Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting religion

Go read this terrific book review about why the MSM tends not to get things right when covering religious topics. At the risk of putting too much in nutshells, the media would still do well to remember these two points:
  1. Islam, despite meaning "peace" and having many peaceful adherents, has a decided propensity for violence. Against non-Muslims.
  2. Christianity, despite being vilified and having the occasional militant adherent, has a decided propensity for loving fellow humans.
Cross-posted at The Renaissance Biologist.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


This article was the most interesting thing I have read about Islam in a very long time. Go read it.

Cross posted at The Renaissance Biologist.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I was talking to a Christian friend about mutual topics of interest. One of them is the definition of "Muslim" and its relationship to saying the Shahada. This friend brought up an interesting point: a Muslim is literally "one who submits to God." Likewise, a translation of the Shahada says: "There is no god but Allah ["the God"], and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah." This friend noted that a Christian, who believes that there is only one God, can say that he or she is a Muslim - one who submits oneself to God. In a similar, but fundamentally opposite, way, a Christian can say that "there is no god [lower-case G - an imitator] but Allah [meaning the Muslim deity], and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah."

Lest Muslim or Christian readers find this blasphemous or take offense, let me only say that I have given this much thought as well. I respect this friend very much and would like your opinions and help on this topic. Tell me what you think - if what or whom a person believes in is all-important, can a Christian legitimately say the Shahada and be a Muslim (in the literal sense) without committing blasphemy?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Everyone remembers September 11...

...but what about the 12th? What were your reactions the day after? A Google Blogs search turned up some articles - let them get your mind going:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Another irony

How is it that, whenever one quotes "peaceful" ayahs from the Quran such as this one*:
And do not take life--Which Allah has made holy--Except for just (and true) cause. And if anyone is killed wrongfully, We have given his heir the right (to demand justice within due limits or to forgive): But let him not exceed the limits in the matter of taking life; Verily, he (too) is helped (by Islamic law).
it is never "out of context," and yet when one quotes something like this**:
But when the forbidden (four) months are over then fight and kill the (distrusted) pagans wherever you find them, and catch them, attack them, and stay waiting for them in every stage (of war); But if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then make it easy for them: Verily, Allah is Often Forgiving, Most Merciful."
it is always "out of context"? Especially when it is paired with this one***:
Let there be no force (or compulsion) in religion: Surely--Truth stands out clear from error: Whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has held the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks. And Allah is All Hearing, All Knowing.
If Islam is truth, does it stand out clear from error? If so, how?

*17.33, trans. Syed Vickar Ahamed
**9.5. "Pagans" is often rendered simply "unbelievers," i.e. non-Muslims.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 7 - the last one!

Here are the final paragraphs. The paper itself runs around 4.5 pages single-spaced, excluding works cited.

Finally, let us examine the fourth, final Qur’anic requirement for godhood: the claimant must be absolutely unique. This is the strictest in the eyes of Muslims, who have claimed that, since Jesus Christ was a man, He could not possibly have been God too, since God does not look like anything or anybody a person can imagine or see. However, this allegation becomes somewhat shallower upon closer examination. Following, but by no means complete, is a short series of attributes of the Christian God that, when taken individually, may not be unique; however, when taken together, they make the total triune God absolutely unique.

· The Christian God is love and loves everyone unconditionally (e.g. John 3:16; 1 John 4:8).

· The Christian God chose to manifest Himself as a man (e.g. Isaiah 9:6; Matt. 3:17).

· The Christian God is at the same time three Persons and yet one Godhead (e.g. Matt. 28:19).

· The Christian God commands believers to actively love their enemies as Jesus Christ demonstrated, not only to turn the other cheek (e.g. Matt. 5:44-47; John 3:16; 1 John 3:16, 23; 4:19).

· The Christian God sent Jesus Christ to sacrifice Himself in the place of all people because of His sinless life (e.g. Eph. 1:7; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 2:14-18; Qur’an 3:35-36; 19:13, 19).

Although this list only scratches the surface of Christianity, it is clear that the Christian God is like no other, for no other, man-created deity has all of these attributes. Thus, surveying the results of the examinations of the other three conditions for godhood as described in Sura 112 of the Qur’an, one sees that the God of Christianity meets all of the given requirements. If this is true, then it leads to several other possible conclusions: (1) that Allah and the Christian God are the same; or (2) that, if the Qur’an is false on this point, then the Bible is also false; or (3) that either Allah or the Christian God is the true one if they are not the same; or (4) that the Qur’an testifies about Christianity here, not about Islam. Each of these possibilities is controversial and has serious implications; all of them cannot be simultaneously true. Since numerous sources demonstrate that conclusion (1) is false (e.g. M.; “Adam”) and Rhodes, not to mention many other scholars, casts doubt on conclusion (2) (“Inspiration”; “Manuscript”), that leaves only conclusion (3) true and (4) as having a good possibility of being true.

Continuing with this logic, the crux is to demonstrate that, since the Bible has been reliably transmitted (Rhodes), then conclusions (3) and (4) are both true. If they are both true, then the religion of Islam is proved false. If conclusion (4) is false, however, then logic and the Bible count for nothing. Since logic does not count for nothing but rather works in a great variety of circumstances, it follows that conclusion (4) is likely true. This may startle many; however, it is as Jesus Himself said: “…[S]earch the Scriptures…which testify of Me” (John 5:39). Even if the Qur’an is not wholly deserving of being classed with the other texts of the “People of the Book” (i.e. Jews, Christians, and Muslims), it may here unwittingly testify of Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God.
What do you think? None of you have ventured to comment on the paper so far.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 6

The following paragraph, as usual.
The third criterion, that God (or Allah) has neither parents nor children, is a very thorny issue, especially since the Qur’an insists that the Jesus of Christianity is the physical or literal son of God. However, this stems mainly from a misunderstanding of Jesus Christ’s conception (especially the Greek for “begotten”), primary title (“the Son of God”), and frequent references to “the Father” (e.g. John 8:18), not to mention the confusion about Mariolatry, as mentioned earlier. The perpetually inadequate (at least in English) translation of the Greek word for “begotten” in such verses as John 3:16 may be ameliorated by noting that the word, monogenes, connotes “unique” or a metaphorical meaning, not necessarily a physical birth (“Does the Bible”). Also, as is clear from a contextual reading of the passages foretelling and narrating Christ’s conception and birth, He has no genetic relation to Joseph (e.g. Luke 1:35), but rather proceeds from His Father (again, a metaphorical, not physical, relationship; see John 8:42). To summarize, the Qur’an looks at the Father-Son relationship of the Christian God as physical and therefore idolatrous, while a Biblical reading supports a more metaphorical relationship, thus fulfilling the third standard.
I think the author handled this issue quite well. There is indeed much confusion about "begotten" when one does not consider the Greek. Do any readers have arguments against this concise treatment of ayah number three?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 5

Here is the next paragraph:
Having finished (though by no means exhausted) dealing with the first criterion for godhood, we move on to the second: that God (or Allah) is eternal and omnipotent. Again, both the Bible and the Qur’an claim in numerous instances that their respective deities have these attributes. Several Qur’anic references include 2:255; 3:2; 16:70; 20:111; 35:44; 42:29; and, of course, 112:2. Likewise, there is overwhelming support in the Bible for the Triune God to meet this criterion. Each Person of the Trinity is ascribed each of these attributes. God the Father is eternal and omnipotent by such passages as Ps. 90:2; 93:2; 115:3; and Matt. 19:26. Similarly, Jesus (God the Son), much to Muslims’ chagrin, has these attributes: Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 17:5, 24; Phil 3:20ff; Col 1:17; Heb 7:3; and Rev 1:8; 3:7, to name a few. Finally, God the Holy Spirit has both characteristics by such verses as Heb. 9:14 and Luke 1:35. Will Muslims claim that every single one of these Biblical texts has been corrupted? Or will they accept compelling historical evidence that the Bible has been as well preserved as the Qur’an – for instance, the fact that “if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, [quotations of the early church fathers] would be sufficient alone in reconstructing practically the entire New Testament” (Bruce Metzger, qtd. in Butt)?
This appears to be a fairly simple criterion, nicely explained. It appears to be based on merely the scriptures of Christianity and Islam, and so might be argued by some to consist of only subjective evidence. Then again, however, one could throw in the wrench (for some) of the Bible's historicity and survival of more than a few millennia.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 4

Part 1 is here, part 2 here, part 3 here.

The first claim, that the Christian Trinity is really God the Father, Jesus, and Mary, is wholly unsupported by Scripture but claimed to be true by the Qur’an (5:116; 4:171). This allegation likely originated from “ignorant ‘Christians’ in Muhammad’s time” who committed what is termed Mariolatry, or asking Mary to “intercede with her Son” (“Islam”). Muhammad, seeing this, reasoned as any human would and put one and one and one together, so to speak. Ahmed and Saifullah deduce from these misunderstandings that “whether the ‘Holy’ Trinity composed [sic] of the Father, Jesus(P), and the Mary(P) or the Father, Jesus(P) and the Holy Spirit are equally condemned in the Qur’an,” effectively dismissing the entire doctrine as some silly Christian notion.

The second major accusation is that Christians made up the doctrine out of thin air, and that there is no clear Biblical support. Granted, the word ‘Trinity’ is mentioned nowhere in the text of the Bible. But, one can counter, neither is the word ‘Tawhid’ (Arabic for the concept of God’s oneness) in the actual Qur’anic text. If one accepts that a concept can be strongly present even if it is not mentioned by its exact name, then demonstrating the Trinity from both the Old and New Testaments becomes much easier. Ediger logically demonstrates this humanly incomprehensible doctrine thus: There is one God (Deut. 4:35; 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; and 1 Tim. 2:5). The Father is God, from John 17:1-3; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 1:3; Gal. 1:1; Phil. 2:11; Col. 1:3; and 1 Peter 1:2, to name a few. A notion abhorrent to Muslims, the Son is also God (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-18; 5:18; 8:58; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Col., 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8-12; and 2 Peter 1:1). Finally, the Holy Spirit is also God, explicitly stated in Acts 5:3-4 and 2 Cor. 3:17-18; implied in Mark 3:29; John 15:26; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; and Heb. 9:14.

Leading on from this, Ediger gives passages in both Testaments strongly implying that God is three in one: Gen. 1:1-3; 12:7; 48:15-16; Ex. 31:3; Isaiah 48:12-16; and many other Old Testament passages. New Testament references include Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19 (singular ‘name’ with three persons); Luke 1:35; John 3:6-16; 15:26; Acts 2:32-33; 5:29-32; Rom. 8:16-17, 26ff; Eph. 1:1-14; 2:17-22; 1 Thess. 1:2-5; Heb. 9:14; 1 John 3:21-24; and Jude 20-21, naming only a few. In addition, there are allusions in Isaiah 63:7-11, 6:3 and Rev. 4:8, especially in the triple “Holy.” The above references demonstrate that the God of the Bible is beyond human logic – since, as Muslims contend and Christians partially agree, God cannot be known, why should they expect Him to fit inside the mind of a human?
This is, I think, a fairly good treatment of the first issue. In the very last sentence the author raises a good point. I would complain about the source imbalance; however, the author is not concerned with proving that Allah (of Islam) fulfills the criteria, since it is unstated that he does. The author is rather concentrating on God (of Christianity) and proving that case, which I have not seen addressed. We are getting into weighty material here; I hope you look forward to the upcoming posts in this series.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 3

Part 1 is here, part 2 here.
The first condition that a claimant to godhood must meet, according to the Qur’an, is to be the only god in existence, or the only true God. Shakir’s translation perhaps conveys the singular nature of Allah best; this closely corresponds to the Great Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD [is] one!” (Deut. 6:4). An alternate rendering of this verse says, “The LORD is our God, the LORD alone” (that is, the only one). In another place, God says, “I, [even] I, [am] the LORD, / And besides Me [there is] no savior” (Isaiah 43:11). The Bible makes indelibly clear that God is singular; it condemns any form of taking any god besides the true God, whether that other god is on par or of lesser power. Likewise, the Qur’an in numerous places condemns shirk, or associating “partners” with Allah. Muslims also emphasize that Jesus quotes Deut. 6:4 in Mark 12:29-30.

Muslims do agree that the God of the Bible is singular. However, they do this by denying the deity of Jesus Christ, claiming that Christians have made up that concept and that any verse showing His godhood has been corrupted from the original text. In addition, they promote several misunderstandings about the doctrine of the Trinity, the main ones being that (1) it consists of God the Father, Jesus, and Mary; (2) there is no Biblical support for the doctrine, or that the support is ambiguous; and (3) God cannot be three in one, and that the Trinity is really three. This paper will briefly deal with each of these.
The next paragraphs deal with those misconceptions. That part is key to the paper. Muslim claims of corruption are likewise a weighty issue; the author plans to address those in a major future paper.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 2

Here are the next two paragraphs of the paper (part 1 is here):

First, the text of Sura 112 in three translations:

“Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; / Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; / He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; / And there is none like unto Him.” (Yusuf Ali)

“Say: He is Allah, the One! / Allah, the eternally Besought of all! / He begetteth not nor was begotten. / And there is none comparable unto Him.” (Pickthal)

“Say: He, Allah, is One. Allah is He on Whom all depend. / He begets not, nor is He begotten. / And none is like Him.” (Shakir)

Each of these translations agrees in essential parts of the translations; from these we can garner that the Allah of Islam is (1) singular and exclusive[1], (2) eternal and omnipotent, (3) having neither parents nor children, and (4) unique. Muslims claim that only Allah satisfies all four of these criteria and that the God of Christianity fails the test. However, this reveals an inaccurate understanding of the teachings of Christianity about God. This paper will explore each criterion of the sura and demonstrate from the Old and New Testaments that the God of Christianity meets all four of the requirements.

[1] An interesting topic for a further paper would be to discuss whether the Arabic grammar supports this. The word for “one” in the first ayah, or verse, is ahad(un) in Arabic, literally meaning “one of” (e.g. Shamoun). This deserves an in-depth treatment.

A good start, I think. As may be seen from the footnote, the author has several bones to pick with Quranic doctrines. I hope we will see more papers from this person in the future.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 1

A friend just sent me a research paper that she had done on her own time, exploring the relationship of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to Sura 112 (The Purity of Faith). I will be reproducing and analyzing the claims of this paper in this and upcoming posts (it is fairly long), and I invite you readers to join in the dialog. Sources cited in each paragraph are linked here. Here is the introduction.

"Is Allah the Only God? How the Triune God of Christianity Satisfies Sura 112"
The title of this paper makes a drastic claim indeed. Muslims pride themselves on having a unique god, Allah, and his final revelation, the Qur'an, in preserved form. They contend that all other religions, including Christianity and Judaism, have been annulled and all other scriptures corrupted. Several scholars, not to mention countless Christians, have disputed these claims. One especially telling fact is that the third caliph, Othman, assembled one version of the Qur'an that he deemed best and burned all other existing variants around A.D. 650 ("Preserving"; Warraq). However, the question of preservation is not the focus here; rather, this paper will explain Sura (chapter) 112, The Purity of Faith, in the Qur'an and demonstrate that Christianity's triune God meets the four criteria.
It certainly promises to be an exciting paper. However, the author appears to be engaged in a little bait-and-switch. We will see if this affects the rest of the content. Seeing as this paper was written by a non-Muslim with thorough knowledge of the Bible and a moderate knowledge about the Quran, I wonder how Muslims would respond to this.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Describing sin

One interesting assertion I have heard several Muslims make is that the Bible is "vulgar" because it describes sin graphically, whereas the Quran does so in "noble" or flowery language. All right. Here is my question: If sin is what separates us from God (the worst thing that can happen), why does it enjoy the exalted status of being described in "noble" language in the Quran? IMO, the Bible does better justice to it, describing it like it is.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Corruption of scriptures

I have asked this question of many Muslims and have yet to get a logically consistent answer: Does the Quran say, or does it not, that the Bible has been corrupted? If so, in which verses is this found? A typical answer I have received when I ask is that "Allah only promised to protect the Quran. He never said he would guard the Bible too."

Yes. And?

If it is really true that no one can change the words of Allah, and that He sent down the Tawrat and Injil beforehand, uncorrupted, then how can Muslims contend that the Quran is the only perfectly preserved scripture just because it's the final one? Why would Allah fail to guard the previous scriptures if the Quran merely confirmed them? Or is it that the Quran does not confirm the earlier scriptures at all but instead contradicts them?

I can already hear a Muslim's answer to the last few questions: DO NOT QUESTION ALLAH.

Here you may find an argument that I have yet to see refuted. The gist:
Claims (verbatim):
  • The Quran is preserved.
  • God’s Revelations which preceded the Quran include the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospel.
    These Books make up a large portion of the Holy Bible.
  • The Quran, the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospel are all the Word of Allah.
  • God's Word does not change.
  • The revelations that came before the Quran have become corrupted.
  • Although Muslims should believe that these previous Books are the genuine Revelations from God, they have to trust only the Quran as the final revelation and the only one that is preserved.
  • Those claims result in these premises, a dilemma for Muslims (verbatim):
    1. The Quran, the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospel are all Allah’s Word.
    2. The current Torah, Psalms and Gospel are corrupted.
    3. The final word of Allah, the Quran is preserved.

    1st Conclusion: Some of Allah’s Words are corrupted
    2nd Conclusion: Some of Allah’s Words are preserved.

    Read the rest for yourself, then comment and answer the questions I originally asked.

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    Limits: a comparison

    From page 202 of the NKJV Study Bible, the Word Focus box, on "transgressions":
    (Heb. pesha')...Strong's #6588: This Hebrew word is derived from the verb pasha', which can mean "to revolt" (2 Kings 8:20), "to offend" (Prov. 18:19), or "to transgress" in the sense of crossing a boundary (Jer. 3:13). It refers to violations of God's law as revealed to Moses--in other words, someone crossing the limits that God had established...Like ancient Israel, we are in rebellion against God. In fact, it was "our transgressions" that wounded Jesus (Is. 53:5, 8; 1 Pet. 2:24).
    Compare this with the Quranic concept of limits as described in such verses as 2:173, 187, 190, 230; 9:112; 58:4; 65:1; and 78:22. This concept of "limits" was actually one of the very first things I noticed as I read the Quran for the first time.

    Tuesday, March 25, 2008


    ‘Hadith Malik 511:1588 The last statement that Muhammad made was: "O Lord, perish the Jews and Christians. They made churches of the graves of their prophets. There shall be no two faiths in Arabia.’

    Comment on this, please

    Friday, March 21, 2008

    A few questions

    Just to start out with, here are a few of my pressing questions for you (the rest of the blog will be about this too, but why not have a unique post about it?):

    • Why is the Quran organized by sura length and not in chronological order? It seems to me that it would be much easier to understand if what was revealed first was written down first. After all, is Allah a god of order, or not?
    • Since the Quran says, "O ye who believe! Ask not questions about things which if made plain to you, may cause you trouble. But if ye ask about things when the Quran is being revealed, they will be made plain to you, God will forgive those: for God is oft-forgiving, most Merciful.. Some people before you did ask such questions, and on that account lost their faith." (Sura 5:101-102), should I even be asking questions about Islam? If truth really does stand out clear from error, shouldn't questions strengthen one's faith? (I am not saying I am a Muslim. I am just asking the question.)
    • Since the New Testament (by this I mean the four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ, the books on the early history of the Church, and the canonical epistles) came after the Old Testament (the Torah and the Prophets), we ought to judge it by what came before. In this way, Christians find out whether their God is being consistent and faithful or not. By similar logic (time alone), we should judge the Quran, revealed after the Old and New Testaments, by what came before. Indeed, the Quran itself exhorts us to do so. Indeed, even in fields like biology and geology, the past ought to be the key to the present. So, my question is, why is one supposed to judge the Bible by the Quran?