Allah’s Oaths

Sam Shamoun

The following has been adapted, modified, and enlarged from some of my papers and responses, specifically from these two: Is Allah the God of the Bible?, Allah of Islam, Is He Yahweh God of the Bible?

We decided that it would be better to present this topic separately, as opposed to having it buried in our more lengthy discussions and rebuttals.

Our subject deals with Yahweh, Allah, and oath making. According to God’s true Word, the Holy Bible, Yahweh only swears and takes oaths in his own name. The reason why Yahweh does this is because there is no one, or nothing, greater for him to swear by. Please note carefully the following statements from the Word of God:

"and said, ‘By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son,’" Genesis 22:16

"I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow…" Isaiah 45:23

"The LORD has sworn by His right hand and by His strong arm, ‘I will never again give your grain as food for your enemies; Nor will foreigners drink your new wine for which you have labored.’" Isaiah 62:8

"I swear by Myself, says the LORD." Jeremiah 22:5

"But hear the word of the LORD, all Jews living in Egypt: ‘I swear by my great name,’ says the LORD, ‘that no one from Judah living anywhere in Egypt will ever again invoke my name or swear, "As surely as the Sovereign LORD lives."’" Jeremiah 44:26

"For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself." Hebrews 6:13

"For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute." Hebrews 6:16

The consistent example set forth in the Scriptures is that believers swear and take their oaths in God’s name:

"Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, ‘Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.’" Genesis 24:1-4

"Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, "This is what the LORD has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth." Numbers 30:1-2ff.

"Swear to me therefore by the LORD that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father's house." 1 Samuel 24:21

Cf. Genesis 21:23-24; Joshua 2:12, 23:7; 1 Samuel 30:15; 2 Samuel 19:7; 1 Kings 2:42; Psalm 63:11; Jeremiah 12:16; Amos 8:14; Zephaniah 1:5

Scriptures also warn against swearing by other gods:

"Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them," Joshua 23:7

Since we live in a fallen age where everything is not perfect, people often swear by other things besides Yahweh. Yet the next passages envision a time where all peoples shall swear by the name of Yahweh alone:

"By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; BY ME EVERY TONGUE WILL SWEAR." Isaiah 45:23

"Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes." Isaiah 65:16

The Lord Jesus specifically says that to swear by anything other than God is evil or from Satan:

"Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil." Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus’ reference to heaven as God’s throne and to the earth as his footstool shows that these terms are used in connection with the extent of God’s rule, i.e. that God sovereignly rules and controls all of creation. Jesus is basically saying that a person should not swear by anything within heaven and earth, by anything that is part of the kingdom and dominion of God.

We know that the Lord Jesus’ statement was not a prohibition of all oaths and swearing, since there are other NT references where many swore and took oaths in God’s name:

"After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow." Acts 18:18

"‘Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.’ Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them." Acts 21:23-26

"For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you." Romans 1:9-10

"But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth." 2 Corinthians 1:23

"I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit," Romans 9:1

"(Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.)" Galatians 1:20

"And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay," Revelation 10:5-6

Jesus’ statement clearly meant that a person should not swear by anything besides God; and even then it is better for a person to simply say yes or no since one may fail to do the thing that one has vowed to do in God’s name, thereby bringing God’s curse upon oneself:

"Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words. When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear." Ecclesiastes 5:2-7

"But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation." James 5:12

Putting it another way, Jesus was warning his followers from being careless and nonchalant about making oaths, preventing them from profaning God’s holiness by failing to fulfill any oath they make take in the Lord’s name.

Thus, the overall example and teaching of the Holy Bible is that persons are to swear in the name of God alone.

Before we proceed any further we want to address the issue of why people swear at all, why do persons swear by appealing to God? The purpose for swearing by God, or in God’s name, is to call him as our witness and the judge of our honesty and sincerity in what we are saying. The implication is that if I am lying, or if I am not keeping my word, then God may hold me accountable and punish me. I.e. this is attributing superhuman knowledge (knowing my thoughts and heart) and power (to punish) to the one we are swearing by. Thus, properly speaking only Deity can actually be appealed to for the guarantee of my intentions and thoughts. Therefore it is blatant idolatry, or to introduce a different term, deification, to use the name of anything else besides God in swearing.

Regarding Islamic law (shariah), it too sees this very point and views the swearing by anything besides Allah as idolatry, or the sin of shirk (associating partners with Allah). The Muslim scholar Ibn Qayyim al-Jauziyyah wrote regarding this very issue:

… An exclusive right for Allah, such as vowing, for example, should not be given to anyone or thing, except Allah alone. The Messenger of Allah, … said, … "He who intends to swear, let him swear by Allah or keep silent." He, ... also said, … "He who swears by other than Allah, will have committed Shirk." (Ibn Qayyim al-Jauziyyah, Zad-ul Ma'ad fi Hadyi Khairi-l 'Ibad [Provisions for the Hereafter Taken From the Guidance of Allah's Best Worshipper], translated by Jalal Abualrub, edited by Alaa Mencke & Shaheed M. Ali [Madinah Publishers & Distributors, Orlando Florida; First edition, October 2001], Volume 4, p. 320)

Islamic narrations (ahadith) quote Muhammad as saying:

Narrated 'Umar:
The Prophet said, "If anybody has to take an oath, he should swear ONLY by Allah." The people of Quraish used to swear by their fathers, but the Prophet said, "Do not swear by your fathers." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 177)

Narrated Ibn 'Umar:
Allah's Apostle met 'Umar bin Al-Khattab while the latter was going with a group of camel-riders, and he was swearing by his father. The Prophet said, "Lo! Allah forbids you to swear by your fathers, so whoever has to take an oath, he should swear by Allah or keep quiet." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 78, Number 641)

Narrated AbuHurayrah:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Do not swear by your fathers, or by your mothers, or by rivals to Allah; and swear by Allah ONLY, and swear by Allah only when you are speaking the truth. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 21, Number 3242)

With the foregoing behind us we can now turn to the Quran. Within the Muslim scripture we find the repeated claim that Allah is the same God worshiped by the biblical prophets. The Quran even exhorts Jews and Christians to acknowledge that the Muslims worship the very same Deity. All Quranic citations taken from Shakir’s translation, unless noted otherwise:

Say: Do you dispute with us about Allah, and He is our Lord and your Lord, and we shall have our deeds and you shall have your deeds, and we are sincere to Him. S. 2:139

And do not dispute with the followers of the Book except by what is best, except those of them who act unjustly, and say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our God and your God is One, and to Him do we submit. S. 29:46

Since the Quran claims that its god is the same God of the Holy Bible we would expect to find them being in agreement regarding the issue of oath making.

In fact, the Quran, much like the Holy Bible, provides plenty of examples of Allah making oaths and swearing to do something. It is therefore not surprising to discover that in one set of oath making and swearing passages, the speaker, whom Muslims believe is Allah, swears by the Lord or by Allah:

And they will not - I swear by thy Lord - they will not believe, until they have set thee up as judge between them on points where they differ. Then shall they not find in their own minds any difficulty in thy decisions, and shall submit with entire submission. S. 4:65 Rodwell

And I swear by thy Lord, we will surely gather together them and the Satans: then will we set them on their knees round Hell: S. 19:68 Rodwell

"[Abraham supposedly says] I swear by GOD, I have a plan to deal with your statues, as soon as you leave." S. 21:57 Khalifa

By the Lord then of the heaven and of the earth, I swear that this is the truth, even as ye speak yourselves. S. 51:23 Rodwell

But nay! I swear by the Lord of the Easts and the Wests that We are certainly able S. 70:40

These passages are somewhat perplexing. Since it is believed that Allah is the one speaking, with the exception of 21:57, this means that Allah is either addressing himself in the third person or is referring to someone other than himself. It may even imply that Allah is multipersonal, that Allah exists as a plurality of divine persons, which means that one of the persons is addressing the other(s) as Lord, God etc. Or it maybe the human author of the Quran, perhaps even an angel, who is speaking in these passages. Now we obviously do not believe that God authored the Quran, or that one of God’s appointed angels gave Muhammad the inspiration. We only bring up these points for a Muslim to consider and decide.

Whatever the case may be, and in whatever manner a Muslim decides to resolve this, the swearing by God is consistent with the Bible’s teaching that Yahweh swears only to and by himself.

But here is where the similarities end and the major differences begin. There is a multitude of other Quranic references where the speaker swears by a host of other things, i.e. Muhammad, the Quran, the stars, humanity etc. Here are most, if not all, of these oath-making passages:

Verily, by thy life (O Prophet), in their wild intoxication, they wander in distraction, to and fro. S. 15:72 Y. Ali

I swear by the Quran full of wisdom S. 36:2

I swear by those who draw themselves out in ranks S. 37:1

Suad, I swear by the Quran, full of admonition. S. 38:1

I swear by the Book that makes things clear: S. 43:2

I swear by the Book that makes manifest (the truth). S. 44:2

Qaf. I swear by the glorious Quran (that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah) S. 50:1

I swear by the wind that scatters far and wide, S. 51:1

I swear by the heaven full of ways. S. 51:7

I swear by the Mountain, S. 52:1

I swear by the star when it goes down. S. 53:1

But nay! I swear by the falling of stars; S. 56:75

Noon. I swear by the pen and what the angels write, S. 68:1

But nay! I swear by that which you see, S. 69:38

Nay; I swear by the moon, S. 74:32

Nay! I swear by the day of resurrection. Nay, I swear by the self accusing soul, that the Day of Judgment is a certainty. S. 75:1-2

I swear by the emissary winds, sent one after another (for men's benefit), S. 77:1

Then I swear by the angels who bring down the revelation, S. 77:5

I swear by the angels who violently pull out the souls of the wicked, S. 79:1

But nay! I swear by the stars, S. 81:15

But nay! I swear by the sunset redness, S. 84:16

I swear by the mansions of the stars, S. 85:1

I swear by the heaven and the comer by night; S. 86:1

I swear by the rain-giving heavens, S. 86:11

I swear by the daybreak, S. 89:1

Nay! I swear by this city. S. 90:1

I swear by the sun and its brilliance, S. 91:1

I swear by the night when it draws a veil, S. 92:1

I swear by the fig and the olive, and mount Sinai, And this city made secure, S. 95:1-3

I swear by the runners breathing pantingly, S. 100:1

I swear by the time, S. 103:1

These references are quite damaging for the Muslim position for at least two reasons. In the first place, these texts show that Allah cannot be the same as Yahweh God. Yahweh swears only by himself since there is none greater, Allah swears by a host of inferior things and beings. Second, from the biblical perspective the swearing by other things besides God becomes an act of deification, elevating inferior creatures to the same level of greatness as God. After all, the reason why Yahweh swears by himself is because there is nothing greater than him, which means that swearing by things other than God implies that those other things are on the same level of greatness as Yahweh. It makes these other objects just as great, just as exalted, as the infinitely great and holy God. Allah is thereby making creation his equal, turning finite creatures into fellow gods who are comparable to him in greatness.

Muslims may wish to say that the Bible’s teaching isn’t normative for them, that the teachings of the Holy Bible do not determine what is correct or incorrect for the followers of Islam. This response ignores the passages we had cited earlier, namely, that Muslims supposedly worship the same God of the biblical prophets. Again, consider these references:

The same did Abraham enjoin upon his sons, and also Jacob, (saying): O my sons! Lo! Allah hath chosen for you the (true) religion; therefore die not save as men who have surrendered (unto Him). Or were ye present when death came to Jacob, when he said unto his sons: What will ye worship after me? They said: We shall worship thy God, the God of thy fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac, One God, and unto Him we have surrendered. S. 2:132-133 Pickthall

And strive in the cause of ALLAH as it behoves you to strive for it. HE has chosen you and has laid no hardship upon you in the matter of religion; so follow the faith of your father Abraham; HE has named you Muslims both before and in this Book, so that the Messenger may be a witness over you, and you may be witnesses over mankind. Therefore observe Prayer and pay the Zakaat, and hold fast to ALLAH. HE is your Protector and an Excellent Protector and an Excellent Helper! S. 22:78 Sher Ali

It also ignores the Quran’s teaching that Muhammad followed the same guidance given to the prophets before him:

And that is OUR argument which WE gave to Abraham against his people. WE exalt in decrees of rank whomso WE please. Thy Lord is indeed Wise, All-Knowing. And WE gave him Isaac and Jacob; each did WE guide aright, and Noah did WE guide aright aforetime, and of his progeny, David and Solomon and Job and Joseph and Moses and Aaron. Thus do WE reward those who do good. And WE guided Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias; each one of them was of the righteous. And WE also guided Ishmael and Elisha and Jonah and Lot! and each one of them did WE exalt above the people. And WE exalted some of their fathers and their children and their brethren, and WE chose them and WE guided them in the straight path. That is the guidance of ALLAH. HE guides thereby those of HIS servants whom HE pleases. And if they had worshiped aught beside HIM, surely all they did would have been of no avail to them. It is to these whom WE gave the Book and dominion and Prophethood. But if they are ungrateful for these favours it matters not, for WE have now entrusted them to a people who are not ungrateful for them. These it is whom ALLAH guide aright, so follow thou their guidance. Say, `I ask not of you any reward for it. This is naught but an admonition for all mankind.' S. 6:83-90 Sher Ali

The hadiths provide an exegesis, an explanation, of the above passage:

Narrated Mujahid:
That he asked Ibn 'Abbas, "Is there a prostration in Surat-al-Sad?" (38.24) Ibn 'Abbas said, "Yes," and then recited: "We gave ... So follow their guidance." (6.85,90) Then he said, "He (David) is one them (i.e. those prophets)." Mujahid narrated: I asked Ibn 'Abbas (regarding the above Verse). He said, "Your Prophet (Muhammad) was one of those who were ordered to follow them." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 156)

Since Muhammad was commanded to follow the guidance, the example, the teachings of the prophets before him then his own teachings must be uniform with the previous revelation; especially in the matters of the nature and attributes of God, i.e. theology proper. God’s essence and qualities are immutable, i.e. they never change or cease to be, which means that the Quran’s theology must be consistent with the previous revelation if it indeed comes from the same God of the Holy Bible.

Muslims may want to also raise the issue of Bible corruption, that these biblical references are corrupted. Apart from the fact that Muslims have no conclusive and convincing evidence to support such a position, it is apparent that those Muslims who would even posit this theory haven’t pondered this matter seriously. If the Muslims are correct then this means that copyists and scribes corrupted the text so as to give God even greater glory, exalting him even higher than the Quran exalts Allah!

There is a further problem with Allah swearing by things other than himself. Swearing by something that is less than myself, I am actually weakening the value of my statement. An oath is supposed to increase the weight or seriousness of what I say, but if I swear by something less than myself, I am decreasing the weight of my claim. In case people do not want to see these Quranic oaths as deification, or shirk, they still have a problem since the value of the oath is connected with the value of the entity that is appealed to. If one does not want to agree that an oath by the fig (S. 95:1) elevates the fig to a position of deity (shirk), then one has the opposite effect that the value of the oath is decreased to the value of the fig. Does that then mean Allah is not serious? Is he even joking? Perhaps Allah never intended to keep his oaths when swearing by all these other things? After all, his statements and promises are accompanied by oaths to trivial things, not to himself.

This aspect becomes even more serious when we see that the Quran is quite emphatic about the fact that Allah can create and destroy anything he wants:

If it were His will, He could destroy you, o mankind, and create another race; for He hath power this to do. S. 4:133 Y. Ali

Do you not see that Allah created the heavens and the earth with truth? If He please He will take you off and bring a new creation, and this is not difficult for Allah. S. 14:19-20

If HE please, HE could destroy you, and bring a new creation instead. S. 35:16 Sher Ali

In particular he could destroy without effort what others may consider divine:

They indeed have disbelieved who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. Say: Who then can do aught against Allah, if He had willed to destroy the Messiah son of Mary, and his mother and everyone on earth? Allah's is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. He createth what He will. And Allah is Able to do all things. S. 5:17 Pickthall

If he swears by things such as the moon or stars, and yet he can easily make these objects disappear, what then is the value of that oath? If anything in the created order depends for its very existence on the will of Allah to sustain it, and he emphasizes that he can just as well destroy them, does there remain any confidence that he will fulfill his promises? In what way would such an "oath" be binding?

To swear or not to swear, that is the question –
A Translation Problem in the Quran

We finish our discussion by comparing how several different translations render specific passages dealing with oath making. In several places, Quranic translators are not in agreement as to how to translate the Arabic text, whether the texts in question are saying that Allah does swear by these specific objects or he doesn’t. A comparison of these versions will help bring this point out more clearly.

Sura 56:75

Nay, I swear by the places of the stars – Pickthall

Furthermore I call to witness the setting of the Stars, - Y. Ali

But nay! I swear by the falling of stars; Shakir

Nay, I cite as proof the shooting of the stars – Sher Ali

NAY, I call to witness the coming-down in parts [of this Quran] Muhammad Asad

I do not need to swear by the setting of the stars Muhammad Sarwar

I swear by the positions of the stars. Khalifa

No! I swear by the fallings of the stars Arberry

I swear by the shelter of the stars N.J. Dawood

So I will not swear by the positions of the stars; Palmer

It needs not that I swear by the setting of the stars, Rodwell

Moreover I swear by the setting of the stars; Sale

Sura 69:38

But nay! I swear by all that ye see Pickthall

So I do call to witness what ye see, Y. Ali

But nay! I swear by that which you see, Shakir

But nay, I swear by that which you see, Sher Ali

BUT NAY! I call to witness an that you can see, Asad

I do not need to swear by what you see Sarwar

I swear by what you see. Khalifa

No! I swear by that you see Arberry

I swear by all that you can see Dawood

I need not swear by what ye see Palmer

It needs not that I swear by what ye see, Rodwell

I swear by that which ye see, Sale

Sura 70:40

But nay! I swear by the Lord of the rising-places and the setting-places of the planets that We verily are Able Pickthall

Now I do call to witness the Lord of all points in the East and the West that We can certainly – Y. Ali

But nay! I swear by the Lord of the Easts and the Wests that We are certainly able Shakir

But nay! I swear by the Lord of the Easts and of the Wests that WE have the power Sher Ali

But nay! I call to witness [Our being] the Sustainer of all the points of sunrise and sunset Asad

I do not need to swear by the Lord of the eastern and western regions that We have certainly all the power Sarwar

I solemnly swear by the Lord of the easts and the wests; we are able - Khalifa

No! I swear by the Lord of the Easts and Wests, surely We are able Arberry

I swear by the Lord of the East and the West that We have the power Dawood

And I need not swear by the Lord of the easts and the wests; verily, we are able Palmer

It needs not that I swear by the Lord of the East and of the West that we have power. Rodwell

I swear by the Lord of the east and of the west, that we are able to [destroy them], Sale

Sura 75:1-2

Nay, I swear by the Day of Resurrection; Nay, I swear by the accusing soul (that this Scripture is true). Pickthall

I do call to witness the Resurrection Day; And I do call to witness the self-reproaching spirit: (Eschew Evil). Y. Ali

Nay! I swear by the day of resurrection. Nay! I swear by the self-accusing soul. Shakir

Nay, I swear by the Day of Resurrection. Nay, I swear by the self accusing soul, that the Day of Judgment is a certainty. Sher Ali

NAY! I call to witness the Day of Resurrection! But nay! I call to witness the accusing voice of man's own conscience! Asad

I swear by the Day of Resurrection and by the self accusing soul (that you will certainly be resurrected) Sarwar

I swear by the Day of Resurrection. And I swear by the blaming soul. Khalifa

No! I swear by the Day of Resurrection. No! I swear by the reproachful soul. Arberry

I SWEAR by the Day of Resurrection, and by the self-reproaching soul! Dawood

I need not swear by the resurrection day! Nor need I swear by the self-accusing soul! Palmer

It needeth not that I swear by the day of the RESURRECTION, Or that I swear by the self-accusing soul. Rodwell

Verily I swear by the day of resurrection; and I swear by the soul which accuseth [itself]: Sale

Sura 81:15

Oh, but I call to witness the planets, Pickthall

So verily I call to witness the planets - that recede, Y. Ali

But nay! I swear by the stars, Shakir

Nay! I call to witness those that recede while advancing, Sher Ali

BUT NAY! I call to witness the revolving stars, Asad

I do not need to swear by the orbiting Sarwar

I solemnly swear by the galaxies. Khalifa

No! I swear by the slinkers, Arberry

I swear by the turning planets, Dawood

I need not swear by the stars that slink back, Palmer

It needs not that I swear by the stars of retrograde motions Rodwell

Verily I swear by the stars which are retrograde, Sale

Sura 84:16

Oh, I swear by the afterglow of sunset, Pickthall

So I do call to witness the ruddy glow of Sunset; Y. Ali

But nay! I swear by the sunset redness, Shakir

But nay! I call to witness the glow of sunset, Sher Ali

BUT NAY! I call to witness the sunset's [fleeting] afterglow, Asad

I do not need to swear by the sunset, Sarwar

I solemnly swear by the rosy dusk. Khalifa

No! I swear by the twilight Arberry

I swear by the glow of sunset; Dawood

I need not swear by the evening glow, Palmer

It needs not therefore that I swear by the sunset redness, Rodwell

Wherefore I swear by the redness of the sky after sun-set, Sale

Sura 90:1

Nay, I swear by this city – Pickthall

I do call to witness this City; - Y. Ali

Nay! I swear by this city. Shakir

Nay, I cite as witness this City – Sher Ali

NAY! I call to witness this land – Asad

I do not (need to) swear by this town (Mecca) Sarwar

I solemnly swear by this town. Khalifa

No! I swear by this land, Arberry

I swear by this city Dawood

I need not swear by the Lord of this land, Palmer

I NEED not to swear by this SOIL, Rodwell

I swear by this territory, Sale

Notice the mass confusion. Some versions either have Allah not swearing by the objects in question, taking the no as a negation that he does; or the negation is in reference to something other than the objects, i.e. that Allah is saying no to either an objection, statement, or practice, perhaps even to specific individuals. Certain other versions drop the negation altogether!

Appealing to the Arabic doesn’t really help since all these versions are translations of the Arabic text. This means that it is the Arabic which is difficult to understand and/or translate into English. If a Muslim decides to provide what he/she thinks is the most accurate rendering this wouldn’t solve the issue. It would simply be just one more Muslim understanding of the text, another fallible attempt of telling us what he/she thinks the Arabic is saying at this point. And why would that particular rendering be any more reliable than the host of other versions out there? It wouldn’t since it would be nothing more than one other person’s understanding which is being passed off as more reliable.

Articles by Sam Shamoun
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