Who are those messengers that were rejected by Noah's people?

Examining some Muslim responses

Jochen Katz

Since the Bible does not know of any other messengers contemporary to Noah, and the Qur'an also speaks only in the singular in all other passages dealing with the time and story of Noah (cf. this list), I had asked nearly fifteen years ago (*) who are those other messengers supposed to be which the Qur'an alleges to have been rejected by the people of Noah according to these two verses:

And the people of Noah, -
when they rejected the messengers,
we drowned them,
and we made them as a sign for mankind; ... Sura 25:37

The people of Noah rejected the messengers. Sura 26:105

Prompted by Osama Abdallah's recent article on the topic (see below), the purpose of this article is to examine a number of different attempts made by Muslims in order to resolve this problem.

Some classical commentators write:

And, mention, the people of Noah, when they denied the messengers, in denying Noah — it is as though he were many messengers given the length of time he remained among them; or [it is thus expressed in the plural] because to deny him is [equivalent] to denying all the other messengers, for they all came with the same [Message concerning] affirmation of God’s Oneness — ... (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, source; underline emphasis mine)

And when the people of Nuh denied him, Allah destroyed them likewise, for whoever denies one Messenger denies all the Messengers, because there is no difference between one Messenger and another. If it had so happened that Allah had sent all His Messengers to them, they would have denied them all. Allah says: ... (And Nuh's people, when they denied the Messengers,) although Allah sent only Nuh to them, and he stayed among them for 950 years, calling them to Allah and warning them of His punishment, ... (And none believed with him, except a few) (11:40). For this reason Allah drowned them all and left no one among the sons of Adam alive on earth apart from those who boarded the boat, ... (and We made them a sign for mankind.) meaning a lesson to be learned. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir on S. 25:37; source 1, 2; underline emphasis mine)

Here Allah tells us about His servant and Messenger Nuh, peace be upon him, who was the first Messenger sent by Allah to the people of earth after they started to worship idols. Allah sent him to forbid that and to warn people of the consequences of idol worship. But his people belied him and continued their evil practice of worshipping idols besides Allah. Allah revealed that their disbelieving in him was akin to disbelieving in all the Messengers, So Allah said: ... (The people of Nuh belied the Messengers. When their brother Nuh said to them: "Will you not have Taqwa") meaning, ‘do you not fear Allah when you worship others instead of Him’ (Tafsir Ibn Kathir on S. 26:105; source; underline emphasis mine)

These commentators agree with the Bible (and the rest of the Qur'an) that there was only one messenger, Noah. There were no other messengers during his time. And they try to offer two rather unsatisfactory attempts to explain away the plural "messengers" that is found in the Qur'an at these two places.

The appeal to the length of time that Noah lived with his people (which constitutes another problem for the Qur'an, see the article on Noah's Age) does not work. John the Baptist or Jesus had a very short ministry (less than three years) while the ministry of Moses or Muhammad as prophets (true or false) lasted forty years and 22 years respectively, but the Qur'an never speaks of messengers in the plural for the time of Muhammad even though his "ministry" lasted seven or eight times as long as that of Jesus. This is a desperate attempt to justify the plural. Noah was one man, and the length of his life did not turn him into several people. Nor did he suffer from a multiple personality disorder.

The other explanation does not have much credibility either. Nowhere in the Qur'an does Noah mention other (future) messengers. The people of Noah did not even know that there would ever be any other messengers. How then could they deny them? Noah was the first genuine messenger, i.e. all other messengers would only come long after him. It makes no sense to say that people denied and rejected something or someone who had not even appeared yet.

I consider these two explanations a sign of desparation. The commentators agree that there was only one messenger, but they don't really know what to do with the plural. They offer two attempts of explanation because none of them is actually satisfactory. But two weak attempts do not add up to make one strong answer.

Osama Abdallah, a non-orthodox modern Muslim apologist, gave the following (first) answer in 1999:

For Noble Verse 25:37 and 26:105 above, the apostles before Noah peace be upon him were Abraham (see 19:46), Shuayb (11:91), and Salih (11:61-66) peace be upon all of them.

Mr. Katz wrote: "Were the other messengers drowned as well?"

The answer is, no they did not drown as well. Allah Almighty drowned the people of Noah at the time of Prophet Noah peace be upon him. Allah Almighty said in 25:37 that since the people of Noah insisted on rejected Allah's message from the previous revelations sent to them by Abraham, Shuayb and Salih, and on top of that still rejecting the revelation that came to Noah, then it was time for them to all die and vanish.

Allah Almighty gave the people whom he drowned plenty of revelations and apostles to direct them to the right path of Allah Almighty, but these people kept failing and failing to accept the truth. Their time had ended when Noah came with the last revelation of Allah Almighty to them. (Source; bold emphasis mine; update: Abdallah deleted this article on 6 May 2009 after the publication of my rebuttal article.)

Abdallah's answer is a combination of gross ignorance with a certain measure of common sense. Although the author of the Qur'an often messes up the sequence of other messengers (e.g. in S. 4:163, 6:83-87, etc.) and mixes and merges quite a few distinct historical events reported in the Bible (see these articles), Muhammad knew at least that Noah lived (long) before Abraham (S. 4:163; 6:83-84; 37:79-83), and whenever both names appear together in the same verse of the Qur'an, Noah is always mentioned before Abraham (e.g. 3:33; 4:163; 9:70; 19:58; 33:7; 42:13; 57:26). Even in the hadith, Muhammad sticks to that sequence (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). In fact, these linked hadiths all say (with some variation in wording) that Noah was the first messenger of God [e.g. "Adam will reply, ‘I am not fit for this undertaking’, and will remember his sin, and will say, ‘Go to Noah, the first Apostle sent by Allah’" (*)]. In Islam, Adam is usually considered the first prophet since Allah spoke to him, but Noah is the first messenger, a fact that is stated on hundreds of Muslim webpages (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.). Osama Abdallah is grossly ignorant – even of his own faith.

Moreover, even if Noah had not been the first messenger, and Abraham, Shuayb and Salih had actually been messengers before Noah's time, on what basis does Abdallah assume that they were sent to the same people? That is merely an unsubstantiated claim for which he has not provided the slightest shred of evidence.

The only reason to refer to this (first) answer by Osama Abdallah is that he at least saw that people can only reject what they know about, i.e. people can only reject past messengers and messages that have already been delivered. The explanation proposed by Ibn Kathir and Al-Jalalayn that S. 25:37 and 26:105 speak of a (hypothetical or extrapolated) rejection of future messengers whom the people of Noah never encountered is simply too far-fetched. So, Abdallah "made sense of it" by transferring some messengers of Allah into the time before Noah and declared them to have been sent to the same people.

Two modern translators of the Qur'an decided to go a different way. They chose to twist the text of their translation of S. 25:37 in order to hide the problem:

The nation of Noah, We drowned them when they belied their Messenger, and made of them a sign to the nation. For the harmdoers We have prepared a painful punishment (Qaribullah, source)

And [think of] the people of Noah: when they gave the lie to [one of] the apostles, We caused them to drown, and made them a symbol for all mankind: for, grievous suffering have We readied for all who [knowingly] do wrong! (Muhammad Asad)

Qaribullah simply ignores the plural and translates as if there is a singular in the text. Asad makes the problem disappear by adding a parenthetical "one of" into the text which is not there in the Arabic. Nevertheless, Asad and Qaribullah agree that there was only one messenger. Otherwise, they would not have tried to corrupt the text to bring it in line with the truth. Nothing more needs to be said on the solution of these two "defenders of the Qur'an".

Finally, coming to the main reason for writing this article, I want to examine Osama Abdallah's more recent, second explanation, published on 3 April 2009. Perhaps he was not quite satisfied with his earlier one so that he invested some effort to come up with another, different "solution"? He writes:

How many Messengers did the people of Noah reject? Wasn't there only one Prophet - Noah?

[025:037] And the people of Noah,- when they rejected the apostles (messengers), We drowned them, and We made them as a Sign for mankind; and We have prepared for (all) wrong-doers a grievous Penalty;-

In Arabic, rasool means a messenger. He may not necessarily have to be a Messenger from Allah Almighty. He could very well be a mere missionary, and since Noah, peace be upon him, lived among his people for 950 years, then it is quite possible that he had messengers of his sent to different people and tribes to warn them about the great flood: ...

As to the second part of the question, above, yes, there was only one Prophet sent to the people of Noah, and that was Prophet Noah, peace be upon him, himself. (Source; underline emphasis mine)

Several comments are in order here. First, Abdallah should be awarded some extra points for creativity. As far as I know, he has constructed an explanation that is genuinely new. None of the classical commentators ever proposed that idea. (And we will see why in a minute.) Second, I am glad Abdallah still agrees with all the other Muslims quoted above that Noah was indeed the only one sent by Allah directly. During his time, Noah was the only prophet (4:163; 33:7) or messenger (7:61, 26:107) in that sense. But since Abdallah agrees with this, he also needs to find some way to get around the problem of the plural in S. 25:37 (and 26:105). Third, Abdallah's move of striking out "apostles" in Yusuf Ali's translation and replacing it with "messengers" has no effect at all since these words are synonyms.[1] Most Muslim translations use the word "messengers" in this verse, and the word "messenger" whenever the Arabic Qur'an uses "rasul" to refer to Muhammad or other messengers of Allah. Fourth, the alleged length of Noah's prophethood is no argument. Abdallah's claim that "it is quite possible that he had messengers of his sent to different people and tribes" could be made whether Noah had been a messenger for five years, twenty years, a hundred years or 950 years. Abdallah has not explained why a long duration of prophethood implies that Noah sent out messengers. One could just as well argue the opposite, since this long time means that Noah was not in a hurry and he could easily visit all those people and tribes which Allah intended to be warned.

Fifth, Abdallah's solution is mere speculation. Nothing even remotely hinting at such an understanding is mentioned in the Qur'an, neither in this verse nor anywhere else. On the contrary, even though the Qur'an speaks of a number of prophets / messengers who are contemporaries — e.g. Abraham and Lot, Abraham and Isaac and Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob, Jacob and Joseph, Moses and Aaron, Samuel and David, David and Solomon,[2] John and Jesus — but each one of them is still directly commissioned by Allah. They are not messengers of each other. The Qur'an does not provide even one example of a messenger or prophet of Allah who has been sending out others (i.e. some of his followers) to spread the message further, and where these followers are then also given the title "messengers". Osama Abdallah has simply no quranic basis for his argument. In Appendix 1, I will present yet another strong reason against Abdallah's interpretation which is based on the story of Jesus as presented in the Qur'an.

Sixth, an analysis of the way the Qur'an uses the word "rasul" speaks against Abdallah's interpretation. It is true, "rasul" is a generic word, existing in Arabic before and apart from the Qur'an (e.g. for political messengers). However, that is not the issue. The crucial question is, how does the Qur'an use this word? In the Qur'an, it appears only two times[3] in its generic sense: (a) S. 12:50 speaks of a messengers sent by the king of Egypt to Joseph, and (b) S. 27:35 speaks of the Queen of Sheba sending messengers (envoys) to King Solomon but each time the context makes it absolutely clear what kind of messengers these were by explicitly stating who sent them. The word rasul is used more than a two hundred times[4] in the Qur'an and it always refers to a messenger of God, except in these two instances when its meaning is unambiguously clear from the context. Recognizing that this word is used basically ONLY for messengers of God, one needs to have good supporting evidence when one wants to interpret it otherwise in a specific verse. No such evidence is available in this case.

Seventh, the word for messengers does not stand alone. It is part of a formulaic expression. The expression "rejected the messenger(s)" appears many times in the Qur'an (5:70; 6:34; 7:101; 10:74; 12:110; 15:80; 23:44; 25:37; 26:105, 123, 141, 160, 176; 29:18; 34:45; 35:4, 25; 50:14). It is a formula that always refers to the messengers of Allah, not merely envoys sent by humans.

Eighth, the immediate context of S. 25:37 speaks of the destruction of those who reject the messengers of Allah: S. 25:30-34 speaks of the fate of those who reject Muhammad, the rasul (25:30) and the Qur'an, 25:35-36 about Moses and Aaron being sent to those who reject Allah's revelation and about their destruction, 25:37 about the drowning of Noah's people for their rejection of the messengers, 25:38-39 about the destruction of 'Ad and Thamud for their rejection of Allah's signs, 25:40 about the destruction of a town by fatal rain (i.e. Sodom, the city that prophet Lot was allegedly sent to), and from verse 41 onwards it speaks again about those who reject Muhammad. It is unnatural to assume that the messengers in 25:37 are not supposed to be messengers of Allah. It would break the pattern of this passage.

Ninth, Abdallah's interpretation is in direct contradiction with the text since S. 25:37 and 26:105 both say that the people of Noah, not other people or tribes, rejected these messengers and were then drowned for their rejection (25:37). It makes no sense to say that these were messengers sent to other people, but the people of Noah rejected them and were drowned for rejecting messengers that were not even sent to them. No, throughout the Qur'an, the messengers are always rejected by those to whom they were sent.

Tenth, Abdallah's interpretation does too much. It separates Noah and the messengers and puts them in different categories. But the consequence then is that the people of Noah were ultimately drowned for rejecting "messengers sent by Noah" instead of being judged for rejecting Noah, the messenger sent by Allah. That doesn't sound quite right, does it?

Eleventh, there are two verses that speak of "messengers" in the plural in connection with Noah. S. 25:37 is a "stand alone" verse (Noah is not mentioned in this sura again) so that the immediate context doesn't help us much to understand what may be meant by "messengers". However, Sura 26 has a whole section on Noah, telling his story in S. 26:105-122 (click and read!). If we want to know what S. 26:105 means, we only need to read on. Verse 105 is not adding information to 106-122 but is the abstract or summary title to this section, and the verses following vs. 105 then expound on it and explain what actually happened.

From 26:106 to the end, it only talks about one messenger, Noah. There are no other messengers than Noah (unless Osama Abdallah wants to claim that "When their brother Noah said unto them" (26:106) means that Noah spoke to those other messengers). And the nail in the coffin of Abdallah's theory comes in S. 26:117, where Noah prays, "O my Lord! truly my people have rejected me." Or does Abdallah want to claim that he knows better than Noah and this really needs to be understood as "my Lord, my people have denied me by denying the messengers I have sent to them"? No, the whole section is about Noah and nobody else.

No wonder, az-Zamakhshari simply says, "messengers means Noah", and Muqatil agrees: "‘denied the messengers’ means Noah only". And the other commentators which were quoted at the beginning agree as well, only that they tried to give a justification or explanation why the Qur'an uses the plural even though there is merely one messenger.

For good measure, here are a couple of other well-known Muslim commentaries (translation from the Arabic original for all of the following by Bassam Khoury):

He [the author of the Qur'an] means Noah, who was the first messenger, and he is the one intended by the plural. (Ibn A'ashwor, al-tahreer wa al-tanweer, (1/4592); Arabic source)

means the messenger, [since] whoever denies one messenger has denied all messengers, that is why it is in plural. (Al-Baghawy, 5/431; Arabic source)

They denied Noah alone, but Noah came to them with the true religion which is the same one all messengers came with; so by denying him they denied all. (Sayyid Qutb, In the Shade of the Qur'an, 5/318; Arabic source)

Though they had rejected only one Messenger, it amounted to rejecting all the messengers because all of them had brought one and the same message from Allah. (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an, footnote on S. 26:105; source)

They all agree, there was only Noah, and Noah is intended with this statement, though some of them claim that their denial of Noah (alone) is an implicit denial of all messengers.[5] After all, they need to somehow justify the plural in the text of the Qur'an.

In conclusion, Abdallah's novel explanation – that S. 25:37 (and 26:105) refers to messengers which were sent out by Noah – is exceedingly unlikely and out of sync with the Qur'an as a whole. This also explains why we were not able to find even one classical (or even respected modern) commentator who as much as mentioned such an idea, let alone supporting it. Both the immediate and the wider context of the Qur'an are against it.

Even more, Muhammad explicitly said:

I have been given five things which were not given to any one else before me. ... Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only, but I have been sent to all mankind. (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 7, Number 331, Book 8, Number 429, Sahih Muslim, Book 4, Number 1058)

If Muhammad is right, then Noah was sent with his message exclusively to his own people. Does Abdallah's hypothesis not mean Noah would have been disobedient to Allah by sending out messengers to other people without having the command of Allah to do so? Taking the message given for Noah's people to other people it was not intended for? Does Osama Abdallah know better than all the classical commentators of the Qur'an and even better than Muhammad himself what Noah allegedly did?

Finally, when Muhammad sent out messengers, they were not simply called "rasul" without any additional qualification. After all, the rasul was Muhammad! The Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs, for example, calls al-Fihri "rasul rasul Allah" (i.e. "the messenger of the messenger of Allah"), which is then translated into English as "the emissary of Allah's messenger" (*). This way, no confusion with Muhammad or any other messenger of Allah can arise.

The problem remains: There was only one messenger, but the Qur'an twice uses the plural. This is a clear error, despite the valiant efforts of various commentators to expand the rejection of one messenger by claiming that it equals the rejection of all messengers.

More problems

What is more, Abdallah's explanation does not only go against the pattern of the Qur'an, it doesn't solve the associated contradiction that S. 21:76 and 37:77 claim that only Noah's family / descendants were saved. In his first "solution" Abdallah had avoided that problem by claiming that those other messengers were messengers of God before Noah (and no longer alive in Noah's time). But now that in his second answer the messengers are contemporary to Noah, this issue comes back. Did those other messengers drown in the flood together with the unbelievers who rejected them?

Not only does Abdallah's second "solution" not deal with the just mentioned old problem (*), it even creates some new problems and contradictions.

Noah could only send messengers to different peoples and tribes if there existed other people groups at the time. Now, the Qur'an clearly teaches that all mankind descended from Adam. So, they were one people at the beginning. When did they diversify into different nations and language groups according to Islam? Was that already before the time of Noah, or only after Noah? [Though not immediately relevant to this discussion of contradictions in the Qur'an, according to the Bible, humanity only separated into different language groups long after the time of Noah, see Genesis 11.] Does the Qur'an teach that at Noah's time there were already several distinct nations on earth, or was there only one people group on earth,[6] "the people of Noah"?

If all of mankind was still only one people group, then Noah can't send messengers to other people groups. Then we could add this observation as number twelve in the above list of reasons why Abdallah's solution doesn't work. But for argument's sake, let's assume that there were several distinct people groups already at the time of Noah, i.e. there were "the people of Noah", and then other people which were not part of the people of Noah. This will then lead to a number of further contradictions in the Qur'an.

Given that Noah was the first messenger, and there were no other messengers of Allah before the Flood, and assuming that there existed in Noah's time other people groups than "the people of Noah", what is Osama Abdallah going to do with the following verses?

And WE shall never punish until WE have sent a Messenger. S. 17:15 Sher Ali

And verily We have raised in every nation a messenger, (proclaiming): Serve Allah and shun false gods. ... S. 16:36 Pickthall; cf. 10:47

And never did thy Lord destroy the townships, till He had raised up in their mother(-town) a messenger reciting unto them Our revelations. S. 28:59 Pickthall

How can these other people be punished by drowning in the Flood when they did not receive a messenger sent by Allah? These verses are very clear that these have to be messengers sent by Allah, not by others, even if those others might be messengers themselves.

So, to avoid this contradiction, Abdallah has then to claim that the Flood did not drown them so that they can still have a chance to receive a messenger from Allah later on. This will lead to at least two problems. First, the classical commentators are quite unanimous that the Flood was universal, covering the whole earth, i.e. everyone was drowned apart from those people in the Ark, see the article Does the Quran Teach a Local Flood? Otherwise, what would be the point to say in the story of Noah and the Flood, "and made his seed the survivors" (37:77), when actually most people on the earth survived that Flood, except Noah's immediate neighbors?

Moreover, what would be the purpose of investing all that effort to build this huge ark to save Noah, his family and a pair from every animal species (11:40; 23:27), if the Flood was local, the animal world was therefore not in any danger of extinction, and God could simply have said to Noah to emigrate to another country, or to flee into the mountains, since his area would soon be flooded? Furthermore, the Qur'an says that after the waters of the Flood subsided, the ark came to rest on a (high) mountain, called Al-Judi. In other words, even the mountains were covered by the Flood. This implies that the Flood was universal.

Second problem: where will these later messengers for these people come from when Allah restricted the prophetic line to the descendants of Noah?

And We verily sent Noah and Abraham and placed the prophethood and the scripture among their seed, and among them there is he who goeth right, but many of them are evil-livers. S. 57:26 Pickhall

When the quranic principle is that each people got their own messenger from amongst themselves:

And for every nation there is a messenger. And when their messenger cometh (on the Day of Judgment) it will be judged between them fairly, and they will not be wronged. S. 10:47 Pickthall

And verily We have raised in every nation a messenger, ... S. 16:36 Pickthall

And We have sent no Messenger save with the tongue of his people, that he might make all clear to them; ... S. 14:4 Arberry

S. 14:4 states that messengers are only sent with their own language, which implies that they are only sent to their own people, see Allah, his messengers, and their language.

Again, if the quranic principle is that all messengers are sent to their own people, and that the prophethood is restricted to the descendants of Noah, then these other people at the time of Noah have no chance to ever have their own messenger from Allah, contradicting S. 16:36. People not related to Noah cannot have messengers that are descendants of Noah, since they are not part of these people.

Osama Abdallah's assumption leads to so many additional problems that he is well-advised to give up on his speculative theory. But then we are back to square one: Who are those messengers (plural) which were rejected by the people of Noah?

Abdallah contradicts himself

The two "solutions" proposed by Abdallah are highly contradictory. Since there are about ten years between these two articles and Abdallah wrote probably more than a thousand other articles in the meantime, one could have wondered whether he had simply forgotten his earlier "solution" when he proposed this second one. However, Abdallah made sure to cross-link the two, recommending in each of these articles the other one:

Please visit: How many Messengers did the people of Noah reject?  Wasn't there only one Prophet - Noah?
(How many messengers were sent to Noah's people?, source, accessed 22 April 2009; this article was published in 1999, the above link was added with the publication of the second article on 3 April 2009; update: this page was deleted by Abdallah on 6 May 2009 after the publication of this present article)

Please visit the following related articles: ...
(How many Messengers did the people of Noah reject? Wasn't there only one Prophet - Noah?, source, published 3 April 2009; update: this particular link was deleted by Abdallah on 6 May 2009)

In other words, this is not accidental due to forgetfulness, but Osama Abdallah deliberately promotes two contradictory interpretations, claiming that the messengers mentioned in S. 25:37 are:

(1) earlier      messengers  sent by Allah  to  the people of Noah
(2) contemporary messengers  sent by Noah   to  other people

... which merely confirms that logic and consistency is not what one should expect from Osama Abdallah. By recommending two contradictory explanations (and maybe more in the future), does he want to say that each reader can choose which "solution" he likes best? My question to Abdallah would be: Which of these explanations do you yourself believe in? Or do you really believe that both can be true at the same time? Or could it be that Abdallah doesn't believe either one of them because he doesn't care too much about what is true, as long as he finds something/anything that looks like a defense of the Qur'an and can therefore justify for himself and others that he remains a Muslim?

Abdallah's "hotfix"

I have to pay one compliment to Osama Abdallah: He reacted fast. Just a few hours after the publication of this present article (on the evening of 30 April 2009), Abdallah made considerable changes to his second explanation (but without supplying any hint as to what made him update his article nor providing a link to this discussion). Muhammad once said,

None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah hath power over all things? S. 2:106

For Abdallah this verse should be reformulated slightly: "Whenever we abrogate our speculations (in hope of making them soon forgotten), we replace them with something similarly confused or even worse. Knowest thou not that Abdallah hath power over such things?" Anyway, Osama Abdallah replaced his baseless speculation with another one just like it (during the night hours from 30 April to 1 May 2009), in which he opts for promoting both of the above outlined contradictory statements in the same breath ("... and reason has no power over him!"). Abdallah's new argument will be examined in detail in Appendix 2 (below) so that the main part of this article does not become too long and too cumbersome to read.

An Arabic Grammar Issue

Although S. 26:105 is such a short verse, Muhammad managed to include into it more than one problem. It is not only the word "messengers" in the plural that troubled the commentators, but also the fact that the gender of subject and verb are not in agreement. Here is a transliteration of 26:105 and the first part of S. 25:37.

26:105 Kaththabat qawmu      noohin    almursaleena 
       Rejected   the people of Noah   the messengers

25:37  Waqawma        noohin  lamma kaththaboo    alrrusula 
       And the people of Noah when  they rejected the messengers, ...

This is the problem: the word qawm (people) is masculine singular. In 25:37 the verb kaththaboo is past tense, masculine plural. In 26:105 the verb kaththabat is past tense, feminine singular but should have been masculine in order to correspond to the subject. In the classical tafsir we find these comments:

... (the feminine [person of the verb kadhdhabat, ‘denied’, governed by] qawm, ‘the people’, is on account of the import, but it is masculine on account of its [morphological] form) (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; underline emphasis mine)

Al-Baidhawi, az-Zamakhshari, and ar-Razi say: "Al-qawm" (people) is feminine.

Al-Qurtubi says: "Al-qawm" is masculine but he uses the feminine form [of the verb] because it [i.e. al-qawm] means "his group" and group (Arabic: jamaa'h) is feminine.

Ash-Shawkani says: it came in the feminine form because "Qawm" means group or nation or tribe and all of those [words] are feminine.

Clearly, the Muslim scholars are confused. Some say the word is masculine [after all, it appears in more than 100 verses in the Qur'an, and is nearly always treated as masculine there], others say it is feminine. Some seemingly claim that qawm here means or stands for a different word, e.g. group or tribe or nation, and those are feminine words and "qawm" borrows its gender from one of those. Does that mean Allah's vocabulary contains transvestite words that are masculine but dress up as feminine occasionally? Whatever the case, all these scholars saw a grammar problem here and they were trying to solve it, but none of them gives a satisfactory answer; all we got are various assertions.

It is left to the reader to make up his mind whether he wants to believe any of this, or acknowledge that there is indeed a grammatical problem here, in addition to the content problem that was the main topic of discussion in this article.

Appendix 1: Jesus' Disciples and Osama Abdallah's ‘messengers of Noah’

As indicated above, the Qur'an does not provide even one example of a messenger or prophet of Allah who sent out some of his followers to spread the message further and using the title "messenger" (rasul) for these emissaries.

On the contrary, the author of the Qur'an does the very opposite; he even removes the title "apostle(s)" where it is used in the Bible! Jesus selected twelve men from among his disciples and gave them the title "apostles" (meaning: "sent ones", "messengers") which is the exact equivalent of the Arabic term "rasul" — and the Arabic Bible uses "rasul" in those verses since that is the accurate translation of the Greek term "apostolos".

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. Mark 3:13-15

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Mark 6:30

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Luke 6:12-13

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. Acts 1:1-3

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

Despite the fact that this specific title is used for these special disciples dozens of times in the Bible (e.g., Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:13-15; 6:30; Luke 6:12-13; 9:10; Acts 1:1-3; 4:2; 15:2,22; 16:4; Galatians 2:8; Ephesians 4:11; 2 Peter 3:2; Jude 17; etc. etc.), the Qur'an refuses to use or even acknowledge this title for these men and calls them instead "hawariyun" (S. 3:52; 5:111-112; 61:14), a word that makes little sense in Arabic.[7]

In other words, the author of the Qur'an made a deliberate change of terminology and uses a different word for the apostles of Jesus than is used by the Christians. That is strong evidence that the author of the Qur'an went out of his way to avoid any confusion between "messengers of Allah" and "messengers of prophets of Allah". That makes Osama Abdallah's interpretation of S. 25:37 as referring to messengers of Noah instead of messengers of Allah all the more unlikely.

The Qur'an it is actually rather unclear on the question of what the disciples of Jesus are supposed to do.

But when Jesus became conscious of their disbelief, he cried: Who will be my helpers in the cause of Allah? The disciples said: We will be Allah's helpers. We believe in Allah, and bear thou witness that we have surrendered (unto Him). S. 3:52 Pickthall

And when I inspired the disciples, (saying): Believe in Me and in My messenger, they said: We believe. Bear witness that we have surrendered (unto Thee) "we are muslims". When the disciples said: O Jesus, son of Mary! Is thy Lord able to send down for us a table spread with food from heaven? He said: Observe your duty to Allah, if ye are true believers. S. 5:111-112 Pickthall

O ye who believe! Be Allah's helpers, even as Jesus son of Mary said unto the disciples: Who are my helpers for Allah? They said: We are Allah's helpers. And a party of the Children of Israel believed, while a party disbelieved. Then We strengthened those who believed against their foe, and they became the uppermost. S. 61:14 Pickthall

Jesus is calling for "helpers", but helpers in what? The emphasis is on them believing in Allah, submitting to Allah, and observing their duty towards Allah, but in what way are they going to help Jesus? In particular, there is no hint that they were sent out as messengers. The Quran does not know anything of (earlier) prophets sending out messengers to other people.

In the Bible, the command of Jesus to his disciples and apostles is clear. The above quoted verses are only a small sample of the passages that could be cited in that respect. The Bible uses mainly two terms for the followers of Jesus, disciples, i.e. learners, students (Greek: mathetes; Arabic: talamyth), focussing more on the relationship between the followers and Jesus as their teacher. The other term for the specially-commissioned disciples is apostles, i.e. messengers, "the sent out ones" (Greek: apostolos; Arabic: rasul) which emphasizes the function they have in relation to those others to whom they are sent. The Qur'an, however, doesn't contain either of these meanings in a clear and understandable way.

There is, however, a certain irony in this matter. The reason why hawariyun doesn't really mean anything in Arabic is because it is originally not an Arabic word, see Arthur Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'an, pp. 115-116 (online source). It is a foreign word, imported from Ethiopian, where it is the translation of the Greek word "apostolos". [The Muslim refugees may have brought that term with them when they returned from their exile in Abyssinia.] In other words, the Quran does not use rasul, but uses another word (without any meaning in Arabic) which actually means exactly the same as rasul. Although the author of the Qur'an tried to hide or obscure the meaning and function of Jesus' disciples, he ignorantly used a word that means exactly what he tried to avoid.

Moreover, the Qur'an contains a story, explicitly called a parable, in which some of the apostles of Christ are called by the title "rasul" (S. 36:13-29), but the story itself is anonymized and so vague that this conclusion would be difficult to arrive at without further background information that is found in the Muslim traditions. A discussion of this story is available in the article The Apostles of Christ: Messengers of God or Mere Disciples? Nevertheless, given the significant observation that the author of the Qur'an deliberately witholds the title "apostles" when explicitly referring to the disciples of Jesus, it seems rather likely that Muhammad was simply not aware of the fact that this story was a legendary account about some of the apostles of Christ; otherwise he would not have used that title for these people, or would not have included the story into the Qur'an.

Appendix 2: Version 2A of Osama Abdallah's solution to the messengers problem

In this appendix I will go through Abdallah's Version 2A [A like "abrogating" (mansukh)] piece by piece. His novel re-interpretation of S. 25:37 goes like this:

This Noble Verse could be referring to either ..., or ..., or to both ...

In other words, we are being presented with some wild speculations by Abdallah. He doesn't really know what to believe himself, but he has at least three opinions about it. What is it that he likes to make us believe this time? Here is his full text, piece by piece:

This Noble Verse could be referring to either Prophets sent from Allah Almighty before and during the days of Prophet Noah (similar to Aaron being sent with Moses), or messengers from Prophet Noah sent to the people in neighboring towns or throughout the lands, or to both (Prophets sent from Allah Almighty and messengers sent from Prophet Noah):

Well, well, well. That is a mouthful. Abdallah has finally abandoned the consensus of the Muslim commentators who are unanimous that there were no other prophets or messengers of Allah during the time of Noah. Abdallah may not care much about 1400 years of Qur'an interpretation by Muslim scholars, nor may he be bothered by hadiths in which Muhammad states that Noah was the first messenger to the people of the earth. Abdallah may shrug all this off as irrelevant. Nevertheless, I need to draw attention to the fact that this is what Abdallah does. Apparently, Osama Abdallah knows all of this better than the scholars and better than Muhammad himself.

First, I agree with Abdallah on one thing, and that is that this verse "could be referring" only to messengers that were sent before Noah or during the time of Noah because it simply makes no sense to claim that the people of Noah rejected messengers whom they had never even heard about, since those messengers were only sent (to other people) after the people of Noah had already been drowned. However, theoretical possibility is not the same as truth and actual reality. The verse "could be referring" to messengers before Noah only if there actually were messengers before Noah. But since there were no messengers before Noah, this verse actually cannot refer to messengers before Noah. (And the same conclusion holds for hypothetical additional messengers during the time of Noah.) That is very simple logic. So, this is the crucial point where my agreement with Abdallah ends.

In the final analysis, this discussion boils down to the following: On one side we have the testimony of the Bible, and the vast majority of verses in the Qur'an, and the statements of Muhammad in the hadith, and the consensus of Muslim commentators. All of these agree that Noah was the only messenger of God to his people. On the other side we have two cryptic verses in the Qur'an talking about messengers in the plural which were supposedly rejected by the people of Noah. There are basically three possibilities: (1) S. 25:37 and 26:105 contain a factual error. (2) [Acknowledging that there was only one messenger, Noah,] The plural "messengers" needs to be understood in some metaphorical way. That is how most Muslim commentators deal with it. (3) Since these two verses speak about messengers in the plural therefore there were messengers in the plural even if there is no evidence for it, and all available evidence speaks against it. If the Qur'an says so, then it was so. That is Osama Abdallah's argument. Abdallah merely speculates what kind of messengers they could have been, but he does so without presenting any positive evidence and contrary to the available evidence. Despite all of this, let me examine Abdallah's speculations in more detail.

As problematic as the classical Muslim definition of the terms "prophet" (nabi) and "messenger" (rasul) is (see this discussion), Muslims usually distinguish carefully between these two titles. Abdallah, however, seems to mix them happily without much discernment. He jump-starts his explanation with:

This Noble Verse could be referring to either Prophets sent from Allah Almighty before and during the days of Prophet Noah (similar to Aaron being sent with Moses), ...

Not so fast, Abdallah! Did you notice that S. 25:37 speaks of "rusul" ("messengers"), not "prophets"? Are all prophets also messengers in your definition? If not, you can postulate as many prophets as you want, they won't help you solve the problem of the missing messengers. So, what is your definition of a prophet and what is your definition of a messenger and upon what evidence from the Qur'an do you base these definitions? Only after you have clarified your terms does your statement even have any meaning and can then be examined whether it is approaching a solution to the problem or not.

Furthermore, "could be" is simply not enough. Show me from the Qur'an that there was even one prophet or one messenger before the time of Noah or contemporary to Noah (let alone being sent to the people of Noah). These prophets or messengers do not come into existence simply because Abdallah postulates them. Muslim tradition speaks of a couple of prophets before Noah (Adam, Seth, Idris), but since Abdallah seems to discard the traditions, particularly those that state that Noah was the first messenger, he can't appeal to them when he comes up empty in his search of the Qur'an. Note that Seth is not mentioned in the Qur'an, Adam is not called a prophet, and based on the Qur'an alone, we can only observe that Idris is mentioned after Ishmael (21:85). If Abdallah wants to appeal to tradition, so that he can identify Idris with Enoch and recognize him as the grandfather of Noah, then he cannot discard tradition when it tells also that mankind began to worship idols in the time of Noah, so that Idris could not yet have called mankind back from idolatry to monotheism, and so the people had no reason to reject Idris. Moreover, the Qur'an does not say that Idris was rejected. Finally, Idris is not called a messenger anyway, only a prophet (19:56).

Were there prophets or messengers sent to the people of Noah before the time of Noah? Abdallah has not provided any evidence that they existed, let alone that they were rejected and could therefore have been referred to in S. 25:37 and 26:105.

Were there additional prophets or messengers whom Allah sent to the people of Noah at the same time as Noah? Again, no evidence is presented. Yes, Aaron was sent with Moses. So what? Does Abdallah now claim that God does everything always in the same way, and every messengers had a co-messenger? Certainly not. Moses situation was special, and the Qur'an states that Moses specifically asked God to send Aaron with him. And Allah obliges, and from then onwards Moses and Aaron usually appear together. But both are mentioned explicitly more than a dozen times. Does the Qur'an say that Noah asked for a helper? Does the Qur'an say that Allah sent Noah a helper? Is there even one passage in the Qur'an where Noah appears in a team? None. That Moses had a helper-prophet is no argument that Noah had to have one too. Moreover, Aaron is called a prophet in the Qur'an (S. 19:53), but he is not once called a messenger even though he is mentioned 21 times by name.[8] That is an additional reason why Abdallah's appeal to Aaron does not help him in solving the problem of S. 25:37. Finally, the word rusul is in the plural which in Arabic means at least three messengers. One co-messenger would not be enough. If there were only two (Noah and his "Aaron"), then Arabic would have used the dual instead of the plural form of the noun. Obviously, the more additional messengers of Allah Abdallah has to invent, the more unlikely the whole scenario becomes.

We now turn to the second part of Abdallah's triple speculation (underline emphasis mine):

This Noble Verse could be referring to either Prophets sent from Allah Almighty before and during the days of Prophet Noah (similar to Aaron being sent with Moses), or messengers from Prophet Noah sent to the people in neighboring towns or throughout the lands, or to both (Prophets sent from Allah Almighty and messengers sent from Prophet Noah):

The underlined part was the theory propagated by Abdallah in the original version of his article (see above). I have already responded to this in detail in the main body of this article. Abdallah has not even tried to interact with my counter-arguments. There is no need for further comments on this aspect.

Finally, Abdallah claims that the plural rusul "could be referring ... to both (Prophets sent from Allah Almighty and messengers sent from Prophet Noah)", probably because Abdallah thinks Allah is like him and the purpose of Allah's revelation is to confuse everybody by mixing different concepts in one verse. If the probability for "messengers sent by Allah before or during the time of Noah" is zero, and the probability that the verse means "messengers sent by Noah" is also zero, what can we deduce about the resulting probability for the interpretation that both of these hypotheses are meant simultaneously?

Seeing that the Qur'an repeatedly exhorts believers to make no distinction between the messengers (of Allah) (S. 2:136, 285; 4:150,152), it would be rather inconsistent to mix and merge different kinds of messengers by referring to them with one word, resulting in the necessessity of then making a distinction between them, i.e. distinguishing between that group among those messengers who are messengers of men and the other group among those messengers who are messengers of God.

As pointed out several times before, the Qur'an does not have even one example of a prophet of God who in turn sends out messengers. That is not part of the quranic paradigm. It is a sign of desperation that Abdallah has to resort to speculation that is so radically at odds with the overall teaching of the Qur'an.

Abdallah continues to produce even more confusion:

[020:025]  (Moses) said: "O my Lord! expand me my breast;
[020:026]  "Ease my task for me;
[020:027]  "And remove the impediment from my speech,|
  "So they may understand what I say:
[020:029]  "And give me a Minister from my family,
[020:030]  "Aaron, my brother;

In Arabic, rasool means a messenger.  He may not necessarily always have to be a Messenger from Allah Almighty.  He could very well be a mere messenger from any leader, and since Noah, peace be upon him, lived among his people for 950 years, then it is quite possible that he had messengers of his sent to different people and tribes to warn them about the great flood:

"We (once) sent Noah to his people, and he tarried among them a thousand years less fifty: but the Deluge overwhelmed them while they (persisted in) sin.  (The Noble Quran, 29:14)"

Please visit the following related articles: ...

Most of this has already been dealt with. The only interesting observation is that Abdallah apparently wants to use the example of Aaron twice. In the first paragraph he appealed to Aaron in support of his speculation that Allah may have sent another prophet (messenger?) alongside Noah, just like Aaron was sent WITH Moses. But the way the quotation of S. 20:25-30 is placed suggests that Abdallah now wants to appeal to Aaron (also) in support for his innovative hypothesis of helpers for Noah whom Noah then sends out as messengers.

No question, Moses is the more prominent one of the two brothers. However, Aaron is not a mere assistant who was selected and appointed by Moses; he is a divinely appointed helper, and (in Islam) he is a prophet in his own right:

And, out of Our Mercy, We gave him his brother Aaron, (also) a prophet. S. 19:53 Y. Ali

And the Qur'an explicitly states that Aaron received the book together with Moses. Aaron is not simple the disciple or student of Moses. The book was not given to Moses alone who then taught it to Aaron and commissioned him as his messenger:

And WE gave Moses and Aaron the Discrimination and a Light and a Reminder for the righteous, S. 21:48 Sher Ali

And We verily gave grace unto Moses and Aaron ... And We gave THEM the clear Scripture. S. 37:113, 117 Pickthall

The Quran calls Aaron a prophet but not a messenger; neither a messenger of Allah, nor a messenger of Moses. Moreover, it nowhere records that Moses sent Aaron anywhere to spread his message. They always went together (or Aaron stayed behind occasionally, e.g. when Moses met with God on the mountain to receive the tablets with the commandments). But Moses never sends Aaron as a messenger anywhere. Hence, the example of Aaron is hardly suitable to support Abdallah's theory. Moreover, in Aaron's case, the Quran says what happened. It defines the relationship between Moses and Aaron. In regard to Noah, Osama Abdallah is still speculating and issuing one empty claim after another.

Those allegedly "related" articles which Abdallah invites us to read do not offer anything to solve this particular problem, so they are omitted here.

Abdallah's abrogation is particularly striking in the formulation of his final paragraph. Originally, he had written:

As to the second part of the question, above, yes, there was only one Prophet sent to the people of Noah, and that was Prophet Noah, peace be upon him, himself.

Now it is:

As to the second part of the question, above, yes, there was only one named Prophet that was sent to the people of Noah, and that was Prophet Noah, peace be upon him, himself.  But then again, there are also "messengers" that the Noble Verses Says that were either sent before him (from Allah Almighty perhaps to the same people as the Jews, for instance, also received many Prophets before they were finally cursed [2] [3] [4] [5]) or during his time by him personally sending his disciples. (Source; second version, published 1 May 2009)

Merely inserting the word "named" before "Prophet" fundamentally changes what Abdallah says; abrogation at its finest. But the issue was never that these other messengers need to be named explicitly. The Qur'an refers to a number of prophets or messengers without naming them. E.g., in S. 2:246-248 it speaks about an unnamed prophet who announces the appointment of Talut as king over Israel, and S. 36:13-29 is another story that talks about three messengers without specifying their name. Not only is there no other prophet named for the time of Noah, there is no evidence for the existence of another prophet at all, named or unnamed.

Nevertheless, inserting "named" into that sentence, allows him to continue with another sentence that I want to dissect in the following. Abdallah says, "But then again, there are also "messengers" that the Noble Verses Says that were either sent before him (from Allah ...) or during his time by him personally sending his disciples." Frankly, that is not what S. 25:37 says. It merely states: "And the people of Noah, when they rejected the messengers, we drowned them, ..." It does NOT say anything that Abdallah claims it says. In particular, it does not say,

"And the people of Noah, when they rejected the messengers which We had sent before the time of Noah's prophethood [i.e. at least a thousand years before the flood, given that Noah's prophethood allegedly lasted for 950 years], we drowned them, ..."

nor does it say,

"And the people of Noah, when they rejected various other messengers which We also sent during the time of Noah, we drowned them, ..."

nor does it say,

"And the people of Noah, when they rejected Noah's disciples whom he had sent to the people in neighboring towns and throughout the lands, we drowned them, ..."

Each of these statements is incoherent, and connecting them into one statement by use of the copula "or" doesn't make it any better. The main problem in each of these constructions is that the people of Noah are then drowned for rejecting lots of different other people, instead of being punished for rejecting Noah, the messenger of Allah. Suddenly, the rejection of Noah is actually no longer the reason for their punishment, the rejection of other people becomes the focus, turning the story upside down and contradicting all other passages in the Qur'an which are narrating the story of Noah.

And, when we want to add Noah back into the equation, neither does the passage say:

"And the people of Noah, when they rejected prophet Noah and his messengers (whom he had sent to the people in neighboring towns and throughout the lands), we drowned them, ..."

Abdallah can only arrive at such an interpretation by manipulating the text and divorcing it from the teaching of the Qur'an as a whole. Osama Abdallah has failed to provide any coherent and meaningful interpretation of this verse despite all of his verbal gymnastics. The easiest explanation for the formulation of this verse is still that the author of the Qur'an simply made a mistake, which is not too astonishing given the many other errors and contradictions that exist in this book, see the section on Contradictions in the Qur'an.

Since I had discussed many of the details of my first response article with Bassam Khoury, I also asked him to comment on Abdallah's revised version. Here is his response:

"But then again, there are also "messengers" that the noble verse says that were either sent before him ..."

In other words what he is saying is that the verse cannot be wrong. Because the question was "Who are those messengers that the verse talking about?", and the answer is "There are also 'messengers' which the verse is talking about."

Yes, we have established already the verse is talking about "messengers" and we are saying it is wrong since there were no other messengers. He is saying there were because the verse says so? That simply means that he will not allow even facts to get in the way of his belief. That is something we already knew before we even asked the questions. Muslims will not let facts get in the way of their beliefs, but if he is going to believe anything without a shred of evidences then there is actually very little hope in him. It would be like giving medicine to a dead man.

To state it one more time: We know Osama believes there were other messengers before or with Noah, but the question is "does he know that?" or is it merely blind faith? What we need from him right now is not to restate his position but to give some credible evidence of those other messengers, and by credible evidence we certainly don't mean Osama's own speculations.

That sums it up pretty nicely. Osama Abdallah is an "it is so because the Qur'an says so" fideist. As far as I am concerned, everything is said on this matter. Abdallah may well respond and/or abrogate and reformulate he article again, but unless he presents something that is genuinely new and provides substance that goes beyond another empty claim or mere assertion, I am not going to respond another time.

Minor update: I had finished my above response to Abdallah's Version 2A (published on 1 May 2009) on 4 May 2009, but had not made it public yet when Abdallah changed his article again on 6 May 2009 (as well as removing from his website his highly embarrasing first answer in which he had declared Abraham to have lived before the time of Noah).

I guess I should add a couple of remarks on what he added so that my appendix is responding fully to his (current) version at the time of our publication. Abdallah added one summary statement after the list of recommended articles, stating: "So as to the first part of the question, the exact number of Messengers is not known. Allah Almighty did not specify it. All Praise and Glory are due to Him Alone." which adds nothing to the argument as such.

Furthermore, after that sentence, he placed a big grey box, which I call "Abdallah's desparation box", advertizing various other articles that he always pulls up when he has nothing else to say and feels that he urgently needs to detract attention from the current topic. The two issues he always brings up are: (1) The Qur'an is a scientific miracle (and since this proves its divine origin, the Qur'an cannot be wrong on anything it says), and (2) The Bible is a corrupted and immoral book that is full of pornography.

Anyone impressed? I am not. It merely shows that Abdallah needs to operate with logical fallacies and is not able to stick to the topic.

However, at the top of that box, he added also the following paragraph:

The History that Allah Almighty left unmentioned:

For those who wish to use this point against the Holy Quran, my response to them would be that Allah Almighty, through His Divine Will and Wisdom, decided to leave out this information. Perhaps, because Mankind existed for millions of years on earth, there are certainly far too many Prophets and Messengers to mention. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said that there were more than 120,000 Prophets sent by Allah Almighty to Mankind. Plus, what relevance do they really have for the overall Divine Message of Islam? Almost nil. Also, their overwhelming and lengthy history might also aid in the corruption of the Sacred Text of the Holy Quran, because there would be far too much irrelevant data to comprehend and keep, and far too many Noble Verses to memorize.

Nice move! Now the missing information that makes S. 25:37 such a problem is a sign of Allah's superior wisdom. This is merely another empty claim of Abdallah who is unable to give a real answer to the problem. Assuming that there were so many messengers and or prophets, I would not expect that they are all listed with name and history in the Qur'an, but I would still expect that the stories of those messengers which Allah decided to speak about are reported without creating confusion due to incoherence and contradiction between the various versions that are found in the Qur'an. One could also wonder how Muslims want to explain that 99.9% of these alleged prophets have left absolutely no trace in history.

But the most important question that Abdallah needs to answer in regard to his approach to the present discussion is this one: On what basis does Abdallah accept this particular alleged saying of Muhammad as true, when he ignores (and thus implicitly rejects) another saying of Muhammad in which he clearly states the Noah was the first messenger of Allah?

Abdallah is willy-nilly appealing to some traditions and ignoring others. He is completely arbitrary in accepting and rejecting Muslim traditions, and simply does whatever strikes his fancy and suits him best at the time. Abdallah's problem in regard to consistency translates directly in a problem of credibility.

Finally, here is how Abdallah announced his additions:

05/06/2009- ... I also added many new points to the article How many Messengers did the people of Noah reject? Wasn't there only one Prophet - Noah? (Source; underline emphasis mine)

That is both sad and silly. He didn't add "many new points". He added the grey box containing exactly one thought that had to do with the topic and this one point was the above quoted paragraph at the top of his "desperation box". The rest was merely a sad attempt of distraction from the topic, "points" that had nothing whatsoever to do with this discussion. But Abdallah is a salesman: if the quality of your goods is poor, just use some big words to advertize them. There's got to be somebody who is going to believe you.


1. Abdallah's game of replacing words with other words that mean the same is not over yet. According to the current entry of Wikipedia, under the key word "missionary" states:

... The word "mission" is derived from the Latin missioninimus (nom. missio), meaning "act of sending" or mitto, mittere, literally meaning "to send" or "to dispatch", the equivalent of the Greek-derived word "apostle" from apostolos, meaning "a delegate, specially, an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ ["apostle"] ... (source; accessed 22 April 2009; bold emphasis mine)

In other words, messenger, apostle and missionary all mean basically the same, i.e. "somebody sent out with a message"; the first being an English word, the second term derived from the Greek, and the third term derived from the Latin verb for "sending out". I agree, that the term apostle and missionary are used with a different specific meaning, but their root meaning is the same. Moreover, there are no "mere missionaries" as Abdallah calls them somewhat derogatively. All Christians are missionaries based on Jesus' command given in Matthew 28:18-20.

2. Regarding David and and his son Solomon, it is obvious that there is a considerable time period of overlap in their lives, though Solomon may have received the office of prophethood only after the death of David. Similarly one might be able to argue for the pairs Isaac and Jacob, and perhaps Abraham and Isaac, but the others were definitely "in office" at the same time according to the Islamic understanding.

3. I am not aware of further instances, but I am open to be corrected when readers can present me with other examples. However, the conclusion would not change if there is a third or even a fourth example, if they are similar in the sense that the context states clearly what kind of messengers they are.

4. Searching www.quranbrowser.com for apostle.* or messenger.* resulted in 3410 hits over ten English translations. Since some of these instances are found in parentheses supplied by the translators and not in the Arabic text, my estimate is that this comes to roughly 250-300 instances where the word rasul is used in singular or plural. Just to be on the safe side, I am using in my argument the minimum estimate of two hundred times which is probably by far too low. I would appreciate if somebody could do a careful seach of the Arabic text of the Qur'an. However, this is somewhat time-consuming since searching for the root consonants brings up more than 500 verses; yet many of them are instances of the verb, not the noun, e.g. "we are sending" in 54:27. It seems to be difficult in Arabic to search for forms of the noun only. [Update: There is a Qur'an statistics website that has the following numbers: messenger (249 times), messengers (135 times) but some of these need to be subtracted since they are in parentheses in the translation used. Nevertheless, these pages can give a quick overview, although one would still have to check whether the Arabic has "rasul" each time when the English has "messenger" without being in parentheses.]

5. Here is Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi's complete footnote on S. 26:105:

75 Though they had rejected only one Messenger, it amounted to rejecting all the messengers because all of them had brought one and the same message from Allah. This is an important fact which the Qur'an has mentioned over and over again in different ways. Thus, even those people who rejected just one Prophet have been regarded as unbelievers though they believed in all other Prophets, for the simple reason that the believer in the truth of one Messenger cannot deny the same truth in other cases unless he does so on account of racial prejudice, imitation of elders, etc. (Source; underline emphasis mine)

Maududi and many other commentators are mixing fact and judgment. Obviously, Allah would be free to say that he will count "rejecting one messenger" like "rejecting all messengers" and judge people who reject one messenger as if they had rejected all messengers. However, S. 25:37 and 26:105 are not statements of opinion or judgment. They are statements of fact; and as statements of fact they are wrong.

A modern Muslim missionary website has this formulation:

It is also our opinion that whoever rejects the universal message of Muhammad, peace be upon him, rejects the message of all messengers, even if he claims that he believes and follows His Messenger. Allah, the Exalted, said: "Noah's people rejected the Messengers" (26:105). Thus, Allah considered them as rejecting all of the messengers despite the fact that there was no messenger before Noah. This is also clear from the following verses: "Those who disbelieve in Allah and His Messengers, and wish to make division between Allah and His Messengers, and say: 'We believe in some and disbelieve in others,' wishing to take a midway course. Those indeed are the unbelievers, and We have prepared for the unbelievers a humiliating punishment" (4:150-51). (Source; underline emphasis mine)

Exactly, this is the opinion of many Muslims, and this implication may even have been the opinion of the author of the Qur'an, but that still doesn't change the issue that the statement remains factually wrong. The people of Noah still rejected only Noah.

Moreover, S. 4:150-151 cannot be applied to explain S. 26:105. Making a distinction between messengers presupposes that people know these various messengers. One cannot make distinctions between unknowns. S. 4:150-51 speaks against people who know several messengers and then make a distinction between them, accepting one and rejecting another. However, the people of Noah did not have several messengers to make any distinction between them. The people of Noah had seen only one messenger. And they rejected him without making any distinction. Again, this verse only covers past messengers, but since Noah was the first messenger, it explains nothing.

Furthermore, even when looking at a group of past messengers, S. 4:150-151 still does not say what these Muslim commentators would like to make us believe. This passage only says that rejecting one of the messengers makes Allah consider this person as an unbeliever and he will be punished with a humiliating punishment. It does not say "disbelieving one messenger" means that he therefore "disbelieved all messengers". This verse only says that believing only some of the messengers will not help a person, but it does not deny the belief of the person who makes a distinction nor does it extend his disbelief to all messengers. Therefore, this verse does not contain the equivalent of "rejecting one messenger" equals "rejecting all messengers". I have yet to see any proof that the Qur'an actually teaches this.

In fact, why would the Qur'an make a difference between pagan unbelievers who reject all prophets and the people of the Book (Jews and Christians) who accept most messengers except a few of those that are considered messengers in Islam? Why would they be considered differently if the Qur'an really intended to teach that "rejecting one" equals "rejecting all"?

Perhaps Muslims could argue that according to the Qur'an the (ultimate) punishment for rejecting one messenger (e.g. those Muslims who reject Rashad Khalifa, the messenger of the covenant, or Christians who reject Muhammad) is like the punishment for rejecting all messengers (e.g. atheists), but that would be an equality on the level of implications, not on the level of historical fact. Just as murder or adultery or apostasy remain different "crimes" or sins in Islam, despite the fact that all of them carry the death penalty in the Shari'ah.

6. The Qur'an seems to indicate that mankind was one community at least until the first (several) prophet(s) with a scripture was/were sent:

Mankind were one community and Allah sent Prophets with glad tidings and warnings, and with them He sent the Scripture in truth to judge between people in matters wherein they differed. ... S. 2:213 Al-Hilali & Khan

Since Noah is the first messenger, that seems to imply that the diversification of mankind into different nations happened long after Noah.

7. The classical Muslim commentators produced a lot of speculation about this term, suggesting potential meanings like "those who have wide eyes" or "those who die clothes" or "those who stood by Iesa" or "those who are confused" or "the chosen by the prophets" or "those who were without blemish" etc.

8. Aaron is mentioned 21 times according to this page (subtract those three instances where Aaron appears within parentheses). Strikingly: Muhammad is mentioned by name only four times in the text of the Qur'an, and once his name is the name of a sura (source).

Contradictions in the Qur'an
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