Mr. Katz in one of his writings has stated:
How many gardens are there in paradise?
ONE: 39:73, 41:30 [the Garden], 57:21 [a Garden], 79:41 [the Garden], or
MANY: 18:31, 22:23, 35:33, 78:32 [each time: “Gardens”]?
The plural “Gardens” has to refer to at least three because if it/they were two, then the Arabic would use the dual form of the noun. Therefore this is a discrepancy of at least 200% from “one” to “several”.
Mr. Katz has also posted a short reply (at the same address) written by a Muslim, to this objection. The Muslim has stated:
The Garden” is “a garden” consisting of many “gardens” each of which can be referenced as “a garden”.
to which Mr. Katz has made the following comments:
Fair enough. I think this is a good answer. At least it is a very good answer for a Christian. I am a little baffled though to hear this kind of reasoning from a Muslim. After all this is nearly the same reasoning as Christians have for the Trinity, which is ONE God revealing himself in THREE persons, each of which is is truly God (in His essential being) [and ‘referenced’ as God in the Holy Bible]. And that is exactly what Muslims usually strongly reject as utter nonsense …
Although I do not fully agree with the response of the Muslim, as shall be explained below, yet I think that if Mr. Katz really believes that the answer given by the Muslim is a satisfactory one and resolves an apparent contradiction, he should remove the particular contradiction from his “contradictions” page and place it in a “resolved contradictions” page. I really do not think that that is asking for too much. I believe that is exactly what he himself would expect a Muslim to do. No? I believe that we should all — whether it be me, Mr. Katz, Muslims, Christians, Jews or anyone else — we should all set high moral and ethical standards for ourselves and then try to meet these standards as far as is possible for us, irrespective of whether or not our (apparent) adversaries are doing so. For our moral and ethical standards should not be relative but absolute in their nature. This, I believe is one of the teachings of the Prophets of God.
In my opinion, to fully understand the verses that Mr. Katz has made reference to, two linguistic aspects should be noted:
One of these aspects is that like nearly all other languages of the world, in the Arabic language too, there is something which can losely be termed as the “generic noun” (ism al-jins). Such nouns, when they are used in a sentence. do not denote a particular entity or a particular number, but are normally used to imply a category of things. For example, not long ago, the word “man”, was sometimes used as a generic noun for the human race. When used in sentences like: “Man is mortal”, it did not refer to a particular entity but to the whole category called “Man” (and even “woman”!!!). In the same way, when a person says: “The horse is a beautiful animal” or “There is hardly any animal as beautiful as a horse” or “horse is a beautiful animal”, the words “the horse”, “a horse” and horse are not used for a particular entity of things called “horse” but has been used for all horses as a “generic noun”. By the same token, the word “Jannah” in the Arabic language, literally meaning “a garden”, has been generically used (since pre-Islamic times) for what we call “paradise”. And like the word “paradise” (when used in the particular meaning) in the English language, was only used in its singular form. As Mr. Katz has also used it in the opening phrase of his referred writing: “How many gardens are there in paradise?” which may be translated in the Arabic language as “Kum min Jannatin fil-jannah” which could be re-translated into English as: “How many gardens are there in the garden?”. But as we can see, a more accurate translation shall be “How many gardens are there in Paradise?”. In view of the above clarification, we may easily say that the word “jannah” (in its singular form) has generally been used in the Qur’an not to signify the oneness or the singularity of the “jannah” (garden) but as a generic noun, denoting “paradise”.
Although the apparent contradiction pointed out by Mr. Katz should stand resolved by the above explanation alone, but I think that for a better understanding of the Qur’an, in particular and language, in general, I should also state the second important aspect of language, which was ignored by Mr. Katz while presenting his objection. I shall try to clarify this aspect in the next few lines:
Even if we presume that the Qur’an promises “a Good Man (and a woman!!)”, “one garden” each, it would have been grammatically incorrect to use the word “jannah” in the singular form (except if used to imply “paradise”) in verses 18:31, 22:23, 35:33 and 78:32. The reason: if we examine these verses closely, we shall see that these verses do not say that “a good man (and a woman!!)” shall be given many gardens each, but refers to the group of “good men (and women!!)” to be blessed with a life in gardens of bliss.
18: 31 says: “They shall be in Gardens of bliss …”.
22: 23 says: “Allah shall admit those who believe and do good deeds in gardens…”
35: 33 says: “Gardens of bliss, they shall enter…”
78: 32 says: “For the God fearing (people) shall be success (to enjoy), gardens (to live in) and grapes (to eat)…”
These sentences are exactly like: “Mothers know best” or “To succeed in the life hereafter, we must cleanse our hearts“. No person, even if he has only a minimal sense of the language would take these sentences to mean that the speaker has more than one “mother” or more than one “heart”.
I do hope my clarification would be considered with a neutral mind.
© Copyright December 1998. All Rights Reserved with the Author