Contradictions in the Qur’an-3
It has been pointed out that the Qur’an suffers from no less than 11 contradictions. We have dealt with one of them in the last issue. Herewith, a few more of them, and their answers.
2. Width of the Garden
There is a clear discrepancy with reference to the width of the Paradise or Garden in the Qur’an. Verse 3:133 says that it is all the heavens (Samawath: plural) and the earth combined. Verse 57:21 says that the width is the (lower?) heaven (Sama: singular) and the earth combined.
“…. a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and the earth, prepared for the righteous,”
“…. a Garden (of Bliss), the width whereof is as the width of the heaven and the earth, prepared for those who believe in Allah …. “
Answer to Contradiction no. 2: The word سماء (heaven) of the second instance has been used as اسم الجنس (generic noun) which, following grammatical rules attached to this ‘particular kind of noun,’ (of which there are several kinds in Arabic), generates the meaning both in singular as well as in plural. A little knowledge of grammar will come handy to understand the Arabic Qur’an.
3. Who misleads people? Satan or Allah?
According to verse 4:119-120, Satan (the rejected one) is the one who creates false desires and misleads people. Refer also 15:42. However, according to verse 16:93, it is God who leaves people astray as He wills! See also 4:78.
“I will mislead them, and I will create in them false desires…..” (says Satan)
“Satan makes them promises and creates in them false hopes….” (vouched by Allah)
“If Allah so willed, He could make you all one people. But He leaves straying whom He pleases and He guides whom He pleases ….”
Answer to Contradiction no. 3: The first verse of these quotes (4:119-120) is speaking of Shaytan’s will, his intention, and his resolve: He will attempt to misguide. But will he succeed or fail? That will depend on Allah’s Will, which is expressed in (16:93). Allah has allowed Satan the opportunity to do his work but not the power to impose his will. It is Allah who decides the outcome of his prompting, and man’s response to it. Sometimes, He intervenes to fail them, sometimes He does not. When He does not intervene, allowing Satan to succeed, and man to implement, it is like Himself having led the man in question into error. After all, if He wished, He could have come in between the man and Satan, but He did not, so, in a way He became responsible.
But, we have to be clear about what exactly Allah is responsible for? He is merely responsible for not having intervened. He is not responsible for the misguidance itself, which was the work of Satan and choice of man.
He had ordered man not to take the company of Satan and not to follow his promptings. Man answered, ‘Does Satan exist, and, assuming that he exists, how should I know it is Satan’s prompting?’ He was answered, ‘Use My Revelation.’ Man said, ‘Ah! Your Revelation!? Well, I shall find fault in Your Revelation.’ So Allah abandoned the man to the Devil.
Yet, how often it is not that man and his Devil-friend intend to do wrong, injustice, and oppression to others, but Allah intervenes. If He did not, life would become Hell for others. It may be objected that man should have freedom to do his will. The answer is, he has the freedom of will, but not full freedom of evil action. In the interest of other creations, Allah intervenes at the time of man’s execution of evil.
Thus, misguidance comes from Satan (and is accepted or rejected by the humans), while the permission for it to take effect comes from Allah. In contrast, guidance never comes from Satan. Allah is the sole Cause, Provider and Executer of Guidance. Therefore, one of Allah’s Name is “Al-Hadi” (الهادي: the Guide), but not “Al-Mudill” (المُضِل: the misleader/deluder).
4. Attitude towards unbelieving parents
Al-Qur’an givens contradicting information as to what a believer should do when unbelieving parents and brothers insist on worshipping their gods. Verse 31:15 asks believers to keep company with unbelieving parents even if they insist (on following their religion?), but verse 9:23 asks believers not to take their fathers and brothers as protectors if they disbelieved!
“But if they strive (Jahada) to make thee join in worship with Me things of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration)…”
“O ye who believe! Take not protectors your fathers and your brothers if they love infidelity above faith: If any of you do so, they do wrong”
These verses of course appear in different contexts. Apologists can argue that verse 9:23 is applicable only in the context of hostilities and not otherwise. Then we have to define what is hostility. We must not forget that many passages in the Qur’an reflect an hostile environment of fluctuating fortunes between believers and unbelievers. Since neither the Suras nor all the verses within Suras are arranged chronologically, the contexts of these `revelations’ become that much difficult to understand. Interestingly, verse 31:15 also seems to appear in the context of `Striving’ from the Unbelievers’ side. Note the word `Jahada‘!
Answer to Contradiction no. 4: There are many things that are difficult to understand; but that does not make them any less worthier. It is said that at one point of time (in fact, even now), Quantum Theory was understood by as many scientists as could be counted on a single finger. But that did not make Quantum Theory false. What makes a writing unworthy of study is not the difficulty in understanding it, but the fact that after subjecting it to hard study, the understanding you achieve is worthless in your own eyes as well in the eyes of the great majority of people, (leaving out those who wish to believe in its grandiosity, say what you will).
As regards the verses quoted, we fail to perceive any contradiction. The two are discussing different issues. Quote (31:15) says: treat the parents well, but do not obey them if they ask you to ascribe partners to Allah; while quote (89:27-30) directs the believers not to treat them as close allies if they remain unbelievers.
Treating somebody well is an outgoing activity, while taking somebody an ally is an incoming activity. Treating well is a positive work, not taking an ally is a negative attitude. Treating well is generosity, not taking an ally is precaution that does not preclude good treatment. You can treat well, but keep your secrets to yourself: one is ordered, another is prohibited.
The two verses put together are creating a one-way traffic of goodness flowing from the believer to his parents (and homefolk). He sends across good, but when it comes to sharing secrets, which normally ends in seeking some sort of help from them, he is directed not to try and get back any good from them for the good he does them. Should he continue sending forward benefits to them? The answer is, yes. He should.
5. Which enters the Paradise: Soul or Body or Both?
After resurrection, it is the body (after reuniting with the soul?) which enters the Paradise. This has been emphasized throughout the Book. See verses 13:5, 17:98-99, 20:55, 34:7, 75:3-4. However verses 27-30 in Sura 89 state that it is the Soul (Nafs)* which enters the Garden!
“See they not that Allah who created the heavens and the earth has the power to create the like of them (anew)? ….”
“Does man think that We cannot assemble his bones? Nay we are able to to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers…”
(To the righteous soul will be said) “O (tho) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back thou to thy Lord – well pleased (thyself), and well-pleasing unto Him! Enter thou, thee among my Devotees! Yea, enter thou My Heaven!”
“Your creation and your rising (from the dead) are only as (the creation and the rising of) a single soul…” (Pickthall)
In Islam, the bliss in Paradise is not complete without the corporeal and sense pleasures. Otherwise, how can one drink Zanzabil (76:17), feel the moderate temperature (76:13), enjoy maidens (55:56) and drink honey and milk (47:16-17). These are all joys in state for the faithful.
Yousuf Ali (note 6128 for verse 89:27-30) also says that it is the soul which enters the heaven, and not the gross body which perishes (His comment is contradictory to what verse 75:3-4 says!). Read verse 31:28 also. It says man’s creation or resurrection is in no wise but as an individual soul*. Pickthall’s translation (see box above) is more clear.
* Unlike in Vedic scriptures, the Qur’an does not clearly recognize the SOUL as a distinct entity from the BODY. The soul is often referred as a source of all inclinations and desires (3:61, 12:53). The Arabic word `Nafs‘ has been translated differently by different translators: as SOUL, MIND, SPIRIT and even as HEART! The word `Nafs‘ at times refers to the individual (12:53), sometimes to the Soul (6:93, 39:42), and sometimes to God Himself (6:12,54)!. Of particular interest is verse 21:35 which says “Every soul shall have a taste of death…. “. This verse could mean: (i) that the Soul gets a taste of death after separation from the body, as Yousuf Ali interprets or (ii) that the Individual gets a taste of death as it is generally implied on most occasions (3:61, 51:21). Those who are of the opinion that `Nafs‘ in 21:35 only mean the real Soul would then have to consider this verse as another contradiction to verses 39:42 and 89:27-30 which imply that the Soul is taken back by Allah, momentarily during sleep and decisively at death. Does it mean that the Soul has no death?
Answer to Contradiction no. 5: We do not feel oblige to defend what the commentators of the Qur’an wrote, if they put forward their personal opinions. We can only answer objections raised against the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the unanimous opinions of the first three generation Muslims.
As for the opinions (about Nafs or anything else) derived from the Vedas, it is a matter of common knowledge that you can derive any kind of opinion you like from the Vedas. The vast literature, and variety of opinions expressed therein, allows great leeway. Further, there is no central authority to refer to, so one is free to interpret and say, e.g., there are a million gods, or that there are three, or that there is only one, or that there is none; there is no authority to accept or reject your opinion.
You have yourself given the various meanings in which the word Nafs has been used in the Qur’an. Herewith, translation of the verses you have quoted, with the right meaning chosen for the world Nafs.
5a/1. Do they not see that Allah, who created the heavens and the earth, has the power to create the like of them? He has appointed a term for them, there is no doubt about it; but the unjust refuse except that they should reject. (17:99) & 5a/2. Does man think that We cannot assemble his bones? Nay, We are able to shape together the very tips of his fingers. But rather, man desires to continue sinning (in days) ahead of him. (75:3-4)
5b/1. O tranquil soul!1 Return to your Lord, well-pleased and well-pleasing (unto Him). Enter you among My (chosen) slaves. Enter My Paradise.’ (89:27-30) & 5b/2. Your creation and your upraising are not but like (that of) a single individual. Surely, Allah is All-hearing, All-seeing. (31:28)
Do you see any contradiction now between the two set of verses under 5a and 5b?
The Qur’an does not leave room for doubt that the Resurrection will be with the body and soul, except that it will happen in a world of different dimensions, of different kind of matter, of different laws, and different forces. Ibn `Abbas has said that nothing of the Hereafter resembles its counterpart in this world except that they share the same names. The Qur’an is after all, for the humans, and, therefore, it was inevitable to use the terminology employed by them. Deriving a literal meaning of terms used in connection with the Hereafter is inadvisable.
6. God needs man or man needs God?
A very clear contradiction exists between verses 51:56 and 35:15. While the former verse says that God created Jinns and mankind for His own reasons (read also 67:2), the latter one says it is man who is in need of God! Read also 51:57.
“I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve me” *
“He who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is the best in deed”
“O mankind! It is you that have need of God: but God is the One Free of all wants, worthy of all praise”
Answer to Contradiction no. 6: The translation of 51: 56 is incorrect. It should read, “I have not created men and Jinn but that they should worship Me alone.” That is, Allah did not create men and jinn because He wanted to be worshipped, but rather, since He created them – all by Himself – it is expected that they will not worship any but Him. This is the meaning intended by the verse.
Aren’t the zillions upon zillions of angels that He created, who worship none but Him, enough for Him, if at all He stood in need of devotion? If He needed men and Jinn to worship Him, for His satisfaction, would He not have forced them to do so? Would He not have broken the head of every foolhardy who bowed his head before false gods? Would He not have made mankind perish out of thirst and hunger by withholding rains, until, after the death of millions, the rest had axed down every idol, smashed every false god’s picture, reduced to dust every temple; and everyone bowed in obedience his starved bones, and broken will, before Him?
It is man’s self-centeredness, his egoism, his bigotry, his conceit and his overestimation of the self which led to the belief in the West that God needs him. This led the Church to persecute those scientists who demonstrated that the earth goes around the sun. Man was all too important for them to allow the earth, in which they lived, to go around the sun. The sun – they thought – should be slavishly going around the earth because they lived upon it.
Islam does not allow man any such self-delusion. Says the Qur’an (35: 17): “O people! You are the ones who are in need of Allah, while Allah is the Self-sufficient, the Praiseworthy. If He wishes, He can take you away and bring about a new creation. And that is not at all hard upon Allah.”
As for the Hadith of your quote: “I was a secret treasure, and I created the creatures in order that I might be known,” it is a fabricated one. We may remind ourselves of another, but trustworthy Hadith: Allah said,
“O My slaves, I have forbidden oppression unto Myself and have made it unlawful to you, therefore do not oppress each other. O My slaves, all of you are misguided save him whom I guided. Therefore seek guidance of Me, I shall guide you. O My slaves, all of you are hungry save him who I fed. Therefore ask food of Me and I shall feed you. O My slaves, all of you are naked save him I clothed. Therefore seek clothes of me and I shall clothe you. O My slaves, you sin by the day and by the night and I forgive all of your sins. Therefore, seek forgiveness of Me and I shall forgive you. O My slaves, you can never be in a position to harm Me that you might (attempt to) harm Me, neither can you ever be in a position to be of benefit to Me so that you might (try and) cause Me benefit. O My slaves, were the first of you and the last of you, the men of you and the jinn of you to become as pious as the most pious of you, that will not cause increase in My kingdom by any amount. O My slaves, were the first of you and the last of you, the men of you and the jinn of you to become as corrupt as the most corrupt of you, that will not cause decrease in My kingdom in the least. O My slaves, were the first of you, the last of you, the men of you and the jinn of you to gather together in a plain field and ask Me, and I were to grant everyone of you what he asked, that would not cause any decrease in My kingdom more than what would if a needle were to be dipped into the sea. O My slaves, it is nothing but your own deeds that I keep record of and then return them to you (in the form of retribution: good or bad). Therefore, let him who finds good, thank Allah, and let him who finds it other than that, blame none but himself.”