The Quran Affirms:

Paul Passed On The True Gospel of Christ

Sam Shamoun

It may come as a surprise to some to hear that the Quran implicitly affirms that the teachings of the Apostle Paul, which has become the foundation of Christianity, are derived from Christ. In other words, the Quran indirectly testifies that Paul’s theology wasn’t something that he simply concocted in order to win converts from the Gentiles, but came from God through Christ.

Before presenting the evidence, we would first like to clarify our reasons for appealing to the Quran. We do not believe that the Quran is God’s Word. However, we do believe that the Quran is an early record of what the first Muslims believed. As such, the Quran becomes an important source of information for discovering the official beliefs of the first Muslims.

In light of this, it bears repeating that the Quran testifies that the Christianity proclaimed by Paul (i.e., "Pauline" Christianity) is true Christianity.

We base our position on the Quranic claim that Christ’s true believers would prevail over the unbelievers till the Day of Resurrection:

Behold! Allah said: "O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee SUPERIOR to those who reject faith, TO THE DAY OF RESURRECTION: Then shall ye all return unto Me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute." S. 3:55

O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of Allah: as said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, "Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah?" Said the Disciples, "We are Allah's helpers!" then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: But We gave power to those who believed against their enemies, AND THEY BECAME THE ONES THAT PREVAILED. S. 61:14

According to these passages, Allah gave Christ’s followers the power to prevail over the disbelievers, and made them superior till the day of resurrection. Yet the ones that prevailed were the Apostles such as Paul, as well as his followers. This means that if the Quran is correct, then Paul’s message is the truth since it has become dominant and has prevailed over all other opposing messages.

Sayyid Qutb comments on S. 3:55:

... It was also the will of God to elevate the followers of Jesus above the unbelievers until the Day of Resurrection ...

It is not difficult, on the other hand, to explain God’s statement that He had placed those who follow Jesus above the unbelievers, and that this elevation continues until the Day of Resurrection. Those who follow Jesus are the ones who believe in God’s true religion, Islam, or surrender to God. Every prophet is fully aware of the true nature of this religion. Every messenger preached the same religion and everyone who truly believes in the Divine faith believes in it. These believers are indeed far superior to the unbelievers according to God’s measure, and they will continue to be so until the Day of Judgement. Moreover, they prove their superiority in our practical life every time they confront the forces of un-faith with the true nature of faith and the reality of following God’s messengers. The Divine faith is one, as preached by Jesus, son of Mary, as preached by every messenger sent before him and by the messenger sent after him. Those who follow Muhammad at the same time follow all the messengers sent by God, starting with Adam until the last messenger. (In the Shade of the Qur’an - Fi Zilal al-Qur’an, Volume 2, Surah 3, translated and edited by Adil Salahi & Ashur Shamis [The Islamic Foundation, 2000], pp. 97-98)

The problem with Qutb’s claim is that the Christian believers that prevailed over all were not Muslims and their message certainly wasn’t Islam. Hence, either the true followers of Christ were vanquished, thus falsifying the Quran which says that they would dominate. Or, the Quran is false since it contradicts the true message of Christ’s followers.

In response to a question regarding 3:55, Moiz Amjad writes:

This verse relates to the law relating to the messengers of God. As a punishment on the rejecters of Jesus (pbuh), the Qur'an has mentioned that at the time of the God's decision relating to the termination of Jesus' (pbuh) mission, God declared that after him those who believe in Jesus (pbuh) will dominate those who rejected him (i.e., the Jews) till the Day of Judgment. In the referred verse, those who believed in Jesus (pbuh) refers to the Christians. It is clear that even today, the Jewish collectivity is completely dependant upon Christian collectivities for even maintaining their existence. (Source; bold emphasis ours)

Maulana Muhammad Ali writes regarding S. 3:55:

... This verse contains four promises relating to Jesus’ triumph over his enemies as against their plans ... And the fourth promise is that those who follow Jesus shall be made dominant over his rejectors till the day of Judgment. The truth of this fourth prophecy is witnessed TO THIS DAY in the dominance of the Christians over the Jews. (Ali, Holy Quran [Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha'at Islam Lahore Inc. USA, 1995], pp. 147-148, fn. 439; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Here are his statements regarding S. 61:14:

... The description applies to the triumph of the teachings of Christ over those who opposed the dissemination of his teachings, and speaks prophetically of the ultimate triumph of Islam over all other religions of the world. (Ibid., p. 1058, fn. 2501; bold emphasis ours)

Ali fails to mention that the teachings that dominated were those passed on by Paul (which is actually the same message preached by Christ and the other disciples)!

A. Yusuf Ali, in his translation The Holy Qur’an - Text and Commentary, p. 1543, footnote 5448, states:

A portion of the Children of Israel - the ones that really cared for Truth - believed in Jesus and followed his guidance. But the greater portion of them were hard-hearted, and remained in their beaten track of formalism and false racial pride. The majority seemed at first to have the upper hand when they thought they had crucified Jesus and killed his Message. But they were soon brought to their senses. Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus in A.D. 70 and the Jews have been scattered ever since. "The Wandering Jew" has become a bye-word in many literatures. On the other hand, those who followed Jesus PERMEATED the Roman Empire, brought many new races within their circle, and through the Roman Empire, Christianity became the predominant religion of the world until the advent of Islam ... (bold and capital emphasis ours)

What this Ali failed to note is that the form of Christianity that permeated the Roman Empire is what Muslims degradingly call "Pauline" Christianity. Hence, that Paul’s message dominated is a sign that his Gospel was that which God entrusted to Christ’s true followers. If it were argued that Paul’s version of Christianity is an aberration of the truth, this then means that the Quran is wrong for claiming that God had caused Christ’s true followers to prevail. It would mean that Paul was able to thwart Allah’s purposes, being able to prevent the true believers from dominating over their enemies.

Here are the late S. Abu Al’a Maududi’s comments on S. 61:14:

... Those who disbelieved in Jesus Christ are the Jews, and those who believed him are the Christians as well as the Muslims, and Allah granted them domination over the disbelievers of Christ. This is meant to requires [sic] the Muslims that just as the believers of Christ have dominated over his disbelievers in the past, so will the believers of the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be Allah’s peace) prevail over disbelievers. (Meaning of the Qur’an, Volume V, english rendering by A.A. Kamal, M.A. [Islamic Publications (Pvt.) Limited, 13-E, Shahalam Market, Lahore-8 Pakistan], p. 516, fn. 21; underline emphasis ours)

As we had noted earlier, the obvious problem with Maududi’s explanation is that the message of Christ’s true believers directly contradicts the message of Islam. That is, unless one wants to claim that Christ’s true message got distorted and a false message prevailed over it, a claim which then contradicts the plain reading of the passages in question.

As Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, while commenting on the last part of S. 61:14, states:

... (and neither the Messenger NOR THE MESSAGE could be destroyed). (Tafsir-Ul-Qur’an Translation and Commentary of the Holy Qur’an, Volume IV [Darul-Ishaat Urdu Bazar, Karachi-1, Pakistan; First edition: 1991], p. 356, fn. 270; capital emphasis ours)

Again, if "Pauline" Christianity is a corruption of Jesus’ true teachings then the message was destroyed and Allah failed to bring to pass what he said would happen!

Noted Muslim commentator Ibn Kathir’s statements are most interesting. Commenting on S. 3:55, he writes:

"This is what happened. When Allah raised ‘Isa to heaven, his followers divided into sects and groups. Some of them believed in what Allah sent ‘Isa as, a servant of Allah, His Messenger, and the son of His female-servant.

However, some of them went to the extreme over ‘Isa, believing that he was the son of Allah. Some of them said that ‘Isa was Allah Himself, while others said that he was one of a Trinity. Allah mentioned these false creeds in the Qur’an and refuted them. The Christians remained like this until the third century CE, when a Greek king called, Constantine, became a Christian for the purpose of destroying Christianity. Constantine was either a philosopher, or he was just plain ignorant. Constantine changed the religion of ‘Isa by adding to it and deleting from it. He established the rituals of Christianity and the so-called Great Trust which is in fact the Great Treachery. He also allowed them to eat the meat of swine, changed the direction of the prayer that ‘Isa established to the east, built churches for ‘Isa, and added ten days to the fast as compensation for a sin that he committed, as claimed. So the religion of ‘Isa became the religion of Constantine, who built more than twelve thousand churches, temples and monasteries for the Christians as well as the city that bears his name, Constantinople (Istanbul). THROUGHOUT THIS TIME, the Christians had the upper hand and dominated the Jews. ALLAH AIDED THEM AGAINST THE JEWS BECAUSE THEY USED TO BE CLOSER TO THE TRUTH THAN THE JEWS, even though both groups were and still are disbelievers, may Allah’s curse descend on them." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged), Volume 2, Parts 3, 4, & 5 (Surat Al-Baqarah, Verse 253, to Surat An-Nisa, Verse 147), abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors Riyadh, Houston, New York, Lahore; First Edition: March 2000], p. 171; bold and capital emphasis ours; cf. online edition)

Ibn Kathir’s explanation doesn’t solve the problem since if the Quran is correct then the Christianity that Ibn Kathir attacks is indeed the truth. Otherwise, Ibn Kathir’s comments imply that Allah either allowed a false form of Christianity to prevail, or failed to grant Christ’s true believers dominance over those seeking to pervert the true teachings of Christ!

Another renowned commentary, Al-Qurtubi, says of Surah 61:14:

It was said that THIS VERSE was revealed about the apostles of Jesus, may peace and blessing be upon him. Ibn Ishaq stated that of the apostles and disciples that Jesus sent (to preach) there were Peter AND PAUL who went to Rome; Andrew and Matthew who went to the land of the cannibals; Thomas who went to Babel in the eastern lands; Philip who went to Africa; John went to Dac-sos(?) which is the tribe to whom the sleepers of the cave belonged; Jacob went to Jerusalem; Bartholomew went to the lands of Arabia, specifically Al-Hijaz; Simon who went to the Barbarians; Judas and Barthas(?) who went to Alexandria and its surrounding regions.

Allah supported them (the apostles) with evidence so that they prevailed (thahirin) meaning they became the party with the upper hand. Just as it is said, "An object appeared on the wall" meaning it is clearly visible (alu-wat) on the wall. Allah, who is glorified and exalted, knows the truth better and to Him is the return and retreat. (Source; translated into English by Dimitrius, bold and capital emphasis ours)

Notice how al-Qurtubi had no qualms in admitting that Paul was a legitimate follower of Christ! If al-Qurtubi is correct, then this means that Paul was one of the followers whom God gave the power to overcome the unbelievers and prevail!

This next writer, a moderate, makes the following rather candid admission in reference to 3:54 and 61:14 (comments within brackets [] will be ours):

Christian readers especially will be interested to learn that the Koran teaches that Jesus was God's best prophet, and that Christians will be placed above non-believers until the Day of Judgment. Does it surprise you to learn that the Koran may have been intended for Christians, to confirm all that they had been taught by Christ? (Dr. Nader Pourhassan, The Corruption of Moslem Minds [Barbed Wire Publishers, Las Cruces, New Mexico 2002], pp. 61-62)

The first time I read this verse [3:54] in the Koran, I could hardly believe my eyes. Even today, any Moslem I discuss this verse with is shocked. In the Koran, God tells all Moslems that the followers of Jesus will be exalted above the disbelievers until the Day of Resurrection. While there are some verses in the Koran that promise the world to the Moslem people if they follow its teachings, these are followed up with predictions that they will disobey their holy book, and not uphold its commands. God's prediction that the Christians will succeed in doing so is even clearer in the following verse [author then cites 61:14] ..." (Ibid., pp. 103-104)

Most Moslems obtain their understanding of the Koran from the interpretations of their religious leaders. Few ever question what they are told to believe. But the holy book contains many messages that might shock them from their complacency. For example, in the Koran there is a verse saying [quotes 3:54] ...

The above verse says very simply that Christians will be above non-believers until the resurrection. Moreover, the Koran states:

"Do not falter and feel saddened since you are superior, if you are believers."

The most reasonable conclusion to this is that among all believers, whether they are Jews, Christians, or Moslems, only one group will be above the non-believers and only one group will be superior. That group will be comprised of the believers who are the followers of Jesus (Christians)... (Ibid., p. 119)

Hence, Muslims are in a dilemma that they cannot easily resolve. Namely, to accept the Quran is to accept "Pauline" Christianity. Yet to accept "Pauline" Christianity is to reject the Quran, since the Quran contradicts the core teaching of Paul as has been preserved in the pages of the Holy Bible and amongst true Christians historically.

A Muslim may wish to argue that these verses refer to Muhammad and the Muslims as those who truly believe in Christ and dominate till the Resurrection Day. This explanation fails to resolve the issue. The passages do not say that Christ’s followers would only prevail from the time of Muhammad’s advent, but from the time that Christ was taken to God and unto the Day of Resurrection.

In fact, this Muslim view can be found in the commentary of the late Mufti Shafi' Uthmani who wrote regarding Surah 61:14:

Baghawi interprets this verse in the light of a narration of Sayyidna Ibn 'Abbas that when Prophet 'Isa was raised to the heaven, his followers disagreed and became three groups. A group claimed that He was Himself God who went back to the heaven. The second group claimed that He Himself was not God, but God's son. God lifted him up and salvaged him from the enemies and granted him superiority. The third group proclaimed the truth and said that he was neither god nor the son of god, but that he was Allah's servant and His messenger. Allah took him away to the heaven and to protect him from the enemies, and to raise his status. Those people were the true believers. Different sectors of the general public attached themselves to each one of these groups. The groups clashed with one another. The two of the non-believing groups overpowered the third group, which was a group of true believers. Eventually, Allah raised the Final Messenger of Allah who supported the group of the true believers. This group thus dominated the others because of their correct belief and its solid proofs confirmed by the Qur'an. [Mazhari].

In this interpretation, the phrase ... "those who believed [14]" would refer to the Ummah of the Prophet 'Isa who would triumph against the unbelievers with the help and support of the Final Messenger. [Mazhari]. Some scholars hold that when Prophet 'Isa was raised to heaven, his followers were divided into two groups. One of them believed that he was God or God's son and thus they became polytheists. The other group believed that he was servant of Allah and His Messenger, and thus they stuck to the right religion. Then there was a war between the believers and the unbelievers. Allah GRANTED VICTORY to the believing faction of Prophet 'Isa against the unbelieving faction. But it is popularly understood that in the religion of Prophet 'Isa the institution of jihad did not exist. Therefore, it is inconceivable that believers would have waged a war. [Ruh-ul-Ma'ani]. However, it is possible that the unbelieving Christians might have started the war and the believing Christians were forced to defend themselves. This will not fall under the category of war. (Uthmani, Maariful Quran, Volume 8, pp. 443-444; source; capital and underline emphasis ours)

We already noted the problem with this explanation, but it bears repeating: the text of Sura 61:14 does not say that Jesus' true followers would prevail only at the time of Muhammad, but that they were clearly given the victory over the unbelievers from the very start. This means that the second interpretation proposed by the Mufti is the sounder one (even though this also has serious historical problems). Moreover, although we agree with the Mufti that Jesus never commanded jihad for his followers, his comments are in direct conflict with the Quran which claims that Allah did command Christians to observe jihad in the Gospel:

Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties; for the price that theirs shall be the Paradise. They fight in Allah's Cause, so they kill (others) and are killed. It is a promise in truth which is binding on Him in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) and the Qur'an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain which you have concluded. That is the supreme success. S. 9:111 Hilali-Khan

Be that as it may, it is quite apparent from the Mufti's comments that Muslims really had a hard time trying to reconcile the Quran with the historical fact that the Christianity that has prevailed till this day is that which Paul taught and which is recorded in the pages of the NT!

This is perhaps why men such as Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Kathir, al-Tabari, al-Qurtubi, and al-Thalabi could view Paul in such a positive light. They seemingly realized that Paul had a tremendous influence in the growth and spread of Christianity, and had been sovereignly used by God as his instrument of domination over the unbelievers (see the article The Apostles of Christ: Messengers of God or Mere Disciples?).

To summarize the Islamic evidence, we discovered that

Yet, these factors introduce the following problems for the Muslims:

This concludes our paper. We pray that our risen Lord and immortal Savior will use this to bring precious Muslims into his glorious love and truth. Amen. Come Lord Jesus, come. We will always love you by God’s all powerful, sovereign grace.

See also: Sura 61:14 and Church History.

Articles by Sam Shamoun
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