Quran Contradiction

Messengers Were Sent Only to Their Own People?

Sam Shamoun

The following is a continuation of this article.

The Quran explicitly says that Allah never sent any messenger except to his own people speaking in their own language:

And We have sent NO Messenger save with the tongue of his people, that he might make all clear to them; then God leads astray whomsoever He will, and He guides whomsoever He will; and He is the All-mighty, the All-wise. S. 14:4

Noted exegete Ibn Kathir agrees that this is the meaning of the verse but tries to make an exception in the case of Muhammad:

Every Prophet was sent with the Language of His People; Guidance or Misguidance follows the Explanation

Allah is Kind and Compassionate with His creation, sending Messengers to them from among them and speaking their language, so that they are able to understand the Message that the Messengers were sent with. Allah said next…

<Then Allah misleads whom He wills and guides whom He wills.> after the proof and evidence have been established for the people, Allah misguides whom He wills from the path of guidance and guides whom He wills to the truth…

<And He is the All-Mighty,> whatever He wills occurs and whatever He does not will never occurs…

<the All-Wise.> in His decisions, misleading those who deserve to be misled and guiding those who deserve guidance. This is from Allah's wisdom with His creation, every Prophet He sent to a people spoke their language and everyone of these Prophets WERE ONLY SENT TO THEIR PEOPLE. Muhammad bin `Abdullah, Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, was sent to all people. It is recorded in the Two Sahihs that Jabir said that the Messenger of Allah said…

<<I have been given five things which were not given to anyone else before me. Allah made me victorious by awe, (by His frightening my enemies) for a distance of one month's journey. The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for worship and a purifier. The war booty has been made lawful for me and it was not lawful for anyone else before me. I have been given the right of Intercession (on the Day of Resurrection). Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only, but I have been sent to all mankind.>> Allah said…

<Say: "O mankind! Verily, I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah...> [7:158] (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged, Volume 5, Surah Hud to Surat Al-Isra’, Verse 38, abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, Lahore; First Edition: July 2000], pp. 309-310; source; capital and underline emphasis ours)

The problem with the claim of the hadith that Muhammad was sent to all mankind is that Q. 14:4 makes no such exception. The verse is formulated in such a way as to include every single messenger. We, therefore, have a contradiction regarding the extent of Muhammad’s mission, i.e. was he sent only to his people speaking in their own language or was he sent as a guide for everyone?

The Quran further contradicts itself by saying that Jesus and his mother were signs for all of mankind and that both the Torah and the Gospel were revelations given to everyone:

And mention in the Book Mary when she withdrew from her people to an eastern place, and she took a veil apart from them; then We sent unto her Our Spirit that presented himself to her a man without fault. She said, 'I take refuge in the All-merciful from thee! If thou fearest God … He said, 'I am but a messenger come from thy Lord, to give thee a boy most pure. She said, 'How shall I have a son whom no mortal has touched, neither have I been unchaste?' He said, 'Even so thy Lord has said: "Easy is that for Me; and that We may appoint him a sign unto men (ayatan lilnnasi) and a mercy from Us; it is a thing decreed."' S. 19:16-21

And she who guarded her virginity, so We breathed into her of Our spirit and appointed her and her son to be a sign unto all beings (ayatan lilAlameena). S. 21:91

He has sent down upon thee the Book with the truth, confirming what was before it, and He sent down the Torah and the Gospel aforetime, as guidance to the people (hudna lilnnasi), and He sent down the Salvation. As for those who disbelieve in God's signs, for them awaits a terrible chastisement; God is All-mighty, Vengeful. S. 3:3-4

Since Islamic scholarship agrees that the Torah was given to Moses this implies that Moses’ mission wasn’t limited to Israel, but also included other nations as well. In fact, this is precisely what the Quran says, that Allah didn’t simply send Moses to the nation of Israel but also to Pharaoh and his people:

Then We sent forth, after them, Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh and his Council with Our signs, but they waxed proud, and were a sinful people. So, when the truth came to them from Us, they said, 'Surely this is a manifest sorcery.' Moses said, 'What, do you say this to the truth, when it has come to you? Is this a sorcery? But sorcerers do not prosper.' They said, 'Art thou come to us to turn us from that we found our fathers practising, and that the domination in the land might belong to you two? We do not believe you. Pharaoh said, 'Bring me every cunning sorcerer.' Then, when the sorcerers came, Moses said to them, 'Cast you down what you will cast.' Then, when they had cast, Moses said, 'What you have brought is sorcery; God will assuredly bring it to naught. God sets not right the work of those who do corruption. God verifies the truth by His words, though sinners be averse.' So none believed in Moses, save a seed of his people, for fear of Pharaoh and their Council, that they would persecute them; and Pharaoh was high in the land, and he was one of the prodigals. S. 10:75-83

And We sent Moses with Our signs, and a manifest authority, to Pharaoh and his Council; but they followed Pharaoh's command, and Pharaoh's command was not right-minded. He shall go before his people on the Day of Resurrection, and will have led them down to the Fire-evil the watering-place to be led down to! And there was sent following after them in this world a curse, and upon the Day of Resurrection -- evil the offering to be offered! S. 11:96-99

Surely We have sent unto you a Messenger as a witness over you, even as We sent to Pharaoh a Messenger, but Pharaoh rebelled against the Messenger, so We seized him remorselessly. S. 73:15-16

A Muslim may claim that the Egyptians were also Moses’ people because he was reared among them, having been adopted by Pharaoh’s wife. The problem with this response is that the Quran never claims that the Egyptians were Moses’ people as well. The Quran actually distinguishes the people of Moses, the Israelites whom God saved, from the people of Pharaoh who were completely destroyed:

Said the chiefs of Pharaoh's people: "Wilt thou leave Moses and his people, to spread mischief in the land, and to abandon thee and thy gods?" He said: "Their male children will we slay; (only) their females will we save alive; and we have over them (power) irresistible." Said Moses to his people: "Pray for help from God, and (wait) in patience and constancy: for the earth is God's, to give as a heritage to such of His servants as He pleaseth; and the end is (best) for the righteous." S. 7:127-128

We sent Moses with Our signs (and the command). "Bring out thy people from the depths of darkness into light, and teach them to remember the Days of God." Verily in this there are Signs for such as are firmly patient and constant, - grateful and appreciative. Remember! Moses said to his people: "Call to mind the favour of God to you when He delivered you from the people of Pharaoh: they set you hard tasks and punishments, slaughtered your sons, and let your women-folk live: therein was a tremendous trial from your Lord." S. 14:5-6

It is important to note that the above passage follows immediately after Q. 14:4, the very citation which claims that Allah sent messengers only to their people speaking their language. It is apparent that the author of the Quran inserted the story of Moses right after Q. 14:4 as an example of a messenger that was sent only to his people, which explains why Q. 14:5-6 makes a distinction between the people of Moses and the people of Pharaoh.

Then We sent Moses and his brother Aaron, with Our Signs and authority manifest, To Pharaoh and his Chiefs: But these behaved insolently: they were an arrogant people. They said: "Shall we believe in two men like ourselves? And THEIR PEOPLE are subject to us!" S. 23:45-47

By inspiration we told Moses: "Travel by night with my servants; for surely ye shall be pursued." Then Pharaoh sent heralds to (all) the Cities, (Saying): "These (Israelites) are but a small band, "And they are raging furiously against us; "But we are a multitude amply fore-warned." So We expelled them from gardens, springs, Treasures, and every kind of honourable position; Thus it was, but We made the Children of Israel inheritors of such things. So they pursued them at sunrise. And when the two bodies saw each other, the people of Moses said: "We are sure to be overtaken." (Moses) said: "By no means! my Lord is with me! Soon will He guide me!" Then We told Moses by inspiration: "Strike the sea with thy rod." So it divided, and each separate part became like the huge, firm mass of a mountain. And We made the other party approach thither. We delivered Moses and all who were with him; But We drowned the others. S. 26:52-66

A believer, a man from among the people of Pharaoh, who had concealed his faith, said: "Will ye slay a man because he says, 'My Lord is God'? - when he has indeed come to you with Clear (Signs) from your Lord? and if he be a liar, on him is (the sin of) his lie: but, if he is telling the Truth, then will fall on you something of the (calamity) of which he warns you: Truly God guides not one who transgresses and lies!... Then God saved him from (every) ill that they plotted (against him), but the burnt of the Penalty encompassed on all sides the People of Pharaoh. In front of the Fire will they be brought, morning and evening: And (the sentence will be) on the Day that Judgment will be established: "Cast ye the People of Pharaoh into the severest Penalty!" S. 40:28, 45-46

And Pharaoh proclaimed among his people, saying: "O my people! Does not the dominion of Egypt belong to me, (witness) these streams flowing underneath my (palace)? What! see ye not then? Am I not better than this (Moses), who is a contemptible wretch and can scarcely express himself clearly? Then why are not gold bracelets bestowed on him, or (why) come (not) with him angels accompanying him in procession?" Thus did he make fools of his people, and they obeyed him: truly were they a people rebellious (against God). When at length they provoked Us, We exacted retribution from them, and We drowned them ALL. S. 43:52-55 Y. Ali

See also the following: Q. 2:54, 60, 67; 5:20-21; 10:84-89; 7:141, 148, 150, 155, 159-160; 20:85-86, 90; 28:15; 61:5

Thus, the Quran denies that Pharaoh and the Egyptians were Moses’ people, Moses’ folk.

The Islamic source material also testifies that Jesus’ mission was for all the peoples:

"He (Jesus) began to use such language announcing his death. Then he said, 'The truth is that one of you shall deny me thrice before the cock-crow, and one of you will shall sell me for a few coins, and he shall eat my price.' They walked out and dispersed. The Jews were looking for him. They seized Simeon, one of the apostles, and said, 'This one is a companion of his.' But he denied it, and said, 'I am not his companion.' So they left him. Then another caught him, but he denied it again. Then he heard the cock crow, and wept. When morning came, one of the apostles came to the Jews, and said, 'What will you give me if I lead you to Christ?' And they set for him thirty pieces of silver. He took those, and led them to him. Before that they were not sure of Christ. But now they seized him, chained him, tied him with cord, and began to lead him away, saying, 'You revived the dead, chased away the devil, and cured the possessed, will you not set yourself free from this cord?' They spat upon him and threw thorns upon him, until they brought the wooden board upon which they wanted to crucify him. But God raised him up to Himself and they crucified 'only a likeness of that shown them.' A week passed. Then his mother and the woman whom Jesus healed and cured from derangement came weeping at the place of crucifixion. But Jesus came to them and said, 'Why are you weeping?' They said, 'Because of you;' whereupon he replied, 'God raised me up to Himself, and nothing but good has happened to me. Only a likeness was shown to them. Instruct the apostles to meet me at place such and such. They met him at that place, eleven of them, as the one who had betrayed him and led the Jews to him was missing. Jesus asked the apostles about him. They said, 'He rued what he had done, and strangled himself to death.' Jesus said, 'Had he repented, God would have forgiven him.' He asked them about John, a youth who was following them, and said, 'He is with you. Go! EACH OF YOU WILL SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF A PEOPLE TO WARN AND SUMMON THEM'…

"Among the apostles, and the followers who came after them were the Apostle Peter and Paul who was a follower and not an apostle; they went to Rome. Andrew and Matthew were sent to the country whose people are man-eaters, a land of blacks, we think; Thomas was sent to Babylonia in the east, Philip to Qayrawan (and) Carthage, that is, North Africa. John went to Ephesus, the city of the youths of the cave, and James to Jerusalem, that is, Aelia. Bartholomew was sent to Arabia, namely, the Hijaz; Simeon to the land of the Berbers in Africa. Judas was not then an apostle, so his place was taken by Ariobus. He filled in for Judas Iscariot after the latter had perpetrated his deed." (The History of al-Tabari - The Ancient Kingdoms, translated by Moshe Perlmann [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1987], Volume IV, pp. 121-122, 123; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The Quran is therefore wrong for claiming that no messenger was ever sent to any other group besides his own people since it expressly testifies elsewhere that Moses, Jesus and Muhammad were sent to and/or that their revelations were intended for all the nations.

Moreover, the hadiths say that Noah was the first prophet sent to the people of the world, not just to his own folk:

Narrated Anas:
The Prophet said, "On the Day of Resurrection the Believers will assemble and say, 'Let us ask somebody to intercede for us with our Lord.' So they will go to Adam and say, 'You are the father of all the people, and Allah created you with His Own Hands, and ordered the angels to prostrate to you, and taught you the names of all things; so please intercede for us with your Lord, so that He may relieve us from this place of ours.' Adam will say, 'I am not fit for this (i.e. intercession for you).' Then Adam will remember his sin and feel ashamed thereof. He will say, 'Go to Noah, for he was the first Apostle, Allah sent to the inhabitants of the earth.' … (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 3)

… Then they will go to Adam and say, 'You are Adam, the father of the people. Allah created you with His Own Hand and made you reside in His Paradise and ordered His angels to prostrate before you, and taught you the names of all things will you intercede for us with your Lord so that He may relieve us from this place of ours? Adam will say, 'I am not fit for this undertaking.' He will mention his mistakes he had committed, i.e., his eating off the tree though he had been forbidden to do so. He will add, 'Go to Noah, the first prophet sent by Allah to the people of the Earth.' … (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 532v)

Thus, not only is the Quran contradicting itself but so is the hadith literature since in one place it says that Noah was sent for all the peoples whereas in another place it says that this privilege was given only to Muhammad!

Further Reading

Contradictions in the Qur'an
Answering Islam Home Page