Who are al-Lat, Al-Uzza and Manat in Sura 53:19-20? We discuss the historical evidence linking these deities to the ancient kingdom of Nabatea – and revealing Islam’s pagan origins.
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Who are al-Lat, Al-Uzza and Manat in Sura 53:19-20? We discuss the historical evidence linking these deities to the ancient kingdom of Nabatea – and revealing Islam’s pagan origins.
Find us on YouTube
I’ve learnt a lot more about Billy Graham in death than in life. I went on an Alpha course 20 years ago, and his name rang a bell when it came up during one of the talks….preacher, big venues, Cliff Richard…. but Cliff Richard held no appeal to my 23 year old self as I worked through the cost/benefit analysis of becoming a Christian. Even back then, Graham’s method – straight Bible preaching, huge crowds, altar calls – seemed a bit quaint.
But the more I’ve read about him over the last few days, the more I’ve come to admire this giant of the evangelical world, and the more I’ve been convicted by his example on a few issues. See if you agree.
Apologetics is necessary and biblical. We’re told to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). I have been personally so blessed by the resurgence of apologetics over the past couple of decades. Undoubtedly apologetics has equipped me to be a better evangelist. But doing apologetics and doing evangelism are not the same. Apologetics can be self-serving sometimes – as my hours spent reading, studying, trying to work out whether or not this or that argument works and sitting at the feet of various clever Christians wishing I was cleverer – testify. I have not clocked up anything like so many hours simply sharing the Gospel with people. Billy Graham shared the Gospel all the time, trusting in the Scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work.
2. Beware intellectualism
I love apologetics’ appeal to the cerebral, and I’m convinced the Christian faith can withstand intellectual scrutiny. Apologetics is a useful bridge between the church and academia. But sometimes, we crave the approval and recognition of the academic world more than we ought. We can hide behind intellectualism in the hope people will find us – Christians – less crazy.
Billy Graham didn’t have much in the way of formal education: he was a dairy farm hand and a Fuller brush salesman. He wished he’d studied more; but his lack of study didn’t detract from his powerfully simple Gospel message, impacting millions of lives. Nor was he in any way ashamed of the Gospel’s supernatural foundation. 1 Corinthians 1:26:
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
3. Pursue holiness
Those of us who argue for a living sometimes think that people only pay attention to our arguments – wrong. Every Christian is an ambassador for Christ in every area of life, something Billy Graham understood very well. More than that – he took time to analyse the reasons why so many evangelists careers ended in moral failure. The result was his Modesto Manifesto, in which he and his team committed to the highest standards of integrity. His high standards of financial transparency and sexual purity made the headlines – but what struck me most was his refusal to inflate the statistics about attendance or people coming forward at his meetings. I know what it is to crave results, and the frustration and disappointment when they are not immediate. Accountable friendships were also important to him.
In speech, Billy Graham came across as very humble and thoughtful, open about his past mistakes and very gracious towards his critics. He understood the power of words. I love words, but am increasingly conscious of my need to grow in holiness in how I use them. We wordsmiths need to constantly ask for God’s wisdom in this, and forgiveness when we fail. “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord: keep watch over the door of my lips” Psalm 141:3.
4. Keep your first love.
Revelation 2:1-4, to the church in Ephesus:
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
The Ephesians must have been awesome Christians: diligent, moral, discerning, persevering, ready to face persecution for the sake of Christ. But Jesus speaks harshly to them for forsaking their first love, the Lord Jesus. Billy Graham maintained and protected daily personal time in prayer and immersed in the Scriptures, despite an unrelenting schedule – no wonder his preaching overflowed with the joy of his salvation. Whatever ministry God has called us to – does ours? What does our devotional life look like?
5. Keep the main thing the main thing
Billy Graham could have been sidetracked on many issues. Politics could have de-railed him, especially after the Watergate scandal. But he remained resolutely non-Partisan. He could have been sucked into the moral majority movement – but wasn’t. He could have been defined by doctrinal faddism – but he was renowned for bringing Protestants and Catholics together. Liberals got annoyed with him for not preaching a gospel of social justice and talking more about climate change. Instead he focussed on Jesus Jesus Jesus and every individual’s need to have a personal relationship with Him. Amen! Our goal – too often – is simply to get people thinking about Jesus. But Billy Graham went further – he urged people to get off the fence and make a decision to follow Christ. How our witness could do with his passion and decisiveness.
“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.” John 3:16
I’m referring to two documents that were published in the last two weeks to do with Christians and their experience of Islam. One – Open Doors World Wide Watch list was not a surprise. But it was the other item -an open letter from Catholic ex-Muslims to Pope Francis – that was the real rallying cry.
Because the WWW list is an annual, scheduled publication perhaps we’ve become immune to its shocking data. Like that fact 8 out of 10 of the world’s worst persecution for Christians are Islamic countries. They are not the only places Christians are persecuted, and atheist dictatorship North Korea is still number one: but the main reason Christians are persecuted globally is Islamic intolerance. And it’s getting worse – the top 11 countries are all now classified as places of “extreme” persection for the first time in the WWW list’s 26 year history.
That Islamic intolerance is the driving factor for global persecution of Christians isn’t news – this has been trending for years. And while church leaders, politicians, the Prince of Wales etc have spoken out against persecution per se, they’ve either been coy or in downright denial about who the persecutors are. Pope Francis is in the latter category – last year he got a gong from Cairo’s Al Azhar university for his “defense of Islam against the accusation of violence and terrorism.” With friends like these, who needs enemies?
And if you’ve wondered how Catholic ex-Muslims might feel about the Pontiff’s comments, then their letter to him makes their feelings brutally clear:
“Many of us have tried to contact you, on many occasions and for several years, and we have never received the slightest acknowledgement of our letters or requests for meetings. You do not like to beat around the bush, and neither do we, so allow us to say frankly that we do not understand your teaching about Islam, as we read in paragraphs 252 and 253 of Evangelii Gaudium, because it does not account for the fact that Islam came AFTER Christ, and so is, and can only be, an Antichrist (see 1 Jn 2.22), and one of the most dangerous because it presents itself as the fulfillment of Revelation (of which Jesus would have been only a prophet). If Islam is a good religion in itself, as you seem to teach, why did we become Catholic? Do not your words question the soundness of the choice we made at the risk of our lives? Islam prescribes death for apostates (Quran 4.89, 8.7-11), do you know? ”
The Pope, having previously stated that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” is then reprimanded for his failure to understand Islamic theology:
“In fact, as long as Islam wants us to be its enemy, we are, and all our protestations of friendship cannot change anything. As a proper Antichrist, Islam exists only as an enemy of all: “Between us and you there is enmity and hatred forever, until you believe in Allah alone!” (Qur’an 60.4) For the Qur’an, Christians “are only impurity” (Quran 9.28),” “the worst of Creation” (Qur’an 98.6), all condemned to Hell (Qur’an 4.48), so Allah must exterminate them (Quran 9.30). We must not be deceived by the Quranic verses deemed tolerant, because they have all been repealed by the verse of the Sword (Quran 9.5).”
And so on. See also Pamela Geller’s excellent article in a previous FB post for more details.
But it’s easy to criticise others for not doing enough. So, Christians, (preaching to myself too), why don’t we make 2018 the year when we not only obey the Biblical injunction to speak up for the oppressed, but clearly identify the ideological source of the oppression. This is what our ex-Muslim brothers and sisters, having converted often at huge personal cost, want us to do. As Martin Luther King put it, “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
You can read the letter in full and sign it here.
For a while, the Independent has been doing its best to present Islam in a rosy light and squash any legitimate criticism of the religion. Rushing to condemn the mention of the Parson’s Green bomber’s refugee status as Islamophobic; helpfully suggesting that Britain deals with the terrorist threat by carrying on as before; opining thoughtfully that shouting Allah –u-Akhbar before murdering someone doesn’t make you religiously motivated – that sort of thing. Now the Indie’s really upped its game with its latest piece by Qasim Rachid (a regular contributor) entitled “How the teachings of Islam could help us prevent more sex scandals.” Islam will prevent sex scandals? Sex scandals like the systematic rape and grooming of young girls in Rochdale, Rotherham and Newcastle, right? Tell me how a religion founded by a man who married a nine-year-old girl, plus another 10 women (some forcibly) in addition to his regular sex slaves, will help here. Seriously. I’m all ears.
Mr Rachid tells us “Islam implores accountability to the creator, but rather than preach empty dogmatic theories, Islam instead prescribes a proven secular model.” How can Islam implore accountability to a creator but prescribe something secular? Let alone ‘prove’ anything? Which Muslim nation or branch of Islam has ‘proven’ itself to be free of sex scandal? Obviously Rachid can’t prove this, so instead he goes to Islamic scripture, increasing his problems 100-fold:
“The Quran 4:2 first establishes men and women as equal beings”
(Please note, Mr Rachid is an Ahmaddi Muslim, so quotes the Ahmaddi Qur’an; its references are a verse ahead of standard Qur’an referencing. So when he says Sura 4:2, he is referring to Sura 4:1 in a standard Qur’an.)
This verse talks about mutual rights (although that phrase is not in the Arabic), but says nothing about men and women being equal in essence. In fact, Sura 4:34 says something quite the opposite:
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has made one to excel the other.”
Mr Rachid continues:
“Chapter 4:20 [4:19] then forbids men from forcing a woman to act against her will, thereby ensuring women maintain autonomy and self-determination.”
No, it says you are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Wait – you can take women as inheritance, like the family silver ? Now that’s what I call female autonomy and self-determination! Keep going, Mr Rachid:
“Chapter 4:35 [4:34] furthermore prevents violence against women by forcing men to control themselves and never resort to physically harming women– pre-empting physical abuse.”
How brazen. Mr Rachid is quoting the very same Sura that says “But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them.” Again the Qur’an teaches the opposite of what he wrote.
What does he have to say about the hijab?
“The Quran obliges women to dress modestly as a covenant with God.”
Where does it say this in the Qur’an? Which verse? This is what Sura 33:59 actually says:
“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” (33:59) This has nothing to do with a covenant with God. Rather the woman is mandated to cover to protect herself from sexual harassment. The implication is that if the woman doesn’t cover, she’s asking for it, as I’ve written about before.
The Qur’an does tell men to lower their gaze from women (Sura 24:30), but at the same time excuses men’s sexual proclivities. Sura 4:28:
“Allah wishes to lighten (the burden) for you; and man was created weak (cannot be patient to leave sexual intercourse with woman.)” Ibn Kathir makes clear this weakness is sexual.
Rachid finishes with a heart-warming story of Muhammad man-handling his friend to get him to look away from a woman’s beauty. Seems he didn’t feel like mentioning Muhammad’s marrying his adopted son’s wife, threatening to divorce his wives for getting annoyed by his antics with a slave girl, marrying Safiya after capturing her in a raid, or giving women in exchange for horses and weapons (Sirat Rasul Allah, trans. A Guillaume p466).
Jesus never married. Jesus never had sex slaves. He never sexually exploited women. The Cross of Christ is justice for the victims of sexual exploitation and mercy for the perpetrators if they turn to him. Healing and forgiveness made possible through Christ’s death and the work of the Spirit are a far better solution to all this, as I hope Mr Rachid realises one day.
But Mr Rachid’s lies or delusions are not the most depressing thing about this article. The most depressing thing is that it’s not loitering unread in an Ahmaddi mosque somewhere; it’s on the website of a national newspaper. How did a national newspaper let this dawahganda in unchecked? (I’m sure the fact 30 per cent of the Indhi is owned by a Saudi businessman has nothing to do with it.) And why, to speak for Islam, did it give a platform to Mr Rachid, an Ahmaddi Muslim? Ahmaddi Muslims are moderate, but the vast majority of Muslims consider them heretics.
At least opposition in the article’s comments section has been, er, vigorous. But it’s a sad day for British journalism when a once reasonable rag like the Indie fails so spectacularly to live up to its name.
In the last article we looked at the substantive evidence for the death penalty for apostasy in the Islamic sources. Now let’s think about the objections Muslims bring in response.
1.“It’s the equivalent of the death penalty for high treason”
A reminder of the verse in discussion. Sura 4:89 states:
As discussed in part one, what constitutes treason if as the Qur’an says, the cause is Allah’s? This is further complicated by the fact the Qur’an makes no distinction between the religious and the political spheres.
Morocco recently retracted the death penalty for apostasy using this argument, although this puts the Moroccan Islamic Courts at odds with the Qur’an, the Hadith and the mainstream schools of Shariah. Nonetheless – a welcome development.
2.“The Qur’an supports freedom of conscience”
Writers like Kashif N. Choudry make this liberal argument in Huffpost citing Suras like 2:256 (“There is no compulsion in religion”) and Sura 18:29 (“The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills – let him believe; and whoever wills – let him disbelieve”).
However, freedom of conscience and apostasy are two separate issues. It could be argued these Suras allow for some ‘freedom of conscience’ in that it lets people stay as they are – if you are a Christian, you can stay a Christian: no-one should force you to become a Muslim. Unfortunately other Suras such as 9:5 and 8:39, do support conversion by force, showing the Qur’an’s internal inconsistency.
In any case this is not an argument against apostasy, when a Muslim decides to leave Islam. The Qur’an and Hadith discussed in this article are clear the punishment is death. It’s also worth stating that Dr Choudry is from the Ahmaddiya sect of Islam, whose theology is rejected by both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims.
What does the Bible teach? Are Christians being hypocritical?
3.“The Old Testament supports death for apostasy!”
In the Old Testament, YHWH decrees the death penalty for his covenant people in Deuteronomy 13, but note carefully the reasons (italics mine):
“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer….. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery.” Deut 13: 1-3, 5
In Sura 4:89 the offence is ceasing to worship Allah; in Deuteronomy, it is incitement to worship other gods, so it’s not equivalent. The worship of these ‘other gods’ involved shrine prostitution, bestiality and child sacrifice. Is YHWH unjust to decree capital punishment in this instance or is it consistent with His hatred of sin? It’s also worth noting the second element of this command; this is the same God who redeemed and rescued His people from slavery.
But crucially – is this command applicable today? Why do churches not mandate the death penalty for idolatry as in 1400 BC? Because God’s wrath against sin is satisfied by Jesus death on the Cross. Romans 5:9:
“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For, if while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
There is no equivalent once-for-all justification for sin in the Qur’an. In fact, Allah’s ‘wrath’ isn’t about sin, but disbelief.
5. Jesus kills people in Luke 19:27!
This is an annoying non-argument, but as it comes up so often we need to deal with it.
In Luke 19:27 Jesus says “but those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me” (Luke 19:27)
Let’s look at the context of this statement. This is taken from the Parable of the Ten Minas, about a king, who puts his servants in charge of his money until his return. (Side note: if Muslims acknowledge that Jesus is the ‘king’ in this parable, what does that make Muhammad?) The ‘king’s return’ is a reference to a future event, specifically Jesus’s Second Coming. What is the point of this parable? To warn people to accept Christ as their King before He returns on Judgement Day. This is in fact a reference to Christ’s deity, and as the Qur’an affirms in Sura 22:-56-7 that “the sovereignty on that [Judgement] Day will be that of Allah,” Muslims cannot make this argument without making things massively awkward for themselves.
So what does the New Testament teach on apostasy?
Jesus never compelled anyone to remain his disciple. Jesus taught that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). His hearers (like today) found that hard to take, and as John records, “from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66). Jesus lets them go; he doesn’t chase them down and have them arrested. Notice also Jesus’ reaction to the Jews’ rejection of him:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matt 23:37)
Jesus does not call for the Jews to be put to death, even though by rejecting him they were rejecting YHWH himself; rather he lets them choose. Similarly when Judas betrays him and Peter denies him, Jesus submits to the consequences of their actions. Jesus even restores Peter, who goes on to establish His church.
In fact find a single example in the New Testament of a Christian being killed for leaving Christianity, or of Christians being commanded to kill apostates? In both cases, the answer is ‘no.’
Can you name a Christian, or post-Christian country where apostasy from Christianity is a crime punishable by death today? Can you name any Christian denomination where the death penalty for apostasy (or idolatry) is supported?
According to the latest Freedom of Thought report, the following Muslim countries all mandate the death penalty for apostasy from Islam: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. In Pakistan the death penalty is for blasphemy.
In Christ, YHWH honours man’s freedom to choose; Allah keeps Muslims in Islam through fear. Look how honestly this is articulated by Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi in 2013:
“If they [Muslims] had gotten rid of the punishment [often death] for apostasy, Islam would not exist today.”
A man in Saudi Arabia, locally identified as Ahmad Al-Shamri, has been sentenced to death for apostasy. After allegedly uploading videos renouncing Islam and Muhammad in 2014, Mr Al-Shamri was arrested and imprisoned on charges of atheism and blasphemy, and lost his second appeal on 25th April.
Some Saudi Twitter users expressed horror:
Others can’t wait to see the ‘show’:
On 29th April 2017 in Germany, Farima S, an Afghan refugee and assistant at her local community church, was stabbed to death in front of her children. German police said there was evidence of a religious motive for the killing; the victim’s sister said it was because she converted to Christianity.
Sura 4:90 appears to soften 4:89 by offering amnesty to those who return with peace terms. So is it in fact traitors, as some Muslims argue, not apostates, who should be killed? Do the reliable hadith collections offer any clarification on this issue?
But is death for apostasy Islamic? What do the source texts say?
Apostasy in the Qur’an, Hadith and Sharia
Sura 4:89 states:
“They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved, so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah. But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper (Sahih International)”
Some interpret this to be about desertion after various battles with the polytheists; Sura 4:90 gives some context:”Except for those who take refuge with a people between yourselves and whom is a treaty or those who come to you, their hearts strained at [the prospect of] fighting you or fighting their own people. And if Allah had willed, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them (Sahih International)”
Al-Bukhari 4:52:260 (and Bukhari 9:84:57)
“Narrated Ikrima:Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn ‘Abbas, who said, “Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, ‘Don’t punish (anybody) with Allah’s Punishment.’ No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.”
What is the crime here? Not desertion but leaving Islam.
Bukhari 9: 64:84:
“Narrated ‘Ali:Whenever I tell you a narration from Allah’s Apostle, by Allah, I would rather fall down from the sky than ascribe a false statement to him, but if I tell you something between me and you (not a Hadith) then it was indeed a trick (i.e., I may say things just to cheat my enemy). No doubt I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, “During the last days there will appear some young foolish people who will say the best words but their faith will not go beyond their throats (i.e. they will have no faith) and will go out from (leave) their religion as an arrow goes out of the game. So, wherever you find them, kill them, for who-ever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection.”
Muhammad even advocates death for nominal Muslims, whose religion ‘doesn’t go beyond their throats’ i.e., is all talk and no practice.
Bukhari 9: 89:271:
“Narrated Abu Musa:A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu’adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu’adh asked, “What is wrong with this (man)?” Abu Musa replied, “He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism.” Mu’adh said, “I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle”
What did Abu Musa do that was worthy of death? He reverted to Judaism. Sahih Muslim 1676:
“Abdullah (b. Mas’ud) reported Allah’s Messenger as saying:It is not permissible to take the life of a Muslim who bears testimony (to the fact that there is no god but Allah, and I am the Messenger of Allah, but in one of the three cases: the married adulterer, a life for life, and the deserter of his Din (Islam), abandoning the community.”
In the account of Muhammad’s life by Ibn Ishaq (Guillaume, p.550-1), Abdullah bin Khatal kills a slave then apostatises; later, in fear of his life and clinging to the curtains of the Ka’aba, Muhammad orders him to be killed (see also Bukhari 5:59:582.)
Hence we conclude the Islamic sources tell us Muhammad ordered death for apostasy, aside from treachery in battle. Even if you disregard the substantial evidence to the contrary and maintain that apostasy is just a synonym for political treachery, what political system was Muhammad fighting for? He was fighting “in Allah’s cause” (Sura 4:89). If the battle is “Allah’s cause” – and Islam does not differentiate between the religious and political spheres – then someone who ceases to believe in Allah ceases also to believe in Allah’s cause, therefore commits treachery according to the Qur’an, and is punishable by death.
Christians on the other hand are told not to fight other people ‘in YHWH’s cause’; Jesus tells Peter to “put your sword away” (John 18:11). Rather we are to follow Jesus’ example (plus that of the apostles and early church), and suffer for our faith. If the Christian life is too difficult, you can leave, just as Demas did (2 Timothy 4:10). Paul didn’t kill him for his apostasy – he just got Mark to help him instead. When the prodigal son turns his back on his father in Luke 15, the father doesn’t hunt him down and punish him – rather he awaits him to freely return. Compare Muhammad’s actions with the reaction of the Father:
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
What does the Shariah say about apostasy? World renowned scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawisays:“The Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-‘ashriyyah, Al-Ja’fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed.”
Death for apostasy is affirmed by the main schools of Islamic jurisprudence, both Sunni and Shi’a.