Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Quran Difficulty

Is Allah the only sovereign or isn’t he?

Sam Shamoun

The Quran states in many passages that Allah is the sovereign king or ruler of the universe and that the kingdom or dominion belongs entirely to him: 

Knowest thou not that to Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and that you have none, apart from God, neither protector nor helper? S. 2:107

To Allah belongs the Kingdom of the heavens and of the earth; and Allah is powerful over everything. S. 3:189; cf. 5:17-18; 9:116

Specific Islamic texts emphasize the point that Allah doesn’t share his rule with anyone and therefore doesn’t have any associate in his kingdom:

And say: 'Praise belongs to Allah, who has not taken to Him a son, and who has not any associate in the Kingdom, nor any protector out of humbleness.' And magnify Him with all the magnificence. S. 17:111

Say: “Allah knows best how long they stayed. With Him is (the knowledge of) the unseen of the heavens and the earth. How clearly He sees, and hears (everything)! They have no Wali (Helper, Disposer of affairs, Protector, etc.) other than Him, and He makes NONE to share in His Decision and His Rule.” S. 18:26 Hilali-Khan

Blessed be He who has sent down the Salvation upon His servant, that he may be a warner to all beings; to whom belongs the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth; and He has not taken to Him a son, and He has no associate in the Kingdom; and He created every thing, then He ordained it very exactly. S. 25:2

The Muslim scripture further mentions that on the Day of Judgment or last day Allah will show that the kingdom belongs to him alone:  

It is He who created the heavens and the earth in truth; and the day He says 'Be', and it is; His saying is true, and His is the Kingdom the day the Trumpet is blown; He is Knower of the Unseen and the visible; He is the All-wise, the All-aware. S. 6:73

The Kingdom upon that day shall belong to Allah, and He shall judge between them. As for those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, they shall be in Gardens of Bliss. S. 22:56

Upon the day that heaven is split asunder with the clouds and the angels are sent down in majesty, the Kingdom that day, the true Kingdom, shall belong to the All-merciful and it shall be a day harsh for the unbelievers. S. 25:25-26

Exalter of ranks is He, Possessor of the Throne, casting the Spirit of His bidding upon whomever He will of His servants, that he may warn them of the Day of Encounter, the day they sally forth, and naught of theirs is hidden from Allah. 'Whose is the Kingdom today?' ‘It is Allah's the One, the Irresistible!’ Today each soul shall be recompensed for that it has earned; no wrong today. Surely Allah is swift at the reckoning. S. 40:15-17

However, there are other passages which contradict all of this since the Quran specifically mentions individuals who share in Allah’s rule and dominion:

Have you not considered the chiefs of the children of Israel after Musa, when they said to a prophet of theirs: Raise up for us a king, (that) we may fight in the way of Allah. He said: May it not be that you would not fight if fighting is ordained for you? They said: And what reason have we that we should not fight in the way of Allah, and we have indeed been compelled to abandon our homes and our children. But when fighting was ordained for them, they turned back, except a few of them, and Allah knows the unjust. And their prophet said to them: Surely Allah has raised Talut to be a king over you. They said: How can he hold kingship over us while we have a greater right to kingship than he, and he has not been granted an abundance of wealth? He said: Surely Allah has chosen him in preference to you, and He has increased him abundantly in knowledge and physique, and Allah grants His kingdom to whom He pleases, and Allah is Ample giving, Knowing. And the prophet said to them: Surely the sign of His kingdom is, that there shall come to you the chest in which there is tranquility from your Lord and residue of the relics of what the children of Moses and the children of Aaron have left, the angels bearing it; most surely there is a sign in this for those who believe… And David slew Jalut, and Allah gave him kingdom and wisdom, and taught him of what He pleased. And were it not for Allah's repelling some men with others, the earth would certainly be in a state of disorder; but Allah is Gracious to the creatures. S. 2:246-248, 251

Say: 'O Allah, Master of the Kingdom, Thou givest the Kingdom to whom Thou wilt, and seizest the Kingdom from whom Thou wilt, Thou exaltest whom Thou wilt, and Thou abasest whom Thou wilt; in Thy hand is the good; Thou art powerful over everything. S. 3:26

And when Moses said to his people, 'O my people, remember Allah's blessing upon you, when He appointed among you Prophets, and appointed you kings, and gave you such as He had not given to any being. S. 5:20

Certainly We tried Solomon, and We cast upon his throne a mere body; then he repented. He said, 'My Lord, forgive me, and give me a kingdom such as may not befall anyone after me; surely Thou art the All-giver.' So We subjected to him the wind, that ran at his commandment, softly, wherever he might light on, and the Satans, every builder and diver and others also, coupled in fetters: This is Our gift; bestow or withhold without reckoning.' And he had a near place in Our presence and a fair resort. S. 38:34-40

To make matters worse, there are certain expositors which say that the following passage,

And as for the night, keep vigil a part of it, as a work of supererogation for thee; it MAY BE that thy Lord will raise thee up to a laudable station. S. 17:79

Refers to the last day when Allah will actually seat Muhammad on his very own throne! The renowned Muslim historian and commentator al-Tabari wrote that:

“Even though the traditions we have mentioned on the authority of the Prophet and his Companions and the Followers indicate the correct interpretation of maqaman mahmudan in Qur. 17:79 (as referring to Muhammad’s role as intercessor on the Day of Resurrection), Mujahid’s statement that God will seat Muhammad on His Throne remains one whose soundness CANNOT BE REJECTED either on the basis of traditions (khabar) or on the basis of speculation (nazar). This is so because there is no tradition from the Messenger of God or anyone of his Companions or the Followers that declares it to be impossible… From what we have said, it has become clear that, it is not impossible for an adherent of Islam to say what Mujahid had said, namely, that God will seat Muhammad on His Throne. If someone says: We do not disapprove of God’s seating Muhammad on His Throne (in view of the following tradition transmitted by) ‘Abbas b. ‘Abd al-‘Azim – Yahya b. Kathir – al-Jurayri – Sayf al-Sadusi – ‘Abdallah b. Salam: ‘On the Day of Resurrection, Muhammad will be on the Lord’s footstool (kursi),’ but we disapprove of God’s seating him together with Him, it should be said: Is it then permissible in your opinion that He seat him on it but not together with him? If he permits this, he is led to affirming that either he is together with Him, or God seats him (on the Throne) while being Himself either separate from it or neither contiguous with nor separate from it. Whatever alternative he chooses, he thereby enters into something that he disapproves. If he says that it is not permissible, he deviates from the statements of all the groups we have reported. This means diverging from the views of all adherents of Islam, since there is no other possible statement than those three, according to each of which Mujahid’s statement in this sense is not impossible.” (The History of Al-Tabari – General Introduction and From Creation to the Flood, translated by Franz Rosenthal [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1989], Volume I, Appendix A. A Partial Translation of Tafsir on Qur. 17:79 (Above, pp. 75 f.), pp. 149. 151; capital and underline emphasis ours)

See also al-Tabari’s explanation of Q. 17:79.

Al-Qurtubi, who is also viewed as an outstanding Muslim exegete, commented on this same Quranic reference in his al-Jami‘ li Ahkam al-Qur’an:

The third explanation of this verse is what al-Tabari reported from a party of scholars – among them Mujahid – whereby “the Exalted Station is the seating by Allah of the Prophet with Him on His Throne (kursiyyih).” They narrated a hadith to that effect, and al-Tabari backed up the possibility (jawâz) of such a thing with some extravagant statements (shatatin min al-qawl). However, what he said cannot be inferred [from the verse] except with over-subtlety as to meaning (al-talattuf bi al-ma‘nâ), and it is far-fetched (fîhi bu‘d). This is not to say that there is no such narration; only that [one endowed with] knowledge interprets it figuratively (al-‘ilmu yata’awwaluhu)… On that basis it is the same, with respect to possibility, whether Allah seats the Prophet on the Throne or on the ground. For His elevation over the Throne is not in the sense of displacement (intiqâl), removal (zawâl), nor change of position from standing to sitting, nor any state or condition to which the Throne itself is subject. Rather, He is elevated over the Throne in the way He has stated concerning Himself, without saying how. Nor does His seating of the Prophet on the Throne impose upon the Prophet (s) the attribute of Lordship [sic] or move him out of that of servanthood [sic]. Rather, it consists in an elevation because of his status, and an honor bestowed upon him because of his sublime character. (Source; underline emphasis ours)

Another Muslim authority named Ibn Batta stated in his book al-Sharh wa al-Ibana ‘ala Usul al-Sunna wa al-Diyana (“Elaboration of the Principles of Sunni Doctrine”), p. 61, that:

The Prophet shall be seated on the Throne with his Lord (yujlas ma‘a rabbihi ‘alâ al-‘arsh), and this privilege belongs to no one else. Thus did Nafi‘ narrate it from Ibn ‘Umar from the Prophet concerning the verse: “It may be that thy Lord will raise you to an Exalted Station” – he said that He shall seat him with Him on the Throne. Thus also did Mujahid explain it, as narrated by Muhammad ibn Fudayl, from al-Layth, from Mujahid. (Underline emphasis ours)

In case the readers are wondering who this Mujahid is, he is Mujahid ibn Jabr, Abu al-Hajjaj al-Makhzumi (d. 102), one of the major commen­tators of the Qur’an among the tabi’in or followers of Muhammad’s companions (sahabah), and viewed as holding the highest rank in reli­ability among hadith narrators (thiqa). It is related by a Muslim scholar named Ibn Sa‘d, in al-Tabaqat al-Kubra (6:9), that Mujahid went over the explanation of the Islamic scripture together with Ibn ‘Abbas, Muhammad’s first cousin and one of the most knowledgeable Muslims that ever lived, approximately thirty times.

And here is a modern Muslim writer who affirms this interpretation:

Do they know any other Prophet or angel whom Allah addressed directly and by whose life He swore? “By thy life (O Muhammad)!” (15:72); “And who is better in his discourse than he who calls unto Allah and does good and says: I am one of the Muslims?” (41:33) i.e. who is better in speech than the Prophet? “Lo! those who believe and do good works are the best of created beings” (98:7) i.e. the Prophet is the best of created beings; “Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct” (49:13) i.e. the Prophet is the noblest of those to whom the Qur'an is addressed in the sight of Allah; “And lo! thou (Muhammad) art [I swear] of a tremendous nature” (68:4). The reality of this compliment - khuluqin `azim - can be fathomed only by the Speaker Himself and whoever He wills; "Of those messengers, some of whom We have caused to excel others, and of whom there are some unto whom Allah spake, while _some of them He exalted (above others) in degree_" (2:253) i.e. the Prophet. “And we preferred some of the Prophets above others” (17:55) then He said: “It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate” (17:79), a Station which the Prophet said none but he would receive and this is the Station of Intercession at the right of the Glorious Throne as we described at length in the posting “The Seating of the Prophet on the Throne.” (G.F. Haddad, The Prophetic Title "Best of Creation"; *; *; underline emphasis ours)

For more on Muhammad occupying Allah’s throne we advise consulting the following articles:

This is obviously another case of Muslims “borrowing” from the Holy Bible, specifically the Biblical depiction of the Lord Jesus seated in heaven, and applying it their prophet in order to make the latter more comparable to the risen Son of God. The inspired Christian Scriptures teach that the risen Christ now sits on and rules from his Father’s Divine throne as the exalted and immortal Lord of all creation whom every creature shall eventually worship:

“… Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” Mark 14:61b-62

“and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Ephesians 1:19-23

“For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Ephesians 5:5

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Revelation 3:21

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne (singular) of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” Revelation 22:1-3

Unfortunately for these Muslims, and contrary to their denials, they failed to see how this plagiarizing of Biblical truth turned Muhammad into a demigod and thereby stands in direct conflict with the express statements of the Quran that there is no other deity or potentate besides Allah.

In order to help Muslims see the problem with this view it needs to be emphasized that placing Muhammad alongside Allah on the same throne basically means that he is a co-ruler with Allah. Moreover, to hold the position of Muhammad being a co-occupant of the divine throne inevitably leads to believing that a finite creature is equal with his creator. And yet how can any creature, no matter how exalted, ever be equal with the almighty in authority and rank?

This is nothing more than blatant shirk, or the sin of associating a creature, i.e. Muhammad, with the creator by ascribing to the former the exclusive attributes and functions of Allah.           

In order to get around this problem certain Muslims may simply wish to discard these traditions, despite the many great Muslim minds that fully embraced and believed in the veracity of these reports. In fact, we even have cases where renowned scholars such as al-Tabari went out of their way to defend the authenticity and soundness of these reports.

Be that as it may, by rejecting such traditions the Muslims only help to expose the utter chaotic and confused state in which Islamic scholarship finds itself as it seeks to cope with the intellectual and scholarly onslaught on the Muslim source material. It merely reveals that Islam is in shambles and cannot withstand the critical scrutiny and rational analysis of its primary sources by open-minded intelligent individuals. It is only a matter of time that, by the grace of the risen Lord Jesus, Islam will collapse and Muslims will be free from the shackles of the false teachings of the false prophet Muhammad and his god.

And even if a Muslim rejects these narratives s/he must still contend with the gross contradiction within the Islamic scripture concerning the question of whether Allah shares his rule or not. A Muslim may try to get around this problem by saying that the passages which say that Allah does not share his kingdom with anyone actually mean that all authority and rule stem from him and that individuals only reign because of Allah’s permission.

The problem with this explanation is that this is not the plain reading of the passages and that is not what the verses say. Since Muslims believe that the Quran is the standard of Arabic eloquence and grammar we would expect to find the Muslim scripture being more clear in communicating this point regarding Allah granting dominion to his creatures since the kingdom belongs to him, assuming of course that this is what the author(s) of the Quran was(were) actually saying. In other words, one can only accept this interpretation, e.g. Allah wasn’t denying that there are others who reign but was really saying that all rulership stems from him, at the expense of the Quran’s alleged perfect eloquence and structure. A Muslim must face the fact that the author(s) of the Quran once again failed to clearly communicate his/her/their message since s/he/they didn’t write what s/he/they really wanted to say, but wrote in such a way as to convey the wrong idea which actually ended up contradicting other verses of the Quran! 

More importantly, if statements that say that all dominion belongs to Allah and none share in his rule do not actually mean what they say then how can Muslims know for certain that there is no other deity besides Allah? Since similar language is used to refer both to Allah’s unity and his rule one must either opt for the view that this clearly means that he alone is God and king, and there are no others, or choose to believe that other gods do exist much like there are other rulers that actually reign.

To put it another way, if the Quran is really saying that Allah is the true source and giver of rulership and dominion, and not that other rulers do not exist, then consistency in exegesis demands that we interpret Quranic statements which say that Allah is the sole divinity to mean that he is the sole source of deity. These verses do not mean that other gods do not exist. In other words, just as there are others who rule, even though Allah is the only one who has dominion, there are also other gods that exist who receive their divinity from Allah, the only so-called deity.

In fact, there are certain Islamic reports which confirm that Muhammad believed that other deities such as al-Uzza, one of three daughters of Allah, do exist and even sent one of his men to kill this pagan goddess!

In this year, five nights before the end of Ramadan, Khalid al-Walid destroyed al-‘Uzza in the lowland of Nakhlah. Al-‘Uzza was an idol of the Banu Shayban, a subdivision of Sulaym, allies of the Banu Hashim. The Banu Asad b. ‘Abd al-‘Uzza used to say it was their idol. Khalid set out for it, and then he said, "I have destroyed it." [The Messenger of God] said, "Did you see anything?" "No," said Khalid. "Then," he said, "go back and destroy it." So Khalid returned to the idol, destroyed its temple, and broke the idol. The keeper began saying, "Rage, O ‘Uzza, with one of thy fits of rage!"–whereupon a naked, wailing Ethiopian woman came out before him. Khalid killed her and took her jewels that were on her. Then he went to the Messenger of God and gave him a report of what happened. "That was al-‘Uzza," he said, "and al-‘Uzza will never be worshiped [again]."

According to Ibn Humayd – Salamah – Ibn Ishaq, who said: The Messenger of God sent Khalid b. al-Walid to [deal with] al-‘Uzza, who was at Nakhlah. She was a temple venerated by the tribes of Quraysh, Kinanah, and all Mudar. Her keepers were of the Banu Shayban, a division of the Banu Sulaym, allies of the Banu Hashim. When the master of the temple heard that Khalid was coming to deal with al-‘Uzza, he hung his sword on her and climbed the mountain near which al-‘Uzza was located. As he went up he said:

O ‘Uzza, attack with an attack that hits no vital place,
against Khalid! Throw down thy veil, and gird up thy train!
O ‘Uzza, if today thou wilt not slay Khalid,
bear a swift punishment, or become a Christian!

Having reached al-‘Uzza, Khalid destroyed her and returned to the Messenger of God. (The History of al-Tabari: The Victory of Islam, translated by Michael Fishbein [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1997], Volume VIII (8), pp. 187-188; bold emphasis ours)

In light of the foregoing it is obvious that Muslims are faced with some major problems! First, how can Allah be the sole owner/possessor of the kingdom who doesn’t have any associates who share in his dominion when he has allowed and even given kingship to many of his creatures? Second, how can the kingdom belong solely to Allah on the last day when there are alleged sound narrations which proclaim that Muhammad will be sitting on the throne on that very day? Finally, and more importantly, how can Muslims continue to believe that Islam is a strict monotheistic faith and that Muhammad was nothing more than a man when some of Islam’s greatest commentators and scholars taught that their prophet will sit on the divine throne and therefore share in Allah’s rule?

Muslims claim the Quran is miraculous. In one sense we agree since it is truly a miracle that anyone could ever believe that this book is from an all-knowing deity, being a revelation from the creator of the heavens and earth. Now that is a miracle! 

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