Parallel Passages of the Qur’anic Text: Ibrahim (عليه السلام) and the guests

Question

The story of Ibrahim (عليه السلام) and his wife meeting the angels who informed them of the glad tidings of their son Isaac (عليه السلام) and that they were sent to the people of Lut (عليه السلام) is told in the Qu’ran in three different places.

IBRAHIM (عليه السلام) AND THE GUESTS

And certainly did Our messengers come to Abraham with good tidings; they said, “Peace.” He said, “Peace,” and did not delay in bringing [them] a roasted calf. But when he saw their hands not reaching for it, he distrusted them and felt from them apprehension. They said, “Fear not. We have been sent to the people of Lot.” And his Wife was standing, and she smiled. Then We gave her good tidings of Isaac and after Isaac, Jacob. [11:69-71] And inform them about the guests of Abraham, when they entered upon him and said, “Peace.” [Abraham] said, “Indeed, we are fearful of you.” [The angels] said, “Fear not. Indeed, we give you good tidings of a learned boy.” He said, “Have you given me good tidings although old age has come upon me? Then of what [wonder] do you inform?” They said, “We have given you good tidings in truth, so do not be of the despairing.” He said, “And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord except for those astray?” [Abraham] said, “Then what is your business [here], O messengers?” They said, “Indeed, we have been sent to a people of criminals, Except the family of Lot; indeed, we will save them all Except his wife.” Allah decreed that she is of those who remain behind. [15:51-60] Has there reached you the story of the honored guests of Abraham? – When they entered upon him and said, “[We greet you with] peace.” He answered, “[And upon you] peace, [you are] a people unknown. Then he went to his family and came with a fat [roasted] calf And placed it near them; he said, “Will you not eat?” And he felt from them apprehension. They said, “Fear not,” and gave him good tidings of a learned boy. And his wife approached with a cry [of alarm] and struck her face and said, “[I am] a barren old woman!” They said, “Thus has said your Lord; indeed, He is the Wise, the Knowing.” [Abraham] said, “Then what is your business [here], O messengers?” They said, “Indeed, we have been sent to a people of criminals To send down upon them stones of clay, Marked in the presence of your Lord for the transgressors.” So We brought out whoever was in the cities of the believers. And We found not within them other than a [single] house of Muslims. And We left therein a sign for those who fear the painful punishment. [51:24-37]

How do you put the entire story in a sequence without it contradicting any of the above three passages? Most specifically, how do you reconcile 51:28 with 11:70? After the angels refuse to eat and they sensed Ibrahim (عليه السلام)’s fear, they told him not to fear in 51:28 and told him about the glad tidings of Isaac (عليه السلام), while in 11:70 they told him that they were sent to the people of Lut (عليه السلام).

So which is it? What did the angels tell Ibrahim (عليه السلام) right after they sensed he was scared after they refused to eat the food? Did they tell him about Isaac (عليه السلام) or about being sent to the people of Lut (عليه السلام)?

Answer

We find repetitions in the Qur’an; however, when an event is repeated, it is not absolute; something new and additional information is made available to the readers. Hence, keeping this in mind, we can state that all of the above are true and when Allah describes these events in different places, He narrates portions of the overall scenario in one occasion and another portion of the overall scenario in another. Below is a plausible sequence of overall events which took place (verses of three Surahs combined in one passage) and Allah chose to describe this entire event in three passages (red font is from me):

51:25 – When they entered upon him and said, “[We greet you with] peace.” He answered, “[And upon you] peace, [you are] a people unknown.

51:26 – Then he went to his family and came with a fat [roasted] calf

51:27 – And placed it near them; he said, “Will you not eat?”

51:28 – And he felt from them apprehension.

15:52 – [Abraham] said, “Indeed, we are fearful of you.”

11:70 – They said, “Fear not. (also interlinked with “Fear not” in 15:53) We have been sent to the people of Lot.”

11:71 – And his Wife was standing, and she smiled. (Being relieved that they are angels who didn’t come to hurt them)

15:53 – we give you good tidings of a learned boy.” (Simultaneously with 11:71 – “Then We gave her good tidings of Isaac and after Isaac, Jacob.” So Ibrahim (عليه السلام) and his wife are informed at the same time as one audience).

After the good news of a boy, Ibrahim (عليه السلام) asked the following and his wife reacted as follows:

15:54 – He said, “Have you given me good tidings although old age has come upon me? Then of what [wonder] do you inform?”

51:29 – And his wife approached with a cry [of alarm] and struck her face and said, “[I am] a barren old woman!”

51:30 – They said, “Thus has said your Lord; indeed, He is the Wise, the Knowing.”

15:55 – They said, “We have given you good tidings in truth, so do not be of the despairing.”

15:56 – He said, “And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord except for those astray?”

Ibrahim (عليه السلام) asks what their business with Lut (عليه السلام) is:

51:31 – [Abraham] said, “Then what is your business [with Lot], O messengers?”

51:32 – They said, “Indeed, we have been sent to a people of criminals,

51:33 – To send down upon them stones of clay,

51:34 – Marked in the presence of your Lord for the transgressors.”

11:59 – Except the family of Lot; indeed, we will save them all

11:60 – Except his wife.” Allah decreed that she is of those who remain behind.

There is no contradiction in the Qur’an and the three different passages are all true and represent the actual incident of the meeting of Ibrahim (عليه السلام) with the angels. When Allah described that meeting and event in the Qur’an, He chose to do so in three different passages quoting portions of the overall discussion in those passages.

Further reading: Parallel Passages of the Qur’anic Text

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One thought on “Parallel Passages of the Qur’anic Text: Ibrahim (عليه السلام) and the guests

  1. Pingback: Parallel Passages of the Qur’anic Text | Qur'anic misconceptions addressed

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