Thursday, October 06, 2011

The United Church of Canada: Marching Towards Hudaybiyya

Earlier this week, I was able to sit in for a workshop between some Canadian Muslims (represented by Dr. Zijad Delic, formerly of the Canadian Islamic Congress) and Rev. Dr. Bruce Gregersen of the United Church of Canada. It wasn't a large workshop, as there were only 14 people in attendance. The topic of discussion at that workshop was a pair of documents: A Common Word Between Us and You, a document written by several Muslim leaders addressed to Christian leaders, and That We May Know Each Other, the UCC's official statement regarding their relations with the Muslim community. The workshop lasted for about two hours, and it was basically a mass of ecumenicism on both side, but especially on the United Church's side, since that has been their modus operandi for quite a while now. Aside from the rehashing of the UCC's repudiation of the "exclusivism" of traditional Christianity (which they are quite proud of, since it is the main mark of their "Progressivism"), one of the main things that stuck out for me was in the handout that they were giving out. In it was an excerpt from pages 32-33 of the UCC document, where they ask, "Can Christians Affirm Muhammad as a Prophet?" The answer,which should surprise nobody who is familiar with the UCC, is in the affirmative:
We believe that in this later context there certainly should be no difficulty in affirming Muhammad as a prophet. Any reading of his life reveals the extent to which he sought to overcome injustice and oppression and called people to obedience (and submission) to God. Christians should readily affirm Muhammad as a prophet of justice and obedience to God. It is, however, the former definition of a prophet as an “immediately-inspired spokesperson for God” that is the most challenging and perhaps the most difficult for Christians to address.
A number of well-known theologians have argued that it is possible for Christians to accept this understanding of the prophethood of Muhammad. Roman Catholic scholar Hans Küng suggests that Muhammad’s prophetic role originated not in his own mind but in divine revelation coming from God. He argues that New Testament scripture is open to the expectation of prophets after Jesus, provided their teaching is in basic agreement with his. The Qur’an, he suggests, recapitulates an original understanding of Jesus’ message lost in the early Hellenistic development of the Christian community. The church therefore needs to embrace Muhammad’s insights as a way of recovering this obscured history.

Protestant scholar Montgomery Watt considers Muhammad truly a prophet and that Christians should recognize this, since throughout history there have been many upright and saintly Muslims. Watt emphasizes primarily ethical principles in determining that Islam provides a satisfactory quality of life for individuals and communities and, therefore, as Islam can be judged “true,” so also can Muhammad be seen to be a prophet of God.
Of course, anybody who really takes the time to examine the teachings of Islam compared to Christianity knows that this is absurd on so many levels. If Muhammad's revelations spring from the same source as the biblical prophets, how are we to explain the fact that Sura 9:30 curses Christians for calling Jesus the son of God, when Matthew 16:15-17 states that Jesus called Simon Peter blessed for that very same confession? Besides, an examination of Muhammad's life shows that he was anything but spiritually reliable, and certainly no messenger of peace and justice. But hey, we shouldn't let the facts get in the way of ecumenical dialogue, right?

Aside from that, there were also various talking points that were brought up by both speakers.

Rev. Bruce Gregersen:
  • Pointed out that the United Church is the first denomination to ever affirm that "the Spirit of God is at work in many different faith communities." And no, that doesn't mean God is leading them to Christ, since they also state that "difference is everywhere around us and, we believe, a great cause for celebration" (Because the fact that billions of people around the world are stuck in spiritual darkness and lack Christ in their lives is a cause of celebration).
  • Has stated things like "Muslims and Christians worship the same God," and that "we can benefit from what Islam and Muslims have to say to us." You mean like the Pact of Umar?
  • Made reference to the Western Standard's printing of the Muhammad Cartoons, as well as the UCC's apology to the Canadian Islamic Congress, stating that "it was profoundly disrespectful to publish those cartoons," that the publishing of those cartoons was "an expression of hatred," and that the publishing of these cartoons "has huge implications in a world in which Muslims are being seen as an enemy."
  • Pointed out that the UCC document was the first study on the doctrine of the Trinity that the UCC has undertaken in thirty years. That just goes to show you how much importance this denomination places on doctrinal soundness. While they pay lip service to the Trinity, their understanding of the doctrine is shown in That We May Know Each Other to be less than solid (hint: They use it as a way of excusing their pluralism).
Dr. Zijad Delic:
  • Mentioned quite a bit about "love" and "peace." Of course, don't expect much of an attempt to link this back to what the Qur'an and Sunnah actually teach.
  • Hopes to "bridge the gap of misunderstanding... and show that I have no hidden agenda." Uh-huh.
  • Quotes a hadith that purportedly states that "Diversity is a mercy." Of course, let's not discuss the fact that the hadith in question is da'if (weak) and does not even talk about diversity among religions.
  • Says that he intends to send a copy of A Common Word and That We May Know Each Other to various mosques that will hopefully study them and draft similar statements. In doing so, he notes that since Islam has no centralized hierarchy, these documents do not have widespread influence. Of course... it'll be very hard to convince Muslims in more conservative parts of the Islamic world such as Saudi Arabia to embrace the statements contained in these documents, for obvious reasons.
  • Has stated that "Canada is more Islamic than any Muslim country, because it provides an atmosphere for growth and freedom." Those are Islamic values?
Aside from these talking points, I was able to dig up some interesting facts on our two speakers. Rev. Gregersen, it would seem, has spoken in favour of the idea of Israel being an occupying state (among other things). Also, Dr. Delic was, up until March 2011, a member of the Canadian Islamic Congress, which has a long history of promoting censorhip and extremism. He has even advocated the CIC's attempts to silence critics of Islam such as Mark Steyn on Maclean's via the (badly misnomered) Canadian Human Rights Commissions. I would say that the information herein should give everybody a pretty good idea of what exactly is going on here: The United Church of Canada has already signed its treaty of Hudaybiyya, and is well on its way to dhimmitude. Adding this to the UCC's long history of compromise and abandonment of the Gospel, Bible-believing Canadian Christians should be wary of this denomination and seek to avoid the kind of mistakes that have brought it to where it is now.

Finally, with regards to A Common Word, I would strongly advise everybody to read Sam Solomon's response to this document, as he carefully lays out its deceitful nature, as well as what its implications are for Christians. Islam seeks to exalt itself over every other religion (cf. Sura 9:33), and its adherents will use whatever means they have at their disposal to achieve that end, including cleverly disguised attempts at diplomacy.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Response to a Muslim on Sura 1:7

NOTE: I recently emailed the quotes that I mentioned in Who are those Mentioned in Sura 1:7? to a bunch of friends, both Christian and Muslim as part of my effort to contribute to the movement against the implementation of Friday prayers in a middle school in the Toronto District School Board (click here for the news story). So far, I have had only one of the Muslims attempt a response, and it wasn't really all that substantial. Here are her comments and my rebuttal to them:
Every group should be allowed their right to the freedom of belief and religious practice.
I agree. However, there is a vast difference between giving freedom of belief and religious practice, and giving special privileges to one group that normally isn't given to anyone else. This is a clear case of the latter. I have Christian colleagues who have been denied when they requested to form a prayer group at their high schools. Not only that, but there have been a lot of concerns about the implementation of prayers in school causing students to miss classes. Not only that, but there are also concerns about non-Muslims being denied washroom access during these prayer times, and these same students also face intimidation from the majority of Muslim students. There is nothing equal here; TDSB is displaying an obvious case of favouritism.
As you have already quoted below, you can see that there are differences in understanding the verses of the Surah Fatihah.
I'm not sure if you actually read the quotes I gave you. I noted that the classical Sunni Muslim scholars are unanimously agreed on the interpretation of Sura 1:7 as a curse upon the Jews and Christians. It has only been in the past few decades that Muslims here in the west have been attempting to downplay--if not outright deny--the classical interpretation.
Because an understanding of the last verses of Surah Fatihah is disliked by some people, is not a reason to ban prayers in Schools.
I am sorry, but this is not a meaningful reply at all. First of all, it is not just "an understanding," but is the interpretation that virtually all Muslim scholars up until recent decades have agreed upon. Go back to the quotes I gave from Ibn Abbas, Ibn Kathir and the two Jalals. If one simply takes the ijma of the ulema on the interpretation of Sura 1:7, then there is no doubt at all that it is directed against Jews and Christians. It's not a simple matter of one "disliking" an understanding, but of two major world religions being singled out for condemnation in a verse that is recited by every Muslim who recites al Fatihah in their salat prayers.

If you don't want to acknowledge that this is what it means everytime you ask Allah not to make you like the al-maghdub or the al-daleen, then that is not my problem, because denying reality isn't going to make reality go away. The facts are there. I didn't make them up; you can confirm them yourself from Islamic websites such as the ones I linked to. If you care at all about the truth, then I would urge you to look these things up for yourself rather than just hastily dismissing the evidence because they don't match up with what you find comfortable.

May Jehovah God's blessings and mercy be upon you.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Who are those Mentioned in Sura 1:7?

Just to clear up this issue once and for all, I present three classical Sunni Muslim commentators who make it absolutely clear that Sura 1:7 is a reference to the Jews and Christians:
This is why they were led astray. We should also mention that both the Christians and the Jews have earned the anger and are led astray, but the anger is one of the attributes more particular of the Jews Allah said about the Jews, (Those (Jews) who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath) (5:60). The attribute that the Christians deserve most is that of being led astray, just as Allah said about them, (Who went astray before and who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the right path) (5:77). (Tafsir Ibn Kathir. Commentary on Sura 1:7.)

(The path of those whom Thou hast favoured), the Religion of those whom You have blessed with the Religion and who are the followers of Moses, before the blessings of Allah deserted them, in that He shaded them with a white cloud and sent down on them honey and quails when they were in the wilderness. It is also said that (the path of those whom Thou hast favoured) refers to the prophets. (Not of those who earn Thine anger), not the religion of the Jews who earned Your anger, whom You forsook and whose hearts You did not protect until they became complaisant. (Nor of those who go astray), nor the religion of the Christians who erred from Islam. Amen: thus shall be its custodians; it is also said that Amen means let it be so. It is also said that it means: O our Lord! Do with us as we have requested You. And Allah knows best'. (Tafsir Ibn Abbas. Commentary on Sura 1:7.)

the path of those whom You have favoured, with guidance (from alladhīna together with its relative clause is substituted by [ghayri l-maghdūbi ‘alayhim]) not [the path] of those against whom there is wrath, namely, the Jews, and nor of those who are astray, namely, the Christians. The subtle meaning implied by this substitution is that the guided ones are neither the Jews nor the Christians. But God knows best what is right, and to Him is the Return and the [final] Resort. May God bless our lord Muhammad (s), his Family and Companions and grant them everlasting peace. Sufficient is God for us; an excellent Guardian is He. There is no power and no strength save in God, the High, the Tremendous. (Tafsir Al Jalalayn. Commentary on Sura 1:7.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ian Clary Reviews Michael Coren's "Why Catholics Are Right"

Michael Coren is an important voice for conservatives in Canada. He has been a talk-radio host, a columnist for a number of major Canadian newspapers and is the face of the popular The Michael Coren Show on television. Opinions that he shares on any subject are sure to get a wide hearing. Originally from England, Coren has written a number of biographies of his literary countrymen including C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, G. K. Chesterton and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Though he was not raised to be devoutly religious, Coren converted to Roman Catholicism while living in England. After his arrival in Canada he grew disenfranchised with certain aspects of the Roman Church and spent a number of years exploring evangelical options. Around eight years ago he was received back into the Catholic fold. His recent book Why Catholics Are Right is written to help “Catholics who want to defend their beliefs but need a little help” (7).
This is the introduction to the book review done by my colleague and brother in Christ Ian Clary of the Hope's Reason apologetics journal to the book Why Catholics Are Right, which was written by popular Canadian political commentator (and convert to Roman Catholicism) Michael Coren. The book is aimed at addressing popular critiques of the Roman Catholic Church, and provide some kind of justification for believing that it is the true Church. I had been meaning to do a review of this book myself, but have so far been unable to procure a copy of the book. Be that as it may, I am glad that bro. Clary has done the job, and I would like to encourage readers to check out his review of the book. See the book itself as well to see for yourself how well its arguments stand.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's Scientific Errors

If there is one thing that distinguishes the Ahmadiyya from mainstream Islam (other than the fact that they believe in a prophet who came after Muhammad), it is their emphasis upon what they consider to be the rational and scientific. This tendency towards rationalism will sometimes cause Ahmadis to become much less inclined towards supernatural explanations than orthodox Muslims (as seen for example by their attempts to naturalize the virgin birth, among other miracles). It is somewhat ironic then that as I was reading Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, I noticed that he makes some rather glaring scientific errors in the first chapter of the book. For example, he makes the following statement regarding the effect of one's diet on one's disposition:
Experience also shows that different types of food affect the intellect and the mind in different ways. For instance, careful observation would disclose that people who refrain altogether from eating meat gradually suffer a decline of the faculty of bravery; they lose courage and thus suffer the loss of a divinely bestowed praiseworthy faculty. This is reinforced by the evidence of the divine law of nature that the herbivorous animals do not possess the same degree of courage as do carnivorous ones. The same applies to birds. Thus there is no doubt that morals are affected by food. Conversely those who are given to a diet consisting mainly of meat and eat very little of greens suffer a decline of meekness or humility. Those who adopt the middle course develop both types of moral qualities.[1]
Now, this is an obviously false assertion that is regularly proved by those who run into vegetarians who possess plenty of bravery and/or lack humility. I don't think any dietician or physiologist would ever accept a statement such as this as having any kind of scientific validity. In addition to this, we find another glaring scientific error two and a half pages later, where Mirza Ghulam Ahmad attempts to base his belief in the development of the soul inside the body on the theory of spontaneous generation. Here, we read:
The Book of God does not mean that the soul descends from heaven as a separate entity or falls upon the earth from the atmosphere and then by chance gets mixed with the sperm and enters the womb with it. There is no basis for such a notion. The law of nature rejects it. We observe daily that thousands of insects infect impure and stale foods and are generated in unwashed wounds. Dirty linen secretes hundreds of lice and all sorts of worms are generated inside a person's stomach. It cannot be said that all these come from outside or can be observed as descending from heaven. The truth is that the soul is developed in the body and this also proves that it is created and is not self-existent.[2]
While I would certainly agree that God creates the human soul in the body and does not zap it into the body from heaven, I do not base such a belief on an outdated scientific concept. French chemist Louis Pasteur already laid the theory of spontaneous generation to rest back in 1859.[3] That is nearly four decades before Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote down the essay in question. Glaring factual errors such as these serve to show that the Ahmadiyya's brightest minds aren't nearly as rational and scientific as they make themselves out to be.

End Notes
  1. Ahmad, Mirza Ghulam. The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam. Tilford: Islam International Publications, Ltd., 1996. p. 5.
  2. Ibid., pp. 7-8.
  3. Evers, Chris and Russell Levine. "The Slow Death of Spontaneous Generation (1668-1859)." The National Health Museum.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Critique of Islamic Jesus Movie

Back in 2008, an Iranian director named Nader Talebzadeh directed a movie depicting the life of Jesus from the Islamic perspective, officially called The Messiah. It is touted as "an Islamic answer to Western productions like Mel Gibson's 2004 blockbuster 'The Passion of the Christ,' which which he [Nader] praised as admirable but quite simply 'wrong'" (link). It is surprising to know that such a production exists since Muslims normally shun the making of any kind of representation of the prophets (pictorial or otherwise).

Be that as it may, I recently came across an eleven minute excerpt of the film, courtesy of none other than Sam Shamoun of Answering Islam (with whom I am friends on Facebook). For those who want to see the clip, here it is:

Here are some of my thoughts on the video:
  1. In the first place, why is Jesus portrayed as having blond hair? It's bad enough that many westerners depict Jesus as a blond-haired Caucasian, but I'm surprised that our Iranian Muslim colleagues made the same error. I mean seriously, the hair colour just looks plain bad, and it would've been best if they stuck to dark brown hair.

  2. The first four minutes or so of the video are allegedly based on the Christian Narrative (i.e. the New Testament). Yet, we find that there are many obvious errors. For example, Jesus (Judas?) is depicted as being arrested in a house, even though we know from the Gospels that He was actually arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. A lot of the costumes don't look quite right either; one wonders if they bothered consulting any historians or biblical scholars for accuracy on these matters, although I highly doubt it.

  3. More important than what the film gets wrong is what it omits entirely. There is no mention, for example, of how the disciples attempted to rescue Jesus, and how Jesus rebuked them by saying,
    Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?" (Matthew 26:53-54).
    These verses are very important as they contradict the Islamic claim that Jesus was unwilling to die on the cross and wanted to be rescued from it, so it is not surprising at all that the ones who made this film chose to omit it. I guess they only want to take those parts of the "Christian narrative" that they can twist into their own viewpoint, whilst throwing out everything else.

  4. In addition, no mention is ever made of what crime Jesus is being accused of. When one looks at the account as recorded by Mark, the reason becomes obvious why:
    But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." And the high priest tore his garments and said, "What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, "Prophesy!" And the guards received him with blows (Mark 14:61-65, ESV).
    Islam denies that Jesus is the divine Son of God or that He ever claimed to be such (cf. Suras 6:101, 9:30, 19:88-92, etc.). Yet as shown in the Gospels, that is precisely the claim for which Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death. To paraphrase David Wood, the Jews would have had no problem with Jesus if all He said was that they should believe in God and obey the Torah. After all, they were already doing that! Rather, Jesus must have been teaching something that was so radically offensive to the Jews that they would accuse Him of blasphemy. Claiming to be the divine Son of God is precisely that claim, and it continues to offend both Jews and Muslims to this very day.

  5. About four minutes into the video, we find the following caption: "Continuation of the events according to Islamic sources and the Gospel of Barnabas..." Should we really be surprised that the Gospel of Barnabas is now being touted as a source at this point? That document is constantly being touted as the staple piece of anti-Christian Islamic propaganda despite the fact that it has already been debunked as a forgery numerous times. As Islamic scholar Cyril Glassé points out:
    As regards the "Gospel of Barnabas" itself, there is no question that it is a medieval forgery. A complete Italian manuscript exists which appears to be a translation from a Spanish original (which exists in part), written to curry favor with Muslims of the time. It contains anachronisms which can date only from the Middle Ages and not before, and shows a garbled comprehension of Islamic doctrines, calling the Prophet "the Messiah", which Islam does not claim for him. Besides its farcical notion of sacred history, stylistically it is a mediocre parody of the Gospels, as the writings of Baha'Allah are of the Koran. (link)
  6. By far the most ridiculous portion of the video is the part where Judas is miraculously transformed into a look-alike of Jesus. Okay, so if everything that is attributed to Jesus from the time He is arrested to the time He is crucified was actually Judas, riddle me this:
    a. Why did Judas never correct the Jewish and Roman authorities by saying that it was actually him?

    b. How could Judas betray "Jesus" by leading the temple guards to Him if the one he is leading them to is actually himself?

    c. Where did the story of Judas hanging himself in Matthew 27:3-10 come from?

    d. Where did the stories of Jesus saying that He is the Son of Man of Daniel 7:13-14 and that He has a kingdom that is not of this world come from?

    e. Who was it really that appeared to the disciples after three days and why was he claiming to be the resurrected Jesus?
    Those who accept the version of events that is recounted in the Islamic Jesus movie must answer these questions, although they would be hard pressed to provide answers that will make any sense of the facts as they really are.
To cap it off, it must be said that the Islamic perspective on the crucifixion of Jesus does not make any sense, either historically or logically. It does not make sense historically because all the earliest sources (not only the Gospels but even secular sources such as Josephus, Tacitus, etc.) that talk about Jesus agree unanimously that He was put to death under Pontius Pilate. Somehow, we are supposed to believe on the authority of a text that came six centuries later that it never really happened but that it was only made to appear so. It also does not make sense logically because it would make God out to be a deceiver. To drive that point home, let us look at the one passage in the Qur'an that talks about the crucifixion:
That they [the Jews] rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge; That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:- Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise (Sura 4:156-168).
First of all, it puts into the Jews' mouth the affirmation of Jesus as the Messiah (or Christ) and as Allah's messenger, yet they never accepted Jesus' claim to hold these two titles. Also, when the Qur'an says "it was made to appear to them," who is being referred to here? Is it only the Jews who rejected Jesus? If so, then we are at a loss as to why Jesus' true followers (who are allegedly guided by God, cf. Suras 3:52-55 and 61:14) ended up believing that He was killed as well.

On the other hand, if they were also included among those to whom it was made to appear so, then that means Allah failed to fulfill the promise made in the aforementioned Qur'anic passages to guide Jesus' disciples and make them victorious until the day of Resurrection, since they fell into kufr. The upshot of this is that Allah is the true founder of Christianity, since Christianity's premise is that Jesus died and rose again after three days (which, if we are to take Sura 4:156-158 at face value, is what Allah made it seem to have happened). The problem posed by this is quite glaring.

Thus, I must conclude that the only reasonable explanation that can be accepted is the one given to us by Jesus' apostles: That He truly did die on the cross, and He truly did rise again after three days. In the words of the apostle Peter:
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:22-25, ESV).
And Allah knows best. ;)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Anachronisms in the Qur'an

Anachronism #1: Joseph sold for Dirhams
"[Joseph's] brethren sold him for a miserable price, for a few dirhams counted out: in such low estimation did they hold him!" (Sura 12:20)
Joseph lived around the nineteenth century B.C. The dirham, which is derived from the Greek drachma (δραχμή), could not be found earlier than the twelfth century B.C. So how could the Qur'an claim that Joseph was sold using a currency that wasn't to be invented for another seven centuries?

Anachronism #2: David's Chain Mail
"We bestowed Grace aforetime on David from ourselves: 'O ye Mountains! Sing ye back the Praises of Allah with him! and ye birds also! And We made the iron soft for him;- Commanding, 'Make thou coast of mail, balancing well the rings of chain armour, and work ye righteousness; for be sure I see clearly all that ye do.'" (Sura 34:10-11)
David lived around the tenth century B.C., whereas chain mail armour was not to be invented until around the fifth century B.C. by the Celts. How could David have produced a form of armour that wasn't to exist for another five centuries after his time?

Anachronism #3: Crucifixion in Ancient Egypt
"O my two companions of the prison! As to one of you, he will pour out the wine for his lord to drink: as for the other, he will hang from the cross, and the birds will eat from off his head. So hath been decreed that matter whereof ye twain do enquire." (Sura 12:41)

"Pharaoh said: "Believe ye in Him before I give you permission? Surely this must be your leader, who has taught you magic! be sure I will cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will have you crucified on trunks of palm-trees: so shall ye know for certain, which of us can give the more severe and the more lasting punishment!" (Sura 20:71)
In the two Qur'an quotes mentioned above, it is mentioned that crucifixion/impalement was used as a method of execution by the Egyptians during the time of Joseph (nineteenth century B.C.) and Moses (fifteenth century B.C.). Yet crucifixion/impalement as a form of execution was not invented until around the 6th century B.C. by the Persians (not the Egyptians). Surely, if the Qur'an had any sense of history, we would not expect to find historical errors such as this one.

Anachronism #4: Haman in Pharaoh's Court
"And We wished to be gracious to those who were being depressed in the land, to make them leaders in faith and make them heirs, to establish a firm place for them in the land, and to show Pharaoh, Haman, and their hosts, at their hands, the very things against which they were taking precautions. So We sent this inspiration to the mother of Moses: 'Suckle thy child, but when thou hast fears about him, cast him into the river, but fear not nor grieve: for We shall restore him to thee, and We shall make him one of Our apostles.' Then the people of Pharaoh picked him up from the river: It was intended that Moses should be to them an adversary and a cause of sorrow: for Pharaoh and Haman and all their hosts were men of sin." (Sura 28:5-8, cf. 28:38, 29:39, 40:24,36)
Haman was an Agagite noble who lived in Persia (not Egypt) around the sixth century B.C., and is the main antagonist in the book of Esther. It behooves any thinking person to wonder why the Qur'an records Haman being present in the court of Pharaoh and opposing Moses, who lived nine centuries before his time in a completely different culture and context. Did Haman somehow invent a time machine to travel back in time and oppose Moses?

(Reposted from a Christian-Muslim discussion page on Facebook.)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

John Chrysostom on Penal Substitution

It was like an innocent man’s undertaking to die for another sentenced to death, and so rescuing him from punishment. For Christ took upon Him not the curse of transgression, but the other curse, in order to remove that of others. For, “He had done no violence neither was any deceit in His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:9; 1 Peter 2:22.) And as by dying He rescued from death those who were dying, so by taking upon Himself the curse, He delivered them from it.

  • NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Commentary on Galatians, Chapter 3, v. 13.

(HT: Pr. David T. King)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

A Note on Sura 3:78

There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, "That is from Allah," but it is not from Allah: It is they who tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it! (Sura al Imran 3:78)
According to early commentators Abdullah Ibn Abbas (A.D. 619-687) and Wahb Ibn Munabbih (A.D. 655-737), this verse demonstrates that although the Jews can alter the meaning of the text by reciting in their tongues (i.e. orally) something other than what the written text actually says (or writing them, if one includes books like the Mishnah), they cannot change the actual contents of the text, which remain uncorrupted.

Several centuries later, however, Ismail Ibn Kathir (A.D. 1301–1373) states otherwise and argues that the text of the Bible (or rather, its Arabic translation) has indeed been altered. It is noteworthy to look at his commentary on the verse in question to see how he interacts with Ibn Abbas and Ibn Munabbih on this subject:
Allah states that some Jews, may Allah's curses descend on them, distort Allah's Words with their tongues, change them from their appropriate places, and alter their intended meanings. They do this to deceive the ignorant people by making it appear that their words are in the Book of Allah. They attribute their own lies to Allah, even though they know that they have lied and invented falsehood. Therefore, Allah said, (and they speak a lie against Allah while they know it.) Mujahid, Ash-Sha`bi, Al-Hasan, Qatadah and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said that, (who distort the Book with their tongues,) means, "They alter them (Allah's Words).”

Al-Bukhari reported that Ibn `Abbas said that the Ayah means they alter and add although none among Allah's creation can remove the Words of Allah from His Books, they alter and distort their apparent meanings. Wahb bin Munabbih said, "The Tawrah and the Injil remain as Allah revealed them, and no letter in them was removed. However, the people misguide others by addition and false interpretation, relying on books that they wrote themselves. Then, (they say: "This is from Allah," but it is not from Allah;) As for Allah's Books, they are still preserved and cannot be changed.'' Ibn Abi Hatim recorded this statement.

However, if Wahb meant the books that are currently in the hands of the People of the Book, then we should state that there is no doubt that they altered, distorted, added to and deleted from them. For instance, the Arabic versions of these books contain tremendous error, many additions and deletions and enormous misinterpretation. Those who rendered these translations have incorrect comprehension in most, rather, all of these translations. If Wahb meant the Books of Allah that He has with Him, then indeed, these Books are preserved and were never changed.
(Note: When the commentary refers to the "books that they wrote themselves," this is most likely a reference to the Mishnah, since it is in the Mishnah that Jews compiled their rabbis' interpretations of the Scriptures.)

So we see that there has been an evolution in Islamic thought regarding the authenticity of the Bible. Early Muslim scholars and commentators teach that the Qur'an testifies to the authenticity of the Biblical text, and it is only the Jews and Christians who misinterpret this text. Later on, however, it would appear that once Arabic translations of the Bible have become available to the Muslims, they began to allege that it is not just the interpretation of the Bible but the very text itself (or at the very least, the Arabic translation of the text, since most Muslims did not have access to the original Greek and Hebrew) that has been modified, as seen by the contrast between the interpretation of Sura 3:78 provided by Ibn Kathir with that provided by his predecessors Ibn Abbas and Ibn Munabbih.

At the face of it, it is quite clear that the verse teaches only that the Bible has been misinterpreted, not that its text has been corrupted, since it talks about sections of it being distorted only with their tongues (not their pens).

Furthermore, although "a party" from among Jews have been accused of tampering with the written text (Sura al Baqarah 2:75-79), this charge is never made against all Jews (in fact, the context seems to limit the charge of tampering to a small faction during the time of Moses), and it is certainly never made against Christians. After all, even the Qur'an states that not all Jews and Christians are alike, and that some of them recite the contents of the books correctly (cf. Sura al Imran 3:113-115).

This, coupled with various Qur'anic references to the confirming of the books that were "between his [i.e. Muhammad's] hands ... the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus)" (Sura al Imran 3:3) and injunctions to "ask those who have been reading the Book from before you" (Sura Yunus 10:94) demonstrate that the Qur'an testifies to the overall authenticity of the text of the Bible.

UPDATE (June 11, 2012):

For anyone who is interested in further probing the subject of the "tampering traditions" in Islamic commentaries on the Qur'an, Gordon Nickel recently published a book entitled Narratives of Tampering in the Earliest Commentaries of the Qur'an. It is published by Brill, so one can expect it to be quite pricey. Fortunately, there happens to be a copy available at Robarts Library in the University of Toronto, so I am able to borrow the copy there. So far, it is very good scholarship, and provides strong evidence for the fact that the accusation of textual corruption of the Bible was not part of the theology of the early Muslims, but arose later in response to debates against Jews and Christians.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Couple of Good Blog Posts on OT Law

I recently had the pleasure of getting acquainted with Sister Malak (a relatively young Reformed Christian and a former Shi'a Muslim) via facebook. Although she's been a Christian for only a year, she shows a lot of promise when it comes to understanding Christian theology. In particular, I would like to endorse two posts from her blog on the use of the Mosaic Law:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Toronto Baptist Seminary Essays

For those who've been wondering why I've barely posted at all in the past eight months, it's because I've been busy finishing my one year bible diploma program at Toronto Baptist Seminary. I have done a lot of theological and apologetical writing for that program, so to compensate for my relative inactivity in the blogosphere, I decided that I would post four of my best articles here on Epagonizesthai. These have some pretty good apologetic value and I do believe these constitute some of my best work so far, so they're worth looking at.

For Christian Foundations:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is the “Ayah of the Sword” Really as Militant as it Sounds?

In a discussion regarding the a context of Sura At-Tawba, one of my Muslim colleagues linked me to an article[1] supposedly explaining verse 5, the famous “ayah of the sword,” as it is often called. I would like to review and critique the article to see whether the case that it makes holds any water. Quotes from the original article are in underline.

When the Islamic state was rapidly expanding in the seventh and eighth century, many people came under the direct governance of Muslims. These peoples belonged to different religions, races, ethnicities, etc. If the hypothesis that "Muslims are required to eradicate non-Muslims or "infidels" was correct, then a pattern of deliberate extermination, forced conversions, and/or expulsion would have been observed throughout the history of Islam, especially when Muslims were powerful and winning over their opponents.

That systematic pattern is simply absent. For example, let us take India. India (or considerable parts of it) was for several centuries under the Muslim Mughal Empire. Many of the subjects of the empire, up to and including very high-ranking state officials, were Hindu. (This does not mean that Hindus lived under no discrimination whatsoever. But this is another issue.) Till now, India is a predominantly Hindu country. The facts on the ground belie the hypothesis that Muslims have believed that non-Muslims should be killed, evicted, or forced to convert.

It’s pretty hard to deny that there was a lot of conflict between Hindus and Muslims ever since Islam first came into the Indian subcontinent. After all, that is the reason why today we have India on the one hand and Pakistan and Bangladesh on the other. As historian Will Durant has noted: “...the Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history.”[2] Winfried Corduan notes: “The relationship between the Hindu population and the Muslim government was perpetually hostile.”[3] The reason why Hindus by and large have been able to preserve their heritage is because unlike most other subjugated peoples, the Hindus were very nationalistic and chose to fight back rather than allow themselves to be cowed into submission (no puns intended).

Case in point: Early on in the history of the Sikh religion, the tenth Guru Gobind Singh commanded all male members of the Khalsa order to carry the Kirpan (dagger or sword). To this day we still see Sikhs doing this, although back then they actually did use the Kirpan to fight rather than just carry them for ceremonial purposes. Why? Because the Sikhs used their swords to counteract Muslim aggression; many Sikhs at the time were being harassed and killed by their Muslim overlords, which forced them to fight back. The reason why Sikhism still exists today is because its followers chose to militarize rather than give in to Islamic intimidation.[4]

Another example: in contemporary Egypt, which was included in the Islamic state only ten years after the demise of the Prophet, about 6-10% of the people are Christians.

And it used to be a whole lot higher prior to the Islamic conquest in the seventh century. Don’t even get me started on the numerous human rights violations that go on in Egypt, because that could be an essay in and of itself.

Contrast this with Spain. For about eight centuries, Spain was a place of peaceful co-existence for Muslims, Christians, and Jews. (Again, I am not, at all, claiming that everyone enjoyed the same rights under the Arab/Muslim ruling.) However, in 1492 Ferdinand and Isabella signed the Edict of Expulsion designed to rid Spain of its Jews. The Jews were given a stark choice: baptism or deportation. An estimated 50,000 fled to the Ottoman empire where they were warmly welcomed. And about 70,000 converted to Christianity and remained in the country only to be plagued by the Inquisition which accused them of insincerity. In 1499, the Spanish state gave its Muslims the same choice: convert or leave. The result of these policies was simple: Spain almost entirely got rid of millions of people who were not Christians. (Spain now of course has minority groups, including Muslims coming mainly from North Africa as immigrants.)

Islamic Spain, admittedly, did have a track record of being more tolerant than most other Muslim regimes (relatively speaking). However, this is the exception to the rule, and for the most part Jews have faced a lot of death and oppression at the hands of Muslims (remember the Banu Qurayza?). There is a theological reason for this: There is a hadith where Muhammad is reported as saying, “The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him” (Sahih Muslim 41:6985).[5]

Also, Brown University professor Andrew G. Bostom recently published a 766 page volume entitled “The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History,” which documents the numerous references to oppression and mistrust of Jews that are to be found all over Muslim tradition and history. This is also proved by the fact that the recent increase in Muslims in France has resulted in an increase in the number of attacks against French Jews and synagogues, along with an increasing number of French Jews leaving France to find safety in Israel, with a similar trend being reported in other European countries that have high rates of Muslim immigration as well.[6]

The list goes on. Investigating history clearly shows that most (saying “all” cannot sustain historical scrutiny) Muslims have never believed that they are under obligation to exterminate non-Muslims, or as non-Muslims refer to such people as "Infidels". Of course, it would not be scholastic to say non-Muslims, at many times, enjoyed "full citizenship" (though this term is an anachronism in the context discussed here) but compared to other locations, minorities were significantly better off under Muslim ruling, when Muslims were in fact capable of inflicting severe harm on non-Muslims, especially if we were to acknowledge the absurd notion of Muslims ambition to “kill the infidels...”

Which just makes you wonder why civil rights’ violations and martyrdoms of non-Muslims are a constant throughout all of Dar al-Islam. I can point to killings, kidnappings and other such atrocities being committed by Muslims from as far west as Morocco to as far east as Indonesia, as well as very other country in between those two. If Islam is such a peaceful and tolerant religion, why is it so hard to be a Jew or a Christian in any of the 50 plus Muslim majority countries that exist today? If this claim was true, these countries should be at the top when it comes to tolerance and freedom of religion.

I’m going to skip over the discussion of the word “infidel” because it’s a red herring; it really doesn’t matter to me what word one uses. In fact, I myself will avoid the use of the term and prefer the Qur’anic words “kafir” and “mushrik.”

In the modern era, some Muslim people participated in the genocide of non-Muslims, such as the Armenians by the Turks and the East Timorese by the Indonesians. However, these killings were undertaken by secular regimes for nationalistic reasons. I do not think anyone can claim, for instance, that Ataturk, the father of the secularized Turkey and the abolisher of the Islamic caliphate, oppressed the Armenians (and the Greeks), to rid Turkey of them, in the name of Islam.

Funny enough, one eyewitness report by a Turkish soldier states that the genocide was carried out under the fatwa of a leading Islamic sheikh at the time who stated that it was lawful to kill the Armenians.[7] This underscores the religious element behind the massacre. So, if the genocides against the Armenians and Greeks were carried out for nationalistic reasons, then why is it that the Muslims in Egypt, Mesopotamia and North Africa (which were also under the rule of the Ottoman empire) remained relatively unmolested? Is it a mere coincidence that the Turks targeted Christian Greeks and Armenians and yet spared the Muslims in the aforementioned lands? Highly implausible.

Also, the thesis that the attacks upon the East Timorese by the Indonesians were motivated by nationalistic reasons is contradicted by the fact that other Indonesians who are not Muslim (or are not recognized as such) frequently experience the exact same kind of treatment. A good example of this is a recent incident where three members of the Ahmadiyya sect (which claims to be Muslim yet is regarded as heretical and thus non-Muslim by most Sunnis) have been killed by a mob of 1,500 Sunni Muslims.[8]

(1) The Quran is not classified subject-wise. Verses on various topics appear in dispersed places in the Quran and no order can be ascertained from the sequence of its text. The first verses revealed in the Quran was in chapter (surah) 96.

(2) The structure of the Quran makes it necessary to approach it using the dialectic "both and" methodology of reasoning. This means that to investigate a certain issue, the verses pertaining to the issue should be gathered together. The verses are then analyzed comprehensively while paying attention to the historical context (in Islamic terminology called the "occasion of revelation") of each verse. The truth is considered to be found in all the relevant verses, because if the Quran is divine as the vast majority of Muslims believe, it should be free from real contradictions and inconsistencies. Apparent contradictions are not only reconciled and transcended but are thoroughly investigated because they actually reflect deep meanings and paradigms. (This is akin, for example, to the process of understanding the Chinese idiom, “a man is stronger than iron and weaker than a fly.” Although the wise saying is superficially self-contradictory, it reveals a deep fact about humans who, in some situations, are very strong. Yet, in other contexts, these same people are very weak.) If the reductionist approach to the Quran is valid, then all ideas, from violence to absolute pacifism, can be justified and rationalized using the Quran.

That is only if one does not take into account the doctrine of the abrogator and abrogated (al-Nasikh wa al-Mansukh). Simply put, if a later verse says the total opposite of an earlier verse, the later one takes precedence and abrogates the earlier verse. This is taught in the following Qur’anic verses:

None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things? (Sura 2:106)

When We substitute one revelation for another,- and Allah knows best what He reveals (in stages),- they say, "Thou art but a forger": but most of them understand not. (Sura 16:101)

For more information on this doctrine, see Abdullah Al Araby’s article “The Quran's Doctrine of Abrogation.”[9] Most of the relevant information concerning which verses abrogate which can be found therein. Also, it is worth looking at a chronological ordering of the suras in order to know which ones come earlier and which ones come later.

For the Quran does not only contain verses about war, it is also replete with verses about forgiveness and countering evil with good.

(3) The same Quran that reads, "Whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you" (2:194), also reads, "Goodness and evil are not the same. So repel evil with goodness, then the one who had enmity between you becomes a trusted and dear friend" (41:34).

The key to understanding these verses is to read it in light of Sura 48:29 (which is a very late sura and thus has precedence). In it, we read: “Muhammad is the apostle of Allah; and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other.” Related to this is a tradition where Muhammad is reported as saying, “Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it.” (Sahih Muslim, 26:5389)[9]

So does Islam promote mercy and forgiveness? Only if you’re a Muslim, since believers are commanded to be compassionate towards one another (unless one apostatizes, since Muhammad also said, “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” in Sahih Al-Bukhari 9: 84:57). However, if you’re a Dhimmi, then an entirely different set of rules apply. For example, the punishment for murdering a Muslim is death, yet we have a hadith which reports that “no Muslim should be killed in Qisas (equality in punishment) for killing a Kafir (disbeliever)” (Sahih Al-Bukhari 9:83:50). There are so many more documents expressing the same sentiment, but to highlight the oppressive nature of Dhimmitude would again require an essay in and of itself.[10]

When it comes to dealing with a transgressor, the Quran is basically delineating four different strategies, the validity of which is contingent on the situational and contextual factors. The first is retaliation which is permissible on the condition that it does not exceed the limits. Verse (2:194) is clear on this, "whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you." Verse (16:126) gives the same meaning, "and if you take your turn, then retaliate with the like of that with which you were afflicted." Verse (3:134) gives the other three strategies, "and those who restrain their anger and pardon men; and God loves the doers of good to others." The three methods given here are, (a) to restrain one's anger and not respond, (b) to pardon the wrongdoer, and (c) to do good to the transgressor. According to verse, method (c) is the most beloved by God. Here the Quran teaches the superiority, in the sight of God, of responding to evil with goodness. Now what should the Muslim do when wronged? It depends on the context, on the situational factors. Under some circumstances, the wrongdoer must be punished. Under others, one should refrain from retaliation, or go a step further to wholehearted forgiveness, or even repel the transgressor's evil with goodness. The above is important for explaining how to deal with the Quranic text.

(4) The Quranic principle for dealing with the 'other' non-Muslim is clear from verses (60:8-9), “God does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you on account of your religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly; surely God loves the doers of justice. God only forbids you respecting and loving those who made war upon you on account of your religion, and drove you forth from your homes and backed up others in your expulsion, that you make friends with them, and whoever makes friends with them, these are the unjust.” The Quran does not present Islam as a religion of unquestionable pacifism or relentless aggression. Those who do not transgress should be treated humanely and benevolently with complete respect.

And yet we have numerous examples throughout the ahadith and in Islamic history where those who do not transgress are not “treated humanely and benevolently with complete respect.” Again, I will not go into examples, as they would be too many to count.

Those who transgress should be fought, “And fight in the cause of God those who fight against you, and do not commit aggression. Indeed God does not love those who are aggressors,” (2:190). In other words, Islam is a religion of peace, not in the sense that it is pacifist, but in the sense that Muslims can and should co-exist peacefully with others who respect them. Neither transgression is permitted nor forcing others to espouse Islam as the Quran says, “there is no compulsion in religion,” (2:256).

The problem is that since the Qur’an came in stages, there was a stage when only defensive fighting was allowed, but in the later period this policy was changed and offensive warfare became permitted. As one famous hadith puts it:

Narrated Ibn 'Umar: Allah's Apostle said: “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah” (Sahih Al-Bukhari 1:2:24).

Also, the verse which states “there is no compulsion in religion” is generally regarded by Muslim scholars to have been abrogated by later verses (such as those in sura 9). Again, see the aforementioned article by Al Araby.

(5) Based on the above, we can now investigate verse (9:5), "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful." One of the main concerns of Chapter (Surah) 9 of the Quran (a Surah is a collection of verses) was to delineate the strategies for dealing with the polytheists of the Arabian Peninsula after the Muslims, under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad, peacefully captured Mecca (In January, 630, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his followeres were joined by tribe after tribe along their way to Mecca. They entered Mecca without bloodshed and the Meccans, seeing the tide had turned, joined them.) the city that since the beginning of Islam lead the oppression and persecution of the Muslim converts.

(6) Since the polytheists differed in their relationship with the new religion after its victory, there was a need to differentiate between the malevolent enemies of Islam bent on destroying the Muslims and who did not observe their treaties with the Muslims, those who hated Islam but were willing to honor their treaties with Muslims, those who rejected Islam but peacefully co-existed with the Muslim community, etc. The aforementioned verse (9:5) was concerned with the most vehement opponents of the Islamic faith not by virtue of their refusal to be Muslims but by continually breaching their treaties with the Muslims and fighting them. Given that, their treatment is not equal, the complete verse says, "So when the sacred months have passed away, then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and keep them under observation, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely God is Forgiving, Merciful.” Meaning: so when the grace period (4 months) is past, and if the other party insists on fighting Islam, then a state of war is inevitable. The struggle may take the form of killing, or capture and imprisonment, or just keeping an eye on these enemies to fend off their evil if they decide to launch an offensive against Muslims. The punishment should be fair and just and, thus, must be proportional to the crimes actually committed. Not only this, but the pagans can repent and accept Islam, as evident from the last part of (9:5), or desist from attacking Muslims and ask for protection, as evident from the next verse (9:6), “If one amongst the pagans ask you for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of God; and then escort him to where he can be secure.”

The problem with this explanation should be obvious: At this point in time, Muslims had already dominated Mecca, so the pagans were in no position whatsoever to launch any kind of offensive against the Muslims. Also the Tafsir by Ibn Kathir paints a different picture. He states that when the verse says “fight the Mushrikin wherever you find them,” this means “on the earth in general.” Unless we make the implausible hypothesis that every pagan around the world had declared war on Islam, this could not possibly mean defensive jihad only.

Further on, he writes: [D]o not wait until you find them. Rather, seek and besiege them in their areas and forts, gather intelligence about them in the various roads and fairways so that what is made wide looks ever smaller to them. This way, they will have no choice, but to die or embrace Islam.” That does not sound like defense to me. Mentioning verse 6 doesn’t really prove much since it only applies to Pagans who are willing to convert to Islam; for those who aren’t, the above-mentioned mandate still holds. As Muhammad again said: “Two deens shall not co-exist in the land of the Arabs” (Malik’s Muwatta 45:5:17). Yes, very tolerant.

Sura 9:5 is called the “ayah of the sword” for a reason: It authorizes complete unmitigated warfare against Dar al-Harb. This is evidenced from reading the rest of the sura, particularly the following ayat:

Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you (to victory) over them, heal the breasts of Believers (verse 14).

It is He Who hath sent His Apostle with guidance and the Religion of Truth, to proclaim it over all religion, even though the Pagans may detest (it) (verse 32).

O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell,- an evil refuge indeed (verse 73).

But the Apostle, and those who believe with him, strive and fight with their wealth and their persons: for them are (all) good things: and it is they who will prosper (verse 88),

O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him (verse 123).

Remember: We’re talking about just one sura. Similar statements can be found in other places as well, and their frequency increases the later in time one goes.

Understanding the verses' historical context is crucial, not to confine them to their context, but for a proper comprehension of their implications. Moreover, as shown previously, the verse must be interpreted along with all the other verses explicating how a Muslim should deal with others, Muslim or non-Muslim, including verse (8:61), “And if they incline to peace, then incline to it and trust in God; surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing.”

Sura 8 was revealed during the earlier defensive phase, which is right around the beginning of the Medinan period. Remember once again that the later passages take precedence. Ironically, that little piece of “historical context” proves the exact opposite of what is being claimed here.

The worst thing to do with the Quran is to approach it seeking confirmation for what one already believes in and turning a blind eye to any evidence that is inconsistent with his/her pre-conceived attitudes and biases. Anyone can find in the Quran whatever he/she wants to prove. Anyone can do the same thing with the Bible. The challenge, however, is to make a judgment only after a thorough and exhaustive investigation of all available Quranic evidence.

I agree. However, as I have just shown, the historical context behind Sura At-Tawba only worsens the impact of these verses, especially when one takes into account the various ahadith and commentaries that expand upon and clarify these passages.

End Notes
  1. “Kill the Infidels, Surah 9:5.” Muslim Access.
  2. Quoted by Nosostro, Rit in “Hindu-Muslim Conflict and the Partition of India.” Hyper History.
  3. Corduan, Winfried. Neighbouring Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religions. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998. 261.
  4. Ibid., 264-265. Interesting note: Of the ten gurus of Sikhism, two of them (Arjan and Tegh Bahadu) were killed by the Muslim emperors of their day, and the tenth guru, Gobind Singh, was assassinated by a Muslim henchman.
  5. All Hadith quotations are taken from “The Hadith Database.” International Islamic University of Malaysia.
  6. Ye’or, Bat. Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005. 25-28.
  7. Baas, Sayied Ahmed Moukhtar. “First-hand account by a Turkish army officer on the deportation of Armenians from Trebizond and Erzerum, December 26, 1916.” Armenian National Institute.
  8. Maala, Abdul Musawir. Ahmadiyya Times.
  9. Al Araby, Abdullah. “The Quran's Doctrine of Abrogation.” Islam Review.
  10. Bat Ye’or has written four well-researched scholarly books on this topic which are well worth obtaining and reading for more information on Dhimmitude. These are: The Dhimmi: Jews & Christians Under Islam (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985), The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996), Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001) and The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom (Deror Books, 2010).

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Another Afghan Christian Needs Help

Every time an Afghan comes to faith in Christ, he or she is in grave danger of being executed for apostasy by the government of Afghanistan. Although Said Musa has been released, another Afghan convert to Christianity, Shoaib Assadullah, is still in prison and it is feared that he may also be put on death row for his conversion. Please pray for this brother, that he may be rescued from his condition and given safe asylum away from the clutches of Islamic law.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- An Afghan man who was arrested for converting to Christianity and fears he may be executed, remained behind bars Wednesday, March 30, more than a month after another convert was released amid international pressure.

Shoaib Assadullah, 23, was reportedly detained October 21 in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif for giving a Bible to a man who later reported him to local authorities. While in prison, Assadullah said he was physically abused and receiving death threats from fellow inmates.

"Several times I have been attacked physically and threatened with death by fellow prisoners, especially [from members of the] Taliban [group] and anti-government prisoners who are in jail," he wrote in a letter dated February 17 and monitored by BosNewsLife.

"These assaults on my human dignity have affected me negatively, close to the point of death,” the Afghan Christian added.

Read the rest of the story here:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

On Silencing the Opposition

Lately, I have been conversing with some Christian brethren who believe that the solution to some of the opposing viewpoints that threaten our peace, security and freedom is to have these viewpoints silenced and their literature banned. While I understand the concern that my brethren have concerning this issue, I have to argue that it is a bad idea to systematically silence the opposition. Here are my two main reasons why:

One: We are all interested in convincing others of our own position's correctness and the others' incorrectness. However, the general public cannot make this decision unless they have access to what the other position has to say. If we are truly convinced that our position is the correct position and all others are false (and in some cases even dangerous to our society), then let us by all means allow both sides to speak and debate these issues. Afterwards let the general public examine what both sides have said and allow them the opportunity to decide for themselves who is correct. Besides, sometimes a viewpoint's own proponents are their own best refutation; you know they're wrong just by listening to them make poor arguments or reasons.

Two: A government that bans any one religous viewpoint, it won't be very long before they find reasons to ban other religious viewpoints, and that includes our own. I am sure that many of us have had to deal with people who have attempted to silence us or prevent our viewpoints from being heard. Unfortunately, if we argue that such should be the case with any other religion, then we are just giving people ammunition to silence us even more.

As a good historical case in point: Back in the 40s or 50s, prominent Canadian Baptist minister Rev. T. T. Shields advocated that Jehovah's Witnesses should be allowed the freedom to propagate their viewpoints, even though Shields (and all of us here who are Evangelical Christians) strongly disagree with them. The reason for this was that Rev. Shields understood that if the state could ban Jehovah's Witnesses from propagating their religious views, it won't be too far off before they start doing the same with thing Evangelical Christians. As it is, we already have enough trouble getting the general public to listen to us, so there is no need for us to make it harder for ourselves.

That's just by two cents. Hope you take them into consideration. Grace and peace.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Said Musa About to be Executed

"Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him." -Muhammad (Sahih Al-Bukhari 9:84:57)

And that is exactly what the government of Afghanistan is bent on doing to Christian convert Said Musa. Unfortunately, most news sources in America and Canada refuse to report this egregious violation of human rights (which is odd because they seem to have no qualms about publicizing some backwoods Florida pastor's decision to burn Qur'ans), so it is up to the rest of us to make these kinds of things known. Pray that this brother in Christ will be released from prison and find safe asylum in the west.

A terrible drama is unfolding in Afghanistan: There are reports that Said Musa, whose situation ... will soon be executed for the ‘crime’ of choosing to become a Christian.

Musa was one of about 25 Christians arrested on May 31, 2010, after a May 27 Noorin TV program showed video of a worship service held by indigenous Afghan Christians; he was arrested as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy. He converted to Christianity eight years ago, is the father of six young children, had a leg amputated after he stepped on a landmine while serving in the Afghan Army, and now has a prosthetic leg. His oldest child is eight and one is disabled (she cannot speak). He worked for the Red Cross/Red Crescent as an adviser to other amputees.

He was forced to appear before a judge without any legal counsel and without knowledge of the charges against him. “Nobody [wanted to be my] defender before the court. When I said ‘I am a Christian man,’ he [a potential lawyer] immediately spat on me and abused me and mocked me. . . . I am alone between 400 [people with] terrible values in the jail, like a sheep.” He has been beaten, mocked, and subjected to sleep deprivation and sexual abuse while in prison. No Afghan lawyer will defend him and authorities denied him access to a foreign lawyer.

Any and every human being who is imprisoned, abused, or tortured for the free and peaceful expression of their faith deserves our support, but Musa is also a remarkable person and Christian. In a letter smuggled to the West, he says, “The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad behaviour with me about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, they did sexual things with me, beat me by wood, by hands, by legs, put some things on my head.”

He added a thing much more important to him, that they “mocked me ‘he’s Jesus Christ,’ spat on me, nobody let me for sleep night and day. . . . Please, please, for the sake of Lord Jesus Christ help me.”

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Internal Conflicts within the Toronto Muslim Community

I've been to Masjid Qurtaba in person, and I heard about the cancelled debate from Bartimaeus, but I didn't know this story would find its way into the National Post. Interesting cover story on the internal conflicts between conservatives and secular/liberal Muslims in Toronto.

HT: Prof. Tony Costa

More than 600 people showed up at the North American Muslim Foundation on a recent Saturday to hear a debate over secular liberalism in Islam.

It would have been something of a face off. The prospective debaters, Tarek Fatah, author and self-described secular Muslim, and Sheharyar Shaikh, president of NAMF and a conservative imam at Masjid Qurtabah, are known polemicists who have not shied away from very public disagreements in the past.

In fact, the event only came about after an open challenge to Mr. Fatah was published late last year by Mr. Shaikh, who called on the controversial author to publicly defend his moderate views, which have been called unIslamic by some in the Canadian Muslim community. Mr. Shaikh-- who has openly defended polygamy and opposed secular education for Muslims -- is among them.

When it was announced shortly after 6 p.m. that the debate was cancelled after Mr. Fatah declined to participate at the last minute, more than 600 people were disappointed.

Read more about it here: