by Silas





            Muhammad was confused about Jesus' mother's identity.  In the Quran he erred by identifying her as Aaron's sister.  When presented with this error Muhammad created an ad hoc explanation to cover his mistake.   This paper explains why Muhammad's explanation is wrong and thereby shows that the Quranic statements remain in error."







            As Islam grew in power, Muhammad's people began to preach Islam throughout the Arabian peninsula.  Eventually, Islamic force of arms insured that Islam was preached and established throughout the entire region.


            There were Arabian Christians living in a town called Najran who had heard the stories of Islam.  One Quranic passage about Mary and Jesus struck them as strange, (Surah 19:27, 28).  It reads:


            "Carrying the child, (Jesus), she (Mary) came to her people, who said to her:  "Mary, this is indeed a strange thing!  Sister of Aaron, your father was never a whore-monger, nor was your mother a harlot.""  [The Koran, Dawood's translation, pages 215, 216].



NOTE:  My words are in parenthesis.



            This verse states that after Mary gave birth to Christ, her townsfolk reproached her.  They thought she was not married, and assumed that she committed sexual sin because she gave birth.  In their reproach, they called her, "Sister of Aaron".



            This mistake was discerned by the Arabic Christians of Najran.  There is a record of them exposing Muhammad's mistake about Mary.  It's found in authentic Islamic writings, known as the Hadith, or Traditions.  The quote is from the collection of Traditions compiled by an Islamic scholar known as "Imam Muslim".  Imam Muslim's collection of Hadith, known as "Sahih Muslim", is considered to be the 3rd most important set of books in Islam, following the Quran, and Hadith collection of Bukhari.  "Sahih" means, more or less, "authentic", i.e., they are regarded as authentic by Islamic scholarship.



            In Sahih Muslim, the Hadith related by Mughirah ibn Shu'bah, #5326, says:


            "When I came to Najran, they (the Christians of Najran) asked me:  You read "Sister of Harun", (i.e. Mary), in the Qur'an, whereas Moses was born well before Jesus. When I came back to Allah's Messenger I asked him about that, and he said:  "The (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of Apostle and pious persons who had gone before them.""  [Sahih Muslim, translated by Abdul Siddiqi].






            In effect, when Muhammad was confronted with the mistake of confusing Mary as the sister of Aaron he said that Mary was called the "sister of Aaron" because Aaron was a pious person and Mary was called after Aaron.  Muhammad meant that the use of the idiom "sister of Aaron" was not literal, but metaphorical.







            Here is the issue:  was Muhammad confused about Mary's identify, or was Mary really identified with and metaphorically called "sister of Aaron"?


            Was Muhammad telling the truth, or did he cover a mistake with a lie?  If Muhammad did lie then in what does that make him?  And, if the Quran does contain an error then should it be considered the literal word of God or just the synthesis of Muhammad's imagination and various religious stories?  I will address this later.




#1        The first important clue to note here, and one that is easily overlooked, is found in the text itself.  The Arabic Christians of Najran objected to Mary being called "sister of Aaron".  This speaks volumes, don't miss this fundamental point…..


            Muhammad said that this manner of using the idiom, "sister of Aaron", was done by the pious people of the "old age", i.e. people who lived during Mary's time.  Those people called their fellow citizens after pious persons who had lived earlier.  But the Christians of Najran did not recognize the use of this idiom.  Although they lived some 600 years after Christ's time, they were familiar with their own religious stories, and certainly those of the Jews.  But this idiom struck their ears as peculiar.  If the idiom were familiar to them, they would not have objected.  But the expression "sister of Aaron", when applied to Mary in relation to Aaron, was not familiar.


            Further, they did not recognize the technique or model in which this idiom was used.  Had they known the custom that Muhammad said existed, of people calling other people "brother" or "sister" of ancient pious people, like possibly, "sister of Moses", "brother of David", "sister of Abraham", "brother of Isaac", they would have understood what the Quran was saying and raised no objection.  But both the idiom, and the model in which it is used, were foreign to them.



            Note the next critical event.  Again, it is fundamental to the point.  The Arabic Muslim who came to Najran, and spoke with the Christians, did not know that the term was metaphorical.  When confronted with the mistake he was dumbfounded!  He had to go and see Muhammad to find out why there was a mistake in the Quran.  Had he known that it was a metaphorical idiom, he would not have had to go and see Muhammad; he could have told the Najran Christians the meaning of the metaphor.  Instead, the Muslim was confused because he also understood the passage to mean that Mary was Aaron's literal sister.


            In sum, the Christians understood the Arabic of the Quran to mean a literal brother and sister relationship between Aaron and Mary.  Further, they did not recognize the idiom "sister of Aaron" when Muhammad used it with respect to Mary.  In fact, the term, "sister of Aaron" was abnormal to them when applied to anyone other than Aaron's real sister - Miriam.  Further the Arabic Muslim, Mughira Shu'bah, also did not know this idiom was metaphorical.  He also understood it to be literal.  When told of the error, he was confused.  and went to see Muhammad to get an answer.



POINT 1:        The context of this passage shows that people, both Christian and Muslim, understood this idiom to be literal, not metaphorical, and the text shows clearly that both did not recognize the idiom to be metaphorical.



            I do not have a problem with someone using metaphors.  The Bible and Quran are full of metaphors.  Most all great literature uses metaphors.  My point is that Muhammad lied when he said that idiom, "sister of Aaron" was used by people during Christ's time.  I object to saying a metaphor existed when did not.  I object to Muhammad making a mistake and covering it with a lie.








            An easy Muslim defense at this point is to say that both the Najran Christians, and the Muslim man were ignorant of actual historical use of this type of idiom.  They would say I'm drawing to quick a conclusion.  Let's continue to investigate.


            Examine Muhammad's explanation.  He said, "The (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of Apostle and pious persons who had gone before them".


            Do we have any evidence that anyone else was ever called, "sister of Aaron", besides his real sister?










            If there would be one place where Mary or someone else might be called "sister of Aaron", it might be in the Bible.  But there is no place where Mary or anyone else is  metaphorically called "sister of Aaron".


            Perhaps I am being too narrow.  Let's expand our search to find, "sister of Aaron", "brother of Aaron", "sister of Moses", and "brother of Moses", used as a metaphor.


            Again, there is no one metaphorically referred to in the Bible as any of the above.  Moses was truly a great Israelite leader.  Certainly if the Jews were going to call people "brother" or "sister" after saints of old, Moses would get his fair share of people identified with him.  I would expect that he would get a larger amount of people called after him than Aaron would.  But, no where, is it found in the Bible that anyone is called, "brother of Moses", "sister of Aaron", etc.




POINT 2:        No one in the Bible is called after the manner Muhammad said existed.








            Let's examine the Quran.  It contains many stories from Judaism, both theological and folklore.  One would expect that since Muhammad related so many stories from Jewish legend, that he would have consistently used their metaphors, if he really knew what he was talking about.  Or, if he were really getting "revelation" from God, then he would have communicated with the people in the way they understood.  Perhaps there is another reference in the Quran to someone being called, "sister of Aaron", or "sister of another great pious person".  But as we search, we find none.


            In fact, I find that there are about 14 times the actual Arabic word "sister" (ukhtun) is used in the Quran.  One time it refers to "Mary, sister of Aaron".  Eleven times it refers to a blood relative, one time it is used as "sister-nation" (7:38), and one time it refers to "sister-sign", (43:48).  Each of the metaphorical uses of "sister" refers to a case of concurrent relationship.  And, in each use of relational "sister", the reference is to an actual relative.


            I expanded the search to include, "brother of Aaron", "sister of Moses", and "brother of Moses".


            Again, at no time is the idiom used to represent someone being called "brother" or "sister" with respect to someone who has preceded him by hundreds of years. 


            Further, I find that "brother" (akhun) is used about 82 times in the Quran.  Much of the time it is used literally.  Many times it is used metaphorically, as in living Muslims being "brothers" in the faith, or one man being a "brother" to his living tribe.  In no case is it ever used to metaphorically between a living man, and one who has preceded him by hundreds of years.  In other words, there is no other textual support for this idiom's model in the Quran.


            I'll also note that Aaron is mentioned about 20 times in the Quran.  Only Mary is called "sister of Aaron" after him.  Moses is mentioned I would say about 150 times, more or less.  In no instance, is anyone called, "brother or sister of Moses" metaphorically.



POINT 3:        There is no other textual support in the Quran for anyone ever being called "sister" or "brother" after Muhammad's model; the only people called "sister" or "brother" are people who are related to each other.  Further, when "sister" is most often used, it refers to a living blood relative.









            I expanded the search to the Hadith.  Muhammad talked quite a bit, and his followers hung on his every word.  His words are recorded in thousands of Hadith.  I've searched exhaustively Bukhari's Hadith (the 2nd most important set of books in Islam), for the terms, "sister of Aaron", "sister of Moses", "brother of Aaron", and "brother of Moses".  I found no references.


            I also searched Muslim's set of Hadith for the same references.  I found none.  Note however, that my search of Muslim was only partial.  I estimate about 1/2, so there still might be a reference in Muslim's Hadith that I missed.


            I'll also note that there were few references to Aaron in either Bukhari or Muslim.


            I also searched the Hadith of Abu Dawud for the same four references.  Again, I found none.  Note again that my search of Abu Dawud was only partial.  I estimate about 1/2, so there still might be a reference in Abu Dawud's Hadith that I missed.




POINT 4:        There is no textual evidence found in the Hadith that anyone used idiom's like "sister of Aaron".










            When the NT refers to people being called after saints of old, it calls them, "son" or "daughter".   Jesus is called "son of David" in Matthew 21:9, and Elizabeth is called, "daughter of Aaron" in Luke 1:5, etc.  Abraham is referred to as "father" by the Jews in John 8:38.  But never are these people called, "brothers or sisters" after any of the previous saints.  The uses of these "son " and "daughter" idioms were accepted and understood by all in that culture.  And their use makes sense.  Since the great pious people of old helped to create or establish the nation of Israel, people following afterwards are understandably called, "son" or "daughter" after them.  We use this same idiom model in this day.  There is an American organization called, "Daughters of the Revolution".  Perhaps you can think of other people or groups called "sons or daughters" after famous people who are now dead.






            I've checked through about 11 different NT Apocrypha writings for a reference to Mary being called the "sister of Aaron".  Here are the works:



The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy

The Gospel of Bartholomew

The Protevangelium of James

The Gospel of Mary

The Gospel of Thomas

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, text A

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, text B

The Gospel of the Infancy

The Gospel of Peter

The Nativity of Mary


            I found no references to Mary ever being called, "the sister of Aaron", in any of the material above.


            But note however, on the other hand, in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, I found the idiom, "daughters of Eve" used.  I also found Jesus called, "the Son of David".


            In the Protevangelium of James I found the idiom, "daughters of the Hebrews"  It also declares,  "Mary of the tribe of David", i.e., she is descended from Judah, not Levi, (Aaron's tribal forefather).


            The Nativity of Mary also says Mary is "born of David".  And the idiom, "Sarah mother of the nation" is used.






            Again, there is no textual support for Mary being called, "sister of Aaron".  And, the idioms that are used, parallel those found in the Bible, i.e., when people are called after previous saints, they are referred to as sons or daughters, not brothers or sisters.




POINT 5:        There is no textual support for Mary ever being called, "sister of Aaron" in any of the earliest Christian writings.









            I've asked a Messianic Christian to do some searching of Judaic material for a idiom like "sister of Aaron", or "brother of Moses".  He first checked with a number of Judaic scholars.  None of them ever heard of an idiom like the one in question used in that way.  He then checked on two books which draw on a wide range of material relation to Kaballah in connection with Jewish Messianic aspirations:


1)         Gershom Scholem's book on Messiah "Sabatai Sevi"

2)         "The Messiah of Ismir" by Joseph Kastein.


Neither of these had any reference to the idiom in question.


            He then examined the "Jewish Encyclopedia", by Funk and Wagnalls, a 12 volume set.  He found nothing directly relating to the idiom's use.  He followed the history and legends concerning Aaron's rod up to reports that Joseph (Jesus' earthly father) cane into its possession and took it to Egypt with him.  Again, he found nothing that related to the idiom in question.  He searched through the Ency. references on Mary.  Again nothing showed up that relates to the idiom.


            He checked through the Midrash Rabbah on Exodus, and again, found nothing in support of Muhammad's model.


            He checked through the Bablyonia Talmud, and found nothing with respect to the idiom in question.


            All in all, he checked through a great deal of material.  Again I'll note that he is very well read in Judaic writings, as are the scholars with whom he has interfaced.  None of them have ever heard of the an idiom like "sister of Aaron" or "brother of Moses" used metaphorically.



POINT 6:        There is no evidence that the idiom, "sister of Mary" was ever used in Judaic writings.








          There is no textual evidence that the idiom, "sister of Aaron" or similar was used by Jews or Christians.  Muhammad's statement, that people in NT times called others "sister" after previous pious persons has no textual support anywhere.









            Of course there have been several Muslim attempts to explain away the Quran's mistake, and Muhammad's "cover up" lie.


            One of the greatest Muslim scholars was Baidawi.  His commentary is highly respected and he is esteemed in Islamic circles.


            Baidawi's explanation along with another man named Husain, are briefly mentioned in the Hughes "Dictionary of Islam", page 328, it reads,


            "Al-Baizawi says she was called "sister of Aaron" because she was of the Levitical race, but Husain says that the Aaron mentioned in the verse is not the same person as the brother of Moses."



            Baidawi claims that Mary was of the Levitical race.  But the Biblical evidence suggests otherwise.  First of all, it is generally accepted that Mary's genealogy is given in Luke chapter 3.  And, in Hebrews 7:14 it says,


            "Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood for the people received the law under this priesthood what further need would there have been to speak of another priest arising according to the order of Melchizedek rather than one according to the order of Aaron?  For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.  Now the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar.  For it is evident  that our Lord descended from Judah and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests".   [New Revised Standard Version].


            Therefore, the Biblical evidence says that Mary is descended from Judah, not Levi.  And, we can also reference the NT apocrypha writings, they also say that Mary was descended from Judah, not Levi.


            Husain says that the "Aaron" mentioned in the Quran is not Moses's brother, but another person named Aaron.  But Muhammad said that Mary was called after a previous pious person.  But note that both the Arabic Christians of Najran and the Arabic Muslim understood it to be Aaron, and , Muhammad did not address the possibility of "Aaron" being someone else.


            Further, both Baidawi and Husain left out part of Muhammad's explanation.  Muhammad said more than it was a metaphorical use of "sister".  He said it was also used by people in Christ's time.  And as we see, there is no textual evidence to support Muhammad's claim.




POINT 7:        Baidawi's and Husain's explanations of the metaphor fails the textual test.







            The editor of the Hadith of Muslim, Abdul Siddiqi, also includes a defense of Muhammad's mistake in the Quran.  He says, in Volume 3, page 1169,


            "The objections raised by the Christians of Najran was that in the Holy Quran, in Sura 19, verse 28, Hadrat Maryam has been addressed as the sister of Harun:  Ya ukkata Haruna, whereas Harun was the brother of Moses who lived long before the birth of Jesus.  How could then Mary, the mother of Jesus, they contended, be the sister of Harun?  The prophet told Mughira that here Harun did not imply the real brother of Mary, but as it was customary to name persons after the names of the Apostles and pious people, that was the reason why she was called the sister of Harun.

            The other explanation is that Mary might have actually a brother Harun, who had been named after the name of Prophet Harun, the brother of Moses."





            Siddiqi makes the same assumption as Baidawi does, and his explanation misses the point in the same way.  But Siddiqi goes further.  He includes an explanation similar to Husain's.  He says that perhaps Mary had a brother called "Aaron".  This is an obtuse stretch.  If that were the case, Muhammad would have said that Mary had a brother called "Aaron", instead of going into the "calling people after old pious people" explanation.  Muhammad was not to bright at times, but he usually cut straight to the point when the explanation was simple. 




POINT 8:        Abdul Siddiqi's explanation also fails the textual test.







            Another group of Muslims try to defend the mistake.  Their explanation is similar to the previous explanations.  This one deals with the Arabic definition of the word, "sister".  Here is one point raised by several Muslim writers: M.Ghoniem, M. Ahmed, and M. Saifullah, (this group of writers is referred to as GAS):


            "This claim of contradiction is apparently mistaken because it disregards both the Arabic idiom and the context of the verse.  In Arabic the word "akhun" or "ukhtun"

carries two meanings:  1) Blood brother or sister and,   2) Brotherhood/sisterhood in clan and faith."




            I'll note here that the mistake in the Quran is not so much a "contradiction", as it is a confusion.  Muhammad was confused and mistaken about Mary being the sister of Aaron.


            The problem with this explanation is that Muhammad did not explain it only in that way.  Muhammad explained it as:  "The (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of Apostle and pious persons who had gone before them".  Muslims don't want to address the issue, so they build a straw-man argument, and provide an easy explanation for a point that isn't there.



            Muhammad did not say, "The Arabic term "ukhtun" can be interpreted in two ways".  Muhammad did not say that the word for "sister" can have two meanings.  If that was what he intended, he would have told Mughira that Mary was called that because she was a fellow Jew, or fellow Israelite, or descendant of Levi, and that it was his metaphor, or Allah's metaphor.  Instead, he said that the term was not literal, but was used metaphorically, after an old custom.  Of course Muhammad THEN meant that Mary was a sister in the faith, but Muhammad said more than just that.  Muhammad added the line about an old custom to call people "sister of xxxxx".  So there was more than just a metaphorical use; there was supposedly an established historical use.  And, as we see, there is none.




POINT 9:        The above explanation is another incomplete explanation:  it does not address the real issue.  The custom of calling people "brother or sister" after people of old did not exist.








            To continue with these same explanations, here is another point raised by the GAS writers.  Wishing to support the explanation that  "the above verse has used the word "ukhtun" in the second sense", i.e., that Mary was a sister in the faith, not a flesh and blood sister, they cite several verses from the Quran which uses, "brother", defined as meaning brotherhood in the faith.



They wrote:


            "This is not unusual as the Qur'an uses the same idiomatic expression in several earlier verses. In chapter 11 verse 78, Prophet Lot refers to the women folk of his community as my daughters.


            "And his people came rushing towards him, and they had been long in the habit of practicing abominations. He said: "O my people! Here are "my daughters": they are purer for you (if ye marry)! Now fear Allah, and cover me not with shame about my guests! Is there not among you a single right-minded man?"


            In Chapter 7 verses 65, 73 and 85 Prophets Hud, Saleh and Shuaib are referred to as "brothers" of their respective peoples.  "And unto (the tribe of) A'ad (We sent) their "brother", Hud.  He said: O my people! Serve Allah.  Ye have no other Allah save Him. Will ye not ward off (evil)?"  [Qur'an 7:65]"






            The problem with their use of "brother" or "daughter" is that in all cases, the "brother" or "daughter" are one or more who are currently is living in the same place and same time as the reference.  Start with 11:78.  The GAS writers misinterpret the Quran, saying the "daughters" are the women of Lot's village.  They are actually Lot's daughters.  But that is not the point.  The point is that Lot was addressing people who lived with him at the same time, in the same place.  So, this use of a metaphor in manner of idiom, fails the parallel of context with the way Muhammad explained it.  Aaron lived well before Mary, and in a different land.


            Take 7:65, 73, 85.  Again, in each case, the "brother" was used with respect to people who the messengers were sent.  These "brothers" were people from the same tribe; they were fellow citizens.  Calling them "brothers" is quite appropriate; they were blood relatives to those that were living there.




POINT 10:      When the term "brother" is used in the Quran to describe a metaphoric relationship between humans it never refers to people who are not contemporary.  The GAS attempt to use this model of idiomatic use does not justify Muhammad's use of a different model.



            The GAS writers then quote from one of the earliest translators of the Quran, George Sale.  Sale was of the opinion that Muhammad did not make a mistake, but that Muhammad was using an idiom.


Here is Sale's quote as quoted by GAS:


"George Sale in his translation of the Qur'an says:


            From the identity of names it has been generally imagined by Christian writers that the Koran here confounds Mary the mother of Jesus with Mary of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron; which intolerable anachronism, if it were certain, is sufficient of itself to destroy the pretended authority of this book.


            But though Mohammed may be supposed to have been ignorant enough in ancient history and chronology, to have committed so gross a blunder; yet I do not see how it can be made out from the words of the Koran.  For it does not follow, because two persons have the same name, and have each a father and brother who bear the same names, that they must therefore necessarily be the same whereby it manifestly appears that Mohammed well knew and asserted that Moses preceded Jesus several ages.  And the commentators accordingly fail not to tell us, that there had passed about one thousand eight hundred years between Amran the father of Moses and Amrean the father of the Virgin Mary: they also make them the sons of different persons; the first, they say, was the son of Yeshar, or Izhar (though he was really his brother) the son of Kahath, the son of Levi; and the other was the son of Matthan, whose genealogy they trace, but in a very corrupt and imperfect manner, up to David and thence to Adam.  It must be observed that though the Virgin Mary is called in the Koran, the sister of Aaron, yet she is nowhere called the sister of Moses. "






            Sale is saying that Muhammad knew that Moses and Aaron preceded Mary and Jesus by hundreds of years.  Sale says that if Muhammad really meant she was a literal sister then the entire Quran, and the Islamic religion would be in doubt.  Well was Muhammad thoroughly and completely knowledgeable?  Or did Muhammad learn as he went along?  Further, couldn't Muhammad have had another mental relapse?  More on this later.



            Finally, the GAS Muslim writers also try to justify Muhammad's use of a metaphorical idiom by quoting from the Bible.  Throughout the Bible, people are called "sons" or even "daughter" of their forefathers.  The Muslim writers quote several of these cases.


They wrote:


            "In the Bible, Elizabeth was called daughters of Aaron.  Was she literally a daughter of Aaron?


"In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechari'ah, of the division of Abi'jah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth."  [Luke 1:5, RSV]


Or Jesus was addressed as Son of David in the Bible.  Was he literally Son of David?


"And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!""

[Matthew 21:9 RSV]


If we take that literally then it is also a contradiction in the Bible."




            The Muslim writers seek to defend Muhammad's use of the idiom, "Mary, sister of Aaron", by comparing it to metaphorical idioms found throughout the Bible.  We all know that Elizabeth was not the literal daughter of Aaron, but she was his descendant.  We all know that Jesus was not literally David's son, but He was his descendant.  The problem is not with the use of a metaphorical idiom, but with the use of an unfamiliar or non-existing idiom.  If Muhammad would have said in the Quran, "Mary, daughter of Abraham", perhaps the Christians of Najran would not have objected.  Instead, Muhammad said, "Mary, sister of Aaron".  And that is where the problem lies.




POINT 11:      The idioms used in the NT were understood by those present.  They fit the OT model as well.  Trying to justify Muhammad's idiom as non-literal, based upon non-literal Biblical idioms fails the test.  They are not parallel, they are not the same model.










            In his commentary on the Quran, on Footnote 2481 for 19:28, Yusef Ali writes:


            "Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first in the line of Israelite priesthood.  Mary and her cousin Elisabeth (mother of Yahya) came of a priestly family, and were therefore "sisters of Aaron" or daughters of Imran (who was Aaron's father)..."



            What Ali is saying is that because Mary was a descendant of Aaron (as has been seen, she wasn't), she is qualified to be called "sister of Aaron".  Again, this misses Muhammad's explanation.  And Ali, like the other Muslim apologists, fail to address the real issue.


            Further, one would think that she would be called, "daughter" of Aaron, not his sister.  After all, using "daughter" would be in accordance with established practice.  Why would "Allah". (read Muhammad) use an unfamiliar term with the people with whom he was speaking with?  Doesn't it make sense to communicate with terms that the people you are speaking with understand?  "Daughter" would have been far more appropriate than "sister".



            Ali also adds another interesting note in his Quran.  On footnote 375 for 3:35, he writes:


            "Now we begin the story of Jesus.  As a prelude we have the birth of Mary and the parallel story of John the Baptist, Yahya the son of Zakariya.  Yahya's mother Elisabeth was a cousin of Mary the mother of Jesus and therefore John and Jesus were cousins by blood, and there was a spiritual cousin hood in their birth and career.  Elisabeth was of the daughter of Aaron of a priestly family which went back to Aaron the brother of Moses and son of Imran.  Her Husband Zakariya was actually a priest and her cousin Mary was presumable also of a priestly family.  By tradition Mary's mother was called Hannah (in Latin Anna, and in English, Anne), and her father was called Imran...."



            Ali does not give any reference for this "tradition" he refers to,  i.e. that Mary's father's name was Imran.  There may be a good reason for him not providing the reference.  When Ali says, "By tradition", he is probably referring to the "Protevangelium of James" which is a NT apocrypha book.  This book states that Mary's mother's name is Hanna, BUT, also states that her husband's name is "Joachim", not "Imran".  Ali is smart enough to only quote part of the story.  He knew that if he quoted it all, his support would weaken.  And, note that Ali doesn't mentions that the Protevangelium of James states ,"Mary of the tribe of David", i.e., she is descended from Judah.  This would totally undermine his defense.




POINT 12:      Ali's defense also falls short.  Ali fails to be completely truthful or complete in his quotes and he, like the other Muslim apologists fails to address the real issue.  Instead of saying it was a custom of calling people after previous saints, he tries to make it acceptable by claiming that since Mary was descended from Aaron, she can be called his sister.










            We know that Muhammad preached Islam for a 23 year period.  He had contact with Jews and Christians living in Mecca and elsewhere before he began to preach Islam.  I believe that Muhammad learned as he went along.  Certainly the Quran contains many references to Jewish folklore held true by many of the Jews in the Hijaz (The area of Saudi Arabia where Muhammad lived).  In the "Sirat Rasulallah", translated as "The Life of Muhammad", by A. Guillaume, it says on page 83,



            "Khadija, (Muhammad's first wife), had told Waraqa Naufal Asad, who was her cousin and a Christian who had studied the scriptures and was a scholar.....".



            The Sirat contains many references to Christians and Jews living in the Hijaz, so without a doubt Muhammad heard of some of their religious stories.  These people would be an important source of information for Muhammad.  He would develop an inaccurate understanding of Jewish and Christian history and theology, depending only on stories related by others, and not able to do actual study himself.


            So, did Muhammad really have his history straight?  Or was he confused at times, correcting it as he went along.  Did he have occasional mental lapses?  For Muhammad it was a "prophecy as you go" plan, and correct, add to, or abrogate material when necessary.


            Here are some confusions in the Quran that show Muhammad did not have had his history straight.



            In Surah 15:51-77 there is a brief record of the visit of the angels and their mission.  These angels tell Lot of their identity and their mission in verse 63.  Note that this occurs before the men of the town come to assault Lot's visitors.  Then they order him to leave Sodom.  But in Surah 11:74-85, the angels tell Lot of their identity and mission after the townsmen come to Lot's house.  Note that Surah 11 is in line with the Biblical account. 


            Note that in the above, the contradiction between when the angels reveal their mission to Lot.  If the angels would have told Lot of their mission before the village men came to his house, Lot would not have had to be afraid of them. 




            Here is another interesting verse:  Surah 4:163:


            "We have revealed our will to you as we have revealed it to Noah and to the prophets who came after him; as we revealed it to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, Solomon, and to David to whom we gave the Psalms."


            What strikes anyone with basic Biblical understanding is the disorder in the list.  It's as though Muhammad knew Abraham's descendants, but was confused as to the appearing order of later prominent holy men.  There is no logic behind the groupings following Abraham.




            The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam also mentions a comparison of Quranic verses that illustrate Muhammad learned as he went.  Under "Maryam", it says,


            "The comparison of Sura 19 with Sura 3 makes it probably that Muhammad became acquainted with the story of the birth of Maryam later than with that of Yahya (John the Baptist) or Isa (Jesus).




            And notice that Isaiah is never mentioned in the Quran?  Although Ishmael is mentioned frequently, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, or the other Minor prophets, other than Jonah, are never mentioned.


            I am not the only one to see the confusion in Muhammad's mind.  Many other scholars have easily seen this as well.  Cragg, Watt, Zwemer, Bell, have all commented on the disarray within the Quran.  One scholar, D. S. Margoliouth, says,



            "The needs of his (Muhammad's) profession do not appear to have made him actually a student - yet there is no question that as the Koran grew in bulk, its knowledge of biblical stories became somewhat more accurate:  and though this greater degree of accuracy many have been at times due to the Prophet's memory, it is more likely that he took such opportunities as offered of acquiring more information.

            The following story gives us an idea of his method.  Jabr, a client of the Banu 'Abd al-Dar, was  Jew who worked as a smith in Meccah.  He and Yasar (also a Jew) used to sit together at their trade and in the course of their work read out their sacred book; the Prophet used to pass by and listen.  Presently Jabr was converted by hearing the Prophet read the Surah of Joseph.

            It has been suggested that some of the Christian matter n the Koran may have been learned form an early follower named Suhaib, who was a Greek from Mosul.  The tradition names more than one person who was thought by the Meccans to be the Prophet's mentor, and the Koran even refutes this charge by stating that the person to whom they allude had a foreign tongue, and could not therefore be the author of an Arabic Koran.      Perhaps that reply is unconvincing; but the impression which the Koran leaves is that of information picked up casually rather than acquired by any sort of methodical study.  In a Surah delivered at Medinah in which the story of Saul should be told, Saul's name is mutilated to Talut, clearly a jingle with Galut, the nearest that the Prophet could get to Goliath:  the name of Samuel is forgotten, he is confused with Gideon, and the story of Gideon is told wrongly.  This phenomenon almost disposes of the theory for a mentor, for no mentor could be so ignorant of the Bible.  Moreover the sources of the Koran are very numerous - Abyssinian and Syriac, as well as Hebrew and Greek.  So far then as the biblical tales of the Koran were not reproductions of matter heard by Mohammed on his early travels, they are likely to have been all picked up by listening when services or Bible readings were going on.".


  Quoted from, "Mohammed and the Rise of Islam", by D. S. Margoliouth, page 106, 107





            I think Margoliouth hits the nail on the head.  Most of the non-Muslims who have studied Islam easily see that the teachings of the Quran are confused, jumbled, and intermixed together.  Rarely are stories fully presented.  Margoliouth is but one of many scholars who note this.




POINT 13:      The Quranic evidence shows Muhammad slowly added to his knowledge.  Many of the stories in the Quran are inaccurate, incomplete, and confused.  These were not "revelations" from Allah, but regurgitated information Muhammad had heard earlier and proclaimed as the Quran.










            Why was Muhammad confused about Mary and Aaron?.  Today, even Sunday school children know that Mary is not related to Aaron.  They know that Aaron had a brother named Moses and a sister named Miriam.  So why be confused?


            The probable source of confusion is that the names for Mary and Miriam are the same word in Arabic. 


            The Shorter Encyclopedia under "Maryam" says,


            "The Arabic form of the name is identical with the Syriac Maryam and the Greek (Mary) which are used in the Syriac and in the Greek Bible, in the new as well as in the Old Testament."



            So for starters, their names are the same in Arabic.  It would have been easy for someone ignorant, like Muhammad, to confuse their identities.




            Another source of Muhammad's confusion about Miriam and Mary comes from his hearing of the Biblical stories themselves.  If Aaron had no sister named Miriam (same word as Mary in Arabic), then I would have no case.  But Aaron did have a sister named Miriam, and there is a phrase in the Bible that calls her his sister:


            "Then Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand..."  Exodus 15:20.  New International Version.



            So it is easy to see how Muhammad could have been confused.  He heard stories from various people concerning Scripture from the OT and learned that Aaron had a sister named Mary (Miriam).  He also learned about Jesus' mother Mary (Miriam).  He probably thought that they were the same person.  Remember, the textual evidence of the Quran shows that when people were called "sister", it definitely meant a blood relative.  "Sister" in the Quran is never used metaphorically when speaking of relationships between people.



            Another reason that supports this source of confusion concerned Mary's father's name.  The Biblical record says that Amran was Moses', Aaron's, and Miriam's father  (Numbers 26:59).  The Quran also gives this name to Mary's father.  In Sura 66:12, Mary is identified as the daughter of Imran.  So here is a double connection.  "Mary" is Aaron's sister, and the daughter of Imran.




POINT 14:      It is easily understood how Muhammad confused Miriam and Mary.  Their names are the same in Arabic, and according to the legends he heard, their father's had the same name.










            George Sale did not believe that Muhammad was confused about this issue.  He felt that Muhammad knew there was a difference between Miriam and Mary, and that Muhammad was using a metaphor when speaking of Mary being Aaron's sister.



Sale wrote:


            "For it does not follow, because two persons have the same name, and have each a father and brother who bear the same names, that they must therefore necessarily be the same whereby it manifestly appears that Mohammed well knew and asserted that Moses preceded Jesus several ages."



            What Sale assumes is that Muhammad got it right the first time.  I agree that it is possible that two people can have the same names, and their parents can also have the same names.  But I believe that Sale's assumption about Muhammad knowing the chronological distance between Miriam and Mary is incorrect.  Since the textual evidence from the Quran, Bible, Hadith, NT Apocrypha, and prominent Jewish works, shows that the idiom was never used in the way Muhammad used it, I can only be led to state that Muhammad was confused when he spoke the Quranic verse about Mary being Aaron's sister.  The fact that he may have gotten it right some time later is irrelevant.  That does not bear upon his initial confusion.  He only later corrected his confusion with a lie.



POINT 15:      People learn through time.  Muhammad's initial confusion could have been cleared up as he continued to learn about the faiths of Judaism and Christianity.











            There is another quote to be taken from a source of Hadith.  Quoting from "Muhammad and the Jews of Medina", by A. Wensinck, page 31,


            "Furthermore, the older historians did not consider the Jews to be Arabs.  When speaking about the wives of the Prophet, Ibn Hisham says:  "Not of the Arab women was Safiyah."  Aisha considered Safiyah inferior because of her Jewish background, whereupon Muhammad comforted her and counseled her:  "So say, my father was Aaron and my Uncle, Moses.""



            Wensinck cites "Miskat, II, 367" as the source of the quote. 



            So then, it is shown that at one time or another, Muhammad was familiar with an idiom that relates one generation to an older generation by using metaphorical terms such as "father".  Even here, we see that Muhammad himself called Safiyia after the pious Jews of old.  But, note, Muhammad did not say, "So say, my "BROTHER" was Aaron...".  Muhammad knew enough that that would have been the wrong idiom to use.  It would have been confusing.


            If Muhammad knew the proper idiom to be used was "daughter", why did he call Mary Aaron's sister unless he meant that she was his literal sister ?  Why would he use a confusing idiom?  The evidence shows he was familiar with the proper idiom to be used.. Muhammad meant that Mary was Aaron's literal sister.  Otherwise he would have used the correct idiom - one that he was familiar with.



            Also, in the Hadith of Bukhari, volume 6 # 499, Muhammad refers to the descendants of Adam as "sons", not brothers.  The implication is that Adam is their "father".  The use of this idiom is supported by the NT and other previously mentioned writings.



POINT 16:      Muhammad did know of the existence of the idiom used to relate people to saints of old.  But instead of using an idiom that he know would relate far distant relations, (father, mother) he choose to use a term that was understood to directly relate people - i.e., Muhammad knew the difference between the two idioms, and he definitely meant that Mary was Aaron's brother.










            Muhammad taught his followers that it was okay to lie under the right circumstances.  In Sahih Muslim #6303 Muhammad gave 3 reasons when it is permissible to lie: 


   battle, for bringing reconciliation amongst persons, and the narration of the words of the husband to his wife, and the narration of the words of a wife to her husband (in a twisted form in order to bring reconciliation between them)."



            How important is it for a "prophet" to tell the truth?  A Muslim writer - Misha'al ibn Abdullah, says,


            "Muslims believe that God protects his messengers from erring in matters of faith.  They can only err in matters of livelihood.  For instance, a prophet can make a mistake in selecting which season to plant crops but he can not make a mistake in doctrine and worship.  Why?  Let us take the example of the most benign of these allegations, that of lying.  When a prophet is sent by God to a group of people, he can expect the deck to be stacked severely against him.  They will call him a liar until proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to be otherwise.  They will him a liar even if they have no proof.  A prophet's message rests solely on his truthfulness.  If he were ever to lie, even to save his life, then this would prove that he is capable of lying and that he has established for himself guidelines under which it is permissible to lie.  This would undermine his whole message as no one could then be sure he had not convinced himself that the end justifies the means, and that is order to get them to become decent people he might be willing to fabricate lies against God Himself."  Quoted from, "What Does the Bible Really Say?", by Misha'al ibn Abdullah, (Al Kadhi).



            If we judge Muhammad by Al Kadhi's words, then we see that because Muhammad lied, (further he even taught lying was acceptable under certain circumstances), "any lie undermines the whole edifice of Islam.".  By Kadhi's own standards, Islam's support rest upon a liar, and a fraud; it's edifice is undermined.




POINT 17:      Muhammad was a liar.  He lied when it was convenient.  This ties in with his answer to Mughirah ibn Shu'bah when he was questioned about Mary being the sister of Aaron.  Muhammad made up an easy lie, knowing his follower did not know the truth, and would not question him.









            Since Muhammad erred about Mary being Aaron's brother, and since this error is found in the Quran, how can the Quran stand as the literal word of God?  Many, (not all) Muslims believe that the Quran exists as the eternal, uncreated, word of God.  Obviously then, Islam's Allah did not know who Mary was related to, or, Muhammad erred and the Quran does not meet the criteria Muslims themselves establish for it.




POINT 18:      The Quran contains an error, namely that Mary is Aaron's literal sister.  This proves that the Quran is not the literal word of God, but something  else.









            The evidence shows that the term "sister of Aaron" was understood as literal by the people that heard it.  It also shows that the Bible, the Quran, the NT apocrypha, other Jewish source material, and the Hadith, never use the idiom "sister of xxxxx" when relating people to previous saints.  Further whenever "sister" is used in the Quran in relation to people, it relates to someone alive.  Muslim apologist's explanations have failed to address Muhammad's error.  Muhammad learned as he went, and he was confused about Biblical stories.  The evidence also shows that Muhammad was familiar with the correct idiom to be used when he wanted to relate a living person to saints before; thus supporting the assertion that "sister of Aaron" was literal.  Finally we see that Muhammad justified lying when it was expedient, and that Muhammad ended up lying to his own follower.  The Quran record his error, and the Hadith records his lie.









1)         Muhammad lied to cover up his mistake, what does that make him?


2)         The Quran is erroneous, can it then be considered to be the literal word of God?








            Evidence has been presented that proves that Muhammad was initially confused about Mary's identity.  He called Mary the literal "sister of Aaron".  To cover his mistake, Muhammad told a lie to one of his followers.  Like the liar character Jon Lovitt played on Saturday Nite Live, Muhammad went from one mistake to a lie and so on.



            Let me re-quote Sale's words:  "...which intolerable anachronism, if it were certain, is sufficient of itself to destroy the pretended authority of this book."



            I agree with this portion of Sale's statement.  The evidence shows that Muhammad meant Mary was Aaron's literal sister.  The Quran fails the test of being "revelation" from God, and Muhammad's error destroys the claimed authority of the Quran.




            Jesus said that in the last days, there would be false prophets who would arise and deceive many:


            "For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.  Take note, I have told you beforehand."  Matthew 24:24, NRSV.



            Muhammad has deceived many from the life of Christ.



            Jesus came to bring life not death - "I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly."  John 10:10.  Jesus is more than a book, He is the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life.










1)         "The Koran", translation by N. J. Dawood, pub. by Penguin.

2)         "Sahih Muslim", translated by Abdul Siddiqi, pub. by International Islamic Publishing House.

3)         "Sabatai Sevi", by Gershom Scholem.

4)         "The Messiah of Ismir" by Joseph Kastein.

5)         "Jewish Encyclopedia", pub. by Funk and Wagnalls

            "Dictionary of Islam", by T. P. Hughes

6)         "The Holy Quran", translated by Yusef Ali.

7)         "Mohammed and the Rise of Islam", by D. S. Margoliouth, pub. by G.P. Putnam's Sons

8)         "Muhammad the religion of Islam", by John Gilchrist, pub. by Jesus to the Muslims.

9)         "Sirat Rasulallah", translated as "The Life of Muhammad", by A. Guillaume, pub. by Oxford University Press.

10)       Shorter Encyclopedia, Edited by H.A.R. Gibb, pub. by E. J. Brill.

11)       New Revised Standard Version, pub. by Nelson.

12)       New International Version, pub. by Zondervan.

13)       "Midrash Rabbah", 9 volumes, edited by Dr. H. Friedman, pub. by Soncino Press.

14)       "Babylonian Talmud", translated and edited by Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein, pub. by Soncino Press.

15)       "Muhammad and the Jews of Medina", by A. Wensinck, pub. by K.S.V.

16)       "Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir", (Book of the Major Classes), translated by Moinul Haq, pub. by the Pakistan Historical Society.

17)       "What Does the Bible Really Say?", by Misha'al ibn Abdullah, (Al Kadhi).

18)       "Muhammad and the Religion of Islam", by John Gilchrist.  It contains an excellent write up on this topic.



Rev. A: 11/29/98, Rev. B: 1/1/99

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