Quran Contradiction

Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Sister of Aaron

Sam Shamoun

The Quran confuses Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, with Miriam the sister of Moses. The Quran identifies Mary as the sister of Aaron, the daughter of Imran, whose mother was the wife of Imran:

When the wife of Imran said, 'Lord, I have vowed to Thee, in dedication, what is within my womb. Receive Thou this from me; Thou hearest, and knowest.' And when she gave birth to her she said, 'Lord, I have given birth to her, a female.' (And God knew very well what she had given birth to; the male is not as the female.) 'And I have named her Mary, and commend her to Thee with her seed, to protect them from the accursed Satan.' S. 3:35-36 Arberry

Then she brought the child to her folk carrying him; and they said, 'Mary, thou hast surely committed a monstrous thing! Sister of Aaron, thy father was not a wicked man, nor was thy mother a woman unchaste.' S. 19:27-28

And Mary, Imran's daughter, who guarded her virginity, so We breathed into her of Our Spirit, and she confirmed the Words of her Lord and His Books, and became one of the obedient. S. 66:12

Compare this to what the Holy Bible says:

"Then Mary (Hebrew- Mariam), the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand…" Exodus 15:20

"The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and to Amram she bore Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam." Numbers 26:59

"The children of Amram: Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. The sons of Aaron: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar." 1 Chronicles 6:3

"For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam." Micah 6:4

"Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, ‘Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?" And the LORD heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, ‘Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.’ And the three of them came out. And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward… When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said to Moses, ‘Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother's womb.’ And Moses cried to the LORD, ‘O God, please heal her--please.’ But the LORD said to Moses, ‘If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again." So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again." Numbers 12:1-5, 10-15

It is very hard to accept the idea that the Quran wasn’t identifying Jesus’ mother with the sister of Moses in light of the fact that both these Marys had brothers named Aaron and fathers named Imran/Amram! It is rather obvious to any unbiased reader that Muhammad has clearly confused the identity of Jesus’ mother with the sister of Aaron and Moses. He mistakenly thought that the mother of the Lord Jesus was the sister of Moses and Aaron.

Some Muslims try very hard to get around this and have sought to refute the assertion that the Quran is mistaken:


But to no avail. The Muslim responses have been thoroughly addressed and refuted in the following papers:


What we want to do in this paper is to quote two specific narrations from two of Islam’s premier commentators so as to see the confusion these Quranic statements caused for Muslims.

According to renowned Sunni Muslim commentator, Ibn Kathir, Aisha thought that Moses was Jesus’ maternal uncle! Aisha was convinced that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the actual sister of Aaron, Moses’ biological brother, making the latter Christ’s maternal uncle!

And from whom would Aisha have gained this understanding that led to her conviction, if not from Muhammad?

Here is what Ibn Kathir narrated:

وَقَالَ اِبْن جَرِير حَدَّثَنِي يَعْقُوب حَدَّثَنَا اِبْن عُلَيَّة عَنْ سَعِيد بْن أَبِي صَدَقَة عَنْ مُحَمَّد بْن سِيرِينَ قَالَ أُنْبِئْت أَنَّ كَعْبًا قَالَ إِنَّ قَوْله : " يَا أُخْت هَارُون " لَيْسَ بِهَارُون أَخِي مُوسَى قَالَ فَقَالَتْ لَهُ عَائِشَة كَذَبْت قَالَ يَا أُمّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِنْ كَانَ النَّبِيّ صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَهُ فَهُوَ أَعْلَم وَأَخْبَر وَإِلَّا فَإِنِّي أَجِد بَيْنهمَا سِتّمِائَةِ سَنَة قَالَ فَسَكَتَتْ وَفِي هَذَا التَّارِيخ نَظَر

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.

(From the Arabic commentary of Ibn Kathir on Sura 19:28, online edition; bold, underline and capital emphasis ours)

Aisha, whom Muslims claim was one of the most knowledgeable persons of Islam, clearly understood the expression, "Sister of Aaron," to refer to Moses’ brother Aaron, i.e. understanding that Mary the mother of Jesus was the sister of Moses and Aaron, which would make Moses Jesus’ maternal uncle! More specifically, she understood this phrase to be literally saying that Mary was the actual, biological sister of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Although Kab was wrong regarding the length of the time gap between Jesus and Moses, he was correct to see the problem and dilemma that Muhammad’s words caused.

Another prominent Sunni commentator and historian named Al-Tabari narrated a hadith which is also found in our rebuttals above:

الْقَوْل فِي تَأْوِيل قَوْله تَعَالَى : { يَا أُخْت هَارُون } اِخْتَلَفَ أَهْل التَّأْوِيل فِي السَّبَب الَّذِي مِنْ أَجْله قِيلَ لَهَا : يَا أُخْت هَارُون , وَمَنْ كَانَ هَارُون هَذَا الَّذِي ذَكَرَهُ اللَّه , حَدَّثَنَا اِبْن حُمَيْد , قَالَ : ثنا الْحَكَم بْن بَشِير , قَالَ : ثنا عَمْرو , عَنْ سِمَاك بْن حَرْب , عَنْ عَلْقَمَة بْن وَائِل , عَنْ الْمُغِيرَة بْن شُعْبَة , قَالَ : أَرْسَلَنِي النَّبِيّ صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي بَعْض حَوَائِجه إِلَى أَهْل نَجْرَان , فَقَالُوا : أَلَيْسَ نَبِيّك يَزْعُم أَنَّ هَارُون أَخُو مَرْيَم هُوَ أَخُو مُوسَى ؟ فَلَمْ أَدْرِ مَا أَرُدّ عَلَيْهِمْ حَتَّى رَجَعْت إِلَى النَّبِيّ صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ , فَذَكَرْت لَهُ ذَلِكَ , فَقَالَ : " إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا يُسَمُّونَ بِأَسْمَاءِ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلهمْ " . وَقَالَ بَعْضهمْ : عَنَى بِهِ هَارُون أَخُو مُوسَى , وَنُسِبَتْ مَرْيَم إِلَى أَنَّهَا أُخْته لِأَنَّهَا مِنْ وَلَده , - حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى , قَالَ : ثنا عَمْرو , قَالَ : ثنا أَسْبَاط , عَنْ السُّدِّيّ { يَا أُخْت هَارُون } قَالَ : كَانَتْ مِنْ بَنِي هَارُون أَخِي مُوسَى

The people of commentary and interpretation have differed on the reason why it was said "O sister of Harun!" (Of Sura 19:28), and who this Harun was that Allah mentioned…

It was narrated by Ibn Hamid, narrated by Al Hakam Ibn Bashir, narrated by Amr, narrated by Simak Ibn Harb, narrated by Alkama Ibn Wa’il, narrated Al Mughira Ibn Shu’ba who said, "The prophet, may Allah’s prayers be upon him, sent me to fetch some of his needs from the people of Najran who said, ‘Doesn’t your prophet claim that Harun the brother of Mariam (Mary) is the brother of Moses?’ I did not know how to respond to them until I returned to the prophet, may Allah’s prayers be upon him. I related to him all what was said and he replied, ‘They used to name themselves after the names of those who came before them.’"

Others said the Harun referred to is the brother of Moses, and Mariam was classified as his sister for she is a (descendent) of (his) son.

It was narrated by Musa, narrated by Amr, narrated by Asbat, narrated by Al Suddi who said regarding "O sister of Harun!" (Of Sura 19:28) that (Mariam) was a descendent of the tribe of Harun, the brother of Moses.

(From the Arabic commentary of Al-Tabari on Sura 19:28, online edition; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Here is another instance where Arabs, people whose mother tongue was Arabic, understood the Quran’s statement to be saying that Jesus’ mother was the biological sister of Moses. So, in the Islamic traditions themselves, we now have two witnesses supporting the fact that Muhammad made a gross mistake: one witness who is viewed by Muslims as one of the most knowledgeable persons, the other witness from native Arabic speaking Christians, and both groups understood Muhammad to be teaching that Moses was Jesus’ uncle!

We have already addressed the responses given by Al-Tabari (see the above links for details), so we will only briefly address them here. The Muslims are wrong on two counts. First, Muhammad was wrong when he said that this is what people used when they wanted to name themselves after those who came before them. The way people named themselves after their predecessors wasn’t by calling someone a brother or a sister of so and so, but rather a son or daughter of so and so.

The following Muslim disagrees with this position and tries to provide an example to the contrary:

In Semitic language the words father, mother, brother and sister are used broadly and do not necessarily imply the very close relations of real mother, father, brother and sister. Thus Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: "I am the answer of the prayer of my father Abraham." (Bukhari)

In ancient Semitic usage, a person's name was often linked with that of a renowned ancestor or founder of the tribal line. Thus, for instance, a man of the tribe Banu Tamim was some times addressed as son of Tamim or brother of Tamim. Since Mary belonged to the priestly class and hence descended from Aaron, she was called a sister of Aaron. In the same manner her cousin Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, is spoken of in Luke 1:5, as one of the daughters of Aaron.

Numerous are the instances in Bible where tribal names are used to mention descendants. For example, Lot is called Abraham’s brother (Genesis 14:14), though he was in fact Abraham's nephew (Genesis 11:31). Similarly Abraham spoke to Lot saying: "We men are brothers" (Genesis 13:8). But Abraham was actually was the uncle of Lot! Likewise the Babylonian queen referred to Nebuchadnezzar as the father of Belshazzar, when, Nabonidus was evidently his father and Nebuchadnezzar his grandfather (Daniel 5:11). Thus, in New Testament Abraham is referred to as the father of us, when actually he was a distant forefather (Acts 7:2, Romans 4:12, James 2:21). A member of the Jewish race removed from Abraham as much by 2000 years can still refer to Abraham as his father (Luke 16:24-25, 1:67-73; 13:16). In Numbers (20:14), the Israelites are referred to as the brother of the king of Edom, even though Esau and Jacob were the brothers from whom both groups descended. Similarly, Obed is referred to as Naomi's son in Ruth 4:17, even though he was the son of her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Laban is called Nahor’s son (Genesis 49:5) when he is actually the son of Bethuel, the son of Nahor (Genesis 4:47). Jesus in the synagogue on the Sabbath healed the woman who had a spirit ofresponse to criticism of the healing, Jesus referred to her as a daughter of Abraham (Luke 13:16). In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus placed Lazarus on Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22). Zacchaeus, as tax collector, was socially alienated. The crowd murmured against Jesus' voluntary visit to Zacchaeus’ house. After his declaration that he would give back to the poor half of his wealth and restore fourfold to those he had defrauded, Jesus called him a son of Abraham (Luke 19:9).

In the longest statement recorded in the New Testament (John 8:37-59), Jesus has used Abraham’s children thrice. St. Paul referred to Jesus as the offering [sic] of Abraham (Galatians 3:16-18, 24:29). Persons in authority are also known as Fathers in Biblical language: priestly officials (Judges 17:10), Prophets (2 Kings 2:12, 6:21), Persons holding office (Genesis 45:8, Isaiah 22:21), benefactors (Job 29:16). Sometimes, families are known after the names of their distinguished ancestors. In the Bible, the name Israel sometimes stands for the Israelites (Deuteronomy 6:3-4) and Kedar for the Ishmaelite (Isaiah 21:16, 42:11). Jesus was titled son of David (Matthew 9:27, 15:22, 20:30-31, Mark 10:47-48). (Source)

The author apparently didn’t realize how all these examples actually prove our case since they demonstrate that Muhammad made a major blunder. In every single example that the author provided, the word used in connection with one’s lineage, to descendants, isn’t "brother of" or "sister of" but rather "son of" or "daughter of"! Not a single example provided by the author which refers to a person’s lineage ever use the expression "brother of" or "sister of."

The one example he provides where "brother of" or "brothers" is actually used (i.e. Abraham and his nephew Lot) it refers not to descendants but to two contemporaries! Hence, by using the example of Abraham’s relation to Lot, the author has provided indirect proof that the Quran erroneously assumes that Mary and Aaron were contemporaries and lived at the same time!

His appeal to the Arabic is no better. When a person speaks of "a/the brother of Tamim," what he/she is implying is that the individual in question is a contemporary of that particular tribe, that both the tribe and the person are living at the same time.

The second mistake made by the Muslims is to assume that Mary was of the tribe of Aaron, i.e. a Levite from the lineage of Aaron. Both the Holy Bible and the extra-biblical evidence show that Mary was from the tribe of Judah, from the line of David. She had no connection to the priestly line. Some Muslims try to appeal to the statement made by Luke 1:36 where Mary is said to be a relative of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, who was from the house of Aaron (Cf. Luke 1:5). The only thing this proves is that Elizabeth had Judean blood from her mother’s side, that her mother was of the tribe of Judah, since it wasn’t uncommon for priests to marry women from the other Israelite tribes. Case in point:

"Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family of the house of Judah. But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king's sons who were about to be put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram and wife of Jehoiada the priest, because she was a sister of Ahaziah, hid him from Athaliah, so that she did not put him to death." 2 Chronicles 22:10-11

Jehoram was the King of Judah and from the line of David, making his daughter a descendant of David. She was married to the Aaronic high priest, proving that priests could marry women from the brethren tribes of Levi. For a more detailed discussion of this argument, see the links provided above as well as this article.

As it stands, all the evidence conclusively shows that the Quran contains a gross mistake since it erroneously teaches that the mother of Christ was the biological sister and contemporary of Aaron the high priest, making Moses Jesus’ uncle!


Our dear brother Dimitrius provided the rough translation of the Arabic Islamic texts. May our risen Lord and immortal Savior Jesus Christ richly bless him for al his efforts and faithfulness. Amen.

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