Saturday, 4 May 2013

Best of Deceivers or Best of Planners? [Surah 8:30 and Surah 3:54]

Some Christian missionaries are misrepresenting s:8:30 and s3:54 in order to claim ‘ the Quran tells you Allah is the best of deceivers’. However, looking at the two Quranic Verses I realised, the context, the commentary literature and the translations (by Muslims and non-Muslims) disagree with these Christian missionaries.
Context of Surah 8:30

The context of s8:30 is that of the polytheists of Mecca planning to kill, imprison or expel Prophet Muhammad (p). Allah of course prevents their plans by putting in place His own plans. So Christian missionaries should have known from the context it is speaking of planning/plotting and not deceiving!

 (And when those who disbelieve) i.e. Abu Jahl and his host (plot against thee (O Muhammad)) in Dar al-Nadwah (to wound you fatally) to imprison you as suggested by 'Amr Ibn Hisham, (or to kill thee) all together as suggested by Abu Jahl Ibn Hisham (or to drive thee forth) and expel you as suggested by Abu'l-Buhturi Ibn Hisham; (they plot) they intend to destroy and kill you, O Muhammad, (but Allah (also) plotteth) He wants to destroy and kill them on the Day of Badr; (and Allah is the best of plotters) He is the strongest of plotters [S8:30 – Tafsir (commentary) from Tanwir al Miqbas min (from) Ibn Abbas]

And, remember, O Muhammad (s), when the disbelievers — who had gathered to discuss your affair at the council assembly — were plotting against you, to confine you, to chain you up and imprison you, or slay you — all of them [acting as] assassins of one man — or to expel you, from Mecca, and they were plotting, against you, and God was plotting, against them, by devising a way [out] for you, when He revealed to you what they had devised and commanded you to leave [Mecca]; and God is the best of those who plot, the most knowledgeable among them about it. [S8:30 - Tafsir Jalalayn (commentary of the two Jalals)]

Context of s3:54
The context of 3:54 is that of the disbelievers plotting to kill Jesus (p). Allah prevents their plans by putting in place a plan of His own – Allah saved Jesus (p) from the harmful plans of the disbelievers. So again, from the context you can see it’s referring to planning/plotting/ and not deceiving!

Hilali Khan translation which comes with brief commentary:

And they (disbelievers) plotted (to kill Iesa (Jesus) ), and Allah planned too. And Allah is the Best of the planners.

Note: I did not cite the tafsirs of Jalalayn and Tanwir al Miqbas min Ibn Abbas concerning this Verse, as although they agree that the context is that of disbelievers planning to kill Jesus they also give a theory (or allude to a theory) as to how Jesus was saved etc. For the purpose of this post this is irrelevant – and in fact we are unsure as to exact nature of the events in God’s saving of Jesus (p). See appendix for these commentaries.

Translations do not agree with the Christian missionaries
No translator uses the word deceiving deceive, deceiver or deceivers. In fact they all indicate Allah is the best of planners. I have highlighted 4 English translations from Muslims and 4 from non-Muslims.

For s3:54, you can see all the translators (including the non-Muslims of Sale, Palmer, Arberry and Rodwell) refer to planning in some way. Nobody is mentioning ‘deceiving’. Palmer uses the word crafty which in turn is a reference to planning (definition clever and scheming)

And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers.

And (the unbelievers) plotted and planned, and God too planned, and the best of planners is God.

And they (disbelievers) plotted [to kill 'Iesa (Jesus)], and Allah planned too. And Allah is the Best of the planners.

And they planned and Allah (also) planned, and Allah is the best of planners.

And they devised, and God devised, and God is the best of devisers.

But they (the Jews) were crafty, and God was crafty, for God is the best of crafty ones!

And the Jews plotted, and God plotted: But of those who plot is God the best.

And [the Jews] devised a stratagem [against him]; but God devised a stratagem [against them]; and God is the best deviser of stratagems.

As for s8:30, no translator uses the word ‘deceiver’ or ‘deceives’. They all refer to planning either by directly using the word or by using a word which conveys such a meaning.

And when those who disbelieve plot against thee (O Muhammad) to wound thee fatally, or to kill thee or to drive thee forth; they plot, but Allah (also) plotteth; and Allah is the best of plotters.

Remember how the Unbelievers plotted against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or slay thee, or get thee out (of thy home). They plot and plan, and God too plans; but the best of planners is God.

And (remember) when the disbelievers plotted against you (O Muhammad SAW) to imprison you, or to kill you, or to get you out (from your home, i.e. Makkah); they were plotting and Allah too was planning, and Allah is the Best of the planners.

And when those who disbelieved devised plans against you that they might confine you or slay you or drive you away; and they devised plans and Allah too had arranged a plan; and Allah is the best of planners.

And when the unbelievers were devising against thee, to confine thee, or slay thee, or to expel thee, and were devising, and God was devising; and God is the best of devisers.

And when those who misbelieve were crafty with thee to detain thee a prisoner, or kill thee, or drive thee forth; they were crafty, but God was crafty too, for God is best of crafty ones!

And call to mind when the unbelievers plotted against thee, to detain thee prisoner, or to kill thee, or to banish thee: They plotted - but God plotted: and of plotters is God the best!

And [call to mind] when the unbelievers plotted against thee, that they might either detain thee [in bonds], or put thee to death, or expel thee [the city]; and they plotted [against thee]: But God laid a plot [against them]; and God is the best layer of plots.


Christian missionaries are being disingenuous by misrepresenting translations and also missing the context. The context indicates to us, as well as the tafsar literature and the translators that the two Verses (s8:30 and s3:54) are telling us Allah is the Best of Planners.


Tafsir Jalalayn on s3:54:

God says: And they, the disbelievers among the Children of Israel, schemed, against Jesus, by assigning someone to assassinate him; and God schemed, by casting the likeness of Jesus onto the person who intended to kill him, and so they killed him, while Jesus was raised up into heaven; and God is the best of schemers, most knowledgeable of him [Jesus].

Tafsir Tanwir al Miqbas min Ibn Abbas on s3:54:

(And they schemed) they, i.e. the Jews, planned to kill Jesus, (and Allah schemed (against them)) Allah wished to kill their man Tatianos: (and Allah is the best of schemers) the strongest of those who have a will; it is also said this means: the best of Makers.



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