Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Qur'an Contradictions: "How many angels spoke to Mary?"

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu.

The perfection of the Qur'an has often been challenged, and skeptics go to far lengths to assert their positions. One of such methods used, is hastily looking for any and everything they are unable to understand in the Qur'an , and calling it a contradiction. Some of these claims mostly go unanswered, largely due to complacence on the part of Muslims, thereby causing antagonists to perpetuate these erroneous claims.

One of such alleged contradictions is the disparity between the translation of Surah Imran(3): 42,45 and Surah Maryam(19): 17. The following are from one of the English translations of The Qur'an:

  • 3:42 --AND LO! The angels said: "O Mary! Behold, God has elected thee and made thee pure, and raised thee above all the women of the world.

وَإِذْ قَالَتِ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ يَا مَرْيَمُ إِنَّ اللّهَ اصْطَفَاكِ وَطَهَّرَكِ وَاصْطَفَاكِ عَلَى نِسَاء الْعَالَمِين

  • 3:45 --Lo! The angels said: "O Mary! Behold, God sends thee the glad tiding, through a word from Him, [of a son] who shall become known as the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, of great honour in this world and in the life to come, and [shall be] of those who are drawn near unto God.

إِذْ قَالَتِ الْمَلآئِكَةُ يَا مَرْيَمُ إِنَّ اللّهَ يُبَشِّرُكِ بِكَلِمَةٍ مِّنْهُ اسْمُهُ الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ وَجِيهًا فِالدُّنْيَا وَالآخِرَةِ وَمِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ

  • 19:17-- and kept herself in seclusion from them, whereupon We sent unto her Our angel of revelation, who appeared to her in the shape of a well-made human being.

فَاتَّخَذَتْ مِن دُونِهِمْ حِجَابًا فَأَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهَا رُوحَنَا فَتَمَثَّلَ لَهَا بَشَرًا سَوِيًّا

Notice, that in Surah 3:42,45, the expression used is "Al Malaaikatu" (الْمَلاَئِكَةُ)

which literally means "the angels" while the expression used in Surah 19: 17 is not angel but "Spirit," "Ruhanaa"(رُوحَنَا)

So, linguistically, there can be no numerical contradiction between two different expressions with two different meanings, especially as these two expressions do not even emphasize number.

Furthermore, the expression "Al Malaaikatu" literally means "the angels." This expression can also take the linguistic pattern that God uses in The Qur'an to refer to Himself. God refers to Himself in the first person plural. This is a general theme in the Qur'an. Anyone who is familiar with the Arabic language instantly realizes the reason for this. "I" is a generic term used by humans in language, but since the status of God is above that of humans, the word "We" is rightly used to denote superior status.

So, when God speaks of particular angels given specific responsibility, like the angel of death, or the angel to whom righteous humans are sent, He refers to them as "Al malaaikatu" denoting a superior status than other angels.

Therefore, "Al Malaaikatu" which in some verses is translated as "the angels," should have been translated as "The Angel." The translation should reflect a proper noun for a superior status, instead of pluralizing the term.

We can see again, that what is often considered as a contradiction is based in part, on careless translations, and more as a result of hasty conclusions on the part of skeptics.

Wa Salam.

18 comments:

Fearless Lion said...

To me, Qur'an is mere a collection of stories but muslims think it as a Holy book.

M.Insani said...

@Fearless Lion:
When you begin to read Quran, that is a good step toward truth, My Brother. Try to increase your insight and knowledge in other field of science(e.g in medical, botany, astronomy etc), soon you'll see it as a miracle. "You'll find nothing when you search for nothing", the same "law" will work for every other valuable books,for example,when you read "think and grow rich" by Napoleon Hill. He even emphasized this "law" for several times in that great book of his.

Anonymous said...

hi

Matthew said...

This still miss quotes the bible, the angel Gabriel not a spirit came to Mary, and why change the context of the story.

webdawah said...

@Matthew; there was no intention to quote the Bible, neither was it done. Every quote was from the Qur'an.

JustBob said...

Hi! I remember reading about an alleged contradiction in the Koran in which the Egyptians are said to put to death Hebrew babies as infants and another passage that says Hebrew infants were put to death when Moses was a prophet and confronted the Pharaoh. Could you explain this alleged contradiction?

http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Contradictions_in_the_Qur%27an#When_did_Pharaoh_command_killing_of_baby_boys.3F

JustBob said...

Here are the Koranic verses in case the link did not go through:

And when he brought them the Truth from Our presence, they said: Slay the sons of those who believe with him, and spare their women. But the plot of disbelievers is in naught but error.
Qur'an 40:25

Throw (the child) into the chest, and throw (the chest) into the river: the river will cast him up on the bank, and he will be taken up by one who is an enemy to Me and an enemy to him': But I cast (the garment of) love over thee from Me: and (this) in order that thou mayest be reared under Mine eye.
Qur'an 20:39

webdawah said...

@ JustBob

Sorry for the somewhat late response. The two verses you highlighted though make reference to the time of Moses(pbuh), yet one(20:39) was a statement made by God in an inspiration to the mother of Moses(pbuh). She was inspired to put him in a chest and put him in the river...

40:25 talks about the reaction of Pharaoh and his people to adult Moses(pbuh) and those who have believed his message.

There are two different speakers, two different periods, and two different 'infants.'

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