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Answering Christian Doubts: The Message of the Prophet Muḥammad (ﷺ) Does Not Apply to Us

Abū al-ʿAbbās Aḥmad ibn Idrīs al-Qarāfi

A refutation of the Christian claim that they are not obligated to follow the message of the one who hasn’t come speaking their language.

Abū al-ʿAbbās Aḥmad ibn Idrīs al-Qarāfi (d. 684 AH)1 said regarding the issues of confusion the Christians use in opposition to the Muslims:

They say that Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was never sent to us. Thus, it is not obligatory upon us to follow him. We only say that he was never sent to us because of the saying of the Most High in His great book:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا

“Verily, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qurʾān.”
(Yūsuf, 12:2)

And the saying of the Most High:

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا بِلِسَانِ قَوْمِهِ

“And We sent not a Messenger except with the language of his people.”
(Ibrāhīm, 14:4)

And the saying of the Most High:

هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ

He it is Who sent among the unlettered ones a Messenger (Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم)) from among themselves.”
(Jumuʿah, 62:2)

And the saying of the Most High:

لِتُنذِرَ قَوْمًا مَّا أَتَاهُم مِّن نَّذِيرٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ

“That you may warn a people to whom no warner has come before you (O Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم).”
(Al-Sajdah, 32:3)

And the saying of the Most High:

لِّتُنذِرَ أُمَّ الْقُرَىٰ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهَا

“That you may warn the Mother of the Towns (Makkah) and all around it.”
(Al-Shurá, 42:7)

And the saying of the Most High:

لِتُنذِرَ قَوْمًا مَّا أُنذِرَ آبَاؤُهُمْ

“In order that you may warn a people whose forefathers were not warned.”
(Yasīn, 36:6)

And the saying of the Most High:

وَأَنذِرْ عَشِيرَتَكَ الْأَقْرَبِينَ

“And warn your tribe (O Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) of near kindred.”
(Al-Shuʿarāʾ, 26:214)

We are not obligated to follow except the one who has come speaking our language, just as the Torah and the Injīl were brought to us in our language.

The answer is in the following points:

  1. The wisdom behind Allāh—the Most High—sending his prophets speaking the languages of their people is that this facilitates deeper and more emphatic understanding of the messages being delivered from them and by them. For this is closer to allowing their people to understand their intentions whether this be in relation to matters of agreement, conflict, excuses, reasonings, or answers to opposing matters of confusion. It allows them to fully clarify irrefutable evidences. The goal behind any message in the first instance is to clarify and guide, which is a goal that is closer to being fulfilled when the languages of the prophets and their people are the same. A party of the prophets were only ordered to fight their people after the benefit derived from clarification of matters was deemed completely hopeless.If the prophethood of a particular prophet is satisfactorily confirmed for his people, the evidence inherent in his message shall also be raised in opposition to others as well. A person’s relatives and those who he mixes with are more well-acquainted with his character, and more knowledgeable of the aspects of possible criticism regarding him than anyone else. Considering this, if they submit themselves to him and agree with his message, then it is even more befitting and appropriate that others do so as well. Such is the wisdom behind the messengers being sent speaking the languages of their respective peoples, and being from among them. Their message not applying to other than their own people was never intended by this.There is a clear difference between the saying of the Most High: “And We sent not a Messenger except with the language of his people”, and Him saying: “And We sent not a Messenger except to his people.” This second statement would stipulate the specificity of the message, not the first one. Rather, there is no difference between the saying of the Most High: “And We sent not a Messenger except with the language of his people”, and the statement: “And We sent not a Messenger except that he was responsible for guiding his people.” This second statement does not, in any way, denote that he is not also responsible for guiding any other people, so the same can be said for the first statement [i.e., the verse]. However, those who are completely ignorant regarding what is actually being referred to by particular phrases, or who is being addressed in speeches, will consistently equivocate between that which is meant to be different, and differentiate between that which holds similarity.
  2. The Torah was revealed in Hebrew, and the Injīl in Roman dialects. If what is being alleged was actually true, then the Christians in their entirety would be mistaken in their following of the teachings of the Torah. This is because all of their sects are ignorant of its language except that which they learn from it, the same way the Romans have learnt Arabic. Also, the Copts [Egyptians] and the Abbisinyans would all be mistaken in their adoption of the teachings of the Torah and the Injīl as both parties do not speak Hebrew or Roman. If these two books were not translated into the language of the Copts, as they were translated into Arabic, there would be no Coptic, Abbasinyan, or Roman that would be able to understand a single thing from the Torah, nor would any Coptic or Abbasinyan person be able to understand anything from the Injīl. Except if they learn the language of that scripture, just as they could learn Arabic.
  3. If we were to acquiesce the fact that Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was a Messenger sent to his people only, and the messengers of Allāh are the chosen ones among His creation and the best of His servants, infallible [in their delivery of the message], innocent from errors, but then he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) fought with the Jews, and sent ambassadors to Rome as warners to the point where his (صلى الله عليه وسلم) letter to them is protected in the Roman cities until present day, which their kings use as a source of pride, and he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) wrote to Maqūqas [title or designation of kingship] in Egypt to warn the Coptics2, and to Khosrau [designation of the Persian kings] in Persia, all the while he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) is truthful and pious, then just as he is a messenger to his people he is also a messenger sent to everyone. From among the verses that were revealed unto him (صلى الله عليه وسلم):

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا كَافَّةً لِّلنَّاسِ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا

    “And We have not sent you (O Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم)) except as a giver of glad tidings and a warner to all mankind.”
    (Al-Sabaʾ, 34:28)

The encompassing nature of his message has been explicitly stated here, refuting the claim of those who would claim the specificity of his message. So either the Christians do not believe in the foundations of his (صلى الله عليه وسلم) message to his people or to other than them, saying clarify to us the truthfulness of his call, while not claiming that his book stipulates specificity, or the Christians believe in the foundations of his (صلى الله عليه وسلم) message, but they believe it to be specific to his people. What is mentioned here would obligate the generalisation of his message [and, therefore, oppose this claim].

Also, the saying of the Most High: “He it is Who sent among the unlettered ones a Messenger (Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم)) from among themselves”, in no way denotes that he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was not also sent to other than them. For if a great king was to say: ‘I have sent to the Egyptians a messenger who is a person from among them’, it would not denote that the same messenger cannot also possess a message for a group of people besides them, or that he could order the people of another place with a different message. The same could be said regarding the saying of the Most High: “That you may warn a people to whom no warner has come before you (O Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم)”, it does not prove that he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was not a warner to anyone other than them. Rather, the first people to encounter his (صلى الله عليه وسلم) revelation were the Arabs, so bringing attention to this blessing and the resultant guidance is most appropriate in the context of the Arabs over any other people.

If a master were to say to his servant: ‘I send you to purchase a garment for me’, it would not negate the purchasing of food for him as well. Rather, him specifically mentioning a garment may be in relation to a reason that stipulates it being mentioned, and he did not mention the food in that moment as his attention was elsewhere. For intellectuals have always issued statements that pertain to clear justifiable reasons, while refraining from mentioning certain matters in the same statement that do not pertain to the current circumstance, even if both what was mentioned and left out are true, real, entities. Thus, a message may be general and encompassing, but the intention here was to bring attention to blessings that have been specifically bestowed upon the Arabs, so they were specifically mentioned. Then, when the intention was to notify and guide the Children of Israel, they were then mentioned.3 Moreover, the various sects of the Jews and Christians were specifically mentioned,4 and in these verses no other groups are mentioned. For such is the consistent methodology of issuing statements. Thus, an ignorant person should not be deceived if a specific ruling is mentioned as applying to ‘Zayd’ in surmising that this negates the same ruling applying to ‘ʿAmr’ as well.

The same can be said with respect to His saying: “And warn your tribe (O Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم)) of near kindred”, there is nothing in this statement that would prove that he is not a warner to anyone not in his tribe. Just as if a person were to say to another: ‘Instil good manners in your son,’ it does not mean that he must not also do the same for his other, younger son. Rather, all it means is that the speaker merely intends to address the conduct of the older son currently, and that his intentions are specific to him. It may be that, after the proffered advice to the older son, he could then address the younger one, instilling good manners in him as well. Here, he only began with the older son because of the care and attention he had for him. There is no intellectual person that would say that his second statement contradicts his first. The same can be said regarding his (صلى الله عليه وسلم) near kindred and tribe, as they are the most deserving of his pious, righteous treatment, and him attempting to save them from destruction. Hence, they are specifically mentioned here. This, in no way, means that others besides them are not also intended just as we have clarified with the parables of the two sons and the servant.

Besides, the wordings of these passages has been revealed in our language (Arabic). Hence, we are more knowledgeable than you regarding its meanings. Then, he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was the one who spoke, and at the time specificity of his message was never understood nor intended, rather he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) warned the Romans, Persians and other denominations. Also, the Arabs themselves never understood specificity, nor did his enemies ever claim that his message was specific nor did they possess such an understanding. For if they had, they would have used it as evidence in opposition to the Muslims. Likewise, we also have not adopted such an understanding. The only one who has chosen to adopt such an interpretation is this Christian whose listening and understanding abilities are impaired such that his answer is likewise impaired. So whoever desires guidance, its path is plainly evident before him. Let him hold on to the means of salvation before death reaches him. Let him attain true happiness before he misses out on it. For after this worldly life, there is no place of dwelling save for either Paradise or the Fire. There should be nothing more important to the truly intellectual one than his attainment of happiness. So let him attain it before his burial. Allah—the Most High—is the one true helper towards all that is good.


[1] Abū al-ʿAbbās Aḥmad ibn Idrīs al-Qarāfī al-Ṣanhājī al-Miṣrī al-Mālikī: He was a scholar of Mālikī jurisprudence. His name ‘al-Qarāfī’ is attributable al-Qarāfah, the place wherein Imām al-Shāfiʿī is buried in Cairo. ‘Al-Ṣanhājī’ is the name of his tribe which were from among the Berbers of Morocco. A leader in the field of the fundamentals of jurisprudence and principles of religion. He was born in Egypt wherein he worked as a teacher until his demise. He also composed books on the subject of judicial fundamentals, the chapters of jurisprudence, and the rules of Arabic language. He is also reported as being talented in conducting experiments aimed at mirroring the physical movement of celestial bodies. See al-Aʿlām 1:94-95 by al-Zarkilī
[2] See: Recognition of the Prophethood of Muḥammad (ﷺ) by the Christian King Jurjus ibn Mīnā and the Bishops of Alexandria
[3] Referencing the many verses in the Qurʾān in which the Children of Israel are being addressed, such as the saying of the Most High:

يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

“O Children of Israel! Remember My Favour which I bestowed upon you and that I preferred you to the ʿĀlamīn (mankind and jinn) (of your time period, in the past).”
(Al-Baqarah, 2:47)

[4] They were mentioned by their beliefs, not by their modern-day names. For example, the sects of Christianity that claim Jesus as God, son of God, a third of the trinity, a god along with his mother are all inherent in the sayings of the Most High:

يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنتَ قُلْتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَٰهَيْنِ مِن دُونِ اللَّه

“O ʿĪsá (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary)! Did you say unto men: ‘Worship me and my mother as two gods besides Allāh?'”
(Al-Māʾidah, 5:116)

لَّقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ ثَالِثُ ثَلَاثَةٍ

“Surely, disbelievers are those who said: Allāh is the third of the three (in a Trinity).”
(Al-Māʾidah, 5:73)

لَقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ

“Surely, they have disbelieved who say: “Allāh is the Messiah [ʿĪsá (Jesus)], son of Maryam (Mary).”
(Al-Māʾidah, 5:72)

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ عُزَيْرٌ ابْنُ اللَّهِ وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَى الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ اللَّه

“And the Jews say: ʿUzayr (Ezra) is the son of Allāh, and the Christians say: Messiah is the son of Allāh.”
(Al-Tawbah, 9:30)

Source: Al-Ajwibah al-Fākhirah: 68-76
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: March 15, 2024
Edited: March 26, 2024

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