Verses from Surah Al-Tawbah (30-33)

[30] The Jews said, “Uzayr is the son of God;’57 and the Christians say, `Jesus is the son of God.’58 That is the (unsubstantiated) utterance of their mouths. They imitate the words of those who disbelieved earlier.59 May Allah destroy them.60 How they are deluded.



57. According to some commentators, it was in actual fact only a single individual – Finhas – who had said that `Uzayr is the son of God, (but it was attributed to all because they did not denounce him for saying that: Au.), although another opinion says that it was a group of Jews who had said that. Ibn `Abbas has said (in a report preserved in Ibn Is-haq, Ibn Abi Hatim, Abu al-Sheikh and Ibn Marduwayh: Manar) that once Sallam b. Muhkam, No`man b. Abi Awfa and Shas b. Qays went up to see the Prophet (saws). During the talk, they said, “How do you expect us to follow you when you don’t believe that `Uzayr was a son of God?” Allah (swt) revealed this verse. (Naqqash has said that no Jew is left now who believes that `Uzayr was a son of God: Qurtubi). Ibn `Abbas has also said that once the Israelites became so rebellious that Allah (swt) withdrew the Tawrah from their breasts and they lost its hard copy along with the (holy) Chest (Tabut). Their enemies captured it as war spoils. (According to another report, it was the `Amaliqa [Amalekites] who overcome them, killed their scholars, destroyed the copies of the Tawrah, and took away the Chest which had the [oldest] written copy). `Uzayr had taken refuge in the mountains. He supplicated to Allah (swt) and the Tawrah was re-inspired to him. But the Israelites remained skeptic of the Tawrah he was reciting, until they regained the Chest and compared the hard copy with `Uzayr’s recitation. When they found the two matching they declared that he must be a son of God (Ibn Jarir, Razi).

Majid writes: “(The allusion by the term `Uzayr is to the) Ezra of the Bible, whose official title in the Jewish tradition is the `Scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord and His statutes for Israel,’ (Friedlander, Jewish Religion, p. 125) and whose work constitutes a landmark in the history of Judaism. (JE. V. p. 321) Spinoza goes so far as to attribute the composition of the Pentateuch, not to Moses, but to Ezra, which view appears to have existed even in the time of the Apocrypha’ (IX. p. 590). `He is said to have restored not only the law, which had been burnt, but also all the other Hebrew scriptures which had been destroyed, and seventy apocryphal works in addition.’ (EBr. IX, p. 14) `With the Return’, i.e. since the era of Ezra `began the codification of the Torah and scriptures, the translation and exegesis, and the development of their intensive teaching. From now onwards Judaism can be spoken of as distinct from the religion of Israel.’ (VJE. p. 339) `He succeeded in reviving with increased strength the old Jewish national religious ideal; and because he did so he is called the father of Judaism.’ (The Columbia Encyclopedia, p. 599). He was the first of the scribes or soferin. But who exactly were they? and what standing had they in the Jewish theology? Not only were they `the great authorities on the text of the Scriptures and on its interpretation’ but it was they who first `fixed the norm of Jewish religious practice,’ and they were considered competent to effect whatever changes they liked even in the Scriptures. In fact they did introduce `eighteen changes into the text of the Pentateuch, chiefly in order to soften expressions which were considered too harsh by a later age. They also modified some of the precepts of the Pentateuch in order to meet the spirit of the age and the needs of the times. These modifications are called in the Talmud dibre soferin, “the words of the Scribes,” and were accepted as binding by later generations’ (VJE, pp. 585-586). His traditionary tomb is on the bank of the Tigris, near its junction with the Euphrates. (Layard, Ninaveh and Babylon, p. 282 f.n.).”

Although, the interpretation of son-ship as offered by Asad doesn’t sound too convincing, we might present what he writes: “… Ezra occupies a unique position in the esteem of all Jews, and has always been praised by them in the most extravagant terms. It was he who restored and codified the Torah after it had been lost during the Babylonian Exile, and `edited’ it in more or less the form which it has today; and thus ‘he promoted the establishment of an exclusive, legalistic type of religion that became dominant in the later Judaism’ (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1963, Vol. IX, p. 15). Ever since then he has been venerated to such a degree that his verdicts on the Law of Moses have come to be regarded by the Talmudists as being practically equivalent to the Law itself: which, in Qur’anic ideology, amounts to a quasi-divine law-giver and the blasphemous attribution to him – albeit metaphorically – of the quality of ‘sonship’ in relation to God.”

Contemporary Jewish works confirm not only what Asad writes but also what the classic commentators wrote. The Jewish author Max I. Dimont writes in his best-seller “Jews, God and History” (p.69-70): “In the year 458 B.C., with the permission of the Persian king, Ezra headed the second mass exodus of 1,800 Jews from Babylonia to Jerusalem. Here Ezra joined hands with Nehemiah. The first move of the alliance between the priest and the aristocrat was a ban on intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews, the first in Jewish history, and the first such ban on intermarriage in the world. This action did not sit well with many nations…. It did not sit well with many Jews either, and the Book of Ruth is considered to have been written at this time as a protest against such discrimination. However, it must be stressed that this action was not motivated by a philosophy of superiority, or rejection of other people as inferior, but was strictly a defense against future religious dilution. The Chosen people should stay chosen….

“As a second measure toward forging a national religious and spiritual Jewish character, Ezra and Nehemiah decided not only to revise the Book of Deuteronomy but to add to it four other books of Moses. Under their directions, priest and scholar labored diligently to fuse the most important of the divergent of Mosaic documents, including the Deuteronomy of Josiah, into the five books of the Pentateuch, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. All five books of Moses were now made divine.

“… Heralds were sent into every corner of the Persian Empire to spread the news that on the Jewish New Year’s Day the Five books of Moses, written by Moses, would be read aloud to all the people.”

We have another evidence from a French writer. Commenting on the Qur’anic charge that the Jews treated ‘Uzayr as a son of God, he writes (Maxim Rodinson, Mohammed, Pantheon Books, 1971, p. 238), “The Jews claimed that ‘Uzayr (Esdras, or Ezra) was the son of God, a status which the Christians attribute to Jesus.

“The first of these assertions begins to look less unjustified than it seems at first sight when we find, in a first-century Jewish ‘Apocrypha’ which later enjoyed great popularily, the fourth book of Esdras, the following words spoken to Esdras by an angel: ‘Thou shalt be taken up from [among] men, and henceforth thou shalt remain with my son … Let go from thee the cares of morality; cast from thee the burden of man” (Au.).

Shabbir writes that he was told by a trustworthy Muslim who had toured the Palestine region (early in the 20th century) that he had come across some Jews who held the belief of Uzayr’s Divinity and were locally known as Uzayrites.

58. Majid comments: “`Children of God’ and `Sons of God’ are both Biblical phrases. In the former, the favourite phrase of St. John, `the idea of origin is most prominent’; while the latter, so frequently used by St. Paul, emphasises `rather the notion of relation and privilege’ (DG. II, p. 215). The doctrine of Jesus being `a child of God’ is distinct from his Sonship, though the two ideas later on coalesced into one. Both are equally blasphemous and derogatory to the dignity of God.”

59. “Pagan mythologies and polytheistic theologies are full of the underlying notion of the fatherhood of God, man’s generic relationship with Him, and community of nature between man and God. `The idea of divine Fatherhood had not failed to make its appearance in the Jewish scriptures, canonical and uncanonical, as it indeed appears in many religions.’ (EBr. XIII, p. 21). There may be special reference to the great influence on the Christian theology of Greece which `supplied the philosophy of the Christian religion’ and Rome of which `the stubborn local traditions survive in Catholic Europe to this day.’ (UHW, IV, p. 2083)” – Majid.

60. The literal translation of “qatalahum Allah” is close to the interpretation of Ibn `Abbas who said that every usage of this kind in the Qur’an means to curse. But, Qurtubi adds, the term expresses another meaning also: wonder. This kind of usage has its precedence in poetry. Asma`i has said:

Oh wonderful Layla how she amazes me
Although the people allege that I don’t care for her.

[31] They took their rabbis and monks, and the Messiah the son of Mary, as lords besides Allah,61 while they were not commanded but that they should worship one God. There is no god besides He. Exalted is He, high above what they associate (with Him). 


61. `Adiyy b. Hatim reports: “I went up to the Prophet (saws). I had a cross hanging by my neck. When he saw me he said, `Hatim. Throw that pagan-mark away.’ So I threw it away. The Prophet was reciting surah Bara’ah. When he reached, `They took their scholars and monks, and the Messiah the son of Mary, as lords besides Allah,’ I protested, `We never worshiped them O Messenger of Allah.’ He replied, `Isn’t it true that they declared the unlawful as lawful and lawful as unlawful and you followed them?’ I said, `Yes. That’s true.’ He replied, `Well. That was taking them lords besides Allah’” (Ibn Jarir). The narration is in Tirmidhi who thought that the report is of gharib status, i.e. weak (Qurtubi).

Ibn Kathir writes: The report is in Ahmad also wherein it ends in the following manner. The Prophet said, “`Adiyy! What do you say? Will it kill you if you said Allah is the Greatest? Is there anyone greater than Allah? Will it destroy you if you said, there is no deity save one Allah? Do you know of any other god save Allah?” Then he invited him to Islam. `Adiyy embraced Islam on the spot. I could see, the narrator says, that the Prophet’s face brightened up with pleasure. He said to `Adiyy, “The Jews are `the angered upon,’ and the Christians are `those who lost the way.’” (Ibn Kathir).

[32] They wish to extinguish Allah’s Light with their mouths.62 But Allah refuses except to perfect His Light, though the unbelievers be averse (to it). 


62. Yusuf Ali writes: “With their mouths: there is a two-fold meaning: (1) the old-fashioned open oil lamps were extinguished by blowing with the mouth; the Unbelievers would like to blow out Allah’s Light as it is a cause of offence to them; (2) false teachers and preachers distort the Message of Allah by the false word of their mouths.”

[33] He it is who sent His Messenger with Guidance and the religion of truth in order that He give it ascendance over every other religions,63 though the idolaters be averse (to it).


63. Although Abu Hurayrah has been reported to be of belief that this ascendancy will be finally and fully achieved with the second coming of `Isa (asws), the opinion of Ibn `Abbas is that the allusion is to the superiority that Islamic religion and Law enjoy over those of other religions (Ibn Jarir).

Imam Razi sees three possible explanations:

1. If what is meant by the ascendancy, is the ascendancy of Islam over the Arabian Peninsula, then, that was achieved.

2. If it is over the whole world that is meant, then, it will happen with the appearance of Mahdi and `Isa (asws).

3. If it is superiority of the Islamic religion over all others is meant, then that too has been achieved, except that this is a weak opinion, since that was achieved with the very first revelation.

Ibn Kathir adds: The Prophet has said, “Allah folded the earth for me – its east and west – and (I saw that) my nation’s rule extended to those ends.” (The hadith is in Muslim: Hussain b. Ibrahim). Another report in Ahmad says that once in a certain neighborhood when the people had done their dawn Prayers, a young man got up and said, “I heard the Prophet (saws) say, `Allah will grant you victory over the east and the west of the lands, and that the (Muslim) State officials (after the victory) will be in Fire, but for those who feared Allah and stayed true to the trust.’” Musnad Ahmad also has a report coming through Tamim Dariyy. The Prophet said, “This religion will ultimately reach the lands that are visited by the day and night. Allah will not leave out a house or tent but Islam would have entered into it: by the willingness of him who is willing, and despite the unwillingness of him who is unwilling.” Yet another report, also in Ahmad, narrates `Adiyy b. Hatim as saying, “I entered upon the Prophet. He told me, `O `Adiyy, enter into the religion and enter into security.’ I said, `I’m already on a Religion.’ He replied, `I know your religion better than you do.’ I said, `Do you?’ He said, `Yes, I do. Don’t you follow a religion that is half Christian, half Sabian? Didn’t you charge your people one-fourth of their produce (for religious services)?’ I admitted, `That’s true.’ He said, `Well. That isn’t allowed in your religion, is it?’ `Adiyy said, `With that I felt a bit subdued.’ Then he said, `Have you seen Hira?’ I said, `Well, I haven’t. But I have heard about the place.’ He said, `By him in whose Hand is my life, this affair (Islam) will reach a stage when a camel-riding (woman) will travel from Hira and circumambulate the Ka`bah without anyone in her company. And surely the treasures of Kisra b. Hurmuz will be captured.’ I exclaimed, `Kisra b. Hurmuz?’ He replied, `Sure. Kisra b. Hurmuz. And a time will come when wealth will be distributed and there will be no takers.’ `Adiyy used to say, `I have seen a woman traveling alone all the way from Hira and circumambulating Ka`bah without anyone harming her. I was one of those who participated in the Persian battles to capture the treasures of Kisra b. Hurmuz. And, I am sure the third prophecy will also come true.’” (It came true during the time of `Umar b. `Abdul `Aziz: Au.). Yet, having said the above, we might add, says Ibn Kathir, that historical events will turn back the clock so that as a hadith of Muslim reports `A’ishah’s words, “I heard the Prophet say, `Days and nights will not stop their rotation before Lat and Manat are once again worshiped.’ I asked, `Messenger of Allah. When Allah (swt) revealed the verse, “He it is who sent His Messenger with Guidance and the religion of truth…”, I thought that was the end of it all.’ He replied, `That surely will be fulfilled. None the less, Allah will send a pleasant breeze thereafter which will take the life of every individual who had even the littlest of Faith in his heart. Only those will remain who have no good in them. They will return to the religion of their predecessors (before Islam).’”

With his usual brevity Yusuf Ali expresses a good amount of meaning in this short comment: “Every religion which commends itself widely to human beings and lasts through some space of time has a glimpse of Truth in it. But Islam being the perfect light of Truth is bound to prevail. As the greater Light, through its own strength, outshines all lesser lights, so will Islam outshine all else, in spite of the displeasure of those to whom light is an offence.”

Majid adds clarity: “Note that it is the religion of Islam, as such, that is to outshine and outlive all other religions; and there is no necessary connection between the religious superiority of Islam and the political supremacy of the Muslim States.”

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