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Does Allah Prefer Or Does He Not?

The Quran claims that Allah has preferred, or chosen, some messengers/prophets over others:

And those Messengers, some We have preferred above others; some there are to whom God spoke, and some He raised in rank. And We gave Jesus son of Mary the clear signs, and confirmed him with the Holy Spirit. And had God willed, those who came after him would not have fought one against the other after the clear signs had come to them; but they fell into variance, and some of them believed, and some disbelieved; and had God willed they would not have fought one against the other; but God does whatsoever He desires. S. 2:253 Arberry

And thy Lord knows very well all who are in the heavens and the earth; and We have preferred some Prophets over others; and We gave to David Psalms. S. 17:55 Arberry

The Islamic scripture contradicts this position by stating that Allah makes absolutely no distinction between any of his messengers:

The messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believeth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers – We make no distinction between any of His messengers – and they say (wa qaloo): We hear, and we obey. (Grant us) Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the journeying. S. 2:285 Pickthall

Here is how another version reads:

The Messenger believes in what was sent down to him from his Lord, and the believers; each one believes in God and His angels, and in His Books and His Messengers; we make no division between any one of His Messengers. They say, ‘We hear, and obey. Our Lord, grant us Thy forgiveness; unto Thee is the homecoming.’ Arberry

A Muslim may interject and claim that the Quran is not quoting Allah at this point, but is narrating the statements of the believers. In other words, the author(s) is(are) expressing the view of the believers, that they are the ones who are saying that they do not make any distinction between the messengers of Allah.

The main problem with this view is that there is no indication that the author(s) has(have) interjected the words of the faithful, and the evidence from the text actually mitigates against this interpretation.

For instance, right after this sentence, the author(s) insert(s) the words “they say” (qaloo) in order to indicate that he is quoting the words of the Muslims, but doesn’t/don’t include this term for what comes beforehand.

This demonstrates that if the author(s) wanted his/her/their readers to know that the believers were the ones stating that they make no distinction between any of Allah’s prophets s/he/they could have inserted the Arabic word qaloo, so that the text would read this way,

They say (qaloo), “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say (wa qaloo), “We hear, and we obey …”

In other words, there should have been two instances of qaloo, i.e. one qaloo is missing, or at least the one qaloo was misplaced. It should have come before the problematic phrase, so that it could refer to or govern both statements.

This is much like what we find the following English version doing:

The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. They say, “We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers” – and they say, “We hear, and we obey. (We seek) Your Forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the return (of all).” Hilali-Khan

Apparently the translators Hilali-Khan were aware of the problem with Allah saying that he makes no distinction between his spokespersons and so decided to improve on the Arabic Quran by inserting the words, “they say,” in order to correct this error. Unfortunately for them, this is not what the Arabic says and the problem, therefore, remains.

The author(s) of the Quran did not insert the word qaloo, but s/he/they wrote in such a way as to leave absolutely no doubt that it is Allah who is supposed to be speaking here. There is absolutely no indication within the text that there is a change of speaker(s) before the word qaloo, i.e. “they say.” Therefore, there is no justification for translating the verse in the manner proposed by Hilali-Khan.

Now a Muslim may further argue that it cannot be Allah who is claiming that he makes no distinction among his prophets since there is a change in the pronouns:

We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His apostles.”

Note, carefully, the switch from first-person plural pronoun to the third person singular. Doesn’t this conclusively prove that it is not Allah who speaking here, but it is actually the believers who are professing faith in all of “His” (i.e. Allah’s) messengers?

Not at all since the Quran is full of examples where Allah (who is supposed to be speaking) switches from first person singular to the first-person plural to third-person singular (as confusing and chaotic as that may be):

And (remember) when you killed a man and fell into dispute among yourselves as to the crime. But Allah brought forth that which you were hiding. So We said: “Strike him (the dead man) with a piece of it (the cow).” Thus Allah brings the dead to life and shows you His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) so that you may understand. S. 2:72-73 Hilali-Khan

Verily, those who disbelieve in Allah and His Messengers and wish to make distinction between Allah and His Messengers (by believing in Allah and disbelieving in His Messengers) saying, “We believe in some but reject others,” and wish to adopt a way in between. They are in truth disbelievers. And We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating torment. And those who believe in Allah and His Messengers and make no distinction between any of them (Messengers), We shall give them their rewards, and Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. S. 4:150-152 Hilali-Khan

When Moses came to the place appointed by Us, and his Lord addressed him, He said: “O my Lord! show (Thyself) to me, that I may look upon thee.” God said: “By no means canst thou see Me (direct); But look upon the mount; if it abide in its place, then shalt thou see Me.” When his Lord manifested His glory on the Mount, He made it as dust. And Moses fell down in a swoon. When he recovered his senses he said: “Glory be to Thee! to Thee I turn in repentance, and I am the first to believe.” S. 7:143 Y. Ali

Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far distant place of worship the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Hearer, the Seer. We gave unto Moses the Scripture, and We appointed it a guidance for the children of Israel, saying: Choose no guardian beside Me. S. 17:1-2 Pickthall

How many generations have We destroyed after Noah? and enough is thy Lord to note and see the sins of His servants. S. 17:17 Y. Ali

Then their Faith (in Islamic Monotheism) could not avail them when they saw Our punishment. (Like) this has been the way of Allah in dealing with His slaves. And there the disbelievers lost utterly (when Our Torment covered them). S. 40:85 Hilali-Khan

And if any believe not in God and His ApostleWe have prepared, for those who reject God, a Blazing Fire! S. 48:13 Y. Ali

And those who believe in Allah and His messengers, they are the loyal, and the martyrs are with their Lord; they have their reward and their light; while as for those who disbelieve and deny Our revelations, they are owners of hell-fire. S. 57:19 Pickthall

We verily sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance, that mankind may observe right measure; and He revealed iron, wherein is mighty power and (many) uses for mankind, and that Allah may know him who helpeth Him and His messengers, though unseen. Lo! Allah is Strong, Almighty. S. 57:25 Pickthall

How many populations that insolently opposed the Command of their Lord and of His apostles, did We not then call to account, – to severe account? – and We imposed on them an exemplary Punishment. S. 65:8 Y. Ali

In fact, we find this same phenomenon in one of the very passages we quoted earlier:

Those apostles We endowed with gifts, some above others: To one of them Allah spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honour); to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit. If Allah had so willed, succeeding generations would not have fought among each other, after clear (Signs) had come to them, but they (chose) to wrangle, some believing and others rejecting. If Allah had so willed, they would not have fought each other; but Allah Fulfilleth His plan. S. 2:253

Thus, the switch in pronouns does not help to solve the error since it does not prove that Allah is not the one speaking.

The author(s) could have avoided all of these problems by simply inserting the word qaloo, assuming, of course, that s/he/they intended to quote the words of the believers and not Allah. Yet the failure on the part of the author(s) to include this one word has led to a contradiction within the Muslim scripture.

Hence, this clearly establishes that the Quran contradicts itself on this matter. The logical contradiction can only be escaped at the price of admitting that the author of this verse messed up on the formulation.

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