In one of his articles1 Mr. Jochen Katz has pointed out a contradiction in two sets of verses of the Qur’an. According to Mr. Katz, Al-Baqarah 2: 62 and Al-Maaidah 5: 69 contradict with Aal Imraan 3: 85 and Al-Maaidah 5: 72.
Al-Baqarah 2: 62 reads as:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالنَّصَارَىٰ وَالصَّابِئِينَ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
Indeed, those who have believed [in this Prophet] and those, who became Jews and the Nasaaraa and the Sabians, whoever [truly] believes in God and the Day of Judgment and does good deeds; they shall have their reward with their Lord and they shall neither have fear [for the future] nor any remorse [for the past].
Al-Maaidah 5: 69 is almost a replica of the above verse. It reads as:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالصَّابِئُونَ وَالنَّصَارَىٰ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
Indeed, those who have believed [in this Prophet] and those, who became Jews and the Sabians and the Nasaaraa, whoever [truly] believes in God and the Day of Judgment and does good deeds; they shall have their reward with their Lord and they shall neither have fear [for the future] nor any remorse [for the past].
On the other hand, Aal Imraan 3: 85 reads as:
وَمَن يَبْتَغِ غَيْرَ الْإِسْلَامِ دِينًا فَلَن يُقْبَلَ مِنْهُ وَهُوَ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ
Whoever prefers a religion other than Islam, it shall definitely not be accepted from him; and in the Hereafter, he shall be among the losers.
And Al-Maaidah 5: 72 reads as:
لَقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا إِنَّ اللَّـهَ هُوَ الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ ۖ وَقَالَ الْمَسِيحُ يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُ مَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّـهِ فَقَدْ حَرَّمَ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْهِ الْجَنَّةَ وَمَأْوَاهُ النَّارُ ۖ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ
They have rejected who say that God is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary. And the Messiah [actually] said: O children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord. Whoever ascribes partners to the One God, God shall forbid Paradise for him and his abode shall then be the great fire. And the unjust shall have no helpers.
In his article, Mr. Katz has implied that according to the first two verses, Christians, besides the Jews and the Sabians and the believers in the new Prophet — Mohammed (pbuh) — shall be rewarded with Paradise; while the third verse2 states that only the adherents of Islam shall be rewarded with the eternal bliss of Paradise and the fourth verse has condemned the Christians for their saying that Jesus (pbuh) is God.
Mr. Katz’s contention that according to the first two verses, all the mentioned groups are promised paradise is quite questionable. The verse does not say that all the mentioned groups shall enter paradise; on the contrary, it says that paradise is not the right of any one or the other group — as the adherents of the respective groups would like to believe — but is the right only of those who truly believe in God and in the Day of Judgment and do good deeds. Thus, whether a person be from amongst the believers in the new Prophet, the Jews, the Christians or the Sabians, he would only be entered into the eternal bliss of paradise, if he truly believes in God and the Day of Judgment and does good deeds.
Seen in the correct perspective, the verse promises eternal bliss to those who truly believe in God and the Day of Judgment and do good deeds. If a person qualifies on the stated criteria, then whether he be from among the Jews, the Christians, the Sabians or the believers in the new Prophet, he shall be entered into the eternal bliss of paradise3.
However, it should remain clear that according to the Qur’an, knowingly ascribing partners to God is, in effect, a rejection of God. Thus, if a person believes in God and also ascribes partners to Him, his belief would not be accepted on the Day of Resurrection. The Qur’an (Ghaafir 40: 42) says:
تَدْعُونَنِي لِأَكْفُرَ بِاللَّـهِ وَأُشْرِكَ بِهِ مَا لَيْسَ لِي بِهِ عِلْمٌ وَأَنَا أَدْعُوكُمْ إِلَى الْعَزِيزِ الْغَفَّارِ
[O my people,] you call me toward rejecting God and to ascribe to Him partners about which I do not have any knowledge, while I call you to [the path of] the Powerful, the Oft-forgiving.
The above verse is a clear evidence of the fact that according to the Qur’an, ascribing partners to God is effectively a rejection of God.
The foregoing explanation should clarify the correct implication of the first two cited verses. As far as the third verse (Aal Imraan 3: 85) is concerned, it is quite clear from its context that the word ‘Islam’ in this verse is used in its literal sense (implying submission to God), rather than as a term to denote the Islamic religion. The cited verse, with its two preceding verses reads as:
أَفَغَيْرَ دِينِ اللَّـهِ يَبْغُونَ وَلَهُ أَسْلَمَ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ طَوْعًا وَكَرْهًا وَإِلَيْهِ يُرْجَعُونَ ﴿٨٣﴾ قُلْ آمَنَّا بِاللَّـهِ وَمَا أُنزِلَ عَلَيْنَا وَمَا أُنزِلَ عَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالْأَسْبَاطِ وَمَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَىٰ وَعِيسَىٰ وَالنَّبِيُّونَ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ ﴿٨٤﴾ وَمَن يَبْتَغِ غَيْرَ الْإِسْلَامِ دِينًا فَلَن يُقْبَلَ مِنْهُ وَهُوَ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ ﴿٨٥﴾
Do they prefer a religion other than the one ordained by God, while to Him submits all that is in the heavens and the earth — whether willingly or unwillingly — and to Him shall all be returned. Say: ‘We believe in God and in that which has been revealed upon us and in that which was revealed upon Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the groups, and in that which was given to Moses and Jesus and the prophets from their Lord. We do not differentiate between these prophets [believing in some and rejecting others] and we stand submitted to Him’. And whoever prefers any religion other than that of submission to God, it shall not be accepted from him and on the Day of Judgment, he shall be among the losers.
As should be clear from the given translation, the referred verses are a call to submission to the Almighty, which incidentally, is precisely the call of the Islamic religion as well. Seen in the correct perspective, these verses shall be seen to entail nothing contrary to the message entailed in Al-Baqarah 2: 62 and Al-Maaidah 5: 69.
As far as Al-Maaidah 5: 72 is concerned, its alleged contradiction with Al-Baqarah 2: 62 and Al-Maaidah 5: 69 should stand completely resolved after the clarification of the correct implication of the first two cited verses.
Regarding Al-Maaidah 5: 72, Mr. Katz writes:
No Christian would ever say that Jesus is “another god” as this verse mistakenly says, nor that “God is Jesus”. It is only the other way around: “Jesus is God, but not ‘all of God'”
In the referred verse, the Qur’an does hold the Christians guilty of saying that Jesus is “another God”. This is an incorrect translation of the referred verse. On the contrary, the particular doctrine condemned by the referred verse of the Qur’an is of believing that God is Jesus (pbuh). However, Mr. Katz has stressed that no Christian ascribes to the belief that God is Jesus.
It should be kept in mind that the Qur’an has commented only on the beliefs of the Christians, who lived in the particular environment in which the Qur’an was revealed. There is some evidence, which suggests that the Nasaaraa (Christians), who lived in the environment of the revelation of the Qur’an did ascribe to a few beliefs, which were generally not ascribed by the Pauline Christians. Explaining this point, in one of earlier responses to a question, I have written:
It is not correct to assume that all the Christian sects gave up adherence to the Law of the Old Testament. On the contrary, in my opinion, it actually seems more realistic to believe that the Christians living in the Arabian peninsula during the times of the Prophet (pbuh) and the revelation of the Qur’an adhered to the Mosaic laws of the Old Testament in letter and spirit. My opinion is based on the following points:
The Qur’an has criticized the Jews and the Christians for their malpractices and incorrect beliefs. These criticisms of the Qur’an focus on the malpractices and incorrect beliefs of the Jews and the Christians living in the environment in which the Qur’an was being revealed. For instance, the Qur’an has criticized the Christians of holding Jesus (pbuh) and his mother — Mary (pbuh) — to be divine (Al-Maaidah 5: 116). However, this was (an incorrect) belief only of the Christians living in that region. We are well aware of the fact that the general Christian population does not ascribe to the belief of the divinity of Mary.
The Qur’an has not criticized the Christians of holding the law to be abrogated. If the Christians of the times and region of the revelation of the Qur’an had actually held the law to be abrogated, the Qur’an would definitely have criticized them for it. We see that the Qur’an has criticized the Christians on a number of issues, but these issues, generally, pertain to the divinity of Jesus (pbuh). Thus, it should seem safe to assume that the Christians living in the Arabian Peninsula during the times of the revelation of the Qur’an lived their lives according to the Mosaic laws. Just as it would be safe to assume that those Christians did not ascribe to the belief of “atonement”, for if they had, the Qur’an, most definitely, would have criticized them for it.
The Qur’an has called the Christians by the name of “Nasaara“. While, it is known that the general Christians had come to be known as “Christians” or “Maseehee” from a very early period (as is mentioned in the “Acts of the Prophets”). In view of this fact, it seems quite plausible that the Christians living in the Arabian Peninsula at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an were generally those who ascribed to the Nazarene creed4. The Nazarenes were a Syrian Judeo-Christian sect that came to be recognized in the fourth century AD. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:
“Although they [the Nazarenes] accepted the divinity of Christ and his supernatural birth, the Nazarenes also maintained strict observance of Jewish laws and customs, a practice that had been dropped by the majority of Jewish Christians. They used a version of the Gospel in Aramaic called the Gospel According to the Hebrews, or the Gospel of the Nazarenes.”
It is extremely unfortunate that the Gospel according to the Hebrews or the Gospel of the Nazarenes is nowhere to be found anymore. Had it been available, we would have known more about the beliefs and practices of this sect.
I hope the above explanation should raise a few questions, regarding his objection, in Mr. Katz’s mind.
© Copyright December 2000. All Rights Reserved with the Author
- The complete article may be accessed at: http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/qi022.html [↩]
- Although Mr. Katz has not included this verse in his main discussion, but has referred to it in his brief introduction to the article. [↩]
- In one of my responses to a question regarding whether the Jews and the Christians have a chance of success in the Hereafter, I had written:
The Qur’an has very strongly negated the idea that the Jannah or the bliss in the life hereafter — the Paradise — is the right of any particular religious group. Whether one ascribes oneself to the Muslim or to any other belief, the criteria for success in the hereafter is going to be his true faith in the Almighty and in the Day of reckoning.
According to the Qur’anic view about life, each individual who lives on the face of this earth is put in a test by the Almighty. Whether born to Muslim or Jewish or Christian parents, each individual is being tested for his honest and unbiased search for and surrender to the Truth, as he sees and understands it. To go through this test, God has bestowed upon us the sense and the intellect to judge right from wrong.
A close look at our general attitude towards religion and religious beliefs shows that we normally go through life with the beliefs that we inherit from our parents. If we are born in a Muslim family, there is a greater chance that we shall remain Muslims through out our lives. The same holds true in other cases as well. But unfortunately, this passive belief shall have absolutely no importance on the Day of Judgment. Whether we attended the Sunday Church or the Friday Congregation shall only have a secondary importance. The first thing that would be judged is whether the individual truly searched for the Truth or not and then, whether he lived his life in accordance with that Truth or not.
In the light of the above explanation, in my opinion, success in the hereafter is not dependent on my ascribing to any one or the other group. It is basically dependent on my attitude towards searching for and submitting to the Truth. Thus, those Christians who, without any prejudice, had searched for the Truth and had submitted to it, shall be among those who are successful in the hereafter. While those who called themselves Muslims in this world, might fail in the hereafter on the account that they did not seriously and without any bias, seek the Truth or that even after knowing the Truth, did not submit to it or lived their lives in accordance with it.
This is the general principle of success and/or failure in the test of the life of this world. Thus, the criteria of success or failure is one that depends purely on the internal mechanism of the human soul and intellect. Because we cannot say that a particular person has rejected Islam (or whatever we hold to be the Truth) after being thoroughly convinced that Islam is the divine truth, we therefore, cannot pass a judgment regarding his success or failure in the hereafter. It is only the Omniscient God who really knows whether a person rejected after being truly convinced of the Truth or whether his rejection was because of some misunderstanding or unanswered questions, regarding that Truth. On the day of reckoning, God shall give His decision on the basis of His absolute knowledge about the reasons of the rejection of the individuals.
According to the Qur’an, when a messenger of Allah (Rasu’l as distinct from Nab’i) is sent towards a people, he removes all doubts that lie in people’s minds regarding the Truth. He answers all their questions. Truth becomes evidently distinct from falsehood. Those who accept his message, accept it with full knowledge of what is right and what is wrong; and those who reject his message, reject it after gaining full knowledge that it is the Truth they are rejecting. It is because of this particular position of the messengers (Rasu’l) of Allah that it becomes evident that those who are rejecting his call are rejecting the Truth, and those who are accepting his call are submitting to the Truth. The former are, thus, bound to be thrown in the hell fire and the latter are promised the bliss of paradise. Therefore the Jews and Christians who lived during the life of the Prophet and who did not accept his message are doomed. We, even with our limited knowledge know about this fact, because if as the Muslims hold, Mohammad (pbuh) was a true messenger of God, then those Jews and Christians who lived during the life of the Prophet (pbuh) rejected the Truth knowingly. They shall have no excuse for their rejection. It is these Jews and Christians that are sure to be doomed. As far as the Jews and Christians of other times and places are concerned, they are subjected to the same test in the life of this world. If they submit to whatever they truly believe to be the Truth and live their life in accordance with that Truth, they shall be successful.
The case of the Muslims is not any different. [↩]
- There is also some evidence to suggest that the Nazarene creed also ascribed to the belief of the divinity of Mary (Hadhrat Maryam). The following is a note on the Gospel of the Hebrews posted on one of the internet sites giving information about the canonical and apocryphal books in the Christian theology (http://www.comdac.com/~trowbridge/gosheb.htm):
c. 70-150 C.E.
It is both odd and unfortunate that no copies of any of the so-called “Judeo-Christian” gospels have survived antiquity, though the texts, kept by early Christians who maintained deep-seated Jewish beliefs, were often quoted by Christian writers throughout the first five centuries. These short citations are our only windows through which we might study the traditions of the communities that used them.
The Gospel of the Hebrews is the most often quoted of the Judeo-Christian gospels, though it must be noted that at least two other texts (Ebionites and Nazoreans) were referred to by the same title, and we can only make educated guesses as to which gospel each fragment was derived from. At least eight early writers had either referenced or cited from Hebrews, each offering their own interpretations and assessment of validity. From these we know the date of composition is no later than mid-second century, possibly much earlier. It was said to have been written in Hebrew, though much of its theology parallels Egyptian tradition.
The gospel shows no direct dependence upon the canonical gospels, though it shares a verse with the Gospel of Thomas (GosThom 2). Among the most unique traditions is the depiction of Mary, like the Johannine logos, as divine?in fact, that she was the incarnation of Michael, who was the personification of the Holy Spirit. Also, Jesus first appears to his brother James following the resurrection. Since James the Just was traditionally held to have founded the church at Jerusalem, it is no surprise that the Hebrew gospel elevates his authority by making him the first to witness the risen Christ. [↩]