Debate: Was Jesus a Prophet of Islam?

Debate: Was Jesus a Prophet of Islam?

Shabir Ally vs. David Wood

It always amazes me when I watch Muslim debaters and their quoting of the Bible (especially the New Testament) to bolster Islamic arguments.  After all, Islam teaches that the Scriptures (revelations) given to both Jewish and Christian prophets have been perverted over time and thus cannot be trusted.

Dr. Jamal Badawi lays out the Islamic position:

I’d like to raise another issue as well. When the Quran speaks of confirming any previous scriptures, it is conditional and indicates in no uncertain terms that the Quran and the Quran alone as the last well preserved revelation is the final judge and the criterion to sift through any previous scripture to discern what is the word of God and what is the word of humans; which parts remained intact and which parts might have gone through some changes throughout history. The term muhaymen, which appears in the Quran, in surah number 5 and verses 48 through 51, deals specifically with this issue of the Quran being muhaymen. This word, muhaymen in Arabic, as Mawlana Mawdudi explains in his Commentary on the Quran, means to uphold, to safe guard or preserve, to watch over and to stand witness. All of these definitions apply to the Quran in its relationship to previous scriptures. First of all, the Quran safeguards and preserves the teachings of previous prophets. It watches over the revelations that God sent before by explaining their true meanings to negate any confusion, misunderstanding or misinterpretation that has arisen throughout history. It stands witness because it bears witness, as Mawdudi says, to the word of God contained in those previous scriptures and helps sort it out from interpretations and commentaries that were later added to them.

It is very convenient that Allah told Muhammad that he should judge previous writings by the Quran (which of course was revealed to Muhammad alone).  It alone can tell us which part of the New Testament (for example) can be trusted and what cannot be trusted – if it agrees with the Quran it can be trusted!  This allows Muslim scholars like Shabir Ally to accept or reject the contents of the Christian Gospels – and to give an Islamic interpretation on any part of the Bible that Muslim scholars wish to give.  The question is how does Shabir Ally know for sure what part of the Bible can be trusted and which part cannot be trusted?

Three Quran Verses Every Christian Should Know (David Wood)

Three Quran Verses Every Christian Should Know (David Wood)

The folly of interfaith cooperation between Christianity and Islam

I use the word folly purposely because it is utter folly.  It is folly to believe the Islamic lie that Islam is part of the Abrahamic line of revelation and that Muhammad is the last and ultimate prophet sent by God (Arabic Allah) to clear the mess that both Jews and Christians had made of his revelation to man by giving us the Quran.

The first verse that David Wood quotes should put any thought of Christian/Muslim cooperation to bed for good.  Take Wood’s advice to heart and learn these verses by heart and they will steer you away from the folly that is Islam.

Study brings knowledge, knowledge brings understanding and understanding brings wisdom
 

 

Dhimmis No More Christians’ Trauma in the Middle East

Dhimmis No More Christians’ Trauma in the Middle East

The above heading on dhimmi-hood may be a bit misleading as it implies that the Islamic doctrine and practice of the dhimmi had largely disappeared but was now returning with particular force.  This is not exactly true as the Islamic practice, and enforcement, of the dhimmi status, has never died out in many Muslim majority countries.  You just need to look at the plight of the Christian minority in Egypt to see the reality of this (as cited in Pipe’s article below).  Coptic Christians have never come out of the shadow of the Islamic doctrine and practice of the dhimmi.  Pakistan is another example of this.

The real issue for me as a Christian living in the UK is that most people in Europe, or the West in general, do not take note of what is happening in the Middle East when it comes to non-Muslim minorities – not only the Middle East but all Muslim majority countries – and how this may affect us as more and more Muslims from these countries migrate to the West.  Do we seriously believe that multiculturalism only brings positive benefits to our societies?  Being married to an Asian from a Muslim majority country (who is from a non-Muslim minority) I understand more than most what it means to live in a Muslim majority country as a non-Muslim.  I also understand that in many ways multiculturalism can be a good thing if our society embraces the positive elements of various cultures and rejects the harmful elements of other cultures – like female genital mutilation. honour violence, child marriage intolerance of those who are different and so much more.

Douglas Murray’s comments that migrants do not shed their belief systems just because they come to Europe (or the West in general) is true.  If we invite mass Muslim migration to the UK then we invite many people that believe in the Islamic doctrine of dhimmi-hood for non-Muslims.  The Islamic worldview as expressed and codified in Sharia law is all that matters and the concept of the dhimmi is quite prevalent in Sharia law.

In the article that follows Daniel Pipes gives an overview of the book by Eibner originally posted here. It is a book well worth reading if you want to understand the plight of non-Muslim minorities in Muslim majority countries and what would happen in the West as Islam becomes more and more influential.

 

The Truth about Christians Among the Refugees

The Truth about Christians Among the Refugees

    The Truth about Christians Among the Refugees

    Executive summary
    A female interpreter of Eritrean origin, who lives in Germany and of whom neither the Muslim migrants nor the locally hired Muslims know that she is a Christian, revealed what she experienced in refugee shelters in Germany:
    Adult Muslim migrants threaten and physically attack Christian and Yazidi refugees.
    Muslim migrant kids do not play with Christian refugee kids, then they explain that they hate them, just like their parents do.
    Locally hired Muslim interpreters and security men seem integrated on the outside, they grew up in Germany, went to German schools and have jobs, but when they are among themselves, they reveal their true colors by stating that Germany must be Islamized, and that they disdain Germany and its values.
    In mosques in Germany, pure hate is preached against people of other religions.
    Muslim migrant women want to outbreed Christians, because they want to annihilate them.
    German aid organizations and Christian politicians have confirmed her words with their own experience. They also added that Muslim interpreters intentionally mistranslate the words of Christian refugees to make them unable to obtain asylum, cover up Muslim mobbing on Christians, and arbitrarily move Christians to the end of the charity recipients’ list.
    ==================
    Source and German-to-English translation
    14 November 2016, 10:00
    Unerkannt in Flüchtlingsheimen: Was Christen alles erleben
    http://kath.net/news/57457
    November 14, 2016 10:00
    Incognito in refugee shelters: Everything Christians live through
    What a Christian female interpreter hears in shelters, is terrifying. An article by idea editor-in-chief Daniela Städter.

    Wetzlar (kath.net/idea)

    Only 14 per cent of refugees who filed for asylum in Germany in 2015 were Christians – over 73 per cent are Muslims. Recently, there have been aggravated reports by Christians about discrimination by Muslims in refugee accommodations. Even some Muslim interpreters and security duty coworkers would put pressure on Christians. A Christian female interpreter observes this, but she is not detected as a Christian. What she hears in the shelters, is terrifying. An article by idea editor-in-chief Daniela Städter.

    In September 2016, the call of a long-standing German top female politician reaches the Evangelical News Agency idea (in Wetzlar). She has contact to a female Christian engaged in refugee assistance, who could tell controversial things about the situation in German refugee shelters. Nevertheless, the name of the woman shall not be mentioned. Subsequently, a discussion takes place in Wetzlar among the female politician, an expert in the field of refugee issues, and the 39-year-old Christian female interpreter originating from Eritrea. She speaks Arabic fluently and has already worked in various refugee shelters as an interpreter – mostly only with Muslim colleagues. The woman acts “undercover” at it. Nobody suspects that she is Christian. The native-born Eritrean fled for Germany in 1991 on her own. She is thankful that she was taken in openly in her new homeland and was supported in many ways. Later she wants to give something back and begins to help in refugee shelters five years ago or so in an honorary capacity. She has been active mainly as an interpreter since the summer of 2016. That she is Christian, she has not mentioned it in the accommodations since the beginning. Because of her knowledge of the Arabic language, she notices quickly: “Christians are getting subjugated, intimidated and harassed by Muslim refugees. That is usual.” Often nobody realizes the mobbing, by which Yazidis and homosexual refugees are affected, too.

    “Germany must be Islamized”
    Security duty coworkers and interpreters are, according to her data, almost always Muslims. They make, says the 39-year-old, a very nice impression at the first glance: “Most of them grew up here, often studied, have esteemed occupations, and they behave open-mindedly.” However, that changes as soon as they are “among themselves”: “Then they show their true colors and say sentences like ‘Germany must be Islamized’. They disdain our country and our values.” The young woman is appalled, and for a long time she does not want to take this for real. She still withholds that she is Christian in order to learn more. Among other things, she visits the Quran courses of various mosques: “There, pure hate is preached against people of other religions. The kids get that here, in Germany, taught to them from an early age.” It is similar in the refugee shelters. She notices how Muslim boys refuse to play with Christians. The female interpreter tries to mediate: “You are Muslim, he is Christian. What difference does it make?” The five-year-olds answer her: “With the Christians, I do not play. My parents hate them, too.” The female interpreter becomes frightened: “They fled from the war to Germany and should be happy after all, that a Christian country takes them in.”
    We, Muslims must get more kids than the Christians

    She also tries to establish contact with the Muslim women. Many of them, despite their young age, have already had multiple kids. She cautiously wants to enlighten them about contraception methods. “After that, some women told me: We want to multiply. We must get more kids than the Christians. Only this way can we annihilate them.” As she objects and says that it is, after all, the Christians who help them, she bumps into rejection. Helping the Christians is a sin.

    The might of the interpreters
    The European Mission Community (in Penkun, Vorpommern) has lived through the might of the Muslim interpreters, too. Its chairman, Frank Seidler reports that at the hearings at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, they sometimes falsely rendered the testimonies of Christian refugees within the asylum process. That is why now, a Persian-speaking coworker is accompanying the refugees to the interviews, so that he can directly intervene in an emergency: “Since then it has been running better.” Seidler tells further about an Afghan having converted to Christianity, who was beaten up in his collective accommodations and was injured very severely. After he was helped to press charges, there were immediately countercharges by multiple Muslim refugees. The process is still running, although he counts with cessation, because testimony stands against testimony: “Unfortunately, we have already gone through this lapse often.” But where this leads is that the attackers think that they could allow themselves everything in Germany and would never be held accountable, so says Seidler.

    A permanent pressure burdens Christians
    The Christian aid organization Open Doors (in Kelkheim at Frankfurt am Main) makes similar observations. It is often hard to prove incidents. “With the incidents, it is not always about violence”, says the coordinator of public relations, Ado Greve, “but rather about forms of discrimination, for example at food distribution, or about threats. A permanent pressure burdens the Christians – especially the converted ones.” When a Christian is being threatened in his mother tongue in the corridor, “We cut through your neck!”, or “We will rape your wife!”, then it triggers great fear. Greve: “The religious features imprinted by Islam in their homeland are often brought with by the perpetrators. However, to prove that, it is hard in most cases.” But it should not lead to that the incidents are not taken seriously: “It is important to give credit to the reports of the affected Christians.”

    When Muslims translate falsely
    Also from the point of view of the leader of the refugee-related work group within the Central Council of Oriental Christians in Germany, Paulus Kurt (in Munich), false translations by Muslim interpreters are a problem. From the refugees whom he advises, he makes them hand over the filled hearing questionnaires after the interview date at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in order to verify them together with the Christian asylum seekers. Sometimes the data of religion are false there – from an Aramean Christian, for example, becomes an Arabic Muslim. The flight reasons, too, are rendered partially inaccurately and to the disadvantage of the questioned Christians. If they notice this, they file an objection within the legal deadline of two weeks. Nevertheless, many refugees did not even know the expiration date at all, and thus passed the deadlines.

    Christians often have no knowledge of their rights
    According to Kurt, asylum seekers also have the right for a retranslation of the questionnaire filled in German to their mother tongue. However, some interpreters did not inform the Christians about that at all. By contrast, the interpreters communicated to the coworkers of the Federal Office that the questioned one has waived the retranslation. “By that, the chance of Christians to get a long-term recognition for asylum here drops.” In the accommodations, too, the language barrier is a problem: “There, a Christian gets beaten by a Muslim, because he is eating pork in the communal kitchen – and the interpreter relays to the leadership afterwards that there was merely a general altercation about the use of the kitchen.”

    What nobody realizes
    According to the data by two Hessian female refugee helpers of the Central Council of Oriental Christians in Germany, it is also often about forms of discrimination in the accommodations, which go on in the background without being noticed. They name, for example, the issuance of articles of clothing. The maintainer of the accommodations provides a list with refugees who should get clothes. The slip of paper is passed to the interpreters who organize the issuance in the respective languages. At the readout, the list gets changed by them. Whoever has a Christian name, will be called at the end, and must take potluck with the rest, they say: “Nobody realizes that.”

    The state assumes false preconditions
    From the point of view of auditor Thomas Günster (in Fulda) engaged in refugee-related work, it is about a system error. The state assumes integration in the case of Muslim interpreters, most of them having grown up in Germany, toward the local value system, but that has not happened at all. Günster, who stands in close contact with Hessian refugee helpers and supports them at their work, says: “A sort of independence is assumed here, which is not there at all.” Rethinking must happen here.

    There are positive developments in Hessen
    Meanwhile, there have been positive developments, too, means Günster, who is also the chairman of the Diocesan Group Fulda of the Association of Catholic Entrepreneurs (BKU). Thus the Hessian Ministry of the Interior strives to protect religious minorities from abuses. In addition, too, the teams in the scope of security duty and interpreters should be staffed in the future with coworkers of different religious affiliations: “Minorities among the refugees must be protected and their complaints taken seriously. We must pay attention that the Christian refugees in Germany do not go to the dogs anymore.”

    It looks worse in Bremen

    The situation in Bremen is worse. There, the City Senate adopted a new Protection Against Violent Acts concept for refugee facilities at the end of October [2016]. In it, however, they did not go into the situation of Christian refugees. The target group of the Protection Against Violence Acts concept is girls, women, and persons who, due to their sexual or gender identity, are particularly threatened by violence. The alderwoman in the Bremen City Assembly, Sigrid Grönert (CDU) [Christian-Democratic Union, a German political party] basically welcomes the concept indeed, but already pointed out in May that beyond that, Christians also feel mobbed by Muslims over and over again.
    By contrast, the Bremen City Senate stated in February that “no abuses” on religious minorities are known. Grönert: “That, unfortunately, does not correspond to reality.” According to their own data for the time frame between January 2015 and June 2016, nine cases of bodily abuses in Bremen were reported to Open Doors.

    Christians do not press charges out of fear
    None of the affected Syrian Christians has pressed charges – out of fear, that the situation could get worse. That abuses are not known to the authorities, simply does not mean that they do not exist, emphasizes Grönert, who is also the assistant chairman of the Evangelical Workgroup of the CDU in Bremen: “It is a pity that the issue is not being taken up over here at us, while a Federal Province like Hessen has recognized the problems. I wish that the issue were taken seriously by politics across the Federation [i.e. Germany].” She is not alone with this wish. Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, UN special rapporteur for freedom of religion and world view, incumbent till the end of October [2016], demanded at the beginning of November an honest discussion about the hints of abuses against Christian refugees in asylum accommodations. It would be a big mistake of politics to spread the cloak of silence over it, said Professor Bielefeldt.

    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 andybannister@mac.com

    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.

    Conclusions

    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.


    Footnotes

    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.
    Muhammad the prophet – Jesus the man

    Muhammad the prophet – Jesus the man

    Advent-cum-Mawlid: church holds joint birthday celebration for Mohammed and Jesus

    Mawlid (or Milad) is the Islamic festival commemorating the birthday of Mohammed. The only thing it has in common with Christmas is that it isn’t actually the day the celebrated baby was born. Yet All Saints Church in Kingtson upon Thames thinks there’s an interfaith syncretised opportunity to be found in holding a joint birthday celebration for both Mohammed and Jesus – so they put the flags out for both, rejoicing in both, eulogising both, solemnising both, glorifying both, honouring both:

    mawlid advent

    But note how this event is “Marking the birthday of Prophet Mohammed”, but not looking forward to the birthday of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mohammed gets his prophethood, while Jesus gets neither his prophethood nor his priesthood; neither his kingship nor his messiahship. It’s the exalted Prophet Mohammed along with plain old Jesus, because to have added any of his claims to divinity would, of course, have alienated many Muslims (if they hadn’t already been alienated by the haramcelebration), which wouldn’t have been very interfaith or sensitively missional, would it?

     

     

    See the full article here

    Islam’s Global War against Christianity

    Islam’s Global War against Christianity

    By Patrick Poole, July 5, 2007

    From Nigeria to Indonesia, Christians are under siege in virtually every single country in the Muslim world, the victims of countless acts of discrimination, depredation, brutality, and murder that are so widespread and systematic that it can rightfully be called the new Holocaust. This time, however, the perpetrators of this Holocaust aren’t wearing swastikas, but kufi skull caps and hijabs.

    Some of the oldest Christian communities in the world are subject to relentless attack and teeter on the brink of extinction at the hands of the “Religion of Peace”: Palestinian Christians in Gaza and the West Bank; Assyrian, Syriac and Chaldean Christians in Iraq; Coptic Christians in Egypt; Evangelical and Orthodox Christians in Eastern Ethiopia and Eritrea; Armenian Orthodox Christians in Turkey; and Maronite Christians in Lebanon.
    Several of these communities date back to the beginning decades of Christianity and all have weathered wave after wave of Islamic persecution for centuries and more, but in the very near future some will simply cease to exist. In our lifetime, the only trace of their past existence will be in footnotes in history books (and probably only Western history books at that).

     

    Meanwhile, we in the West hear much from radical Islam’s apologists how the US is engaged in a war against Islam citing of our military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are lectured on the inviolability of the Muslim ummah and justifications of defensive jihad.

     

    But an extensive search this past weekend of the websites of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Muslim American Society, the Muslim Student Association, the Fiqh Council of North America, and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee – the most visible institutional representatives of Islam in America – found not a single mention or reference of the religious persecution of Christians by their Islamic co-religionists, thereby making them tacit co-conspirators in the Final Solution to the Christian problem in the Muslim world.

     

    The global war on Christianity by Islam is so massive in size and scope that it is virtually impossible to describe without trivializing it. Inspired by Muslim Brotherhood ideology and fueled by billions of Wahhabi petrodollars, the religious cleansing of Christians from the Muslim world is continuing at a break-neck pace, as the following recent examples demonstrate.

     

    Iraq: In the current issue of the American Spectator, Doug Bandow observes that centuries of dhimmitude have left Christians in the war-torn country without any means of self-defense. Washington policymakers have refused to lend assistance for fear of showing partiality, despite the murder of hundreds of Iraqi Christians, the kidnapping and torture of Christian clerics, the repeated bombings of Christian churches, the torching of Christian businesses, and the flight of close to half of the entire Iraqi Christian population since April 2003. Those who remain have been subject to the imposition of shari’a by the Shi’ite Mahdi Army and Sunni militias (al-Qaeda doesn’t bother with such niceties, preferring to murder them immediately instead), including the recent published threat in Mosul of killing one member of every Christian family in that city for Christian women not wearing the hijab and continuing to attend school. (Be sure to remember that the next time an Islamist apologist claims that the hijab is a symbol of women’s liberation.)

     

    Egypt: Journalist Magdi Khalil chronicles in a new report (“Another Black Friday for the Coptic Christians of Egypt”)  the campaign of violence directed against Christian Copts almost weekly immediately following Friday afternoon Muslim prayers. Inspired by Islamist imams preaching religious hatred in mosques all over the country and protected by government officials willing to look the other way, rampaging mobs of Muslims set upon Christians churches, businesses and individuals, from Alexandria to cities all the way up the Nile. Coptic holy days are also favorite times for Muslim violence, which the Egyptian media likes to describe as “sectarian strife” – as if it were actually a two-sided affair.

     

    Gaza: Ethel Fenig recently noted here at American Thinker (“More Gaza Multiculturalism”)  the systematic destruction of churches and desecration of Christian religious objects by Jihadia Salafiya following the HAMAS takeover of the Gaza Strip from their Fatah rivals and the imposition of Islamic rule. The head of Jihadia Salafiya told reporter Aaron Klein that any suspected Christian missionary activity in the area will be “dealt with harshly”. (Ynet News)

     

    Saudi Arabia: According to the Arab News, a Sri Lankan Christian man barely escaped with his life in late May when he was found working in the city of Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, which is officially barred to non-Muslims. In December, an Indian man had been sentenced to death for accidentally entering the city, but was spared after the Indian embassy made an urgent appeal to the Saudi Supreme Court.

     

    Pakistan: In Islamabad, Younis Masih was sentenced last month to death under the country’s frequently invoked blasphemy laws, which were also used against six Christian women suspended from a nursing school after they were accused of desecrating a Quran. And as protests against Salman Rushdie’s knighthood raged, a Muslim mob armed with guns, axes and sticks attacked Christians worshipping in a Salvation Army church in Bismillahlpur Kanthan. (Associated PressUnited Press InternationalMission News Network)

    Bangladesh: Almost a dozen Christian converts in the Nilphamari district were beaten last week by Muslim villagers wielding bricks and clubs, and threatened with death if they did not leave town immediately. Local hospitals subsequently refused them treatment. Christians in the area have also been prevented from using the only potable water well in the area after a pronouncement by religious authorities at the mosque in Durbachari. This came after 42 former Muslims were baptized as Christians in the local river on June 12. (Compass News Direct

     

    Malaysia: Government authorities demolished a church building on June 4th in Orang Asli settlement in Gua Musang in Ulu Kelantan, despite prior government approval of the project. The church was built on donated property after the entire village had converted to Christianity just a few months ago. Also in late May, the Malaysian high court ruled that Muslims who convert to Christianity must appeal to the religious shari’a courts to officially be deregistered as Muslims and reregistered as a Christians. (Journal ChretienAssociated Press)

     

    IndonesiaAgence France Presse reported last month on an attack by the Islamic Anti-Apostate Movement, who stormed a church service in a Protestant church in the West Java town of Soreang. The AFP report notes that more than 30 churches have been forced to close in West Java and dozens more throughout the country in recent years due to Muslim violence, churches which were among the few spared during the outbreak of hostilities during 1997-1998, where hundreds of Christian churches were burned to the ground and never rebuilt.

    Turkey: The Christian community is still reeling from the torture and ritual slaughter of three Protestants at a Christian publishing house in Malatya in April by an armed Islamist gang, which was preceded by the murder last year of Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in Trabzon and the assassination of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul in January. An additional six men allegedly associated with the same Muslim gang were arrested on May 30th for plotting an attack on a Christian pastor in Diyarbakir. (Lebanon Daily StarADKNI)

     

    Cyprus: The Cyprus Mail reports that during a meeting last month in Rome the Archbishop of the Cypriot Greek Orthodox Church pleaded with the Vatican Secretary of State for the Pope’s assistance to pressure Turkish authorities in restoring and repairing Christian sites and churches in areas occupied since the invasion of the island nation by Turkey in July 1974 and the ethnic cleansing of 160,000 Greek Christian Cypriots.

     

    Lebanon: More than 60,000 Christians have left the country since last summer’s war between Hezbollah and Israel, fearing the rise of both Sunni and Shi’ite extremism and terrorist activity. The Sunday Telegraph recently revealed the results of a poll finding that at least half of Lebanon’s Maronite community were considering leaving the country. More than 100,000 have already submitted visa applications at foreign embassies.

     

    Algeria: In what is considered one of the more “moderate” Muslim regimes, Al-Quds Al-Arabi announced that the Algerian government has just issued regulations requiring advance permission for non-Muslim public events, following a 2006 law aimed at limiting Christian evangelism in the Kabylia region and the Sahara. (MEMRI )

     

    Morocco: In the country that The Economist magazine in 2005 anointed “the best Arab democracy”, all Moroccans are considered Muslims at birth and face three years in prison if they attempt to convert. They are also prohibited from entering any of the few churches permitted to operate for the foreign inhabitants of the country. Moroccan Christians must operate covertly for fear of imprisonment by the government and attacks by Islamists. They cannot bury their dead in Christian cemeteries, and they must be married by Islamic authorities or face charges of adultery. Late last year, a 64 year-old German tourist, Sadek Noshi Yassa, was sentenced to six months in jail and fined for missionary activity. (Journal Chretien

     

    Nigeria: Police in Gombe arrested sixteen suspects after a Muslim mob stoned, stripped, beat, and finally stabbed to death a Christian teacher, Christiana Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, after she caught a student cheating on an exam in March. Her body was then burned beyond recognition by the mob who falsely accused her of desecrating a Quran. The suspects were released last month without any charges being filed, prompting Christian leaders to accuse government authorities of a cover-up and raising concerns about additional attacks. (Christian Today

     

    Eritrea: Just a few weeks ago, the Islamic government installed a new Orthodox Patriarch after they removed the previous Patriarch and placed him under house arrest for no stated reason. Compass News Direct reported in February the death of Magos Solomon Semere, a Christian who had been imprisoned in a military jail for four and a half years for illegal Christian worship, the third Christian to die in government custody since October. Authorities have also cracked down on unapproved churches, jailing at least two thousand Protestants and members of the Medhane Alem Orthodox renewal movement since the beginning of the year and publicly burning confiscated Bibles. (Christian PostCompass News Direct ; Journal Chretien)

     

    It is not an exaggeration to say that I could extend this brief list ad infinitum with additional Islamic countries and news items from just the past few weeks’ worth of incidents of violence, discrimination, intimidation and murder targeting Christians in the Muslim world. In many instances, the government and religious authorities in these Muslim countries work hand-in-hand in their campaign of religious persecution.

     

    A scene in the Academy Award-winning movie Schindler’s List gives us some insight into what is happening all across the Muslim world with respect to Christianity. As the SS Commandant Amon Göth and his Nazi Stormtroopers prepare to liquidate the Jewish ghetto in Krakow, Poland, Göth (played in the movie by Ralph Fiennes) gives his men a peptalk:

    For six centuries there has been a Jewish Krakow. Think about that. By this evening, those six centuries are a rumor. They never happened. Today is history.
    This scene is being repeated in the Friday sermons in mosques and on Islamic satellite TV all over the world, only this time it is the Christians in addition to the Jews who are targets. Great efforts are being made to make the two-thousand year history of Christianity in North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia a blasphemous rumor. Soon students in Turkey will be taught that the Hagia Sophia, the greatest architectural structure in the Muslim world, wasn’t built by the Christian Emperor Justinian in the Sixth Century, but by the Sultan Mehmed II a thousand years later after the Ottomans seized the Byzantine capital. That Christians lived at all in the Muslim world, let alone that much of the territory occupied by Muslims used to be Christian lands before the Islamic Wars of Conquest, will be nothing but a rumor by the end of this century punishable according to the precepts of shari’a.

     

    President Bush announced last week that he will be sending a special envoy to the 57-member Organization of Islamic Countries. Hopefully, the systematic persecution of Christians and other religious minorities will be the first and primary item in the new envoy’s portfolio, with the 2007 annual report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and the State Department’sAnnual Report on International Religious Freedom, which name virtually every single country in the OIC for its human rights abuses and religious cleansing, as evidence for our country’s concern.

     

    The fact remains that not a single Christian or Jew lives in peace in the Muslim world, and if it is truly our nation’s foreign policy to spread democracy around the world, this issue is the perfect topic for us to press. Back at home, raising Islam’s global war on Christianity should be the immediate response to the seemingly endless media grievance machine of radical Islam’s Western apologists. Until they begin to address the new Holocaust perpetrated in the name of Islam, their complaints and denials are nothing but bald hypocrisy.

    Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/07/islams_global_war_against_chri.html#ixzz4na8wh7mA
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    The Problem with Multicultural Foot Washing

    The Problem with Multicultural Foot Washing

     

    During Holy Thursday Mass, Pope Francis washed the feet of migrants, three of whom were Muslims. Most Catholics understood this as a gesture of humility and brotherhood. That is how the Catholic press reported it—and that, undoubtedly, was the Pope’s intention.

    Many Muslims, however, may see it differently—not as a gesture of brotherhood, but as one of submission and surrender. The word “Islam” means “submission,” and submission is what Islam expects of other faiths. Muslims consider Islam to be the supreme religion. To the extent that it tolerates the “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews), Islam tolerates them on the condition that they acknowledge its supremacy.

    Historically, the People of the Book were expected to assume the status of dhimmis—second-class citizens with limited rights. The origin of this attitude can be found in several verses in the Koran, particularly 9:29, which says that the “People of the Book” are to be fought “until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

    The conditions that govern the lives of dhimmis were further elaborated in the Pact of Omar (named after the second caliph, Omar bin al-Khattab). The two dozen or so stipulations include a prohibition on building new churches or repairing old ones, a prohibition on displaying crosses, and a demand that dhimmis give up their seats “to honor the Muslims.”

    With the passage of time, the dhimmi requirements were expanded, but the general idea was to keep Christians in their place, and even humiliate them. Sometimes, when dhimmis paid the jizya, they were required to approach the tax official on all fours.

    Unfortunately, the dhimmi laws are not a thing of the past. Churches are prohibited in Saudi Arabia, and Christian visitors to the Kingdom are not allowed to bring Bibles with them. In Pakistan and other Muslim countries, Christians are looked upon by many as inferior beings, fit only for menial jobs. In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has re-imposed the jizya tax, and Islamic State scholars cite the Koran and the Pact of Omar as justification for doing so.

    When the Pope kneels before a Muslim, these are the thoughts that will come into the minds of many followers of Islam. For them, the Pope’s gesture will serve as confirmation of the age-old Islamic conception of Christianity as a second-rate religion. Although some Muslims may be moved by the Pope’s gesture and some may even be converted, it’s likely that a majority of Muslims will interpret it as a sign of weakness.

    In assessing the impact of the novel foot-washing ceremony, the timing also needs to be taken into account. The Holy Thursday Mass came two days after the Brussels bombings, and at a time when Muslim persecution of Christians is escalating. If Christianity was anything other than a humiliated faith, Muslims would expect to see some kind of strong response or some gesture of resolve.

    Islam claims to be the natural religion of mankind, and the natural response to aggression is resistance. As Osama bin Laden reminded us, “if a man sees a strong horse and a weak horse, he will by nature favor the strong horse.” Yet, in the face of worldwide attacks on Christians, Church leaders meekly call for more dialogue and indulge in “reaching-out” gestures.

    These unfortunate interpretations of the foot-washing ceremony could have been avoided if Pope Francis had not sought to give it a multi-religious flavor. Apparently, he was hoping to make a statement about the Church’s inclusivity. But the statement may have backfired. That’s one of the dangers in politicizing the liturgy. Muslims who see the Pope’s gesture as one of submission before Islam are not going to be convinced of the wisdom of Christian charity, they are going to be convinced of the prudence of sticking with the strong-horse religion. They will be more, not less likely to throw in their lot with the militants. If the Catholic Church appears to be submitting to Islam, they will reason that the only safe course of action is to do the same.

    In matters of liturgy it’s usually a good idea to stick as closely as possible to the original. Christ consecrated bread and wine at the Last Supper, not pizza and Kool-Aid—or whatever they were using during the experimental “kitchen table” liturgies of the sixties and seventies. Likewise, Christ washed the feet of the Twelve Apostles. He didn’t include Philistines or representatives of the Zoroastrian faith. He didn’t offer to wash the feet of Herod or Pilate as a gesture of outreach.

    The foot washing was part of the preparation that the apostles needed in order to be worthy of going out into the world and spreading the gospel. The point of it was not so much to stress the humility of Christ, as to stress that the apostles should act likewise. They too were to act as servants. But servants of which master?

    Well, as servants of Christ, obviously. But if that’s so, it doesn’t make sense to involve Muslims and Hindus. The foot-washing ritual seems intended for followers of Christ. It’s a reminder that they should imitate him. As such, it doesn’t seem fitting that Muslims and Hindus—representatives of entirely different faiths—should be participants. Muslims are supposed to follow the example of Muhammad, not Christ. Is the Pope saying that they should forget about Muhammad and imitate Christ? Or that they should be good servants of Islam? Or what?

    The twelve participants are not meant to be merely passive objects of the celebrant’s charity, they are also subjects who go out into the world and act out the roles assigned to them by their master. But much of this symbolism is lost when the participants are servants of another faith system. In that case they serve as little more than props. They provide the backdrop for the making of a statement.

    So, the inclusion of non-Christians in the ceremony is problematic: it makes for a garbled symbolic syntax. And because it is so garbled, the takeaway can be entirely different from the one intended. As I suggested earlier, for many Muslims the gesture will suggest weakness and even capitulation in the face of danger. But it will also signal the same for many Christians, Jews, and agnostics—particularly those living in Europe. Instead of reminding them of Christ’s humility, the Pope’s gesture is more likely to remind them of the hated European elites who also humble themselves before Islam. It would be difficult to overstate the degree of contempt that many Europeans now feel for their leaders—leaders who have been more interested in making “statements” than in dealing with reality. They are hated most of all for having opened the floodgates to Muslim immigration—an “inclusive” gesture that threatens to bring ruination to much of the continent.

    Pope Francis has striven to be in touch with the common people, but he seems increasingly out of touch with the common people of Europe. Does he mean to identify himself and the Church with the wave of young male migrants who are now despoiling Europe? Or will the Church now be identified with the out-of-touch elites who have facilitated what the common people of Europe now consider to be an invasion? Will the Church be looked upon as a party to what is coming to be seen as a great betrayal of the European people by its leaders?

    Pope Francis undoubtedly intends none of this. But by using a religious ceremony to make a statement about current events, he leaves himself wide open to misinterpretation. Next Holy Thursday, it might be a good idea for the pope to stick to tradition and wash the feet of twelve Catholics. It will save us all from a barque-load of confusion.

    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?

    Allah

    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)

    Conclusion

    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

    [DutchFrenchIcelandicPortugueseSwedish]

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

    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.

    Conclusion

    ‘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.

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