The Quran’s Use of Filial Terms

A Critique of Muslim Arguments against Jesus being the Son of God

Sam Shamoun & Jochen Katz

The Holy Bible often calls Jesus the Son of God and states that God is his Father, titles or expressions denoting a purely spiritual relationship between God and Christ. These terms have absolutely no sexual or carnal overtones whatsoever, i.e. they do not imply that God had sex with a woman (specifically Mary) who then gave birth to Jesus his Son.

The Quran, however, assumes that the only way for God to be the Father of Jesus (or of anyone else) is through sexual procreation, that God can only become a Father by having a wife with whom he has sex. This is the main argument of the Quran against believing that God has a Son. In fact, it may well be the main reason why Muslims reject the Christian faith/message.

The Quran emphatically states:

And they make the jinn associates with Allah, while He created them, and they falsely attribute to Him sons and daughters without knowledge; glory be to Him, and highly exalted is He above what they ascribe (to Him). Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth! How could He have a son when He has no consort, and He (Himself) created everything, and He is the Knower of all things. S. 6:100-101 Shakir

The truth is that - exalted be the Majesty of our Lord - HE has taken unto Himself neither wife nor son, S. 72:3 Sher Ali

The purpose of this paper is to examine whether or not this "strongest of all reasons" presented by the Quran is logically sound.

Against those who believe that Allah has sons and daughters (like the pagans) or one unique divine Son [John 3:16; cf. this article] and many children by adoption [John 1:12, Romans 8:15, Ephesians 1:5] (like the Christians), the Quran argues that they have not reflected properly on such a concept. If you believe this, then you are horribly ignorant (without knowledge) because this would imply that Allah would also have to have a consort, which would be an insult to his exalted greatness or otherwise simply impossible.

Although it is formulated as a rhetorical question in S. 6:101, the implied answer is clear: There is no way that Allah (or anyone) could have a son without a consort. These two passages actually reject two ideas as impossibilities. First, it is impossible that Allah could have a son without a consort. Second, it is impossible for Allah to have a consort. No reason is given for the first "impossibility"; it is treated as self-evident truth, based on the general experience that it is impossible for a man or male animal to have a son without having a sexual relationship with a female. The second is rejected because it would be a contradiction to the exalted majesty and greatness of Allah to ascribe to him a consort. In the Quran, Allah’s greatness seems to depend at least in part on his aloneness.

It is always dangerous to claim that something is impossible for God. People from other religious backgrounds may well question the validity of this second claim. As Christians we definitely agree that God does not have a wife whom he has sex with, so we will not enter into discussing this part of the argument. To summarize, the reasoning of the Quran proceeds this way:

(1) If Allah has a son, then he must have (had sex with) a consort or wife.
(2) Allah does not have a consort (i.e. this is impossible for whatever reason).
(3) Therefore the claim that Allah has a son is refuted.

The structure is: (1) If A then B. (2) Not B. (3) Therefore, not A.

The structure of the argument is logically valid. If statements (1) and (2) were correct, then the conclusion (3) would follow. Although one could question statement (2) as well, the main problem is statement (1).

No reason is given why this statement is supposed to be true, but the argument is obviously based on analogy with human experience. The assumption is that it is not possible that a man can have a son without having sex with a woman. If there is a son, then there has to be a mother, and the man must have had sex with that mother. So, let us formulate more generally:

(A) If a male has a son, then this male must have had sex with a female who is the mother.

To be consistent, one must hold to the symmetrical argument:

(B) If a female has a son, then she must have had sex with a male who is the father.

The following statements also belong into this general assumption:

(C) If someone is a son, then there has to be a father and a mother.
(D) If there is a mother, then there must be a father.

Before we enter the discussion whether or not statement (1) is true, we want to quote another passage that grows out of the same thinking. The Quran rejects the notion of adoption on similar grounds, i.e. that a person can only be called the child of his/her biological parents:

God has not assigned to any man two hearts within his breast; nor has He made your wives, when you divorce, saying, 'Be as my mother's back,' truly your mothers, neither has He made your adopted sons your sons in fact. That is your own saying, the words of your mouths; but God speaks the truth, and guides on the way. Call them after their true fathers; that is more equitable in the sight of God. If you know not who their fathers were, then they are your brothers in religion, and your clients. There is no fault in you if you make mistakes, but only in what your hearts premeditate. God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. S. 33:4-5 Arberry

Two observations are relevant for our discussion. First, this passage is an admission that the words father and mother (and son) were used also in a non-biological way. People were used to the fact that some called others their mothers or fathers (or sons) in a non-biological sense. These words could be used for people who had an emotional or spiritual or legal relationship even though they were not their fathers, mothers or sons in the biological sense. Second, the Quran declares this usage invalid. One may only call someone father or mother or son to whom one is biologically related in this way.

(Further aspects of S. 33:4-5 are discussed in an article on a related topic, How many Mothers does a Muslim have?)

In light of this logic we will examine specific references found within the Quran where similar expressions are used, i.e. "son of", "mother of", and see what happens when we apply the Quran’s own argument to them. We will be showing that if the Quran is correct that the only way for God to have a son or children is by sexual intercourse with a spouse, which implies that sexual intimacy is the only possible and legitimate way for becoming either a parent or a child, then this will spell disaster for Islamic theology.

The Quran’s Use of "Mother"

There are several places where the Quran makes mention of the "mother of the book" (omm al-kitab), and in one place the Quran even claims that this is where it originated:

God doth blot out or confirm what He pleaseth: with Him is the Mother of the Book (ommu alkitabi). S. 13:39 Y. Ali

verily, we have made it an Arabic Qur'an; haply ye will have some sense. And it is in the Mother of the Book (ommi alkitabi) with Us,- high and wise. S. 43:3-4 Palmer

The mother of the book which contains the Quran is with God, an important point for our discussion as we shall shortly see. In another place it is said that the Quran’s clear verses are actually "the mother of the book":

He it is who has revealed to thee the Book, of which there are some verses that are decisive, they are the mother of the Book (ommu alkitabi); and others ambiguous; but as for those in whose hearts is perversity, they follow what is ambiguous, and do crave for sedition, craving for (their own) interpretation of it; but none know the interpretation of it except God. But those who are well grounded in knowledge say, 'We believe in it; it is all from our Lord; but none will remember save those who possess minds. S. 3:7 Palmer

Hence, the Quran originates from the mother of the book and its clear verses are the mother of the book, which means that the Quran has at least two mothers!

Now if the logic of the Quran is true then this means that the mother of the book has a spouse with whom she has sex. After all, how can she be a mother, or have any children, if she has no husband, no spouse? We can even reword Sura 6:101 in the following manner:

Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth! How could She (this unknown mysterious woman) be the Quran’s mother if she has no consort…?

But since this mysterious woman does have offspring then she must have a husband, and here is where the real problem lies for the Muslims: Since the Quran is believed to be the word of Allah, which makes him the source of the Quran, then this means that Allah is its father and the husband of the Quran’s mother! And since Muslims believe that the Quran is the uncreated speech of Allah then this means that its mother is also uncreated. The Quran cannot exist before its mother which means that if the Quran is eternal then so is its mother, also implying that Allah has always been married! After all, whose wife could the Quran’s mother be if Allah is the only other entity that existed before creation?

Again, note the logic behind this:

(4) If the Quran has a mother, then the Quran must be an offspring.
(5) But if the Quran is an offspring, then it must have a mother and a father.
(6) If it has a mother and a father, then they must have had sex to produce the offspring.
(7) Suras 13:39, 43:3-4, and 3:7 say that the Quran indeed has a mother.
(8) Therefore, its mother and father must have had sex.
(9) Hence, the best candidate for the father and the mother of the Quran is Allah and an eternal mysterious mother with whom he had sex.

The Quran also mentions the mother of villages and towns:

And this is a blessed Scripture which We have revealed, confirming that which (was revealed) before it, that thou mayst warn the Mother of Villages (omma alqura) and those around her. Those who believe in the Hereafter believe herein, and they are careful of their worship. 6:92 Pickthall

And thy Lord would never destroy the towns until HE has raised in the mother-town (ommiha) thereof a Messenger, reciting unto them Our Signs; nor would WE destroy the towns unless the people thereof were wrongdoers. S. 28:59

And thus We have inspired in thee a Lecture in Arabic, that thou mayst warn the mother-town (omma alqura) and those around it, and mayst warn of a day of assembling whereof there is no doubt. A host will be in the Garden, and a host of them in the Flame. S. 42:7

Again, the only way for the town or villages to have a mother is if they also have a father with whom the mother had sex. The absurd logic says:

(10) If any village has a mother, then the mother had to have sex to produce the village.
(11) Suras 6:92, 28:59, and 42:7 say that some villages have mothers.
(12) Therefore, these mothers had to have sex to produce the villages.

Regarding Hell, the Quran states:

Hell will be a nursing mother to him (Faommuhu hawiyatun). S. 101:9 Sher Ali

A bereft and Hungry One will be his mother, Pickthall

If Hell is an unbeliever’s mother then does this make Allah his father and the husband of hell? After all, doesn’t the Quran say that Allah created men and jinn for hell?

Many are the Jinns and men we have made for Hell: They have hearts wherewith they understand not, eyes wherewith they see not, and ears wherewith they hear not. They are like cattle, - nay more misguided: for they are heedless (of warning). S. 7:179 Y. Ali

And if hell is a mother to those whom Allah created to go there, doesn’t this mean that he is hell’s husband? If Allah isn’t the husband then who is it? After all, according to the Quran, she can’t have children if she has no spouse?

The previous argument (10) to (12) can also be applied here to show why this is simply absurd.

The Quran’s Use of "Son"

In several places the Quran refers to travelers as sons of the road:

It is not piety, that you turn your faces to the East and to the West. True piety is this: to believe in God, and the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the Prophets, to give of one's substance, however cherished, to kinsmen, and orphans, the needy, the traveller (lit., "and son of the road"- waibna alssabeeli), beggars, and to ransom the slave, to perform the prayer, to pay the alms. And they who fulfil their covenant when they have engaged in a covenant, and endure with fortitude misfortune, hardship and peril, these are they who are true in their faith, these are the truly godfearing. S. 2:177 Arberry

Serve God, and associate naught with Him. Be kind to parents, and the near kinsman, and to orphans, and to the needy, and to the neighbour who is of kin, and to the neighbour who is a stranger, and to the companion at your side, and to the traveller (waibni alssabeeli), and to that your right hands own. Surely God loves not the proud and boastful. S. 4:36

Know that, whatever booty you take, the fifth of it is God's, and the Messenger's, and the near kinsman's, and the orphans', and for the needy, and the traveller (waibni alssabeeli), if you believe in God and that We sent down upon Our servant on the day of salvation, the day the two hosts encountered; and God is powerful over everything; S. 8:41 Arberry

The freewill offerings are for the poor and needy, those who work to collect them, those whose hearts are brought together, the ransoming of slaves, debtors, in God's way, and the traveller (waibni alssabeeli); so God ordains; God is All-knowing, All-wise. S. 9:60 Arberry

Since the only way for someone to have a son according to the Quran is through sexual intercourse with a consort, wouldn’t this imply that roads have spouses and engage in sex? If the Quran’s logic is valid then this is the only possible way for roads to have children, otherwise the Quran would be false if there were other ways.

Here again is the argument:

(13) If any road has traveler-sons, then it had to have sex.
(14) Suras 2:177, 4:36, 8:41, and 9:60 say that roads indeed have traveler-sons.
(15) Therefore, these roads had to have sex.

Concluding Remarks

The readers should be able to see from our brief critique and examination why the Quran’s claim that God cannot have children is seriously flawed. If God can have children only through sexual intercourse, by having a wife, then the Quran is in grave trouble since this fallacious logic would mean that the Quran, specific towns and villages, as well as travelers are all the result of sexual intercourse.

The Muslim will obviously contend that the expressions "mother of", "son of" are not being used in a physical, sexual sense, but in a purely metaphorical or spiritual sense, at least in these specific citations. The Muslim may argue that sexual activity is not necessary to be a child or parent in the sense intended by these various Quranic references. These terms can carry a broader range of meaning than merely the physical, carnal one and the context must therefore determine the specific application.

But this explanation only proves that the Quran is wrong and its reasoning is invalid. After all, if it is possible for someone to be a parent or child in a way that doesn’t require sexual procreation, then this means it is also possible for God to be a spiritual parent without having to engage in sex or needing a physical wife. This basically means that it doesn’t follow from the Quran's premises that God must have a wife or engage in sexual activity in order to be a father or have a son; and since he has no sexual relations and has no wife he cannot, therefore, be a parent.

The Quran’s argument against God’s Fatherhood or Christ’s Sonship is flat out wrong and shows that it cannot be the word of the true God, unless one wishes to assume that God uses erroneous logic and invalid reasoning.

Here is the correct understanding, in a logically valid chain argument, which the Quran completely misses:

(16) If God is Spirit (John 4:24), then he did not have to have sex with a consort or a wife to be a Father.
(17) If Father God did not have to have sex with a consort or wife, then he has a nonphysical, spiritual, and eternal relationship with his offspring.
(18) The true Word of God says that God is Spirit.
(19) Therefore, he has a nonphysical, spiritual, and eternal relationship with his offspring—the Son of God, the blessed and holy Lord Jesus.

This article explains the eternal relationship between the Father and Son, demonstrating that the Son was not made, so he does not have a beginning, but has existed eternally.

A different aspect of S. 6:101 is discussed in this article.

We want to thank James Arlandson for his suggestions and help in formalizing the chain arguments.

Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page