Saturday, 22 July 2017

Imran's Fatherhood: Part III

Continues from Part II
Mystery solved: Patriarch Israel’s replacement with Patriarch Imran
The narrative of Mary and Jesus’ nativity in Surah 3:35-47 was borrowed by Mohammad from the non-canonical Gospel of James (aka the Protoevangelium of James) and adapted to Islamic creed with the help of a few textual alterations. The comparison of the account in the Qur’an with its original version does not only verify the charges of plagiarism, but also displays the superiority of the original source to its copy in terms of integrity and clarity:
(Remember) when the wife of 'Imran said: My Lord! I have vowed unto Thee that which is in my belly as a consecrated (offering). Accept it from me. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower! And when she was delivered she said: My Lord! Lo! I am delivered of a female - Allah knew best of what she was delivered - the male is not as the female; and lo! I have named her Mary, and lo! I crave Thy protection for her and for her offspring from Satan the outcast. (Surah 3:35-36 Pickthall)
And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by, saying: Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world. And Anna said: As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life. And, behold, two angels came, saying to her: Behold, Joachim your husband is coming with his flocks. For an angel of the Lord went down to him, saying: Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God has heard your prayer. Go down hence; for, behold your wife Anna shall conceive. And Joachim went down and called his shepherds, saying: Bring me hither ten she-lambs without spot or blemish, and they shall be for the Lord my God; and bring me twelve tender calves, and they shall be for the priests and the elders; and a hundred goats for all the people. And, behold, Joachim  came with his flocks; and Anna stood by the gate, and saw Joachim coming, and she ran and hung upon his neck, saying: Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly; for, behold the widow no longer a widow, and I the childless shall conceive. And Joachim rested the first day in his house. And on the following day he brought his offerings, saying in himself: If the Lord God has been rendered gracious to me, the plate on the priest's forehead will make it manifest to me. And Joachim brought his offerings, and observed attentively the priest's plate when he went up to the altar of the Lord, and he saw no sin in himself. And Joachim said: Now I know that the Lord has been gracious unto me, and has remitted all my sins. And he went down from the temple of the Lord justified, and departed to his own house. And her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth. And she said to the midwife: What have I brought forth? And she said: A girl. And said Anna: My soul has been magnified this day. And she laid her down. And the days having been fulfilled, Anna was purified, and gave the breast to the child, and called her name Mary.(Gospel of James chapters 4-5)
Evidently, Mohammad shortened the original and detailed account by selecting a few verses from it and skipping many others. This, of course, made the narrative in Surah 3 vague and even incomplete. In order to overcome this difficulty and help Muslims get a clearer picture of the story, Islamic scholars raced to plagiarize further from the same source, testifying to the fact that most of the stories about Christianity in their scripture had been created thanks to their prophet who borrowed from apocryphal writings. For example, Ibn Kathir added the following part while commenting on the Qur’an verses relating Mary’s mother’s pregnancy:
The wife of `Imran mentioned here is the mother of Maryam, and her name is Hannah bint Faqudh. Muhammad bin Ishaq mentioned that Hannah could not have children and that one day, she saw a bird feeding its chick. She wished she could have children and supplicated to Allah to grant her offspring. Allah accepted her supplication, and when her husband slept with her, she became pregnant. She vowed to make her child concentrate on worship and serving Bayt Al-Maqdis (the Masjid in Jerusalem), when she became aware that she was pregnant. She said, (O my Lord! I have vowed to You what is in my womb to be dedicated for Your services, so accept this from me. Verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knowing.) meaning, You hear my supplication and You know my intention. She did not know then what she would give birth to, a male or a female. (Source)
This clarifying commentary was definitely taken from the Gospel of James:
And his wife Anna mourned in two mournings, and lamented in two lamentations, saying: I shall bewail my widowhood; I shall bewail my childlessness. … And Anna was grieved exceedingly, and put off her garments of mourning, and cleaned her head, and put on her wedding garments, and about the ninth hour went down to the garden to walk. And she saw a laurel, and sat under it, and prayed to the Lord, saying: O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as You blessed the womb of Sarah, and gave her a son Isaac. And gazing towards the heaven, she saw a sparrow's nest in the laurel, and made a lamentation in herself, saying: Alas! Who begot me? And what womb produced me? Because I have become a curse in the presence of the sons of Israel, and I have been reproached, and they have driven me in derision out of the temple of the Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the fowls of the heaven, because even the fowls of the heaven are productive before You, O Lord. (Gospel of James chapters 2-3)
More interestingly, Mohammad seems to have deliberately focused on Mary’s mother and ignored all the references to her father (Joachim) while copying the account of her nativity from the Gospel of James. Accordingly, the borrowed story in Surah 3 begins with the supplication and vow uttered by Mary’s mother in verse 35. In contrast, the Gospel of James first talks about Mary’s father (Joachim) before proceeding to the narrative about his wife and her supplications:
In the records of the twelve tribes of Israel was Joachim, a man rich exceedingly; and he brought his offerings double, saying: There shall be of my superabundance to all the people, and there shall be the offering for my forgiveness to the Lord for a propitiation for me. For the great day of the Lord was at hand, and the sons of Israel were bringing their offerings. And there stood over against him Rubim, saying: It is not meet for you first to bring your offerings, because you have not made seed in Israel. And Joachim was exceedingly grieved, and went away to the registers of the twelve tribes of the people, saying: I shall see the registers of the twelve tribes of Israel, as to whether I alone have not made seed in Israel. And he searched, and found that all the righteous had raised up seed in Israel. And he called to mind the patriarch Abraham, that in the last day God gave him a son Isaac. And Joachim was exceedingly grieved, and did not come into the presence of his wife; but he retired to the desert, and there pitched his tent, and fasted forty days and forty nights, saying in himself: I will not go down either for food or for drink until the Lord my God shall look upon me, and prayer shall be my food and drink. (Gospel of James chapter 1)
If we focus on the bolded statements in the narrative above, we can figure out the source of the mysterious sequence of the patriarchs in Surah 3:33. Mohammad was aware of this section on the theme of fatherhood in the Gospel of James, and incorporated it into Surah 3 in the shortest form possible and not without his mistaken conclusions. First, in the original account Mary’s father was depicted as a man having no seed in Israel in contrast to all other righteous people and thus emphatically singled out from the twelve tribes of Israel (Jacob) because of his childlessness. Second, he was said to liken himself to patriarch Abraham with regard to the notion of miraculous fatherhood in expectation for a child despite his barrenness. These motifs sufficed to convince Mohammad that Mary’s father signified a unique case in the seed/family of patriarch Israel in terms of fatherhood and that he was made similar to patriarch Abraham. Consequently, he replaced Israel with Mary’s father (whose name he had changed into Imran) while transferring the names of the four forefathers from Surah 19:58 to Surah 3:33 and inserted him right after Abraham as the fourth patriarch. To put it another way, Mohammad thought that Mary’s father’s highlighted affiliation with the twelve tribes of Israel would allow him to take Israel’s place in the sequence of the patriarchs. The analogy drawn in the Gospel of James between Abraham and Mary’s father further encouraged Mohammad to place Imran’s name right after Abraham’s and designate him as the father of a race (patriarch).
The discovery of the ties between the Gospel of James and Surah 3:33 also clarifies the vague link between the references to Imran’s fatherhood in verse 33 and to his wife’s motherhood in verse 35. Thus, it becomes easy to see that in Mohammad’s scripture Surah 3:33-34 were meant to be the equivalent of the teachings about Mary’s father and his relation to the patriarchs in the first chapter of the same Gospel. After all, Surah 3:34 functions to strengthen the significance of lineage and common patriarchs:
They were descendants one of another. Allah is Hearer, Knower. (Pickthall)
The emphasis laid in this verse on Allah’s hearing and knowing is most likely derived from the last sentence in the first chapter of the Gospel of James, where Mary’s father asks God to look upon him and hear his prayers.
Evolution in Surah 3:33 after Mohammad’s death
The lack of a reference to Ishmael or to Mohammad in Surah 3:33 causes much trouble for Islamic scholars as Christian apologists and critics of the Qur’an use this particular verse to prove Jesus’ superiority to Mohammad. For example, in his article entitled Jesus Superior Still According to the Qur’an! Sam Shamoun rebuts the objections of the Islamic scholars who strive to add Mohammad into the list of the chosen and preferred families by expanding the definition of the phrase “family of Abraham” to include Ishmael. As stated in Shamoun’s article, the linguistic structure of the verse will not allow Mohammad’s addition into Abraham’s family with the help of his unsubstantiated affiliation with Ishmael7, for Mary’s father is linked in Surah 3 to Abraham through his son Isaac, proving that the “final” family chosen by God was by no means related to Ishmael and his lineage.
As we discussed above, Mohammad could never have pointed at Ishmael’s line while referring to Abraham’s family in Surah 3:33 since he copied the names and order of the two patriarchs (Abraham and Imran) from the Gospel of James, a non-canonical Christian text that neither knew nor confirmed the modern Islamic allegations concerning Mohammad’s affiliation with Ishmael. More to the point, in the first chapter of that Gospel of Infancy, which was summarized and incorporated into the 3rd chapter of the Qur’an in the form of two short verses, Mary’s father remembered Abraham not because of his son Ishmael, but because of his son Isaac. Since Mohammad repeated this certain parallelism between Abraham and Mary’s father to the point of presenting the latter as a patriarch, it is unthinkable that he regarded the line descending from Ishmael as chosen and preferred.
The difficulty posed by Surah 3:33 was noticed by Islamic scholars who tried to solve this problem by making vain efforts to bind Mohammad to the chosen family of Abraham through Ishmael. For instance, Ibn Kathir wrote the following comment and did not understand that Mohammad’s addition to the family of Abraham would be to no avail since Mohammad was born centuries after Mary’s father, who was designated in the Qur’an as the last link in the chain of chosen families. In short, the chronological sequence in Surah 3:33 would never allow Mohammad’s linking to the supposedly preferred family of Ishmael:
Allah also chose the household of Ibrahim, including the master of all mankind, and the Final Prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon him. Allah also chose the household of `Imran, the father of Maryam bint `Imran, the mother of `Isa, peace be upon them. So `Isa is from the offspring of Ibrahim, as we will mention in the Tafsir of Surat Al-An`am, Allah willing, and our trust is in Him. (Source)
The weakness of the argument and defense suggested by scholars like Ibn Kathir was well-known to some Muslims who expected to see in Surah 3:33 an overt reference to Mohammad’s family not before, but after the reference to Imran’s progeny. This expectation took the form of a variant reading in the Qur’an after Mohammad’s death. The following statement attributed to the Sixth Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq reads:
The verse was revealed as, ‘the house of ‘Imran and the house of Muhammad above all beings,’ but they [the opponents of the imams] deleted ‘and the house of Muhammad’ from the Book” ... (Source)
The inclusion of Surah 3:33 into the problematic list of the variant readings of the Qur'an shows how much some Muslim scholars were bothered with it because they considered the lack of a reference to Mohammad in that verse a disgrace and source of resentment. The only thing they could do to avoid this problematic issue was to insert the missing reference into the Qur'an later most probably through wishful thinking.
Some of the Islamic teachings in the Qur’an did not take their final shape at once, being compatible with the doctrines of gradual revelation and abrogation invented by Mohammad, who needed to process the things he heard from the People of the Book for their transfer to the Qur’an. As a result, some basic Biblical teachings evolved in Mohammad’s mind and underwent modifications that corresponded to the correction and amelioration of the previously delivered teachings, and were enforced with the pretext of Allah’s better revelation.
In this process, two things made the evolution of some tenets crucial: Mohammad’s inability to understand the original statements of the Bible and his struggle to reconcile the things he derived from the Bible with the new material he derived from some non-canonical writings. These evolutions did not only expose Mohammad’s ignorance and confusion, but also created some Qur’an verses that were harmonious neither with the Bible nor with the apocryphal texts. Finally, evolving ideas gave birth to some variations even within the Qur’an and turned into mysterious references that can be understood only if the Qur’an is compared first with the Bible and then with the non-canonical literature Mohammad heard and abused while forging his scripture.
The comparison of the Meccan verses about Abraham’s sons with those of the Medinan period is evidence for the difficulties Mohammad went through while talking of Abraham’s descendants. His vague knowledge on the issue was at first limited to the number of Abraham’s sons, which had been a Biblical teaching. Mohammad repeated what the Bible said: Abraham had two sons. However, Mohammad had to wait until after the migration to get the names of these two sons’ names correct. Prior to the migration his observations gave him the wrong idea that of Abraham’s two sons, Isaac was the firstborn whilst Jacob the second. As a result of Ishmael’s uncanny replacement with Isaac, the chapters of the Mecca period by no means affiliated Ishmael with Abraham although the Jews and Christians did not deny or alter the Biblical doctrine that Abraham had fathered Ishmael before Isaac.
Being unaware of Ishmael’s relation to Abraham, Mohammad kept repeating Isaac and Jacob’s name along with Abraham and did not come to his senses until his migration to Medina, after which he raced to correct his mistake by removing Jacob from the group of Abraham’s two sons. This correction was quite smooth and theologically beneficial as Abraham’s first reference to Ishmael as his first son in the Qur'an was thematically tied to the construction of the Cube and Ishmael’s alleged settlement in Mecca.
Our Lord! Lo! I have settled some of my posterity in an uncultivable valley near unto Thy holy House, our Lord! that they may establish proper worship; so incline some hearts of men that they may yearn toward them, and provide Thou them with fruits in order that they may be thankful. Our Lord! Lo! Thou knowest that which we hide and that which we proclaim. Nothing in the earth or in the heaven is hidden from Allah. Praise be to Allah Who hath given me, in my old age, Ishmael and Isaac! Lo! my Lord is indeed the Hearer of Prayer. (Surah 14:37-39 Pickthall)
The reason for Ishmael’s linking to Mecca and the Cube was most likely Mohammad’s desire to take revenge from Sara, who had thrown Ishmael out of her house and thus prevented him from taking part of Abraham’s inheritance. In Mohammad’s fantasy this was paid back by Allah, who symbolically threw Isaac out of his house when he did not allow him to construct the Cube with Abraham and denied him the honor of settling in Mecca, the hometown of the alleged final messenger.
The Islamic assertion that the recurrent references made to Jacob along with Isaac as Abraham’s son in the chapters of the Meccan period were due to Jacob’s being Abraham’s grandson is refuted by the lack of a similar reference in the chapters of the Medina period to Jacob as Abraham’s son. This lack was quite natural because Mohammad changed only the names of Abraham’s sons, maintaining their number. Thus, according to the Qur'an, Abraham fathered two sons and these two sons were Isaac and Jacob (Mecca) and Ishmael and Isaac (Medina).
It is not difficult to guess what compelled Mohammad to identify Jacob as Abraham’s second son in the Meccan period of the Qur'an. First, he was aware of the Biblical doctrine that God Almighty had blessed and chosen the nation of Israel (Jacob’s offspring), and wrote a few verses to display his agreement with this teaching.
O Children of Israel! Remember My favour wherewith I favoured you and how I preferred you to (all) creatures. (Surah 2:47 Pickthall)
And certainly We gave the Book and the wisdom and the prophecy to the children of Israel, and We gave them of the goodly things, and We made them excel the nations. (Surah 45:16 Pickthall)
While in Mecca, Mohammad also became familiar with the Biblical sequence of the three ancestors “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” and incorporated this triplet into his scripture:
And remember Our servants Ibrahim and Ishaq and Yaqoub, men of power and insight. (Surah 38:45 Shakir)
And thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of sayings and make His favor complete to you and to the children of Yaqoub, as He made it complete before to your fathers, Ibrahim and Ishaq; surely your Lord is Knowing, Wise. (Surah 12:6 Shakir)
And I follow the religion of my fathers, Ibrahim and Ishaq and Yaqoub; it beseems us not that we should associate aught with Allah; this is by Allah's grace upon us and on mankind, but most people do not give thanks. (Surah 12:38 Shakir)
At this point, Mohammad misunderstood the cause of this particular sequence of the three patriarchs and jumped into the conclusion that this triplet consisted of Abraham and his two sons. The natural outcome of this fallacious reasoning was the indirect denial of every tie between Abraham and Ishmael, which again contradicted the Biblical account that designated Ishmael as Abraham’s son through his concubine named Hagar. Ishmael’s separation from Abraham before his death and Isaac and Jacob’s burial in the same place as Abraham in the Biblical accounts (Genesis 49:29-32) were probably some of the factors contributing to Mohammad’s supposition that Ishmael had nothing to do with Abraham and his offspring.
Unsurprisingly, Mohammad did not give Ishmael’s name when he related the story of Abraham’s sacrifice (Surah 37:102-107) even though most Muslim scholars tend to identify the child whom God asked Abraham to offer as Ishmael rather than Isaac.8 Traditional Islamic commentaries on this issue are far from accuracy, for Mohammad would have placed Ishmael in the verse below between Abraham and Isaac if he had agreed with the Islamic scholars in regard to the identity of the child mentioned in verses 102-103:
And We blessed him and Isaac. And of their seed are some who do good, and some who plainly wrong themselves. (Surah 37:113 Pickthall)
Nevertheless, things started to change all of a sudden when Mohammad went to Medina and found out that Ishmael was actually a son of Abraham. In order to clear his previous mistake, he abruptly included Ishmael into the verses referring to Abraham’s lineage descending from his son Isaac. For instance:
Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. (Surah 2:136 Pickthall)
This awkward sequence gave the wrong impression that Isaac was Ishmael’s son instead of his brother and contradicted the basic Biblical doctrine that bound the divine promises and the prophetic lineage to Abraham’s descendants through Isaac and not through Ishmael. In the light of this analysis it becomes clear that Mohammad excluded Ishmael from Abraham’s story (and replaced Ishmael with Isaac) when the Bible included him as a son and inserted Ishmael into Abraham’s lineage descending through Isaac when the Bible excluded him from the sequence (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) indicating Isaac’s preference by God to Ishmael. This problem and discrepancy depicts Mohammad as a man who followed the extreme ends in opposite directions as a result of his failure to understand the simple doctrine that God established his covenant with Isaac although Ishmael was Abraham’s other son.

1 In fact, the Bible tells us more about his wife Jochebeth than about Amram. On the other hand, her name was necessarily left out in the Qur’an. 2 More about this can be found in my article The Anatomy of the Qur'an's Mistakes. 3 Further on this issue can be read in Sam Shamoun’s article Does the Quran teach a local flood? 4 However, this verse overtly contradicts Surah 11:36, 40, which stunningly teach that some people from Noah’s folk believed his message and were saved with him. This article highlights the contradictory teachings in the Qur’an regarding Noah’s flood. 5 After his migration, Mohammad changed his stand and mistakenly affiliated Ishmael with Abraham even to the point of Ishmael’s insertion into the prophetic lineage descending from Isaac. How Mohammad made a gross mistake with regard to Abraham’s sons in both Mecca and Medina periods is explained at length in the appendix. 6 Read this commentary. 7 See the article Ishmael is not the father of Muhammad. 8 However, there are several early Muslim commentators who were convinced it was Isaac. For a detailed discussion, see the article Abraham and the Child of Sacrifice - Isaac or Ishmael?

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