Below is a critical analysis and a rebuttal on Christian apologist Jochen Katz claimed there is a contradiction in the Quran that if Muhammad is wrong then he has to carry some of the burden of those whom led astray. The analysis and the argument put forward as a rebuttal is did Muhammad guides or lead mankind astray. The main verse that was presented is –
Surah 34:50 Say: “If I am astray, I only stray to the loss of my own soul: but if I receive guidance, it is because of the inspiration of my Lord to me: it is He Who hears all things, and is (ever) near.”
The question is who will suffer the loss if Muhammad was wrong. Surah 34:50 quoted above says that if he goes astray it is for his own loss. which in fact is a severe factual error in the Qur’an as well as contradicting the teaching of the Qur’an in a number of other verses. The first point is somewhat trivial. Muslims are commanded in the Qur’an to take Muhammad as their model, and therefore many Muslims imitate him in the smallest details of life. They dress like Muhammad, they use a miswak to brush their teeth like Muhammad did, etc. If Muhammad was wrong, then this would mean a life of unnecessary inconvenience for millions of Muslims. There are, however, a lot of not so trivial aspects. If Muhammad’s message and regulations were wrong, he has subjected millions of Muslim women to a life of misery without any reward in return! Moreover, not only those who followed Muhammad have lost, but millions of the so-called “unbelievers” have suffered because Muslims have either killed them for their lack of faith, or forced Muhammad’s regulations on them and subjected them to live as second-class citizens. Ironically, these people have suffered loss even if Muhammad had been a true prophet. Whether Muhammad was astray or guided, many lives have been destroyed by Muslim attacks on unbelievers, so that this statement is not only logically false, but false also in factual history. Under the assumption that Muhammad was a true messenger, those who were killed as unbelievers because they did not accept his message on the spot have lost not only their lives but also the opportunity to become convinced by the truth of Islam by having the time to study the message of Islam in-depth. Had Islam restricted its method of expansion to peaceful proclamation and intellectual persuasion instead of using (also and much too quickly) violence and force, the situation would be vastly different. As it is, these people have lost their lives on earth, and they will suffer eternal punishment because they died in rejection of God’s message. Thus, many unbelievers will suffer eternal loss even if Muhammad was right. Though Muslims may argue that in the Quranic view this may be justified, it is unquestionable that they did suffer temporal and eternal loss due to the violent nature of Islam.
Finally, there is one more crucial observation to be made in this section. Simply looking at how Muhammad dealt with those who propagated a different message than Islam, or voiced critique of Islam, exposes that Muhammad did not even believe this statement himself. In particular, Muhammad’s instruction is: Whoever leaves Islam, kill him (e.g. Sahih Al-Bukhari 4.260). Obviously, Muhammad considered apostasy, and publicly speaking of a belief other than Islam such a grave danger to the Islamic community that the harshest possible measures had to be instituted against it. Nowhere in an Islamic society is open preaching of another religion permitted. Why not, if those who do so will “only go astray to their own loss”? The laws in the Shariah, and the reactions of Muslims towards those who want to publicly invite (Muslims) to another faith prove that they do not believe Surah 34:50 to be true. Although the statement “If I go astray, I go astray only to my own loss” is hypothetical (i.e. the assumption is that Muhammad is not astray but on the right path), it stands in obvious tension to a multitude of verses in the Qur’an that demand that believers should obey and follow the messenger (Muhammad), i.e. Muhammad’s words and example are supposed to directly impact those who believe in Allah. Some examples as in Surah 3:32 Say: “Obey Allah and His Messenger”: But if they turn back, Allah love not those who reject Faith. Or in another example at Surah 3:132 And obey Allah and the Messenger; that ye may obtain mercy or stated in Surah 4:13 Those are limits set by Allah: those who obey Allah and His Messenger will be admitted to Gardens with rivers flowing beneath, to abide therein (forever) and that will be the supreme achievement. The Qur’an does not only make it mandatory to obey Muhammad’s explicit commands whether they are verses found in the Qur’an or Muhammad’s own words, it makes everything Muhammad does and says the standard to emulate as confirmed in Surah 53:2-5 Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him: He was taught by one Mighty in Power. In Surah 68:4 And thou stand on an exalted standard of character. While in Surah 33:21 Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah. Based on verses like these, Muhammad is considered the perfect and divinely endorsed role model, and he is followed in the minutest details of life. As stated above, these verses do not yet posit a clear-cut contradiction to Surah 34:50, but they are in considerable tension. The plain contradiction arises when we add the following verses into the equation: Surah 29:12 And the Unbelievers say to those who believe: “Follow our path, and we will bear (the consequences) of your faults.” Never in the least will they bear their faults: in fact, they are liars! A similar verse saying the same at Surah 16:25 Let them bear, on the Day of Judgment, their own burdens in full, and also (something) of the burdens of those without knowledge, whom they misled. Alas, how grievous the burdens they will bear! Thus, these verses make it clear that “following those who lead you astray” does not absolve you from your own responsibility. On Judgement Day, those leaders will not bear the punishment (burden) for your going astray. Nobody will be able to excuse himself completely with “but I only followed this or that false prophet or teacher”. Surah 16:25 seems to indicate that some part of the burdens of those who were led astray may be put on the one who had misled them, but it still shows that the remainder has to be shouldered by the person who followed the false prophet into transgression and disobedience to God. Thus, those who lead astray cause their followers to suffer divine punishment and eternal loss.
To summarize the above claim of contradiction it is the question who will suffer the loss if Muhammad was wrong as stated in Surah 34:50 Muslims are commanded in the Qur’an to take Muhammad as their model, and therefore many Muslims imitate him in the smallest details of life of Muhammad but he is alleged to kill others because expansion of Islam in by the sword. In refutation to the allegation above, this is a false claim by the accuser as Muslims were to follow and obey Muhammad as he is depicted in the Quran while other sources other than the Quran which has written on his background is questionable. Muslims were commanded to believe in only the Quran and not from other books compiled by men. Having said that, Muslim is to imitate and obeyed him for what he did by examples in the Quran to be followed not to follow the Arab cultures or tradition. It is wrong to make a claim that the Quran make it mandatory to obey Muhammad explicit commands whether they are verses found in the Qur’an or Muhammad’s own words, it makes everything Muhammad does and says the standard to emulate as confirmed in Surah 53:2-5 Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him. To comply with this, it is stated in Surah 3:32 Say: “Obey Allah and His Messenger”: But if they turn back, Allah love not those who reject Faith. However, as can be seen both the verses being quoted were concerning the revelations of the Quran and this made it mandatory to obey Muhammad’s in those verses stated above. The revelations of the Quran from the angel Gabriel must be isolated with Muhammad’s personal speech as when he is being an ordinary man. It is only as a messenger he is to be obeyed as this verse confirmed that Muslims were to follow the revelations as stated in In Surah 7:158 Say: “O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belong the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That give both life and death. So, believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided.” Muslims were to follow the words of Allah and not the man Muhammad. And further it is stated in Surah 4:105 We have sent down to thee the Book in truth, that thou might judge between men, as guided by Allah: so be not (used) as an advocate by those who betray their trust.
It is also in Allah’s words and His revelations in the Quran Muhammad is responsible to uphold and to each man is his own deed that is he is liable to as stated in Surah 42:15 Now then, for that (reason), call (them to the Faith), and stand steadfast as thou art commanded, nor follow thou their vain desires; but say: “I believe in the Book which Allah has sent down; and I am commanded to judge justly between you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord: for us (is the responsibility for) our deeds, and for you for your deeds. There is no contention between us and you. Allah will bring us together, and to Him is (our) Final Goal. It is therefore Allah’s words one is to follow and not the personal words of Muhammad.
It must be reiterated it is a falsehood if it is being reported that Muhammad killed others because they did not believe in his religion, as the principle of Islam that he propagated is far different as stated clearly in Surah 2:256 Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah hear and know all things. And it is still the principle of no compulsion as he is to uphold as in Surah 18:29 And say, “The truth is from your Lord”: Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it): for the wrong-doers We have prepared a Fire whose (smoke and flames), like the walls and roof of a tent, will hem them in: if they implore relief they will be granted water like melted brass, that will scald their faces, how dreadful the drink! How uncomfortable a couch to recline on! It is recorded in the Quran the Prophet also never initiated war or being the first to create war as he was taught always to be in defensive mode as these verses confirmed as stated in Surah 2:190-193 Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you. In Surah 4:75. And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? Also stated in Surah 9:13 Will ye not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger, and took the aggressive by being the first (to assault) you? Do ye fear them? Nay, it is Allah Whom ye should more justly fear, if ye believe! Again, in Surah 22:39-40 To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged; and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid; (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, (for no cause) except that they say, “our Lord is Allah. Further in Surah 26:227 Except those who believe, work righteousness, engage much in the remembrance of Allah, and defend themselves only after they are unjustly attacked. And in Surah 42:39 And those who, when an oppressive wrong is inflicted on them, (are not cowed but) help and defend themselves. Thus, the accusation Muhammad being a warmonger is without basis.
The other claim of contradiction is the claim that there are other verses which is in opposition to the above Surah 34:50 that if Muhammad is wrong then the effect of his being wrong he should bear the outcome the same as what the following people does as stated in Surah 29:12 And the Unbelievers say to those who believe: “Follow our path, and we will bear (the consequences) of your faults.” A similar verse saying the same at Surah 16:25 Let them bear, on the Day of Judgment, their own burdens in full, and also (something) of the burdens of those without knowledge, whom they misled. Alas, how grievous the burdens they will bear! Thus, these verses make it clear that “following those who lead others astray” does not absolve the preacher from their own responsibility. On Judgement Day, those leaders will surely also bear the punishment (burden) for the ignorant being led astray.
To answer on the carrying on the burdens by those who lead others astray as stated in Surah 29:12, it is they the unbelievers themselves who entice the believers to follow their wrong path and they themselves declare to bear the faults of those who follow them while Muhammad did not make such a promise. And on the Surah 16:25 it is obvious they will carry their own burden of rejecting the truth and the burden of the propagating falsehood to the ignorant they mislead as they mocked the Quran in the first place and claim it is fables or falsehood as stated at Surah 16:24 When it is said to them, “What is it that your Lord has revealed?” they say, “Tales of the ancients!” Here the unbelievers were the ones who propagated falsehood against the truth from Allah whereas, Muhammad never offer to carry the burden of others or by saying similar to what was said by the unbelievers above but he said in Surah 34:50 Say: “If I am astray, I only stray to the loss of my own soul: but if I receive guidance, it is because of the inspiration of my Lord to me: it is He Who hears all things, and is (ever) near.” Thus, the Surah 29:12 and the Surah 16:25 cannot be associated with Muhammad as he brought the truth from the Lord as Allah Himself commanded others to follow him by following the Quran as stated in Surah 7:158 Say: “O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belong the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So, believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided.” The punishment therefore is for those who propagate falsehood and not of those who propagate the truth. He also brought nothing new as stated in Surah 46:9 Say: “I am no bringer of new-fangled doctrine among the messengers, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I follow but that which is revealed to me by inspiration; I am but a Warner open and clear.” Further he said in Surah 6:50 Say: “I tell you not that with me are the treasures of Allah, nor do I know what is hidden, nor do I tell you I am an angel. I but follow what is revealed to me.” Say: “can the blind be held equal to the seeing?” Will ye then consider not?
In the final analysis the assertion that if Muhammad is wrong can be concluded that the Quran is never wrong and as Muhammad followed it to the single words as his guidance those who follow him can hope for their salvation in this world and the hereafter and Allah’s mercy will be on them. Whatever errors that Muhammad made as the messenger of Allah has been shown in the Quran where Allah reprimanded and corrected him as shown when he neglected a blind man coming to him to know his message of the Quran in Surah 80:1-4 (The Prophet) frowned and turned away, because there came to him the blind man (interrupting). But what could tell thee but that perchance he might grow (in spiritual understanding)? Or that he might receive admonition, and the teaching might profit him? And in another example Allah did helped him from falling astray as in Surah 4:13 But for the Grace of Allah to thee and his Mercy, a party of them would certainly have plotted to lead thee astray. But (in fact) they will only lead their own souls astray, and to thee they can do no harm in the least. For Allah hath sent down to thee the Book and wisdom and taught thee what thou Knew not (before): And great is the Grace of Allah unto thee. And also, Allah helped him as in Surah 17:73-74 And their purpose was to tempt thee away from that which We had revealed unto thee, to substitute in Our name something quite different; (in that case), behold! they would certainly have made thee (their) friend! And had We not given thee strength, thou wouldst nearly have inclined to them a little.
Thus, to say if Muhammad is wrong then one is to find the error in the Quran that make him wrong and not any other sources that gave doubtful image which is attribute to him. Nevertheless, the Quran specify Muhammad is not the only criteria for salvation as it is stated in Surah 3:144 Muhammad is no more than a messenger: many were the messenger that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude. Apart from Muhammad, the Prophet Abraham is also an example to follow as stated in Surah 60:4-6 here is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: “We are clear of you and of whatever ye worship besides Allah. we have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred for ever, unless ye believe in Allah and Him alone”: But not when Abraham said to his father: “I will pray for forgiveness for thee, though I have no power (to get) aught on thy behalf from Allah.” (They prayed): “Our Lord! in Thee do we trust, and to Thee do we turn in repentance: to Thee is (our) Final Goal. “Our Lord! Make us not a (test and) trial for the Unbelievers, but forgive us, our Lord! for Thou art the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” There was indeed in them an excellent example for you to follow, for those whose hope is in Allah and in the Last Day. But if any turn away, truly Allah is Free of all Wants, Worthy of all Praise. And apart from following the examples of Muhammad and Abraham, there is also the command to follow other prophets as depicted in the Quran in these Surah 6:88-90 This is the guidance of Allah. He gives that guidance to whom He please, of His worshippers. If they were to join other gods with Him, all that they did would be vain for them. These were the men to whom We gave the Book, and authority, and prophethood: if these (their descendants) reject them, Behold! We shall entrust their charge to a new people who reject them not. Those were the (prophets) who received Allah’s guidance: Copy the guidance they received; Say: “No reward for this do I ask of you: This is no less than a message for the nations.”
It is therefore the Quran which is the one that determine whether one will receive the mercy of Allah and His salvation and not the example of a single messenger!