Salvation in Christianity and Islam. Part 2: Repentance

Jesus said repent

by Lizzie Schofield

I said in part 1 that I would write about salvation in Islam in part 2, but there are a few thoughts I wanted to add on the Christian side before moving on. Apologies, and watch out for part 3.

In part 1, I asserted that salvation in Christianity starts from the basis of belief in Jesus, in his death on the Cross for our sins. But belief doesn’t simply mean unqualified theoretical assent: after all, even the devil believes in God. James 2:19:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”

Belief that leads to salvation isn’t simply a matter of intellectually affirming that something is true, but is something we act upon: I get on the plane because I believe the pilot can fly it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t get on the plane. So if we say we believe in Jesus, but allow Him to have no impact on our lives, we don’t really believe Him. When Jesus announces the start of his public ministry, he couples belief with repentance: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) If we say we are Christians, and have not taken our sin seriously enough to repent, we need to examine ourselves to see if we are really in the faith, just as Paul meant in 2 Cor:13-5-6.

Repentance is the bit we like to skate over because we feel awkward about the sin part.  Let’s skip to the good bit, the assurance of eternal life. Thank you Jesus!  Why dwell on the negative? But this is dangerous. By glossing over how catastrophic sin is, we gloss over God’s drastic, radical, uncompromising, torturous solution to it is – the Cross – and how it is the only cure to a deadly sickness that affects us all. Let’s not pretend that just because we’ve never punched anyone and always submitted our tax return on time that our sin isn’t that bad – the Cross says it is. Let’s not pretend that the unarticulated bitterness towards a family member doesn’t matter because it stays in our head – the Cross says it does. We might have been a Christian for years, but find some sins just too comforting to give up. The Cross says “I gave up my comfort for you.” And then this one (James 4:17): “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” Anyone else starting to feel a bit uneasy?

It is unfashionable to talk about sin these days, even in church. When not completely ignored, it is hastily brushed under the carpet,  The emphasis of church these days is inclusion. People need to understand how inclusive Jesus was. This did the rounds on Facebook recently, as an example of the “best’ church welcome notice ever (courtesy of All Saints Lutheran, Aurora, Colorado):

“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, black and proud, y no habla Ingles.

We extend a special welcome to those who are new-borns, poor as dirt, skinny as a rail, got a hitch in their git-along, or just plain can’t sing. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up, or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Lutheran than Luther, or more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Maria’s confirmation.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 40 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters, and people who stay up too late at night. If you’re having problems, or you’re down in the dumps, or you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too. If you blew all your offering money at Black Hawk, you’re welcome here.”

This church wants to welcome everyone because  Jesus meets us where we’re at! Grace for all, right? Because Jesus died once for all this means I can believe and then 5 minutes later carry on sinning as much as I like, right? (This objection is frequently raised by Muslims.). Hebrews 9:26 says no, you can’t:

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

A church that is faithful to Christ welcomes people as they are, but should never expect them to stay that way. A Biblical church doesn’t water down or ignore Jesus’ call to repentance.  God isn’t a heavenly waiter who hovers ready to meet our spiritual demands. If we say we believe him, but carry on in our sins, it’s like saying you love your wife while having an affair with the neighbour and wondering why she might have a problem with that. Our sins cost Jesus His life; hence we should own up to them, and deal with them actively, ruthlessly. Who do you need to apologise to? What habits do you need to confront? (Personally, I can think of at least one in each category.)

And yet it is also true that Jesus died “once for all” (Hebrews 10:26). When we repent and believe in Christ, his sacrifice is enough for the sins of tomorrow as well as those of today. The fact I will (no doubt) sin tomorrow doesn’t change my salvation: but will I acknowledge my need of Christ to cleanse me on a daily basis in order to please him? Wilberforce used to keep a list of character flaws which he would pray through and monitor on a weekly basis.

The 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon put it this way:

“Too many think lightly of sin, and therefore think lightly of the Saviour. He who has stood before his God, convicted and condemned, with the rope about his neck, is the man to weep for joy when he is pardoned, to hate the evil which has been forgiven him, and to live to the honour of the Redeemer by whose blood he has been cleansed….A spiritual experience which is thoroughly flavoured with a deep and bitter sense of sin is of great value to him that has it. It is terrible in the drinking, but it is most wholesome to the bowels, and in the whole of the after life.” Spurgeon, c.1890, autobiography.

The fact that God cares so passionately about sin is good news. He hates the anger, greed, lust, slander and malice that ruin His world and there will be no sin in heaven because Jesus has dealt with all of it. He wants us to hate it too. Allah on the other hand, is not bothered by sin. As the South London Imam told the audience during a discussion on the topic last week, sin to Allah is in fact “not really a big deal.” So what exactly are Muslims saved from? How is sin dealt with? And what are the implications for Islamic paradise?

More in Part 3.

 

 

 

Salvation in Christianity and Islam

The point of any religion is to make sense of life’s big questions: why does the universe exist and what is it for? Does God exist and if so, what is He like? Do we all just get one short, eternally meaningless life before being eaten by worms? Christians and Muslims share similar starting points: we believe in God and in life after death, ultimately in heaven or hell as determined by God our supreme Ruler and Judge. The sticking point is what YHWH/Allah’s criteria are for where we end up. Let’s start with what the Bible teaches on salvation.

YHWH of the Bible is a God with a rescue plan. He rescues his people from slavery in Egypt, he rescues His people from the Midianites and the Philistines (and other tribes), he rescues his people from exile in Babylon. But these rescues are just a foreshadow of his ultimate rescue, which is predicted at the very beginning. After the fall of man, when sin comes into the world and all our problems begin, the LORD God speaks to the serpent (Satan) in Genesis 3:15:

“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.”

In other words, a male offspring of a woman (he), will one day come and crush the head of Satan. Is a mere human creature powerful enough to crush the head of Satan? This must be referring to a He who is both human and divine! Who does it sound like? Hint -it can’t be Muhammad, who bent over backwards to stress his humanity: “I am only a mortal like you” (S18:110), “Am I anything but a man, a messenger?” (S17:93)

In contrast, notice what the New Testament says about  Jesus Christ:

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8)

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

We fear death. But YHWH God doesn’t want us to be slaves to the fear of death!  That’s why he sent Jesus, Hebrews continues, “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.”  If God himself has paid for our sins, how should we respond? Hebrews again, and note the repetition of belief:

“See to it brothers, that none of us has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12)

The Lord Jesus says it Himself:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not die, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the Name of God’s one  and only Son.” (John 3:16-17)

How will we respond to what Jesus has done for us, with belief or with scepticism? Will we believe he really died for our sins? If we do, Jesus tells us, we will have eternal life. If we don’t, we stand condemned. Prayer,fasting, helping the homeless, volunteering at the food bank, paying the right amount of tax: none of this makes a difference to our eternal destiny. YHWH God teaches your eternal destiny is not affected by what you do, but by whether or not you believe Jesus died to save you. Paul agrees:

“But now a righteousness from God apart from the law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:22) On the other hand, God

“will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and the majesty of his power, on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10.)

No one today likes hearing about condemnation, hell and judgement, and they didn’t like it in the first century either. But that didn’t stop Jesus talking about it, not because he enjoyed scaring people, but to show them that by believing him, they have a clear, guaranteed way of escaping it. It is His kindness and mercy that makes Him so black-and-white. If you’re reading this and you’re not a Christian, why not respond to Jesus now in your heart? Don’t leave it too late.

We’ll look at salvation in Islam in Part 2.

The Qur’an’s unbroken chain of narration (not)

Broken chain

by Hatun Tash and Lizzie Schofield

In a previous article we provided evidence of how different versions of the Qur’an contain words with different meanings, due to the different dot patterns and other markings. Bang goes the Muslim claim that “not a dot of the Qur’an has changed.” Now let’s consider the Muslim argument that this doesn’t matter anyway (strange that Muslims would insist on the Qur’an’s pristine preservation for centuries if it wasn’t that important, but hey). At this point they fall back instead on oral tradition, the Qur’an’s beautiful, golden, unbroken chain of narration since the time of Muhammad. But is it actually a golden, unbroken chain of narration or a melted plastic chain of confusion? (Spoiler alert.)

Qur'an's chain of narrators

 

The names just under Muhammad (Uthman, Ali, Zayd ibn Thabit, Ubay ibn Kaab and Ibn Masud) supposedly took the Qur’an from Muhammad by oral tradition. Islamic tradition tells us 3 people in this line disliked each other and disagreed on what needed to be in the Qur’an. Ubay Ibn Kaab’s Qur’an was comprised of 116 chapters; Ibn Masud’s Qur’an had 111 chapters; Zayd Ibn Thabit’s had 114 chapters. So even those closest to the Prophet of Islam weren’t sure about which verses should make the cut. To make matters worse, Shia’s believe that Ali’s Qur’an is the only correct one. Not looking good for that beautiful chain.

Let’s move to the next line in the melted plastic chain of confusion. Abi Abd al Rahman Abd Allah bin Habeeb al Solmi, took the Qur’an from the people above him who couldn’t agree among themselves what should be in it. We will never know (but Allah knows) whose version he used and why. Were there any eyewitnesses at the time who confirmed his narration? Which other Muslims considered him reliable? How many non-Muslim witnesses can confirm any of this? In the same line we have Zirr ibn Hubaysh. Same questions apply to Mr Zirr ibn Hubaysh.

From these mysterious individuals we move to Abi Bakr Aasem ibn al Njood al Asdi al Kufi,who took the Qur’an from Al Solmi and Ibn Hubaysh. Let’s get to know him through Islamic tradition. Tradition tells us that he is blind; he misses off letters; his ahadith are untrue; his memorisation is lacking; he is not trustworthy; he is confused at the end of his life and suffers from delusions. Islamic tradition doesn’t give us a great impression of him yet Muslims consider him part of the golden chain of reliable narrators. Whose opinions shall we trust? The early Muslims or the 2017 Islamic da’wah team?

Abi Bakr Aasem ibn al Njood al Asdi al Kufi, passed the ball to Hafs whose Qur’an we have today and is read by the majority of the Muslim world in 2017. Islamic tradition tells us he doesn’t have a very good reputation. He makes up ahadith, is accused of lying and is considered untrustworthy; his conversations are disputed; he’s considered disloyal; he borrows people’s books, copies them without verifying the contents and then fails to return them. Hafs narrations don’t make it into the hadith collections because he is considered untrustworthy but somehow when it comes to the Qur’an, the eternal word of Allah, he is trustworthy! How does that work?

Putting their dates together, yes it’s possible that these people might have met each other. However, given he was born 67 years after his death, we can be certain that Hafs never met Muhammad. We can be certain Hafs never met the first generation of witnesses, Uthman or Ibn Kaab or Ali, to check out whether what he received was correct. They were dead too. Which of Muhammad’s eyewitnesses confirmed the 114 chapters and 6236 verses of the Hafs Qur’an (or any of the Hafs Qur’ans)?

The Gospels don’t need a chain of narration because (three of them anyway) were taken from eyewitness testimony. Matthew was one of the twelve apostles. Mark took his account from Peter. John is identified as “the beloved disciple” who wrote, “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life.” In contrast, Islam hangs on one man’s spiritual experience with an angel (if it was an angel) which no one else was party to – whatever any of the narrators say.

The Indhimmpendent Strikes Again

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.

Fake news (and handshake etiquette)

by Jon V. Jones

Man and woman shake hands

We were excited to learn from Muslims on Sunday that DCCI is being paid by “the Jews”. However, having each now had time to check our bank statements, we are disappointed to find that nothing has arrived. Not even a penny. Also, the Jewish people at the park know nothing about this. So if our Muslim friends know who these Jews are that would like to pay us, please do tell us, so we can make contact and put the practical arrangements in place. As it stands, it remains that none of us are paid to go to the park.

Hatun Tash was also informed by Muslims that she has Shia Muslim family in Iran. This was exciting news for Hatun, as she is Turkish and was entirely unaware of any Shia or Iranian connections. Perhaps the family branched off some centuries ago, and making contact could provide a wealth of new evangelistic opportunities? After all, Shia Muslims are as welcome into the body of Christian believers as Sunni Muslims for “all are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Or maybe ITV could make an episode of “Long Lost Family”. Again, we were disappointed, as Muslims were not able to provide any names or contact details for these distant relatives.

On another point of clarification, when a Christian woman offers to shake hands with a Muslim man, or even with a Christian man in the presence of a Muslim, this is not an invitation to a sexual liaison. A handshake functions as a formal and/or friendly greeting: sufficiently formal that if a date between a man and a woman was to conclude with a handshake, it would probably indicate that things hadn’t gone too well and a second date was unlikely to materialise.

Sexual liaisons in London are usually preceded by a trip to the cinema for whatever rubbish happens to be showing, an expensive meal and several glasses of the alcoholic beverage of choice.

The Bible is clear that sex is a good gift between a man and a woman in marriage. Biblical Christians generally don’t go in for the bad date scenario described above. As to how men and women should interact, 1 Timothy 5:1-2 advises: “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” If I shake hands with my boss, someone at the supermarket checkout, or my friend’s mother-in-law, none of them would suspect me of impure thoughts or intentions – and probably most Muslims understand the same.

Why the Bible doesn’t need to be ‘perfectly’ preserved for Christianity to be true

P52

by Lizzie Schofield

Having established the presence of textual variants in the various Qur’ans, you might be thinking – so what? The Bible is full of textual variants: people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.  If the Bible is really God’s inspired Word, shouldn’t Christians be able to trace it back to one pristine, unchanged source?

However the criteria of inspiration are different in Christianity and Islam. In Islam, the Qur’an is Allah’s unmediated speech, existing outside of time and space and preserved on heavenly tablets. On the other hand, no Christian believes the Bible is YHWH’s unmediated speech, existing outside of time and space on heavenly tablets. It is not an eternal book, nor is it YHWH’S direct email-from-heaven, but a message mediated through human beings inspired and supervised by the Holy Spirit. The point of the Bible is not the divine mystery of the words themselves, but who they point to – the Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word. The Apostle John puts it like this:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning (vs 1). The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His Glory, the Glory of the One and Only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (vs 14) John 1.

Christianity doesn’t demand a pristine and unaltered Biblical text: the point is, the Biblical manuscripts give a reliable account of who the Eternal Word is, Jesus Christ, in order to follow Him (John 5:39-40).

But we shouldn’t gloss over the existence of variants either. The question is –  what kind of variants are they? And do they give us reason to doubt Christianity’s core beliefs? Truth is, there are a lot of variants between Bible manuscripts – partly because there are an awful lot of manuscripts, over 24,000.  Here’s Bart Ehrmann, Muslims’ favourite New Testament scholar (and an agnostic) in his book Misquoting Jesus:

“Scholars differ significantly in their estimates—some say there are 200,000 variants known, some say 300,000, some say 400,000 or more! We do not know for sure because, despite impressive developments in computer technology, no one has yet been able to count them all. Perhaps, as I indicated earlier, it is best simply to leave the matter in comparative terms. There are more variations among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.” (Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman 2007; 89-90)

More variations than there are words? Wow. Surely that undermines the case for NT reliability.  Or does it? Here’s another (Christian) New Testament scholar, Dan Wallace, responding to Bart Ehrmann’s statistics:

“That is true enough, but by itself is misleading. Anyone who teaches NT textual criticism knows that this fact is only part of the picture and that, if left dangling in front of the reader without explanation, is a distorted view. Once it is revealed that the great majority of these variants are inconsequential—involving spelling differences that cannot even be translated, articles with proper nouns, word order changes, and the like—and that only a very small minority of the variants alter the meaning of the text, the whole picture begins to come into focus. Indeed, only about 1% of the textual variants are both meaningful and viable. The impression Ehrman sometimes gives throughout the book—and repeats in interviews—is that of wholesale uncertainty about the original wording, a view that is far more radical than he actually embraces.” (https://bible.org/article/gospel-according-bart).

Do these 1% meaningful and viable textual variants affect any essential Christian doctrine? Here’s Bart Ehrmann again:

“The position I argue for in Misquoting Jesus does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s [a Christian world authority on the NT] position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament. What he means by that (I think) is that even if one or two passages that are used to argue for a belief have a different textual reading, there are still other passages that could be used to argue for the same belief. For the most part, I think that’s true. But I was looking at the question from a different angle. My question is not about traditional Christian beliefs, but about how to interpret passages of the Bible.”(Q & A with Bart Ehrman in Ehrman 2005; 252-253, emphasis mine.)

Bart Ehrmann, agnostic and favourite scholar of Muslims, says essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants. His issue is how to interpret the available data. For example, the text says unequivocally Jesus died by crucifixion. Whether you interpret Jesus’ death in support of the doctrine of atonement is another matter (according to Bart, anyway. I disagree with him on this.)

The fact that no essential beliefs are affected by textual variants points to a remarkable degree of homogeneity among the Bible’s manuscript corpus, which supports the Bible’s reliable preservation. What is certain is that there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest the textual variants point back to an ‘uncorrupted’ text called the Injil in line with Islamic theology (where Jesus doesn’t die and isn’t resurrected.) Then there’s the awkward fact the Qur’an claims to confirm the previous Scriptures (Sura 3:3; s10:37; s12:111; s49:26-30 -it goes on and on). This leaves Muslims with two options. 1) Maintain the Bible we have today has been corrupted, and was preceded by a book called the Injil in spite of zero evidence for its existence, therefore Allah failed to protect his word. 2) Agree that Allah has protected his Word, the Bible, but admit the Qur’an completely contradicts what the Bible teaches, therefore the Qur’an contradicts itself, therefore cannot be the word of God.

May our Muslim friends come to abandon this an indefensible doctrine (of perfect preservation) of an indefensible book (the Qur’an) and instead worship the true Eternal Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom our manuscripts have so faithfully proclaimed down the centuries.

Join the dots….

There are many Qur'ans

Throughout the centuries, Muslims have claimed that the Qur’an is a uniquely pristine book, with no additions, deletions or any other form of editing, and that its perfect preservation is proof of its divine origin. It’s so perfect, the saying goes, that “not even a dot has changed” since the time it was revealed to Muhammad.

Now more astute Muslim scholars (like Shabir Ally) are clever enough to realise this is a silly thing to say, because dots didn’t exist in Arabic at the time of Muhammad; the earliest Qur’anic manuscripts do not have dots at all, because both the tashkil (vowel signs) and the dotting were not introduced until the late 7th century, approximately 60 years after the death of Muhammad, and wasn’t standardised until centuries later due to disagreements among Muslims about what those standards should be. You can read in greater depth on this topic at the Islamic Awareness website. And yet this not-a-dot-has-changed claim has been repeatedly trotted out by world famous Muslim apologists like Zakir Naik and the late Ahmed Deedat. The claim is then repeated by Muslims ad nauseam as bread-and-butter fact despite being total nonsense. Shame on those Muslim apologists who are well aware of this fact but haven’t set people straight.

Some Muslims argue that this “not a dot changed” line is hyperbolic rather than literal. So what they really mean is: regardless of developments in Arabic orthography, nevertheless the actual words of the Qur’an have never been changed, because even without the manuscripts, we have the beautiful unbroken chain of oral transmission to prove it! In which case, dots are neither here nor there. Really? Except the very claim is one of literal-ness, the point being that the Qur’an literally, to the letter hasn’t been changed. So to make this claim in the hyperbolic sense and not the literal sense is literally self-defeating.

Also, the ‘hyperbolic device argument’ allows Muslims to niftily sidestep any detailed textual criticism of the Qur’an. And they are understandably keen to avoid it. Why? Because as we will see, using the “no dots changed” argument as proof for the Qur’an’s divinity becomes a total nightmare for Muslims when we look at the facts.

In our current collection of 31 different Arabic Qur’ans, there are over 59,000 variant words between the different Qur’ans and the current hafs version (the most popular version of the Qur’an worldwide) – and this project is far from finished. Here is an example of a variant word between the hafs Qur’an and the warsh Qur’an in Sura 4:5;

Hafs has

transliterated ‘qiyaaman’, meaning ‘means of support’;

Warsh has ‘qiyaman’ meaning ‘values.’

Qiyaman - warsh

The top picture has the letter alef on top of the word in the middle (it looks like an English apostrophe), where the bottom picture does not:  its absence has changed the word’s meaning. In context, the two Suras read like this:

‘to those weak of understanding, make not over your property, which Allah hath
made a means of support’ (Sura 4:5 hafs)

‘to those weak of understanding, make not over your property, which Allah hath
made values‘. (Sura 4:5 warsh)

Is my house supposed to support me or it is it ‘values’, meaning presumably valuable/a source of value? If you own a house it is valuable, but it is not necessarily your means of support. The different versions have introduced an element of ambiguity to the message. Is this difference theologically significant? Doesn’t seem like it, but that’s not the point. The point is, here is irrefutable evidence of a textual variant in the Qur’an, which Muslims have long claimed to be pristine, unaltered and therefore divine in origin. The dots have been changed.

Another Muslim response to this  has been to say it doesn’t matter: both versions match the earliest consonantal skeleton (rasm), i.e. the dotless Arabic in which the earliest Qur’an manuscripts are written. Here’s the root word of qiyaman/qiyaaman  from the rasm below:

Rasm

Muslims argue therefore that Qur’an allows for both meanings, ‘means of support’ and values.  But can they really have their cake and eat it? With different markings the same word can also mean: while, valuable, so that, so it (or he) grew, or so they both finished.

For the sake of argument however, let’s be charitable and agree the word we quoted from the rasm is Sura 4:5 – it still leaves Muslims with a tricky problem, namely that the text cannot speak for itself. Arabic speakers can’t read it without imposing on it what they now know from the Qur’an we have today. To present this as evidence for the Qur’an’s perfect preservation is a wild stretch, when it is inconclusive at best.  Doesn’t matter, Muslims argue, because we can rely on the beautiful unbroken chain of transmission to clear up the ambiguities. And it’s to this we will turn our attention in our next article.

Dr Shabir Ally admits FGM is Islamic!

Muslims have long been denying that there is any link with Islam and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

In the above video, Dr Ally confirms it is an Islamic practice by acknowledging the reliability of this hadith from Sunan Abu Dawud 5271, which clearly supports FGM:

“Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah:

A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.”

Note – it doesn’t say “don’t cut”: it says “don’t cut severely.”

In the video, Dr Ally doesn’t mention the other Hadith that support the practice, for example Bukhari 5889:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Messenger said, “Five practices are characteristics of the Fitra: circumcision, shaving the pubic region, clipping the nails and cutting the moustaches short”. Could circumcision here mean just for men? Not according to Sahih Muslim 349:

Abu Musa reported:

The Messenger of Allah said: When anyone sits amidst four parts (of the woman) and the circumcised parts touch each other a bath becomes obligatory.” Clearly this means the circumcised parts of the male  touching the circumcised parts of the female.

Having acknowledged the link between FGM and Islam, Ally then goes on to support living within the law of the land – thank God his land is Canada where the mutliation of girls’ private parts is a criminal offence. Just as well he decided Canadian law is a more reliable moral guide than his own prophet. But a shame that his allegiance to the same prophet meant he couldn’t give it the unreserved condemnation such a practice deserves.

How many Qur’ans?

by Lizzie Schofield and Hatun Tash

When is a Qur’an not a Qur’an? When it’s the ahruf? Or a harf? (harf sing; ahruf pl.) Or one of the qiraat? Or when it refers to one of those suras Uthman decided shouldn’t make the cut? Doesn’t matter, Muslims tell us, the Qur’an is still one perfectly preserved book, in perfect Arabic, and not so much as a dot of it has been changed!

Confused? Join a club that has billions of members. So before we get into the detail of how many Qur’ans there are (and we still say there are 26), let’s clarify what Muslims mean by these terms.

What are the ahruf?

The ahruf refer to the 7 different ‘variant’ recitations that Muhammad received from the angel Gabriel. Muslim scholars debate whether the seven ahruf are different dialects, different word orders or different synonymous readings; but according to Yasir Qadhi in his book, ‘An introduction to the Science of the Qur’an,’ ‘only ‘Allah knows what they are’(p175). Whatever Allah knows or not, the following hadith suggests that the differences in the recitations were a big deal – big enough for Muhammad’s companion Umar to want to strangle his friend:

“Narrated by ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab. I heard Hisham bin Hakim reciting Surat Al-Furqan during the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle and I listened to his recitation and noticed that he recited in several different ways which Allah’s Apostle had not taught me. I was about to jump over him during his prayer, but I controlled my temper, and when he had completed his prayer, I put his upper garment around his neck and seized him by it and said, “Who taught you this Sura which I heard you reciting?” He replied, “Allah’s Apostle taught it to me.” I said, “You have told a lie, for Allah’s Apostle has taught it to me in a different way from yours.” So I dragged him to Allah’s Apostle and said (to Allah’s Apostle): “I heard this person reciting Surat Al-Furqan in a way which you haven’t taught me!” On that Allah’s Apostle said, “Release him, (O ‘Umar!) Recite, O Hisham!” Then he recited in the same way as I heard him reciting. Then Allah’s Apostle said, “It was revealed in this way,” and added, “Recite, O ‘Umar!” I recited it as he had taught me. Allah’s Apostle then said, “It was revealed in this way. This Qur’an has been revealed to be recited in seven different ways, so recite of it whichever (way) is easier for you (or read as much of it as may be easy for you).” (Sahih Bukhari 6:61:514, Sahih Bukhari 6:61:561, Malik’s Muwatta 15:005)

Did having seven different ahruf really make life easy for Muhammad’s followers – by inciting them to violence? Umar and Hisham were both Qurayshi, and spoke the same dialect anyway – so why was it necessary for the Suras to be revealed in different ways?

Notice the effect of the different recitations on Ubayy ibn Kaab in Sahih Muslim 4:1787:

“… the Apostle of Allah expressed approval of their affairs (their modes of recitation). and there occurred in my mind a sort of denial which did not occur even during the Days of Ignorance. When the Messenger of Allah saw how I was affected (by a wrong idea), he struck my chest, whereupon I broke into sweating  … “

Interesting how Muhammad restores his friend’s spiritual composure – by hitting him. Would mere differences in pronunciation lead to such a crisis of faith? Or was it more likely that Muhammad had forgotten which version was correct and used the ahruf story to cover his tracks? The ahadith tells how Muhammad used to forget verses sometimes (Sahih Bukhari 6:61:556,  Sahih Muslim 4:1720)

In the end only one harf survived, the Qur’an of Uthman, after he ordered all variants be burnt (Sahih Bukhari 6:61:510). Why? Did he have prophetic authority to do this? How was he or his scribes able to tell what was Allah’s speech and what wasn’t, especially if there were 7 ahruf knocking around? And why were there non-canonical variants in the first place if the oral transmission of the Qur’an is as failsafe as Muslims claim?

What are the qiraat? 

The qiraat are the different ways in which the Qur’an is recited according to Islamic tradition. So for example the Hafs Qur’an (which most of the Muslim world recites) and the Warsh Qur’an (the prevalent reading in West and North Africa) are examples of two different qiraat.

Muslims maintain the qiraat differ in pronunciation only, so it’s (again!) not a big deal. Except this is not what the text tells us; we know there are over 1354 textual variants  in the Arabic text just between the hafs and the warsh which affect the meaning. For example in Sura 2:251 hafs has daf’u meaning ‘repelling’ and warsh has difaa’u, meaning ‘he defends’. So in the hafs Qur’an the sentence reads:

“And were it not Allah’s repelling some men with others, the earth would certainly be in a state of disorder”

and in the warsh:

And were it not for Allah’s defending some men with others, the earth would certainly be in a state of disorder”

Is Allah involved in an offensive (‘repelling’) or defensive (‘defending’) conflict? We will write more on these variations in further blogs.

So how many qiraat are there? The number of qiraat have varied down the centuries. Islamic tradition tell us in 839AD there were 25 different Arabic qiraat; in 912AD there were 50 different Arabic qiraat;  by 935AD this was reduced to 7 qiraat but this increased again in 1397 to 10 different qiraat and further still in 1705 to 14 qiraat. Notice the dates. Are any of these changes made during the time of Muhammad or the rightly-guided Caliphs? In which case, who decided which qiraat were legitimate or not and on what authority? Allah’s? The angel Gabriel’s? Who did they use for a messenger given that Muhammad had been dead for at least 2 centuries?

Let’s do the maths. 7 ahruf – 1 harf + 25 qiraat +50 qirat – 7 qirat + 10 qirat  +26 different Arabic Qur’ans = 1 perfectly preserved Qur’an without so much as a dot changed, right? Right?

This issue is so important because unique preservation is a claim the Qur’an makes for itself in Sura 85:22, and therefore (according to Muslims) proves it must be divine in origin.

Christians have never claimed  the Bible has been miraculously preserved.  Let’s thank our Lord that our faith doesn’t stand or fall on an eternal book, but a Person, Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God (John 1:1). Muslims, stop May He be forever praised.

When is a Sahih Hadith no longer Sahih?

by Hatun Tash and Lizzie Schofield
Don't throw Bukhari under the bus

Last week in a discussion about how many Qur’ans there are (we still say 26 Arabic versions, maybe more), one of our dear Muslim missionary friends said that Bukhari was “only 95 per cent correct.” Apologies if you are a Muslim and you just spat out your tea.

Islam teaches that in order to be a Muslim, you must follow the Qur’an and Muhammad. The Qur’an says you must “obey Allah and obey his messenger (Muhammad)’ (Sura 4:59), because he is a ‘good example’ to follow (Sura 33:21). However the Qur’an itself is surprisingly sketchy on the details of Muhammad’s life and practices. For example the Shahada and the ritual of the five daily prayers – the first two pillars of Islam – are not in there. To fill in the gaps, Muslims go to the supporting literature known as Ahadith (sayings plural- Hadith singular) and the Sira (biography of Muhammad.)

The problem is, both the Ahadith and the Sira contain very embarrassing stories about Muhammad, and when you bring them up, Muslims only have three responses. 1: You don’t know Arabic (except the translations we use are the same ones used by Muslims) 2: That hadith is weak (more on this later) or 3: The Ahadith are all fabrications, I’m going to ditch them and become a ‘Quran Only’ Muslim therefore rejecting Islam’s most basic practices. Interestingly, Qur’an Only Muslims reject the Shahada as shirk because it contains Muhammad’s name.

So when Muslims reject the ahadith, theologically it’s a big deal. But who are these ahadith collectors? Let’s look at Bukhari, the daddy of them all, traditionally given the title ‘Sahih’ – ‘reliable.’

Imam Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Ismaeel bin al-Mughirah al-Bukhari was born in 810 AD, 178 years after Muhammad died in 632. He lived in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, approximately 4000km from Mecca. Arabic was not his mother tongue. He compiled the customs of Muhammad – what he ate, drank, wore, when he smiled, when he was silent etc –not from Muhammad’s eyewitnesses or eyewitness witnesses, but where exactly? From this person who got it from that person; that person got it from this person etc down two centuries. Why did nobody bother to write these things down before Bukhari? Why would any objective historian accept hearsay as truth without any means of externally verifying it? Yet Bukhari is considered one of Islam’s most reliable sources.

Bukhari collected around 600 000 ahadith which he edited down to the 7275 found in today’s collection, although if you account for the fact some are repeated, that leaves only 2230. In other words, he slashed 98% of his material and kept around 2% of it (not including repeats. If Bukhari had edited a magazine I wouldn’t want to be one of his contributors.) What criteria did he use to determine what passed and what didn’t? The point is this: whatever Muslims say about ahadith being weak or strong, those that made the cut must have been authoritative to some degree in order to have survived such a brutal edit in the first place.

Sadly, even Muslim missionaries with long beards (like Muhammad, according to the hadith not the Qur’an) and short trousers (like Muhammad, according to the hadith not the Qur’an) decided that Bukhari didn’t do a good enough job and that only 95% of his material is correct. So which 5% of Bukhari’s ahadith are dodgy ones? What criteria have our missionary friends used to determine which are dodgy and which are not? What makes them think they know better than Imam Bukhari who lived 1,207 years before they did?

Let’s give the mic to Hamza Yusuf, a Muslim scholar,  to comment on reliability of the ahadith:

We’re so grateful that as a Christians, we don’t have this problem. We have everything we need to know about Jesus from the Bible; it is historically reliable as well as theologically sufficient so we don’t need to scrabble through endless secondary literature to find the message of salvation – to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus, God’s Son, our only Saviour (Isaiah 43:10John 3:16.) We pray Muslims wake up to this wonderful truth before it’s too late.