Muslims often criticize the biblical portrayal of God. For instance, Muslims take offense at the biblical portrait of God as having to search out situations and look into things in order to gain knowledge about certain events. For example, we are told in Genesis 18:20-21 that God needed to go down to Sodom and Gomorrah to see whether, or not, the reports about their wickedness were true.
Muslims see such references as an argument against the Holy Bible since a perfect God knows all things and doesn't need to find out anything.
What the Muslims have overlooked is that these references are simply anthropomorphic descriptions of God, describing God's activities in a human manner. God often speaks analogously; condescending to the level of man in order to communicate his unfathomable ways in such a manner that man may understand and relate to God.
That this is what God is doing can be seen from the following biblical passages which emphatically state that God's knowledge is perfect and infinite, and does not change his mind:
"God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" Numbers 23:19
"He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind." 1 Samuel 15:29
"Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge?" Job 37:16
"From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth- he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do." Psalm 33:13-15
"He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite." Psalm 147:4-5
"Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do." Isaiah 46:9-11
"Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear." Isaiah 65:24
"I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed." Malachi 3:6
"Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Matthew 6:8
"But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man." John 2:24-25
"Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God." John 16:30
"The third time he said to him, Simon son of John, do you love me? Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, Do you love me? He said, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." John 21:17
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8
"whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." 1 John 3:20
It is clear that the Holy Bible does teach that God knows all things, provided that one accurately exegetes and understands specific verses in their historical, cultural and biblical contexts.
We now turn our attention to the Quran, to see whether it teaches that Allah knows all things. It might amaze our readers to discover that the Quran actually teaches that Allah doesn't know all things, and even has to guess at times. Note the following passages:
If a wound has afflicted you (at Ohud), a wound like it has also afflicted the (unbelieving) people; and We bring these days to men by turns, and that Allah MAY KNOW those who believe and take witnesses from among you; and Allah does not love the unjust. And that He may purge those who believe and deprive the unbelievers of blessings. Do you think that you will enter the garden while Allah has NOT YET KNOWN those who strive hard from among you, and (He has not) known the patient. S. 3:140-142 Shakir
That which befell you, on the day when the two armies met, was by permission of Allah; that He MIGHT KNOW the true believers; And that He MIGHT KNOW the hypocrites, unto whom it was said: Come, fight in the way of Allah, or defend yourselves. They answered: If we knew aught of fighting we would follow you. On that day they were nearer disbelief than faith. They utter with their mouths a thing which is not in their hearts. Allah is Best Aware of what they hide. S. 3:166-167 Pickthall
O you who believe! Allah will certainly try you in respect of some game which your hands and your lances can reach, that Allah MIGHT KNOW who fears Him in secret; but whoever exceeds the limit after this, he shall have a painful punishment. S. 5:94 Shakir
Then, it may be that you will give up part of what is revealed to you and your breast will become straitened by it because they say: Why has not a treasure been sent down upon him or an angel come with him? You are only a warner; and Allah is custodian over all things. S. 11:12 Shakir
Yet it may be, if they believe not in this statement, that thou (Muhammad) wilt torment thy soul with grief over their footsteps. S. 18:6 Pickthall
Allâh said: "You are granted your request, O Mûsa (Moses)! And indeed We conferred a favour on you another time (before). When We inspired your mother with that which We inspired. Saying: Put him (the child) into the Tabût (a box or a case or a chest) and put it into the river (Nile), then the river shall cast it up on the bank, and there, an enemy of Mine and an enemy of his shall take him. And I endued you with love from Me, in order that you may be brought up under My Eye, When your sister went and said: Shall I show you one who will nurse him? So We restored you to your mother, that she might cool her eyes and she should not grieve. Then you did kill a man, but We saved you from great distress and tried you with a heavy trial. Then you stayed a number of years with the people of Madyan (Midian). Then you came here according to the fixed term which I ordained (for you), O Mûsa (Moses)! And I have Istana'tuka, for Myself. Go you and your brother with My Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), and do not, you both, slacken and become weak in My Remembrance. Go, both of you, to Fir'aun (Pharaoh), verily, he has transgressed (all bounds in disbelief and disobedience and behaved as an arrogant and as a tyrant). And speak to him mildly, PERHAPS he may accept admonition or fear Allâh." They said: "Our Lord! Verily! We fear lest he should hasten to punish us or lest he should transgress (all bounds against us)." He (Allâh) said: "Fear not, verily! I am with you both, hearing and seeing." S. 20:36-46 Hilali-Khan
It may be thou will kill thy self with grief, that they do not become Believers. S. 26:3
Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, "We believe", and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah WILL CERTAINLY KNOW those who are true from those who are false. S. 29:2-3
And most certainly We will try you until WE HAVE KNOWN those among you who exert themselves hard, and the patient, and made your case manifest. S. 47:31 Shakir
He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving;- S. 67:2
Say: "I know not whether the (Punishment) which ye are promised is near, or whether my Lord will appoint for it a distant term. He (alone) knows the Unseen, nor does He make any one acquainted with His Secrets.- Except an messenger whom He has chosen: and then He makes a band of watchers march before him and behind him, That He MAY KNOW that they have (truly) brought and delivered the Messages of their Lord: and He encompasses all that is with them, and takes account of every single thing." S. 72:25-28
He frowned and turned away. Because the blind man came unto him. What could inform thee but that he MIGHT grow (in grace) Or take heed and so the reminder might avail him? S. 80:1-4 Pickthall
Interestingly, much like we find certain Christian groups using biblical passages to deny God's omniscience, some Muslims have used these Quranic passages to prove that Allah doesn't know the future. And much like orthodox Christians have responded to these erring Christians, we find certain Muslims also responding to the attacks on Allah's omniscience. Mahmoud M. Ayoub lists Ar-Razi's response to those who used S. 3:140 as proof that Allah does not know the future:
"Razi is interested in the theological problems raised by the phrase in order that God may know. He argues that the literal sense of God's saying, "in order that God may know" would suggest that God alternated [the days] in order to acquire knowledge. Obviously, this is impossible of God. Razi cites verse 143, and a number of other verses where this phrase, or one like it, occurs. He alleges that Hisham b. al-Hakkam, a well-known disciple of the Sixth Imam Jafar al-Sadiq, used such verses to argue that God does not know incidents until they occur. The answer of the theologians to this argument," Razi says, "is that rational proofs have conclusively established that no change ever occurs in God's knowledge. The linguistic usage of calling something that is known with the metaphor "knowledge," or something that is subject to power with the metaphor "power" is well known. Thus any Qur'anic verse the literal sense of which indicates acquisition of knowledge [by God] actually means the occurrence of a known.
Razi then presents several possible interpretations of this phrase. First that sincerity may be distinguished from hypocrisy and the person of faith from the rejecter of faith. Secondly, that the friends (awliya) of God may know, though He attributes this knowledge to Himself by way of exalting them. Thirdly, that God may judge in accordance with this distinction, but such judgment cannot happen except with knowledge. Finally, that God may know this [i.e., faith and patience] to have actually occurred from them, although He knew that it would occur. This is because recompense must be accorded for something which actually is, and not for something which is known to occur in the future. Razi seems to prefer the first of these interpretations (Razi, IX, pp. 14-18)" (Ayoub, The Qur'an and Its Interpreters, Volume II, The House of Imran [State University of New York Press, Albany, 1992], p. 330; bold emphasis ours)
Another commentator troubled by S. 3:140 was Tabarsi. Ayoub writes:
"Tabarsi is specially concerned with the theological implications of the phrase in order that God know ..
Tabarsi offers a number of explanations of God's knowledge as described in this verse, all aimed at affirming God's absolute and eternal omniscience. In order that God may know those who truly have faith means in order that He may know them as being distinguished by their faith from all others. Hence, the words in order that He may know do not mean being informed, for the meaning is not that He does not know them as objects of knowledge in themselves, but that He may know them as distinguished by faith. They may also mean in order that God may know those who have faith by the manifestation of their steadfastness in striving against their enemies. This is to say, God would treat them as one who knows them to be in this condition, even though He knows them before the manifestation of their faith as He does after it. It is that he knows before they had manifested their faith that they will do so. When they had in fact manifested their faith, He knew them as such; hence change occurs, not in the knower, but in the known. The words may also mean in order that the friends of God may know, though God attributed this knowledge to Himself by way of honoring them. It is also possible that they mean in order that the patience of those who shall be patient, the fright of those who are cowardly, and the faith of the faithful may appear and be known. They may also mean in order that sincerity and hypocrisy of the people may be manifested (Tabarsi, IV, pp. 208-210)." (Ibid., pp. 331, 332)
The problem with the preceding explanations is that, unlike the Holy Bible, the Quran actually provides proof that Allah doesn't know all things. This implies that these verses are not merely anthropomorphic descriptions of Allah, much like we find in the Holy Bible. Rather, these are clear indications that Allah's knowledge is not complete. Trying to produce statements to the contrary would only demonstrate that the Quran contradicts itself.
Compare the following examples and see if indeed Allah does know all things:
Behold, thy LORD said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said: "Will Thou place therein one who will make mischief and shed blood? Whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?" He said: "I know what ye know not." And He taught Adam the nature of all things: then he placed him before the angels and said: "Tell Me the nature of these if ye are right." They said: "Glory to Thee: of knowledge we have none, save what Thou hast taught us: In truth it is Thee who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom." He said: "O Adam! Tell them their natures." When he had told them God said: "Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and earth, and I know what ye reveal and what ye conceal?" And behold, We said to the angels:
"Bow down to Adam:" and they bowed down: not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: he was of those who reject faith. We said: "O Adam! Dwell thee and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression." S. 2:30-35
Two main theological problems arise from this passage. First, how did the angels know what the condition of man would be prior to his creation, a fact obviously not known by Allah since he rebukes the angels for their statements by declaring his omniscience. And yet still the angels were correct. Are the angels also omniscient, or even worse, is Allah not omniscient since the angels were obviously right? Secondly, was it not unfair for Allah to teach Adam the name of all things then proceed to challenge the angels to do likewise knowing full well they could not do so, and then have Adam name them in order to prove that the angels were wrong in questioning God? This portrays God as a deceiver.
To see the problems this passage caused Muslim exegetes, one needs to only read Mahmoud M. Ayoub's The Qur'an and Its Interpreters, Volume 1, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1984, pp. 73-79.
Then, even after that, your hearts were hardened and became as rocks, OR WORSE THAN ROCKS, for hardness. For indeed there are rocks from out which rivers gush, and indeed there are rocks which split asunder so that water floweth from them. And indeed there are rocks which fall down for the fear of Allah. Allah is not unaware of what ye do. S. 2:74 Pickthall
Which is it, did the hearts of the Israelites become hardened as rocks or was it worse than that? And how come Allah can't tell us the exact condition of their hearts?
Has thou not turned thy vision to the Chiefs of the Children of Israel after (the time of) Moses? they said to a prophet (that was) among them: "Appoint for us a king, that we may fight in the cause of Allah." He said: "Is it not possible, if ye were commanded to fight, that ye will not fight?" They said: "How could we refuse to fight in the cause of Allah, seeing that we were turned out of our homes and our families?" but when they were commanded to fight, they turned back, except a small band among them. But Allah Has full knowledge of those who do wrong. Their Prophet said to them: "Allah hath appointed Talut as king over you." They said: "How can he exercise authority over us when we are better fitted than he to exercise authority, and he is not even gifted, with wealth in abundance?" He said: "Allah hath chosen him above you, and hath gifted him abundantly with knowledge and bodily prowess: Allah Granteth His authority to whom He pleaseth. Allah is All-Embracing, and He knoweth all things." And (further) their Prophet said to them: "A sign of his authority is that there shall come to you the Ark of the Covenant, with (an assurance) therein of security from your Lord, and the relics left by the family of Moses and the family of Aaron, carried by angels. In this is a symbol for you if ye indeed have faith." When Talut set forth with the armies, he said: "Allah will test you at the stream: if any drinks of its water, he goes not with my army: Only those who taste not of it go with me: A mere sip out of the hand is excused." But they all drank of it, EXCEPT A FEW. When they crossed the river,- he and the faithful ones with him,- they said: "This day we cannot cope with Goliath and his forces." But those who were convinced that they must meet Allah, said: "How oft, by Allah's will, hath a small force vanquished a big one? Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere." When they advanced to meet Goliath and his forces, they prayed: "Our Lord! Pour out constancy on us and make our steps firm: Help us against those that reject faith." By Allah's will they routed them; and David slew Goliath; and Allah gave him power and wisdom and taught him whatever (else) He willed. And did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief: But Allah is full of bounty to all the worlds. These are the Signs of Allah. We rehearse them to thee in truth: verily thou art one of the messengers. S. 2:246-252
Unlike the Quran, the Holy Bible identifies the prophet as Samuel. Furthermore, there are glaring errors throughout this section, which we cannot delve into for the sake of space. For now, we recommend the following article which provides an in-depth study regarding the gross errors of The story of Talut.
We would simply like to note in passing that an all-knowing God should have known the name of the prophet as well as the actual number of those who didn't drink.
The (Brethren) sold him for a miserable price, for a FEW dirhams counted out: in such low estimation did they hold him! S. 12:20
Allah can only guess that Joseph was sold for a few dirhams. Contrast this with the biblical account:
"So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt." Genesis 37:28
And there entered with him two young men in the prison. One of them said: "Verily, I saw myself (in a dream) pressing wine." The other said: "Verily, I saw myself (in a dream) carrying bread on my head and birds were eating thereof." (They said): "Inform us of the interpretation of this. Verily, we think you are one of the doers of good." He said: "No food will come to you as your provision, but I will inform (in wakefulness) its interpretation before it (the food) comes. This is of that which my Lord has taught me. Verily, I have abandoned the religion of a people that believe not in Allâh and are disbelievers in the Hereafter. And I have followed the religion of my fathers, - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and never could we attribute any partners whatsoever to Allâh. This is from the Grace of Allâh to us and to mankind, but most men thank not. O two companions of the prison! Are many different lords better or Allâh, the One, the Irresistible? You do not worship besides Him but only names which you have named, you and your fathers, for which Allâh has sent down no authority. The command is for none but Allâh. He has commanded that you worship none but Him, that is the straight religion, but most men know not. O two companions of the prison! As for one of you, he will pour out wine for his lord to drink; and as for the other, he will be crucified and birds will eat from his head. Thus is the case judged concerning which you both did inquire." And he said to the one whom he knew to be saved: "Mention me to your lord." But Satan made him forget to mention it to his Lord. So (Joseph) stayed in prison a few (more) years. The king said: "I do see (in a vision) seven fat kine, whom seven lean ones devour, and seven green ears of corn, and seven (others) withered. O ye chiefs! Expound to me my vision if it be that ye can interpret visions." They said: "A confused medley of dreams: and we are not skilled in the interpretation of dreams. But the man who had been released, one of the two (who had been in prison) and who now remembered him after (so long) a space of time, said: "I will tell you the truth of its interpretation: send ye me (therefore)." S. 12:36-45
Not only is Allah uncertain regarding the length of Joseph's stay in prison, but also erroneously claims that the baker was crucified.
Ibn Kathir comments:
<But Shaytan made him forget to mention it to his master.>
that it refers to the man who was saved. As was said by Mujahid, Muhammad bin Ishaq and several others. As for a few years, or, Bida in Arabic, it means three to nine, according to Mujahid and Qatadah. Wahb bin Munabbih said, "Ayub suffered from the illness for seven years, Yusuf remained in prison for seven years and Bukhtanassar (Nebuchadnezzar- Chaldean king of Babylon) was tormented for seven years." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Volume 5, Surah Hud to Surat Al-Isra', Verse 38, abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Rihadh, Houston, New York, Lahore; First Edition, July 2000], pp. 170-171; bold emphasis ours)
Note what the following secular references state regarding the implementation of crucifixion:
"Crucifixion, an important method of capital punishment, particularly among the Persians, Seleucids, Jews, Carthaginians, and Romans [was practiced] from about the 6th century BC to the 4th century AD. Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, abolished it in the Roman Empire in AD 337, out of veneration for Jesus Christ, the most famous victim of crucifixion. ... [The earliest recording of a crucifixion was] in 519 BC [when] Darius I, king of Persia, crucified 3,000 political opponents in Babylon." (Encylopaedia Britannica, 1993, Vol. 3, p. 762)
CROSS ... Crucifixion is first attested among the Persians (cf. Herodotus, Hist. i.128.2; iii.132.2, 159.1), perhaps derived from the Assyrian impalement. It was later employed by the Greeks, especially Alexander the Great, and by the Carthaginians, from whom the Romans adapted the practice as a punishment for slaves and non-citizens, and occasionally for citizens guilty of treason. Although in the Old Testament the corpses of blasphemers or idolaters punished by stoning might be hanged "on a tree" as further humiliation (Deut. 21:23), actual crucifixion was not introduced in Palestine until Hellenistic times. The Seleucid Antiochus IV Epiphanes crucified those Jews who would not accept hellenization (Josephus Ant. xii.240-41; cf 1 Macc. 1:44-50), ... (The Eerdman's Bible Dictionary, Rev. Ed., 1975)
Now contrast this with the more detailed, genuine biblical account:
"Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them. After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men - the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison - had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, Why are your faces so sad today? We both had dreams, they answered, but there is no one to interpret them. Then Joseph said to them, Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams. So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup and put the cup in his hand. This is what it means, Joseph said to him. The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon. When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head. This is what it means, Joseph said. The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh. Now the third day was Pharaoh's birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh's hand, but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation. The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile ... Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged. So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh." Genesis 40:1-15; 41:1, 9-14
Not only does the biblical account give us the time frame, it also avoids the gross Quranic error that the chief baker was crucified, when in fact he was hanged.
In recounting the story of the Sleepers in the Cave, Muhammad states:
Or dost thou think that the Companions of the Cave and of the Inscription were wonders among Our Sign? Behold, the youths betook themselves to the Cave: they said, "Our Lord! bestow on us Mercy from Thyself, and dispose of our affair for us in the right way!" Then We draw (a veil) over their ears, for a number of years, in the Cave, (so that they heard not): Then We roused them, in order to test which of the two parties was best at calculating the term of years they had tarried! We relate to thee their story in truth: they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We advanced them in guidance: We gave strength to their hearts: Behold, they stood up and said: "Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and of the earth: never shall we call upon any god other than Him: if we did, we should indeed have uttered an enormity! These our people have taken for worship gods other than Him: why do they not bring forward an authority clear (and convincing) for what they do? Who doth more wrong than such as invent a falsehood against Allah? When ye turn away from them and the things they worship other than Allah, betake yourselves to the Cave: Your Lord will shower His mercies on you and disposes of your affair towards comfort and ease. Thou wouldst have seen the sun, when it rose, declining to the right from their Cave, and when it set, turning away from them to the left, while they lay in the open space in the midst of the Cave. Such are among the Signs of Allah. He whom Allah, guides is rightly guided; but he whom Allah leaves to stray,- for him wilt thou find no protector to lead him to the Right Way. Thou wouldst have thought them, whilst they were asleep, and We turned them on their right and on their left sides: their dog stretching forth his two fore-legs on the threshold: if thou hadst looked at them, thou wouldst have certainly turned back from them in flight, and wouldst certainly have been filled with terror of them. Such (being their state), We raised them up (from sleep), that they might question each other. Said one of them, "How long have ye stayed (here)?" They said, "We have stayed (perhaps) a day, or part of a day." (At length) they (all) said, "(Allah) (alone) knows best how long ye have stayed here. Now send ye then one of you with this money of yours to the town: let him find out which is the best food (to be had) and bring some to you, (that ye may satisfy your hunger therewith): And let him behave with care and courtesy, and let him not inform any one about you. For if they should come upon you, they would stone you or force you to return to their religion, and in that case ye would never attain prosperity." Thus did We make their case known to the people, that they might know that the promise of Allah is true, and that there can be no doubt about the Hour of Judgment. Behold, they dispute among themselves as to their affair. (Some) said, "Construct a building over them": Their Lord knows best about them: those who prevailed over their affair said, "Let us surely build a place of worship over them." (Some) say they were three, the dog being the fourth among them; (others) say they were five, the dog being the sixth,- doubtfully guessing at the unknown; (yet others) say they were seven, the dog being the eighth. Say thou: "My Lord knoweth best their number; It is but few that know their (real case)." Enter not, therefore, into controversies concerning them, except on a matter that is clear, nor consult any of them about (the affair of) the Sleepers. Nor say of anything, "I shall be sure to do so and so tomorrow"- Except "If Allah so wills," and remember thy Lord when thou forgettest, and say, "I hope that my Lord will guide me ever closer (even) than this to the right course." So they stayed in their Cave three hundred years, and nine (more). Say: "Allah knows best how long they stayed: with Him is (the knowledge of) the secrets of the heavens and the earth: how clearly He sees, how finely He hears (everything)! They have no protector other than Him; nor does He share His Command with any person whatsoever." S. 18:9-26
Since Muhammad's Lord knows their number, why didn't he tell his prophet how many they actually were?
The Romans have been defeated - In a land close by; but they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious - WITHIN A FEW YEARS. With Allah is the Command, in the past and in the Future: on that Day shall the Believers rejoice- With the help of Allah. He gives victory to whom He will, and He is Exalted in Might, Most Merciful. S. 30:2-4
Again, here is Ibn Kathir:
He [Ibn Abbas] said, "They were defeated and then they were victorious." He said, "The idolators wanted the Persians to prevail over the Romans, because they were idol worshipers, and the Muslims wanted the Romans to prevail over the Persians, because they were People of the Book. This was mentioned to Abu Bakr who mentioned it to the Messenger of Allah. The Messenger of Allah said ...
((They will prevail.))
Abu Bakr mentioned this to the idolators, and they said, "Set a time limit for that, and if we prevail, we will get such and such; and if you prevail, you will get such and such." So he set A LIMIT OF FIVE YEARS, AND THEY (THE ROMANS) DID NOT PREVAIL. Abu Bakr mentioned that to the Messenger of Allah and he said ...
((Why did you not make it less than))
[I (the narrator) think he meant less than ten]. Sa'id bin Jubayr said: "Bid' means less than ten." Then the Romans were victorious...
Abu Isa At-Tirmidhi recorded that Niyar bin Mukram Al-Aslami said: "When the following Ayat were revealed...
<Alif Lam Mim. The Romans have been defeated. In the nearest land, and they, after their defeat, will be victorious. In Bid' years.>
on the day they were revealed, the Persians were prevailing over the Romans. The Muslims wanted the Romans to prevail over them (the Persians), because they were both people who followed a Book. Concerning this Allah said...
<And on that day, the believers will rejoice - with the help of Allah. He helps whom he wills, and He is the All-Mighty, the Most Merciful.>
The Quraysh, on the other hand, wanted the Persians to prevail, neither of them were people who followed a Book and neither of them believed in the Resurrection. When Allah revealed these Ayat, Abu Bakr went out proclaiming throughout Makkah...
< Alif Lam Mim. The Romans have been defeated. In the nearest land, and they, after their defeat, will be victorious. In Bid' years.>
Some of the Quraysh said to Abu Bakr: This is (a bet) between us and you. Your companion claims that the Romans will defeat the Persians within three to nine years, so why not have a bet between us and you? Abu Bakr said, Yes. This was before betting had been forbidden. So, Abu Bakr and the idolators made a bet, and they said to Abu Bakr: What do you think, Bid' means something between three and nine years. So let us agree on the middle. So they agreed on six years. Then six years passed without the Romans being victorious, so the idolators took what had bet with Abu Bakr. When the seventh year came and the Romans were finally victorious over the Persians, the Muslims REBUKED Abu Bakr for agreeing on six years. He said: BECAUSE ALLAH SAID: "In Bid' years." At that time many people became Muslims." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged, Volume 7 Surat An-Nur to Surat Al-Ahzab, Verse 50, first edition August 2000, pp. 518-520; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Ibn Kathir's comments clearly highlight the embarrassment the expression "a few years" turned out to be even for the Muslims. The imprecision of the phrase led Abu Bakr to make a bet that the prophecy would be fulfilled within five-six years. Abu Bakr lost the bet. Muhammad and the others stepped in and corrected him only after the event didn't transpire within the five-six year period. This implies that Abu Bakr was only corrected to save face in the eyes of the pagans. All this could have been prevented had Allah given the exact time in the first place, as opposed to giving a vague time frame that ended up embarrassing the Muslims.
The Quran mentions the story of Jonah where he was sent to Nineveh:
And We sent him (on a mission) to a hundred thousand (men) OR MORE. S. 37:147
Allah can only assume that there may be more than 100,000 people living in Nineveh, in stark contrast to the God of the Holy Bible:
"But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" Jonah 4:11
By the Star when it goes down,- Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire. It is no less than Inspiration sent down to him: He was taught by one Mighty in Power, Endued with Wisdom: for he appeared (in stately form); While he was in the highest part of the horizon: Then he approached and came closer, And was at a distance of but two bow-lengths OR (EVEN) NEARER; S. 53:1-9
Which was it? Was the entity as close as the distance of two bow lengths, or less? Didn't Allah know?
And those Foremost (in Faith) will be Foremost (in the Hereafter). These will be those Nearest to Allah. In Gardens of Bliss: A number of people from those of old, And A FEW from those of later times. (They will be) on couches encrusted (with gold and precious stones), Reclining on them, facing each other. Round about them will (serve) youths of perpetual (freshness), With goblets, (shining) beakers, and cups (filled) out of clear-flowing fountains: No after-ache will they receive therefrom, nor will they suffer intoxication: And with fruits, any that they may select: And the flesh of fowls, any that they may desire. And (there will be) Companions with beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes,- Like unto Pearls well-guarded. A Reward for the deeds of their past (life). Not frivolity will they hear therein, nor any mischief,- Only the saying, "Peace! Peace". The Companions of the Right Hand,- What will be the Companions of the Right Hand? (They will be) among Lote-trees without thorns, Among Talh trees with flowers (or fruits) piled one above another,- In shade long-extended, By water flowing constantly, And fruit in abundance. Whose season is not limited, nor (supply) forbidden, And on couches raised high. We have created them of special creation. And made them virgin - pure (and undefiled), - Full of love (for their mates), equal in age,- For the Companions of the Right Hand. A (goodly) number from those of old, And a (goodly) NUMBER from those of later times. S. 56:10-40
Allah must have forgotten what he had said in this chapter. He first says that only a few from later times will enter the Garden. Allah then contradicts this by saying that a number of those from the later period will enter.
Finally, in relation to Muslim fasting in the month of Ramadan, we are told:
Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments. Allah knoweth what ye used to do secretly among yourselves; but He turned to you and forgave you; so now associate with them, and seek what Allah Hath ordained for you, and eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast till the night appears; but do not associate with your wives while ye are in retreat in the mosques. Those are limits (set by) Allah. Approach not nigh thereto. Thus doth Allah make clear His Signs to men: that they may learn self-restraint. S. 2:187
According to this verse, Muslims are to begin their fast during daylight hours when a distinction can be made between a white and black thread. Ibn Kathir states:
The verse <and seek that which Allah has ordained for you.> means have children <And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread, then complete your fast till the nightfall.> This shows Allah's Forgiveness and Mercy. He has made eating, drinking and intercourse lawful throughout the night of the fasting. <And seek that which Allah has ordained for you> that is seek what Allah has permitted you to do, but interpreting it in terms of having children is more recommendable. As for <And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread.> that is, until one can distinguish between the light of the day and the darkness of the night and to clarify things, He said <of dawn>.
On the authority of Adiy Ibn Hatim, Al-Bukhari narrated, "O, Allah's Messenger! What is the meaning of the white thread distinct from the black thread? Are these two threads?" He said, "you are not intelligent if you watch the two threads." He then added, "No, it is the darkness of the night and the whiteness of the day"...
<Then complete your fast till the nightfall.> According to Shari'ah, Iftar should take place at sunset as mentioned in the Sahihayn on the authority of Amirul-Mu'minin, Umar Al-Khattab that the Prophet said: "When night falls from this side and the day vanishes from this side and the sun sets, then the fasting person should break his fast." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, part 2, Surah Al-Baqarah, ayat 142 to 252, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa'i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1998 first edition], pp. 106-107, 108; bold emphasis ours)
The hadiths record:
Narrated Abdullah bin Umar:
Allah's Apostle mentioned Ramadan and said, "Do not fast unless you SEE the crescent (of Ramadan), and do not give up fasting till you SEE the crescent (of Shawwal), but if the sky is overcast (if you cannot see it), then act on estimation (i.e. count Sha'ban as 30 days)." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 130)
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet or Abu-l-Qasim said, "Start fasting on SEEING the crescent (of Ramadan), and give up fasting on SEEING the crescent (of Shawwal), and if the sky is overcast (and you cannot see it), complete thirty days of Sha'ban." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 133)
The only problem with this command is that in certain parts of the world the sun doesn't set for weeks. For instance, no person living above the Arctic Circle can be a Muslim since during the Arctic summer a person may wait for several weeks for a sunset to occur in order to end the fast. Furthermore, the entire month of fasting can only begin when one witnesses the appearing of the crescent moon, and ends with its reappearance some 29-30 days later, making it impossible for a Muslim living in the Arctic region to fast.
A Muslim may claim that Muslim scholars have solved this problem through a careful analysis of certain hadiths of their prophet. This doesn't solve the dilemma since this only indicates that the Quran is incomplete and that Allah needed fallible humans to figure out a solution to this problem. All this could have been avoided had Allah simply not mentioned the need to begin the fast by distinguishing between a white and black thread. This indicates that Allah didn't know the problems the Arctic Circle would pose to his command of fasting, which provides additional proof that Allah does not know all things.
In conclusion, the evidence from the Quran demonstrates that Allah is unaware of many things, and is unable to recall events accurately. His knowledge of both past and future events is incomplete, and often needs to take guesses. This demonstrates that Allah is not the true God of the Holy Bible, Yahweh Elohim who is not just perfect in wisdom and knowledge, but is also perfect in all his ways:
"He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he." Deuteronomy 32:4
"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him." Psalm 18:30
"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple." Psalm 19:7
Amen. Come Lord Jesus. We love you always.
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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