Why Muslims are not in the Garden of Eden

Why Muslims are not in the Garden of Eden.

There is no original sin in Islam – but in that case, how come Muslims are no longer in the Garden of Eden? And why is the doctrine of original sin hinted at in Islamic sources?

‘If God were to punish men for their wrong-doing, He would not leave upon the earth a single beast; but he gives them respite until a stated time; and when their time comes they cannot put it off an hour, nor can they bring it on.’ (Sura 16:61, Sura 35:45)

The Prophet said, “When any human being is born, Satan touches him at both sides of the body with his two fingers, except Jesus, the son of Mary, whom Satan tried to touch but failed, for he touched the placenta-cover instead.” www.sunnah.com/bukhari/59/95.

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Why did God become a man?

Image courtesy of VeronicaRomms

In our previous article we showed how  Allah takes on human form when his Ruh [Spirit] visits Mary “in the form of a man in all respects” (Sura 19:17, Hilali Khan). So if Muslims want to use the objection that a God who takes on human form cannot be God, they need to realise it applies to Allah as well. Even if they they concede that God could become a man, the next question is often – why would he need to?

Right from the beginning in Genesis, it’s clear God has a special affection for human beings. He makes men and women uniquely in His image (Genesis 1:27) and walks and talks with Adam and Eve in perfect relationship (Genesis 3:8). Instead of asking why God became man, ask rather – why ever would God make human beings like God, capable of personally relating with him? Why does He invest us with such dignity and honour? (The Qur’an never says we’re made in God’s image – this is an  important point.)

Disaster strikes when Adam and Eve think they can live independently of their Maker (Genesis 3:6), so God’s image in them becomes tainted. Worse still, as a result of their disobedience, sin and death enter the world. As their descendants  we are all tainted image-bearers, born in sin and subject to death: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And just as Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, so we too are excluded from His presence . Sin is catastrophic: it is so much more serious than the Islamic understanding of sin as just mistakes and weakness- it is a deadly disease no human wisdom can cure. Don’t miss the strong language of Scripture: in our natural state we are “dead in transgressions and sins”  (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13) and  “objects of wrath” Ephesians 2:3. We are cut off from God and powerless to change our natural state.

And crucially, sin is unique to humanity. A lion doesn’t sin when it eats an antelope. A lion’s taste for antelope may be a consequence of man’s sin, but it was man who fell, not the lion. So it’s man, not the lion, who is deserving of punishment. And yet, God in his extraordinary mercy, decides that it’s men and women, his image-bearers, who in spite of our depravity and rebellion, that He considers pre-eminently worthy of redemption.

How did God redeem his people in the Old Testament? Through the blood of a lamb. At the Passover, the Israelites were commanded to smear the tops and sides of their doors with a lamb’s blood to spare them from the destroying angel. “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment” (Exodus 6:6) Forgiveness through blood continued via the  sacrificial system under Mosaic law. But none of these sacrifices could provide perfect redemption. Hebrews 10:1-4

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

Why was it never going to be enough for a human to be redeemed by an animal? In Genesis 3:15, God hints that the redeemer would be an offspring of the woman – a human – and male. To Satan he says:

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

But it is no ordinary human male; it’s a  male who can crush the head of Satan, something only God can do. A God-Man. To re-iterate: the Bible anticipates a God-Man, not a God-Lion or a God-Beetle -because it is mankind who needs redemption, so a like-for-like sacrifice is required.  Note how carefully this is explained in Hebrews 2:11-18

Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.[a] 12 He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
    in the assembly I will sing your praises.”[b]

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”[c]

And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”[d]

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fearof death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them,[e] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18″

Now let’s turn back to the Qur’an. But why did Allah visit Mary “in the form of a man in all respects”? Why is it only birth of Jesus – not Muhammad – that warrants a visit from Allah in person? The well-explained (Sura 12:111), clear and detailed Qur’an (16:89) doesn’t tell us.

The Bible doesn’t leave us hanging: it teaches that Jesus needed to be fully human, as well as fully God, to be the perfect sacrifice to redeem mankind. He does this because he loves us so much, He would rather die in our place than let us carry on “dead in our sins.” And not only that, but through Jesus’ redeeming work, not just human beings, but one day the whole of creation will be made new:

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:20-21

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)

Freedom, forgiveness, redemption, peace; adopted as sons and daughters and ushers of the new creation.  John is spot-on when he writes “see what great love the Father has lavished on us!” – and at what cost. Muslims repent and believe in Jesus, our “righteousness, holiness and redemption” (I Cor 1:30) and stop worshipping a confusing and unknowable counterfeit.

Next time: Is Jesus the Messiah of the Old Testament?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muhammad is not a prophet – 10 reasons (2)

 

Swearing in ceremony

Reason 2: Muhammad broke his oaths for immediate sexual gratification

“O Prophet, why do you prohibit [yourself from] what Allah has made lawful for you, seeking the approval of your wives? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Allah has already ordained for you [Muslims] the dissolution of your oaths. And Allah is your protector, and He is the Knowing, the Wise.” Sura 66:1-2

This is one of those verses from the clear, detailed, well-explained Qur’an that is impossible to explain without the ahadith and the tafsirs to help us. What is it that Allah has made lawful to Muhammad? What was his oath that Allah released him from?

There are two possible contexts to the revelation. The first is that that Aisha was jealous of Muhammad for staying too long drinking honey at Zainab’s place, so she incited his other wives against him to ask if he had been drinking maghafir – a kind of sweet sap with a strong smell – implying “you smell, Muhammad.” Muhammad said, no, I’ve just been drinking honey, but to keep you happy, I promise I won’t drink it again. This is in Ibn Kathir. It’s also referred to in Bukhari and Muslim.

The other context, and the more popular among the classical tafsir writers, is the story of Mary the Copt. The Qur’anic commentators Al-Jalalyn (Tabari, Al-Badawi and Sunan an-Nisai as well) all refer to this story, as does Ibn Kathir, who – according to this Muslim – said the honey story was a “questionable” context of revelation for these verses. And if this Muslim is to be believed, the story of Mary the Copt has been expunged from the on-line version of his tafsir. If true, then why? Probably because it’s so embarrassing to the prophet of Islam.

The story goes like this. Muhammad used to visit his wives in turn; when it was Hafsa’s turn, he didn’t find her at home. Rather than wait for her, he decided to have sex with with his slave girl, Mary the Copt – a present to Muhammad from al-Muqawqis, the ruler of Egypt after the treaty of al-Hudaybiyah – in Hafsa’s bed. Hafsa is upset by this, after which Muhammad agrees to make Mary “unlawful” for him. Here is Al-Jalalyn’s tafsir:

O Prophet! Why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you in terms of your Coptic handmaiden Māriya — when he lay with her in the house of Hafsa who had been away but who upon returning and finding out became upset by the fact that this had taken place in her own house and on her own bed — by saying ‘She is unlawful for me!’ seeking by making her unlawful for you to please your wives? And God is Forgiving Merciful having forgiven you this prohibition.

Then, conveniently, Muhammad receives Sura 66:1.

“O Prophet, why do you prohibit [yourself from] what Allah has made lawful for you, seeking the approval of your wives? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Allah has already ordained for you [Muslims] the dissolution of your oaths. And Allah is your protector, and He is the Knowing, the Wise.” Sura 66:1-2

In other words, go ahead Muhammad: it doesn’t matter that Hafsa is upset, your instant sexual gratification is more important than your wives’ feelings. And if they complain, what does Sura 66:5 say?

“It may be if he divorced you that his Lord will give him instead of you, better wives than you.”

Quite apart from the murky light it sheds on Muhammad, what are ordinary Muslims to make of it? Why are these verses in the Qur’an, Allah’s eternal speech? How are they to apply these verses to their lives, given that Muhammad is their ‘exalted pattern of conduct’?

Muhammad’s sexual morality is a subject for another post, as is the convenience of his revelations, but for now let’s compare Allah’s casual rescinding of Muhammad’s oath with what the Bible says. The Old Testament affirms that making a vow to the LORD is a serious act, not to be taken lightly:

If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth. (Deu 23:21-23)

YHWH says it’s better not to make the vow at all if you don’t think you can keep it:

When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5-6)

Jesus goes further in Matthew 5:33-37:

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Allah is not a god of his word and Muhammad not a man of his word, in flagrant disobedience to the previous Scriptures which the Qur’an claims to confirm (Sura 3:3, 4:136, 5:48, 5:68, 29:46).

YHWH of the Bible is a God of His word – He does what He says He will do. Jesus keeps His word to His Father and His followers, even to the point of sacrificing Himself on the Cross for the sake of a world that hated Him. Nothing self-gratifying about that.

“Jesus sinned” says Muslim. Allah disagrees!

Godwin and Daniel discuss with “John Rambo” – an aggressive member of the Islamic da’wah team – over whether Jesus was a sinner. John Rambo says yes – Islamic teaching says NO.

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Good Friday

Nails, crown of thorns

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[a]

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,[b] he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Mark 15:33-40
Jesus, thank You that You suffered for us. Thank You that You died on the Cross. Thank you that You are the eternally begotten Son of God. Lord open our eyes to see that we are the ones worthy of punishment. We deserve that Cross.
But You don’t treat us as our sins deserve. Jesus, the Beloved Son,  took our place. He took our sin and shame in exchange for forgiveness and righteousness and eternal life. Lord, how can we begin to thank you? Take our lives as living sacrifices to your praise and glory for everything You’ve done.
Amen.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:4-6

Why Jesus is like Sleeping Beauty (according to Islam)

Sleeping Beauty

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?