The Qur’an, a Donkey, Peace and Interfaith Dialogue

Muslims know what is at stake in interfaith dialogues. They participate in them knowing Islam has a battered image around the world that desperately needs improvement. Sadly, some Christians who participate in these dialogues have no clue about Muslims’ intentions. They are involved in promoting “peace” but fail to realize their efforts inadvertently improve Islam’s global image.

Muslims and even some Christians who engage in interfaith dialogues misquote the Qur’an in order to bolster Islam’s image, promoting its nonexistent image of inclusiveness. They often selectively quote chapters of the Qur’an while leaving out verses that would obliterate their arguments. There are many examples but today I will deal with the most abused verse of the Qur’an in interfaith dialogues, which is found in Suratul Al-Hujraat (chapter 49 of the Qur’an). Verse 13 states:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).

Every article I have read on interfaith dialogue involving Muslims uses this Qur’an verse. Unfortunately, this verse has nothing to do with non-Muslims. Many non-Muslims sell out on the “O mankind” portion of the verse but mankind does not always include non-Muslims in the Qur’an. Islam is not as inclusive as Muslims and non-Muslim interfaith interlocutors would like people to believe.

This verse was revealed to address a case of racism, which involved Bilal, a Black Muslim during Muhammad’s time who used to call Muslims to pray. One day when Bilal sounded the call to pray, an Arab Muslim said, “Did Allah and His Messenger not find anyone to call to prayer except this raven.” That was when verse 13 was revealed. It clearly has nothing to do with non-Muslims but everything to do with Muslims. Mankind here referred to Muslims.

Muslims and Christians who quote verse 13 and mislabel it as a verse that promotes interfaith dialogue also totally ignore verse 9 of the same chapter, which called on Muslims to fight each other over a trivial issue. Verse 9 commands:

If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah; but if it complies, then make peace between them with justice, and be fair: for Allah loves those who are fair (and just).

This verse was revealed when a donkey urinated and one Muslim quipped “the smell of the donkey’s urine is sweeter-smelling than” another Muslim’s fragrances. This trivial insult escalated into a fight then this verse was revealed.

The Qur’an calls on Muslims to fight each other over a minor issue like a donkey’s urine, what are the chances for ardent Muslims to live at peace with Christians who are the worst of the sinners! The same book accuses Christians of ascribing partners to Allah, calling their worship the most heinous sin.

It is mind-boggling Muslims and non-Muslims take the Qur’an out of context or change intended meanings of its verses in order to come up with a palatable message on interfaith dialogue. I am not opposed to interfaith dialogues as long as they candidly tackle issues at hand. Jesus Christ has called us to be peacemakers but let us not use our calling as an occasion to spread a fake image of Islam.

  • http://NotApplicable Abdul Galgalo

    As much as the author tries to taint the image of Islam. He can never succeed since what he is trying now in an amateurish way , others have tried expertly before him and miserably failed. Others even embracing Islam finally.
    And about the Interfaith dialogue people of other faith have more to gain from it than the Muslims and Islam.
    Whether you support the interfaith dialogue or not Islam, the right and chosen way of life for all humanity does not in any way depend on it for its existence or spread.
    But as for You and the lie you have been spreading about Allah S.W. it is just a matter of time before the mask you are hiding behind will come off your face and the world know who you are and was( for that matter).
    Thanks and enjoy ye for a short while what you have earned by lying.

    • Hussein


      Islam is self-destructing. Quit blaming me or others. We don’t “taint the image of Islam.” The Qur’an and Hadith are our sources. Islam has no positive image. You know it but resort to “amateurish” arguments in its defense.

  • Pingback: Interfaith Dialogue: Faith Shared’s Read this Qur’an Verse but Don’t Read that? | Cracks in the Crescent

  • ahmed

    Atleast you should have been honest and linked to every translated tafsir. There are barely 5 tafsirs translated to english from among the 100s available in arabic. Yet you skip it ?

    Ibn Kathirs says:

    Allah the Exalted declares to mankind that He has created them all from a single person, `Adam, and from that person He created his mate, Hawwa’. From their offspring He made nations, comprised of tribe, which include subtribes of all sizes. It was also said that `nations refers to non-Arabs, while `tribes refers to Arabs. Various statements about this were collected in an individual introduction from the book, Al-Inbah, by Abu `Amr Ibn `Abdul-Barr, and from the book, Al-Qasad wal-Amam fi Ma`rifah Ansab Al-Arab wal-`Ajam. Therefore, all people are the descendants of `Adam and Hawwa’ and share this honor equally. The only difference between them is in the religion that revolves around their obedience to Allah the Exalted and their following of His Messenger . After He forbade backbiting and belittling other people, alerting mankind that they are all equal in their humanity. Allah said,

    [يأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَـكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَى وَجَعَلْنَـكُمْ شُعُوباً وَقَبَآئِلَ لِتَعَـرَفُواْ]

    (O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another.)

    • Hussein


      You say:

      Atleast [sic] you should have been honest and linked to every translated tafsir. There are barely 5 tafsirs translated to english from among the 100s available in arabic. Yet you skip it ?”

      First of all, let me say even if I had linked to all 5 tafsirs, you wouldn’t have been convinced. Second, you claimed to be honest and quoted Tafsir ibn Kathir but you deliberately left out the crucial piece. Here is what you left out:

      (that you may know one another.) refers to one’s saying, “So-and-so the son of so-and-so, from the tribe of so-and-so.” Sufyan Ath-Thawri said, “The Himyar (who resided in Yemen) dealt with each other according to their provinces, while the Arabs in the Hijaz (Western Arabia) dealt with each other according to their tribes.”

      Tribes mentioned by Ibn Kathir were Arab tribes. They were Muslim. Verse 13 of Suratul Al-Hujraat refers to only Muslims.

      You cried foul when I did not reference other tafsirs. Here is Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi, the earliest scholar on Qur’an science and he has this to say:

      (O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female…) [49:13]. Said Ibn ‘Abbas: “This was revealed about Thabit ibn Qays when he made a remark about the man who did not make room for him to sit: ‘What, the son of so-and-so [referring to his mother]‘. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘Who mentioned that woman?’ Thabit stood up and said: ‘I did, O Messenger of Allah!’ The Messenger said to him: ‘Look at the faces of those present’. And when he looked, he asked him: ‘What do you see?’ He said: ‘I see white, red and black people’. The Prophet said: ‘Well, you are not better than any of them unless it be through [the good practice of] religion and God-fearingness’. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed this verse”. Muqatil said: “On the day Mecca was conquered, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, ordered Bilal to climb on the roof of the Ka’bah and perform the call to prayer. ‘Attab ibn Asid commented on this: ‘Praise be to Allah, that Allah has taken my father to Him and made that he did not see this day’. Al-Harith ibn Hisham said: ‘Did Muhammad not find any other caller to prayer except this black raven?’ Suhayl ibn ‘Amr said: ‘Allah willing, he will change him’. Abu Sufyan, on the other hand, said: ‘I am not going to make any comment; I am afraid that the Lord of heaven will divulge what I say!’ Gabriel, peace be upon him, went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and informed him about what they said. The Prophet summoned them and asked them about what they said and they admitted it. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed this verse warning them against boasting about their lineages and abundance of wealth and against looking down on the poor”. Abu Hassan al-Muzakki informed us> Harun ibn Muhammad al-Istrabadhi> Abu Muhammad Ishaq ibn Muhammad al-Khuza’i> Abu’l-Walid al-Azraqi> his grandfather> ‘Abd al-Jabbar ibn al-Ward al-Makki> Ibn Abi Mulaykah who said: “On the day Mecca was conquered, Bilal climbed on the roof of the Ka’bah and performed the call to prayer. One person said: ‘O servants of Allah! How can this black slave be allowed to perform the call to prayer on top of the Ka’bah?’ Another man said: ‘If Allah is displeased, He will change him’.

      I quoted Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâ in my post and you dismissed him. Do you know it is the most prominent Sunni Tafsir? He also agrees with me:

      (O mankind!) This was revealed about Thabit Ibn Qays Ibn Shammas who said to a man: “You are the son of so-and-so” in reference to his mother; and it is also said that it was revealed about Bilal the muezzin of the Prophet (pbuh). When Bilal gave the call to prayer in Mecca after its conquest, a group of men from Quraysh, among whom were Sahl Ibn ‘Amr, al-Harth Ibn Hisham and Abu Sufyan Ibn Harb, said: “Did Allah and His Messenger not find anyone to call to prayer except this raven”. In response, Allah said: (Lo! We have created you male and female) from Adam and Eve, (and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you) in the Hereafter, (in the sight of Allah) on the Day of Judgement, (is the best in conduct) in the life of the world; which in this case is Bilal. (Lo! Allah is Knower) of your status and lineage, (Aware) of your works and standing in His sight.

      What can you say now?

      • ahmed

        Wow, you seriously have no clue on what you read. This is what happens when you copy paste arguments to sound like a authentic former muslim.

        Now listen, i never disagreed that the verse was revealed for a specific point/reason. Thats obvious when someone is aware of how the Quran was revealed. But your attempt to restrict the meaning to suite your storyline is what is ridiculous and deceptive.

        Deceptive because you hide tafsirs that explicitly state that the verses refers to all of mankind.

        Quoting tafsirs that show the specific cause for revelation is fallicious as it does not prove your case, which is the restriction of the meaning.

        Your interpretation makes the verse itself unsound. Quran address “O mankind”, you claim it is “O muslim”. If your were a honest muslim you woukd be aware then Quran specifically uses terms like “O believers” when specifically addressing muslims.

        Quran refers to all nations and tribes from the children of Adam, you say it refers only to the arab muslim tribes that existed when the Quran was revealed. These are quite simple points thst is enough to prevent a honest person with common sense from posting such articles.

        • Hussein

          Ahmed, you said:

          Your interpretation makes the verse itself unsound. Quran address “O mankind”, you claim it is “O muslim”. If your were a honest muslim you woukd be aware then Quran specifically uses terms like “O believers” when specifically addressing muslims.

          There are various verses of the Qur’an that show “mankind” or “humankind” only applies to Muslims. A good example is Qur’an 2:124. Here it is in three different translations:

          Qur’an 2.124
          YUSUFALI: And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled: He said: ” I will make thee an Imam to the Nations.” He pleaded: “And also (Imams) from my offspring!” He answered: “But My Promise is not within the reach of evil-doers.”
          PICKTHAL: And (remember) when his Lord tried Abraham with (His) commands, and he fulfilled them, He said: Lo! I have appointed thee a leader for mankind. (Abraham) said: And of my offspring (will there be leaders)? He said: My covenant includeth not wrong-doers.
          SHAKIR: And when his Lord tried Ibrahim with certain words, he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make you an Imam of men. Ibrahim said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the unjust, said He.

          Look at the similarities of Arabic words: in Qur’an 49:13, “Ya ayyuha alnnasu” whereas in Qur’an 2:124 above it is “faatammahunna qala innee jaAAiluka lilnnasi imaman.” Both the emphasized words derive from their root word nas which all Qur’an translators render it as “people,” “men,” “nations,” “humankind” or “mankind.” In the case of Qur’an 2:124, a distinction is clearly made to show that “mankind” in the Qur’an in some cases have applied only to Muslims. This is the case in Qur’an 49:13 and also Qur’an 2:124.

          • ahmed

            Another fail. You dont even know what your talking about. The verse says Abraham will be an Imam to nations. There is no restriction in that. And when the subject was shifted to Abraham offsprings then here God restricted excluded the zalimun from the covenant.Try again.

          • Hussein

            You are the one failing at this argument. The Qur’an says Abraham will be an Imam to the nations. Nations equals to Muslims. After all only Muslims have an Imam. You are getting desperate. You can’t answer a simple question even when the answer is in the verse. Who are you duping!

  • ahmed

    Is this some kind of a joke ? Another bad attempt by christians to impose some ridiculous interpretation and then project it as authentic interpretation of Islam and muslims and then the final step, call everyone who debunks it as a fake muslim. If you were truely a muslim you would have had the common sense that Quranic verses apply specifically as well as generally unless you prove evidence to restrict it. So thats a Fail.

    Even your interpretation after posting links to a tafsir (as though that gives you some authenticity among readers, lol) is deceptive and flawed. The verse was revealed to provide guidelines incase of fight and is not discussing the cause of the fight. Your move of skipping this issue and instead rant upon the cause of the fight is poorely done. It is flawed to make a desperate jump to a conclusion of how Islam encourages such reasons to fight when the verse is not even addressing the issue from such a angle at all. To discuss the moral guidelines on the legitimate causes or means to fighting or goodness of pacifism or peace or patience or mercy there are plenty of other verses and hadiths. Try better next time.

  • irshad

    Islam teaches us moral and ethical as other divine litmus test for authenticity of any religion are only these values. Quran is the only divine revealation stil existing in original form. Even christainity though claimed to be divine religion but having different versions of new testament of bibles, oftenly misinterpreted and amended by different besides Quran, christains has to search for original version of Bible. when u doesnt have any knowledge of ur faith and fundamentals of ur religion then how some one can talk about first observe and grasp ur basic faith first. then talk about others

    • Hussein

      Irshad, you say, “Quran is the only divine revealation [sic] stil [sic] existing in original form.” Do you know the Old & New Testaments of the Bible are still in the original form? The Bible has various translations available the same way there are various translations of the Qur’an available even in English. People can read the Bible in many languages it has been translated into and understand its message without a commentary but one cannot read the Qur’an and understand it without a tafsir. Do you agree? Verses of the Qur’an are not in the order they were revealed.
      You don’t know to what extent I studied Islam when I was a Muslim and even after I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I believe I am qualified to write this post. I used Islamic sources to make my case. What part of this post don’t you understand? Please let me know. Thank you.