Thursday, 14 January 2010

Examining Jerald F. Dirks’ Presuppositions and Theological Beliefs In Light of the teachings of Islam; Part I

”Continuation of the examination that Islam teaches only strict Monotheism”

We continue our examination of Dirks’ assertion that Islam teaches a strict and uncompromising monotheism, (from here as well).

The Qur’an's Testimony to the Divinity of Christ

In the previous
rebuttal we presented evidence to show that the Islamic sources are clearly confused concerning the issue of who exactly caused Mary to get pregnant and whether Gabriel is divine or not. Here we are about to see that the Muslims who produced these materials were equally baffled regarding the Person of Christ and didn’t know what to make of him!

For example, even though there are certain statements from the Qur’an that emphatically deny that Jesus was anything more than a messenger,

When the son of Mary was cited as an example, your people disregarded it. They said, "Is it better to worship our gods, or to worship him?" They said this only to argue with you. Indeed, they are people who have joined the opposition. He was no more than a servant whom we blessed, and we sent him as an example for the Children of Israel. S. 43:57-59

There are other passages that ascribe certain titles and functions to Jesus which clearly show that he is more than a messenger, that he is actually a preexistent Divine Person!

In fact, according to the Muslim commentators the following reference:

It is He Who has sent down to you (Muhammad) the Book (this Qur'an). In it are Verses that are entirely clear, they are the foundations of the Book [and those are the Verses of Al-Ahkam (commandments, etc.), Al-Fara'id (obligatory duties) and Al-Hudud (legal laws for the punishment of thieves, adulterers, etc.)]; and others not entirely clear. So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation (from the truth) they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof, seeking Al-Fitnah (polytheism and trials, etc.), and seeking for its hidden meanings, but none knows its hidden meanings save Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in it; the whole of it (clear and unclear Verses) are from our Lord." And none receive admonition except men of understanding. (Tafsir At-Tabari). S. 3:7 Hilali-Khan

Was “revealed” to address the Christians who attempted to utilize the Qur’an to prove that Jesus is a fully Divine Being:

The Mutashabihat and Muhkamat Ayat

Allah states that in the Qur'an, there are Ayat that are Muhkamat, entirely clear and plain, and these are the foundations of the Book which are plain for everyone. And there are Ayat in the Qur'an that are Mutashabihat not entirely clear for many, or some people. So those who refer to the Muhkam yat to understand the Mutashabih Ayat, will have acquired the correct guidance, and vice versa. This is why Allah said,

- -They are the foundations of the Book- -, meaning, they are the basis of the Qur'an, and should be referred to for clarification, when warranted, …

- -And others not entirely clear- - as they have several meanings, some that agree with the Muhkam and some that carry other literal indications, although these meaning might not be desired.

The Muhkamat are the Ayat that explain the abrogating rulings, the allowed, prohibited, laws, limits, obligations and rulings that should be believed in and implemented. As for the Mutashabihat Ayat, they include the abrogated Ayat, parables, oaths, and what should be believed in, but not implemented.

Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar commented on, …

- -In it are verses that are entirely clear- - as “Containing proof of the Lord, immunity for the servants and a refutation of opponents and of falsehood. They cannot be changed or altered from what they were meant for.” He also said, “As for the unclear Ayat, they can (but must not) be altered and changed, and this is a test from Allah to the servants, just as He tested them with the allowed and prohibited things. So these Ayat must not be altered to imply a false meaning or be distorted from the truth.”

Therefore, Allah said, …

- -So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation- - meaning, those who are misguided and deviate from truth to falsehood, …

- -they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof- - meaning, they refer to the Mutashabih, because they are able to alter its meanings to conform with their false interpretation since the wordings of the Mutashabihat encompass such a wide area of meanings. As for the Muhkam Ayat, they cannot be altered because they are clear and, thus, constitute unequivocal proof against the misguided people. This is why Allah said, …

- -seeking Al-Fitnah- - meaning, they seek to misguide their following by pretending to prove their innovation by relying on the Qur'an – the Mutashabih of it -- but, this is proof against and not for them. For instance, Christians might claim that [`Isa is divine because] the Qur'an states that he is Ruhullah and His Word, which He gave to Mary, all the while ignoring Allah's statements, …

- -He [`Isa] was not more than a servant. We granted Our favor to him.- - [43:59], and, …

- -Verily, the likeness of `Isa before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: "Be!" and he was.- - [3:59].

There are other Ayat that clearly assert that `Isa is but one of Allah's creatures and that he is the servant and Messenger of Allah, among other Messengers. (
Tafsir Ibn Kathir)

In light of this candid admission we are going to examine some of the references which Christians have commonly used to support their view that Jesus is Divine since this will show that Q. 3:7 was primarily given to do damage control. The author(s) of the Qur’an said certain things with the obvious intention of trying to appease Jews, Christians and others in order to win them over to Islam without realizing how these statements would backfire against him/her/them. And yet once s/he/they saw how his/her/their own statements were being used to prove the Divinity of Christ s/he/they decided to come up with a rather lame explanation that these verses are allegorical and that only God knows their real meanings. S/he/they assumed that such a reply would undo some of the damage and problems which s/he/they caused for himself/herself/themselves. As we shall now see s/he/they were badly mistaken.

Jesus as Allah’s Preexistent Word and Spirit

The Muslim scripture affirms that Jesus is Allah's very own Word which he cast down to Mary and a Spirit that came from him:

O ye who have received the scriptures, exceed not the just bounds in your religion, neither say of God [any other] than the truth. Verily Christ Jesus the son of Mary [is] the apostle of God, and his word, which he conveyed into Mary, and a spirit [proceeding] from him. Believe therefore in God, and his apostles, and say not, [there are] three [Gods]; forbear [this]; it will be better for you. God is but one God. Far be it from him that he should have a son! Unto him [belongeth] whatsoever [is] in heaven and on earth; and God is a sufficient protector. S. 4:171 Sale

Notice that according to this passage Jesus is both the Word of God – not simply A word from him – which was given to Mary and a Spirit that proceeds from God himself.

It is obvious from this verse that the author(s) borrowed specific Christological titles which the inspired NT scriptures attribute to Christ without realizing how these very names contradicted the assertion that Jesus was only a human apostle. For instance, to say that Jesus is a Spirit that proceeds from God clearly speaks of preexistence, e.g. Jesus must have existed as a Spirit with God in heaven before he was sent to become a man from Mary.

Noted Muslim author Neal Robinson refers to a particular interpretation of Q. 19:16-21 that corroborates our view:

“Alternatively it might be thought (on the basis of 4:171) that the Spirit who presented himself to Mary was none other than the Messiah to whom she subsequently gave birth. At first this seems improbable because of the way in which the Spirit refers to himself as a messenger. There is, however, an apocryphal writing which furnishes a precedent for identifying the agent of the annunciation with the Word who became flesh. This is the so-called Epistula Apostolorum which purports to be a letter addressed to the worldwide Church by the 11 disciples recording a conversation which they had with Christ after the resurrection. In the course of the conversation he told them:

At that time I appeared in the form of the archangel Gabriel to [the virgin] Mary and spoke with her, and her heart received [me]; she believed and laughed and I, the Word, went into her and became flesh; and I myself was servant FOR MYSELF, and in the form of the image of an angel.”
(Robinson, Christ In Islam and Christianity [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1991], Chapter 15. The Virginal Conception, p. 157)


“Tabari assumes that the Spirit who was sent to Mary was Gabriel. He reports that this was the view of Qatada, Ibn Jurayj and Wahb. The other commentators agree that this is the correct interpretation but none the less mention THE ALTERNATIVE VIEW, namely that the Spirit was the Messiah. Ibn Kathir gives the following report traced back by a single isnad TO THE COMPANION UBAIY:

The spirit of Jesus is one of the group of spirits with whom [God] took a pact in the time of Adam [cf. 33:7 and 7:172]. It is he, that is to say the spirit of Jesus, who presented himself to her in the form of a perfect human being. So she conceived the one who addressed her and he became incarnate in her [entering her through her mouth].

DESPITE ITS PEDIGREE, Ibn Kathir dismisses this interpretation as reprehensible and supposes it to have been derived from the People of the Scripture.” (Ibid. p. 161)

The following Muslim commentator also attests that this was an interpretation held by some of the Islamic scholars.

A majority of scholars hold the view that … (Spirit) refers to Sayyidna Jibra’il but some say that it refers to Sayyidna ‘Isa himself. Allah Ta‘ala had placed before Sayyidah Maryam the likeness of the son to be born to her. But the former version is more appropriate and is confirmed by the statement that follows. (Mufti Shafi Uthmani, Maariful Qur’an, Q. 19:16-21, Volume 6 p. 34)

Here we have specific Islamic traditions stating that Jesus was the Spirit who came to Mary in order to announce to her that he would be born from her!

The other title that the Qur’an ascribes to Jesus further confirms his prehuman existence, namely, the Word of God. To speak of God’s Word is to speak of his revelation, his communication or speech, the means through which God reveals himself to his creation. Moreover, God’s Word is an essential characteristic of his very nature or being and is therefore eternal; otherwise to deny that God’s Word is eternal is to deny that God always had the ability to communicate or reveal his will and purpose. This position would invariably mean that God needed to create or acquire the ability to speak at some point in time, a rather blasphemous position to take since this implies that God was imperfect at some point in his eternal existence.

In light of the foregoing the Word of God as a Christological title must mean that Jesus is eternal and is the Agent through whom God creates and reveals himself to his creation. This is precisely what the NT teaches concerning Jesus being the eternal Word or Logos who then became flesh:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made… He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” John 1:1-3, 10, 14, 18

Christ is the Word who makes the Father known to his creation since he alone has beheld and fully comprehended the Father’s essence. Jesus himself makes this very point:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me —not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.” John 6:44-46

“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word…I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:5-6, 26

Dirks may parrot the oft-repeated Muslim assertion that Jesus is called the Word of God solely because Allah created him by his command “Be.” The problem with this response is that if this is the correct understanding of the title then we would expect that the Qur’an would also call Adam the Word of God per Q. 3:59 since it says,

Lo! the likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then He said unto him: Be! and he is.

According to the above verse Adam was created by the command of Allah and yet he is never called the Word of God (nor is anyone else ever called God’s Word for that matter). Therefore, this reply will not suffice to explain away the significance and implication of the Qur’an calling Jesus the Word of God.

Hence, although the Qur’an may deny Christ’s Divinity in certain places it also affirms the Deity of Jesus and his prehuman heavenly existence by identifying him as the Word and Spirit of God!

Continues on Part II



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