Quran Contradiction

Do They Eat or Not?

Sam Shamoun

The Quran records the unbelievers’ objections to Muhammad’s apostleship on the grounds that he was a mere mortal who ate just like them:

They also say, 'What ails this Messenger that he eats food, and goes in the markets? Why has an angel not been sent down to him, to be a warner with him? S. 25:7 Arberry

The Quran proceeds to respond to the complaint of the unbelievers:

We never sent before thee any messengers but lo! they verily ate food and walked in the markets. And We have appointed some of you a test for others: Will ye be steadfast? And thy Lord is ever Seer. S. 25:20 Pickthall

Other versions read:

And We never sent before you (O Muhammad SAW) any of the Messengers but verily, they ate food and walked in the markets… Hilali-Khan

And We have not sent before you any apostle but they most surely ate food and went about in the markets… Shakir

We did not send any messengers before you who did not eat food and walk in the markets… Khalifa

The response given is that every messenger whom Allah sent was a person who ate food and walked through the market places, so the unbelievers shouldn’t be surprised that Muhammad eats and walks in their markets. This also implies that all the messengers that Allah sent were human beings, just as the following texts make clear:

And We sent not before you (as Messengers) any but men, whom We inspired from among the people of townships. Have they not travelled through the earth and seen what was the end of those who were before them? And verily, the home of the Hereafter is the best for those who fear Allah and obey Him (by abstaining from sins and evil deeds, and by performing righteous good deeds). Do you not then understand? 12:109 Hilali-Khan

And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men, whom We inspired. Ask the followers of the Reminder if ye know not? We gave them not bodies that would not eat food, nor were they immortals. S. 21:7-8 Pickthall

This is the reason why the Quran rebukes the unbelievers for their demand that Allah should have sent angels to speak to them:

And those who look not for a meeting with Us say: Why are angels not sent down unto us and (Why) do we not see our Lord! Assuredly they think too highly of themselves and are scornful with great pride. S. 25:21 Pickthall

When their messengers came unto them from before them and behind them, saying: Worship none but Allah! they said: If our Lord had willed, He surely would have sent down angels (unto us), so lo! we are disbelievers in that wherewith ye have been sent. S. 41:14 Pickthall

Apart from the fact that the Quran expressly states that Allah does raise up messengers from among the angels:

God chooses of the angels Messengers and of mankind; surely God is All-hearing, All-seeing. S. 22:75 Arberry

All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the (only) Originator [or the (only) Creator] of the heavens and the earth, Who made the angels messengers with wings, - two or three or four. He increases in creation what He wills. Verily, Allah is Able to do all things. S. 35:1 Hilali-Khan

Therefore contradicting its claim that all of the messengers before Muhammad were men (here), there are a few additional problems with the Quran’s answer to the unbelievers.

First, is it really the case that all messengers went to the markets? Are we to believe that there were markets in every age, even from the very dawn of human existence? Or is this simply Muhammad’s way of projecting his own experiences back into the lives of the messengers before him in order to make them conform to his life?

In particular, it seems rather unlikely that there were markets at Adam’s time, when he and his wife and their children were the only people on earth.

Second, the Quran records an instance where Allah sent messengers who refused to eat food:

Our messengers came to Abraham with the good tidings; they said, 'Peace!' 'Peace,' he said; and presently he brought a roasted calf. And when he saw their hands not reaching towards it, he was suspicious of them and conceived a fear of them. They said, 'Fear not; we have been sent to the people of Lot.' S. 11:69-70 Arberry

Has the story reached you, of the honoured guests [three angels; Jibrael (Gabriel) along with another two] of Ibrahim (Abraham)? When they came in to him, and said, "Salam, (peace be upon you)!" He answered; "Salam, (peace be upon you)," and said: "You are a people unknown to me," Then he turned to his household, so brought out a roasted calf [as the property of Ibrahim (Abraham) was mainly cows]. And placed it before them, (saying): "Will you not eat?" Then he conceived a fear of them (when they ate not). They said: "Fear not." And they gave him glad tidings of an intelligent son, having knowledge (about Allah and His religion of True Monotheism). Then his wife came forward with a loud voice, she smote her face, and said: "A barren old woman!" They said: "Even so says your Lord. Verily, He is the All-Wise, the All-Knower." [Ibrahim (Abraham)] said: "Then for what purpose you have come, O Messengers?" S. 51:24-31 Hilali-Khan

This story is a garbled version of Genesis 18 where three men appeared to Abraham. More on this below.

As can be gleaned by the Hilali-Khan version, Muslim expositors take these visitors to be angels of God. The refusal of these messengers to eat food has led Muslim exegetes to conclude that angels do not eat food. Note, for instance, what this commentary states:

(And when he saw their hands reached not to it) to his food, because they had no need for it, (he mistrusted them and conceived a fear of them) thinking they were thieves, since they did not touch his food. When the angels knew of his fear. (They said: Fear not!) O Abraham. (Lo! we are sent unto the folk of Lot) to destroy them. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source)

Renowned Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir wrote in reference to Q. 11:69-70:

<and conceived a fear of them.> This is because angels are not concerned with food. They do not desire it, nor do they eat it. Therefore, when Ibrahim saw them reject the food that he had brought them, without tasting any of it at all, he felt a mistrust of them. (Bold and underline emphasis ours)

Hence, the Quran provides an example of certain messengers, believed to be angels, who did not eat food, contradicting its claim to the unbelievers that all messengers were human beings who necessarily ate.

Moreover, this version of the story contradicts the older biblical account which states that three men visited Abraham with one of them being God who was accompanied by two of his angels, and that all three of them actually ate the food that Abraham gave them!

"The Lord appeared to Abraham at the sacred trees of Mamre. As Abraham was sitting at the entrance of his tent during the hottest part of the day, he looked up and saw three men standing there. As soon as he saw them, he ran out to meet them. Bowing down wit h his face touching the ground, he said, ‘Sirs, please do not pass by my home without stopping; I am here to serve you. Let me bring some water for you to wash your feet; you can rest here beneath this tree. I will also bring a bit of food; it will give you strength to continue your journey. You have honoured me by coming to my home, so let me serve you.’ They replied, ‘Thank you; we accept.’ Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, ‘Quick, take a sack of your best flour, and bake some bread.’ Then he ran to the herd and picked out a calf that was tender and fat, and gave it to a servant, who hurried to get it ready. He took some cream, some milk, and the meat, and set the food before the men. There under the tree he served them himself, AND THEY ATEThen the Lord said to Abraham, ‘There are terrible accusations against Sodom and Gomorrah, and their sin is very great. I must go down to find out whether or not the accusations which I have heard are true.’ Then the TWO MEN left and went on towards Sodom, but the Lord remained with Abraham… After he had finished speaking with Abraham, the Lord went away, and Abraham returned home." Genesis 18:1-8, 20-22, 33 Good News Bible

"When the two angels came to Sodom that evening, Lot was sitting at the city gate. As soon as he saw them, he got up and went to meet them. He bowed down before them and said, ‘Sirs, I am here to serve you. Please come to my house. You can wash your feet and stay the night. In the morning you can get up early and go on your way.’ But they answered, ‘No, we will spend the night here in the city square.’ He kept on urging them, and finally they went with him to his house. Lot ordered his servants to bake some bread and prepare a fine meal for the guests. When it was ready, THEY ATE IT." Genesis 19:1-3 Good News Bible

Thus, the Quran not only contradicts itself but also the previous scriptures of God’s prophets and messengers.

Further Reading


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