Did the Quran confuse Abraham’s descendants?

Sami Zaatari

 

 

Jochen Katz has written an article arguing that the Quran made a mistake when recording Abraham’s descendants. His article can be found on the following link:

 

http://www.answeringislam.net/Quran/Contra/abraham_progeny.html

 

His argument stems from chapter six, verses 83-87 which read:

 

83  That is Our argument, which We bestowed upon Abraham as against his people.

        We raise up in degrees whom We will;

            surely thy Lord is All-wise, All-knowing.

84  And We gave to him Isaac and Jacob

        each one We guided,

            And Noah We guided before;

    and of his seed David and Solomon and Job and Joseph and Moses and Aaron

        even so We recompense the good-doers

85  Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias;

        each was of the righteous;

86  Ishmael and Elisha and Jonah and Lot

        each one We preferred above all beings;

87  and of their fathers, and of their seed, and of their brethren;

        and We elected them, and We guided them to a straight path.

 

According to Katz, there is a problem, as he says:

 

We know that Lot was Abraham's nephew, the son of his brother Haran (Genesis 11:27). Abraham and Lot travelled and entered the land of Canaan together and they lived in close proximity for some time. Later, they went into different directions (Genesis 13) before Abraham's first son was born (Genesis 15). Lot is a contemporary of Abraham, but he is not his son. This can also be seen in Sura 15:51-66 and 29:26 of the Qur'an.

 

Thus, the inclusion of Lot in the "seed of Abraham" in S. 6:86 is an error, even according to the Qur'an.

 

 

RESPONSE

 

There is a very easy way out of this supposed problem. In verse 84 prophet Noah is mentioned, therefore it is possible that all the names being mentioned after verse 84, are referring to the descendants of Noah, which includes Lot, in other words, starting from verse 84, we are being told about the descendants of Noah.

 

Even Katz acknowledges that this could be possible:

 

No doubt, in order to escape from this mistake, many Muslims will claim that in the middle of verse 86 the list switches from the descendants of Abraham to the descendants of Noah when it says: "... and Noah We guided before; and of his seed David and Solomon ...", and in this line the pronoun "his" refers back to Noah, not to Abraham. Therefore, all the names listed from David onwards are to be understood as the seed of Noah.[1]

 

There are several reasons why I do not believe that this is a satisfactory answer.

I agree, Arabic grammar allows to read the text this way. And this interpretation would remove the error discussed above.

 

So Katz acknowledges that this could be an answer to the problem, as it doesn’t contradict the grammar or language, but off course Katz is not entirely satisfied with this response. He writes:

 

The story is about Abraham. The passage from 6:74-87 belongs together. Apart from the small remark in verse 84, Noah is not mentioned anywhere in that whole long sura of 165 verses. The natural reading is to consider the short statement about Noah to be a parenthetical remark, not the beginning of a new section and a switch of focus from Abraham to Noah.

This is supported also by verse 87, which is the concluding statement to this section. There it is said that Allah's favor (guidance and preferment) was not only restricted to the people named in the list, but extended also to some "of their fathers, and of their seed ...", i.e. if somebody lives a life pleasing to God, then God will also bless his family. Not necessarily every one of these fathers (ancestors) and descendants but whenever possible (after all, Abraham's father was an idolater as the Qur'an states several times). It would be strange if this principle given at the conclusion of the section would not in some sense also hold true for Abraham himself. Thus, not only descendants of Abraham are listed, but also one of his pious fathers: Noah. Nevertheless, the passage is about Abraham, and the rest of the names are there because the author considered them to be Abraham's seed — and nearly all of them are.

 

 

RESPONSE

 

So Katz claims that the context shows it’s all about Abraham, and he is right, the context prior to verse 84 was about Abraham, discussing how he argued with his people, and how he stood up for monotheism.

 

Yet what Katz forgets, is that it is the style of the Quran to sometimes break away from the main context of a story, and change course and introduce something new. In this case, starting from verse 84, the Quran introduces Noah, very simple!

 

Furthermore in verse 84 and 85 we are told the following:

 

84  And We gave to him Isaac and Jacob

        each one We guided,

            And Noah We guided before;

    and of his seed David and Solomon and Job and Joseph and Moses and Aaron

        even so We recompense the good-doers

85  Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias;

        each was of the righteous;

 

So in verse 84 and 85 we are now told about the characteristics of these prophets, they are good doers, and they are righteous, so it very well may be that Lot is being included under this context, of being one of the righteous good doers. In fact the mention of Lot comes right after verse 85, which talks about how righteous these men were:

 

85  Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias;

        each was of the righteous;

86  Ishmael and Elisha and Jonah and Lot

 

So it seems quite apparent that Lot is being included in the list of righteous good doers.

 

So in conclusion, there is no problem.

 

And Allah Knows Best

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