Can there be a son without a consort?
The Qur’an is very emphatic in its rejection of the central Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God. One of the main arguments of the Qur’an against the concept of God having a son is expressed in this passage:
And they make the jinn associates with Allah, while He created them, and they falsely attribute to Him sons and daughters without knowledge; glory be to Him, and highly exalted is He above what they ascribe (to Him). Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth! How could He have a son when He has no consort, and He (Himself) created everything, and He is the Knower of all things. S. 6:100-101 Shakir
Clearly, the author of the Qur’an expects the listener to respond to his rhetorical question, How could He have a son when He has no consort?, with the acknowledgement that this is impossible. In other words, the Qur’an claims that it is impossible for Allah to have a son without having a consort and — this is certainly implied — having sex with this consort to produce the son. The Qur’an expects this question, How could He have a son when He has no consort?, to silence those who believe in a son or sons and daughters of God because they will not be able to answer it.
Interestingly, the Quran itself provides the answer to its supposedly unanswerable question. In Sura 19, Mary asks basically the same question when an angel comes to her and announces:
He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. Sura 19:19-21 Pickthall
In other words, Mary asks: How can I have a son when I had no consort? Her question, “How can this be?”, receives Allah’s answer: This is easy for me! (19:21)
Disregarding modern developments (in vitro fertilization, surrogate mothers, etc.), I agree. Until the last century, and in the realm of the natural this was not possible, but for God it was and it remains possible. Actually, according to the Qur’an, it is not only possible, it is easy for God. It is rather ironic that, when discussing the identity of Jesus, the Quran says that Allah cannot have a son without a consort, but Mary can have a son without a consort, because all things are easy for Allah.
The issue of Jesus being the Son of God is one of the essential points of disagreement between Christians and Muslims, between the Bible and the Qur’an. The above two passages already show that the Qur’an is not consistent with itself in its polemic against the Christian faith. Yet, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
S. 6:101 stands not only in tension to S. 19:21, but conflicts with several other passages as well. This self-contradictory quranic argument is discussed in more detail in The Quran’s Use of Filial Terms: A Critique of Muslim Arguments against Jesus being the Son of God.
Clearly, when Christians say that Jesus is both the Son of God and the son of Mary, the word “son” is used in two different meanings (cf. the links given below). The problem of the Qur’an is that it mostly restricts the concept of sonship to the biological and sexual. Attacking something that has never been claimed by the opposing party is called a straw man argument, and is a logical fallacy. The main problem with S. 6:101 is not its clash with the formulation of S. 19:21 on a literalistic level. That is an interesting curiosity. Texts need to be taken in their intended meaning. But this is exactly where the Qur’an fails. It does not take the Biblical use of the title “Son of God” in its intended meaning. It does not oppose the Christian faith as it is, but builds up a polemical straw man argument.
If the Qur’an had been from God, would he not have addressed an alleged Christian misconception directly? Would he not have been able to correct and refute actual belief of Christians, instead of attacking something that the Bible never claimed and Christians do not believe? The fact that the Qur’an is using a straw man polemic instead of refuting Christian belief on this issue is a serious problem for its credibility.
Why do Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God? What does it mean? What does the Bible actually teach? These questions are explained in detail in the section, Who is Jesus?, and this article in particular expounds on the biblical revelation regarding Jesus’ eternal Sonship: The Eternal Generation of the Son.
A related argument in the Qur’an is that “begetting a son” would contradict the self-sufficiency of God. This is expressed in Sura 10:68 and discussed in this article.
MENJ, a Muslim polemicist, has responded to the first part of the above observation. He states:
… Responding to banal missionary “logic”
The missionaries in their latest alleged claim of contradictions in the Qur’an have certainly outdid themselves in their travesty of logic and idiocy. To cite the missionary claim, …
Unfortunately for the missionary, an understanding can be reached if a little more thought can be put into their argument. The missionary has taken the understanding of these verses out of its intended context and is confusing Mary’s nature (since she is only human, and hence procreates) as a creation of the Almighty, with God Himself who is the Uncreated. Certainly, God Almighty could have taken a “wife” and have “children” or have “children” without any consort whatsoever (nau’zubillahi min zaalik). However, if this were to happen, it would mean that the Uncreated nature of God would be affected, as anything that is “procreated” by God (as the Qur’an argues in 6:100) is created. In other words, to expect the Uncreated to “procreate” children, whether with or without a “consort” (which would also be part of Creation) is not only an affront against what God Almighty has told us about Himself, but is also a preposterous position only held by pantheists and the idolators. It is certainly not in conformity with monotheism or how Islam understands divine transcedence. (Source; emphasis original)
I would never have used such strong words, but MENJ calls it banal “logic”, a travesty of logic and even idiocy to take verses or concepts out of their intended context, and to confuse the nature of human beings with the nature of God.
He could hardly have been more correct. The author of the Qur’an does exactly that. He takes the Biblical concept and Messianic title “Son of God” out of its intended context. He does not ask what the Bible means by “Son of God” but instead assumes that it means exactly the same as with human beings, i.e. he confuses the nature of God with the nature of human beings, and then argues against its own confusion, thinking that by doing so, he could refute Christian belief.
What verdict does such reasoning deserve according to this Muslim author? See above!