Blogging the Qur’an: Sura 3, “The Family of Imran,” verses 33-63

posted at 9:00 am on July 29, 2007 by Robert Spencer

According to Muhammad’s first biographer, Ibn Ishaq, the first eighty verses of Sura 3 were revealed after a delegation of Christians came from the Yemeni city of Najran. One of the leaders of this delegation was a bishop, Abu Haritha ibn ‘Alqama, who received money, servants, and other favors from “the Christian kings of Byzantium.” Abu Haritha, says Ibn Ishaq, knew that Muhammad was a prophet, but refused to accept him for fear of losing the loot that the Byzantines were lavishing upon him.

Ibn Ishaq records that the delegation “differed among themselves in some points, saying [Jesus] is God; and He is the son of God; and He is the third person of the Trinity, which is the doctrine of Christianity.” They presented arguments defending these propositions to Muhammad, but he would have none of it. When they told him that they had submitted to God, he responded: “You lie. Your assertion that God has a son, your worship of the cross, and your eating pork hold you back from submission.” Allah then revealed much of sura 3, refuting their assertions and giving the world the truth about Jesus and Christianity.

He begins by telling the story of Mary’s birth and early life, telling us in v. 35 that her mother was the “wife of Imran” – that is, Amram, the father of Moses and Aaron. This verse, along with 19:28, in which Mary is called “sister of Aaron,” has given rise to the charge that Muhammad confused Miriam the sister of Moses with Mary the Mother of Jesus, since the names are identical in Arabic: Maryam (مَرْيَمُ). When confronted about this, Muhammad had a ready answer: “The (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of Apostles and pious persons who had gone before them.” However, while this may explain why Mary is called “Sister of Aaron,” it doesn’t explain why she is clearly depicted here as the daughter of Imran.

In any case, Imran’s wife dedicates the child in her womb to the service of Allah (v. 35); when she gives birth, she says of Mary, “I crave Thy protection for her and for her offspring from Satan the outcast” (v. 36). Every child, said Muhammad, is “pricked by the Satan” after he is born – that’s why babies cry when they’re born. However, Mary and Jesus were preserved from this touch of Satan. Although the child is a female and “the female is not like the male” (v. 36), the wife of Imran fulfills her vow: Mary is dedicated to Allah’s service. Bulandshahri says that she went to live in the Temple in Jerusalem, which he calls the Baitul Muqaddas (“Holy House”) and, in keeping with the Islamic idea that the original message of all the Jewish prophets was Islam, identifies as a mosque. There Mary is fed miraculously (v. 37).

This story recalls one told in the Protoevangelium of James, a second-century Christian document: in it, Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, prayed to God for an end to their childlessness, and dedicated the child they subsequently conceived to the Lord in thanksgiving. When Mary was three, she went to live in the Temple, where she was fed by an angel. This is the sort of thing that earned Muhammad the charge that he was just retailing “fables of the men of old” (6:25, 8:31, 16:24, 23:83, 25:5, 27:68, 46:17, 68:15, 83:13), not divine revelation. But Muslims respond that the Qur’an is sorting out the true from the false about Christianity among the revelations that were corrupted by the followers of Jesus.

Vv. 38-41 recount the birth of John the Baptist, hitting the highlights of Luke 1:5-80: angels tell Zechariah he will have a son, he asks how this can be since he is old, and he is rendered unable to speak. Then the Qur’an begins to tell the story of the birth of Jesus, beginning with a reaffirmation of Muhammad’s prophethood (v. 44): Ibn Kathir explains that even though Muhammad wasn’t present at these events, “Allah disclosed these facts” to him as if he had been an eyewitness.

The angels’ announcement of Jesus’ birth (vv. 45-6) differs from Gabriel’s annunciation in Luke 1:30-35 in several key particulars: in the Qur’an, Jesus is identified as a “word” from Allah and is called “Messiah,” but not “Son of the Most High.” Muslim exegetes explain that Jesus is Allah’s word not in the sense of being divine, as in John 1:1, but because he was created without a human father by Allah’s word, as was Adam — as v. 59 explains. In v. 48, we’re told that Allah will teach Jesus “the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel”: in the Qur’an, the Gospel is not the news about Jesus, but a book that he is given by Allah. V. 49 recounts several miracles Jesus performed, each one “by Allah’s leave.” Bulandshahri explains that this clause is repeated in order to emphasize that only by Allah’s permission does Jesus perform miracles – since “after witnessing these miracles, especially the raising of the dead, it is possible that a person may consider Sayyidina Isa [Master Jesus] to be Allah himself.” One of these miracles involves bringing clay birds to life, which appears in the second-century Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

When the Jews reject Jesus, he gathers disciples who say, “do thou bear witness that we are Muslims” (اشْهَدْ بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ) (v. 52). And while Jesus’ enemies plotted against him, Allah, “the best of schemers” (v. 54), plotted also, revealing that he would cause Jesus “to ascend to Me.” This, says Ibn Ishaq, refuted “what they assert of the Jews in regard to his crucifixion” – to which we will return in sura 4, which says that “they slew him not nor crucified” (v. 157).

“This,” says v. 62, “is the true account: There is no god except Allah…” – in other words, Jesus is not divine. Allah tells Muhammad in v. 61 to challenge those who believe otherwise: since “knowledge hath come to thee” he should say to dissenters: “Come! Let us gather together, our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves. Then let us earnestly pray, and invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie!” According to Ibn Ishaq, when the Christian delegation from Najran heard this, they asked Muhammad for time to confer among themselves. Then one of their leaders told the rest: “O Christians, you know right well that Muhammad is a prophet sent (by God) and he has brought a decisive declaration about the nature of your master. You know too that a people has never invoked a curse on a prophet and seen its elders live and its youth grow up. If you do this you will be exterminated. But if you decide to adhere to your religion and to maintain your doctrine about your master, then take your leave of the man and go home.” So they went to Muhammad, declined his challenge, and went home, obstinate renegades confirmed in their rebellion against Allah.

Next week: Why the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) are covered with shame.

(Here you can find links to all the earlier “Blogging the Qur’an” segments. Here is a good Arabic/English Qur’an, here are two popular Muslim translations, those of Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, along with a third by M. H. Shakir. Here is another popular translation, that of Muhammad Asad. And here is an omnibus of ten Qur’an translations.)


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Ibn Kathir explains that even though Muhammad wasn’t present at these events, “Allah disclosed these facts” to him as if he had been an eyewitness.

Isn’t it funny how they discount the actual eyewitness accounts retold in the Gospel of the Christian Bible. I guess it’s better to tell as story ‘as though it were an eyewitness account’ than it would be to actually tell a story as an eyewitness account.

It’s also interesting how their motives are impugned by saying they were ‘paid off’ to believe in Jesus.

It’s also amazing how convenient all of this stuff is. Amazing that the ‘revelation’ came at the right time and place to counter what the Christians were telling Mohammed.

For some reason the Muslim people strike me as those who would be very vulnerable to the Nigerian lottery email scheme. Coincidentally I have 300 million dollars, but I need 5,000 from you to get it so we can split it. That sounds pretty believable too doesn’t it?

These people are beyond reasoning with. I just wish that their culture would allow them to question this stuff. Any analysis shows its problems, and the opportunistic nature of the author. Everything glorifies Mohommed in the Qur’an – it’s convenient isn’t it?

ThackerAgency on July 29, 2007 at 9:49 AM

“Then let us earnestly pray, and invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie!” O….how ironic, so then, may all tellers of lies be cursed by the father of all lies.
Don’t worry ,you guys, maybe this one’s gonna play out & take care of itself.
“LOOK THE WORLD IN THE EYE!” “Muslims don’t act out of rage, they act out of desperation….&…..1 solitary high school student who wouldn’t shut up!”

lobosan5 on July 29, 2007 at 9:55 AM

opps…link for “LOOK THE WORLD IN THE EYE!”

http://www.leestrobel.com/videos/Helping/CCNT1460.htm

lobosan5 on July 29, 2007 at 9:56 AM

Everything glorifies Mohommed in the Qur’an – it’s convenient isn’t it?

ThackerAgency on July 29, 2007 at 9:49 AM

I’ve often wondered what the world would be like today if it had occurred to Jesus to call dibs on the title of “final prophet”.

flipflop on July 29, 2007 at 9:57 AM

Karen Armstrong, in her book A History of God makes the claim that Muhammad never read the Bible, and probably never heard of the Old Testament prophets. After reading especially this portion of the Quran, I would say that Ms Armstrong has questionable credibility. This segment is nothing but Luke 1 with snippets from some noncanonical writings.

The most unequivocal statement concerning the non-divinity of Jesus is verse 59:

Lo! the likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then He said unto him: Be! and he is.

HeIsSailing on July 29, 2007 at 10:17 AM

flipflop sez:

I’ve often wondered what the world would be like today if it had occurred to Jesus to call dibs on the title of “final prophet”.

On the contrary. Jesus is quoted as saying many would come after him claiming to be prophets, and even the Christ, (e.g. Matt 24:5, 23, 24)

HeIsSailing on July 29, 2007 at 10:23 AM

I have heard from interviews of former Muslims who have become Christians that one way to reach Muslims is to point out that Jesus is a prophet in their own religion. Being a prophet, He can’t lie. So when Jesus said, He is the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Him, He means it! Unfortunately, many (most?) have hearts that are too hard and blinded to see the truth. Still, The Good News of the Gospel is reaching all corners of the world! (Christians are even giving up their lives, i.e. the S. Koreans in Afghanistan) Many Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and other ists and isms are coming to Christ! Indeed many Jews are now seeing that Jesus is their Messiah!

Don’t worry ,you guys, maybe this one’s gonna play out & take care of itself.

Yep, God wins in the end. Indeed, He’s already won at the cross!!!

Thanx Robert Spencer for these posts. They are most enlightening!

Ordinary1 on July 29, 2007 at 10:24 AM

As Gumby of Monty Python would say: My brain ‘urts!!

If Muhammed were not such an arrogant and avaricious man, then we would not have the many problems in the world we have today.

mram on July 29, 2007 at 10:28 AM

Once again, hints of Gnostic thinking/ideology. Quite the stink about the divinity of Jesus and trinities and so forth back in the day.

Krydor on July 29, 2007 at 12:40 PM

Wow. Check this out at LGF:

Pace University Koran Case – Unbelievably Outrageous. A student was jailed and has been charged with 2 felonies for putting a Qur’an in the toilet.

TheBigOldDog on July 29, 2007 at 1:24 PM

So when Jesus said, He is the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Him, He means it!

Ordinary1 on July 29, 2007 at 10:24 AM

Recall that Muhammad’s claim was not that Jesus said such things, but that his followers lied about/corrupted/changed his teachings.

Thus, having accused other religions of corrupted a prophet’s teachings, perhaps Islam has insulated itself against such claims.

cadetwithchips2 on July 29, 2007 at 1:38 PM

Robert-

Isn’t the supposed “prediction” of Mohammad’s future “prophethood” in the New Testament a (convenient) misunderstanding of the meaning of the word “paraclete” as mentioned in “The Moslem Christ” by Samuel W. Zwemer?

(Especially since any Old testament predictions of a coming prophet were already fulfilled by Jesus.)

profitsbeard on July 29, 2007 at 2:13 PM

Thus, having accused other religions of corrupted a prophet’s teachings, perhaps Islam has insulated itself against such claims

Perhaps you are right, but I pray that some will see the truth and give up their religion of hate and death and embrace grace! A relationship of love and life thanks to His gift!

Ordinary1 on July 29, 2007 at 2:21 PM

profitsbeard:

Isn’t the supposed “prediction” of Mohammad’s future “prophethood” in the New Testament a (convenient) misunderstanding of the meaning of the word “paraclete” as mentioned in “The Moslem Christ” by Samuel W. Zwemer?

The prediction is recorded in Qur’an 61:6:

And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving Glad Tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.” But when he came to them with Clear Signs, they said, “this is evident sorcery!”

“Ahmed” means “the Most Praised One,” and it is etymologically related to Muhammad, which means “Praised One.” Pickthall drives connection home by translating Ahmed simply as “Praised One.” And the verse is universally understood by Muslims as depicting Jesus predicting the coming of Muhammad.

Muslims contend that this prophecy survives in vestigial form in John 14:16-17, where Jesus says: “And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.”

“Counselor” here is παρακλητος, Paracletos or Paraclete. Some Islamic apologists have claimed that this is a corruption of περικλυτος, Periclytos, which means “famous” or “renowned,” i.e., “Praised One.” However, there is no textual evidence whatsoever for this: no manuscripts of the New Testament exist that use the word περικλυτος in this place. Nor is it likely that the two words might have been confused. That kind of confusion may be theoretically possible in Arabic, which does not write vowels and hence would present two words with identical consonant structures. But Greek does write vowels, and so the words would never in Greek have appeared as even close to identical.

Robert Spencer on July 29, 2007 at 4:31 PM

Thus, having accused other religions of corrupted a prophet’s teachings, perhaps Islam has insulated itself against such claims.

cadetwithchips2 on July 29, 2007 at 1:38 PM

That’s the genius of Muslim dogma. Mohammed set a stake in the ground and said this is Allah’s perfect, immutable word, that all other religious doctrines are false, and that no prophets will follow him.

flipflop on July 29, 2007 at 6:45 PM

flipflop on July 29, 2007 at 6:45 PM

My larger question is if Mohammad had set the stake, to borrow your phrase, or- did his followers, retroactively making the accusation against others? i.e. projection.

cadetwithchips2 on July 29, 2007 at 7:12 PM

This series is a very eye opening expose on the Islamic Extremists’ play book.

Not much has changed in history regarding a power hungry leader’s tactic for obfuscation, justification and accusations.

Thanks Robert Spencer for your hard work and dedication to this.

Mcguyver on July 29, 2007 at 8:21 PM

Thanks again Mr Spencer. I appreciate the time and effort… and the education, as always.

SilverStar830 on July 29, 2007 at 10:19 PM

It’s also amazing how convenient all of this stuff is. Amazing that the ‘revelation’ came at the right time and place to counter what the Christians were telling Mohammed. – ThackerAgency

Ali Sina’s book “Understanding Muhammad: A Psychobiography of Allâh’s Prophet” provides copious examples of such convenient ‘coincidences’.
Unfortunately, the book was pulled while Mr. Sina seeks another publisher. When it does become available, I highly recommend it.

And here are some of the endorsements the book has received (there are more here):

The book is prefaced by the celebrated scholar [and Jihad Watch Board member] Ibn Warraq.

[...]

1- A blisteringly honest, thoroughly documented, and piercingly insightful investigation of the root causes within Islam of the fanaticism and violence that today threatens the entire world. Should be required reading at the State Department and the White House. — Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades (Regnery)

2- A powerful, no holds barred look at an ideology of hate and what must be done to eradicate it. This book pulls no punches. A must read for anyone seeking to understand Islamist terrorism” Professor Kim Ezra Shienbaum, Ph.D Dept. of Political Science, Rutgers University Camden, NJ. Chief Editor of Beyond Jihad.

3- With great courage, perspicacity, and trenchant wit, Ali Sina demolishes a host of politically correct myths about Islam, and its founder. One wishes policymaking elites would avail themselves of his insights which shatter the dangerous delusions of their own invented Islam. Andrew G. Bostom, MD, author of The Legacy of Jihad

[...]

9- The war against jihad can and must be won, in spite of the Western elite class that is instinctively prone to appeasement and betrayal. The first task is to analyze frankly the identity and character of the enemy and the nature of the threat. It is essential to discard the taboos and to discuss Islam without fear or guilt, or the shackles of mandated thinking. Ali Sina’s new book makes an important contribution to that objective.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles,” says Sun Tzu. Thanks to this book we know the jihadist enemy a little better — his core beliefs, his role models, his track-record, his mindset, his modus operandi, and his intentions. We also know his weaknesses, which are many, above all his inability to develop a prosperous economy or a functional, harmonious and good society.

The main problem remains with ourselves, however, with those among us who have the power to make policy and shape opinions, and who will reject and condemn Ali Sina’s diagnosis. Our own elite class treats the jihadist mindset as a pathology that can and should be treated by treating causes external to Islam itself. The result is a plethora of proposed multiculturalist “cures” that are as likely to succeed in making us safe from terrorism as snake oil is likely to cure leukemia. Dr. S. Trifkovic, Foreign Affairs Editor CHRONICLES

heroyalwhyness on July 29, 2007 at 10:30 PM

Robert-

Many thanks.

A self-fulfilling prophecy, indeed.

As recorded by the self-fulfiller himself.

(Muhammad guarantees everything he says about himself to be true.)

profitsbeard on July 29, 2007 at 11:09 PM

Robert, thanks for taking the time to do this series.

Thus, having accused other religions of corrupted a prophet’s teachings, perhaps Islam has insulated itself against such claims.

Yeah, except not really, of course. One of the frequent arguments put forth by Muslims is that Christians (and Jews) corrupted their holy books, which is why they no longer match up with the Koran.

This bubble is easily popped, or would be in a rational conversation, by pointing out to the Muslim that they are in essence accusing Allah of being weak. How can he, on the one hand, keep the Koran pure and undiluted, while he was incapable of doing the same for the other holy books he gave to man (the torah and injil(gospel)?

TexasDan on July 29, 2007 at 11:23 PM

TexasDan-

And how can the Koran be “perfect” if a passing goat ate one of the suras, scribbled on a leaf or bark, before it was ever collated into the existant text?

If one word is missing, it is imperfect, fallible and unbelievable.

How do Muslims explain that fatal forensic flaw?

profitsbeard on July 29, 2007 at 11:28 PM

This can be seen as a very early manifestation of the “culture of conspiracy” that still pervades the ME to this day. Everything is a conspiracy and anything that tends to disprove it is also part of the conspiracy.

TBinSTL on July 29, 2007 at 11:44 PM

A great essay that demolishes the semantic hat trick that says Christianity and islam share a belief in Christ at least as a great prophet.

The catch never mentioned is that the New Testament history of Jesus is considered lies by mohammed, and the koranic version of Jesus appears part gnostic tales, and part mohammed visions.

If we extract from Christianity the parts Mohammed denies (trinity, none coming to the Father except through Christ, loving your enemies, upholding the Law which is the Book of Moses, and especially crucifixion, resurrection and Christ standing as the utimate sacrificial lamb for the sins of mankind) what is left of Jesus of the Christians besides clay pigeons?

What did mohammed say were the teachings of Jesus? I would like to see that spelled out. Since Jesus is called a prophet by muslims, what do they say he prophesied?

entagor on July 30, 2007 at 12:12 AM

How can he, on the one hand, keep the Koran pure and undiluted, while he was incapable of doing the same for the other holy books he gave to man (the torah and injil(gospel)?

How do Muslims explain that fatal forensic flaw?

The same way they justify everything, I would guess – it is Allah’s will. Remember the earlier entries Robert made in this series where it was explained that there is no free will, and that you are pre-determined before birth to either hear Allah’s message or not.

You remove free will from the equation, and everything can be explained away as “the will (or whim, as it’s becoming increasingly clear that Allah changes his own message at the drop of a hat) of Allah.”

crazy_legs on July 30, 2007 at 11:04 AM

Thus far I have yet to read anything (even vaguely) morally edifying. Instead what we get is denigration of others. The “moral” of these Koranic verses seems to be that everyone is a liar and a deceiver and a schemer — except, of course, for Mo. Thus is set up as a Manichean split.

Logically, there is also a problem here. Even if (which I don’t believe is the case) Judaism and Christianity are eliminated, that does not mean that Islam is any better or that Islam therefore wins out. Islam still needs to prove itself (positively), and not just through demeaning other religions.

But, I suppose, reading these portions of the Koran does allow one to better understand the source of the hatreds and biases against Jews and Christians as expressed by the followers of Mo. Ironically, Mo’s slanders are evidence of his lack of understanding of the basic tenets of either Judaism or Christianity. Perhaps morality is also beyond the ken or understanding or comprehension of Mo.

I think this is why we get Islamic preachers spending all of their time denigrating Judaism and Christianity. They probably figure that by smearing others they build themselves up…when in reality, they’re digging themselves into a pit. Anyway, I do not believe that this sneering, denigrating, slanderous “religion” should become an integral part of any multicultural community. It causes too much strife and discord.

J.S. on July 30, 2007 at 11:31 AM

You remove free will from the equation, and everything can be explained away as “the will (or whim, as it’s becoming increasingly clear that Allah changes his own message at the drop of a hat) of Allah.”

crazy_legs on July 30, 2007 at 11:04 AM

Good thought. I have been pondering some time the differences between Christianity and islam. Christ preached love, with loving your enemy the highest form, while mohammed preached hating your enemy. Mohammed took up the sword and gave lessons. Christ did not use force. So I decided that logically Christianity gave the best life options for the most people. Forgiveness must be practiced within reason, and no hand-chopping.

Crazy-legs points out the root difference. Free will is necessary in Judaism, and therefore Christianity for the system God created for man. This is the source of our liberty. But predestination is the root is islam. Liberty is not a mandate. This is what makes islam like a cult.

Within Christianity we occasionaly get cults. We recognize them as cults because they are closed systems. Information is restricted. You cannot leave a cult. You are immersed in routines that replace freely chosen moves. There is usually a tyranical leader setting the moves. We try to rescue people from these systems. Although a cult may be called ‘Christian’ we outside the cults consider them perversions and non-Christian.

To what extent do we share values when free will is not an option?

entagor on July 30, 2007 at 1:39 PM

Good thought. I have been pondering some time the differences between Christianity and islam. Christ preached love, with loving your enemy the highest form, while mohammed preached hating your enemy. Mohammed took up the sword and gave lessons. Christ did not use force. So I decided that logically Christianity gave the best life options for the most people. Forgiveness must be practiced within reason, and no hand-chopping.

The difference is in the very definition of God, for starters. The Christian God is a triune God, where the Son added a human nature and died for our sins. Saying this is the worst sin in Islam (shirk).

PRCalDude on July 30, 2007 at 6:48 PM

Thank you Robert for your excellent insights!

I have had conversations with a Muslim acquaintance of mine and his explanation of Jesus follows closely with this lesson. Namely, that the New Testament was mostly rewritten by early Christians and therefore not reliable and that Jesus was a prophet who foretold the coming of Mohammed when He referred to the coming of the Holy Spirit.

I also got a kick out of his explanation of the crucifixion. Since it was dark, Judas mistakenly pointed out a fellow who merely looked like Jesus, therefore Jesus Christ was never crucified, but some innocent bystander was. (Of course he couldn’t explain how this went completely unnoticed in such a public spectacle.)

kjspeedial on July 31, 2007 at 12:08 AM

Free will is necessary in Judaism, and therefore Christianity for the system God created for man. This is the source of our liberty. But predestination is the root is islam. Liberty is not a mandate

You hit on something I haven’t thought of… wth no free will and with everything predestined, it’s no wonder that they’re having such a hard time with democracy over there. Free will (the freedom to choose your leaders) is the heart of Western society. If your entire life is spelled out by your god before you’re even born, then you’re more apt to tolerate any number of atrocities comitted against you, your family, and your tribe. It’s little wonder why the Iranian population hasn’t risen up against the mullahs yet.

crazy_legs on July 31, 2007 at 9:17 AM

Thanks again Robert. You make the unbearable, bearable.

Mojave Mark on July 31, 2007 at 5:28 PM