Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Was 'Uzayr (Ezra) Called The Son Of God?"

Andrew Vargo's article could be located here. His article was in response to Islamic Awareness's article here. It's best for the readers to read both of these articles before they proceed to read this one.

Vargo said:

It should be noted that Ibn Hazm lived during the late 9th and early 10th centuries in CordobaSpain. Therefore, his statements are pure conjecture, and are nothing more than an attempt to explain away this error in the Qur'an.

Vargo disputes Ibn Hazm's argument because he lived a long time after the event. However, who said that Ibn Hazm is the one we rely upon? We have the following narration that goes all the way back to Al-Tufayl bin Sakhbara a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who narrates a dream he once saw:

أتيت على نفر من اليهود , فقلت : من أنتم ؟ فقالوا : نحن اليهود , قلت : إنكم لأنتم القوم لولا أنتم تقولون : عزير ابن الله . قالوا : وأنت لأنتم القوم لولا أنكم تقولون : ما شاء الله وشاء محمد . قال : ثم مررت بنفر من النصارى , فقلت : من أنتم ؟ قالوا : نحن النصارى . قلت : إنكم لأنتم القوم لولا أنكم تقولون : المسيح ابن الله . قالوا : وإنكم لأنتم القوم لولا أنكم تقولون : ما شاء الله وشاء محمد . فلما أصبحت أخبرت بها من أخبرت , ثم أتيت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فأخبرته , فقال : هل أخبرت بها أحدا ؟ فقلت : نعم . فقام , فحمد الله وأثنى عليه ثم قال : أما بعد , فإن طفيلا رأى رؤيا أخبر بها من أخبر منكم , وإنكم قلتم كلمة كان يمنعني كذا وكذا أن أنهاكم عنها , فلا تقولوا : ما شاء الله وشاء محمد , ولكن قولوا : ما شاء الله وحده

On the authority of At-Tufail the half brother of Aishah it is reported that he said: "I saw in a dream that I came upon a number of Jews and I said to them: 'You are indeed a good people were it not that you claim 'Uzair is the son of Allah.' They replied: 'You too are good, were it not that you say: As Allah wills and as Muhammad wills.' Then, I came upon a number of Christians and I said to them: 'You are indeed a good people were it not that you claim the Messiah (Jesus) is the son of Allah.' They replied: 'You are also good, were it not that you say: As Allah wills and as Muhammad wills.' When I awoke I told someone about this then I went to the Prophet and repeated it to him. He asked me: 'Have you told anyone about this?' I said: 'Yes.' Then he went to the pulpit and, after praising Allah, he said: 'At-Tufail had a dream which he has already communicated to some of you. You used to say something which I was prevented from forbidding to you until now. Henceforth do not say: As Allah wills and as Muhammad wills, but say: What Allah Alone Wills.'" (Ibn Maajah, Albanee mentioned it in as Saheehah # 138, Al Haythamee said in Majma Az-Zawaaid: the men in its chain are reliable according to the conditions of Imam Muslim) (Kitab At-Tawheed, by Sheikh ul-Islam Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab, translated by: Compilation and Research Department Dar-us-Salam [Dar-us-Salam Publications Riyadh-Saudi Arabia, 1996], Chapter 43: Saying: "As Allah Wills and You Will", pp. 21-22; source; underline emphasis ours)

(This narration has been authenticated by hadith scholar Ahmad Shakir in 'Umdat Al-Tafseer, Volume 1, page 91)

This narration shows that the Muslims at the time understood that there were Jews who were uttering Uzayr's divine son ship. How could such a misunderstanding have taken place from the Muslim side?

Vargo states that "the Jews" in the verse denotes all Jews.

Imam Al-Qurtubi states:

" وَقَالَتْ الْيَهُود " هَذَا لَفْظ خَرَجَ عَلَى الْعُمُوم وَمَعْنَاهُ الْخُصُوص , لِأَنَّ لَيْسَ كُلّ الْيَهُود قَالُوا ذَلِكَ . وَهَذَا مِثْل قَوْله تَعَالَى : " الَّذِينَ قَالَ لَهُمْ النَّاس " [ آل عِمْرَان : 173 ] وَلَمْ يَقُلْ ذَلِكَ كُلّ النَّاس .

"And the Jews said" this expression is stated in a general sense, yet its meaning is specific because not all Jews said that. This is like Allah's saying "those to whom the people said" (3:173), yet not all people said that. (Abu 'Abdullahal-Qurtubi'sTasfir al Jami' li-ahkam al-Qur'an, Commentary on Surah 9:30, Source)

In Arabic linguistics the method of referring to a specific group of people by using a general name is known as اطلاق اسم الكل على البعض (itlaaq ism al kull 'ala al ba'd) and this is something very common. Al-Qurtubi gave the example of Surah 3:173 where the Qur'an generally states "people", yet it clearly doesn't mean all people.

An example from the Bible would be:

John 14:17

That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn't see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.

Notice that the verse is saying that "the world" cannot accept the Spirit of Truth. The world consists of both Christians and non-Christians. Would Vargo argue that since the verse says "the world" that means that even Christians cannot accept the Spirit of Truth? Well of course not. He would argue back that the meaning of "the world" must be restricted to disbelievers only.

It's unlikely that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would right away assume that since the Jews said "Son of God" then that would mean that it necessitates divine son ship. Muhammad (peace be upon him) was clearly aware of the fact that the Jews could use this phrase in a non-divine way (for example see Surah 5:18).

There is nothing unbelievable about the fact that there existed a small group of Jews living during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Medinah who would have held such a belief. The burden of the proof really is on the Islamic critic's side here. He is the one who needs to provide evidence that shows that the Muslims during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) clearly misunderstood the position that some of the Jews took regarding Ezra or that they completely made it up. Till now, no such evidence has been provided.

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