur'an is not a result of the Qur'an being poorly structured, just as the Bible is not necessarily poorly grammatically structured or contradicting it self when it says that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) just because scholars might differ in regards to the meaning of a specific passage.

 

First of all, the Qur'an clearly admits that it has ambiguous verses in it (Surah 3:7). For the Qur'an to be clear about it having some unclear verses in it is not an oxymoron.

 

Secondly, Shamoun's ignorance of Qur'anic exegesis also results in him exaggerating the 'difficulty' of some passages. He lacks the understanding and knowledge of first grade Arabic grammar and on top of that he doesn't allow other Qur'anic passages to explain one another and bring harmony to the meaning of verses. He refuses to take Surah 3:80 into consideration when it makes it clear that angels are not divine. Rather, he isolates a verse from the rest of the Qur'an and appeals to translations.

 

 

Shamoun goes on to quote Surah 3:45-52 as an argument and then states...

 

In light of such confusion can a Muslim really claim that the Quran is the height of Arabic eloquence?

 

 

Shamoun's argument is easily resolved if one studies about Iltifaat...

 

www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Text/Grammar/iltifaat.html

www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Text/Grammar/robinson.html

 

 

The funny thing is that Shamoun even admits that he knows about this grammatical feature...

 

and that Allah often switches from speaking in the first person singular to first person plural to third person address

 

 

Doesn't he realize that this refutes his argument of appealing to Surah 3, since one can argue that there was a shift in who was speaking?

 

Shamoun's last set of arguments when he appeals to Surah 6:114; 17:1-2; 19:34-40, 49-64; 37:170-184; 70:38-41 could also be addressed easily by anyone who is even aware of the concept of Iltifaat.

 

 

 

 

 

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