Saturday, October 18, 2008

Shahada

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?

3 comments:

Evan said...

Am I understanding the second "Christian" sense of the Shahada, to mean that Allah is the only "god", meaning that he is the sole false god? Firstly, that seems to put a theoretically separate Muslim deity behind everything that turns a Christian away from the true God, which would then, I think, conflate that deity's role with that of Satan. False prophecy certainly is the work of Satan to turn men away from God (and I think Christian and Muslim theology agree on this point), but for a Christian to read "Allah" in that role kinda puts the cart before the horse.

Anyway, I don't know how meaningful it is to get caught up in this, since while you can pull this reading from the English phrasing of the Shahada, it strikes me as nonsensical in Arabic. Arabic-speaking Christians, by the way, make no linguistic distinction between the Christian Allah and the Muslim Allah, and they take no issue with the first article of the Shahada. It's the second that's the tricky one.

So can a Christian say the Shahada, meaning that "There is no false god other than the Muslim deity called 'Allah', and Muhammad is the prophet of said false god"? It wouldn't blaspheme Christianity for a Christian to say such thing, though I think it's still bad theology. And of course it would be apostasy of the highest order for a Muslim to say it.

Yankee Doodle said...

"can a Christian legitimately say the Shahada and be a Muslim (in the literal sense) without committing blasphemy?"

No.

Jesus Christ warned about false prophets that would come after Him, and so to be a Christian, one must believe that Mohammed is a false prophet. If Mohammed is a false prophet, and one says that Mohammed is the messenger of God, then is that not blasphemy?

Sairah said...

Interesting...but I was going to point out the same thing that Evan did.

Besides, you can only say the shahada in Arabic, since that takes care of all upper and lower case scenarios, lol. Allah is a unique word, relaying no gender to the name. You'd really have to study the language to appreciate it, I guess.

Also, in order to be a Muslim, you have to believe both parts of the Shahada...so no, I guess that couldn't work because if Christians said both parts, then they wouldn't be Christians. o_o