Contradictions in the Annunciation Accounts of the Quran

Was the birth of Jesus announced to Mary by a group of angels or by Allah’s spirit?

Sam Shamoun & Jochen Katz

In this article we want to answer to the response by Moiz Amjad (*) of to this Quranic error.

We have already addressed his so-called biblical contradictions which he mentioned in the last part of his response (*). So we will not be dealing with them at this point since we want to focus on Amjad’s attempts of reconciling the Quranic contradictions in the birth narrative of Jesus.

Amjad proposes two explanations which he feels sufficiently harmonize the Quranic discrepancies. He writes:

The First Explanation

A close look at Surah Aal Imraan shows that the Surah from verse 33 to 63 presents, in a summarized form, some important events from the time immediately preceding the birth of Jesus to that of his death. It is within the narration of these events that the prayer of Mary's mother and her feelings at her birth are mentioned; Zacharias' custody of Mary is mentioned; Zacharias' prayer for a son is mentioned; John's birth is mentioned; Angels' visits to Mary is mentioned; the birth of Jesus is mentioned; and some (major) events from the life of Jesus are mentioned. In mentioning all these events, the Qur'an, following its normal style, has only referred to some of the more important events and that too in a very brief and summarized form. As should have been, events that are not as important from the perspective of the point that the Qur'an wants to make are not even mentioned; repetitions in the referred events are ignored; and to make the whole narration effective, some explanations and comments are also given.

It is in the above context that the verses of Surah Aal Imraan, referred to by Mr. Katz were revealed and placed.

Verse 37, 42 and 43 reveal that it was quite often that angels visited Mary. It is not necessary that the two statements, given in 42 and in 43 relate to the same visit of the angels -- although there is no reason to believe that they were not. Then a third statement in verse 45 and 46 is given. Again, it is not necessary that the third statement was given during the same visit in which the first or the second or both the statements were given. The third statement may or may not have been given in the same visit. (Underline emphasis ours)

Note the underlined phrases! Although it speaks for the honesty of Amjad not to claim that his proposed interpretation is the only possible one, these formulations already indicate that it is much more natural to read the passage as describing one event instead of several. However, the question is not whether a fertile imagination is able to come up with an unusual way of interpreting this or that additional element into a given text, but whether there is any sound reason, any evidence based on the text itself, that would lead us to such a conclusion. We will see in the following that the little evidence that Amjad will provide for his thesis of multiple angelic visits is rather weak.

Furthermore, apart from it being the natural reading, in this paper we will provide additional reasons why this passage describes one angelic visit only.

Let us look at these texts carefully:

Her Lord received the child with gracious favour, and by His goodness she grew up comely, Zachariah taking charge of her. Whenever Zachariah went in to her in the Sanctuary, he found her provisioned. 'Mary,' he said, 'how comes this to thee?' 'From God,' she said. Truly God provisions whomsoever He will without reckoning. S. 3:37 Arberry

This reference says nothing about Mary being visited by angels, but simply states that God provided for her. How he did so is left unanswered. This means also that the author of the Quran did apparently not intend to suggest to the readers that angels visited Mary on a regular basis. Amjad is arguing from silence. (Moreover, even if the food was brought by angels, it still does not provide any justification for breaking up the annunciation narrative of 3:42-51 into several encounters.)

And when the angels said, 'Mary, God has chosen thee, and purified thee; He has chosen thee above all women. Mary; be obedient to thy Lord, prostrating and bowing before Him.' (That is of the tidings of the Unseen, that We reveal to thee; for thou wast not with them, when they were casting quills which of them should have charge of Mary; thou wast not with them, when they were disputing.) When the angels said, 'Mary, God gives thee good tidings of a Word from Him whose name is Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; high honoured shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God. He shall speak to men in the cradle, and of age, and righteous he shall be.' S. 3:42-46 Arberry

Unless one first assumes that these verses refer to separate events, which Mr. Amjad himself admits is not a necessary reading of these citations, then none of them support Mr. Amjad’s thesis that angels visited Mary often, let alone that these specific verses represent several such visits. The natural reading of the passages is that the angels appeared to Mary one time in order to announce the birth of Christ to her. The reason for the Quran repeating that the angels said something to Mary is because of the parenthetical comments of verse 43, which breaks the flow of the narrative, thereby requiring the author to mention to his readers that he is resuming what the angels told Mary.

Parenthetical comments or insertions are a rather frequent feature found in many places in the Quran. The Muslim apologists at Islamic Awareness talk at length about "the stylistic feature of the Qur'an called idraj or "insertion" of a comment in the narration" (*). Although we do not agree with all claims in their paper, we agree that such insertions occur regularly in the Quran, and they are therefore no reason to conclude that what comes before and after belongs to different events.

Amjad continues:

Moreover, the "glad tidings" of a son, given to a woman, even if she is not married, is not something very strange. There are many instances, in our everyday life that we hear a statement from someone that relates to our (relatively) far off future. For instance, while doing his high school, an intelligent student may hear from his tutor that 'You shall soon be treating sick people'. The student is not surprised. He knows that what his teacher implies is that after going through all the steps involved in becoming a doctor, you shall become a successful doctor. Likewise, it should not have been strange for a woman who is not even married to hear from an angel or a true prophet of God that she shall mother a male child. Obviously, she could easily have assumed that in due course of time she would get married and later she would bear a male child. But, on the other hand, when the angel comes and tells a virgin that she has conceived a child, or that a child grows in her belly, this should be some surprise. Now she is likely to ask the question that Mary asked the angel.

Is Amjad really serious? First, what would make the announcement strange is if it were accompanied by the appearance of angels, just as Amjad implies by his comments regarding the Spirit visiting her. After all, how many women have angels appearing to tell them that they conceive a child?! This, in itself, would have caused Mary to think that something more than an ordinary pregnancy is in view here since the angels’ visitation would have implied that she was being honored with a Divine blessing that required something out of the ordinary. It is therefore not at all obvious that she would have interpreted the angels’ message as nothing more than the announcement that she would eventually conceive a child as a result of marriage which would take place in the due course of time. Amjad is simply reading things into the text in order to avoid admitting that the Quran contradicts itself.

Second, Mary was not simply told she would bear a male child. According to verses 45-46, she was told many highly unusual things about this child:

When the angels said, 'Mary, God gives thee good tidings of a Word from Him whose name is Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; high honoured shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God. He shall speak to men in the cradle, and of age, and righteous he shall be.'

This child is called "a Word from Him", he is given the title "the Messiah", it is prophesied that he shall be highly honored in this world and the next, being very close to God. Moreover, he will talk to men in the cradle, i.e. start to do miracles as an infant. The thought of bearing a male child may not be strange to a young woman, but does Amjad really believe that there is even one woman in this world who would not be surprised when an angel visits her, and gives her news about an extraordinary male child which is described in these words?

Third, Amjad has apparently not given any attention to the name that this child will bear. The angel does not only say that this child will be a "son of Mary" but clearly states that his name will be "Jesus, son of Mary". Children born to married parents are always named after their father, certainly in Middle Eastern culture. His name does not contain the name of a father but the name of his mother. This implies that this child is not going to be born within marriage. No wonder we see her asking immediately, "how shall I have a son seeing no mortal has touched me?" (Verse 47)

Does Amjad still want to argue that Mary would not be surprised at such an announcement?

Again, the very fact that she is told about Jesus having the name "son of Mary" indicates to her that there will be no (recognized, legal) father for this child. Thus, he will not be the result of a future marriage. This alone destroys Amjad’s most crucial assumption. Nevertheless, let us continue with our examination of his arguments:

In my opinion, one explanation may be thus: Angels of God visit Mary and give her messages from her Lord; in one of these visits, they declare that she shall mother a boy child; Mary is not surprised, as she presumes that she shall bear the child after she gets married; some time later, the Spirit visits Mary and declares that it has come to deliver her with the male child; hearing this, Mary is quite surprised; she expresses her surprise and gets the mentioned answer from the Spirit.

Amjad could only arrive at such a suggestion by completely misrepresenting the announcement of the angel. The angel did not simply announce the birth of a male child. He gave a prophecy of an enormously unusual child with a significantly unusual name which told her that this son would not be born within marriage. Anyone would be very surprised at such an announcement, particularly when angels are sent to bring it.

In fact, the angelic annunciation of the birth of Jesus is not only astonishing, the implication that Mary would give birth outside of marriage would have been shocking to any pious woman. No wonder the angels had to prepare this announcement in verses 42-43, and Mary raised her question as an immediate response in verse 47.

[42] And when the angels said, 'Mary, God has chosen thee, and purified thee; He has chosen thee above all women. [43] Mary; be obedient to thy Lord, prostrating and bowing before Him.' [44] (That is of the tidings of the Unseen, that We reveal to thee; for thou wast not with them, when they were casting quills which of them should have charge of Mary; thou wast not with them, when they were disputing.) [45] When the angels said, 'Mary, God gives thee good tidings of a Word from Him whose name is Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; high honoured shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God. [46] He shall speak to men in the cradle, and of age, and righteous he shall be.' [47] 'Lord,' said Mary, 'how shall I have a son seeing no mortal has touched me?' 'Even so,' he said, 'God creates what He will. When He decrees a thing He does but say to it "Be," and it is.'

Since a child born outside of marriage means great shame and the rejection by the religious community as being sinful and impure, the angels begin their announcement by telling Mary that God had chosen her and purified her, even having chosen her above all other women. Then they exhort Mary to be obedient, and to prostrate to God as an expression of her submission to his will, because what she is about to hear will certainly shake her and take great faith and obedience to accept. Then the announcement of this special son follows in verses 45 and 46. Mary’s question in verse 47 follows naturally. It would be completely unnatural not to raise such a question after having heard this announcement.

Despite all this, Amjad proposes to see it otherwise:

This explanation implies that angels (plural) visited Mary a number of times, but in the particular instance that she was given the news that she shall now deliver the child, it was not angels but the "Spirit". Thus, in Surah Aal Imraan, where the life of Mary has been presented in a very brief and summarized form, some of the important events of her life that took place at different times have been covered without giving details of any particular incident. While in Surah Maryam, the particular incident of Jesus' birth has been narrated in detail, thereby clarifying some aspects that had remained vague in the first narration.

In other words, Amjad proposes to break the text up into these pieces:

First visit of angels [42] And when the angels said, 'Mary, God has chosen thee, and purified thee; He has chosen thee above all women.
Second visit of angels, they say: [43] Mary; be obedient to thy Lord, prostrating and bowing before Him.'
(Parenthetical remark addressing Muhammad) [44] (That is of the tidings of the Unseen, that We reveal to thee; for thou wast not with them, when they were casting quills which of them should have charge of Mary; thou wast not with them, when they were disputing.)
Third visit of angels, they say: [45] When the angels said, 'Mary, God gives thee good tidings of a Word from Him whose name is Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; high honoured shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God.
[46] He shall speak to men in the cradle, and of age, and righteous he shall be.'
Fourth visitation, "the Spirit" comes: [47] 'Lord,' said Mary, 'how shall I have a son seeing no mortal has touched me?' 'Even so,' he said, 'God creates what He will. When He decrees a thing He does but say to it "Be," and it is.

In addition to all the other reasons already mentioned, what is the consequence of this proposal? The result is that we now have several visits and announcements that make little sense by themselves. Verse 42 by itself leaves the questions: What was Mary chosen for? Why has God purified her? Does it make sense that God would send angels to announce this, and leave it at that? Some time later, the angels come back and speak verse 43 to her. The mystery only grows. Yes, Mary had been prostrating to God all her life, she had dedicated her life to the service of God, and was making every effort to be obedient. But after this word, what exactly was she supposed to be obedient to? What special command is there? None. Would God really say, "be obedient to me" without mentioning what she was supposed to do?

After the third visit, Mary is not surprised and has no questions after hearing that she will have a most unusual son. We have already discussed verses 45-46 in detail and seen that this interpretation is not sustainable.

Again, some time later, the Spirit comes and speaks the words found in Q. 19 – which are not reported in Q. 3 – but Q. 3:47 reports Mary’s answer to an announcement narrated in Q. 19.

What Amjad proposes here can hardly be called an explanation of the text, let alone responsible exegesis. In my view, it is a manipulation of the text in order to stretch or transform it into something that can accommodate the statements found in Q. 19 which are contradicting the natural understanding of the passage in Q. 3. Apart from the parenthetical remark in verse 44 that causes a certain interruption in the flow, Q. 3:42-51 represents one coherent conversation, and there is no justification to break this narrative unit into several parts, claiming that it is pieced together from at least three – and Amjad suggests even four – separate angelic visits (42, 43, 45-46, 47-51).

Amjad is turning a coherent narrative into utter chaos. There is nothing credible about this construction. In his "explanation" of Q. 3:45-47, the angels’ announcement remains without answer, and Mary gives an "answer" without there being an announcement in the text, which is rather hard to believe. There is no indication whatsoever that 47 is not the answer to 45-46. Amjad’s one and only reason for tearing this passage into shreds, destroying its unity, is that this procedure then allows him to harmonize the fourth visit with the passage in Q. 19.

It is also worth noting that not even one of the classical Muslim commentaries contains as much as a hint that Q. 3:42-51 could also refer to multiple visits of angels. They all discuss these verses as being one angelic visit to Mary for the purpose of announcing to her the birth of Jesus. Mutee’a al-Fadi carefully read the following Arabic commentaries on this passage (Ibn Kathir, Al-Jalalayn, Al-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi, Al-Baidawi, Al-Suyuti, Al-Baghawi). The very fact that all of these classical commentators only saw one angelic visit in this narrative is further evidence that Amjad’s interpretation is rather forced and not a natural reading of the text.

Another problem with his claims is that the evidence from Q. 3 and 19 demonstrate that both versions are referring to one and the same encounter, not to separate visitations since:

In fact, if Amjad insists that Q. 3 includes several incidents in the life of Mary he must be consistent and say the same thing of Zechariah’s story as found in the same Sura, that this too incorporates several different events together. This leads us to his other claims:

The basic premises for the above explanation are:

It is difficult to follow Amjad’s reasoning here when he admits that yubashiroke doesn’t have to refer to a distant event, but can refer to something which occurs immediately. If this is the case then one can easily interpret these passages to mean that the angels gave Mary good news that she was to conceive Jesus, which is why the Spirit expressly told her that he was giving her a faultless son at that precise moment. Basically, the angels were telling Mary that she would eventually give birth to Jesus since the Spirit had come to cause her to conceive him in her womb.

However, Amjad’s harmonization is based on the assumption that Q. 3 and 19 are consistent with each other, when in reality they are not. Therefore, to highlight the fact that one account mentions angels using the word yubashiroke whereas the other refers to God’s Spirit saying le ahaba lake' only manages to introduce additional problems. It shows that the author of the Quran (if in fact there was only one author) wasn’t able to narrate the same event in the same way, but contradicted himself by claiming in one version that a group of angels told Mary one thing, whereas in the other account he has the Spirit telling Mary something else.

Let us apply Amjad’s arguments to the account of Zachariah and the birth of John which appears right before Mary’s story:

So her Lord accepted her with a good acceptance and made her grow up a good growing, and gave her into the charge of Zakariya; whenever Zakariya entered the sanctuary to (see) her, he found with her food. He said: O Marium! whence comes this to you? She said: It is from Allah. Surely Allah gives to whom He pleases without measure. There did Zakariya pray to his Lord; he said: My Lord! grant me from Thee good offspring; surely Thou art the Hearer of prayer. Then the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary: That Allah gives you the good news (yubashshiruka) of Yahya verifying a Word from Allah, and honorable and chaste and a prophet from among the good ones. He said: My Lord! (Qala rabbi) when shall there be a son (born) to me, and old age has already come upon me, and my wife is barren? He said: even thus does Allah (qala kathalika Allahu yafaalu ma yashao) what He pleases. He said: My Lord! (Qala rabbi) appoint a sign for me. Said He (qala): Your sign is that you should not speak to men for three days except by signs; and remember your Lord much and glorify Him in the evening and the morning. S. 3:37-41 Shakir

Compare how strikingly similar Zechariah’s story is to Mary’s:

And when the angels said: O Marium! surely Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the world. O Marium! keep to obedience to your Lord and humble yourself, and bow down with those who bow… When the angels said: O Marium, surely Allah gives you good news (yubashshiruki) with a Word from Him (of one) whose name is the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, worthy of regard in this world and the hereafter and of those who are made near (to Allah). And he shall speak to the people when in the cradle and when of old age, and (he shall be) one of the good ones. She said: My Lord! (Qalat rabbi) when shall there be a son (born) to me, and man has not touched me? He said: Even so, Allah creates what He pleases (qala kathaliki Allahu yakhluqu ma yashao); when He has decreed a matter, He only says to it, Be, and it is. And He will teach him the Book and the wisdom and the Taurat and the Injeel. S. 3:42-43, 45-48 Shakir

Note that:

Therefore, if the use of qala means that Q. 3:45-47 is narrating more than one visitation then the same must be said of the story of Zechariah. After all, if by changing the pronouns the Quran is hinting that the narration of Jesus’ birth in Q. 3 does not refer to only one incident the same must necessarily be true of the narration of the Baptist’s birth!

Now Mr. Katz may not know Arabic, and can therefore be excused for making mistakes in his exegesis. But what is Mr. Amjad’s excuse for committing such basic blunders since his comments presuppose that he is trying to pass himself off as an expert of the Arabic language?

To summarize, Amjad has provided no good reason for thinking that Q. 3 refers to separate incidents. He has not shown that the narrative is recalling various important incidents leading to the conception and subsequent birth of Jesus that took place at different times. A careful analysis of both Q. 3 and 19 demonstrates that these accounts are referring to a single event in the life of Mary, and yet they do so with major contradictions between them.

Amjad concludes:

In case Mr. Katz or anyone else thinks that the above explanation is not acceptable, he must take the pains of correcting me by informing me of the reasons that hinder the acceptance of this explanation. I shall be obliged.

We have taken the trouble of providing those reasons requested by Mr. Amjad, and hopefully he will not only recognize but also concede that his exegesis failed to accomplish its stated purpose of harmonizing these contradictory accounts.

What is ironic is that Mr. Amjad will provide his own reasons for why his stated harmonization is not acceptable since he proposes a second view which contradicts his first one.

The Second Explanation

The two verses may also be explained in a different way:

To fully understand this explanation, let us first consider an everyday example from our lives: Suppose the President sends a delegation headed by the Foreign Secretary and consisting of three Junior Secretaries to Russia. Later on, while talking about one of the meetings of the delegation, the President says: "My Secretaries reiterated the importance of open market economy; the Russians were found to be quite interested in understanding and implementing it in their country." The press while reporting the incident writes: "The Foreign Secretary succeeds in convincing Russia to bring about changes in its economic structure and policies." The Russian President, while talking about the same incident says: "My Secretaries are forced to consider the American proposal." The Russian press writes: "The Chief Secretary was found to be interested in the idea presented by the Americans." And the Press of a third country writes: "America influences Russia in economic matters."

Look at the words used for the two delegations in the various statements: Secretaries, the Foreign Secretary, Americans and America; likewise, the Russian group has also been called by various titles: the Russians, Russia, Secretaries, the Chief Secretary. The reader must note that all these different words have been used to narrate the same event, and none of these can be termed a contradiction of the other.

Let us now consider the referred verses in the light of the same literary principle. The event referred to in these verses happens thus: God sends a group of His angels, headed by the arch-angel Gabriel2 to Mary. Now, suppose while reporting this incident, we say: "The angels said to Mary...", at another time, we say: "Gabriel said to Mary..." and at yet another time we say: "God said to Mary...". Any one who has no objection to the American/Russian example above, should not have any objection here. If some one believes that the American/Russian example is not fully compatible with the problem under consideration, I shall be most obliged if I am informed of the reasons for its incompatibility. But if there is no objection on the compatibility of the example with the problem in question then the explanation given above has to be accepted.

One question raised by Mr. Katz in this regard is: Why does Mary only seek refuge from one of the angels as she only addresses one in Sura 19:18? Were the others not like men and threatening to her?

Although I do not think that this question has anything to do with the real problem under consideration, but still, just to answer the question, I think the question raised by Mr. Katz himself, i.e. "Were the others not like men and threatening to her?" itself is a plausible explanation to the above question. As I see it, a group of angels, headed by the arch-angel Gabriel came to Mary. From among these angels, Gabriel appeared as a man. It was only Gabriel that spoke to Mary. In Aal Imraan, according to the general principle common in about all languages (as explained in the American/Russian example above), the speech of their leader is attributed to all the angels, while in Maryam, the speech is attributed only to the speaker among them.

There are several problems with this proposed harmonization. First, this explanation that the two accounts refer to the same event soundly refutes Amjad’s assertion that the change of pronouns in Q. 3:45-47 implies that more than one incident is in view. This pretty much shows that Amjad’s appeal to the Arabic was nothing more than a smokescreen, a red herring. Amjad clearly wants to have his cake and eat it as well.

Second, Amjad assumes (again without a shred of proof) that the Spirit mentioned in Q. 19:17 is the angel Gabriel, a point he reiterates in his endnotes:

2- The word Al-Rooh has been used in the Qur'an for the arch-angel Gabriel. (Source)

There is not a single verse in the Quran which explicitly identifies the Spirit as Gabriel. The evidence actually proves that God’s Spirit is not the archangel (1, 2, 3, 4).

And since the Quran refers to the name Gabriel:

Say: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel - for he brings down the (revelation) to thy heart by God's will, a confirmation of what went before, and guidance and glad tidings for those who believe, - Whoever is an enemy to God and His angels and apostles, to Gabriel and Michael, - Lo! God is an enemy to those who reject Faith. S. 2:97-98 Y. Ali

If you two repent to God, yet your hearts certainly inclined; but if you support one another against him, God is his Protector, and Gabriel, and the righteous among the believers; and, after that, the angels are his supporters S. 66:4 Arberry

We would expect that, at the very least, his name would be mentioned in Q. 19 if the author(s) wanted his audience to know for certain that he appeared to Mary.

The third problem is with Amjad’s example since it actually strengthens the case against the Quran by showing that it is contradicting itself. All the individuals mentioned in his story are of the same class, they all share the same genus, i.e. they are all humans despite having different ranks. Yet angels and the Spirit do not belong to the same genus but are different from one another as the following texts show:

The angels AND the Spirit (al-mala’ikatu WA al-Roohu) ascend unto him in a Day the measure whereof is (as) fifty thousand years: S. 70:4

The Day that the Spirit AND the angels (al-Roohu WA al-mala’ikatu) will stand forth in ranks, none shall speak except any who is permitted by (God) Most Gracious, and He will say what is right." S. 78:38

The distinction made between the Spirit and the angels is similar to the way the Quran differentiates between Allah and his angels:

Verily, those who disbelieve, and die while they are disbelievers, it is they on whom is the Curse of Allah AND of the angels (Allahi WA almala-ikati) and of mankind, combined. S. 2:161 Hilali-Khan

Or you cause the heaven to fall upon us in pieces, as you have pretended, or you bring Allah AND the angels (biAllahi WA almala-ikati) before (us) face to face; S. 17:92 Hilali-Khan

Amjad would clearly have no problem admitting that these citations distinguish Allah from the angels, that Allah is not an angel. He should therefore have no problem admitting the same in reference to God’s Spirit being distinguished from the angels in the verses above.

Interestingly, when Muhammad was asked the identity of the Spirit his response was that he is mysterious and only little is known about him:

And they ask you (O Muhammad SAW) concerning the Ruh (the Spirit); Say: "The Ruh (the Spirit): it is one of the things, the knowledge of which is only with my Lord. And of knowledge, you (mankind) have been given only a little." S. 17:85 Hilali-Khan

This was a wonderful place for Muhammad to have said that the Spirit is actually the angel Gabriel, yet he clearly did not say this. In fact, a careful reading of the Quran shows that the Spirit is a Divine Being who does the very works which God alone can do. For the evidence please consult the above links.

Thus, a reference to angels would not include the Spirit since the two groups are distinct from one another.

Amjad should also have no problem seeing the soundness of our reasoning at this point. After all, he himself uses the same logic when trying to explain away the fact that the Quran claims angels cannot disobey God even though elsewhere it says that Iblis disobeyed God’s command to the angels that they bow before Adam:

The fact is that the above contradiction stands resolved only by recognizing that the Qur'an has declared that Iblis was not one of the angels, but a jinn. The Qur'an says: …

And when We said to the angels: 'Prostrate before Adam', they all bowed down, except Iblis -- he was a jinn and he haughtily disobeyed his Lord. (Moiz Amjad, Can Angels Disobey?; Source)

As it stands, the Quran does indeed contradict itself regarding the exact circumstances and details surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.


[1] The fact that Zechariah and Mary addressed some other entity, besides Allah, as their Lord is a further contradiction within the Quran, and is a violation of what later Islamic theologians classified as tauhid-al-rububiyyah, or the oneness of the Lordship of Allah, that Allah alone is Lord over all things.

The Quran states that there is no lord besides Allah, and that believers are not to take angels as lords:

It is not (possible) that a man, to whom is given the Book, and Wisdom, and the Prophetic Office, should say to people: 'Be ye my worshippers rather than Allahs': On the contrary (he would say) 'Be ye worshippers of Him (Who is truly the Cherisher of all): For ye have taught the Book and ye have studied it earnestly.' Nor would he instruct you to take angels and prophets for Lords and patrons. What! would he bid you to unbelief after ye have bowed your will (to Allah in Islám)? S. 3:79-80

Yet in the birth annunciations of John and Jesus both Zechariah and Mary address an angel as Lord! Here, once again, is the story of Zechariah’s encounter with God’s angels:

There did Zakariya PRAY TO HIS LORD: 'O MY LORD! Grant unto me from Thee a progeny that is pure: for Thou art He that heareth prayer!' While he was standing in prayer in the chamber, THE ANGELS CALLED UNTO HIM: 'Allah doth give thee glad tidings of Yahyá (John) witnessing the truth of a Word from Allah, and (be besides) noble, chaste, and a prophet,- of the (goodly) company of the righteous.' HE SAID: 'O MY LORD! How shall I have a son, seeing I am very old, and my wife is barren?' 'Thus,' was the answer, 'Doth Allah accomplish what He willeth.' HE SAID: 'O MY LORD! Give me a Sign!' 'Thy Sign,' was the answer, 'Shall be that thou shalt speak to no man for three days but with signals. Then celebrate the praises of thy Lord again and again, and glorify Him in the evening and in the morning.' S. 3:38-41 Shakir

When he called upon his Lord in a low voice, He said: MY LORD! surely my bones are weakened and my head flares with hoariness, and, my Lord! I have never been unsuccessful in my prayer to Thee: And surely I fear my cousins after me, and my wife is barren, therefore grant me from Thyself an heir, Who should inherit me and inherit from the children of Yaqoub, and make him, my Lord, one in whom Thou art well pleased. O Zakariya! surely We give you good news of a boy whose name shall be Yahya: We have not made before anyone his equal. He said: O MY LORD! when shall I have a son, and my wife is barren, and I myself have reached indeed the extreme degree of old age? HE SAID: So shall it be, YOUR LORD SAYS: It is easy to Me, and indeed I created you before, when you were nothing. He said: My Lord! give me a sign. He said: Your sign is that you will not be able to speak to the people three nights while in sound health. S. 19:3-10 Shakir

These passages mention Zechariah's prayer to God for a son, the angels’ response, and the subsequent discussion which allegedly took place between them. What is clear from the foregoing is that Zechariah addressed the angels, or one specific angel, as his Lord! Here is a portion of the passage in order to highlight this point:

He said, "O my Lord, how shall I have a son, seeing my wife is barren, and I have attained to the declining of old age?" SAID HE, "So it shall be; THY LORD says, ‘Easy is that for Me, seeing that I created thee aforetime, when thou wast nothing.’" S. 19:8-9 Arberry

The person speaking refers to what Zechariah's Lord had said, which makes it obvious that the one speaking to Zechariah could not be Allah. And yet, as is obvious from the texts in question, Zechariah was addressing as his Lord this specific person who responded!

And here, once, again is the story of Mary’s encounter with the angels:

Behold! THE ANGELS SAID: "O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee - chosen thee above the women of all nations. O Mary! worship thy Lord devoutly: Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down." This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee (O Messenger) by inspiration: Thou wast not with them when they cast lots with pens (or arrows), as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor wast thou with them when they disputed (the point). Behold! THE ANGELS SAID: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah. He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous." She said: "O MY LORD! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?" HE SAID: "Even so; Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is!" S. 3:42-47

Mary also called the angels (or at least one of them) who answered her questions her Lord!

In light of the foregoing it does seem obvious that Allah has bid some prophets and believers to unbelief after they had bowed to him.

At the very least this shows that the Quran is not that clear, perspicuous Scripture it claims to be:

O people of the Book! There hath come to you our Apostle, revealing to you much that ye used to hide in the Book, and passing over much (that is now unnecessary): There hath come to you from God a (new) light and a perspicuous Book, - S. 5:15 Y. Ali

A.L.R. These are the symbols (or Verses) of the perspicuous Book. S. 12:1 Y. Ali

We know indeed that they say, "It is a man that teaches him." The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear. S. 16:103 Y. Ali

The present form of the text shows that Uthman’s committee, which included Zaid ibn Thabit, did a very poor job of editing the Quran since they left much of the text in a chaotic and incoherent state.

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