Refuting The Argument That The Qur'an Orders The Prophet and Doubting Believers To Refer To The Christians and Jews For Consultation

by

Bassam Zawadi

 

First of all, we strongly recommend the readers to read the evidence that Islam endorses the textual corruption of the Christian and Jewish scriptures.

 

Christian missionaries point to the two following verses from the Qur'an in order to try and show that the Qur'an commands the Prophet peace be upon him and the doubting believers to refer to the Christians and Jews for consultation...

 

Surah 10:94

And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers.

Surah 16:43

And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired - Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not!

 

However, if that was indeed what these verses were saying then they would be conflicting with the following verses in the Qur'an that indicate that the Prophet peace be upon him and the believers have believed (not doubted) in what has been revealed to them...

 

Surah 2:285

The apostle believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers; they all believe in Allah and His angels and His books and His apostles; We make no difference between any of His apostles; and they say: We hear and obey, our Lord! Thy forgiveness (do we crave), and to Thee is the eventual course.

 

Here we clearly see that the messenger and the believers have believed (not doubted) in what has been revealed to them from Allah. 

The Qur'an makes it clear that believers cannot have any doubts after they have believed...

 

Surah 49:15

The believers are only those who truly believe in ALLAH and HIS Messenger, and then doubt not, but strive with their possessions and their persons in the cause of ALLAH. It is they who are truthful.

 

If one criteria to be a believer is to not have doubts, then how can Allah ask doubting believers to go to the Christians and Jews for consultation?

 

Furthermore, the Qur'an tells Muhammad peace be upon him to testify that he believes (not doubt) in Allah...

 

Surah 7:158

Say: O people! surely I am the Apostle of Allah to you all, of Him Whose is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth there is no god but He; He brings to life and causes to die therefore believe in Allah and His apostle, the Ummi Prophet who believes in Allah and His words, and follow him so that you may walk in the right way.

Surah 42:15

To this then go on inviting, and go on steadfastly on the right way as you are commanded, and do not follow their low desires, and say: I believe in what Allah has revealed of the Book, and I am commanded to do justice between you: Allah is our Lord and your Lord; we shall have our deeds and you shall have your deeds; no plea need there be (now) between us and you: Allah will gather us together, and to Him is the return.

 

In an authentic hadith, it is reported that the Prophet peace be upon him stressed on the fact that he had no doubts about his Prophethood...

 

Saheeh Bukhari

Volume 6, Book 60, Number 367:

Narrated Habib bin Abi Thabit:

I went to Abu Wail to ask him (about those who had rebelled against 'Ali). On that Abu Wail said, "We were at Siffin (a city on the bank of the Euphrates, the place where me battle took place between 'Ali and Muawiya) A man said, "Will you be on the side of those who are called to consult Allah's Book (to settle the dispute)?" 'Ali said, 'Yes (I agree that we should settle the matter in the light of the Qur'an)." ' Some people objected to 'Ali's agreement and wanted to fight. On that Sahl bin Hunaif said, 'Blame yourselves! I remember how, on the day of Al-Hudaibiya (i.e. the peace treaty between the Prophet and the Quraish pagans), if we had been allowed to choose fighting, we would have fought (the pagans). At that time 'Umar came (to the Prophet) and said, "Aren't we on the right (path) and they (pagans) in the wrong? Won't our killed persons go to Paradise, and theirs in the Fire?" The Prophet replied, "Yes." Umar further said, "Then why should we let our religion be degraded and return before Allah has settled the matter between us?" The Prophet said, "O the son of Al-Khattab! No doubt, I am Allah's Apostle and Allah will never neglect me." So Umar left the place angrily and he was so impatient that he went to Abu Bakr and said, "O Abu Bakr! Aren't we on the right (path) and they (pagans) on the wrong?" Abu Bakr said, "O the son of Al-Khattab! He is Allah's Apostle, and Allah will never neglect him." Then Sura Al-Fath (The Victory) was revealed."

Saheeh Muslim

Book 001, Number 0041:

He (the narrator) said: At that time he (the Holy Prophet) said: I bear testimony to the fact that there is no god but Allah, and I am His messenger. The bondsman who would meet Allah without entertaining any doubt about these (two fundamentals) would enter heaven.

 

Since the Qur'an and hadith make it clear that the Prophet peace be upon him and believers didn't, shouldn't and wouldn't have any doubts about their faith, then what do the Qur'anic verses posed by the Christian missionaries mean?

 

Dr. Muhammad M. Abu Laylah deals with this issue excellently in his book The Qur'an and the Gospels: A Comparative Study, which could be read here...

 

Ibn Hazm's contemporary, the Jewish scholar Ibn al-Nighrila understood the verse to signify that Muhammad (peace be upon him) doubted God, or the truthfulness of the Revelation given to him. The Muslim point of view can be demonstrated by reference to Ibn Hazm, Ibn Taymiyyah and some other Muslim scholars. Ibn Hazm provides an interpretation of the verse in question and then answers his critic polemically. It is the author of Al-Faisal which is of prime interest here: it involves Ibn Hazm in an interpretation which at first sight seems to move outside the literalist theory to which he was committed, but in fact it does not go beyond his own definition of the Zahiriyya position. The rejection of exegesis, Ta'wil, is not an outright rejection and permits its use when necessary in considering certain Qur'anic passages and when it can be supported by scriptural evidence.

Ibn Hazm insists that the interpretation exemplified by Ricoldo above originates with the People of the books, i.e. Christians and Jews, and with some others. Those who claim to be Muslim could never share such a view. It is impossible that a Muslim should think that Muhammad (peace be upon him) doubted the Revelation from God. Ibn Hazm refers to an essay, which he himself wrote on this subject. (Ibn Hazm, Al Faisal, vol. 4, p. 50) This unfortunately does not appear among his writings, and was clearly not included as a section of Al-Faisal. Ibn Hazm, however, summarizes the argument of the essay in his comment on this verse. The confusion can be solved as follows: the word  "In" translated into English as  "If", is synonymous with the conjunction " Ma", which signifies refusal and denial. The verse thus reads nit " if you are in doubt", but "you are not in doubt". (Ibid., and [R. 2], p. 60) The author of Al-Faisal continues by saying that God commanded Muhammad (peace be upon him) to confer with the people of the books to confirm their knowledge of Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a prophet sent from God, as corroborated in the Torah and the Gospel. (Ibn Hazm, Al Faisal, vol. 4, p. 50) Ibn Hazm, as shown above, uses linguistic analysis in order to resolve the problem of a difficult verse, and in doing so follows a method of resolving its particular difficulties, which was not unique to him. At-Tabari and others had, in fact, reviewed a range of solutions to this verse of which Ibn Hazm's constituted only one of many possibilities. Any judgment of his argument needs to be placed against the alternative solutions described by at-Tabari.

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari (d.311 A.H.-923 A.D.) comments on the verse: "God says to His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that if you are in doubt about the truthfulness of what We told you in Revelations - that the children of Israel had not differed concerning your prophethood before you were sent by God as an Apostle to His people, for they found you prophesied in their scripture, and they knew you from the description of you given in the Torah and Injil - you must confer with those who read the sacred book before you, that is, the people of the Torah and the people of the Gospel, such as Abdullah Ibn Salam and those who, like him, were honest and had faith in you: do not ask those who are dishonest or are unbelievers." (At-Tabari, Jami', vol. II, p. 115)

At-Tabari reported Ibn Abbas as saying that the book referred to in the verse was the Torah and the Gospel; the people with whom Muhammad (peace be upon him) was commanded to confer were those who lived in Muhammad's time and believed in him. The Prophet was to turn to them if questions as to the foretelling of his own prophethood in those books arose. The only object of possible doubt was then Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself, and the people with whom he was to confer were restricted to those who believed in his mission. Furthermore, Muhammad (peace be upon him) had been prophesied in the scriptures  - Jewish and Christian - but these prophecies had been denied by the majority of Jews and Christians except for those who had come to accept that such prophecies were truthful and had become Muslim.

At-Tabari continues by saying: If anybody asks, "Was the Prophet of God in doubt concerning the reality of God's telling?" the answer must emphatically be 'no' (Ibid. [See also R. 2], p. 60) At-Tabari's discussion is lengthy, and some of the points he makes arise in Ibn Taymiyyah's contribution to the same issue - it is, however, essential to take note of one particular statement made by him: The expression 'if you doubt', does not make it necessary that Muhammad (peace be upon him) doubted. (From the linguistic point of view) Arabs use such expressions, e.g., the master might say to his servant: 'If you are my servant you must do such and such' when the master has no real doubt at all that the servant addressed is his servant. Similarly an Arab might say to his son:'If you are my son you will be kind to me' (Ibid.)

At-Tabari does not merely refer to colloquial use of the expression in everyday life but draws an example from the Qur'an: God asked Jesus whether Jesus had told the people: "Take me and my mother as Gods, apart from God" (Qur'an 5:116) knowing full well that he had never done so. Thus the expression, as at-Tabari makes clear, is nothing more than a rhetorical device. He concludes his argument by stating that it was only natural that God should have talked to Muhammad (peace be upon him) in phraseology appropriate to the Arabs in whose language the Qur'an itself was revealed. (At-Tabari, Jami', vol. 11, p. 115)

An-Nisaburi al-Tha'alibi's (d. 427 A. H.) Tafsir stresses the semantic significance of the conditional: the expression "If you are in doubt" does not in any way prove either the existence or non-existence of the conditional matter; the same exegete, moreover, saw in this verse a clear proof of the fact that the People of the books had firm knowledge of the truthfulness of the Qur'an to the extent that they were in a position to argue even with Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself on the subject of his prophethood and he concludes: "The verse thus describes the Rabbis' deep knowledge of the authenticity of what God revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him); the verse does not describe the Prophet as having doubted."(An-Nisaburi al-Tha'alibi, Ghara'yib Al-Qur'an, Wa Ragha'ib Al-Furqan, in the margin of al-Tabari, Jami', vol. 11, pp. 116 f.)

The same Qur'anic interpreter supported his argument by reference to the tradition that Muhammad (peace be upon him) commented on the manner in which he received this passage: "I neither doubt nor question, but testify that this is the truth". An-Nisaburi's argument agrees in general with that of Ibn Hazm. He points out that "In" is a particle of negation "Nafiya", which could mean: "you are not in doubt", adding:" It is said moreover that the verse addressed any hearer who might have been in some doubt, and the people who might have doubted were Muslims converted from a Jewish or Christian stock." (Ibid. The above statement (concerning the word IN) goes back to al-Hasan and al-Hussayn Ibn al-Fadl, as Abu Hayyan states in Al-Bahr Al-Muhit, (Cairo, Matba'at al-Sa'ada, 1328 A.H.), vol. 5, p. 191; see also (R. 2), p. 60. The footnote.)

Al-Qurtubi's comment on the verse is to argue that it speaks to the Prophet not as an object of doubt, but as a medium through which people are commanded to ask for confirmation if they have doubts. Furthermore, he mentions that Tha'alibi and al-Mubarrad had been credited with having said that the verse referred specifically to pagan Arabs, its meanings thus being that if such pagans were in doubt about the Qur'an they should ask Muslims who had been converted from Judaism, whom they regarded as being more knowledgeable than themselves, to corroborate the veracity of the Qur'an. (Abu 'Abdullah al-Qurtubi, op. cit., vol. 8, pp. 382 f.) Such an interpretation is feasible; it does however contradict Muhammad's (peace be upon him) response to the verses reported in the tradition referred to by an- Nisaburi. Ibn Hazm's interpretation too, does not take account of this tradition and for this reason is unacceptable to the present author as being an insufficient exegesis.

A preferable interpretation is that which stresses the conditional nature of the statement as being no evidence that either Muhammad (peace be upon him) or his followers doubted God's Revelation; and which understands the people referred to in the above verse as converted Muslims.

Ibn Taymiyyah seeks an answer to the problem of the verse by considering Muhammad's (peace be upon him) statement of acceptance, which is related in the tradition, and by concluding that the verse insists that Jews and Christians were in possession of confirmation of Muhammad's message. Ibn Taymiyyah shows himself concerned to analyze precisely what issues were to be referred to the People of the books. Firstly Muhammad (peace be upon him) was to ask the Jews about the way in which their scriptures confirm the warning against polytheism given by Moses and the prophets to the people (Qur'an 43:45; 21:25; 16:43). Secondly, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was to ask the Jews to confirm that God appointed men, not angels, as prophets of His message (Qur'an 17:95; 23:25; 10:1-2; 6:8-9; 21:7-8). Thirdly, the People of the books were to be asked about the work of the prophets among men, and the consequences of rejecting or accepting the prophets. Fourthly, they were to be asked about the common religion, i.e., Islam, the total devotion to the will of God as the fundamental source of all religions. This constituted monotheism, and injunctions that the people should be trustworthy, just and devoted to parents and relatives.  Fifthly, the People of the books should be asked whether Muhammad's message was in accordance with the previous Prophets, and about the nature of Muhammad's prophecy (Qur'an 7:156-157; 61:6). (Ibn Taymiyyah, Aj-Jawab As-Sahih, vol. 1, pp. 334-341 and ff.) It is clear from the above that Ibn Taymiyyah seeks for common ground between the three religions, however he qualifies this by insisting that the passage in the Qur'an in no way sanctions Christian practices and doctrines which have been invented and added to Jesus' original teachings, such as the doctrine of the Trinity. (Dr. Muhammad M. Abu Laylah The Qur'an and the Gospels: A Comparative Study, pp 104-109, Source)

 

Conclusion

The Qur'an and authentic traditions make it clear that the Prophet peace be upon him and believers have no doubts regarding their faith and that the verses of the Qur'an need to be understood in its proper context. Once this is done, this argument posed very often by Christian missionaries will vanish away.

 

Sam Shamoun replied to this article and I replied back here.

 

 

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