Idols in the Qur’an and the Bible – Sura 68 – Part 3


[68:41] Do they have idols? Let their idols help them, if they are truthful.

1Ki 18:24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

Both the Qur’an and the Bible warn about false gods and idols.  However – while the Bible places a heavy emphasis on miracles, the Qur’an does not.  Although – Muslims do consider the Qur’an itself to be a miracle.

We’ll take a look at this, based on another section of Sura 68, compared with 1 Kings from the Old Testament and The Gospel of Mark from the New Testament.

 Sura 68 – The Pen

Order of Revelation – 2
Traditional order in Qur’an – 68

Sura 68 addresses the following:

1.  The sense from the Prophet that his first revelation was actually from an evil spirit. This appears to be confirming what his wife told him – that Muhammad was not crazy / hallucinating / etc.
2.  Confirms that God can see what people are doing.
3.  Compares the revelations to the Prophet to what others are told by their idols (gods).
4.  Says that God can take care of Himself.
5.  Tells Muhammad not to be like Jonah.

Part 1 was covered in introduction to Sura 68.

Part 2 was covered in God can see what people do.

3. Compare revelations to the Prophet to what others are told by their idols

[68:37] Do you have another book to uphold?
[68:38] In it, do you find anything you want?
[68:39] Or, have you received solemn assurances from us that grant you whatever you wish on the Day of Resurrection?
[68:40] Ask them, “Who guarantees this for you?”
[68:41] Do they have idols? Let their idols help them, if they are truthful.
[68:42] The day will come when they will be exposed, and they will be required to fall prostrate, but they will be unable to.
[68:43] With their eyes subdued, humiliation will cover them. They were invited to fall prostrate when they were whole and able.
[68:44] Therefore, let Me deal with those who reject this Hadith; we will lead them on whence they never perceive.
[68:45] I will give them enough rope; My scheming is formidable

We now get to an area of some controversy.

No miracles performed by Muhammad

During the life of Muhammad, he was often asked to do miracles.  After all – the prophets of the Old Testament performed miracles – and Isa and His followers in the Injil also performed miracles.  So there was naturally an expectation on the part of many that as a prophet of God, Muhammad would also have the ability to perform miracles.

In response to the Arabs who requested such things – we see from islamawareness.com –

There are some seventeen places in the Quran, in which the Prophet Muhammad is challenged to work a sign, and he answered them all to the same or similar effect: Allah has the power of working miracles, and has not been believed; there were greater miracles in nature than any which could be wrought outside of it; and the Quran itself was a great, everlasting miracle. The Quran, the Prophet used to assert to the disbelievers, is a book of blessings which is a warning for the whole world; it is a complete guidance and explains everything necessary; it is a reminder of what is imprinted on human nature and is free from every discrepancy and from error and falsehood. It is a book of true guidance and a light to all.

As to the sacred idols, so much honored and esteemed by the pagan Arabs, the Prophet openly recited: They are but names which you have named – you and your fathers – for which Allah has sent down no authority. (CH 53:23 Quran)

And so – he never performed any miracle.  He gave the reason – because previously God’s miracles had not been believed, so there was apparently no point to performing any more.  He also pointed out that Allah had given no authority to any of the hundreds of idols / false gods that Arabs currently believed in.

However – for the Jews and Christians, they are used to their prophets being able to perform some sort miracles – through the power of God.  So they were concerned about Muhammad’s lack of miracles.

One example of an Old Testament Miracle

For example –
We see in 1 Kings 18:16-30 an example of God’s prophet Elijah calling out for those who worshiped false idols to try to prove their power (the power of the false idols)

1Ki 18:16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

1Ki 18:18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’S commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

1Ki 18:20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.

1Ki 18:22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’S prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

1Ki 18:25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

1Ki 18:27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

1Ki 18:30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

1Ki 18:34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

1Ki 18:36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

1Ki 18:38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

1Ki 18:39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!”

This is a showdown between 450 prophets of Baal – a false god –
and 1 prophet of The Lord.
Four-hundred fifty to one!

And Baal only had to set fire to dry wood.

The Lord God had to set fire to wood that was totally soaked in water.

And it was no contest.

This was one prophet of the Lord God –
The God of Moses –
The God of Abraham –
The God who promised to make a great nation of Ishmael –
The God who protected Ishmael –
and He not only set fire to the wet wood –
His fire dried up all the water in the trench too.

[68:42] The day will come when they will be exposed, and they will be required to fall prostrate, but they will be unable to.

 

1Ki 18:38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

1Ki 18:39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!”

We don’t know whether The Prophet asked Allah to perform miracles for the people –
and if he did ask – we don’t know whether Allah said no –
there’s not enough information to know.
We only know that the Prophet himself said he would perform no miracles.

One example of a New Testament Miracle (that took extra effort)

In the Bible, when miracles are requested and they don’t happen, there is an explanation.
For example –
we see this in Mark 9:14-29 –

Mk 9:14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

Mk 9:16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

Mk 9:17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

Mk 9:19 “O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

Mk 9:20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Mk 9:21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

Mk 9:23 “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Mk 9:24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Mk 9:25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

Mk 9:26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

Mk 9:28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

Mk 9:29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.’”

The disciples were unable to perform the miracle – to heal the boy.

But Isa was able to perform the miracle.  The boy was healed.

There was no skipping the fact that the disciples were unable to perform the miracle. There was no saying that they didn’t want to perform it.  It is plain and simple.  They tried and failed.

But – Isa succeeded.

A New Testament example of when there were few miracles

To be sure, there is one example regarding an example of few miracles even with Isa.
We see this in Mark 6:1-6 –

Mk 6:1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Mk 6:4 Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

Again – no refusal to admit that this took place, it’s right there that this happened.

Conclusions?

Part of Muhammad’s goal was to reach out to Jews and Christians, to have them follow him as the last prophet of God.  But in that goal, he would have to deal with their expectations of a prophet sent by God.  We’ve already seen that the God Muhammad was talking about is the God that made promises to and protected Ishmael – the God of Abraham.

One can see here why Jews and Christians would be very skeptical of the fact that Muhammad performed no miracles.  There was an expectation from the Jews that such a major prophet would be able to perform miracles.  On the other hand, Christians – who follow the same Old Testament and therefore have the same prophets from it, have the same expectations. But on top of that, there was also the warning from Isa about false prophets who would follow Him.

One can see why they would wonder – why can’t or won’t this Prophet perform any miracles?  Why did he not have the ability from God to do what people would have expected from him?

Even many Arabs wondered about this.  

Given the fact that God was with Elijah when it was 450 to 1 against him, one cannot help but wonder why, if this same God was really with Muhammad, why did He not provide at least one miracle to show it?  After all, the word from God – the actual prophecy, was something that all prophets did, by definition.  Something additional to the Qur’an would have been expected.  Why would God not have provided this to the Jews and Christians who expected it?

Question –

Was it a lack of faith on Muhammad’s part – as it was with the disciples?

Was it because God wasn’t with Muhammad – as was the case with the followers of Baal?

Was it due to a lack of faith of the people? One could maybe make this argument for some portion of his life – but no miracles – ever?

While there are claims of miracles in the Hadiths, this only serves to raise more questions about the issue.
For instance –
•if these claims are real – why did Muhammad claim that he wouldn’t / didn’t perform any?  That’s an obvious contradiction that seems to cause real problems.  Why are some claiming that he performed miracles, when Muhammad himself says he did not?
•If the Qur’an is the revelation, but the Hadiths don’t come up to that level of proposed authenticity, do not the Hadiths get over-ridden by the Qur’an, in which case we are left with Muhammad performing no miracles?

In light of the demand for a sign from Muhammad would God have left His people stranded with a prophet that was unable to perform one?

I don’t mean to come up with an exhaustive list of possibilities.  I’m just raising some of the issues that come up with the conflicts around what was expected versus what was said by Muhammad himself versus what was said by others.

And, I’m not giving you an answer here.

At this point –
I’m just pointing out a potential issue –
and asking you to pray to God –
the God that promised to make Ishmael a great nation –
the God that protected him in the desert –
the God of Abram / Abraham –
for an answer to the question.

It was – after all – a question raised by the Prophet himself –

[68:40] Ask them, “Who guarantees this for you?”
[68:41] Do they have idols? Let their idols help them, if they are truthful.
[68:42] The day will come when they will be exposed, and they will be required to fall prostrate, but they will be unable to.
[68:43] With their eyes subdued, humiliation will cover them. They were invited to fall prostrate when they were whole and able.

In Elijah’s case, God performed the miracle for him –

1Ki 18:38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
1Ki 18:39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!”

But in Muhammad’s case, Allah either refused or wasn’t asked to perform a miracle.

If you’re a Muslim –

I really urge you to pray about this –

Why?

If you sincerely pray to God –
the God that promised to make Ishmael a great nation –
the God that protected him in the desert –
the God of Abram / Abraham –
for an answer to the question –
He will answer.

 

If you’re a Christian, I also urge you to pray about this.   It will help you to understand some of the issues that exist between Muslims and Jews and Christians.  We are so many years past the time of Muhammad.  People have preconceptions, many of which may be wrong – on all sides of this issue.  God is the one with the answers – the real, true answers.  Ask Him for guidance.

If you’re neither one, it is still a different take on an important world issue. Nothing like what you’ll find in the news reports – where seemingly neither the Bible or the Qur’an are actually being read or understood.


Hope to see you in Sura 68, part 4.

This is part of a continuing series looking at The Qur’an and The Bible to see the relationship between Islam and Christianity.
Click here to see a page listing the current posts, with a short description of each.
The plan is to at least start by going through the Qur’an, in the order in which each of the Sura’s was revealed to the prophet Muhammad.

 

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