This is a continuation of our series of writings and rebuttals where we document from both the Quran and Islamic tradition that Jesus is the greatest of all of Gods messengers, being vastly superior to Muhammad himself (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).
In this particular article we will be demonstrating that Allah favored Jesus over Muhammad by granting the former specific knowledge that he didnt give to the latter.
Muhammad, the Quran and the Knowledge of the Unseen
In the Quran it is expressly stated that Muhammad didnt know the unseen and it is further noted that Allah would choose to reveal this specific information to a particular messenger:
Say: "I know not whether the (Punishment) which ye are promised is near, or whether my Lord will appoint for it a distant term. He (alone) knows the Unseen, nor does He make any one acquainted with His Mysteries, Except an apostle whom He has chosen: and then He makes a band of watchers march before him and behind him,- That He may know that they have (truly) brought and delivered the Messages of their Lord: and He surrounds (all the mysteries) that are with them, and takes account of every single thing." S. 72:25-28 Y. Ali
Note how these other versions translate this passage:
SAY, I know not whether that which you are promised is nigh, or whether my Lord has fixed for it a distant term. HE is the Knower of the unseen; and HE reveals not HIS secrets to anyone, Except to a Messenger of HIS whom HE chooses. And then HE causes an escort of guarding angels to go before him and behind him, That HE may know that HIS Messengers have delivered the Messages of their Lord. And HE encompasses all that is with them and HE keeps count of all things. Sher Ali
SAY: I do not know whether that which you are promised is nigh, or whether my Lord will appoint for it a space; Knower He of the Unseen, and He discloses not His Unseen to anyone, save only to such a Messenger as He is well-pleased with; then He dispatches before him and behind him watchers, that He may know they have delivered the Messages of their Lord; and He encompasses all that is with them, and He has numbered everything in numbers. Arberry
These verses say rather plainly that Allah reveals the knowledge of the unseen to a specific apostle that he chooses and is pleased with. We know that Muhammad couldnt be that messenger(1) since the author of the Quran excludes him from having knowledge of the unseen in this very text, a fact which the author made a point of emphasizing throughout the Muslim scripture:
SAY, `I do not say to you: I possess the treasures of ALLAH, nor do I know the unseen; nor do I say to you: I am an angel, I follow only that which is revealed to me.' Say, `Can a blind man and one who sees be alike?' Will you not then reflect And with HIM are the keys of the unseen; none knows them but HE. And HE knows whatsoever is in the land and in the sea. And there falls not a leaf but HE knows it; nor is there a grain in the deep darkness of the earth, nor anything green or dry, but it is recorded in a clear book. S. 6:50, 59 Sher Ali
SAY: I do not control any benefit or harm for my own soul except as Allah please; and had I known the unseen I would have had much of good and no evil would have touched me; I am nothing but a warner and the giver of good news to a people who believe. S. 7:188 Shakir
And they say: Why is not a sign sent to him from his Lord? SAY: The unseen is ONLY for Allah; therefore wait -- surely I too, with you am of those who wait. S. 10:20 Shakir
People ask you concerning the Hour, SAY: The knowledge of it is with Allaah ONLY. What do you know? It may be that the Hour is near!" S. 33:63
SAY: "I am no bringer of new-fangled doctrine among the messengers, NOR DO I KNOW WHAT WILL BE DONE WITH ME OR WITH YOU. I follow but that which is revealed to me by inspiration; I am but a Warner open and clear." S. 46:9
And they say, When will this promise come to pass, if, indeed, you are truthful? SAY, The knowledge of it is with ALLAH, and I am but a plain Warner. S. 67:25-26 Sher Ali
The ahadith reiterate this point:
Narrated Ibn Umar:
The Prophet said, "The keys of the unseen are five and none knows them but Allah: (1) None knows what is in the womb, but Allah: (2) None knows what will happen tomorrow, but Allah; (3) None knows when it will rain, but Allah; (4) None knows where he will die, but Allah (knows that); (5) and none knows when the Hour will be established, but Allah." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 476)
Another Muslim source says:
Also, when a young girl once said, "And among us is the Messenger of Allah, who knows what tomorrow will bring," he ... said to her, ... "Abandon these words, and say that which you were saying before (i.e., an old Arabic poem)." (Ibn Qayyim al-Jauziyyah, Zad-ul Ma'ad fi Hadyi Khairi-l 'Ibad [Provisions for the Hereafter Taken From the Guidance of Allah's Best Worshipper], translated by Jalal Abualrub, edited by Alaa Mencke & Shaheed M. Ali [Madinah Publishers & Distributors, Orlando Florida; First edition, October 2001], Volume 4, pp. 285-286)
Muhammads youngest wife Aisha harshly rebuked anyone who would dare say that Muhammad knew the unseen:
I said to Aisha, "O Mother! Did Prophet Muhammad see his Lord?" Aisha said, "What you have said makes my hair stand on end! Know that if somebody tells you one of the following three things, he is a liar: Whoever tells you that Muhammad saw his Lord, is a liar." Then Aisha recited the Verse:
No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision. He is the Most Courteous Well-Acquainted with all things. (6.103) It is not fitting for a human being that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration or from behind a veil. (42.51) Aisha further said, "And whoever tells you that the Prophet knows what is going to happen tomorrow, IS A LIAR." She then recited:
No soul can know what it will earn tomorrow. (31.34) She added: "And whoever tells you that he concealed (some of Allahs orders), is a liar." Then she recited: O Apostle! Proclaim (the Message) which has been sent down to you from your Lord (5.67) Aisha added. "But the Prophet saw Gabriel in his true form twice." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 378)
Aisha said, "If anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen his Lord, he is a liar, for Allah says: 'No vision can grasp Him. (6.103) And if anyone tells you that Muhammad HAS SEEN THE UNSEEN, HE IS A LIAR, for Allah says: "None has the knowledge of the Unseen but Allah." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 477)
Muslim writer Akbarally Meherally comments on this specific narration in his book which criticizes the hadith literature:
The above hadith has valid support from the verses of the Quran (10:20; 6:50). Hence, if there are narrations which directly and explicitly contradict the above statement made by Bibi 'Aisha and have no support from the verses of the Qur'an, then all such narrations need to be carefully re-examined if not rejected.
What could have prompted Bibi 'Aisha to make the above statement and denounce the narrators, calling the propagators liars? Obviously, there must have been false narrations circulating in the name of the Prophet, promoting the Prophet's knowledge of the unseen. Who could be the narrators of such lies? Clearly, some narrators who lived during the life of Bibi 'Aisha.
If for some reason, one is not ready to accept this logic because one has been conditioned to think otherwise, then one has to reject this hadith. And of course, if even one sound hadith is rejected, then all of the others are immediately suspect. We cannot pick and choose the hadiths to believe in as a matter of preference; rather the Quran must guide us. If all Muslims were to truly believe; Allah Alone has the knowledge of the unseen, some of the sub-Sects of Islam would lose their holds upon their followings. (Meherally, MYTHS AND REALITIES OF HADITH -- a critical study, 5. A Closer Look at Some Dubious Hadiths, "The Prophet and Knowledge of the Unseen"; Source)
Meherally says in reference to those hadiths that narrate future and unseen events:
4. Hadeeths that speak of the Future and UnseenQudsi and the non Qudsi.
The knowledge of that is with Allah Alone and He does not disclose that to anyone except by Revelation Qur'an 7:188; 72: 26; 67: 26; 27:65; 46:9; 6:50.
If the future or unseen is Revealed that Message becomes the Qur'anic verse. (Source)
And regarding another narration where Muhammad is said to take Muslims out of hell, Meherally states:
Reflect carefully, the Hadith from Bukhari is NOT a Qudsi Hadith. Hence the authorship and authority of the narrated text end with the Prophet. In Sura Al-An'am (6), Verse 50, the Prophet was Commanded by Allah to declare "wa la 'a-lamul-gayba" meaning; "and I do not have the knowledge of the unseen (hidden, what is going to happen in future)."
The Hadith quoted below claims; the Prophet had in-depth knowledge of UNSEEN, including his actions and results - on the Day of Judgment. (Source)
Professor Jeffery Lang, a convert to Islam, is another individual who has problems with later Islamic tradition attributing to Muhammad knowledge of future events since they directly contradict the plain statements of the Quran:
(3) the Quran states that the Prophet was recurrently questioned concerning the timing of the Day of Judgement and was repeatedly commanded by God to simply reply, "Knowledge thereof belongs to God alone." In the Hadith records, however, the Prophet supplies numerous predictions of events that will herald its coming. Since the Quran is so insistent on how the Prophet should respond to these queries, I find it odd that he would offer so many details and hints about the arrival of the Hour. (Lang, Losing My Religion: A Call For Help [Amana Publications, 2004], p. 250)
In his footnote he provides a whole slew of references which expressly deny that Muhammad knew the future:
140. Surahs 7:187; 10:48-49; 27:71; 31:34; 32:28; 33:63; 34:29; 36:48; 43:85; 51:12; 67:25-26; 72:25; 79:42-45. (Ibid.)
Further evidence that Muhammad had no knowledge of unseen events, apart from what was already well known to his contemporaries and in their writings which he then plagiarized, is that he tried to predict the outcome of the Romans and turned out to be wrong:
"The Roman Empire has been defeated - in a land close by: But they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious - within a few years." S. 30:1-4
Notice that Muhammad can only guess here that the Romans will be victorious in a few years, and doesnt bother giving the name of those that defeated the Romans nor the time or place of their defeat. Muslim scholars say that by a few years Muhammad meant between 3 to 9 years and further state that this refers to the Romans being defeated by the Persians around 614-615 AD, which means that Muhammad anticipated that the Romans would defeat their enemies sometime between 617-624 AD. As history records, this didnt happen as Muhammad expected since the Persians werent decisively defeated until approximately 628 AD where they called for a truce with the Romans.
Muhammad had also assumed on the basis of an alleged vision that he and his followers were to successfully make the lesser pilgrimage to the Kaba at Mecca, which also didnt happen since the pagans thwarted his attempt of entering. This led to the signing of the peace treaty at Hudaybiyah and to Muhammad losing face in the eyes of his own followers.
For more on these issues please consult the following articles and rebuttals to the Muslim responses (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
These examples conclusively show that Muhammad did not know the future and was clearly not aware of the unseen. His sole purpose was to preach the message of the Quran such as warning people of impending judgment if they refused to believe in him as Allahs messenger and accept all his commands and prohibitions. Yet even what is found in the Quran is, for the most part, nothing more than a rehashing of the teachings of the Holy Bible, apocalyptic themes taken from canonical and non-canonical Jewish and Christian sources as well as from Persian and Arabian myths. The Quran itself agrees that Muhammad said nothing which wasnt already known to Gods true prophets and messengers:
My Signs used to be rehearsed to you, but ye used to turn back on your heels- In arrogance: talking nonsense about the (Qur'an), like one telling fables by night. Do they not ponder over the Word (of God), or has anything (new) come to them that did not come to their fathers of old? Or do they not recognise their Apostle, that they deny him? S. 23:66-69 Y. Ali
Surely those who disbelieve in the reminder when it comes to them, and most surely it is a Mighty Book: Falsehood shall not come to it from before it nor from behind it; a revelation from the Wise, the Praised One. Naught is said to you but what was said indeed to the apostles before you; surely your Lord is the Lord of forgiveness and the Lord of painful retribution. S. 41:41-43 Shakir
Another version reads it this way:
Those who have rejected the Quran's proof* when it came to them, have also rejected an Honorable book. No falsehood could enter it, in the past or in the future;* a revelation from a Most Wise, Praiseworthy. What is said to you is precisely what was said to the previous messengers. Your Lord possesses forgiveness, and He also possesses painful retribution. Khalifa
Moreover, Allah wasnt always pleased with Muhammad and often had to rebuke and chastise him for his sins:
Allah forgive thee (O Muhammad)! Wherefore didst thou grant them leave ere those who told the truth were manifest to thee and thou didst know the liars? S. 9:43 Pickthall
This is (part) of that wisdom wherewith thy Lord hath inspired thee (O Muhammad). And set not up with Allah any other god, lest thou be cast into hell, reproved, abandoned. S. 17:39 Pickthall
And surely they had purposed to turn you away from that which We have revealed to you, that you should forge against Us other than that, and then they would certainly have taken you for a friend. And had it not been that We had already established you, you would certainly have been near to incline to them a little; In that case We would certainly have made you to taste a double (punishment) in this life and a double (punishment) after death, then you would not have found any helper against Us. S. 17:73-75 Shakir
O Prophet! be careful of (your duty to) Allah and do not comply with (the wishes of) the unbelievers and the hypocrites; surely Allah is Knowing, Wise; S. 33:1 Shakir
Then have patience (O Muhammad). Lo! the promise of Allah is true. And ask forgiveness of thy sin, and hymn the praise of thy Lord at fall of night and in the early hours. S. 40:55 Pickthall
So know (O Muhammad) that there is no God save Allah, and ask forgiveness for thy sin and for believing men and believing women. Allah knoweth (both) your place of turmoil and your place of rest. S. 47:19 Pickthall
Basically, this shows that Muhammad WAS NOT that Messenger to whom Allah chose to reveal the unseen.(1)
Jesus Knowledge of the Unseen
There is one Messenger, however, whom the Quran says was given knowledge of the unseen. That Messenger is Jesus Christ!
As a messenger to the Children of Israel: "I come to you with a sign from your Lord - I create for you from clay the shape of a bird, then I blow into it, and it becomes a live bird by GODs leave. I restore vision to the blind, heal the leprous, and I revive the dead by GODs leave. I can tell you what you eat, and what you store in your homes. This should be a proof for you, if you are believers." S. 3:49 Khalifa
Here is an interesting observation: Jesus making clay birds alive and healing the blind or leprous and resurrecting the dead is explicitly said to be done "by Gods leave". But the underlined statement above does not have that qualification. Could that be a hint that Jesus did not need to receive special revelation for having this knowledge, but that this was his own ability? I.e. he has knowledge of the unseen just like God by his very nature? If that is the meaning behind the omission of this phrase in the last statement, it would be even stronger evidence for the superiority of Jesus over Muhammad in regard to having knowledge of the unseen.
Muslim scholar Mahmoud M. Ayoub provides some of the comments of Islams renowned exegetes and scholars concerning this text, some of which include:
Verse 49 narrates four types of miracles which Jesus was able to perform, by the will of God, as proof of his claim to be a messenger to the Children of Israel. They are: infusing life into dead matter, raising the dead, healing the sick, and foretelling unseen and future events. Since the first and last of these miracles are not reported in the canonical Gospels, and since the Quranic narrative is all too brief and general, early traditionists and tafsir masters resorted to fanciful tales to provide a framework for these miracles. This led many later commentators to reject these early traditions
Tabari argues that giving life to a clay figure, healing the blind and the leper, and raising the dead were miracles which God granted only the elect of His prophets and apostles; but Jesus telling the people what they ate and without himself witnessing it and informing them of what they had stored up in their homes is a sign. Tabari, however, asks, "What proof of his truthfulness is there in his saying to them, I shall inform you of what you eat and what you store up in your homes? Astrologers and soothsayers often foretell such things correctly." He adds that "even those to whom astrologers and soothsayers foretell the future are aware that they do so by means of certain causes and techniques. This is not the case, however, with Jesus or any other of Gods prophets and apostles. Jesus foretold things without resort to astrology or trickery, but directly as God informed him. Nor did he resort to astrological computations or the clairvoyance of soothsayers. This is the criterion to distinguish the knowledge of the prophets of unknown events and foretelling them, and the knowledge of all those who spread falsehood before God by claiming such knowledge."
Tabari relates on the authority of Ibn Ishaq that when Jesus was about nine or ten years old, his mother sent him to a religious school. But whenever the teacher tried to teach him anything, he found that Jesus already knew it. The teacher exclaimed, "Do you not marvel at the son of the widow? Every time I teach him anything, I find that he knows it better than I do."
Tabari further relates on the authority of al-Suddi that, "when Jesus was a youth, his mother committed him [to the priests] to study the Torah. While he played with the youths of his village, he used to tell them what their parents were doing."
Said ibn Jubayr, according to Tabari, is said to have reported that Jesus would say to one of his fellow playmates in the religious school, "Your parents have kept such and such food for you, would you give me some of it?" Tabari also relates on the authority of al-Suddi that Jesus used to tell his fellow pupils what their parents ate and what they kept for them. He used to say to a boy, "Go home, for your parents have such and such food." As parents became annoyed by this, they forbade their children to play with Jesus, saying, "Do not play with that magician."
Finally, the parents gathered all the children in a house away from Jesus. When he came looking for them, the parents told him that the children were not there. He asked, "Who is in this house?" "Swine," they replied. Jesus said, "Let them be swine!" When the parents opened the door, they found them swine, just as Jesus said. Tabari cites the Quran in support of this tale: "Those of the Children of Israel who have rejected faith were cursed by the tongue of David and Jesus son of Mary, this because of their rebellion and the acts of transgression which they had committed [see Q. 5:78]."
Razi asserts that Jesus informed people of what they had eaten and stored up in their houses by means of divine revelation (wahi) (Razi, VIII, pp. 58-62)
Qummi begins by asserting that the word "to create" in this verse means to fashion and form. He then reports on the authority of the Fifth Imam Muhammad al-Baqir that when Jesus told the Children of Israel that he was Gods Messenger to them and that he was able to perform these miracles, they retorted, "We consider all that which you do to be no more than mere magic. Show us a sign, therefore, by which we might know that you tell the truth." He answered, "If I were to inform you of what you eat and what you store up in your homes, would you know that I tell the truth?" "Yes," they replied. He thus used to tell each man what he ate and drank and what he stored up. "There was some among them who believed him and accepted faith, and others who denied and rejected faith. In all this, there was a sign for them had they been people of faith" (Qummi, I, p. 102). (Ayoub, The Quran and Its Interpreters: The House of Imran [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1992], Volume II, pp. 141, 142-143, 146, 147-148; underline emphasis ours)
The Quran further says that Jesus will be a witness against the People of the Book (i.e. Jews and/or Christians) on the Day of Judgment:
and for their saying, 'We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God' -- yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them. Those who are at variance concerning him surely are in doubt regarding him; they have no knowledge of him, except the following of surmise; and they slew him not of a certainty -- no indeed; God raised him up to Him; God is All-mighty, All-wise. There is not one of the People of the Book but will assuredly believe in him before his death, and on the Resurrection Day he will be a witness against them. S. 4:157-159 Arberry
Hence, not only does the Quran testify that Jesus (and not Muhammad) is the Messenger that has been granted knowledge of the unseen, it even states that he will have a key role in determining the eternal fate of individuals on the last day since salvation is dependant on believing in Christ!(2)
The Quran is merely echoing (albeit in a convoluted and distorted manner) the teaching of the New Testament concerning Jesus knowing what God knows and being the One who will testify on behalf of those who believe in him and against those who reject him:
"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven." Matthew 10:32-33
"All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Matthew 11:27
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46
"Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man." John 3:11-13
"Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man." John 5:22-23, 27
"For I want you to know how greatly I strive for you, and for those at La-odice'a, and for all who have not seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged as they are knit together in love, to have all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Colossians 2:1-3
"To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds." Revelation 2:18-19, 23
And, according to the NT, it is Jesus with whom the Father is well pleased:
"And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Mark 1:11
"The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." John 8:29
There is another possible text which may indicate that Christ has knowledge of the hour of judgment that is to come:
When (Jesus) the son of Mary is held up as an example (mathalan), behold, thy people raise a clamour thereat (in ridicule)! And they say, "Are our gods best, or he?" This they set forth to thee, only by way of disputation: yea, they are a contentious people. He was no more than a servant: We granted Our favour to him, and We made him an example (mathalan) to the Children of Israel. And if it were Our Will, We could make angels from amongst you, succeeding each other on the earth. And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (ilmun) (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way. Let not the Evil One hinder you: for he is to you an enemy avowed. When Jesus came with Clear Signs (al-bayyinati), he said: "Now have I come to you with Wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the (points) on which ye dispute: therefore fear God and obey me. For God, He is my Lord and your Lord: so worship ye Him: this is a Straight Way. But sects from among themselves fell into disagreement: then woe to the wrong-doers, from the Penalty of a Grievous Day!" S. 43:57-65 Y. Ali
Jesus is said to be an example or parable, and a sign (literally knowledge) both for the unbelievers and to the Children of Israel. This seemingly refers to Christs first coming where he performed miracles and passed on Divine instructions to mankind since the Sura speaks of past events all throughout. This is reflected in the following English version of Q. 43:61
But, verily, he was a sign of the Hour. So entertain no doubt about it, but follow me. This is the right path. S. 43:61 Sher Ali
Sher Alis use of an English past tense suggests that the meaning is that Jesus in his first advent was a sign, or knowledge, of the impending judgment to come.
This Ali seemed to realize that the immediate context of Q. 43:61 leads one to understand that this is referring back to Jesus earthly ministry, otherwise it makes little sense for Muhammad to set forth Christ as a confirming sign for his contemporaries if such a sign was still future and therefore could not be verified.
With the foregoing in perspective what could Q. 43:61 possibly be referring to if not to Jesus teachings concerning doctrines about God and the last day?
In fact, this view of Jesus being the knowledge of the hour in the sense of receiving revelation concerning the judgment day which he then conveyed to others can be supported by interpreting Q. 43:61 in light of Q. 3:49:
And (appoint him) an apostle to the Children of Israel, (with this message): "I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Gods leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Gods leave; and I declare to you what ye eat, and what ye store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if ye did believe; Y. Ali
The miracles of Jesus, such as his knowledge of the unseen, are meant to be supernatural signs confirming his Divine mission so that others might believe. By the same token one can understand that Jesus is a sure sign or knowledge of the impending judgment since he was sent with revelation concerning the last hour.
However, not everyone agrees that Q. 43:61 is referring to Christ. Some Muslims are of the opinion that the verse is referring to the Quran being a sign or knowledge about the Hour. This view is reflected by A.J. Arberrys version:
It is knowledge of the Hour; doubt not concerning it, and follow me. This is a straight path.
There is even an issue of variant readings since certain Quranic reciters and versions read the text differently. As Christian author and Islamicist George Parrinder noted:
The most debated verse is 43,61: The Son of Mary is used as a parable Verily it [or he] is knowledge for the hour. A canonical variation allows the reading of alam, mark or signal, for ilm, knowledge. In this reading the second coming of Jesus would be a signal of the last hour. But it is just as easy, and perhaps more legitimate, to translate it of the Quran or message which gave knowledge of the Hour in the time of Muhammad. Nevertheless, on the slender basis of the variant some traditions and commentaries elaborated theories of the coming of Jesus. Bukhari in his version of the Traditions said that the Son of Mary would descend among men as a just judge. He would break the crosses, kill the swine, suppress the poll-tax, and make wealth so abundant that nobody would wish for any more. Baidawi said that Jesus would descend in the Holy Land, that he would kill al-Dajjal, the Anti-Christ, and go to Jerusalem, worshipping there, killing swine and all who do not believe in him, reign in peace for forty years, and finally die and be buried in Medina. An empty place beside the tomb of Muhammad in Medina was thought to be reserved for Jesus. (George Parrinder, Jesus in the Quran [Oneworld Publications, Oxford, reprinted 1996], p. 124; underline emphasis ours)
Muslim Neal Robinson also commented on the textual problems and diverse interpretations given by Muslims regarding this specific text:
The sequence of thought in this revelation is by no means clear. We are concerned primarily with the first part of 43:61 <<He (or it) is indeed knowledge for the Hour>> (inna-hu la-ilmun li l-saati).
Tabari states that the interpreters differed over the meaning of the third person singular masculine suffix -hu. He reports two interpretations:
[A] Some said it referred back to Jesus. Jesus appearing is knowledge by which one will know the coming of the Hour for his appearing is one of its portents. His coming back down to earth is an indication of the vanishing of this world and the arrival of the world to come. Tabari gives traditions which attribute this interpretation to eight authorities: Ibn al-Abbas by four routes, Qatada by two routes, al-Hasan al-Basri, Mujahid, al-Suddi, al-Dahhak, Abu Malik and Ibn Zayd by one root each.
[B] Others said hu refers to the Quran. The meaning of the sentence is that this Quran is knowledge pertaining to the Hour for it gives information about the resurrection and judgment. Tabari cites only two traditions which support this. The first traces the interpretation back to al-Hasan al-Basri who has already had interpretation [A] accredited to him. The second traces it back to the time of Qatadah without attributing it to him personally. It reports him as having said: People used to say the Quran is knowledge pertaining to the hour.
Tabari does not choose between the two interpretations. He does, however, add some interesting information concerning variant readings which clearly have a bearing on the decision. He knew of three distinct readings:
- ilmun (knowledge). This was how the readers of the great cities vocalised the word. He regarded it as the correct reading because of their unanimity on this point.
- alamun (sign, token, distinguishing mark). This was how Ibn al-Abbas, Qatada and al-Dahhak vocalised it. Although he does not say so, this obviously fits in well with their contention that the aya refers to Jesus return.
- dhikrun (recollection, mention, reminder). This is a different word altogether and not simply an alternative vocalization. It is the reading attributed to Ubaiy. Tabari states somewhat cryptically that it proves the correctness of the vocalization of ilmun (knowledge). I assume that what he means by this is that Ubaiys reading is an interpretative gloss and that it must be a gloss on ilmun rather than on alamun. In as far as the Quran itself is often referred to as a dhikrun Ubaiys reading seems to lend weight to interpretation [B].
he (Baydawi) mentions a third interpretation:
[C] Jesus is also <<knowledge for the Hour>> because his bringing the dead to life [during his ministry] indicates Gods power to do so [on the Day of Resurrection].
Ibn Kathir first gives us more information about what I have called interpretation [C]. He mentions that according to Ibn Ishaq the <<knowledge for the hour>> IS WHAT JESUS BROUGHT, by his reviving the dead and curing leprosy, blindness and other illnesses
Notice how this last view supports our exegesis in that it interprets Q. 43:61 in light of Christs earthly ministry being a means of conveying information to people that the hour would inevitably come. Robinson continues:
Ibn Kathir considers this interpretation dubious
According to him the correct interpretation is interpretation [A], namely that the reference is to Jesus future return. In support of this he makes five points:
- Jesus has been mentioned just before and the attached pronoun refers back to him.
- The return is referred to in 4:159 where <<before his death>> means before Jesus death.
- The variant reading alamun supports this interpretation.
- The interpretation was supported by Mujahid, Abu Hurayra, Ibn al-Abbas, Abu Aliya, Abu Malik, Ikrama, al-Hasan, Qatada, al-Dahhak and others.
- According to multiply-attested ahadith Muhammad spoke of the return of Jesus as a just judge before the Day of Resurrection.
Robinson goes on to refute Ibn Kathirs case:
Ibn Kathirs case is far from proven. Each of his points calls for comment:
- It is arguable that the attached pronoun refers back to Jesus himself but to the Quranic statement that he is only a servant. The statement is <<knowledge for the Hour>> in the sense that when the hour of judgment comes the statement will be vindicated and all will know that Muhammad was right in his estimation.
- As we saw in the last chapter, the interpretation of 4.159 is by no means as clear cut as Ibn Kathir would have us believe.
- His treatment of the uncanonical variants is one-sided. He mentions the reading alamun as if it furnished independent evidence in favour of his interpretation but he does not mention Ubaiys reading (dhikrun) which is independent evidence against it.
- He drops two of the eight authorities whom Tabari brings forward in support of interpretation [A] but adds three more. The two whom he drops are the Iraqi Successors al-Suddi and Ibn Zayd. The three whom he adds are Abu Hurayra, Abu Aliya, and Ikrama. The first of these is a famous Companion of the Prophet and the other two are well-known pupils of Ibn al-Abbas. Thus the credentials of interpretation [A] are improved. Nevertheless, by eliminating the names of al-Suddi and Ibn Zayd, Ibn Kathir deprives his readers of valuable historical evidence concerning the milieu in which this interpretation thrived.
- Tabari was aware that Jesus return was mentioned in hadith but unlike Ibn Kathir he did not insist that the hadith had a bearing on the interpretation of this aya. (Robinson, Christ In Islam and Christianity [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1991], pp. 90-93; bold, underline, capital emphasis and comments within brackets ours)
Interestingly, interpretation [B], that the pronoun hu in Q. 43:61 refers to the Quran, indirectly supports our exegesis. For instance, as both Parrinder and Robinson noted, the Quran contains knowledge of the hour in that it speaks of impending judgment, rewards, paradise, hell etc. In other words, the Quran becomes a source of knowledge for those wanting to know about the last hour.
In a similar way, if the text is referring to Jesus then the conclusion would be that Christ is knowledge of the hour by his being a conduit of revelation for the end times. It isnt simply that his coming will be a sign giving knowledge that the hour is nigh, but that he himself received and passed on information regarding the last day, something which the NT documents explicitly teach:
"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near." Revelation 1:1-3
See also the passages in the Gospels where Jesus teaches about the end times Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21.
There is even an Islamic narration where Jesus is presented as having knowledge of future events that the other messengers did not have:
Then they evoked the matter of the Hour and referred it to Ibrahim but he said: "I have no knowledge of it." They turned to Musa but he said: "I have no knowledge of it." They turned to Isa and he said:
As for the time when it shall befall, no one knows it except Allah. But this is what my Lord has assured me [concerning what precedes it]. The Dajjal or Anti-Christ shall come forth and I will face him with two rods. At my sight he shall melt like lead. Allah shall cause his destruction as soon as he sees me. It will be so that the very stones will say: "O Muslim, behind me hides a disbeliever, therefore come and kill him!" And Allah shall cause them all to die.
People shall then return to their countries and nations. At that time Ya'juj and Ma'juj [Gog and Magog] shall come out. They shall come from every direction. They shall trample all nations underfoot. Whatever they come upon, they shall destroy. They shall drink up every body of water.
At long last the people shall come to me bewailing about them. At that time I will invoke Allah against them so that He will destroy them and cause their death until the whole earth will reek of their stench. Allah will then send down rain which shall carry their bodies away and hurl them into the sea.
I have been assured by my Lord that once all this takes place then the Hour will be as the pregnant mother at the last stages of her pregnancy. Her family does not know when she shall suddenly give birth - by night or by day. (End of al-Shams addition) (Islamic Doctrines and Beliefs: Volume 1: The Prophets in Barzakh, The Hadith of Isra' and Mir'aj, The Immense Merits of Al-Sham, The Vision of Allah, Al-Sayyid Muhammad Ibn Alawi al-Maliki, translation and notes by Dr. Gibril Fouad Haddad [As-Sunna Foundation of America 1999], pp. 70-71; bold and underline emphasis ours)
4081. It was narrated that 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud said: "On the night on which the Messenger of Allah was taken on the Night Journey (Isra'), he met Ibrahim, Musa and 'Eisa, and they discussed the Hour. They started with Ibrahim, and asked him about it, but he did not have any knowledge of it. Then they asked Musa, and he did not have any knowledge of it. Then they asked 'Eisa bin Maryam, and he said: 'I have been assigned to some tasks before it happens.' As for as when it will take place, no one knows except Allah. Then he mentioned Dajjal and said: 'I will descend and kill him, then people will return to their own lands and will be confronted with Gog and Magog people, who will: "swoop down from every mound." They will not pass by any water but they will drink it, (and they will not pass) by anything but they will spoil it. They (the people) will beseech Allah, and I will pray to Allah to kill them. The earth will be filled with their stench and (the people) will beseech Allah and I will pray to Allah, then the sky will send down rain that will carry them and throw them in the sea. Then the mountains will turn to dust and the earth will be stretched out like a hide. I have been promised that when that happens, the Hour will come upon the people, like a pregnant woman whose family does not know when she will suddenly give birth.'" ... (Sahih) (Sunan Ibn Majah - Compiled by Imam Muhammad Bin Yazeed Ibn Majah Al-Qazwini, From Hadith No. 3657 to 4341, Ahadith edited and referenced by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair 'Ali Za'i, translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab (Canada), final review by Abu Khaliyl (USA) [Darussalam Publications and Distributors, First Edition: June 2007], Volume 5, Chapter 33. The Tribulation Of Dajjal, The Emergence Of 'Eisa Bin Maryam And The Emergence Of Gog and Magog, pp. 274-275)
Here, Jesus knows of the events leading up to the hour even though he isnt told the precise date that it will take place. This, too, agrees with the NT:
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Mark 13:32
Thus, when we piece all these points together it is reasonable to assume that Q. 43:61, if indeed referring to Jesus, shows that Christ is one with the knowledge of the hour to come.
We Once Again Have a Contradiction!
We now come to the final section of our paper where we deal with the problem that arises from the foregoing discussion. Both the Quran and specific narratives attributed to Muhammads child bride Aisha state that only Allah knows the unseen, that he alone knows what will occur tomorrow. Aisha even took it a step further and accused anyone who would say something contrary to be a blatant liar:
It is narrated on the authority of Masruq that he said: I was resting at (the house of) 'A'isha that she said: O Abu 'A'isha (kunya of Masruq), there are three things, and he who affirmed even one of them fabricated the greatest lie against Allah. I asked what they were. She said: He who presumed that Muhammad (may peace be upon him) saw his Lord (with his ocular vision) fabricated the greatest lie against Allah. I was reclining but then sat up and said: Mother of the Faithful, wait a bit and do not be in a haste. Has not Allah (Mighty and Majestic) said: "And truly he saw him on the clear horizon" (al-Qur'an, lxxxi. 23) and "he saw Him in another descent" (al-Qur'an, liii. 13)? She said: I am the first of this Ummah who asked the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) about it, and he said: Verily he is Gabriel. I have never seen him in his original form in which he was created except on those two occasions (to which these verses refer); I saw him descending from the heaven and filling (the space) from the sky to the earth with the greatness of his bodily structure. She said: Have you not heard Allah saying: "Eyes comprehend Him not, but He comprehends (all) vision. And He is Subtle, and All-Aware" (al-Qur'an, vi. 103)? (She, i.e. 'A'isha, further said): Have you not heard that, verily, Allah says: "And it is not vouchsafed to a human being that Allah should speak unto him otherwise than by revelation, or from behind a veil, or that He sendeth a messenger (angel), so that he revealeth whatsoever He wills. Verily He is Exalted, Wise" (al-Qur'an, xlii. 51) She said: He who presumes that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) concealed anything from the Book, of Allah fabricates the greatest lie against Allah. Allah says: "O Messenger! Deliver that which has been revealed to thee from thy Lord, and if thou do (it) not, thou hast not delivered His message" (al-Qur'an, v. 67). She said: He who presumes that he would inform about what was going to happen tomorrow fabricates the greatest lie against Allah. And Allah says: "Say thou (Muhammad): None in the heavens and the earth knoweth the unseen save Allah" (al-Qur'an, xxvii. 65). (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0337)
But our above analysis showed that the Quran plainly teaches that Jesus knew the unseen, which means that we either have a contradiction or that Jesus must therefore be God. Yet even this view would be in direct conflict with those statements of the Quran that claim that Christ was nothing more than Allahs slave.
The logic of this conclusion is inescapable:
This also introduces a further contradiction within the Quran, specifically with the claim that Muhammad didnt have knowledge of the unseen. The Quran contains information regarding the spiritual realm and future events, all of which Muslims believe came through Muhammad seeing that he was its supposed human conduit. Now if this information was channeled through Muhammad then it is rather obvious that he did have knowledge of the unseen, which therefore raises the following questions:
We will let the Muslims attempt to resolve these contradictions within their scripture.
(1) The pronoun "they" in Q. 72:27, i.e. "that He may know they have delivered the Messages of their Lord," suggests that there may have been more than one such messenger to whom Allah revealed knowledge of the unseen, one of which happens to be Jesus. Whoever else may have been in this category of messengers, Muhammad is definitely not one of them since he expressly excluded himself from this list.
(2) The expositors were confused and perplexed over the precise meaning of Q. 4:157-159. Their confusion stemmed from the fact that this specific reference is written in a rather incoherent matter and leaves out important details.
For example, what does it mean that Jesus was neither killed nor crucified and that only a likeness of that was shown to them? Does this mean that Allah made it seem as if the crucifixion took place when it never did and if so how did Allah pull this off? Is the citation saying that a likeness of Christ was seen being crucified? Is that how Allah pulled the wool over the peoples eyes?
Moreover, whose death does the Quran have in mind when it says that "the People of the Book will assuredly believe in him before his death"? Is this referring to the Jews since the immediate context is dealing with the Jewish rejection of Jesus and his mother? If so is this saying that every Jew must believe in Christ before they die? If this also includes Christians then are Christians required to believe in Jesus before their deaths even though they already believe in him? Or is this referring to Christians who pay lip service and do not truly love and follow Jesus, exhorting them to truly believe in him by obeying his teachings before they die? This would be similar to what Jesus himself taught in the NT:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." Matthew 7:21-27
"Jesus replied, If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." John 14:23-24
Or is the passage actually referring to Jesus own death, i.e. every Jew and/or Christian will have to come to faith before Christ dies? If this is the intended meaning then does this refer to Jesus dying during his stay on earth or to a future time in which he will die? If the former then does this mean that since Jesus has already died everyone must now come to believe in him in order to be saved since if they dont he will be a witness against them on the judgment day?
More importantly, how does a Muslim know what the answer is?
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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