Top 10 Questions
and Comments from Muslims (9-10)
Q & C 9. “Muhammad's mentioned in the Bible.”
Reply: On the street level I've noticed Muslims have some competing views around the Christian scriptures, the Torah, Psalms and other books of the Old and New Testaments. Firstly they believe everything that's come before their Qur'an must have been corrupted (because previous scripture doesn't agree with the Qur'an); secondly, despite dismissing Christian scripture in the first instance, Muslims also believe the previous scriptures have been preserved up until the point where they can use the writings to prove Muhammad's an authentic prophet. Brits call this “having your cake and eating it too."
An example of a Bible verse which Muslims have used in an attempt to prove Muhammad from the Bible would be John 14:16, in which Jesus teaches: "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—” My Muslim friends ordinarily haven't read any further than those words, they're not aware how they've joined the chapter midway and haven't been reading any of the material as the author intended. Let's read everything in its proper shape, underlining everything that'll be problematic for Muslim readers:
“You may ask me for anything in my name” [a] [Jesus' name], “and I will do it [b]. If you love me, keep my commands [c]. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever [d]—the Spirit of truth [e]. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him [f]. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you [g]. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me [h], and I am in you [i]. Whoever has my commands [j] and keeps them is the one who loves me.
The one who loves me will be loved by my Father [k], and I too will love them and show myself to them.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching [l]. My Father [m] will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them [n].”
[a] “ask me for anything in my name” To “ask me” functions as an example of Jesus accepting prayer and/or intercessory prayer (an idea that's not Islamic). In the wider context Christ receives worship in several places in the gospels and in the book of Revelation (especially in the gospel of John). For references Hebrews 1:6, John 18:6, Revelation 5:1-14; 19:1-8 are good starting points.
[b] “and I will do it” Christ in the very next portion teaches He answers prayer made in His name.
[c], [j], [l], “keep my commands” Jesus claiming commands are “His” would be to commit the Islamic sin of associate, as nobody in the Muslim faith can stand in relation to Allah in terms of his work in the universe (which would include moral commandment). Jesus can't teach the above while being “merely a prophet” as Muslims insist.
Yet that's precisely how He taught. Christ's words aren't in harmony with later Islamic traditions, for which non-Christian insist there's some restoration (renovation) required, they're however in perfect harmony with the other material written by Christians in the first century (Ref: Colossians chapter one):
“For in him [Christ] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”
[d] “be with you forever” The promised Comforter couldn't possibly be Muhammad because Muhammad wasn't with the people forever, rather having been poisoned by a Jewess who's family had been murdered in an Islamic war effort, he died and is now buried beneath a mosque in Medina. Muhammad is no more with us than Napoleon Bonaparte, Julius Caesar or Shakespeare are with us.
[e] “the Spirit of truth” To describe Muhammad as the spirit “of truth” would be fairly blasphemous in the Christian and Islamic faith.
[f] “it neither sees him nor knows him” Unless Muhammad was an invisible man, most people would agree “neither sees him” couldn't be applied to the founder of Islam.
[g] “for he lives with you and will be in you” Christ taught how this Comforter figure could be known in the first century by His followers (over 600 years before Muhammad's birth). The Comforter would be “in” believers, which means some of us may be tempted to undo a few buttons on our shirt before asking “is Muhammad inside me?”
[h], [k], [m], [n], “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me” God being described as “Father” goes perfectly well with ancient Jewish and Christian beliefs, in Islamic theology however that's not appropriate (Ref Qur'an 5:18), as explained:
“But the Jews and the Christians say, “We are the children of Allah and His beloved.” Say, “Then why does He punish you for your sins?” Rather, you are human beings from among those He has created.”
First century Jewish teachings are in perfect harmony with a New Testament account of Jesus' public ministry, and the eyewitnesses who recorded Christ's preaching (doing so in biography form) are our absolute best source of contact. The rabbi student relationship in first century Judaic culture wasn't easily ignored, whereas writers and orators teaching over half a millennia later in an Arabic culture didn't have the same privileged position.
Isolating this single verse in the gospel of John for the sake of defending later Islamic beliefs can't be done without unfaithfulness to both the original culture and context. Instead Jesus taught in parables, stories which contained hidden messages and meanings betrayed by the individual elements in the moral, Christ in the gospel of Luke even goes so far as to teach His special relationship to the Father (Ref: Luke 20:9-19):
“He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!” Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?
Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.”
[i] “and I am in you” Teaching He would be “in” His faithful followers Christ's words are repeatedly echoed throughout the New Testament writings, due to which believers change and are perfected “in” Him, they're predestine “in” their saviour. As I've shared elsewhere, Muslims don't grow “in Muhammad”, the Hindu isn't “in Krishna”, although they might insist upon saying Krishna is in everything (the distinction's subtle). Only Christianity promises a familial relationship, making men into sons of God and women into daughters in a more intimate way, whereas Islam promises a slave to master relationships.
The Comforter being miscast as Muhammad would be the most popular and widespread idea of a Bible proof text in the western Muslim world, although reading together it's not an appropriate use of the material. Reading John's gospel as is (without ripping verses out of context) produces too many problems for an honest Muslim reader to continue wedging Muhammad into the chapter.
Q & C 10. “What's the main reason that you don't believe in Islam?”
Reply: Jesus Christ. That's the shortest answer and one which should reach everyone who's interested in the Abraham oriented faiths. Jewish believers are waiting on the messiah even nowadays, believing that their desire to see him in the first century was undone by the nation's immorality. Muslim believers are happy to believe that the messiah came and went, although in the restoration scramble (like in the case of the Mormon church) they have lost any workable definition of the messiah and His mission.
The messiah in Islam has been used as an instrument for advancing Islamic ideas, for example, much of the words written and placed upon the non-historic “Isa” of the Qur'an act as abstract sayings to defend Muslim beliefs in the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries. The only point where Muslim writers really make an effort to render an Islamic Jesus speaking in history comes from their use of a fairytale in which the baby Jesus speaks from the cradle (Ref: Qur'an 19:29-31), here's an example:
“But she pointed to him. They said: How should we speak to one who is a child in the cradle? He [the apocryphal Jesus] said: I am indeed a servant of Allah. He has given me the Book and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and poor-rate so long as I live:”
Muslim writers, not having access to the New Testament biographies and letters written by family, followers and eyewitnesses to Christ's life and ministry, had to draw upon books such as “The Arabic Gospel of The Infancy of The Saviour”, an inaccurate fairytale written in the fifth or sixth century (nearer to the life of Muhammad than to the life of Jesus).
I realized early on into my studies that many different faith communities made claims to do with the life of Jesus. Jewish believers didn't reject Christ, rather they were divided by Him and the radical claims He made. In the modern world Jewish believers in Jesus are described as “messianic Jews”, although they're ignored by the wider Jewish community (as they were in the first century).
Many of the first century Jews who dismissed Christ couldn't deny He preformed a ministry of miricle working and exorcism, so for a reply they blamed Jesus for being an evil magician, not denying how the messiah worked wonders publicly, rather they blamed the miracles of Jesus on magic and demons (Ref: Matthew 9:34; Luke 11:15).
My Hindu and Buddhist friends sometimes shared a belief that Jesus must have travelled, visiting their nations and borrowing from their cultures. Atheists and Muslims often teach Christ was an anarchic revolutionary (even a jihad fighter). While others muse about a Jesus who's an esoteric philosopher.
Christ's friends, His family and students wrote it simply, “the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus taught “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Christ, in contradiction to holy men who insist rescue is found in their doctrines, taught not that freedom was found in an abstract principle or rule of conduct, rather He taught freedom could be found in Him.
That's the biggest reason to reject Islam, because it's built on an inaccurate understanding of history's greatest man. An extract from the “One Solitary Life” sermon explained:
Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself.
While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centrepiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.
Despite being who people measure time by (AD & BC), Christ suffered an ignominious death, no different than any number of unnamed men accused of breaking Roman rule and reign. Crucifixion was considered an unspeakable punishment, in civilized company literally “unspeakable”, as in no one dared speak of it, moreover, Romans, in the rare cases in which capital punishment was in order, couldn't be crucified.
They were except from such an excruciating practice. Yet people remember Jesus in spite of the silence and the ignominy, for which modern people have often wondered why. The historian and physician Luke might have explained it best (Ref: Luke chapter twenty-four), writing from the eyewitness accounts they had gathered:
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.
In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.”
Hindus, Muslims and Jews are asking themselves if this Jesus has an answer to the problem of pain, asking not because He died, suffering unspeakable pain, but because two thousand years later, rather than languishing in a grave site underneath a temple or mosque, Jesus Christ lives. Confessing with your mouth “Jesus is Lord”, and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead means that you can meet Him. You can meet Him today.