The Quran’s Mistaken Claim Against the Jews

Gottlieb — Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur (1878)

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

Many Muslims claim 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 argue against his nephew Muhammad. Muslims say all Abu Lahab had to do was convert to Islam to disprove it. This doesn’t account for Quranic Abrogations which occur regularly in the life of Muhammad, but anyway, lets put abrogations aside and look at the issue at hand.

The Quran states:

Quran 9:30
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:

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.

The Quran commits another blunder here by comparing the Jews calling Uzair the son of God to the literal divinity of Jesus being the son of God. This makes it difficult for Muslims to claim Uzair being the “son of God” is a metaphor.

There is not a Jew on this Earth that claims Uzair is the son of God. It is not a central tenet, or even a tenet of Judaism. No Jew alive even has ever heard this claim. So 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 assume the Jews of Arabia in Muhammad’s are believed 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, as it is not just the word of Allah, it is the uncreated word of Allah. It cannot be improved because it is absolutely perfect in every way.

The statement that “The Jews say Uzair is the son of Allah” makes little 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 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:
    There was one crazy Jew who said this at Muhammad’s time
    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?

In conclusion, the Quran makes a mistake here in claiming the Jews call Uzair the son of Allah. If this was a divine book it would not contain such inaccurate claims. The Quran is a book written by Muhammad and includes only the information he had available at his time.

Further reading:

  • Uzair (Wikipedia) has a detailed write-up on this topic.