Does the Quran Reject Christ’s Eternal Generation? Pt. 1

In this post, I am going to refute the common Muhammadan assertion that the Quran addresses and rejects the historic Christian doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son.

The passage that is often pointed to is the following:

He begets not, and neither is He begotten; S. 112:3 Muhammad Asad

According to Muslim polemicists, this verse is refuting the Christian belief that Christ was begotten of the Father in a timeless act since the Son is not a creature that was brought into existence. Case in point:

Verse 3 — ”He did not beget nor is he begotten”; lam yalid wa-lam yūlad—is the reverse echo of the Nicene creed; it unequivocally rejects the emphatic affirmation of Christ’s sonship—begotten, not made; gennêthenta, ou poiêthenta—employing emphatic double negation and establishing an apophatic (negative) theology by the inversion of the Nicene creed. What striking is the Qur’ān seems to be fully aware of the absurdity of such God who could be “begotten” (gennaō – G1080 which is used elsewhere in greek new testament as an act women begetting children cf. John 3:4). Not to mention the text inherent logical contradiction with the attribute not “made” (poieō). As nothing divine could be “begotten” this doctrine compromised monotheism (the Shema), and because whatever is begotten is caused, and whatever is caused is not eternal. After all, the Christians mean the Son is really distinct with the Father (not merely distinct in thought) there is no way Christians can escape this rather problematic God “creates” god implication. Far from misunderstanding it, the Qur’ān fully grasp the Christian credal statement and deliberately negating the idea of sonship and fatherhood alike not necessarily in biological/procreation sense but precisely in the discourse as the creed put it. (Eric bin Kisam, Does the Qur’ān misunderstand the Trinity? [Analysis of Sūrat al-ikhlāṣ])

I have already documented elsewhere that this surah is one of the most incoherent, unintelligible chapters of the Quran, since the Muslim scholars were all over the map in respect to their understanding of the precise meanings of the terms employed throughout this chapter, such as ahad and salad:

As-Samad: The Quran’s Teaching on Islamic Monotheism

Ahad: Monotheism vs. Eloquence of the Quran

Here I am going to demonstrate that, contrary to the assertion of this specific Muhammadan, Q. 112:3 has nothing to do with the eternal generation of the Son. Note the text once again:

He begets (yalid) not, nor was He begotten (yooladu);

And pay close attention to how various Quran versions render this passage:

He procreated not nor was He procreated (Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/112/st46.htm)

“He begets not (has no descendents, no children, none), nor was He (ever) begotten; (Syed Vickar Ahamed https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/112/st28.htm)

He did not reproduce, and He was not born. (Ali Bakhtiari Nejad https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/112/st65.htm)

(He) did not give birth/procreate, and was not born/procreated. (Muhammad Ahmed – Samira https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/112/st19.htm)

When we examine how the Quran employs the word we see that it refers to physical procreation, as well as to parents who physically sire children or to children who were sexually procreated.

Note the proceeding cases:

And by the begetter (Wawalidin) (i.e. Adam) and that which he begot (walada) (i.e. his progeny); S. 90:3

Here are different renderings of this text:

The begetting and the begotten. Khalifa

Or by sire and offspring! Rodwell

And here are some further examples:

The mothers (Waalwalidatu) shall give suck to their children (awladahunna) for two whole years, (that is) for those (parents) who desire to complete the term of suckling, but the father of the child (almawloodi) shall bear the cost of the mother’s food and clothing on a reasonable basis. No person shall have a burden laid on him greater than he can bear. No mother (walidatun) shall be treated unfairly on account of her child (biwaladiha), nor father (mawloodun) on account of his child (biwaladihi). And on the (father’s) heir is incumbent the like of that (which was incumbent on the father). If they both decide on weaning, by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no sin on them. And if you decide on a foster suckling-mother for your children (awladakum), there is no sin on you, provided you pay (the mother) what you agreed (to give her) on reasonable basis. And fear Allah and know that Allah is All-Seer of what you do. S. 2:233

Verily, those who disbelieve, neither their properties nor their offspring (awladuhum) will avail them whatsoever against Allah; and it is they who will be fuel of the Fire. S. 3:10 – Cf. Q. 3:116

Then will God say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother (walidatika). Behold! I strengthened thee with the holy spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou didst show them the clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: ‘This is nothing but evident magic.’” S. 5:110 Y. Ali

She said (in astonishment): “Woe unto me! Shall I bear a child (aalidu) while I am an old woman, and here is my husband, an old man? Verily! This is a strange thing!” S.11:72

“Our Lord! Forgive me and my parents (waliwalidayya), and (all) the believers on the Day when the reckoning will be established.” S. 14:41

And Salamun (peace) be on him the day he was born (wulida), the day he dies, and the day he will be raised up to life (again)! 19:15

And (hath made me) dutiful toward her who bore me (biwalidatee), and hath not made me arrogant, unblest. S. 19:32 Pickthall

“And Salam (peace) be upon me the day I was born (wulidtu), and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!” S. 19:33

O mankind! Be afraid of your Lord (by keeping your duty to Him and avoiding all evil), and fear a Day when no father (walidun) can avail aught for his son (waladihi), nor a son (mawloodun) avail aught for his father (walidihi). Verily, the Promise of Allah is true, let not then this (worldly) present life deceive you, nor let the chief deceiver (Satan) deceive you about Allah. S. 31:33

Those among you who make their wives unlawful (Az-Zihar) to them by saying to them “You are like my mother’s back.” They cannot be their mothers. None can be their mothers except those who gave them birth (waladnahum). And verily, they utter an ill word and a lie. And verily, Allah is Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving. S. 58:2

“If You leave them, they will mislead Your slaves, and they will beget (yalidoo) none but wicked disbelievers.” S. 71:27

The final example helps to put this all into perspective:

He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. How can He have children (waladun) when He has no wife? He created all things and He is the All-Knower of everything. S. 6:101

The Islamic deity doesn’t have children because he doesn’t have a consort, meaning he doesn’t have sex with anyone by which he could beget a child. This highlights the fact that by walad the Quran is clearly referring to sexual procreation.

The Muslim exposition of this particular verse further supports this conclusion since the Islamic commentators claim that Q. 112:3 was composed to refute the idea of Allah coming into being and subsequently dying, similarly to humans:

Which was revealed in Makkah

The Reason for the Revelation of this Surah and its Virtues

Imam Ahmad recorded from Ubayy bin Ka`b that the idolators said to the Prophet, “O Muhammad! Tell us the lineage of your Lord.” So Allah revealed… (Tafsir Ibn Kathir http://www.alim.org/library/quran/AlQuran-tafsir/TIK/112/0)

(Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all…) [112:1-4]. Qatadah, al-Dahhak and Muqatil said: “A group of Jewish people went to the Prophet and said to him: ‘Describe to us your Lord, for He has revealed His description in the Torah. Tell us: what is He made of? And to which species does He belong? Is He made of gold, copper or silver? Does He eat and drink? Who did He inherit this world from? And to whom will He bequeath it?‘ And so Allah, gloried and exalted is He, revealed this Surah. It is Allah’s specific lineage. Abu Nasr Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Mihrajani informed us> ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Muhammad al-Zahid> Abu’l-Qasim ibn Bint Mani’> his grandfather Ahmad ibn Mani’> Abu Sa’d al-Saghghani> Abu Ja’far al-Razi> al-Rabi’ ibn Anas> Abu’l-‘Aliyah> Ubayy ibn Ka’b who related that the idolaters said to the Messenger of Allah: “What is the lineage of your Lord?” and so Allah, exalted is He, revealed (Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all). The eternally Besought of all (al-Samad) is Him Who (begetteth not nor was begotten) for anyone who is begotten will certainly die and whoever dies will be inherited. Allah does not die nor is He inherited. (And there is none comparable unto Him), He does not have anyone who resembles Him or is like Him (Naught is as His likeness…) [42:11]. Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi informed us> Abu’l-Hasan al-Sarraj> Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Hadrami> Surayj ibn Yunus> Isma’il ibn Mujalid> Mujalid> al-Sha’bi> Jabir who said: “The Prophet was asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah, tell us about the lineage of your Lord!’ And so this Surah (Say: He is Allah, the One!…) was revealed”. (‘Alī ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul https://www.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=86&tSoraNo=112&tAyahNo=3&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2; bold emphasis mine)

And:

INTERPRETATION OF He begets not nor was begotten

He says: He does not pass away to nothingness because there is nothing which begets that it passes away to nothingness and perishes, nor was [He] begotten. He was not brought into existence from non-existence, because everything which is begotten is made to exist after it had not existed and comes into being after it previously had been non-existent. Rather, He (Exalted is His remembrance) is eternal (qadim), everlasting, perpetual (da’im). He never perishes, never ceases and never passes away to nothingness. (Tabari: Selections from The Comprehensive Expositions of the Interpretations of the Verses of the Qur’an, translated by Scott C. Lucas [The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought & The Islamic Texts Society, 2017], Volume II, p. 434; bold emphasis mine)

Finally:

Regarding the occasion of revelation, Ubayy ibn Kaʿ b relates that the idolaters asked the Prophet, “What is the lineage of your Lord?” and so God revealed this sūrah, which begins, Say, “He, God, is One, God, the Eternally Sufficient unto Himself.” The Eternally Sufficient unto Himself is He Who begets not; nor was He begotten, for anyone who is begotten will certainly die, and it is only for those who die that one can speak of a lineage. According to other accounts, this sūrah was revealed in response to a group of Jews who asked the Prophet for “the lineage of His Lord” (R, Ṭ, Ṭ s). A third perspective says that it was revealed in relation to a similar question posed by a group of Christians (R). (The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary [HarperOne; Reprint edition 2015], p. 1447; bold emphasis mine)

3 This verse was read by some as two verses (Āl, Ṭ s). It denies categorically any form of Divine progeny and is thus seen by the vast majority of Muslims as repudiating any and all such claims. Although this verse is interpreted as denying that Jesus is the “Son of God” (see 4:171; 9:30; 19:35, 91– 92), it should be noted that the Christian notion of sonship is not the same as that held by the pagan Arabs, who are criticized in other verses for ascribing offspring to God (usually daughters), as in 16:57: And they assign unto God daughters (see also 6:100; 43:16). Attempts to link this verse to discussions of Christianity ARE THUS SOMEWHAT TENUOUS, and it is best understood in relation to the possible occasions of revelation mentioned in the sūrah introduction and to the Quranic critique of the pagan Arab notions of Divine procreation, as in 37:149– 53: So ask them, does your Lord have daughters while they have sons? Or did We create the angels female, while they were witnesses? Behold! It is of their own perversion that they say, “God has begotten,” while truly they are liars. Has He chosen daughters over sons? (see also 39:2– 3; 52:39). Such notions are distinct from the Christian understanding of Divine sonship in that the meaning of “son” in the phrase “Son of God” employed in the Christian creed IS VERY DIFFERENT from the meaning of “son” in the Quran. For Christianity, the term “Son of God” refers to Jesus as the pretemporal, uncreated Word of God that is begotten of the Father before time. For the pagan Arabs, however, the progeny of God had a distinctly temporal and physical connotation; see 4:171c. (Ibid., p. 1449; bold and capital emphasis mine)

As the scholars of The Study Quran astutely put it, Q. 112:3 does not even begin to refute the historic Christian understanding of the eternal generation of Christ since it was written to address a whole different issue. As the Islamic expositors noted, Muhammad composed this verse to answer the question of whether his lord has a physical lineage, and whether he was born and/or can die and therefore be inherited from, none of which has anything to do with the early Church’s view of the eternal begetting of the Son of God. In fact, the Quran actually affirms the eternal begetting of Christ, which I will show in the next part of my rebuttal (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/12/does-the-quran-reject-christs-eternal-generation-pt-2/).(1)

Endnote

(1) It is ironic that the Muslim commentators argue that the 112th chapter of the Quran was formulated to refute the idea that Allah actually inherits or is inherited since he wasn’t born to anyone nor does he give birth or die. The reason it is rather ironic is that the Islamic scripture explicitly attests that the Muhammadan deity does indeed inherit since he is the heir of all that creatures possess!

Lo! and it is We, even We, Who quicken and give death, and We are the Inheritor. S. 15:23 Pickthall

Lo! We, only We, inherit the earth and all who are thereon, and unto Us they are returned. S. 19:40 Pickthall

And We shall inherit from him that whereof he spake, and he will come unto Us, alone (without his wealth and children). S. 19:80 Pickthall

And it just so happens that one of the ninety-nines of Allah is al-Warith, “the Heir/Inheritor”!

Therefore, since Allah inherits this means he must have been born per Muhammad’s response since he didn’t deny the reasoning of his interlocutors that the one who is born to another is the one who inherits.

For more on this issue and the problem that the Islamic god’s inheriting raises for Muslim belief in Allah’s aseity, I recommend the following article: The Issue of Inheritance and Allah’s Aseity

 

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