Qur'an 4:125 And Christoph Heger's Ignorance

Asif Iqbal

This is with reference to Christoph Heger’s exegesis on Sura’ 4:125. The correct rendering of Qur’an 4:125 is:

“And who is there that has a fairer religion than he who submits his will to God being a good-doer, and who follows the creed of Abraham, a man of pure faith? AND GOD TOOK ABRAHAM FOR A FRIEND.” (Arberry’s translation).

Christoph Heger writes:

In surah 4:125 there are both grammatical and exegetical reasons to assume that the word “Allah” better had not been substituted for a previous rasm “‘lh” or ? with an Alif MaqSuwrah as second radical, which in those old Hijazi Qur’ans is not unusual? “‘lyh”, meaning “ilaah” or “aalaah” (the Syriac word for the Christian God, which became “Allah” in the Arabic language).

This entire statement is 100 percent false and has been cunningly wrapped in the classical deception outfit, which has become the hallmark of the likes of Christoph Heger and Ibn Warraq, etc., as will be demonstrated in the following.

DECEPTION 1:

“… there are both grammatical and exegetical reasons to assume…”

COMMENT:

There is not a SINGLE “GRAMMATICAL” and/or “EXEGETICAL” reason to enable one to substitute “Ilah” for the Qur’anic “Allah” in the part of the verse 4:125 under consideration.

FROM THE EXEGETICAL VIEWPOINT, the theme here is God taking Abraham as His friend – not man taking the “god of Abraham” as his “ideal.”

This theme expressed in this Medinan verse (revealed in year 2 according to Bell), which was well-known to its addressees, has been used by the Qur’an to justify the faith of Abraham to which it wants to return.

FROM THE GRAMMATICAL VIEWPOINT, the final member of the verse 4:125 constitutes an independent sentence (see the “Waqf-e-Mutlaq” symbol immediately after “Han?” in the Arabic text). It is not however without an intimate relationship with the first part of the verse to which it is coordinated. The rhyme is maintained and the subject changes from the 3rd person to the 3rd person (i.e., “he” to “All?quot;). This change of pronoun actually highlights the significance of the Creed of Abraham since God Himself was He (as per this final portion of 4:125), who took this Abraham for a friend.

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This emphasis on the purity of the Creed of Abraham, by this shift in the pronoun, further strengthens the theme which the Qur’?employs in this verse (as stated above in the “exegetical viewpoint.”)

DECEPTION 2:

“… for a PREVIOUS rasm “‘lh” or… “‘lyh”, meaning “ilaah” or “aalaah” (the Syriac word for the Christian God, which became “Allah” in the Arabic language).”

COMMENT:

The use of the word “PREVIOUS” in the above is sheer deception.

There are NO variant readings, of ANY word, of the verse 4:125. Therefore, there is nothing concrete to suggest that the PREVIOUS rasm of the word All?in the verse 4:125 were ANY of the terms mentioned in the above quote.

The above is therefore undeniably nothing other than an entirely baseless speculation.

Furthermore, `LYH does not (as claimed by the above quote) mean: “ilaah” or “aalaah,” the Syriac word for the Christian God.

According to ar-R?’s “Maf?h”[1], `LYH means: “to be high,” “to be veiled,” which, according to the Basran grammarians, was the VERBAL NOUN of “LAH.” Further, there is no morphological and conceptual relation between the Arabic Ilah — which according to A. Jeffery[2] is an Old Semitic Form — and the Syriac Al?.

Thus if the origin of the Arabic All?is to be taken (as the above quote claims) as the Syriac Al?, then the argument, that the previous Rasm of the All?of verse 4:125 was `LH or `LYH (again as claimed by the above quote) has to be forsaken, simply because of Arthur Jeffery’s above-stated point[3].

Christoph Heger continues:

The main disadvantage of this understanding is that it postulates a change of the grammatical subject, from “who” (as in A, B, C) to “Allah” (as in D), although D is of a construction exactly parallel to C:

DECEPTION 3:

“The MAIN disadvantage of this understanding…”

COMMENT:

Surely, had this been the “MAIN” disadvantage, then Christoph Heger would not have brought shame to his face by not presenting the other disadvantages “of this understanding.”

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Regarding the “main disadvantage” that since the rhyme of:

[D] wa-ttakhadha ll? Ibrah? khal?

(i.e., “And God took Abraham for a friend,” Arberry’s translation),

is same as:

[C] wa-‘ttaba`a millata Ibrah? Han?

(i.e., “and who follows the creed of Abraham, a man of pure faith,” Arberry’s translation),

so to fancy that this mere similarly of the rhymes of [C] and [D] should justify:

(i) the substitution of `lh or `lyh for All? (which, BTW, if done, will not be equivalent to the Syriac Al?, as shown above, and thus would not imply what Christoph Heger’s desired in the first place, of: “god of Abraham,” in the Syriac Christian sense!)

(ii) changing the well-known translation of “Khal?quot; of [D] from “A FRIEND” to “AN IDEAL,” (which, BTW, is not found in any Arabic dictionary!) is clearly totally incorrect and unfounded.

FINAL COMMENTS:

1- The theme of “God taking Abraham as a friend” is well known, both in the Qur’?as well as in the literature of the Jews and the Christians.

Consider:

And when his Lord tested Abraham with certain words, and he fulfilled them. He said, ‘Behold, I make you a leader for the people.’ [2:124a] (Arberry’s translation).

Abraham – already linked to the Meccan worship by the Qur’an in the third Meccan period (i.e., 14:35-7) – is claimed by the Qur’?as the founder of the “millat Ibrah?quot; (religion, as a social body, 2:132-3), whose inheritors, according to the Qur’? are the Muslims (3:68). In him is for them a “fine model” (“Uswat-un-Hasana”, 60:4) He is a pure monotheist (Han? as in the verse under consideration, and elsewhere, oft-repeating.) And he is the one whom God took as a friend (Khal? 4:125), and who was made by God as the leader for his people (Im? 2:124)

It is absolutely clear even to the blind that all these statements are integrally linked to a solid theme of Abraham’s prominence in the Qur’?c prophetology. On the other hand, there isn’t any indication in the Qur’?for the believers to “follow the god of Abraham as an ideal.” This very idea is clearly unfounded in the Qur’?c text.

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In the Bible, as well, the idea of God taking Abraham as a friend is well known.

Consider:

Ve ata Yisrael avdi Yaakov asher be khartikha zera AVRAHAM `OHAVI. (Isaiah 41:8; BHS)
(But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of ABRAHAM MY FRIEND) (KJV)

halo ata Eloheinu horashta et-yoshvei ha’arets hazot milifnei amkha Yisrael vatitna lezera AVRAHAM `OHAVKHA leolam (II Chronicles 20:7; BHS)
(Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of ABRAHAM THY FRIEND for ever?) (KJV)

kai eplhrwqh h grafh h legousa episteusen de abraam tw qew kai elogisqh autw eiv dikaiosunhn kai FILOV QEOU eklhqh. (James 2:23; Nestle-Aland 26th)
(And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the FRIEND OF GOD.) (KJV)

All this evidence only reinforces the Arberry’s rendering of verse 4:125 and exposes the absolute ignorance and extreme deception of the likes of Christoph Heger.

2- Can the word Khal?of 4:125 be rendered as: “an ideal”? Certainly not!

Here are the various interpretations of the Arabic term Khal?as recorded by Edward William Lane[4]:

    – A special, or particular, friend or true or sincere friend. Also signifies “veracious” [i.e., truthful, Asif].
    – A friend in whose friendship is no “khalel” (i.e., unsoundness or defect or imperfection).
    – One who is pure and sound in friendship or love.

All these interpretations are self-evident exposures of Christoph Heger’s total ignorance of the Arabic language and his arrogant attempts of altering the Qur’?c text despite his ignorance.

Notes & References

[1] Vol. I, pp. 81-4

[2] “Foreign Vocabulary…”

[3] Ibid., p. 66

[4] Arabic-English Lexicon (London: Willians & Norgate, 1865), book 1, part 2, p. 781, col. 1

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