Qur’an 16: 43 and 21: 7 are the references Christians often use to assert that Qur’an testifies to the Judeo-Christian people to be the bastions of the Monotheistic faith. They argue that they also testify to the authenticity of the Bible, the collection of the scriptures that is the corner stone of the Judeo-Christian beliefs.
The way they quote the verses is:
فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not! “ (Qur’an 16: 43)
Same words are repeated in 21: 7.
They say as the words “followers of the Remembrance” according to greatest Muslim exegetes like Ibn Abbas, may Allah bless him, refer to the learned among the people of the Book so it accounts for their being on the right path.
This much is true that it refers to the people of the Book but the conclusion they draw is not true. And here is the plain reasoning for this.
1- Even if you quote one complete verse in isolation to its context it hides the actual intent, leave alone quoting the half verse. The complete verse goes as;
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ إِلَّا رِجَالًا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِمْ فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired - Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not!” (Qur’an 16: 43 and 21: 7)
2- This was certainly addressed to the pagans of Makkah who doubted if a human can be a Messenger of the Most High, Allah.
3- The verses before and after Qur’an 21: 7 make this further clear;
Verse 3 tells us about the pagans;
وَأَسَرُّوا النَّجْوَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا هَلْ هَذَا إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُكُمْ
“ .. The wrong-doers say: Is this other than a mortal like you?”
And in verse 7 and 8 Allah replies back;
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ إِلَّا رِجَالًا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِمْ فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ وَمَا جَعَلْنَاهُمْ جَسَدًا لَا يَأْكُلُونَ الطَّعَامَ وَمَا كَانُوا خَالِدِينَ
“And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men, whom We inspired. Ask the followers of the Reminder if ye know not? We gave them not bodies that would not eat food, nor were they immortals.” (Qur’an 21: 7-8)
4- A narration from Ibn Abbas, may Allah bless him, further clarifies the actual context of the verse;
Ibn Abbas said: When Allah sent Muhammad as a Messenger, the Arabs refused to accept him and those who refused to accept him said, “Allah is greater than to send a mortal man like Muhammad as His Messenger.” So Allah revealed, “Is it a wonder for mankind that We have inspired a man among them” (10: 3) And He (Allah, further) said, “And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired - Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not! “ (16: 43) Ask the People of Remembrance i.e. people of the previous scriptures if the Messengers who came to them were (mortal) men or the angels? And if they (tell you) they were men then do not reject that Muhammad is a Messenger. Then Allah said, “We sent not before thee (any messengers) save men whom We inspired from among the folk of the townships.” (12: 109) that they were not some heavenly creatures as you say (or expect.) (Tafsir Ibn Jarir al-Tabari 17/208 under Quran 16: 43)
5- All the above points are enough to clarify that verses do not mean to recognize the People of the Book as custodians of the faith nor raises them to the status of people of ultimate knowledge but only asks the pagans to confirm from them that the Prophet from Allah have always been mortal men and not angels etc.
6- Even if we say that the verses speak of knowledge on the part of the Jews and Christians it is only restricted to the awareness that Allah’s prophets were human only. If this knowledge makes arrogant a people to whom countless Prophets were sent then perhaps it is enough to know that they have failed to receive the guidance offered to them and have contented themselves with a pittance.
7- It further reveals their cunning nature of quoting the verses in half.
Let Me Turn the Tables:
8- If such wrong and dishonest quotation of the references actually proves something. And if the half quoted verses ought to be taken as truth then we can even maintain that Bible supports Atheism, for we read in the Psalms;
“There is no God.” (Psalms 14: 1)
It’s the other matter the taking in full the verse reads;
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”
If Christians take an exception to Bible being used to support Atheism then they ought to make introspection too.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7: 1-2)
Indeed Allah knows the best!