Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,
If Jesus is God, then who was he praying to on the cross when he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”? (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46) Was he praying to himself? If so, was he complaining to himself about why he had forsaken himself?
Sam Shamoun does not actually answer this question directly. Instead he meanders back and forth about the Trinity, mentions the Crucifiction and then in the end diverts from this absurdity in his doctrine and invents a strawman, whereby he attempts to question Muslims about Allaah’s “Prayer”. In spite of all his trickery, after much searching for a decisive answer in his article, I found that he does hint at an answer, or strongly tries to imply one by stating:
The Holy Bible teaches that there are three distinct, yet inseparable Persons who exist as the one true God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The three Persons of God, because they are personally distinct, have loving communion and dialog amongst themselves. Therefore, the Lord Jesus wasn’t praying to himself on the Cross, but was actually praying to the Person of the Father.
This ‘answer’ of sorts, actually furthers the case the question presents, it actually proves that Jesus was praying to Himself, allow me to explain. The logic flows as such:
- Jesus is God.
- Father is God.
- Jesus is praying to God.
- Since Jesus is God and he is praying to God.
- Then he is praying to himself.
The only way this would not be circular theological reasoning, is if Jesus was not God, since this is not the case and Jesus is praying to God, and God is also Jesus, then he indeed and most certainly was praying to himself. Sam then adds insult to injury by claiming that his God, was and will forever be an equal to him, a human, a man:
Furthermore, the Holy Bible also teaches that Jesus became, and forever will remain, a true human being. It is, therefore, not surprising that Christ did what every God-fearing person is supposed to do, namely pray and worship God.
Given the above, Sam continues to persist in building the case against him, once again his argument can be represented as:
- He says Christ is God.
- He says Christ worships God.
- Therefore Christ is worshipping himself.
Therefore Sam’s answer qualifies the belief that Christ was praying to himself, for if Christ is fully God, as Sam believes, then Christ was forsaking himself. Unless Sam believes that the Father who is God, can diminish the power of the Jesus-God person in the Godhead, which would then mean that they are not co-equal nor co-existent in the ‘Godhead’. Either way, Sam’s case is against Christianity. As indicated in this article, an earlier pronouncement in the book of Psalms ensures that God could not have killed Jesus, his ‘son’, specifically ‘forsaking‘ or ‘cutting off his loved ones‘:
“For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;” – Bible : Psalms (37) : Verse 28.
Our modus operandi from this verse onwards is intended to imply that Jesus would be the most faithful and the most just person of his time with respect to his life and personhood, whether you consider him to be a God, a man or otherwise. Both Muslims and Christians can agree on this following excerpt from the Gospel, which attributes these words to him:
“…I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” – Bible : John (5) : Verse 30.
The verses from Psalms (Tehillim) and from John (above), promote the understanding that Jesus was just because he judged according to the rule and law of God and thus since the Old Testament says that God loves and will not forsake such a person, we all can accept that Christ was loved and would not be forsaken by God. However as a Muslim reading the New Testament, the image it portrays of Christ is in opposition to the promise of Psalms as we have previously read, the Bible says:
“About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Bible : Matthew (27) : Verse 46.
“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Bible : Mark (15) : 34.
It is clear for anyone who is purely intended that these stories, depictions of a man forsaken by God, cannot be the man portrayed in John 5:30 and Psalms 37:28. Rather, it reminds of the man later spoken of in Psalms 37:28:
“…They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;” – Bible : Psalms (37) : Verse 28.
Am I supposed to believe that Christ was a wicked man, cut off from the mercy of God? As a Muslim, it burdens my heart to have to believe that this is what someone who loves Christ could possibly believe. In fact, even Christian scholars have purported that this alleged saying of Christ is out of his character and simply demeans him, Matthew Henry in his Commentary of the Bible, says:
“That our Lord Jesus was, in his sufferings, for a time, forsaken by his Father. So he saith himself, who we are sure was under no mistake concerning his own case. That Christ’s being forsaken of his Father was the most grievous of his sufferings, and that which he complained most of. “ – Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Matthew 27.
Therefore, not only was Christ-God forsaking himself, he made himself to suffer and he even complained to himself about himself. Mind blowing absurdity to say the least. Lastly, Sam tries to meander away from this theological conundrum by attempting to claim that Allaah prays to Himself:
The Quran says that Allah prays:
Upon them shall be prayers (salawatun) from their Lord and mercy, and they are the rightly directed. S. 2:157
He it is who sends PRAYERS on you (Arabic- yusallii alaykum), as do His angels … S. 33:43
Allah and His angels PRAY for the Prophet (Arabic- yasalluuna alan-Nabiyy): O ye that believe PRAY for him (salluu `alayhi), and salute him with all respect. S. 33:56
However this is responded to in detail by Br. Ibn Anwar in his post here on the Unveiling Christianity website. In short, Br. Ibn Anwar explains:
The following is from Lisan al-Arab authored by Ibn Mazur al-Afriqi which is one of the major reference materials for anyone persuing academic studies in Arabic:
والصلاة الدعاء والاستغفار…وصلاة الله على رسوله رحمته له وحسن ثنائه عليه وفى حديث ابن أبى آوفى آنه قال أعطانى أبى صدقة ماله فاتيت بها رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال اللهم صل على آل أبى أوفى قال الازهرى هذه الصلاة عندى الرحمة ومنه قوله عز وجل ان الله وملا ئكته يصلون على النبى يٰأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ صَلُّواْ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيماً فالصلاة من الملائكة دعاء واستغفار ومن الله رحمة وبه سميت الصلاة لما فيها من الدعاء ولاستغفار وفى الحديث التحيات لله والصلوات قال أبوىبكر الصلوات معن ها الترحم وقوله تعالى ان الله وملا ئكته يصلون على النبى اى يترحمون
“Al-Salah is supplication and seeking forgiveness…and the Salah of Allah upon his messenger is His blessing/mercy for him and magnification/praises upon him. In the narration of Ibn Abi Awfa verily he said: “My father gave charity from his own wealth. Thereafter I went to the messenger of Allah with it whereby the Prophet s.a.w. said, “Oh Allah send Salah on the family of Abi Awfa.” Azhari said that this Salah in his sight means al-Rahmah(the blessing/mercy). And Allah s.w.t. says,”Verily, Allah and His angels send Salah(blessings) upon the Prophet. O you who believe, do pray Allah to bless him, and send your Salam to him in abundance.” Thus theSalah of the angels are supplication(du’a) and seeking forgiveness(for the messenger) and from Allah it is His blessing(rahmah). And it is called Salah within which is supplication and seeking for forgiveness. And in the narration on the greetings and salawat(plural of salah), Abu Bakr said, “Al-salawat means conferring blessing” and Allah said, “Verily, Allah and His angels send Salah(blessings) upon the Prophet” which means they bless him.”
Isma’il bin Hammad al-Jawhari in his Sihah Taj al-Lughah wa Sihah al-’Arabiyyah defines it as follows:
والصلاة من الله تعالى : الرحمة
“Al-Salah when it is from Allah means mercy/blessing.”
Abi Mansur Muhammad bin Ahmad al-Azhari in his massive Tahzib al-Lughah defines it as follows:
نوما فإن لجنب المرء مضطجعا وأما حديث ابن أبى أوفى أنه قال : أعطانى أبى صدقة ماله فأتيت بها رسول الله صل الله عليه وسلم فقال : (( اللهم صل على آل أبى أوفى )) فإن هذه الصلاة عندى الرحمة , ومنه قوله جل وعز : ( إن الله وملائكته يصلون على النبى ) فالصلاة من الملائكة دعاء واستغفار , ومن الله سبحانه رحمة .
He mentions the same narration as Ibn Manzur al-Afriqi that Ibn Abi Awfa went to the Prophet s.a.w. with charity given by his father from his wealth “upon which the Prophet s.a.w. remarked, “Oh Allah, send Salah on the family of Abi Awfa.” Therefore this al-Salah with me means al-Rahmah(the blessing/mercy). And from His(Allah’s) word: “Verily, Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet”. Al Salah from the angels is supplication and seeking for forgiveness(for him), and from Allah s.w.t. it means blessing/mercy.””
Therefore when it is said Allaah’s ‘prayer’ it does not mean that like the God of the Bible, where he is praying to himself to save himself from himself, rather it refers to Allaah’s rahmat and barakat upon a person or group of persons by bestowing His favours (mercy) upon them as mentioned in Surah Ar Rahman:
فَبِأَيِّ آلَاءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ
Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinns and men) deny?
Let’s embarrass Sam further and examine the verses he uses:
أُولَـٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ
(2:157) – They are those on whom are the Salawat (i.e. blessings, etc.) (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided-ones.
In the first case, the ayah he uses explicitly tells us both in the Arabic that God’s ‘prayer upon’ a people, means that His Rahma (mercy) is conveyed upon them. This as Sam admits by use of the verse (and explicitly as we will see later), does not mean God is praying to anyone. Thus this cannot be equated to the God of the Bible, whom Sam concedes was praying to himself. Let’s take a look at the next ayah he references:
هُوَ الَّذِي يُصَلِّي عَلَيْكُمْ وَمَلَائِكَتُهُ لِيُخْرِجَكُم مِّنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ ۚ وَكَانَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَحِيمًا
(33:43) – He it is Who sends Salat (His blessings) on you, and His angels too (ask Allah to bless and forgive you), that He may bring you out from darkness (of disbelief and polytheism) into light (of Belief and Islamic Monotheism). And He is Ever Most Merciful to the believers.
Once again, in the verse that Sam uses, it demonstrates to us that God’s “Salat” is His conveyance of mercy to the believers. Notice the term (يُصَلِّي عَلَيْكُمْ) which means “Prays Upon”, just as how we would pray upon a person, this would not mean praying to a person. Unless Sam believes that when he prays upon his wife or mother when she is ill, he actually means to be praying to them? If that’s the case, then he needs to study basic Grammar. Let’s now examine the last verse he references:
إِنَّ اللَّـهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ
(33:56) – Allah sends His Salat (Graces, Honours, Blessings, Mercy, etc.) on the Prophet (Muhammad SAW) and also His angels too (ask Allah to bless and forgive him).
Notice once again the use of the word ( عَلَى), as aforementioned, there is a distinction between praying ‘upon’ and praying ‘to’, the word ( عَلَى), means ‘upon’. Just as in As Salaamu ‘Alaykum – the same term ( عَلَى) is used, but in the plural meaning “upon you all“. This only goes to demonstrate that Sam is both heavily deficient in both the Arabic and English languages. Lastly, Sam Shamoun concedes that when the term ‘salat’ is used in relation to Allaah, it refers to Allaah’s conveying of His mercy:
The following is a translation of an alleged prayer of Allah taken from Ibn Hisham’s Al-Sirah Al-Halabiyya:
قلت يا جبريل أيصلى ربك قال نعم قلت وما يقول قال يقول سبوح قدوس رب الملائكة والروح سبقت رحمتى غضبى
I [Muhammad] said, “O Gabriel, does your Lord pray?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “What does he say?” “This is what he says. He says: ‘Glory, holy, Lord of the angels and the Spirit. My mercy overcomes my wrath.’” (Source; translation, bold, underline and comments within brackets ours)
Another Muslim scholar made the following comments about surah 33:56 and Allah praying:
Allah makes the merit of His Prophet clear by first praying blessing on Himself, and then by the prayer of the angels, and then by commanding His slaves to pray blessing and peace on him as well. Abu Bakr ibn Furak related that one of the ‘ulama interpreted the words of the Prophet, “The coolness of my eye is in the prayer,” as meaning Allah’s prayer, that of the angels and that of his community in response to Allah’s command until the Day of Rising. The prayer of angels and men is supplication for him and that of Allah is mercy.
Therefore in Sam’s own argument he concludes for himself, that Allaah’s pray means Allaah’s conveyance of His mercy upon someone. This however, cannot be and is not equitable to the Christian God who prays to Himself, as aptly demonstrated above. This strawman argument from Sam, was only intended to distract the reader from the main question, which still remains unanswered:
If Jesus is God and Jesus prays to God, then why is Jesus praying to Himself? Sam has failed to answer this question and has only been able to demonstrate his weak Grammar and comprehension of both the Arabic and English languages. I pray and hope that Sam can one day, eventually seek to directly answer this theological conundrum.
wa Allaahu Alam,
and God knows best.
- Sam Shamoun’s, “A Series of Answers to Common Questions and Claims”.
- Br. Ijaz Ahmad’s, “Would a Loving and Merciful God, Kill Himself/ His Own Son?“
- Br. Ibn Anwar’s, “Does Allah pray? If yes then who does he pray to?“: Ibn Manzur al-Afriqi (2003). Lisan al-Arab, Vol. 18. Saudi Arabia: Dar ‘Alim Al-Kutub. p. 198, Abi Nasr Ismail bin Hammad al-Jawhari (1999). Al-Sihah Taj al-Lughati Wa Sihah al-’Arabiyyah, Vol. 6. Beirut, Lebanon: dar al-Kutub al-’Ilmiyyah. p. 384, Abi Mansur Muhammad bin Ahmad al-Azhari (n.d.). Tahzib al-Lughat, Vol. 17. Cairo, Egypt: Matabi’ Sabil al-Arab. p. 236.