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Staff of Solomon – a Throne, not a Termitarium

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

Staff of Solomon – a Throne, not a Termitarium[1]

Overtime, myths and nonsensical accounts creep into the folklore of religions that sooner or later find their way into their respective Scriptures as well. Quran has a distinct feature that it is incorruptible, both, for its written text and its Message – Verily, it was We, We Ourself Who have revealed this Reminder (- the Qur'an); and it is We Who are, most certainly, its Guardian (15:9).[2] However, that did not prevent leaching of the hearsay into superficial interpretations of the Quran and a kaleidoscope of fairy tales is attributed to it. When Quran is read for its simplicity and for what Quran tells its reader, rather than what is read into Quran from extraneous sources, the myths ascribed to it naturally evaporate. This chapter will clear some of the myths attributed to staff of Solomon that Quran mentions for totally different reasons.

Staff in Arabic Language

The term which has become a source of legends is the Arabic word ‘Asâ, that means – Staff; Nation; Mastery; People; Party; Tongue; Stick; Rod; Supports.

‘Asâa – To strike with a stick. ‘Asiya/Ya‘sa: To take a stick, come together; Collection; Accumulation; Amazing; Gathering; Assemblage; Congregation. Staff is called Asâ as the fingers of a hand come together and are collected and united on its handle. ‘Asâ: Staff; Stick; Rod; Supports; Nation; People; Party; Tongue; Skin; Bone. ‘Asâutu al-Qauma: I gathered the nation. Shaq al-‘Asâ: Divergence; Dissension; Disagreement of the nation or organisation. It is said, Khawârij shaqqû ‘Asâ al-Muslimîn: The Khawârij split the concord, harmony and unity of Islamic nation. Idzrib bi Asâka al-Hajer: Strike with your staff on the rock; Go forth with your people. (L; T; R; LL; Zamkhsharî)[3]

Staff in English Language

The meaning of Asa in Arabic is no different from the sense of Staff in English dictionaries – stick, rod, symbol of office or authority, people, teachers, something that supports or sustains.

7. A rod or wand, of wood or ivory, borne as an ensign of office or authority; spec. as the badge of certain chief officers of the Crown. Usage in history: “1813   King George IV in Duke of Wellington Dispatches (1838) X. 552   You have sent me the Staff of a French Marshal, and I send you in return that of England.”[Oxford English Dictionary][4]

Myth of Solomon’s Staff – terminative of a righteous rule instead of mere food for termites

“Solomon died at the age of fifty-three, having reigned forty years. As the building of the Temple was not finished at his death and he was afraid that the jinn would not continue to work thereon if he were not there to command them, the angel of death took his soul while he was leaning upon his staff, praying. His body remained in that position a year, until the jinn had finished the Temple, when a worm that had been gnawing at the staff caused it to crumble to pieces; Solomon's body fell, and the jinn discovered that he was dead. It is said that Solomon collected the books of magic that were scattered throughout his realm, and locked them in a box, which he put under his throne to prevent their being used. After his death the jinn, so as to make people believe that Solomon had been a sorcerer, declared that these books had been used by him; many believed the statement to be true, but the accusation was a malicious falsehood.”[5]

The legend of Solomon’s death is misattributed to the following verse:

34:14. Then, when We decreed (Solomon's) death, nothing showed them his death except a little worm of the earth [– Arabic: Dâbbatul ardz], which kept (slowly) gnawing away at his staff [– Arabic: ‘minsa`ah’, form of ‘asa’]: so when he fell down, the Jinns saw plainly that if they had known the unseen, they would not have tarried in the humiliating Penalty (of their Task).[6]

This legend goes against the very spirit of Quran and Islam. Solomon was a Muslim and that too a prophet. Neither was he a tyrant nor a slave master. Neither are there any supernatural entities, the genies of Arabian Nights in this world, nor is there any magic that can be found outside Disneyland and neither do they have any place in the leaves of Quran. The Jinn of Quran and magic alleged to Solomon will be dealt in separate chapters. It is an ignominious death of anyone in which a body is laying around for a year, instead of it given immediate attention and a burial. One wonders that Solomon, the king, is missing from his government and nobody even asks as to where he is. Countless scathing questions can be raised, but a myth cannot be further dignified by any more queries. We will stick to the purpose of this chapter to clarify the message of the Quran.

Staff of Solomon – for what it stands in Quran

In Quran, the staff of Solomon stands for his authority as a king, his administration and his nation that was united under him. The staff in terms of its statesmanship, grandeur, technological advancement and the prosperity that it provided for all and sundry, including the employment of even the otherwise rebellious tribes under its domain is mentioned in Quran as follows:

34:10. And certainly We bestowed Our (gracious) favours on David. (We said,) `O (you dwellers of the) mountains, obey him.' And (We assigned) the birds and the swift footed horses (their duty); and We made the iron soft and pliant for him [–the start of Iron age in Israelites, that Solomon’s father, David, earlier borrowed from Hittites of modern day Turkey].

34:11. (We said to him,) `Make full length coats of mail (to cover the whole body) forging links of proper measure (for their smooth working).' (And We also said to him and his followers,) `Do righteous deeds. I am a keen Observer of what you do.'

34:12. And We made such winds serve Solomon the blowing of which in the forenoon (and thus help sailing of his ships) was equal to (a voyage of) a month (by the other ships); similarly its blowing in the afternoon was (also) equal to (a voyage of) a month (by them).

SIDE NOTE: 14: 33. And He has made subservient to you the sun and the moon, both moving constantly (according to some fixed laws), and He has made subservient to you the night and the day.[7]

Similar to modern day harnessing of sun by solar technologies, subservience of the moon by lunar landings and the night by electricity, Solomon probably invented new sailing techniques, maybe the triangular sail and the keel, together which can vector the wind by which the ships could go upwind.[8]

And We made a spring of molten copper to flow for him. Also (given into his service were) some of the jinns (- wild and rebellious mountain tribes known as Amalaqites, who worked under him as trained craftsmen) [similar to modern day imported skilled labor] by the command of his Lord. And (We also told them) whoever of them deviated from and disobeyed Our command (- that they should obey Solomon) We shall make him suffer the agony of burning.

34:13. Those (jinns -handy craftsmen) made for him (- Solomon) whatever he desired, places for worship [–including Solomon’s temple with its modern day ruins around Masjid Aqsa in Jerusalem] and plans and basins (as large) as the tanks [for city water supply] and large and heavy cooking pots well-set (on their trivets due to their large size) [to cater to his large army units and possibly community kitchens]. (And We said,) `Act gratefully, O people of David.' Yet few are My people who are (really) grateful. [9]

The above set of verses give the basis of Asa or Staff of Solomon i.e. his power, authority and the prosperity of his kingdom in which trade, construction; sailing and metallurgical technologies had prospered. His rule had become a source of peace and employment for diverse people, even the eternal enemies of the Jews, the Amalekites addressed as Jinn in Quran.

Staff of Solomon – for what it fell

Despite all prosperity, Solomon had another staff (–administration, people), his inept son and the circle of peers that his son was surrounded by. Perceiving his son to be incompetent, devoid of spiritual and moral values, Solomon prayed against him. The tenet of no virtue in inheritance without the merit of righteousness in Islam is also contained in the prayer of Solomon that excluded his incompetent successors – Jeroboam[10] and his son Rehoboam[11], a flagrant philanderer:

38:34. Behold! We tried Solomon (too) and We placed on his throne (of kingdom) [in his lifetime or in a vision about the future] a (mere) body (without any spirit or faith) [–his son Rehoboam and/or Jeroboam]. Then he turned (to God seeking His mercy).

38:35. He [–Solomon] said (praying), `My Lord! grant me protection and bestow on me a [spiritual] kingdom that belongs to none (by inheritance) after me [in Israelites]. You indeed are the Great Bestower.'[12]

The prayer of Solomon was thus realized – The previous verse [38:34] speaks of the imbecile heir-apparent to Solomon’s throne. Hence we find Solomon praying here [38:35] for a spiritual kingdom, for that is the only kingdom which is not in danger of being spoiled by an heir. The glory of Solomon’s temporal kingdom was not maintained after his death; nor has a king like Solomon appeared in Israel. By anyone after me is meant anyone in Israel, not the whole world.[13]

A king, like any head of an organization, has to rely and lean on his staff. The staff of a king signifies both, the symbols of his authority – his throne, and the people in his administration. Similarly for a prophet, there are companions, spiritually and morally clean, who not only support the prophet during his lifetime, but after his death continue with his mission. If the latter is weak, it will eat away at the former. That’s what happened in the case of Solomon, where his son, Rehoboam who was morally void, ate away at Solomon’s staff of authority, his kingdom and his mission of prophethood. Solomon’s death and decay of his rule, either near the end of his life when he might had let Rehoboam on the throne or he ascended to the throne after his father’s death, is described in the verse quoted earlier and repeated below from a different translation:

34:14. And when We ordained death for him (- Solomon) the people only came to know of his death through a (worthless) creature of earth [–Arabic: Dâbbatul ardz] (- Solomon's son) that was eating away his (father's) staff ( ruling power and glory). So when it fell down the jinn realized then plainly that had they known the secret (of the hollowness of the kingdom) they would have never remained in (a state of) humiliating torment.[14]

The context of the stated verse can be found in Old Testament. The rebellion under Jeroboam took hold soon after death of Solomon. Immediately in his succession, the Northern ten tribes of Israel split away from Judah, thus dismembering the kingdom of Solomon. His son, Rehoboam, an incompetent and materialistic ruler, was left only with the tribe of Judah in his domain. He was under sway of opportunistic advisers, who like many others in history have been a source of ill policies and downfall of kingdoms.[15] He, on the advice of his cronies, will be remembered for his arrogant words with which he addressed his people, who had gathered to listen to him and were asking for reprieve from taxes:

1 Kings 12: 1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone there to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. 3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”

5 Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.

6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked. 7 They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”

8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 9 He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?” 10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’”

12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, “Come back to me in three days.” 13 The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, 14 he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the Lord, to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.

16 When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!” So the Israelites went home. 17 But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.

18 King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

20 When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.[16] [Emphasis added]

The attitude and remarks of Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12:13 are a reflective meaning of the phrase Dâbbatul ardz, which Quran uses for him:

Dâbbatul ardz: Creature of earth; Insect of earth; Materialistic person whose endeavors are wholly directed to the acquisition of worldly riches and material comforts and who has fallen on the pleasures of this world with all his might and main.[17]

The reference in the creature of the earth that ate away his staff [v. 34:14] is to his son’s weak rule, under whom the kingdom of Solomon went to pieces. It appears that Solomon’s successor, Rehoboam, led a life of luxury and ease, and instead of acting on the advice of the older men, he yielded to the pleasure seeking wishes of his companions (1 Kings 12:13), and it is to his luxurious habits and easy mode of life that the Quran refers when it calls him a creature of the earth. The eating away of his staff signifies the disruption of the kingdom. The jinn, as already remarked, mean the rebellious tribes who had been reduced to subjection by Solomon, and who remained in subjection to the Israelites for a time, until the kingdom was shattered. This instance, as well as the one following, contains a warning for the Muslims as to the result of falling into luxury and ease, by which, however, they benefited little; the ultimate fate of the respective kingdoms of the Umayyads and Abbasides was the same as that of Solomon’s kingdom.[18]

The dissipating end of Solomon’s son and his kingdom is no different than that of Noah’s son who too perished before his father’s eyes:

11:45. And Noah called to his Lord and said , `My Lord! my son belongs to my family and surely Your promise is (also) true; yet You are the Most Just of the judges’.

11:46. (The Lord) said, `He decidedly does not belong to your family as he is given to unrighteous conduct, so do not ask of Me that of which you have no knowledge. I advise you not to be of those wanting in knowledge.'[19]

In conclusion, shortly after death of Solomon his staff crumbled because of Dâbbatul ardzthe creature of earth (v. 34:14), Rehoboam, his son, in the manner that Old Testament testifies to. His kingdom fragmented and his nation became disunited to the extent that the legacy of House of David has tarnished in history for Israelites – “So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day (1 Kings 12:19).”

[1] Termitarium – a termites’ nest. Link:
[2] Al-Hijr – The Rock: Nooruddin
[3] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.376.
[4] Link:
[5] From Arabic Literature: Death of Solomon – Jewish Encyclopedia – References quoted: Bibliography: Bokhari, Recueil des Traditions Mahometanes, ed. Krehl, Leyden, 1864; commentaries on the Koran (Baidawi and Zamakhshari); D'Herbelot, in Bibliothèque Orientale, v. 367-375; M. Grünbaum, Neue Beiträge zur Semitischen Sagenkunde, pp. 189-240, Leyden, 1893 (cites Arabic authors); Hughes, Dictionary of Islam; Koran, suras xxi. 81, 82; xxvii. 15-45; xxxiv. 11-13; xxxviii. 29-30; Ṭabari, Annales, ed. De Goeje, i. 572-597 (see also Index); Weil, Biblical Legends of the Mussulmans, pp. 200-248. Link:
[6] Saba – Sheba: Yusuf Ali
[7] Ibrahim – Abraham: Nooruddin
[8] Link:
[9] Saba – Sheba: Nooruddin
[10] Wikipedia: Jeroboam. Link:
[11] Wikipedia: Rehoboam. Link:
[12] Sad – The Truthful God: Nooruddin
[13] Footnote to verses 38:34-35 – c (35), Sad – Sad: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[14] Saba – Sheba: Nooruddin
[15] Explanation of the verse 34:14 by Nooruddin in his lectures published as “Haqaiqul Furqan”. Link:
[16] Bible Gateway. Link:
[17] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.172.
[18] Footnote to stated verse 34:14 – e (14), Saba – Sheba: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[19] Hud – Hud: Nooruddin

Staff of Moses – a Mere Walking Stick for Skirting, not Parting the Sea; Prospecting the Mountain for Water & Manna, a bonus (II)

Monday, December 29th, 2014
Staff of Moses – a Mere Walking Stick for Skirting, not Parting the Sea; Prospecting the Mountain for Water & Manna, a bonus (Part II)

Besides changing the staff of Moses into a serpent, which is discussed in a separate chapter, there are two more incidences attributed to the same staff in Quran, the alleged parting of the sea and Moses making water flow from the rocks by parting the mountain, both by striking his staff in an apparent wizardry. We deal with each of them separately below.

As discussed repeatedly throughout this book, Quran is not a book of history but always in step with history. If there were neither wizards nor their magical wands in history, none will be found in Quran either. If no staff today can part a  sea or a mountain, neither would it be so in history, nor in Quran.

The mention of Moses, Aaron, Israelites and Pharaoh and his entourage including Haman and Korah in Quran is not to recount a script for a Hollywood movie for an edge of the seat thriller but to bring out a working example from history of rescue of the helpless and destruction of  tyranny in a manner that the outcome of which against all odds is none short of a miracle. Truth must triumph else truth will lose credibility.


Before we tackle the event of Pharaoh and his army drowning from an unrecorded history it might be even more interesting to recount the recent recorded history in which Napoleon and his army had almost similar experience in the same Red Sea and that too out of a natural phenomenon, though equally unexpected for them as well. Excerpted below are various accounts of near drowning of Napoleon and his entourage in Red Sea with the sections relevant to our discussion underlined:


EXCURSION TO THE RED SEA: Napoleon, in person, made an expedition to Suez, to inspect the proposed route of a canal to connect the waters of the Mediterranean with the Red Sea. With indefatigable activity of mind, he gave orders for the construction of new works to fortify the harbor of Suez, and commenced the formation of an infant marine. One day, with quite a retinue, he made an excursion to that identical point of the Red Sea which, as tradition reports, the children of Israel crossed three thousand years ago. The tide was out, and he passed over to the Asiatic shore upon extended flats. Various objects of interest engrossed his attention until late in the afternoon, when he commenced his return. The twilight faded away, and darkness came rapidly on. The party lost their path, and, as they were wandering, bewildered, among the sands, the rapidly returning tide surrounded them. The darkness of the night increased, and the horses floundered deeper and deeper in the rising waves. The water reached the girths of the saddles, and dashed upon the feet of the riders, and destruction seemed inevitable. From this perilous position, Napoleon extricated himself by that presence of mind and promptness of decision which seemed never to fail him. It was an awful hour and an awful scene; and yet, amid the darkness and the rising waves of apparently a shoreless ocean, the spirit of Napoleon was as unperturbed as if he were reposing in slippered ease upon his sofa. He collected his escort around him in concentric circles, each horseman facing outward, and ranged in several rows. He then ordered them to advance, each in a straight line. When the horse of the leader of one of these columns lost his foothold, and began to swim, the column drew back, and followed in the direction of another column which had not yet lost the firm ground. The radii, thrown out in every direction, were in this way successively withdrawn, till all were following in the direction of one column which had a stable footing. Thus escape was effected. The horses did not reach the shore until midnight, when they were wading breast-deep in the swelling waves. The tide rises on that part of the coast to the height of twenty-two feet. "Had I perished in that manner, like Pharaoh," said Napoleon, "it would have furnished all the preachers in Christendom with a magnificent text against me." [HISTORY OF NEPOLEAN BONEPART by John C. Abbot, Volume I, Chapter X II, THE SYRIAN EXPEDITION, p 204-205, Copyright, 1883, by Susan Abbot Mead.][1]

BUONAPARTE AT SUEZ: As yet, however, there was no appearance of an enemy; and Napoleon seized the opportunity to explore the Isthmus of Suez, where a narrow neck of land divides the Red Sea from the Mediterranean, partly with the view of restoring the communication which in remote times existed between them, and partly of providing for the defence of Egypt, should the Ottomans attempt their invasion by the way of Syria. He visited the Maronite monks of Mount Sinai, and, as Mahomet had done before him, affixed his name to their charter of privileges; he examined also the fountain of Moses: and nearly lost his life in exploring, during low water, the sands of the Red Sea, where Pharaoh is supposed to have perished in the pursuit of the Hebrews. "The night overtook us," says Savary in his Memoirs, "the waters began to rise around us, the guard in advance exclaimed that their horses were swimming. Buonaparte saved us all by one of those simple expedients which occur to an imperturbable mind. Placing himself in the centre, he bade all the rest form a circle round him, and then ride out each man in a separate direction, and each to halt as soon as he found his horse swimming. The man whose horse continued to march the last, was sure, he said, to be in the right direction; him accordingly we all followed, and reached Suez at two in the morning in safety, though so rapidly had the tide advanced, that the water was at the poitrels of our horses ere we made the land." On his return to Cairo, the General despatched a trusty messenger into India, inviting Tippoo Saib to inform him exactly of the condition of the English army in that region, and signifying that Egypt was only the first post in a march destined to surpass that of Alexander! "He spent whole days," writes his secretary, "in lying flat on the ground stretched upon maps of Asia." [THE HISTORY OF NAPOLEON BUONAPARTE by JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART, CHAPTER XII, p. 99. First issue of this edition: February 1906, Reprinted: April 1906; May 1907; July 1909; November 1910; November 1912; March 1915][2]

EGYPT: Then, journeying on, he [–Napoleon] visited the fountains of Moses; but it is not true that (as stated by Lanfrey) he proceeded to Mount Sinai and signed his name in the register of the monastery side by side with that of Mahomet. On his return to the isthmus he is said to have narrowly escaped from the rising tide of the Red Sea. If we may credit Savary, who was not of the party, its safety was due to the address of the commander, who, as darkness fell on the bewildered band, arranged his horsemen in files, until the higher causeway of the path was again discovered. [The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by John Holland Rose, CHAPTER VIII, EGYPT][3]

FOUNTAINS OF MOSES – BONAPARTE IN THE RED SEA: On the morning of the 28th we passed the Red Sea dry footed, on our way to the Fountains of Moses, which are upwards of six miles from the eastern shore, and a little south-east of Suez. The Arabic Gulf terminates three and a quarter miles to the north of that city. Opposite the port, the Red Sea is not more than two and three quarter miles broad. It is always fordable at low water. The caravans of Tor and Mount Sinai cross here, both in going to, and returning from, Egypt. This shortens the road between six and seven miles [footnote: From time immemorial this part has been denoted by an Arabic name, signifying The Passage. The metres of the original I have reduced to English miles." Translator]. The tide rises from five to six, or, when the wind blows with force, from nine to ten, feet. We passed some hours at the fountain of the lawgiver, seated on the margin of the most considerable spring, which is transparent, constantly flowing and renewed, and having no very disagreeable odour. Here we made our coffee, which, however, was rendered scarcely drinkable from the bitterness of the water.

On our return, we struck off to the left, in order to visit a large reservoir, constructed, it is said, by the Venetians, when in possession of the commerce of the East. In descending again to the coast, Bonaparte was the first to discover a canal, from three to four hundred paces in length, constructed in good masonry, and capable of being easily repaired. The night had now fallen dark when we reached the seashore. The tide was flowing and pretty high; we wandered a little from the track followed in the morning, through the guide either deceiving us, or losing his way, and attempted the passage too far down. Disorder soon arose in our little troop, we were not lost in the quick sands, as has been said, "there being none. We could not see our companions, but we shouted and called to each other. General Caffarelli, near whom I chanced to be in this confusion, incurred some danger from his wooden leg, which prevented his keeping a firm seat in the saddle, while thus surrounded by the waves. We struggled to his assistance, supporting-him on each side. I have read, but certainly did not see, nor hear at the time, that the flowing tide would have become the grave of Bonaparte, had not a guide of his escort saved and brought him off on his shoulders. In the circumstances, the thing was impossible, or all who had not men to carry them, the danger being equal, would have perished; but there was no one lost. The guide must have got into the water up to his chin; how could a man be so safe on his back, as in the saddle of a charger? Besides, his horse and that of the General, left to themselves in the darkness, would have still more endangered the safety, and increased the confusion of the whole party, and we should thus, to our experience, have been informed of the General's situation. This incident is pure invention. The relation which Bonaparte has given long after at St Helena, is correct. Our little pilgrimage to the Fountains of Moses brought us into the same danger as of old assailed Pharaoh, and we might have perished like him, but without a miracle, as will appear to those who have visited the scene [footnote: The reader will not fail to observe, that, in certain insidious remarks, Bourrienne seems to hint the same opinion as Volney, and other infidel writers, on the subject of the passage of the Red Sea. The reasoning of these gentlemen furnishes a striking example of a non sequitur. What possible connection can exist between crossing a part of the sands dry, at low tide, and traversing the "crystal strait," cleft by the hand of Jehovah, for the passage of his chosen people? Or the whole may be simply answered by the reflection, that, since the Egyptians were the best informed among the nations then upon the earth " since, indeed, Moses was celebrated for knowledge, because "skilled in all the learning of the Egyptians" – we cannot suppose either the one to have been unacquainted with so common an event as the flowing of the tide, or the other to have thus overreached his masters in wisdom." Translator.] [MEMOIRS OF NAPOLEAN BONAPARTE, Vol 1 of 4, FROM THE FRENCH OF M. FAUVELET DE COURRIENNED by JOHN S. MEMES LL.D., CHAPTER XIII, p. 158-160, originally published 1831][4]

In case of Napoleon, even though he got trapped in the high tide at night, he had the advantage that all his men were on horses thus sitting high and additionally horses are good swimmers. The account of high tide in above narratives is up to twenty-two feet deep, enough to drown even a tall person standing on his feet. Unlike mounted entourage of Napoleon, in the case of Pharaoh, as is commonly known, some of his army was either on foot and others riding on chariots. Both conditions made Pharaoh’s army more vulnerable to drowning even during daylight. The same water level that a horse can wade or swim thorough with its rider can possibly drown a person on foot, especially if that person is further weighed down by armor –`[Pharaoh said] And we are, (as compared with them [–the fleeing Israelites]) a united multitude, fully equipped and vigilant.' –26:56[5]. To make the matters worse, the Egyptians unlike Pacific islanders are less likely to be swimmers.

Parting or Skirting of the Sea?

It all started with centuries of unremitting persecution, exploitation and helplessness of Israelites in Egypt, the kingdom of the Pharaohs:

2:49. And (recall) when We delivered you from the people of Pharaoh who subjected you to the worst torment. They went on slaying your sons and sparing your women to make them immodest, and indeed that was a great ordeal from your Lord.[6]

It was against this background of incessant servitude and hopelessness that Moses and Aaron prayed:

10:88. And Moses said (praying and Aaron joined him in prayer), `Our Lord! You have given Pharaoh and his chiefs pomp and wealth in the present life with the result, Our Lord! that they lead people astray from Your path. Our Lord! destroy their wealth and attack their hearts, so that they believe not until they see the grievous punishment.'

10:89. (The Lord) said, `The prayer of you both has been accepted, so remain you two steadfast and follow not the way of those who do not know.'[7]

To get them out of their misery the strategy disclosed to Moses for his people included first congregating them together at one place and then taking advantage of night to escape en masse under the cover of darkness on a predetermined path as one body in which timing was paramount:

10:87. And We spoke to Moses and his brother (Aaron saying), `You both should prepare lodging for your people (bringing them together from different parts of the country) in the central town (of Egypt) and make your houses so as to face one another and perform worship.' And (We also revealed to them to) proclaim good tidings (of success) to the believers.[8]

44:23. Then (the order was), `Set forth with My servants in a watch of the night, (for) you are going to be chased.[9]

Of note is that for Exodus it was a predetermined path coupled with predetermined timing for the whole operation. Additionally, in modern terminology, the Israelites were to walk through the ‘path’ which was only to prove a minefield for the pursuing Egyptian army that was bound to follow, a classical military tactic in which the home forces have mapped out the path and avoid the landmines or traps whereas the enemy that is ignorant of it can be doomed when it enters that booby-trapped area to their detriment:

44:24. `And leave (when) the sea (is calm and not in tide) by its depressed portion (crossing on the dunes). Surely, these (pursuers, Pharaoh and his people) are a host (of people) doomed to be drowned.'[10]

20:77. And We directed Moses by revelation, `Take away My servants by night and take them along a dry path through the wide plane. You will not be afraid of being overtaken nor will you have any cause of fear (of being drowned).'[Emphasis added]

20:78. Now Pharaoh pursued them with his armies. But there covered them (- Pharaoh and his host) that (tide of the) sea which engulfed them completely.[11][Emphasis added]

Note – when v. 44:24 is read with v. 20:77 above, it becomes obvious that the tide behavior of sea is taken into account in which when the sea retreats in low tide it leaves on the shore a dry path, commonly called ‘intertidal zone’ that naturally is covered up by the water on subsequent high tide. It seems that the dry path taken during Exodus was in a wide intertidal zone (wide plane) from which it was difficult for the army to get out of when it flooded during the high tide. Quite expectedly, no one will enter that area where there is water i.e. during high tide. But, if someone walking on the same dry path is unaware of impending high tide, that person will be trapped and engulfed, even possibly drown, especially if there are high cliff walls on the shore side and/or this previously dry path is too long and that too if it is in a wide plane to reach its edge/end in time to survive.

Additionally, v. 44:24 also alludes to low tide when the sea is receded from shore and it is on this spot the Pharaoh and his army will be entrapped unaware and drowned subsequently when high tide comes on them. High tide, i.e. water encroaching on to the shore on a given point on globe is due to moon's gravitational pull of water body below it and the earth pulling away from the water body on the opposite end of the globe. Thus there are corresponding high tide points on the opposite sides of the globe. Whereas, the low tide points are at the sides of the earth, at 90 degrees from the high tide points on the earth. The average time interval between two consecutive high tides on a given point on the globe is about 12 hours and about 25.5 minutes, though the frequency of high tides can be as low as once in 24 hours. This corresponds to earth rotating 180 degrees every 12 hours, while the moon rotates 6 degrees around the earth in the same time. Due to this extra 25.5 minutes shift, each tidal point varies over time for its low and high tides. Besides, sun also exerts its superimposed effects on sides of the earth facing or away from it. As to how high a water can rise in a high tide from its low tide level, commonly called as ‘tidal range,’ varies according to local topography, e.g. in Eastern Canada it can be as much as fifty feet.

Whether the Red Sea at Suez in case of Napoleon or the Sea of Reeds at Eilat [Yam Suph – I Kings 9:26] experiences its tidal ranges that would drown an army is left best to history and science. At least in the accounts of Napoleon’s adventure the tidal range is between five and twenty-two feet high and the intertidal zones have extended flats. Still, what prevented a storm surge that was not expected at the time or a tsunami from happening, and it being foreknown to a Prophet, who by the very definition of the word can foretell? Of note are the wordings `And leave (when) the sea (is calm and not in tide) by its depressed portion (crossing on the dunes) – 44:24. It was this depressed portion that once filled with water because of its depth would have multiplicative effect on the drowning possibility because of the sea surge that was to engulf the Pharaoh and his army i.e. Surely, these (pursuers, Pharaoh and his people) are a host (of people) doomed to be drowned.' – 44:24.

Thus, either it was the time window of 12 hours and 25.5 minutes or the apparent calm before the storm that was the escape hatch for the Israelites. Essentially, time and the timing were of the essence in the Divine strategy that Moses had to follow.

The strategy and its consequent events thus unfolded. Israelites had a head-start under the cover of the night:

26:52. And We revealed to Moses (directing him), `Take away My servants by night for you shall certainly be pursued.'[12]

Once Moses and his people had already left in the night, the Pharaoh responded by gathering his troops and set the pursuit at sunrise which separated the parties by many hours (Israelites left at night while the Pharaoh’s army followed at sunrise):

26:53. Pharaoh (when he came to know of the exodus) sent heralds to the towns to collect (troops and announce saying),

26:54. `These (Israelites) are indeed a despicable party, a few in number,

26:55. `Yet they have offended us (by defying us and making good their escape),

26:56. `And we are, (as compared with them,) a united multitude, fully equipped and vigilant.'

26:57. So We made them (- Pharaoh and his troops) leave the land of gardens and springs,

26:58. As well as (every place with) treasures and every abode of honour (and grandeur).

26:59. That is what We did (for their wrong- doings). And We gave (the like of) these (- gardens and springs) as a free gift to the Children of Israel.

26:60. And they (- the hosts of Pharaoh) pursued them at sunrise.[13] [Emphasis added]

Apparently, the pursuing Pharaoh gained on the fleeing Israelites to a point that they saw each other from a distance. Seeing the Pharaoh and his troops was a source of anxiety for the fleers who earlier thought otherwise in light of information as outlined in verses 20:77-78 above:

26:61. And when the two hosts sighted each other the companions of Moses said, `We are surely overtaken.'[14]

Despite the anxieties of his companions, Moses was firm on what was revealed to him before (verses 20:77-78):

26:62. (Moses) said, `No, not at all, my Lord is with me, He will lead me out of the impasse (and to safety).'[15][Similar to these verses 26:61-62 about exiling Moses and his companions is the event of Cave of Thaur during flight of the Prophet Muhammad in verses 9:40-41[16]]

The next revealed instructions to Moses were for him to keep moving through and to catch the time window referred to in verses 44:24 and 20:77 before:

26:63. Then We revealed to Moses (saying), `Strike the sea with your staff. (And as he did) so it parted[17] [Arabic: Infalaqa – Became separated; It parted], and each part (of the two hosts) looked like a huge mound.[18]

The full meanings of Asâ [19] are ‘Staff; Nation; Mastery. Thus, if read in context the verse 26:63 above states Idzrib bi Asâka al-bahra[20]: ‘Strike with your staff on the sea; Go forth with your people’. Essentially Moses is instructed to keep journeying with his people along the seashore and the timing was such that the water had receded or separated from the shore, Infalaqa – ‘Became separated; It parted’, as is pointed to in the verse.

The said behavior of the sea is repeated in another place:

2:50. And when We parted[21][Arabic: Faraqnâ – We parted, distinguished] the sea for you, and rescued you and drowned the people of Pharaoh, while you were beholding.[22]

Even though traditionally the word used in translation of above verses 26:63 and 2:50 is ‘parted’, it also means ‘separated’ which seems more appropriate in context of events that unfolded where the sea separated from the shore in low tide in which the dry path was exposed temporarily. The above verse paints a picture where, unlike his scared companions (26:61) Moses is directed to move on undeterred i.e. Strike the sea with your staff and keep going with vigor and 'hit the road' or 'hit the ground running', and Moses strikes i.e. takes a dry path on the seashore for others to follow in his footsteps and his group moves along and finally there were two sets of people grouped apart, each part (of the two hosts) looked like a huge mound on either end of the intervening dry path that separated them, Israelites on one end and Egyptian on the other end of the dry path. Thus the whole strategy comes together, the aggrieved party in the assured safety, while the aggressors, unbeknownst taking the same booby trapped path in the epic manner of a bridge soon to crumble or a valley soon to be flooded or a canyon to experience a landslide.

Pharaoh, just like Napoleon, who is oblivious of the time window between low and high tides pursues with his army onto the dry path on wide plane (v. 20:77), in the intertidal zone that Moses had struck earlier, all in an effort that his army can close in on the Israelite party at its far end. Quran is quite clear in specifying a particular point on the seashore that had the tidal behavior discussed so far as is identified in the next verse:

26:64. And We caused the others (the pursuers, the people of Pharaoh,) draw near the same place. [Emphasis added]

The next two verses give further details of the event in that Israelite party is saved first by its moving through the vulnerable area pointed in previous verse 26:64 and only then the pursuers were drowned once they reached the said vulnerable spot which was a wide plane (v. 20:77), spacious enough for the whole contingent to be trapped together once and all:

26:65. And We saved Moses and those who were with him all together.

26:66. Then We drowned the others.

26:67. Behold! there is a (marvelous) sign in this (episode), yet most of them would not be believers.

26:68. And indeed your Lord, He is the All-Mighty (to crush His enemies), the Ever Merciful (towards His servants).[23]

Of note is that drowning of Pharaoh and his cohorts was by water moving in on them, the high tide, while they were still on the same dry path:

20:78. Now Pharaoh pursued them with his armies. But there covered them (- Pharaoh and his host) that (tide of the) sea which engulfed them completely. [24]

It is obvious from the above verse(s) that Pharaoh witnessed a natural phenomenon of a low tide by the seashore where there was a dry path on a wide plane through which an army could easily move. On the contrary Pharaoh and his army or for that matter anyone, if they had witnessed an unnatural parting of sea, no one would had dare enter that path because if we recall that elsewhere in Quran it is the same Pharaoh[25] and his people calling Moses as sorcerer[26] and having already witnesses the sorcery win of Moses against the magicians of Egypt[27]. It would be preposterous to think that anyone would enter an apparent wizardry trap in which there were allegedly high water walls on either side of the dry path at the bottom of seabed as if the sea had parted and as commonly depicted in legends.

Interestingly, Pharaoh made a conversion attempt to Islam before his death:

10:90. And We brought the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh and his legion pursued them in wanton aggression and for no justified cause till when he (Pharaoh) was about to be drowned, he cried, `I (confess and) believe that there is no One worthy of worship but He in Whom the Children of Israel have believed in, and I am of those who submit (to Him).'

10:91. (The Lord) said, `What! (do you remember) now (while dying), whereas you had (always) disobeyed before (this), and you had been of the miscreants!

10:92. `So, on this day We will preserve you in your body (only) that you may be a sign (to learn a lesson from) for the coming generations, though most of the people are quite heedless of Our signs.'[28]

What Pharaoh said above in verse 10:90 . …he cried, `I (confess and) believe that there is no One worthy of worship but He in Whom the Children of Israel have believed in, and I am of those who submit (to Him)' was the fruition of what Moses had asked for in 10:88. …Our Lord! destroy their wealth and attack their hearts, so that they believe not until they see the grievous punishment.'

Moses striking water (in the manner of a prospector striking gold) and Israelites provided Manna:

With the 'parting of the sea' out of the way, let’s address Moses 'parting the rock' by striking it with his staff. It is a common knowledge that usually the source of springs is mountains, vegetables are from farming and one seeks daily livelihood in towns and cities, a relationship that will be noticed in various verses about Israelites. After the Israelites moved out of Egypt, in their destitute state they were provided with food, water, shelter and livelihood, the account of which is laid out in the following verses. These are basic elements for rehabilitating displaced people even today:

7:160. We divided them (- the people of Moses) into twelve tribes[29] according to the ancestral lineage (to which they belonged). And We sent Our revelation to Moses when his people asked of him (something) to drink (saying), `Strike that rock with your staff [Arabic: Idzrib bi Asâka al-Hajer – Strike with your staff on the rock; Go forth with your people].'[30] Then (as he did), there gushed out from it twelve springs, so that all the people now knew their (respective) drinking place. And We outspread the rain clouds to be a shade over them and We sent down for them Manna and quails (saying), `Eat of the pure things wherewith We have provided you.' And they did Us no harm (when they went wrong) but it was to themselves that they had been doing harm.

7:161. And (recall the time) when it was said to them, `Dwell in this township (-Yathrib) and eat therefrom when you will and pray, "Relieve us of the burden of our sins," and enter its gate submissively. (If you do so) We will protect you against (the consequences of) your sins. We shall multiply the reward of the doers of excellent deeds.'[31]

In verse 7:160 there is no novelty when Moses is asked to `Strike that rock with your staff' for the mere fact that to uncover a water hole, the rock covering had to be removed first with an instrument, in this case the staff. Quran does not mention the size of the rock, but by implication it must have been a large rock or many rocks which were covering the source for twelve springs. The rock(s) was impeding the reservoir of water which was waiting to gush out but was only prevented by a plug that needed the weight of a rock(s) to block its flow. Alternatively, Moses is commanded to seek water in a particular mountain i.e. that rock. It is a daily experience to tap ground with one's walking stick while going up on a mountain – `Strike that rock with your staff.' On the contrary, identifying the area to prospect for water is the actual novelty.

The above para dealt with an apparent concrete meaning of ‘staff’ as commonly interpreted, however full meanings of Asâ[32] are ‘Staff; Nation; Mastery.' Thus, if read in context the verse 7:160 above states Idzrib bi Asâka al-Hajer: ‘Strike with your staff on the rock; Go forth with your people’. Essentially, Moses is instructed to go to the mountain along with twelve Israelite tribes so that each one of them gets their (respective) drinking place from the equal number of springs pointed to in the verse.

Thus, Moses could have used staff as merely a walking stick to go up the mountain, or used it as instrument to uncover the source of springs or that he took his people (staff) to the source of water on the mountain, there is no wizardly in all three instances. The real ‘miracle’ is in him being guided by God to source of life sustenance, water, for his nation, be it spiritual or physical.

The Manna and quails and that too which was sent down by God is clearly a metaphorical reference of provisions and means that were made available to the exiled, else it would be ridiculous to seek and Eat of the pure things wherewith We have provided you from the Manna and quails that were 'heavenly' to begin with and were not supposed to have anything impure in them.

Manna and quails and eating of the pure things wherewith We have provided you is mentioned further:

20:80. O Children of Israel! We delivered you from your enemy and made a covenant with you on the right and blessed side of the Mount (Sinai), and We got Manna and quail to be sent down to you.

20:81. (And it was also said,) `Eat of the good and pure things We have provided you, and do not exceed the limits in this respect or My displeasure shall descend upon you. Indeed, lost are those on whom My displeasure descends.'[33]

All this comes to light in another set of verses:

2:60. And (recall the time) when Moses prayed for water for his people and We said (to him), `Go with your people and smite that particular rock with your staff.' So (when he did so) there gushed forth from it twelve springs so that every tribe came to know of its drinking place. (We said,) `Eat and drink of sustenance provided by Allâh and commit not transgression in the land like peace-breakers.' [Emphasis added]

2:61. And when you said, `Moses! (we are weary of one kind of food so) we will not at all remain content with one and the same food, pray, therefore, to your Lord for us that He may bring forth for us some of that which the earth produces, of its vegetables, of its cucumbers, its corn, its lentils and its onions.' He (- God) said, `Would you take in exchange that which is inferior (- delicious food) for that which is superior (- the realisation of the noble object of your life)? (If this is so) then go to some town and you will certainly have (there) all that you have demanded.' And lo! it so happened, they were smitten with abasement and destitution and they incurred the displeasure of Allâh. That was because they denied the Messages of Allâh and sought to kill His Prophets unjustly and that was because they disobeyed and had been transgressing.[34]

As to the Manna and quails, the above verses, if read concretely, further makes them less of ‘heavenly’ and more of ‘earthly’. Belonging to lower socio-economic class the Israelites who migrated from the fertile Egypt seem to have a different food tastes than the food options in Palestine where it was mostly poultry (quails). It is generally known that meat is expensive and poor Israelites might had little habit of eating it, which is obvious from their boredom with it, and they expressed it to Moses asking for vegetarian choices – we will not at all remain content with one and the same food, pray, therefore, to your Lord for us that He may bring forth for us some of that which the earth produces, of its vegetables, of its cucumbers, its corn, its lentils and its onions.' There is no time period mentioned in Quran for how long the Israelites sustained themselves on the said food or provisions. Despite the menu items mentioned, Quran speaks of food and provisions given to refuges as a free aid beyond concreteness of words, rather draws attention to higher moral and intellectual values that one must ascertain even in earthly things and food being just a case in point – He (- God) said, `Would you take in exchange that which is inferior (- delicious food) for that which is superior (- the realisation of the noble object of your life)? This discussion about food seems no different than Biblical style of asking for spiritual food – Matthew 6:11. ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’[35]

The verses below, which are in continuation with verses in reference above, allude to Israelites changing the purpose and spirit of Divine Message given to them. The very purpose of this book at hand is to correct the same errors of Israelites that have crept into reading of the Quran in which the philosophy and purpose of Divine Message gets replaced with make belief of nonsensical miracles, myths and mistakes[36] by concrete reading of Book in a zealotry that tries to save its body while killing its soul:

2:59. But those who were bent on doing wrong, gave a different version to the order that was given them, (and thus acted contrary to the Divine will). So We sent down upon those who did wrong a pestilence from heaven because they had been transgressing persistently[37][Numbers – 25:9. Those who died of the plague numbered twenty-four thousand].[38]

7:162. But those amongst them who were unjust changed the word to something different from that which they were told. So We sent down upon them unavoidable punishment from heaven because they had always been wrongdoers.[39]

However, Quran in adjoining verse to above also recognizes the Israelites who were guided aright by Moses and Aaron:

7:159. There is a community among the people of Moses who guide (the people) to the truth and with it they dispense justice.[40]

In the summary, both Moses and Pharaoh and their peoples faced a natural phenomenon, one was saved by it while the other was destroyed by it. The sequence of events is nothing short of a miraculous moment in history and a living example of destruction of tyranny and prevailing of truth. Such ‘miracles’ are not time-locked in history but according to Quran occur under natural moral law that will prevail into future. After removal of their calamity, the Israelites were provided with ‘heavenly sustenance’ then and the world has Quran now. Like Israelites, any nation that ignores and distorts the purpose of the Divine Message, is bent on doing wrong… transgressing persistently (2:59), and is lost in its mere rituals is destined to face ignominy if not destruction.

[1] Link: Pdf download:
[2] Link:
[3] Link:
[4] Read online:
[5] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[6] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[7] Yunus – Jonah: Nooruddin
[8] Yunus – Jonah: Nooruddin
[9] Al-Dukhan – The Drought: Nooruddin
[10] Al-Dukhan – The Drought: Nooruddin
[11] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[12] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[13] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[14] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[15] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[16] 9:40-41. If you do not help him (- the Prophet), then (know) Allâh has already helped him when those who disbelieved turned him out (from Makkah with only one companion); he being the second of the two when they were both in the cave (of Thaur); and when he said to his companion (- Abû Bakr), `Grieve not (about me). Surely, Allâh is with us.' Then Allâh sent down His Shechinah (- peace and tranquility) upon him, and helped him with troops which were not visible to you, and He humbled the word of those who disbelieved to the lowest, and it is the word of Allâh alone which is the supermost (and so prevails). Allâh is All-Mighty, All-Wise. Go forth (all whether) light (- being ill-equipped) or heavy (- being well-equipped) and strive hard with your possessions and your persons in the cause of Allâh. That is better for you, if only you knew (your own gain or loss). : Al-Taubah – The Repentance: Nooruddin [Emphasis added]
[17] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.434. Infalaqa (prf. 3rd. p. m. sing. VII.): Became separated; It parted (26:63).
[18] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[19] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.376. ‘Asâ (n.): Staff; Nation; Mastery. ‘Isiyyun (n. plu.): The staffs. The root with its above two forms has been used in The Holy Qur’ân about 12 times.
[20] See footnote 30
[21] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.424. Faraqnâ (prf. 1st. p. plu.): We parted, distinguished. Yafraqûna (imp. 3rd. p.m. plu.): They fear, are too timid a people (to appear in their true colours). Ufruq (prt. prayer. m. sing.): Decide; Bring about separation. Yufraqu (pip. 3rd. p. sing.): It is separated out, explained distinctly. Yufarriqûna (imp. 3rd. p. m. plu. II.): They make division; distinction, separation. Yufarriqû (imp. 3rd. p. m. plu. final Nûn dropped): They make a distinction.
[22] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[23] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[24] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[25] 51:39. But he [–Pharaoh] turned away (from Moses) in the pride of his power and said, `(He is) a sorcerer, or rather a madman.' Al-Dhariyat – The Scatterers: Nooruddin
[26] 7:109. The chiefs of Pharaoh's people said (to each other), `This (fellow here [–Moses]) is most surely a skilled sorcerer. Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[27] 26:44-45. So they put down (on the ground) their ropes and their staffs and said, `By Pharaoh's honour and might it is we who will certainly be the winners.' Then Moses put down (on the ground) his staff; lo! it instantly destroyed all that they had fabricated. Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[28] Yunus – Jonah: Nooruddin
[29] Twelve Tribes of Israel. Link:
[30] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.376. ‘Asâa – To strike with a stick. ‘Asiya/Ya‘sa: To take a stick, come together; Collection; Accumulation; Amazing; Gathering; Assemblage; Congregation. Staff is called. ‘Asâ as the fingers of a hand come together and are collected and united on its handle. ‘Asâ: Staff; Stick; Rod; Supports; Nation; People; Party; Tongue; Skin; Bone. ‘Asâutu al-
Qauma: I gathered the nation. Shaq al-‘Asâ: Divergence; Dissension; Disagreement of the nation or organisation. It is said, Khawârij shaqqû ‘Asâ al-Muslimîn: The Khawârij split the concord, harmony and unity of Islamic nation. Idzrib bi Asâka al-Hajer: Strike with your staff on the rock; Go forth with your people. (L; T; R; LL; Zamkhsharî)
[31] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[32] See footnote 19
[33] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[34] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[35] New King James Version. Link:
[36] Miracles – Clarified, Myths – Confuted, Mistakes – Corrected, Matters – Contended, in Manifest Conjectures. Link:
[37] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[38] Bible Gateway. Link:
[39] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[40] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin

Section II — Myths

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
Section II – Myths

In the study of Qur’ân, one comes across its following attributes[1] or varying hues which is a cure for the people (16:69)[2]:

Al-Kitâb (2:2) – the Complete Book
Al-Dhikr (38:1) – the Book which makes provisions for eminence, fame, reknown, honor and reminding
Al-Furqân (25:1) – the Book which distinguishes between right and wrong and which
is divided and revealed in portions, as the root word Firqah also means portions.
Al-Hikmah (17:39) – the Wisdom
Al-Hudâ (72:13) – that which guides and makes one attain the goal
Mubârak (6:93) – Blessed
Al-Mukarramah (80:13) – the Honored
Musaddiq (6:93) – confirming (the truth of previous Scriptures)
Al-Mauizah (10:57) – the Admonition
Al-‘Azîz (41:41) – the Mighty
Al-Hukm (13:37) – the Judgment
Al-Shifâ (10:57) – that which heals
Al-Tanzîl (26:192) – the Revelation
Al-Rahmah (2:105) – the Mercy
Al-Rûh (42:52) – that which gives life and is living
Al-Khair (3:103) – the Goodness
Al-Bayân (3:137) – that which explains all things
Al-Ni‘mat (93:11) – the Favor
Al-Burhân (4:175) – the clear Argument
Al-Qayyim (18:2) – the Maintainer
Al-Muhaimin (5:48) – the Guardian
Al-Nûr (7:157) – the Light
Al-Haq (17:81) – the Truth
Hablallâh (3:103) – the Covenant of God
Al-Mubîn (12:1) – that which explains
Al-Karîm (56:77) – the Holy
Al-Mâjîd (50:1) – the Glorious
Al-Hakîm (36:2) – the one full of Wisdom
Al-Marfû‘ah (80:14) – the Exalted
Al-Mutahharah (80:14) – the Purified
Al-‘Ajab (72:1:) – the Wonderful

The above attributes of Qur’ân by their very meanings and merits deflect any vestige of myth within its leaves. These attributes steer clear the readers from any read of the Book in which there is even hint of a myth. On the reverse those who so believe are by inference termed as disbelievers:

6:25. And some of them listen to you and We have cast veils over their hearts so that they do not understand it and a deafness into their ears. And (even) if they see every sign they will not believe in it. So much so that when they come to you they only dispute with you — those who disbelieve say: This is nothing but stories of the ancients.[3]

The key phrase for our discussion in the above verse – those who disbelieve say: This is nothing but stories of the ancients, also includes by implication the so called believers who try to sell the Message by generating myths from within the Book. The mythical interpretations of Qur’ân emanate from concrete read of its metaphors, parables, allegories and the prophecies, while ignoring the linguistic constructs in the diction of the Book:

An Important Principle[4] – In every writing or speech, whether it be the word of God or man, there are certain statements which are decisive and absolute and their meanings are secured from change and alterations, whereas there are other allegorical statements which are susceptible to different interpretations. These figures of speech and parables, no doubt, invest and invigorate the word with force and eloquence which creates an effect upon the human soul. But it should be clearly understood that all figurative statements which are susceptible to different meanings, must necessarily be interpreted in the light of decisive ones so that the interpretation must be in consonance with the fundamental principles and the spirit of the word. No article of faith and religious doctrine should be based on statements couched in allegorical words and metaphor; and the man who bases his belief on fables and figures, not only loses himself and goes astray but misleads others also into fatal error and disaster. With regard to such people the Holy Qur’ân has said:

Allah it is Who has revealed the Book to thee; some of its verses are decisive— they are the basis of the Book— and others are allegorical Then those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part of it which is allegorical, seeking to mislead, and seeking to give it their own interpretation. (3:6).

Jesus the Christ, we read in Mark (7:8) also uttered, a similar warning to the Jews, saying, Laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men.

Parable, it should be understood, is a similitude, a resemblance taken from natural things to impart to the people the knowledge of things spiritual. In order to give a stronger impression of what they taught, the prophets and other teachers made a free use of this forceful weapon. It catches the ear more easily and penetrates into the human mind.

It needs no ghost to tell you that the allegorical statement, if interpreted literally, will make senseless and absurd reading. Now turn over Qur’ân and read:

(i) Those who swear allegiance to thee (the Prophet) do but swear allegiance to Allah The hand of Allah is above their hands (48:10).
(ii) So you (the Prophet) slew them not but Allah slew them, and thou smotest not when thou didst smite the enemy, but Allah smote him (in the battle of Badr) (8:17)
(iii) So the heaven and the earth wept not for them (Pharaoh's people) nor were they respited (44:29).

If one should take into his head to think that the Most High God, too, has hands and feet and other parts of the physical body like ourselves, or that the heaven has also eyes which shed tears like human eyes, it will certainly be an absurdity of the highest order. Allah's hand signifies power and triumph. And the weeping for a dead man signifies the remembering of his good qualities or actions which often draw tears from the eyes. The heaven and the earth wept not when Pharaoh's people were seized with Divine chastisement, for they had neither the love of God in their hearts nor had they done anything good for men, that their good qualities should have been remembered either in heaven or the earth.”

The above arguments by Mirza Masum Beg can be seen in a working example from Qur’ân in the parable about heaven in the hereafter as extension of heavenly life experienced on earth:

2:25. And give good tidings to those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, that there await them gardens from beneath which the streams flow. Every time they are given any kind of fruit from them (- the gardens) to eat, they will say, `This is the same we were given before.' They will be given it (- the fruit) in perfect semblance (to their deeds). They shall have therein companions purified (spiritually and physically), and will abide therein forever.[5]

If one were to take above parable about heaven in a literal sense of a physical heaven, then the next verse makes it clear that it would be an error:

2:26. Indeed, Allâh does not disdain to cite a parable of (a thing) even (as small as) a gnat or (of something) smaller than that. (Be it as it may) those who have believed know that this is a true (parable) from their Lord. As for those who disbelieve say, `What could Allâh mean by (citing) such a parable?' Many does He adjudge to be erring because of these (parables) and many does He guide through them. Yet it is only the transgressors whom He adjudges to be erring because of them.[6]

Is it not strange that skeptics of metaphors in Qur’ân do not flinch for a moment when they use the metaphors in their own daily living? For example, the common term ‘heartburn’ has no associated burning (of a fire) and that too in the heart. They fully understand the metaphorical meanings of such a term because it reflects its experience. Based upon this understanding they use antacids and a class of medications called proton pumps inhibitors for medical equivalent term of acid-reflux or gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), which has nothing remotely common with the heart. “In fact, the American College of Gastroenterology reported that GERD symptoms cost the U.S. nearly $2 billion each week in lost productivity. Yet a 2004 IFFGD survey showed that many Americans don't know what GERD is.”[7] Americans might not know what GERD is but they for sure know what heartburn is[8],[9]. In terms of money, the term ‘heartburn’ costs billions of dollars for its alleviation, yet it is a term freely used because it conveys fully the anguish that a person experiences.

Qur’ân too refers to ‘heartburn’ but in the similitude of an emotional state, the anguish of hell:

10:5-9. And what should make you know what the crushing torment is? (It is) the Fire set ablaze by Allâh, and which rises over (the feelings of) the hearts (- the origin of a man’s hell). It (- Fire) will be closed in on them (so as not to let them escape from it and also increase for them the torture of heat). (The flames of the Fire will rise) in (the form of) huge outstretched columns.[10][Emphasis added]

Similar to Hell, Heaven too in Qur’ân is a metaphorical construct understood by allegorical references to the present life experiences. The limitation to our imagination is that it is time and space bound. The Heaven and Hell as described in Qur’ân are more of a state than a space or a place:

32:17. And no soul knows what (comforts) lie hidden for them (–the believers in the form) of a joy to the eyes as a reward for their righteous deeds.[11]

Just as Qur’ân speaks of the past and the present, it also addresses the future in prophecies. Prophecies too by their very definition are to be interpreted and not to be read literally in the manner that miracles are sometimes erroneously translated and understood in a literal sense. Maulana Muhammad Ali sifts through a general misunderstanding that confuses a prophecy with a miracle:

As a matter of fact the faith which the fulfilment of a prophecy creates in one's heart is not even created at the occurrence of a great miracle, because a miracle may contain some elements of doubt in it, but the fulfilment of a prophecy is in fact a 'talking witness' which stands before friends and foes alike. Moreover at the occurrence of a miracle there are only a few persons present who witness its truth but a prophecy after its fulfilment does not stand in need of another evidence. It becomes an evidence itself.[12]

Additionally, prophecies are hidden in the metaphors. The metaphors only act as a veil:

42:51. It is not given to a human being that Allâh should speak to him except by direct revelation or from behind a veil or by sending a messenger (- an angel) who should reveal (to him) by His command what He pleases. Indeed, He is the Most Sublime, the All-Wise.[13] [Emphasis added]

With the passage of time, when the veil is lifted, the prophecy comes to its natural manifestation. The example is that of veil of dream that the king at the time of Prophet Joseph saw as well as the veil of metaphor in his dream:

12:43. Now (it so happened that one day) the king said, `I saw (in a dream) seven fat kine which seven lean ones were eating, and seven green ears of corn and (as many) others withered. You nobles of the court! explain to me the real significance of my dream if you can interpret dreams.'[14]

To the ordinary mortals, such a veil of dream and metaphors can create confusion for its meaning:

12:44. They said, `(These are) confused dreams and we do not know the interpretation of such confused dreams.'[15]

Whereas, the true interpretation that lifts the veil is a felicity granted to only a few –This (my ability to interpret, you should bear in mind) is a part of that knowledge which my Lord has imparted to me [i.e. Joseph] (12:37). In the case of king’s dream Prophet Joseph interprets it as follows:

12:47. He (- Joseph) replied, `You shall sow for seven years working hard and continuously and let what you have harvested remain in its ear excepting a little whereof you may eat.
12:48. `Then there shall follow seven (years of famine) of great severity (and) these (years) shall consume all the stores you have laid by in advance for them except a little which you may have preserved.
12:49. `Then, thereafter shall come a year of rains in which people shall be relieved and in which (season) they will press (fruit and seeds).'[16]

Thereafter, as we know from other sources that king followed Joseph’s advice and the seasons and harvests followed as predicted.

Symbolism and Allegory in Qur’ân is comprehensively dealt with by Muhammad Asad in his translation and commentary of Qur’ân – ‘The Message of The Quran’. Below is the reproduction of Appendix I:

Symbolism And Allegory In The Qur'an: WHEN studying the Qur'an, one frequently encounters what may be described as "key-phrases" that is to say, statements which provide a clear, concise indication of the idea underlying a particular passage or passages: for instance, the many references to the creation of man "out of dust" and "out of a drop of sperm", pointing to the lowly biological origin of the human species; or the statement in the ninety-ninth surah (Az-Zalzalah) that on Resurrection Day "he who shall have done an atom's weight of good, shall behold it; and he who shall have done an atom's weight of evil, shall behold it" – indicating the ineluctable{unavoidable} afterlife consequences of, and the responsibility for, all that man consciously does in this world; or the divine declaration (in 38:27), "We have not created heaven and earth and all that is between them without meaning and purpose (batilan), as is the surmise of those who are bent on denying the truth."

Instances of such Qur'anic key-phrases can be quoted almost ad infinitum, and in many varying formulations. But there is one fundamental statement in the Qur'an which occurs only once, and which may be qualified as "the key-phrase of all its key-phrases": the statement in verse 7 of Al-'Imran to the effect that the Qur'an "contains messages that are clear in and by themselves (ayat muhkamat) as well as others that are allegorical (mutoshabihat)". It Is this verse which represents, in an absolute sense, a key to the understanding of the Qur'anic message and makes the whole of it accessible to "people who think" (Li-qawmin yatafakkarun).

In my notes on the above-mentioned verse of Al-'Imran I have tried to elucidate the meaning of the expression ayat muhkamat as well as the general purport of what is termed mutashabih ("'allegorical" or "symbolic"). Without a proper grasp of what is implied by this latter term, much of the Qur'an is liable to be – and, in fact, has often been – grossly misunderstood both by believers and by such as refuse to believe in its divinely inspired origin. However, an appreciation of what is meant by "allegory" or "symbolism" in the context of the Qur'an is, by itself, not enough to make one fully understand its world-view: in order to achieve this we must relate the Qur'anic use of these terms to a concept touched upon almost at the very beginning of the divine writ – namely, the existence of "a realm which is beyond the reach of human perception" (al-ghayb). It is this concept that constitutes the basic premise for an understanding of the call of the Qur'an, and, indeed, of the principle of religion – every religion – as such: for all truly religious cognition arises from and is based on the fact that only a small segment of reality is open to man's perception and imagination, and that by far the larger part of it escapes his comprehension altogether.

However, side by side with this clear-cut metaphysical concept we have a not less clear-cut finding of a psychological nature: namely, the finding that the human mind (in which term we comprise conscious thinking, imagination, dream-life, intuition, memory, etc.) can operate only on the basis of perceptions previously experienced by that very mind either in their entirety or in some of their constituent elements: that is to say, it cannot visualize, or form an idea of, something that lies entirely outside the realm of previously realized experiences. Hence, whenever we arrive at a seemingly "new" mental image or idea, we find, on closer examination, that even if it is new as a composite entity, it is not really new as regards its component elements, for these are invariably derived from previous – and sometimes quite disparate – mental experiences which are now but brought together in a new combination or series of new combinations.

Now as soon as we realize that the human mind cannot operate otherwise than on the basis of previous experiences – that is to say, on the basis of apperceptions {conscious perception} and cognitions already recorded in that mind – we are faced by a weighty question: Since the metaphysical ideas of religion relate, by virtue of their nature, to a realm beyond the reach of human perception or experience – how can they be successfully conveyed to us? How can we be expected to grasp ideas which have no counterpart, not even a fractional one, in any of the apperceptions which we have arrived at empirically?

The answer is self-evident: By means of loan-images derived from our actual – physical or mental – experiences; or, as Zamakhshari phrases it in his commentary on 13:35, 'through a parabolic illustration, by means of something which we know from our experience, of something that is beyond the reach of our perception" (tamihilan li-ma ghaba 'anna bi-ma nushahid). And this is the innermost purport of the term and concept of al-mutashabihat as used in the Qur'an.

Thus, the Qur'an tells us clearly that many of its passages and expressions must be understood in an allegorical sense for the simple reason that, being intended for human understanding, they could not have been conveyed to us in any other way. It follows, therefore, that if we were to take every Qur'anic passage, statement or expression in its outward, literal sense and disregard the possibility of its being an allegory, a metaphor or a parable, we would be offending against the very spirit of the divine writ.

Consider, for instance, some of the Qur'anic references to God's Being – a Being indefinable, infinite in time and space, and utterly beyond any creature's comprehension. Far from being able to imagine Him, we can only realize what He is not: namely, not limited in either time or space, not definable in terms of comparison, and not to be comprised within any category of human thought. Hence only very generalized metaphors can convey to us, though most inadequately, the idea of His existence and activity.

And so, when the Qur'an speaks of Him as being "in the heavens" or "established on His throne (al-'arsh)", we cannot possibly take these phrases in their literal senses, since then they would imply, however vaguely, that God is limited in space: and since such a limitation would contradict the concept of an Infinite Being, we know immediately, without the least doubt, that the "heavens" and the "throne" and God's being "established" on it are but linguistic vehicles meant to convey an idea which is outside all human experience, namely, the idea of God's almightiness and absolute sway over all that exists. Similarly, whenever He is described as "all seeing", "all-hearing" or "all-aware", we know that these descriptions have nothing to do with the phenomena of physical seeing or hearing but simply circumscribe, in terms understandable to man, the fact of God's eternal Presence in all that is or happens. And since "no human vision can encompass Him" (Qur'an 6:103), man is not expected to realize His existence otherwise than through observing the effects of His unceasing activity within and upon the universe created by Him.

But whereas our belief in God's existence does not – and, indeed, could not depend on our grasping the unfathomable "how" of His Being, the same is not the case with problems connected with man's own existence, and, in particular, with the idea of a life in the hereafter: for, man's psyche is so constituted that it cannot accept any proposition relating to himself without being given a clear exposition of its purport.

The Qur'an tells us that man's life in this world is but the first stage – a very short stage – of a life that continues beyond the hiatus called "death"; and the same Qur'an stresses again and again the principle of man's moral responsibility for all his conscious actions and his behaviour, and of the continuation of this responsibility, in the shape of inescapable consequences, good or bad, in a person s life in the hereafter. But how could man be made to understand the nature of these consequences and, thus, of the quality of the life that awaits him? – for, obviously, inasmuch as man's resurrection will be the result of what the Qur'an describes as "a new act of creation", the life that will follow upon it must be entirely different from anything that man can and does experience in this world.

This being so, it is not enough for man to be told. "If you behave righteously in this world, you will attain to happiness in the life to come", or, alternatively, "If you do wrong in this world, you will suffer for it in the hereafter". Such statements would be far too general and abstract to appeal to man's imagination and, thus, to influence his behaviour. What is needed is a more direct appeal to the intellect, resulting in a kind of "visualization" of the consequences of one's conscious acts and omissions: and such an appeal can be effectively produced by means of metaphors, allegories and parables, each of them stressing, on the one hand, the absolute dissimilarity of all that man will experience after resurrection from whatever he did or could experience in this world; and, on the other hand, establishing means of comparison between these two categories of experience.

Thus, explaining the reference to the bliss of paradise in 32:17, the Prophet indicated the essential difference between man's life in this world and in the hereafter in these words: "God says, 'I have readied for My righteous servants what no eye has ever seen, and no ear has ever heard, and no heart of man has ever conceived" (Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi). On the other hand, in 2:25 the Qur'an speaks thus of the blessed in paradise: "Whenever they are granted fruits therefrom as their appointed sustenance, they will say, 'It is this that in days of yore was granted to us as our sustenance' – for they shall be given something which will recall that [past]": and so we have the image of gardens through which running waters flow, blissful shade, spouses of indescribable beauty, and many other delights infinitely varied and unending, and yet somehow comparable to what may be conceived of as most delightful in this world.

However, this possibility of an intellectual comparison between the two stages of human existence is to a large extent limited by the fact that all our thinking and imagining is indissolubly connected with the concepts of finite time and finite space: in other words, we cannot imagine infinity in either time or space – and therefore cannot imagine a state of existence independent of time and space – or, as the Qur'an phrases it with reference to a state of happiness in afterlife, "a paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth" (3:133): which expression is the Qur'anic synonym for the entire created universe. On the other hand, we know that every Qur'anic statement is directed to man's reason and must, therefore, be comprehensible either in its literal sense (as in the case of the ayat muhkamat) or allegorically (as in the ayat mutashabihat); and since, owing to the constitution of the human mind, neither infinity nor eternity are comprehensible to us, it follows that the reference to the infinite "vastness" of paradise cannot relate to anything but the intensity of sensation which it will offer to the blest.

By obvious analogy, the principle of a "comparison through allegory" applied in the Qur'an to all references to paradise – i.e., a state of unimaginable happiness in afterlife – must be extended to all descriptions of otherworldly suffering – i.e., hell – in respect of its utter dissimilarity from all earthly experiences as well as its unmeasurable intensity. In both cases the descriptive method of the Qur'an is the same. We are told, as it were: "Imagine the most joyous sensations, bodily as well as emotional, accessible to man: indescribable beauty, love physical and spiritual, consciousness of fulfilment, perfect peace and harmony; and imagine these sensations intensified beyond anything imaginable in this world – and at the same time entirely different from anything imaginable: and you have an inkling, however vague, of what is meant by 'paradise'." And, on the other hand: "Imagine the greatest suffering, bodily as well as spiritual, which man may experience: burning by fire, utter loneliness and bitter desolation, the torment of unceasing frustration, a condition of neither living nor dying; and imagine this pain, this darkness and this despair intensified beyond anything imaginable in this world – and at the same time entirely different from anything imaginable: and you will know, however vaguely, what is meant by 'hell'."

Side by side with these allegories relating to man's life after death we find in the Qur'an many symbolical expressions referring to the evidence of God's activity. Owing to the limitations of human language – which, in their turn, arise from the inborn limitations of the human mind – this activity can only be circumscribed and never really described. Just as it is impossible for us to imagine or define God's Being, so the true nature of His creativeness – and, therefore, of His plan of creation – must remain beyond our grasp. But since the Qur'an aims at conveying to us an ethical teaching based, precisely, on the concept of God's purposeful creativeness, the latter must be, as it were, "translated" into categories of thought accessible to man. Hence the use of expressions which at first sight have an almost anthropomorphic hue, for instance, God's "wrath" (ghadab) or "condemnation"; His "pleasure" at good deeds or "love" for His creatures; or His being "oblivious" of a sinner who was oblivious of Him; or "asking" a wrongdoer on Resurrection Day about his wrongdoing; and so forth. All such verbal "translations" of God's activity into human terminology are unavoidable as long as we are expected to conform to ethical principles revealed to us by means of a human language; but there can be no greater mistake than to think that these "translations" could ever enable us to define the Undefinable.

And, as the Qur'an makes it clear in the seventh verse of Al-Imran, only "those whose hearts are given to swerving from the truth go after that part of the divine writ which has been expressed in allegory, seeking out [what is bound to create] confusion, and seeking [to arrive at] its final meaning in an arbitrary manner: but none save God knows its final meaning."


[1] Adapted from “Names of the Holy Book,” p. 2-A, The Holy Qur’ân, Eighth Edition (2008) As Explained by Allamah Nooruddin, Rendered into English by Amatul Rahman Omar, Abdul Mannan Omar, Copyright © Noor Foundation International Inc.
[2] Al-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[3] Al-Anam – The Cattle: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[4] Miracles of Jesus the Christ, by Mirza Masum Beg, p. 28-31, 1968, publisher: Malik Zafarullah Khan, Secretary Jamaat-i-Ahmadiyya, Rawalpindi, West Pakistan (excerpted).
[5] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[6] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[8] “Proton pump inhibitors are the most powerful class of antacid drugs. It's the third highest-selling class of drugs in the U.S. In 2009, doctors wrote 113.6 million prescriptions for the drugs. Prevacid 24HR, Prilosec OTC, and the combination medication Zegerid OTC that contains a PPI and sodium bicarbonate are available without prescription. GERD has been treated widely with pharmaceutical medications, which may have helped to decrease GERD hospitalizations. In 2004, 27 percent of elderly Medicare patients used GERD medications such as antacids and antisecretory agents, spending a total of $5.6 billion.” – – with reference to: Stagnitti, M.N. The Top Five Therapeutic Classes of Outpatient Prescription Drugs Ranked by Total Expense for the Medicare Population Age 65 and Older in the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2004. Statistical Brief #153. December 2006. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. (link:
[9] Top 100 Most Prescribed, Top-Selling Drugs, Medscape Medical News, by Megan Brooks, August 1, 2014: the proton pump inhibitor esomeprazole (Nexium, AstraZeneca), at roughly 18.6 million prescriptions; and sales through June 2014 $6,303,738,580. (link:
[10] Al-Humazah – The Slanderer: Nooruddin
[11] Al-Sajdah – The Prostration: Nooruddin
[12] “Promised Messiah and Mahdi” by Maulana Muhammad Ali, p. 36, translated into English by S. Muhammad Tufail M.A., Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Ishaat Islam, Lahore (W. Pakistan), Third Edition, pub: 1959.
[13] Al-Shura – The Counsel: Nooruddin
[14] Yusuf – Joseph: Nooruddin
[15] Yusuf – Joseph: Nooruddin
[16] Yusuf – Joseph: Nooruddin

Abraham the Upright — But what about parricide?

Friday, October 3rd, 2014
Abraham the Upright – But What About Parricide[1]?

“…sacrifice means that you lose something which you possessed so that you then have to undergo hardship and loss because of that deprivation.”[2]

One of the prevalent myths is that Prophet Abraham had repeating dreams to sacrifice his dearest thing. Abraham believed that these dreams are a vision from God. Therefore he complies by sacrificing his various domesticated animals herds, but the dreams keep recurring, till he realizes that his dearest thing is his first born Ismail, who by then had grown up probably into his early teens. Abraham first shares his dream with his wife Hagar and with her consent divulges it to his son, who in turn being an obedient one obliges to be ‘slaughtered’ to the wish of God. Both father and son while on their way to the altar are dissuaded by Satan three times from their ‘holy’ mission. Each time, Abraham throws stones towards Satan to deter its pursuit. When both father and son are at the altar, Abraham covers the face of his son, Ismail and just before he could be slaughtered God commands Abraham to stop, that his sacrificial intention and effort has been accepted, and a ram instead replaces Ismail for the sacrifice. Ever since, the followers of Abraham and Ismail and later the pagan Arabs kept the symbolic sacrificial tradition alive. This practice continued after advent of Prophet Muhammad and is religiously followed in Islam to this date. Essentially, on the day of Eid-ul-Adha, at end of the Hajj, animals are sacrificed to commemorate the sacrifice of Abraham and Ismail. While performing Hajj, the pilgrims throw pebbles at the three symbols of Satan who had tried to deter the sacrificial act of Abraham.

The above account is eerily similar to that of Torah in which it is Isaac instead of Ismail. Abrahamic tradition of sacrifice as commonly believed begets the fundamental question – are Muslims following Torah in terms of a nonsensical slaughter of a son at the hands of his father; that too in the name of a God who needs offerings like Jews, Christians, Hindus and other religions; and above all the sacrifice of human flesh like gods of Incas, Aztecs, Mayas and others[3]; and all for what moral purpose? Does it not present a moral paradox that Satan was ethically right for the first and only time when it tried to stop Abraham, the prophet from a parricide? The account of Issac’s sacrifice in Torah is as follows:

Genesis 22:1-19. Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba. [New International Version]

Among Muslims the misunderstanding of the said sacrifice emanates from misread of the following verses of Quran:

37:100. (And he prayed,) `My Lord! grant me (an issue who is) of the righteous.'

37:101. So We gave him the good tidings of (the birth of) a wise and forbearing son.

37:102. Now, when that (son, Ismâîl) was (old enough) to work along with him, (his father, Abraham) said, `My dear son! I have seen in a dream that I sacrifice you [Arabic: adhbaḥuka]. So consider (it and tell me) what you think (of it).' (The son) said, `My dear father! do as you are commanded. If Allâh will you will find me of the calm and steadfast.'

37:103. Now, (it so happened) when both of them submitted themselves (to the will of God) and he (- Abraham) had laid him (- Ismâîl) down on his forehead [–an act of prayer, submission],

37:104. We called out to him (saying), `O Abraham!

37:105. `You have already fulfilled the vision.' That is how We reward those who perform excellent deeds

37:106. That was obviously a disciplinary test (crowned with a mighty reward,)

37:107. And a great sacrifice was the ransom with which We redeemed him (- Ismâîl)..[4]

These verses bring to fore certain aspects in Quran that when clarified individually and then understood collectively expunge from minds the Torah like story of a potential human sacrifice.

The aspects touched upon by the incidence of Abraham and Ismail in Quran (verses 37:102-107) are – concept and spirit of sacrifice, test of Abraham, visions of Prophets, the actual sacrifice of Abraham and his family.

Concept of Sacrifice in nature:

The nature as understood by human experience provides a working example of concept of sacrifice outlined in Quran. The inanimate soil sacrifices itself to the plants, which in turn present themselves to animals. Each step of the way, a lower form in nature transforms into next higher and complex formation, till the time that it reaches the human stage. Not an atom is wasted in this food chain. Each atom becomes part of an ever intricate biochemistry and physiology. The inorganic elements transform into organic molecules. The inorganic carbon atoms rearrange themselves into carbon chains, benzene rings and a carboniferous life evolves along the way that has ever increasing volitional quality to it.

Concept of Sacrifice in humans:

Once through sacrifice lower forms reach the human stage, the only higher stages thereafter are the stages of human physicality, morality and spirituality. On the incremental ladder the next higher stage in humans is only achieved when one volitionally sacrifices the previous lower stage. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in his landmark lecture while answering certain questions brings to fore the said stages and their transitions outlined in Quran as follows[5]:

The first question relates to the physical, moral and spiritual conditions of man. The Quran observes this division by fixing three respective sources for this threefold condition of man, that is, three springs out of which these three conditions flow. The first of these in which the physical conditions of man take their birth is termed the nafs al-ammara which signifies the "uncontrollable spirit", or the "spirit prone to evil". Thus the Word God says: "Surely (man's) self is wont to command (him to do) evil"–12:53.

It is characteristic of the nafs al-ammara that it inclines man to evil, tends to lead him into iniquitous and immoral paths, and stands in the way of his attainment of perfection and moral excellence. Man's nature is prone to evil and transgression at a certain stage in his development, and so long as he is devoid of high moral qualities, this evil nature is predominant in him. He is subject to this state so long as he does not walk in the light of true wisdom and knowledge, but acts in obedience to the natural inclinations of eating, drinking, sleeping, becoming angry or excited, just like the lower animals.

As soon, however, as he frees himself from the control of animal passions and, guided by reason and knowledge, he holds the reins of his natural desires and governs them instead of being governed them when a transformation is worked in his soul from grossness to virtue he then passes out of the physical state and is a moral being in the strict sense of the word.

The source of the moral conditions of man is called, in the terminology of the Quran, the nafs al-lawwama, or the "self-accusing soul": "Nay, I swear by the self-accusing spirit !"[6]–75:2.

This is the spring from which flows a highly moral life and on reaching this stage, man is freed from bestiality. The swearing by the self-accusing soul indicates the regard in which it is held. For, the change from the disobedient to the self-accusing soul being a sure sign of its improvement and purification makes it deserving of approbation in the sight of the Almighty.

Lawwama literally means "one who reproves severely", and the nafs al-lawwama (self-accusing soul) has been so called because it upbraids a man for the doing of evil deeds and strongly hates up-bridled passions and bestial appetites. Its tendency, on the other hand, is to generate noble qualities and a virtuous disposition, to transform life so as to bring the whole course and conduct of it to moderation and to restrain the carnal passions and sensual desires so as to keep them within due bound.

Although, as stated above, the "self-accusing soul" upbraids itself for its faults and frailties, yet it is not the master of its passions, nor is it powerful enough to practice virtue exclusively. The weakness of the flesh has the upper hand sometimes, and then it stumbles and falls down. Its weakness then resembles that of a child who does not wish to fall but whose legs are sometimes unable to support him. It does not however, persist in its fault, every failure bringing a fresh reproach. At this stage, the soul is anxious to attain moral excellence and revolts against disobedience which is the characteristic of the first, or the animal stage, but does, notwithstanding its yearning for virtue, sometimes deviate from the line of duty.

The third or the last stage in the onward movement of the soul is reached on attaining to the source of all spiritual qualities. The soul at this stage is in the words of the Quran, the nafs al-mutmainna, or the "soul at rest": "O soul that art at rest, return to thy Lord, well-pleased, well-pleasing, so enter among My servants, and enter My Garden! – 89:27-30.

The soul is now freed from all weaknesses and frailties and is braced with spiritual strength. It is perfectly united with God and cannot live without Him. As water flows with great force down a slope and on account of its great mass and the total absence of all obstacles, dashes down with irresistible force, so does the soul at this stage, casting off all trammels, flow unrestrained towards its Maker.

It is further clear from the words "soul that art at rest with thy Lord, return to Him" that it is in this life, and not after death, that this great transformation is worked and that it is in this world, and not elsewhere, that access to paradise is granted to it. Again, as the soul has been commanded to return to its Master, it is clear that such a soul finds its support only in its Supporter. The love of God is its food, and it drinks deep at this fountain of life and is therefore, delivered from death. The same idea is expressed elsewhere: "He is indeed successful who causes it to grow, and he indeed fails who buries it" – 91:9-10.

In short, these three states of the soul may be called the physical, the moral and the spiritual states of man, Of these, the physical state that in which man seeks to satisfy the passions of the flesh is most dangerous when the passions run riot, for it is then that they deal a death-blow to the moral and spiritual qualities of man, and hence this state has been termed the "disobedient spirit” in the Holy Word of God.

Concept of animal sacrifice:

Islam means submission. All rituals in Islam including daily prayers, fasting, hajj (pilgrimage) and zakat (charity) essentially formalize this ‘submission’ of hearts in outward physical actions as well because body and soul are inseparable and mutually influence each other. This relationship between body and soul can be experienced in a common example – when one’s “soul cries” it manifests itself physically as tearful eyes; a smile “warms a heart.” Similarly, five time daily prayers rekindle the prayerful state that a Muslim lives throughout the day. In this formalization, prostration in payer is the penultimate act of physical submission which naturally creates humbleness of soul before the Almighty. On the reverse, a humbled soul naturally yearns for a physical prostration as well i.e. both body and soul are in total submission. In the same manner, the sacrifice of an animal is symbolic formalization of sacrificing the animal-self as discussed in the lecture above. Further, the sacrificed animal is to be consumed for good of mankind and not be offered as a burnt offering like in Torah:

22:36. We have made the sacrificial animals among the Symbols appointed by Allâh for you. They are of immense good to you. So (whenever you offer them for sacrifice do it) in the name of Allâh (while they) stand (drawn up) in lines. When their flanks collapse, (on being slaughtered), eat from (the meat of) them and feed him who is (in need but) contented and him who begs. In this way We have made these (animals) subservient to you so that you may render thanks.

Unlike Torah, the sacrifice of an animal in Quran is NOT done to please God, Who is beyond all imagined needs. Once the animal-self is annihilated only then can the righteousness take root in oneself:

22:37. It is neither their flesh nor their blood (of these sacrifices) which matters to Allâh but it is guarding against evil and devotion to duty on your part that matters to Him…There does not reach Allah their flesh nor their blood, but to Him is acceptable righteousness…[7]

Spirit of Sacrifice:

“Quran presented the true concept of sacrifice. It is that God does not need anything from man. The Quran says:

“He (God) feeds and is not fed” (6:14),

“I (God) desire no sustenance from them, nor do I desire that they should feed Me.” (51:57)

What God wants is for you to sacrifice your lower and material desires for a higher purpose. We all want to have physical comforts and to satisfy our material desires, but God tells us that for our moral and spiritual progress, for the betterment of our character, and to make us real human beings, there are times when we must sacrifice, willingly and voluntarily, some of our material possessions for a good cause.

The sacrifice of the animal that is carried out is an expression of our willingness to sacrifice our own animal desires. The Quran clearly says that it is not the flesh nor the blood of the animal that reaches God, but the dutifulness on your part. The sacrifice is accepted if it leads you to be more dutiful, to make a sacrifice of your own self and not of just the animal.” [8]

Test of Abraham by God:

While trying to impress upon believers the heart wrenching test and obedience of Abraham and Ismail to God, the synthesized story creates contradictions of its own. For example:

Firstly, it begets a fundamental question, i.e. did not God know the depths of the minds of Abraham and Ismail for which He allegedly had to put them to test for such an inhuman effort? Whereas, on the contrary Quran states:

35:38. Verily, Allâh knows the hidden realities of the heavens and the earth. He knows full well the innermost secret of the minds (of the people).[9]

64:4. He knows whatever lies in the heavens and the earth and He knows what you conceal and what you do publicly. Allâh knows the innermost thoughts of the hearts.[10]

Secondly, to begin with, was not Ismail an innocent potential victim? Whereas, Quran forbids victimizing the innocent and no one can be killed unless for the sake of justice, a condition that does not fit in case of Ismail:

6:151. Say, `…(Allâh has also enjoined upon you that you) … that you kill no soul which Allâh has made sacred, except in the cause of justice.’ This has He enjoined you with, so that you may (learn to) abstain (from evil).[11]

Thirdly, planning to kill an innocent is contrary to character of Abraham, because according to Quran even a follower of Abraham is a doer of good to others, and the doer of good to others does not kill the innocent:

4:125. And who is better in faith than one who submits his whole attention to Allâh and he is a doer of good to others and follows the religion of Abraham, the upright? And Allâh had taken Abraham for a special friend.[12]

Fourth, for Ismail, a future prophet with his own subsequent mission of a life full of sacrifice, for him to accede to his own killing without a cause, it runs contrary to injunction of Quran where there is a clear commandment against self-immolation:

2:195. … do not cast yourselves to destruction with your own hands…[13]

Fifth, for Abraham to kill his own innocent son would be violation of Divine will:

4:29. O you who believe…do not kill your people…[14]

Sixth, such an infantile test to kill one’s innocent son does not fit the man of a high stature and a prophet of the like of Abraham who had already passed much greater tests of putting his own personal life at risk for his mission of prophet-hood at the hands of Nimrod and the clergy in Mesopotamia. Quran confers the status of Imam to Abraham for good of the people, which includes the good for his own son Ismail as well. By any moral standards, killing of an innocent son is not good:

2:124. (Recall) when his Lord put Abraham to test with certain commandments, so he carried them out. (God) said, `Verily, I will make you an Imâm (- a religious leader) for the good of the people.' (Abraham) said (inquiringly), `And from among my progeny (too, do You promise to raise leaders)?' (God) said, `(Yes, but) My (this) covenant does not embrace the wrongdoers.'[15]

Seventh, it is not even in the very nature of Abraham to imagine hurting anyone, be it his own son, as exemplified by the following verses where he even pleads for forgiveness of the transgressing people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were soon to face the Divine wrath for their evil ways of life:

11:74. And when awe departed from Abraham and the good tidings came to him, he started pleading with Us for the people of Lot.

11:75. Surely, Abraham was gentle, tender-hearted and oft-returning (to Us).[16]

Abraham is a highly regarded Prophet in Quran which can be inferred from the following sample verses:

2:135. And they (the Jews and the Christians respectively) said, `Be Jews or be Christians, then you shall be on the right course.' Say, `Nay, but (ours is) the faith of Abraham, the upright, and he was not of the polytheist.'[17]

3:67. Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was upright who had submitted (to the will of God), and he was not one of the polytheists.

3:68. The people nearest to Abraham are surely those who followed him (in the days of his prophethood) and this Prophet and those who believe (in him). Indeed, Allâh is the Patron of the believers.[18]

6:161. Say, `As for me, surely my Lord has guided me to the exact straight path, the ever true faith, the creed of Abraham the upright, and he was not of the polytheists.' [19]

16:120. The truth of the matter is that Abraham was a paragon of virtue; obedient to Allâh, upright, and he was not of the polytheists,

16:121. Highly thankful for His favours. He chose him and guided him on to the exact right path.

16:122. And We granted him great success (and all comforts) of this life, and in the Hereafter he is most surely among the righteous.

16:123. Again, (Prophet! to complete Our favours on Abraham) We have revealed to you (saying), `Follow the creed of Abraham (who was an) upright, (devotee of God) and was not of the polytheists.'[20]

Essentially, the message given to Prophet Muhammad is same that was given to Abraham, which makes sense in that spiritual and moral needs of whole human race are the same and the prophets came into the world to full fill these very needs of mankind:

2:136. Say, `We believe in Allâh and in that (the Qur'ân) which has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismâîl, Isaac, Jacob and his children, and what was given to Moses and Jesus and (we believe) in what was given to (all other) Prophets from their Lord. We (while believing in them) make no discrimination between anyone of them, and to Him do we submit ourselves entirely.'[21]

Since the message is the same for all the prophets, then Abraham had to conform to same moral standards that Quran advocates. Unlike pagan rituals, human sacrifice has no place in Islam. Under Islamic standards it is totally absurd to even think of killing an innocent human and that too of children:

6:137. Just (as their associate-gods turned the polytheists away from Allâh) so did they make (even so monstrous a deed as) the killing of their children seem fair to a large number of the polytheists, with the result that they ruin them and that they obscure for them their religion. And if Allâh had (enforced) His will they would not have done so, so leave them alone and that what they forge.

6:140. Certainly, they suffer a loss (those) who kill their children in folly (and) ignorance, and forbid (themselves) what Allâh has provided for them; forging lies in the name of Allâh. They have indeed gone astray and they are not rightly guided.[22]

It becomes obvious that the make believe slaughtering story creates contradiction against the spirit of Quran. Prophets are not tested by God by them killing others. They are tested by their missions that they undertake in which they themselves could be persecuted and even threatened to be killed by the opposition to their message:

5:70. Surely, We took a covenant from the Children of Israel and We sent Messengers to them. Every time there came to them a Messenger with that (Message) which did not suit their fanciful desires, (they defied him so that) some they treated as liars and others they sought to kill.[22a]

Visions of Prophets:

Fact is that Prophets are recipients of visions, but there is no confusion for them in those visions, else it could be construed that the medium of Divine communication is flawed. A vision is essentially a prophecy about a future event and not a commandment that is conveyed in a revelation (wahy). A vision is allegorically veiled in symbols and it is within the capacity of prophets to interpret it for its actual meanings.

For example, in the following verses, Joseph while still young of age and much before his prophethood sees certain symbols in his vision that he cannot comprehend and discloses it to his father, Jacob (v. 12:4). Whereas, Jacob, the prophet, fully interprets his son’s prophecy (v. 12:5, 12:101), which finally fulfills later during the life of both when, Joseph, as a grown up and an established prophet is in the high office of the king and his brothers, who had earlier abandoned him, submit in his presence (v. 12:99-100):

12:4. (Remember the time) when Joseph said to his father, `My dear father! I have seen (in a vision) eleven stars and the sun and the moon. I saw them falling down prostrate (before God) because of me.'

12:5. He said, `My dear son! relate not your vision to your brothers lest they should intrigue against you, for satan is to a human being an enemy disuniting.

12:99. And when they all came to Joseph he betook his parents to himself for a restful lodging (making them his personal guests) and said, `Enter the city, if Allâh will, you shall always be safe and secure.'

12:100. And he took his parents to the royal court and they all fell down prostrate (before God) because of him and he said, `My father! this is the real fulfillment of my vision of old. My Lord has made it come true. He has been gracious to me, indeed, when he released me out of the prison and brought you from the desert. (This all happened) after satan had stirred up discord between me and my brothers. Surely, my Lord is Benignant to whomsoever He pleases. He it is, Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.'

12:101. (Addressing his Lord, Joseph then said,) `My Lord! You have bestowed a part of the sovereignty upon me and it is You Who have imparted me true knowledge of the significance of (divine) sayings. O You, the Originator of the heavens and the earth! You alone are my Patron in this world and the Hereafter. Let it be that I die in a state of complete submission (to You), let it be that I join the righteous.'[23]

Dreams of non-prophets can be confusing to the recipients because they are hidden in allegory and symbolism, for example, the king of Egypt at the time of Joseph saw one:

12:43. Now (it so happened that one day) the king said, `I saw (in a dream) seven fat kine which seven lean ones were eating, and seven green ears of corn and (as many) others withered. You nobles of the court! explain to me the real significance of my dream if you can interpret dreams.'

12:44. They said, `(These are) confused dreams and we do not know the interpretation of such confused dreams.'[24]

For prophets, dreams are clear messages and prophecies that they can interpret not only for themselves but even for others that we see when Joseph interpreted king’s dream:

12:45 And of the two (prisoners) the one who had got his release and who (now) recalled (Joseph) to his mind after a long time, said, `I will inform you of its (true) interpretation, therefore send me (for the purpose to Joseph in prison).'

12:46 (So he [-the released prisoner] went to Joseph in the prison and exclaimed,) `Joseph, you, the man of truth, explain to us the (real) significance of (a dream in which) seven fat kine which seven lean ones devour; and (of) seven green ears of corn and as many others withered, so that I may return to the people and they may know (the interpretation and thereby your exalted position).'

12:47. He (- Joseph) replied, `You shall sow for seven years working hard and continuously and let what you have harvested remain in its ear excepting a little whereof you may eat.

12:48. `Then there shall follow seven (years of famine) of great severity (and) these (years) shall consume all the stores you have laid by in advance for them except a little which you may have preserved.

12:49. `Then, thereafter shall come a year of rains in which people shall be relieved and in which (season) they will press (fruit and seeds).'[25]

Similarly, Abraham saw an impending sacrifice of his son which he shares with him. Once both are in agreement to undertake the mission that required to live in Makkah and build the Kaaba, both bow down before God in a thanksgiving prostration. This mission was no less than a lifelong undertaking and a sacrifice for the son to make the desolate Paran as home:

37:102. Now, when that (son, Ismâîl) was (old enough) to work along with him, (his father, Abraham) said, `My dear son! I have seen in a dream that I sacrifice you [Arabic: adhbaḥuka]. So consider (it and tell me) what you think (of it).' (The son) said, `My dear father! do as you are commanded. If Allâh will you will find me of the calm and steadfast.'

37:103. Now, (it so happened) when both of them submitted themselves (to the will of God) and he (- Abraham) had laid him (- Ismâîl) down on his forehead [–an act of prayer, submission],[26]

Sacrifice of Abraham, Lot, Sarah, Hagar and Ismail – an example to be followed in spirit, individually and collectively:

As a prelude to the discussion about ‘sacrifice’ of Ismail, reader must keep in mind that Ismail was the grandson of Pharaoh of Egypt through his mother, Hagar (– the Egyptian princess[27]). The mere notion to choose to live forever in the arid Makkah for the cause of monotheism instead of the royal abode that Ismail was entitled to by inheritance in Levant/Egypt[27a], is no less than a lifelong sacrifice that he submitted to in fulfilment of vision of his father, Abraham. Thus Abraham ‘sacrificed’ his son and the dutiful son submitted to that ‘sacrifice.’

Similar to Jacob, Abraham, the prophet, too would have interpreted the vision that he saw about his son in some future sacrifice of theirs. If it was supposed to be the actual slaughter of Ismail in the dream or vision of Abraham, then at least in the said verses 37:102-107, it did not happen. In Quran there is no mention of slaughter, slaughtering instrument or the ram replacing the son for slaughter, whereas all of that we find only in Torah (Genesis 22:1-19). With this line of thinking a natural question arises about the verse 37:105. If it was a slaughter, then there is a contradiction for the mere fact that Quran states You have already fulfilled the vision (v. 37:105), which Abraham did not because the slaughter did not happen. The key words are already fulfilled the vision, i.e. Abraham had fulfilled some mission already.

37:106. That was obviously a disciplinary test (crowned with a mighty reward,)

37:107. And a great sacrifice was the ransom with which We redeemed him (- Ismâîl).[28]

Obviously, both father and son did pass some disciplinary test with a great sacrifice that we see in secular history in which Abraham under Divine guidance and vision had to relocate from Palestine/Levant to the desert of Makkah (–Paran[29]), to be specific mount Marwah (–Moriah[30]), which is a hillock next to Kaaba, a desolate place. Ismail who is still young, consents to live permanently in Arabia with his parents and essentially sacrifices his whole life for the Divine Mission and to establish monotheism, an ever-lasting spiritual sacrifice with its virtuous returns to this day:

37:108. And We left behind him (- Abraham) among the succeeding generations (the noble salutation to invoke blessings upon him).[31]

37:109. `Peace be upon Abraham!'

37:110. Thus indeed do We reward those who perform excellent deeds.[32]

Yes! the succeeding generations after Abraham and his son Ismail and his wife Hagar, pay homage to the sacrifice of the noble family by travelling from far and wide, on foot, by air and by sea, and by any means of any transport they congregate in Makkah during the annual pilgrimage of Hajj in the manner this noble family walked from Levant to Makkah:

22:27. (Prophet!) call on people to make the Pilgrimage, they will come to you on foot and riding on all sorts of lean and fast (means of transport), coming from every distant deep highway (and mount track).[33]

The pilgrims run between mounts Saffa and Marwah in the footsteps of the mother (–Hagar searching for water, back forth, for his infant, Ismail, till she finds the spring of Zamzam that flows till this day) and pray towards and circumambulate the Kaaba that the father and son later built as the everlasting symbol of Unity of God:

2:158. The Safa and the Marwah are truly among the signs of Allah*; so whoever makes a pilgrimage to the House or pays a visit (to it), there is no blame on him if he goes round them. And whoever does good spontaneously — surely Allah is Bountiful in

rewarding, Knowing.[34]

22:26. And (recall the time) when We assigned to Abraham the site of the (Holy) House (bidding him), `Associate none with Me and keep My House clean and pure for those who (go round it to) perform the circuits and for those who stay in it (for worshipping Me) devotedly, and for those who bow down, (and) fall prostrate (in Prayer before Me).'[35]

The pilgrims culminate their spiritual journey with a thanksgiving sacrifice and festivity of slaughtering of animals. It is the symbolic sacrifice for annihilation of the animal-self that they had been actively pursuing all along when they left the comforts of their homes, bore the anguish of travel for weeks and months and had been walking for days in and around Makkah under the scorching sun while covered in only two pieces of unstitched cloth and bowing in unison, shoulder to shoulder next to each other while eliminating all racial, gender or economic divides among themselves. Before the slaughter of animals, they also symbolically throw pebbles at the symbols of Satan to expunge its influences on the minds for the rest of their lives. Towards the end of the pilgrimage, men shave their heads to remove even the last vestige of difference that might emerge from outward appearance between people. The purpose of Hajj is to achieve the unity of mankind under Unity of God and a rebirth of the soul which is free of any blemishes and has a rekindled vigor centered on pristine monotheism in full manifestation of Kalima – ‘There is no God, but Allah, Muhamad is his Messenger’ in every sphere of their remaining lives and the lives they will influence.

This tradition to circumambulate the Kaaba is kept alive by Muslims all over the world when they pray five times daily towards the same House built by father and son. Those who cannot travel to Makkah for Hajj, they celebrate the traditions of the sacred family by performing special Eid-ul-Azha prayers in open grounds in large congregations and sacrifice animals that they enjoy in a festive mood and distribute them as charity. They invoke blessings on Abraham, his family and his creed in each set of daily prayers and the prayers they recite otherwise.

If for a moment we accept that Abraham misinterpreted his dream or the vision in the manner that is attributed to him of trying to actually slaughter his son, then is it not a shame that the whole Islamic world in history and the present had been celebrating, year after year, for fourteen hundred years the ‘mistake’ of the prophet’s interpretation of a vision? Nay, never can a human error of understanding and interpreting a prophecy be a celebrated institution. Rather, it is should be a moment to overlook the error of human judgment.

Yes! `Peace be upon Abraham!' (37:109) and his family who left behind for the world the ultimate personal examples of sacrifices when Abraham, his first wife Sarah and his nephew Lot first fled the persecution first from Iraq to Levant in fulfillment of a vision for establishment of monotheism that we see in the Judaic chain of prophets, the descendants of Abraham and Isaac.

Yes! `Peace be upon Abraham!' and his family – Abraham, his second wife Hagar who moved from Levant to barren Makkah and his first born Ismail who chose to live in Makkah, only with one purpose and that was to uphold and institute the pristine monotheism in letter and spirit and built its symbol, the Kaaba. The Kaaba was subsequently restored to represent perfect and universalized monotheism to this day and till the end of times by Prophet Muhammad, the descendent of Abraham and Ismail:

43:28. And he (- Abraham) made it (- the Divine Unity) a word to abide (as a permanent legacy) among his posterity, so that they might turn (to One God).[36]

Of note is that first migration of Abraham from Mesopotamia to Levant was to escape persecution:

37:97-99. (His opponents) said, `Build up a pyre for him and throw him into the blazing fire.' Thus they designed a plan against him, but We made them to be the most humiliated. (Abraham) said, `I shall go where my Lord bids me. He will surely guide me right (to the path leading to success in my mission).'[37]

It is this sacrifice of Abraham’s own sacrifice that Quran acknowledges that he had already done before the sacrificial life-mission of Ismail begins:

37:104. We called out to him (saying), `O Abraham!

37:105. `You have already fulfilled the vision.' That is how We reward those who perform excellent deeds.[38]

The import of above verses is the next defining moment of Abraham’s ongoing efforts in service of monotheism when he is about to embark on his second mission that needed from his wife Hagar and their son Ismail the sacrifice of their comforts to establish Kaaba. It is the culmination of the vision of Abraham and actual lifelong sacrifice of his son Ismail that we see in the prayers of Abraham in which he acknowledges the settlement of his family in the barren valley of Makkah:

14:35. (Recall the time) when Abraham said, `My Lord, make this (would be) city (of Makkah) secure and a haven of peace, and keep me and my children away from worshipping idol.

14:37. `Our Lord! I have settled some of my children [excluding Sarah and Isaac who were left behind in Levant] in an uncultivable valley (of Makkah), in the vicinity of your Holy House. Our Lord! (I have done) so that they may observe prayer. Then make the hearts of the people incline towards them and provide them with fruits so that they may always give thanks.

14:39. `All true and perfect praise belongs to Allâh Who has given me despite my old age (two sons) – Ismâîl and Isaac. My Lord is of course, the Hearer of prayers.[39]

Other views…

Refuting the myth of attempted slaughter described at beginning of this chapter, Shabbir Ahmed in his translation of Quran has the following narration:

37:100. (Abraham migrated to Syria and prayed), “My Lord! Grant me a healthy child.”

37:101. So We gave him the good news of a clement son (Ismail ).

37:102. And when he was old enough to strive along with him, Abraham said, “O My dear son! I have a vision that I must give you to a life of test and tribulation for a Noble cause (37:107). So look, what do you think?” He said, “O My father! Do what you are commanded. God willing, you will find me of the steadfast.” [Zibh and Zabh = Sacrifice = Disregard comfort for a Noble cause. Just as Qatl = To subdue, kill, fight, humiliate, bring low]

37:103. As both of them had surrendered themselves (to God), he made Ismail further submit in gratitude.[Contrary to popular tradition, Abraham never envisioned or intended to slaughter his son. God does not play games with His servants. Literal ‘forehead to ground’ = complete submission in gratitude]

37:104. We called unto him, “O Abraham!

37:105. You have already affirmed the vision. We – This is so – We must reward the doers of good.”

37:106. This was a trial, clear in itself. [Leaving the prestigious office of Chief Priesthood in Babylon and now the comfort of Syria for the wilderness of Makkah]

37:107. We exchanged his life for a Momentous Sacrifice. [Please notice here the absence of the Biblical and the traditional myth of a ‘ram’ sent from the heavens. Also, note that slaughtering of a sheep or goat, by no means, can be considered a Momentous Sacrifice. 14:37, 37:102][40]

As regards to pilgrims stoning the Satan during the Hajj, if for a moment it is accepted to be true that it is done in memory of Abraham stoning the Satan who tried to dissuade him from slaughtering his son, and prevented a murder, then at least in secular logic for once Satan and God were on the same side of morality, which is impossible. Shabbir Ahmed in his translation of the Quran explains it quite logically in Author's Note and Footnote to the Surah Feel:

… As we have seen in the history of the Empire of Sheba (Surahs An-Naml 27, Saba 34, and Qaaf 50), the Kingdom of Sheba had collapsed in 115 BC. They were overtaken by the Himairis who ruled until 300 CE when other tribes overtook the control of Yemen. They were in turn defeated by the Christian Kingdom of Ethipoia-Abyssinia when they invaded Yemen in 525 CE. Abrahah was then appointed Viceroy of Yemen. The Roman and the Abyssinian Christians longed for converting the idolaters of Arabia to Christianity. They also sought control of the trade routes between Arabia, Persia and the Western Roman Empire. They saw Ka’bah in Makkah as a hindrance to their imperialistic and religious designs. Abrahah, the Viceroy of Yemen made a smart move. Between 550 and 555 CE he built a gorgeous cathedral EKKLESIA in San’aa, Yemen, and invited people and neighboring countries to come for pilgrimage there instead of going to Makkah. When Ekklesia remained unpopular, Abrahah decided to invade Makkah and demolish the Ka’bah. Since he correctly anticipated the presence of hostile tribes en-route, he came up with a 60,000 Strong army aided by thousands of horses, camels and thirteen elephants … As Abrahah’s army approached Makkah, the Makkans who had been alerted by some travelers beforehand, saw flocks of birds that normally fly over caravans in search for food. The Makkans mounted the hills around and threw stones on the troops. The elephants, and in turn, other rides panicked and trampled the soldiers. This incident took place in 570 CE when the exalted Messenger was born. The event carried such significance that the Arabs, in their Calendar, marked it as the “Year of the Elephant” (‘Aam-il-Feel) as a point of reference in history… Three Arabs had guided Abrahah on his way to Makkah through the desert. The pre-Islamic Makkans humiliated the traitors and made out three statutes of them in today's plains of Mina outside Makkah. Then they used to stone those statues every year at the time of Pilgrimage. This ritual was 'Islamized' by Muslim historians naming them as three places where the 'Satan' tried to prompt Prophet Abraham to defy God's command to 'sacrifice' his son. And so, to this day during Pilgrimage, Muslims stone the three pillars calling them the Great, the Medium, and the Small Satan!


[1] par·ri·cide: noun \ˈpa-rə-ˌsīd\
1[Latin parricida killer of a close relative, from parri- (perhaps akin to Greek pēos kinsman by marriage) + -cida -cide] : one that murders his or her father, mother, or a close relative
2[Latin parricidium murder of a close relative, from parri- + -cidium -cide] : the act of a parricide
[2] “Sacrifice of Abraham” by Dr. Zahid Aziz, The Light & Islamic Review May – June 1998.
[3] Human Sacrifice – Wikipedia. Link:
[4] Al-Saffat – Those Ranging in Ranks: Nooruddin
[5] “The Teachings of Islam, a Solution of Five Fundamental Religious Problems from the Muslim Point of View”, by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, p. 1-2, translated into English by Maulana Muhammad Ali – It was read at the Great Religious Conference held at Lahore (Punjab) in December 1896 by Maulvi Abdul Karim. The paper discusses from a Muslim's point of view the five subjects selected for discussion by the conveners of the conference. These five subjects related to (1) the physical, moral and spiritual conditions of man, (2) the state of man in the after-life, (3) the real object of the existence of man and the means of its attainment, (4) the effect of actions in the present life and the life to come, and (5) the sources of Divine knowledge.- pages 22-27, 1968 Edition. Link:
[6] [footnote from original publication] I. That is, on every dereliction of duty or on the slightest act of disobedience, being conscious of having offended.
[7] Al-Hajj – The Pilgrimage: Nooruddin
[8] “Sacrifice of Abraham” by Dr. Zahid Aziz, The Light & Islamic Review May – June 1998.
[9] Fatir – Originator: Nooruddin
[10] Al-Taghâbun – Manifestation of Loss: Nooruddin
[11]Al-Anam – The Cattle: Nooruddin.
[12] Al-Nisa – The Women: Nooruddin
[13] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[14] Al-Nisa – Women: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[15] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[16] Hud – Hud: Nooruddin
[17] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[18] Al- Imran – The Family of Amran: Nooruddin
[19] Al-Anam – The Cattle: Nooruddin.
[20] Al-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[21] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[22] Al-Anam – The Cattle: Nooruddin.

[22a] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin.
[23] Yusuf – Joseph: Nooruddin
[24] Yusuf – Joseph: Nooruddin
[25] Yusuf – Joseph: Nooruddin
[26] Al-Saffat – Those Ranging in Ranks: Nooruddin
[27] Hagar: Family Connections—While the Bible gives us no record of Hagar’s genealogy, legend has supplied her pedigree, as being the daughter of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, the same who coveted the possession of Sarah in vain. This legendary source affirms that the Egyptian princess became so attached to Sarah that she told her royal father that she would accompany her when she returned to Abraham. “What!” cried the king, “thou wilt be no more than a handmaid to her!” “Better to be a handmaid in the tents of Abraham than a princess in this palace,” the daughter replied.[Link:]
[27a] Wikipedia: Levant [Link:]

[28] Al-Saffat – Those Ranging in Ranks: Nooruddin
[29] Genesis 21:19-21. Then God opened her [–Hagar’s ] eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy [–Ishmael] a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran[–Makkah], his mother got a wife for him from Egypt. [New International Version]
[30] Genesis 22:2. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” [New International Version]
[31] Al-Saffat – Those Ranging in Ranks: Nooruddin
[32] Al-Saffat – Those Ranging in Ranks: Nooruddin
[33] Al-Hajj – The Pilgrimage: Nooruddin
[34] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz[*Footnote: The Safa and the Marwah are two mountains near Makkah. They were the scene of Hagar’s running to and fro in quest of water when left alone with Ishmael in the wilderness. These two mountains now serve as two monuments of the reward which patience brought, and it is as a memorial to Hagar’s patience that they are now gone round by the pilgrims.]
[35] Al-Hajj – The Pilgrimage: Nooruddin
[36] Al-Zukhruf – The Ornaments: Noorudin
[37] Al-Saffat – Those Ranging in Ranks: Nooruddin
[38] Al-Saffat – Those Ranging in Ranks: Nooruddin
[39] Ibrahim – Abraham: Nooruddin
[40] As-Saffaat – Soldiers in Ranks: Shabbir Ahmed

Abraham — a Birdie or an eagle?

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Abraham – a Birdie or an Eagle?[1]

Birds have been mentioned in various hues and for many reasons in Quran[2]. The parable of Abraham being taught reformation and resurrection in verse 2:260 at times becomes problematic when read from ‘classical’ sources or from the discourses of advocates of such sources. One such non-quranic fantastic narrative is as follows:

Therefore, Ibrahim caught four birds, slaughtered them, removed the feathers, tore the birds to pieces and mixed the pieces together. He then placed parts of these mixed pieces on four or seven hills. Ibn `Abbas said, “Ibrahim kept the heads of these birds in his hand. Next, Allah commanded Ibrahim to call the birds to him, and he did as Allah commanded him. Ibrahim witnessed the feathers, blood and flesh of these birds fly to each other, and the parts flew each to their bodies, until every bird came back to life and came walking at a fast pace towards Ibrahim, so that the example that Ibrahim was witnessing would become more impressive. Each bird came to collect its head from Ibrahim’s hand, and if he gave the bird another head the bird refused to accept it. When Ibrahim gave each bird its own head, the head was placed on its body by Allah’s leave and power.”[3]

Such an understanding as above besides being nonsensical, fails the fundamental test of Quran i.e. once dead in this world is dead for ever, be it a human or an animal. It contradicts Quran:

23:99. Behold! when death approaches one of them (- the rebellious ones) he says (making entreaties repeatedly), `Send me back, My Lord! send me back,
23:100. `So that I may do righteous (deeds) which I failed to do (in the worldly life).' `Never, that can never be,' (is the answer he receives). It is but a word (of excuse) which he utters. And there is a barrier behind them which shall remain till the day when they shall be raised to life (again).[4] [Emphasis added]

So, it begets one to explore the said verse 2:260 for its context and its purpose. The context encircles the ever pervasive debate between materialism and spiritualism. Materialism believes in the physical modalities and power alone for sustainability of nations, whereas the spiritualism and morality, the symbols of which are the prophets, consider the Divine guidance as the ultimate elixir for revival of the society. It all begins with Abraham, a prophet, in his debate with the king, the materialist:

2:258. Have you not considered (the case of) him (- Nimrod, the then ruler of Babylon) who controversed with Abraham concerning his Lord, because Allâh had given him kingdom? When Abraham said, `My Lord is He Who fertilises (the earth) and causes desolation.' He (- Nimrod) replied, `I do bring about fertility and cause desolation.' Abraham said, `Allâh surely makes the sun rise from the east, so you should make it rise from the west.' Thereupon the one who had rejected the faith (- Nimrod) was completely confounded. Indeed, Allâh does not guide the unjust people.[5]

Of note is that both Abraham and the king are using the same words in their argument, but with a difference, the meanings of those words are spiritual for the former and materialistic for the latter. For example, the implication of the fertility and desolation of the land for Abraham is the presence and the dearth of morality in a nation respectively. Whereas, for the king, it is actual fertility from water and fields that he can control. When Abraham challenges the king of the possibility of sun rising from the west, because he believes in such a capacity of his God, he essentially is speaking of spiritual and moral revival of the otherwise unexpected corners and quarters of the world, in the manner of sun which shines light and wakes people from their slumber, whereas the king is dumbfounded by his incapacity to do such a physical event. If in this parable there were a question in physical domain from Abraham, then he too would not had any answer if the king had made the claim first that he makes the sunrise from the east and could the God of Abraham raise it from the west? In summary, the materialists, even of our times, totally miss the purpose of a prophet and his message, which is none other than reformation of mankind, to bring them back from a morally dead state, heal them of their moral leprosy and blindness and make them spiritually soar like birds[6].

Sustained moral reawakening can only come about from Divine guidance. Any efforts authored by man in this realm are short lived and inevitably create “Chasm of the Isms” (a separate chapter in this book – link). The rain in Quran is a metaphor for the Divine guidance that comes to humanity for its revival in a similitude of the fertility of an otherwise barren land, via the agency of prophets that were sent to each nation before the final and universal prophet, Prophet Muhammad[7] and the Quran through him:

86:11. I call to witness the clouds that rain over and over again,

86:12. And the earth that bursts forth (with herbage and with springs),

86:13. (That) verily, this (Qur'ân) is a decisive word.

86:14. And it is not a vain (revelation).[8]

With Prophet Muhammad and general humanity as its audience, the subject matter of the verse 2:258 that was centered on Prophet Abraham continues in the next verse where example of another prophet, as evident by it’s opening words – ‘Or consider the case of’ being foretold, is quoted from history about revival of a nation after its wretchedness:

2:259. Or consider the case of him (- Ezekiel) who passed by a town (- Jerusalem as it was left in desolation by Nebuchadnezzar) and it had fallen in upon its roofs. He said, `When will Allâh restore this (town) to life after its destruction?' So (in his vision) Allâh kept him in a state of death for a hundred years, then He raised him (to life). Then (God) said, `How long have you stayed (in this state of death)?' He replied, `I may have stayed a day or a part of a day (in this state).' (God) said, `(Yes this too is correct) but (as you have witnessed in your vision) you have stayed for a hundred years. Now look at your food and drink, they have escaped the action of time, and look at your donkey (too, years have not passed over it). And (We have made you visualise all this) that We may make you a sign to the people. And look at the (dead) bones how We set them together and then clothe them with flesh.' Thus when the fact of the matter became clear to him, he said, `I know that Allâh is the Possessor of full power to do all that He will.' [9]

The above verse re-frames the argument of Abraham before the king in that Ezekiel, a (later) prophet when he sees the physical and moral desolation of Jerusalem and its people; he terms it as its death. He wonders if such a township and its people can be restored to their earlier resplendence. Thereafter, as an answer, Ezekiel has a vision with a prophecy spanning a hundred years when Dhul-Qarnain, the Cyrus II, another prophet will restore it – a hundred years after the initial destruction of Solomon's temple and dislodgment of Israelites to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar II and their subsequent sorry state. Since this was visualization into the future, the actual time of the visionary state is no more than a day or a part of a day that is confirmed by food and drink, and the donkey as they have escaped the action of time. It is the vision of Ezekiel[10] which then foretold the revival of the apparently ‘dead’ Israelites i.e. the (dead) bones how We set them together and then clothe them with flesh.' [11] This vision in Book of Ezekiel 40:1-49 covers the rebuilding of Solomon's temple the second time, which was fulfilled subsequently because of Cyrus II who not only repatriated the Israelites to Jerusalem but also funded the reconstruction of the temple[12]. No wonder, Cyrus II is labeled as a liberator and not as a conqueror in history and is entitled as Messiah by the Jews:

The Book of Ezra narrates a story of the first return of exiles in the first year of Cyrus; for this, Cyrus is addressed in the Jewish Tanakh as the "Lord's Messiah". Glorified by Ezra, and by Isaiah, Cyrus is the one to whom "Yahweh, the God of heaven" has given "all the Kingdoms of the earth"[13]

The next verse 2:260 completes the subject matter of the previous two verses 2:258 and 2:259, where Abraham is explained the philosophy of how a prophet revives a nation, the main purpose of prophethood:

2:260. And (recall the time) when Abraham said, `My Lord! show me how You give life to the dead.' (The Lord) said, `Do you not believe (that I can)?' He said, `Yes I do, but (I ask this) that my mind may be at peace.' (The Lord) said, `Take four birds and make them attached [Arabic: ṣur’ – incline] to you, then put them each [Arabic: juz’an – a portion] on a separate hill, then call them, they will come to you swiftly. And know that Allâh is All-Mighty, All-Wise.'[14]

In the above verse, the parable of domestication of birds is used to explain the principle underlying the reformative efforts of a prophet. A non-domesticated or untamed bird, for example a falcon, by its very nature flees away when approached. Similar to the trainer, in order to overcome the initial tendency of a bird to avoid any training or in case of humans the reformation by a prophet, the prophet has to first attach or incline the audience to himself by kindness, love, affection and wisdom, that we read in the instructions to Prophet Muhammad in Quran as:

16:125. (Prophet!) call the people to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly and kind exhortation, and argue with them in the most pleasant and best manner. Surely, your Lord knows very well who has gone astray from His path, and He knows very well the guided ones to the right path.[15]
26:214. And (Prophet!) warn your nearest kinsmen,

26:215. And be gentle and affectionate to the believers who follow you.

26:216. But if they (- your kinsmen) disobey you, say (to them), `Surely, I am not responsible for what you do.'[16]

The above injunction of kind exhortation we also find for Moses and Aaron when they go before Pharaoh:

20:44. `But speak to him [–Pharaoh] a gentle speech, maybe he pays heed and fears (the consequences).'[17]

Gentleness and humility were also some of the attributes that Prophet Luqman of Ethiopia emphasized when he addressed his son:

31:18. `And do not turn your face away from people in scorn and pride, nor walk about on the earth haughtily. Surely, Allâh does not love any self-conceited boaster.

31:19. `Rather walk with modest pace and talk in soft gentle tone. Surely, the most repugnant of voices is the braying of the donkey.'[18]

Similarly, kindness of heart was fully embodied in Abraham who pleads for mercy on behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, when he was foretold of their doom:

11:74. And when awe departed from Abraham and the good tidings came to him, he started pleading with Us for the people of Lot.

11:75. Surely, Abraham was gentle, tender-hearted and oft-returning (to Us).

11:76. (Thereupon We said to him,) `Abraham! turn away from this (pleading now), for your Lords command has decidedly come. They are certainly going to receive a punishment that cannot be averted.' [19]

The kind approach of a prophet and his followers is not limited to their co-believers but must extend to all humanity:

60:8. Allâh does not forbid you to be kind and good and to deal justly with those who have not fought you because of your faith and have not turned you out of your homes. In fact Allâh loves those who are equitable.[20]

It is only after the followers of a prophet are attached to him, that when the prophet calls them to the way of the Lord for their revival – they will come to you swiftly in the manner of a tamed bird who is now trusting of its keeper (2:260). Because, if the prophet does not display such high morals, to friends or foes alike, then the very people he is sent to revive will disperse around him:

3:159. So (O Prophet!) it is owing to the great mercy of Allâh that you are gentle towards them. Had you been harsh, hard-hearted, they would have certainly dispersed from around you; hence pardon them and ask protection for them, and consult them in matters (of administration), and when you are determined (after due consultation), put your trust in Allâh. Verily, Allâh loves those who put their trust in Him.[21]

In summary, Abraham is asking God in verse 2:260 how to accomplish his mission of prophethood which is to revive a spiritually and morally dead nation to life. In reply, he is told to first attach and incline his people to himself. Thereafter, it is natural for the Divine guidance to flow without hindrance from the prophet to such attached people. This is the sole methodology for spread of Islam that is starkly visible in history for its proliferation by the personal example and conduct of ordinary sea traders from Arabia into Indonesia. Abraham's words can be prophetic in our times for the sun to rise from the west[22] only if the torch bearers of Islam make use of the verse 2:260 by attaching their audience to them by an excellent personal example and when they call the people to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly and kind exhortation, and argue with them in the most pleasant and best manner (16:125).

P.S. Maulana Muhammad Ali in his Urdu translation and commentary of Quran[23] deals with the said verses 2:258-260 with an in-depth view on etymology of the words and refutes nonsensical extra-Quranic views about these verses, including the alleged doubts attributed to Abraham and him mincing the birds etc.

[1] Birdie and Eagle are golf terms, used here as a disdain for the long shot and long winded legends that are hurled against Abraham to show that the birds allegedly dismembered by him miraculously came back to life.
[2]Reference to Birds in the Quran: by Dr. Basharat Ahmad English translation of an Urdu article that appeared in Basharat-e-Ahmadiyya, Vol. II, pp. 22–35. Link:
[4] Al-Muminun – The Believers: Nooruddin
[5] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[6] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin. 5:110. (Again imagine) when Allâh said, `O Jesus, son of Mary! remember My blessing upon you and upon your mother, how I strengthened you with the holy revelation. You spoke to the people (when you were) in the cradle and when of old age, and how I taught you the Scripture and the wisdom and the Torah and the Evangel, and how you determined from clay the likeness of a bird by My leave, then you breathed into it (a new spirit) then it became a soaring being by My leave, and by My leave you absolved the blind, the leprous, and by My leave you raised the (spiritually or nearly) dead to life, and how I warded off the Children of Israel from (putting) you (to death). It was the time when you came to them with clear arguments, but those among them who disbelieved had said, "This is naught but a hoax cutting (us) off (from the nation)".'
[7]Al-Rum – The Byzantines: Nooruddin. 30:47. Indeed, We have already sent Messengers to their (respective) people before you, and they came to them with clear proofs. Then We punished those who had (denied their Apostles and) cut their ties (with God). And it is of course ever incumbent upon Us to help the believers.
30:48.It is Allâh alone who sends forth the winds and they raise (the vapours to form) a cloud which He spreads out in the sky as He will and sets it layer upon layer, and you see the rain falling from its midst. And no sooner does He cause it to fall on whom He will of His servants than they are filled with joy,
30:49. Though shortly before it was sent down upon them they were in a state of despondency.
30:50. Look, therefore, at the evidences of Allâh's mercy! how He breathes life into the earth (making it green and flourishing) after its (state of) death. Surely, He (it is), the same (God), Who will raise the dead to life (in the Hereafter), for He is the Possessor of power over every desired thing.
30:51. And if We send (another kind of blasting) wind and they see it turn yellow (for its having taken the form of punishment) they will even after that continue to disbelieve (for their being engrossed in evil doings).
30:52. And you cannot make the dead hear, nor can you make the deaf hear the call when they retreat turning their backs (on you),
30:53. Nor can you guide the blind out of their error. You can make only those hear who would believe in Our Messages and submit (to Us).
[8] Al-Tariq – The Night Visitant: Nooruddin
[9] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[10]Ezekiel 36: 1“Son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel and say, ‘Mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord……33 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35 They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.” 36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’ 37 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Once again I will yield to Israel’s plea and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep, 38 as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
[11]Ezekiel 37: 1 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”…..10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. 11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
[12]Ezra 1: 1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” 5 Then rose up the heads of the fathers' houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. 6 And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. 7 Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 8 Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9 And this was the number of them: 30 basins of gold, 1,000 basins of silver, 29 censers, 10 30 bowls of gold, 410 bowls of silver, and 1,000 other vessels; 11 all the vessels of gold and of silver were 5,400. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem.
Ezra 2: 1 Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town.…..64 The whole assembly together was 42,360, 65 besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337, and they had 200 male and female singers. 66 Their horses were 736, their mules were 245, 67 their camels were 435, and their donkeys were 6,720. 68 Some of the heads of families, when they came to the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, made freewill offerings for the house of God, to erect it on its site. 69 According to their ability they gave to the treasury of the work 61,000 darics[a] of gold, 5,000 minas of silver, and 100 priests’ garments. 70 Now the priests, the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants lived in their towns, and all the rest of Israel[c] in their towns. [English Standard Version]
[13] Wikipedia – Cyrus the Great – Legacy:
[14] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[15] Al-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[16] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[17] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[18] Luqman – Luqman: Nooruddin
[19] Hud – Hud: Nooruddin
[20] Al-Mumtahanah – She that is to be Examined: Nooruddin
[21] Al-Imran – Family of Imran: Nooruddin
[22] Rise of Sun in the West and the Capture of Birds – Dr. Zahid Aziz, The Light & Islamic Review : Vol. 73; No. 4; Jul-Aug 1996; p. 7-10
[23] Bayan-ul-Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali, footnotes 333-335 for verses 2:258-260. Link:

Jesus – the Descent, but not of Son of Mary

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Jesus – the Descent, but not of Son of Mary

else, end of Quran, Islam and the Finality of Prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh)

Similar to Christian beliefs there is a prevailing myth in Muslims of bodily ascension of Jesus to heavens and his return towards the end of times in person. As discussed in various chapters before, Jesus never ascended bodily to heavens. Purpose of Quran is not to dwell and refute his bodily ascension, but it merely discusses Jesus like any other prophet or an exalted personality and in the due course of discussion it naturally emerges that Jesus died like any other mortal. Still, Muslims in general base their belief on certain Hadiths that Jesus, the Messiah will return. Such a 'descent' of Jesus must match his 'ascent' before. If physical ascension contradicts Quran, then his 'physical' descent will destroy Quran. Only survival of impeccable integrity of Quran is in spiritual and metaphorical ascension and descent of Jesus.

As far as Quran is concerned, there is a specific historical time line from Jesus to Prophet Muhammad and not from Muhammad to Jesus as erroneously believed by those waiting for the re-advent of Jesus son of Mary, else it will utterly contravene the following verse:

61:6. And (recall the time) when Jesus, son of Mary, said, `O Children of Israel! surely I am a Messenger sent to you by Allâh fulfilling (the prophecies contained in) the Torah which preceded me and pronouncing the good news of (the advent of) a great Messenger named Ahmad, who will come after me.' But when he (- the Prophet Muhammad) came to them with clear proofs, they said, `His are the enchanting ways separating (us from our people).'[1]

Descent of Jesus, son of Mary, to reform the whole world as believed by Muslims is factually out of his scope of work. Quran only ascribes him as a prophet and that too only for Israelites:

3:48-49. (The angels continued), `And He will teach him [– Jesus] the art of writing (and reading) and the Wisdom and the Torah and the Evangel. `And (He will appoint him) a Messenger to the Children of Israel (with the Message)…[2]

If even for a moment one believes in actual physical descent of Jesus after Prophet Muhammad, then such a myth holder will have to reconcile for oneself the following facts in Quran:

* Everything that has been or is worshiped besides Allah is dead, which includes Jesus who is worshiped as Son of God by Christians:

16:20-21. And the things whom they call upon apart from Allâh can create nothing. Rather they are themselves created. They are dead, not alive. And they do not perceive when they shall be raised (to life again).[3]

Quran even identifies Jesus by name as one of those who are worshipped besides Allah, and in light of verses above, he is then naturally dead:

5:72. Indeed, they have disbelieved who say, `Allâh – He is the Messiah, son of Mary,' …[4]

* Before we can even entertain the idea of someone leaving the physical universe alive only to return, according to Quran, without exception, no one leaves it alive, inclusive of Jesus:

7:25. And (He added), `In this (very universe) you shall live and therein you shall die and from it you shall be brought forth (in the Hereafter).'[5]

* As shown above, no one leaves this physical universe alive and there is no return either:

21:95. And it is not permissible to (the people of) a township whom We have destroyed to come back (to life of this world). [6]

23:100. `So that I may do righteous (deeds) which I failed to do (in the worldly life).' `Never, that can never be,' (is the answer he receives). It is but a word (of excuse) which he utters. And there is a barrier behind them which shall remain till the day when they shall be raised to life (again).[7]

39:42. Allâh takes away the souls (of human being) at the time of their death and (also) of those who are not (yet) dead during their sleep. He detains (the souls of) those against whom He passes the verdict of death and sends (back those of) others till a fixed period of time. There are signs in this for a people who would reflect.[8]

* There is no verse in Quran to validate the physical descent of Jesus. Rather, his mission was well defined and limited only for the Children of Israel and his mission has passed (as in past tense) with no residual future assignment:

43:59. He [–Jesus] was no more than a servant (of Ours) whom We graced with Our blessings and favours and We made him (to be) an example (of virtue and piety) for the Children of Israel.[9]

* Even if Jesus is presumably physically alive in heavens, then he must be in need of earthly food and water which are requisites to be alive:

21:7-8. (Prophet!) We sent none (as Messengers) before you but (they were) men to whom We made Our revelations. Therefore (O disbelievers!) ask the followers of the Reminder if you do not know (this). Nor did We give them such bodies as could go without food, neither were they people given unusually long lives (to enjoy).[10]

But, from Quran, we know that at least in the heavens, the earthly food cannot be heavenly food:

32:17. No soul knows what refreshment of the eyes is hidden for them: a reward for what they did.[11]

* If Jesus son of Mary is bodily alive in heavens then at least according to the following verses he is not following the dictates of his office of a prophet, which is just not possible for a prophet:

19:30. (It came to pass that the son of Mary) said, `I am indeed a servant of Allâh, He has given me the Book, and made me a Prophet.

19:31. `And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined upon me prayer and alms-giving so long as I live.

19:32. `And (He has made me) dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me arrogant, graceless.

19:33. `And peace was upon me the day I was born, and (peace will be upon me) the day I die, and the day I shall be raised up to life (again).'

19:34. Such was Jesus, son of Mary. (This is) a statement of true facts (about him), concerning which they so deeply disagree.[12]

Thus, there is a clear declaration by Jesus in Quran that he will be – alms-giving so long as I live. If Jesus is physically alive as of today, irrespective of him being in heavens, then he must be giving alms even now. While in heavens, the ‘alive’ Jesus cannot give alms, a fundamental requirement of all the prophets while on this earth, unless there is a flourishing earthly economy in heavens as well and there are needy in need of alms of others, which of course is not possible in heaven. Thus if Jesus is bodily alive, then for sure he is not in Paradise, because by definition in heaven there is happiness, comfort and plenty for everyone and no one carries a begging bowl asking for alms:

56:88-89. And if he (the departed person) belongs to those who have attained nearness (to God and are His chosen ones), Then (he will have) happiness, comfort and plenty and Garden of Bliss.[13]

* Admittedly, Jesus, a prophet while not earth now, must be in heavens. But, the question of his descent back to earth is plain impossible, because once in heaven, always in heaven:

15:48. They shall suffer no fatigue, nor shall they ever be ejected from there [–the Paradise].[14]

Not only the Paradise dwellers will live in there forever, they will never even want to return to the former earthly abode:

18:108. Wherein they shall abide forever, having no desire to be removed from there [–the Paradise].[15]

In all fairness, it will be injustice to any one in heaven to be made to return to the earthly abode, especially Prophet Jesus who has already endured hardships, trials and tribulations.

It is only the Hell dwellers, not Jesus, who would wish to return back to this worldly life:

2:167. And (at that time) the followers shall say, `If we could only return (to the life of the world)…[16]

* By today's counting, if Jesus were to return to earth while being alive in heavens all the while, he would be more than 2000 years old and still counting. Whereas, Quran does not allow such a perpetual physical life:

21:34. And We did not grant living forever to any mortal before you [– Muhammad]. If you die, will they live forever?[17]

* Even if we presume that Jesus is alive somewhere in heavens and is now at least 2000 years old, if not older, then, according to Quran, like any human, he could not have escaped dementia and weakened body, a dysfunctional state by now:

22:5. …We have indeed created you from dust, then, from a sperm-drop, then from a blood clot, and then from a lump of flesh (partly) formed and (partly) unformed that We make (Our power and the real state of things) clear to you. And We cause to stay in the wombs (that drop of fluid) when We please (to make a perfectly formed being) for a given period of time, then We bring you forth (formed) as infants, then (We bring you up) with the result that you reach your prime. And there are some of you who are called to death (early) and there are others of you who are made to live to the worst part of life; a miserable very old age, with the result that they know nothing after (having had) knowledge…[18]

30:54. (It is) Allâh alone Who creates you in (a state of) weakness, He then replaces your weakness with strength (of youth) and again (replaces your) strength with weakness and gray hair (of old age). He creates what He will. He is the All-Knowing, the All-Powerful.[19]

36:68. We reverse the mechanism of the person to whom We grant (extraordinary) long life by making the state of his constitution weak. Do they not (even then) make use of their understanding?[20]

* By the standards of Quran, for all those who believe in an ever-living Jesus, Quran states that Jesus is like all other Messengers before him who have passed away, and so did he:

5:75. The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger, all the Messengers have (like him) passed away before him…[21]

Similarly, Quran builds up the case further for the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad who might not believe is his future death, when it states, just like in above verse, all Messengers before Muhammad including Jesus have passed away, and by implication so will he, and he did:

3:144. And Muhammad is but a Messenger. Surely, all Messengers [all – i.e. without exception] have passed away before him…[22]

* The questions thus remains, can the dead including Jesus, return to life and that too as a fully grown adult? Not so, as per Quran, dead cannot return to this worldly life:

23:99-100. Behold! when death approaches one of them (- the rebellious ones) he says (making entreaties repeatedly), `Send me back, My Lord! send me back,

23:100. `So that I may do righteous (deeds) which I failed to do (in the worldly life).' `Never, that can never be,' (is the answer he receives). It is but a word (of excuse) which he utters. And there is a barrier behind them which shall remain till the day when they shall be raised to life (again).[23]

39:42. ALLÂH takes away the souls (of human being) at the time of their death and (also) of those who are not (yet) dead during their sleep. He detains (the souls of) those against whom He passes the verdict of death and sends (back those of) others till a fixed period of time. There are signs in this for a people who would reflect.[24]

* While Jesus, a non-Arabic speaking, if he is in heavens, on his return, what would be his language? Who will teach him Arabic which is the medium of Quran and Hadith. Still, a prophet cannot deliver the full nuances of the Book, but in his own tongue, Aramaic and not Arabic in case of Jesus:

19:97. (Prophet!) We have made this (Qur'ân) easy (by revealing it) in your own tongue, that you may give glad tidings thereby to those who guard against evil and warn thereby a people stubbornly given to contention.[25]

44:58. And We have made this (Qur'ân) easy (by revealing it) in your (Arabic) tongue, so that the people may take heed.[26]

All would agree that Jesus was non-Arab. Arabic was not his mother tongue. Whatever he preached of the Evengel, it must have been like any prophet in your own tongue, i.e. Aramaic for Jesus. Since when has a prophet preached in a foreign language that is expected of Jesus son of Mary on his second advent?

* Quran sets in stone the two necessary components for a prophethood, the Revelation and that too through the medium of Gabriel:

26:192. And verily this (Qur'ân) is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds.

26:193. The Spirit, Faithful to the Trust (– Gabriel) has descended with it.

26:194. (Revealing it) to your heart with the result that you became of the Warners (– a Prophet of God);[27]

The above verses clearly elucidate the pre-requisites for a Prophet, firstly the Revelation itself and secondly the angel Gabriel bearing that Revelation. It is only after these requirements are met when the recipient becomes a Prophet i.e. with the result that you became of the Warners. History bears witness that no revelation from the High came via Gabriel after it terminated with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

When Jesus returns, who will be his source of Divine communication? Will it be the angel Gabriel? If it is Gabriel, then it will create many complications for Islam. Firstly, with the finality of prophethood of Muhammad, Gabriel is in permanent retirement. Any further return of Gabriel on his job after Prophet Muhammad, no matter how briefly, to communicate with any future Prophet(s) the prophetic revelation will break the seal of prophethood of the Last Prophet, Prophet Muhammad:

33:40. Muhammad is no father to any man among you but (he is rather) the Messenger of Allâh and the Seal of the Prophets. Indeed Allâh has full knowledge of all things.[28]

Last prophet is ‘Last’ only if he comes as the last one, which was none other than Prophet Muhammad.

Secondly, a non-Gabriel only medium of revelation eliminates the status of the recipient from a prophet to a non-prophet, which is just not possible in case of any prophet, because once a prophet, always a prophet. There is no termination of prophethood for a mortal once put in place by a Divine command. Prophets are never fired from their office.

* According to Quran, on the Last Day every prophet has to stand witness for his people:

16:84. And (beware of) the day when We shall raise a witness from every nation, then those who were ungrateful shall not be given leave (to make amends) nor shall they be afforded an opportunity to approach the threshold (of God) to offer a plea or an excuse (and thus solicit His good will).[29]

In case of Jews and Christians, as their prophet, Jesus will be a witness against them:

4:159. And there is none of the people of the Scripture (- the Jews and the Christians) but most certainly will believe in this (incident, that Jesus died on the cross) before his (actual) death, (while as a matter of fact they have no sure knowledge about Jesus dying on the cross). And on the Day of Resurrection he (- Jesus) will be a witness against them.[30]

Will then Jesus son of Mary, a prophet for Israelites, even though allegedly having lived among the believers of Muhammad by his second coming, stand witness next to Prophet Muhammad for the Muslims? Not so, Quran clearly states that the Prophet Muhammad will be that witness:

4:41. How then (shall these wrongdoers fare) when We call a witness from every nation and when We call you (O Prophet!) to stand witness over these (followers of yours)? On that day those who disbelieved and disobeyed the Messenger would wish that the earth were made level with them. They shall not be able to conceal anything from Allâh.[31]

It can thus be safely extrapolated that a prophet has no role for followers of another prophet.

* Will Jesus on his alleged physical return be a follower of Prophet Muhammad? If so, then it negates the very definition of a prophet in Quran, according to which each prophet is a leader, not a follower of another prophet:

4:64. And We have sent no Messenger but that he should be obeyed by the leave of Allâh [via the medium of Gabriel v. 26.192-4][32]

* It is the promise of Allah that righteous amongst the followers of Prophet Muhammad will be elevated to the status of successors (vouchsafed with both spiritual and temporal leadership) on the earth as He made successors (from among) their predecessors, namely the likes of the prophets of Israelites:

24:55. Allâh has promised those of you who believe and do deeds of righteousness that surely, He will make them successors (vouchsafed with both spiritual and temporal leadership) on the earth as He made successors (from among) their predecessors [–e.g. the followers of Moses], and that He will surely establish for them their Faith which He has approved for them, and that He will surely replace their state of fear with a state of security and peace. They will worship Me (alone) and they will not associate anything with Me. And those who show ingratitude for all the favours done to them after that (His promise is fulfilled), it is they who will be reckoned as the worst disobedient.[33]

The above verse, in light of possible return of Jesus holds true only and only if the said 'Jesus' is re-born like an ordinary mortal and grows up and does deeds of righteousness first, before he is able to be one of the successors of Prophet Muhammad, but then he will be as Jesus, not the Jesus son of Mary, contrary to as envisioned by Muslims in general.

Maulana Muhammad Ali in his book "The Promised Messiah and Mahdi" makes the following argument for advent of Jesus like rather than Jesus son of Mary, in section ‘The evidence of the Quran that the Messiah shall be raised from the nation of Muhammad’[34]:

1. Reports [i.e. Hadiths] are only an exposition of the Qur'an, the evidence of the Qur'an being the strongest of them all. When we turn to the Qur'an we find that it mentions the raising of khallfahs (successors) of the Prophet Muhammad from among this ummah. In chapter the Light we observe:

“Allah has promised to those of you who believe and do good that He will most certainly make them successors in the earth as He made successors before them. [24:55]. Here 'before them' refers to Israelites. As the Prophet has been compared with Moses and called the like of him – “Surely We have sent to you a Messenger, a witness, against you, as We sent Messenger to Pharaoh [73:15] similarly his successors have been likened to the successors of Moses. Thus this verse cannot bear the possibility of the appearance of Jesus Christ in person who was a successor of Moses. The logical conclusion is that as in the nation of Moses, Messiah was raised by God, similarly a like of the Messiah will appear in the nation of Muhammad. In other words this verse implies the coming of the like of Messiah and not Jesus Christ himself in person.

2. The second strong evidence is that prophethood has come to an end with Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him) and Jesus Christ was a prophet according to the Qur'an. It is, therefore, not possible that he should appear after the Prophet Muhammad. If he does come then Jesus Christ, and not the Prophet Muhammad, will be the khãtam al-nabiyyin (the seal of the prophets). Obviously, prophethood will come to an end with a prophet who comes last of all. The thought, that although Jesus Christ would appear last of all but as the Prophet Muhammad was the last in his appointment, therefore he was indeed the last of the prophets, is groundless. If a battle has to be fought and won, only that general would be called the last general who has won it irrespective of the date of his appointment. If A and Z were two generals appointed for this post, A being appointed before Z, and A was still alive when Z died and at last it was he who won the battle, then every wise person would call him the last general. Similarly if Jesus Christ, the prophet of God, would come after Muhammad and the final victory and dominance of Islam would take place at his hand, then he would be called the last of the prophets. The correct view, therefore, is that no prophet, neither new nor old, shall appear after the Prophet Muhammad.

In conclusion, since the source of belief in return of Jesus is based upon authentic Hadiths in Sahih Satta collection, such a pronouncement is a prophecy in metaphorical sense of a person who in the light of v. 24:55 will be like Jesus, but not Jesus son of Mary.

A Few Words About Mahdi

Similar to re-advent of Jesus, the advent of 'Mahdi' too is metaphorical who is believed by general Muslims to coercively convert mankind, unlike all the prophets before, by the tip of the sword, which if so, itself contravenes the basic doctrine of Islam i.e.

2:256. There is no compulsion of any sort in religion (as) the right way does stand obviously distinguished from the way of error…[35]

18:29. And say, `It is the truth from your Lord, therefore let him who wishes (it) believe (in it) and let him who wishes (otherwise) disbelieve (in it).'…[36]

The role of Mahdi to spread the truth is a much needed one, but only with wisdom and goodly and kind exhortation, and in the manner of one who argues with them in the most pleasant and best manner:

16:125. (Prophet!) call the people to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly and kind exhortation, and argue with them in the most pleasant and best manner. Surely, your Lord knows very well who has gone astray from His path, and He knows very well the guided ones to the right path.[37]

And while arguing, the Mahdi has to maintain the standards of decorum of speech in Quran:

6:107. If Allâh had (enforced) His will, they would not have associated partners with Him. And We have not made you a guardian over them, nor are you a disposer of their affairs.

6:108. Do not revile those whom they call upon besides Allâh, lest they should revile Allâh transgressingly (and) through lack of knowledge. Just [as] We made their deeds fair-seeming to them so have We made to each people fairseeming what they do. Then to their Lord is their return, so He will inform them as to what they have been doing.[38]

Thus, the prophesized Mahdi cannot be bloody but only bloodless. The only ‘weapon’ for Mahdi, like any Muslim is the peace and  logic of Jihad by the mighty arguments in Quran:

25:52. So do not follow the disbelievers, and strive hard against them with the help of this (Qur'ân), a mighty striving.[39]


[1] Al-Saff – The Ranks: Nooruddin
[2] Al-i-Imran – Family of Amran: Nooruddin
[3] Al-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[4] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
[5] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[6] Al-Anbiya – The Prophets: Nooruddin
[7] Al-Muminum – The Believers: Nooruddin
[8] Al-Zumur – Multitudes: Nooruddin
[9] Al-Zukhruf – The Ornament: Nooruddin
[10] Al-Anbiya – The Prophets: Nooruddin
[11] Al-Sajdah – The Adoration: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[12] Maryam – Mary: Nooruddin
[13] Al-Waqiah – The Great Event: Nooruddin
[14] Al-Hijr – The Rock: Nooruddin
[15] Al-Kahf – The Place of Refuge: Nooruddin
[16] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[17] Al-Anbiya – The Prophets: Nooruddin
[18] Al-Hajj – The Pilgrimage: Nooruddin
[19] Al-Rum – The Byzantines: Nooruddin
[20] Ya Sin – O Perfect Man!: Nooruddin
[21] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
[22] Al-i-Imran – Family of Amran: Nooruddin
[23] Al-Muminun – The Believers: Nooruddin
[24] Al-Zumur – The Multitudes: Nooruddin
[25] Maryam – The Mary: Nooruddin
[26] Al-Dukhan – The Drought: Nooruddin
[27] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[28] Al-Ahzab – The Confederates: Nooruddin
[29] Al-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[30] Al-Nisa – The Women: Nooruddin
[31] Al-Nisa – The Women: Nooruddin
[32] Al-Nisa – The Women: Nooruddin
[33] Al-Furqan – The Standard of Truth and Falsehood: Nooruddin
[34] “Promised Messiah and Mahdi” by Maulana Muhammad Ali, p. 11-12,, translated by S. Muhammad Tufail M.A., Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Ishaat Islam, Lahore (W. Pakistan), Third Edition, pub: 1959.
[35] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[36] Al-Kahf – The Place of Refuge: Nooruddin
[37] Al-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[38] Al-Anam – The Cattle: Nooruddin
[39] Al-Furqan – The Standard of Truth and Falsehood: Nooruddin