Sinking to Dead Sea levels

In search of the lowest point in Muslim apologetics

Sam Shamoun & Jochen Katz

Osama Abdallah is really trying hard to redeem himself after his humiliating loss in our debate on the subject of whether Muhammad was a true prophet (here).

Just recently he has posted an article where he seeks to prove that Q. 30:2-4 is not only a genuine prophecy, but also scientifically correct, thereby vindicating Muhammad.

Here is the text in question:

The Roman Empire has been defeated - in a land close by (fee adna al-ardi): But they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious - within a few years. Y. Ali

Is it the Dead Sea?

O. Abdallah insists that the correct translation of adna al-ardi should be "lowest land on the earth," not "in a land close by." Abdallah feels that adna means lowest whereas ardi with the definite article al refers to the entire earth, not just a specific land per se.

In light of these assertions Abdallah argues that this so-called prophecy is an example of the Quran’s prescience in that it correctly identifies the Dead Sea as the lowest point of the earth. Abdallah translates a passage from a book which identifies the unnamed land mentioned in the Quran as the Dead Sea and also provides several sources which affirm that this is in fact the lowest spot on the earth:

After the (scientists') geological sweeping of the planet earth, the scientists discovered that the lowest land-area on earth is the area of the dead sea, and the dead sea's water reduces approximately 380 meters.  And when the Romans were defeated IN THIS LAND, the following Noble Verses were revealed:

O. Abdallah is trying to pull a fast one over his readers since he deceptively claims that the land that the Quran is referring to is actually the Dead Sea. The fact is that the Quran never mentions the name of the land and none of the Muslim scholars that we consulted believed that it refers to the Dead Sea. Quotations from these scholars will be given later.

Moreover, even though there are certain Islamic sources that do mention Jerusalem, this doesn’t help Abdallah since, unlike the Dead Sea, it is way above sea level and is definitely not the lowest part of the earth! For instance, Abdallah cites a few sources which say that the Dead Sea is roughly 1000 (or approximately 1,373) feet below sea level. Jerusalem, however, is roughly 2500 feet ABOVE sea level (Wikipedia)!

Since Abdallah claims that the Arabic phrase, fee adna al-ardi, literally means "in the lowest land on earth" he has basically proven that Muhammad was a false prophet since he mistakenly assumed that Jerusalem was the lowest part of the earth!

In his written debate with Nadir Ahmed, the former Muslim turned agnostic Ali Sina used the same argument against a similar claim:

Mr. Ahmed claims that the word near (Adna) can also be translated as lower and hence the above could be read: The Roman Empire was defeated in the lowest land ... Then Mr. Ahmad claims that since the Black Sea is it the lowest point on earth (1300 ft bellow sea level) then Muhammad has said something that no one could have known.

This is of course wishful thinking of a deluded believer and the absurdity of that is self-evident. The Romans were not defeated in the Red Sea but in Jerusalem and Jerusalem is above sea level. If we had to take Mr. Ahmed for his word and disregard the obvious meaning of the word, this verse would have become yet another blunder of Muhammad. However all the interpreters of the Quran have translated the verse correctly. If Muhammad really wanted to impress his readers he could have easily said that the Red Sea is the lowest land on Earth. Note that the verse is mentioning land and not sea. Muhammad is talking about the Jerusalem and not about the Red Sea. (Source)

Although Sina mistakenly refers to the Black and Red Seas, his point still applies to Abdallah’s argument.

Hence, what Abdallah thought was a definite proof for Muhammad’s prophethood ends up being a strong argument against him, serving to expose him as a false prophet! Wonderful work, Mr. Abdallah, we highly encourage you to keep it up.

With the foregoing behind us, we proceed to unpack some additional problems with Abdallah’s points.


Exegetical Problems

The discerning reader should be able to see that Q. 30:2-4 is laden with problems which the text does not provide solutions for. In fact, this so-called prediction furnishes a great example of just how incoherent, incomplete and unintelligible the Quran truly is.

For instance, the citation raises the following issues:

In light of the foregoing, how did Abdallah know that this passage was referring to the Dead Sea when it never mentions the name of the land? How does he even know when this section was supposedly "sent down"? He doesn’t know since the Quran doesn’t answer any of these questions. Abdallah has simply read all of these assertions into the text of the Quran in order to make it agree with modern scientific discoveries.


Textual Issues

As if the foregoing wasn’t bad enough there is also a textual issue with Q. 30:2-4 which changes the entire meaning of the so-called prophecy. The late Christian evangelist and author Carl Gottlieb Pfander quoted Muslim exegete al-Baidawi who mentioned specific variant readings which had the text say that the Romans were victorious in a land nearby and were going to lose in a few years:

But Al Baizawi shatters the whole argument of the Muslims by informing us of certain varied readings in these verses of Suratu'r Rum. He tells us that some read غَلَبَتِ instead of the usual غُلِبَتِ, and سَيُغْلَبُونَ instead of سَيَغْلُبُونَ. The rendering will then be: "The Byzantine HAVE CONQUERED in the nearest part of the land, and they SHALL BE DEFEATED in a small number of years," &c. If this be the correct reading, the whole story about Abu Bakr's bet with Ubai must be a fable,2 since Ubai was dead long before the Muslims began to defeat the Byzantines, and even long before the victories which Heraclius won over the Persians. This shows how unreliable such Traditions are. The explanation which Al Baizawi gives is, that the Byzantines became the conquerors of "the well-watered land of Syria" (على ريف آلْشام), and that the passage predicted that the Muslims would soon overcome them. If this is the meaning, the Tradition which records the "descent" of the verses about six. years before the Hijrah must be wrong, and the passage must belong to A.H. 6 at earliest. It is clear that, as the vowel-points were not used when the Qur'an was first written down in Kufic letters, no one can be certain which of the two readings is right. We have seen that there is so much uncertainty about (1) the date at which the verses were "sent down", (2) the correct reading, and (3) the meaning, that it is quite impossible to show that the passage contains a prophecy which was fulfilled. Hence it cannot be considered to be a proof of Muhammad's prophetic office. (Pfander, Mizan-ul-Haqq - The Balance of Truth, revised and enlarged by W. St. Clair Tisdall [Light of Life P.O. Box 18, A-9503, Villach Austria], pp. 279-280; source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

With this in mind, we need to ask Abdallah how does he know that the text originally read that the Romans have been defeated and will soon be victorious? How can he be certain that it didn’t initially say that the Romans have won and shall soon be defeated, which would change the entire meaning since it would no longer be a reference to the Romans being defeated by the Persians but to their eventual showdown with the Muslim army not long after they had vanquished the Persians?

Moreover, this textual variant supports one of the points we raised earlier, i.e. the passage may not have the same army or nation in view since it may actually be referring to two different opponents which the Romans would face in battle.

More importantly, how can Abdallah still hold to the Quran being a miracle from Allah in light of these gross textual and exegetical problems?


Appealing to Islamic Sources for Clarification

Abdallah may claim that the answers to these questions are to be found in the Islamic literature, i.e. the Sira and hadiths. But this serves to compound the problems for Abdallah since the moment he goes outside the Quran to demonstrate his case he ends up demonstrating that this so-called prophecy is far from being clear. He will basically be proving that a plain reading of these verses do not support his case since they are so unclear and vague that they can be made to say just about anything.

After all, appealing to secondary sources which were compiled some 100-200 years after the death of Muhammad proves that the Quran is not a complete record and to accurately understand it one needs to consult highly questionable sources; materials which were not written during the time these events allegedly took place.

More importantly, appealing to the Sira and/or hadith sounds the death knell for his entire case since these very sources demonstrate that the Quran contains gross scientific errors. They show that the first Muslims understood these passages in a manner which completely contradicts modern scientific facts and discoveries.

In fact, Abdallah himself attacks and rejects much of the Islamic source materials because they contain embarrassing statements that provide additional evidence that Muhammad was a false prophet (here).

To see some of these embarrassing stories please consult the articles in this section.

Interestingly, Abdallah’s rejection of much of the hadith literature has raised the ire of many Muslims (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).


The English Versions

It is rather intriguing that none of the most commonly read and popular English versions of the Quran translate adna as lowest or al-ardi as the earth. They uniformly render adna as close/near/nearer/nearest (or even as neighboring!) and al-ardi as land respectively:

in the nearer part of the land A.J. Arberry

in a neighboring land N.J. Dawood

In a land close by Y. Ali

In the nearer land Pickthall

in the lands close-by Muhammad Asad

in a nearby land M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

in the neighboring land, F. Malik

In a near land Shakir

In the land nearby Sher Ali

In a near land Maulana Muhammad Ali

in a nearby land Muhammad Sarwar

In a nearer land ‘Abdul Majid Daryabadi

In the nearest land Saheeh International

on the nearest front! T.B. Irving

In the nearest land Rashad Khalifa

in the nighest parts of the land Palmer

in the nearest part of the land Sale

In the neighboring lands! Dr. Munir Munshey (one of Osama Abdallah’s authors!)

Other versions identify this land as the area around Syria and Palestine:

In the nearest land (Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine) Hilali-Khan

In the land nearby (- Syria and Palestine) Amatul Rahman & ‘Abdul Mannan ‘Omar

Osama Abdallah is virtually alone in adopting the translation, in the lowest land on earth, and the reason is rather obvious; his desire to find scientific statements in the Quran leads him to manipulate the verse in order to deceive people into thinking that the Quran contains accurate scientific information.


Some semi-serious grammatical diversions – an excursus

It is rather easy to see how Abdallah manipulates the text in various ways. First, he translates "al-ardi" twice even though it is found only once in the phrase "fee adna al-ardi". He advocates that it means "in the lowest land on earth". It is true that the word "ardi" can mean land or earth, but it is found only once in the phrase and not twice. Most of the above translations say something like "in the nearest land" but not "in the nearest land on earth". So, even if Abdallah prefers "lowest" over "nearest" for adna and "earth" over "land" for ardi, then he would have to render it "in the lowest earth".

This is then clearly connected to the Quranic teaching of the existence of seven earths, one below the other, and the author of the Quran claims that the Romans had descended to the lowest one of the seven earths and had been defeated there. For more details on this aspect of Quranic geography see the article, The Seven Earths.

Moreover, Abdallah makes a big deal about the definite article al-. He claims, "In Arabic, when "el" is added to the noun, it makes the entire statement a generalizing one." That is utter nonsense, both in Arabic and English. The definite article is not a generalization, but a specification. It is narrowing down the meaning. But there is no point in discussing Arabic grammar with people who are absolutely clueless about it. But even those who know little about grammar in general should be able to see that Abdallah then places the definite article before the wrong word. He renders: "in the lowest land on earth", but shouts that "el-ardi" means THE EARTH, he should either render it as "in THE lowest EARTH" (see above), or – if we want to allow him to insert an extra land into his translation – "in a lower (land) on THE EARTH". The definite article is before ardi, not before adna. So, it makes the ardi (earth) specific but not the adna (nearer/lower).

Again, the phrase does not yield the desired meaning. If al-ardi means "the earth" as Abdallah so ardently claims, then the adjective adna cannot mean "the lowest land" because it has neither the definite article nor the word for land coming with it. If it is so important and meaningful that the definite article is before ardi, then it is just as meaningful and important to pay attention to the fact that it is NOT there before adna, i.e. adna is not specific and can only refer to an unspecified instance of several possible "lower lands".

Furthermore, the definite article by itself does not determine whether ardi has to be translated as land or as earth. With or without the definite article, that is determined by the context. The highest mountain or the richest man in the land (e.g., in Saudi Arabia) or on the earth are most probably not the same, but the definite article is there in both cases.

To preserve Osama Abdallah’s nonsense from disappearing, here is one excerpt of what he wrote:

In Arabic, when "el" is added to the noun, it makes the entire statement a generalizing one.  Similar to English, when we say THE EARTH, we are referring to the entire planet. When Allah Almighty Said: في ادنى الارض and added "el" to EARTH before the word ادنى , He clearly and indisputably made the meaning of ادنى to be measured against the entire earth's other areas. في ادنى الارض LITERALLY means in the lowest spot/area on earth.

If "el" was not added to earth, then the meaning of the term would be in the lowest spot of the area. This would limit the term only to the lands near where the battle took place. But since Allah Almighty added "EL" to earth, making it THE EARTH in English, then this makes the term go against the entire earth and not just a limited area.

This is quite an accumulation of nonsense. As remarked above, adding the definite article to a noun is a specification, not a generalization; and that is true in Arabic and in English. That Abdallah is very weak in Arabic is well known, but he is obviously also very weak in English. Putting the definite article before "earth" does not necessarily refer to the whole planet. There are plenty of contexts for which this is wrong. One example should be sufficient. Imagine, you want to fill a deep hole in the ground and have two piles, one of stones/rubble and one of earth (valuable topsoil). First you fill the hole with stones, up to a certain level, and then you may say to your friend: Now bring me the earth. The meaning is clear, and unless his name is Osama Abdallah, he wouldn’t think for even a second that the whole planet is going to fit into that hole. Finally, what is wrong about O. Abdallah’s statement, “When Allah Almighty Said: في ادنى الارض and added "el" to EARTH before the word ادنى ”? Can you see it? The Arabic phrase is transliterated "fee adna al-ardi" and the single Arabic word is "adna". Clearly "al-ardi" (the earth) comes after and not before "adna". Arabic has to be read from right to left, but Osama Abdallah apparently reads Arabic from left to right so that from his perspective "al-ardi" comes before "adna". Although this little factoid is rather inconsequential for the truth or falsity of the argument as a whole, it reveals Abdallah’s ignorance down to the most trivial level.


Al-ardi = the entire earth?

Whatever one may think about the grammar discussions presented above, they are not even needed to expose how wrong Abdallah’s argument is. We simply need to look into the Quran and list a number of passages that use al-ardi:

Remember Moses said to his people: "O my people! Call in remembrance the favour of God unto you, when He produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what He had not given to any other among the peoples. O my people! Enter the holy land (al-arda almuqaddasata) which God hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin." They said: "O Moses! In this land are a people of exceeding strength: Never shall we enter it until they leave it: if (once) they leave, then shall we enter." (But) among (their) God-fearing men were two on whom God had bestowed His grace: They said: "Assault them at the (proper) Gate: when once ye are in, victory will be yours; But on God put your trust if ye have faith." They said: "O Moses! while they remain there, never shall we be able to enter, to the end of time. Go thou, and thy Lord, and fight ye two, while we sit here (and watch)." He said: "O my Lord! I have power only over myself and my brother: so separate us from this rebellious people!" God said: "Therefore will the land be out of their reach for FORTY YEARS: In distraction will they wander through the land (al-ardi): But sorrow thou not over these rebellious people." S. 5:20-26 Y. Ali

And We said to the Children of Israel after him, 'Dwell in the land (al-ardi); and when the promise of the world to come comes to pass, We shall bring you a rabble.' S. 17:104 Arberry

It is obvious that al-ardi here refers to both the desert that Israel wandered through for forty years and to the Promised Land which God swore to give them. It does not refer to the entire earth.

But recite unto them with truth the tale of the two sons of Adam, how they offered each a sacrifice, and it was accepted from the one of them and it was not accepted from the other. (The one) said: I will surely kill thee. (The other) answered: Allah accepteth only from those who ward off (evil). Even if thou stretch out thy hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand against thee to kill thee, lo! I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Lo! I would rather thou shouldst bear the punishment of the sin against me and thine own sin and become one of the owners of the fire. That is the reward of evil-doers. But (the other's) mind imposed on him the killing of his brother, so he slew him and became one of the losers. Then God sent a raven, who scratched the ground (al-ardi), to show him how to hide the shame of his brother. "Woe is me!" said he; "Was I not even able to be as this raven, and to hide the shame of my brother?" then he became full of regrets - S. 5:27-31 Pickhtall

In the above passage, al-ardi refers to a specific part of the ground, not to the entire world, unless Abdallah wants to argue that Cain traveled the entire earth!

And to Thamud (people, We sent) their brother Salih (Saleh). He said: "O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other Ilah (God) but Him. (La ilaha ill-Allah: none has the right to be worshipped but Allah). Indeed there has come to you a clear sign (the miracle of the coming out of a huge shecamel from the midst of a rock) from your Lord. This shecamel of Allah is a sign unto you; so you leave her to graze in Allah's earth, and touch her not with harm, lest a painful torment should seize you. "And remember when He made you successors after 'Ad (people) and gave you habitations in the land (al-ardi), you build for yourselves palaces in plains, and carve out homes in the mountains. So remember the graces (bestowed upon you) from Allah, and do not go about making mischief on the earth." S. 7:73-74 Hilali-Khan

Allah caused the people of the Thamud to inherit al-ardi of the Ad people. It is more than obvious that al-ardi can only mean a specific land in this context since Ad did not live or own the entire earth.

Said the chiefs of Pharaoh's people: "Wilt thou leave Moses and his people, to spread mischief in the land (fee al-ardi), and to abandon thee and thy gods?" He said: "Their male children will we slay; (only) their females will we save alive; and we have over them (power) irresistible." S. 7:127 Y. Ali

(Joseph) said: "Set me over the store-houses of the land (al-ardi): I will indeed guard them, as one that knows (their importance)." S. 12:55 Y. Ali

So Pharaoh sought to drive them out of the land (al-ardi); but we drowned him and all his followers. S. 17:103 Rodwell

Said Pharaoh: "Leave me to slay Moses; and let him call on his Lord! What I fear is lest he should change your religion, or lest he should cause mischief to appear in the land (fee al-ardi)!" S. 40:26 Y. Ali

Al-ardi, in the above texts, is the land of Egypt, not the entire earth.

Speaking to the Muslims during the battle of badr, Muhammad says:

And remember, when ye were few and reckoned feeble in the land (fee al-ardi), and were in fear lest men should extirpate you, how He gave you refuge, and strengthened you with His help, and made provision of good things for you, that haply ye might be thankful. S. 8:26 Pickthall

By al-ardi Muhammad meant the Arabian peninsula, specifically Mecca and Medina, since Muslims hadn’t penetrated the entire world at that time.

But We delivered him and (his nephew) Lut (and directed them) to the land (al-ardi) which We have blessed for the nations. S. 21:71 Y. Ali

Abraham and Lot were brought into al-ardi, which can only be a reference to a specific land, namely the area which they settled in at first.

The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land (fee al-ardi) will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land (mina al-ardi). Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom; S. 5:33 Pickthall

Where does Osama Abdallah suggest that those who fight against Allah should be banished to? If he is convinced that "the land" is a mistranslation for "al-ardi" with the definite article, and the expression must refer to "the Earth", will the Muslim community pay the expense to send these people to Mars? Since this would have been rather difficult during Muhammad’s time, maybe Abdallah would like to turn this verse into another scientific miracle and amazing prophecy about future space travel in order to save his misguided translation of "al-ardi" in S. 30:3?

The foregoing examples clearly show that the definite article does nothing to change the meaning of ardi from land to earth. This is simply Abdallah’s wishful thinking.

Finding only one such passage would already have been sufficient to establish the case, but the large number of such passages in the Quran once again exposes Osama Abdallah’s utter ignorance about his own book. He simply does not even know the basics of what he pretends to be an expert on.


The Exegetes

The translators aren’t the only ones to disagree with Abdallah’s rendering of the Arabic; the Muslim exegetes are also against him on this point:

in the nearer [part of the] land, that is, in the Byzantine land [that lies] NEAREST TO PERSIA in Mesopotamia (al-Jazira). There the two armies met and the Persians were the ones who had begun the invasion. But they, that is the Byzantines, after their vanquishing (ghalabihim: the verbal noun [ghalab] has been annexed to the direct object [hum], in other words, ghalabatu faris iyyahum, 'the Persians' vanquishing of them') shall be the victors, over the Persians, (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

(In the nearer land) CLOSE TO PERSIA and, as a consequence, the believers were aggrieved while the idolaters rejoiced, saying: "We shall defeat the believers just as the Persians defeated the Romans", but then Allah proceeded to mention their victory (and they) i.e. the Romans, (after their defeat) at the hand of the Persians (will be victorious) over the Persians. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Being near or close to Persia can refer to a host of places such as Constantinople (modern day Turkey), which makes more sense than the Dead Sea since this area served as the capital of the eastern part of the Byzantine Empire.

These Ayat were revealed about the victory of Sabur, the king of Persia, over Ash-Sham (Greater Syria), the adjoining partisan states of the Arabian Peninsula, and the outlying regions of the land of the Romans. Heraclius, the emperor of the Romans, was forced to flee to Constantinople where he was besieged for a lengthy period. Then Heraclius regained the upper hand. Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, commented on this Ayah… (Tafsir Ibn Kathir)

… According to Hafiz Ibn Hajar, this war was fought in Syria at a place between Adhru‘at and Busra… (Mufti Shafi Uthmani, Maariful Quran, Volume 6, p. 718; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Again, Syria is not the Dead Sea.

The defeats and victories spoken of above relate to the last phases of the centuries-long struggle between the Byzantine and Persian Empires. During the early years of the seventh century the Persians conquered parts of Syria and Anatolia, "the lands close-by", i.e., near the heartland of the Byzantine umpire; in 613 they took Damascus and in 614, Jerusalem; Egypt fell to them in 615–16, and at the same time they laid siege to Constantinople itself. At the time of the revelation of this surah - about the seventh year before the hijrah, corresponding to 615 or 616 of the Christian era - the total destruction of the Byzantine Empire seemed imminent. The few Muslims around the Prophet were despondent on hearing the news of the utter discomfiture of the Byzantines, who were Christians and, as such, believed in the One God. The pagan Quraysh, on the other hand, sympathized with the Persians who, they thought, would vindicate their own opposition to the One-God idea. When Muhammad enunciated the above Quran-verses predicting a Byzantine victory "within a few years", this prophecy was received with derision by the Quraysh. Now the term bid (commonly rendered as "a few") denotes any number between three and ten; and, as it happened, in 622 – i.e., six or seven years after the Quranic prediction - the tide turned in favour of the Byzantines. In that year, Emperor Heraclius succeeded in defeating the Persians at Issus, south of the Taurus Mountains, and subsequently drove them out of Asia Minor. By 624, he carried the war into Persian territory and thus put the enemy on the defensive: and in the beginning of December, 626, the Persian armies were completely routed by the Byzantines.] And on that day will the believers [too, have cause to] rejoice (5) in God’s succour: [This is a prediction of the battle of Badr, which was to take place eight or nine years later, in the month of Ramadan, 2 H. (corresponding to January, 624, of the Christian era), when the Muslims decisively defeated a very much superior force of pagan Quraysh (see introductory note to surah 8). The expression "on that day" has in this context the meaning of "at the same time", for although the battle of Badr began and ended on one day, the victories of Heraclius over the Persians took some years to materialize. (Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an [Dar Al-Andalus Limited, 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar; rpt. 1993], p. 617: http://www.geocities.com/masad02/021; bold and capital emphasis ours)

3a. The struggle between Persia and the Roman Empire had existed a long time. The great struggle, in which Persia was victorious, began in 602 of the Christian era, when Chosroes II of Persia began war with Rome to avenge the death of Maurice, who was murdered by Phocas. "His armies plundered Syria and Asia Minor, and in 608 advanced to Chalcedon. In 613 and 614 Damascus and Jerusalem were taken by the General Shahabaraz, and the Holy Cross was carried away in triumph…" It was in the year 615 or 616 that this revelation came to the Prophet… (Maulana Muhammad Ali, Holy Qur’an: Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction; source)

Period of Revelation

The period of the revelation of this Surah is determined absolutely by the historical event that has been mentioned at the outset. It says: "The Romans have been vanquished in the neighboring land." In those days the Byzantine occupied territories adjacent to Arabia were Jordan, Syria and Palestine, and in these territories the Romans were completely overpowered by the Iranians in 615 A. D. Therefore, it can be said with absolute certainty that this Surah was sent down in the same year, and this was the year in which the migration to Habash took place...

Heraclius could not stop this storm. The very first news that he received from the East after ascending the throne was that of the Iranian occupation of Antioch. After this Damascus fell in 613 A. D. Then in 614 A.D. the Iranians occupying Jerusalem played havoc with the Christian world. Ninety thousand Christians were massacred and the Holy Sepulcher was desecrated. The Original Cross on which, according to the Christian belief, Jesus had died was seized and carried to Mada'in. The chief priest Zacharia was taken prisoner and all the important churches of the city were destroyed. How puffed up was Khusrau Parvez at this victory can be judged from the letter that he wrote to Heraclius from Jerusalem. He wrote: "From Khusrau, the greatest of all gods, the master of the whole world: To Heraclius, his most wretched and most stupid servant: ‘You say that you have trust in your Lord. Why didn't then your Lord save Jerusalem from me?’"

Within a year after this victory the Iranian armies over-ran Jordan, Palestine and the whole of the Sinai Peninsula, and reached the frontiers of Egypt. In those very days another conflict of a far greater historical consequence was going on in Makkah. The believers in One God, under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah's peace be upon him), were fighting for their existence against the followers of shirk under the command of the chiefs of the Quraish, and the conflict had reached such a stage that in 615 A. D., a substantial number of the Muslims had to leave their homes and take refuge with the Christian kingdom of Habash, which was an ally of the Byzantine Empire. In those days the Sassanid victories against Byzantium were the talk of the town, and the pagans of Makkah were delighted and were taunting the Muslims to the effect: "Look the fire worshipers of Iran are winning victories and the Christian believers in Revelation and Prophethood are being routed everywhere. Likewise, we, the idol worshipers of Arabia, will exterminate you and your religion."

These were the conditions when this Surah of the Quran was sent down, and in it a prediction was made, saying: "The Romans have been vanquished in the neighboring land and within a few years after their defeat, they shall be victorious. And it will be the day when the believers will rejoice in the victory granted by Allah." It contained not one but two predictions: First, the Romans shall be Victorious; and second, the Muslims also shall win a victory at the same time. Apparently, there was not a remote chance of the fulfillment of the either prediction in the next few years… (Syed Abu-Ala’ Maududi’s Chapter Introductions to the Qur'an; source)

The above sources date this particular Surah sometime between 615-616 AD, around the time that the Persians had laid siege to Constantinople, providing additional support that this may in fact be the location which the Quran has in view since it is near Persia.

Finally,

… The defeat, ‘in a land close by’ must refer to Syria and Palestine. Jerusalem was lost in 614-615 A.D., shortly before this sura was revealed. (Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, Translation and Commentary, n. 3505; bold emphasis ours)

Bidh’un in the text means a short period - a period of from three to nine years. The period between the loss OF JERUSALEM (614-15) by the Romans and their victory at Issus (622) was seven years, and that to the penetration of Persia by Heraclius was nine years. (Ibid., n. 3507; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And:

14. Khusrau Parwiz called himself the son of the Emperor Maurice. During his refuge at Constantinople he had married a Byzantine wife. In Nizami’s romance she is known as Maryam. According to some historians she was a daughter of the Emperor Maurice, but Gibbon throws doubt on that relationship. In any case he used the resources of the Persian Empire to fight the usurper Phocas. He invaded the Byzantine Empire in 603. The war between the Persian and the Romans became a national war and continued after the fall of Phocas in 610. The Persians had sweeping victories, and conquered Aleppo, Antioch, and the chief Syrian cities, including Damascus, in 611. Jerusalem fell to their arms in 614-615, just 8 to 7 years before the sacred Hijrat. The city was burnt and pillaged, and the Christians were massacred, the churches were burnt, the burial-place of Christ was itself insulted, and many relics including the ‘true Cross’ on which the Christians believed that Christ had been crucified, were carried away to Persia. The priests of the Persian religion celebrated an exultant triumph over the priests of Christ. In this pillage and massacre the Persians were assisted by a crowd of Jews, who were discontented with the Christian domination, and the Pagan Arabs to whom any opportunity of plunder and destruction was in itself welcome. It is probably this striking event - the victory of the Persians over the Roman Empire - which is referred to Sura XXX (Rum) of the Qur’an... (Ibid., appendix X, pp 1072-1073; bold emphasis ours)

Pay careful attention that none of the above sources mention the Dead Sea as the place where the Romans suffered defeat. The closest we get is Jerusalem which, as we stated earlier, is not the same as the Dead Sea and happens to actually be above sea level. Therefore, Jerusalem IS NOT the lowest point on the earth.

General history agrees with these Muslim commentators that the Romans were defeated by the Persians on many fronts, including Syria, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, but none reports about a decisive battle having taken place at the Dead Sea. Thus, if that verse refers to defeat of the Romans by the Persians, it cannot speak about the Dead Sea.

In conclusion, the assertion that the Quran accurately states that the Dead Sea is the lowest part of the earth is nothing more than a blatant misinterpretation of the passage. This isn’t the only time that Osama Abdallah has duped himself or has been duped by others into embracing such pseudo-science to prove that the Quran is divine in origin:

http://answering-islam.org/Responses/Osama/90feet-adam.htm
http://answering-islam.org/Responses/Osama/360joints.htm
http://answering-islam.org/Responses/Osama/360joints_revisited.htm
http://answering-islam.org/Responses/Osama/hoaxes.htm
http://www.geocities.com/freethoughtmecca/profiles2.html

As it stands, Q. 30:2-4 happens to be one of the most unimpressive prophecies of any religious scripture, one which ended up being a false prophecy since it didn’t pan out as Muhammad predicted.

For a more detailed discussion of the problems posed by Q. 30, and how this actually proves that Muhammad was a false prophet, we recommend the following articles:

http://answering-islam.org/Shamoun/false_prophecies.htm
http://answering-islam.org/Shamoun/incomplete.htm


Appendix

After we had published our above article Osama Abdallah when into damage control mode in order to save face. He produced a rebuttal (*) and also updated his article with additional references so as to convince his readers that the phrase adna al-ardi in Q. 30:2-4 does in fact mean the lowest part of the earth and that this is referring to the Dead Sea.

Here we want to address one aspect of his "response" to show how his recent claims backfire against him.

Osama Abdallah’s Quotes Prove that Muhammad Made a False Prediction

In his arrogant ranting, Abdallah claimed:

3-  As to the timing of the Prophecy, I have destroyed Sam Shamoun's absurd point and proved that the victory happened in less than 9 years, and also showed him the very same quote, "few years," used in his Bible along with "many years" also used in his Bible at: http://www.answering-christianity.com/is_muhammad_true_prophet.htm (Source)

Here, Abdallah boldly asserts that he has "destroyed" my point that Muhammad’s prediction that the Romans would prevail within 3-9 years failed (*). But what makes this rather ironic is that, in his haste to produce another incoherent rebuttal which does more damage to Islam than good, Osama presented a Muslim source which provides further attestation for my position and proves that the Byzantines DID NOT DEFEAT the Persians within the time frame stipulated by the Quran:

These verses were revealed around 620, almost 7 years after the idolatrous Persians had severely defeated Christian Byzantium in 613-14. In fact, Byzantium had suffered such heavy losses that it seemed impossible for it even to survive, let alone be victorious again. Following their defeat of the Byzantines at Antioch in 613, the Persians seized control of Damascus, Cilicia, Tarsus, Armenia, and Jerusalem. The loss of Jerusalem in 614 was particularly traumatic for the Byzantines, for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was destroyed and the Persians seized the "True Cross," the symbol of Christianity. In addition, the Avars, Slavs, and Lombards also were posing serious threats to the Byzantine Empire. The Avars had reached as far as the walls of Constantinople. Emperor Heraclius ordered the gold and silver in churches to be melted and turned into money in order to meet the army's expenses. When this proved insufficient, bronze statues were melted down in order to mint more money. Many governors had revolted against Heraclius, and Byzantium was on the point of collapse. Mesopotamia, Cilicia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Armenia, which had earlier belonged to Byzantium, were invaded by the idolatrous Persians.

In short, everyone was expecting Byzantium to be destroyed. But during this time, the first verses of Surat ar-Rum were revealed, announcing that Byzantium would triumph in 3 to 9 years. This predicted victory seemed so impossible that the Arab polytheists thought it would never come true.

Like all the other predictions in the Qur'an, however, this one also came true. In 622, Heraclius gained a number of victories over the Persians and conquered Armenia. In December 627, the two empires fought a decisive battle at Nineveh, some 50 kilometres east of the Tigris river, near Baghdad. This time too, the Byzantine army defeated the Persians. A few months later, the Persians had to sue for peace with Byzantium, which obliged them to return the territories they had taken from it.

The Byzantine victory WAS COMPLETED when Emperor Heraclius defeated the Persian ruler Khosrow II IN 630, recaptured Jerusalem, and regained the "True Cross" for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In the end, "the victory of the Romans" proclaimed by Allah in the Qur'an miraculously came true within the verses' stated "three to nine years" time frame. (Harun Yahya, Predictions in the Quran; source, also here; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The above Muslim website states that the Byzantines triumphed over the Persians in 630 AD, some fifteen to sixteen years after their defeat by the Persians. Keep in mind that the Muslim sources we quoted dated this "prophecy" between the years 615-616 AD. Note, for instance, the statements of the late Syed Abu-Ala’ Maududi, whom we already quoted in our original article:

Period of Revelation

The period of the revelation of this Surah is determined absolutely by the historical event that has been mentioned at the outset. It says: "The Romans have been vanquished in the neighboring land." In those days the Byzantine occupied territories adjacent to Arabia were Jordan, Syria and Palestine, and in these territories the Romans were completely overpowered by the Iranians in 615 A. D. Therefore, it can be said with absolute certainty that this Surah was sent down in the same year, and this was the year in which the migration to Habash took place. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

This means that it took the Byzantines more than the 3-9 years (i.e. "few years") mentioned in the Quran for their victory, meaning that Muhammad’s prophecy was off by six to seven years which in turn shows that he was a false prophet. This perhaps explains why the above Muslim source (i.e. the author(s) behind the pen name of Harun Yahya) assigned to this Sura the date of 620 AD — a date which virtually no Islamic reference work supports — since this Muslim (group) was apparently aware of the damage an earlier dating poses for Muhammad’s credibility. Yet even this time frame exposes Muhammad as a false prophet since this means that it took the Byzantines ten years, not the predicted 3-9, to completely vanquish the Persians!

In light of the foregoing, we want to thank Osama Abdallah for once again helping us prove that the author of the Quran got it wrong, that the Quran is a false book, and that Muhammad was a false prophet.

Lord Jesus willing, we will be addressing Abdallah’s article where he tries to justify the Quran’s error of referring to a few years on the grounds that the Holy Bible, in a few places, also uses similar language in its discussion of future events.


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