Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Muslim Takes Aim At The Two Messenger But Misses Both Target

Anthony Rogers & Sam Shamoun

In a rather lazy reply that he obviously didn’t think all the way through, Bassam Zawadi has illustrated the truth of the proverb: “A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!” (Proverbs 19:24)

Zawadi cites al-Qurtubi who asserts that the word rasool (messenger) can mean risalah (message), and uses this to show that the verse can be legitimately translated in the following manner: “We are the possessors of the message of the Lord of the worlds.”  

There are two major problems with Zawadi’s “reply” at this point: first, if it is the case that the word rasool could mean risalah, i.e. message, then the verse would actually read: “We are the message of the Lord of the worlds,” which is just as bad as the original mistake we pointed out; and second, Zawadi doesn’t provide the Arabic poetry which al-Qurtubi quotes which would enable us to examine whether the word rasoolu is being used in a similar context to the Quran, e.g. a singular noun used in relation to either dual or plural subjects. To say that rasoolu can refer by implication to the message that is brought by the messengers is not the same as providing examples where the singular noun is used for more than one subject.

However, Zawadi does mention the claim of Abu Ubayd who stated that the Arabs would use the singular rasool when referring to more than one individual. Abu Ubayd even provides another example from the Quran, specifically Q. 26:77, to show how Allah uses the singular in reference to more than one individual: “They are an enemy to me.”

But this explanation also raises problems for Zawadi’s “defense.” First, citing examples from Arabic sources that contain the same error which is found in the Quran doesn’t help Zawadi’s case. All this establishes is that the Muslim scripture contains grammatical mistakes that are also found in uninspired Arabic literature, and therefore proves that the Quran is no better than the works of fallible, imperfect human authors!

And to quote another Quranic verse where Allah again mistakenly uses the singular in the place of the plural simply further proves that the Muslim scripture contains multiple grammatical mistakes. What the example of Q. 26:77 shows is that the Quran’s eloquence and linguistic structure is anything but perfect or miraculous. 

Second, Zawadi doesn’t realize that these different explanations are basically contradicting each other. After all, al-Qurtubi’s assertion that rasool (messenger) in Q. 26:16 has essentially the same meaning as risalah (message), i.e. Moses and Aaron are commanded to say that they both possess the message, refutes his claim that rasool is being treated as a plural, even though it is singular in form.

In other words, either the Quran is treating rasool here as an actual plural, or it is using it in the same sense as risalah. If the latter, then this means that it is actually singular in Q. 26:16, not plural!

Third, in his haste to explain the Quran’s gross error, Zawadi also overlooked the parallel verse which we cited, and which even his quote from Ibn Kathir mentions.

Here is what Zawadi’s citation from Ibn Kathir says:

(And go both of you to Fir`awn, and say: `We are the Messengers of the Lord of the all that exists.') This is like the Ayah,

(Verily, we are both Messengers of your Lord) (20:47). which means, `both of us have been sent to you,' (Tafsir Ibn Kathir)

Zawadi conveniently ignored the problems that Q. 20:47 poses for his “reply.” This verse is supposed to be referring to the same event of Allah instructing Moses what Aaron and he are to say when they go before Pharaoh. However, instead of using the same phrasing as in Q. 26:16, Q. 20:47 actually employs conflicting terminology and even avoids the mistake found in the other verse!

Compare the two texts carefully:

Q. 20:47

"So go you both to him, and say: 'Verily, we are Messengers of your Lord, so let the Children of Israel go with us…”

Fatiyahu fa-qoola inna rasoola rabikka fa-arsil maAAana banee isra-eela...

Q. 26:16-17

And when you both come to Pharaoh, say: 'We are the Messenger of the Lord of all beings, So allow the Children of Israel to go with us.'

Fatiya firAAawna fa-qoola inna rasoolu rabbi alAAalameena An arsil maAAana banee isra-eela

As was already noted in our article, the word rasoola which is used in Q. 20:47 is in the dual form. This is in contrast to Q. 26:16 which uses the singular rasoolu.

The differences in the wording between these two passages introduce a whole of host of additional problems.

First, doesn’t the use of the dual in Q. 20:47 actually disprove Zawadi’s assertion that rasool (messenger) functions as a synonym for risalah (message)? I.e., the author(s) was/were not speaking of the message that Moses and Aaron brought, but was/were emphasizing their roles as Allah’s messengers.

Second, why did the author(s) use the dual form in Q. 20:47 when s/he/they used the singular form in Q. 26:16?  After all, if rasoolu can be used in reference to more than one subject then why didn’t the author(s) simply stick with the singular in Q. 20:47? Why did s/he/they decide to go with the dual?

This leads us to the third problem which Zawadi needs to address. Wouldn’t the dual in Q. 20:47 prove that the author(s) did in fact make a mistake in Q. 26:16 by employing the singular when the author(s) really wanted to go with the dual?

Fourth, these verses also differ in respect to the exact words spoken by Allah to Moses, e.g. did Allah say to Moses, “Both of you go to Pharaoh” as in Q. 26:16? Or did he really say, “Both of you go to him” as we find in Q. 26:16? And did Allah really tell them to say, “We are the messenger of the Lord of al-Alamin”? Or did he actually command them to exclaim, “We are the messengers of YOUR Lord”? Moreover, did Allah say fa-arsil (“so let… go”), as in Q. 20:47, or An arsil (“so allow… to go”) as in Q. 26:17?

Now these variations in wording are serious and quite damaging to Zawadi’s position. Zawadi has bought into the lie that the Quran is the revelation of Allah which he dictated to Muhammad word for word. Zawadi does not believe that the Muslim scripture is a patchwork of different sources which were haphazardly combined and badly edited. Nor does he believe that the Quran reflects the views of multiple authors, much like we find in the case of the Canonical Gospels. Zawadi further believes that Allah is omniscient and therefore perfectly capable of recalling everything that has ever happened.

However, if Allah did in fact dictate the Quran to Muhammad why then do we find major verbal variations and contradictions within these parallel accounts? Wasn’t the Islamic deity able to record the same conversations that he and others had with the same exact phrasing? Doesn’t Allah remember the exact words he revealed to Moses and Aaron? Apparently not, since the Islamic scripture repeats the same conversations with major and often contradictory variations in both the wording and details.

Hence, the grammatical mistake found in Q. 26:16 and the contradictory wording which exists between it and Q. 20:47 provide further reason to seriously question whether the author of the Quran is actually the true God, and whether Muhammad is a prophet of the one true God, when the message “revealed to him” is filled with so many errors and inconsistencies, as well as lies and deception.

It is time for Zawadi to throw in the towel and find another religion as well as another line of work. Islamic apologetics is simply not cutting it for him.