بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Answers to Alleged Contradictions in the Quraan

1-GOD <--> 1-Religion <--> 1-Holy Book

Part One

A Christian missionary web-site contains a list of what are claimed to be internal contradictions in the Quraan. The list contains forty-nine numbered items authored by Jochen Katz. Readers may access this list at www.answering-islam.org. Here is a reply to each item of Katz’s list. We will see that not a single item on the list is a genuine contradiction in the Quraan. On some items Katz simply misunderstood the Quraan. Sometimes he has taken verses out of context to support that misunderstanding. Often he simply did not exercise the thought necessary to distinguish between a real contradiction and a resolvable difference.

In preparation for this response I have benefitted from reading the responses offered by Ishak Mermerci, Misha’al Al-Kadhi, Randy Desmond, and Khalid.

Mr. Katz's purpose

Katz’s purpose in listing these claimed contradictions is to get Muslims to stop claiming that the Quraan is superior to the Bible. In his response to Randy Desmond, Katz wrote:

"There are a number of questions in regard to the Bible for which I do not know a fully satisfactory answer. And I will admit that I don’t know, should you ask me one of these. But I hate the pretence of having answers if there are none. And I hate the often pridefully displayed and claimed superiority of the Quraan over the Bible. If these contradictions pages help Muslims to become more humble and realistic and especially stop claiming the corruption of the Bible because they have found a few difficult passages, then the goal of this page has been reached."

Part Two

Mr. Katz’s failure

I think that Katz will, however, be disappointed. The contradiction list he provides does not contain a single real contradiction among the 49 claims. On the other hand, the list of 101 Bible contradictions that appear in my book could not be satisfactorily answered by Christian missionaries. Four missionaries have attempted, and their attempt is published on Katz’s web-site answering-islam.org. The reply by Smith and others actually admits that some of the contradictions I pointed at really do exist in today’s Bibles. They maintain, however, that the original copies of the Bible did not contain contradictions. Such contradictions entered the Bible, they say, due to the long process of transmission of the Bible. Over the centuries copies were made from copies which were again made from further copies. Today we do not have the original texts, they admit, and the texts we do have actually contain contradictions which were not in the originals. Never mind how they know what the non-existent originals used to contain. Consider their admission that the present texts of the Bible, all of them, contain some contradictions.

A Hostile Approach to the Quraan

For Katz to be successful, he has to get Muslims to admit that the Quraan likewise contains contradictions. But he himself admits that the contradictions he arrives at were reached only if one takes a hostile approach to the Quraan. He writes: ". . . I will make the strongest possible case for something being contradictory and wrong . . . ." Moreover, he says that even when he discovers that an item on his list is not a real contradiction he will keep it on the list. He writes: ". . . I will not remove even those contradictions that I find answered to my personal satisfaction." Why? For two reasons. One, so that readers can decide for themselves what is and is not a real contradiction. Two, so that Muslims and Christians can both find a ready reference to the claimed contradictions and possible responses.

It should be clear, however, that in order to find the responses and evaluations on Katz’s pages requires painstaking effort. At first glance all one encounters is the glaring list of 49 numbered claims. The format in which the materials is displayed ensures that only the most serious of students will painstakingly pore over the full range of responses and evaluations. Hence the average browser will be left with the impression that Katz believes in the reality of those contradictions. For this reason I would advise Katz to remove the items which he finds answered to his satisfaction."

No Hostility to the Bible

This brings me to now explain some of the key differences between Katz’s approach and mine. First, my list of 101 contradictions in the Bible is not motivated by hostility to the Bible. I believe that the Bible is a very good book. I am aware that many people have been positively motivated by the Bible. Many people have become better persons by reading the Bible. The world has become a better place because of that book. My wish often is that more people in the western world should have followed their Bibles. Then we would have less drunkenness, adultery, gambling and a number of vices which Islam and Muslims stand firmly against.

Reverence for God

My motivation springs from two things. First, my reverence for God. Both Muslims and Christians revere God enough to want to defend his dignity. We recognize that it is not right for anyone to claim something about God which is below his dignity. Since we both believe that God is not the author of contradictions, it would be an insult to his dignity to claim that he authored a book wherein there are contradictions. I genuinely believe that the Bible contains contradictions and errors. Bible footnotes and commentaries generally admit that such contradictions and errors exist in the text of the Bible. For these reasons I am persuaded that it is my duty along with Christians to defend the honour of God. To do this we need to advise everyone that it is not appropriate to claim that God wrote the entire Bible. To do so would be to attribute the errors and contradictions to God. Since many people would deny that such contradictions exist, the best way to convince them was to show them where such contradictions do exist. Some people would usually dare me to show them one such contradiction, just one, and yet when I show them they are still not moved from their position. Just one little contradiction is not usually enough for the faithful. But how about 101? My purpose has been served, I think. The four missionaries who attempted a reply to my list of 101 Bible contradictions do admit that some of the contradictions are genuine.

Moral Obligation to Warn Others

The second source of my motivation springs from my moral obligation to save my fellow human beings from the Fire of Hell. If they are following a book which contains much good and also some human teachings which can lead a person into that fire it becomes my moral duty to warn them that the book contains human elements. One way of doing this effectively is to show actual content which could not come from God. Contradictions are foremost among such things. The method works. Smith and others admitted that some of the contradictions are due to the human copyists who way back in history made mistakes when they copied the texts.

A Correct Methodology

Motivation is not the only difference between Katz’s approach and mine. A second difference is in the methodology. The approach of Katz has been to pore over the Quraan translations and the translators’ notes and other commentaries to find any mention of a possible difficulty in understanding the text. Then he adds this to the list even if the difficulty is already worked out and a satisfactory solution is mentioned in the source.

Seriously Studying the Bible

On the other hand, my approach has been to seriously study the Bible. I have then listed only those contradictions which I find personally convincing or for which Bible commentaries admit that they have no satisfactory answer. I have not included any item for which the commentators have offered a convincing explanation. This explains why Smith and others despite their painstaking work could not come up with solid answers. Even where they attempt to deny that a contradiction exists, they usually draw two or three answers from different commentators and lump them all together to make a single answer. But often the answers are mutually exclusive. It cannot be both ways. Smith and others only show their inability to decide on a solution when they offer such mutually contradictory answers in an attempt to clear up the contradictions.

Such indecision is a sure sign of lack of personal conviction. Where Katz noticed that Muslims in dealing with Claim #4 offer different explanations for the apparent difficulty, he remarked:

"The existence of contradictory explanations is always the result of confusion and the sign that no theory is really fitting the data. If one explanation would really make full sense, then all others would have been abandoned long ago."

Katz said this in reference to Muslims when for a single problem different explanations are found in different sources. What would Katz think of the fact that Smith and others lump different explanations in the same answer and then pretend that they have an answer? Differences among Muslim commentators may be attributed to the fact that various writers have different perspectives. What accounts for the differences found within the combined answers of Smith and the rest of his team?

Judgement Against Falsehood

The third main difference between Katz’s approach and mine lies in my refusal to claim a Bible contradiction which I am not sure of, and my willingness to forthright withdraw any claim which I discover to be false. I have already cited Katz’s explanation of his reasons why he might list a contradiction which he himself is not convinced is a contradiction, and why he would maintain an item on the contradiction list even after his discovery that such an item is not a real contradiction. I must now explain my reason why I had to adopt an approach different from Katz’s. I am fully convinced that I will have to answer on the Day of Judgement for every word I utter whether it be by speech or in writing. I cannot promote something I do not believe in. Only where I believe a contradiction exists in the Bible can I continue to circulate my booklet containing that item. If not for my conviction that what I write is true, I cannot continue to write, or to circulate my booklet. As it is now, my booklet is about to be reprinted because, having read the response from Smith and others, I am sure that the contradictions are real. I am more sure than I have ever been. Smith and others, I must admit, have been more studious than me, checking out many sources of possible answers for the contradictions. Their failure to answer any of them to my satisfaction, and their admission that some of them are real, gives me the assurance that my work is based on solid ground.

Moreover, if ever I receive a satisfactory answer to any of the claimed contradictions I would have a moral obligation to inform the public of the falsity of my previous claim. To satisfy my obligation I would have to circulate an apology as widely as my original work was circulated. All of this I am prepared to do if only someone would respond with satisfactory answers.

How to Answer Claims

Having explained the difference between Katz’s approach and mine, I must now turn to Katz’s specific claims and show where he is further mistaken. But first, a word about the method of my answer.

Katz’s list has each proposed problem explained in brief. My answers will also be brief in the main section. Behind each of Katz’s summary of the problem is a more detailed explanation. That explanation, however, is accessible only after a click of the mouse. I will insha Allah answer those under the headings "More Objections Answered." On the web such sections will also be accessible with a click of the mouse.

This method will have the advantage of demolishing the main points quickly and effectively in a short list of answers. All of Katz’s main points are in the summary, and as such it would be a needless distraction to deal with the subsidiary issues in the main list of answers. The subsidiary points will then be dealt with equally effectively in the subsidiary sections.

Two Approaches

To answer Katz we do not initially need to get into detailed explanations of Quranic verses and Islamic practices. Katz represents his list as a list of contradictions. To demolish that list, it is sufficient to show that the items do not establish contradictions. This we can do in two ways.

First, we can question the criticism itself. If we can show that Katz’s claim is not based on a proper foundation, then his claim stands dismissed; and a further defense of the Quraan becomes unnecessary. Often we will see that Katz makes the following types of mistakes:

(a) he misunderstands the Quraan

(b) for the Quranic passages in question he relies on a faulty translation which supports the misunderstanding or

(c) he takes the passages out of their context to support such a misunderstanding.

If we can demonstrate any of this, then Katz’s criticisms fall flat, and the Quraan stands tall.

Moreover, we will demand of Katz that the Quraanic statements which he claims to be mutually contradictory must satisfy a basic condition. The statements have to be such that they cannot be said to be true of the same thing at the same time. We will see that often what Katz presents are statements which appear to be different but not contradictory. But unless our basic condition here can be met, we shall have to remind Katz that a difference is not a contradiction unless it is a contradiction. If one passage claims A and another claims B they are no doubt different. But for them to be contradictory, it has to be shown that A and B cannot be true of the same thing at the same time. This Katz will have to show. Since Katz is proposing a contradiction, we shall demand of him to prove not only that a difference exists, but a contradictory difference. If he fails to show this, then his claim falls flat and the Quraan stands tall.

The Positive Explanation

The second way in which we can answer the claimed contradictions is to show that a reasonable understanding of the text in question proves them harmonious. If we can show that a reasonable reading does not lead to a contradiction, then we will have demolished Katz’s claim. As long as such an explanation is reasonable, one can no longer claim that the passages are contradictory.

An Illustration

To illustrate these two approaches in constructing a response, consider Katz’s claimed contradiction #20. He cites one verse to show that the losers on the Day of Judgement will receive the record of their deeds behind their backs. Then he cites another verse to show that such losers will receive their records in their left hands. Our first approach is to question Katz’s claim. It is up to Katz to show not only that the verses say two different things. He also has to show that the verses say two contradictory things. We notice that he has shown the difference, but he has not shown a contradiction. To show a contradiction, he has to explain why it is unreasonable for both verses to be true. Katz has to argue that it is impossible for a person to receive something behind his back if he also gets it in his left hand. Until Katz says this he has not laid a real claim to a contradiction, and the claim he makes us pointless. We do not need to say more.

The second way of approaching the same problem is to offer a reasonable explanation showing how both verses can be right at the same time. In this example we can argue that it is quite reasonable that a person can receive his record behind his back and in his left hand. He can obviously do this by simply putting his left hand behind his back and waiting for the angels to place his record therein. This explanation makes further sense when you realize that a loser in this case is doubly disgraced. He is disgraced getting his record in his left hand, and he is further disgraced by not having at least the honour of advancing face forward.

Notice that anyone of the two approaches would be sufficient for the purpose of demolishing the claimed contradiction. Yet we will often look at the matter both ways so that a variety of approaches may be available for the serious student.

Bible Comparisions

Moreover, we shall under separate heads include comparisons with the Bible where appropriate. Where Katz objects to a Quraanic statement or principle and we find something similar in the Bible in which Katz believes, then we ought to bring this to the attention of Katz and other readers. For example, whereas Katz objects that the Quraan prescribes for daughters half the share for a son, the Bible allows no share for the daughters if sons exist. In the Bible a daughter inherits only if there are no sons. If sons exist they take all (Numbers 27:8-11). If there are no sons then the daughters will inherit, but they are required to marry within their father’s tribe (Numbers 36:6, 11).

So, since Katz calls the Quraan unjust for what it awards daughters (half what their brothers get) we should be interested to know what he will call the Bible for what it awards daughters (nothing).

Nor does the Bible prescribe anything for the mom or wife. Following the Bible’s prescriptions, if a man dies we would pass over his wife and mother and give his property to his brothers or to his fathers’ brothers.

On the other hand, the Quraan specifies shares of inheritance for the wife and mother. What does Katz think of that?

Part Three

Now we move on to consider and demolish Katz’s claims one by one.

PRIMARY CLAIM #1: Inheritance shares totaling more than 100%

Katz claims that there is a contradiction in the matter of inheritance. He says that the shares allotted to individual heirs in a particular case would add up to more than 100% of the available estate. If a man dies leaving behind three daughters, his parents, and his wife the allotments total one and one-eighth. Surah 4, verses 4:11-12 shows that in this case the three daughters together will receive 2/3, the parents together will receive 1/3, and the wife will receive 1/8. Hence a numerical discrepancy.

REPLY: Adding two unknowns

Katz misunderstood what he read in the Quraan. The verses he refers to do not say what the parents will receive in this case. Nor does it say what the wife will receive in this case. To arrive at his understanding, Katz insists that he must take the Quraanic statements in the most literal sense. Yet the text even when taken in a literal manner does not support his misunderstanding. The Quraan does not literally prescribe what the parents will receive in the case which Katz proposes. It is true that the Quraan literally prescribes that the parents will share 1/3 when a man dies leaving one child (4:11). But the case which Katz proposes is different. Katz’s case involves three daughters, and the literal Quraanic prescription involves only one child. Hence Katz’ proposed numerical discrepancy is built on his confusing one case for another.

If we were to follow the Quraanic prescriptions literally, in Katz’s case the wife’s share is also not specified. The Quraan literally prescribes a 1/8 share for the wife if the husband leaves only one child. But Katz’s case involves three daughters. And the number three happens to be more than the number one.

Katz thinks that the stated shares in this case would be 2/3 + 1/3 + 1/8, whereas in fact since two of these shares are not actually stated in the Quraan, the shares are 2/3 + ? + ? = ? Since the Quraan does not make a statement on this specific case, it is impossible for the Quraan to be wrong. The details of this case is left to the comprehensive nature of the Islamic Shariah which does not depend on the Quraan alone.

A note about the Islamic Law

My answer here does not enter into the details of the Islamic rules governing inheritance for that is not what the objection is about. Katz explains that his objection is only that if the Quraanic statements about inheritance are taken literally then they yield numerical discrepancies. All we had to do here was to show that his objections are baseless. Even if we take the Quraanic statements literally we find that the numerical discrepancies that Katz speaks of are not in the Quraan but only in Katz’s mind.

The source of Katz's confusion

Katz’s confusion apparently springs from his reliance here on the translation of the Quraan by Arthur Arberry. But Arberry in his translation of these passages mistakenly renders walad as "children" whereas walad is singular: "a child"(4:11, 12).

CLAIM #1b: The man with no direct heirs

Katz claims that there is a further discrepancy in this matter in the case of a man who leaves a mother, a wife, and two sisters. If the allotted shares are added up the total exceeds the total estate. In this case the mother gets 1/3 (4:11) the wife gets 1/4 ( 4:12) and the two sisters together receive 2/3 (4:176). These shares altogether total 15/12, more than the available estate.

REPLY: Dead mother gets no share

Katz is again mistaken. To arrive at the said allotted shares Katz refers to the shares allotted in Surah 4, Ayah 176 of the Quraan. But that ayah refers to a man who leaves neither parent nor child. At the time of his death his mother already lays in her own grave and as such can lay no claim to a share of inheritance.

Katz’s misunderstanding is again due to Arberry’s translation. In the Quraan in 4:176 the case described is that of a man who is called in Arabic "kalalah" which is correctly translated by Yusuf Ali as one who leaves "no descendants or ascendants."

More Objections Answered

Wasting Words

Many of Katz’s subsidiary objections fault the Quraan for not providing a complete list of all possible cases and every detail. Then, after wasting many words on this, he concludes: "But since these cases are just not stated, let us not speculate about it and only look at the cases for which we are explicitly given instructions . . . ." What then was the point of raising such an issue?

Islamic Law Not Based on the Quraan Alone

Katz objects that in many cases the Quraan does not allot the entire estate to designated recipients. He thinks that the Quraan ought to have given more detailed instructions. But here he misses a key point about the Quraan. The book was sent along with its interpreter, the prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. He came to teach us the details of what the Quraan lays out in general principles. After much discussion of his need for details in the Quraan, however, Katz concludes: "Anyway, as long as the shares add up to less than one, things can be settled still ‘relatively easily.’" Again, why the wasted discussion?

The Question is not About Islamic Law

His persistent question in a number of cases is, "Who gets the rest?" The text itself and the Shariah on the whole has ways of dealing with this. In his response to Randy Desmond, Katz himself admits: "I want to repeat again. Experts on Islamic law are just as intelligent as everybody else and they have found ways to distribute inheritance to the heirs in generally accepted ways."

The Rulings of Muslim Scholars

Often Katz objects that the Muslim scholars rule differently than what the Quraan prescribes. This is a different objection that proving a contradiction or numerical discrepancy in the Quraan itself. This matter he should take up with the said Muslim scholars themselves. Then such scholars will either have to correct themselves or teach Katz the details of Quraanic interpretation. To deal with this is not my expertise. Nor is it required here.

Keeping to a Consistent Frame of Reference

Katz failed to remain consistent on his basic frame of reference. On the one hand he thinks of the prophet Muhammad as an intelligent man who wrote the Quraan; on the other hand he cannot assume a basic level of intelligence for the prophet. Katz writes:

"Even if one would not put standards of perfection on these rules as is fitting for a revelation from God but only think it to be from Muhammad, it is strange that this successful business man, in charge of whole caravans for a number of years, was not able to correctly add up a few fractions."

Contrary to Katz’s ambivalence between attributing intelligence and ignorance to the prophet, it is established practice that as we read a work we assume for the author a reasonable degree of intelligence consistent with our knowledge of the author’s biography. Since we know from history that the prophet was a successful business man in charge of whole caravans for a number of years we have to assume that he had more than a child’s intelligence.

Yet in order to attribute error to the Quraan, Katz pretends that its author has not even a child’s intelligence. On this basis Katz objects to 4:11 which prescribes that a daughter will get half of the entire estate available for inheritance. Since the same verse also prescribes that a son gets twice the share of a daughter, Katz thinks that in the case of one son and one daughter the shares of inheritance would be 50% for the daughter and 100% for the son thus totaling 150% of the available estate. Then he wonders how the parents and spouse will inherit when more than the whole is already allotted. He does not here allow for the author of he Quraan to know that if a daughter gets half of the whole thing only the other half will remain for a son. Yet every child knows that if they have to share a cake and one person gets half the other person cannot get twice as much from the same cake. If Katz is to assume that the prophet is the author of the Quraan and Katz admits at least a basic level of intelligence for him, how does Katz imagine such an idiotic explanation for the Quraan? Does Katz want to have his cake and eat it? Here Katz’s method has gone beyond even his admitted intention to approach the Quraan with hostility.

"Daughters Only" Implies "No Sons"

Actually, again, there is no problem in the scripture itself, only in Katz’s approach. The passage (4:11) first mentions the general principle that a son gets twice what the daughter gets. Then it goes on to prescribe in cases when only daughters remain. Only when there is no son, and only one daughter, does the verse prescribe half the estate for the daughter. So Katz’s goings on about the double share for the son is mistaken. In this case there exists by definition a total number of zero sons and one daughter, and no other children.

The fact that this is a case of no son can be immediately seen from the Quranic text. Speaking of the children, the Quraan moves over to a use of the feminine plural pronoun "kunna" which by definition cannot include males. Arberry’s translation again did not sufficiently emphasize this reference to females alone. Yet the translation is not alone to blame here. The problem rests with Katz. On the one hand he calls the prophet a successful businessman and the author of the Quraan. Surely such a man would know that if you put half of the camels on one side the other side cannot have twice the number. Or, that if he already paid for half his merchandise he should not again pay for the remainder twice what he paid for the first half. Such a man would know that if he gave half his wealth to his daughter he cannot also give twice as much to his son.

The Author Must Have Some Intelligence

Katz ought to here align himself with the world in this matter. When we read a work we assume for the author a level of competence consistent with his biography. Those who believe that the Quraan came from Muhammad and know anything about his biography cannot justifiably take the words of he book in the most silly meaning possible. Even a person like Katz who decided to use the approach of a hostile critic must have his limits.

It is due to his own such misunderstandings that Katz in his response to Al-Kadhi repugnantly states that "the author of the Quraan shows incompetence at a very basic level." On the other hand, both Katz and I have to recognize our own incompetence. I cannot claim competence in fully understanding either the Bible or the Quraan, and I am willing to be corrected if I overstep my competence in dealing with both books. Similarly, if Katz does not know the Arabic language, and if he is dependent only on English translations he should judge whether or not he is competent to be a justifiable hostile critic of the book. Hostile critic yes -- but justifiable?

Katz’s Excessive Diligence in the Wrong Direction

Credit goes to Katz for his excessive diligence in searching for errors in the Quraan. The allotment of inheritance shares involves a very detailed system. It itself is an area of specialization within Islamic studies. To sort through all the prescriptions in the Quraanic text and decide individual cases based on the general Quraanic principles takes much careful study. To invent hypothetical cases which would result in the apparent numerical discrepancies as Katz has done requires tremendous zeal. Yet Katz did not stop at that. He generally uses Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Quraan to analyze the difficulties he deals with. But in the matter of inheritance he turned to Arthur Arberry’s translation. Why? Katz explains: "because Yusuf Ali was even more difficult to follow." Yet my review of the two translations convinced me that whereas the inheritance law is itself complex, the two translations were roughly similar in their level of persistence needed to comprehend the subject.

Why Arberry’s Translation?

The key difference between the translations, however, was that whereas the discrepancies Katz sought could be pressed on with the help of Arberry’s translation, this often was not true for Yusuf Ali’s translation. Though not itself perfect, Yusuf Ali’s translation is in the relevant verses closer to the original Arabic. Katz may have turned to Arberry’s translation not only because he found it easier to follow, but because he also found it easier to use in support of claimed contradictions. What Katz needed to do was to channel his diligence in the search not for error but for truth. He should have compared the translations to make sure that the one translation on which he relies should not itself prove erroneous on this issue. This way he would have avoided skewering his results in the erroneous direction he took. But, then again, perhaps here again Katz did not put a reasonable limit on his diligence for locating internal Quraanic errors.

Comparing Translations

Normally in Biblical studies it is demanded that studies be based on the texts in the original languages. Students who have no access to the original languages are advised to compare translations so as to ensure that a particular mistaken slant of one translation does not affect the general understanding. Moreover, a particular emphasis may be captured well in one translation but not in another.

If Katz had used this principle in studying the Quraan he would have suspected that some of the discrepancies he points to are found in Arberry’s translation but not in Yusuf Ali’s. Then he might have sought clarification from the original text to find out the source of the apparent discrepancy. But Katz’s excessive diligence was apparently not in the direction of establishing truth.

Even a Hostile Critic Needs Limits

We do not expect Katz to take an overly friendly approach to the Quraanic text. Yet he ought not to take such a hostile approach either. Surely there is a happy medium between these extremes. How about an unbiased reading of the Quraan? Apparently Katz abandoned Yusuf Ali’s translation precisely because in this case Arberry’s translation was more useful to the extreme hostile approach.

Katz Knew the Solution

In fact, Katz was aware that Yusuf Ali’s translation and notes if followed would remove one of the problems cited above. We have already shown how Katz in one case due to his misunderstanding counted a share for an already dead mother. His misunderstanding depended on Arberry’s translation which did not make sufficiently clear that the prescription in 4:176 dealt with a person who left neither a parent nor a child. While Katz was busy establishing that the total share including the mother’s share would exceed the available inheritance, he showed no awareness of the possibility that the mother is no longer around. Only later, when Katz was dealing with a different problem, did he show that he had this knowledge. He wrote that 4:176 deals with the situation when "there are no direct heirs (i.e. parents or children according to Muslim understanding – see Yusuf Ali’s translation and footnote)." If Katz knew of this understanding why did he not suggests that if the Muslim understanding is based on the Arabic reading then the claimed discrepancy disappears?

CLAIM: Brothers can inherit if only no direct heirs remain

Katz thinks that "according 4:12 and 4:176 the siblings of the person who died only then share in the inheritance if there are no direct heirs (i.e. parents or children . . . ). Thus he concluded that a brother cannot inherit if a mother is alive. But he finds this conclusion to contradict 4:11 which seems to allot a brother a share along with the mother.

REPLY: Searching for the word "only"

Here Katz misunderstands both 4:12 and 4:176. Neither of these verses state that a sibling can inherit "only" if there are no parents or children. Hence Katz’s contention is without basis. This time his contention is not even based on Arberry’s translation.

Part Four

CLAIM: Sibling share suddenly doubled

Katz claims that 4:12 contradicts 4:176. According to 4:12 when there is no direct heir a brother or a sister would receive 1/6 each; thus 1/3 altogether. But "4:176 says in the same situation that ‘they shall receive two-thirds of what he leaves’ [double of what 4:12 says]."

REPLY: Read Carefully

Contrary to what Katz claims, there is a key difference in the two situations. The pronoun "they" in 4:176 refers to two sisters whereas 4:12 refers to a brother and a sister. Since a brother and a sister is not the same thing, a brother plus a sister is not the same as two sisters.

The Arabic text clearly says, "in kanataa ithnatayn" which literally means "if they are two--females." Hence Yusuf Ali renders it: "if there are two sisters." Even Arberry’s translation renders the passage: "if there be two sisters they shall receive two-thirds of what he leaves (4:176)." So the translation also made the matter clear. But in order to press home his claim of contradiction, Katz wrenched a phrase out of its context hence giving it a different meaning. He skipped the conditional "if there be two sisters" and quoted only "they shall receive two-thirds of what he leaves." Then Katz went on to argue as though the pronoun "they" refers to a brother and a sister. A quick review of the text, however, reveals that Katz’s point is based on a misrepresentation of the Quraan.

Lest You go Astray

I am struck by Allah’s mention in the same verse: "Allah makes clear to you, lest you go astray." I wonder now, by Katz’s muddying the verse how many internet browsers may have gone astray. I pray that my humble effort here may become the means by which Allah may guide many.

To be sure, 4:176 then goes on to prescribe for the case of more than two siblings including brothers and sisters. But then the verse does not prescribe the specific shares to be allotted them except to reiterate a general principle that the males get twice what their sisters receive. Since the specific shares are not allotted they cannot be said to be different from the allotted shares elsewhere. Either way you look at it, Katz is very wrong.

The Commentators

Katz goes on to report the commentary of Razi to show how Razi got around the perceived problem with the assumption that the two verses speak of two different sets of brothers and sisters. Whereas 4:12 refers to a brother or a sister from the mother, 4:176 refers to full siblings or siblings from the same father. If Razi is right, then of course there is no problem. Katz thinks that Muslim commentators simply invented this explanation to get around the problem.

But even if Razi is wrong, there is still no problem. My clarification above does not depend on any commentary. I have just simply shown that if we took the verse literally as Katz wants to do then it speaks of two different things. Whether we take the verse literally or we take Razi’s commentary as correct, either way Katz is wrong.

CLAIM: One year’s maintenance not same as 1/8

Katz claims a contradiction between 4:11 and 2:240. A man leaves an eight of his estate to his widow if he also leaves a child. But 2:240 prescribes "one year’s maintenance for her." And this, except for some remarkable coincidence, will always be different from a 1/8 share.

REPLY: Why should they be the same?

Katz failed to distinguish between the inheritance shares and a bequest. In 2:240 the maintenance for one year is prescribed as a bequest (Arabic: wasiyyah). On the other hand 4:11 prescribes the 1/8 share to be given only after debts and bequests (wasiyyah) are settled. Even Arberry’s translation on which Katz depends says that men leave to their widows "an eight after any bequest they may bequeath, or any debt (4:11)."

Selective Recall

It is sad to notice again that the problem is not Katz’s lack of knowledge of the terms. Elsewhere he acknowledged "the rule that at most 1/3 can be given as a bequest to a person which is usually not an heir." Then he even goes on to provide links to sites which deal with Islamic inheritance law. So the problem is not that Katz does not know. The problem is that while he is concentrating on establishing one contradiction at a time he forgets anything he knows that could possible demolish the very claimed contradiction.

CLAIM: See Yusuf Ali’s footnote

Katz claims that since many commentators recognized that they cannot in practice make a year’s maintenance for a widow equal to a 1/8 share of inheritance, they saw here a contradiction between 2:240 and 4:12. To support this claim, he writes: "According to Yusuf Ali’s footnote on 2:240, many commentators for this reason consider 2:240 abrogated by 4:12."

REPLY: It does not say what you say

The support for that claim is based on a false allegation. I have checked more than one editions of Yusuf Ali’s translation for the opinion which Katz attributes to Yusuf Ali. And I could not find it. Katz’s claim is that according to Yusuf Ali many commentators deemed the two verses to be mutually contradictory, and that "for this reason" they consider 2:240 to be abrogated by 4:12. On the contrary, Yusuf Ali’s footnote on 2:240 reads:

"Opinions differ whether the provision ( of a year’s maintenance, with residence) for a widow is abrogated by the share which the widow gets (one eighth or one-fourth) as an heir (Q. iv. 12). I do not think it is. The bequest (where made) takes effect as a charge on the property, but the widow can leave the house before the year is out, and presumably the maintenance then ceases."

That is the full extent of Yusuf Ali’s note #273 on 2:240 (American Trust Publications, 1977). Notice that the quoted words from Yusuf Ali do not imply anything about contradiction, only about abrogation. Yusuf Ali does not say that the commentators recognized here a contradiction and that "for this reason" they consider 2:240 to be abrogated. Here Katz’s enthusiasm overshadowed his caution, and he attributed to Yusuf Ali an opinion which Yusuf Ali did not hold.

Katz harbours the idea that abrogation means contradiction. But abrogation is not the same as contradiction. The difference is explained under the next head.


Katz claims that 4:7 contradicts 4:11. In 4:7 daughters are given an equal share with their brothers whereas in 4:11 they are given only half what their brothers get. This is clear from the parallel construction in 4:7 which says "to the men a share . . . and to the women a share."


It seems that Katz is willing to go to desperate lengths to keep making more claims. Why does he think that 4:7 awards an equal share to daughters? He thinks "the parallel construction makes that obvious." On the contrary, the only thing it makes obvious is that sons and daughters each get a share. Where does it say that the shares are equal?

On the other hand, it is reasonable to see that both statements are correct. One says that the son and daughter will each get a share. Another says that the share which the son gets will be double what the daughter gets. Putting the two statements together, we have this final instruction: Both the son and the daughter will have a share, the son’s share being twice that of the daughter. Where is the contradiction?


Katz supports his finding of a contradiction here by referring to Muslim commentators. He noted that all commentators recognized 4:7 to be abrogated by 4:11. This pair of verses is listed as pair #20 in the book Itqan. According to Katz, then, 4:7 was recognized by all commentators as an abrogated verse. This to him means that its content is contradicted by another verse, in this case 4:11. Hence he can claim the following: "That this was a contradiction was recognized by all commentators . . . ."


But surely here Katz misunderstands what an abrogation is in the view of Muslim commentators. Many used the term abrogation in the sense of specification. Hence if one verse gave a general instruction and a later verse gave a more specific instruction the latter is called an abrogating verse and the former is called an abrogated verse. However, this does not mean that the commentators recognized here a contradiction as Katz alleges. It only means that they recognized the later verse as being more specific where the former was more general. We have already seen that this is the case with the verses being discussed. Whereas the former verse 4:7 said in general that the son and daughter both inherit, the latter verse 4:11 specified that the share of the male would be twice that of the female. There is hence no contradiction between the two verses.

Moreover, even if commentators think that there is a contradiction that does not help Katz. His method was, as he stated, to ignore the commentators and take the Quraanic statements in their most literal sense. If he cannot show a contradiction using this method, it is pointless to appeal to the commentators in desperation.

Furthermore, all commentators are not agreed that this is a case of abrogation. According to Shah Waliullah of Delhi, there are only five pairs of abrogated and abrogating verses, and this pair is not one of the five (Ahmad Von Denver, Uloom al-Quraan, UK: Islamic Foundation, 1994; p. 108). So what does that prove? The crux of the matter here is not what the commentators said but what the verses actually say. Since the verses themselves do not contradict each other, Katz’s claim is ruined.


Katz complains that the Quraan often does not provide for the estate to be exhaustively distributed. When the allotted shares are added they amount to less than 100%. His persistent question, therefore, is "Who gets the rest?" Since the Quraan claims to be a complete guidance, it should provide instructions on such details.


The Bible is a much larger book than the Quraan. Yet it contains less on inheritance than the Quraan. And it too claims to be a complete guidance. How does Katz regard this?

The Quraan is said to be about 4/5 the length of the New Testament. The Old Testament is much longer than the New Testament. And the Bible is made up of both testaments. Why is it that a book of such size include so little on a subject that Katz considers so important?


Katz feels that the allowance in Islamic Law for a person to bequeath up to 1/3 of his property "can lead to gross injustices." One can theoretically bequeath away his property thus leaving his elderly parents with no support. He further complains that the limit of 1/3 is not prescribed in the Quraan.


Katz would be on better ground here if he took into consideration the entire Quraan. The Quraan does in fact prescribe that charity is first to one’s parents, then to one’s near relatives, then to others. If anyone disinherits his parents he would be going against this important directive.

Moreover, Katz should be able to demonstrate that the Bible is better at ensuring justice. On the contrary, the Bible in the Gospel of Luke shows that when a matter of injustice involving inheritance was brought to Jesus, on whom be peace, he refused to settle the matter (Luke 12:13). Muslims of course believe that Jesus stood for justice. Muslims would question any detail of the gospels which contradict this noble portrait of Jesus. But how does Katz feel about this gospel report?


Katz devoted an entire page complaining about how it is "very unjust" to allot a man twice the share of his sister as Islamic law does. His complaining may lead a reader to expect that his Bible teaches differently.


On the contrary, according to the Bible if there are sons they should take everything and the daughters should get nothing. Only if there are no sons can the daughters inherit (Numbers 27:8-11). However, such a daughter is required to marry into a family of her father’s tribe (Numbers 36:6, 11).

Katz complains of injustice because the Quraan gives the woman only half of what her brother gets. How does he react to the Biblical prescription that the woman gets nothing if she has a brother?

Moreover, the Quraan prescribes for a woman to inherit as a daughter, as a mother, as a sister, and as a wife. The Bible offers no such prescription. Rather, the Bible allots the entire inheritance to male relatives where such exist, leaving nothing for wife or mother. So why do Bible believers complain about the Quraan?


In his reply to Randy Desmond, Katz comments on an interpretation of a hadith which directs us to give the allotted shares as designated and then to give the undistributed remainder to the nearest male relative. Katz stretches this to mean possibly a male cousin of an uncle. Then he concludes that if he dies leaving a daughter as his only child his daughter would get half the estate and such a remote male relative would get the other half. Then comes his expression of incredulity:

". . . this remote male relative would get half the inheritance? As much as my daughter? That is what the hadith would suggest."

Aside from his misunderstanding of the said hadith and of Islamic inheritance law, Katz should be advised that if he follows the Bible on this matter his daughter may get nothing and the male relative would take all if the daughter marries outside her father’s tribe. Katz may think this law no longer applies today, but that does not help his position. Since Katz believes that this prescription came from God in the first place, and Katz thinks it incredible, then by implication he thinks that God’s prescription in the Bible is incredible.

Based on his misunderstanding of the hadith and of Islamic law, Katz is able to remark:

"According to my taste, this is not justified. [Neither do I know of any country’s civil or religious law where things are dealt with that way.] But then, maybe I am not the one to define what is justice."

Neither is it done that way in Islamic law. On the other hand, has Katz read his Bible lately? According to the Bible, if a man has no kids his property goes to his brothers, or to his father’s brothers (Numbers 27:8-11). How does Katz feel about this? Wife and mother are not mentioned in the list of inheritors. According to this list we should pass over a man’s wife and mother and give his entire property to his father’s brother. Perhaps Katz will explain to us how this fits his taste of what is justified.

Anything Left Unanswered?

I have in the foregoing discussion answered every significant point raised by Katz regarding the matter of inheritance. If there is anything left unanswered I would like to know. Then I can get to work on it right away.

Fasting during Ramadan on the North or South Poles during their Summer:

Reference: http://www.islamicity.com

Topic : Fasting: Two Poles

First and foremost, we’d like to make it clear that the religion of Islam seeks not to cause any hardship to its adherents or burden them beyond their capabilities. Easiness and facilitation are of the main characteristics of Islam. Almighty Allah says: (Allah would not place a burden on you, but He would purify you and would perfect His grace upon you, that ye may give thanks.) (Al-Ma’idah: 6)

When a person lives in such an area (i.e. near the two poles), he/she should follow the prayer timing and fasting of the nearest country that has a regular schedule or he can pray and fast according to the timings of the cities that are nearest to them in the normal time zone, i.e. below 64 degrees north or above 64 degrees south.

In his well-known book, Fiqh As-Sunnah, Sheikh Sayyed Sabiq states:

Scholars differ about what the Muslims who are in areas where the day is extremely long and the night is short should do. What timings should they follow? Some say they should follow the norms of the areas where the Islamic legislation took place (i.e. Makkah or Madinah). Others say that they should follow the timings of the area that is closest to them which has normal days and nights.

Elaborating more on the issue, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America, adds:

At the poles, that is at 90 N and 90 S the sun does not set for six months continuously, with the exception of one day of the first equinox and then remains risen above the horizon for the other six months continuously with the exception of one day of the second equinox.

Even below 90 N down to 60 N and above 90 S up to 60 S the days and nights are abnormally long or short during the summer and winter seasons respectively. At one time, this was a theoretical issue, but now, Alhamdulillah, Islam has reached to these regions and many Muslims are living there.

Muslim jurists considered this situation long time ago. They based their Ijtihad on the verse of the Quraan that says, (Allah does not burden a person beyond his/her capacity.) (Al-Baqarah :286)

There is also a Hadith, reported in the books of Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah, in which the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, described the situation at the time of the appearance of Dajjal. He said, “When the Dajjal will come to deceive the people, he will remain on the earth for forty days, one of which will be as long as a year, the second as long as a month, the third as long as a week and the remaining days as your normal days.” One of the Companions stood and asked the Messenger of Allah, 'On the day which will be as long as a year, would it be sufficient to offer only five prayers of the day?' The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, replied, “No, but calculate.”

The aforementioned Hadith gives a principle of determining the times of prayers and fasts in abnormal situations. Thus, according to the Ijtihad based on the above verse of the Qur'an and the Hadith, Muslim jurists have given the name 'abnormal zones' to the areas where the days and nights are unusually long or short.

A conference of Muslims jurists and astronomers was held in Istanbul about 35 years ago. All the jurists gathered there agreed that the areas above 64 degrees latitude in the north and below 64 degrees latitude in the south should be considered 'abnormal zones' whereby people should not follow the movement of the sun, BUT they should follow the movement of the clock for their five daily prayers and fasting. They can pray and fast according to the timings of the cities that are nearest to them in the normal time zone, i.e. below 64 degrees north or above 64 degrees south.

If you are still in need of more information, don't hesitate to contact us. Do keep in touch. May Allah guide us all to the straight path! 
Wassalam and Allah Almighty knows best. 
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