By Silas

Does Islam teach hatred or love toward non-Muslims?

Islam teaches a standard worldview towards non-Muslims.  No religion hates or loves, but their characters do.  Are Muslims to take a hateful, aggressive, and domineering approach, or a kind, loving, and considerate approach towards non-Muslims?  Or is the answer somewhere in between?1

Understanding The Islamic worldview towards non-Muslims.

There are millions of Muslims worldwide who are great people.  They are caring, loving, and giving.  They are excellent citizens and great neighbors.  I personally know far too many good and decent Muslims to characterize them in a malevolent fashion.  Conversely, I know there are millions of Muslims worldwide who support terrorism and oppression to advance the Kingdom of Allah, Muhammad’s kingdom, as the world’s rule and authority.2  These people continue to spill Muslim and non-Muslim blood throughout the world.  In some Muslim countries the majority oppose Islamic terrorism, in other Muslim countries the majority supports some type of force or violence because its aim is to further Islam’s domination.3

Obviously it would be foolish to try to determine if Islam’s Allah, (when I use the word “Allah” I am referring to Islam’s God, when I use “God” I am referring to Christianity’s God), loves or hates non-Muslims based on the intra-contradictory attitudes and actions of Muslims worldwide.  We need to use the Islamic source materials, the Quran, hadith, and sira, to identify Muhammad’s position on this question.  Muhammad was the greatest Muslim who ever lived and Muslims are commanded to obey his word and imitate his example.  Therefore we must use Muhammad, his teachings and actions, identified in the Islamic source materials, in their appropriate context, as our primary reference.

The question becomes:  What was Muhammad’s final position on how Muslims should view and approach non-Muslims?

A follow-up question is:  How does his final position shape today’s Islamic worldview?

The goal here is to identify Islam’s final worldview for its spiritual and physical approach towards non-Muslims.  This study is based upon a composite of the Islamic source material’s, (the Quran, hadith, and sira), which form Islam’s theological foundation.  We will also review historical writings covering the first years after Muhammad’s death because they exemplify Muhammad’s commands for the Islamic approach towards non-Muslims and we’ll consult the work of some great Muslim theological scholars.

We will also examine actual examples of Muhammad’s engagement with non-Muslims.  Muhammad was a man of action.  He not only talked the Islamic talk, he walked the Islamic walk.  If there is a standardized Islamic approach towards non-Muslims then there should exist a correlation between Muhammad’s words, (Islam’s tenets), and his actions.  The saying, “Actions speak louder than words” is appropriate here, and a correlation must be proven.

Examining Muhammad’s teachings and actions relative to his engagements with non-Muslims should show us his primary, and final, approach.  Doesn’t this sound like an intelligent, logical, and fair way to investigate this topic?

Muhammad’s final position on how Muslims should view and approach non-Muslims

Muhammad’s attitude towards non-Muslims changed over time. The biographical literature, tells us that he had a wide variety of interactions with many non-Muslims during his life.  His attitude was not always, “I love you brother, let’s embrace!”  Nor was it, “I hate you infidel, die!”  No, his attitude changed and varied depending on occasion, participants, and his status.  However, it did standardize during his last few years, changing as he gained martial power.  Consequently, I will start the answer with an event that occurred near the middle of Muhammad’s 23 year ministry, instead of at its beginning, because this event was the catalyst for the hardening of his final position.4

Allah’s permission for violence.


Islam’s spiritual approach translates into the physical approach.

The order to fight

The greatest change within the theology of Islam occurred when Allah gave Muhammad a specific command, known as “The Order to Fight.”  This command is based on these Quranic verses: Sura 22:39-41 and 2:193.5

Verse 22:39 allows violence in self-defense while 2:193 allows violence to force Islam upon others, “religion should be only for Allah.”  More on this shortly.

Muhammad received this command while he lived in Mecca, shortly before he fled to Medina.  The year was 621/622 A.D.  Up to this point Muhammad and the Muslims were very weak.  Had they attempted any form of violence the Quraysh would have crushed them and killed Muhammad.  Fortunately, Allah had wisely commanded Muhammad not to be violent (10:99).  However, just before Muhammad received the order to fight a company of experienced fighting men from Medina pledged their swords to defend and fight for Muhammad.6  This event was known as “the second pledge of Aqabah.”  They understood that Muhammad and Islam were to reign supreme and they actually pledged to fight the entire world for Muhammad’s sake.7  Since Muhammad’s physical circumstances had changed Allah changed his commands to fit.  Now fighting was allowed and commanded.

This event signified a new beginning for Muhammad.  The rules of the game had changed in a 180° direction.   In Mecca he was a peaceful “warner,” in Medina, he was the violent warrior.   Before, he was not allowed to spill blood; now he was commanded to spill blood.  Before, his spirituality was to endure ridicule and persecution; now his spirituality told him to pick up the sword and persecute non-Muslims and force them to submit to Islam.

Ibn Ishaq’s sira provides the context and background for this order:


“The apostle had not been given permission to fight or allowed to shed blood before the second Aqaba. He had simply been ordered to call men to God and to endure insult and forgive the ignorant.”

When they are in the ascendant they will establish prayer, pay the poor-tax, enjoin kindness, and forbid iniquity, i.e., the prophet and his companions all of them.”  Then God sent down to him:  “Fight them so that there be no more seduction,” [b] i.e. until no believer is seduced from his religion.  “And the religion is God’s,” i.e. Until God alone is worshipped.”8

Note that a stipulation is “when they are in the ascendant.”  Muhammad was intelligent enough to know that when he was out-gunned he could not force Islam upon people.  But later, if he had grown strong enough, then he was to force Islam upon others.  You see this principle operating in the Islamic world today.

This abrupt theological change is allowed for in Islamic theology.  It is known as “abrogation.”  This event represents the biggest abrogation of all within Islamic theology.  Thus the “Order to Fight” presents us with a theological foundation and a clear backdrop with which to understand Muhammad’s final posture towards non-Muslims.  Allah abrogated his previous commands of non-violence to Muhammad and now commanded Muhammad to use violence when necessary to spread Islam’s rule.

Regarding this passage, the Commentary (tafsir) of a great Muslim scholar, Ibn Kathir, elaborates on the use of violence to spread Islam’s domain:

Then Allah orders Muslims to kill the disbelievers “until there is no more Fitnah.”  According to Ibn Abbas and others, “Fitnah” means polytheism, “And religion (worship), is for Allah” meaning Allah’s religion should stand supreme and overshadowing the rest of the religions.  In the Sahihayn, it is reported that the Prophet said:  “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight the people till they say:  “None has the right to be worshipped by Allah, and whoever says it will save his life and property from me except on breaking the law (rights and conditions for which he will be punished justly), and his accounts will be with Allah””.9

Muhammad understood this command to violence clearly

Muhammad commented on this command to fight:

Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.’ And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah.10

Not long after the “order to fight” was given Muhammad fled to Medina.  Immediately he began to use violence to exert his power and take advantage of others.  He began to attack, kill, and plunder non-Muslim Arab tribes and trade caravans.11

The attacks on non-Muslims continued and grew in violence.  Tabari’s History (volumes 7, 8, and 9), provide numerous examples of Muhammad’s aggressive attacks against non-Muslims.  Waqidi’s Maghazi (translated by Rizwi Faizer) is 500 pages of detail related to Muhammad’s murders, plunders, attacks, and battles, and the “Authentic”  Traditions, (Sahih Hadith, Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, An-Nasa’i), have entire chapters dedicated to Muhammad’s commands and violent actions.

Muhammad’s violence started out small: raids on defenseless trade caravans, assassinations, and attacks upon small pagan Arab tribes, but grew into the expulsions, mass enslavements, and wholesale massacres of hundreds of prisoners.  Eventually Muhammad began to send out armies of thousands to fight non-Muslims and this culminated into wholesale subjection of regions and tribes via force or intimidation.  Before he died Muhammad had sent out a large expeditionary force to fight some 400 miles away (see the battle of Mutah).

Obeying Allah was Muhammad’s primary motivation.  Allah changed the command from nonviolence to violence to subject people to Islam.  Muhammad walked the walk and put action behind Allah’s command.  Understand Muhammad.  He believed that Allah had commanded him to fight, kill, and conquer those that rejected him.  Allah commanded, he obeyed.

Islamic conquest was to continue until the entire world was subjected to Islam.

Some people have argued that Muhammad’s commands to violence were limited in scope:  they pertained only to the people near the Muslims who were fighting them.  This is wrong.  Muhammad wanted his followers to fight until the last day.

The end of Muhammad’s raid at Tabuk highlights this.  Following that raid some Muslims thought mistakenly that jihad was over and they began to sell their weapons.  Muhammad learned of this and forbid them from selling them, and said, “A group from my community will continue to strive for the truth until Dajjal arrives.”12

A deeper examination of the “Order to Fight”

Let’s take a deeper look at the “Order to Fight.”  It underlines Muhammad’s worldview towards non-Muslims.  Two key points need to be understood.

Point 1) Establishment and identification of “the other.”
Point 2) Having “the other” submit to Muhammad’s rule

Point 1)  Establishment and identification of “the other.”

This command establishes a spiritual and a physical separation, a classification, between Muslim and non-Muslim.  It is a one side or the other, a “You are either with us or against us” distinction.  Muhammad was commanded to physically fight against those who were not with him.  This is a spiritual, cultural, and physical war.

Some scholars describe this separation as Islam’s “House of Islam,” (Dar al-Islam), and “House of War,” (Dar al-Harb).

This segregation, the identification of “the other,” was initiated by Allah.  It is part of Islam’s theological bedrock and it extends to family members.  Verses 60:3,4 use the example of Abraham as a standard for Muslims to embrace and imitate in their posture towards non-Muslims.

Your ties of kindred and your children will avail you naught upon the Day of Resurrection. He will part you. Allah is Seer of what ye do. There is a goodly pattern for you in Abraham and those with him, when they told their folk: Lo! we are guiltless of you and all that ye worship beside Allah. We have done with you. And there hath arisen between us and you hostility and hate for ever until ye believe in Allah only – save that which Abraham promised his father (when he said): I will ask forgiveness for thee, though I own nothing for thee from Allah – Our Lord! In Thee we put our trust, and unto Thee we turn repentant, and unto Thee is the journeying. 60:3,4 13

You can also reference Frontpage magazine’s article on this topic: ISLAM HATES YOU14  Raymond Ibrahim does an excellent job reviewing the details of Islam’s hatred of non-Muslims.

David Bukay, writing at the Middle East Quarterly, quotes Bernard Lewis’s strong statement on this theme of “the other”:

Even one’s relatives should not be taken as friends if they are not Muslim.  As Bernard Lewis has put it:

Islam is still the ultimate criterion of group identity and loyalty. It is Islam that distinguishes between self and other, between insider and outsider, between brother and stranger … the ultimate definition of the other, the alien outsider and presumptive enemy, has been the kafir [infidel].15

The Islamic distinction of “the other” also requires that Muslims disavow any loyalty with non-Muslims.  Once a person is Muslim his first loyalty is to be given to Islam’s cause and his fellow Muslims.  Two examples of this breaking, perhaps betrayal, of bonds of friendship occurred during Muhammad’s rise to power in Medina.

Example a)  Breaking the bonds with the Jews of the Qaynuqa tribe.

There was a minor conflict in Medina between some Jews and Muslims.  Muhammad used that as a pretense to attack the Jews.  Eventually the Jews surrendered and Muhammad intended to massacre the males and enslave the women and children.  However, a Pagan interceded on the Jew’s behalf and physically confronted Muhammad.  Muhammad backed down but he expelled the Jews from Medina.

Many of the Muslims before their conversion to Islam were formal allies with these Jews.  When challenged about their betrayal one of the Muslims said,

“Hearts have changed. Islam has blotted all treaties out.”16

Example b)  A similar conflict occurred with the Jews of the Nadhir tribe.

Muhammad received a revelation from Allah that these Jews were going to try to kill him, so he attacked them.  Eventually he expelled them from Medina.  One of them asked how the Muslims who were their former allies could betray them, and a Muslim responded:

“Hearts have changed,” he replied, “and Islam has wiped out the old covenants.”17

This first loyalty breaks or takes priority over any other bonds, commitments, citizenship, or pledges, if Islam is infringed upon.  Islam comes first.

Point 2) Having “the other” submit to Muhammad’s rule

The “order to fight” instructed Muhammad to force the non-Muslim world (the other) to submit to his rule because Allah’s kingdom was to be of and on this earth.  This makes Islam not only a spiritual faith but equally a geo-political faith as well.  Islam is a religion with integral civil, martial, and geo-political commands and regulations.  Allah wanted Muhammad to spread his dominion over all and his command authorized, endorsed, and encouraged war to be made on non-Muslims if they refused to submit.

9:33  He it is Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, that He might cause it to prevail over all religions, though the polytheists may be averse.18

7:158  Say: “O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongeth 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.”19

Having classified non-Muslims as “the other” Allah gave instructions on how the Muslims were to deal with non-Muslim.  This included using aggressive violence.  The Order to Fight, its classification of “the other,” and the command to violence, runs us straight into these questions.

:  Why did Allah command Muhammad to use violence to spread Islam’s rule?  “Why couldn’t Allah have instructed Muhammad to continue to be peaceable, as God commanded Christians?”

Answer:  Allah regards those who do not believe in Him, or who believe in false gods, as evil, as friends of Allah’s enemies.  Therefore Allah hates them.  The use of violence is allowed after the non-Muslims have heard the message of Islam and rejected it.   If they reject the peaceful offer to accept Islam then they are to be fought to submit to Allah’s rule.  Here are a selection of verses which reflect this, (all quotes are from Shakir’s Quran unless otherwise noted, bold and underline are mine):

In the manner of the people of Firon and those before them; they rejected the communications of their Lord, therefore We destroyed them on account of their faults and We drowned Firon’s people, and they were all unjust.  Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve, then they would not believe. 8:54, 55

Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of the Shaitan. Fight therefore against the friends of the Shaitan; surely the strategy of the Shaitan is weak. 4:76

Then as to those who disbelieve, I will chastise them with severe chastisement in this world and the hereafter, and they shall have no helpers.  And as to those who believe and do good deeds, He will pay them fully their rewards; and Allah does not love the unjust. 3:56, 57

Say: If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your faults, and Allah is Forgiving, MercifuL  Say: Obey Allah and the Messenger; but if they turn back, then surely Allah does not love the unbelievers. 3:31, 32

O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.  Allah has promised the hypocritical men and the hypocritical women and the unbelievers the fire of hell to abide therein; it is enough for them; and Allah has cursed them and they shall have lasting punishment.

therefore if they repent, it will be good for them; and if they turn back, Allah will chastise them with a painful chastisement in this world and the hereafter, and they shall not have in the land any guardian or a helper. 9:73, 74

O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil). 9:123

One of the strongest verses regarding the treatment of non-Muslims is 9:5.  You have to read the entire passage to understand the context of what Muhammad intended.20

So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 9:5

These verses are Allah’s/Muhammad’s command for dealing with the pagan non-Muslims in the Hijaz (Muhammad’s home state).  The Muslims are to offer Islam to the Pagans.  If they refuse to submit and accept Muhammad as their prophet then once the sacred months were completed the Muslims were to make wholesale war upon them.  No quarter was to be given.

Here is a quote from the “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, on the related passage.

But if they repent and perform the Salah, and give the Zakah, then leave their way free.  Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq used this and other honorable Ayat (verse or passage) as proof for fighting those who refrained from paying the Zakah.  These Ayat allowed fighting people unless, and until, they embrace Islam and implement its ruling and obligations.21

These previous verses and scholar’s comments highlight Allah’s, and Muhammad’s, hatred for non-believers, apostates, and Muslim hypocrites.  Muhammad intended to humiliate them and subject them to his rule.

The context of Muhammad’s commands extends warfare against all non-Muslims.

Islam’s condemnation extends to Christians

Islam’s definition of “the other” blankets Christianity and Judaism as well.  Although various Islamic texts speak well of Christians and Jews, others denigrate and castigate them.  Ultimately they were “the other” and were to be subjected to Islam’s rule, and humiliated by the Muslims.  This is because these faiths were viewed as inferior, lacking, and in error.  Here is the Quran:

He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may make it conqueror of all religion however much idolaters may be averse. 61:9 22

They do blaspheme who say: “Allah is Christ the son of Mary.” But said Christ: “O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah,- Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. 5:72 23

Make war upon such of those to whom the Scriptures have been given as believe not in God, or in the last day, and who forbid not that which God and His Apostle have forbidden, and who profess not the profession of the truth, until they pay tribute out of hand, and they be humbled. The Jews say, ‘Ezra (Ozair) is a son of God’, and the Christians say, ‘The Messiah is a son of God’  Such the sayings in their mouths!  They resemble the saying of the Infidels of old!  God do battle with them!  How are they misguided! 9:29, 30 24

Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah is the third (person) of the three; and there is no god but the one Allah, and if they desist not from what they say, a painful chastisement shall befall those among them who disbelieve. 5:73 25

Dallas Roark wrote and explicit article on how Islam rejects Christianity and Judaism found here:  Why do Muslims hate Christians?   He comments:

Islam is not willing to be a peaceful religion.  It has the goal of conquering all religions into acceptance or subordination.  This is why there is so much violence in Islam. The Sunnis are killing the Shia and the Shia are killing the Sunnis.  Both types are killing other ¨heretical¨ Muslim groups.    The killing of Copts in Egypt has been a result of the drive for conquest.  The killing of Christians in Africa, the Middle East, and other Islamic countries has the aim of eradicating Christians or forcing their conversion to Islam.

A significant comment on subjection of Christians and Jews comes from the “Reliance of the Traveller.”  This book is a Shafi’i manual of Islamic law

The Caliph makes war upon the Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax Jizya…in accordance with the word of Allah Most High:

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and Hiss messenger have forbidden – who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been give the Book – until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled.”  9:29

The Caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim…26

While the Quran offers some flowers of praise for Christians its overall tone is negative.

Conclusion on the Islamic source materials’ teaching on Islam’s final worldview of non-Muslims.

The Quran presents a substantial amount of material establishing Allah’s hatred towards unbelievers.  The verses quoted above align chronologically with “the order to fight,” i.e. they all occurred during the Medinan time period and followed “the order to fight.”  The Islamic seeds of rejection, condemnation, and separation from the “other” existed in Mecca early on.  Then the “order to fight” changed Islamic theology significantly just prior to Muhammad’s flight to Medina.  The seeds finished growing and bore the fruit of violence in Medina as Muhammad grew in power.  It was in Medina that true Islam, real Islam, Muhammad’s Islam, revealed its true nature.

This theme of “the other” that is to be subjected to Islam, is the under-girding principle for Islam’s approach towards non-Muslims.  Muslims are to approach non-Muslims with the offer to accept Islam.  If the Muslims are militarily weak, then they are to remain peaceful and persistent in their proclamation of Islam.  If the Muslims are militarily strong then they are to use force to make non-Muslims submit.  Daniel Pipes, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and others, identify these two contradictory types of Islam as “Meccan or Medinan Islam.  Throughout the hundreds of years since Muhammad this theme and this approach occur over and over, again and again and again, as Muslims interact with non-Muslims.  You see this occurring throughout the Islamic world today in how the Muslim abuse the non-Muslim minorities.  The more Islamic a nation or region is, i.e. the more Muslims practice Muhammad’s Islam, the greater the abuse of “the other.”


Earlier I said “If there is a standardized Islamic approach towards non-Muslims then there should exist a correlation between Muhammad’s words, (Islam’s tenets), and his actions.”  The saying, “Actions speak louder than words” is appropriate here.  Now we’ll review a very short list of Muhammad’s and the early Muslim’s actions to see how they correlate.

Muhammad had one consistent approach:  confrontation and the use of violence when deemed necessary.

I am not going to go into detail about the consistent and growing series of attacks that persisted from Muhammad’s arrival up to his death, but here is a small chronological outline.  You can find references to all of these in Tabari’s History volumes 7, 8, 9, and 10.27

AH 1) First raids against caravans and non-Muslim Arab tribes.
AH 2) Muhammad starts war with the Quraysh, attacks the Banu Qaynuqa Jews.
AH3) Murder of Kab Ashraf, continued attacks upon various peoples.
AH 4) Attack on the Banu Nadhir Jews, continued attacks on various tribes.
AH 5) Continued attacks on Arab pagans, massacre of the Banu Qurayza Jews.
AH 6) Continued attacks on Arab pagan tribes, rape of female slaves permitted.
AH 7) Attack and enslavement of the Khaybar Jews, torture of Kinana.
AH 8) Attacks on Arab pagan tribes, expedition to Mu’tah, conquest of Mecca.
AH 9) Expedition to Tabuk, subjection of the Christians of Aylah.

Critical Example of Muhammad in action during AH 9.

Not far from Tabuk, was the small Christian fishing village of Aylah, a port at the head of the Red Sea.  Different Muslim historians record similar details concerning the communication between Muhammad and the leaders of Aylah.  In sum, Muhammad issued an injunction against the Christian village.  Read it carefully and notice how it corresponds to 9:29:

“To John ibn Rabah and the Chiefs of Aylah. Peace be on you! I praise God for you, beside whom there is no Lord. I will not fight against you until I have written thus unto you. Believe, or else pay tribute. And be obedient unto the Lord and his Prophet, and the messengers of his Prophet. Honour them and clothe them with excellent vestments, not with inferior raiment. Specially clothe Zeid with excellent garments. As long as my messengers are pleased, so likewise am I. Ye know the tribute. If ye desire to have security by sea and by land, obey the Lord and his Apostle, and he will defend you from every claim, whether by Arab or foreigner, saving the claim of the Lord and his Apostle. But if ye oppose and displease them, I will not accept from you a single thing, until I have fought against you and taken captive your little ones and slain the elder. For I am the Apostle of the Lord in truth. Believe in the Lord and in his Prophets, and in the Messiah, son of Mary; verily he is the Word of God: I believe in him that he was a messenger of God. Come then, before trouble reach you. I commend my messengers to you. Give to Harmala three measures of barley. And indeed Harmala hath interceded for you. As for me, if it were not for the Lord and for this (intercession), I would not have sent any message at all unto you, until ye had seen the army. But now, if ye obey my messengers, God will be your protector, and Mahomet, and whosoever belongeth unto him. Now my messengers are Sharahbil and Obey, and Harmala and Horeith ibn Zeid. Unto you is the guarantee of God and of Mahomet his Apostle, and peace be unto you if ye submit. And convey the people of Macna back to their land.”28

Do you see how Muhammad’s words to Aylah parallel is words in the Quran (9:29)?  Accept Islam’s rule peacefully, or be killed and your women and children enslaved.

(Continuing the list of Muhammad’s and the Caliph’s violence):

AH 10) Yemen attacked
AH 11) Muhammad’s death, Abu Bakr attacks apostates to force them back to Islam.

Following Muhammad’s death the subsequent Caliphs continued their wars of aggression against non-Muslims, be they Christian, Jew, or pagan.  These men knew Muhammad best and they continued to follow his commands.

AH 12) Abu Bakr continues war on apostates and attacks on non-Muslim lands
AH 13) Abu Bakr’s death.  Umar attacks and conquers Syria.
AH 14) Umar continues attacks in order to expand the Kingdom of Allah, Islam’s rule.

You get the point.  Palestine, Persia, Iraq, and Egypt all fell quickly to the attacking Muslim armies who exhorted the non-Muslims, “Accept Islam and you will be safe.”

Islam’s history tells us that violence, war, attacks and plundering, enslavement, rape, and assassinations were Muhammad’s norm for his community.


Muhammad’s commands and teachings found in the Quran, hadith, and sira, are corroborated by his actions detailed in the Quran, hadith, and sira.  His words and his actions go hand in hand.  Separately, or together, the Islamic worldview says that you are “the other” and that if you reject submitting to Muhammad/Allah, then you are Allah’s enemy and are to be fought until you die, or submit to Islam.

Throughout the world today, true and dedicated Muslims are forcing Islam upon non-Muslims in many ways.  Violence is a prominent feature of their work.  Allah ordained that Islam must reign supreme, that his kingdom was to be established on earth, and those on earth who resist are to be physically punished.

Muhammad’s words and actions are not the actions of a man focused on peace, but rather of a man focused on conquest.  Islam hates you.  Observe the plight of the non-Muslims in Muslim majority countries to see, and hear, real Islam’s worldview.

In Christ,

Silas  5/14/2017


1 I read a NYT article with “I Think Islam Hates Us” as the title.  That gave me the idea for this article’s title.  It was a shallow article and I believed that the importance of Muhammad’s worldview toward non-Muslims needed truthful details presented.

4 Muhammad lived in Mecca for about 13 years and was fairly non-violent there, however, the last 10 years of his life, where he was very violent, were spent in Medina.

5 You can read about the order to fight in Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan pages 212, 213, and al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari”, State University of New York Press  volume 6, pages 137-139, and Ibn Kathir, “Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya”, “The Life of the Prophet Muhammad”, translated by Trevor Le Gassick volume 2, page 144.

[NOTE: Other Islamic scholars identify other verses comprising this order, however, they mirror these verses.  I’ve chosen this set because this is what Ibn Ishaq identified in his sira.  See Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, pp 212, 213.]

6 Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, 208 – 212, and al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari”, State University of New York Press  volume 6, pages 130 – 137.

7 al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari”, State University of New York Press volume 6, page 134.

8 Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, pp212, 213.

9 Ibn Kathir, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1998, pp117, 118

10 Bukhari, Muhammad, “Sahih Bukhari”, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, India, 1987, translated by M. Khan, volume 1, #387.

11 See Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, p281, Ibn Sa’d, (d. 852 A.D.), “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir”, (Book of the Major Classes), translated by S. Moinul Haq, Pakistan Historical Society, volume 2, page 3, and Faizer, Rizwi, The Life of Muhammad, Al-Waqidi’s Kitab al-Maghazi, Routledge, New York, New York, 2011, page 3.

12 “The Life of Muhammad” Al-Waqidi’s Kitab al-Maghazi, Faizer, Rizwi, Routledge, New York, New York. 2011, pp 517, 518).  Ibn Sa’d, (d. 852 A.D.), “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir”, (Book of the Major Classes), translated by S. Moinul Haq, Pakistan Historical Society, volume 2,page 206

13 Pickthall, Mohammed., “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953

17 al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari”, State University of New York Press, volume 7, page 158.

18 Shakir, M. H., “The Quran”, Tahrike Tarsile Quran, Inc., Elmhurst, NY, 1993

19 Ali, Yusuf, “The Holy Qur’an”, published by Amana, Beltsville, Maryland, USA, 1989

20 You can read my article on this verse here:

21 Ibn Kathir, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir” published by Darussalam, New York, NY, 2000, page 375.

22 Shakir, M. H., “The Quran”, Tahrike Tarsile Quran, Inc., Elmhurst, NY, 1993

23 Ali, Yusuf, “The Holy Qur’an”, published by Amana, Beltsville, Maryland, USA, 1989

24 Rodwell, J. M.,  “The Koran”, by, published by Everyman, London, England 1994

25 Shakir, M. H., “The Quran”, Tahrike Tarsile Quran, Inc., Elmhurst, NY, 1993

26 al-Misri, Ahmad, “Reliance of the Traveler”, (A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law), translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, published by Amana publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA  1991

27 al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari”, State University of New York Press

The Quest for the Lost Jesus

The Quest for the Lost Jesus

Part 1: Asking Questions, Seeking Answers 
© Andy Bannister, 2001You are welcome to email the author at

Read the other parts of the Quest for the Lost Jesus series
Part 1
Asking Questions, Seeking Answers
Part 2
The Mindset of the Messiah
Part 3
The Coming of the Kingdom

Download all three parts as one handy PDF file
Recommended reading
(UK readers click here instead)

Introduction : the challenge of Jesus

Whether one is Christian or Muslim, there is no getting away from the challenging figure who is Jesus of Nazareth. Yet beyond acknowledging that he was indeed a remarkable figure, Christians and Muslims quickly begin to disagree when talking about Jesus. Christians believe that in Jesus, the God who created the world revealed himself fully to his creation. Muslims, on the other hand, believe him to be merely a prophet; important, yes, but nowhere near as significant as Muhammad himself.

Yet the problem is this. Most Muslims know very little about the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth. The Qur’an contains little about him, indeed most of what is recorded are merely extended birth narratives. Whilst it is said that he taught great crowds, little information is given as to the content of that teaching. The Qur’an records no sermons, no parables, none of his gentle words to the poor and dispossessed, none of his cutting challenges to the religious establishment of the day; it is all missing. For that, one needs to turn to the New Testament and to the gospels.

When one raises the question of Jesus, Muslims are often quick to ask “we honour Jesus Christ, why do you not honour Muhammad?” But I would challenge my Muslim friends and readers with this — if I were to say ‘oh, I honour Muhammad, he was a great racing car driver!’ you would look at me as if I were mad; you see, the key concern is not whether one claims to honour somebody or not, but firstly whether one actually knows what they stood for. Until Muslims know what Jesus said, did, and claimed to be, then for them to claim that they honour Jesus is at best misleading. The aim of this series is to help Muslims rediscover their lost Jesus — to investigate for themselves what he did, said, and taught.

Five questions

One of the world’s leading New Testament scholars is N T Wright, whose massive works The New Testament and the People of God and Jesus and the Victory of God are required reading for anybody who wishes to be taken seriously in the academic arena. Wright suggests that there are five key questions that anybody wishing to form an opinion about Jesus needs to take seriously and be able to answer [1]. These are:

  1. How did Jesus fit into the Judaism of his day? Did he believe the same as everybody else at the time, or did he stand out? And if so, how?
  2. What were the aims of Jesus? What was he seeking to achieve as he was operating within the Judaism of his day?
  3. Why did Jesus die? Why did the Jewish leadership seek to have him executed, and how did they persuade the Romans to go ahead with it? [2]
  4. How and why did the early church begin? What transformed a bunch of frightened men, after the loss of their leader, into a bunch of fearless preachers prepared to face martyrdom for their message? Why did they begin to preach that Israel’s history had reached its promised climax in Jesus?
  5. Why are the gospels the way they are? One can see that the gospels are, on the one hand, very different from the Jewish background of first century Palestine. Yet they are also significantly different from the early church. (For example, they contain no mention of issues that are of great concern in the later New Testament; speaking in tongues, circumcision, the debate concerning Gentiles and so forth).

To state somewhat simply, as Muslim polemicists tend to, that “Jesus was merely a prophet” or that “the gospels have been corrupted” is to miss the point — rather like travelling to Disneyland, taking a photo of the ticket booth, and returning home again. Unless one can explain Jesus in terms of his historical background, understand what motivated him and drove him to follow through his vocation, and then explain how this gave birth to a new movement called “Christianity”, then it must be a case of back to the drawing board.

Muslims have lost their Jesus, and the aim of this mini-series is to help them recover him, as we examine what he taught, what he did and said, and attempt to constantly hold Wright’s five questions in the back of our minds as we seek to formulate some answers.

Rediscovering the power of story

Even a cursory glance through the gospels will reveal that Jesus was a man who loved stories. He communicated by parables and metaphor. Yet this is something that is singularly lacking in the Qur’anic presentation of him. Perhaps because the Qur’an does not really utilise the genre of “story”[3], Muslims often fail to appreciate that Jesus in the New Testament is a great storyteller — something that is lost when one reduces one’s contact with him to mere proof-texting [4].

If story is one major aspect to the ministry of Jesus, there are two others that we need to take account of as we read the New Testament. The first of these is that of action. Jesus was a man of action; as one reads the gospels we read of arguments with the Pharisees, miracles, prophetic-acting-out, and a range of other things. But these cannot be divorced from what Jesus said and taught. Consider the famous story of Jesus cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem in Mark 11. Unless one reads this in its immediate context, then one cannot allow it to be mutually interpreted by the incident where Jesus prophetically curses the fig tree. Why did Jesus clear the Temple? The answer can only be found by reading the actions and statements together. This is cry for a unified Jesus, not a Jesus of the polemic and the proof text.

The third aspect of the ministry of Jesus requires getting your head around the Judaism of his day. In first century Judaism, symbols were one of the big things. And three of the biggest were the Temple, the Torah, and the Spirit. All three were ways of talking about God’s dealings with his people, Israel:

  • the Temple represented God’s presence with his people; through its system of priests and sacrifices was how one gained forgiveness and was made righteous with the God of Israel.
  • the Torah represented the way God wanted you to live. It was, in one sense, the very embodiment of divine Wisdom. If as a first century Jew you wanted to live rightly, then you followed the Torah [5].
  • And most powerfully of all, the Spirit represented God’s way of working in history. Like Islam today, first century Judaism believed in a God who was almighty and transcendent. To protect his transcendence, the Old Testament speaks of ‘God’s Spirit’, inseparable from God himself, which is the way that God gets things done on earth. To speak of God’s Spirit was to speak of God himself; for example, see Old Testament passages such as Genesis 1:2; 1 Sam 19:23; Job 33:4 and many more.

Why is this important? Because, as we shall see later in this series, Jesus himself was a strong advocate of symbols. The way that he acts towards these massively important Jewish symbols of the day, and indeed creates powerful symbols of his own, will help us as we seek to look more closely at Jesus and to ponder Wright’s five questions which we encountered above.

Tell me a story …

Jesus, then as we have seen, was a man who told stories. His stories often connected with the religious symbols of his day. They certainly utilised language, images, and metaphors that his contemporaries could understand. One of the most significant stories he told — one that gives us insight into his mindset — can be found in Mark chapter 12. The context is this; Jesus has just caused a ruckus in the Jerusalem Temple, cleansing it of traders, and prophesying its destruction. The religious leaders challenge him, and ask him from where he derives his authority to do all that is doing. And Jesus tells this story …

 “A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.
Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed.
He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying,  ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another,  ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.”
Jesus asked, What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:  ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes’?”
 (Mark 12:1-11; RSV translation)

The audience who heard this story would not have been in doubt as to what Jesus meant by it. Even 2,000 years later, it is very clear. What does need explaining however, is that in the Judaism of Jesus’ day, a “vineyard” was a symbol for Israel herself. We can see this in a wide range of Old Testament texts, such as Isaiah 5:1. Indeed, Jesus’ whole story is a very clever retelling of Isaiah 5:1-7, a passage in which God’s judgement on Israel was promised if they refused to do what was right. Once you pick up on that imagery, the rest of the story falls into place:

  • If the vineyard represents Israel, who does the owner of the vineyard symbolise? The answer is God himself.
  • The tenants in the story represent the people of Israel, to whom God had given the land (the vineyard).
  • The servants represent the many prophets that God sent to his people, to persuade them to mend their rebellious ways (a story told in great detail in the many prophetic writings in the Old Testament).
  • But after all the servants have been ignored, ill-treated, and killed, who comes next? The answer … the son of the vineyard owner.

Why is this important? For a number of reasons, not least that Jesus saw himself as in a different class to the servants (prophets) who had come before. They were merely messengers sent by the vineyard owner (God) to the tenants (Israelites). Jesus, however, saw himself as the obedient son. This already has profound implications for an Islamic understanding of Jesus. Because Jesus does not see himself as one in a line of prophets, preceded by John the Baptist and followed by Muhammad. As far as Jesus is concerned, the line of prophets had ended — John was the last. He, Jesus, is in a different class … he is the obedient son of the vineyard owner.

That Jesus saw himself as in a different league to previous prophets becomes clear when you look at other examples of his actions and his teaching. Remember those three key symbols of Judaism that we spoke about earlier. We mentioned Temple, Torah, and Spirit. No good first century Jew would have anything but the highest respect for those would he not? Yet we find the following …

  • That in regard to the Temple, Jesus considers it to be defunct — and he actively speaks against it. Indeed, his whole purpose of going to Jerusalem at the climax of his ministry seems to be to speak against it and the religious regime centred upon it.
  • In regard to Torah, Jesus seems to consider himself free to abrogate or add to many aspects of the Old Testament. In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapters 5-7, we have some the greatest ethical teaching of Jesus. Several times he says of commands in the Old Testament “you have heard that it was written …” and then precedes to respond “but I say to you …” We see him change the Law regarding divorce, revenge, murder, adultery, and love for enemies. And all on his own authority.
  • And in regard to God’s Spirit, we see what for a first century Jew would have amounted to blasphemy. Jesus claims authority over the very Spirit of God itself;  in John 15:26 Jesus promises that he will send God’s Spirit …

    “But when the Counsellor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me”.

21st century Muslims tend to miss what would have been blasphemy to a good Jew; how could Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth, claim to send God’s Spirit? Sending the spirit was God’s prerogative alone In the Old Testament, as we have seen, the Spirit represented the very presence and activity of God himself. The claim of Jesus would have been similar to you or I saying “I can command God’s power” or “I can send God’s wisdom” … utterly blasphemous.

As N T Wright, who we encountered earlier, remarks:

‘Judaism had two great incarnational symbols, Temple and Torah: Jesus seems to have believed it was his vocation to upstage the one and outflank the other. Jesus acted and spoke as if he thought he were a one-man counter-temple movement.’[6]

Whatever else he thought he was, Jesus clearly thought he was no ordinary prophet. In the Parable of the Vineyard above, we have seen that Jesus categorically drew a line between himself and the previous prophets. No more prophets could come after the obedient son of the vineyard owner, because after the son God would intervene and do something very different. This fundamental difference between Jesus and all other prophets is also marked out by his attitude to the great symbols of Judaism; Torah, Temple and Spirit. Jesus clearly considered himself, as the obedient son, to have authority over all three of them. This raises profound questions for the Muslim understanding of Jesus. Muhammad cannot, categorically and absolutely, stand in a line of prophets stretching back through Jesus. Jesus did not consider himself as just one of many prophets, and as such he certainly did not expect any other to come after him.

That is because Jesus understood that through him, the God of the Old Testament was bringing about his promised Kingdom, which the Old Testament prophets had looked forward to. One cannot understand Jesus without understanding his teaching about “the Kingdom of God”, a phrase that appears over one hundred times in the gospels. But that is a topic for a later part in this series.


We have seen how it is vital that Jesus be understood in the context of first century Judaism. Muslims commit a perverse twisting of history when they try to suggest he was effectively a seventh century Muslim, preaching an identical message to Muhammad. Jesus was not a Muslim, nor for that matter was he a 21st century American protestant! One needs to understand him in his context; and the only way to do that is to access him through the New Testament gospels.

Secondly, this paper has been a call to read the message of Jesus in its entirety. Sadly, my Muslim friends are very fond of proof texting (Christians are not averse to this error either). The most you will hear most Muslims quoting the gospels is one verse here, one verse there, simply to make a point. However, our understanding of Jesus is only correct if it fits all of the material in the gospels, and addresses the five key questions we studied above. If we can only support our picture of Jesus by quoting one or two verses, lifted out of context, then I would suggest we have the wrong picture of Jesus. A Muslim would rightly argue that a proper understanding of Islam needs to take into account the whole Qur’an; not just one or two favourite verses. I would likewise argue that any presentation of Jesus that does not take account of all of his parables, miracles, and actions is equally flawed and highly skewed. Thus this is a challenge for Muslims to rediscover the New Testament and engage with the Jesus it presents, not pull it apart.

Thirdly, we have seen how Jesus understood himself to be in a class apart from other prophets, and indeed the line of prophets to have finished. Jesus spoke of himself as the obedient son of the vineyard owner, sent by that owner (God) when the line of messengers had failed to prepare people for the coming Kingdom of God. Thus to call Jesus “a prophet like Muhammad” is not so much a travesty as a foolish misunderstanding. You may say Muhammad was a prophet if you wish, but he was certainly not one like Jesus, because future prophets did not fit into the world view of Jesus of Nazareth [7]If we are to properly understand Jesus, the man and his message, and ultimately who he claimed to be, then we need to understand the total uniqueness that underpinned all that he claimed and did.

‘The Quest for the Lost Jesus’ is a new, regular series at ANSWERING ISLAM. The author will attempt to produce new papers in the series at least once every 8 weeks. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please do feel free to email me.


1 N T Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (London : SPCK, 1999) p91-113.
2 It is of course acknowledged that Muslims do not believe Jesus to have been crucified (on the basis of Surah 4:157). Hence this point will be extensively discussed in a further paper in this series. For now, it is enough to ask our Muslim friends three questions:
(i) why does Jesus extensively talk about his death? (e.g. Mark 8:31; 10:33-34). To say that these are “later Christian corruptions of the gospel” entirely misses the point; if this was the case, why do none of these verses mention crucifixion, or atonement or any other later Christian ideas?
(ii) what on earth possessed the first Jewish Christians to claim that their Messiah-figure had been crucified. As Muslim apologist Shabir Ally has highlighted, the very idea of a “crucified messiah” would have been a contradiction in Jewish ears (on the basis of Deuteronomy 21:22-23). Yet we find that in the very earliest Christian preaching, a crucified Messiah is exactly what is proclaimed (Acts 2:36). This is not the kind of claim that Jewish-Christians would have made up unless they were very sure of themselves.
(iii) how did Jesus understand Old Testament texts that seem to speak of God’s anointed person (messiah) suffering; for example the Servant Songs in Isaiah and numerous examples in the intertestamental literature, such as Wisdom 2:12ff.
3 I use the term ‘story’ in the sense of fictional narrative. The Qur’an does, of course, contain sections of narrative; for example, the accounts of Joseph, Solomon and the ants, and so forth. However, orthodox Muslims would say these are not fictional, but reports of history. However, the Qur’an does not utilise the genre of ‘story’ like the gospels do. This lack of familiarity with the genre of story means Muslims often struggle when they turn to the gospels, where Jesus formulates most of his teaching in the form of stories — parables that his audience could relate to. One cannot lift proof-texts from stories, wrenching them out of their context. One needs instead to use the story responsibly, and read it as a single unit (what scholars would call a “pericope”).
4 Which sadly is what one tends to see when the gospels are quoted in Muslim polemics. But one cannot wrench single verses from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John in order to prove a point like this. Jesus told his message of the Kingdom of God (a topic for a future part in this series) in the form of parables and story, and to understand Jesus one must read what he says in context. I suggest to our Muslim readers that they may begin by reading Mark’s gospel in one sitting; something that can be done in about two hours. If they are not prepared to invest this time, then I would politely suggest they find an alternative pursuit to history and say no more
5 Traditionally, the Torah was understood to mean the first five books of the Old Testament. However, by the time of Jesus, “Torah” had grown to mean all the books of the Old Testament.
6 N T Wright, ‘Jesus and the Identity of God’ in the journal Ex Auditu 14 (1998) 42-56, p53.
7 A popular Muslim get out clause, when faced with difficult questions about Jesus, is to say, “that is a later Christian invention”. The problem is that this answer does not help you with the Parable of the Vineyard, in which Jesus presents himself as the obedient son of the owner, sent when all the prophets have failed. If this was a later Christian corruption, a Muslim would need to explain:
(i) why there is no mention of crucifixion or resurrection (which the Church would clearly have added)
(ii) why we find no atonement theology whatsoever
(iii) the focus upon Israel. This only makes sense in its context if this parable was told before AD70, when Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans and the Temple destroyed. The problem with the “gospel has been corrupted” argument is that it is usually made by people who are unfamiliar with the whole of the New Testament, ignorant of first century history or, more often, both.


“The Prophet of Allah liked three worldly objects – perfume, women and food.”

by Silas


Since 9/11 Islam has been in the news and its founder, Muhammad, is often mentioned. And rightly so, for he is the hub of cartoons, riots, and beheadings. His many pronouncements form the foundation and structure of Islam and range from war to sex, medicine to assassinations, snakes to angels, eating to excrement.

Recently I’ve read comments on Muhammad’s sexuality that troubled me and with which I disagreed. Writers, both pro and con, have described Muhammad from whoremonger to Puritan. Some critics claim Muhammad was a pedophile while supporters say that his marriages were only for platonic or political reasons. Wherein lies the truth?

Based upon my study of Muhammad’s life I find that both extremes are inaccurate. Christians who say Muhammad was a pedophile are incorrect. It is true that he married Aisha when she was 6, and sexually consummated that marriage when she was 9, before she had her first menstruation. But that does not make him a pedophile. It is true that some of his marriages were for non-sexual reasons but other marriages and relationships were made simply due to the women’s beauty and his sexual desire. Muhammad did not linger and long like a shy O’Henry character; he took, or his status drew them. Women gravitate toward rich or powerful men.

Note that some great and important men have let their sex drives lead them into immoral acts. We all know of King Edward the VIII’s relationship with Mrs. Wallis Simpson – and the wound it caused our England. The Americans have their examples: reportedly, Thomas Jefferson used one of his slaves, Martin Luther King was an adulterer, as was President Kennedy. Yet each of these men accomplished great things for their country. Their moral failings tarnishes their character but does not diminish their accomplishments.

However, history shows us that when religious men engage in immoral behavior then they are judged more harshly. This is because they proclaim a moral code and betray it. Muhammad falls into this religious category and this is why we should examine his actions. Muhammad proclaimed himself as the best example for humans to follow and Muslims are instructed to follow his lifestyle (Quran, 68:4, 33:21), hence he should be held to a higher standard.

But we must be fair if we evaluate Muhammad. He was a man, and should be expected to act like a normal man, one who deals with the temptations of human nature. We cannot expect him to be completely pure and innocent. All men are sinners, including Muhammad1, and all men have sex drives. Even a morally fine man like the American President Jimmy Carter confessed to the sin of lust. I doubt he is alone. So to point the finger at Muhammad and condemn him for that would be unfair. Men like having sex and Muhammad was no exception.

Therefore, this is not a voyeuristic exercise intended to hold a man who proclaims morality accountable for the slightest error. But, if his sex drive were so great and unchecked that it clouded his judgment, influenced his religious teachings, and drove his actions, then it would be justified and necessary to criticize Muhammad.

And please note: throughout the Quran there are verses showing that Allah was concerned with Muhammad’s sexual activities. Allah gives specific commands to Muslims concerning with whom they may and may not have sex, and even how they physically could have sex (a reference to sexual positions is found in 2:222, 223). Since the Quran and Hadith speak frequently of sex it is legitimate to take a deeper look.

Consequently, we are going to examine Muhammad’s actions, statements, and attitudes related to sex. Is Muhammad’s Paradise little more than an opulent Nevada whore house where men can spend all the day long in intercourse with beautiful angelic-like beings, or is it a place where Allah is worshipped in purity of heart, or is it both? Did Muhammad act properly when he dealt with women and men when sex was involved? Did Muhammad treat women properly or were they little more than instruments to satisfy his lust? Was Muhammad so focused on sexual satisfaction that it caused him to pronounce teachings that degraded women?

In order to examine Muhammad’s actions, statements, and attitudes related to sex, we have to actually consider what the Islamic source materials state, i.e. the writings of the Quran, Hadith, and Sira. Many authors render many opinions but few of them bother to quote the Islamic source materials and discuss their application and context.

To answer the questions I’m going to break this examination into three topics and quote primarily from Islamic source materials. These topics are:

1) Muhammad, Houris, and sex in Paradise.

2) Muhammad’s dealings with men and women involving sex.

3) Muhammad’s teachings on a woman’s station with respect to sex.


[NOTE: When I use the term “Allah” I am referring specifically to Islam’s God. Allah simply means God in Arabic, but in order to distinguish between Islam’s God, and Christianity’s God, I use the term “Allah”].

[NOTE: If there is bold in the quotes that I use, the emphasis is mine.]





We start with Muhammad’s Quran – the most important Islamic text. It states that in Paradise men will be married to “Houris” (beautiful, angelic-like female creatures who’s virginity is renewed each day). Here are some verses:

“Thus (shall it be), and We will wed them with Houris, pure, beautiful ones.” The Evident Smoke, 44:54 Shakir2

… They shall recline on couches lined with thick brocade, and within reach will hang the fruits of both gardens. … Therein are bashful virgins whom neither man nor jinnee will have touched (opening their hymens with sexual intercourse) before. … Virgins as fair as corals and rubies…. The Beneficent, 55:54-58 Dawood3

In each there shall be virgins chaste and fair. … Dark eyed virgins sheltered in their tents whom neither man nor jinnee would have touched before. They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets. … The Beneficent 55:70-77 Dawood

We created the Houris and made them virgins, loving companions for those of the right hand… That Which is Coming, 56:36 Dawood

As for the righteous, they shall surely triumph. Theirs shall be gardens and vineyards, and high-bosomed virgins for companions: a truly overflowing cup. The Tidings, 78:31-33 Dawood

Also reference 52:20, 56:22-24

(NOTE: for brevity’s sake I omitted the repetitive phrase “Which of your Lord’s blessings would you deny?” and represented it with three dots ” for verses 55:54-77).


The Hadith also mention the Houris…

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, “The first batch (of people) who will enter Paradise will be (glittering) like the full moon, and the batch next to them will be (glittering) like the most brilliant star in the sky. Their hearts will be as if the heart of a single man, for they will have neither enmity nor jealousy amongst themselves; everyone will have two wives from the houris, (who will be so beautiful, pure and transparent that) the marrow of the bones of their legs will be seen through the bones and the flesh.” Bukhari4, volume 4, #476.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Apostle said, “The first group of people who will enter Paradise, will be glittering like the full moon and those who will follow them, will glitter like the most brilliant star in the sky. They will not urinate, relieve nature, spit, or have any nasal secretions. Their combs will be of gold, and their sweat will smell like musk. The aloes-wood will be used in their centers. Their wives will be houris. All of them will look alike and will resemble their father Adam (in statute), sixty cubits tall.” Bukhari, volume 4, #544.

(Also ref. Sahih Muslim5, #6793).

The great Islamic scholar, Ibn Kathir6, comments on 78:33:

(And vineyards, and Kawa`ib Atrab,) meaning, wide-eyed maidens with fully developed breasts. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others have said, (Kawa`ib) “This means round breasts. They meant by this that the breasts of these girls will be fully rounded and not sagging, because they will be virgins, equal in age.This means that they will only have one age.” The explanation of this has already been mentioned in Surat Al-Waqi`ah…

Comment on 56:36 from Maariful Tafsir7 (commentary)

The word “abkaran, being the plural of bikr, means ‘virgins’. The sense is the creation of the maidens of Paradise will be of such a nature that, even after every sexual intercourse, they will remain like virgins. (Source, Page 290).

Comment on 44:54 from Maariful Tafsir

… Although the inmates of Paradise will not be legally obligated to observe the precepts of Shariah the purpose of marriage will be to honour them. Therefore, this should not raise any objection IF the word is taken in the first sense, houris having big dark eyes will be given as life partners to the men of Paradise. The houris in this case will be granted to them as a gift. There will be no need for a contract of marriage as is done in this world. (Source, Page 762).

Some interesting comments are found in The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam8, page 141, under the word, “Hur”.

“Two names are written on their breasts, one of the names of Allah and the name of their husband. They wear many jewels and ornaments etc. on their hands and feet. They dwell in splendid palaces surrounded by female attendants and all possible luxury.

When the believer enters Paradise he is welcomed by one of these beings; a large number of them are at his disposal; he cohabits with each of them as often as he has fasted days in Ramadan and as often as he has performed good works besides. Yet they remain always virgins…

Thus far we see that Muhammad’s Allah placed an emphasis on sexual pleasure in Paradise. The Houris are companions who remain in a perpetual state of virginity, regardless of how often they are used for sex.

But Muhammad had more to say on this…


One of Muhammad’s more interesting sexual statements dealt with the amount of times a man can have sex in one day in Paradise.

A man will have intercourse in Paradise with his wives from among al-hoor al-‘iyn and his wives from among the people of this world, if they enter Paradise with him.A man will be given the strength of a hundred men to eat, drink, feel desire and have sexual intercourse. It was narrated from Anas that the Prophet said: “The believer in Paradise will be given such and such strength for sexual intercourse.” He was asked, “O Messenger of Allaah, will he really be able to do that?” He said, “He will be given the strength of one hundred (men).” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2459. He said, (it is) saheeh ghareeb). Sunan al-Tirmidhi #2459 (Source)

An additional three Hadith from Ibn Sad’s “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir”9, volume 1, pages 438, 439. (I have omitted the isnaad and the obligatory blessing on Muhammad):

…The apostle of Allah said, “Gabriel brought a kettle from which I ate and I was given the power of sexual intercourse to forty men.”

…The apostle of Allah was given the power to equal to that of forty men and the people of paradise will be given the power equal to eighty men

…The prophet was granted the power of sexual intercourse to that of forty men.

Ibn Kathir commenting on 56:35-37 says regarding the amount of times a man can have sex in one day in Paradise:

(In Paradise, the believer will be given such and such strength for women.) Anas said, “I asked, `O Allah’s Messenger! Will one be able to do that’ He said,

(He will be given the strength of a hundred (men).)” At-Tirmidhi also recorded it and said, “Sahih Gharib.” Abu Al-Qasim At-Tabarani recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah was asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! Will we have sexual intercourse with our wives in Paradise” He said,

(The man will be able to have sexual intercourse with a hundred virgins in one day.) Al-Hafiz Abu `Abdullah Al-Maqdisi said, “In my view, this Hadith meets the criteria of the Sahih, and Allah knows best.” Allah’s statement,

(`Urub,) Sa`id bin Jubayr reported that Ibn `Abbas said, “They are in an infatuated state with their husbands, haven’t you ever seen a she-camel in heat? She is like that.” Ad-Dahhak reported from Ibn `Abbas who said, “The Urub and their husbands are their sweet hearts, and they are their husbands’ sweet hearts.” Similar was said by `Abdullah bin Sarjis, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Yahya bin Abi Kathir, `Atiyah, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and others. Ad-Dahhak reported from Ibn `Abbas;

Muhammad claimed he was gifted to perform sexually 40 times a day and that men in Paradise can have sex up to 80 or 100 times a day. Do the math – 100 times a day is over four times an hour for 24 hours. That this doesn’t leave much time for anything else does it? Muhammad promised unlimited sex. So, what do you think was on Muhammad’s mind?

Orgasm is the epitome of Islam’s heaven. Isn’t this image of Paradise more like a teenage boy’s or lecherous old man’s vision… engaging in sexual act after sexual act?

Muhammad’s motivation is described best by the Ghost in Hamlet….

So lust, thought to a radiant angel link’d,
Will sate itself in a celestial bed
And prey on garbage.

Hamlet 1.5.61-3, the Ghost to Hamlet




Muhammad taught that Allah created “Houris” specifically for sexual use. They were created primarily to satisfy Muslim men’s lust. These Houris, though they are called “wives”, are not “wives” in any real sense. Rather, they are created primarily for sexual pleasure. They are whores, they are sex dolls, they are nothing but creatures created by Allah to be sexual playthings. Muhammad’s Allah plays the pimp.

This leads me to one of my main points against Muhammad and Islam: carnal pleasure was the best Muhammad could come up with because he did not know the beautiful presence of the One true God, he did not know the personal, intimate, love of Christ. Islam is a man’s religion – made by a man, for men. Consequently, Muhammad’s imagination created a heavenly Playboy mansion. Sorry, but I want something better and I know that what Christ and the Bible promise to believers far exceeds ejaculation.

The picture that the Quran gives us of Paradise is indeed one of an opulent Nevada whore house. Allah makes sure that his men can get erections all day long and provides the Houris to satiate their lust. Oh, lest they forget, I’m sure the Muslims there will remember to praise and thank Allah for this environment and ability of perpetual sex. But in Quranic passage after passage never is the emphasis put on Allah rather it is put on carnal fulfillment.

Doesn’t it strike you as perverse that Allah would create creatures just to be used sexually? This does not fit the character of the God I know.

Now we’ll move on to Muhammad’s personal relationships with men and women. Did Muhammad’s actions show respect toward women? Was Muhammad fair in his dealings with other men?






I’ve always said that people today should take Muhammad at his word. What did Muhammad want?

1) The Apostle of Allah said, “I like not from worldly life but perfumes and women.

2) The Apostle of Allah did not receive from worldly luxuries except perfume and women.

3) The Prophet of Allah liked three worldly objects – perfume, women and food. He obtained two and did not obtain one. He obtained women and perfumes but did not get food.

4) The Apostle of Allah did not obtain any thing from worldly objects dearer to him than women and perfumes.

5) Nothing was dearer to the Prophet of Allah than a horse. Then he said: O Allah! excuse me, nay! the women. (i.e. not dearer than women). (Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Volume 1, page 469).


These statements say that the desire of Muhammad’s heart was to have sex with many women. Now we’ll take a look at some of the ways in which he got it.




This account focuses on how Muhammad treated one of his elderly wives.

After his first wife, Khadija, died Muhammad was left having to raise 4 young daughters. This is a challenge for any man. At the same time there was a female Muslim, Sauda, whose husband had left Islam, converted to Christianity, and later died. Sauda was now without a reliable means of support. A friend suggested to Muhammad that he marry her, and so he did. It is postulated that it was a mutually beneficial marriage: Sauda cared for and raised the children while Muhammad provided for her. This was not a marriage of lust or love but one of mutual support.

As time wore on Muhammad became more successful and wealthy. This gave him access to younger and more beautiful women. Sauda on the other hand grew older and uglier. She was never a beauty to begin with; she is described as being big and fat.

After his daughters matured he no longer needed Sauda. Muhammad found no sexual pleasure with her, but she was his wife and he had to do due diligence with her, i.e. give her a turn for intercourse. However, he didn’t like servicing the old, ugly woman and intended to divorce her. Some accounts say that he did divorce her but she begged him to take her back, promising her “sexual turn” to Aisha, (Muhammad’s child bride and favorite sexual partner). He relented and in the end did not divorce her.

The Sunan of Abu Dawud10 records:

… When Sauda daughter of Zam’ah became old and feared that the apostle of Allah would divorce her she said: Apostle of Allah, I give to ‘A’ishah the day you visit me. The Apostle of Allah accepted it from her. She said: We think that Allah, the Exalted, revealed about this or a similar matter the Qur’an: “If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband’s part.”

This event is discussed in detail by Sam Shamoun here:

I am not going to cover this in detail for Sam Shamoun has already done so. However, I want to point out how Muhammad treated his elderly wife who had served him faithfully for many years, when he no longer needed her.

Regarding this Quranic passage, the Muslim scholar Ibn Kathir 11 states (taken from Sam Shamoun’s article):

Making peace is better than separation. An example of such peace can be felt in the story of Sawdah bint Zam’ah who WHEN SHE BECAME AGED, THE PROPHET WANTED TO DIVORCE HER, but she made peace with him by offering the night he used to spend with her to A’isha so that he would keep her. The Prophet accepted such terms and kept her.

Following the example of their prophet Muhammad some Muslims today continue this discarding. The wife gets old and their Allah grants them the option of dumping her. In the book, “Princess”, a similar event is described. Sultana, the Saudi female is married and incredibly wealthy. But after years of marriage she has aged. The powerful husband wants another women to satisfy his lusts…

Kareem could mouth any deception he chose, but I understood the implications of his taking a second wife. The desire for children was not his basis. The issue was primitive. We had been wed for eight years; sexual license was his aim. Obviously, my husband was weary of eating the same dish and sought a new, exotic fare for his palate. Sasson, “Princess”12, page 217.

This “Kareem” though lustful, was a bit more moral and faithful than Muhammad. Kareem intended to keep his wife even though he wanted another sexually. Muhammad, on the other hand, was going to dump Sauda and abandon her, much like a man dumps garbage. Instead of trying to do the right thing and care for Sauda, as the Quran commands in chapter 4:3, Muhammad intended to throw her away like a candy wrapper. Muhammad did not have the decency to care for an elderly wife. Instead he thought with his penis and sought to throw Sauda away.




This next account focuses on how Muhammad treated one of his soldiers.

Muhammad had a committed battalion of men who fought for him through thick and thin. These men were loyal, tough, and obedient. They put their lives on the line for Muhammad again and again. Suffering through wounds and depravations they carved out a small State with Muhammad as Sovereign.

When Muhammad and his troops attacked a non-Muslim town and were victorious, Muhammad would enslave those they captured. He gave the female prisoners as the spoils of war to his soldiers. The female slaves were now the soldiers property, and as such, could be used for sex. The soldiers raped the female slaves. (More on this later.)

Following Muhammad’s conquest of the Jewish area of Khaibar one of Muhammad’s soldiers, Dihya, came to Muhammad and asked if he could take a female slave. Muhammad told him to take his pick. Dihya knew who was who in Khaibar and he promptly took the most beautiful woman for himself!

However, some of Muhammad’s advisors also knew about this woman and they told him that she was too beautiful for anyone else. Muhammad commanded Dihya to bring her to him. Muhammad took one look at her and was impressed by her beauty. He took Safiya for himself and told Dihya to go take another slave.

Below are the Islamic texts. I have written out the first quote in full and then edited the following references for relevant material to save space.

Narrated ‘Abdul ‘Aziz:

Anas said, ‘When Allah’s Apostle invaded Khaibar, we offered the Fajr prayer there yearly in the morning) when it was still dark. The Prophet rode and Abu Talha rode too and I was riding behind Abu Talha. The Prophet passed through the lane of Khaibar quickly and my knee was touching the thigh of the Prophet . He uncovered his thigh and I saw the whiteness of the thigh of the Prophet. When he entered the town, he said, ‘Allahu Akbar! Khaibar is ruined. Whenever we approach near a (hostile) nation (to fight) then evil will be the morning of those who have been warned.’ He repeated this thrice. The people came out for their jobs and some of them said, ‘Muhammad (has come).’ (Some of our companions added, “With his army.”) We conquered Khaibar, took the captives, and the booty was collected. Dihya came and said, ‘O Allah’s Prophet! Give me a slave girl from the captives.’ The Prophet said, ‘Go and take any slave girl.’ He took Safiya bint Huyai. A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! You gave Safiya bint Huyai to Dihya and she is the chief mistress of the tribes of Quraiza and An-Nadir and she befits none but you.’ So the Prophet said, ‘Bring him along with her.’ So Dihya came with her and when the Prophet saw her, he said to Dihya, ‘Take any slave girl other than her from the captives.’ Anas added: The Prophet then manumitted her and married her.”

Thabit asked Anas, “O Abu Hamza! What did the Prophet pay her (as Mahr)?” He said, “Her self was her Mahr for he manumitted her and then married her.” Anas added, “While on the way, Um Sulaim dressed her for marriage (ceremony) and at night she sent her as a bride to the Prophet . So the Prophet was a bridegroom and he said, ‘Whoever has anything (food) should bring it.’ He spread out a leather sheet (for the food) and some brought dates and others cooking butter. (I think he (Anas) mentioned As-Sawaq). So they prepared a dish of Hais (a kind of meal). And that was Walima (the marriage banquet) of Allah’s Apostle .” Bukhari, volume 1 #367

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

The Prophet came to Khaibar and when Allah made him victorious and he conquered the town by breaking the enemy’s defense, the beauty of Safiya bint Huyai bin Akhtab was mentioned to him and her husband had been killed while she was a bride. Allah’s Apostle selected her for himself and he set out in her company till he reached Sadd-ar-Rawha’ where her menses were over and he married her. … Bukhari, volume 3 #437

Also reference Sahih Muslim #3329.


Muhammad’s lust overcame his sense of integrity and fairness and he chumped his own soldier. Muhammad lied and broke his word. His status gave him the power of taking what he wanted when he wanted it. My initial quote states: “The Prophet of Allah liked three worldly objects – perfume, women and food.” Here is a case of Muhammad illicitly taking what he wanted.

Is he a good example for mankind? Or is this just another example of how men with political power abuse those under their rule?

I’m sure Muhammad was thinking to himself, … “It’s good to be the king!”




This next account focuses on three persons: Muhammad, his adopted son Zaid, and Zaid’s wife Zaynab. I will not go into all the details because this event is documented in depth in an article by Sam Shamoun:

I’ll present the story, relevant Quranic passages, some comments, and a summary. I’ll quote from Sam Shamoun’s article because there is no need for me to re-write the argument. Quotes from Sam’s work will be in blue font, while Quranic passages will be in green.

This story is that one day Muhammad went to visit his adopted son Zaid (also spelled Zayd). Zaid was not home but his wife Zaynab was. Muhammad saw her scantily dressed and commented on her great beauty. The wife overheard Muhammad and was flattered. This caused her to gloat and in turn she taunted her husband. Therefore Zaid, knowing that Muhammad wanted her to satisfy his sexual desire, went to Muhammad and offered to divorce her. Muhammad told him not to divorce her but to remain with her. However the damage had been done and Zaid could no longer withhold something, even his wife’s body, from Muhammad. A short while later Zaid divorced Zaynab to enable Muhammad to marry her and satisfy his lust. Thereafter Muhammad did indeed marry her.

Below is the passage from the Quran on this event.

You said to the man whom God and yourself have favored: ‘Keep your wife and have fear of God.’ You sought to hide in your heart what God was to reveal. You were afraid of man, although it would have been more proper to fear God. And when Zayd divorced his wife, We gave her to you in marriage, so that it should become legitimate for true believers to wed the wives of their adopted sons if they divorced them. God’s will must needs be done. No blame shall be attached to the Prophet for doing what is sanctioned for him by God. Such was the way of God with the prophets who passed away before him (God’s decrees are pre-ordained); who fulfilled the mission with which God had charged them, fearing God and fearing none beside Him. Sufficient is God’s reckoning. The Confederate Tribes, 33:37, 38 Dawood.

Sam Shamoun summarizes Muhammad’s justification and trite excuse, found above, and presents two significant problems with the Quran’s pretext:

According to the Quran itself Allah caused Muhammad to have desires for another man’s wife, namely his adopted son Zaid ibn Haritha’s spouse Zaynab bint Jash. This led to his adopted son divorcing her so that Muhammad could marry her. The alleged reason why Allah commanded this to happen was so that Muhammad could set the example for others to emulate, making it permissible for adoptive fathers to marry their adopted children’s divorcees:

The other problem with this marriage is that shortly after it took place Allah abolished the practice of adoption completely:

God has not assigned to any man two hearts within his breast; nor has He made your wives, when you divorce, saying, ‘Be as my mother’s back,’ truly your mothers, neither has He made your adopted sons your sons in fact. That is your own saying, the words of your mouths; but God speaks the truth, and guides on the way. Call them after their true fathers; that is more equitable in the sight of God. If you know not who their fathers were, then they are your brothers in religion, and your clients. There is no fault in you if you make mistakes, but only in what your hearts premeditate. God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. S. 33:4-5


In light of the foregoing, how could Muhammad set the example for adoptive fathers to marry their adopted sons’ former spouses when Allah went on to forbid the practice of adoption? Does this make any sense whatsoever? Is it not obvious that Muhammad needed to find justification for marrying Zaynab so he came up with this excuse and after people continued taunting him for marrying his son’s divorcee he then decided to do away with adoption altogether?

Sam’s summary is below:

1. Allah caused Muhammad to start lusting for a married woman who happened to be the wife of his adopted son.

2. Allah even caused Muhammad’s son to divorce his wife so that Muhammad could then marry her.

3. The reason why Allah did this was to show others that it was permissible for them to marry their adopted sons’ former wives.

4. Yet later on Allah forbade the adoption of children and prohibited calling any one the child of someone other than his/her biological father.

5. Therefore, Muhammad’s marriage to Zaynab was unnecessary since Muslims have no chance of ever marrying the former wives of their adopted children since there is no more adoption in Islam!

6. Furthermore, Muslims believe that Allah knows all things which means that he knew beforehand that he was going to abolish the practice of adoption. Why did he then commission the divorce between Zayd and Zaynab in order to allow Muhammad to set an example for others to marry their adopted children’s divorcees when he already knew in advance that he would prohibit adoption altogether?

Hence, whether a person consults the Quran alone or seeks to understand it by turning to the hadiths and/or the Islamic commentators, the fact remains that a Muslim must still deal with Muhammad committing adultery by taking another man’s wife.

Let’s be honest: had Muhammad truly wanted Zaid’s marriage to work, he would have exerted his influence and continued to counsel them to stay together. After all, didn’t Muhammad teach that “Allah” hates divorce?

Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar:
The Prophet said: Of all the lawful acts the most detestable to Allah is divorce. Sunan of Abu Dawood, Book 12, Number 2173:

Apparently when it comes to satisfying Muhammad’s sexual desires, Allah doesn’t hate divorce very much, he actually planned a divorce!

And my goodness! What does this tell you about Islamic marriage? Here is a man, married to a beautiful wife, but he does not love or respect her. She was nothing more than a sexual plaything to Muhammad and Zaid chucked her up on the meat block to gratify Muhammad’s lust. This was not a marriage based on love: it was a marriage for Muhammad’s lust.

Muhammad played the Jon Lovitz “Pathological Liar” character and invented “Quranic” lies to justify his sin.




Muhammad also gave himself and his followers the right to have sex with slaves. Slave women were property and Muslim men were allowed to rape them. You can read about their treatment in an in-depth article here:

I will quote some of the Quran’s passages on this and other related materials.

“Not so the worshippers, who are steadfast in prayer, who set aside a due portion of their wealth for the beggar and for the deprived, who truly believe in the Day of Reckoning and dread the punishment of their Lord (for none is secure from the punishment of their Lord); who restrain their carnal desire (save with their wives and their slave girls, for these are lawful to them: he that lusts after other than these is a transgressor…” Quran, 70:22-30, Dawood.

“…who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave girls, for these are lawful to them…” Quran, 23:5,6, Dawood.

Also reference 4:24 and 33:50.


The “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir”, page 151, mentions one of Muhammad’s slaves, Mariyah:

…”He presented to the prophet Mariyah, her sister Sirin, a donkey and a mule which was white… The apostle of Allah liked Mariyah who was of white complexion and curly hair and pretty… Then he cohabited with Mariyah as a handmaid and sent her to his property which he had acquired from Banu al-Nadir.”

This story is also supported by Tabari’s History13, volume 39, page 194.

“He used to visit her there and ordered her to veil herself, [but] he had intercourse with her by virtue of her being his property.”

Raping slaves was widespread amongst the Muslims. Note Muhammad’s ambivalent statement about the Muslim men using their newly acquired slaves for sex.

…Abu Sirma said to Abu Said al Khudri: “O Abu Said, did you hear Allah’s messenger mentioning about al-azl (coitus interruptus)?” He said, “Yes”, and added: “We went out with Allah’s messenger on the expedition to the Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing azl” (withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid conception). But we said: “We are doing an act whereas Allah’s messenger is amongst us; why not ask him?” So we asked Allah’s messenger and he said: “It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born”. Sahih Muslim, volume 2, #3371.

These Muslims intended to sell the slave women in the slave market or for ransom. They performed coitus interruptus to prevent the slaves from getting pregnant, because if the slave got pregnant the Muslim soldier would be responsible for the slave and her future child. Therefore they could not sell the pregnant slave and their profit would be lost.

When it came to sexual satisfaction slave women were objects to be used as their owner saw fit. So many African Americans complain about early American slavery, but do those that have converted to Islam realize at how barbarically Muhammad treated slave women?




Earlier we were treated to Muhammad’s claim that he had the sexual power of 40 men. Here’s an example of Muhammad in action and how he viewed women, his wives in particular.

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

The Prophet used to pass by (have sexual relation with) all his wives in one night, and at that time he had nine wives. Bukhari, volume 7, # 142.

Narrated Qatada:

Anas bin Malik said, “The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number.” I asked Anas, “Had the Prophet the strength for it?” Anas replied, “We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men).” And Sa’id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven). Bukhari, volume 1, #268.

Question for the female readers: How do you think Muhammad’s wives felt, knowing that while she was having sex with him, he would soon be traipsing off to the next wife, and then another, and another? How would you feel if your husband behaved that way? Would his using you be a manifestation of love or would you be just another piece of meat on his sexual buffet?

And for the record, few of Muhammad’s wives had children, and there was conflict aplenty between Muhammad’s wives. Some of them even successfully lied to him to prevent him from having sex with his other sexual partners. They were not one big happy family and few of the women found fulfillment in children. These accounts reinforce the “contract” aspect of Islamic marriage. Those women knew that one of their main functions was to service Muhammad’s desires.



This section reviewed Muhammad’s actions in obtaining sexual satisfaction and examined if anyone was ill-treated. The examples prove that Muhammad did wrong several people:

  • He discarded his old wife Sauda, but kept her once she allowed him to have sex with someone else.
  • He cheated, chumped, and defrauded one of his soldiers in order to take the most beautiful woman, Safiya, as his own.
  • He got to feast on his son’s wife, Zaynab, by letting a few choice words slip, acted in a surreptitious and coy manner, and waited for the ripe apple to fall into his lap. Further, he claimed to have received a ridiculous “revelation” that allowed him to have this woman.
  • He claimed the right to use, even rape, female slaves to gratify his lusts.
  • He used his wives as a sexual banquet. He went through one after another like a fat sexual glutton going through a nine course meal of flesh.

Little wonder then that Aisha said, “It seems to me that your Lord hastens to satisfy your desire.” Aisha knew that when Muhammad wanted a woman, Muhammad got a woman.




We now turn to Muhammad’s teachings on sex. Do they put Muslim wives in a degraded or respected position?



Muhammad taught that Islamic marriage is based upon a “marriage contract”. A man is to give the wife a dowry as part of the arrangement. This dowry literally buys the man the right to manage and control his wife, and buys him the right to her sexual organs. This marriage contract is definitely not an “until death do us part” contract, rather the marriage is based on performance and desire. When the man no longer desires the woman he can divorce her as Muhammad did with Sauda.

I am not saying that there is not true marital love in Muslim marriages, there is. Muhammad wanted strong loving marriages and the wife to be treated properly and cared for. (Sura 4 goes into details concerning Muhammad’s instructions on how the man is to treat the wife.) I am saying, however, that the foundation of Islamic marriage is contractual, not spiritual, and that distinction, as you shall see, puts the wife at a disadvantage.

Regarding the dowry buying the wife’s sexual organs, Bukhari recorded the following hadith. Note that the husband wanted his money back but because he already had had sex with his wife the transaction was sealed.

Narrated Said bin Jubair:

I said to Ibn ‘Umar, “If a man accuses his wife of illegal sexual intercourse (what is the judgment)?” He said, “Allah’s Prophet separated the couple of Bani ‘Ajlan (when the husband accused his wife for an illegal sexual intercourse). The Prophet said, ‘Allah knows that one of you two IS a liar; so will one of you repent?’ But they refused. He then again said, ‘Allah knows that one of you two is a liar; so will one of you repent?’ But they refused, whereupon he separated them by divorce.” Aiyub (a sub-narrator) said: ‘Amr bin Dinar said to me, “In the narration there is something which I do not see you mentioning, i.e. the husband said, “What about my money (Mahr)?’ The Prophet said, “You are not entitled to take back money, for if you told the truth you have already entered upon her (and consummated your marriage with her) and if you are a liar then you are less entitled to take it back.” Bukhari, volume 7, #261 (also 262).

The point is that, unlike other cultural marriages, Muhammad instituted that a man have the legal right to have sex with his wife. Once the man consummated the marriage the women had rendered what was paid for. Islamic marriage is not equal to Christian marriage. Instead of sex being an act of love it is part of a contract. A Muslim wife must fulfill this obligation continually or risk a divorce. And when a woman was divorced in early Islam she went without a primary means of support.

[Note: Islamic marriage is large topic and my comments are generalized. Because of Muhammad’s various rules many Muslim scholars have gone into great depth trying to explain all the stipulations].




Muhammad placed women in an inferior position to men similar to that of a child to his parents. A child is not fully mature and is incapable of making informed decisions or able to fend for himself. That makes him inferior to the adults who are responsible for his care. Likewise, Muhammad taught that women are inferior to men both intellectually and spiritually, and the husband, being superior, is given the right and responsibility to rule the wife as the parents rule the child. The Quran states:

“Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme.” Dawood, 4:34

Note in the above verse that the wife is to obey her husband or she can be beaten (

Not only is he to be obeyed, he is to be honored greatly because Allah has made him superior to the woman. Further, she is to put his sexual fulfillment above other duties. Muslim’s and Tirmidhi’s hadith records Muhammad’s statement that the husband is over the wife and that she must hurry to fulfill his sexual desires:

Narrated Qays ibn Sa’d:

I went to al-Hirah and saw them (the people) prostrating themselves before a satrap of theirs, so I said: The Apostle of Allah has most right to have prostration made before him. When I came to the Prophet , I said: I went to al-Hirah and saw them prostrating themselves before a satrap of theirs, but you have most right, Apostle of Allah, to have (people) prostrating themselves before you. He said: Tell me , if you were to pass my grave, would you prostrate yourself before it? I said: No. He then said: Do not do so. If I were to command anyone to make prostration before another I would command women to prostrate themselves before their husbands, because of the special right over them given to husbands by Allah.” Sahih Muslim #2135



Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: By Him in Whose Hand is my life, when a man calls his wife to his bed, and she does not respond, the One Who is in the heaven is displeased with her until he (her husband) is pleased with her. Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3367:

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: When a man invites his wife to his bed and she does not come, and he (the husband) spends the night being angry with her, the angels curse her until morning. Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3368:

Talq b. `Ali reported God’s messenger as saying, “When a man calls his wife to satisfy his desire she must go to him even if she is occupied at the oven.” (Mishkat Al-Masabih, p. 691: Tirmidhi)

Examine the wife’s position: if she does not come when called, even if it means burning dinner, she is disrespecting her husband and Allah and the angels are angry with her. Islamic wives are the sexual servants of their husbands and will be chastened if they do not hurry to comply. The offense! The outrage! Allah is angry and the angels are cursing her!




“Muta Marriage” is a short term contractual relationship, lasting hours or a few days, where the man gives something of value to a woman and they “marry” and engage in sex for an agreed length of time. Once the contractual time expires the marriage is over and they go their own ways. This is legalized Islamic prostitution. Men get satisfaction and women get something of value, be it money, or clothing, or even a Quranic recital.

Narrated Abdullah: We used to participate in the holy wars carried on by the Prophet and we had no women (wives) with us. So we said (to the Prophet ). “Shall we castrate ourselves?” But the Prophet forbade us to do that and thenceforth he allowed us to marry a woman (temporarily) by giving her even a garment, and then he recited: “O you who believe! Do not make unlawful the good things which Allah has made lawful for you.” Bukhari: Volume 6, Book 60, Number 139.

Temporary “Muta” marriage is practiced today and often arranged by Imams and other Islamic leaders in Europe (the city centre’s where Shia Muslims cluster), America (Shia parts of Dearborn, Michigan), and of course in the Mideast. The most common victims of Muta marriage are destitute widows and orphaned girls who are sold to old men. These females are driven to extreme means to pay rent and feed themselves and their children. These females are abused by both the men who purchase them and the Islamic leaders. Muhammad’s system allows them to be abandoned and then exploited rather than responding with charity and compassion.

Sunni Muslims do not normally practice Muta marriage. But many Sunni Muslims today are ashamed of what Muhammad did because they know that Muhammad allowed prostitution to satisfy his men’s wants. And that’s the same story with Muhammad again and again. Like Felix and his bag of tricks, Muhammad always managed to pull a “revelation” out of thin air and change the rules of the game. If one reads the “Sirat Rasulallah”, (“The Life of Muhammad”, by A. Guillaume), one will find that Muhammad allowed, then disallowed, then allowed, then disallowed Muta marriage, etc. several times. Muhammad’s rules and religion depended on circumstances, not on God’s will.



I asked the question if Muhammad’s teachings put women in a degraded position and indeed they do. The marriage contract subjects the wife to the husband’s rule and she is now legally obligated to service her husband. If she disobeys she can be beaten. Because Muhammad taught that women are inferior to men they must honor their keeper and service him on demand. Further, Muhammad placed such importance upon sexual satisfaction that he allowed prostitution and women were purchased cheaply. To this day Muslim women are exploited for sex, legally, properly, under Islamic law,

For more on Islam and sexual allowances see this article:





“By their fruits ye shall know them.” Jesus, Matthew 7:16.


Muhammad claimed to be a prophet and we should examine his words and deeds. We have reviewed Muhammad’s actions, teachings, and attitudes related to sex to determine if these were tainted. I have quoted primarily from Islamic source materials and these texts prove Muhammad was corrupted by his sex drive.

Before I began this study I knew Muhammad loved having sex with beautiful women. What man wouldn’t? However, I never thought that his lust was as corrupting an influence as it has turned out to be. As I put together the pieces they formed a picture of a man who sanctioned his lust. Muhammad did not have to lie about it, like President Bill Clinton, instead he made up new rules to justify his behavior. Like a corrupt political leader Muhammad used his position to take advantage of others.

Muhammad’s Paradise is a sexual paradise. It is a man’s, not a woman’s Paradise. It is a Playboy Mansion where he, and other men, engage in sex 24/7.


The famous Christian missionary, Zwemer, having lived amongst Muslims and studied Islam for many years wrote this about the carnal component of Islam:

The degraded and degrading ethics of Islam are based on a low ideal of character, fixed forever as the high-water mark of holiness. To be like Mohammed is to be perfect. The deep-rooted sensuality of the prophet has borne bitter fruit in all ages and all Moslem lands.14

The “allah” that sanctioned Muhammad’s deeds is not the true God. Rather Muhammad’s allah15 is a synthetic creation of Muhammad’s knowledge and imagination, and the influences of a dark spirit. This allah served Muhammad when it suited him.

The real God’s character and standards far exceed “allah’s”.

Jesus said,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27. 28.

How does Muhammad fare under God’s standards?

Jesus foretold false prophets would come and deceive many (Matthew 24:11). Muhammad was a false prophet with a destructive message and as such Muhammad has done Satan’s bidding and oppressed and misled millions. To this day the Islamic world is kept in its bondage. The more fundamentalist an Islamic nation is, the darker is their society.




  2. Shakir, M. H., “The Quran”, Tahrike Tarsile Quran, Inc., Elmhurst, NY, 1993
  3. Dawood, N. J., “The Koran”, Penguin, London, England, 1995
  4. Bukhari, Muhammad, “Sahih Bukhari”, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, India, 1987, translated by M. Khan
  5. Muslim, Abu’l-Husain, “Sahih Muslim”, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1971, translated by A. Siddiqi,
  6. Ibn Kathir, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir” published by Darussalam, New York, NY, 2000.
  7. Maariful Tafsir (
  8. Gibb, H.A.R., “E. J. Brill Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam”
  9. Ibn Sa’d, (d. 852 A.D.), “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir”, (Book of the Major Classes), translated by S. Moinul Haq, Pakistan Historical Society.
  10. Sunan Abu Dawud, English translation with explanatory notes by Prof. Ahmad Hasan Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters; Lahore, Pakistan, 1984] Volume 2, Book V. Kitab al-Nikah (Book of Marriage), Chapter 705: Division of Time Among One’s Wives, Number 2130, p. 572.
  11. Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Part 5, Sura An-Nisa, ayat 24-147, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa’i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000 first edition]
  12. Sasson, Jean, “Princess”, William Morrow and Co, 1992
  13. al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari”, (Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk), State University of New York Press 1993
  14. Samuel Zwemer, “The Evangelization of the Mohammedan World in This Generation,” taken from the book, “The Haystack Centennial;” American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions: Boston, 1907
  15. (For a more thorough review of this spirit and how it caused Muhammad to attempt suicide several times, see:


8 July, 2006


Tolerance and the Qur’an – Understanding the Unavoidable Islam

Tolerance and the Qur’an – Understanding the Unavoidable Islam

by Nezir Hyseni

A member of the Gideons (an organization which distributes the Bible worldwide) was telling the story of handing out Bibles in the streets of Marseille, a city in France. According to him, the French city of Marseille now claims Islam as the religion of the majority. It was in this city that Muslims who were offered Bibles took them, and either threw them over his head or burned them in front of him. Such an attitude would not be expected from the majority of westerners even if they strongly disagreed with literature distribution and its message.

With Islam coming to the West through immigration and conversion, it is to be expected that attitudes in the “public square” are going to be affected. The social reality of religious pluralism, where Islam and other religions cannot live in isolation any more, forces us to take seriously the implications of such a plurality of religious views and examine the effects on religious freedom and tolerance. Can Muslims and other religious people live together in peace and harmony? As a student of world religions says: “Frankly, the history of religion is not reassuring.”[1]

What makes some Muslims behave as they did in the streets of a French city? What leads some Muslims to blow up the World Trade Center towers in an American city, killing thousands of civilians? Is this behavior an expression of true Islam or a perversion of it? What does Islam teach on religious tolerance? These are questions that cannot be answered quickly or easily and yet the answers are there if one looks diligently.

The importance of understanding the Islam of the Qur’an

As Jacques Ellul says: “It is impossible to judge the Islamic world in a general way: a hundred different cultures have been absorbed by Islam. It is impossible to study all the doctrines, all the traditions, and all their applications together. Such a study can only be undertaken if one limits oneself to the study of specific questions, disentangling what is true from what is false.”[2]

My task in this piece of writing is to look at the environment of the interfaith exchange in a pluralistic society, especially focusing on the impact of Islam on such an environment. It is important to clarify that the Islam I have in view in this writing is the Qur’anic Islam – the Islam that is faithful to its source, the Islam which cannot exist without the Qur’an as it is – not innovative forms of Islam, or the Islam of people who do not understand and do not follow their religion as prescribed for them in the Qur’an. I will not analyze the differences between numerous branches of Islam with their specific teachings and beliefs. I choose to focus on the teaching of the Qur’an since this is the common denominator for all the different branches of Islam. It is the one source which all Muslims accept, whilst other sources of authority are interpreted and believed (or denied) in unpredictable ways. My concern, therefore, deals exclusively with the unavoidable Islam, that form of Islam which will exist as long as the Qur’an exists.

I will specifically explore the extent to which Qur’anic Islam tolerates other religions. The central question to be investigated in this study is this: “Is the Qur’an’s teaching compatible with tolerance in a pluralistic society?”

The professor and author Edward W. Said, who was born in Palestine but has resided in US since the 1950’s, claims as a matter of fact that “ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union there has been an active, explicit search in the United States for new official enemies, a search that has now come to settle on ‘Islam’ as a manufactured opponent.”[3] Seeking to avoid projecting a “manufactured Islam,” one of the goals of this paper is to combat prejudice – that is, a posture which is not based on relevant information and experience, either favorable or unfavorable, about Islam.

In a recent article in Time magazine, Michael Elliott comments on the PBS documentary “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet” (funded partially by a number of Islamic foundations). He writes: “What the world needs is not a hagiography of the Prophet or an apologia for Islam but a clear sense that modern Muslims are prepared to engage in an honest debate on the way in which their faith has been perverted by those who kill thousands of innocents.”[4] In this writing I seek to contribute toward the need for a clear sense in the debate about the relationship of the Muslim faith and its violent expressions.

The importance of understanding the unavoidable Islam involves exposing the lies of some presentations of Islam and raising awareness about the challenge presented by a faithful expression of Qur’anic Islam. We will also look at how it may affect the future of the democratic society, as formed by the values of Western civilization.

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, a Muslim, has said: “The Democratic system that is predominant in the world is not a suitable system for the peoples of our region.”[5] It is important to determine why Fahd believes this to be so; and if the Islam to which he adheres is the Qur’anic (unavoidable) Islam, then how do Islam and democracy co-exist in a pluralistic society. Can Islam be tolerant?

Defining “tolerance”

Since we need to understand what the Qur’an teaches about religious tolerance we must define what tolerance is, and then we must see if there is such a thing taught in the Qur’an. Some Muslims may object to this approach, saying that the Qur’an ought to define the meaning of tolerance. The goal here, however, is to compare the concept of tolerance as generally understood in the democratic West with “Qur’anic tolerance.”

Tolerance is different from toleration. Jay Newman wrote:

… [W]e are reminded that there are two different nouns corresponding to the verb ‘tolerate’ – ‘tolerance’ and ‘toleration.’ The latter seems to have a broader application; it refers to any instance of tolerating. But ‘tolerance’ is more closely related to the adjective ‘tolerant.’ Toleration is merely instantiated in each instance of toleration; the term is entirely behavioural. Tolerance is expressed as well as instantiated in tolerant actions. A person can be tolerant on one occasion and intolerant on another. But most of us believe that some men are generally tolerant while others are not. ‘Tolerance,’ then, unlike ‘toleration,’ is often seen as a character trait, a disposition, and usually as that kind of disposition that we call a ‘virtue.’[6]

To describe a person, a religion, or a doctrine as both tolerant and intolerant says nothing about the disposition or character of such an entity with regard to tolerance.[7] It is not possible to characterize any person or religion as both tolerant and intolerant if tolerance is understood as a normative and defining virtue. One person or religion can be intolerant, although at times may show toleration; another can be tolerant but, inconsistently with the tolerant character, may show lack of toleration in specific or isolated occasions. This distinction between “tolerance” as a normative virtue (something we ought to exemplify consistently) and “toleration” merely as an instantiation of tolerance (occasioned by expediency), is important to bear in mind as we investigate Muslim scripture and history where there may be examples of toleration.

Tolerance and the view of truth

What does it mean to tolerate another’s beliefs? To “tolerate” another’s beliefs does not mean that one accepts them as true; but in being tolerant one respects another’s right to free will to choose what to believe. As Newman clarifies, “Tolerating a religious belief, then, does not involve a half-hearted acceptance or endurance of the belief in itself, but rather it involves acceptance or endurance of someone’s holding that belief, that is of a certain case of believing.”[8]

Relativists modify this meaning of tolerance to make it more of a propositional attitude, which involves respecting another’s religious beliefs as being of equal value to all other truth claims, even one’s own convictions. If this line of thought, however, is followed to its logical conclusion, a person could end up holding as equally true both propositions, even if they are obviously contradictory.

Metaphysical relativism considers metaphysical constructs as valuable in that they give significance to our lives; but it is not necessary for them to correspond with something objective outside of our minds. They are basically our own constructs. The motivation for such a conclusion may be epistemological (doubting the possibility to know things as they are in themselves, following the Kantian postulation of the categories of the mind that give shape to reality as experienced by us) or moral (in seeking to accommodate everybody’s view).

When metaphysical relativism is considered as a foundation for tolerance, we end up with no tolerance at all because it deprives the belief of any significance which makes it worth holding. On the other hand, this view also ends up being another dogmatism itself, as Newman writes: “Tolerance, after all, does not demand that one believe that every other person’s metaphysical views are as true or as reasonable or as profound as his own. Indeed … tolerance is possible only because we are capable of putting up with things that we do not like … or agree with.”[9] This condition implies: (1) having a certain belief and (2) being introduced to another person who holds beliefs with which you disagree. If we didn’t have to put up with those who hold beliefs contrary to ours, there would be no need for tolerance. If all believed the same thing, namely, that all religious beliefs are not to be taken seriously, but rather are to be considered merely as different keys in a piano (which may be different but not true or false), than what is there to tolerate?

In conclusion, we can say that tolerance means exemplifying an attitude of respect[10] or endurance toward another’s views, even those one may consider false, and tolerance as such can rightly be a virtue in one who believes in absolute truth. Muslims and Christians (and others who believe in the nature of truth as absolute and objective), have a real opportunity to be tolerant in this sense of the word, while relativists don’t.

Muslim background beliefs

To understand the Muslim view of tolerance we need to understand some basic concepts of the Muslim worldview and sources of authority. The answer to many questions about Islam and its nature is connected with understanding “the very structure of Islam as a religious and political complex.”[11] Although the so called Christian Byzantine Empire and the Western Holy Roman Empire, with the close association of the Christian Church and the State throughout the Middle Ages might suggest a similarity with the Islamic religious-political structure, it is a wrong assumption to consider them identical.[12] Islam is radically different in that in its very identity is a political-religious structure. Fazlur Rahman, a well respected Muslim scholar writes: “Islam insisted on the assumption of political power since it regarded itself as the repository of the Will of God which had to be worked on earth through a political order … To deny this fact would be both to violate history and to deny justice to Islam itself.”[13]

The concept of God as “Allah” is of a being that is totally other, wholly transcendent to the point of implying that Allah is unknowable in himself but known in his will and requirements revealed in the Qur’an (Sura 42:11; 112:1-4). In the words of a Muslim scholar: “You may not have complete transcendence and self-revelation at the same time.”[14] This view of God is accompanied by a view of humans as the “slaves” of God (Sura 19:93). One major concept in Islam is captured in the very meaning of the word “Islam” itself: namely “submission,” which carries the sense of laying down arms before the victor and is taken to exemplify the total submission of every aspect of life, as an individual and society to Allah (The God).

The Qur’an teaches about itself that it is God’s direct and verbal word, that it is eternal and came down from what is preserved in heaven (Sura 85:22) as the “Mother of the Book” (Sura 3:7; 13:39; 43:4). Although the Qur’an considers the Old and New Testaments as God’s word (Sura 3:93; 4:163; 5:46 etc.), it considers its own authority as greater than theirs (Sura 5:48). Even the Arabic language of the Qur’an is considered an integral part of Allah’s word (Sura 20:113; 12:2), therefore, Muslims consider the Islamic culture as of heavenly origin.[15]

So, Islam is a political, cultural and religious system. Religion, as based primarily on the Qur’an, is a part of the system, which informs all the other aspects of the Islamic system. Religious doctrine, however, is viewed in Islam as a preamble to Islamic law, the Shariah (divine law),[16] which is a comprehensive code governing every aspect of life, because Islam is a religion primarily oriented toward law rather than theology.[17]

Another important Muslim concept is the “Umma,” or “the community of submission.” Although Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, had been reciting the earliest Suras of the Qur’an starting in A.D. 610 for about 13 years, it is A.D. 622 that marks the beginning of the Muslim era, because this marks the emergence of the “Umma,” the establishment of the Muslim political- religious structure. Dr. W. Bonar Sidjabat writes: “… the Islam of the Qur’an is theocratic and the Muslim state was a theocracy from its first ascent to power.”[18]

Prior to A.D. 622, Muhammad had not attracted many with his monotheistic message. The people of Mecca, the city of Muhammad’s birth and his first decade of religious activity (which started when he was 40 years old), were not responding positively to Muhammad’s message. They eventually made life so miserable for Muhammad and his few followers that they decided to flee to Medina, another city three hundred miles to the north, where some people had invited Muhammad to mediate differences between various tribal groups. William J. Saal writes:

That well-known event, the Hijra [emigration to Medina], gave Muhammed opportunity to gain control of Medina and eventually extend that control to the entire Arabian Peninsula and beyond.

This event is the pivotal event of Islamic history and has become the starting point of the Muslim calendar. Muslims believe that God’s ultimate objective was the creation of a new universal social order. The Hijra marks the beginning of this new world order, today identified with the Nation or Community of Islam, the Ummah.[19]

There are many issues that require further development at this point in tracing the history of Islam; the looting of Meccan caravans and subsequent battles with Meccan protectors of the caravans (Sura 2:216-218) in A.D. 624; the conquering of Mecca in A.D. 630; massacres of Jews; and military campaigns against the Christians in the north of Arabia under the leadership of Muhammad. He died in A.D. 632 “… but not without ordering about a month before his death another expedition to the North.”[20] We should turn to our main question now and will pursue history only in relation to defining the Qur’anic view of religious tolerance.

The Qur’an: its importance

The Qur’an is the absolute authority of Islam (socio-political-economic-cultural-religious system). Fazlur Rahman writes: “This ‘Other’ [Allah] through some channel ‘dictated’ the Qur’an with an absolute authority.”[21] The high esteem with which Muslims regard the Qur’an seems best captured by a Muslim scholar, Yusuf K. Ibish, who says: “It is not a book in the ordinary sense, nor is it comparable to the Bible, either the Old or New Testaments. … If you want to compare it with anything in Christianity, you must compare it with Christ Himself … Christ was the expression of the Divine among men, the revelation of the Divine Will. That is what the Qur’an is.”[22]

With regard to the importance of the Qur’an in forming a concept of tolerance in Islam, Sidjabat correctly observes:

[A]lthough the Muslim opinion about any problem does not always find its answer literally in the Qur’an, but also in and supported by the Sunnah (custom) and Hadith (tradition), the Ijma (consensus) and Qias (analogy), the value of the Qur’an as the primary source of any Islamic religious problem is decisive. … Its significance for the concept of religious tolerance is obvious, if we realize that the Qur’an can be considered as the command of God … Following the contents of the Qur’an means practically being obedient to the will of Allah no matter how tolerant or intolerant this might be for others.[23]

Sidjabat even goes so far as to suggest that Muhammad’s “political tolerance or intolerance should not be primarily attributed to Mohammad himself but rather to Allah from Whom – as Mohammad believed – came the Qur’an.”[24]

Qur’an’s nature and the problem of chronology

One would assume that if we just read the Qur’an we should be able to follow its teaching on tolerance easily, but that is not the case. Ignaz Goldziher, considered one of the outstanding European Islamists, wrote: “In its entirety, [the Qur’an] represents an amalgam of the two essentially heterogeneous periods that form the infancy of Islam [Meccan and Medinese].”[25] Nevertheless, chronology and delineation of those periods, is downplayed in the present arrangement of the Qur’an; “ignoring its own pivot,” as Kenneth Cragg puts it.[26] Cragg says:

Through the sequences of [Muhammad’s] career – yearning, vision, utterance, pertinacity, controversy, endurance, rejection, emigration, militancy and triumph – the accumulation of the Qur’an moves in parallel relation, fusing meaning with mission, and truth with setting. It is as events unfold that the whole grows into entirety … [But] In many circles, the non-chronological form of the Qur’an as it stands, however we account for it, becomes in this way a virtue in disguise or, rather, a proper parable of the necessary transcendence of mere point and circumstance which the believer should attain. God had not allowed the Qur’an to be arranged in sequence, in order to preclude notions of the time factor and of calendar time itself, seen as embarrassments to its celestial status.[27]

The Qur’an was not written down systematically during the time of Muhammad but was primarily memorized by Muhammad’s followers. It was not until after his death, and due to the fear that those who knew the Qur’an by heart were dying in the conquering battles Muslims were fighting, that Umar got the idea to ask Muhammad’s successor (caliph) Abu Bakr (632-634) to “order that the Qur’an be collected.”[28] Although that compilation of the Qur’an doesn’t exist[29] and there was another compilation made during the third successor, Uthman (644-656),[30] the order of the chapters (Sura) was decided at the time of the first official copy as the order of length rather than chronology.[31] All the other competing variants of Qur’an, “whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, [were ordered to] be burned.”[32]

The Qur’an itself does not help in determining the order of the chapters and sometimes, even verses from one chapter come from different periods. Cragg observes: “… the Surahs, especially the longer ones, are composite within themselves as well as irregular in time, so that the continuous reader oscillates bewilderingly across the years and has, indeed, a better chance of being in historical step if he starts at Surah 114 and reads back to Surah 2, than if he lets the paging guide him.”[33]

On the one hand, Muslims believe that since the Qur’an is eternal there is no need for a chronological order but, on the other hand, as Fazlur Rahman says: “the ‘occasions of revelation’ were recorded [in the Hadith] as a necessary aid for fixing the correct meaning of the Word of God.”[34] Some construction of the chronological order therefore has been undertaken by scholars, which should be supplemented with the “historical traditions containing reports about how those among whom the Qur’an first appeared understood its injunctions and statements.”[35]

The reason chronology is very important for our search for a definition of Qur’anic tolerance is related to the doctrine of abrogation taught therein. Sura 2:106 says: “Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it.”[36] Zamakshari, a famous Muslim scholar, commenting on this verse, wrote: “To abrogate a verse means the God removes (azala) it by putting another in its place. To cause a verse to be abrogated means that God gives the command that it be abrogated. … Every verse is made to vanish whenever the well-being (maslaha) (of the community) requires that it be eliminated … We bring a verse which is better for the servants (of God), that is, a verse through which one gains a greater benefit, or one which is equal to it in this respect.”[37]

In the earlier Meccan period, Muhammad may well have taught that he was to “declare openly … and turn aside from the polytheists” (Sura 15:94) or to “call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner” (Sura 16:125).[38] But when Muhammad went to Medina “it was … time for a different watchword: ‘… kill the idolaters wherever you find them; take them prisoner, lay siege to them, and wait for them in every ambush’ (9:5); ‘fight in the way of God’ (2:244).”[39] Have the later verses of Medina abrogated the earlier ones in this case to serve better the interests of the Muslim Community? Many commentators think that this is the case, although they disagree about the extent of the abrogation and the specific suras it applies to.[40]

Following some chronological arrangement for the Suras (according to Nöldeke’s listing) that is generally accepted by Muslim scholars, we will now look at some pertinent verses from the Qur’an.[41]

Qur’anic teaching on relating to “religious others”[42]

Although the majority of Surahs (90 out of 114) were recited during the first 13 years of persecution in Mecca, it is interesting to notice that none of them contains commands to fight and kill.[43] It is after the Hijra, the establishing of the first Muslim community in Medina, that the teaching on attacking religious others unfolded. Rev. Richard Bailey, in his study “Jihad,” traces the progression of the attitude toward religious others in four stages: (1) No retaliation (in Mecca), (2) Defensive fighting permitted (in Medina), (3) Defensive fighting commanded (in Medina), and (4) Offensive war commanded (after conquering Mecca).[44] I will follow the same progression but in three phases, linking phases two and three together.

1. No retaliation (toleration)

In the Meccan Sura 67:26 and 22:49 we read: “Say ‘… I am (sent) only to warn plainly in public’” and “Say, ‘O men! I am (sent) to you only to give a clear warning.’”

During this period it is clear that Muhammad did not perceive his role to be that of a ruler and military leader. Another Meccan Sura 17:54, confirms this understanding by saying: “… We have not sent thee to be a disposer of their affairs for them.” At this time in Mecca (A.D. 610 – 622), Muhammad seems to uphold tolerance in the real sense of the term as discussed earlier when he recites: “Repel evil with that which is best … We are well acquainted with the things they say. And say, ‘O my Lord! I seek refuge with thee from the suggestions of the evil ones. And I seek refuge with thee of my Lord, lest they should come near me’” (Meccan Sura 23:96).

Mecca was the city of the Ka’aba, a cubic structure where 360 idols were presented for worship. Meccans, who profited from being the guardians of Ka’aba, did not welcome the Message of Muhammad. Their economic and religious traditions were threatened, therefore they ridiculed and harassed the little group of Muslims up to the point where they forbade them to go to the Ka’aba for their religious ritual, while all the polytheists could visit the shrine freely. It is difficult to understand why monotheist Muslims would want to worship at the shrine of 360 idols, but whatever the reason, it is in this context of prohibiting them to worship at the Ka’aba that the words “repel evil with that which is best” were recited. These words can give the impression that the virtue of tolerance is being taught in the Qur’an. If this was the whole of the Qur’anic teaching it may well have been the case that it teaches tolerance in the real sense, namely enduring religious others whilst disagreeing with their beliefs. But, in light of future developments, there is another possible interpretation of these verses, which might render this phase of the history of Islam as one of toleration rather than characterizing Islam as tolerant. It could have been simply a strategic position in order to survive since, being such a small number (no more than 150 converts),[45] they would have been obliterated if they had decided to retaliate (Sura 8:26).

2. Defensive fighting (in Medina)

After Muhammad and his followers went to Medina, 13 years after the beginning of the movement, we see a different attitude toward those who didn’t believe the message of Muhammad. The Medinan Sura 2:190-194 says:

Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do no transgress limit; for God loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; But fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith. But if they cease, God is oft-forgiving, most merciful. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression … If then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, transgress ye likewise against him. But fear God, and know that God is with those who restrain themselves. (Emphasis mine.)

In his commentary Yusuf Ali writes: “If they want forcibly to prevent you from exercising your sacred rites, they have declared war on your religion, and it would be cowardice to ignore the challenge or to fail in rooting out the tyranny.”[46] This is in stark contrast to the previous Meccan attitude of bearing with and not retaliating against those who didn’t let Muslims go to perform the ritual at the Ka’aba, forcibly preventing them from exercising their sacred rites and in effect declaring war on Muslim religion as Ali interprets the opposition against Muslims.

The previous attitude of non-retaliation was not considered cowardice before but now the same persecution is considered worthy of war. What has changed in the situation is the strength of the Muslim community in military terms. The verses we have looked at so far present two different responses toward the same situation, namely, no retaliation at one time and retaliation at a more opportune time against opponents of Muslim religion.

In the face of this drastic change in the proposed response of Muslims toward those who oppose them, Rahman says: “… so far as the Prophet was concerned, there was absolutely no change in him from Mecca to Medina, except that in Medina external circumstances were favourable to him, something that he had longed for in Mecca.”[47] We can conclude, therefore, that the first attitude of non-retaliation was not a normative virtue but rather an expedient attitude due to circumstances, which cannot qualify as tolerance toward religious others but merely as expedient toleration.

Rahman referring to Muhammad in Medina says: “… the Prophet turned to the task that was the crux of his Prophetic mission: to bring Mecca to accept Islam and through the religious center of Mecca to spread Islam further. All his efforts thenceforward are directed to this end.”[48] Fleeing for his life after failing to influence Mecca from inside, Muhammad sought to convert the Meccans by force, which was eventually achieved after eight years of fighting.

One clear example from the Qur’an with regard to the unprovoked war by Muslims, is found in Sura 2:216-218, which says:

Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But God knoweth, and ye know not. They ask thee concerning fighting in the prohibited month. Say: ‘Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of God to prevent access to the path of God, to deny Him, to prevent access to the sacred mosque [polytheistic Ka’aba in Mecca prior to its Muslim conquest], and drive out its members.’ Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the hereafter. They will be companions of the fire and will abide therein. Those who believed and those who suffered exile fought (and strove and struggled) in the path of God, they have the hope of the mercy of God, and God is oft-forgiving, most merciful. (Emphasis mine.)

To understand the significance of the passage one has to know the historical context it refers to. Rahman explains: “The Qur’an … is referring to a skirmish that took place without the Prophet’s explicit permission between a Meccan caravan and a group of emigrants during the ‘forbidden months’ (when fighting was not allowed by Arab inter-tribal law) in [A.D. 624].”[49] Whatever the “explicit permission” and “a skirmish” means for Rahman, another respected Muslim scholar, Baidawi, explains:

“… the Prophet sent out his paternal cousin ‘Abd Allah ibn Jahsh with an expeditionary force, in order to be on the look-out for a caravan of (the tribe of) Quraish … they killed ‘Amr, took two of his men captive, and drove away the caravan, which contained the goods of trade from at-Ta’if. This happened at the beginning of (the month of) Rajab, while ‘Abd Allah and his people believed it was (still) the (month of) Jumada l-Akhira. … This is supposed to have been the first booty in Islam.”[50]

Amazingly, after quoting the Qur’anic verse above, and after saying earlier that the prophetic task was to convert Meccans (implying the use of force), Rahman writes: “It is, therefore, obvious that the Prophet’s measures in terms of militaristic operations from Medina were not unprovoked.”[51] Some things need to be pointed out about this conclusion of Rahman.

If Meccans were going to fight Muslims in Medina it seems strange that they would go in war with caravans of goods. It is obvious that it was Muslims, attacking the Meccan caravans as they were passing to go home, who started the wars between Muslims and Meccans. They broke the customs that pagans themselves didn’t break, namely fighting in the sacred month, considered by the Qur’an itself as “great offense.” W. Montgomery Watt commenting on Sura 2:194 about the holy month, writes: “Though the taboos were originally matters of pagan religion, many were accepted by Islam.”[52] How can one say that the Meccans provoked the Muslims in this situation, except by the lure of goods to be looted from the caravans? There is plenty of testimony in the Qur’an itself that Muslims suffered from the greed of looting (Sura 8:1; 8:67-69; 3:152).

Important to note in this Qur’anic passage is the attitude of distrust toward religious others: the portrayal of them as seeking to convert Muslims to another faith by force and thus motivating Muslims to do the same. Another aspect is the threatening attitude toward a Muslim who may convert to another religion. One hadith makes it more specific with Muhammad saying: “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but God and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In qisas [retaliation] for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and one who reverts from Islam and leaves the Muslims.”[53]

This prescribed attitude toward a Muslim embracing another religion has implications for tolerance. Moucarry correctly observes what true religious tolerance involves as he focuses on Christians and Muslims: “Christians and Muslims will be genuinely tolerant only when they have accepted the idea that debate, or dialogue, may lead to conversions either to Christianity or to Islam.”[54] Based on the Qur’anic passage above, therefore, we cannot fail to note that the Qur’an does not convey a situation where religious others can co-exist as equals with Muslims. The relationship between people of different religions is seen as between ruler and the subdued.

Another example from the Qur’an regarding this concept of ruling and authentication of the true religion by military victory and political supremacy (the seal of approval from God for the Muslim cause is seen in political dominance), is the passage referring to the battle of Badr,[55] called the “testing” or the “criterion.” Surah 8:38-42 says:

Say to the unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from unbelief), their past would be forgiven them, but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God altogether and everywhere. But if they cease, verily God doth see all that they do. If they refuse, be sure that God is your protector – the best to protect and the best to help. And know that out of all the booty that ye may acquire (in war), a fifth share is assigned to God, – and to the Apostle, and to near relatives, orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer, – If you do believe in God and in the revelation we sent down to our servant on the day of testing, day of the meeting of the two forces. For God hath power over all things.

Remember ye were on the hither side of the valley, and they on the farther side, and the caravan on the lower ground than ye. Even if ye had made a mutual appointment to meet, ye could certainly have failed in the appointment, but (thus ye met), that God might accomplish a matter already enacted, that those who died might die after a clear sign (had been given), and those who lived might live after a clear sign (had been given).[56]And verily God is He who heareth and knoweth (all things). (Emphasis mine.)

Commenting on the “day of testing,” which refers to the meeting of Muslim and Meccan forces, Yusuf Ali considers the criterion between right and wrong to be decided by the military victory between two armies: “the forces of faith and of unbelief.”[57] The winning of the physical battle justifies the Muslim cause and to this day this kind of success, namely political rule, is seen as the mark of true, authenticated Islam.

The Muslims obviously didn’t know that Meccans would have an army coming to protect the caravan (that is why the meeting of the armies is considered an appointment of God not foreseen by them) but when they saw the Meccan army, since they were small in number, Muslims decided to deal with the danger of the Meccan army rather than loot the Meccan caravan which was what they originally desired. The Muslims won and that was believed to justify the Muslim cause. The belief that their strategy of asserting themselves as Muslims by waging war had God’s approval continued to cement their confidence and motivate further fighting.

What concerns us at this point is the attitude toward religious others. As far as we can tell, the Qur’an makes the case that fighting was against unbelievers as such. The phrase “Fight them until there is no more oppression” refers to fighting Meccans who still would not allow Muslims to perform the ritual at the Ka’aba. But, the extent of the war, which is to continue until “there prevail justice and faith in God altogether and everywhere” points to the real agenda of imposing Islam as supreme religion. Again, the envisioned environment with religious others, indelible in the Qur’an itself, is not one of equality, i.e. a pluralistic society, but of a victorious religion which subdues the others. This is what is actually said in Sura 8:67-69: “It is not fitting for an Apostle that he should have prisoners of war until he had thoroughly subdued the land.” (Emphasis mine.)

Yusuf Ali’s comment follows: “An ordinary war may be for territory or trade, revenge or military glory – all temporal goods of this world. … But a jihad is fought under strict conditions under a righteous imam, purely for the defense of faith and God’s law. All baser motives therefore are strictly excluded.”[58] Here we have one definition of Jihad as being a war for God’s cause, to establish the rule of Islam by the use of force. Moucarry presents the Muslim concept of militaristic jihad[59] in this way:

In the event of God’s cause being in danger, Muslims are under an obligation to take up arms and fight the enemies of Islam, even if they are reluctant to do battle (2:216-218; 4:77) … Indeed, it is preferable to engage in combat rather than to expose the Muslim community to sedition and run the risk of seeing God’s cause defeated (2:191-193; 8:39). Armed combat or holy war is therefore the extreme form of jihad. Its aim is to defend Islam from its enemies.[60]

Muslims love to paint a picture of this being a defensive war in the normal sense of the word “defense,” but one cannot escape another understanding of such a war; that is, one which subdues religious others and establishes Islam as supreme. This is made obvious by expressions like: “[no] prisoners of war until [Muhammad] had thoroughly subdued the land.” The concept of “defense” in the Muslim understanding is related to the Muslim view of the Umma. Bannerman writes: “… followers of Islam … were required, in pursuit of God’s will, to seek to establish a universal community comprising all mankind in which public order was regulated by the revelation [Qur’an].”[61] Muslims consider the destiny of the world order to be the rule of Islam, which they identify with the rule of God; the Muslim community is what that rightly ruled society will look like.

“The world was divided into dar al Islam (the territory of Islam) and dar al harb (the territory of war: and, by extension, the territory of unbelievers). … Dar al harb comprised the rest of the world which Muslim rulers were duty-bound to bring under their authority … Clearly, dar al harb must in due course be transformed into dar al Islam by one means or another.”[62] War against the unbelievers is considered to be defending the cause of God to whom belongs the territory which the unbelievers unjustly occupy simply by existing there. As Bannerman observes,

Al Shafi’i, [787-820 AD] … held that it was a duty to wage war on the unbeliever simply because he was an unbeliever, whether or not there was any threat to the community … [this understanding] was re-established later on by Ibn Taymiyya [1263-1328 AD], and appears to be the view of the majority of today’s [Muslim] jurists for whom reality clearly circumscribes the ideal. Al Shafi’i’s reasoning is consistent with the obligation to establish the universal umma …[63]

3. Offensive war against all religious others

We have to skip over many verses which clearly uphold the same teaching of waging war against the unbelievers during the years in Medina[64] but will now pick up one Sura from the last years of Muhammad’s life, after conquering Mecca in A.D. 630, which establishes fighting not as defensive any more, but aggressive Jihad against all unbelievers. As Bailey writes in the context of this last phase of Qur’anic development, “[S]ince this is the final teaching of the Qur’an regarding Jihad, it is what is still in force today.”[65]

Sura 9:1-6 says:

A (declaration) of immunity from God and His Apostle, to those of the pagans with whom ye have contracted mutual alliances. Go ye, then, for four months backwards and forwards (as ye will) throughout the land, but know ye that ye cannot frustrate God (by your falsehood), but that God will cover with shame those who reject Him. And an announcement from God and His Apostle, to the people (assembled) on the day of the great pilgrimage – that God and His Apostle dissolve (treaty) obligations to the pagans. If, then ye repent, it were best for you. But if ye turn away, know ye that ye cannot frustrate God. And proclaim a grievous penalty to those who reject faith. (But the treaties are) not dissolved with those pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfill your engagements with them to the end of their term, for God loveth the righteous. But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war). But if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them. (Emphasis mine.)

The list of unbelievers (hence the enemies of Allah) includes Jews and Christians besides pagans as Sura 9 continues in verses 29-31:

Fight those who believe not in God nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, (even if they are) of the people of the Book [Bible], until they pay the jizya with willing submission, feel themselves subdued. Jews call Uzair [Ezra] a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the Son of God … God’s curse be on them; how they are deluded away from truth! They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of God, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary. Yet they are commanded to worship but One God. (Emphasis mine)

“Those who reject faith” are those who do not want to become Muslims and at this point no more treaties of non-attack are to be observed, since it was decided that they “cannot frustrate God” any longer. The Qur’an clearly establishes an attitude of war toward all those who don’t believe Islam, wherever they may live, until they “repent and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way to them.” Yusuf Ali’s comment is: “when war becomes inevitable, it must be prosecuted with vigour.”[66] This gives you the impression that it is a war not chosen by Muslims but by God, as it is viewed in the context of a mandate to subdue the world for Islam. The inevitability of war is interpreted not as the Muslims’ choice but as something imposed upon them. The time had come to abolish all agreements of peace with religious others and fight them until they become Muslims and follow Islamic laws.

Muslims would say that it is essential that God not to be frustrated, meaning that Islam has to cover the whole earth as the supreme religion. Since nonbelievers reject Islam there is no other alternative left but for Muslims to show that nonbelievers “cannot frustrate God” by waging war and conquering the world for Islam. “But even then there is room for repentance and amendment on the part of the guilty party, and if that takes place, our duty is forgiveness and establishment of peace,”[67] continues Ali.

It seems clear that the guilt of the religious others lies in not embracing Islam and not being ruled by Islam. This is especially clear when Jews and Christians are included in the enemies to be conquered for Islam, even though their religion is considered valid for salvation at the Day of Judgment (Sura 2:62; 5:69). This means that Muslims do make a distinction between being under Islam and being in Islam, just as Moucarry says: “Submission to the political order of Islam does not necessarily imply assent to its doctrinal content [Surah 49:14; 48:11].”[68] This “establishment of peace,” means Muslim political rule of all who either become Muslims or live with “a grievous penalty to those who reject faith” in the form of a poll-tax and other humiliating conditions of the status of the dhimmi (“the protected”).

Conclusion on Qur’anic teaching about relating to religious others

During the Meccan period, Muhammad claimed that his role was to warn people. Later, it seems that all those who don’t believe what he taught and forbade, are not simply warned but are to be fought, cursed and commanded to embrace Islam. Nevertheless, since it is logical (due to the nature of belief formation) that “there is no compulsion in religion” (Sura 2:257), those who choose not to embrace Islam have the alternative to live in submission, paying a tax to be allowed to believe what they had believed before but in such a way that they “feel themselves subdued.”

Compared with the concept of tolerance defined at the beginning of this paper, Qur’anic “tolerance” is nothing less than religious persecution. Muslims would never accept this charge of intolerance but they must remember their own complaint when they were the persecuted ones in Mecca. Rev. Bailey makes a valuable observation at this point:

When the pagans were in control and the small number of Muslims were not permitted to enter the Ka’aba, their persecution was called a ‘sacrilegious act’ and ‘an open declaration of war.’ Brigadier S. K. Malik says, ‘The enemy repression reached its zenith when the Koraish denied the Muslims access to the Sacred Mosque to fulfill their religious obligations.’ Now that the tables are reversed, the denial of the pagans’ right to fulfill their religious obligations is not called ‘repression’ but is excused on the grounds that they must ‘shut out all impurity’ because the pagans ‘are unclean.’[69]

In a late Medinan Surah 9:28 we read: “O ye who believe! Truly the pagans are unclean, so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque.” (Emphasis mine).

The interpretation of Qur’an is a fossilized teaching beyond change

The Qur’anic teaching on how to relate to religious others is normatively exemplified in the life of Muhammad and the first community. Muslims cannot be free to interpret Qur’an differently from Muhammad’s interpretation throughout his life and as shown in the way his earliest followers imitated him. The Qur’an says: “And it behoves not a believing man and a believing woman that they should have any choice in their matter when Allah and His Apostle have decided a matter; and whoever disobeys Allah and His Apostle, he surely strays off a manifest straying” (Sura 33:36).[70] Yvone Yazbeck Hadad writes: “Islam is one as revealed in the Qur’an, and the ideal and perfect Islamic community is that of Medina where the Umma lived under divine guidance through the mediation of the Angel Gabriel and the Prophet Muhammad.”[71]

As said earlier, the flight to Medina in A.D. 622 is the watershed event that marks the emerging of the Muslim community (umma), which would remain the model for the future as a God-ordained model for society. Bat Ye’or, traces several significant events in the life of Muhammad and the first Muslim Community:

In 624 Muhammad, joined by more followers, called upon the Qaynuqa, one of the Jewish tribes of Medina, to recognize his prophetic mission. When they refused, he besieged and overcame them. … their lives were spared, but they were expelled from the city, their lands and a part of their possessions being confiscated by the Muslims. The following year the Jewish Nadir tribe suffered a similar fate: Muhammad burned down their palm groves and divided all their fields and houses among the community of the Believers.[72]

… In 627 … guided by the angel Gabriel, Muhammad … turned his host against the Jewish tribe of the Qurayza. … Because the Jews refused conversion, Muhammad attacked and overwhelmed them … six to nine hundred of them … were led forth in batches and decapitated. … The Prophet then divided the women, children, houses, and chattels among the Muslims.[73]

… In 628, taking advantage of a treaty of nonbelligerency (Hudaybiya) with the Meccans,[74] he attacked the oasis of Khaybar. … The assailants came to the oasis at night and in the morning attacked the peasants as they were coming out in the fields, carrying spades and baskets.[75] After a siege lasting a month and a half, the inhabitants surrendered under the terms of a treaty known as the dhimma. According to this agreement Muhammad allowed the Jews to continue cultivating their oasis, on condition that they ceded to him half of their produce; he also reserved the right to break the agreement and expel them whenever he wished.[76]

Based on the dhimma of Khaybar, the relationship between Muslims and conquered peoples everywhere and for all time was held as an example for the future status of peoples under Muslim rule, the status of the dhimmi. When the early successor of Muhammad, Umar Al-Khattab, expelled the Jews and Christians from the Hijaz (Mecca and Medina) in A.D. 640, he referred to what Muhammad had said at the siege of Khaybar: “The land belongs to Allah and his Messenger.”[77] Based also on the Prophet’s advice: “Two religions shall not remain together in the peninsula of the Arabs,”[78] even to this day there are no non-Muslims that can set foot in Mecca.

It is because of such examples left by Muhammad for all of his followers in all times and places, that one is baffled to learn of Muslim scholars like Pickthall who go “to the extent of asserting that Muhammad’s attitude to Jews and the Christians remained tolerant till he died.”[79] Against such a background, it defies understanding to read some evaluations of history by Hassan Al-Turabi who, as of 1983, was Attorney General of the Sudan. He wrote: “The historical record of Muslims’ treatment of Christians and Jews is quite good especially compared with the history of relations between different religions and religious denominations in the West.”[80] After reading the Qur’an, it is surprising to encounter declarations such as Ahmad A. Galwash made: “There is not even a single verse in the Holy Qur’an which directly or indirectly insinuates the alternative of death or Islam for the unbelievers.”[81] Another Muslim claims that: “Mohammad did not merely preach toleration; he embodied it into law. In all conquered nations he offered liberty of worship. A nominal tribute was the only compensation they were required to pay for the observance and enjoyment of their faith.”[82] (Emphasis mine.)

What, then, are the implications of having to pay “compensation” for the “favor” of observing one’s religion? This clearly denies the “fundamental, and inalienable human right – the freedom to reach, hold, freely exercise, or change our beliefs independent of governmental control.”[83]

It is important to clarify that people who lived under Muslim rule didn’t have rights that flow from the mere fact of being a human being, but only as prescribed by a “concessionary charter” (the dhimma) which could be changed at the decision of the Muslim ruler. As Ellul notes: “… In the case of the ‘concessionary charter,’ … one enjoys rights only to the extent that they are recognized in the charter and only for as long as it remains valid. As a person, by the mere fact of one’s ‘existence,’ one has no claim to any rights. And this, indeed, is the dhimmi’s condition.”[84]

This view of human rights is diametrically opposed to the rights that a liberal democracy envisions for its citizens. Nicholas Wolterstorff gives a definition of what democracy involves: “Equal protection under law for all people, equal freedom in law for all citizens, neutrality on the part of the state with respect to the diversity of religious and other comprehensive perspectives present in society, and equal voice for all citizens within the fair voting schemes.”[85]Weigel says: “Democracy is a way of public life, a way of being a political community,” which will work if it includes people “who have made their own the values, the moral truths, that teach us to be civil, tolerant, respectful – in a word, democratic.”[86] I am fully aware that democracy is a fairly recent phenomenon even in the West but the point here is to see if Islam, with the Qur’an as its defining factor, can ever be compatible with democracy and the religious tolerance democracy epitomizes.

In light of the Muslim concept of the Umma, the status of religious others in Qur’anic Islam is not negotiable. Ellul says that the status of the dhimmi:

… was not the product of historical accident but was that which ought to be from the religious point of view and according to the Muslim conception of the world. In other words, it was the expression of the absolute, unchanging, theologically grounded Muslim conception of the relationship between Islam and non-Islam. … One must know as exactly as possible what the Muslims did with these unconverted conquered peoples, because that is what they will do in the future.[87]

Given the Muslim view of God as rule-giver, but not relational, tolerance as a concept is understood to be the undeserved and capricious generosity of a ruler toward the ruled. Epistemologically, given the authority of the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example, tolerance is defined according to the regulations of the Shariah law (divine law of the Muslim theocracy) and the normatively interpretative example of Muhammad and the first Muslim Community. Theologically, Muslims view everything in light of the destiny of Islam to rule the world and, therefore, they are committed to what they believe is God’s will, involving jihad (holy war). Moreover, there is the utilitarian dimension of Muslim intolerance, which includes reasoning that the greater good (for the umma) justifies hard measures. The same worldview and understanding of Islam as superior (not only as a religion but also as a form of government with which it is inseparably linked) persists today among Muslims generally. As Watt writes: “… the thinking of the fundamentalist Islamic intellectuals and of the great masses of ordinary Muslims is still dominated by the standard traditional Islamic world-view and the corresponding self-image of Islam.”[88]

The will to deny the obvious

Nothing that is presented in this paper is new or unheard of by those informed on the subject. Nevertheless, even among those who should know better, there is a tendency to behave like the proverbial ostrich, denying the obvious implications of the Qur’anic teaching. Daniel Pipes, who surveyed about 25 experts in religion (professors in Harvard, Georgetown, Duke University, Baylor, Rutgers, University of Wisconsin etc.), found only four of them who considered the term “jihad” to have any military component whatsoever and this, he says “is quite as if historians of medieval Europe were to deny that the word “crusade” ever had martial overtones … [but rather the term “crusade” actually meant] ‘crusade on hunger’ or ‘crusade against drugs.’”[89] It is also disturbing that, even in post 9/11 America, as Pipes testifies, “one who dares to dissent and utter the truth on the matter of jihad falls under enormous censure … We have thus reached a point where merely to state a known fact about Islam earns one the status of a hostile bigot.”[90]

The will to believe that Islam is a religion of tolerance may cause some to be convinced that it is; but in reality it doesn’t make Islam a religion of tolerance. After being confronted with the facts of Islamic teaching, some still continue to say: “Please tell me this is not Islam.”[91] Even when one correctly observes that “Islam cannot but be ruling – and ruling on its own terms, and deciding what minorities it will allow and how,” exemplifying the ostrich mentality, the same person still hopes against hope that Muslims will choose “Meccan priority (choose to make normative the Meccan attitude of toleration), in terms of the twenty-first century, [which] must emphasize an Islam that … tolerates diversity …”[92] This is just another way of saying, “please tell me this is not Islam.”

We live during the worst time for the West to confront Islam because of the loss of clarity on the nature of truth. The relativistic view of truth explained earlier in relation to tolerance is prevalent in the affluent, sleepy (even if restless) western society. The openness of the West toward third world religions is not because the West has become more tolerant (relativism just stupefies the mind giving the illusion of tolerance), but because it is confused about its own identity; it has educated itself to be ignorant and dismissive of its own heritage; it is embarrassed by colonialism and blows out of proportion the mistakes of the past throwing out the baby with the bath water.

It is as if the West is living the tale of the ugly duckling in reverse. Westerners, for a time, thought the West was beautiful but lured by the “nonconformists” and looking at the exotic “others” they now feel like as if the West is the ugly duckling. There is a need for people like Dinesh D’Souza,[93] who emigrated from the East to the West and can’t be fooled by the hype of criticism against the West, to convincingly declare how beautiful America and the West, still are.

The West built a legacy of religious tolerance because it believed that objective truth existed; because truth mattered and because people should be free to pursue it. As was made clear earlier, in order to have tolerance at all, a view of truth as objective and an attitude of respect for humans (who are endowed by the Creator with dignity and rights that involve the exercise of their free will), is essential. This view of tolerance is part of the glorious legacy the West has bestowed upon the world. Therefore, it is tragic that one can be considered a bigot today in the West because one believes that another view can be wrong. America and the world have an opportunity to overcome this untenable relativistic stance as we face the ugliness of ideologies which result in events such as September 11th 2001.

Contemplating Change: the impossible

At the end of his book Foundations of Religious Tolerance, Newman wants to strike an optimistic note: “… we … still have a moral obligation to believe that further civilization – further civilizing – is possible. If the prospects for religious tolerance are not bright, then it is our business as human beings to make them bright.”[94] Another hopeful voice was Watt, suggesting that: “… a programme for the correction of the faulty self-image of Islam may seem utopian and unlikely to be realized. [but] … That at least is the outcome for which the believer in God, Muslim or non-Muslim, should be praying.”[95]

I also wish that such a change in Islam were possible but understanding the nature of Islamic religion, forces one to agree with the incisive words of Ellul who says:

After all, ideas and concepts are known to change. … But precisely what seems to me interesting and striking about Islam, one of its peculiarities, is the fixity of its concepts. … Wherever the social organization is based upon a system, it tends to reproduce itself far more exactly. Islam, even more than Christianity, is a religion that claims to give a definite form to the social order, to human relations, and claims to embrace each moment in the life of every person. Thus, it tends toward an inflexibility that most other forms of society have not had. Moreover, it is known that the whole of Islamic doctrine (including its religious thought) took on a juridical form. … Of course, there can be an evolution (in practical matters, in jurisprudence, etc.), but when there is a text, which is regarded in some way as an “authoritative” source, one has only to go back to that text and recent innovations will collapse. And this is exactly what has happened in Islam. …

One should be aware that when one is dealing with some Islamic term or institution of the past, as long as the basic text – in this case, the Koran – remains unchanged, one can always return to the original principles and ideas whatever apparent transformations or developments have taken place, especially because Islam has achieved something that has always been very unusual: an integration of the religious, the political, the moral, the social, the juridical, and the intellectual, thus constituting a rigorous whole of which each element forms an integral part.[96]

These words express exactly the thrust of my argument: there is an Islam that is unavoidable, namely the Qur’anic Islam, which can be rediscovered time and again. Just as Kenneth Woodward says: “Israeli commandos do not cite the Hebrew prophet Joshua as they go into battle, but Muslim insurgents can readily invoke the example of their Prophet, Muhammad, who was a military commander himself. And while the Crusaders may have fought with the cross and their shields, they did not – could not – cite words from Jesus to justify their slaughters.”[97] It is the Qur’an that binds Islam to intolerance and since Islam without the Qur’an is not Islam, there cannot ever exist true Islam that is tolerant. Again we may wish to believe that Islam can become tolerant but we will have to live with the consequences, which are inevitable given the hard evidence.

Contemplating change: the possible

If, as I have come to conclude, it is true that the Qur’an ultimately does not teach tolerance but rather intolerance toward other religions in the society it seeks to dominate, I am afraid that there is nothing we can do about it; we cannot change the Qur’an. This doesn’t preclude on the other hand sympathizing with Muslims and seeking to understand where they come from so we may responsibly address the issues of concern.[98] They are fellow human beings, much more similar to us than different. Not every Muslim believes what the unavoidable Islam may suggest, and Muslims can and have changed or converted to another worldview. I am one among unnumbered Christians who come from a Muslim tradition.

Given the content of the Qur’an and the unquestioned place it has in Muslim religion and system, one fails to see how the Qur’anic Islam – the unavoidable Islam can possibly change but a change in its adherents is a different matter. Therefore, we should not get tired of upholding the truth, exposing falsehood, showing the consequences of certain views, seeking to win all people to the truth, and being prepared to stand our ground when the evil hour comes, as people who have hope.[99]


1 Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), p. 347.
2 Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, Revised and enlarged English edition (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1985), p. 28.
3 Edward W. Said, “Declaring War on Islam,” The Progressive, May 1996, as reprinted in Jennifer A. Hurley, ed. Islam: Opposing Viewpoints (San Diego, CA.: Greenhaven Press, 2001), p. 111.
4 Michael Elliot, “Islam’s Prophet Motive. PBS’s Muhammad paints a too rosy picture of a humanitarian faith and its founder” in Time, December 23, 2002, p. 76.
5 Quote taken from Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993, as found in Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim (New York: Prometheus Books, 1995), p. 172.
6 Jay Newman, Foundations of Religious Tolerance (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), p. 5.
7 Dr. W. Bonar Sidjabat, has a whole chapter devoted to the issue of tolerance in Islam and the very title of the chapter “Tolerance and Intolerance in Islam” confuses tolerance and toleration [Religious Tolerance and The Christian Faith (Jakarta: BPK Gunung Mulia, 1982), pp. 112-167]. Sidjabat says: “… the Qur’an is the primary source of the Islamic doctrine of religious tolerance and intolerance” (Sidjabat, Religious Tolerance, p. 112).
8 Newman, Tolerance, p. 8.
9 Ibid., p. 61.
10 Nicholas Wolterstorff writes: “When it comes to what is required for showing respect, I think we must consider the situation not only from the speaker’s perspective but also from the hearer’s. To show full respect for you, as a free and dignified individual, requires, without imposing any restrictions on the content of your speech, inviting you to tell me how you see the situation and then to listen. To listen with the goal in mind of learning from you. To listen with the goal in mind of discerning how I can communicate to you my own perspective and perhaps persuade you of its cogency. But beyond that, to listen for what I can learn from you. Thus, to make up my own mind in the light of what you say – whatever it is that you say. That, it seems to me, is what is required by showing respect in such matters” [Robert Audi and Nicholas Wolterstorff, Religion in the Public Square. The Place of Religious Convictions in Political debate (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1997), p. 159-160].
11 Fazlur Rahman, Islam, 2d edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 2.
12 Christianity from the earliest times with Jesus rising into heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, through the first three centuries of growth under persecution, has always affirmed an identity apart from the political government although when the emperor chose to become a Christian the state was offered in “marriage” to the Church and a controversial “marriage” continued for many centuries.
13 Fazlur Rahman, Islam, p. 2, (emphasis is mine).
14 I. Faruqi et al., Christian Mission and Islamic Da’wa, p. 48, as quoted in Chawkat Moucarry, The Prophet and the Messiah (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), p. 27.
15 William J. Saal, Reaching Muslims for Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), p. 46.
16 Fazlur Rahman defines the shari’a as including: “all behaviour – spiritual, mental and physical. Thus it comprehends both faith and practice: assent to or belief in one God is part of the Sari’a just as are the religious duties of prayer and fasting, etc. Further all legal and social transactions as well as all personal behaviour is subsumed under the Sari’a as the comprehensive principle of the total way of life” [Fazlur Rahman, Islam and Modernity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 101].
17 Saal, Reaching, p. 42.
18 Sidjabat, Religious Tolerance, p. 126.
19 William J. Saal, Reaching, p. 45 (some emphases are mine).
20 See Fazlur Rahman, Islam, pp. 19-28. Although Rahman as a Muslim seeks to bring Muhammad and Muslims in the best possible light by embellishing things to suit western ears, he cannot escape the facts of history. Therefore, his account of Islam is worth reading critically.
21 Rahman, Islam, p. 30.
22 Charis Waddy, The Muslim Mind (London/N.Y.: Longman, 1976), p. 14, as quoted in Norman L. Geisler, Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), p. 179.
23 Sidjabat, Religious Tolerance, p. 113-115.
24 Ibid., p. 129.
25 Ignaz Godziher, Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981), p. 12.
26 Kenneth Cragg, The Event of the Qur’an. Islam in its Scripture (Oxford: Oneworld, 1994), p.112.
27 Ibid., pp. 112-116.
28 Bukhari, fada’il al-Qur’an 3:VI, p. 477, no. 509 [4603], as quoted in Chawkat Moucarry, Prophet, p. 38.
29 This copy “was not considered at this time [time of its existence] an infallible copy of the Qur’an. ‘Uthman not only ordered his text to be copied but also called for it to be revised at the same time. When he appointed the four redactors mentioned he chose the other three because they were from the Quraish tribe of Mecca while Zaid came from among the ansar of Medina. He said that, if they should differ at any point in respect of the language of the Qur’an, they were to overrule Zaid and write it in the Quraish dialect as it had been originally revealed in it” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 4, p. 466, as quoted in John Gilchrist, The Qur’an. The Scripture of Islam [Mondeor, South Africa: MERCSA, 1995], p. 111.)
30 Moucarry, Prophet, p. 38.
31 Rahman, Islam, p. 40.
32 Bukhari, fada’il al-Qur’an 3:VI, p. 478, no. 510 [4604], as quoted in Chawkat Moucarry, Prophet, p. 39.
33 Cragg, The Event, p. 113.
34 Rahman, Islam, p. 41, (emphasis is mine).
35 Ibid., p. 41.
36 Shakir, The Qur’an, p. 14. Arthur Jeffery wrote about this doctrine: “The Qur’an is unique among sacred scriptures in teaching a doctrine of abrogation according to which later pronouncements of the Prophet abrogate, i.e., declare null and void, his earlier pronouncements. The importance of knowing which verses abrogate others has given rise to the Qur’anic science known as Nasikh wa Mansukh, i.e., “the Abrogators and the Abrogated” [Arthur Jeffery, ed., Islam: Muhammad and His Religion (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1977), p. 66].
37 Zamakshari on Sura 2:106/100, as found in Helmut Gätje, The Qur’an and its Exegesis. Selected texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), p. 58.
38 Shakir, The Qur’an, pp. 245, 259.
39 Goldziher, Introduction, p. 23.
40 The Muslim scholar Baidawi, writes: “Say: Fighting in it is a heinous thing: that is, a heinous sin. For the most part, in opposition to ‘Ata, it is held that this statement is abrogated by the following words of God: ‘If they do not leave you alone and offer you peace and stop hostilities, then take them wherever you find them and slay them’ (Sura 4:91/93). In this case the more specific (that is, the prohibition against fighting during the month of Rajab) would be abrogated by the general (that is, the general command to kill the unbelievers)” [Baidawi on Sura 2:216f./212-214, as found in Helmut Gätje, The Qur’an and its Exegesis. Selected texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), p. 213]. Stanton also observes: “On first entry into Medina the command is that there is no compulsion in religion, and warfare is limited to defense … (2: 186). Later this is abrogated by “the verse of the sword” (9:5) …” [H. U. Weitbrecht Stanton, The Teaching of the Qur’an (London: Central Board of Missions, 1919), p. 65].
41 All the following quotations from the Qur’an, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation And Commentary (Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Dar El-Liwaa Publishing and Distributing, 1938.)
42 I will use this phrase as coined by Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), p. 92, to refer to people of other religions as seen from the perspective of a specific religious group, in this case – those other than Muslims.
43 I am indebted to a study by Rev. Richard P. Bailey for some insights in the development of the Qur’an’s teaching on Jihad (
44 Rev. Richard P. Bailey, “Jihad” (
45 William Campbell, The Qur’an And The Bible In The Light Of History And Science (Upper Darby, PA: Middle East Resources, 1986), p. 96.
46 Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, footnote 206, p. 76 (italics are mine).
47 Rahman, Islam, p. 19.
48 Ibid., p. 19.
49 Ibid., p. 21.
50 Baidawi on Sura 2:216f./212-214, as found in Helmut Gätje, The Qur’an and its Exegesis. Selected texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), p. 213.
51 Rahman, Islam, p. 21.
52 W. Montgomery Watt, Companion to the Qur’an (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1967), p. 38. It is in this context that Baidawi writes: “Say: Fighting in it is a heinous thing: that is, a heinous sin. For the most part, in opposition to ‘Ata, it is held that this statement is abrogated by the following words of God: ‘If they do not leave you alone and offer you peace and stop hostilities, then take them wherever you find them and slay them’ (Sura 4:91/93). In this case the more specific (that is, the prohibition against fighting during the month of Rajab) would be abrogated by the general (that is, the general command to kill the unbelievers)”[ Baidawi on Sura 2:216f./212-214, as found in Helmut Gätje, The Qur’an and its Exegesis. Selected texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), p. 213].
53 Bukhari, diyat 6:IX, p. 10, no. 17 [6370]; Bukhari, jihad 149:IV, p. 160, no. 260 [2794]; istitaba 2:IX, p. 45, no. 57 [6411], as referred to by Moucarry, The Prophet, p. 116 (emphasis is mine).
54 Moucarry, The Prophet, p. 20.
55 Yusuf Ali’s comment on Surah 8:38-42 in The Holy Qur’an, p. 425.
56 In his commentary on this verse, Watt writes: “… Badr, … furqan must be thought of as a ‘deliverance’ compared to that effected by God for the Israelites when they safely passed over the Red Sea while Pharaoh and his army were drowned” (W. Montgomery Watt, Companion to the Qur’an (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1967), p. 98.
57 Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, footnote 1210, p. 425.
58 Ibid., footnote 1234, p. 432.
59 Daniel Pipes, tells the story of a student at Harvard College who delivered the speech titled “My American Jihad,” with the explanation that “in the Muslim tradition, jihad represents a struggle to do the right thing” [Daniel Pipes, “Jihad and the Professors,” November 2002, (]. While there is room for “jihad” to mean striving in improving oneself, this is definitely not the main meaning of the word either in the Qur’an or in everyday speech of Muslims.
60 Moucarry, The Prophet, p. 118.
61 Patrick Bannerman, Islam in Perspective (London: Routledge, 1988), p. 83.
62 Ibid., p. 86.
63 Ibid., p. 90.
64 See Bailey’s article “Jihad” for those verses from the Qur’an that teach about jihad – war against non-Muslims.
65 Bailey, p. 15.
66 Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, footnote 1251, p. 439.
67 Ibid.
68 Moucarry, The Prophet, p. 117.
69 Bailey, p. 17.
70 This quotation is from the translation of M. H. Shakir, The Qur’an (N.Y.: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 1999), p. 410.
71 Yvone Yazbeck Haddad, Contemporary Islam and the Challenge of History (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1982), p. 139.
72 This event is recorded in al-Bukhari (d.869), Les Traditions Islamiques (Al-Sahih), trans. O. Houdas and W. Marcais (Paris, 1903-1914), vol. 2, title 41, chap. 6; title 56, chap. 80:3, chap. 154:2. “This compilation of the acts and sayings attributed to Muhammad, completed in the ninth century, constitutes one of the two pillars of Islamic jurisprudence, the other being the contemporary compilation made by his younger disciple, Muslim (d.875)” [Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 44. See also footnote 4, p. 50].
73 This event is recorded in Ibn Ishaq, pp. 461-69; M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes, Mohamet (Paris, 1969), pp. 142-46; W. Montgomery Watt, “Muhammad”, in the Cambridge History of Islam (Cambridge, 1970), 1:39-49, [Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 44, and footnote 5, p. 50].
74 Bukhari vol. 2, title 54, chap. 15, as referenced in Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 44, and footnote 6 on p. 50.
75 Ibn Ishaq, p. 511; Bukhari, vol. 2, title 56, chaps. 102:5, 130, as referenced in Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 44, and footnote 7 on p. 50.
76 Ibn Ishaq, pp. 524-25; Bukhari, vol. 2, title 41, chaps. 8, 9, 11, 17, and title 57, cap. 19:10. For an example of the treaties between Muhammad and the Jews living in Makna (near Eliat), see al-Baladhuri (d.892), vol. 1, The Origins of the Islamic State (Kitab Futuh al-Buldan), trans. P. K. Hitti (New York, 1916), pp. 93-94, [Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 44 and footnote 8 on p. 50].
77 Muslim, Traditions (Al-Sahih), trans. A. H. Siddiqi (Lahore, 1976), vol. 3, chap. 723 (4363); Bukhari, vol. 2. title 57, chap. 1:3, and title 58, chap. 6:1, [Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 47 and footnote 9 on p. 50].
78 Ibn Ishaq, p. 525; Bukhari, vol. 2, t. 41, chap. 17; t. 54, chap. 14; vol. 4, t. 89, chap.2; Muslim, vol. 3, chap. 723 (4366), [Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 47 and footnote 13 on p. 50].
79 As relayed by Sidjabat, Religious Tolerance, p. 124.
80 Hasan Turabi, “The Islamic State,” in Voices of Resurgent Islam, ed. John Esposito, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 250.
81 Ahmad A. Galwash, The Religion of Islam (Cambridge: Murray Printing Company, 1940), p. 84, as quoted in Sidjabat, Religious Tolerance, p. 123.
82 As quoted in Sidjabat, Religious Tolerance, p. 123 (the emphasis is mine).
83 Os Guinnes, “Making the World Safe for Diversity,” in Rights of Muslims (Pasadena, CA: Zwemer Institute of Muslim Studies, 1992), p. 18.
84 Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 30-31.
85 Robert Audi and Nicholas Wolterstorff, Religion in the Public Square. The Place of Religious Convictions in Political debate (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1997), p. 159.
86 As quoted by M. A. Casey, “Globalization,” in First Things, n. 126, October 2002, p. 52.
87 Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 29.
88 William Montgomery Watt, Islamic Fundamentalism and Modernity (London: Routledge, 1988), p. 1.
89 Daniel Pipes, “Jihad and the Professors,” November 2002, (, p. 1, 5. See also the protest against this article by some of these professors, and Daniel Pipes’ response at
90 Daniel Pipes, “Jihad and the Professors,” p. 5.
91 Bob Blincoe, “Honor and Shame,” in Mission Frontiers, December 2001, p. 20.
92 Kenneth Cragg, “A Tale of Two Cities. Helping the heirs of Mecca to transform Medina,” in Mission Frontiers, December 2001, p. 21.
93 Dinesh D’Sousa recently wrote What is so great about America (Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2002), where he evaluates and affirms the great values of the Western Civilization in spite of colonialism and other deficiencies.
94 Newman, Tolerance, p. 174.
95 Watt, Islamic Fundamentalism, p. 143.
96 Jacques Ellul, from the preface in Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 29-30.
97 Kenneth L. Woodward, “In the Beginning There Were the Holy Books,” in Newsweek, 11 February 2002, p. 53.
98 Ellul makes this point in the preface of Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 28.
99 The ultimate hope is in Jesus Christ who will return in glory to complete history’s goal in establishing his everlasting kingdom. This hope ultimately rests on knowing God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3).



Audi, Robert and Nicholas Wolterstorff. Religion in the Public Square. The Place of Religious Convictions in Political debate. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1997.

Bannerman, Patrick. Islam in Perspective. London: Routledge, 1988.

Campbell, William. The Qur’an And The Bible In The Light Of History And Science. Upper Darby, PA: Middle East Resources, 1986.

Cragg, Kenneth. The Event of the Qur’an. Islam in its Scripture. Oxford: Oneworld, 1994.

Gätje, Helmut. The Qur’an and its Exegesis. Selected texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976.

Geisler, Norman L. and Abdul Saleeb. Answering Islam. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000.

Gilchrist, John. The Qur’an. The Scripture of Islam. Mondeor, South Africa: MERCSA, 1995.

Godziher, Ignaz. Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981.

Haddad, Yvone Yazbeck. Contemporary Islam and the Challenge of History Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1982.

Jeffery, Arthur. ed. Islam: Muhammad and His Religion. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1977.

Moucarry, Chawkat. The Prophet and the Messiah. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

Netland, Harold. Encountering Religious Pluralism. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

Newman, Jay. Foundations of Religious Tolerance. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982.

Rahman, Fazlur. Islam, 2d edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Rahman, Fazlur. Islam and Modernity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Saal, William J. Reaching Muslims for Christ. Chicago: Moody Press, 1993.

Sidjabat, W. Bonar. Religious Tolerance and The Christian Faith. Jakarta: BPK Gunung Mulia, 1982.

Stanton, H. U. Weitbrecht. The Teaching of the Qur’an. London: Central Board of Missions, 1919.

Warraq, Ibn. Why I am not a Muslim. New York: Prometheus Books, 1995.

Watt, W. Montgomery. Companion to the Qur’an. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1967.

Watt, William Montgomery. Islamic Fundamentalism and Modernity. London: Routledge, 1988.

Ye’or, Bat. The Dhimmi. Jews and Christians under Islam. Revised and enlarged English edition. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1985.

Translations of the Qur’an used

Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation And Commentary. Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Dar El-Liwaa Publishing and Distributing, 1938.

Shakir, M. H. The Qur’an. N.Y.: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 1999.


Os Guinnes, “Making the World Safe for Diversity,” in Rights of Muslims, Pasadena, CA: Zwemer Institute of Muslim Studies, 1992.

Said, Edward W. “Declaring War on Islam,” in Islam: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, CA.: Greenhaven Press, 2001.

Turabi, Hasan. “The Islamic State,” in Voices of Resurgent Islam, ed. John Esposito, New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Magazine and Periodical articles

Blincoe, Bob. “Honor and Shame,” in Mission Frontiers, December 2001.

Casey, M. A. “Globalization,” in First Things, n. 126, October 2002.

Cragg, Kenneth. “A Tale of Two Cities. Helping the heirs of Mecca to transform Medina,” in Mission Frontiers, December 2001.

Elliot, Michael. “Islam’s Prophet Motive. PBS’s Muhammad paints a too rosy picture of a humanitarian faith and its founder.” Time, December 23, 2002.

Woodward, Kenneth L. “In the Beginning There Were the Holy Books.” Newsweek, 11 February 2002, p. 53.

Internet resources

Bailey, Richard P. “Jihad”

Pipes, Daniel “Jihad and the Professors,”, November 2002,

Rights of Non-Muslims  in an Islamic State

Rights of Non-Muslims in an Islamic State

By Samuel Shahid


Recently a few books have been written about the rights of non-Muslims who are subjugated to the rule of the Islamic law. Most of these books presented the Islamic view in a favorable fashion, without unveiling the negative facet inherited in these laws.

This brief study attempts to examine these laws as they are stated by the Four Schools of the Fiqh (jurisprudence). It aims at revealing to the reader the negative implications of these laws without ignoring the more tolerant views of modern reformers.

Our ardent hope that this study will reveal to our readers the bare truth in its both positive and negative facets.


Concept of “Islamic State”

“An Islamic state is essentially an ideological state, and is thus radically different from a national state.” This statement made by Mawdudi lays the basic foundation for the political, economical, social, and religious system of all Islamic countries which impose the Islamic law. This ideological system intentionally discriminates between people according to their religious affiliations. Mawdudi, a prominent Pakistani Muslim scholar, summarizes the basic differences between Islamic and secular states as follows:

1) An Islamic state is ideological. People who reside in it are divided into Muslims, who believe in its ideology and non-Muslims who do not believe.
2) Responsibility for policy and administration of such a state “should rest primarily with those who believe in the Islamic ideology.” Non-Muslims, therefore, cannot be asked to undertake or be entrusted with the responsibility of policymaking.
3) An Islamic state is bound to distinguish (i.e. discriminates) between Muslims and non-Muslims. However the Islamic law “Shari`a” guarantees to non-Muslims “certain specifically stated rights beyond which they are not permitted to meddle in the affairs of the state because they do not subscribe to its ideology.” Once they embrace the Islamic faith, they “become equal participants in all matters concerning the state and the government.”

The above view is the representative of the Hanifites, one of the four Islamic schools of jurisprudence. The other three schools are the Malikites, the Hanbilites (the strictest and the most fundamentalist of all), and the Shafi`ites. All four schools agree dogmatically on the basic creeds of Islam but differ in their interpretations of Islamic law which is derived from four sources:

a) Qur’an (read or recite): The sacred book of Muslim community containing direct quotes from Allah as allegedly dictated by Gabriel.
b) Hadith (narrative): The collections of Islamic traditions including sayings and deeds of Muhammad as heard by his contemporaries, first, second, and third hand.
c) Al-Qiyas (analogy or comparison): The legal decision drawn by Islamic Jurists based on precedent cases.
d) Ijma’ (consensus): The interpretations of Islamic laws handed down by the consensus of reputed Muslim scholars in a certain country.

Textual laws prescribed in the Qur’an are few. The door is left wide open for prominent scholars versed in the Qur’an, the Hadith, and other Islamic discipline to present their Fatwa (legal opinion) as we shall see later.

Classification of Non-Muslims:

In his article, “The Ordinances of the People of the Covenant and the Minorities in an Islamic State,” Sheikh Najih Ibrahim Ibn Abdullah remarks that legists classify non-Muslims or infidels into two categories: Dar-ul-Harb or the household of War, which refers to non-Muslims who are not bound by a peace treaty, or covenant, and whose blood and property are not protected by the law of vendetta or retaliation; and Dar-us-Salam or the household of Peace, which refers to those who fall into three classifications:

1) Zimmis – or dhimmi – (those in custody) are non-Muslim subjects who live in Muslim countries and agree to pay the Jizya (tribute) in exchange for protection and safety, and to be subject to Islamic law. These enjoy a permanent covenant.
2) People of the Hudna (truce) are those who sign a peace treaty with Muslims after being defeated in war. They agree to reside in their own land, yet to be subject to the legal jurisprudence of Islam like Zimmis, provided they do not wage war against Muslims.
3) Musta’min (protected one) are persons who come to an Islamic country as messengers, merchants, visitors, or student wanting to learn about Islam. A Musta’min should not wage war against Muslims and he is not obliged to pay Jizya, but he would be urged to embrace Islam. If a Musta’min does not accept Islam, he is allowed to return safely to his own country. Muslims are forbidden to hurt him in any way. When he is back in his own homeland, he is treated as one who belongs to the Household of War.

This study will focus on the laws pertaining to Zimmis.

Islamic Law and Zimmis

Muslim Muftis (legal authorities) agree that the contract of the Zimmis should be offered primarily to the People of the Book, that is, Christians and Jews, then to the Magis or Zoroastrians. However, they disagree on whether any contract should be signed with other groups such as communists or atheists. The Hanbalites and the Shafi`ites believe that no contract should be made with the ungodly or those who do not believe in the supreme God. Hanifites and Malikites affirm that the Jizya may be accepted from all infidels regardless of their beliefs and faith in God. Abu Hanifa, however, did not want pagan Arabs to have this option because they are the people of the Prophet. They. must be given only two options: accept Islam or be killed.

The Jizya (tribute)

Jizya literally means penalty. It is a protection tax levied on non-Muslims living under Islamic regimes, confirming their legal status. Mawdudi states that “the acceptance of the Jizya establishes the sanctity of their lives and property, and thereafter neither the Islamic state, nor the Muslim public have any right to violate their property, honor or liberty.” Paying the Jizya is a symbol of humiliation and submission because Zimmis are not regarded as citizens of the Islamic state although they are, in most cases, natives to the country.

Such an attitude alienates the Zimmis from being an essential part of the community. How can a Zimmi feel at home in his own land, among his own people, and with his own government, when he knows that the Jizya, which he pays, is a symbol of humiliation and submission? In his book The Islamic Law Pertaining to non-Muslims, Sheikh `Abdulla Mustafa Al-Muraghi indicates that the. Jizya can only be exempted from the Zimmi who becomes a Muslim or dies. The Shafi`i reiterates that the Jizya is not automatically put aside when the Zimmi embraces Islam. Exemption from the Jizya has become an incentive to encourage Zimmis to relinquish their faith and embrace Islam.

Sheik Najih Ibrahim Ibn Abdulla summarizes the purpose of the Jizya. He says, quoting Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, that the Jizya is enacted:

“…to spare the blood (of the Zimmis), to be a symbol of humiliation of the infidels and as an insult and punishment to them, and as the Shafi`ites indicate, the Jizya is offered in exchange for residing in an Islamic country.” Thus Ibn Qayyim adds, “Since the entire religion belongs to God, it aims at humiliating ungodliness and its followers, and insulting them. Imposing the Jizya on the followers of ungodliness and oppressing them is required by God’s religion. The Qur’anic text hints at this meaning when it says: `until they give the tribute by force with humiliation.’ (Qur’an 9:29). What contradicts this is leaving the infidels to enjoy their might and practice their religion as they wish so that they would have power and authority.”


Zimmis and Religious Practices

Muslims believe that the Zimmis are Mushrikun (polytheists) for they see the belief in the Trinity as belief in three gods. Islam is the only true religion, they claim. Therefore, to protect Muslims from corruption, especially against the unforgivable sin of shirk (polytheism), its practice is forbidden among Muslims, because it is considered the greatest abomination. When Christians practice it publicly, it becomes an enticement and exhortation to apostasy. It is significant here to notice that according to Muraghi, Zimmis and infidels are polytheists and therefore, must have the same treatment.

According to Muslim jurists, the following legal ordinances must be enforced on Zimmis (Christians and Jews alike) who reside among Muslims:

1) Zimmis are not allowed to build new churches, temples, or synagogues. They are allowed to renovate old churches or houses of worship provided they do not allow to add any new construction. “Old churches” are those which existed prior to Islamic conquests and are included in a peace accord by Muslims. Construction of any church, temple, or synagogue in the Arab Peninsula (Saudi Arabia) is prohibited. It is the land of the Prophet and only Islam should prevail there. Yet, Muslims, if they wish, are permitted to demolish all non-Muslim houses of worship in any land they conquer.
2) Zimmis are not allowed to pray or read their sacred books out loud at home or in churches, lest Muslims hear their prayers.
3) Zimmis are not allowed to print their religious books or sell them in public places and markets. They are allowed to publish and sell them among their own people, in their churches and temples.
4) Zimmis are not allowed to install the cross on their houses or churches since it is a symbol of infidelity.
5) Zimmis are not permitted to broadcast or display their ceremonial religious rituals on radio or television or to use the media or to publish any picture of their religious ceremonies in newspaper and magazines.
6) Zimmis are not allowed to congregate in the streets during their religious festivals; rather, each must quietly make his way to his church or temple.
7) Zimmis are not allowed to join the army unless there is indispensable need for them in which case they are not allowed to assume leadership positions but are considered mercenaries.

Mawdudi, who is a Hanifite, expresses a more generous opinion toward Christians. He said:

“In their own towns and cities they are allowed to do so (practice their religion) with the fullest freedom. In purely Muslim areas, however, an Islamic government has full discretion to put such restrictions on their practices as it deems necessary.”

Apostasy in Islam

Apostasy means rejection of the religion of Islam either by action or the word of the mouth. “The act of apostasy, thus, put an end to one’s adherence to Islam.” when one rejects the fundamental creeds of Islam, he rejects the faith, and this is an act of apostasy such an act is a grave sin in Islam. The Qur’an indicates,

“How shall Allah guide those who reject faith after they accepted it and bore witness that the Apostle was true and the clear sign had come unto them. But Allah guides not the people of unjust of such the reward is that on them rests the curse of Allah, of His angels and of all mankind in that will they dwell; nor will their penalty be lightened, nor respite be their lot, except for those that repent after that and make amends; for verily Allah is Oft-forging, Most Merciful (Qur’an 3:86-89).

Officially, Islamic law requires Muslims not to force Zimmis to embrace Islam. It is the duty of every Muslim, they hold, to manifest the virtues of Islam so that those who are non-Muslims will convert willingly after discovering its greatness and truth. Once a person becomes a Muslim, he cannot recant. If he does, he will be warned first, then he will be given three days to reconsider and repent. If he persists in his apostasy, his wife is required to divorce him, his property is confiscated, and his children are taken away from him. He is not allowed to remarry. Instead, he should be taken to court and sentenced to death. If he repents, he may return to his wife and children or remarry. According to the Hanifites an apostate female is not allowed to get married. She must spend time in meditation in order to return to Islam. If she does not repent or recant, she will not be sentenced to death, but she is to be persecuted, beaten and jailed until she dies. Other schools of Shari`a demand her death. The above punishment is prescribed in a Hadith recorded by the Bukhari: “It is reported by `Abaas … that the messenger of Allah … said, `Whosoever changes his religion (from Islam to any other faith), kill him.”

In his book Shari`ah: The Islamic Law, Doi remarks, “The punishment by death in the case of Apostasy has been unanimously agreed upon by all the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence.”

A non-Muslim wishing to become a Muslim is encouraged to do so and anyone, even a father or a mother, who attempts to stop him, may be punished. However, anyone who makes an effort to proselytize a Muslim to any other faith may face punishment.

Civic Laws

Zimmis and Muslims are subject to the same civic laws. They are to be treated alike in matters of honor, theft, adultery, murder, and damaging property. They have to be punished in accordance with the Islamic law regardless of their religious affiliation. Zimmis and Muslims alike are subject to Islamic laws in matters of civic business, financial transactions such as sales, leases, firms, establishment of companies, farms, securities, mortgages, and contracts. For instance, theft is punishable by cutting off the thief’s hand whether he is a Muslim or a Christian. But when it comes to privileges, the Zimmis do not enjoy the same treatment. For instance, Zimmis are not issued licenses to carry weapons.

Marriage and Children

A Muslim male can marry a Zimmi girl, but a Zimmi man is not allowed to marry a Muslim girl. If a woman embraces Islam and wants to get married, her non-Muslim father does not have the authority to give her away to her bridegroom. She must be given away by a Muslim guardian.

If one parent is a Muslim, children must be raised as Muslims. If the father is a Zimmi and his wife converts to Islam, she must get a divorce; then she will have the right of custody of her child. Some fundamentalist schools indicate that a Muslim husband has the right to confine his Zimmi wife to her home and restrain her from going to her own house of worship.

Capital Punishment

The Hanifites believe that both Zimmis and Muslims must suffer the same Penalty for similar crimes. If a Muslim kills a Zimmi intentionally, he must be killed in return. The same applies to a Christian who kills a Muslim. But other schools of Law have different interpretations of Islamic law. The Shafi`ites declare that a Muslim who assassinates a Zimmi must not be killed, because it is not reasonable to equate a Muslim with a polytheist (Mushrik). In such a case, blood price must be paid. The penalty depends on the school of law adopted by the particular Islamic country where the crime or offense is committed. This illustrates the implication of different interpretations of the Islamic law based on the Hadith.

Each school attempts to document its legal opinion by referring to the Hadith or to an incident experienced by the Prophet or the “rightly guided” Caliphs.

The Witness of Zimmis

Zimmis cannot testify against Muslims. They can only testify against other Zimmis or Musta’min. Their oaths are not considered valid in an Islamic court. According to the Shari`a, a Zimmi is not even qualified to be under oath. Muraghi states bluntly, “The testimony of a Zimmi is not accepted because Allah – may He be exalted – said: `God will not let the infidels (kafir) have an upper hand over the believers’.” A Zimmi, regarded as an infidel, cannot testify against any Muslim regardless of his moral credibility. If a Zimmi has falsely accused another Zimmi and was once punished, his credibility and integrity is tarnished and his testimony is no longer acceptable. One serious implication of this is that if one Muslim has committed a serious offense against another, witnessed by Zimmis only, the court will have difficulty deciding the case since the testimonies of Zimmis are not acceptable. Yet, this same Zimmi whose integrity is blemished, if he converts to Islam, will have his testimony accepted against the Zimmis and Muslims alike, because according to the Shari`a“By embracing Islam he has gained a new credibility which would enable him to witness…” All he has to do is to utter the Islamic confession of faith before witnesses, and that will elevate him from being an outcast to being a respected Muslim enjoying all the privileges of a devout Muslim.

Personal Law

On personal matters of marriages, divorces, and inheritance, Zimmis are allowed to appeal to their own religious courts. Each Christian denomination has the right and authority to determine the outcome of each case. Zimmis are free to practice their own social and religious rites at home and in church without interference from the state, even in such matters as drinking wine, rearing pigs, and eating pork, as long as they do not sell them to Muslims. Zimmis are generally denied the right to appeal to an Islamic court in family matters, marriage, divorce, and inheritance. However, in the event a Muslim judge agrees to take such a case, the court must apply Islamic law.

Political Rights and Duties

The Islamic state is an ideological state, thus the head of the state inevitably must be a Muslim, because he is bound by the Shari`a to conduct and administer the state in accordance with the Qur’an and the Sunna. The function of his advisory council is to assist him in implementing the Islamic principles and adhering to them. Anyone who does not embrace Islamic ideology cannot be the head of state or a member of the council.

Mawdudi, aware of the requirements of modern society, seems to be more tolerant toward Zimmis. He says,

“In regard to a parliament or a legislature of the modern type which is considerably different from the advisory council in its traditional sense, this rule could be relaxed to allow non-Muslims to be members provided that it has been fully ensured in the constitution that no law which is repugnant to the Qur’an and the Sunna should be enacted, that the Qur’an and the Sunna should be the chief source of public law, and that the head of the state should necessarily be a Muslim.”

Under these circumstances, the sphere of influence of non-Muslim minorities would be limited to matters relating to general problems of the country or to the interest of the minorities. Their participation should not damage the fundamental requirement of Islam. Mawdudi adds,

“It is possible to form a separate representative assembly for all non-Muslim groups in tbe capacity of a central agency. The membership and the voting rights of such an assembly will be confined to non-Muslims and they would be given the fullest freedom within its frame-work.”

These views do not receive the approval of most other schools of the Shari`a which hold that non-Muslims are not allowed to assume any position which might bestow on them any authority over any Muslim. A position of sovereignty demands the implementation of Islamic ideology. It is alleged that a non-Muslim (regardless of his ability, sincerity, and loyalty to his country) cannot and would not work faithfully to achieve the ideological and political goals of Islam.

Business World

The political arena and the official public sectors are not the only area in which non-Muslims are not allowed to assume a position of authority. A Muslim employee who works in a company inquires in a letter “if it is permissible for a Muslim owner (of a company) to confer authority on a Christian over other Muslims? (Al-Muslim Weekly; Vol. 8; issue No. 418; Friday 2, 5, 1993).

In response to this inquiry three eminent Muslim scholars issued their legal opinions:

Sheikh Manna` K. Al-Qubtan, professor of Higher studies at the School of Islamic Law in Riyadh, indicates that:

Basically, the command of non-Muslims over Muslims in not admissible, because God Almighty said: ‘Allah will not give access to the infidels (i.e. Christians) to have authority over believers (Muslims) {Qur’an 4:141}. For God – Glory be to Him – has elevated Muslims to the highest rank (over all men) and foreordained to them the might, by virtue of the Qurtanic text in which God the Almighty said: ‘Might and strength be to Allah, the Prophet (Muhammad) and the believers (Muslims) {Qur’an 63:8}.Thus, the authority of non-Muslim over a Muslim is incompatible with these two verses, since the Muslim has to submit to and obey whoever is in charge over him. The Muslim, therefore becomes inferior to him, and this should not be the case with the Muslim.

Dr. Salih Al-Sadlan, professor of Shari`a at the School of Islamic Law, Riyadh, cites the same verses and asserts that it is not permissible for a infidel (in this case is a Christian) to be in charge over Muslims whether in the private or public sector. Such an act:

“entails the humiliaton of the Muslim and the exaltation of the infidel (Christian). This infidel may exploit his position to humiliate and insult the Muslims who work under his administration. It is advisable to the company owner to fear God Almighty and to authorize only a Muslim over the Muslims. Also, the injunctions issued by the ruler, provides that an infidel should not be in charge when there is a Muslim available to assume the command. Our advice to the company owner is to remove this infidel and to replace him with a Muslim.”

In his response Dr. Fahd Al-`Usaymi, professor of Islamic studies at the Teachers’ College in Riyadh, remarks that the Muslim owner of the company should seek a Muslim employee who is better than the Christian (manager), or equal to him or even less qualified but has the ability to be trained to obtain the same skill enjoyed by the Christian. It is not permissible for a Christian to be in charge of Muslims by the virtue of the general evidences which denote the superiority of the Muslim over others. Then he quotes (Qur’an 63:8) and also cites verse 22 of Chapter 58:

Thou wilt not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who resist Allah and His Apostle, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred.

`Usaymi claims that being under the authority of a Christian may force Muslims to flatter him and humiliate themselves to this infidel on the hope to obtain some of what he has. This is against the confirmed evidences. Then he alludes to the story of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab the second Caliph, who was displeased with one of his governors who appointed a Zimmi as a treasurer, and remarked: “Have the wombs of women become sterile that they gave birth only to this man?” Then `Usaymi adds:

Muslims should fear God in their Muslim brothers and train them… for honesty and fear of God are, originally, in the Muslim, contrary to the infidel (the Christian) who, originally, is dishonest and does not fear God.

Does this mean that a Christian who owns a business cannot employ a Muslim to work for him? Even worse, does this mean that a Zimmi, regardless of his unequal qualification, cannot be appointed to the right position where he would serve his country the best? This question demands an answer.

Freedom of Expression

Mawdudi, who is more lenient than most Muslim scholars, presents a revolutionary opinion when he emphasizes that in an Islamic state:

“all non-Muslims will have the freedom of conscience, opinion, expression, and association as the one enjoyed by Muslims themselves, subject to the same limitations as are imposed by law on Muslims.”

Mawdudi’s views are not accepted by most Islamic schools of law, especially in regard to freedom of expression like criticism of Islam and the government. Even in a country like Pakistan, the homeland of Mawdudi, it is illegal to criticize the government or the head of state. Many political prisoners are confined to jails in Pakistan and most other Islamic countries. Through the course of history. except in rare cases, not even Muslims have been given freedom to criticize Islam without being persecuted or sentenced to death. It is far less likely for a Zimmi to get away with criticizing Islam.

In Mawdudi’s statement, the term “limitations” is vaguely defined. If it were explicitly defined, you would find, in the final analysis, that it curbs any type of criticism against the Islamic faith and government.

Moreover, how can the Zimmis express the positive aspects of their religion when they are not allowed to use the media or advertise them on radio or TV? Perhaps Mawdudi meant by his proposals to allow such freedom to Zimmisonly among themselves. Otherwise, they would be subject to penalty. Yet, Muslims are allowed, according to the Shari`a (law) to propagate their faith among all religious sects without any limitations.

Muslims and Zimmis

Relationships between Muslims and Zimmis are classified in two categories: what is forbidden and what is allowable.

I. The Forbidden:

A Muslim is not allowed to:

  1. emulate the Zimmis in their dress or behavior.
  2. attend Zimmi festivals or support them in any way which may give them any power over Muslims.
  3. lease his house or sell his land for the construction of a church, temple, liquor store, or anything that may benefit the Zimmi’s faith.
  4. work for Zimmis in any job that might promote their faith such as constructing a church.
  5. make any endowment to churches or temples.
  6. carry any vessel that contains wine, work in wine production, or transport pigs.
  7. address Zimmis with any title such as: “my master” or “my lord.”

II. The Allowable

A Muslim is allowed to:

  1. financially assist the Zimmis, provided the money is not used in violation of Islamic law like buying wine or pork.
  2. give the right of pre-emption (priority in buying property) to his Zimmi neighbor. The Hanbilites disapprove of this.
  3. eat food prepared by the People of the Book.
  4. console the Zimmis in an illness or in the loss of a loved one. It is also permissible for a Muslims to escort a funeral to the cemetery, but he has to walk in front of the coffin, not behind it, and he must depart before the deceased is buried.
  5. congratulate the Zimmis for a wedding, birth of a child, return from a long trip, or recovery from illness. However, Muslims are warned not to utter any word which may suggest approval of the Zimmis’ faith, such as: “May Allah exalt you,” “May Allah honor you,” or “May Allah give your religion victory.”


This study shows us that non-Muslims are not regarded as citizens by any Islamic state, even if they are original natives of the land. To say otherwise is to conceal the truth. Justice and equality require that any Christian Pakistani, Melanesian, Turk, or Arab be treated as any other citizen of his own country. He deserves to enjoy the same privileges of citizenship regardless of religious affiliation. To claim that Islam is the true religion and to accuse other religions of infidelity is a social, religious and legal offense against the People of the Book.

Christians believe that their religion is the true religion of God and Islam is not. Does that mean that Great Britain, which is headed by a Queen, the head of the Anglican Church, should treat its Muslim subjects as a second class? Moreover, why do Muslims in the West enjoy all freedoms allotted to all citizens of these lands, while Muslim countries do not allow native Christians the same freedom? Muslims in the West build mosques, schools, and educational centers and have access to the media without any restriction. They publicly advertise their activities and are allowed to distribute their Islamic materials freely, while native Christians of any Islamic country are not allowed to do so. Why are Christians in the West allowed to embrace any religion they wish without persecution while a person who chooses to convert to another religion in any Islamic country, is considered an apostate and must be killed if he persists in his apostasy? These questions and others are left for readers to ponder.



  1. Abdullah, Najih Ibrahim Bin, The Ordinances of the People of the Covenant and the Minorities in an Islamic State, Balagh Magazine, Cairo, Egypt, Volume 944, May 29, 1988; Volume 945, June 5, 1988.
  2. Al Muslimun, Vol. 8; issue No, 418; Friday 2, 5, 1993.
  3. Doi, `Abdur Rahman I.; Shari`a: The Islamic Law; Taha Publishers; London UK; 1984.
  4. Mawdudi, S. Abul `Ala’, The Rights of Non-Muslims in Islamic State, Islamic Publications, LTD. Lahore, Pakistan. 1982
  5. Muraghi, Abdullah Mustapha, Islamic Law Pertaining to Non-Muslims, Library of Letters. Egypt. Undated
Abrogated Verses Of the Quran – Evidence from Islamic Sources

Abrogated Verses Of the Quran – Evidence from Islamic Sources

Collected by Sam Shamoun

We present here a list that highlights some of the many verses that have been abrogated. We are quite aware that not all Muslims believe that the Quran abrogates itself and would therefore reject the traditions presented here. Yet, the aim of our paper is to provide a handy list for Christians witnessing to or dialoguing with Muslims who do believe that the Quran abrogates itself. We want to provide evidence for those that do accept the authority of these sources. We chose to cite only the views of Muslim scholars where they identify the abrogated verses.

But before we do so, we would like to cite Brother Mark’s quotation of Muslim scholar Ahmad Von Denffer regarding the conflicting views held by Muslim scholars over the precise nature of abrogation:

Von Denffer defines it clearly as:

“What is Abrogated?
According to some scholars the Qur’an abrogates only the Qur’an. They base their view on suras 2:106 and 16:101. According to them the Qur’an does not abrogate the sunna nor does the sunna abrogate the Qur’an. This is, in particular, the view held by Shafi’i.
Others are of the opinion that the Qur’an may abrogate the Qur’an as well as the sunna. They base their view on Sura 53:3-4.
There is also the view that there are four classes of naskh:
1 Qur’an abrogates Qur’an.
2 Qur’an abrogates sunna.
3 Sunna abrogates Qur’an.
4 Sunna abrogates sunna.” (Ulum, Von Denffer, p. 107f)

The ‘founding’ scholars couldn’t even agree in ‘basic principles’ over what abrogates what between the Sunnah and Qur’an!
(Brother Mark, A ‘Perfect’ Qur’an, p. 230, online edition)

Brother Mark continues:

A number of citations from an article by A. Rippin on Naskh follow:

– “Although the companions of Muhammad are reported to have discussed naskh, and even to have disagreed over the abrogation of a particular verse, references to the generation of the companions in the naskh literature are relatively infrequent.

[[N.B. – Footnote 9 states: But see Ibn Salama, al-Nasikh wa ‘l-mansukh (Cairo 1315/1899), 142-3, where `Ali and Ibn ‘Abbas disagree over the abrogation of Q4/94; `Ali maintained that the verse was abrogated by Q4/115 and 4/48, while Ibn ‘Abbas held that it remained muhkama.”]] (p. 117)

– “In classical texts on abrogation we frequently encounter references to disagreements among tabi’is over the status of a particular verse.

For example, although the majority of scholars consider Q2/62 to have been abrogated by Q3/85, Mujahid ibn Jabr (d. 101/722) and al-Dahhak ibn Muzahim (d 105/723) considered the verse to be muhkama.” (p. 119)

– “The number of verses that are considered to have been abrogated increased dramatically between the eighth and eleventh centuries (al-Zuhri mentions 42 abrogated verses, al-Nahhas 138, and Ibn Salama, 238), at which point an upper limit seems to have been reached (Ibn ‘Ata’iqi identifies 231 abrogated verses, and al-Farsi, 248). (p.122)

– “al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505) recognised only twenty [20] instances of true abrogation and Shah Wali Allah (d 1762) reduced that number to five [5].

[N.B. – Footnote 26 states: “these figures are mentioned in Ernest Hahn, ‘Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan’s The Controversy over Abrogation (in the Qur’an): An Annotated Translation, MW64 (1974), 124.]

Ibn al-’Ata’iqi, on the other hand, while citing 231 instances of abrogation, appendixes the phrase wa fihi nazar, indicating doubt or uncertainty to his discussion of twenty-six [26] verses.”

With such wide variations in understanding one must wonder how Muslim scholars can declare, like Ibn Salama, that ‘science of abrogation and abrogated verse’ is, in the investigation of the Qur’an, the starting point! Furthermore he states that one is ‘deficient’ (naqis) who, before mastering the doctrine of abrogation engages in a true (scientific) study of the Qur’an. [see Ibn Salama p 4-5] (p. 123)

– “Anas ibn Malik (d. C. 92/710) for example, related that during the lifetime of Muhammad the believers used to recite a sura equal in length to sura 9 (‘Repentance’), but that he could only remember one verse from this sura, namely, If the son of Adam had two valleys made of silver…’”

[[N.B. – Footnote 34 states: “Ibn al-’Ata’iqi, p. 23; cf. Ibn Salama, pp 10ff”]] (p. 125)

– “There is also considerable disagreement over the scope of abrogation within the Qur’an itself. At one extreme, there were apparently certain people who argued that ‘the Qur’an does not contain either an abrogated or an abrogating verse’.

[[N.B. – Footnote 38 states: “Ibn Salama, p. 26; cf. Al-Nahhas, pp 2-3”]], these people, according to Ibn Salama, ‘have deviated from the truth and by virtue of their lying, have turned away from God’. [[N.B.- Footnote 39 reads “Ibn Salama, p. 26]]

At the other extreme were those scholars who maintained that any narrative, positive command, or prohibition in the Qur’an may be abrogated.” [[N.B. – Footnote 40 states: “Al-Nahhas, pp. 2-3”]] (p. 126)

With the foregoing behind us we now turn our attention to the hadith collections usually considered to be authoritative by Sunni Muslims.


Volume 6, Book 60, Number 13:

Narrated Al-Bara:

The Prophet prayed facing Bait-ulMaqdis (i.e. Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeen months but he wished that his Qibla would be the Ka’ba (at Mecca). (So Allah Revealed (2.144) and he offered ‘Asr prayers (in his Mosque facing Ka’ba at Mecca) and some people prayed with him. A man from among those who had prayed with him, went out and passed by some people offering prayer in another mosque, and they were in the state of bowing. He said, “I, (swearing by Allah,) testify that I have prayed with the Prophet facing Mecca.” Hearing that, they turned their faces to the Ka’ba while they were still bowing. Some men had died before the Qibla was changed towards the Ka’ba. They had been killed and we did not know what to say about them (i.e. whether their prayers towards Jerusalem were accepted or not). So Allah revealed:– “And Allah would never make your faith (i.e. prayer) to be lost (i.e. your prayers offered (towards Jerusalem). Truly Allah is Full of Pity, Most Merciful towards mankind.” (2.143)

Volume 6, Book 60, Number 32:

Narrated ‘Ata:

That he heard Ibn ‘Abbas reciting the Divine Verse:–

“And for those who can fast they had a choice either fast, or feed a poor for every day..” (2.184) Ibn ‘Abbas said, “This Verse is not abrogated, but it is meant for old men and old women who have no strength to fast, so they should feed one poor person for each day of fasting (instead of fasting).

The next two traditions disagree with Ibn Abbas’ claim.

Volume 6, Book 60, Number 33:

Narrated Nafi:

Ibn ‘Umar recited:

“They had a choice, either fast or feed a poor for every day …” and added, “This Verse is abrogated.”

Volume 6, Book 60, Number 34:

Narrated Salama:

When the Divine Revelation:

“For those who can fast, they had a choice either fast, or feed a poor for every day,” (2.184) was revealed, it was permissible for one to give a ransom and give up fasting, till the Verse succeeding it was revealed and abrogated it.

Volume 6, Book 60, Number 53:

Narrated Ibn Az-Zubair:

I said to ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan (while he was collecting the Qur’an) regarding the Verse:– “Those of you who die and leave wives …” (2.240) “This Verse was abrogated by another Verse. So why should you write it? (Or leave it in the Qur’an)?” ‘Uthman said. “O son of my brother! I will not shift anything of it from its place.” (see also Number 60)

Volume 6, Book 60, Number 54:

Narrated Mujahi:

(regarding the Verse):– “Those of you who die and leave wives behind. They – (their wives) — shall wait (as regards their marriage ) for four months and ten days).” (2.234)

The widow, according to this Verse, was to spend this period of waiting with her husband’s family, so Allah revealed: “Those of you who die and leave wives (i.e. widows) should bequeath for their wives, a year’s maintenance and residences without turning them out, but if they leave (their residence), there is no blame on you for what they do with themselves provided it is honorable.’ (i.e. lawful marriage) (2.240).

So Allah entitled the widow to be bequeathed extra maintenance for seven months and twenty nights, and that is the completion of one year. If she wished she could stay (in her husband’s home) according to the will, and she could leave it if she wished, as Allah says:

“… without turning them out, but if they leave (the residence), there is no blame on you.” So the ‘Idda (i.e. four months and ten days as it) is obligatory for her.

‘Ata said: Ibn ‘Abbas said, “This Verse, i.e. the Statement of Allah: “…without turning them out …” cancelled the obligation of staying for the waiting period in her dead husband’s house, and she can complete this period wherever she likes.” ‘Ata’s aid: If she wished, she could complete her ‘Idda by staying in her dead husband’s residence according to the will or leave it according to Allah’s Statement:–

“There is no blame on you for what they do with themselves.” ‘Ata’ added: Later the regulations of inheritance came and abrogated the order of the dwelling of the widow (in her dead husband’s house), so she could complete the ‘Idda wherever she likes. And it was no longer necessary to provide her with a residence. Ibn ‘Abbas said, “This Verse abrogated her (i.e. widow’s) dwelling in her dead husband’s house and she could complete the ‘Idda (i.e. four months and ten days) wherever she liked, as Allah’s Statement says:–“…without turning them out…”

Volume 6, Book 60, Number 68:

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:

This Verse:–“Whether you show what is in your minds or conceal it …” (2.284) was abrogated.

Volume 6, Book 60, Number 69:

Narrated Marwan Al-Asghar:

A man from the companions of Allah’s Apostle who I think, was Ibn ‘Umar said, “The Verse:– ‘Whether you show what is in your minds or conceal it …’ was abrogated by the Verse following it.”


Book 001, Number 0228:

It is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira that when it was revealed to the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him): To Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth and whether you disclose that which is in your mind or conceal it, Allah will call you to account according to it. Then He forgives whom He pleases and chastises whom He Pleases; and Allah is over everything Potent” (ii. 284). the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) felt it hard and severe and they came to the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and sat down on their knees and said: Messenger of Allah, we were assigned some duties which were within our power to perform, such as prayer, fasting, struggling (in the cause of Allah), charity. Then this (the above-mentioned) verse was revealed unto you and it is beyond our power to live up to it. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Do you intend to say what the people of two books (Jews and Christians) said before you: “We hear and disobey”? You should rather say: “We hear and we obey, (we seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord! and unto Thee is the return.” And they said: “We hear and we obey, (we seek) Thy forgiveness, Our Lord! and unto Thee is the return.” When the people recited it and it smoothly flowed on their tongues, then Allah revealed immediately afterwards: “The Apostle believes in that which is sent down unto him from his Lord, and so do the believers. Each one believes in Allah and His Angels and His Books and His Apostles, saying: We differentiate not between any of His Apostles and they say: We hearken and we obey: (we seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord! and unto Thee is the return” (ii. 285). When they did that, Allah abrogated this (verse) and the Great, Majestic Allah revealed: “Allah burdens not a soul beyond its capacity. It gets every good that it earns and it suffers every ill that it earns. Our Lord, punish us not if we forget or make a mistake.” (The Prophet said:) Yes, our Lord! do not lay on us a burden as Thou didst lay on those before us. (The Prophet said:) Yes, our Lord, impose not on us (burdens) which we have not the strength to bear (The Prophet said:) Yes, and pardon us and grant us protection! and have mercy on us. Thou art our Patron, so grant us victory over the disbelieving people” (ii. 286). He (the Lord) said: Yes.

Book 003, Number 0675:

Abu al. ‘Ala’ b. al-Shikhkhir said: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) abrogated some of his commands by others, just as the Qur’an abrogates some part with the other.

Book 004, Number 1317:

Al-Bara’ b. ‘Azib reported: This verse was revealed (in this way): “Guard the prayers and the ‘Asr prayer.” We recited it (in this very way) so long as Allah desired. Allah, then, abrogated it and it was revealed: “Guard the prayers, and the middle prayer.” A person who was sitting with Shaqiq (one of the narrators in the chain of transmitters) said: Now it implies the ‘Asr prayer. Upon this al-Bara’ said: I have already informed you how this (verse) was revealed and how Allah abrogated it, and Allah knows best. Imam Muslim said: Ashja’i narrated it from Sufyan al-Thauri, who narrated it from al-Aswad b. Qais, who narrated it from ‘Uqba, who narrated it from al-Bara’ b. ‘Azib who said: We recited with the Prophet (may peace be upon him) (the above-mentioned verse like this, i. e. instead of Salat al- Wusta, Salat al-‘Asr) for a certain period, as it has been mentioned (in the above-quoted hadith).

Hadith number in Sahih Muslim [Arabic only]: 1233

‘A’ishah’s Hadith, may Allah be pleased with her.
Zurarah reported: Sa’d bin Hisham bin ‘Amir decided to participate in an expedition in the cause of Allah. When he came to Medina, he met some of its people. They dissuaded him from doing such a thing, and informed him that a group of six men had decided to do so during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) forbade them to do it, and asked: Is there not in me a good example for you? And when they narrated this to him (Sa’d bin Hisham), he returned to his wife, though he had divorced her and made (people) witness to his reconciliation. He then came to Ibn ‘Abbas and asked him about the Witr of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). Ibn ‘Abbas asked: Should I not lead you to one who knows best among the people of the world about the Witr of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him)? He asked: Who is it? He (Ibn ‘Abbas) said: It is ‘A’ishah. So go to her and ask her (about Witr) and then come to me and inform me about the answer that she would give you. So I came to Hakim bin Aflah and requested him to take me to her. He said: I would not go to her, for I forbade her to speak anything (about the conflict) between the two groups, but she refused (to accept my advice) and went (to participate in that conflict). I (requested) him (Hakim) with an oath to lead me to her. So we went to ‘A’ishah and we begged permission to meet her. She granted us permission and we went in. She asked: Are you Hakim? (She recognized him). He replied: Yes. She asked: Who is there with you? He said: He is Sa’d bin Hisham. She asked: Which Hisham? He said: He is Hisham bin ‘Amir. She blessed him (‘Amir) with mercy from Allah and spoke good of him (Qatadah said that he died as a martyr in Uhud). I said: Mother of the Believers, tell me about the character of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). She asked: Do you not read the Qur’an? I said: Yes. Upon this she said: The character of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) was the Qur’an. He said: I felt inclined to get up and not ask anything (further) till I die. But then I changed my mind and said: Inform me about the observance (of the Night Prayer) of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). She asked: Did you not recite: “O you wrapped up”? He said: Yes. She said:Allah, the Exalted and the Glorious, made the observance of the Night Prayer at the beginning of this surah obligatory. So the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and his Companions around him observed this (Night Prayer) FOR ONE YEAR. Allah held back the concluding portion of this surah FOR TWELVE MONTHS in the heaven till (at the end of this period) Allah revealed the concluding verses of this surah which lightened (the burden of this Prayer), and the Night Prayer became a supererogatory Prayer after being an obligatory one. I said: Mother of the Believers, inform me about the Witr of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) she said: I used to prepare tooth stick for him, water for his ablution, and Allah would rouse him to the extent He wished during the night. He would use the tooth stick, and perform ablution, and would offer nine rak’ahs and would not sit but in the eighth one and would remember Allah, and praise Him and supplicate Him, then he would get up without uttering the salutation and pray the ninth rak’ah. He would then sit, remember Allah, praise Him and supplicate Him and then utter a salutation loud enough for us to hear. He would then pray two rak’ahs sitting after uttering the salutation and that made eleven rak’ahs. O my son, but when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) grew old and put on flesh, he observed Witr of seven, doing in the two rak’ahs as he had done formerly, and that made nine. O my son, and when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) observed the Prayer, he liked to keep on observing it, and when sleep or pain overpowered him and made it impossible (for him) to observe the Prayer at night, he prayed twelve rak’ahs during the day. I am not aware of Allah’s Prophet (may peace be upon him) having recited the whole Qur’an during one single night, or praying through the night till morning, or fasting a complete month except Ramadan. He (the narrator) said: I then went to Ibn ‘Abbas and narrated to him the Hadith (transmitted from her), and he said: She says the truth If I went to her and got into her presence, I would have listened to it orally from her. He said: If I were to know that you do not go to her, I would not have transmitted this Hadith to you narrated by her. (SourceArabic text)

Book 004, Number 1433:

Anas b. Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) invoked curse in the morning (prayer) for thirty days upon those who killed the Companions (of the Holy Prophet) at Bi’r Ma’una. He cursed (the tribes) of Ri’l, Dhakwan, Lihyan, and Usayya, who had disobeyed Allah and His Messenger (may peace be upon him). Anas said: Allah the Exalted and Great revealed (a verse) regarding those who were killed at Bi’r Ma’una, and we recited it, till it was abrogated later on (and the verse was like this):, convey to it our people the tidings that we have met our Lord, and He was pleased with us and we were pleased with Him”.

Book 043, Number 7173:

Sa’id b. Jubair reported: I said to Ibn Abbas: Will the repentance of that person be accepted who kills a believer intentionally? He said: No. I recited to him this verse of Sura al-Furqan (xix.): “And those who call not upon another god with Allah and slay not the soul which Allah has forbidden except in the cause of justice” to the end of the verse. He said: This is a Meccan verse which has been abrogated by a verse revealed at Medina: “He who slays a believer intentionally, for him is the requital of Hell-Fire where he would abide for ever,” and in the narration of Ibn Hisham (the words are): I recited to him this verse of Sura al-Furqan: “Except one who made repentance.” (see also Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 285)


Book 5, Number 1299:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas:

In Surat al-Muzzammil (73), the verse: “Keep vigil at night but a little, a half thereof” (2-3) has been abrogated by the following verse: “He knoweth that ye count it not, and turneth unto you in mercy. Recite then of the Qur’an that which is easy for you” (v.20). The phrase “the vigil of the night” (nashi’at al-layl) means the early hours of the night. They (the companions) would pray (the tahajjud prayer) in the early hours of the night.

He (Ibn Abbas) says: It is advisable to offer the prayer at night (tahajjud), prescribed by Allah for you (in the early hours of the night). This is because when a person sleeps, he does not know when he will awake. The words “speech more certain” (aqwamu qilan) means that this time is more suitable for the understanding of the Qur’an. He says: The verse: “Lo, thou hast by day a chain of business” (v.7) means engagement for long periods (in the day’s work).

Book 5, Number 1300:

Ibn ‘Abbas said: When the opening verses of Surah asl-muzzammil (lxxiii.), were revealed, the Companions would pray as long as they would pray during Ramadan until its last verses were revealed. The period between the revelation of its opening and the last verses was one year.

Book 12, Number 2275:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas:

Women who are divorced shall wait, keeping themselves apart, three monthly courses; and then said: And for such of your women as despair of menstruation, if ye doubt, their period (of waiting) shall be three months. This was abrogated from the former verse. Again he said: (O ye who believe, if ye wed believing women) and divorce them before ye have touched them, then there is no period that ye should reckon.


Book 30, Number 30.3.17:

Yahya related to me from Malik from Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr ibn Hazm from Amra bint Abd ar-Rahman that A’isha, the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Amongst what was sent down of the Qur’an was ‘ten known sucklings make haram’ – then it was abrogated by ‘five known sucklings’. When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, died, it was what is now recited of the Qur’an.”

Yahya said that Malik said, “One does not act on this.”

Comment: Neither the abrogating nor the abrogated verses on suckling appear in the text of the Quran today.

Book 37, Number 37.5.4b:

Yahya said that he heard Malik say, “This ayat is abrogated. It is the word of Allah, the Blessed, the Exalted, ‘If he leaves goods, the testament is for parents and kinsmen.’ What came down about the division of the fixed shares of inheritance in the Book of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted, abrogated it” …


Ibn Kathir claims that S. 33:52 was abrogated by 33:50.

More than one of the scholars, such as Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, Ibn Zayd, Ibn Jarir and others stated that this Ayah was revealed as a reward to the wives of the Prophet expressing Allah’s pleasure with them for their excellent decision in choosing Allah and His Messenger and the Home of the Hereafter, when the Messenger of Allah gave them the choice, as we have stated above. When they chose the Messenger of Allah their reward was that Allah restricted him to these wives, and forbade him to marry anyone else or to change them for other wives, even if he was attracted to their beauty – apart from slave-girls and prisoners of war, with regard to whom there was no sin on him. THEN ALLAH LIFTED THE RESTRICTION STATED IN THIS AYAH AND PERMITTED HIM TO MARRY MORE WOMEN, but he did not marry anyone else, so that the favor of the Messenger of Allah towards them would be clear.

Imam Ahmad recorded that ‘A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said: ‘The Messenger of Allah did not die until Allah permitted (marriage to other) women for him.’ It was also recorded by At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i in their Sunans. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Volume 8 (Surat Al-Ahzab, Verse 51 to the end of Surat Ad-Dukhan), abridged under a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors Riyadh, Houston, New York, London, Lahore; First Edition, September 2000], p. 21; cf. the online edition; bold and capital emphasis ours)

According to Ibn Kathir Surah 9:5 abrogated every peace treaty that had been made with the idolaters:

This is the Ayah of the Sword …

<But if they repent and perform the Salah, and give Zakah, then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.>

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq used this and other honorable Ayat as proof for fighting those who refrained from paying the Zakah. These Ayat allowed fighting people unless, and until, they embrace Islam and implement its rulings and obligations… In the two Sahihs, it is recorded that Ibn ‘Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said,

<I have been commanded to fight the people until they testify there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establish the prayer and pay Zakah.>

This honorable Ayah (9:5) was called the Ayah of the Sword, about which Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim said, “It abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolator, EVERY TREATY, AND EVERY TERM.” Al-‘Awfi said that Ibn ‘Abbas commented: “No idolator had any more treaty or promise ever since Sura Bara’ah was revealed. The four months, in addition to, all peace treaties conducted before Bara’ah was revealed and announced had ended by the tenth of the month of Rabi’ Al-Akhir.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Volume 4 (Surat Al-A’raf to the end of Surah Yunus), by Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, First Edition: May 2000, pp. 375, 377; cf. online edition; bold italic and capital emphasis ours)

Here is our final example. Ibn Kathir states that Muhammad added an exception clause to Surah 4:95 as a result of a blind man complaining about the passage:

Al-Bukhari recorded that Al-Bara’ said, “When the Ayah …

<Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home),>

was revealed, the Messenger of Allah called Zayd and commanded him to write it. Then, Ibn Umm Maktum came and mentioned that he was blind. Allah revealed …

<except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame)>.”

Al-Bukhari recorded that Sahl bin Sa`d As-Sa`di said, “I saw Marwan bin Al-Hakam sitting in the Masjid. I came and sat by his side. He told us that Zayd bin Thabit told him that Allah’s Messenger dictated this Ayah to him …

<Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled, and those who strive hard and fight in the cause of Allah>

Ibn Umm Maktum came to the Prophet as he was dictating that very Ayah to me. Ibn Umm Maktum said, `O Allah’s Messenger! By Allah, if I had power, I would surely take part in Jihad.’ He was a blind man. So Allah sent down revelation to His Messenger while his thigh was on mine and it became so heavy for me that I feared that my thigh would be broken. That ended after Allah revealed …

<except those who are disabled>.” This was recorded by Al-Bukhari. At-Tirmidhi recorded that Ibn `Abbas said …

<Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled>, refers to those who did not go to the battle of Badr and those who went to Badr. When the battle of Badr was about to occur, Abu Ahmad bin Jahsh and Ibn Umm Maktum said, `We are blind, O Messenger of Allah! Do we have an excuse’ The Ayah …

<Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled> was revealed. Allah made those who fight, above those who sit in their homes not hindered by disability. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Volume 2, parts 3, 4, & 5 (Surat Al-Baqarah, Verse 253, to Surat An-Nisa, Verse 147), by Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, First Edition: March 2000, pp. 555, 556; cf. the online edition)

Although the last quotation above is, strictly speaking, not an example of abrogation, it does serve the purpose of showing how Muhammad was quick to change the revelation to suit his own purposes as well as the purposes of his community.

We could provide more examples from Ibn Kathir, but for the sake of brevity these should suffice.

Here is another example of Muhammad having to change the revelation to suit the purposes and fears of his followers:

O Prophet! urge the believers to war; if there are twenty patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred of you they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they are a people who do not understand. For the present Allah has made light your burden, and He knows that there is weakness in you; so if there are a hundred patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a thousand they shall overcome two thousand by Allah’s permission, and Allah is with the patient. S. 8:65-66 Shakir

Ibn Ishaq, in his Sirat Rasulullah, reports that:

Then He said: ‘O prophet, God is sufficient for thee and the believers who follow thee. O prophet, exhort the believers to fight. If there are twenty steadfast ones among you they will overcome a thousand unbelievers for there are hundred of you they will overcome a thousand unbelievers for they are senseless people,’ i.e. they do not fight with a good intention nor for truth nor have they knowledge of what is good and what is evil. Abdullah b. Abu Najih from ‘Ata’ b. Abu Ribah from ‘Abdullah b. ‘Abbas told me that when this verse came down it came as a shock to the Muslims who took it hard that twenty should have to fight two hundred, and a hundred fight a thousand. So God relieved them AND CANCELED THE VERSE WITH ANOTHER SAYING: ‘Now has God relieved you and He knows that there is weakness amongst you, so if there are a hundred steadfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a thousand of you they shall overcome two thousand by God’s permission, for God is with the steadfast.’ (‘Abdullah) said, ‘When they numbered half of the enemy it was wrong for them to run from them; but if they were less than half they were not bound to fight and it was permissible for the, to withdraw.’ (Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad [Oxford University Press, Karachi, tenth impression 1995], p. 326; bold and capital emphasis ours)

One wonders if in fact Allah had known that there was weakness amongst the Muslims then why even “reveal” the first passage instead of simply “revealing” the second, more easier one?


The following list is taken from Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud Din Al-Hilali & Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan’s The Noble Qur’an – English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary, King Fahd Complex For the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, Madinah, K.S.A. You can find this list pretty much in all the Hilali-Khan’s Quranic translations, irrespective of date or publisher.

1. 3:85 abrogates 2:62 and 5:69

(V. 2:62) This Verse (and Verse 5:69), mentioned in the Qur’an should not be misinterpreted by the reader as mentioned by Ibn Abbas … (Tafsir At-Tabari) that the provision of this Verse was abrogated by the Verse 3:85 … (fn. 1, p. 14; see also fn. 1, p. 157)

2. 9:29 abrogates 2:109

(V. 2:109) The provision of this verse has been abrogated by the (V. 9:29). (Tafsir At-Tabari) (fn. 1, p. 21)

3. 2:185 abrogates 184

(V. 2:184) The provision of this Verse has been abrogated by the next Verse: 185, with a few exceptions, i.e. very old person, or pregnancy, etc. (fn. 1, p. 37)

4. 9:36 abrogates 2:217 and 45:14

(V. 2:217) The provision of this Verse has been abrogated by Verse 9:36. Jihad cf., (V. 2:216). (fn. 2, p. 46; see also fn. 1, p. 677)

5. 5:90 abrogates 2:219

(V. 2:219) The provision of this Verse concerning alcoholic drinks and gambling has been abrogated by the Verse 5:90. (fn. 1, p. 47)

6. 4:12 abrogates 2:240

(V. 2:240): The provision of this Verse has been abrogated by Verse (4:12). (fn. 1, p. 53)

7. 24:2 abrogates 4:15-16

(V. 4:15) The provision of this Verse has been abrogated by the Verses of (V. 24:2), ordaining lashing for the unmarried and stoning to death for the married, when four witnesses testify to the crime. (fn. 1, p. 109)

We conclude this paper by presenting the following comments from Von Denffer:

The Abrogated Verses

There are, according to Ibn Salama, [Op cit., see pp.6-8 for the names of these suras.] a well-known author on the subject:

  • 43 suras with neither nasikh or mansukh.
  • suras with nasikh but no mansukh.
  • 40 suras with mansukh but no nasikh.
  • 25 suras with both nasikh and mansukh.

According to Suyuti’s Itqan there are 21 instances in the Qur’an, where a revelation has been abrogated by another.

He also indicates that there is a difference of opinion about some of these: e.g. 4: 8, 24: 58, etc. [Itqan, II, pp.20-3; Kamal, op.cit., pp.101-9 also gives Suyuti’s complete list.]

Some scholars have attempted to reduce the number of abrogations in the Qur’an even further, by explaining the relationships between the verses in some special ways, e.g. by pointing out that no legal abrogation is involved, or that for certain reasons the naskh is not genuine

Shah Waliullah (d. 1759) the great Muslim scholar from India only retained the following 5 out of Suyuti’s 21 cases as genuine:

Mansukh 2: 180 nasikh 4: 11, 12
Mansukh 2:240 nasikh 2: 234.
Mansukh 8:65 nasikh 8: 62.
Mansukh 30:50 nasikh 33: 52.
Mansukh 58: 12 nasikh 58: 13.


A case listed by Suyuti, which has no direct legal implication is the following:

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: When the verse: ‘If there are 20 amongst you, patient and persevering, they will overcome two hundred’, was revealed, it became hard on the Muslims, when it became compulsory that one Muslim ought not to flee before 10 (non-Muslims) so Allah lightened the order by revealing: ‘but now Allah has lightened your (task) for He knows that there is weakness in you. But (even so) if there are 100 amongst you who are patient and persevering, they will overcome 200 (non-Muslims)’ (8: 66).

So when Allah reduced the number of enemies that Muslims should withstand, their patience and perseverence against the enemy decreased as much as their task was lightened for them. [Bukhari, VI, No.176.]

(Source: Ahmad Von Denfer, Ulum al Qur’an)

We come to the end of our paper. We truly hope that this list will prove helpful to Christians as they endeavor to show Muslims why the Quran cannot be the Word of God.

Do Muslims and Christians speak the same language?

Do Muslims and Christians speak the same language?

 By J.M.
The first time I heard it I was a bit stunned. My friend, Blama (a West African form of the name Ibrahima) held out his hands, face down. He extended both index fingers straight out, held them firmly pressed together side-by-side and stated, “The Muslim and the Christian are like this. No difference.” Here I had been trying to convince him that the two religions were very different and now he was telling me that we were the same. I was doing my best to point out the dissimilarities between our Scriptures, our God, our prophets and how we ought to live. Apparently, Blama saw things differently than I!

The purpose of this writing is to explore Islam and Christianity, but with the underlying premise that words used by both are not the same. It is the hope that by the final word, the reader will begin to grasp the tremendous complexity of the words of both religions and that the reader will not blithely use words which are not communicating the truth of the gospel of ‘Isa Al-Masih.

Words Have Meaning

The premise is quite simple. Words have meaning. The words being written for the reader to peruse are really nothing more than vehicles for meaning. Physical symbols of ‘g’, ‘o’, and ‘d’, when properly combined produce visual representations of meaning.

I am sure we can all agree that words have meaning. When we use a word, we do so because we have agreed between us that it has a specific meaning. For instance, if one wishes to communicate ‘plate’, the word ‘frivolous’ is not used. Likewise, if one desires to communicate a more transcendent idea, such as the hope one has for success, one does not employ this phrase: “I really like your dress, Francine!”

To complicate such a simple notion, however, we can add the subject of comparative religion to the mix. Do not all religions speak about God, sin, good and evil? Because a Muslim and Christian use the same words, we must mean the same thing, correct? After all, we both believe that ‘God’ is one, the creator, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and totally unlike anything other being. We both agree that humans sin, that sin is bad because it is an act of rebellion against God. So, what is the problem?

Let me illustrate with a somewhat crude analogy. Sitting out in your front yard is a Ford and a Fiat. Let us make a list of similarities between the two:

  • both are automobiles used for transportation;
  • both words begin with ‘F’ and have four letters;
  • both use petroleum products;
  • both might even be the same color.

If we simply employ the similarities of the objects, we could rightly say that it would appear the Ford and Fiat are the same. Perhaps we would focus on the one underlying characteristic of both: they are automobiles whose purpose is transportation. Surely, these similarities are overriding in our understanding of the Ford and Fiat? Not only are they similar in important ways, they are categorically the same! They are automobiles. Granted, a Ford salesman might tell you a Fiat is not an automobile, but who can trust a car salesman?!

But the question remains: Is a Ford the same as or similar to a Fiat? Are there differences?

  • one is American made, the other Italian;
  • one is automatic, the other has a stick shift;
  • one is new, the other is old;
  • one has four doors, the other two.

Sameness and Similarity

Based on these observations, is the Ford similar to or equivalent to the Fiat? If one uses only the first list, the list of comparison, the two cars can almost be made to be equivalent (the same). On the other hand, if the second list, the contrasting characteristics, is used in addition to the first, the only conclusion possible is that the two cars are simply similar. That is, they share commonalities and similarities, but they are not the same or equivalent.

For clarity, let us distinguish between the idea of ‘sameness’ and ‘similarity’. First, let me offer this stipulative definition for sameness: any two items, persons or ideas are equivalent in every characteristic and attribute. Philosophically we are speaking of strict identity. An underlying assumption which feeds into this notion of sameness is that change exists. Sameness allows for no change or alteration. For purposes of this discussion, Muslims and Christians agree that very little changes. In fact, we might agree that God is the only being not subject to change. But this refers to his character and attributes, not to our understanding of God. More on this later.

Similarity is not sameness. Similarity is a flexible, fluctuating, pliable concept. Sameness is firm, unbreakable, absolute. Two things, persons or ideas may share any number of similarities. That they are partners in similarity, by definition, makes them not the same. Sameness and similarity are mutually exclusive concepts.

The Ford and the Fiat are similar. The fact of their similarity proves they cannot be the same. If the Ford and Fiat were indeed the very same car (but perhaps called different names by various people), we could not say they are similar. I am reminded of my own children and their struggles with the English language. Many times one of them will say something such as “That place is like a store.” What is being described is a store. If it is like (similar to) a store, it cannot be a store. It might be an office building, a house, a bank or a garage, but it cannot be a store. So, I gently correct the statement, “It cannot be like a store if it is a store.” Six year olds do not yet understand the formal equivalence of ‘is’.

Second, the definition of similar: two or more items, persons or ideas which may have at least one characteristic held in common. Obviously, then, the greater the number of characteristics and attributes held in common, the greater the similarity. The characteristics of commonality may be endless, but if there is one characteristic which is not equivalent, the two cannot be called the same.

Similarity works on a sliding scale of contrasting and comparing. We can say ‘x’ is very much like ‘y’ or we may say ‘z’ is very little like ‘y’. Both statements deal with similarity. Sameness is identity. There is no sliding scale of comparison. Either the items, persons or ideas are equal, equivalent, and identical or they are not.

It would appear that many times, Muslims (and Christians) have committed this type of error. This error is known as the fallacy of equivocation (equating two or more concepts which are not the same though they may be similar). Words which have similar meanings (that is, they share commonalities) are made to be equivalent. Muslims say ‘car’ meaning Ford while Christians think Fiat! Muslims say ‘Allah’ and think this is the God of the Bible.

Do Muslims Words Have Christian Meanings?

It is assumed the reader is Christian (though I am sure there are Muslims who will also find this). For this reason, it is assumed the reader has a Christian understanding of God, his attributes, his character and his revelation. Therefore, we will not attempt to define or list the characteristics of Yahweh, but only the character and attributes of Allah will be investigated. Let the reader decide if the words mean the same or are only similar. If the words are similar, what is the degree of similarity?


1)  The case for sameness

Muslims and Christians agree that the Almighty is One. There is agreement that he is the creator of all things. He is omniscient, ominpresent, and omnipotent. Without listing the 99 names of Allah, it is generally held by Christians that most of these names can find their counterparts in the Bible. While there is much we know about Allah, there is a greater storehouse of knowledge we do not know. The Almighty is totally other, yet is said to be nearer than a man’s jugular vein (Qur’an 50:16).

Allah reveals his will to mankind in a book given through prophets. He calls for obedience to his will. He punishes evil and rewards good. He forgives, shows mercy and compassion, yet he displays his anger and wrath as well.

Allah is self-existent, to be worshiped, hears and answers prayers, sustains the universe, free of all wants and needs, irresistible, the light of the heavens, Lord of the dawn, et al.

What Christian could object to these qualities also existing in the Yahweh? In fact, both Allah and Yahweh are categorically identical: the One, true, Creator, Sustaining Almighty God who rules the universe. The question remains: Are they similar or identical?

2)  The case for similarity

Ask a Muslim if the Almighty would deign to become a human being.(1)
Ask if the Almighty can be known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.(2)
Ask if the Qur’an reveals the Almighty’s character or only his will.(3)
Ask if the Almighty can allow people to lie in certain circumstances.(4)
Ask if the Almighty has compassion on those going to hell.(5)
Ask if the Almighty has a knowable essence.(6)


It is hoped the reader has begun to grapple with the complexity of the situation. The Muslim-Christian debate can only benefit as both sides think, speak and write clearly. Our words must accurately reflect the understanding derived from our own Scriptures. Words do have meaning and therefore, they must be used appropriately. In the Muslim-Christian debate there are certain words (viz., ‘God’, ‘Allah’ and ‘Yahweh’) which share commonalities. Too often, in a naive attempt to foster dialogue, we make these commonalities the pinnacle of our discussion. The words used by Muslim and Christian do not necessarily have the same meaning. When it is stated that Allah = Yahweh = Brahman = Allah, this is more than oversight. It shows a lack of understanding of the meaning or content of the words.

There are words and concepts which bear scrutiny with which this paper has not dealt. I have only presented a sketchy beginning for this process. It is hoped this introduction will prompt others to examine words, how they are used in Islam and Christianity, and the meanings behind those words.(7) Never let it be said “We are arguing semantics.” This is a ‘poor man’s argument’ which is generally used as a smokescreen or red herring to draw attention away from the fact of the matter: semantics, meaning and words are important.

It behooves us to use words carefully and thoughtfully. We must not be guilty of assuming that when the Muslim says Allah he is speaking of Divinity with all the characteristics, attributes and essence of Yahweh. To do so is to be guilty of the fallacy of equivocation. We do not want equivocation to become our avocation.

End Notes

    1. Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret, p. 291: “To conceive of God in Christ is for the Muslim mind an unworthy thing. God does not become man. If He did, something unthinkable would have happened to His Divinity. Muslims have resisted the Christian interpretation of Christ on these grounds in the belief that they are safeguarding the Divine majesty.”The Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, The Ideal Prophet, pp. 5, 6: “Where then arises the necessity of having a God-in-man placed before us as our ideal? The whole scheme, if any, would seem irrelevant.

    1. Qur’an 4:171: (Far exalted is He) above having a son.

    1. Cragg, p. 47: “The revelation [in the Qur’an] is conceived of, not as a communication of the Divine Being, but only of the Divine will. It is a revelation, that is, of law, not personality. God the revealer remains Himself unrevealed.Fazlur Rahman, Islam, p. 37: “The Qur’an is primarily a book of religious and moral principles and exhortations …”

    1. Mishkat ul-Masabih, translated by Karim, vol. i, p. 467: “Asma’a-bn-Yezid reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Falsehood is not lawful except in three (things): falsehood of a man to his wife to please her, falsehood in war, and falsehood in restoring peace among men. – Ahmad and Tirmidhi”

    1. Mishkat, v. iii, p. 117: “Abu Darda reported that the Holy Prophet said: Allah created Adam when he created him (sic). Then He stroke (sic) his right shoulder and took out a white race as if they were seeds, and He stroke (sic) his left shoulder and took out a black race as if they were coals. Then He said to those who were in his right side: Towards paradise and I don’t care. He said to those who were on his left shoulder: Towards Hell and I don’t care. – Ahmad”This hadith seems racist in its report of creation. All Muslims know that the right hand is the hand for eating and greeting. The left is for ‘other’ matters. The right shoulder of Adam saw the white folks emerge. The black folks came from his left. The white race is called ‘seeds’. Seeds grow and produce. The black race is compared to coals which are used to produce heat by burning. This is juxtaposed to those going to heaven and hell where they will either flourish or burn. It is difficult to resist the impression that Allah appears to be a racist.

    1. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Ideals and Realities of Islam, p. 18: “… the Divine essence (al-dhat) remains absolutely transcendent and no religion has emphasized the transcendent aspect of God more than Islam.”Norman L. Geisler & Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam, p. 136: “… [in] traditional Islam, properly speaking, God does not have an essence, at least not a knowable one. Rather, he is Will. … The orthodox Islamic view of God claims … that God is an absolutely necessary being. He is self-existent, and he cannot not exist. But if God is by nature a necessary kind of being, then it is of his nature to exist. In short, he must have a nature or else he could not be by nature a necessary kind of being. In this same regard, orthodox Islam believes that there are other essential attributes of God, such as self-existence, uncreatedness, and eternality. But if these are all essential characteristics of God, then God must have an essence, otherwise they would not be essential attributes. For this is precisely how essence is defined, namely, as the essential attributes or characteristics of a being.”

  1. The following is an abbreviated list of suggested words: Jesus, Messiah, Lord, sin, forgiveness, righteousness, inspiration, and revelation.
‘Isa, the Muslim Jesus

‘Isa, the Muslim Jesus

By Dr Mark Durie


“The word Christian is not a valid word, for there is no religion of Christianity according to Islam”. —

Today we increasingly hear and read that Christianity and Islam ‘share’ Jesus, that he belongs to both religions. So also with Abraham: there is talk of the West’s ‘Abrahamic civilization’ where once people spoke of ‘Judeo-Christian civilization’. This shift of thinking reflects the growing influence of Islam.

These notes offer some information and reflections on the ‘Muslim Jesus’, to help put this trend in its proper context.

References in brackets are to the Qur’an. Numbering systems for the Qur’anic verses are not standardized: be prepared to search through nearby verses for the right one.

Islam the primordial faith

Islam regards itself, not as a subsequent faith to Judaism and Christianity, but as the primordial religion, the faith from which Judaism and Christianity are subsequent developments. In the Qur’an we read that Abraham ‘was not a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a monotheist, a Muslim’ (Âl ‘Imran 3:66). So it is Muslims, and not Christians or Jews, who are the true representatives of the faith of Abraham to the world today. (Al-Baqarah 2:135)

The Biblical prophets were all Muslims

Many prophets of the past received the one religion of Islam. (Ash-Shura 42:13) Who were these previous prophets? According to Al-An’am 6:85-87 they include Ibrahim (Abraham), ‘Ishaq (Issac), Yaqub (Jacob), Nuh (Noah), Dawud (David), Sulaiman (Solomon), Ayyub (Job), Yusuf (Joseph), Musa (Moses), Harun (Aaron), Zakariyya (Zachariah), Yahya (John the Baptist), ‘Isa (Jesus), Ilyas, Ishmael, Al-Yash’a (Elisha), Yunus (Jonah) and Lut (Lot).

The Muslim ‘Isa (Jesus)

There are two main sources for ‘Isa, the Muslim Jesus. The Qur’an gives a history of his life, whilst the Hadith collections — recollections of Muhammad’s words and deeds — establish his place in the Muslim understanding of the future.

The Qur’an

‘Isa, was a prophet of Islam

Jesus’ true name, according to the Qur’an, was ‘Isa. His message was pure Islam, surrender to Allah. (Âl ‘Imran 3:84) Like all the Muslim prophets before him, and like Muhammad after him, ‘Isa was a lawgiver, and Christians should submit to his law. (Âl ‘Imran 3:50; Al-Ma’idah 5:48) ‘Isa’s original disciples were also true Muslims, for they said ‘We believe. Bear witness that we have surrendered. We are Muslims.’ (Al-Ma’idah 5:111)

‘The Books’

Like other messengers of Islam before him, ‘Isa received his revelation of Islam in the form of a book. (Al-An’am 6:90) ‘Isa’s book is called the Injil or ‘gospel’. (Al-Ma’idah 5:46) The Torah was Moses’ book, and the Zabur (Psalms) were David’s book. So Jews and Christians are ‘people of the Book’. The one religion revealed in these books was Islam. (Âl ‘Imran 3:18)

As with previous prophets, ‘Isa’s revelation verified previous prophets’ revelations. (Âl ‘Imran 3:49,84; Al-Ma’idah 5:46; As-Saff 61:6) Muhammad himself verified all previous revelations, including the revelation to ‘Isa (An-Nisa’ 4:47), and so Muslims must believe in the revelation which ‘Isa received. (Al-Baqarah 2:136) However, after ‘Isa the Injil was lost in its original form. Today the Qur’an is the only sure guide to ‘Isa’s teaching.

The biography of ‘Isa

According to the Qur’an, ‘Isa was the Messiah. He was supported by the ‘Holy Spirit’. (Al-Baqarah 2:87; Al-Ma’idah 5:110) He is also referred to as the ‘Word of Allah’. (An-Nisa’ 4:171)

‘Isa’s mother Mariam was the daughter of ‘Imran, (Âl ‘Imran 3:34,35) — cf the Amram of Exodus 6:20 — and the sister of Aaron (and Moses). (Maryam 19:28) She was fostered by Zachariah (father of John the Baptist). (Âl ‘Imran 3:36) While still a virgin (Al-An’am 6:12; Maryam 19:19-21) Mariam gave birth to ‘Isa alone in a desolate place under a date palm tree. (Maryam 19:22ff) (Not in Bethlehem).

‘Isa spoke whilst still a baby in his cradle. (Âl ‘Imran 3:46; Al-Ma’idah 5:110; Maryam 19:30) He performed various other miracles, including breathing life into clay birds, healing the blind and lepers, and raising the dead. (Âl ‘Imran 3:49; Al-Ma’idah 5:111) He also foretold the coming of Muhammad. (As-Saff 61:6)

‘Isa did not die on a cross

Christians and Jews have corrupted their scriptures. (Âl ‘Imran 3:74-77, 113) Although Christians believe ‘Isa died on a cross, and Jews claim they killed him, in reality he was not killed or crucified, and those who said he was crucified lied (An-Nisa’ 4:157). ‘Isa did not die, but ascended to Allah. (An-Nisa’ 4:158) On the day of Resurrection ‘Isa himself will be a witness against Jews and Christians for believing in his death. (An-Nisa’ 4:159)

Christians should accept Islam, and all true Christians will

Christians (and Jews) could not be freed from their ignorance until Muhammad came bringing the Qur’an as clear evidence (Al-Bayyinah 98:1). Muhammad was Allah’s gift to Christians to correct misunderstandings. They should accept Muhammad as Allah’s Messenger, and the Qur’an as his final revelation. (Al-Ma’idah 5:15; Al-Hadid 57:28; An-Nisa’ 4:47)

Some Christians and Jews are faithful and believe truly. (Âl ‘Imran 3:113,114) Any such true believers will submit to Allah by accepting Muhammad as the prophet of Islam, i.e. they will become Muslims. (Âl ‘Imran 3:198)

Although Jews and pagans will have the greatest enmity against Muslims, it is the Christians who will be ‘nearest in love to the believers’, i.e. to Muslims. (Al-Ma’idah 5:82) True Christians will not love Muhammad’s enemies. (Al-Mujadilah 58:22) In other words, anyone who opposes Muhammad is not a true Christian.

Christians who accept Islam or refuse it

Some Jews and Christians are true believers, accepting Islam: most are transgressors. (Âl ‘Imran 3:109)

Many monks and rabbis are greedy for wealth and prevent people from coming to Allah. (At-Taubah 9:34,35)

Christians and Jews who disbelieve in Muhammad will go to hell. (Al-Bayyinah 98:6)

Muslims should not take Christians or Jews for friends. (Al-Ma’idah 5:51) They must fight against Christians and Jews who refuse Islam until they surrender, pay the poll-tax and are humiliated. (At-Taubah 9:29) To this may be added hundreds of Qur’anic verses on the subject of jihad in the path of Allah, as well as the ‘Book of Jihad’ found in all Hadith collections.

Christian beliefs

Christians are commanded not to believe that ‘Isa is the son of God: ‘It is far removed from his transcendent majesty that he should have a son’. (An-Nisa’ 4:171; Al-Furqan 25:2) ‘Isa was simply a created human being, and a slave of Allah. (An-Nisa’ 4:172; Âl ‘Imran 3:59)

Christians are claimed by the Qur’an to believe in a family of gods — Father God, mother Mary and ‘Isa the son — but ‘Isa rejected this teaching. (Al-Ma’idah 5:116) The doctrine of the Trinity is disbelief and a painful doom awaits those who believe it. (Al-Ma’idah 5:73)

‘Isa (Jesus) in the Hadith

‘Isa the destroyer of Christianity

The prophet ‘Isa will have an important role in the end times, establishing Islam and making war until he destroys all religions save Islam. He shall kill the Evil One (Dajjal), an apocalyptic anti-Christ figure.

In one tradition of Muhammad we read that no further prophets will come to earth until ‘Isa returns as ‘a man of medium height, or reddish complexion, wearing two light garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head although it will not be wet. He will fight for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill pigs, and abolish the poll-tax. Allah will destroy all religions except Islam. He (‘Isa) will destroy the Evil One and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die’. (Sunan Abu Dawud, 37:4310) The Sahih Muslim has a variant of this tradition: ‘The son of Mary … will soon descend among you as a just judge. He will … abolish the poll-tax, and the wealth will pour forth to such an extent that no one will accept charitable gifts.’ (Sahih Muslim 287)

What do these sayings mean? The cross is a symbol of Christianity. Breaking crosses means abolishing Christianity. Pigs are associated with Christians. Killing them is another way of speaking of the destruction of Christianity. Under Islamic law the poll-tax buys the protection of the lives and property of conquered ‘people of the Book’. (At-Taubah 9:29) The abolition of the poll-tax means jihad is restarted against Christians (and Jews) living under Islam, who should convert to Islam, or else be killed or enslaved. The abundance of wealth refers to booty flowing to the Muslims from this conquest. This is what the Muslim ‘Isa will do when he returns in the last days.

Muslim jurists confirm these interpretations: consider, for example, the ruling of Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (d. 1368).

“… the time and the place for [the poll tax] is before the final descent of Jesus (upon whom be peace). After his final coming, nothing but Islam will be accepted from them, for taking the poll tax is only effective until Jesus’ descent (upon him and our Prophet be peace) …” (The Reliance of the Traveller. Trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller, p. 603).

Ibn Naqib goes on to state that when Jesus returns, he will rule ‘as a follower’ of Muhammad.

Critical Comments on the Muslim ‘Isa (Jesus)

‘Isa not an historical figure

The Qur’an’s ‘Isa is not an historical figure. His identity and role as a prophet of Islam is based solely on supposed revelations to Muhammad over half a millennium after the Jesus of history lived and died.

Jesus’ name was never ‘Isa

Jesus’ mother tongue was Aramaic. In his own lifetime he was called Yeshua in Aramaic, and Jesu in Greek. This is like calling the same person John when speaking English and Jean when speaking French: Jesu, pronounced “Yesoo”, is the Greek form of Aramaic Yeshua. (The final -s in Jesu-s is a Greek grammatical ending.) Yeshua is itself a form of Hebrew Yehoshua’, which means ‘the Lord is salvation’. However Yehoshua’ is normally given in English as Joshua. So Joshua and Jesus are variants of the same name.

It is interesting that Jesus’ name Yehoshua’ contains within it the proper Hebrew name for God, the first syllable Yeh- being short for YHWH ‘the LORD’.

Yeshua of Nazareth was never called ‘Isa, the name the Qur’an gives to him. Arab-speaking Christians refer to Jesus as Yasou’ (from Yeshua) not ‘Isa.

Jesus did not receive a ‘book’

According to the Qur’an, the ‘book’ revealed to ‘Isa was the Injil. The word Injil is a corrupted form of the Greek euanggelion ‘good news’ or gospel. What was this euanggelion? This was just how Jesus referred to his message: as good news. The expression euanggelion did not refer to a fixed revealed text, and there is absolutely no evidence that Jesus received a ‘book’ of revelation from God.

The ‘gospels’ of the Bible are biographies

The term euanggelion later came to be used as a title for the four biographies of Jesus written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the ‘gospels’. This was a secondary development of meaning. Apparently this is where Muhammad got his mistaken idea of the Injil being a ‘book’.

Most so-called prophets of Islam received no book

Virtually all of the so-called ‘prophets’ of Islam, whose names are taken from the Hebrew scriptures, received no ‘book’ or law code. For example, the Psalms are not a book revealing Islam, as the Qur’an claims, but a collection of songs of worship, only some of which are David’s. There is not a shred of evidence in the Biblical history of David that he received a book of laws for the Israelites. They already had the Torah of Moses to follow. So David was not a prophet in the Qur’an’s sense of this word. Likewise most of the prophets claimed by Islam were neither lawgivers nor rulers.

Biblical prophecy and Islamic prophecy are not the same thing

The Biblical understanding of prophecy is quite different from Muhammad’s. A Biblical prophecy is not regarded as a passage from a heavenly eternally pre-existent text like the Qur’an, but a message from God for a specific time and place. A biblical prophet is someone to whom God reveals hidden things, and who then acts as God’s verbal agent. When a Samaritan woman called Jesus a prophet (John 4:19) it was because he had spoken about things in her life that he could only have known supernaturally. Christianity teaches that Jesus was a prophet, but he brought no ‘book’: he himself was the living ‘Word of God’, a title used of ‘Isa in the Qur’an.

By no means all prophecies referred to in the Bible became part of the Biblical text. The Bible consists of a wide variety of materials originally written for many different purposes, including letters, songs, love poetry, historical narratives, legal texts, proverbial wisdom as well as prophetic passages. These are regarded as inspired by God, but not dictated from a timeless heavenly book.

As prophetic history, the Qur’an contains many errors and anachronisms

The claim that Jesus was not executed by crucifixion is without any historical support. One of the things that all the early sources agree on is Jesus’ crucifixion.

Mariam the mother of ‘Isa is called a sister of Aaron, and also the daughter of Aaron’s father ‘Imran (Hebr. Amram). Clearly Muhammad has confused Mary (Hebr. Miriam) with Miriam of the Exodus. The two lived more than a thousand years apart!

In the Bible Haman is the minister of Ahasuerus in Media and Persia (The Book of Esther 3:1-2). Yet the Qur’an places him over a thousand years earlier, as a minister of Pharoah in Egypt.

The claim that Christians believe in three Gods — Father, son Jesus and mother Mary — is mistaken. The Qur’an is also mistaken to claim that Jews say Ezra was a son of God. (At-Taubah 9:30) The charge of polytheism against Christianity and Judaism is ill-informed and false. (Deuteronomy 6:4, James 2:19a)

The story of the ‘two horned one’ (Al-Kahf 18:82 cf also Daniel 8:3, 20-21) is derived from the Romance of Alexander. Certainly Alexander the Great was no Muslim.

The problem with the name ‘Isa has already been discussed. Other Biblical names are also misunderstood in the Qur’an, and their meanings lost. For example Elisha, which means ‘God is salvation’, is given in the Qur’an as al-Yash’a, turning El ‘God’ into al- ‘the’. (Islamic tradition did the same to Alexander the Great, calling him al-Iskandar ‘the Iskander’). Abraham ‘Father of many’ (cf Genesis 17:5) might have been better represented as something like Aburahim ‘father of mercy’ instead of Ibrahim, which has no meaning in Arabic at all.

The Qur’an has a Samaritan making the golden calf, which was worshipped by the Israelites in the wilderness (Ta Ha 20:85) during the Exodus. In fact it was Aaron (Exodus 34:1-6). The Samaritans did not exist until several centuries later. They were descendants of the northern Israelites centuries after the Exodus.

Many Qur’anic stories can be traced to Jewish and Christian folktales and other apocryphal literature. For example a story of Abraham destroying idols (As-Saffat 37) is found in a Jewish folktale, the Midrash Rabbah. The Qur’anic story of Zachariah, father of John the Baptist, is based upon a second-century Christian fable. The story of Jesus being born under a palm tree is also based on a late fable, as is the story of Jesus making clay birds come alive. Everything the Qur’an says about the life of Jesus which is not found in the Bible can be traced to fables composed more than a hundred years after Jesus’ death.

Jesus’ titles of Messiah and Word of God, which the Qur’an uses, find no explanation in the Qur’an. Yet in the Bible, from which they are taken, these titles are well integrated in a whole theological system.

The Qur’an mentions the Holy Spirit in connection with Jesus, using phrases which come from the gospels. Ibn Ishaq (Life of Muhammad) reports Muhammad as saying that this ‘Spirit’ was the angel Gabriel (cf also An-Nahl 16:102, Al-Baqarah 2:97). However the Biblical phrase ‘Spirit of God’ (Ruach Elohim) or ‘Holy Spirit’ can only be understood in light of the Hebrew scriptures. It certainly does not refer to an angel.

Jesus’ alleged foretelling of Muhammad’s coming (As-Saff 61:6) appears to be based on a garbled reading of John 14:26, a passage which in fact refers to the Spirit.

The Hebrew scriptures were Jesus’ Bible. He affirmed their authority and reliability and preached from them. From these same scriptures he knew God as Adonai Elohim, the Lord God of Israel. He did not call God Allah, which appears to have been the name or title of a pagan Arabian deity worshipped in Mecca before Muhammad. Muhammad’s pagan father, who died before Muhammad was born, already bore the name ‘Abd Allah‘slave of Allah’, and his uncle was called Obeid Allah.

We read that An-Najm 53:19-23 seeks to refute the pagan Arab belief that Allah had daughters named al-Uzza, al-Ilat and Manat. (See also An-Nahl 16:57 and Al-An’am 6:100).

The Biblical narratives are rich with historical details, many confirmed by archaeology. They cover more than a thousand years, and reveal a long process of technological and cultural development. In contrast the Qur’an’s sacred history is devoid of archaeological support. Its fragmentary and disjointed stories offer no authentic reflection of historical cultures. No place name from ancient Israel is mentioned, not even Jerusalem. Many of the supposed historical events reported in the Qur’an have no independent verification. For example we are told that Abraham and Ishmael built the Kaaba in Mecca (Al-Baqarah 2:127), but this is totally without support. The Biblical account, more than a thousand years older, does not place Abraham anywhere near Arabia.

The Qur’an is not a credible source for Biblical history

The Qur’an, written in the 7th century AD, cannot be regarded as having any authority whatsoever to inform us about Jesus of Nazareth. It offers no evidence for its claims about biblical history. Its numerous historical errors reflect a garbled understanding of the Bible.

Islam appropriates the history of Judaism and Christianity to itself

When Muhammad linked the name of Allah to the religious histories of Judaism and Christianity, this was a way to claim them for Islam. In the light of later events, the claim that Islam was the original religion, and that all preceding prophets were Muslims, can be regarded as an attempt to appropriate the histories of other religions for Islam. The effect is to rob Christianity and Judaism of their own histories.

Consider that many Biblical sites, such as the tombs of the Hebrew Patriarchs and the Temple Mount, are claimed by Islam as Muslim sites, not Jewish or Christian ones. After all, the Qur’an tells us that Abraham ‘was a Muslim’. Under Islamic rule all Jews and Christians were banned from such sites.

The place of the Jewish scriptures in Christianity is completely different from the place of the Bible in Islam

There is a fundamental difference between Christian attitudes to the Jewish scriptures and Islamic attitudes to the Bible. Christians accept the Hebrew scriptures. They were the scriptures of Jesus and the apostles. They were the scriptures of the early church. The whole of Christian belief and practice rests upon them. Core Christian concepts such as ‘Messiah’ (Greek ‘Christos’), ‘Spirit of God’, ‘Kingdom of God’ and ‘salvation’ are deeply rooted in the Hebrew Biblical traditions.

We note also that Christian seminaries devote considerable effort to studying the Hebrew scriptures. This is an integral part of training for Christian ministry. The Hebrew scriptures are read (in translation) every Sunday in many churches all around the world.

In contrast Islam’s treatment of the Bible is one of complete disregard. Although it purports to ‘verify’ all earlier prophetic revelation, the Qur’an is oblivious to the real contents of the Bible. The claim that Christians and Jews deliberately corrupted their scriptures is made without evidence, and this only serves to cover up the Qur’an’s historical inadequacies. Muslim scholars rarely have an informed understanding of the Bible or of biblical theology and so remain ignorant of these realities.

Some contemporary Muslim voices on Jesus

Yasser Arafat, addressing a press conference at the United Nations in 1983 called Jesus “the first Palestinian fedayeen who carried his sword” (i.e. he was a freedom fighter for Islam).

Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi, employee of the Palestinian Authority, broadcast live in April 2002 on Palestinian Authority television: “The Jews await the false Jewish messiah, while we await, with Allah’s help… Jesus, peace be upon him. Jesus’s pure hands will murder the false Jewish messiah. Where? In the city of Lod, in Palestine.”

Author Shamim A. Siddiqi of Flushing, New York put the classical position of Islam towards Christianity clearly in a recent letter to Daniel Pipes, New York Post columnist:

“Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were all prophets of Islam. Islam is the common heritage of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim community of America, and establishing the Kingdom of God is the joint responsibility of all three Abrahamic faiths. Islam was the din (faith, way of life) of both Jews and Christians, who later lost it through human innovations. Now the Muslims want to remind their Jewish and Christian brothers and sisters of their original din [religion]. These are the facts of history.”

This historical negationism — appearing to affirm Christianity and Judaism whilst in fact rejecting and supplanting them — is a lynchpin of Muslim apologetics. What is being affirmed is in fact neither Christianity nor Judaism, but Jesus as a prophet of Islam, Moses as a Muslim etc. This is intended to lead to ‘reversion’ of Christians and Jews to Islam, which is what Siddiqi refers to when he speaks of ‘the joint responsibility’ of Jews and Christians to establish ‘the Kingdom of God’. By this he means that American Christians and Jews should work to establish shari’ah law and the rule of Islam in the United States.


‘Isa (Jesus) of the Qur’an is a product of fable, imagination and ignorance. When Muslims venerate this ‘Isa, they have someone different in mind from the Yeshua or Jesus of the Bible and of history. The ‘Isa of the Qur’an is based on no recognized form of historical evidence, but on fables current in seventh century Arabia.

For most faithful Muslims ‘Isa is the only Jesus they know. But if one accepts this Muslim ‘Jesus’, then one also accepts the Qur’an: one accepts Islam. Belief in this ‘Isa is won at the cost of the libel that Jews and Christians have corrupted their scriptures, a charge that is without historical support. Belief in this ‘Isa implies that much of Christian and Jewish history is in fact Islamic history.

The Jesus of the gospels is the base upon which Christianity developed. By Islamicizing him, and making of him a Muslim prophet who preached the Qur’an, Islam destroys Christianity and takes over all its history. It does the same to Judaism.

In the end times as described by Muhammad, ‘Isa becomes a warrior who will return with his sword and lance. He will destroy the Christian religion and make Islam the only religion in all the world. Finally at the last judgement he will condemn Christians to hell for believing in the crucifixion and the incarnation.

This final act of the Muslim ‘Isa reflects Islam’s apologetic strategy in relation to Christianity, which is to deny the Yeshua of history, and replace him with a facsimile of Muhammad, so that nothing remains but Islam.

“The Muslim supersessionist current claims that the whole biblical history of Israel and Christianity is Islamic history, that all the Prophets, Kings of Israel and Judea, and Jesus were Muslims. That the People of the Book should dare to challenge this statement is intolerable arrogance for an Islamic theologian. Jews and Christians are thus deprived of their Holy Scriptures and of their salvific value.”

— Bat Ye’or in Islam and Dhimmitude: where civilizations collide, p.370.

APPENDIX: The historical evidence for Jesus (Yeshua)
of Nazareth and his death by crucifixion

Non-Christian sources for Jesus

• Tacitus (AD 55-120), a renowned historical of ancient Rome, wrote in the latter half of the first century that ‘Christus … was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also.’ (Annals 15: 44).

• Suetonius writing around AD 120 tells of disturbances of the Jews at the ‘instigation of Chrestus’, during the time of the emperor Claudius. This could refer to Jesus, and appears to relate to the events of Acts 18:2, which took place in AD 49.

• Thallus, a secular historian writing perhaps around AD 52 refers to the death of Jesus in a discussion of the darkness over the land after his death. The original is lost, but Thallus’ arguments — explaining what happened as a solar eclipse — are referred to by Julius Africanus in the early 3rd century.

• Mara Bar-Serapion, a Syrian writing after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, mentions the earlier execution of Jesus, whom he calls a ‘King’.

• The Babylonian Talmud refers to the crucifixion (calling it a hanging) of Jesus the Nazarene on the eve of the Passover. In the Talmud Jesus is also called the illegitimate son of Mary.

• The Jewish historian Josephus describes Jesus’ crucifixion under Pilate in his Antiquities, written about AD 93/94. Josephus also refers to James the brother of Jesus and his execution during the time of Ananus (or Annas) the high priest.

Paul’s Epistles

• Paul’s epistles were written in the interval 20-30 years after Jesus’ death. They are valuable historical documents, not least because they contain credal confessions which undoubtedly date to the first few decades of the Christian community.

Paul became a believer in Jesus within a few years of Jesus’ crucifixion. He writes in his first letter to the Corinthians ‘For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he was seen by Cephas (Peter), then by the twelve.’ This makes clear that belief in the death of Jesus was there from the beginning of Christianity.

The four gospels

• The four gospels were written down in the period 20-60 years after Jesus’ death, within living memory of the events they describe.

The events which the gospels describe for the most part took place in the full light of public scrutiny. Jesus’ teaching was followed by large crowds. There were very many witnesses to the events of his life. His death was a public execution.

Manuscript evidence for the Bible and its transmission

The manuscript evidence for the Greek scriptures is overwhelming, far greater than for all other ancient texts. Over 20,000 manuscripts attest to them. Whilst there are copying errors, as might be expected from the hand of copyists, these are almost all comparatively minor and the basic integrity of the copying process is richly supported.

Futhermore, when Western Christians studies the Hebrew scriptures during the Renaissance, they found them to agree remarkably closely with their Greek and Latin translations which had been copied again and again over a thousand years. There were copying errors, and some other minor changes, but no significant fabrications of the stupendous scale which would be required to concoct the story of Jesus’ death.

Likewise when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered they included Hebrew Biblical scrolls dating from before the time of Jesus. These too agreed very closely with the oldest Hebrew Masoretic manuscripts of more than a thousand years later. Again, no fabrications, but evidence of remarkably faithful copying.

Conclusion: Jesus of Nazareth is a figure of history

Clearly there are events recorded in connection with Jesus’ life that many non-Christians will not accept, such as the miracles, the virgin birth, and the resurrection. However what is beyond dispute is that Yeshua (‘Jesus’) of Nazareth was a figure of history, who lived, attracted a following in his life time amongst his fellow Jews and was executed by crucifixion by the Roman authorities, after which his followers spread rapidly. Both secular and Christian sources of the period agree on this.

The primary sources for the history of Jesus’ public life are the gospels. These were written down relatively soon after his death — within living memory — and we have every indication that these sources were accepted as reliable in the early Christian community, during a period when first and second hand witnesses to Jesus’ life were still available.

We conclude that any statements about ‘Isa (Jesus) in the Qur’an, made six centuries after Jesus’ death, must be judged against the historical evidence from these first century sources, and not vice versa.

Some useful discussions of these issues are found at:

Further reading: The Jesus I never knew, by Philip Yancey.

The author of these notes is an Anglican Minister at St Hilary’s Anglican Church Kew. He is also a senior associate of the Department of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at the University of Melbourne, with the honorary title of Associate Professor, and was formerly head of the Department of Linguistics and Language Studies. He has written several books on the language and culture of the Acehnese, an Islamic people of Indonesia, and was elected to the Australian Academy of Humanities in 1992 for this research work. He served as a member of the Council of the Academy for a term during the 1990’s.

The end of the Quran as Muslims know it

The end of the Quran as Muslims know it

Today’s Quran in the light of its early manuscripts

By Oskar

The Quran is a record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. It was memorized by Muhammad and then dictated to his Companions, and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime. Not one word of its 114 chapters, Suras, has been changed over the centuries, so that the Quran is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed to Muhammad fourteen centuries ago.” (, search for ‘What is the Qur`an?’; accessed 19 May 2011)

The fundamental Islamic belief that no word of the Quran has changed is put in question by a rather unique ancient manuscript, a palimpsest, known as ‘DAM 0 1-27.1.’1 It was discovered by Muslims in 1972 at the ancient Great Mosque of Sana’a in Yemen. According to the latest academic studies, aided by the use of ultraviolet photography, this palimpsest contains many differences when compared with today’s Arabic Quran. They range from different and missing words and dissimilar spelling to a changed order of Surahs and words within verses. The find is part of a bundle of parchments thought to be the oldest surviving copies of the Quran.

A palimpsest is a manuscript from which a text has been scraped or washed to make room for another one in order to re-use the expensive parchment. Such a process would normally only be done after several centuries. However, in the case of ‘DAM 0 1-27.1’ it took place within the first century of the ‘Hijrah’ (7th and early 8th century AD), shortly after the Uthmanic recension. This is confirmed by the fact that the primary writings that reappeared and the secondary ones that followed, including the corrections of both, were found to be made in the ‘Hijazi’ style of the first Islamic century. The characteristic, irregular lines of that particular style exist in all the four above mentioned developmental stages of the text.

1. The Evidence

The palimpsest known as ‘DAM 0 1-27.1’ contains at least 38 Quran leaves. They were each written on parchment with an approximate size of 36.5 x 28.5 cm. Since on the majority of the leaves a primary text is visible and both texts contain parts of over 70 % of today’s Quran, the palimpsest must be a remnant of two, previously complete, yet different Qurans. ‘Folio 16r’2 below contains Surah 9:70-80 in the less visible primary writing and Surah 30:26-40 in the better visible secondary writing. The numbers on the right side of the image written in cursive type refer to the lines of the earlier, primary text. The normal ones identify the lines in the later, secondary text.

In the following examples, changed words from the primary writing are compared with the Standard text (StT). These changes represent only a very small part of a much bigger, in-depth analysis conducted by Dr E. Puin.3

2. Examples

A. Several words are missing within a paragraph leading to a different meaning:4

Sahih International translation: ‘… (if) they turn away, Allah will punish them with a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And there will not be for them on earth (any protector or helper.)

Sana’a manuscript, ‘DAM 0 1-27.1’, translation: ‘… (if) they turn away, Allah will punish them in this world. And there will not be for them on earth (any protector or helper.)

The finishing letter, ‘Alif’, in ‘yatawallaw’‘they turn away’, found in today’s standard text of the Quran is missing in the early manuscript under discussion, as indicated by the empty box with a black frame above. Moreover, in the the verb ‘yu’addibhum’, ‘he (Allah) will punish them’, found on ‘Fol. 16r, Z.13’, is not explained with ‘adaban aliman’‘with a painful punishment’, as in the Standard Text (StT). There one finds ‘fi‘l-dunya wa-‘l-ahirati’, ‘in this world and in the Hereafter.’ The Sana’a manuscript contains only ‘in this world’ and therefore fits better with the end of the verse in both versions: ‘And there will not be for them on earth any protector or helper.’

B. Words are different from today’s Quran:5

The shaded area above indicates uncertainty. Instead of the word ‘gahannnamu,’ ‘hell’, found in the Standard Text, the old manuscript version contains the synonym ‘l-naru’, ‘the fire’, found in the box with the interrupted frame. It is almost identical with a parallel text found in today’s Surah 24:57: 

The word ‘yaqsimuna’ in the old manuscript, found in the box with the interrupted frame above, has been replaced by the different, yet synonymous, ‘yahlifuna’, ‘they swear,’ in today’s Quran. The words that follow, crossed with horizontal lines, have been reconstructed with certainty. Behind the ‘Kaf’ of ‘kalimat’, ‘(the) word’, a part of the manuscript is missing. The grey, shaded area indicates uncertainty about the original word. The room left on the parchment allows only for ‘(ka)limata ‘l kufri’‘(the) word (of) the disbelief’. The next line in the manuscript starts with ‘wahammu bima lam yanalu’. Therefore, the phrase ‘wakafaru baʿda is’lāmihim’‘and disbelieved after their (pretense of) Islam’,6 is only found in the today’s Standard Text. The three words missing in the text form used by the old manuscript are again indicated by the white box with the black frame.

Whereas the secondary text of the examined palimpsest comes close to the content of today’s Quran, it is still not 100% identical. None of the numerous changes under discussion are mentioned in the Qirâ’ât literature that is concerned mostly with methods of pronunciation used in the recitations of the Qur’an. The changes are also different from those found in the collections of the Quran by Ibn Mas’ud, known primarily for the absence of Surah 1, 113 and 114, and Ubay bin Ka’b who listed two additional Surahs.7

3. Questions of Muslims answered

A. Why should we listen to Western Orientalist scholars who are known to be against Islam?

Sadly there are not many other scholars who dare to approach the sensitive subject of early Quranic manuscripts in an objective manner. A notable exception was Dr Nasr Abu Zaid, formerly a lecturer in Koranic Studies at Cairo University.8 He argued that the Quran is a literary text which needs to be examined through a literary approach. The highest court in Egypt ruled in 1995 that he was an apostate and therefore his marriage was annulled.

Salim Abdullah, director of the German Islamic Archives, affiliated to the powerful pan-Islamic Muslim World League, is open to critical research too, saying: “I am longing for this kind of discussion on this topic.”9

Since, for the above mentioned reasons, currently no other scholars have done as detailed a research as Dr E. Puin, Saarbrücken, Germany, on the palimpsest ‘DAM 0 1-27.1’, there was no other option available then the one chosen. However, other eminent scholars have examined different manuscripts and reached the same conclusion that the Quran has a history of textual development.10

B. Was it just a bad copy used by those whom the Uthmanic text had not yet reached?

There are several problems with such an assumption:

1.     The palimpsest ‘DAM 0 1-27.1’ has been proven to actually contain four different Qurans: A complete primary and secondary text, and both showing later corrections. Therefore we are not just dealing with one but four ‘bad copies’ within the first Islamic century. If the Uthmanic text had not yet reached the mosque, upon what basis were the corrections of the two different texts made?

2.     The Great Mosque of Sana’a where the manuscripts were found was built in the 6th year of the Hijrah by one of Muhammad’s companions.11 It was a centre of Islamic learning and as such must have been supplied with Uthman’s text immediately and urgently, since the Qurans found in any mosques have naturally been in use among the Muslims.

3.     Since even the secondary text with the corrections does not resemble the Uthmanic text 100%, the question arises as to why it was not corrected when the ‘Authorized Version’ arrived? To keep a different Quran in an Islamic centre of learning is a recipe for passing on false teachings.

4. Where do we go from here?

It has become clear that the Quran is not a record of the exact words revealed by God. Instead, the palimpsest, known as ‘DAM 0 1-27.1,’ demonstrates clearly that the holy book of Muslims has gone through stages of historical developments. There are at least three ways people can respond to these facts:

A. Anger

There is a right kind of anger, when people are treated unjustly or God’s will is misrepresented and neglected. While the world could definitely do with more of that kind of righteous anger expressed in productive ways, uncontrolled rage fueled by self-interest is sadly much more common. It is fully understandable that people resent a change of thought about what in many ways lies at the very heart of their faith and society. However, if painstaking examination of evidence has proven certain dearly held beliefs to be false then it would be foolishness to stubbornly hold on to them, just because one has always done so. Change never comes easy but it is better to bring a painful end to lies than to keep on living in the pain of deception without end.

B. Ignorance

Some people decide to turn a blind eye on the facts discussed so far. They try to live in denial and carry on as usual. After all, it has been rather comfortable so far, so they think. Such individuals and communities act a bit like someone who has lived in a small room for a long time. They will be happy with it until they realize that other people live in a spacious house. The truth that the Quran has been changed, not just in transmission but in the actual text as well, has far reaching, potentially life-changing implications.

C. Jesus

Lastly, the third way people can respond to the findings of this academic research is Jesus. He says about himself literally, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”12 He is the answer to the prayer Muslims are to perform five times every day, saying: ‘Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom you have bestowed your Grace…’ Jesus did not say, ‘I am showing you the way into Christianity.’ He simply says, ‘I am the way.’ Eternal life in paradise comes from following him alone. It happens by grace, by an undeserved favour. Jesus wants us to turn around from our old ways and put our faith in him and what he has done for us on the cross. He does not ask people to abandon the good aspects of their culture or to embrace the sinful parts of a Western lifestyle. God will give us the power to be like Jesus in whatever situation we find ourselves in.

Jesus is not only the way but he is also the living word of God. The Quran calls him uniquely, ‘Kalimatullah’ – ‘The Word of God’ (Surah 4:171; cf. Revelation 19:13 & John 1); it is identical with God. The Bible is about Jesus. Many articles have been written to show that it is still trustworthy.13 However, the standard and definition by which the Holy Scriptures of the people of the Book has been revealed and preserved is different from the one given hundreds of years later by Muslims. Whoever examines the Bible on its own terms, praying earnestly and with an open heart for guidance will be blessed. I invite you to do so through a simple e-mail correspondence course. Please contact me to get the first of six lessons.

[First published: 10 November 2011]
[Last updated: 11 December 2012]


2 Elisabeth Puin, “Ein früher Koranpalimpsest aus San’ā’ (DAM 01 -27.1). Teil III: Ein nicht-‘utmānischer Koran” in: Markus Groß / Karl-Heinz Ohlig (Hg.), Die Entstehung einer Weltreligion I. Von der koranischen Bewegung zum Frühislam, INARAH Schriften zur frühen Islamgeschichte und zum Koran, Band 5, Berlin/Tübingen 2010, pages 302-303 (here produced as one picture with permission from Dr E. Puin).

3 Ibid., pages 233-305

4 Ibid., p. 291, Picture copied and text summarized and translated into English with permission of Dr E. Puin.

5 Ibid., pp. 289-290

6 Translation and transliteration of this phrase are taken from the Quran Corpus site.

7 ‘Itqan I’ by Suyuti, p.62, 65, Bukhari, 6, No.521, Fihrist, I, pages 53-57, ‘Masahif’ by Ibn Abi Dawud, pp.180-181

9 Querying the KoranThe Guardian, accessed 15th June 2011

10 See for example: Dr. Keith Small, ‘Textual Criticism and Qur’an Manuscripts’, Lexington Books, ISBN-10: 0739142895, available through Amazon.

12 John 14:6

Islam as the ‘End’ of Christianity: Assessing the Arguments for Abrogation

Islam as the ‘End’ of Christianity: Assessing the Arguments for Abrogation

Kevin James Bywater

The Islamic Perception of Christianity

Following the stunning tragedies of 11 September 2001, the world has shifted attention not simply toward the Middle East, but especially toward the religion of Islam. Unfortunately, many Americans perceive Islam merely to be the religion of terrorists. This is simplistic. And while Islam historically has been characterized by warfare and its own version of colonialism, it is understandable why many people in Central America, South Africa and elsewhere have perceived Christianity in similar terms. Since the retreat of the Ottoman Empire and the advance of colonialism by Europeans, Muslims voiced a similar perception of Christianity. Regardless of these perceptions or misperceptions we need to gain a better understanding of just how Muslims view Christianity (which they often identify simply with the West).1 In doing so, I believe we will gain a greater understanding of the Islamic faith itself. The trajectory of Islamic theology that is the focus of this study is that of abrogation; not the Qur’anic dynamic of legal abrogation,2 though that is touched upon, but the assertion that in the religion of Islam, Judaism and Christianity meet their end.

Qur’anic Refraction

Essential to the Islamic perspective is the primary lens through which Muslims view all of reality, the Qur’an.3 In fact, the Muslim study of other religions has historically focused upon the Qur’anic presentation of their practices, beliefs and history, rather than through a direct investigation of those religions. This has lead to a projection of Mohammad’s perception of the practices and beliefs of the Christian faith rather than a clear understanding of the actual realities resident within it.4 This projectionism is evident, for example, in the confused Muslim description of Christian doctrines such as the incarnation of Christ and the Trinity.

The Qur’an on the Trinity. As is well-known, Muslims reject the Trinity because the Qur’an contains outright denunciations of it.5

O people of the Scripture! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of Allah aught but the truth. The Messiah Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), was (no more then) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, (“Be!” – and he was) which He bestowed on Maryam (Mary) and a spirit (Ruh) created by Him; so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not: “Three (trinity)!” Cease! (It is) better for you. For Allah is (the only) One Ilah(God), glory be to Him (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is All-Sufficient as a Disposer of affairs. (Qur’an 4:171)

But it also is evident that Mohammad never obtained a clear understanding of the doctrine, for the Qur’an confuses Mary with the Holy Spirit and projects the Trinity as polytheistic.

And (remember) when Allah will say (on the Day of Resurrection): “O Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary)! Did you say unto men: ‘Worship me and my mother as two gods besides Allah?’” He will say: “Glory be to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, You would surely have known it. You know what is in my inner-self though I do not know what is in Yours; truly, You, only You, are the All-Knower of all that is hidden (and unseen). (Qur’an 5:116)

Surely, disbelievers are those who said “Allah is the third of the three (in a Trinity).” But there is no Ilah (god) (none who has the right to be worshipped6) but One Ilah (God – Allah). And if they cease not from what they say, verily, a painful torment will befall on the disbelievers among them. (Qur’an 5:73)

Such misunderstandings are extremely difficult to work through with Muslims. Some seem to think that if Christians disagree with how the Qur’an describes their beliefs, they must either be lying or must have changed the doctrine of the Trinity . The Qur’an cannot be mistaken. Hence the refracting lens of the Qur’an.

The Christian Correction. Regardless of such misrepresentation, throughout the history of Christian doctrine polytheism has been rejected. The doctrine of the Trinity is understood as a strong declaration of the essential unity of God. As the Athanasian Creed reads, “We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity; neither dividing the substance nor confusing the persons.” An undivided substance is a unity. And this declaration is at the heart of Christian confession. All orthodox Christians affirm a belief in only one true God. Such an affirmation derives from biblical teaching and is affirmed in both the Old and New Testaments. For example:

You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other … Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39)

“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:10-11; cf. 44:6-8)

For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:5-6; cf. Ephesians 4:4-6)

In spite of appeal to these and other biblical passages, and in the face of numerous protests of Christians, Muslims insist that Trinitarian theology is polytheistic. The projection from the mind of Muhammad is recalcitrant in the mentalities of Muslims. As never before Modern Americans must grasp the reality that Muslims perceive our religion through the lens of the Qur’an.

Transcending these simple misunderstandings of the Christian faith, Muslims hold to a belief that Islam has superseded and abrogated Christianity, much the same (to their thinking) as Christianity did Judaism. It is to this facet of Islamic teaching that we turn our attention in the following study.

Part 1:  Islam as the ‘End’ of the Christian Faith

La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadu Rasool Allah.
There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of God.
— The essential Muslim profession of faith.

It is one thing to charge another religion with falsehoods and its adherents as misguided, it is quite another to make the sweeping claim that one religion has superseded all others, abrogating all previous divine revelations and divinely instituted obligations. This is precisely the claim of Islam toward Christianity and Judaism. It is the most comprehensive claim that can be made. Indeed, it would be unreasonable to claim that all the elements of another religion are false or destructive or misleading. But an aura of plausibility may attend the assertion of replacing a previous religion.

The Islamic case for the abrogation of Christianity has many elements, from claims for Islam being the original religion, to assertions that all true prophets have taught Islam, to charges that the biblical texts have been corrupted and biblical doctrines distorted by Jews and Christians. We will look at these and other factors in our survey of the Qur’anic teaching regarding Christianity.

The Primacy of Islam

That Islam is the original religion is understood in two ways, both in terms of its being the original religion existing since the beginning of creation, as well as in terms of its inherence in each human being at birth.

Islam Is the Original Religion. When God created the first human, Adam, he struck a covenant with him, a covenant of Islam. To this covenant all of the sons of Adam bear witness. To this covenant all people are held accountable.

And (remember) when your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their seed (or from Adam’s loin his offspring) and made them testify as to themselves (saying): “Am I not your Lord?” They said: “Yes! We testify,” lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: “Verily, we have been unaware of this.” (Qur’an 7:172)

Thus the excuse of ignorance of Islam is removed. All humans are responsible to live up to the covenant struck with their first father, Adam. On the day of judgment there will be no excuse.

All Human Beings Are Born Muslims. In addition to holding Islam as the primordial religion, we find resident within Islamic tradition the belief that each and every human being is born a Muslim, though such a pristine faith at birth may be muted through the mis-instruction of others.

Narrated Abu Huraira : Allah’s Apostle said, “Every child is born with a true faith of Islam (i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone) but his parents convert him to Judaism, Christianity or Magainism,7 as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?” Then Abu Huraira recited the holy verses: “The pure Allah’s Islamic nature (true faith of Islam) (i.e. worshipping none but Allah) with which He has created human beings. No change let there be in the religion of Allah (i.e. joining none in worship with Allah). That is the straight religion (Islam) but most of men know, not.”8

It follows from this that if every human is born a Muslim, then so were the prophets of old, such as Adam, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. But not only were these prophets all Muslims, they taught a pure form of Islam as prophets, even though their teaching was not coextensive with that revealed through Mohammad.

God Has Sent Prophets and Their Books

According to the Qur’an, God graciously has sent messengers to every nation to teach them submission to God and to warn them against false religious teachings and practices.

And verily, We have sent among every Ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (proclaiming): “Worship Allah (Alone), and avoid (or keep away from) Taghut (all false deities i.e. do not worship Taghut besides Allah.” Then of them were some whom Allah guided and of them were some upon whom the straying was justified. So travel through the land and see what was the end of those who denied (the truth). (Qur’an 16:36)

Verily We have sent you [Mohammad] with the truth, a bearer of glad tidings and a warner. And there never was a nation but a warner had passed among them. (Qur’an 35:24)

Even the religions that predate Islam are understood as Islamic, their prophets as prophets of God: “We did send apostles before thee amongst the religious sects of old” (Qur’an 15:10). So God has graciously revealed his will throughout history and across all cultures. To be specific, though, the Qur’an names a number of these prophets, many of whom are familiar to Christians.

Moses and Jesus Taught Islam. Moses and Jesus are understood to have been prophets who taught Islam – the primordial faith, the religion of God – and Mohammad is believed to have been granted the very same prophetic mantle. One verse in the Qur’an that sums up the continuity between Moses, Jesus and Mohammad reads as follows:

And (remember) when Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), said: “O children of Israel! I am the Messenger of Allah unto you, confirming the Taurat [(Torah) which came] before me, and giving glad tidings of a Messenger to come after me, who name shall be Ahmad. But when he (Ahmad i.e. Mohammad) came to them with clear proofs, they said: “This is plain magic.” (Qur’an 61:6)

In this verse we see not only that Jesus is understood to confirm the book of Moses, the Torah, but he positions himself to pass the prophetic mantle to one who would come after him, namely Mohammad (we will discuss alleged prophecies of Muhammad below).

Abraham Taught Islam. Not only is there an asserted continuity between Moses, Jesus and Mohammad, but the Qur’an also appeals to Abraham who was neither a Jew nor a Christian.9

Ibrahim (Abraham) was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a true Muslim Hanifa (Islamic Monotheism — to worship none but Allah Alone) and he was not of Al-Mushrikun [of those who worship other than Allah]. (Qur’an 3:67)10

Muslims Should Honor Previous Prophets and Their Books. So, Mohammad’s mission was in harmony with the prophets of old, even an extension of it. It is in this light that the Qur’anic teaching makes good sense that Muslims must affirm the previous prophets and their books. Thus we find in the Qur’an commands that Muslims are to affirm all the previous messengers of God.

Say (O Muslims), “We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Ismail (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Yaqub (Jacob), and to Al-Asbat [the offspring of the twelve sons of Yaqub (Jacob)], and that which has been given to Musa (Moses) and Isa (Jesus), and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted (in Islam).” (Qur’an 2:136)

In addition, Muslims are commanded to affirm the books that stem from these ancient prophets.

O you who believe! Believe in Allah, and His Messenger (Muhammad), and the Book (the Qur’an) which He has sent down to His Messenger, and the Scripture which He sent down to those before (him); and whosoever disbelieve in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Last Day, then indeed he has strayed far away. (Qur’an 4:136)

The Prophet Mohammad

Even though the Qur’an teaches that Islam is the primordial religion, that every human is born a Muslim, that God has sent prophets to all the nations and codified their message in books, and Muslims are to affirm both these prophets and their books, the ministry of Mohammad is not to be understood as merely affirming the status quo. No, with the coming of Mohammad is the coming of a new era, and era of universal prophethood, an era of the perfection of the true religion.

Mohammad Was Spoken of in the Previous Books. The Qur’an narrates that Jesus spoke of a prophet that would follow him, namely “Ahmed,” which is another name for Mohammad.

And (remember) when Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), said: “O children of Israel! I am the Messenger of Allah unto you, confirming the Taurat [(Torah) which came] before me, and giving glad tidings of a Messenger to come after me, who name shall be Ahmad. But when he (Ahmad i.e. Mohammad) came to them with clear proofs, they said: “This is plain magic.” (Qur’an 61:6)

Mohammad also affirmed that there were prophecies foretelling his arrival and ministry in the Torah and the Gospel.

Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write (i.e. Muhammad (whom they find written with them in the Taurat (Torah) (Deut, xviii 15) and the Injeel (Gospel) (John xiv, 16) … (Qur’an 7:157)

The footnote in the King Fahd edition of the Qur’an reads as follows:

There exists in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel), even after the original text has been distorted, clear prophecies indicating the coming of Prophet Muhammad, e.g. Deut 18:18; 21:21; Psl. 118:22-23; Isa. 42:1-13; Hab. 3:3-4; Matt. 21:42-43; Jn. 14:12-17, 26-28, 16:7-14.

Muslims believe that only in Mohammad certain prophecies in the Bible fulfilled. The primary prophetic passages are, in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 18:15 and, in the New Testament, John 14:16 (both of these passages will be addressed at length below). Thus, if there are prophecies of Mohammad found in the Bible — in both Old and New Testaments, then these are very good reasons for Jews and Christians to drop their distinctives and divisions and become Muslims.

Mohammad Was the Universal Prophet. Though the message of the prophets was true to God, their message was temporary and limited. None were prophets for all people. Their messages were time-bound, even though in harmony with the Qur’an. “The Message of Mohammed,” comments Afif Tabbarah, “was sent to all mankind, unlike those of the apostles before him who were sent, each to his own people.”11 Thus we read in the Qur’an,

Say (O Muhammad): “O mankind! Verily, I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah — to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). It is He Who gives life and causes death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad), the Prophet who can neither read nor write (i.e. Muhammad), who believes in Allah and His Words [(this Qur’an), the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) …], and follow Him so you may be guided. (Qur’an 7:158)

And We have not sent you (O Muhammad) except as a giver of glad tidings and a warner to all mankind, but most of men know not. (Qur’an 34:28)

Mohammad Was the Final Prophet. Not only is Mohammad uniquely viewed as the only universal messenger of God, he is also understood to be the final messenger, the seal of the prophets. Mohammad’s mission was in complete harmony with the previous prophets, but he was unique in that in him the prophetic traditions reached their climax. Thus the Qur’an claims that Mohammad is the seal of the prophets, the final messenger or mouthpiece of God.

Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets. And Allah is Every All-Aware of everything. (Qur’an 33:40)

Afif Tabbarah comments on this verse:

This verse concludes the epoch of prophethood, and decides that there shall be no prophet after Mohammed, though thousands of years had passed on God’s creation of the universe before Mohammed, with prophets succeeding one another. In the books of these prophets, there were tidings that other prophets will come after them … About fifteen centuries have now passed on the revelation of the above-quoted verse, a period long enough for the appearance of many prophets after Mohammed, coming one after the other, or living contemporaneously with one another. Why have they not appeared?12

A well-known hadith provides an instructive illustration of the teaching that Mohammad is the final prophet of God.

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “My similitude in comparison with the other prophets before me, is that of a man who has built a house nicely and beautifully, except for a place of one brick in a corner. The people go about it and wonder at its beauty, but say: ‘Would that this brick be put in its place!’ So I am that brick, and I am the last of the Prophets.”13

The Qur’an

The book associated with the one universal and final prophet, Mohammad, is the Qur’an. It is not only believed to be revelation from God — and as such it is a confirmation of the previous revelations — but it is believed to be God’s final revelation, kept and guarded by the divine will and thus uncorrupted to this day.

The Qur’an Confirms the Previous Books. The Qur’an is understood not to conflict with the books that stem from these older prophets but rather to confirm their message (an assertion we will address below).

And this Qur’an is not such as could ever be produced by other than Allah (Lord of the heavens and the earth), but it is a confirmation of (the revelation) which was before it [i.e. the Taurat (Torah), and the Injeel (Gospel)], and a full explanation of the Book (i.e. laws, decreed for mankind) — wherein there is no doubt — from the Lord of the Alamin (mankind, jinn, and all that exists). (Qur’an 10:37)

And before this was the Scripture of Musa (Moses) as a guide and a mercy. And this is a confirming Book (the Qur’an) in the Arabic language, to warn those who do wrong, and as glad tidings to the Muhsinun … (Qur’an 46:12)

The Qur’an Is the Perfect Book. If the earlier prophets had books, then so did Mohammad. In fact, Muslims view the Qur’an as unsurpassable, the only perfect book on earth.

Say: “If the mankind and the jinn were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another.” (Qur’an 17:88)

The Qur’an Is the Fullness of Revelation. Indeed, not only is the Qur’an incomparable among all the books, it is also the fullness of God’s revelation.

And indeed, We have fully explained to mankind, in this Qur’an, every kind of similitude, but most of mankind refuse (the truth and accept nothing) but disbelief. (Qur’an 17:89)

The Qur’an Is Incorruptible. While it is common for Muslims to claim that the biblical texts have been tampered with to such an extent that the Bible cannot be regarded as reliable, it is also common for them to assert that the same could never happen to the Qur’an. Why could this never happen to the Qur’an? Because God has vowed to guard it:

Verily, We, it is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Qur’an) and surely, We will guard it (from corruption). (Qur’an 15:9)

The footnote to this passage in the King Fahd edition of the Qur’an reads,

This verse is a challenge to mankind and everyone is obliged to believe in the miracles of this Qur’an. It is a clear fact that more than 1400 years have elapsed and not a single word of this Qur’an has been changed, although the disbelievers tried their utmost to change it in every way, but they failed miserably in their efforts. As it is mentioned in this holy Verse: “We will guard it.” By Allah! He has guarded it. On the contrary, all the other holy Books [the Taurat (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel)] have been corrupted in the form of additions or subtractions or alterations in the original text.14

Not only do Muslims believe that the Qur’an will be kept from corruption, it is inscribed on an eternal tablet:

Nay! This is a Glorious Qur’an, (Inscribed) in the Al-Luah Al-Mahfuz (The Preserved Tablet)! (Qur’an 85:21-22)

So, even though God Almighty has provided previous revelations, it is only the Qur’an that has been preserved and will be kept from corruption.

Summary and Conclusion

In our brief survey of the Islamic view of Christianity, we have seen the following. 1) Islam is the original religion, it is the primordial religion, the religion of Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. In addition, all humans are born Muslims. 2) God has sent prophets throughout time to all the nations — prophets such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus. He has not only spoken through those prophets but given them books (e.g. the Torah and the Gospel). But their missions were limited, and their books were incomplete and later corrupted. 3) Mohammad is the final prophet foretold in the Bible, and his book, the Qur’an, is perfect, complete and incorruptible.

Islam Is the Only Valid Faith. Because of the finality of Mohammad’s prophethood, combined with the completion of God’s revelation in the Qur’an, orthodox Muslims reject any new claims to divine revelation or religious succession beyond Islam. Thus they are critical of such groups as the Baha’i,15 the Ahmadiyyah,16 and the Nation of Islam.17 Even so, the Baha’i, in particular, assert that in their religion all religions meet their unification.18

That Muslims claim Islam as the only viable faith is not objectionable, at least not in that it claim exclusivity. In a philosophical context that increasingly diminishes the significance of religious differences, distinctions, and truth claims, Muslims should be commended for retaining the categorical values of truth and falsehood with regards to religious beliefs and belief systems. Even so, there seems to have been a time when Islam was more inclusive than it is now. The Qur’an teaches, and Muslims once broadly affirmed, that non-Muslim monotheists who affirmed the doctrine of a last day of judgment could retain an assured hope as they faced that day.

Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does righteous good deeds shall have their reward with the Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Qur’an 2:62)

Surely, those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah, in His Messenger Muhammad and in all that was revealed to him from Allah), and those who are the Jews and the Sabians and the Christians, — whosoever believed in Allah and the Last Day, and worked righteousness, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Qur’an 5:69)

But even though there was such a time of Islamic religious embrace of other monotheistic faiths, such a time has come to an end. Traditional Muslim commentators are in unanimous agreement that the verses just listed have been abrogated by another.

And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers. (Qur’an 3:85)

Thus we have come full circle. Islam is the original faith, the faith of Adam and his descendants; Islam is the faith with which every human is born into this world; Islam is the faith of all the prophets — though Muhammad is the universal and final prophet; Islam in its revealed fullness is contained within the pages of the Qur’an, the perfect, ultimate, and incorruptible scripture; and as such, Islam is the only valid faith in our day, the religion in which all monotheistic faith reach their climactic end.

Part 2:  Responding to the Arguments for Abrogation

As we interact with the Islamic perception of Christianity as meeting its end in Islam, we will focus our attention on such primary issues as continuity, the reliability and authority of the Bible, the alleged prophecies regarding Mohammad, and the relationship between Christianity and the faith of the Old Testament.

The Importance of Continuity

In order for one religion to claim to be an organic development of a preceding religion, there must be a high degree of continuity. In other words, there must be substantial agreement in what is essential to that prior religion. To a degree, Islam can claim such continuity with Christianity and Judaism (understood as the religion of the Old Testament).

Regarding God, Muslims believe he exists, that he is one God, that he created the universe, is sovereign, maximally powerful, active with his creation — especially with humanity, and that he knows even the intimate details of human lives and will one day bring all humanity to account for deeds good and evil. Christians and Muslims also believe that God has spoken to humanity through messengers (human and angelic). We also agree that God’s revelation has been inscripturated in holy books.

But even with such substantial agreement, far too many discontinuities exist that undermine the plausibility of the Islamic claim to be a harmonious extension of Judaism and Christianity. Let’s begin with some representative doctrinal discontinuities.

Discontinuity: Human Nature

The claim that Mohammad and the Qur’an confirm the message of the prophets fails to cohere with the actual teachings as found in the Bible, whether Old or New Testament. Consider the doctrine of human sinfulness as taught in the Old and New Testaments. They teach that humans face entry into this world with an inherited tendency toward sin. This is the doctrine of “original sin.”

The Old Testament on Human Nature: Depravity. Here’s how the Old Testament describes the inherent sinfulness of humanity.

The LORD saw how great humanity’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5)

The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humanity, even though every inclination of their hearts is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. (Genesis 8:1)

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5)

The New Testament on Human Nature: Depravity. The New Testament stands in full agreement with the Old Testament. Consider just a few passages.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned — for before the law was given, sin was in the world. (Romans 5:12-13a)

The mind of sinful man [unredeemed humans] is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)

Islam on Human Nature: No Depravity. In contrast to the biblical description of the predicament of humanity stand the teaching of Islam. Muslims deny that human beings are born with a sinful nature. Comments Abdullah Yusuf Ali,

As turned out from the creative hand of God, man is innocent, pure, true, free, inclined to right and virtue, and endued with true understanding about his own position in the Universe and about God’s goodness, wisdom and power. That is his true nature … But man is caught in the meshes of customs, superstitions, selfish desires, and false teaching.19

Hammudah Abdalati agrees:

The idea of Original Sin or hereditary criminality has no room in the teachings of Islam. Man, according to the Qur’an (30:30) and to the Prophet, is born in a natural state of purity or fitrah, that is, Islam or submission to the will and law of God. Whatever becomes of man after birth is the result of external influence and intruding factors … [S]in is acquired not inborn, emergent not build-in, avoidable not inevitable.20

Discontinuity: Salvation

The next doctrinal difference we’ll briefly examine is the Christian doctrine of salvation, centered in the atoning work of Jesus Christ. While this is a belief denied by non-Christian Jews, the point here is not to argue for its validity over against Jewish objections, but simply to show that the religion of Islam is discontinuous with essential teachings of Christianity. In addition, both Christianity and the Old Testament faith share a common belief in the dependence upon atonement, while Islam denies just this salvific dynamic.

Islam on Salvation: Good and Bad Works. Logically related to this view of human nature is the teaching of the Qur’an that the ultimate question for human destiny is whether one’s good deeds are greater than one’s evil deeds.

And the weighing on that day (Day of Resurrection) will be the true (weighing). So as for those whose scale (of good deeds) will be heavy, they will be the successful (by entering Paradise). And as for those whose scale will be light, they are those who will lose their own selves (by entering Hell (because they denied and rejected Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations). (Qur’an 7:8-9)

And We shall set up balances of justice on the Day of Resurrection, then none will be dealt with unjustly in anything. And if there be the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it. And Sufficient are We to take account. (Qur’an 21:47)

It is ultimately one’s own righteous deeds that determine one’s eternal state of happiness or harm. Thus Muslims reject the idea of Jesus’s atoning work on the cross, as well as the historical reality that Jesus even died upon a cross.

Christianity on Salvation: Christ Jesus. The New Testament affirms that all humans (except the incarnate Christ) have sinned (compare Romans 3:23 with Hebrews 4:15). Intimately related to Jesus’s sinlessness is his atonement for the sins of his people (Hebrews 2:17). In harmony with this New Testament revelation Christians affirm that their sins were laid upon Christ as he was crucified upon the cross. Thus they affirm that

God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21; cf. Galatians 3:13)

Not only do Christians affirm that Jesus died upon a cross for the sins of his people, we also affirm his resurrection from death on the third day. As the apostle Paul wrote,

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you– unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)

It is this message, the gospel, that is the centerpiece of the Christian faith. Any religious tradition claiming continuity with Christianity in any meaningful sense must affirm these truths. Yet it is here that Islam falls short.

Islamic Denials: Jesus’s Death, Atonement and Resurrection. In sharp contrast, Muslims deny that Jesus is God come in human form (the incarnation), that he died upon a cross an atoning sacrifice for sin, and that he was resurrected on the third day. While the following passage contains some ambiguities (e.g. whether it denies that the Jews were those who killed Jesus or whether Jesus did not die upon the cross21), many Muslims believe it denies that Jesus was crucified at all.

That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah” — but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not — nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself. (Qur’an 4:157-158; cf. 3:54)

The ramifications of this denial are devastating to any claim to be a continuation of the Christian faith in any meaningful sense. Not only does this deny the death of Christ upon a cross, but it would be a denial of Jesus’s atoning work as well. In addition, if Jesus never died, then there would be no resurrection from the dead. And anyone familiar with the Christian faith recognizes that if Jesus was not resurrected from the dead, then there is no gospel, there is no hope, and the Christian faith is nothing but a fraud. As the apostle Paul declared,

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:14-17)

Clearly, to deny the death of Jesus upon the cross is to denounce the gospel that is at the core of the Christian faith. In that light, no meaningful claim to confirming the Christian faith or the gospel of Jesus can be offered.

Now Muslims may respond to our display of doctrinal discontinuity in a couple ways. First, they may argue that just as we argue that Islam cannot be a confirmation of Christianity because of such doctrinal discontinuities, so Christianity cannot be a fulfillment of Judaism because its teachings are just as discontinuous. If this were so, all it would show is that both Islam and Christianity are to be rejected as false religions. Nevertheless, while Muslims fail to shy away from such accusations, Christians would dispute this analogy on several significant grounds.

A second possible response could be that in our illustrating the discontinuities between Islam and Christianity we have revealed just what is to be expected since the biblical texts have been corrupted. In other words, the force of the argument is turned back upon Christianity, charging Christianity with having distorted the biblical texts such that they are now doctrinally and historically corrupted. But Muslims have yet to provide justification for this claim, apart from circular appeals to the Qur’an and Islamic traditions.

In what follows, we will take each of these objections in turn, beginning with the latter.

Discontinuity: Revelation

Muslims attempt to mute the significance of these doctrinal incoherencies by arguing that the text of the Bible has been corrupted. Such a move only creates a greater problem, however. Here we encounter one of the more significant disanalogies in the relationship of Islam to Christianity and Christianity to Old Testament religion. Simply put, the New Testament authors never criticize the Old Testament. Rather, the point of contention between Jews and Christians was (and is) with regards to interpretation and the fulfillment of prophecy. But New Testament speakers and authors never criticized the Jews for corrupting the texts or adhering to fraudulent texts. This is a significant element of continuity that Christianity has with Old Testament religion, but Islam does not have with Christianity. In fact, the earliest Christians were largely Jews who upheld the authority of the Old Testament revelation and the reliability of the contemporary texts. Here are some sample affirmations.

Affirming the Old Testament. First, we find statements in the New Testament that affirm the entire Old Testament as inspired by God, even providing wisdom for salvation.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures [i.e. the Old Testament], which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture [i.e. the whole Old Testament] is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

Paul is here referring to the Old Testament revelation, even though it is plausible to find a legitimate extension of the principle to the later New Testament writings.

Affirming the Prophets. Second, we also find the New Testament authors attributing the inspiration of the prophets to the work of the Spirit of God.

For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (1 Peter 1:21; cf. 2 Samuel 23:2)

Affirming the Word of God. Third, in both the Old and New Testaments we find affirmations that God’s word will not pass away, but that God will sustain it throughout the ages — not in the form of some heavenly book or scroll or tablet, mind you, but among the people of God on earth.

A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8)

For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:24-25)

Jesus also confirms the truthfulness of the Old Testament text of the first century when he says, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). This is significant because we have found substantial portions of the Old Testament text among the Dead Sea Scrolls. These scrolls show that the text as we have it today is substantially the text of the first century. Thus Muslims have no grounds upon which to claim that the Old Testament text was somehow so corrupted as to be cleansed of Islamic teachings.22

The Apostle Paul as an Extended Example. In addition to these rather straightforward statements regarding the word of God, specifically the Old Testament, instructive is the reality that throughout every New Testament corpus (e.g. Pauline, Johannine, etc.), indeed in every New Testament author we find regular appeal to the Old Testament as the source and confirmation of their teachings, and that without even once criticizing the Old Testament texts. As just one example, consider the affirmations and teachings of the apostle Paul in the book of Romans.23

Paul both introduces and concludes Romans noting how the gospel he proclaims stems from the Old Testament.

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures … (Romans 1:1-2)

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)

In addition to these agenda-setting declarations, Paul noted that the righteousness of God — which supplies the substance of his gospel — was testified to by the law and the prophets, “But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets” (Romans 3:21). And even though some would charge Paul with being unlawful, he explicitly declares the contrary when he writes, “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law” (Romans 3:31).

Paul also taught that the ministry and message of Christ actually confirms God’s promises to the Patriarchs,

For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs. (Romans 15:8)

Paul even viewed himself and his congregations as accountable to the Old Testament scriptures, noting that they have a continuing validity for the Church as the people of God.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1ff.)

Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. (Romans 4:23-24a)

Paul viewed his ministry — the proclamation of the fulfillment of the prophesied gospel — as dependent upon and derived from the Old Testament prophecies and promises. This is amply verified through even a cursory reading of his epistle to the Romans (and not only this one) with an eye toward Paul’s explicit quotations culled from the law, the writings, and the prophets.

Certainly, Paul not only did not view his gospel as a novel innovation, he went so far as to see the validity of his message as utterly dependent upon the Old Testament scriptures. That Paul explicitly quoted the OT dozens of times throughout this letter is commonly acknowledged. That Paul also alluded to the OT in numerous instances is increasingly acknowledged.24

Clearly, Paul’s posture here stands in sharp contrast to that of Muslims who are critical of the Old Testament. Again, it must be noted that Islam stands in sharp disanalogy to Christianity when it seeks to legitimate its teachings through demeaning the Bible.

Christianity and Old Testament Religion

Some Muslims might object to what we have presented, arguing that since Christianity has set aside the practices of circumcision and sacrifice, clearly Christianity abrogates the religion of the Old Testament. While this argument may carry some intuitive force, I believe there are good reasons to reject it. I believe that one way to accomplish this is to show that within both the Old and New Testaments there is a distinction made between various kinds of law, with some being viewed as more significant for the quality of religious loyalty that God expects of his people.

Greater and Lesser Commands in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament itself we find a prophetic anticipation of the New Testament distinction between greater and lesser commands of the law. Examples may be found in the following passages.

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come — it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:6-8; cf. Hebrews 10:5-8, below)

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.” (Jeremiah 7:21-23)

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)

With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8)

Greater and Lesser Commands in the New Testament. Thus we can see resident in the Old Testament itself a distinction of significance between the laws. It is just this distinction that is picked up by Jesus and the New Testament authors to argue for the non-necessity of certain laws due to the coming of the Messiah as the redeemer of his people.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23)

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:32-34)

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, O God.’” First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them.” (Hebrews 10:5-8)

It must be kept in mind here that such sacrifices and offerings were commanded in the law. But as we noted above, even in the Old Testament it is clear that there are greater concerns (Psalm 40:6-8).

Not only do we find such distinctions as noted above, but we also find passages which would otherwise be incoherent without allowing for distinctions between what we might classify as the moral and the ceremonial (or cultic) laws (though here I refer not simply to all ceremony, but to those ceremonies which are distinctly bound to the old covenant rather than the new; e.g. circumcision).

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. (1 Corinthians 9:20-21)

Notice, Paul says that he is “not under the law” and also that he is “not free from God’s law.” Whatever could he mean? He notes that he is “under Christ’s law,” that is, the law understood in light of the Messiah who has come; that is, the law as perpetuated during the Messianic era.25 Of course, all this implies that certain laws have met their intended goals or temporal conclusions. Such laws and the reconciliatory sacrifices for sin have met their conclusion in the Messiah (see the book of Hebrews). Such laws as circumcision have met there goal in the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit, coupled with the writing of God’s law upon our hearts (see Romans 2:17ff.26 in concert with Romans 8:1ff.). Consider also Paul’s statement contrasting circumcision with the commands of God: “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts” (1 Corinthians 7:19).

The Case of Circumcision. Wasn’t circumcision a command of God? Yes. So on what basis can Christians deny its continuing obligation? That particular rite — which should be viewed more in terms of a social or covenantal boundary marker27 — belongs to the old covenant. Nevertheless, it seems to be the case that this particular rite could be practiced to no effect, thus receiving the charge of having “uncircumcised hearts” (Leviticus 26:41; Jeremiah 9:26; cf. Acts 7:51). Indeed, the old covenant demand was not merely circumcision of the flesh, but circumcision of the heart.

Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. (Deuteronomy 10:16)

Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done — burn with no one to quench it. (Jeremiah 4:4)

The new covenant, promised in the Old Testament, carries with it a promise of circumcision of the heart, rather than of the flesh.

The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)

Such a promise is related to a constellation of additional promises relating to God granting his people new hearts, putting a new spirit within them (Ezekiel 11:19; 18:31; 36:26), as well as the grace of God in writing his law upon their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; cf. Isaiah 51:7).

Thus Paul writes in echo of the promises in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah that God would circumcise our hearts.

No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:29)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. (Galatians 6:15; cf. Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11)

This being so, it is vital to see that there are other commands of God that do still apply (in contrast to antinomian traditions). Significantly, Paul can even write the following:

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. (1 Corinthians 7:19)

The law of God, as seen everywhere in Paul’s epistles, clearly perpetuates the prohibitions against idolatry and immorality of every sort (see, e.g., Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 5, 10; Galatians 5).

In summary, as we read through Paul’s writings we see him both advocating a very strong ethic, as well as arguing that certain laws are now inoperative. Thus, when he writes to the various churches regarding Christian ethics, he is a great pains to show that Christians do have laws (standards of righteousness and holiness) which are continuous with the ethical demands of the Old Testament (see, e.g., Galatians 5:14, 23b; Romans 3:31; 6:11ff; 8:1-14; 13:8-10). Such instructions typically arise when Paul is instructing Gentile Christians how to live an authentic Christian lifestyle (see, e.g., 1 Corinthians 5:1-6:20; Ephesians 4:17-5:21). But when Paul opposes non-Christian Jews and their divisiveness with regards to Gentile Christians, he is at great pains to establish which laws no longer apply (e.g., circumcision, food restrictions, Jewish calendar, bloody sacrifices, etc.). He does so by appealing to Old Testament precedent, the ministry of the Messiah, and the gift of the Spirit that accompanies the new covenant (see, e.g., Galatians 5:16-25).

While much more could be written on this topic, I believe that what has been presented here is suggestive enough to show the Islamic objection against Christianity to be implausible. Christians have a high view of God’s law (or at least they should), though some laws were temporary illustrations of the heart of the matter — the human heart.

No Prophecies of Mohammad in the Bible

A feature typical among quasi-Christian restorationist movements is the appeal to biblical prophecy. Such appeals are made either to establish their expected arrival as a movement, or at least the expected arrival of their founding leader. Among the majority of modern restorationist movements appeals to Daniel, Revelation and the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25 and parallels) are most common. Not so with Islam. Muslims appeal to Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah, Habakkuk, and the Gospel of John.28 Most prominent among the references are Deuteronomy 18:15-18 and John 14:16.

Deuteronomy 18:15, 18. As we consider the alleged biblical prophecies fulfilled in Mohammad, there are two that are most prominent, Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 and John 14:16. We’ll address Deuteronomy 18:15-18 first.

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among your own brothers. You must listen to him … I [God] will raise up for them a prophet like you [Moses] from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18)

In these verses we read that God will raise up 1) a prophet, 2) like Moses, 3) from among the Israelites, and that he will 4) put his words in his mouth, and 5) he will proclaim to the Israelites everything God commands him.

Muslims object to the Christian affirmation that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy because Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God, or God incarnate. Yet this prophecy speaks only of a prophet. But this is a false dichotomy. Jesus can be both a prophet and the incarnation of God. In fact, several passages record how Jesus described himself as a prophet.

And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” (Matthew 13:57; cf. Mark 6:4; John 4:44)

In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day — for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! (Luke 13:33)

Not only did Jesus describe himself as a prophet, but some of the people of Israel did as well. After miraculously feeding five-thousand people, they proclaimed, “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world’” (John 6:14). And at Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the crowds proclaimed, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:11).

In addition, we read in the Gospel of Luke part of a conversation between Jesus and some of his very own followers. And while their eyes were temporarily blinded to the fact that this was Jesus, their description of him as a prophet remains.

One of them, named Cleopas, asked him [Jesus], “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he [Jesus] asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.” (Luke 24:18-19)

The disciples Peter and Stephen proclaimed the same message, that Jesus was the promised prophet like Moses. As Peter proclaimed,

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.” (Acts 3:19-23, quoting the prophecy from Deuteronomy 18; cf. Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:37-53)

All of these passages should be enough to show that according to the New Testament authors, including Jesus himself, the prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus long before the arrival of Mohammad.

Yet Muslims say that this prophecy cannot be fulfilled by Jesus because he did not proclaim the law, like Moses. But surely Jesus did proclaim the law; and like Moses he sought to restore the people of God to the purity of the law.29This is seem most clearly in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Consider Jesus’s thesis statement in Matthew 5:17-20.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.30

In proclaiming the endurance of the law, as well as the importance of obeying the law, Jesus surely sounds like Moses near the end of Deuteronomy.

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. (Deuteronomy 30:11-16)

In addition, we should note that Jesus did give laws to his people. For example, in John 14:34 we read, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” And the later New Testament authors can even speak of “the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2; cf. 1 Corinthians 9:21).

So, Jesus is a prophet and he was like Moses, a proclaimer of the law, but Muslims object to reading “from among their brothers” as a reference to an Israelite prophet. They rather understand the passage to be referring to non-Israelites brothers as it does in Deuteronomy 2:4 and 2:8 with reference to the descendants of Esau. But the usage of the term in the context surrounding Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 shows that “brethren” is to be understood with reference to fellow Israelites. For example, in Deuteronomy 17 we read the stipulation for the installment of a king over Israel. He is to be “from among your own brothers,” not “a foreigner” (17:15). The king is to write a copy of the law for himself, and to read it all the days of his life, so he will not “consider himself better than his brothers” (17:20). In Deuteronomy 18:2 we read that the Levites would not be granted an allotment of the promised land, “no inheritance among their brothers.” And as the Israelites gear up for the battles they will face as they enter the promised land, they are told that if one of them is fearful, “Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too” (Deuteronomy 20:8). Based on this brief survey, it is safe to say that the burden of proof is upon the Muslim who would insist that “brothers” is to be understood with reference to any non-Israelite. But while Mohammad was not an Israelite, Jesus was, as is evidenced by his genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, and other New Testament passages.

In addition to the evidence that Jesus, his disciples, and the New Testament authors understood Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 to be fulfilled in Jesus, and that Jesus is a prophet, like Moses, from among the Israelites, we can also show that the words Jesus spoke were from God and that he proclaimed them to Israel. Regarding the fact that Jesus spoke the words God had given him, we list the following verses.

Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him [i.e. God] who sent me .” (John 7:16)

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (John 8:28)

For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. (John 12:49)

That Jesus was one who proclaimed the word of God to Israel is a truism evident in even a cursory reading of any of the New Testament gospels.

The weight of the evidence is strongly in support of the Christian view that the promise of Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 was fulfilled in Jesus, not in Mohammad. Thus Jesus challenge in John 5:46 rings loud, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.”

John 14:16. The New Testament passage that Muslims most often refer to is John 14:16, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.” Yusuf Ali makes the case in a footnote to Qur’an 3:81.

That argument is: You (People of the Book) are bound by your own oaths, sworn solemnly in the presence of your own Prophets. In the Old Testament as it now exists, Muhammad is foretold in Deut. xviii. 18; and the rise of the Arab nation in Isaiah, xlii. 11, for Kedar was a son of Ismail and the name is used for the Arab nation: in the New Testament as it now exists, Muhammad is foretold in the Gospel of St. John, xiv. 16, xv. 26, and xvi.7: the future Comforter cannot be the Holy Spirit as understood by Christians, because the Holy Spirit already was present helping and guiding Jesus. The Greek word translated “Comforter” is “Paracletos”, which is an easy corruption from “Periclytos”, which is almost a literal translation of “Muhammad” or “Ahmad” …31

He further comments in a footnote to Qur’an 61:6.

“Ahmad,” or “Muhammad,” the Praised One, is almost a translation of the Greek word Periclytos. In the present Gospel of John, xiv. 16, xv. 26, and xvi. 7, the word “Comforter” in the English version is for the Greek word “Paracletos,” which means “Advocate,” “one called to the help of another, a kind friend” rather than “Comforter.” Our doctors contend that Paracletos is a corrupt reading for Periclytos, and that in their original saying of Jesus there was a prophecy of our holy Prophet Ahmad by name.32

Simply put, the argument is that in our Greek manuscripts the word paracletos is a corruption of periclytos. But there is absolutely no manuscript evidence to support this claim. Of the over 5,000 manuscripts now available, not one witnesses to periclytos. So, the charge of textual corruption is self-serving and completely without textual support.

Further, while Muslims assert that the identification of the Counselor with the Holy Spirit is a misinterpretation, in the very context of John 14:16 Jesus draws just this identification: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). Of course, the Muslim can claim that this statement is a fictive retrojection of the later theology of Christians, but such a claim would need at least some evidence.

Numerous additional difficulties attend the Muslim attribution of John 14:16 to Mohammad. The Counselor was to be with Jesus’s disciples “forever” (14:16), but Mohammad was never with them. Nor is the answer that the message of Mohammad has continued to this day in the Qur’an a sufficient response. Jesus also said the Counselor would be “in you” (14:17), which accords perfectly with the Counselor being the Holy Spirit. The Counselor would be sent in Jesus’s name (14:26), but Mohammad was not. Several additional elements could be referenced. In the end, I would hope that any Muslim who would seek to attribute the prophecy of John 14:16 to Mohammad would first read the entirety of John chapters 14-16 to see the qualities of the Counselor and how these cannot plausibly be attributed to Mohammad.

As we noted before, there are additional passages used by Muslims in support of their claim that prophecies of Mohammad are found in the Bible, but the very same difficulties that attend their attempts to use Deuteronomy 18: 15, 18 and John 14:16 trouble the other (less significant) passages. In this light, the conclusion of Blaise Pascal is apropos: “Any man can do what Mahomet has done; for he performed no miracles, he was not foretold. No man can do what Christ has done.”33


In a cultural context where religious beliefs claims are viewed as merely preferences, Muslims are to be commended for holding that such claims are either true or false. And in a world where moral values are viewed as antiquarian, Muslims have stood firmly, proclaiming that God is sovereign and that ethical standards are absolute and necessary for a healthy society. For such beliefs and postures as these, we should commend Muslims. But our intent has been to address the Muslim claim that Christianity has been abrogated by Islam.

In this study we have witnessed the fact that the Muslim perception and approach to Christianity is determined by the teachings of the Qur’an. The Qur’an teaches that Islam was the original religion, the faith of Adam, Abraham, Moses and even Jesus. We also noted that the Qur’an teaches that God has sent prophets to all the nations of the earth. Each of these prophets taught Islam. Abraham, Moses and Jesus were among them. But their ministries were limited and temporary. In contrast, the ministry of Mohammad is viewed as universal and final. He is never to have a successor. In addition, Mohammad was granted a book, just like the prophets who preceded him. But their books were corrupted whereas the Qur’an is complete, perfect and incorruptible.

In response to the Muslim perspective, we have argued that the teaching of the Bible does not accord with Islamic beliefs. Here we focused on the doctrines regarding the sinfulness of humanity, as well as upon the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus. We thus showed the implausibility of the Muslim claim to confirm previous prophets or their books. But Muslims could respond by simply arguing that the text of the Bible has been corrupted. Here we noted that their posture stands diametrically opposed to that of Jesus and the New Testament authors. Never did Jesus or the apostles or their disciples criticize the text of the Old Testament. In addition, their charge of textual corruption lacks sufficient justification. Finally we examined the primary passages Muslims believe are prophecies of Mohammad. Here we showed that they have simply misused the biblical text. In fact, I suspect that if they experienced someone who had misused the Qur’an in they way they have manipulated Deuteronomy 18 and John 14, they would be deeply offended. Texts do mean something; and a text out of context is a pretext for error.

In the end, if our arguments are sound, and we have good reasons to believe they are, then the Muslim claim that Islam abrogates Christianity is unwarranted and misleading.

Appendix: Baha’i as the Ultimate Religion

There are several religions that originated within the womb of Islam. Not only do we find numerous Islamic sects (the Sunni and Shi’i being the most prominent), but we also encounter some groups that have picked up the Islamic claim of abrogating Christianity and have applied it to Islam itself. Of course, orthodox Muslims protest. Mohammad was the seal of the prophets. The Qur’an is not only the most perfect book, it is the final revelation of God. Nothing more is to be revealed. There are no more prophets to come.

Even so, large movements such as the Baha’i and Ahmadiyyah, and smaller groups such as the Nation of Islam, claim that new prophetic voices have arisen on the horizon. Expectedly enough, the adherents of Baha’i and Ahmaddiyah have been sorely persecuted, though they retain significant minorities in Arabia and Mid-Asian nations.

The following excerpt is from the Baha’i book, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, under the heading “The Fundamental Principle of Religious Truth.”34 The first paragraph illustrates well how Baha’is view their religion in relation to others. Notice also that here the concept of abrogation is denied. The first paragraph seeks to embrace not simply all religions but “all established religions,” implying that upstarts are marginalized. While the first paragraph asserts that the Baha’i faith does not “abrogate” other religions, the cumulative effect of the following series of paragraphs does just the same. We begin to witness the winnowing of doctrinal allowances: Any religious traditions that proclaim a closed canon (e.g. Christianity) are charged with blasphemy. A fuller discussion of Baha’i will have to wait for another study.

1 Let no one, however, mistake my purpose. The Revelation, of which Bahá’u’lláh is the source and center, abrogates none of the religions that have preceded it, nor does it attempt, in the slightest degree, to distort their features or to belittle their value. It disclaims any intention of dwarfing any of the Prophets of the past, or of whittling down the eternal verity of their teachings. It can, in no wise, conflict with the spirit that animates their claims, nor does it seek to undermine the basis of any man’s allegiance to their cause. Its declared, its primary purpose is to enable every adherent of these Faiths to obtain a fuller understanding of the religion with which he stands identified, and to acquire a clearer apprehension of its purpose. It is neither eclectic in the presentation of its truths, nor arrogant in the affirmation of its claims. Its teachings revolve around the fundamental principle that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is progressive, not final. Unequivocally and without the least reservation it proclaims all established religions to be divine in origin, identical in their aims, complementary in their functions, continuous in their purpose, indispensable in their value to mankind.

2 “All the Prophets of God,” asserts Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, “abide in the same tabernacle, soar in the same heaven, are seated upon the same throne, utter the same speech, and proclaim the same Faith.” From the “beginning that hath no beginning,” these Exponents of the Unity of God and Channels of His incessant utterance have shed the light of the invisible Beauty upon mankind, and will continue, to the “end that hath no end,” to vouchsafe fresh revelations of His might and additional experiences of His inconceivable glory. To contend that any particular religion is final, that “all Revelation is ended, that the portals of Divine mercy are closed, that from the daysprings of eternal holiness no sun shall rise again, that the ocean of everlasting bounty is forever stilled, and that out of the Tabernacle of ancient glory the Messengers of God have ceased to be made manifest” would indeed be nothing less than sheer blasphemy.

3 “They differ,” explains Bahá’u’lláh in that same epistle, “only in the intensity of their revelation and the comparative potency of their light.” And this, not by reason of any inherent incapacity of any one of them to reveal in a fuller measure the glory of the Message with which He has been entrusted, but rather because of the immaturity and unpreparedness of the age He lived in to apprehend and absorb the full potentialities latent in that Faith.

4 “Know of a certainty,” explains Bahá’u’lláh, “that in every Dispensation the light of Divine Revelation has been vouchsafed to men in direct proportion to their spiritual capacity. Consider the sun. How feeble its rays the moment it appears above the horizon. How gradually its warmth and potency increase as it approaches its zenith, enabling meanwhile all created things to adapt themselves to the growing intensity of its light. How steadily it declines until it reaches its setting point. Were it, all of a sudden, to manifest the energies latent within it, it would, no doubt, cause injury to all created things … In like manner, if the Sun of Truth were suddenly to reveal, at the earliest stages of its manifestation, the full measure of the potencies which the providence of the Almighty has bestowed upon it, the earth of human understanding would waste away and be consumed; for men’s hearts would neither sustain the intensity of its revelation, nor be able to mirror forth the radiance of its light. Dismayed and overpowered, they would cease to exist.”

5 It is for this reason, and this reason only, that those who have recognized the Light of God in this age, claim no finality for the Revelation with which they stand identified, nor arrogate to the Faith they have embraced powers and attributes intrinsically superior to, or essentially different from, those which have characterized any of the religious systems that preceded it.

6 Does not Bahá’u’lláh Himself allude to the progressiveness of Divine Revelation and to the limitations which an inscrutable Wisdom has chosen to impose upon Him? What else can this passage of the Hidden Words imply, if not that He Who revealed it disclaimed finality for the Revelation entrusted to Him by the Almighty? “O Son of Justice! In the night-season the beauty of the immortal Being hath repaired from the emerald height of fidelity unto the Sadratu’l-Muntahá, and wept with such a weeping that the concourse on high and the dwellers of the realms above wailed at His lamenting. Whereupon there was asked, Why the wailing and weeping? He made reply: As bidden I waited expectant upon the hill of faithfulness, yet inhaled not from them that dwell on earth the fragrance of fidelity. Then summoned to return I beheld, and lo! certain doves of holiness were sore tried within the claws of the dogs of earth. Thereupon the Maid of Heaven hastened forth, unveiled, and resplendent, from Her mystic mansion, and asked of their names, and all were told but one. And when urged, the first Letter thereof was uttered, whereupon the dwellers of the celestial chambers rushed forth out of their habitation of glory. And whilst the second letter was pronounced they fell down, one and all, upon the dust. At that moment a Voice was heard from the inmost shrine: `Thus far and no farther.’ Verily we bear witness to that which they have done and now are doing.”

7 “The Revelation of which I am the bearer,” Bahá’u’lláh explicitly declares, “is adapted to humanity’s spiritual receptiveness and capacity; otherwise, the Light that shines within me can neither wax nor wane. Whatever I manifest is nothing more or less than the measure of the Divine glory which God has bidden me reveal.”

8 If the Light that is now streaming forth upon an increasingly responsive humanity with a radiance that bids fair to eclipse the splendor of such triumphs as the forces of religion have achieved in days past; if the signs and tokens which proclaimed its advent have been, in many respects, unique in the annals of past Revelations; if its votaries have evinced traits and qualities unexampled in the spiritual history of mankind; these should be attributed not to a superior merit which the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, as a Revelation isolated and alien from any previous Dispensation, might possess, but rather should be viewed and explained as the inevitable outcome of the forces that have made of this present age an age infinitely more advanced, more receptive, and more insistent to receive an ampler measure of Divine Guidance than has hitherto been vouchsafed to mankind.


    1. See Kate Zebiri, “Muslim Perceptions of Christianity and the West,” in Islamic Interpretations of Christianity, ed. Lloyd Ridgeon (New York: St. Martin’s, 2001), 179-203.

    1. This is the judicial doctrine that through the process of progressive revelation, some earlier laws and judgments are nullified and superseded. See the helpful discussions in Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Qur’anic Christians: An Analysis of Classical and Modern Exegesis (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 24, 32, 118-120, 127-128, 186.

    1. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations of the Qur’an come from The Noble Qur’an: English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary, trans. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan (Madinah, K.S.A.: King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, n.d.). I also refer to this volume as “the King Fahd edition.”

    1. This dynamic is well-documented in Muslim Perceptions of Other Religions: A Historical Survey, edited by Jacques Waardenburg (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), especially chapters 1-4.

    1. As we make our way through the Islamic arguments for the abrogation of Christianity, I will provide many full texts from the Qur’an. Merely referencing the relevant passages would not facilitate clear understanding for readers unfamiliar with the narrative of the Qur’an. In addition, I believe it is instructive for readers to taste something of the flavor of Qur’anic narrative as they seek to understand the worldview and reasoning style of Muslims. Unfortunately, though, I have found the English used in translating the Qur’an to be very tortured and tedious, especially given the parenthetical remarks so often inserted. It seems as though many Muslim translators have an underdeveloped philosophy of translation.

    1. The British English spelling of the source is retained in the quotations.

    1. That is, Zoroastrianism.

    1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23, Hadith 441. (

      This statement occurs elsewhere in Bukhari as well (Ibid, Volume 2, Book 23, Number 467): “Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, ‘Every child is born with a true faith of Islam (i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone) and his parents convert him to Judaism or Christianity or Magianism, as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?’” (

      Sahih Muslim also records a version of the same hadith (Book 033, Number 6426): “Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: No babe is born but upon Fitra [having the true religion]. It is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Polytheist. A person said: Allah’s Messenger, what is your opinion if they were to die before that (before reaching the age of adolescence when they can distinguish between right and wrong)? He said: It is Allah alone Who knows what they would be doing.” (

    1. For an instructive discussion of the religion of the patriarchs, see, R.W. L. Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament: Patriarchal Narratives and Mosaic Yahwism (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), 79-104.

    1. Such an appeal to Abraham is a common feature among Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, as well as among the various sects that stem from these major Abrahamic traditions. We will discuss additional features common among restorationist movements below.

    1. Afif A. Tabbarah, The Spirit of Islam: Doctrine and Teachings, Trans. Hasan T. Shoucair (Beirut, Lebanon: Dar El-Ilm Lilmalayin, 1978), 97.

    1. Ibid., 97, 98. Of course, Tabbarah begs two questions in his comments: First, what are those tidings spoken of by the prophets of old that he would ascribe to Mohammad (a question we touched on above and will address further below)? Second, his bafflement of there being no prophets after Mohammad flies in the face of such claimants as Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (d. 1903) and the Ahmadiyyah movement, Elijah Poole (a.k.a. Elijah Mohammad) and the Nation of Islam, and Baha’u’allah and the Baha’i movement. These movement make very similar supersessional and abrogational claims with reference to traditional Islam.

    1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Hadith 735 (

    1. 339, n. 1.

    1. For more information on the Baha’i faith, see the web sites and For Christian interactions with Baha’i, see, Francis J. Beckwith, Baha’i (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1985) and William M. Miller, The Baha’i Faith: Its History and Teachings (South Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publications, 1984).

    1. For a Christian discussion of Ahmadiyyah beliefs and claims, see, John Gilchrist, “A Study of the Ahmadiyyah Movement,” (

    1. For more information regarding the Nation of Islam, see, C. Eric Lincoln, The Black Muslims in America, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994) and Steven Tsoulkas, The Nation of Islam: Understanding the ‘Black Muslims’ (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2001).

    1. See the Appendix for Baha’i statements to this effect.

    1. A. Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation and Commentary, translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Washington, D.C.: The American International Printing Company, 1946), 1059, n. 3541, commenting upon Surah 30:30.

    1. Hammudah Abdalati, Islam in Focus (Indianapolis, IN: American Trust Publications, 1975), 32, 33.

    1. This is a belief of the Ahmadiyyah movement. They assert a kind of swoon theory, where Jesus did not actually die, though he was crucified. See note 16 above.

    1. For further information, see, Walter Kaiser, Are the Old Testament Documents Reliable and Relevant? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001).

    1. It is common for critical scholars to assert that the teaching of the apostle Paul are quite distinct, if not downright contrary to, the teachings of Jesus. Muslims have picked up on this argument from time to time. Regarding this subject, no better volume is currently available than David Wenham, Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995).

    1. See, Moises Silva, “Old Testament in Paul,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin, eds. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 630-642; Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989); Christopher D. Stanley, Paul and the Language of Scripture: Citation Technique in the Pauline Epistles and Contemporary Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 83-184; and E. Earle Ellis, Paul’s Use of the Old Testament (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1957). Cf. the relevant study of Ben Witherington, Paul’s Narrative Thought World: The Tapestry of Tragedy and Triumph (Nashville, TN: Westminster/John Knox, 1994). For more discussions of the New Testament use of the Old Testament, see, Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?, Ed. Gregory Beale (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1994), esp. the essays by Roger Nicole (13-28) and Klyne Snodgrass (29-51).

    1. See the instructive work of Frank Thielman, Paul and the Law: A Contextual Approach (Downers Grove,IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994); as well as N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1991).

    1. See Timothy W. Berkley, From Broken Covenant to Circumcision of the Heart: Pauline Intertextual Exegesis in Romans 2:17-29 (SBL Dissertation Series 175; Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000)

    1. As Professor James Dunn has written, “… Paul’s critique [of the Jews] does not reduce [merely] to questions of circumcision, food laws and sabbath … But Israel’s history had reinforced the reality of the law as a boundary dividing Israel from the (other) nations, and the Maccabean crisis in particular had focused that boundary function on two or three key ‘make or break’ issues — especially circumcision and food laws. They remained prominent at the time of Paul, for the same reason. In sort, that is why it is precisely circumcision and food laws which are so much to the fore when Paul speaks of ‘works of the law’ in Galatians — not because they are the only ‘works’ which the law requires, but because they had become the crucial test cases for covenant loyalty and for maintaining Jewish identity as the people chosen by God for himself alone.” (Jesus, Paul and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians [Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 1990], 210 n. 6.) Further discussions of covenantal boundary markers and Paul’s view of the law can be found in N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1991); idem.What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997).

    1. A footnote to Qur’an 7:157 in the King Fahd edition reads, “There exists in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel), even after the original text has been distorted, clear prophecies indicating the coming of Prophet Muhammad, e.g. Deut 18:18; 21:21; Psl. 118:22-23; Isa. 42:1-13; Hab. 3:3-4; Matt. 21:42-43; Jn. 14:12-17, 26-28, 16:7-14.”

    1. See the extensive discussion in Dale C. Allison, The New Moses: A Matthean Typology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993). See also the relevant discussions in the commentaries by D. A. Carson, R. T. France, and Craig Keener.

    1. “Heavens and earth” here refer not to the literal physical heavens and earth, but they are a literary metaphor referring to a covenantal arrangement. Thus we find through the Bible a dynamic of “decreation” (e.g., sun and moon darkened, stars falling, heaven and earth shaken), attending the collapse of governments/kingdoms, as well as during the adjudication of covenant lawsuits. See the extended discussion of this and other metaphors and symbolism in N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1996), 320-368.

      As an example of this “decreation” motif, witness Matthew 24:29. This falls in the midst of the discourse of Matthew 23-25, which teaches that attending the widespread Israelite rejection of their Messiah Jesus, was the adjudication of a covenant lawsuit, resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century A.D. (see, “this generation” at Matthew 23:36 and 24:34). This was attended by the collapse of the temple, the derailing of the priesthood, and the dispersing of the Jews. Thus we find the covenantal end of the old covenant and its attendant religious hierarchy and cultic practices. But attending the judgment was the message of deliverance and salvation for God’s people of faith. Hence the establishment of the new covenant by Messiah Jesus, in fulfillment of the Old Testament hope of a people of God being comprised of both Jew and non-Jew alike.

      For helpful discussions of these dynamics of biblical eschatology, see, for example, the work of N.T. Wright noted above, as well as Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, various editions;

    1. A.Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, 144, n. 416.

    1. Ibid., 1540, n. 5438.

    1. Pensées, 10:600 (


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