“Don’t Shoot Us, We Are Just the Messenger”
Another Grammatical Mistake in the Qur’an
That the Qur’an claims to be a miracle, in fact, the one and only miracle offered as proof by Muhammad for his claims to be a messenger, prophet, and apostle of Allah, is well known. Part and parcel of this claim is that the Qur’an is free from any and all grammatical mistakes. A survey of the following articles will show that this claim is false (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).
Yet another grammatical error can be found in Surah 26:16. Several English translations by Muslims render it this way:
And both of you approach Pharaoh and say: We are the Messengers of the Lord of the worlds, - Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar
Go to Pharaoh, both of you, and say, We are messengers from the Lord of the Worlds: - Wahiduddin Khan
Go to Pharaoh and say: "We are messengers from the Lord of the Universe. – T. B. Irving
"So both of you go to Pharaoh and Say: "We are messengers of the Lord of the worlds" – Progressive Muslims
So go ye twain unto Fir'awn and say: verily we are the apostles of the Lord of the Worlds, - Abdul Majid Daryabadi
So approach Pharaoh and say, ‘‘We are indeed envoys of the Lord of the worlds – Ali Quli Qarai
They came to the Pharaoh and said, "We are the Messengers of the Lord of the Universe. – Muhammad Sarwar
So go, both of you, to Pharaoh and say, ‘We both are messengers of the Lord of all the worlds, - Muhammad Taqi Usmani
Go together to Pharaoh and say, "We are Messengers from the Lord of the Worlds." – Shabir Ahmed
"So both of you, go forth to Firon (Pharaoh), and say: ‘We are the messengers of the Lord (and Cherisher) of the Worlds (Rab-ul-'Ala'meen); - Syed Vickar Ahamed
Go to Pharaoh and say, 'We are the messengers of the Lord of the worlds, - Umm Muhammad (Sahih International)
Go to Pharoah and tell him: "We are the Messengers from the Lord of the Worlds. – Farook Malik
So go to the pharaoh and say, "We are the messengers of the Lord of the entire universe." – Dr. Munir Munshey
So go both of you to Pharaoh and say: We are the Messengers (sent) by the Lord of all the worlds. – Tahir-ul-Qadri Mohammed
“Therefore approach Firaun then proclaim, ‘We both are Noble Messengers of the Lord Of The Creation.’ – Faridul Haque
"Go to Pharaoh and say, `We are messengers from the Lord of the universe.' – Rashad Khalifa
`So go to Pharaoh and say, `We are the Messengers of the Lord of the Worlds – Sher Ali
"And when you both come to Firaun (Pharaoh), say: We are the Messengers of the Lord of the Alameen (mankind, jinns and all that exists), - Hilali & Khan
While the above English translations are grammatically sound, the possibility that something is awry and that the translators are keeping something from us appears first of all by a comparison with some other Muslim translations that render the verse this way:
And go, both of you, unto Pharaoh and say, ‘Behold, we bear a message from the Sustainer of all the worlds: - Muhammad Asad
And come together unto Pharaoh and say: Lo! we bear a message of the Lord of the Worlds, - M. M. Pickthall
Go, both of you, to Pharaoh and say, “We bring a message from the Lord of the Worlds: - Abdel Haleem
"So go, both of you, to the Pharaoh and say: ‘We have come with a message from the Lord of the worlds (He Who has created and sustains everything): - Ali Unal
"And go to Pharaoh and say, ´Verily, we bear a message from the Lord of the Worlds - (v. 17) Hamid S. Aziz
Go to the Pharaoh and tell him: 'We bring a message from the Lord of all the worlds – Muhammad Ahmed Samira
Once again the grammar of the above translations is sound, but with two notable changes from the translations that were listed before them. First, the latter translations represent a change from a concrete personal noun to an impersonal or abstract noun (i.e. “messengers” becomes “a message”); and, second, there is a change from the plural to the singular (i.e. “a message” instead of “messengers”).
Yet a third group of translations by Muslims render the verse in another grammatically consistent way, but introduce yet another change, one that appears to combine the above two translations, all of which lead us to further wonder what is going on, and which translations, if any, best approximate or represent the original:
"And so, both of you go to Pharaoh and say to him:" "We are bearers of the divine message sent by Allah, Creator of the worlds, the visible and the invisible, past, present and those to come", - Al-Muntakhab
`Go to Pharaoh both of you and say, "We are bearers of a Message from the Lord of the worlds. – Ahamtul Rahman Omar
Then come to Pharaoh, and say: We are bearers of a message of the Lord of the worlds: - Maulana Muhammad Ali
A final indication that there is a problem in this verse, one that gets us close to what accounts for the above noted differences, appears from the following Muslim translations:
Go to Pharaoh and say, "We are the Messenger of the Lord of all the worlds – Aisha Bewley
So come up to Firaawn, then say (to him), "We (both) are the Messenger of The Lord of the worlds; - Muhammad Mahmoud Ghali
When you see Pharaoh, tell him: “We are the Lord’s Messenger for all His intelligent beings.” – Bijan Moeinian
go both to Pharaoh and both of you say to him: 'We are (each) a Messenger from the Lord of all the Worlds. – Hasan Al-Fatih Qaribullah
The non-Muslim translation of George Sale also renders it in the above way:
Go ye therefore unto Pharaoh, and say, verily we are the apostle of the Lord of all creatures:
As can be seen, these last translations are grammatically inconsistent, with Hasan Al-Fatih Qaribullah parenthetically adding the word “each” to correct the problem.
The solution to this riddle, if it can be called a solution, is to be found in the underlying Arabic text, which reads:
Fatiya firAAawna fa-qoola inna rasoolu rabbi alAAalameena
The verbs fatiya and qoola are both in the dual form, and therefore refer to two persons, whereas the pronoun inna is in the plural form. It is correct to use the dual here since in the context Allah is addressing Moses and Aaron, commanding these two to go and confront Pharaoh concerning letting the Israelites go.
However, the word for messenger, rasoolu, is a singular nominative masculine noun, despite the fact that this is supposed to refer to both Moses and Aaron.
Here is our literal translation, which helps capture the grammatical mistake that is found in the Arabic:
Both of you go to Pharaoh and both of you say: “We are the messenger of the Lord of the worlds.”
Now this could have all been avoided by simply changing the word rasoolu to rasoola, which is in the dual form. Ironically, the Quran actually uses this correct form in the following passage dealing with the same issue of Allah sending Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh:
`So go ye both to him and say, `We are the Messengers of thy Lord; so let the Children of Israel go with us; and torment them not. We have, indeed, brought thee a great Sign from thy Lord; and peace shall be on him who follows the guidance; S. 20:47, Sher Ali
Fatiyahu fa-qoola inna rasoola rabbika ...
And with this, the mystery is solved: the reason for the differences between translations and the confusion and/or duplicity of many of the translators results from an attempt to clean up and/or hide a grammatical problem found in the Arabic text of the Qur’an. A correct translation of the Arabic text is also an incorrect one grammatically, because the Arabic text itself is grammatically in error. This is just what we would expect to find if the Qur’an is the product of a semi-illiterate pagan, and not at all what we would expect to find if the Qur’an is the direct speech of the omniscient God.
Further discussion on this issue is found in our rebuttal, “Zawadi Takes Aim At the Two Messenger”.
Qur'an Versions – observing differences in translations often leads to the discovery of problems in the underlying text.