The Quran’s Mistaken Claim Against the Jews

Muslims claim that the Quran is the literal word of God.  It uses the most precise, accurate language possible.  Yet it inaccurately describes the Jews as calling Uzair the son of Allah.  Is this a mistake?  Is this the best possible way that Allah could have conveyed this?  Did the author of the Quran not know that future generations would be confused by this verse?

Western Wall by Suleyman

For example, many Muslims claim that Surah Lahab is a miracle:

Perished be the two hands of Aby-Lahab and he is already perished
His wealth and what he earned availed him not.
Now he enters into a blazing fire.
And his wife too, carrier of firewood.
There is a rope of palm fiber in her neck.
(Surah 111)

This verse was revealed to attack the uncle of Prophet Muhammad who used to publicly argue against his nephew Muhammad. Muslims say all Abu Lahab had to do was convert to Islam in order to disprove it.  Of course this doesn’t account for the idea of Quranic Abrogations which regularly happen in the life of Muhammad, but anyway, putting abrogations aside, lets look at the issue at hand.

The Quran states:

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The Jews say, “Ezra [Uzair] is the son of Allah “; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah .” That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded? (9:30)

In these Tafsir Ibn Kathir it says:

Fighting the Jews and Christians is legislated because They are Idolators and Disbelievers

Allah the Exalted encourages the believers to fight the polytheists, disbelieving Jews and Christians, who uttered this terrible statement and utter lies against Allah, the Exalted. As for the Jews, they claimed that `Uzayr was the son of God, Allah is free of what they attribute to Him.

First of all, we should note that it clearly is saying “son of God” in the literal sense, as it mentions both the Jews and then the Christians, whom we know are definitely taking Jesus as a literal Son of God.

Now, there is not a Jew on this Earth that claims that Uzair is the son of God.  It is not a central tenet, or even a tenet of Judaism.  The Quranic claim that Jews consider Ezra the “son of God” is unattested either in Jewish or other extra-Quranic sources and it is improbable that the Jews of Arabia believed so.  Let’s say the Jews of this time did believe this.  Why did Allah use the definite article “Al Yahud?”  If the Quran is the word of the Creator of the Universe, wouldn’t it make more sense to say “Some of the Jews say” or “The Arabian Jews say” ? But rather it makes a general statement without regard to population and time

According to Muslims, the Quran cannot be improved upon, as it is not just the word of Allah, it is the uncreated word of Allah. It cannot be improved in any way because it is absolutely perfect in every way.

The statement that “The Jews say Uzair is the son of Allah” does not make any sense.  It is just another example of how Muhammad took information available to him at the time and made it the Quran.

Rabbi Tovia Singer in this 16 minute video discusses the following points:

  1. The Quran says that The Jews called Uzair the son of God in the same way as the Christians did (i.e. like part of the trinity – divine)
  2. The Quranic commentators explained this in two ways:
    1. There was one crazy Jew who said this at Muhammad’s time
    2. There were a group of Jews with heretical beliefs
  3. I have never heard a Jew say this, nor do we have any record of this in our tradition, but then again why would we have a record of what happened in 7th century Arabia anyway?

Further reading:

16 thoughts on “The Quran’s Mistaken Claim Against the Jews

  1. Abdullah,thanks for pointing out the above verse.I struggled with it for a long time.I had come across some writings(I don’t have the sources at hand)that claimed that there were Jews in Arabia at the time who believed Uzair (Ezra)to be the son of God.But like you said above,this was only in Islamic writings,not supported by any of the Jewish scriptures.The book of Ezra in the Old Testament itself which is the main authority does not even hint at such a claim.I think Prophet Muhammed heard some discussion about this then an idea to write it down formed in his head and then it became a revelation.I think the best way to understand this verse and many other contentious verses is to look at the intention behind them,what our Muslim brothers might call historical circumstances.And to me the whole point behind Surah at-Tawba is to wage war on any other group that lived in Arabia at the time to drive everyone else out of Arabia.It became the excuse to break the treaty of Hudaibiyyah because he needed an excuse to break the treaty that was originally signed for ten years so that he could attack Mecca.Christians and Jews were the other hurdle and the Surah provided a perfect alibi to have them attacked and driven out of Arabia as well so it just came in handy.That is why you have dhimmi rules mentioned in this surah and all the other contentious verses like the verse of the sword.Remember that this was one of the very last surahs to be revealed and it was a time when Islam had grown into a state and needed to exert itself.In other words,the surah served political purposes.It was difficult for me ,it took me a long time ,looking at th he Qur’an critically I had to finally believe that it was a product of the Prophet Mohammad’s conscience.But somehow he believed that he believed he was receiving revelation or managed to convince his followers that he was communicating with the Almighty.This surah and a lot of Medinian surahs mirror so much some books of the old testament.And God seems to work in the same way in both instances.May be Abdullah we are the ones who are wrong ,and may be that is how God works.Who knows?

  2. “Let’s say the Jews of this time did believe this. Why did Allah use the definite article “Al Yahud?” If the Quran is the word of the Creator of the Universe, wouldn’t it make more sense to say “Some of the Jews say” or “The Arabian Jews say” ? But rather it makes a general statement without regard to population and time.”

    Here’s some reasons for the usage of “the definite article Al”:

    1) Connection to previous ayah (i.e. context). Ibn Ashoor comments on this,

    عطف على جملة { ولا يدينون دين الحق } [ التوبة : 29 ] والتقدير : ويقول اليهود منهم عزيز ابن الله ، ويقول النصارى منهم : المسيح ابن الله

    This ayah is connected in meaning and grammar (atf عطف) to ayah 29. Is the subject definite in ayah 29? Yes it is. So it is definite in ayah 30.

    From rhetoric and eloquence is to avoid unnecessary repetition. That is why our esteemed author’s suggestions of inserting a repetitive clause such as “Some of the Jews say” or “The Arabian Jews say” are inarticulate, ineffective and impotent.

    2) The previous ayah was talking about a specific group.

    It was talking about the Jews and Christians who inhabited Madinah and its neighboring areas. So when ayah 30 talks about “THE” Jews and “THE” Christians (emphasis to highlight the definitive article), it is still discussing the beliefs of those particular groups, and not ALL Jews and Christians over the course of time.

    That said, there are some other interesting rhetorical benefits (and yes, you can have more than one type in one statement):

    1) Being complicit in wrong.

    Ibn Ashoor says, “قال بهذا القول فرقة من اليهود فألصق القول بهم جميعاً لأنّ سكوت الباقين عليه وعدم تغييره يلزمهم الموافقة عليه والرضا به
    A group of Jews said this. Their statement was attributed to the entirety of Jews because their silence over such false claims and their inability to correct them shows a sort of acceptance of those beliefs”.

    Beliefs of a fringe minority often become mainstream, which warrants blame on the apathetic majority.

    This is one rhetorical benefit that is frequently used in the Qur’an: if you are silent in the face of wrong, then you are complicit in that wrong. See the story of the Sabbath and the story of the Shuaib for more details.

    2) Weakness of the believing community.

    Ibn Ashoor says, “وأمّا كونهم من قبلِ اليهود : فلأنّ اعتقاد بنوة عُزير طارىء في اليهود وليس من عقيدة قُدمائهم

    The belief that Uzair was the son of God was an imported belief into Judaism. It was not an original belief of the earlier Jews.”

    This is why Allah says, “they imitate the statements of the disbelievers from the past” in ayah 29. Ayah 30 provides another example of corruption in belief. What’s the point? It shows the weakness of the believing community as they imitate the beliefs of others and import them into their religion rather than build their own unique identity.

    See the problem is that you know 1% of Arabic (being generous). Then based on that you extrapolate meanings – and of course conveniently ignoring any and all context – you extrapolate and make grandiose conclusions. It would be funny if it wasn’t about a serious matter.

    1. Well, what other proof do you have apart from books written by Muslim authors? Is it not the case that Muslim commentators would be biased towards validating Quranic stories? Provide historical evidence that some of the Jews regarded Uzair as the son of God. Besides, if that were true, why is it that no such traces exist amongst the Jews of today? I think that the quran is a book that would never survive without the tafseer of people who came around years after the prophet’s death. What infallible book requires interpretation of other humans before you and I can understand it?

  3. Numerous contemporary Western academics have offered speculations about the origin of this belief among some Jews in the Arabian Peninsula (I can direct you to some if you are interested), but none of them has suggested that the Qur’an had committed an error.

    This would require believing that the Qur’an shows extensive knowledge of the details of Jewish religious writings, including the Torah, prophetic writings, Psalms, Talmud, midrashim, etc., on the one hand, but was completely ignorant of the very fundamentals of mainstream Jewish belief on the other.

    This is obviously absurd. For this reason, no one has found grounds for denying that there was a group of Jews in the Arabian Peninsula who claimed that ‘Uzayr was a son of God.

    1. So now because it cannot be denied then it must be believed? It’s obvious that this story is invented and Jews never held such a belief. Jews don’t even regard Ezra as a principal figure as they do Moses. I think this is a verse that perfectly shows how Muslim scholars go to great lengths to justify Quranic verses and stories.

      1. If you are accusing the Qur’an here of error, the onus is on you to demonstrate this. If you want plausible academic theories and circumstantial evidence that Jews did hold this belief about `Uzayr (who may or may not be Ezra), you may consult Patricia Crone’s The Book of Watchers in the Qur’an (and the references she cites), and Jonathan Brown’s recent article. There is no implausibility here.

        Moreover, as I think virtually all contemporary academic specialists on the subject would agree, it’s incoherent to assume that the Qur’an shows extensive and accurate knowledge of the minutiae of Jewish and Christian tradition, but gets it wrong on the fundamentals.

        As for the Qur’an “inventing” an accusation against the Jews, this would be suicidal to its own aims since it could have easily just been denied, and its polemical and rhetorical agenda is far more sophisticated than this. See once again the works I mentioned.

  4. It is funny how Arabic becomes an issue when someone leaves Islam.Suddenly you need a PHD,but somehow is never an issue when one is a Muslim.I seen no direct connection between 9:29 and 9:30.Although both verses hobblenobble about disbelievers,verse 9:29 doesn’t mention in any way anything about Uzayir being the son of God.What I wanted to ask our eloquent Muslim exegete brothers and sisters of is,what was it about Uzayir that made the Medinian Jews at the time believe that he was the son of God? We all know why Christians at the time and now believe Jesus was the son of God.What about Uzayir,what made the Jews believe he was the son of God?Was he of a virgin birth? Did he perform miracles? Did he resurrect after death? etc.Of course the only source is this random verse in the Qur’an,which the Qur’an despite making bold claims about explaining everything in detail,has only this verse .In its typical fashion,it doesn’t care to explain further.Neither did the Prophet himself care.All he was interested in was to have the Jews labelled as Kaffir as well so that they could be attacked like the pagans and driven out of Arabia.The verse was meant to provide an excuse for that.Casus belli.Period.

  5. FYI, tafsir from tafheem says the following (see below) based on this ayah. It is an opportunity to learn and it focuses on some sects of Judaism that had believed that Ezra (Uzair) was the son of God. Please question scholars such as Suhaib Webb, Yasir Qadi and so on who spent decades understanding the Qur’an before jumping into conclusions. This the research I came across:

    Link: http://quran.ksu.edu.sa/m.php?l=en#aya=1_1

    Uzair (Ezra) lived during the period around 450 B.C. The Jews regarded him with great reverence as the revivalist of their Scriptures which had beat lost during their captivity in Babylon aftar the death of Prophet Solomon. So much so that they had lost all the knowledge of their Law, their traditions and of Hebrew, their national language. Then it was Ezra who re-wrote the Old Testament and revived the Law. That is why they used very exaggerated language in his reverence which misled some of the Jewish sects to make him ‘the son of God’. The Qur’an, however, does not assert that all the Jews were unanimous in declaring Ezra as ‘the son of God’. What it intends to say is that the perversion in the articles of faith of the Jews concerning AIIah had degenerated to such an extent that there were some amongst them who considered Ezra as the son of God.
    *30) “Those who were involved in Kufr before them” were the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, etc. The Jews and the Christians were so influenced by their philosophies, their superstitions and fancies that they also invented erroneous creeds like theirs. (For details sec E.N. 101 of Al-Ma Idah

    1. Stop saying “it focuses on some sect in Judaism”. The Jews have made it clear that at no point in time did a group of them believe Ezra was the son of God. Why is there no single historical evidence amongst Jewish scholars on this issue? How come Muslims are the only ones with evidence of what “some” Jews believed? The story is obviously one which brings the quran to disrepute and the Tafsir scholars run around to justify it’s meaning. Why do Muslims fight hard to defend accusations labelled upon them or their prophet but try to justify accusations on Jews for which there is no evidence. It’s just because Muhammad had an hatred for Jews.

  6. I agree with Razaq about this verse.

    I believe it to be one of many that prove the Quran is fake and that Mohammed was a false prophet. He did not receive any divine revelations. The constant ramblings about stoning and beheading. The call for death to non Muslims are not things that a God would preach. And such teachings show just how false the claim that Islam is a “religion of peace” is. A peaceful religion would not mandate the level of violence that the Quran does.

    I studied the Quran in some detail and it only took me a couple of days to figure out it is a work of fiction.

    http://www.reformingislam.org

    1. I don’t seem to understand why bible readers claim that the Quran is very harsh and blabla. It seems as though you’ve not read the bible critically well.

      lemme help you on that.

      When you read Num 31:17-18, you see this;
      17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. {him: Heb. a male} 18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

      That is the bible for you.

      1. Isa – You have done what so many Muslims (and apologists for Islam) do. When you are cornered and cannot defend the quran, you run to the OLD testament to deflect attention off the quran.

        Why don’t you go to the NEW testament? Could it be that the New Testament is ENTIRELY peaceful? Only a message of love? Unlike the quran which is FULL off violence and hate towards the unbelievers.

        Also, Christianity & Judaism had a reformation. And the violent verses were DROPPED.

        Its about time Islam had a reformation, and all the hate from the quran was removed. The world would be a better place.

        http://www.reformingislam.org

  7. u don’t know ancient quranic consistency Quran always says al-
    for example innalztheena haaduo wa al-natsaraa
    so its does not matter how many said unless God said kulluhum
    all of them
    if that were the case then Moses would have been included.
    as for the rabbi he is lying or a ashkhanazi non Jew.or ignorant and arrogant a sephardic jew told that uzair was called SOG before ‘Isay (Yeshu’a) and he even went far enough to tell me that he still is SOG and the Christians copied them.without paying copyright.
    and he was a real jew most Jews are Ashkanaazi converts
    only approximately 30% or less are real Jews abd even if u asked most of real Jews unless they are pround of too much like Joseph is they will more than likely lie just to argue with HaShem G-d

    1. To Abdullah Almadi: The Essenes left no such text containing such a belief. You may be thinking of their struggle between the “sons of light” and the “sons of darkness”
      To Abdellaah: your anti ashkenazi rant is both racist and anti semitic and has nothing to do with the matter at hand
      Sharif and Saj Subeyjoo: Actually the great Jewish scholar Moshe ibn Maimon (Maimonides) explicitly declared it a lie. Maimonides lived in the 12th century and is thought to be one of the greatest jewish scholars ever lived. He was the leader of all the Jews in the Fatimid caliphate as far as Yemen. He also lived for ten years as a Muslim under duress. Certainly he was no less informed or more biased than any of the Muslim scholars you quote.

  8. Hi, I hope I can shed some light on how unfounded accusation came to be included in the Quran. Tabari states it was a statement made by Rabbi Finhas ibn Azura, the same Finhas who made the statement also polemicized in the Quran “God is poor and we are rich”.
    Now according to Ibn Ishaq, Pinhas actually had more to say . God is poor and we are rich… .. if your god is independent, why are you coming to us to contribute Zaakat to your expenses? Clearly Pinhas is making a sarcastic comment. Abu Bakr takes it literally and accuses Finhas of blasphemy, which Finhas categorically denies. Mohammed put it in the Quran literally.
    Regarding the comment about Uzayr then, it was probably also a sarcastic comment not meant literally. We may speculate even that it had to do with a play on words on Pinhas’ own name, ibn Azura a name similar to Ezra.
    Obviously believing Muslims are going to have a problem accepting this explanation because it portrays Mohammed as either too stupid to understand sarcasm when he hears it, or too spiteful and vindictive to care. I offer them an alternate explanation in which Mohammed never intends that the Jews actually believe this; he criticizes only “the words of their mouths” which “imitate” the polytheists of old, ie he condemns sarcastic, style of speech regarding the sacred, which sounds blasphemous even if not intended as such.
    grammatical note: i alternate between writing Pinhas and Finhas because in Hebrew, and F turns into a P at the beginning of the word.

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