Quran Contradiction

Warners Sent to All Mankind Before Muhammad?

The Quran claims that Allah has sent Warners to every nation. In fact, some of these verses imply that even prior to the coming of Muhammad, Allah had sent Warners to the Arabs:

To every people (was sent) a messenger: when their messenger comes (before them), the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be wronged. S. 10:47

The worshippers of false gods say: "If Allah had so willed, we should not have worshipped aught but Him - neither we nor our fathers,- nor should we have prescribed prohibitions other than His." So did those who went before them. But what is the mission of messengers but to preach the Clear Message? For We assuredly sent amongst every People a messenger, (with the Command), "Serve Allah, and eschew Evil": of the People were some whom Allah guided, and some on whom error became inevitably (established). So travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who denied (the Truth). S. 16:35-36

To every people did We appoint rites (of sacrifice), that they might celebrate the name of Allah over the sustenance He gave them from animals (fit for food). But your god is One God: submit then your wills to Him (in Islam): and give thou the good news to those who humble themselves,- S. 22:34

To every People have We appointed rites and ceremonies which they must follow: let them not then dispute with thee on the matter, but do thou invite (them) to thy Lord: for thou art assuredly on the Right Way. S. 22:67

The last two verses claim that Allah prescribed rituals and ceremonies for all the people, with the implication being that Allah sent messengers and/or prophets to instruct the people regarding these rituals. Allah must have also sent prophets and messengers to the Meccan Arabs, otherwise how would they have known that Allah required sacrifices and rituals? Unless, of course, one wants to claim that the phrase "every people" doesn’t necessarily include Arabs.

This, however, a Muslim cannot hold to since Islam teaches that the rituals of the pagan Meccan Arabs that Muhammad took over into Islam, were actually instituted by Abraham and Ishmael. So the inhabitants of Mecca already had had their first messengers.

Verily We have sent thee in truth, as a bearer of glad tidings, and as a warner: and there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them (in the past). S. 35:24

But (there were people) before them, who denied (the Signs),- the People of Noah, and the Confederates (of Evil) after them; and EVERY PEOPLE plotted against their prophet, to seize him, and disputed by means of vanities, therewith to condemn the Truth; but it was I that seized them! and how (terrible) was My Requital! Thus was the Decree of thy Lord proved true against the Unbelievers; that truly they are Companions of the Fire! S. 40:5-6

Combining all the above texts we are left with the conclusion that Allah sent a warner to every people, and that in each case the people plotted against the prophet that had been sent to them.

Renowned Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir stated in relation to Sura 35:24:

And there never was a nation but a warner had passed among them.) means, there was never any nation among the sons of Adam but Allah sent warners to them, and left them with no excuse. This is like the Ayat: …

<You are only a warner, and to every people there is a guide> (13:7)…

<And verily, We have sent among every Ummah a Messenger (proclaiming): "Worship Allah, and avoid all false deities.'' Then of them were some whom Allah guided and of them were some upon whom the straying was justified> (16:36). And there are many similar Ayat. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Furthermore, the Quran claims that Ishmael was a prophet:

We gave him (Abraham) Isaac and Jacob: all (three) guided: and before him, We guided Noah, and among his progeny, David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron: thus do We reward those who do good: And Zakariya and John, and Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of the righteous: AND ISMA’IL and Elisha, and Jonas, and Lot: and to all We gave favour above the nations: (To them) and to their fathers, and progeny and brethren: We chose them, and we guided them to a straight way. This is the guidance of Allah: He giveth that guidance to whom He pleaseth, of His worshippers. If they were to join other gods with Him, all that they did would be vain for them. These were THE MEN to whom We gave THE BOOK, and authority, and prophethood: if these (their descendants) reject them, Behold! We shall entrust their charge to a new people who reject them not. S. 6:84-89

Lo! We inspire thee as We inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as We imparted unto David the Psalms; S. 4:163 Pickthall

And relate the story of Ishmael as mentioned in the Book. He was indeed true to his promises. And he was a Messenger, a Prophet. He used to enjoin Prayer and alms-giving on his people, and he was well pleasing to his Lord. S. 19:54-55, 58 Sher Ali

Ishmael is included as one of those who received the Book and prophethood, and is said to have also enjoined prayer and charity (Zakat) upon his people/seed. Furthermore, Muslims are commanded to believe in what Allah revealed/inspired to Ishmael:

Say ye, `We believe in ALLAH and what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac and Jacob and his children and what was given to Moses and Jesus, and what was given to all other Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them; and to HIM we submit ourselves.' S. 2:136 Sher Ali

Say (O Muhammad): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which was vouchsafed unto Moses and Jesus and the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. S. 3:84 Pickthall

The foregoing passages imply that Ishmael had enjoined on his seed the Book and religious instructions which he had received. This means that the Meccan Arabs, whom Muslims claim are the seed of Ishmael, did in fact receive a book prior to the Quran.

The Quran even claims that Abraham and Ishmael built a house for Allah, which Muslims traditionally identify as the Kabah in Mecca:

And when We appointed the House to be a place of visitation for the people, and a sanctuary, and: 'Take to yourselves Abraham's station for a place of prayer.' And We made covenant with Abraham and Ishmael: 'Purify My House for those that shall go about it and those that cleave to it, to those who bow and prostrate themselves.' And when Abraham said, 'My Lord, make this a land secure, and provide its people with fruits, such of them as believe in God and the Last Day.' He said, 'And whoso disbelieves, to him I shall give enjoyment a little, then I shall compel him to the chastisement of the Fire -- how evil a homecoming!' And when Abraham, and Ishmael with him, raised up the foundations of the House: 'Our Lord, receive this from us; Thou art the All-hearing, the All-knowing; and, our Lord, make us submissive to Thee, and of our seed a nation submissive to Thee; and show us our holy rites, and turn towards us; surely Thou turnest, and art All-compassionate; and, our Lord, do Thou send among them a Messenger, one of them, who shall recite to them Thy signs, and teach them the Book and the Wisdom, and purify them; Thou art the All-mighty, the All-wise.' S. 2:125-129 Arberry

So, if Abraham and Ishmael built the Kabah then they surely would have also given the instructions for the rituals to be performed there (of course, this is according to Muslim thinking and beliefs and not based on any actual historical facts). And if Ishmael and Abraham received books, would they not have shared them with those they lived among?

There is more. The Quran makes reference to two non-Israelite prophets/messengers named Hud and Salih:

Behold, their brother Hud said to them: "Will ye not fear (God)? I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust:" S. 26:124-125 Y. Ali; cf. 7:65-67, 11:58-59

Behold, their brother Salih said to them: "Will you not fear (God)? "I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust. S. 26:142-143 Y. Ali

The author of the Quran presupposes that his readers/hearers were already familiar with the story of the fate of the peoples of Hud and Salih. This is perhaps why he didn’t feel it was necessary to explain exactly who they were, where they were exactly from etc.

Y. Ali, in his notes to Sura 7:65 and 73, provides additional details for those of us left in the dark regarding the story of Hud and Salih:

… The ‘Ad people, with their prophet Hud, are mentioned in many places… This story belongs to Arabian tradition. Their eponymous ancestor ‘Ad was fourth in generation from Noah, having been a son of ‘Aus, the son of Aram, the son of Sam, the son of Noah. They occupied a large tract of country in Southern Arabia, extending from ‘Umman at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to Hadhramaut and Yemen at the southern end of Red Sea… (Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Quran: Translation and Commentary, p. 358, fn. 1040)

… The Thamud people were the successors to the culture and civilization of the ‘Ad people… They were cousins to the ‘Ad, apparently a younger branch of the same race. Their story also belongs to the Arabian tradition, according to which their eponymous ancestor Thamud was a son of ‘Abir (a brother of Aram), the son of Sam, the son of Noah. Their seat was in the north-west corner of Arabia (Arabia Petraea), between Medina and Syria. It included both rocky country (hijr, xv. 80), and the spacious fertile valley (Wadi) and plains country of Qura, which begins just north of the City of Medina and is traversed by the Hijaz railway… The recently excavated rock city of Petra, near Ma’an, may go back to the Thamud, though its architecture has many features connecting it with Egyptian and Greco-Roman culture overlaying what is called by European writers Nabataean culture. Who were the Nabataeans? They were an old Arab tribe which played a considerable part in history after they came in conflict with Antigonus I in 312 B.C. Their capital was Petra, but they extended their territory right up to the Euphrates. In 85 B.C. they were lords of Damascus under their king Haritha (Aretas of Roman history). For some time they were allies of the Roman Empire and held the Red Sea littoral. The Emperor Trajan reduced them and annexed their territory in A.D. 105. The Nabataeans succeeded the Thamud of Arabian tradition. The Thamud are mentioned by name in an inscription of the Assyrian King Sargon, dated 715 B.C., as a people of Eastern and Central Arabia (Encyclopaedia of Islam)… (Ibid., p. 360, fn. 1043)

Muhammad Asad writes in regard to the same verses:

… Hud is said to have been the first Arabian prophet. He may be identical with the Biblical `Eber, the ancestor of the Hebrews (`Ibrim) who - like most of the Semitic tribes - had probably originated in South Arabia. (References to `Eber are found in Genesis x, 24-25 and xi, 14 ff.) The ancient Arabian name Hud is still reflected in that of Jacob's son Judah (Yahudah in Hebrew), which provided the subsequent designation of the Jews. The name `Eber - both in Hebrew and in its Arabic form `Abir -signifies "one who crosses over" (i.e., from one territory to another), and may be a Biblical echo of the fact that this tribe "crossed over" from Arabia to Mesopotamia in pre-Abrahamic times.-The tribe of `Ad, to which Hud belonged ("their brother Hud"), inhabited the vast desert region known as Al-Ahqaf, between `Uman and Hadramawt, and was noted for its great power and influence (see 89: 8 - "the like of whom has never been reared in all the land"). It disappeared from history many centuries before the advent of Islam, but its memory always remained alive in Arabian tradition. (Asad, The Message of the Qur'an [Dar Al-Andalus Limited 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar rpt. 1993], p. 213, fn. 48)

… The Nabataean tribe of Thamud descended from the tribe of 'Ad mentioned in the preceding passage, and is, therefore, often referred to in pre-Islamic poetry as the "Second `Ad". Apart from Arabian sources, "a series of older references, not of Arabian origin, confirm the historical existence of the name and people of Thamud. Thus the inscription of Sargon of the year 715 B.C. mentions the Thamad among the people of eastern and central Arabia subjected by the Assyrians. We also find the Thamudaei, Thamudenes mentioned in Aristo, Ptolemy, and Pliny" (Encyclopaedia of Islam IV, 736). At the time of which the Qur'an speaks, the Thamad were settled in the northernmost Hijaz, near the confines of Syria. Rock-inscriptions attributed to them are still extant in the region of Al-Hijr.-As in the case of the `Adite prophet Had-and the prophet Shu'ayb spoken of in verses 85-93 of this surah - Salih is called the "brother" of the tribe because he belonged to it. (Ibid., p. 214, fn. 56)

Asad says of S. 26:195:

… The other prophets mentioned in the Quran who "preached in the Arabic tongue" were Ishmael, Hud, Salih and Shu’ayb, all of them Arabians. In addition, if we bear in mind that Hebrew and Aramaic are but ancient Arabic dialects, all the Hebrew prophets may be included among "those who preached in the Arabic tongue." (Ibid., p. 572, fn. 82; bold emphasis ours)

According to Islamic theology, a messenger (rasul) is one who receives a book. Renowned Mu`tazila scholar al-Zamakhshari claimed:

We have never sent any messenger or prophet: (This) is a clear proof that a distinction exists between a messenger (rasul) and a prophet (nabi). (It is related) from the Prophet that he was asked about the prophets, whereupon he said: ‘(There are) one hundred and twenty-four thousand.’ When he was then asked how many messengers there were among them, he answered: ‘The great host of three hundred and thirteen.’ The distinction between the two is that a messenger is one of the prophets to whom, together with the verification miracle (mu‘jiza), the Book is sent down. A prophet, on the other hand, who is not a messenger, is one to whom no book is sent down, but who was commanded only to restrain the people on the basis of the earlier revealed law (shari‘a). (Helmut Gätje, The Qur'an and its Exegesis [Oneworld Publications, Oxford 1996], p. 54; bold emphasis ours)

The Quran states, contrary to the view of al-Zamakhshari, that prophets do indeed receive divine books:

(All) people are a single nation; so Allah raised PROPHETS as bearers of good news and as warners, and He revealed WITH THEM THE BOOK WITH TRUTH, that it might judge between people in that in which they differed; and none but the very people who were given it differed about it after clear arguments had come to them, revolting among themselves; so Allah has guided by His will those who believe to the truth about which they differed and Allah guides whom He pleases to the right path. S. 2:213 Shakir

It is not (possible) that a man, to whom is given the Book, and Wisdom, and the prophetic office, should say to people: "Be ye my worshippers rather than God's": on the contrary (He would say) "Be ye worshippers of Him Who is truly the Cherisher of all: For ye have taught the Book and ye have studied it earnestly." S. 3:79 Y. Ali

Behold! God took the covenant of the prophets, saying: "I give you a Book and Wisdom; then comes to you an apostle, confirming what is with you; do ye believe in him and render him help." God said: "Do ye agree, and take this my Covenant as binding on you?" They said: "We agree." He said: "Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses." S. 3:81 Y. Ali

Hence, taking both the Quran and Islamic theology at face value, Ishmael, Hud and Salih were prophets/messengers that received books for their respective communities. In other words, all of the preceding verses presume that, even prior to Muhammad, Allah had sent prophets and messengers to every nation which would obviously include the Arabs, especially the Meccan Arabs whom Muslims claim are descendants of Ishmael. See Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583 for further details.

The conclusions outlined above lead to several contradictions since the next verses claim that no warner was sent to the Arabs, and no book was given to them, until Muhammad’s time:

Nor wast thou at the side of (the Mountain of) Tur when we called (to Moses). Yet (art thou sent) as Mercy from thy Lord, to give warning to a people to whom no warner had come before thee: in order that they may receive admonition. S. 28:46

Or do they say, "He has forged it"? Nay, it is the Truth from thy Lord, that thou mayest admonish a people to whom no warner has come before thee: in order that they may receive guidance. S. 32:3

They swore their strongest oaths by Allah that if a warner came to them, they would follow his guidance better than any (other) of the Peoples: But when a warner came to them, it has only increased their flight (from righteousness),- S. 35:42

By the Wise Koran, thou art truly among the Envoys on a straight path; the sending down of the All-mighty, the All-wise, that thou mayest warn a people WHOSE FATHERS WERE NEVER WARNED, so they are heedless. S. 36:2-6 Arberry

And this is a Book which We have revealed as a blessing: so follow it and be righteous, that ye may receive mercy: Lest ye should say: "The Book was sent down to two Peoples before us, and for our part, we remained unacquainted with all that they learned by assiduous study:" Or lest ye should say: "If the Book had only been sent down to us, we should have followed its guidance better than they." Now then hath come unto you a clear (sign) from your Lord,- and a guide and a mercy: then who could do more wrong than one who rejecteth Allah's signs, and turneth away therefrom? In good time shall We requite those who turn away from Our signs, with a dreadful penalty, for their turning away. S. 6:155-157

But We had not given them Books which they could study, nor sent messengers to them before thee as Warners. S. 34:44

What! have We given them a Book before this, to which they are holding fast? S. 43:21

In light of the preceding, what do we say about Ishmael, Salih, and Hud who were sent to Arab nations as messengers, which is in direct contradiction with Sura 34:44? Furthermore, Ishmael is explicitly said to have received the Book (S. 6:89), but S. 34:44 states that the Arabs had not received any book before Muhammad's time. [We might ask the same question about the books of Hud and Salih, since they are called messengers and by al-Zamakhshari’s definition of the term, a messenger (rasul) is one who received a book while one who is only called a prophet may not have had a book. So, this would imply that Hud and Salih also had books.]

We will leave it to the Muslims to try and make sense of these glaring contradictions.

Furthermore, what are we supposed to think of Ishmael’s Book? Did he not pass it on to his alleged descendants, which Muslims claim were the Meccan Arabs? If he did, then how can the Quran claim that the Arabs hadn’t received a book prior to Muhammad’s time? If Ishmael didn’t pass it on, then what happened to his Book? Even worse, would that not imply that Ishmael was disobedient by not delivering the message given to him?

Put differently, it seems that the Arabs are worse than the Jews. They completely lost, or even deliberately destroyed the book that Allah gave to Ishmael, not to mention the books of Hud and Salih, while the Jews have carefully kept the Torah up to this day. The Quran accuses the Jews only of misinterpreting it or hiding part of their revelation from the Muslims, but not of having lost or destroyed it (see these articles).

Why would Allah give the Arabs another book if they have treated his first one with such contempt? And this question becomes even more pressing if they did not only lose or destroy Ishmael’s book but also the books of Hud and Salih!

Sam Shamoun

Qur'an Contradictions
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page