Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Inlibration of the Word:

The Quran As A Model For the Incarnation and Hypostatic Union Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

In this article I am going to be discuss the traditional Sunni view of the Quran being the uncreated speech/word of Allah (Kalamullah), and use that as a means of helping Muslims better understand and appreciate the historic Christian belief that the Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Word (Davar/Memra/Logos) of God that became flesh (cf. John 1:1-4, 14; 1 John 1:1-2; Revelation 19:13). I will show that the Sunni position of the Quran as the inscripturation or inlibration of Allah’s eternal speech is comparable to the Christian understanding of the Incarnation and Hypostatic Union, with one major difference. Whereas Islam teaches that the uncreated word of Allah became a book, Christianity, on the other hand, teaches that God’s eternal Word became a flesh and blood human being.

The Eternal Tablet

The Quran claims to originate from a preserved tablet (also called “the mother of the book”), which is with Allah above the seven heavens:

Nay! This is a Glorious Qur'an, (Inscribed) in Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz (The Preserved Tablet)! S. 85:21-22 Hilali-Khan

That (this) is indeed an honourable recital (the Noble Qur'an). In a Book well-guarded (with Allah in the heaven i.e. Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz). Which (that Book with Allah) none can touch but the purified (i.e. the angels). A Revelation (this Qur'an) from the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). S. 56:77-80 Hilali-Khan

We verily, have made it a Qur'an in Arabic, that you may be able to understand (its meanings and its admonitions). And Verily, it (this Qur'an) is in the Mother of the Book (i.e. Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz), before Us, indeed Exalted, full of Wisdom. S. 43:3-4 Hilali-Khan

Allah blots out what He wills and confirms (what He wills). And with Him is the Mother of the Book (Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz). S. 13:39 Hilali-Khan

The ahadith and commentaries imply that this tablet is not part of creation, and is therefore eternal:

2882. An-Nu‘man bin Bashir narrated that the Prophet said: “Indeed Allah WROTE IN A BOOK TWO THOUSAND YEARS BEFORE HE CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH, He sent down two Ayat from it to end Surat Al-Baqarah with. If they are recited for three nights in a home, no Shaitan shall come near it.” (Hasan) 

[Abu ‘Eisa said:] This Hadith is [Hasan] Gharib. (English Translation of Jami‘ At-Tirmidhi, Compiled by Imam Hafiz Abu ‘Eisa Mohammad Ibn ‘Eisa At-Tirmidhi, translated by Abu Khaliyl (USA), ahadith edited and referenced by Hafiz Tahir Zubair ‘Ali Za’i [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, First Edition: November 2007], Volume 5, 42. The Chapters On The Virtues Of The Qur’an From The Messenger Of Allah, Chapter 5. What Has Been Related About Surat Al ‘Imran, pp. 221-222 – See also the following English version of this same report; capital emphasis ours)


2155. ‘Abdul-Wahid bin Sulaim narrated: “I arrived in Makkah and met ‘Ata’ bin Abi Rabah. I said to him: ‘O Abu Muhammad! The people of al-Basrah speak about Al-Qadar.’ He said: ‘O my son! Do you recite the Qur’an?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘Then recite Az-Zukhruf to me.’” He said: “So I recited: Ha Mim. By the manifest Book. Verily, We have made it a Qur’an in Arabic that you may be able to understand. And verily, it is in the Mother of the Book with Us, indeed exalted, full of wisdom. Then he said: ‘Do you know what the Mother of the Book is?’ I said: ‘Allah and His Messenger know better.’ He said: ‘It is a book that Allah wrote before He created the Heavens, and before He created the earth. In it, it is (written): Fir‘awn is among the inhabitants of the Fire, and in it is: Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab, and perish he!’”

‘Ata’ said: ‘I met Al-Walid the son of ‘Ubadah bin As-Samit the Companion of the Messenger of Allah and asked him: “What was your father’s admonition when he died?” He said: “He called me and said: ‘O my son! Have Taqwa of Allah, and know that you will never have Taqwa of Allah until you believe in Allah, and you believe in Al-Qadar – all of it – its good and its bad. If you die upon other than this you shall enter the Fire. Indeed I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: “Verily the FIRST of what Allah CREATED was the Pen. So he said: ‘Write.’ It said: ‘Write what?’ He said: ‘Write Al-Qadar, what it is, and what shall be, until the end.’”’”’ (Sahih)

[Abu ‘Eisa said:] This Hadith is Gharib [from this route]. [1]

[1] It appears again, abridged, in number 3319, and he said: “Hasan Sahih Gharib” (English Translation of Jami‘ At-Tirmidhi, Volume 4. From Hadith no. 1897 to 2605, Chapter 17. Signifying The Importance Of Believing In Al-Qadar, pp. 216-217; capital and underline emphasis ours)


(and by what they Yastur.) Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Qatadah all said that this means, “what they write.” As-Suddi said, “The angels and the deeds of the servants they record.” Others said, “Rather, what is meant here is the pen which Allah caused to write the decree when He wrote the decrees of all creation, and this took place fifty-thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth.” For this, they present Hadiths that have been reported about the Pen. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded from Al-Walid bin `Ubadah bin As-Samit that he said, “My father called for me when he was dying and he said to me: ‘Verily, I heard the Messenger of Allah say…

<<Verily, the FIRST of what Allah CREATED was the Pen, and He said to it: “Write.” The Pen said: “O my Lord, what shall I write?” He said: “Write the decree and whatever will throughout eternity.”>>’” This Hadith has been recorded by Imam Ahmad through various routes of transmission. At-Tirmidhi also recorded it from a Hadith of Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi and he (At-Tirmidhi) said about it, “Hasan Sahih, Gharib.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 68:1; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Suffice it to say, these narrations raise some serious problems. If Allah was writing something in a book two thousand and/or fifty thousand years before the heavens and the earth were created, then this means that both the book and the pen are not part of creation. After all, the Quran is quite clear that the creation of the heavens and earth encompassed the creation of every thing which exists within them, such as angels, men etc.

Allah it is He Who has created the heavens and the earth, AND ALL THAT IS BETWEEN THEM in six Days. Then He Istawa (rose over) the Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). You (mankind) have none, besides Him, as a Wali (protector or helper etc.) or an intercessor. Will you not then remember (or be admonished)? S. 32:4 Hilali-Khan – cf. Q. 25:59; 50:38

Say (O Muhammad): "Do you verily disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two Days and you set up rivals (in worship) with Him? That is the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). He placed therein (i.e. the earth) firm mountains from above it, and He blessed it, and measured therein its sustenance (for its dwellers) in four Days equal (i.e. all these four 'days' were equal in the length of time), for all those who ask (about its creation). Then He Istawa (rose over) towards the heaven when it was smoke, and said to it and to the earth: "Come both of you willingly or unwillingly." They both said: "We come, willingly." Then He completed and finished from their creation (as) seven heavens in two Days and He made in each heaven its affair. And We adorned the nearest (lowest) heaven with lamps (stars) to be an adornment as well as to guard (from the devils by using them as missiles against the devils). Such is the Decree of Him the All-Mighty, the All-Knower. S. 41:9-12 Hilali-Khan

This means that there was no location, no space, no place two thousand years before the creation of the heavens and the earth, since all these things only began to exist the moment the heavens and earth came into being. In fact, time itself began at the moment God created the universe. To, therefore, speak of Allah doing something two thousand years before the creation of the cosmos is both meaningless and foolishness. It is also foolishness to say that the pen was created first, even before the heavens and earth came into being, since this makes absolutely no sense when we keep in mind that a pen is supposed to be a material object that requires space and place to exist.

Moreover, none of the foregoing references cited say anything about Allah creating the book or tablet which the pen wrote on. In fact, these narrations actually presuppose that the book, which the pen used to inscribe all the information that Allah commanded it to write down, was already in existence. After all, the book must have already been there before the pen was created and told to inscribe what Allah wanted to be inscribed. And since the pen is supposed to be the first created thing then the book itself must therefore be uncreated!

But this now raises a major problem. How can there be an uncreated tablet coexisting alongside Allah if Allah is the only eternal being that exists? Doesn’t this show that there are at least two eternal gods, i.e., Allah and the tablet which contains the Quran? Or should we assume that there are only two eternal Allahs or deities, since the Quran is one entity and the tablet are simply the written record of that singular object, and they should therefore be treated as a unit?

And how can such tablets be eternal without matter and space being eternal as well? After all, tablets are composed of matter and need space to exist, and if these tablets are eternal then the material and location, which they are composed of and occupy, must have always existed as well.

Whatever the answer the Muslims may give, they are left with the fact that there so-called sources plainly teach that there is an eternal material object coexisting with Allah from before creation, an uncreated tablet(s) which has the Quran written on it. Therefore, it is simply not the case that Islam teaches that Allah is the only uncreated being in existence. 

This is just the beginning of Islam’s woes. More to come in the second part of our discussion.