In one of his articles1 Mr. Jochen Katz has pointed out a contradiction in Yunus 10: 92 and Al-Qasas 28: 40, Al-Israa 17: 103 and Al-Zukhruf 43: 55.
According to Mr. Katz:
In Sura 10:92, Allah speaks to Pharaoh who ferociously chased the Children of Israel, “But this day We save you in your body, that you may be a portent for those after you.” Although this verse makes it clear that Allah saved Pharaoh from drowning, Suras 28:40, 17:103, and 43:55 contradict this, stating that Pharaoh was drowned: “Therefore We seized him and his hosts and abandoned them unto the sea … But We drowned him and those with him, all together… And [We] drowned them, everyone.”
The stated contradiction pointed out Mr. Katz has already been answered in one of my previous responses to another one Mr. Katz’s contradictions titled “Pharaoh’s Repentance in the Face of Death“.
A somewhat similar response was given to Mr. Katz by Mr. Timocin Basar2. However, Mr. Katz has asked the following question, in response to Mr. Basar’s rebuttal:
In order to establish that this has always been the meaning, I would like to ask that somebody please tell me what the classical commentators said about this verse up to 100 years ago. Too many verses are given “new meanings” these days. What did Jalalayn, Razi, ibn Kathir, Tabari and others say is the meaning of this verse? Is it the saving of the life of Pharaoh [you in your body, i.e. you will stay alive in this body] or is it “you will die but your body will be preserved for those after you.”? This is the linguistic question.
Mr. Katz’s request for information surprises me greatly. I would have thought that before undertaking to criticize a particular verse of the Qur’an, he would either have analyzed the original Arabic text of the verse to ascertain that the proposed criticism does, in fact, apply to it. If that was not possible for him, he would at least have referred to the opinions of the more accepted commentators of the Qur’an. On the contrary to what should, in fact, have been, Mr. Katz surprisingly asks ‘somebody’ to inform him about the opinions of the ‘classical’ commentators of the Qur’an. Nevertheless, surprising as it might be, in compliance with Mr. Katz’s request, the relevant parts from the commentaries of Jalaalayn, Razi, Ibn Katheer and Tabariy are reproduced below:
Jalaalayn has explained the verse as under:
فاليوم ننجيك نخرجك من البحرببدنك جسدك الذي لا روح فيه لتكون لمن خلفك بعدك عبرة
“Today We shall save you as a body” [means] We shall bring you out of the waters; “as a body” [means] as a body, which is without life; So that you be an example for those that remain behind you, that is after you.
Raaziy has explained the verse as under:
(فاليوم نُنَجّيكَ بِبَدَنِكَ) وفيه وجوه: الأول: (نُنَجّيكَ بِبَدَنِكَ) أي نلقيك بنجوة من الأرض وهي المكان المرتفع. الثاني: نخرجك من البحر ونخلصك مما وقع فيه قومك من قعر البحر، ولكن بعد أن تغرق. وقوله : (بِبَدَنِكَ) في موضع الحال، أي في الحال التي أنت فيه حينئذ لا روح فيك. الثالث: أن هذا وعد له بالنجاة على سبيل التهكم، كما في قوله: (فَبَشّرْهُم بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ)
There are certain aspects that need explanation in “Today We shall save you as a body”: Firstly, “We shall save you” means We shall throw you [out of the water] on a plateau, which is a raised piece of land. Secondly: We shall bring you out of the waters and relieve you from what has befallen your people in the pit of the sea, but only after you have drowned. The phrase “as a body” is a circumstantial phrase, implying that ‘such would be your situation at that time that you shall be a body, without life’. Thirdly, this is a promise of relief for the Pharaoh, by way of sarcasm, as the Qur’an has said [elsewhere] ‘give them the glad tidings of a painful punishment’. This is as if to say to Pharaoh: We shall relieve you, but this relief shall be granted to your body only, not to your soul.
Ibn Kathir has explained the verse as under:
وقوله: فَٱلْيَوْمَ نُنَجِّيكَ بِبَدَنِكَ لِتَكُونَ لِمَنْ خَلْفَكَ ءَايَةً قال ابن عباس وغيره من السلف: إِن بعض بني إِسرائيل شكوا في موت فرعون، فأمر الله تعالى البحر أن يلقيه بجسده سوياً بلا روح، وعليه درعه المعروفة، على نجوة من الأرض، وهو المكان المرتفع؛ ليتحققوا موته وهلاكه
Regarding ‘We shall save you as a body, so that you be an example for those that remain behind you’, Ibn Abbas (ra) and others from among the elders have been reported to have said that the Israelites were in doubt of the Pharaoh’s death, thus God ordered the sea to throw out the Pharaoh’s lifeless body in one piece, clothed in its well known armor, on a raised piece of land, so that his death is confirmed.
Tabariy has explained the verse as under:
يقول تعالى ذكره لفرعون: فاليوم نجعلك على نجوة من الأرض ببدنك، ينظر إليك هالكا من كذّب بهلاكك.
God says that He told Pharaoh that We shall throw your body on a raised piece of land so that people see you dead, whoever has any doubts about your death.
I hope the given citations would satisfy Mr. Katz.
Mr. Katz writes:
“At length, when overwhelmed with the flood” tells me that he is already (nearly) drowning, at least the water is rushing at him. On the other hand the children of Israel were securely on the other side across the sea as the Qur’an says in verse 90. Who then told Pharaoh the words of verses 91 and 92? Was there another prophet with him other than Moses who drowned with him? Was the Pharaoh a prophet himself that God would speak to him directly? But it doesn’t say “we said to him”, it only gives the content of what was (supposedly) said to him. There is only Yusuf Ali’s interpolation “it was said to him” (which isn’t in the Arabic at all). Who said this to the pharaoh?
The words of the referred verses do not necessarily imply that the statement was physically/literally addressed to Pharaoh. The verse can merely imply the declaration of the decision of God, without physically addressing Pharaoh. The second person pronouns (addressing pronouns) are generally used in the declaration of such decisions. We use such addressing pronouns in our everyday speech quite often. Incidentally, I clearly remember that in 1997, when I read Mr. P. Newton’s ‘Grammatical Errors in the Qur’an’, I — while sitting in my library, in Pakistan — had said: “I shall, insha’Allah, give you a response”, though I knew fully well that Mr. Newton could not hear me.
Seen from another perspective, the stipulated point is based on the following argument:
- God can speak directly to His prophets only;
- God spoke to Pharaoh;
- Pharaoh was either a prophet or was spoken to through a prophet.
However, this line of argument can only be considered valid if the first point is fully established. I would request Mr. Katz to provide arguments to support the point that God can speak directly to His prophets only.
Besides the above stated ‘question’, Mr. Katz has also made a few other comments on Mr. Timucin’s response to his basic criticism. However, because these Mr. Katz’s other points do not apply to my response, I would, therefore, not comment on them.
© Copyright December 2000. All Rights Reserved with the Author