Truly or Only?

Surah ar-Ra`d (13:7)

Pickthall Yusufali Shakir Sher Ali Rashad Khalifa
Those who disbelieve say: If only some portent were sent down upon him from his Lord! Thou art a warner only, and for every folk a guide. And the Unbelievers say: "Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?" But thou art truly a warner, and to every people a guide. And those who disbelieve say: Why has not a sign been sent down upon him from his Lord? You are only a warner and (there is) a guide for every people. And those who disbelieve say, `Wherefore has not a Sign been sent down to him from his Lord ?' Thou art surely a warner. And their is a Guide for every people. Those who disbelieved say, "If only a miracle could come down to him from his Lord (we will then believe)." You are simply a warner - every community receives a guiding teacher.

The question should be obvious. Is the Arabic emphatic, i.e. stressing that he is certainly a warner (despite doubt from some people), or is the Arabic restrictive, i.e. he is merely a warner and no more? Or does the Arabic carry both meanings as I have been told?

If it is restrictive, then seemingly the translators Yusuf Ali and Sher Ali were too embarrassed about this, so that they tried to hide this restriction and turn it into its opposite, a positive instead of a negative qualification of the title "warner".

Another interesting observation is that when reading Pickthall and Yusuf Ali, one could think that Muhammad is a guide for every people, while in the other three translations, it is made clear that he is a warner (to the people in Arabia) just like every (nation) has received guides from God.

Muslims claim that Muhammad is indeed a prophet and guide to all people. Maybe the first two translators didn't like the restrictive meaning of Muhammad being for his people while others are for other people as it would undermine the universal claim of Islam?

Furthermore, this last phrase seems to be in the present tense. This would imply that at the very time of Muhammad, when he was sent to the Arabs, God sent other guides to other people. This also does not fare well with usual Islamic teachings. It certainly would undermine the claim that Muhammad is the final prophet, if EVERY nation had a guide from God at the very same time Muhammad was preaching in Arabia.

The translation by the very conservative scholars Hilali and Khan reads:

And the disbelievers say: "Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?" You are only a warner, and to every people there is a guide.

This seems to indicate that indeed Yusuf Ali is guilty of several tendentious elements in his translation of this verse.

On the other hand, if Muhammad is this guide to every nation (in his own time, see the present tense) this is impossible, since most nations never heard of him and his message until long after his death.

For a detailed discussion of the implications of this passage, see the article Mohammed claimed to be a warner only for Arabia.

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