Qur'anic Errors: Mary, the Mother of Jesus or the Sister of Moses?

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This article examines the father of Mary, mother of Jesus, according to the Qur'an.


Contrary to the Bible, the Qur'an mentions the father of Mary, mother of Jesus, as being a man called 'Imran'.

(Remember) when the wife of 'Imran said: My Lord! I have vowed unto Thee that which is in my belly as a consecrated (offering). Accept it from me. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower! And when she was delivered she said: My Lord! Lo! I am delivered of a female - Allah knew best of what she was delivered - the male is not as the female; and lo! I have named her Mary, and lo! I crave Thy protection for her and for her offspring from Satan the outcast.

Resemblance with Biblical genealogy

Imran is the Arabic version of the Hebrew name 'Amram' which we find in the Old Testament. This Amram is mentioned as being the father of Moses, Aaron and Mary, which is a different Mary than the mother of Jesus from the New Testament.

Since the Qur'anic father of Mary has the same name as an Old Testament man who also had a daughter named Mary, but lived approximately 1400 years earlier, non-Muslim scholars began to consider the possibility that the writer(s) of the Qur'an have perhaps confused one Mary for the other. Though two people who lived in different times can surely have fathers who share the same name, the debated Quranic error becomes more evident when we read that the Qur'an also calls the mother of Jesus "Sister of Haroun", which is the Arabic name for 'Aaron', another child of the Old Testament Amram. So now Amram shares, not one, but two identically named children with the Qur'anic Imran:

O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a harlot.

The above indicates that the Quran inexplicitely implies that Moses was the uncle of Jesus, which is physically impossible since they lived about 1400 years apart (according to Christian and non-Christian theologians).

Apologetic arguments

Throughout history Muslims have formed two main arguments to refute claims by critics, that Muhammad (or whoever wrote the Qur'an) mixed up two Mary's by copying the wrong genealogy from the circling Christian and Jewish teachings during the Islamic prophet's time.

Muslim argument 1: "The Qur'anic text in reality refers to Imran as the ancestor of Mary, mother of Jesus"

Here the Muslim apologists claim that Mary is the ancestor of Imran, and more specific, his son Aaron.

proof of scholarly claim(s) needed on to-do list


This Islamic argument seems to be refuted by Qur'an 3:35-36 which, as seen above, makes it clear that the wife of Imran had a daughter named Mary, seemingly erasing the possibility of her being a far descendant of Imran.

Also, just a few verses down the line, this same Mary bears a child of her own, called Jesus, the Messiah, according to the Quran:

(And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah).

Muslim argument 2: "Imran is really Joachim"

Some Muslim scholars have tried to refute the controversy surrounding Imran by arguing that he is in fact the Catholic Joachim, who is the father of Mary, mother of Jesus, according to non-Biblical Catholic and Orthodox Christian teachings. In fact, these two denominations of Christianity call this father of Mary 'Saint Joachim'.

proof of scholarly claim(s) needed on to-do list

However the above mentioned verse in the Qur'an 19:28 states clearly that she is the sister of Haroun (Aaron), again placing her 1400 years prior to her actual life.

Muslim argument 3: "Sister of Aaron really means descendant of Aaron"

Ibn Kathir (a 14th century scholar, generally considered the best scholar of all time by Sunni's) gave the following explanation in his tafsir:

(O sister of Harun!) referring to the brother of Musa, because she was of his descendants. This is similar to the saying, `O brother of Tamim,' to one who is from the Tamimi tribe, and `O brother of Mudar,' to one who is from the Mudari tribe. It has also been said that she was related to a righteous man among them whose name was Harun and she was comparable to him in her abstinence and worship.

This argument seems far fetched, since even the given comparisons are not even one-on-one. In the comparing sayings the associated name is that of the founding father of that tribe. But in the case of Mary and Aaron, the latter is not a 'tribe starter' but the actual ancestor of Mary.