Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Revisiting the Problem of Islamic Monotheism

Responding to Sami Zaatari’s defense of Tauhid Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

Muslim propagandist Sami Zaatari tries to come to the defense of Bassam Zawadi by writing a “reply” to my analysis of Zawadi’s dialogue with Muslim turned Christian pastor Thabiti Anyabwile.

In this “response” Zaatari attempts to expose my “ignorance” and correct the “several errors” that I made in my three-part rebuttal concerning the Islamic conception of tauhid or unitarianism. Let us see how well he does and whether he achieved his goal of proving that Zawadi’s unitarian beliefs are based on what the so-called authentic sources of Islam teach concerning this issue.

Islam’s multiple lords

Zaatari quoted a few verses which he thinks affirm tauhid al-rububiyyah or the unity of Allah’s lordship. However, none of the passages he cited say that Allah is the only lord. In fact the Quran acknowledges other lords besides Allah.

More importantly, simply citing references doesn’t address all the verses and narrations which I provided that conclusively prove that Allah is not the only lord since we saw that Muhammad shares in his deity’s sovereignty and authority.

Moreover, the Quran mentions a prophet calling on an angel as his lord!

Then and there did Zachariah PRAY TO HIS LORD (rabbahu), saying, ‘MY LORD (rabbi) grant me from Thyself pure offspring; surely thou art the Hearer of Prayer.’ AND THE ANGELS CALLED TO HIM as he stood praying in the chamber, ‘ALLAH gives thee glad tidings of Yahya, who shall testify to the truth of a word from ALLAH - noble and chaste and a Prophet, from among the righteous.’ HE SAID ‘MY LORD (rabbi), how shall I have a son, when old age has overtaken me already, and my wife is barren?’ He answered, ‘Such is the way of ALLAH; HE does what HE pleases,’ HE SAID ‘MY LORD (rabbi), give me a commandment.’ HE [the angel] REPLIED, ‘The commandment for thee is that thou shalt not speak to men for three days except by signs. And remember THY LORD (rabbaka) much and glorify HIM in the evening and in the early morning.’ S. 3:38-41 Sher Ali

When he called upon HIS LORD (rabbahu) in a low voice, He said: MY LORD (rabbi)! surely my bones are weakened and my head flares with hoariness, and, MY LORD (rabbi)! I have never been unsuccessful in my prayer to Thee: And surely I fear my cousins after me, and my wife is barren, therefore grant me from Thyself an heir, Who should inherit me and inherit from the children of Yaqoub, and make him, my Lord, one in whom Thou art well pleased. O Zakariya! surely We give you good news of a boy whose name shall be Yahya: We have not made before anyone his equal. He said: O MY LORD (rabbi)! when shall I have a son, and my wife is barren, and I myself have reached indeed the extreme degree of old age? HE SAID: So shall it be, YOUR LORD (rabbuka) SAYS: It is easy to Me, and indeed I created you before, when you were nothing. He said: MY LORD (rabbi)! give me a sign. HE SAID: Your sign is that you will not be able to speak to the people three nights while in sound health. S. 19:3-10 Shakir

These passages mention Zechariah’s prayer to Allah for a son, the angels’ response, and the subsequent discussion that supposed to have taken place between the prophet and the angels. What this means is that this prophet of Allah was either addressing the angels collectively or one specific angel as his very own lord!

We repeat again the specific portion in order to help the readers see this point more clearly:

He said, ‘O my Lord, how shall I have a son, seeing my wife is barren, and I have attained to the declining of old age?’ SAID HE, ‘So it shall be; THY LORD says, "Easy is that for Me, seeing that I created thee aforetime, when thou wast nothing."’ S. 19:8-9 Arberry

The entity speaking to the prophet refers to the words of Allah, Zechariah’s lord, which shows that it was someone other than Allah who was addressing Zechariah. The speaker must have therefore been one of the angels, which means that Zechariah was addressing a specific angel as his lord!

And lest Zaatari accuse us of misinterpretation, Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir provides indirect attestation for our analysis since he says that the person who responded to Zechariah was the angel, thereby confirming the fact that the prophet must have been addressing the angel. Here is what he wrote concerning Q. 3:40:

<"O my Lord! How can I have a son when I am very old, and my wife is barren'' (He) said…> meaning the angel said, (Source)

And in connection to Q. 19:9 Ibn Kathir states that,

Zakariyya was amazed when his supplication was answered and he was given the good news of a son. He became extremely overjoyed and asked how this child would be born to him, and in what manner he would come. This was particularly amazing because his wife was an old woman who was barren and had not given birth to any children in her entire life. Even Zakariyya himself had become old and advanced in years, his bones had become feeble and thin, and he had no potent semen or vigor for sexual intercourse.

The Answer of the Angel

<He said:> That is, the angel, in his response to Zakariyya and his was amazement. (Source; underline emphasis ours)

The Quran further asserts that Mary herself, the Lord Jesus’ mother, called the angels or one angel in particular her very lord:

Behold! THE ANGELS SAID: ‘O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee - chosen thee above the women of all nations. O Mary! worship thy Lord devoutly: Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.’ This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee (O Messenger) by inspiration: Thou wast not with them when they cast lots with pens (or arrows), as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor wast thou with them when they disputed (the point). Behold! THE ANGELS SAID: ‘O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah. He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.’ She said: ‘O MY LORD! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?’ HE SAID: ‘Even so; Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, "Be," and it is!’ S. 3:42-47 Pickthall

Needless to say, the Muslim expositors were perplexed by the above passages, specifically Q. 3:40. They were apparently troubled at the idea of a prophet calling an angel his lord. Muslim scholar and writer Mahmoud M. Ayoub says of Q. 3:40 that,

Two issues concerned commentators in this verse. The first is the question of whether it is God or Gabriel whom Zechariah addresses as Lord. The second is how Zechariah, as a prophet, could have any doubt in God’s power to cause an old, barren woman to bear a child?

… Ibn Kathir assumes that Zechariah’s dialogue was with an angel, not with God (Ibn Kathir, II, p. 36).

Qurtubi begins by relating on the authority of al-Kalbi that the word "Lord" in this verse refers to Gabriel. He says, “Zechariah said to Gabriel ‘my lord,’ meaning ‘my master.’”…

Razi begins with the question of Zechariah’s dialogue and whether it was with God or with Gabriel. The question is important because it concerns the theological debate about God’s transcendence and the problem of anthropomorphism. If God hears and speaks in a manner familiar to human beings, then the question arises as to whether God has similar organs of hearing and speech. Razi argues that it is equally possible that Zechariah was addressing either God or the angel in this verse. He presents two explanations which he attributes to the mufassirun, that is, other commentators. The first is: “When the angels called to Zechariah and gave him the good news, he wondered and turned to God for reassurance. Zechariah was actually addressing the angel Gabriel, and not God. The invocation ‘my lord’ is here addressed to a superior or master, and not to God.” (Ayoub, The Qur‘an and Its Interpreters: The House of ‘Imran [State University of New York (SUNY) Press, Albany 1992], Volume II, pp. 112-113; underline emphasis ours)

The reason why some of these scholars may have been troubled is because the Quran expressly forbids taking angels and prophets as lords and protectors:

Nor would he instruct you to take angels and prophets for Lords and Patrons. What! Would he bid you to unbelief after ye have bowed your will (to Allah in Islam)? S. 3:80

However, the fact remains that the Quran has two very important Biblical figures calling an unnamed angel their lord!

Zaatari tries to teach me how to refute tauhid al-rububiyyah!

Let me teach Shamoun on how somebody contradicts Tawhid of Lordship, people contradict Tawhid of Lordship by the following:

-Believing in no God (atheists)

-Believing in another false God, a God who creates and is control over the affairs of the universe (Christian)

What is amazing about his list is that he conveniently left out the specific manner that his own false prophet said would directly conflict with Allah’s lordship:

<They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah, and the Messiah, son of Maryam> [9:31]. Imam Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Jarir At-Tabari recorded a Hadith via several chains of narration, from 'Adi bin Hatim, may Allah be pleased with him, who became a Christian during the time of Jahiliyyah. When the call of the Messenger of Allah reached his area, 'Adi ran away to Ash-Sham, and his sister and several of his people were captured. The Messenger of Allah freed his sister and gave her gifts. So she went to her brother and encouraged him to become Muslim and to go to the Messenger of Allah. 'Adi, who was one of the chiefs of his people (the tribe of Tai') and whose father, Hatim At-Ta’i, was known for his generosity, went to Al-Madinah. When the people announced his arrival, 'Adi went to the Messenger of Allah wearing a silver cross around his neck. The Messenger of Allah recited this Ayah...

<They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah>. 'Adi commented, “I said, ‘They did not worship them.’” The Prophet said...

((Yes they did. They (rabbis and monks) prohibited the allowed for them (Christians and Jews) and allowed the prohibited, and they obeyed them. This is how they worshiped them.)) …

<They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah…> that the Christians and Jews obeyed their monks and rabbis in whatever they allowed or prohibited for them…” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged), Surat Al-A'raf to the end of Surah Yunus, abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, London, Lahore; First Edition: May 2000], Volume 4, pp. 409-410; bold emphasis ours)

As we saw, Muhammad demanded this very same kind of blind obedience and allegiance from his own followers! If unquestioningly submitting to the whims and dictates of the rabbis and monks is an act of deification, an act of worship, then Muslims are worshiping and deifying Muhammad for giving him the very same kind of allegiance; and yet they do so on the express and strict orders of Muhammad! Worse still, according to Muhammad they are actually doing so on the express commands of Allah, which means that it is Allah who is demanding that Muslims deify and worship Muhammad!

Moreover, Muhammad taught that Allah deliberately conjoined their names together in the Islamic creed with a conjunction which denotes equality and partnership, thereby making a finite creature one of the two pillars of tauhid!

The fact that mention of the Prophet is directly connected to mention of Allah also shows that obedience to the Prophet is connected to obedience to Allah and his name to Allah's name. Allah says, "Obey Allah and His Messenger" (2:32) and "Believe in Allah and His Messenger." (4:136) Allah joins them together using the conjunction wa WHICH IS THE CONJUNCTION OF PARTNERSHIP. IT IS NOT PERMITTED TO USE THIS CONJUNCTION IN CONNECTION WITH ALLAH IN THE CASE OF ANYONE EXCEPT THE PROPHET.

Hudhayfa said that the Prophet said, "None of you should say, ‘What Allah wills and (wa) so-and-so wills.’ Rather say, ‘What Allah wills.’ Then stop and say, ‘So-and-so wills.’”

Al-Khattabi said, “The Prophet has guided you to correct behaviour in putting the will of Allah before the will of others. He chose ‘THEN’ (thumma) which implies sequence and deference as opposed to ‘AND’ (wa) WHICH IMPLIES PARTNERSHIP.”

Something similar is mentioned in another hadith. Someone was speaking in the presence of the Prophet and said, “Whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has been rightly guided, and whoever rebels against them both (joining them together by using the dual form) …” The Prophet said to him, “What a bad speaker you are! Get up! [Or he said: Get out!]”

Abu Sulayman said, “He disliked the two names being joined together in that way because it implies equality.” … (Qadi Iyad, 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 both in 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. 7-8; capital and underline emphasis ours)


“… He coupled his name with His own name, and his pleasure with His pleasure. He made him ONE OF THE TWO PILLARS OF TAWHID.” (Ibid., Chapter One: Allah’s praise of his Prophet, Section 9. Concerning the marks of honour given to the Prophet in Sura al-Fath, p. 27; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Allah not only joined Muhammad’s name to his own by the use of the conjunction wa he also placed the name of an imperfect finite creature on the very door of the heavenly garden itself!

Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Written on the door of the Garden is: I am Allah. There is no god but Me. Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. I will not punish anyone who says that.” (Ibid., Chapter Three:, p. 90; underline emphasis ours)

This means that it is not simply a matter of obeying a prophet because he speaks God’s words, as Zaatari erroneously contends. What Muhammad commanded goes far beyond anything a true prophet ever demanded or expected for him/herself. Muhammad placed himself on the level of deity by expecting his followers to accept his authority without question and by placing his name alongside of Allah’s as a necessary object of salvation.

There is more to Islam’s blatant idolatry and blurring of the Creator/creature distinction. Muhammad actually believed that the earth belonged to him just as it did to Allah!

VI: Expelling the Jews from the Arabian peninsula

'Umar said that the Prophet said, “We will let you remain in that as long as Allah lets you remain there.”

2996. It is related that Abu Hurayra said, “While we were in the mosque, the Messenger of Allah came out and said, ‘Go to the Jews.’ We went out until we came to the house of al-Midras. He said, ‘Become Muslim and you will be safe. Know that the earth belongs to Allah AND His Messenger. I want to expel you from this land. Whoever of you has some property should sell it. However, the earth belongs to Allah AND His Messenger.’” (Aisha Bewley, Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 63. Chapters on the Jizya and Truces; capital and underline emphasis ours)

And as we had mentioned in our response to Zawadi, Muhammad not only shares Allah’s ownership of the earth he will also share the very throne of Allah! Al-Qurtubi, a renowned Muslim exegete, in his explanation of Q. 17:79 wrote that,

The third explanation of this verse is what al-Tabari reported from a party of scholars – among them Mujahid – whereby “the Exalted Station is the seating by Allah of the Prophet with Him on His Throne (kursiyyih).” They narrated a hadith to that effect, and al-Tabari backed up the possibility (jawâz) of such a thing with some extravagant statements (shatatin min al-qawl). However, what he said cannot be inferred [from the verse] except with over-subtlety as to meaning (al-talattuf bi al-ma‘nâ), and it is far-fetched (fîhi bu‘d). This is not to say that there is no such narration; only that [one endowed with] knowledge interprets it figuratively (al-‘ilmu yata’awwaluhu)… On that basis it is the same, with respect to possibility, whether Allah seats the Prophet on the Throne or on the ground. For His elevation over the Throne is not in the sense of displacement (intiqâl), removal (zawâl), nor change of position from standing to sitting, nor any state or condition to which the Throne itself is subject. Rather, He is elevated over the Throne in the way He has stated concerning Himself, without saying how. Nor does His seating of the Prophet on the Throne impose upon the Prophet (s) the attribute of Lordship [sic] or move him out of that of servanthood [sic]. Rather, it consists in an elevation because of his status, and an honor bestowed upon him because of his sublime character. (Al-Qurtubi, al-Jami‘ li Ahkam al-Qur’an; underline emphasis ours)

Another Muslim authority named Ibn Batta wrote in p. 61 of his book al-Sharh wa al-Ibana ‘ala Usul al-Sunna wa al-Diyana (“Elaboration of the Principles of Sunni Doctrine”) that:

The Prophet shall be seated on the Throne with his Lord (yujlas ma‘a rabbihi ‘alâ al-‘arsh), and this privilege belongs to no one else. Thus did Nafi‘ narrate it from Ibn ‘Umar from the Prophet concerning the verse: “It may be that thy Lord will raise you to an Exalted Station” – he said that He shall seat him with Him on the Throne. Thus also did Mujahid explain it, as narrated by Muhammad ibn Fudayl, from al-Layth, from Mujahid. (Underline emphasis ours)

In case the readers are wondering who this Mujahid is, he is Mujahid ibn Jabr, Abu al-Hajjaj al-Makhzumi (d. 102), one of the major commen­tators of the Qur’an among the tabi’in or followers of Muhammad’s companions (sahabah), and viewed as holding the highest rank in reli­ability among hadith narrators (thiqa). It is related by a Muslim scholar named Ibn Sa‘d, in al-Tabaqat al-Kubra (6:9), that Mujahid went over the explanation of the Islamic scripture together with Ibn ‘Abbas, Muhammad’s first cousin and one of the most knowledgeable Muslims that ever lived, approximately thirty times.

The foregoing clearly shows that Allah is not the sole ruler and possessor of creation since Muhammad also owns the earth and will sit on the divine throne.

And yet the Quran emphatically denies that Allah has any associate in his kingdom:

To Allah belongs the Kingdom of the heavens and of the earth; and Allah is powerful over everything. S. 3:189; cf. 5:17-18; 9:116

And say: 'Praise belongs to Allah, who has not taken to Him a son, and who has not any associate in the Kingdom, nor any protector out of humbleness.' And magnify Him with all the magnificence. S. 17:111

The Islamic scripture even goes so far as to describe Muhammad’s characteristics in the same way it depicts the very qualities of Allah! According to the Quran Allah is most kind and most merciful to the believers:

Allah turned with favour to the Prophet, the Muhajirs, and the Ansar, - who followed him in a time of distress, after that the hearts of a part of them had nearly swerved (from duty); but He turned to them (also): for He is unto them Most Kind, Most Merciful (raoofun raheemun). S. 9:117

And had it not been for the Grace of Allah and His Mercy on you, (Allah would have hastened the punishment upon you). And that Allah is full of kindness, Most Merciful (raoofun raheemun). S. 24:20

And those who came after them say: "Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who have preceded us in Faith, and put not in our hearts any hatred against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed full of kindness, Most Merciful (raoofun raheemun). S. 59:10

This is precisely how the Muslim scripture describes Muhammad’s relationship to the believers!

Now hath come unto you an Apostle 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 (raoofun raheemun). S. 9:128

To make matters worse, Muhammad is not the only creature that the Quran conjoins with Allah in his attributes. In one particular passage the Islamic scripture uses the conjunction wa to ascribe honour or glory to Allah, Muhammad and Muslims:    

They (hypocrites) say: “If we return to Al-Madinah, indeed the more honourable ('Abdullah bin Ubai bin Salul, the chief of hypocrites at Al-Madinah) will expel therefrom the meaner (i.e. Allah's Messenger).” But honour, power and glory belong to Allah, His Messenger (Muhammad), and to the believers (WA-lillahi al-aizzatu WA-lirasoolihi WA-lilmumineena), but the hypocrites know not. S. 63:8 Hilali-Khan

What makes this rather problematic for dawagandists like Zaatari is that we are expressly and repeatedly told throughout the Quran that this attribute belongs wholly to Allah!

Those who take unbelievers for their friends instead of believers -- do they seek glory in them? But glory altogether belongs to God (inna al-aizzatu lillahi jameean). S. 4:139 Arberry

And do not let their saying grieve thee; the glory belongs altogether to God (inna al-aizzatu lillahi jameean); He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing. S. 10:65 Arberry

Whosoever desires glory, the glory altogether belongs to God (fa-lillahi al-aizzatu jameean). To Him good words go up, and the righteous deed -- He uplifts it; but those who devise evil deeds -- theirs shall be a terrible chastisement, and their devising shall come to naught. 35:10 Arberry

And yet not only does the Quran ascribe this quality to others in Q. 63:8 it does so by using the conjunction which even Muslim authorities admit implies equality and partnership! More on this conjunction later.

With the foregoing in view it is rather clear that the Quran is contradicting itself, as well as contradicting the beliefs of Muslims such as Zaatari. The so-called authentic sources of Islam do not affirm that Allah is the only lord but expressly acknowledge that there are other lords such as Muhammad, Allah’s co-equal partner. The Islamic corpus even equates creatures such as Muhammad with Allah in his respective attributes!

We will have more to say concerning Islam’s endorsement of shirk and idolatry in the next part of our rebuttal.

The all-sufficient lord needs a loan!

The other problem with the concept of tauhid al-rububiyyah is that even though Allah is said to be rich and free of all needs:

Kind words and forgiving of faults are better than Sadaqah (charity) followed by injury. And Allah is Rich (Free of all wants) and He is Most-Forbearing. S. 2:263 Hilali-Khan

And whosoever strives, he strives only for himself. Verily, Allah is free of all wants from the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns, and all that exists). S. 29:60 Hilali-Khan

And indeed We bestowed upon Luqman Al-Hikmah (wisdom and religious understanding, etc.) saying: "Give thanks to Allah," and whoever gives thanks, he gives thanks for (the good of) his ownself. And whoever is unthankful, then verily, Allah is All-Rich (Free of all wants), Worthy of all praise. S. 31:12 Hilali-Khan

The Quran repeatedly exhorts creatures to lend to Allah a loan which he will gladly repay!

Who is he who will lend to Allah a goodly loan? So he will increase it manifold for him, and he will have a noble reward… Surely, the men who give alms and the women who give alms, and those who lend to Allah a goodly loan - it will be increased manifold for them, and theirs will also be a honourable reward - S. 57:11, 18

If you lend to Allah a goodly loan (i.e. spend in Allah's Cause) He will double it for you, and will forgive you. And Allah is Most Ready to appreciate and to reward, Most Forbearing, S. 64:17 Hilali-Khan – cf. 2:245; 73:20

To top it off, Allah deliberately created mankind sinful and in need of repentance so that he could have a reason to show mercy!


Abu Sirma reported that when the time of the death of Abu Ayyub Ansari drew near, he said: I used to conceal from you a thing which I heard from Allah's Messenger and I heard Allah's Messenger as saying: Had you not committed sins, Allah would have brought into existence a creation that would have committed sin (and Allah) would have forgiven them. (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6620)

Abu Ayyub Ansari reported that Allah's Messenger said: If you were not to commit sins, Allah would have swept you out of existence and would have replaced you by another people who have committed sin, and then asked forgiveness from Allah, and He would have granted them pardon. (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6621)

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger having said: By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if you were not to commit sin, Allah would sweep you out of existence and He would replace (you by) those people who would commit sin and seek forgiveness from Allah, and He would have pardoned them. (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6622)

Muhammad’s statements assume that Allah needed to create sinful human beings in order to have a way of expressing his mercy and forgiveness. Muhammad seemed to be aware that unless his god could express his attribute of mercy towards another object then he couldn’t truly be the all-merciful and all-compassionate. And yet in order to resolve this dilemma Muhammad made his god dependent upon his creation, specifically on the existence of imperfect, fallible human beings!

Therefore, seeing that Allah depends on his creatures this means that he cannot be self-sufficient, and thereby nullifies the Islamic doctrine of tauhid al-rububiyyah which teaches that Allah has absolutely no need of creation.

We come to the conclusion of the first part of our rebuttal. Please continue on with part 2.