Islam claims to be the true religion of Abraham, the prophets and even Jesus. Its God is supposedly the one who created Adam, guided Noah through the flood, and was worshiped by Isaac, Jacob and David. What record do we have of these figures of faith? The Bible, Old and New Testaments. Muhammad supposedly restored the true religion of these patriarchs. But in the Bible, we do not see any mention of any religion resembling Islam. A religion consists of doctrines and practices. This is what makes them distinct. The doctrine of one God is clearly seen in the Bible, but not many of the practices that Make Islam Islam. There is no pilgrimage (hajj) to the city of Mecca. There is no month-long fast on an Arabic calendar. There is prayer, but not a set five per day. There is a shahada (shema) that affirms one God. But no mention of his "only messenger", Muhammad.
Of course, Muhammad would not be around for centuries, and many of these things were added later, some by Muhammad himself. The Jews had a customary 3 prayers a day (not commanded in the Bible, but probably inspired by Daniel's practice, recorded in Daniel 6:10, 13.) And it was towards Jerusalem, where the Temple of God, was. Muhammad would change both the direction to Mecca (2:142-144), and add two more prayers, to distance his followers from the Jews, who were rejecting him. (see Karen Armstrong A History of God) The Fast of Ramadan commemorated Muhammad's receiving of the Qur'an in the first place. Muhammad asks "Do you claim that Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the tribes were all Jews or Christians? Do you know better than God Himself? Who is more wicked than the man who hides a testimony he has received from God?"(2:140). The assumption is that what they really were was "Muslims". (in the footnotes of verses like this in many Qur'ans). Another definition of "Muslim" besides "peacemaker" is "submission". So the true "Muslim" religion of Abraham, as followed by the patriarchs, prophets, and Jesus, was simply "submission to God". Every Jew and Christian can agree with that. Some Jews and Christians Muhammad would even acknowledge were following God correctly, and would have reward in Heaven. (2:62, 5:69, 82) So then what is Muhammad's problem with Jews and Christians? A lot of what he describes in the Qur'an is not true Judaism or Christianity. Both groups had become corrupt throughout the ages. The Jews, even in Arabia, continued with their identity-centered mindset, which we see in the Bible, leading them to reject Jesus as the Messiah, and to harshly reject Muhammad in Medina, who at first tried to blend in with them. This rejection would greatly help shape his hostility toward Jews. He would even criticize them for some of the same things biblical prophets criticized them for, such as saying God's hands were chained because of the His seeming abandonment (5:64; cf. Isaiah 59:1,2) And there were aberrations such as a belief Ezra was the Son of God (9:30). Christians on the other hand "make of their clerics and monks [as well as] the Messiah, the son of Mary, Lords beside God (v.31). And of course, the Christians also had the scandalous doctrine of the Trinity, which can never be fully understood, so many people throughout the centuries, both inside and outside of Christendom, have challenged it. Part of the problem was the Church's creedal definitions of the doctrine, whose language does appear to compromise monotheism. This made it hard for people to understand that Jesus is not a[nother] "god" beside the Father. But this is precisely what Muhammad thought, along with various other groups, such as today's Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. Kareem Abdul Jabbar for instance, mentioned in his autobiography Giant Steps(Bantam, 1983) that the Catholic school taught him "that there is one supreme being who is really three; and three supreme beings who were really one; they handed me some line of gibberish, and told me to accept it on faith" (p.166), and this would help lead him to Islam, as he saw no mention of "three" in the scriptures. This is similar to many people's story. But a big part of it too was the branch of the Church Muhammad witnessed. This was the Eastern Church in Arabia, which like the Western churches that would become Roman Catholic upon the great schism of the 11th century, held Mary, the mother of Jesus in an overly exalted position. (As well as the positions of monks and "clerics" as was mentioned). They practically worshiped her (as the Queen of Heaven, a pagan title), and when you observe the "trinity" Muhammad actually condemns, it is Mary who is the third "god" worshiped along with Jesus beside God. (5:116). She may have even become associated with, or maybe even the personification of the Holy Spirit. But this obviously was no longer biblical Christianity.
So a lot of misunderstandings had shaped Muhammad's view of Judaism and Christianity. In all of this, Muhammad never puts down the Scriptures of either the Jews or Christians, but affirms them, (including the "gospel" (evanjil) of Jesus!) and simply charges the Jews and Christians with not following them properly. But he assumed that his "path" was the proper teaching of them. Muslims today see that the Bible does not teach Islam as they know it, so they came up with the conclusion that the Bible must have been "tampered" with. But Muhammad doesn't say this. All of the passages commentators point to as teaching that the Jews "perverted" the scriptures, are referring not to changing the text, but rather having it, yet not following it, as written, or changing its context (4:46--twisting its meaning, (as in 2 Peter 3:15) as we see many people or groups do), and thus "hiding" or "suppressing" them-- not the text, but rather their teachings. Basically, what the Bible describes as "holding the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18) So the textual accuracy of the Scriptures was not in question, but was assumed to teach Islam, or not teach concepts like the deity of Christ.
Many secular historians often assume the Bible was tampered with, in order to explain away the Resurrection and other doctrines about Christ. Much is made about some supposed writings "locked away in the catacombs" in the Vatican, that would supposedly disprove Christianity once and for all. But this is pure conjecture. There are many writings extant and published, some done in the name of apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:2), that contradict the Gospel, and teach all of the concepts that many secularists and eclecticists would love to see canonized as "true religion" ("inner light", etc). One of these was a "Gospel of Bartholomew" that is believed by scholars to have influenced the Qur'an, such as its account of the creation of Satan from "smokeless fire". But these were clearly discredited as later Gnostic fabrications. They did not exist (were not mentioned by any writer or historian) in the first century. With all the discoveries of ancient texts (many by secular archaeologists who would not try to hide such evidence) they could only be covered up but so long. What else could there be? There is even a "Gospel of Barnabas" that clearly supports Islam, by denying Christ's death on the cross (suggesting Judas was substituted instead) and suggesting the Comforter would be an "ahmad", which basically meant another prophet, who would "lead us into all truth". (Gabriel is also held to be the "spirit of truth" who would be behind this prophet, as well as him being the "holy spirit" who impregnated Mary!) This book then was said to be what the Qur'an refers to when it mentions the "Gospel". There was a Gospel of Barnabas mentioned in ancient church writings (another one of the Gnostic works, which has been lost), but this book we have today has been clearly identified as the fabrication of a medieval Catholic convert to Islam. It mentions things that did not exist in Jesus' time.) This supposed "tampering" of the Bible, justifies everything they believe that contradicts it, maintaining Islam as the true religion of the faithful, and Judaism and Christianity as false corruptions. The Kaaba stone in Mecca had been a pagan Arabic shrine, but now it too would be given divine significance, as Abraham and Ishmael were said to have built it. (2:127ff). Though I don't see it in the Qur'an, it is probably in the hadiths (traditions or tales, basically the Islamic "apocrypha") that Ishmael was really the one God commanded Abraham to sacrifice! Obviously, one could detect a move to portray Arabs as the new "chosen", superseding not only Israel (as the Church was said to have done), but also Christianity as well. This was the "Last Testament". As Armstrong says "he was bringing the Arabs their own scripture and now he could root their faith in the piety of their ancestors" (p.154,5).
But if the Scriptures are tampered, as Muslims claim, than where do we get our basic knowledge of Abraham, Jesus, and the rest of the patriarchs and prophets? The Qur'an mentions them, but does not give a synoptic account of their lives or teachings. Is all of this information lost? God said he would preserve His Word (Isaiah 40:8). This does not mean He would allow man to stamp it out, and then have to start from scratch with a whole new revelation, other than to add to the old. And considering that Muhammad did not even appear to believe this, but instead believed that the Jews and Christians had the right scriptures but were not following them, we still have to look for the reason Muhammad's religion differs so much from ours.
Muhammad was said to have been unable to read. This probably would supposedly be the ultimate proof of his claim of a supernatural revelation. The angel Gabriel had appeared to him and commanded him "read", and he began reading. But there is one qualification any prophet or anyone else claiming to receive a revelation from the spirit world was to meet. Isaiah 8:20, regarding people contacting the spirit world (v.19) "To the Law and the Testimony, if they do not speak according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them". Muhammad claimed to be teaching the true Law and Testimony, but what he came up with is very different from it. 1 John 4:1 is even more clear. "Brothers, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits because many false prophets have gone out into the world". These false prophets were led by false spirits; who were angels who had fallen, and spend their time deceiving man. Were these two scriptures just manufactured by Jews and Christians? Or are they teaching an important truth that any seeker of God should heed? The criteria for determining whether a spirit was true of false was whether it acknowledged the truth of Jesus. The truth in question here was that Jesus "came in the flesh" (as opposed to being purely spirit as Gnostics were teaching). Muslims would not disagree that Jesus was a flesh and blood man. But still, wouldn't the other doctrines about Jesus taught by these scriptures also apply, if a spirit came and taught someone something that contradicted them? Muhammad accepted these revelations from this angel identifying himself as "Gabriel". But could he even follow these scriptural warnings to test this spirit? Perhaps not, if he couldn't even read! In fact, most of his knowledge about sacred history he got second hand from Jews and Christians. And as was pointed out, they themselves carried a mixture of truth and error. Proof of this is that the Islamic name for Jesus, "Isa", is really a translation of the Hebrew "Esau"! ("Jesus" in proper Arabic was something like "Yesu", like it is in most other languages). How did "Esau" come to mean "Jesus"? This is what the Jews contemptuously called Jesus! Muhammad simply took the name and used it thinking it was really "Jesus". Just like he considered Mary the third person of the Trinity worshiped by Christians. Unable to read, he could check the teachings of neither the Jews, Christians, nor the angel who appeared to him against the scriptures. He just accepted everything, but sensing that the Jews and Christians were doctrinally and spiritually corrupt, he sought to correct their errors, and he assumed his "pure religion" was what the Judeo-Christian scriptures really taught. In some cases he was right, but not when it came to the doctrine of Christ, or His Gospel(see below). The angel upholds the teachings of scripture, but then suddenly "[They say]: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto
them [footnote: "he was made to resemble another for them"]; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. (4:157, 158). But where now is the scriptural basis for this? This is the real conjecture, with no scriptural or historical basis at all. The Gospels that circulated for centuries before said He was crucified, and there were many Old Testament prophecies supporting this. (Once again, the so-called "Gospel of Barnabas" that echos this theory came later). Some say that Jesus was to be crucified, but that "God answered His prayer on the Cross, and God would never deny the request of such a righteous prophet, so he rescued Him and put someone else there". But this fails to understand that his righteousness is the whole basis of why He had to be crucified, plus the Qur'an acknowledged that other righteous prophets were killed.
So this was a very vulnerable position to be in, and what was to stop a fallen angel from impersonating one of God's angels, and misleading someone? Especially since we see in the letters of the apostles, that one of the things Satan was trying to lead men into, was not just lawless hedonism or idol worship, but rather continuing justification through laws and rituals (Galatians, 1 Tim. 4:1-3, etc), when it was clearly proven that they could not save.
It is also pointed out that the way this angel forcefully prompted the recitation of the Qur'an, was not characteristic of God's angels, who are gentile with God's people. In fact, it's been said that Muhammad originally thought it was a jinn (evil spirit), as many Arabic soothsayers and poets were similarly convulsed and forced to "recite" inspired oracles by the jinns. He definitelyneeded to have tested this spirit! But why would a false spirit uphold the scriptures? To further deceive! Satan is pictured as transforming himself into an "angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). He does this by not always leading men directly into immorality or outright rejection of God, but rather pretending to uphold the scriptures, but bending them to support some error and adding some other authority as the final revelation or guide to interpreting the scriptures. This is WHY all spirits must be tested by the scriptures.
It is also mentioned how the Gospels were not eyewitness accounts, but written 70 years later as third party recollections. Meanwhile, the Qur'an was memorized by contemporaries of Muhammad. But as Dr. William Campbell shows in The Qur'an and the Bible (Upper Darby, PA, Middle East Resources, 1986), there were similar possibilities of corruption by the time it was written down, which like the Bible, was many years later. The whole idea of the scriptures being "tampered" is basically an argument of modern scholarship, which rejects all "revealed faith". How much would the "original" Bible really differ from what we have today? It's cardinal teachings are clear, and set forth too many times to simply be additions by people with some agenda.
There are many other inconsistencies. Christians are accused of making Jesus a "partner with God" (shirk), yet that is not what the Christian Bible teaches. In Him, God Himself was "manifest in the flesh". (1 Timothy 3:16) This is what is said to be a "mystery"; we cannot fully comprehend it. Christians, unfortunately, have made more of a focus on the resulting "threeness" as being the mystery, with Father, Son, and Spirit being portrayed often as three separate "beings". Much debate goes on as to the whether this is accurate, but one is expected to refer to them as three "Persons" in order to be a true Christian, even though this term can lead to the prior assumption. But the focus in this passage is foremost Christ's deity. If Christ is really apart of the divine nature, he can in no way be a "partner" with God. That is how John 1, Hebrews 1 and other scriptures can proclaim Jesus as Creator, yet Isaiah 44-46 show that no one is like God, or helped Him in creation. (This is discussed in depth at triune.html). In Qur'an 19:18, the angel tells Muhammad "it is not become the Lord of Mercy to beget a son". But what right does an "angel of God" (Galatians 1:8) have to say this, outside of the Torah and Gospel, which do ascribe a "Son" to God? (Psalms 2:12, Proverbs 30:4). Once again, this angel should have been tested against the scriptures! And once again, Muhammad didn't understand what true divine Sonship meant, as he also condemned pagan concepts, which ascribed both sons and daughters to God (6:100), and he associated the two, even though they were quite different. In pagan concepts, gods reproduced much like people and animals. A male god needed a [divine female] "cohort" (v.101). This is not what the doctrine of Christ's "begettal" really is.
Meanwhile, if Christians are so wrong to place this man so close to God, isn't this precisely what Muslims are doing with Muhammad? His name is in their creed (shahada), right next to God, for crying out loud! And in all the jihad we've heard about, it seems Muhammad is the one avenged of "blasphemy" even more than God! Man himself seems to be a partner with God, often described as His "viceregent" (which would also help support "jihad" for His cause), plus the exalted position of their own "clerics", plus male dominance. The Qu'ran says in a few places that the very act that caused Satan to fall was a refusal to fall prostrate to the newly created Adam! But Isaiah 48:11 says He would not share His glory with another. All of this man-centeredness would definitely classify as "shirk"!
Over all, what Muslims need to think, especially those who believe in jihad, is what really is God's will for mankind? Spreading Islam? In the sense of "spreading peace", or even "spreading submission to God", these are acceptable missions, provided the latter is not done forcefully. God wants people to love Him, not obey out of terror. It's fallen man, under the Devil, who wants control by fear. So before you can even ask what is God's will for mankind, we need to ask what is man's problem in the first place? And then how can it be solved?
Many see man's sin, and the logical solution is that we need to be controlled with more rules. Muhammad introduced a new religion of works similar to the Jews. This seemed to be what God wanted, from what you would hear about all the faithful in the Bible. But Romans 4 shows that Abraham ultimately wasn't saved by a prescribed set of rules (which weren't even in effect at his time--Galatians 3:16,17), but by faith (which would yield obedience--Romans 6:1,2), but our work of obeying commands would not be what saved us, because we still have natures that do not want to obey Him perfectly, and we all yield to them). In fact, the entire record of Israel with the Law proved that man was fallen (as was established in the story of Adam), and needed a savior, not a new set of laws. Muhammad is seen as the "seal of the prophets" for among other reasons, as Kareem Abdul Jabbar puts it: "Moses was a lawgiver, as was Abraham. Jesus was not, Islam said. He told people how to live according to the laws that were already written."(p.167). This is tied in with "Shiloh" and the "passing of the scepter from Judah" of Genesis 49:10, which is then taken as another prophecy of Muhammad as the new "lawgiver". But is this completely true? Jesus did say "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the prophets. I have not come to destroy but too fulfill. For truly, I tell you, Till Heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle shall in any way pass from the Law until all is fulfilled." (Matthew 5:17, 18). But what exactly does this mean? There are Christian and "Messianic" groups that take this to mean that practically all of the Mosaic Law, (except for the sacrifices), are still binding on believers in the Messiah, and Muslims seem to agree that one of the corruptions of Christianity, is their not keeping laws such as the Sabbath, dietary restrictions, etc.). But the key word in Jesus' statement is fulfilled. He said that He would "fulfill" it. This by keeping the Law perfectly for man who had proven all throughout the Mosaic period, that he couldn't really keep the Law. In John 7:19, He tells the people "Did not Moses give you the Law, and none of you keeps the Law"? Not because the Jews are particularly "stubborn" or sinful, as Muslims and others have assumed. This is the fallen nature of all of us. Returning to the Sermon on the Mount, we see that what Jesus actually did, rather than just simply reiterating Old Covenant laws, he actually MAGNIFIED them, as Isaiah 42:21 prophesied. Killing was not just plunging a sword through a man, but also hating a man without cause. Adultery was not just sleeping with another woman, but even lusting after her, as is divorcing your present wife for unjust cause, and marrying another. Oaths, revenge and hating one's enemies also are not God's will, as well as praying and fasting to be seen of men. It becomes quite clear just from looking at this, that nobody has kept the Law as well as they have thought; at least not up to God's true standard, which is much higher than we thought. Did the Christians make all this up and add these words to the Gospel account? Or are they God's way of showing us His absolute holiness, which we often talk about, but fail to really grasp? Since Muslims, as well as Jews and Christians do not have the old blood sacrifice system, does that mean that we must be condemned? (since if we keep the whole law, but offend in one point, we are guilty of all-- James 2:10) No, the end of Jesus' fulfillment of the Law is that He laid down His perfect life as the perfect sacrifice. So Paul shows that even though Christian do not keep all of the "law of works" (by which people boast), "Do we then make void the Law though faith? God forbid! Yeah, we establish the Law" (Romans 3:31). Take away this, as both Jews and Muslims have done, then what really do you have? Try to keep laws as good as you can, and then maybe you'll make it into Heaven, but you still can't be so sure. Especially since we see that we are not keeping it the way God wants, plus there is no longer any other sacrifice. We just have to hope God overlooks our sins then, and accepts us without a sacrifice. This is a big eternal risk people are taking with their lives. This shows us the basis of the Christian Gospel. As John 13:34 shows, Jesus gave us a new Commandment: love. So He is a "lawgiver" and the true antetype of Moses.
Muslims are said to be not even sure of their salvation, even with all the works. It seems surety of salvation is held only by the suicide terrorists, who take others out with them. But the fact that one could do all those works and still not be sure he will go to Heaven shows that this must not be the way. We know deep down inside our own sinfulness, and that God really detests what's in our hearts, even though no one else can see it. So people actually think it "presumptuous" for one to think for sure he will be saved. But God loves us and has made a way to be made righteousness before Him. He ends His Gospel with the declaration that "these things are written that...believing you have [eternal] life through His name" (John 20:31)
They chide us on our lack of control over society, compared to their countries where there are harsh penalties for relatively small crimes (chopping off hands, etc.) This may appear to keep people in line, but it does not change the heart, evidenced by the fact that they can still produce people who commit heinous crimes, (albeit against other nations). And as is evidenced by recent articles on the status of women, who are basically oppressed, the cracks are there, even in such places as Iran, where women are trying to gain rights. All oppressive rules do is repress people, but eventually, they will revolt. (Especially if leadership is corrupt and self-serving). In Romans chapter 7, Paul shows that this is the result of Law on human nature, and that is precisely what happened in the Western societies they look down on. So they are making the same exact mistake as the old Catholic Church and fundamentalist Christians, who also think they once had this society under control through rules, but have now lost it at the hands of the "godless".
So now once again, we ask, is the "spreading of Islam" God's will for man? Will everyone taking Arabic names, observing the five pillars, etc solve man's problem and put an end to all sin? Or would it just make one culture superior? One striking note is that in surahs like 9:5 and 9:29, we see the monetary aspect of conquest --apparently more so than religious practice! But wouldn't leaders still fight over who the ultimate ruler would be? This just shows us that man cannot create a perfect world. Muslims read of Adam, and know he disobeyed, but it's like this means nothing; it has no real effect on man and his relationship with God. Man can just pick himself back up, and please God with his works, and also take over the world for God. But once again, the entire record of Israel proves this false. Muslims are among the first to point out Israel's failure, but don't realize that this is just a sample of all of man. If you don't believe Adam's sin has cut man off from God, then just look at how first, man became plagued with guilt, hiding from each other (shame) and God (Genesis 3:7). We think of man wanting God, but God sending him to Hell against his wish, but this shows that man, by nature RUNS from God. We cannot endure His holiness. What we want is the joys of paradise, not God so much; but it is impossible to have one without the other. Then, God pronounced a judgement on man, (v.16-19) which continues to this day, and drove him OUT of the Garden, and even guarded it from reentry (v.22, 23). How do we figure man can recreate a righteous world for God in light of all of this? Or did the Jews make this up too? Why would they, when their hope of works-righteousness also ignores this account? (The Christians certainly didn't make it up, as they got this scripture from the Jews). People think man is basically good, if he follows the right religion or politics, but Psalms 14:1-3/Romans 3:10-18 and Jeremiah 17:9 disprove this. Once again, did the Christians add these statements to the scriptures too? How can anyone establish the government of God or be instruments of His justice against evil, when they themselves have sinned against Him (i.e. have you kept ALL of His laws ALL of your life?). You too would wind up wiped out by His justice. Plus, Satan and his evil spirits are pictured as the real spiritual rulers of the world. By calling us "Satan", Islamists recognize this to some extent, but still, man arrogantly thinks that not only is his culture unaffected by this, but that they are some match for the evil spirits, and can defeat them for God. This just further plays us right into their deception. But of course, if we identify people as Satan, it makes the feat seem more plausible. But whoever takes over the world, will also take over the role of Satan's main instruments in fighting God, and will be the primary objects of His wrath (Revelation 13-19).
Another question they need to ask themselves is; we allow them to proselytize in our nation, but why are Christians arrested and often persecuted, with death penalties for preaching Jesus in their countries? Christians have to hear Jesus, the Bible and their faith dogged left and right, including by Muslims, yet we don't respond the way many Muslims do when Muhammad is attacked. Sure, they may believe Christianity is false, and they would want to guide against error coming in (especially, unfortunately, since Christianity has also brought with it a demand of submission to the West, and adoption of Western ways). But why are many so violent about it? What are they afraid of? What is the threat? Is this really a cultural issue more than a struggle to maintain divine truth? We should all think of this when we get defensive about other belief systems, especially in light of God's promise to put away all falsehood and fill the earth with His truth, in His timing.
A discussion of the "Faith of Abraham"
Us Christians argue with them on the Sonship of Christ, the Trinity, and many spend a lot of time trying to discredit the name Allah. They claim this is a totally false deity that has nothing to do with the God of the Bible; just some "moon god" chosen out of a pantheon. (360 gods worshiped at the Kaaba and Muhammad picked one of them). But the word allah actually means ("the God"); al is the definite article, and ilah is "god", and is directly related to the Hebrew el, or eloah, from which we get elohim, and also the Aramaic elah. All the other 'gods' were actually attributes of the one true God (rahman-- "the merciful"; rahim, "the compassionate", etc. and some of these words are even the same as in biblical Hebrew!). The Arabs began worshiping them as separate gods. It was just like in Israel and all other human societies, where the true God would become "unknown" (Acts 17:23), lost amidst idols. (Someome could have accused Paul of picking "Theos" out of a Greek pantheon.) So attacking the name Allah is starting from the wrong angle. Now of course, the other charge is that Allah "has no Son", so theologically, Allah, as defined by the Muslims is not the same as the God of the Bible. But then YHWH-Elohim ("Ha Shem") as defined by the Jews has no Son either. In fact, Jesus is not even a prophet of his, and especially not his "messiah" or "word", but rather a false teacher at worst (even though some may refer to him as a "good rabbi"). But most of these Christians would never accuse the Jews of worshiping a false god. So likewise we should be fair, and challenge the Muslims on theology, not a name (and I have yet to see what they suggest Arabs who receive Christ should call the Creator).
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