Qur'an Contradiction:

Can Angels Disobey?

Response to Saifullah

In this second revision, Saifullah tries again to harmonize the internal contradiction of the Quran where in one place it claims that angels do not disobey God, yet in another place it states that Iblis, Harut and Marut were angels that disobeyed their Lord. Our earlier arguments still stand and should be read (1, 2) before proceeding with the newest additions of Oct. 1, 1999, so that we can avoid repeating ourselves excessively in this article. Saifullah now writes:


Since the belief in the creation of Allah such as angels and jinn is fundamental to the Islamic belief, it is worthwhile to know who they are and what their nature is. Below is a complete quote from the book The Reliance Of The Traveller, which is a manual of Shāfi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence. This quote gives comprehensive information about who jinns and angels are from the Islamic point of view (of course, using the Qur'ān and authentic ahadīth).

The Jinn

Belief In The Jinn

w22.1 (Alā' al-Dīn cAbidin:) Our prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), who was truthful in all that he did and said, has informed us of matters that are mandatory – personally obligatory for each of us - to believe, accept, and not doubt or be sarcastic about the slightest bit of. Among the things of which he informed us is that Allah Most High has created angels that are pure spirits, neither masculine nor feminine, and created jinn, fiery beings that can assume various forms. The good jinn are Muslims and believers, and will be with us in paradise, where we will see them but they will not see us - the opposite of this world - while the immoral and wicked of them are called devils, being of the offspring of Satan, who used to be in paradise, but disobeyed the command of his Lord, and is now "of those reprieved till the day of a known time" (Koran 15:37-38).

The Difference Between Jinn & Angels

w22.2 (Muhammad Sacīd Burhanī:) The difference between jinn and angels is that angels are created of light, while jinn are created of fire. Angels (upon whom be peace) do not reproduce, while jinn do. Angels do not commit disobedience, while jinn include both the obedient and the disobedient, both believer and unbeliever, the rebellious of them being called devils. Jinn assume various forms, both noble and base, such as that of a snake and the like, while the angels (upon whom be peace) only assume noble forms, like that of a human being. Angels live in the heavens and earth, while jinn live only on earth. Angels are not called to account on the Day of Judgement, but rather enter paradise, and whoever disparages one of them has committed unbelief. Angels like circles of religious learning and dhikr, and supplicate Allah to bless our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and us, and they ask forgiveness for those on earth. They rejoice at whoever visits the ill or seeks religious knowledge, out of pleasure with what he is doing.[1]

From the above quote, it is clear that angels can't be jinn and vice versa. They both are distinct entities created by Allah. So, Iblīs who is a jinn can't be a "fallen angel." A "fallen angel" would mean that Iblīs was not a jinn and that the angels have free will. But these two concepts are clearly refuted in the Qur'ān itself, i.e., that Iblīs is a jinn (18:50) and the angels obey Allah with questioning (66:6). As a brief note, we are tempted to add that:

In Islamic literature Shaytān (Eng. Satan, devil) is a name given to disbelieving Jinns. They are created from fire according to Allāh's statement in the Qur'ān; "The Jinns were created from the fire of a scorching wind." (al-Hijr 15:27). They are not fallen angels... and angels can't disobey God according to Allah's statement in the Qur'ān, ... angels stern and severe, who do not disobey Allāh in what he orders them, but do whatever they are commanded (Sura at-Tahreem 66:6).[2]


Saifullah tries to completely ignore the fact that traditions attributed to Muhammad and his companions clearly affirm that jinn were a class of angels that were created from a different substance from the other angelic beings. In fact, the Quran never says that jinn are not angels, but simply makes a distinction in the way they were created, a fact that did not prevent the early Muslims from viewing jinn as a special class of angels.

Furthermore, even if we were to accept the fact that the jinn are not angels, this would still leave us with a difficulty. Why was Iblis cast out from God's presence for disobeying a command directed to angels, not to the jinn?

Saifullah goes on to say:

The Use Of Al-Tabarī's Tarīkh

The Christian missionaries have used al-Tabarī's Tarīkh to show that indeed in Islamic literature there is a concept of "fallen angels." It is always worthwhile to read the introduction to his book where al-Tabarī makes an important set of statements, that clearly state:

Let him who examines this book of mine know that I have relied, as regards everything I mention therein which I stipulate to be described by me, solely upon what has been transmitted to me by way of reports which I cite therein and traditions which I ascribe to their narrators, to the exclusion of what may be apprehended by rational argument or deduced by the human mind, except in very few cases. This is because knowledge of the reports of men of the past and of contemporaneous views of men of the present do not reach the one who has not witnessed them nor lived in their times except through the accounts of reporters and the transmission of transmitters, to the exclusion of rational deduction and mental inference. Hence, if I mention in this book a report about some men of the past, which the reader of listener finds objectionable or worthy of censure because he can see no aspect of truth nor any factual substance therein, let him know that this is not to be attributed to us but to those who transmitted it to us and we have merely passed this on as it has been passed on to us.[3]

Thus, al-Tabarī faithfully displayed the accounts in the exact manner through which he received them. Can he then be held liable or attributed if any objectionable accounts should arise? To translate this into laymen's terms, al-Tabarī has simply refused accountability by avoiding the task of historical as well as hadīth criticism. Therefore, any spurious/objectional accounts are not to be attributed to him. He only faithfully transmitted what he received, whether authentic or spurious. To say that al-Tabarī said such-and-such about "fallen angels" and Iblīs (and claiming it to be authentic!) simply shows one inability to grasp the fundamentals of al-Tabarī's book Tarīkh al-Tabarī: Tarīkh al-Umam wal-Mulūk.

And Allah knows best!


This is perhaps the weakest evidence the author has yet presented. It is weak since Tabari's statement can be applied to the entire hadith collection. Note what Tabari said in the above citation and compare it with the hadith as a whole:

"... This is because knowledge of the reports of men of the past and of contemporaneous views of men of the present do not reach the one who has not witnessed them nor lived in their times except through the accounts of reporters and the transmission of transmitters, to the exclusion of rational deduction and mental inference ..."

Tabari's point is not so much a denial of the authenticity of his writings as it is of the transmission of the hadith itself. There is no way for a person to authenticate any hadith, let alone Tabari's writings, since the collection of traditions were not written down until over a hundred years after the life of Muhammad and his companions. To then try and use Tabari's citation as proof that Tabari's works are unverifiable simply because this is what he seems to be claiming is going beyond the intended meaning of the writer.

This point is solidified by the fact that Tabari was able to establish the authenticity of certain reports by his ability to distinguish the sound traditions from those that were questionable. Note the following citations taken from the History of al-Tabari, Volume 1- General Introduction and from the Creation to the Flood (trans. Franz Rosenthal, State University of New York Press, Albany 1989):

"We have stated before that time is but hours of night and day and that the hours are but traversal by the sun and the moon of the degrees of the sphere. Now then, this being so, there is (also) a sound tradition from the Messenger of God told us by Hannad b. al-Sari, who also said that he read all of the hadith (to Abu Bakr)- Abu Bakr b. `Ayyash- Abu Sa'd al-Baqqal- `Ikrimah- Ibn Abbas: The Jews came to the Prophet and asked him about the creation of the heavens and the earth. He said: God created the earth on Sunday and Monday. He created the mountains and the uses they possess on Tuesday. On Wednesday, He created trees, water, cities and the cultivated barren land. These are four (days). He continued (citing the Qur'an): `Say: Do you really not believe in the One Who created the earth in two days, and set up others like Him? That is the Lord of the worlds. He made it firmly anchored (mountains) above it and blessed it and decreed that it contain the amount of food it provides, (all) in four days, equally for those asking'- for those who ask. On Thursday, He created heaven. On Friday, He created the stars, the sun, the moon, and the angels, until three hours remained. In the first of these three hours He created the terms (of human life), who would live and who would die. In the second, He cast harm upon everything that is useful for mankind. And in the third, (He created) Adam and had him dwell in Paradise. He commanded Iblis to prostrate himself before Adam, and He drove Adam out of Paradise at the end of the hour. When the Jews asked: What then, Muhammad? He said: `Then He sat straight upon the Throne.' The Jews said: You are right, if you had finished, they said, with: Then He rested. Whereupon the Prophet got very angry, and it was revealed: `We have created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days, and fatigue did not touch Us. Thus be patient with what you say.'" (Ibid., pp. 187-188)

"The two reports transmitted by us from the Messenger of God have made it clear that the sun and the moon were created after God had created many things of His creation. That is because the hadith of Ibn Abbas on the authority of the Messenger of God indicates that God created the sun and the moon on Friday. If this is so, earth and heaven and what was in them, except the angels and Adam, had been created before God created the sun and the moon. All this (thus) existed while there was no light and no day, since night and day are but nouns designating hours known through the traversal by the sun and the moon of the course of the sphere. Now, if it is correct that the earth and the heaven and what was between them, except what we have mentioned, were in existence when there was no sun and no moon, the conclusion is that all existed when there was no night or day. The same (conclusion results from) the following hadith of Abu Hurayrah reported on the authority of the Messenger of God: God created light on Wednesday- meaning by `light' the sun, if God wills." (Ibid., pp. 190-191)

"Abu Ja'far (al-Tabari) says: Regarding this, the correct statement, in our opinion, is the one who said: God created the earth on Sunday. He created the heaven on Thursday, and He created the stars and the sun and the moon on Friday. (We consider it correct) because of the soundness of the report mentioned by us earlier on the authority of Ibn `Abbas from the Messenger of God. The tradition transmitted to us on the authority of Ibn `Abbas is not impossible. It says that God created the earth but did not spread it out. Then he created the heavens "and fashioned them (into seven heavens)," and thereafter "spread out" the earth. He then brought forth from it its water and its pasture, and the mountains He anchored firmly." Indeed, in my opinion this is the correct statement. That is because the meaning of "spreading out" is different from that of "creating." God says: "Are you more difficult to create than the heaven He constructed? He raised high its roof and fashioned it. He darkened its night and brought forth its morning. And it was the earth He spread out thereafter." (Ibid., p. 216)

The claim that Tabari uncritically accepted reports does not stand in light of the preceding citations where Tabari clearly distinguishes between sound traditions from those that were questionable in nature. In fact, Saifullah and his staff indirectly attest to Tabari's ability to separate authentic from inauthentic statements. In the paper on the science of hadith, we find Saifullah providing an example of a fabricated tradition that circulated during the time of Umar:

"Mauduc ahadīth are also recognised by external evidence related to a discrepancy found in the dates or times of a particular incident.81 For example, when the second caliph, Umar b. al- Khattab decided to expel the Jews from Khaibar, some Jewish dignitaries brought a document to Umar apparently proving that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) had intended that they stay there by exempting them from the jizyah (tax on non-Muslims under the rule of Muslims); the document carried the witness of two Companions, Sa'd b. Mucadh and Mu'awiyah b. Abi Sufyan. Umar rejected the document outright, knowing that it was fabricated because the conquest of Khaibar took place in 6 AH, whereas Sa'd b. Mucadh died in 3 AH just after the Battle of the Trench, and Mu'awiyah embraced Islam in 8 AH, after the conquest of Makkah!82"

When we go to footnote 82, we find the following statement:

"82.see Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Manar al-Munif fi 'l- Sahih wa 'l-Dacif (ed. A.F. Abū Ghuddah, Lahore, 1402/1982), pp. 102-105 for a fuller discussion. Ibn al-Qayyim mentions more than ten clear indications of the forgery of the document, which the Jews repeatedly attempted to use to deceive the Muslims over the centuries, but each time a scholar of Hadīth intervened to point out the forgery - such incidents occurred with Ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī (d. 310), al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī (d. 463) and Ibn Taimiyyah (d. 728), who spat on the document as it was unfolded from beneath its silken covers."

Saifullah includes Tabari as one of those who had been aware that the document circulated by the Jews was an obvious forgery. Yet, how would Tabari have known this if he were simply recording traditions uncritically? Furthermore, notice that Saifullah in this citation lists Tabari as "a scholar of Hadith", contradicting the very point that he tries to establish in this paper.

Another argument leveled by Saifullah and his staff against Tabari is that the latter included material from the Jews and integrated it with Islamic sources. Presumably, this would affirm that Tabari's collection is of a questionable nature since he fused unreliable Jewish material into the Islamic traditions. In actuality, we find that Tabari was able to distinguish material that was Jewish in nature from that which originated from the Muslims. Note the following quotes from Tabari's book:

"The other report, referring to a different concept, is what I was told by Muhammad b. Abi Mansur- Khalaf b. Wasil- Abu Nu'aym- Muqatil b. Hayyan- Ikrimah: One day when Ibn `Abbas was sitting (at home or in the mosque), a man came to him and said: Ibn `Abbas, I heard Ka'b, the Rabbi, tell a marvelous story about the sun and the moon. He continued. Ibn `Abbas who had been reclining sat up and asked what it was. The man said: He suggested that on the Day of Resurrection, the sun and the moon will be brought as if they were two hamstrung oxen, and flung into Hell. `Ikrimah continued. Ibn `Abbas became contorted with anger and exclaimed three times: Ka'b is lying! Ka'b is lying! Ka'b is lying! This is something Jewish he wants to inject into Islam. God is too majestic and noble to mete out punishment where there is obedience to Him. Have you not heard God's word: "And He subjected to you the sun and the moon, being constant" – referring to their constant obedience. How would He punish two servants that are praised for constant obedience? May God curse that rabbi and his rabbinate! How insolent is he toward God and what a tremendous fabrication has he told about those two servants that are obedient to God! ..." (Ibid., pp. 232-233)

Tabari concludes with Kab's reaction:

"Ikrimah said: I got up with the individuals who were told the story, and we went to Ka'b and informed him about Ibn `Abbas' emotional outburst at (hearing) his story and about the story Ibn `Abbas had reported on the authority of the Messenger of God. Ka'b got up with us, and we went to Ibn `Abbas. Ka'b said: I have learned about your emotional outburst at my story. I am asking God for forgiveness and I repent. I have told the story on the basis of a well-worn book that has passed through many hands. I do not know what alterations made by the Jews it may have contained. Now you have told a story on the basis of a new book recently revealed by the Merciful One and on the authority of the lord and best of the prophets. I would like you to tell it to me so that I can retain it in my memory as told on your authority. When I have been told it, it will replace my original story." (Ibid., pp. 243-244)

This again presumes the fact that Tabari must have been aware that there were traditions that had been "polluted" by the Jews. He cites an example of such "pollution" and then proceeds to expose it on the authority of Ibn Abbas!

Furthermore, Saifullah does not apply his method of criticism consistently. In one of his articles, he cites the hadith collection of Wahb b. Munabbih to prove that there were early records of Islamic traditions.

Yet, Saifullah conveniently fails to mention that Wahb also included material from the Jews. This has led prominent Muslims to doubt Wahb's credibility as a compiler of hadith:

"Wahb was from San'aa of Yemen; died 110 or 114 H. He was Ikhbary (a storyteller) AND NOT A HADITH TRANSMITTER. But his main interest was what we call 'Isra'iliyat' which were transmitted to him through men like K'ab al Ahbar (who died 32-34 H.)... which Wahb inserted into Islamic stories." (Muhammad Abd el-Ghani Hasan from his book, Attarikh 'end al-Musleman as found in Ketaboka no. 32, p.12)

"What disfigured our literary heritage, especially the field of expounding the Quran (Tafsir) were the Israi'liyat that crept into it, and disturbed its order. This started, regretfully, VERY EARLY, that is, SINCE THE TIME OF THE COMPANIONS LIKE K'AB AL-AHBAR AND WAHB IBN MUNABBEH, AND OTHERS WHO WERE COVERTED TO ISLAM FROM THE PEOPLE OF THE BOOK [i.e. Jews and Christians] The infiltration of the Isra'iliyat was small at the beginning, then it began to increase, unintentionally. THIS GAVE WAY TO PLOTTING, SCHEMING AND INTENTIONAL CONSPIRACY.

"Because the Jews were defeated militarily by the Muslims and wanting to resist by using another weapon-an intellectual one-they slipped into the Isra'iliyat and, WITHIN A SHORT PERIOD, THE MUSLIM BOOKS WERE FULL OF IT." (Dr. Yusuf Qaradawi Thaqafat al-Da'iah, Mu'saasat al-Resalah [Beirut, 1979], p. 41)

These statements not only cast doubt on Wahb's credibility but the entire hadith collection. Dr. Qaradawi admits that the Islamic traditions became polluted by the Jews from the very start. Hence, if Saifullah is to remain consistent he must toss out both Wahb and Tabari together.

Finally, we must point out that scholars of both the past and the present have called into question the integrity of the entire Islamic traditions, not just Tabari's. John Gilchrist notes:

"... Western scholars have, however taken a far more sceptical approach to the subject in the last century. The whole body of Hadith literature has been called into question and it has been suggested that none of the traditions surviving can be accepted as genuine at face value. Conclusions of some of the more prominent writers to this effect read as follows:

"In fine, we may from all that has been said, conclude that tradition cannot be received with too much caution, or exposed to too rigorous a criticism; and that no important statement should be accepted as securely proved by tradition alone, unless there be some farther ground of probability, analogy, or collateral evidence in its favour. (Muir, The Life of Mahomet, p. lx).

"Every legal tradition from the Prophet, until the contrary is proved, must be taken not as an authentic or essentially authentic, even if slightly obscured, statement valid for his time or the time of the Companions, but as the fictitious expression of a legal doctrine formulated at a later date. (Schacht, The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, p. 149).

"There seems to be little doubt that practically the whole body of tradition was spurious. (Robson, "Tradition: Investigation and Classification", The Muslim World, Vol 1.41, p. 101).

"Extensive studies into the legal character of most of the traditions have led Western scholars to the opinion that, as the laws of the widespread Muslim community developed, so traditions were forged to provide an authority for them allegedly stretching back to the time of Muhammad himself. After all, if the law was based on the decree of the founder of Islam, it could hardly be queried or rejected. For some writers the fabrication of the whole tradition literature has become such a fait accompli that every tradition is automatically treated as the product, and not the source, of the early development of Islamic law. Efforts are therefore made to place the origin of each hadith within the growing framework of Islamic law in those early days.

"Traditions from Companions are as little genuine as traditions from the Prophet, and must be subjected to the same scrutiny in order to ascertain their place in the development of legal doctrine. (Schacht, The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, p. 150).

"Even Muslim scholars of Hadith freely admit that wholesale fabrication took place but argue that the major works of Hadith literature contain, on the whole, genuine traditions only and that the forgeries have largely been eliminated. Consensus has, at any rate, been reached on the following points: that many traditions were fabricated to uphold the Ummayad and Abbasid dynasties respectively, that early schools of law created traditions to support their specific points of view, and that opposing schools fabricated similar hadith to counter these. So widespread was hadith fabrication that a tradition was even invented to the effect that Muhammad anticipated the forgery of sayings attributed to him and declared that whoever alleged that he had said anything other than what he did say would be cast into hell. This must surely rank as one of the most remarkable of pious frauds! Others produced a less exclusive but nonetheless equally preemptive assessment of the practice of hadith fabrication to follow after Muhammad's death in the following saying which has been attributed to him:

"After my death sayings attributed to me will multiply just as a large number of sayings are attributed to the prophets who were before me. What is told you as a saying of mine you must compare with the Quran. What is in agreement therewith is from me whether I have actually said it or not". (Guillaume, The Traditions of Islam, p. 53).

"In the West, however, the prevailing distrust of the authenticity of the whole body of tradition literature has led to the general conclusion that the Hadith represent what Islam became during its development and not what it was during the formative period of Muhammad's life and the early Caliphate.

"The result is that the sum of tradition represents the history of the first two centuries of Islam. (Tritton, Islam, p. 32).

"In the first place it has become ever more evident that the thousands of traditions about Mohammed, which, together with the Qoran, form the foundation upon which the doctrine and life of the community are based, are for the most part the conventional expression of all the opinions which prevailed among his followers during the first three centuries after the Hijrah. (Hurgronje, Mohammedanism, p. 20)

"As we investigate the sources of the traditions, we find that we know less about Mohammed; but we learn more about the history of Islam. (Margoliouth, "On Moslem Tradition" The Muslim World, Vol. 2, p. 121).

"During the middle of the last century Sir William Muir first expressed the form of scepticism which has become the norm in Western studies of the Hadith to this day and his brief study was followed up with a thorough criticism by the great Hungarian scholar Ignaz Goldziher. The latter's thesis has become the foundation upon which all succeeding studies have been based and is found in the second volume of his Muhammedanische Studien first published in 1889 (the work quoted in this book is an English translation of his book). His most prominent successor says of his study that he "has not only voiced his 'sceptical reserve' with regard to the traditions contained even in the classical collections, but shown positively that the great majority of traditions from the Prophet are documents not of the time to which they claim to belong, but of the successive stages of development of doctrines during the first centuries of Islam" (Schacht, The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, p. 4).

"Even though Islamic orthodoxy has accepted almost without question the formulation of the Hadith literature in the early days (i.e. that the six major works are generally authentic, especially the two Sahihs, and that the other early collections contain many genuine traditions), Muslim scholars tended to appreciate the Western interest in this subject in the beginning. The pessimistic conclusions of the major scholars has, however, naturally made them unwilling in recent times to sustain this appreciation and, while the works of these scholars have been treated on the whole with respect, their Muslim counterparts have fallen back on the exact conclusions, based almost exclusively on the isnad-system, reached during the days of Bukhari and Muslim. Islam, rightly or wrongly, is strongly resistant to critical analyses of its heritage and finds its security in the unanimity of opinion maintained over successive centuries of its history. It fears that such an approach to its received records of Muhammad's life might lead to an undermining of its whole legacy.

"Islamic orthodoxy has rigidly kept to the tenets concerning tradition once they were formulated. On the other hand, Western scholars who did research into the hadith came to entirely different conclusions, as was seen above. Their ideas about the hadith are objectionable to orthodox Muslim scholars, so that they tend no longer to recognize the achievements of Orientalists in other fields, which formerly they appreciated. (Juynboll, The Authenticity of the Tradition Literature, p. 9)."

(Gilchrist, Muhammad And The Religion Of Islam [Jesus To The Muslims; PO Box 1804, Benoni, Republic of South Africa], pp. 239-242)

Gilchrist also mentions Muslims who have come to question certain aspects of the traditions:

"... In some circles, however, there are more broadly-minded Muslim scholars who are willing to approach this subject from a more objective, analytical point of view and even the hitherto almost sacred works of Hadith have been tested and, at times, found wanting. One such scholar says: "Despite the great care and precision of the Hadith scholars, much of what they regarded as true was later proved to be spurious. In his commentary on the collection of Muslim, al Nawawi wrote: "A number of scholars discovered many hadiths in the collections of Muslim and Bukhari which do not fulfill the conditions of verification assumed by these men". (Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, p. lxxxii)." (Ibid., p. 242)

In fact, there are many Muslims today who have dismissed the entire collection of hadiths as forgeries concocted centuries after Muhammad and his first followers. For those interested, here are some articles written by Muslims who have discredited, dismissed, and discarded the entire collection of traditions altogether [1] , [2] ! As we conclude, we would like to point out the fact that our usage of the Quran and the hadith is not due to our belief that these sources are reliable. We appeal to these traditions to simply demonstrate the fact that Islam is logically and inherently inconsistent, contradicting both scientific and historical facts, as well as contradicting itself.

Sam Shamoun

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