History testifies concerning man's many misunderstandings
and errors in interpretation. For example, it was once believed
by all men of learning that the earth was flat. Or again, men
of science once thought base metals such as lead could be turned
into gold. Such beliefs as these have since been shown wrong
and have been modified accordingly.
In the religious realm there have been many similar misunderstandings.
These usually have centered around some faulty interpretation
of a statement or passage of Scripture. At one time, for example,
it was the belief of one sect within Islam that Allah has a body.
It was felt He possessed physical features such as hands and
a face. Passages from the Quran and the Hadith that described
Allah as sitting on His throne or placing His hand on the shoulder
of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were interpreted literally and
used to justify this belief.
With the passage of time, however, scholars and students of
Islam gradually realized that such passages were not to be taken
literally. From the testimony of other and clearer passages,
it was understood that Allah has no body or physical limitations.
It was therefore understood that passages such as the above were
to be taken figuratively. And once it was understood that certain
passages must be taken figuratively, it became clear how other
difficult passages much be interpreted.
Religious misunderstandings of the above nature are not limited
to the Quran and the Hadith. Through the course of history, the
, and have also suffered from many such problems
of interpretation. And because of incorrect interpretation, a
number of misunderstandings have arisen.
Without a doubt, the most widespread and serious such misunderstanding
relates to a phrase frequently found in the - "son of
God". In some cases the term refers to the entire Jewish nation,
in other cases to all believers in Allah, and in yet other cases
it refers to the Prophet Isa. Let us spend some time examining
this term and seek to understand how it is used and what it actually
Those who have objected to the term have tried to understand
it in its literal meaning. To do so is to encounter many very
serious difficulties. Taken literally, it would mean Allah had
a wife and physically beget children (Astaghfirullah). Yet, such
a blasphemous thought contradicts the clear teaching of the
itself. Thus, Isa taught in the that Allah is one and without
partner. It is also clearly taught in the that Allah has
no physical body, but is spirit. The idea of Allah physically
begetting a son is as impossible as it is blasphemous. Therefore,
those who have tried to understand the term in a literal way
have faced the same insuperable problems faced by those who would
interpret the above passages from the Quran and the Hadith literally.
In fact, it has been the universal belief of the followers
of the that the term "son of God" must be interpreted
figuratively. Not only does such a figurative interpretation
avoid the problems and difficulties of the literal understanding,
it is also supported by several other factors. Let us look at
some of the factors for accepting the figurative or symbolic
understanding of the term.
First of all, by interpreting figuratively the title is given
the same interpretation as another well known title of Isa found in both the Quran and the - Allah's Word. Here the
title clearly cannot be taken as literal. Isa is not a literal
sound, letter or word. Rather, the term must be and is understood
A word is essentially a means or instrument of communication,
conveying one's thoughts and desires to another. In just that
way, Isa was Allah's word - Allah's means of communication
with mankind. Through Isa, Allah was able to express His thoughts
and wishes to man. Now, since it is obvious that one title of Isa's - Allah's word - must be understood figuratively, it is
not difficult to suppose that another title - Allah's son - must
similarly be understood figuratively. Such a supposition is amply
born out elsewhere.
It is a simple fact of language that the phrases "son
of" and "father of" often have just such figurative
meanings as we suggest. Let us examine first the phrase "father
of" and look at its different figurative usages. Thus, it
is commonly said that such and such a person is a nation's "father."
No one would be so foolish as to think the individual so named
actually begot each and every citizen of that land. No, the obvious
meaning is the figurative one. Because of the significant role
the person played in the nation's independence and development,
he is given the supreme title of honor and affection - the nation's
father. It simply implies the close relationship that person
holds to his country.
Such figurative uses of the term "father" are not
restricted to men only. We find them also applied to Allah. Allah
is, after all, the creator, the provider, and the sustainer of
all things. The first Sura of the Quran, Sura Fatiha, begins
with the words Al-Hamdulillah Rabb Al-Alamin (All praise
to Allah, Lord of the Worlds). In their commentary on
this sura, Md. Abdul Hakin and Md. Ali Hassain write thus: "Some
interpreters believe that the word Rabb comes from the
Arabic 'Ab,' the root word for father. Thus, the real or root
meaning of rabb is father." Once again, no one would
be so foolish as to understand rabb as applied here to
Allah in the literal or physical sense of father. As it refers
to Allah, it obviously has a figurative, spiritual meaning. Allah
is not the physical father of His creation. Yet, without His
power and guiding force, nothing would have been created. He
is the true creative force and power behind each creature born
into this world. He is the world's rabb, the figurative
father and creative force.
Taking the matter down to a more personal and individual level,
we must conclude that each child born into this world is the
direct result of Allah's creative activity. How many childless
couples there are who sadly acknowledge that unless Allah moves
and enables through His creative powers, their own efforts to
obtain progeny are doomed to failure. We may boast in our pride
that we are the creator and father of a child, but ultimately
we must acknowledge that such titles can rightly be given to
Allah alone. Again, we speak not of a literal and physical fatherhood,
but rather of creative power and enabling. Thus, in a real way
and as the above Quranic commentators conclude, Allah is the
father of all His creation, including man.
Let us look next at some figurative uses of the term "son
of." One such usage is found in the Quran, Sura 2:177 and
many other places. In this passage a perpetual traveler, a wanderer,
is called "son of the road" (ibn as-sabel).
We see again that a literal interpretation would defy reason.
A physical, literal interpretation is clearly impossible. The
obvious meaning is figurative. The person has such a close relationship
to the road that he is called its son. We see again that intimacy
or closeness is the essence of the term "son of" or
"father of" in their figurative uses.
The above conclusion is born out in the as well. Thus,
in one passage we find Isa talking to some Jewish leaders.
In their pride they boast to Isa that they are the children
of . Isa rebukes them; if they were 's children
they would do Allah's will as did. Instead, they are
seeking to do evil. Isa therefore concludes, "You belong
to your father, Iblis, and you want to carry out your father's
In a physical, literal sense, those Jews were indeed correct.
They were the physical descendants, the children, of .
Yet, Isa saw beyond the literal meaning to the deeper significance
behind the term. Their works showed clearly that spiritually
these Jews had their closest relationship and allegiance not
to , the man of Allah, but with Satan and his proud and
rebellious nature. It was thus entirely accurate and appropriate
to call them "children of Satan."
Having examined the above common figurative uses of the terms
"father of" and "son of," we find ourselves
in a position to better understand the 's use of the term
"son of Allah." As in the above examples, it unquestionably
has a figurative and spiritual meaning. It serves to emphasize
the person of persons' close relationship to Allah. Just as one
who is led by Satan is called a "child of Satan," so
one who enjoys a close and intimate spiritual relationship to
Allah and is led by Him is called a "child of Allah"
or "son of Allah". For example, we find the following
passage in the , "For if you live according to the
sinful nature, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to
death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those
who are led by the Spirit of Allah are sons of Allah." (Romans
The term "son of Allah," therefore, bears no physical
significance in the . The Jewish nation was called the "son
of Allah" in its early days when it was still living in
obedience to Allah. By contrast, those Jews who later turned
away from Allah in pride and rebellion were declared to be "children
of Satan." Whoever, be he Jew or non-Jew, that is willing
to put to death his inner selfish desires and to follow Allah
is given the title "son of Allah" in the .
We can better understand, then, why Isa should be so frequently
given that title, being one whose obedience to Allah, dependence
on Allah and intimate relationship with Allah goes far beyond
our merger experience. It is also clear that the title is free
of the charges so often leveled against it. It most certainly
does not imply any physical relationship to Allah nor does it
imply any physical attributes to Allah. Rather, it designates
a life lived in close spiritual relationship to the One creator
and sustainer of all things.
It is our hope that this discussion has clarified a number
of things in the reader's mind. First, we hope it has demonstrated
the great importance of correctly distinguishing between literal
and figurative uses of terms. To fail to do so in interpreting
Scripture inevitably leads to error and blasphemy. We hope, too,
that it has helped clarify one of the major misunderstandings
related to one of Allah's Holy Books, the . In this small
booklet it is, of course, impossible for us to adequately plumb
the depths and fullness of the term "son of Allah"
as used of Isa. We have seen what it assuredly does not mean,
yet we have only briefly and inadequately looked at its true
meaning. The full spiritual meaning of this term can only be
fully understood by a serious and in-depth study of Allah's Holy
We pray that this lesson might have given the reader just
such a desire to understand and interpret Allah's Word for himself.
If that is indeed the case and you would like to study more about
the eternal truths set forth in the Holy Books, please continue
in these studies. We would be most happy to give you the opportunity
to read and understand for yourself those books sent down by
our merciful and Almighty Allah.
The first nine questions below are multiple choice. Simply place
a check mark ( ) by the statement you feel best answers the question.
Question ten asks you to put down your own ideas. Answer it truthfully
and to the best of your knowledge.
1. The following is an example of a widely heard false belief
Those believing the earth is flat.
b. Those believing
dirty water causes disease.
c. Those believing
the moon revolves around the earth.
2. Taking a literal interpretation of the Hadith and Quran,
some have believed:
Allah had a physical body.
b. Allah was not
c. Allah was not
3. Such misunderstanding was corrected by use of:
A literal interpretation of the Quran.
b. A figurative interpretation
of the Quran.
c. An allegorical
interpretation of the Quran.
4. Isa the Messiah taught:
That there are many gods.
b. That there are
c. That Allah is
5. When Isa is called the Kalimatullah, Word of Allah, the
clear meaning is:
6. To say that someone is such-and-such a country's "Father"
A physical relationship.
b. An intimate and
loving but non-physical relationship.
c. No real relationship
7. When Isa told some Jews that their father was Satan,
They were the physical sons of Satan.
b. Satan had a wife
c. Not a physical
relationship, but one of intimacy and obedience.
8. The term "son of Allah" or "child of Allah"
is used in the :
Of Isa only.
b. Of no one.
c. Of all who sincerely
obey and love Allah.
9. When Isa is called Allah's son in the :
It implies a physical relationship with Allah.
b. It is used figuratively
without any physical relationship to Allah.
c. It means Allah
has physical children.
10. How would you explain the term "son of Allah"
to someone who had never read the ?