Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Revisiting the Quran’s affirmation of Jesus’ Eternal Existence Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue our response to Jalal Abualrub’s claims regarding the Islamic scripture being the uncreated speech of Allah and how this ends up proving that Christ must also be eternal according to the Quran.

Here is what one of the booklets published by Abualrub states in regards to the official Sunni position concerning the Quran:

The Qur’an is the Speech of Allah, not Created

The Qur’an is the speech of Allah, revealed, not created, regardless of how it is recited, written, and any way or anywhere it is recited. What is written from the Qur’an is just that, i.e., Quran, what is read from the Qur’an is just that, i.e., Quran, what is recited from the Qur’an is just that, i.e., Quran. The Speech of Allah is qadim, not created, regardless of the way and the form in which the Qur’an is presented. It is the Speech of Allah, not created, or new, or made, or a physical entity, or a physical reality, or a material entity. Rather, it is an attribute from the attributes of Allah’s essence. It is not similar to any created thing.

The Attribute of Speech

Allah is able, and will always be able to speak. (It is not permissible to separate between the two [i.e. Allah and His Speech] in a way that negates His Attributes)12. Sometimes, it is heard directly from Allah, glorified be He, sometimes from the one who hears it directly from Allah [such as Angel Jibril]. Whoever hears it directly from Allah hears it directly, without any mediator or translator, such as our Prophet Muhammad, when Allah spoke to him directly on the night of al-Miraj. Allah also spoke to Musa when he was on Mount Tur. Similarly, whoever Allah decides to speak to from among His angels, hears His speech from Him directly. Whoever is not among the categories mentioned, they hear Allah’s qadim13 speech in truth from whoever is reciting it for them [from Allah]14. Allah’s Speech consists of intelligible letters and a voice that is heard.15

12 I could not find out precisely what the Imam meant here, but perhaps he meant that Allah’s Attribute of Speech is always present in Him, because He has been speaking SINCE ETERNITY, whenever He wills, and in any way He wills. Allah also initiates speech whenever He wills, as Allah said, Comes not unto them an admonition (a chapter of the Qur’an) from their Lord as a recent revelation but they listen to it while they play. [21:2] Ibn Kathir said, “‘Recent’, or, ‘New’, meaning, new in regards to its revelation.” Refer to, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-‘Adhim, 3/231, published by, Mu’assasat ar-Rayyan.

13[T .N] This statement from the Imam has a different meaning to it, while scholars such as, Ibn Taimiyyah have clarified what, qadim, means when used in reference to Allah’s Speech. The author used this term in its literal form, and Allah knows best, to mean that, qadim, is that which was spoken previously. Qadim literally means, old, before, olden, previously etc.

14 [T .N] Meaning, just as Prophet Muhammad was given the Revelation. Allah spoke the Qur’an to Angel Jibril, who spoke it to Prophet Muhammad. In reality, as the Imam here says, Allah’s Messenger heard it in a qadim manner, meaning that Allah already spoke before the Prophet Muhammad heard it. (Kitab al-I’tiqad (The Book of Creed), by Imam Abu al-Husain Muhammad bin al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la al-Hanbali, verification of the text and commentary by Shaikh Muhammad bin ‘Abd ar-Rahman al-Khumaiyis (Associate Professor at Muhammad bin Sa’ud University), translated by Amr bin Jalal Abualrub [Madinah Publishers and Distributors, First edition: 2012], pp. 17-18)

What makes this rather interesting is that qadim happens to be one of the many names that Islamic theology employs to denote the timeless existence of Allah himself:

The Divine Names Related to Eternity

Al-Qadîm: The Timelessly Eternal

The Timelessly or Beginninglessly Eternal, the opposite of muhdath or hâdith (that which came into existence after not having been). Al-Qadîm has no beginning or is before the beginning. He is outside linear time…

Al-Awwal, Al-Akhir: The First and the Last

Al-Akhir is He who remains after all His creatures have perished.

Al-Awwal is the First, preceding all others.

Al-Awwal and Al-Akhir are two of the Ninety-Nine Names.

"He is the First and the Last and the Outward and the Inward." (57:3)

The Prophet said "… Allah, You are the First, for there was nothing before You, and You are the Last, for there is nothing after You, and you are the Outward, for there is nothing above You, and You are the Inward, for there is nothing beyond You. Remove our debt, and relieve us from poverty."

Al-Bâqî: The Abiding

The second dimension of divine eternity along with Al-Qadîm. He will not cease to be. He is the One whose existence has no end. He is Lasting, Perpetual, Endless.

Al-Baqi  is one of the Ninety-Nine Names.

"Allah is better and longer lasting." (20:72)

"Everyone who is on it will pass away. And the Face of your Lord will remain, Master of Majesty and Generosity." (55:24-25) (Aisha Bewley, Divine Names)

Even more interesting is that the Hebrew Bible applies some of these very names and qualities to Yahweh God.

For instance, Yahweh is said to be from qedem, which is the Hebrew equivalent of qadim:

Art thou not from everlasting (miqqedem), O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.” Habakkuk 1:12

Yahweh is also identified as the First and the Last that lives for ever:

“Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” Isaiah 44:6 – cf. 41:4; 48:12

“And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” Daniel 4:34-35

“And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.” Daniel 12:7 – cf. Revelation 4:8-11; 10:5-6; 15:5-7

And yet what makes this all the more astonishing is that all of these characteristics are ascribed to the Lord Jesus Christ!

Christ is the King born in Bethlehem of Judea whose activities have been from both qedem and olam, two of the words used in reference to Yahweh’s eternal existence:

“Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old (miqqedem), from everlasting (mime olam). Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.” Micah 5:1-4

Now contrast this with what the Psalmist says concerning Yahweh:

“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting (ume'olam ad-olam), thou art God.” Psalm 90:1-2

“The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved. Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting (me'olam).” Psalm 93:1-2

Both the inspired NT writings,

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” Matthew 2:1-6 – cf. Luke 2:1-7 

And rabbinic writings confirm that this is a prophecy of King Messiah:

And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah: whence David emanated, as it is stated (I Sam. 17:58): “The son of your bondsman, Jesse the Bethlehemite.” And Bethlehem is called Ephrath, as it is said (Gen. 48:7): “On the road to Ephrath, that is Bethlehem.”

you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah: You should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah because of the stigma of Ruth the Moabitess in you.

from you shall emerge for Me: THE MESSIAH, SON OF DAVID, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118:22): “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.”

and his origin is from of old: “Before the sun his name is Yinnon” (Ps. 72:17). (The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary; capital emphasis ours)

Jesus is further identified as the First and the Last, the One who by virtue of possessing an indestructible life continues to live for ever and ever:

“For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life… And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” Hebrews 7:14-16, 23-28

“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I AM THE FIRST AND THE LAST: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I AM ALIVE FOR EVERMORE, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” Revelation 1:17-18

“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;” Revelation 2:8

In light of the foregoing, could the NT be any clearer that the Lord Jesus is God Almighty Incarnate, the divine Son of God who became a flesh and blood human being for the purpose of redeeming his people from their sins?

We’re not through yet since we have a lot more to say in the third part of our rebuttal.