Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Gods of Islam Unveiled:

Even More Problems with the Quran’s Structure and Eloquence

Sam Shamoun

In the following articles,

we furnished evidence showing that the Quran is anything but a linguistic miracle, and further documented that the Islamic scripture doesn’t present a consistent, coherent message, especially as it relates to monotheism. The Quran often leaves out important words and expressions which, in turn, results in the Muslim scripture presenting a multiplicity of divine beings. It even has the Islamic deity praising, glorifying, and worshiping someone besides himself as Allah.

The following is another example of how the Quran’s grammatical structure, and less than perfect eloquence, create a situation where Allah is depicted as worshiping and glorifying someone else as his very own lord and god:

Such was Jesus, son of Mary: (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt. It befitteth not (the Majesty of) Allah that He should take unto Himself a son. Glory be to Him! When He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is. And lo! Allah is my Lord and your Lord. So serve Him. That is the right path. S. 19:34-36 Pickthall

According to the Islamic position, the speaker or narrator of the Quran is supposed to be Allah himself, e.g., Allah is said to be the one who is doing the talking all throughout the Quran. This means that it is Allah who is stating that the things just said about Jesus in the prior verses (vv. 16-33) are true, and that it is beneath his glory to take a son.

Yet this also means that it is Allah who says in v. 36 that Allah is his lord whom others should serve!

Just in case a Muslim tries to brush this off as a mistake on the part of the translator, here is another version:

That is Jesus son of Mary, a saying of The Truth. They contest what is in it. It had not been for God that He takes to Himself a son. Glory be to Him! When He decreed a command, He not but says to it: Be! Then, it is! And, truly, God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is a straight path. Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar

Some Muslims, out of desperation, try to argue that v. 36 is actually reporting the words of Jesus, i.e., it is not Allah who is speaking at this point but Christ as he exhorts the people to worship Allah.(1)

The problem, however, is that the supposed words of Jesus end at v. 33, and Allah resumes speaking from v. 34 onwards. There is absolutely nothing in the immediate context which even remotely suggests that v. 36 is quoting Christ once again.

Now the author(s) and/or editor(s) could have avoided all of this by simply inserting the words of v. 36 right after v. 33, and before v. 34:

“And peace be on me the day I was given birth and the day I die and the day I am raised up, living. And, truly, God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is a straight path.” That is Jesus son of Mary, a saying of The Truth. They contest what is in it.

At least this arrangement leaves no doubt that v. 36 is meant to be a continuation of Jesus’ alleged words.

Or the editor(s) could have done what many English versions chose to do in order to avoid the problem created by the Arabic text:

And [thus it was that Jesus always said]: "Verily, God is my Sustainer as well as your Sustainer; so worship [none but] Him: this (alone] is a straight way." Muhammad Asad

“(Baby Jesus said)…” Muhammad Sarwar

“(Jesus only said:)…” Ahmed Ali

“Said Jesus…” Sher Ali

“Jesus declared…” Farook Malik

“And said Eisa…” Faridul Haque

“He also proclaimed…” Rashad Khalifa

The preceding was taken from the following source.

The translators obviously saw the problem and tried to hide or obscure it by adding explanatory words within brackets or parentheses. In some cases they didn’t even bother to provide brackets or parentheses, thereby giving the misleading impression that these extra words are actually part of the Arabic text!

As it stands, the way v. 36 has been formulated leaves Muslims with the inescapable problem of Allah glorifying someone else as Allah and submitting to another deity besides himself as his very own lord.

But that’s not all. Allah goes on to say a little later in the same chapter that he only comes down at the express orders of Muhammad’s lord:

And WE do not descend but by the command of your Lord; to Him belongs whatever is before US and whatever is behind US and whatever is between these, and your Lord is not forgetful. S. 19:64 Shakir

Like the previous citation, there is nothing in the immediate context to indicate that there is a change in speakers, nothing to even remotely suggest that Allah’s words have been interrupted in order to allow for the speech of others to be interjected at this point.

In light of this fact, this reference simply reinforces the point of Allah having a lord over him whom he worships and glorifies. At the very least, it shows that the Quran is written in such a way as to make it appear as if Allah is actually subservient to another god besides him whom he even calls Allah and refers to him as his own lord.

So much for the Quran being a linguistic miracle whose grammatical structure is flawless and beyond the ability of any finite creature to imitate or reproduce.


(1) Not all translators think that the words of v. 36 are that of Jesus. At least one Muslim thought that v. 36 reports what Muhammad was commanded to say to his contemporaries:

And (O Prophet, say to the people,). Allah is surely my Lord and your Lord. So, worship Him. This is the straight path. Muhammad Taqi Usmani

The problem that this translation faces is that the Quran is filled with examples where there is no doubt that it is Muhammad who is being commanded to speak since we find the command qul (“say”) at the start of those references. Here are a couple of examples:

Say (Qul) (O Muhammad) whoever is in error, the Most Beneficent (Allah) will extend (the rope) to him, until, when they see that which they were promised, either the torment or the Hour, they will come to know who is worst in position, and who is weaker in forces. [This is the answer for the Verse No.19:73]. S. 19:75 Hilali-Khan

Say (Qul) (unto them, O Muhammad): I pray unto Allah only, and ascribe unto Him no partner. Say (Qul): Lo! I control not hurt nor benefit for you. Say (Qul): Lo! none can protect me from Allah, nor can I find any refuge beside Him. Say: Lo! none can protect me from Allah, nor can I find any refuge beside Him(Mine is) but conveyance (of the Truth) from Allah, and His messages; and whoso disobeyeth Allah and His messenger, lo! his is fire of hell, wherein such dwell for ever. Till (the day) when they shall behold that which they are promised (they may doubt); but then they will know (for certain) who is weaker in allies and less in multitude. Say (Qul) (O Muhammad, unto the disbelievers): I know not whether that which ye are promised is nigh, or if my Lord hath set a distant term for it. (He is) the Knower of the Unseen, and He revealeth unto none His secret, Save unto every messenger whom He hath chosen, and then He maketh a guard to go before him and a guard behind him S. 72:20-28 Pickthall

Yet in the case of v. 36, there is no such imperative in the Arabic which would signify that these are the words which Allah commanded Muhammad to say.

Moreover, the very fact that this translation attributes the saying to Muhammad is a clear indication of just how confusing and incoherent the present text is, despite the Quran’s repeated claim that it is a perspicuous scripture which fully explains all of its verses:

Shall I seek other than Allah for judge, when He it is Who hath revealed unto you (this) Scripture, fully explained? Those unto whom We gave the Scripture (aforetime) know that it is revealed from thy Lord in truth. So be not thou (O Muhammad) of the waverers. S. 6:114 Pickthall

A. L. R. These are the Ayats of Revelation, - of a Qur'an that makes things clear. S. 15:1 Y. Ali

And We know well that they say: Only a man teacheth him. The speech of him at whom they falsely hint is outlandish, and this is clear Arabic speech. S. 16:101 Pickthall

These are verses of the Book that makes (things) clear. S. 26:2 Y. Ali

A Book whereof the Verses are explained in detail; A Qur'an in Arabic for people who know. S. 41:3 Hilali Khan

If the Quran were really clear and completely detailed then we wouldn’t have Muslims divided over whether these words were uttered by Jesus or Muhammad. In fact, if the Muslim scripture was truly complete then we would expect that Q. 19:36 would have either included the word qul in case this was supposed to be Muhammad speaking, or added the words “Jesus also/further said,” if indeed the Quran’s author(s) didn’t want us to assume that the words mentioned in this text were actually spoken by Allah himself.