Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Muhammad’s Inspiration and Eloquence versus Allah’s Aseity

More problems for Islamic Theology Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun


One of the chief criticisms which Muslims raise against the Holy Bible is its use of anthropomorphic descriptions of God. Muslims object to the Bible writers describing God as “resting,” needing to be “refreshed,” being aroused from “sleep” etc., since they deem this unbefitting to the glory and majesty of God.

According to Islamic theology, to ascribe human form and/or qualities to God is to violate Tauhid al-Asma’ was-Sifat (the unity of Allah’s names and attributes). Specifically, it is to commit shirk (which is the unforgivable sin in Islam [cf. Q. 2:22; 4:48, 116]) by humanization, e.g. humanizing Allah:

1. Shirk by humanization

In this aspect of shirk in al-Asma’ was-Sifat, Allah is given the form and qualities of human beings and animals. Due to man’s superiority over animals, the human form is more commonly used by idolaters to represent God in creation. Consequently, the image of the Creator is often painted, moulded or carved in the shape of human beings possessing the physical features of those who worship them. For example, Hindus and Buddhists worship countless idols in the likeness of Asian men and consider them manifestations of God in creation. Modern day Christian belief that the Prophet Jesus was God incarnate; that the Creator became His creation, is another good example of this type of shirk… (Dr. Abu Ameenah Philips, The Fundamentals of Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism) [International Islamic Publishing House, 2nd edition, 2005], Chapter Two. The Categories of Shirk, p. 50)

In light of the foregoing, we are now going to return the favor and demonstrate that Islam is guilty of the very thing its adherents accuse the Bible writers of. We are going to prove that Islam likens Allah to his creation, describing him as a being that has needs and desires which he expects to be fulfilled. 

As we venture into this topic, it is vitally important to remember that the Quran is believed by Muslims to be Muhammad’s lasting miracle, a literary composition free from all defects, being unmatchable in its eloquence and grammatical structure.

After all, Muhammad himself boasted that he always spoke by inspiration and was given the most expressive and eloquent words to utter:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "I have been given the keys of eloquent speech and given victory with awe (cast into the hearts of the enemy), and while I was sleeping last night, the keys of the treasures of the earth were brought to me till they were put in my hand." Abu Huraira added: Allah's Apostle left (this world) and now you people are carrying those treasures from place to place. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 87, Number 127)

Abu Burda reported on the authority of his father: Allah's Messenger sent me and Mu'adh to Yemen saying: Call people (to the path of righteousness) and give good tidings to the (people), and do not repel them, make things easy for them and do not make things difficult. I (Burda) said: Allah's Messenger, give us a religious verdict about two kinds of drinks which we prepare in Yemen. One is Bit' which is prepared from honey; it is a fermented Nabidh and is strong and turns into wine, and (the second is) Mizr which is prepared from millet and barley. Thereupon, Allah's Messenger, who had been gifted with the most eloquent and pithy expressions, said: I forbid you from every intoxicant that keeps you away from prayer. (Sahih Muslim, Book 023, Number 4961)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As: I used to write everything which I heard from the Apostle of Allah. I intended (by it) to memorise it. The Quraysh prohibited me saying: Do you write everything that you hear from him while the Apostle of Allah is a human being: he speaks in anger and pleasure? So I stopped writing, and mentioned it to the Apostle of Allah. He signalled with his finger to his mouth and said: write, by Him in Whose hand my soul lies, ONLY RIGHT COMES OUT FROM IT. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Volume 1, Book 25, Number 3639)

In light of these bold assertions, one would expect to find the Quran and ahadith of Muhammad describing Allah in the most eloquent manner imaginable. One would assume that the Muslim scripture would use the most exalted terms to depict the Islamic deity, portraying him as the greatest conceivable being, one free of all defects and contingencies. We would even anticipate that these Islamic sources would deliberately avoid speaking of Allah in any way which would demean him or rob him of his perfection and glory. We would never imagine finding anything in the texts of the Quran or the so-called prophetic traditions that could be interpreted to mean that Allah is an imperfect being who is in need of his creation.    

However, that is not what we find. The Quran and the sunna actually depict Allah as a being who is a lot like his creation, portraying him as a deficient and defective deity who is anything but self-sufficient.

In this article we will be providing evidence from the Quran to prove that it is not quite so eloquent in its portrayal of the Islamic god. The passages that we will examine will conclusively show that, according to the Muslim scripture, Allah is far from perfect and is definitely not the greatest conceivable being, let alone greater than our highest thoughts and estimations of him.

With the foregoing in perspective, it is now time to delve into the Islamic sources to see what we can discover concerning their depiction of the Islamic deity.

Guided on the Straight Path

The Quran repeatedly speaks of being guided on the straight path, or the path which results in salvation. The Quran further says that it is Allah who guides whomever he wants onto the straight path:

And God summons to the Abode of Peace, and He guides whomsoever He will to a straight path; S. 10:25

And those who cry lies to Our signs are deaf and dumb, dwelling in the shadows. Whomsoever God will, He leads astray, and whomsoever He will, He sets him on a straight path (ala siratin mustaqeemin). S. 6:39

Truly, you (O Muhammad) are one of the Messengers, On a Straight Path (ala siratin mustaqeemin) (i.e. on Allah's religion of Islamic Monotheism). S. 36:3-4 Hilali-Khan

So hold you (O Muhammad) fast to that which is inspired in you. Verily, you are on a Straight Path (ala siratin mustaqeemin). S. 43:43 Hilali-Khan

God has struck a similitude: two men, one of them dumb, having no power over anything, and he is a burden upon his master -- wherever he despatches him, he brings no good. Is he equal to him who bids to justice, and is on a straight path (ala siratin mustaqeemin)? S. 16:76

What, is he who walks prone upon his face better guided than he who walks upright on a straight path (ala siratin mustaqeemin)? S. 67:22

Notice how Q. 10:25 links the straight path with the abode of peace. Islamically speaking, the abode of peace is the place where a person finally achieves salvation and rest in paradise with all the swelling breasted virgins whom he will be busy deflowering for all eternity (cf. Q. 78:31-35).

In fact, the following passage not only associates “the abode of peace” with final salvation and rest, it also speaks of the straight path:

Whomsoever God desires to guide, He expands his breast to Islam; whomsoever He desires to lead astray, He makes his breast narrow, tight, as if he were climbing to heaven. So God lays abomination upon those who believe not. This is the path of thy Lord; straight (siratu rabbika mustaqeeman); We have distinguished the signs to a people who remember. Theirs is the abode of peace with their Lord, and He is their Protector for that they were doing. On the day when He shall muster them all together: 'Company of jinn, you have made much of mankind.' Then their friends among mankind will say, 'Our Lord, we have profited each of the other, and we have reached the term determined by Thee for us. He will say: 'The Fire is your lodging, therein to dwell forever' - except as God will; surely thy Lord is All-wise, All-knowing. So We make the evildoers friends of each other for what they have earned. 'Company of jinn and mankind, did not Messengers come to you from among you, relating to you My signs and warning you of the encounter of this your day?' They shall say, 'We bear witness against ourselves.' They were deluded by the present life, and they bear witness against themselves that they were unbelievers. That is because thy Lord would never destroy the cities unjustly, while their inhabitants were heedless. All have degrees according to what they have done; thy Lord is not heedless of the things they do. Thy Lord is All-sufficient, Merciful. If He will, He can put you away, and leave after you, to succeed you, what He will, as He produced you from the seed of another people. The thing you are promised, that will surely come; you cannot frustrate it. Say: 'O my people, act according to your station; I am acting. And assuredly you will know who shall possess the Abode Ultimate. Surely the evildoers will not prosper.' S. 6:125-135 Arberry

It makes sense to speak of people being guided on the straight path since man is lost and needs guidance, just as the Quran itself testifies:

‘Yet I claim not that my soul was innocent -- surely the soul of man incites to evil -- except inasmuch as my Lord had mercy; truly my Lord is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.’ S. 12:53

Said he, ‘Indeed I did it then, being one of those that stray; so I fled from you, fearing you. But my Lord gave me Judgment and made me one of the Envoys.’ S. 26:20-21

Did He not find thee erring, and guide thee? S. 93:7

Surely Man is in the way of loss, save those who believe, and do righteous deeds, and counsel each other unto the truth, and counsel each other to be steadfast. S. 103:2-3

Since the straight path is for those who have lost their way and need to be guided back to the road to salvation, it would make absolutely no sense to speak of Allah being on a straight path if he is truly God. God is not lost and therefore doesn’t need to be guided.

However, Muhammad has a so-called prophet named Hud saying that his Lord, who is supposed to be Allah, is also on a straight path!  

Truly, I have put my trust in God, my Lord and your Lord; there is no creature that crawls, but He takes it by the forelock. Surely my Lord is on a straight path (ala siratin mustaqeemin). S. 11:56

Compare this to the following translations:

Lo! my Lord is on a straight path. Pickthall

Verily, it is my Lord that is on a straight Path. Y. Ali

Verily, my Lord is on the Straight Path (the truth). Hilali-Khan

surely my Lord is on the right path. Shakir

It is one thing to say that Allah guides individuals to the straight path, but it is another thing altogether to say that he himself is ON the straight path. After all, he is supposed to be the destination which the straight path leads to. To, therefore, say that Allah is also on this same road means that he too is lost and has discovered the way back to himself, or that there must be some other deity that Allah is accountable to! 

In light of the above we have a few questions that we would like to see Muslims tackle.

Since Muhammad actually believed that Allah himself was on the straight path does this mean that he too was lost and needed to be guided?

If so then who is guiding Allah? Is he guiding himself or is there another deity which Allah answers to and will be judged by?

More importantly, if Allah himself needs guidance then how can it be said of him that he is the true God and the destination of all believers?

Contrast what Muhammad said about his deity to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ and his inspired spokespersons:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, I am THE WAY and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’” John 14:1-6

“So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’” John 10:7-10

“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:17-22

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22

Allah believes too!

The term which the Quran uses to describe a believer is mu'min. When it speaks of a group of believers it uses the word mu'mineen, which is often prefixed with the definite article al (“the”):

It belongs not to a believer (mu'minin) to slay a believer (mu'minan), except it be by error. If any slays a believer (mu'minan) by error, then let him set free a believing slave (mu'minatan), and bloodwit is to be paid to his family unless they forgo it as a freewill offering. If he belong to a people at enmity with you and is a believer (mu'minun), let the slayer set free a believing slave. If he belong to a people joined with you by a compact, then bloodwit is to be paid to his family and the slayer shall set free a believing slave. But if he finds not the means, let him fast two successive months -- God's turning; God is All-knowing, All-wise. And whoso slays a believer (mu'minan) wilfully, his recompense is Gehenna, therein dwelling forever, and God will be wroth with him and will curse him, and prepare for him a mighty chastisement. S. 4:92-93

It is He who expelled from their habitations the unbelievers among the People of the Book at the first mustering. You did not think that they would go forth, and they thought that their fortresses would defend them against God; then God came upon them from whence they had not reckoned, and He cast terror into their hearts as they destroyed their houses with their own hands, and the hands of the believers (al-mu'mineena); therefore take heed, you who have eyes! S. 59:2

And when Moses came to Our appointed tryst and his Lord had spoken unto him, he said: My Lord! Show me (Thy Self), that I may gaze upon Thee. He said: Thou wilt not see Me, but gaze upon the mountain! If it stand still in its place, then thou wilt see Me. And when his Lord revealed (His) glory to the mountain He sent it crashing down. And Moses fell down senseless. And when he woke he said: Glory unto Thee! I turn unto Thee repentant, and I am the first of (true) believers (al-mu'mineena). S. 7:143 Pickthall

And the heart of the mother of Moses became void, and she would have betrayed him if We had not fortified her heart, that she might be of the believers (al-mu'mineena). S. 28:10 Pickthall

God! There is no god but He: and on God, therefore, let the Believers (al-mu'minoona) put their trust. S. 64:13 Y. Ali

There is even a chapter in the Quran, namely the 23rd chapter, which is actually called “the Believers” (al-Mu'minun/al-Muminun/al-Mumenoon).

Astonishingly, one of the names of Allah is al-mu'min, or the all-believing/the believer!

He is Allah; there is no god but He. He is the King, the All-holy, the All-peaceable, the All-Believing/the Believer (al-muminu), the All-preserver, the All-mighty, the All-compeller, the All-sublime. Glory be to Allah, above that they associate! S. 59:23 (translation ours)

Al-mu'min is even listed as one of Allah’s ninety-nine names:

Al-Mu'min: The Trustworthy

The Giver of Faith, to give security; He who makes mankind secure from His wronging them; He who makes His servants safe from His punishment (i.e. Muhaymin); BELIEVER OF HIS SERVANTS on the Day of Rising in the questioning, or He who will faithfully give His servants what He promised them; He who has declared in His word the truth of His unity.

Al-Mu'min is one of the Ninety-Nine Names. (Aisha Bewley, The Divine Names; capital emphasis ours)


7. Al-Mu'min
The Guarantor (G.F. Haddad, Allah’s Names and Attributes)

Looking at the way these Muslims translated al-mu'min it seems that they were embarrassed by this name. They seemed to realize that it really doesn’t make sense to call Allah “the believer,” so they chose not to translate it as such. However, since the Quran uses this same term to describe believers there has to be some reason to translate it differently when it is used for Allah. The fact is that the Quran often likens Allah to his creatures, even in respect to their imperfections and needs. It is therefore not surprising that it would describe him as a believer much like it does for all those who believe and exercise faith.

Yet this creates problems for the claim that Allah is omniscient. Belief is called for when a person doesn’t know all things and therefore doesn’t know with absolute certainty whether the thing he believes in definitely exists or will come to pass.

However, an omniscient being doesn’t have belief in anything since such an entity knows everything and everyone perfectly and completely. In other words, since an omniscient being already knows the outcome of all events, and knows what everyone will do in the future, why then would such a person need to have faith or belief at all?

Yet since Allah is called the believer, and is even said to have faith or belief in his servants, this means he does not know all things. The fact that Allah is said to believe is a clear indication that Allah’s knowledge is defective.   

Now if the author(s) was/were trying to communicate the fact that Allah is reliable or trustworthy, or that he is faithful to his promises, then s/he/they had other words they could have chosen which would have been more suitable. For instance, s/he/they could have called Allah al-Amin (“The Faithful”) or as-Sadiq (“The Trustworthy”). Instead, s/he/they chose a word which was the least eloquent way of describing the deity since it implies that Allah is a being who believes much like his creatures do.

Allah the ever worshipful!

Not only is Allah a fellow believer, he is also a god who prays and worships like Muslims do!

The Quran says that Allah prays along with his angels for Muhammad and his followers:

He it is who prays (yusallee) for you and His angels too, to bring you forth out of the darkness into the light, for He is merciful to the believers. S. 33:43 Palmer

[Sidenote: This is a rather curious passage. It says that Allah is praying with his angels to bring his faithful out of darkness into the light. We can understand why angels would pray for that, but does it really make sense for Allah to pray for the salvation of his people when he is the one that guides and saves individuals? Instead of praying for the guidance of Muslims like the angels do, why doesn’t Allah simply bring them out of their darkness and into his light? In other words, why have Allah pray at all when he can simply deliver them?]

Verily, God and His angels pray (yusalloona) for the prophet. O ye who believe! pray for him (salloo) and salute him with a salutation! S. 33:56 Palmer

And according to one narration, Allah even recites the Quran much like his followers do whenever they pray five times a day!

Narrated AbuHurayrah
Allah's Messenger said, "A thousand years before creating the heavens and the Earth, Allah RECITED Ta-Ha and Ya-Sin, and when the angels HEARD the recitation they said, 'Happy are the people to whom this comes down, happy are the minds which carry this, and happy are the tongues which utter this.” Darimi transmitted it (At-Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 660 – taken from ALIM CD-ROM Version; bold and capital emphasis ours)

For more on this issue of Allah praying and worshiping like his creatures please consult the following article.

Allah bears witness along with his creatures

According to the ahadith, Muslims are required to bear witness or testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger. This is known as the shahadah (witness, testimony), and is also referred to as the kalima (creed), which is the first pillar of Islam. 

However, the Quran itself nowhere refers to this confession of faith, nor does it command its adherents to recite it. It does, however, mention the necessity of testifying to the first part of the creed, namely, there is no god besides Allah:

Thus We send thee (O Muhammad) unto a nation, before whom other nations have passed away, that thou mayst recite unto them that which We have inspired in thee, while they are disbelievers in the Beneficent. Say: He is my Lord; there is no God save Him. In Him do I put my trust and unto Him is my recourse. S. 13:30 Pickthall

And (mention) Dhu'n-Nun, when he went off in anger and deemed that We had no power over him, but he cried out in the darkness, saying: There is no God save Thee. Be Thou Glorified! Lo! I have been a wrong-doer. S. 21:87 Pickthall

Say (unto them, O Muhammad): I am only a warner, and there is no God save Allah, the One, the Absolute, Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, the Mighty, the Pardoning. S. 38:65-66

Amazingly, not only do the faithful make this confession, Allah himself does so as well!

Allah bears witness there is no God save him, and the angels, and the men of learning. Maintaining his creation in justice, there is no God save him, the Almighty, the Wise. S. 3:18

[Sidenote: The Arabic literally has Allah testifying that the angels and the men of learning are also god with Allah! For more on this point please consult the following article]

Nor is this an isolated example since, all throughout the Quran, Allah repeatedly testifies that there is no god save him:

Lo! This verily is the true narrative. There is no God save Allah, and lo! Allah, He verily is, is the Mighty, the Wise. S. 3:62 Pickthall

Allah! There is no God save Him. His are the most beautiful names… Lo! I, even I, am Allah, There is no God save Me. So serve Me and establish worship for My remembrance. S. 20:8, 14 Pickthall (cf. Q. 2:255; 3:2, 6; 4:87; 5:73; 6:102, 106; 9:31; 23:116; 28:70; 35:3; 39:6; 40:3, 62, 65; 44:8; 47:19; 59:22-23; 64:13; 73:9)

Allah even testifies that Muhammad is his messenger!

When the hypocrites come to you (O Muhammad), they say: "We bear witness that you are indeed the Messenger of Allah." Allah knows that you are indeed His Messenger and Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are liars indeed. S. 63:1 Hilali-Khan

Hence, Allah professes the shahadah much like his own followers do!

Does Allah know what he wills?

Another area in which Allah resembles finite creatures is in the use of the expression “if Allah wills.” There are several instances in the Quran in which individuals are said to have used this phrase due to being uncertain about what the future would bring:

They said, "Call upon your Lord for us to make plain to us what it is. Verily to us all cows are alike, And surely, if Allah wills (in shaa Allahu), we will be guided." S. 2:70 Hilali-Khan

And when they came in before Joseph, he took his parents unto him, and said: Come into Egypt safe, if Allah will (in shaa Allahu)! S. 12:99 Pickthall – cf. Q. 11:33; 18:69; 28:27

Yet in the following verse Allah is supposedly speaking to his messenger, informing him that if Allah wills the latter will soon enter Mecca victoriously and securely:

Indeed Allah shall fulfil the true vision which He showed to His Messenger [i.e. the Prophet saw a dream that he has entered Makkah along with his companions, having their (head) hair shaved and cut short] in very truth. Certainly, you shall enter Al-Masjid al-Haram; if Allah wills (in shaa Allahu), secure, (some) having your heads shaved, and (some) having your head hair cut short, having no fear. He knew what you knew not, and He granted besides that a near victory. S. 48:27 Hilali-Khan – cf. Q. 9:28; 25:10; 33:23-24

Here is another version:

Allah hath fulfilled the vision for His messenger in very truth. Ye shall indeed enter the Inviolable Place of Worship, if Allah will, secure, (having your hair) shaven and cut, not fearing. But He knoweth that which ye know not, and hath given you a near victory beforehand. Pickthall

Now it is one thing for creatures that don’t know what the future will bring, or how it will turn out, to use this expression; it is quite another thing altogether for an omniscient being to do so. After all, doesn’t Allah know what he has willed? Doesn’t he have perfect knowledge of what the future will bring, especially when he supposedly has decreed everything that will take place? If so then why does Allah need to say, “if Allah wills”? Surely, if anyone knows what Allah’s will is it would certainly have to be Allah himself!

It is again apparent that the Islamic sources are clearly denigrating the Muslim deity by depicting him as a finite, imperfect human being.

This ends part one. Please move on to the second part of our discussion.