Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Allah’s Violations of his own Teachings Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

Here is another installment where we show how Allah clearly violates his very own directives.

According to the Quran Allah would never allow anyone to take an angel as his/her Lord:

And neither would he enjoin you that you should take the angels and the prophets for lords; what! would he enjoin you with unbelief after you are Muslims? S. 3:80 Shakir

And yet this is precisely what the Islamic scripture accuses Zechariah and Mary of doing, namely, calling upon an angel as their Lord:

Then and there did Zachariah pray to his Lord, saying, `My Lord grant me from Thyself pure offspring; surely thou art the Hearer of Prayer.' And the angels called to him as he stood praying in the chamber, `ALLAH gives thee glad tidings of Yahya, who shall testify to the truth of a word from ALLAH - noble and chaste and a Prophet, from among the righteous. He said `My Lord, how shall I have a son, when old age has overtaken me already, and my wife is barren?' He answered, `Such is the way of ALLAH; HE does what HE pleases,' He said `My Lord, give me a commandment.' He replied, `The commandment for thee is that thou shalt not speak to men for three days except by signs. And remember thy Lord much and glorify HIM in the evening and in the early morning.' S. 3:38-41 Sher Ali

In this example, the Baptist’s father addresses Allah as his Lord in his prayer requesting a son. The angels are then sent to respond to Zechariah, notifying him that Allah has answered his prayer. From there, Zechariah continues to engage one of the angels, and even addresses him as his Lord! 

This isn’t the only place in the Quran where John’s father is said to have done this:

The mention of thy Lord's mercy to His servant Zachariah, when he called on his Lord with a secret calling. Said he, 'My Lord! verily, my bones are weak, and my head flares with hoariness; - and I never was unfortunate in my prayers to Thee, my Lord! But I fear my heirs after me, and my wife is barren; then grant me from Thee a successor, to be my heir and the heir of the family of Jacob, and make him, my Lord! acceptable.' 'O Zachariah! verily, we, give thee glad tidings of a son, whose name shall be John. We never made a namesake of his before.' Said he, 'My Lord! how can I have a son, when my wife is barren, and I have reached through old age to decrepitude?' He said, 'Thus says thy Lord, It is easy for Me, for I created thee at first when yet thou wast nothing.' Said he, 'O my Lord! make for me a sign.' He said, 'Thy sign is that thou shalt not speak to men for three nights (though) sound.' S. 19:2-10 Palmer

The Muslim expositors make it clear that it was the angel (specifically Gabriel) who responded to Zechariah:

And so Gabriel called him, saying: (O Zachariah! Lo! We bring you tidings of a son whose name is John) Yahya in Arabic, because he has breathed life (ahya) into his mother's womb; (We have given the same name to none before (him)) We have not given before a son to Zachariah whose name is John; it is also said that this means: there was no one before him whose name was John. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs, Q. 19:7; bold and underline emphasis ours)

(He said) Zachariah said to Gabriel: (My Lord!) my master, (How can I have a son when my wife is barren and I have reached infirm old age) how can I have a son when my wife is barren and my body has become dry?; it is also said that this means: how can I have a son when my wife is barren and I am seventy two years of age? (Ibid., Q. 19:8; bold and underline emphasis ours)

(He said) Gabriel said to him: (So (it will be)) just as I have told you. (Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me) i.e. his creation is easy for Me, (even as I created thee) O Zachariah (before) before John, (when thou wast naught). (Ibid., Q. 19:9)

“… The Answer of the Angel<He said:> That is, the angel, in his response to Zakariyya and his was amazement… (‘Thus says your Lord: “It is easy for Me…”’) Meaning the birth of the son will be from you and from this wife of yours and not from any other (woman)… (easy) Meaning, it is simple and easy for Allah to do. Then he (the angel) mentioned to him that which is more amazing than what he was asking about. The angel said that the Lord said…” (Tafsir Ibn Kathirs, Q. 19:9; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Now it only makes sense that Allah sent angels to answer Zechariah seeing that this is one of the ways that Allah is said to reveal his will to his servants:

It is not given to any human being that Allah should speak to him unless (it be) by Inspiration, or from behind a veil, or (that) He sends a Messenger to reveal what He wills by His Leave. Verily, He is Most High, Most Wise. S. 42:51 Hilali-Khan

And since angels are identified as messengers,

Allah chooses Messengers from angels and from men. Verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Seer. S. 22:75 Hilali-Khan

All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the (only) Originator [or the (only) Creator] of the heavens and the earth, Who made the angels messengers with wings, - two or three or four. He increases in creation what He wills. Verily, Allah is Able to do all things. S. 35:1 Hilali-Khan

It is not surprising that they would be the ones sent to communicate with Zechariah about the upcoming birth of his son.

With that said, note what the Quran says about Mary receiving the news that she was going to conceive and give birth to the Messiah:

When the angels said, `O Mary, ALLAH gives thee glad tidings of a son through a word from HIM; his name shall be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those who are granted nearness to God; `And he shall speak to the people in the cradle, and when of middle age, and he shall be of the righteous. She said, `My Lord, how shall I have a son, when no man has touch me? He said, `Such is the way of ALLAH. HE creates what HE pleases. When HE decrees a thing HE says to it `Be,' and it is; And HE will teach him the Book and the Wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; And will send him as a Messenger to the Children of Israel with the Message, `I come to you with a Sign from your Lord, which is, that I will fashion out for you a creation out of clay after the manner of a bird; then I will breath into it a new spirit and it will become a soaring being by the command of ALLAH; and I will heal the night blind and the leprous, and I will quicken the dead by the command of ALLAH; and I will announce to you what you will eat and what you will store up in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you, if you are believers. S. 3:45-49 Sher Ali

Like Zechariah before her, the blessed mother of Christ addresses the angel speaking to her as her very Lord.

Suffice it to say, the Muslim expositors were perplexed by the above passages, specifically Q. 3:40 where Zechariah addresses the angel as his Lord. They were apparently troubled at the idea of a prophet calling an angel his Lord. Note what Muslim writer Mahmoud M. Ayoub says of Q. 3:40:

“Two issues concerned commentators in this verse. The first is the question of whether it is God or Gabriel whom Zechariah addresses as Lord. The second is how Zechariah, as a prophet, could have any doubt in God’s power to cause an old, barren woman to bear a child?

“… Ibn Kathir assumes that Zechariah’s dialogue was with an angel, not with God (Ibn Kathir, II, p. 36).

Qurtubi begins by relating on the authority of al-Kalbi that the word ‘Lord’ in this verse refers to Gabriel. He says, ‘Zechariah said to Gabriel “my lord,”’ meaning “my master.”’…

“Razi begins with the question of Zechariah’s dialogue and whether it was with God or with Gabriel. The question is important because it concerns the theological debate about God’s transcendence and the problem of anthropomorphism. If God hears and speaks in a manner familiar to human beings, then the question arises as to whether God has similar organs of hearing and speech. Razi argues that it is equally possible that Zechariah was addressing either God or the angel in this verse. He presents two explanations which he attributes to the mufassirun, that is, other commentators. The first is: ‘When the angels called to Zechariah and gave him the good news, he wondered and turned to God for reassurance. Zechariah was actually addressing the angel Gabriel, and not God. The invocation “my lord” is here addressed to a superior or master, and not to God.’” (Ayoub, The Qur‘an and Its Interpreters: The House of ‘Imran [State University of New York (SUNY) Press, Albany, NY 1992], Volume II, pp. 112-113; italicized and underline emphasis ours)

The problem with the claim that Zechariah was merely referring to Gabriel as his master is that the Arabic word for Lord, namely Rabb, is one of the names of Allah that Islamic theology teaches cannot be ascribed to any creature, no matter how exalted s/he may be:

Ar-Rabb: The Lord

Lord: master, owner; chief; the Cherisher, the one who takes care of a thing. Ar-Rabb is the one who puts right, manages, compels and guards. He is the One worshipped. Some scholars say that the name is the greatest name of Allah because of the great number of those who make supplication using it. It reflects the true relationship of a person with his Lord, containing both mastery and kindness, concern, and nurture. (Aisha Bewley, Divine Names)

This explains why Muhammad expressly forbade anyone other than Allah their Rabb:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "You should not say, ‘Feed your lord (Rabbaka), help your lord in performing ablution, or give water to your lord’, but should say, ‘my master (e.g. Feed your master instead of lord etc.), (Saiyidi),’ or ‘my guardian (Maulai),’ and one should not say, ‘my slave (Abdi),’ or ‘my girl-slave (Amati),’ but should say, 'my lad (Fatai), my lass (Fatati),’ and ‘my boy (Ghulami).’" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 46, Number 728)

Narrated AbuHurayrah:
The Prophet said: None of you must say: "My slave" (abdi) and "My slave-woman" (amati), and a slave must not say: "My lord" (rabbi or rabbati). The master (of a slave) should say: "My young man" (fataya) and "My young woman" (fatati), and a slave should say "My master" (sayyidi) and "My mistress" (sayyidati), for you are all (Allah’s) slaves and the Lord is Allah, Most High. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 41, Number 4957)

As such, by permitting his prophet and maidservant to address the angel as Rabb Allah was encouraging them to commit the unforgiveable sin of shirk, which is the sin of associating others along with Allah in his exclusive attributes and names (cf. Q. 2:22; 4:48, 116; 39:53).

In light of the foregoing, it is rather clear that this is another time that Allah went against his own teachings. And this also shows that, contrary to the assertion of Muslims, the Quran acknowledges that there are other Lords besides Allah.