|And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. ...
|And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; ...
|And the Jews say, ‘Ezra is the son of ALLAH,’ and the Christians say, ‘the Messiah is the son of ALLAH;’ ...
|The Jews said, "Ezra is the son of GOD," while the Christians said, "Jesus is the son of GOD!" ...
|The Jews call 'Uzair a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the son of God. ...
|There are some of the Jews who say, ‘Ezra is the son of Allah,’ while the Christians say, ‘The Messiah is the son of Allah.’ ...
|Some of the Jews have said that Ezra is the son of God and Christians have said the same of Jesus. ...
|Jews say: "Ezra was God's son," while Christians say: "Christ was God's son." ...
Since there is no record that Ezra was ever regarded as "the son of God" by the Jews, this statement is historically wrong and therefore this verse became a problem that has led many translaters to make attempts to soften or to hide the issue one way or the other. Among the above, only Pickthall, Shakir and Sher Ali translate the first part of Sura 9:30 correctly.
A transliteration of the first part of 9:30 in Arabic is:
Waqalati alyahoodu AAuzayrun ibnu Allahi waqalati alnnasara almaseehu ibnu Allahi
Even for those who do not speak Arabic, it is clear that the first two lines in this verse are absolutely parallel and Yusuf Ali has no justification to use "a son" in the first and "the son" in the second case. The construction "ibnu Allahi" cannot mean "a son" but is a construction whose meaning is definite.
Nor do the translators Nooruddin or Muhammad Sarwar have any justification to insert "(There are) some of" before "the Jews". Both are attempts to lessen the problem that the Jews have never held Ezra to be "the son of God" in any exclusive sense like the Christians consider Jesus to be the unique divine son of God. The absolute parallelity of the statements in Arabic cannot mean anything else that this is meant in a similarly exclusive sense. Also, the definite article is placed before ‘Jews’ and ‘Christians’, indicating that this does not refer to some forgotten minority sect but to the Jews and Christians in general, i.e. to the believers of the orthodox mainstream in these two religions. The Qur'an makes here a correct statement about "the Christians", but a completely false statement about "the Jews", since we actually do not know of any Jewish group at all, past or present, that ever believed this. Therefore, to say "some of the Jews" is not going to help, since it is still wrong, though an error about "some" (possibly very few) at face value seems less problematic than to make such an error about the belief of the Jews in general which is one of the most embarrassing blunders of the Qur'an.(1)
T.B. Irving tries the same thing by a different trick, making both terms indefinite, i.e. "Jews" and "Christians". However, the Arabic clearly has the article "al" in front of both these names, "al-yahoodu" and "al-nasara". Also, writing "God's son" instead of "the son of God" is another way of hiding the definite meaning somewhat. Irving has another peculiarity in that he translates the statements of the Jews and the Christians in the past tense. It might help to restrict the statement about Ezra to his life on earth only (diminishing the meaning of this ‘sonship’), but it introduces an error in the statement about the Christians who do not speak about Jesus in the past tense. All Christians confess that Jesus is the Son of God, because He is the risen Lord and alive today.
Yet another trick can be seen in the translations of Muhammad Sarwar and Rashad Khalifa who have put the statement into the past tense, imagining that errors refering to some unknown past history are easier to bear or even to ignore than those statements that are false about the present situation. And Muslims understand the Qur'an in general to be eternally true, just as it has been on the eternal tablet long before it was "revealed" to Muhammad.
However, both Khalifa and Sarwar are forced by the logic of the argument to abandon their choice of past tense and join the other translators in the present as the verse continues in its middle part (9:30b) with:
|... That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. ...
|... That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. ...
|... These are blasphemies uttered by their mouths. They thus match the blasphemies of those who have disbelieved in the past. ...
|... This is only what they say and it is similar to what the unbelievers who lived before them had said. ...
Only Rashad Khalifa inserts the word "blasphemies" into the text which is not found in the Arabic. The word just means "sayings" or "statements". At this time, there is no need for further remarks about 9:30b.
However, in the last part of the aya we again observe the different translations diverge in interesting ways.
|... Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!
|... may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!
|... ALLAH's curse be on them! How they are turned away.
|... GOD condemns them. They have surely deviated.
|... God's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!
|... Allah assail them! Wither they are deluded away!
|... May God destroy them wherever they exist!
|... May God fight them off for what they have trumped up!
Pickthall and Khalifa translate this as a statement of fact (Allah fights / condemns). All others recognize it as a wish or invocation of a curse, but several translators prefered to let the content of the curse be unspecific and just say "God's curse be on them". Most agree that Allah is the attacking party, but Irving tries to make it look as if Allah was attacked by Jews and Christians and has to fight them off, shifting the blame of aggression on the victims. However, the most correct translations are "May God assail / destroy them!" Let us have a closer look at the Arabic (transliterated: qaatalahumu llahu anna yu'fakoona).
The above table shows that the translators have some problems not just with the first, but with both phrases of the last part of Sura 9:30. Here an explanation what this really is, and why it is difficult to translate.
Verse 29 also begins with "qaataluu", meaning ‘try to kill’ and hence ‘fight against’. It is the usual word for ‘fight’, and it is directed against unbelievers among the people of the book, unless they pay tribute (jizya).
Verse 30 has qaatalahum, where the ‘hum’ means ‘them’. It is not clear whether ‘hum’ refers to ‘those before’ or the previously mentioned Jews and Christians, but the latter seems most likely. The form is past tense, in which case it would usually mean ‘he fought them’. But since God never fails, if he had fought them then he would have killed them, and since they are not all dead, it is taken to be a du3aa' (prayer, blessing, curse). (This is grammatically possible, although since Allah is supposed to be the one speaking, this seems a bit strange.)
The commentary of Ibn Katheer states, "this is an appeal (ighraa') to the believers to battle the unbelievers (kufaar) from among the Jews and Christians."
As for the last two words, the first one, 'annaa, is a question word. It means ‘how is it that?’ or ‘why?’ or even ‘where?’. Since it is odd that the author (Allah) should be asking a question, this is interpreted in various ways. A common way is to interpret it as an exclamation: "How they .... !" The second word, yu'fakuun, is a passive. The active form means ‘they lie’. Technically one cannot make a passive out of an intransitive active verb, so people speculate that in means ‘they deceive themselves’. So it could mean "How is that they deceived themselves?"
Verse 5 has the direct command "kill the idolaters (uqtulu al-mushrekeen) wherever you find them". It seems that Sarwar transfered the last phrase "wherever you find them" from verse 5 to verse 30, and forgot the actual ending of verse 30.
Verse 30 is grammatically not a direct order to Muslims to fight and kill the Jews and Christians; nevertheless, this is the context (see verse 5) and the text (Muhammad?) uses Allah to (try to) kill them - of course by the swords of the believers! (an understanding confirmed by Ibn Katheer)
Since I have split up the passage for easier comparison on the various points, here are all of them - and some more - quoted in full.
Transliteration of the Arabic:
Waqalati alyahoodu AAuzayrun ibnu Allahi waqalati alnnasara almaseehu ibnu Allahi thalika qawluhum bi-afwahihim yudahi-oona qawla allatheena kafaroo min qablu qatalahumu Allahu anna yu/fakoona
Hilali & Khan:
(1) It is rather intriguing that the translations of these respective Muslims actually show how the text should have been written if the author wanted to convey the idea that only certain or specific Jews worshiped Ezra as the son of God. For instance, there are places in the Quran where the author uses similar language in singling out a specific group or party of the Jews and/or Christians in order to prevent his audience from assuming that he was referring to all Jews and Christians:
Can ye (o ye men of Faith) entertain the hope that they will believe in you? - Seeing that a party of them heard the Word of God, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it. S. 2:75 Y. Ali
Is it not (the case) that every time they make a covenant, some party among them throw it aside? - Nay, Most of them are faithless. And when there came to them an apostle from God, confirming what was with them, a party of the people of the Book threw away the Book of God behind their backs, as if (it had been something) they did not know! S. 2:100-101 Y. Ali
Those unto whom We gave the Scripture recognise (this revelation) as they recognise their sons. But lo! a party of them knowingly conceal the truth. S. 2:146 Pickthall
A party of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) wish to lead you astray. But they shall not lead astray anyone except themselves, and they perceive not. S. 3:69 Hilali-Khan
And verily, among them is a party who distort the Book with their tongues (as they read), so that you may think it is from the Book, but it is not from the Book, and they say: "This is from Allah," but it is not from Allah; and they speak a lie against Allah while they know it. S. 3:78 Hilali-Khan
They are not all alike. Among the People of the Book, there is a party who stand by their covenant; they recite the word of ALLAH in the hours of the night and prostrate themselves before HIM. They believe in ALLAH and the Last Day, and enjoin good and forbid evil, and hasten to vie with one another in good works. And these are among the righteous. S. 3:113-114 Sher Ali
If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: but many of them follow a course that is evil. S. 5:66 Y. Ali
If Allah brings you back to a party of them (the hypocrites), and they ask your permission to go out (to fight), say: "Never shall you go out with me, nor fight an enemy with me; you agreed to sit inactive on the first occasion, then you sit (now) with those who lag behind." S. 9:83 Hilali-Khan
The foregoing shows that had the author really meant that some, not all, Jews were guilty of believing that Ezra was the son of God he could have worded Q. 9:30 in the following ways:
There is a party among the Jews who say, `Ezra is the son of Allah,'
Among the Jews there is a party of them who say, `Ezra is the son of Allah,'
Basically, the author could have written the verse in the same manner that Nooruddin or Sarwar translated it! Clearly he did not do this.
And in light of the immediate context of the Sura, specifically Q. 9:29 which calls for all-out fighting or jihad against all the Jews and Christians until they submit by becoming Muslims or by paying the jizya, it is evident why the author did not. He wanted to accuse all the Jews of believing this since he was looking for a pretext to incite the Muslims to fight against all of the people of the Book, not just some of them!
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