Violence in Islam and Christianity.
Daniel and the Islamic da’wah team discuss violence in Islam and Christianity.
Alongside our series ‘Why Muhammad is not a prophet’, we thought we’d answer the top ten common Muslim objections to the deity of Christ. This first objection, popularised by Ahmed Deedat, is way the most common and often the first one a Muslim will raise. So here’s a quick rebuttal, which we hope you find helpful.
Objection 1 – Jesus never said ‘I am God, worship me.’
Just because Jesus doesn’t use these exact words doesn’t mean it can’t be true. Just because the Queen is not on record saying exactly “I am a woman and monarch of the United Kingdom” doesn’t mean she isn’t. The Qur’an never says “tawhid [Islamic monotheism] is God’s truth, you must follow tawhid” – does this mean the Qur’an doesn’t teach tawhid? No, the Qur’an does teach tawhid. Besides, who are ordinary Muslims to tell Jesus, who they revere as a prophet, what He should or shouldn’t have said? Why not look at His actual words? This leads us to our next point.
2. Why use an argument from silence instead of going to Scripture?
The Qur’an tells Muslims to believe in that which was sent down to us, Jews and Christians, as well as what was sent to them (Sura 4:136). Allah says he doesn’t make a distinction between the Qur’an and the previous Scriptures (Sura 2:136), that the previous Scriptures are a guidance for mankind (Sura 3:3-4). Why are Muslims preferring the words of human beings like Ahmed Deedat over Allah’s words?
3. Jesus does claim to be God in John 8:58 and Mark 14:62
How does Jesus identify himself in John 8:58? Verses 48-58 give the context.
48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honour my Father and you dishonour me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS BORN, I AM!” (Greek ‘ego eimi’)59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.”
Who does “ego eimi” (“I am”) refer to in the Old Testament? Isaiah 43:9-13 from the Septuagint (Greek version of OT):
‘All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble. Which of them foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, ‘It is true. You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord (Greek kyrios, Hebrew YHWH) ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I AM HE (ego eimi). Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no saviour. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God. Yes, AND FROM ANCIENT DAYS I AM HE. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?’ Isaiah 43:9-13.
“I am” refers to YHWH, the personal name for God as revealed to Moses. YHWH is from ancient days, YHWH is the only Saviour, out of whose hand no-one can deliver. Jesus is from ancient times (John 8:58, Micah 5:2), Jesus is the only Saviour (Luke 2:11), and no one can deliver out of his hand (John 10:27)! Therefore Jesus is YHWH.
What’s more, the Jews understood perfectly what Jesus meant, hence why they tried to stone him for blasphemy. And it would be blasphemy if Jesus were just a prophet, but Jesus’ claim to be God must be true because Jesus was sinless and not a liar – as the Qur’an also affirms.
27 Jesus’ claim to divinity is even more explicit in Mark 14: 61-64, during his trial before the Sanhedrin:
‘Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” (ego eimi) said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death.
In Jesus’ answer, note the parallels with the Divine Son of Man in Daniel 7:13 who is worshipped by all nations and peoples as God!
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a]coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language WORSHIPPED him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Why is the ‘son of man’ in Daniel worshipped if He isn’t God Almighty himself? Jesus is claiming to be this very Person! Now turn let’s turn this objection into a question for Muslims:
4. So if Allah tells you to believe in the previous Scriptures (Sura 4:136), and that Jesus was sinless and not a liar (Sura 19:19) why don’t you worship Him when He claims to be God?
Lord Jesus open Muslims’ eyes to see you for the glorious God and Saviour that You are.
For more in-depth analysis, read this article by Sam Shamoun
Scientific ‘miracles’ of the Qur’an.
Godwin discusses Sura 86 5-7, in which Allah states semen comes from between the “backbone and the ribs” and Sura 18:86:
“Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it [as if] setting in a spring of dark mud, and he found near it a people. Allah said, “O Dhul-Qarnayn, either you punish [them] or else adopt among them [a way of] goodness.”
Did Satan deceive Muhammad?
Hatun and Godwin discuss Sura 16:98-9 “So when you recite the Qur’an, [first] seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the expelled [from His mercy]. Indeed, there is for him no authority over those who have believed and rely upon their Lord.”
Islamic sources give the following criteria for demonic possession:
1. Choking, gasping, spasmodic movements, delirium, and whisperings. (Life of Muhammad, Guillaume p121)
2. Spitting and blowing (knots). (Bukhari 4:54:491; 2:21:243)
3. Eloquent speech. (Dawud 41:4994; Bukhari 7:71:662; 7:62:76)
4. Bad and evil dreams. (Muwatta 52: 52.1.4; Bukhari 9:87:113; 4:54:513)
5. The use of bells. (Muslim 24:5277; 24:5279 Dawud 14:2548; 2:498; 34:4218)
Islamic sources reveal that Muhammad is susceptible to all 5.
Was Muhammad bewitched?
Hatun and Godwin show from Islamic sources how Satan was able to influence Muhammad and ask Muslims why they consider him a prophet?
Sura 16:98-9 “So when you recite the Qur’an, [first] seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the expelled [from His mercy]. Indeed, there is for him no authority over those who have believed and rely upon their Lord.”
Narrated Aisha: Once the Prophet was bewitched so that he began to imagine that he had done a thing which in fact he had not done. (Bukhari 3175)
Narrated Aisha: Magic was worked on Allah’s Messenger so that he used to think that he had sexual relations with his wives while he actually had not (Sufyan said: That is the hardest kind of magic as it has such an effect). Bukhari 5675
Islamic Dawah Team heckled while Hatun and Daniel were on the ladder by claiming that Gabriel identified himself to Muhammad. After a long search, Islamic Dawah Team still cannot find where Gabriel said, ‘l am Gabriel’.
The recent debate between David Wood and Shabir Ally on ‘Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?’ exposed an uncomfortable fact for Muslims – that despite the Qur’an’s claim to be a ‘well-explained confirmation of the previous Scripture’ (Sura 10:37 ) neither it nor any of the other Islamic sources remotely explains what happened to Jesus. What you get instead is a big, confused mess.
There is only one ayah (out of 6,236) that mentions Jesus’ crucifixion, Sura 4:157 (Sahih International):
And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.
Most Muslims presume from this that Jesus didn’t die by crucifixion; instead they go along with one of two theories. Substitution theory – that someone else died on the Cross, disguised to look like Jesus while Jesus himself was raised to heaven alive; or Swoon theory, where Jesus passed out on the cross after which he was either taken up to heaven alive (Shabir Ally’s position) or he was laid in the tomb but revived, stumbled on his bloodied, nail-pierced feet unwitnessed and unassisted to Kashmir, where he continued to preach Islam until he eventually died (the Ahmaddi position.)
The earliest tafsir writers support substitution. So who went on this cross in Jesus’ place? According to Ibn Abbas (d.687 AD), it was the Jew’s ‘man’, Tatianos. Who is Tatianos? If Muslims were able to identify this person 7 centuries later, how come Christians have never heard of him? Or maybe Ibn Abbas got the wrong story.
Ibn Kathir (d.1373 AD) tells it differently. In his account, Jesus asked one of his friends to volunteer. He chooses a young, rather insistent chap- lucky him.
“Who volunteers to be made to look like me, for which he will be my companion in Paradise” A young man volunteered, but `Isa thought that he was too young. He asked the question a second and third time, each time the young man volunteering, prompting `Isa to say, “Well then, you will be that man.” Allah made the young man look exactly like `Isa, while a hole opened in the roof of the house, and ‘Isa was made to sleep and ascended to heaven while asleep.
Al Jalalyn ( two writers, d.1459 and 1505 AD) say “he, the one slain and crucified , who was an associate of theirs the Jews was given the resemblance of Jesus.” Some Muslims argue it was a watchman, or Judas (some say Iscariot, others not.) For more detail on who Muslims think might have taken Jesus’ place, read this article by Sam Shamoun.
Identity issues aside, substitution theory creates a serious theological problem: if it wasn’t Jesus on the Cross, why did Allah allow millions of Christians throughout the centuries to believe he was? Allah must be very malicious to do that. And it goes against Allah’s own teaching – that no-one will bear the burden of another (Sura 6:164). This is why Shabir Ally doesn’t hold to the Substitution argument, although it remains the most commonly-held position by Sunni Muslims.
Ally’s position, that Jesus was taken up to heaven alive, is based on the verse following Sura 4:157, Sura 4:158:
Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise.
This verse doesn’t say explicitly that Jesus didn’t die, so Dr. Ally is relying on an argument from silence. But the Qur’an isn’t silent, because in three other verses, it says Jesus dies. Sura 3:55 (see also Sura 19:33 and 5:117)
Lo! God said: “O Jesus! Verily, I shall cause thee to die, and shall exalt thee unto Me
(Note, not all English translations have this phrase, but it is there in the Arabic– mutawaffeeka.)
Dr. Ally speculated that this verse doesn’t have to be interpreted chronologically: it could mean Jesus was exalted (taken to heaven), and will return one day after which he will die – only there are no other verses that support this interpretation. If anything, the chronological view is supported, as the same formula (reminiscent of the creed in 1 Cor 15:3) is applied to John the Baptist in Sura 19:15:
“And peace be upon him the day he was born and the day he dies and the day he is raised alive.”
No-one doubts that John the Baptist died. Instead Dr. Ally, like Ibn Kathir, speculates that Jesus was taken to heaven in his sleep, according to Sura 6:60
“And He it is Who takes your souls at night, and He knows what you earn by day, then raises you up therein that at an appointed term may be fulfilled. Then to Him is your return, then He will inform you of what you did.”
So Jesus was taken to Paradise in his sleep? Is he still sleeping, like Sleeping Beauty, until Allah wakes him up in time for judgement day? Or did he actually die? The Qur’an strongly suggests it. When he died, was it on the Cross? If not then and there, then where and when? Also, why does the Qur’anic Jesus get to be with Allah in heaven (despite being hopeless at preaching Islam) when Muhammad, the perfect example to mankind, wasn’t sure where he was going? And if Jesus was miraculously rescued from death, how come the same privilege wasn’t extended to Muhammad? Muhammad was fatally poisoned, only Allah didn’t swap him for a lookalike at the eleventh hour.
Dr Ally conceded that not everything in the Qur’an was meant to be interpreted historically, that a bit like “the Hulk shopping for stretchable underwear” (he really said that) just because something didn’t really happen doesn’t make it not true (or words to that effect).
Nice, humorous, vague sentiment – only the Qur’an doesn’t allow itself to be so loosely interpreted. What does Sura 10:37 say again?
And it was not [possible] for this Qur’an to be produced by other than Allah, but [it is] a confirmation of what was before it and a detailed explanation of the [former] Scripture, about which there is no doubt, from the Lord of the worlds.
What’s most tragic about this question is that it’s not something the Qur’an even needed to explain, because the Bible presents the death and resurrection of Jesus as historical fact. Not only does the Qur’an fail to explain these facts – it actively ignores them in favour of conflicting, unhistorical, unsubstantiated reports, therefore proving by its own logic that it can’t be from Allah.
David Wood quoted David Hume – “a wise man proportions his belief to the evidence” – and all the evidence for what happened to Jesus is in the Bible. The Bible also tells us why Jesus chose the Cross.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 (John 3:16)
Our Muslim friends at Speaker’s Corner tell us often how ‘logical’ Islam is. Isn’t it logical to go where the evidence leads?
When it comes to Iran, Donald Trump is right. This is something arch atheist Sam Harris and I agree on:
The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based on the “one God” -Allah -and “his exclusive sovereignty and right to legislate, and the necessity of submission to his commands.” It is governed through “continuous leadership of the holy persons, possessing necessary qualifications, exercised on the basis of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.” So while Hassan Rouhani is the democratically elected President, it is the religious leadership – Ali Khameni and the mullahs – who wield the real power and influence.
Ray Takeyh from US think tank the Council on Foreign Relations writes
Iran’s conservatives are imbued with an ideology that views the essential purpose of the state as the realization of God’s will on Earth….Given such ideological inclinations, the hardliners are utterly contemptuous of democratic accountability and are unconcerned about their loss of popularity and widespread dissatisfaction with theocratic rule.”
Theocracy is not only justified, but the only legitimate form of government according to Islam. Sura 24:55 states
Allah has promised those who have believed among you and done righteous deeds that He will surely grant them succession [to authority] upon the earth just as He granted it to those before them and that He will surely establish for them [therein] their religion which He has preferred for them and that He will surely substitute for them, after their fear, security, [for] they worship Me, not associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that – then those are the defiantly disobedient.
How is this interpreted by Ibn Kathir, one of the most trusted and reliable Islamic commentators?
This is a promise from Allah to His Messenger that He would cause his Ummah to become successors on earth, i.e., they would become the leaders and rulers of mankind, through whom He would reform the world and to whom people would submit, so that they would have in exchange a safe security after their fear. This is what Allah did indeed do, may He be glorified and exalted, and to Him be praise and blessings. For He did not cause His Messenger to die until He had given him victory over Makkah, Khaybar, Bahrayn, all of the Arabian Peninsula and Yemen; and he took Jizyah from the Zoroastrians of Hajar and from some of the border lands of Syria; and he exchanged gifts with Heraclius the ruler of Byzantium, the ruler of Egypt and Alexandria, the Muqawqis, the kings of Oman and An-Najashi of Abyssinia, who had become king after Ashamah, may Allah have mercy on him and grant him honor.
Allah promises his faithful followers that they will be rulers on earth. So Islamic theocracies are desirable as a sign of the religion’s success. Ibn Kathir also gives Muhammad’s conquests of “Mecca, Khaybar, Bahrayn, all of the Arabian Penninsula and Yemen” as an example of what success looks like. The Islamic Republic of Iran (although it denies expansionist ambitions) has spent millions of dollars fighting (directly or through its proxies) in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – at the expense of its own citizens’ welfare. These inferences aren’t lost on the protestors: “no more Islamic Republic” has been one of the chants.
Does Christian doctrine also support political theocracy? This is a big topic, but for the sake of brevity, here are three reasons from Jesus’ teachings why it doesn’t:
1. Because Jesus recognised responsibilities to the State, Christian or not
In Matthew 22 and Mark 12 Jesus talks about “giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” There is plenty of debate about whether and to what degree Jesus is separating church and state in this illustration – but he is making this point clearly: that even a pagan Emperor is owed his due. Jesus affords even non-Christian government some legitimacy.
2. Jesus doesn’t impose his divine rule on people who reject him.
Nor does Jesus resist when evil rulers subject Him to their authority. Note Jesus’ reaction to his arrest in John 18:36:
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Muhammad did impose his rule on unwilling subjects, as we see from Ibn Kathir’s commentary – “he took Jizyah [a humiliating tax imposed on non-Muslims] from the Zoroastrians of Hajar and from some of the border lands of Syria.”
3. Because Jesus’ kingdom is a heavenly, not an earthly kingdom.
Jesus exhorts people to to “repent, because the kingdom of heaven is near!” (Matt 3:2). This phrase “kingdom of heaven” occurs 31 times in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus doesn’t mean ‘God has anointed me for political rule’, but uses this expression to imply his ministry is divine in origin. He is pointing to his divinity. Through repentance and faith in Jesus, we too can be part of this heavenly kingdom.
So how has the earthly Islamic caliphate fared? Historically, the success of Islamic theocracies has always been short-lived. Three out of four ‘rightly-guided Caliphs’ were killed in power struggles; the Caliphate of Cordoba collapsed; the Ottoman Empire didn’t survive; the Taliban were ousted; Iran’s future as an Islamic Republic is uncertain.
But Jesus’ kingdom has never been limited by politics or geography. For now Jesus’ kingdom is where “two or three gather in my name – there I am also” (Matt 18:20). On his return, Jesus kingdom will be fully realised. Through the centuries, Christians have been thrown to the lions, beheaded, burnt at the stake, but none of this has stopped Christianity’s advance. And where in the world is the church growing fastest? Iran. Let’s pray for this nation.