Most of the Muslims have come to accept that Abraham used to tell lies. They believe that according to records, he told lies in three major occasions! They gather false or weak Hadith to support their ignorant claims, they gather endorsement by contemporary scholars who also think Abraham told lies. Most Muslims accept the pronouncement of these scholars on its face value and never question if such a great prophet could ever do such a crime. These Muslims read one or two incorrect translations and think well, the Quran says Abraham lied. Whereas, in reality the Quran never said that Abraham lied. It is these scholars of Islam who are acting dishonestly and falsifying the truth. They are suggesting that telling occasional lies are accepted norm of Islam.
The Quran specifically tells in verse 3:161 that no prophet could act dishonesty.
3:161. “It is not possible for a Prophet to be guilty of a breach of trust, but whoever (else) is guilty of a breach of a trust he will have to bring forth that about which he had been guilty, on the Day of Resurrection …”
We know the incidence of Idol breaking by Prophet Abraham. Time and again we have heard stories of how he broke the idols with an axe, sleazy details of how he placed the axe on the shoulder of a big idol. Then when he was questioned, how he told the audience that he did not break the idols, rather the big idol broke the smaller ones!
These scholars invented various sections and sub sections of self made injunctions to declare that under certain circumstances it is permissible to tell lies! You will find lengthy writing by such scholars whereby they justify and mystify Abraham’s lies. They will argue with you saying how could Abraham tell the truth in front of the audience who would have killed him if he told the truth! So according to them it was OK when he resorted to falsification for the sake of truth!
Will someone answer if he could not tell the truths in front of an audience why was he a prophet in the first place?
What kind of a prophet was he who preached falsehood and lies rather than the Truth?
Was he preaching Islam mixed with falsehood and lies, because he was afraid of crowds?
ANALYSIS OF VERSE 21:63
Verse 21:63 is the only place in the Quran where the events leading to Abraham breaking the idols are described. First let us critically analyze the verse and understand the meaning of each of the words in the sentence.
Qala: He said
Bal: But, of course, by all means, indeed, rather
F’alahu: (passive participle) someone did it
Kabiruhum: The big one of them
F’asaalu hum: Ask them, question them
Kaanu yantiqun: They can speak, they can talk,
It is very important to note that there is a small punctuation mark signifying pause (waqf) in the sentence right after ‘Qaala bal f’aalahu’. According to Arabic grammar, the meaning of the punctuation (waqf) is much like comma (,) usage in English. This sign alone or in combination of circle or other word means a very brief pause. The reader may pause here briefly, but is recommended to continue with the sentence. The sign simply demarcates one part of the sentence from the other in bringing out the meaning. If this sign means absolutely nothing, why is it inserted here? Why is the sentence not like another sentence where the sign is not at all there? Obviously, the insertion of the sign bears some significance. Strangely enough, the under-mentioned scholars refuse to pause or acknowledge the presence of this punctuation mark, rather they want to pause at a different place of their choice.
SAMPLES OF INCORRECT TRANSLATIONS
Here are some examples of famous commentators who became victims of wrong translation. If you do not see names of other familiar commentators of the Qur-an here, most likely they have translated this verse correctly.
Al-Hilali & Muhsin Khan:
(Abraham) said: “Nay, this one, the biggest of them (idols) did it. Ask them if they can speak!”
He said: “Nay, this was done by this The biggest one! Ask them if they can talk.”
He said, “It is the big one who did it. Go ask them, if they can speak.”
He said: “Nay, that their chief hath done it; but ask ye them, if they can speak.”
He said, “Rather the biggest one of them did it. Ask them if they are able to speak up.”
“No”, he said, “It was done by that chief of theirs. Ask him in case they can speak.”
I think the biggest one of them has broken the smaller ones. Ask them if they are able to speak.
‘No’, re replied, ‘It was their chief who smote them. Ask them if they can speak.’
He answered: “Nay, it was this one, the biggest of them, that did it; but ask them [yourselves] – provided they can speak.”
He said: But this, their chief hath done it. So question them, if they can speak.
ABRAHAM DID NOT REPLY SAYING “NO”
When Abraham was asked whether he broke the idols, his reply was very tactful. Neither did he say ‘Yes’, nor did he say ‘No’. His answer was passive “someone did it.” This “someone” could be him, another person or the big idol or just anybody. There was no dearth of truth that someone truly did it. Instead of asking him, he wanted the audience to ask the victims directly. Let the victims testify if they can. The audience realized that these idols that they think as their gods, couldn’t even protect themselves! How on earth these idols can be their gods! They realized futility of idol worshipping.
Yusuf Ali, Hilali & Khan, Ahmad Ali, Asad, Dawood and Rodwell used the word “No” or “Nay” – to mean that Abraham flatly denied that he broke the idols. In the Arabic verse 21:63 there is no word that would mean “Nay”. So how on earth these commentators found this negation? What are they trying to justify? The verse does not say Abraham blamed the biggest idol. If he said “No” – that is a lie, if he said the biggest idol broke it, that is another lie. So it is a lie upon a lie. Some commentators made him lie once, some twice. But all of them made him guilty of several other offences in addition to telling lies.
How did the scholars commit such a major mistake? The answer is simple:
1st, they ignored the punctuation sign,
2nd, they changed the position of words in the Arabic verse,
3rd, they changed the grammar of the Arabic verse,
4th, or they blindly followed the interpretation of Ibn Kathir et. al., without critically analyzing the verse
5th, and most likely these scholars were influenced by the oft-repeated story of Abraham telling lies
All the commentators translated the verse as: Bal haza kabiruhum fa’lahu. According to them the meaning of this transposed verse is:
Rather/No, This big one of them did it.
This translation is grammatically not correct to the Arabic words. Fa’lahu, a passive participle, does not mean “did it” – rather “someone did it”.
WHY A WRONG INTERPRETATION?
The wrong interpretation evolved due to a “minor” mistake made by earlier scholars. This small mistake slowly gathered more dirt as time passed by. Ibn-Kathir and some other tafseer understood it in the wrong way. Yusuf Ali, Rodwell and Pickthall understood it that way without applying reasoning. The later day commentators simply followed them blindly. The result is that these contemporary commentators changed the words of Allah! Close attention to the verse 21:63 reveals that there is no word that would mean “No” or “Nay”. We all regard Ibn-Kathir as a great commentator of the Quran. However, he was no more than a human being – he was subject to err like any other human being. Contrary to the verse 3:161, the conventional interpretation of the idol-breaking incidence suggest prophets can act dishonestly. It would be wrong to ascribe unquestionable authority on Ibn Kathir et.al. It would be wrong to perceive him as infallible. If his commentary goes against teachings of the Quran, we must give importance to the Quran and not his or any other commentary.
The Quran does not say Abraham used an axe to break the idols. He could have broken those fragile idols by hand, by smashing them on the floor or by striking them with any object. Use of an ‘axe’ was probably invented to bring in some ferocity in the prophet’s temper and action. The Quran does not say the infamous ‘axe’ was placed on the shoulder of the biggest idol. This is another invention of the story-tellers. Benefit of doubt may be given to the use of an ‘axe’ , but Abraham never ever placed the axe on the shoulder of the biggest idol.
JUST A LIE? OR MORE SERIOUS OFFENSE?
In order to validate the conventional understanding and one weak (false!) Hadith, should we still accuse Abraham of false statement?
Is this just a lie or is there other serious offence in here?
Many people incessantly tried to justify that Abraham could tell lies, or it is permissible to tell lies under certain circumstances. The moment we put the word “No” in Abraham’s mouth, we are making him culprit of several other grave offence as under:
Abraham is telling an outright lie.
When Abraham blamed the biggest idol, he is avoiding accountability by blaming a third person (object).
When asked if he broke the idols, Abraham is giving a false deposition in front of the gathering.
By admitting that the biggest idol broke the smaller ones, Abraham is standing a false witness.
Abraham being a staunch critique of idol worshipping, at least at that moment admitted that biggest idol has ability to act and do things that idols cannot do. This is nothing but supporting idolatry.
Will any civilized society and nation of past and present accept false witness, false deposition, lies, shifting accountability etc as acceptable practice?
Is any of this acceptable practice in Islam?
Does Islam teach us these crimes?
If you commit any of these crimes, will Allah forgive you?
You tell me!