Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

To the Believers Is He Most Kind and Merciful

A Case Study in Shirk

By Anthony Rogers

The words “kind(ness)” (raoofun) and “merciful” (raheemum) are used for Allah in the Qur’an. Examples of this include the following verses:

“… Allah is full of kindness (raoofun) to (His) devotees.” (Surah 2:207)

“… And Allah is full of kindness (raoofun) to those that serve Him.” (Surah 3:30)

“… For my Lord is indeed full of mercy (raheemun)…” (Surah 11:90)

“… For Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful (raheemun).” (Surah 49:12)

In fact, the word raoofun, which is used eleven times in the Qur’an, is only used for Allah. The same is true for the word raheemun, which appears fifty-nine times.

Most significantly for the sake of the present study, when these two adjectives, raoofun and raheemun, are paired together, they are only used for Allah, as in the following passages:

“… For Allah is to all people most surely full of kindness, Most Merciful (laraoofun raheemun).” 2:143

“… but He [Allah] turned to them (also): for He is unto them Most Kind, Most Merciful (raoofun raheemun).” 9:117

“… for our Lord is indeed Most Kind, Most Merciful (laraoofun raheemun).” 16:7

“… For thy Lord is indeed full of kindness and mercy (laraoofun raheemun).” 16:47

“… For Allah is Most Kind and Most Merciful (laraoofun raheemun) to man.” 22:65

“Were it not for the grace and mercy of Allah on you, and that Allah is full of kindness and mercy (raoofun raheemun), (ye would be ruined indeed).” 24:20

“… And verily, Allah is to you Most Kind and Merciful (raoofun raheemun).” 57:9

“… Our Lord! Thou art indeed Full of Kindness, Most Merciful (raoofun raheemun).” 59:10

The sole exception to the above appears in Surah 9:128, which reads:

“… to the believers is he most kind and merciful (raoofun raheemun).”

In light of what has been said above, there is little doubt that anyone who only read these words from Surah 9:128 would think they are being used for Allah just as they are everywhere else. However, in context this is actually being said about Muhammad:

“Now hath come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that ye should perish; ardently anxious is he over you: to the believers is he most kind and merciful.”

Muslim authorities are even in agreement that this is spoken about Muhammad, which can be seen from the fact that Yusuf Ali and other translators do not capitalize these words in Surah 9:128 as they usually do when used for Allah (even though they are not distinguished by this method in the Arabic text, which employs no such convention to indicate when words are being used for Allah or for another besides him).

In fact, if it wasn’t already clear from the syntax that this is referring to Muhammad, it is made all the more explicit in the Hilali-Khan version:

“Verily, there has come unto you a Messenger (Muhammad SAW) from amongst yourselves (i.e. whom you know well). It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He (Muhammad SAW) is anxious over you (to be rightly guided, to repent to Allah, and beg Him to pardon and forgive your sins, in order that you may enter Paradise and be saved from the punishment of the Hell-fire), for the believers (he SAW is) full of pity, kind, and merciful.”

The following hadith also reports a tradition that Muhammad was given these two names (among others):

Jubair b. Mut'im reported on the authority of his father that he heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: I have many names: I am Muhammad, I am Ahmad, I am al-Mahi through whom Allah obliterates unbelief, and I am Hashir (the gatherer) at whose feet people will be gathered, and I am 'Aqib (after whom there would be none), and Allah has named him as compassionate and merciful. (Sahih Muslim, Book 30, #5811) (emphasis mine)

And the following sources admit that these two names are divine names, and that Allah has honored, clothed, and described Muhammad with these sublime qualities:

One of the men of knowledge, Al-Husayn ibn al-Fadl, said, “He honored him with two of His own names: the compassionate and the merciful (rauf, rahim).” The same point is made in another ayat: “Allah was kind to the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves.” (3:164) …

Jafar ibn Muhammad [as-Sadiq] said, “Allah knew that His creatures would not be capable of pure obedience to Him, so He told them this in order that they would realize that they would never be able to achieve absolute purity in serving Him. Between Himself and them He placed one of their own species, CLOTHING HIM IN HIS OWN ATTRIBUTES OF COMPASSION AND MERCY. He brought him out as a truthful ambassador to creation and made it such that when someone obeys him, they are obeying Allah, and when someone agrees with him, they are agreeing with Allah.” Allah says: “Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah.” (4:80)

As-Samarqandi explains that the words a mercy to all the worlds mean for both the jinn and mankind. It is also said that it means for all creation. He is a mercy to the believers by guiding them, a mercy to the hypocrites by granting them security from being killed, and a mercy to the unbelievers by deferring their punishment. Ibn Abbas said, “He is a mercy to the believers and also to the unbelievers since they are safe from what befell the other communities who cried lies.” It is related that the Prophet said to Jibril, “Has any of this mercy touched you?” He replied, “Yes, I used to have fear about what would happen to me, but now I feel safe because of the way Allah praised me when He said, ‘Possessing power, secure with the Lord of the Throne, obeyed, then trusty.’” (81:21) (Qadi Iyad Ibn Musa al-Yahsubi, Kitab Ash-shifa bi ta'rif huquq al-Mustafa (Healing by the recognition of the Rights of the Chosen One), translated by Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley [Madinah Press, Inverness, Scotland, U.K., third reprint 1991, paperback], Part One. Allah’s great estimation of the worth of his Prophet expressed in both word and action, Chapter One. Allah’s praise of him and his great esteem for him, Section 1. Concerning praise of him and his numerous excellent qualities, pp. 4-6; capital, bold and underline emphasis ours)

And again:

Section 14. On Allah honouring the Prophet WITH SOME OF HIS OWN BEAUTIFUL NAMES and describing him with some of His own Sublime Qualities

… He has preferred our Prophet Muhammad [above other prophets - AR] since He has adorned him with a wealth of His names in His Mighty Book and on the tongues of His Prophets…

One of His names is the Praiseworthy (al-Hamid). This means the One who is praised because He praises Himself and His slaves praise him. It also means the One who praises Himself and praises acts of obedience. The Prophet is called Muhammad and Ahmad. Muhammad means praised, and that is how his name occurs in the Zabur of David. Ahmad means the greatest of those who give praise and the most sublime of those who are praised. Hassan ibn Thabit indicated this when he said:

It is taken for him from His own name in order to exalt him.

The One with the Throne is praised (Mahmud) and he is Muhammad.

Two of Allah’s names are the Compassionate, the Merciful (ar-Ra’uf, ar-Rahim). They are similar in meaning. He calls him by them in His Book when He says, “Compassionate, merciful to the believers.” (9.128) (Qadi Iyad Ibn Musa al-Yahsubi, Kitab Ash-shifa bi ta'rif huquq al-Mustafa (Healing by the recognition of the Rights of the Chosen One), translated by Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley [Madinah Press, Inverness, Scotland, U.K., third reprint 1991, paperback], Chapter Three. On The Sound And Well-Known Traditions Related About The Immense Value Placed On Him By His Lord, His Exalted Position And His Nobility In This World And The Next, pp. 126-127; capital and bold emphasis ours)

Whereas the Qur’an is otherwise careful to never speak of others in the same way it does about Allah, Most Kind and Merciful, it has a falling out with itself in Surah 9:128 when it says the same thing about Muhammad, calling him, and only him in addition to Allah, “Most Kind and Merciful”.

In fact, to reiterate the point from another angle, that which was pointed out above from a systematic standpoint – i.e., approaching the Qur’an as a completed whole, observing that everywhere besides Surah 9:128 these adjectives or divine attributes are always and only predicated of Allah – may be made with equal if not greater force by looking at it from the standpoint of the chronological development of the Qur’an.

By all accounts, Muslim or Western, Surah 9 was either the last or at least one of the last Surah’s of the Qur’an to be revealed. According to the classification scheme that traces back to Ibn Abbas by way of Ata as well as the scheme held by Sir William Muir, Surah 9 was the last Surah of the Qur’an to be revealed. Similarly, in the official Egyptian edition of the Qur’an as well as in the scheme advocated by Nöldeke-Schwally, Surah 9 was the second to last Surah to be “revealed”. All other classification schemes also place Surah 9 either last or late. Moreover, various hadith also attest that the last two verses of Surah 9 were both the last verses to be revealed and also the last to be collected into the Qur’an:

On the authority of Ubayy ibn Ka`ab, they were collecting the Qur'an from the volume of Ubayy. Men were writing, while Ubayy ibn Ka`ab was dictating to them. When they reached the end of the verse in surat Bara'a {S. 9 V. 127}: Thus, God has diverted their hearts, for they are people who do not comprehend, they asserted that this verse was the last of what God, the Exalted, revealed of the Qur'an. Then, Ubayy said, "God's messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, had me recite two verses after this: Indeed, a messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering is hard on him. He is anxious over you, compassionate and merciful to the believers...", to the end of the sura. He said, "So this is the last of what was revealed of the Qur'an." (Abu Dawud, 2.30)

So, `Uthman ibn `Affan stood up and said, 'Whoever has something from the Book of God, let him bring it to us.' And nothing would be accepted until two witnesses testified to it. Then, Khuzaima ibn Thabit came and said, "I see that you left out two verse that you did not write." They said, "What are they?" He said, "I learned from God's messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, {S. 9 V. 128}: Indeed, a messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering is hard on him. He is anxious over you, compassionate and merciful to the believers...," to the end of the sura. `Uthman said, "I bear witness that they are from God. So, where do you think you should put them?" He said, "Conclude the last of what was revealed of the Qur'an with them." So Bara'a was concluded with them. (Abu Dawud, 2.31)

Narrated Uthman ibn Affan:

Yazid al-Farisi said: I heard Ibn Abbas say: I asked Uthman in Affan: What moved you to put the (Surah) al-Bara'ah which belongs to the mi'in (surahs) (containing one hundred verses) and the (Surah) al-Anfal which belongs to the mathani (Surahs) in the category of as-sab'u at-tiwal (the first long surah or chapter of the Qur'an), and you did not write "In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful" between them?

Uthman replied: When the verses of the Qur'an were revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), he called someone to write them down for him and said to him: Put this verse in the surah in which such and such has been mentioned; and when one or two verses were revealed, he used to say similarly (regarding them). (Surah) al-Anfal is the first surah that was revealed at Medina, and (Surah) al-Bara'ah was revealed last in the Qur'an, and its contents were similar to those of al-Anfal. I, therefore, thought that it was a part of al-Anfal. Hence I put them in the category of as-sab'u at-tiwal (the seven lengthy surahs), and I did not write "In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful" between them. (Abu Dawud, 3.785)

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit:

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq sent for me when the people! of Yamama had been killed (i.e., a number of the Prophet's Companions who fought against Musailama). (I went to him) and found 'Umar bin Al-Khattab sitting with him. Abu Bakr then said (to me), "Umar has come to me and said: "Casualties were heavy among the Qurra' of the! Qur'an (i.e. those who knew the Quran by heart) on the day of the Battle of Yalmama, and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra' on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost. Therefore I suggest, you (Abu Bakr) order that the Qur'an be collected." I said to 'Umar, "How can you do something which Allah's Apostle did not do?" 'Umar said, "By Allah, that is a good project. "Umar kept on urging me to accept his proposal till Allah opened my chest for it and I began to realize the good in the idea which 'Umar had realized." Then Abu Bakr said (to me). 'You are a wise young man and we do not have any suspicion about you, and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle. So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Qur'an and collect it in one book." By Allah If they had ordered me to shift one of the mountains, it would not have been heavier for me than this ordering me to collect the Qur'an. Then I said to Abu Bakr, "How will you do something which Allah's Apostle did not do?" Abu Bakr replied, "By Allah, it is a good project." Abu Bakr kept on urging me to accept his idea until Allah opened my chest for what He had opened the chests of Abu Bakr and 'Umar. So I started looking for the Qur'an and collecting it from (what was written on) palmed stalks, thin white stones and also from the men who knew it by heart, till I found the last Verse of Surat At-Tauba (Repentance) with Abi Khuzaima Al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him. The Verse is:

'Verily there has come unto you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty...(till the end of Surat-Baraa' (At-Tauba) (9.128-129) Then the complete manuscripts (copy) of the Qur'an remained with Abu Bakr till he died, then with 'Umar till the end of his life, and then with Hafsa, the daughter of 'Umar. (Bukhari, 6.61.509)

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit:

Abu Bakr sent for me and said, "You used to write the Divine Revelations for Allah's Apostle : So you should search for (the Qur'an and collect) it." I started searching for the Qur'an till I found the last two Verses of Surat At-Tauba with Abi Khuzaima Al-Ansari and I could not find these Verses with anybody other than him. (They were):

'Verily there has come unto you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty ...' (9.128-129) (Bukhari, 6.61.511)

Narated By Zaid bin Thabit : Abu Bakr sent for me, so I collected the Qur'an till I found the last part of Surat-at-Tauba with Abi Khuzaima Al-Ansari and did not find it with anybody else. (The Verses are): 'Verily, there has come to you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves... (till the end of Surat Bara'a) (i.e., At-Tauba).' (9.128-129) (Bukhari, 9.93.521)

This means that Muslims up to the time that Surah 9 was revealed, particularly its last two verses, had repeatedly heard with their ears and recited with their mouths one Surah after another declaring that Allah is raoofun raheemun – Most Kind, Most Merciful. And even if the early Muslims did not self-consciously reflect upon it they most certainly would have been conditioned by all of this to think that these are divine attributes that belong to Allah. It was only after constantly making the association of these attributes with Allah that Surah 9:128 came along and declared that Muhammad in addition to Allah possesses these divine attributes (and that just shortly after saying the same thing about Allah in this very Surah – 9:117). The conclusion that Muhammad is here being given divine names or attributes would have been unavoidable.

In light of all this there can be little wonder why the Muslim translator of the Qur’an Rashad Khalifa considered this verse to be a Satanic addition or interpolation into the Qur’an. This is not only reflected in his version which completely removes this verse (along with the verse that follows), but in the footnote appended to the Surah which explains why the Bismillah in Surah 9 is absent from every version of the Qur’an, and why the two verses at the end of Surah 9 are included in all versions of the Qur’an except for his own translation (and a later translation by one of his students, Edip Yuksel):

“… This is the only sura that is not prefixed with the Basmalah. This phenomenon has puzzled the students of the Quran for 14 centuries, and many theories were advanced to explain it. Now we realize that the conspicuous absence of the Basmalah serves three purposes: (1) It represents an advance divine proclamation that the idol worshipers were destined to tamper with the Quran by adding 2 false verses (9:128-129). (2) It demonstrates one of the functions of God's mathematical code in the Quran, namely, to guard the Quran against any alteration. (3) It provides additional miraculous features of the Quran's code.” (Online source; emphasis mine)

Khalifah elaborates on this point somewhat in an appendix (#24) to his translation, where he says:

“Nineteen years after the Prophet Muhammad's death, during the reign of Khalifa `Uthman, a committee of scribes was appointed to make several copies of the Quran to be dispatched to the new Muslim lands. The copies were to be made from the original Quran which was written by Muhammad's hand...

This committee was supervised by `Uthman Ibn `Affaan, `Ali Ibn Abi Taaleb, Zeid Ibn Thaabet, Ubayy Ibn Ka`ab, `Abdullah Ibn Al-Zubair, Sa`eed Ibn Al-`Aas, and `Abdul Rahman Ibn Al-Haareth Ibn Heshaam. The Prophet, of course, had written the Quran in its chronological order of revelation…, together with the necessary instructions to place every piece in its proper position. The last sura revealed in Medina was Sura 9. Only Sura 110, a very short sura, was revealed after Sura 9, in Mina.

The committee of scribes finally came to Sura 9, and put it in its proper place. One of the scribes suggested adding a couple of verses to honor the Prophet. The majority of scribes agreed. `Ali was outraged. He vehemently maintained that the word of God, written down by the hand of His final prophet, must never be altered.

Ali's protest is documented in many references, but I cite and reproduce here the classic reference AL ITQAAN FEE 'ULUM AL QURAN by Jalaluddin Al-Suyuty, Al-Azhareyyah Press, Cairo, Egypt, 1318 AH, Page 59 [see Insert 1].

Translation: `Ali was asked: "Why are you staying home?" He said, "Something has been added to the Quran, and I have pledged never to put on my street clothes, except for the prayer, until the Quran is restored." [ Insert 1 ]

The horrendous dimensions of this crime can be realized once we look at the consequences:

(1) `Uthman was assassinated, and `Ali was installed as the fourth Khalifa.

(2) A 50-year war erupted between the new Khalifa and his supporters on one side, and the Mohammedan distorters of the Quran on the other side.

(3) `Ali was martyred, and eventually his family, the prophet Muhammad's family, except for some women and children, were killed.

(4) The disaster culminated in the infamous Battle of Karbala, where `Ali's son, Hussein, and his family were massacred.

(5) The Muslims were deprived of the pure, unaltered, Quran for 1400 years.

The distorters of the Quran finally won the war, and the "official" history that came to us represented the victors' point of view. This apparent victory for God's enemies was, of course, in accordance with God's will. In just two decades after the Prophet's death, the idol worshipers who were defeated by the Prophet in the conquest of Mecca (632 AD) reverted to idolatry. Ironically, this time around their idol was the Prophet himself. Such idol worshipers obviously did not deserve to possess the pure Quran. Hence the blessed martyrdom of the true believers who tried to restore the Quran, and the apparent victory for the distorters of God's word.” (Online source; emphasis mine)

For the point being made here it doesn’t matter if orthodox Muslims believe that Khalifah was wrong about these verses being added to Surah 9. The point is that Khalifah recognized and was (appropriately) repulsed by the obvious example of shirk contained in them – as all Muslims should be.

Some Muslims may try to get around this problem by pointing out that the definite forms of these names are not used for Muhammad. While it is certainly true that shirk is immediately obvious and recognizable when the definite forms of attributive words for Allah are being used for creatures, something the Qur’an also does in various places, the fact is that since the specific phrase in question, raoofun raheemun, is established by Quranic usage to be specifically for Allah, it also constitutes shirk to associate anyone with Allah in this way. In addition to this, since the Qur'an never pairs these words together in their definite forms when speaking of Allah, it is hardly any objection to say that it does not speak of Muhammad after this fashion. The one and only way the words raoofun and raheemun are used together where they uniformly refer to Allah is the very way they are used in Surah 9:128 for Muhammad.

Muslims may also try to turn this on its head and say that this verse, Surah 9:128, proves that others besides Allah may appropriately be called “Most Kind, Most Merciful”, and that because of this it is not shirk to call Muhammad “Most Kind, Most Merciful”, but the fact is the Qur’an nowhere refers to others in this way and Muhammad alone is singled out and ascribed these divine attributes. It is logically fallacious to reason from the fact that Muhammad is called “Most Kind, Most Merciful” to the fact that others may be so called in order then to go back and say, “It is not shirk to call Muhammad ‘Most Kind, Most Merciful’ because others may also be called ‘Most Kind, Most Merciful’”.

Furthermore, any attempt to circumvent this by saying it is not shirk because Allah himself is calling Muhammad after his own names, would simply beg the question. If Allah condemns and abominates shirk, part and parcel of which means not associating anyone or anything with Allah in his divinity, such as by ascribing to someone else attributes and titles that belong to Allah alone, then why does Allah say of Muhammad in the Qur’an that which is otherwise only said about himself? Why is shirk not shirk when it is committed by Allah? In addition, if shirk is a valid criterion for determining if something is the truth from God, then the fact that Allah in the Qur’an supposedly endorses what can honestly only be called shirk is proof positive that the Allah of the Qur’an is not the true God and that the Qur’an is not the Word of God.

When Muslims accuse Christians of being guilty of shirk for their belief that Jesus is God, they do so because they believe Christians are guilty of worshipping a creature alongside of God, i.e. that Christians are guilty of ascribing to a creature the nature, names, attributes, prerogatives, honors and works that belong exclusively to deity. Ironically, since Christians do not believe they are applying such titles to a mere creature when they, following the Scriptures, apply such things to the Lord Jesus Christ, whom they believe to be the divine Word of God who clothed Himself with flesh (i.e. he is not a human being whom Christians deify by imputing to Him divine attributes, but the divine Word of God who took on a human nature and human attributes), it is actually Muslims who are guilty of this very thing. In calling Muhammad, whom the Qur’an elsewhere declares to be merely and only a man, by divine titles that are otherwise only used of Allah, i.e. titles that are used exclusively for him in derogation of all others, indeed, by saying that Muhammad, a man, is clothed with divine qualities, they are in fact guilty of deifying Muhammad, a creature.

As much as contemporary Muslims, contrary to Muslims of the past, may dislike the apostle Paul, his description of the difference between the clearly revealed truth about God that all nature testifies to on every side and all false religion that is rooted in sin-clouded speculation (or even demonic deception), strikingly applies not only to paganism in general but to Islam in particular: for those who adhere to the teachings of the Qur'an have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:25)

This means the Qur’an is false not only when judged by the Bible but even when judged by its own criteria. In other words, according to the Bible and the Qur’an, Islam is a religion of shirk.

Further Reading: The Deification of Muhammad

Bassam Zawadi published a response to this article. My answer is found here.