Mary the sister of Aaron?
Surah 19:28 of the Quran sees Mary called the sister of Harun (Aaron).
At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: "O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! "O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!" [Qur'an 19:27-28]
The critics point out that Aaron, the brother of Moses, came before the time of Mary and then allege a Quranic error.
The problem for the critics is that this has already been explained by Muhammed as an idiom (a figure of speech). Muhammed explained this Quranic reference by saying “the (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of apostles and pious persons who had gone before them." 
So there is no anachronistic error here, it is simply an error on the part of the critics due to their lack of knowledge concerning the explanatory material by Muhammed related to the Quran.
So in short, this is not to be taken literally, Muhammad knew Aaron predated Mary. Sadly, the critics jump to a literal view of this verse despite Muhammad’s explanation showing the verse to be an idiom (figure of speech)
To deal with this claim thoroughly let us focus on some Christian missionaries who pad this claim with other references or points of argumentation.
1. The first appendum is that the Christians of Najran were the ones who objected to the title “sister of Harun”, thus the critic claims this intimates idioms of such a nature were not in use in the past. The critic wants PROOF showing past communities using such phraseology.
Well, this clearly highlights the critic’s (as well as the Christians of Najran’s) lack of Biblical knowledge as the Bible proves Muhammed to be correct in saying people of the past gave names based on the apostles and pious personalities who had gone before them.
In the Bible, Jesus is described as the son of David, David had certainly lived/died before Jesus yet Jesus is described as the son of David in the BIBLE, thus proving the use of such names (ie Muhammed is proven to be correct by he Bible). The Bible came before Muhammed and represents the mindset and customs of the people of the past, thus it shows Muhammed’s explanation to be historically accurate.
The Bible supports Muhammed’s expnation and shows idioms of such a nature were in vogue (in use) in the past:
Bible shows the “daughter of Aaron” was used as an idiom to describe Elizabeth, though Elizabeth was not the literal daughter of Aaron:
…he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth." [Luke 1:5, RSV]
Jesus is described as the son of David despite not being his literal son!
And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!...[Matthew 21:9 RSV]
The Quran also shows the use of such idioms as the past Prophet Hud is described as the brother of the people of A’ad (to whom he was sent)
And unto (the tribe of) A'ad (We sent) their brother, Hud… [Qur'an 7:65]
Example 4 (the most relevant pertaining to Surah 19:28)
Jesus in the Gospel of Mark 3:35 teaches us that whoever does the will of God is the brother of Jesus.
Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Mark 3:35 RSV)
If a lady in 2010 (who does the will of God) is the sister of Jesus then we can clearly see that Jesus himself used this form of idiom that Muhammed spoke of.
So if a God-fearing women such as Sarah (wife of Abraham) or Mary Magdelene can be described as the “sisters” of Jesus due to their submission to the Will of God then the Virgin Mary can certainly be described as the sister of Aaron!
The example in Mark 3:35 shows that Jesus ( a person of the past) used the SAME idiomatic expression which we find in Surah 19:28.
So it is clear that Muhammed’s explanation makes historical sense. The critics simply highlight their lack of knowledge pertaining to the figures of speech and titles in use in the past Abrahamic communities.
2. They claim Muhammad made the explanation up because he was caught out to be in error.
This argumentation is not backed by the facts but is based on conjecture on the part of the critic.
The fact is Muhammad’s explanation is historically accurate and backed by the Bible! So clearly he did not make an explanation up on the spot based on a whim but his explanation is found to be solid and supported by history.
Also, Muhammed was regarded as the trustworthy so it does not follow his character to make a deceptive explanation up.
3. The critics pad their claim with irrelevant information/references
One such reference is from Ibn Kathir’s commentary on the verse 19:28:
It was narrated from Ibn Jarir, narrated from Yaqub, narrated from Ibn U’laya, narrated from Sa’id Ibn Abi Sadaqa, narrated from Muhammad Ibn Sireen who stated that he was told that Ka’b said the verse that reads, "O sister of Harun (Aaron)!" (of Sura 19:28) does not refer to Aaron the brother of Moses. Aisha replied to Ka’b, "you have lied."
Ka’b responded, "O Mother of the believers! If the prophet, may Allah’s prayers be upon him, has said it, and he is more knowledgeable, then this is what he related. Besides, I find the difference in time between them (Jesus and Moses) to be 600 years." He said that she remained silent.
Bizarrely some missionaries are attempting to pad their claim by utlizing the misunderstanding of Aisha concerning this issue as “evidence” for their claim.
Aisha’s misunderstanding of the issue is only due to the fact that Muhammed nor her fellow companions (students of Muhammad) had yet explained this issue to her. So Aisha took the verse literally as she had not yet heard of Muhammad’s explanation of it to be an idiom.
The fact is, in this reference, Ka’b confirms Muhammed did not think Mary was the (literal) sister of Aaron is enough to pour cold water on the critics baseless claims. Thus we further realise that the Quran is not claiming Mary to be the literal sister of the brother of Moses (Aaron).
Moreover, this tradition also shows that Ka’b himself knew there was a huge difference of years between Mary and Aaron prior to Muhammad’s explanation.
In addition we also note that Aisha’s silence points to her acknowledgement of her error (misunderstanding), her misunderstanding was only due to the fact that at this instance Aisha had not had the verse explained to her by the Prophet or any student of the Prophet but once the verse was explained to her by Ka’b (using the teachings of Muhammad) she accepted the explanation and acknowledged her error (inferred by her silence).
It is hardly scholarly to jump on the misunderstanding of one Muslim (Aisha) and try to build a case of “Quranic error” based on this despite Muhammad’s explanation of the verse to be an idiom. Such is the desperation of some critics, sadly the critics who have gone to this length are the Christian missionaries. Hardly the most Christian or honest method of reason!
4. The critics play on the name “Imran”
The critics point to the fact that the name of Aaron’s father is Amran (Imran) and Islamic sources call Mary the daughter of Imran. The critic then claims this is support for their allegation of anachronistic error levelled at the Quran.
However, the critics miss the fact that the name of Mary’s father was in fact Imran thus the Islamic sources do not support their claim as the Islamic sources are completely correct and accurate to call Mary the daughter of Imran as she was the daughter of Imran!
It just so happens that BOTH Aaron and Mary had fathers named “Imran” but Muhammed pointed out that the two were not the same person in his explanation of Surah 19:28  so it would be unscholarly to ignore Muhammad’s explanation in favour of convoluted conjecture.
George Sale points to the fact that Muhammed knew Aaron and Mary lived during difference time periods:
“it manifestly appears that Mohammed well knew and asserted that Moses preceded Jesus several ages."  Thus it is clear to Sale that Muhammed did not believe Mary and Aaron to be literal brother and sister or even contemporaries. Why can’t the Christian missionaries/critics see the obvious?
But though Mohammed may be supposed to have been ignorant enough in ancient history and chronology, to have committed so gross a blunder; yet I do not see how it can be made out from the words of the Koran. For it does not follow, because two persons have the same name, and have each a father and brother who bear the same names, that they must therefore necessarily be the same whereby it manifestly appears that Mohammed well knew and asserted that Moses preceded Jesus several ages… 
It must be observed that though the Virgin Mary is called in the Koran, the sister of Aaron, yet she is nowhere called the sister of Moses. 
And the commentators accordingly fail not to tell us, that there had passed about one thousand eight hundred years between Amran the father of Moses and Amrean the father of the Virgin Mary 
The more deviant critic who knows of the fact that both Mary and Aaron had fathers named “Imran” holds this crucial information away from the audience in order to misdirect the audience down the path of error.
Muhammad explains the Quranic reference (Sura 19:28) to be an idiomatic expression rather than something to be taken literally. Muhammad’s explanation is backed up historically as Jesus uses a similar idiomatic expression.
George Sale suggests it is obvious Muhammad knew that Mary was not a contemporary of Aaron/Moses, early Muslim commentaries point to this fact too!
The critic has no evidence for his/her claim but is reliant on conjecture and interpolation.
Some of the citations concerning “Imran” used by the critic are listed here so the reader can familiarise themselves with the claim of the critics/Christian missionaries:
Sahih al-Bukhari 3769
 In Sahih Muslim, no. 5326
 George Sale, The Koran, IX Edition of 1923, London, p. 38.