Do you remember when you and every other soul testified to Allah on the Day of Alastu?
Muslims deny the eyewitness accounts of the gospels concerning Jesus’ death on the cross, burial and resurrection from the dead. In addition, Islamic tradition asserts that we all witnessed something before we were born. Popular in Islamic theology is that the Qur’an teaches that in the primordial past you, I and all humanity witnessed and testified to Allah and Unitarian monotheism. This event is sometimes called the Day of Alastu or the Day of the Covenant.
The idea of this primordial covenant (mithaq) between God and humanity has impressed the religious conscience of the Muslims, and especially the Muslim mystics, more than any other idea. Here is the starting point for their understanding of free will and predestination, of election and acceptance, of God’s eternal power and man’s loving response and promise. The goal of the mystic is to return to the experience of the “Day of Alastu,” when only God existed, before He led future creatures out of the abyss of not-being and endowed them with life, love, and understanding so that they might face Him again at the end of time.4
It is taught that we were all born having testified to this covenant in the distance past (cf. [Quran 30:30 and fitra]).5 Long ago God called our souls out of the loins of Adam and asked us all, “Am I not your Lord?” Every soul covenanted with the response, “Yes! We testify”,
And (remember) when your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their seed (or from Adam’s loin his offspring) and made them testify as to themselves (saying): “Am I not your Lord?” They said: “Yes! We testify,” lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: “Verily, we have been unaware of this.” (Qur’an 7:172, Muhsin Khan)
Islamic Commentary on Quran 7:172
Ibn ‘Abbas (d.68/687) a paternal cousin of Muhammad and esteemed by many Muslims as the “father of Quran commentary,” “the great doctor” and “the Ocean [of knowledge]” interpreted Quran 7:172-174 as referring to this primordial covenant,
(And (remember) when thy Lord) O Muhammad (brought forth) on the Day of the Covenant (from the Children of Adam, from their reins, their seed) He brought forth the seeds from their reins, (and made them testify of themselves, (saying): Am I not your Lord? They said: Yea, verily We testify) we know and acknowledge that You are our Lord. Allah then said to the angels: be witnesses over them; and let you be witnesses over one another. (That was) lest ye should say) so that you do not say (at the Day of Resurrection: Lo! of this) covenant (we were unaware) we were not made to make pledge;
(Or lest ye should say) and so that you do not say: ((It is) only (that) our fathers ascribed partners to Allah of old) before us, and it is them who broke the covenant and pledge before us (and we were (their) seed) small and weak (after them) and we just emulated them. (Wilt Thou destroy us) will you punish us (on account of that which those who follow falsehood did?) on account of what the idolaters did before us in terms of breaking the covenant?
(Thus We detail Our revelations) We explain in the Qur’an the story of the Covenant, (that haply they may return) from disbelief and idolatry to the initial Covenant.
Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas
According to some Islamic scholars, the best interpretation of this event is that of ‘Ubayy b. Ka’b, a scribe of Muhammad and one of twenty-five men after Muhammad’s death who memorized the Qur’an. He explained what he likely heard from Muhammad,
God gathered all human beings, divided them into different groups, granted them human form and the faculty of speech, made them enter into a covenant, and then making them witnesses against themselves He asked them: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They replied: ‘Assuredly you are Our Lord.’ Then God told them: ‘I call upon the sky and the earth and your own progenitor, Adam, to be witness against you lest you should say on the Day of Judgement that you were ignorant of this. Know well that no one other than Me deserves to be worshipped and no one other than Me is your Lord. So do not ascribe any partner to Me. I shall send to you My Messengers who will remind you of this covenant which you made with Me. I shall send down to you My Books.’ In reply all said: ‘We witness that You are Our Lord and our Deity. We have no lord or deity other than You.’ 6
Muhammad preached a message that no other true prophet or messenger of God preached
Despite the importance of the Day of Alastu to Qur’anic claims about history and theology, the event never happened. The Bible says nothing about it.7
The Qur’anic teaching about the primordial covenant is itself an innovation. This is problematic because it means Muhammad preached a different message from previous prophets and messengers.8 The Quran wrongly asserts,
“Nothing is said to you (O Muhammad SAW) except what was said to the Messengers before you…”
Say (O Muslims), “We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma’il (Ishmael), Ishaque (Isaac), Ya’qub (Jacob), and to Al-Asbat [the twelve sons of Ya’qub (Jacob)], and that which has been given to Musa (Moses) and ‘Iesa (Jesus), and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted (in Islam).”
The reality is that Muhammad’s message was fundamentally different from the true prophets and messengers who came before him.9 True messengers and prophets of God never made mention of the Day of Alastu.
Many Muslims try getting around this by asserting that the Bible is corrupt. But a study of the Qur’an will show that the Qur’anic claim about the Injeel is an attempt to corrupt Scripture.
True messengers and biblical prophets preached repentance from sin and turning back to God, His Law and provision for sin signified by the sacrificial system.
- Isaiah preached repentance (Isaiah 30:15; 55:6-7).
- Jeremiah preached repentance (Jeremiah 8:4–7).
- Ezekiel preached repentance (Ezekiel 14:6; 18:30-32).
- Hosea preached repentance (Hosea 6:1–3; 14:1-2).
- Joel preached repentance,
12“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
- Zechariah preached repentance (Zechariah 1:3–4).
- Malachi preached repentance (Malachi 3:7).
- John the Baptist preached repentance (Luke 3:7-8).
- Jesus preached repentance (Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32).
Jesus commissioned the church to preach repentance in His name (Luke 24:46-49).
- Jesus’ chosen Apostles preached repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 9:35; 11:21; 14:15; 15:19; 17:30; 20:17-21; 26:18-20; 28:27).
It is evident from these examples that Muhammad’s message was different from true messengers and prophets sent before him. Muhammad:
- Taught his followers to remember something that never happened.
- Led his followers astray from the true meaning of covenant and repentance from sin.
The Qur’an is closer to myth than Moses; Plato than Paul.
Like the Muslim rejection of Jesus’ death on the cross, the Day of Alastu highlights the ahistorical nature of Islam. The Day of Alastu has nothing in common with the Bible, but is similar to the Greek Philosophy of Plato10 and Greek mythology about the Plane of Oblivion and the River of Forgetfulness.11
The Quran denies history and invents history
Muslim belief in the fictitious primordial covenant explains why the historic event of Jesus’ death on the cross for sin is rejected by Islam and has no place in Islamic theology.
The New Covenant in Jesus’ blood is the fulfillment of other biblical covenants. This is the covenant that is preached and remembered in the Christian sacrament of the Lord’s Supper,
14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
The truth is:
- You and I were never at the Day of Alastu.
- Moses, the prophets, Jesus, nor Jesus’ apostles taught The Day of Alastu.
- Muhammad is dead and buried.
- You and I will one day die.
- Jesus died on the cross for sin and rose again from the dead.
- Jesus’ tomb is empty.
I invite you to repent and turn away from Islam and the Quran and believe in Jesus Christ.
Peter, Jesus’ Apostle, preached shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection,
22“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25David said about him: “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 28You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ 29“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand
35until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ’
36“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
You may also be interested to read:
The primordial covenant is not the only Quran’ic innovation. Unitarian Monotheism (Tawhid) is another.
In this video I discuss the Islamic Day of Alastu and what it means for history and the Muslim view of sin compared to what God revealed in the Christian Scriptures:
- The word “Alastu” comes from the Arabic “Am I not?”, and the question posed in Quran 7:172, “Am I not your Lord?”
In Arabic this event is referred to as عالم الذر.
“There is a seemingly primordial pact between God and mankind that is implied in Q 33:72 and that is described in universal terms: “We have offered the deposit, trust, (al-amāna) to the heavens, the earth, and the mountains, but, fearing it, they refused to bear it; yet man has borne it, [for] indeed, he is mischievous and ignorant.” The mīthāq between God and the prophets that is mentioned in two other verses (3:81; 33:7) can likewise be explained as having been concluded in primordial times (al-Ṭabarī, 11:151–2, and Tafsīr al-Jalālayn on 33:7).” (Ebstein, Michael, “Covenant (religious) pre-eternal”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, Edited by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson. Consulted online on 01 January 2020 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_ei3_COM_25584>)
- The Qur’an gives repeated warnings to mankind to remember the covenant saying that every soul will be held accountable for it on the Day of Judgment,
35And We said: “O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Paradise and eat both of you freely with pleasure and delight of things therein as wherever you will, but come not near this tree or you both will be of the Zalimun (wrong-doers).” 36Then the Shaitan (Satan) made them slip there from (the Paradise), and got them out from that in which they were. We said: “Get you down, all, with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be a dwelling place for you and an enjoyment for a time.” 37Then Adam received from his Lord Words . And his Lord pardoned him (accepted his repentance). Verily, He is the One Who forgives (accepts repentance), the Most Merciful.
38We said: “Get down all of you from this place (the Paradise), then whenever there comes to you Guidance from Me, and whoever follows My Guidance, there shall be no fear on them, nor shall they grieve. 39But those who disbelieve and belie Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) such are the dwellers of the Fire, they shall abide therein forever. 40O Children of Israel! Remember My Favour which I bestowed upon you, and fulfill (your obligations to) My Covenant (with you) so that I fulfill (My Obligations to) your covenant (with Me), and fear none but Me.
41And believe in what I have sent down (this Quran), confirming that which is with you, [the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)], and be not the first to disbelieve therein, and buy not with My Verses [the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] a small price (i.e. getting a small gain by selling My Verses), and fear Me and Me Alone. (Tafsir At-Tabari, Vol. I, Page 253). 42And mix not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth [i.e. Muhammad Peace be upon him is Allah’s Messenger and his qualities are written in your Scriptures, the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] while you know (the truth) (Muhsin Khan)
7And remember Allah’s Favour upon you and His Covenant with which He bound you when you said: “We hear and we obey.” And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is All-Knower of the secrets of (your) breasts. (Muhsin Khan)
19Shall he then who knows that what has been revealed unto you (O Muhammad SAW) from your Lord is the truth be like him who is blind? But it is only the men of understanding that pay heed. 20Those who fulfill the Covenant of Allah and break not the Mithaq (bond, treaty, covenant); 21Those who join that which Allah has commanded to be joined (i.e. they are good to their relatives and do not sever the bond of kinship), fear their Lord, and dread the terrible reckoning (i.e. abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which Allah has forbidden and perform all kinds of good deeds which Allah has ordained). 22And those who remain patient, seeking their Lord’s Countenance, perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and spend out of that which We have bestowed on them, secretly and openly, and defend against evil with good, for such there is a good end; 23‘Adn (Eden) Paradise (everlasting Gardens), which they shall enter and (also) those who acted righteously from among their fathers, and their wives, and their offspring. And angels shall enter unto them from every gate (saying): 24”Salamun ‘Alaikum (peace be upon you) for that you persevered in patience! Excellent indeed is the final home!” 25And those who break the Covenant of Allah, after its ratification, and sever that which Allah has commanded to be joined (i.e. they sever the bond of kinship and are not good to their relatives), and work mischief in the land, on them is the curse (i.e. they will be far away from Allah’s Mercy); And for them is the unhappy (evil) home (i.e. Hell) (Qur’an 13:19-25, Muhsin Khan)
90Verily, Allah enjoins Al-Adl (i.e. justice and worshipping none but Allah Alone – Islamic Monotheism) and Al-Ihsan [i.e. to be patient in performing your duties to Allah, totally for Allah’s sake and in accordance with the Sunnah (legal ways) of the Prophet SAW in a perfect manner], and giving (help) to kith and kin (i.e. all that Allah has ordered you to give them e.g., wealth, visiting, looking after them, or any other kind of help, etc.): and forbids Al-Fahsha’ (i.e all evil deeds, e.g. illegal sexual acts, disobedience of parents, polytheism, to tell lies, to give false witness, to kill a life without right, etc.), and Al-Munkar (i.e all that is prohibited by Islamic law: polytheism of every kind, disbelief and every kind of evil deeds, etc.), and Al-Baghy (i.e. all kinds of oppression), He admonishes you, that you may take heed. 91And fulfill the Covenant of Allah (Bai’a: pledge for Islam) when you have covenanted, and break not the oaths after you have confirmed them, and indeed you have appointed Allah your surety. Verily! Allah knows what you do. (Qur’an 16:90-91, Muhsin Khan)
- “Muʿtazilīs, Shīʿīs, and the occasional Sunnī held that in this covenant God did not address the spirits of human beings, but rather ‘human beings made of flesh and blood, who were of full rational capacity and who had reached the age of maturity’” (Joseph Lumbard, “Covenant and Covenants in the Qur’an,” Journal Of Qur’anic Studies 17, no. 2 (2015): 6).
- Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, 35th Anniversary edition (North Carolina University Press, 2011), 24.
- When a Muslim father whispers into the ear of his newborn child, “God is great, there is no God but Allah…” — the Muslim father believes his child is already a Muslim (“by nature”/fitra) and that he is whispering into the baby’s ear something that that baby’s “soul” has already testified to on the Day of the Covenant. If a child is born to Christian or Jewish parents, Muslims believe that child (born a Muslim) forgets what they previously testified to concerning Allah.
Islamic belief in the inherent goodness of man follows from Qur’an 7:172.
- Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 5, p. 135; quoted by Syed Abdul Ala Muadudi in Towards Understanding the Qur’an (تفہیم القرآن ): Abridged version of Tafhim-al-Qur’an”, Translated and Edited by Zafar Ishaq Ansari, Volume III, page 97
- The Bible teaches about God’s covenant, but the Bible does not teach:
- The premordial covenant of the Qur’an.
- The preexistence of the soul.
- Every child born into the world has the knowledge of God their soul allegedly confessed on the Day of Alastu.
- Unitarian monotheism (Tawhid), which the Qur’an claims all mankind confessed on the Day of Alastu.
- The Qur’an makes a distinction between messengers (rasūl) and prophets (nabī) not found in the Bible. To learn more about the Qur’anic distinction between messengers and prophets see Uri Rubin, “Prophets and Prophethood.”
- “From the perspective of the Verse of the Covenant [Qur’an 7:172], the primary function of prophets is to remind people of the Covenant they have made with God first and foremost, lest they should have forgotten it, and only secondarily to bring good tidings to the believers and to warn the non-believers. Seen from this perspective, men’s acceptance of the various prophets’ calls represents a “renewal” of their Covenantal commitment to [Unitarian] monotheism and to its corollary, obedience, and not the formation of a new commitment.” (Al-Qadi, Wadad Kadi. “The Primordial Covenant and Human History in the Qur’ān.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 147, no. 4, 2003, p. 337.)
- Plato’s Republic 10.614–10.621
- To learn more about this primordial covenant from a leading Muslim scholar, watch Dr. Timothy Winter’s (Sheikh Abdal-Hakim Murad) Cambridge lecture on the Presence of God in the Qur’an. He mentions the connection between covenant and Greek teaching about the preexistence of the soul.