Quran and Quran Tafsir with Sheik Ali Gomaa (على جمعة): Al-An’am (سورة الأنعام), “The Cattle” (Quran 6:3)
The Encyclopaedia of Islam explains that a tafsir is a work which provides an interpretation of the Arabic text of the Quran. “Pride of place in the tools used in the interpretative process has been given to grammar (including elements of lexicography and orthography). As an implement for asserting the scholar’s status and authority, arguments over grammar have had no rival.” The importance of grammar in tafsir is important for appreciating this episode.
I have been studying chapter 6 of the Qur’an. My teacher has been Ali Gomaa; a leading Islamic scholar and jurist who studied and taught for many years at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University.
This episode (5 of 19) focuses on Surah 6 ayah 3:
YUSUF ALI: And He is Allah in the heavens and on earth. He knoweth what ye hide, and what ye reveal, and He knoweth the (recompense) which ye earn (by your deeds).
PICKTHAL: He is Allah in the heavens and in the earth. He knoweth both your secret and your utterance, and He knoweth what ye earn.
SHAKIR: And He is Allah in the heavens and in the earth; He knows your secret (thoughts) and your open (words), and He knows what you earn.
Shaikh Ali Gomaa’s Teaching About Surat Al’An’am
“This ayah [Quran 6:3] falls in the category of facts, as there are rules in the Qur’an, as well as principles and facts. These facts might be related to the universe, or related to The All-Merciful. The Qur’an, which is the last word of Allah has excelled at this, which is always the case, as it teaches us the qualities of those who worship Him Glorified and Exalted Be He. So, we notice its interest in the beautiful names of Allah and how detailed they are.
“We also notice the attention to the facts related to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. That is why when Muslims read the Qur’an a lot and listen to lectures about this religion, as well as study the different Islamic concept, they will develop a concrete belief concerning this universe and its creator.”
“Those verses that talk about facts or describe them, allow the human soul to recognize them which renders them more clear and visible. This allows us to know how to function in this worldly life…”
Who is the “He” speaking in the Quran?
Ali Gomaa then goes into a discussion of the pronoun “He” (2:25-). The text of the Quran being studied says,
He is Allah in the heavens and in the earth. He knoweth both your secret and your utterance, and He knoweth what ye earn.
The issue is, Who is the speaker in the Quran? Are these the words of Muhammad referring to Allah? Are these the alleged word of Gabriel who is referring to Allah?
The problem is that when we speak about ourselves we don’t normally use the pronoun “He.” However, Muslims claim that in the Quran that Allah refers to himself as “He”. The Quran is the alleged word of Allah meaning that Allah is speaking and not Muhammad or an angel. Why therefore does the Quran read,
- He is Allah in the heavens
- He knoweth
and opposed to,
- I am in the heavens
- I knoweth
Ali Gomaa concludes the discussion about pronouns by saying “‘He’ means Allah.” (8:55-8:57)
Christianity, the Bible, and the Quran
Ali Gomaa’s discussion highlights something that is important for Christians to understand about the Quran. Muslims believe the Quran is the word of God meaning that it came from God’s “mouth.” They don’t generally believe something is the “word of God” if it came from the lips of men – which is one of the reasons they say the Bible is not the “Word of God.”
Christians believe men were inspired by God the Holy Spirit to write “God’s Word.”
Muslims don’t believe God’s Word comes from a source other than God’s “mouth.”
The problem for Muslims is not simply with the pronoun “He”. The problem is that at best, the Quran is the alleged words spoken by an angel to Muhammad who then spoke to men.
Sample chapters from Is the Qur’an the Word of God: