So – I feel like God’s been pushing me into doing research on Islam.
Not nudging – or guiding – or anything like that.
Because I’ve been ignoring those.
No – it’s pushing.
The people of three religions claim Abraham as the father of their religion. Is it realistic to think that he’d want the three of them to hate each other?
If we look at Genesis 21:11 -13 to see how Abraham reacted when Ishmael was sent away – I think we can get the answer to this question –
Ge 21:11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”
So we see the Abraham cared about what happened to Ishmael.
And, we see the God promised to make him into a great nation.
To tell the truth – for a long time I thought maybe God made Ishmael into a great nation so his offspring could attack the nation of Israel and be the opposing force at Armageddon. To some extent, that may still be true. However – that would ignore too much of what the Bible says regarding the events surrounding Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael and even God. There has to be more to it.
So – I’m going to write this as if it’s addressed to a Muslim – one who is curious about how Islam, Christianity and to some extent Judaism all fit together as religions that have to do with the descendants of Abraham. There’s much that will also be of use to Christians as well – for the same reasons. But I had to pick an audience – had to choose, for example, whether to use Isa or Jesus for the name of the person that Christians know as Jesus and Muslims know as Isa. I will try to explain things like this as I go along – where two names match the same person or thing. However – should it not be clear, or if there is another name by which someone or some thing is also known – please feel to use the comments section at the bottom of each page to let me know.
So – I’ve been reading a bunch of books – like –
- World history from the Muslim view (very interesting)
- Some conversion stories of people who have become Christian after having been born and raised Muslim – both in Muslim countries and in Western countries. (Talk about “counting the cost!”)
- Some Christian apologetic books on why Christianity is God’s true religion –
and why Islam is not. (One of the big reasons I’m writing this section is because much of it – in my opinion – would do little to convert people and may even make them upset, just at reading them.)
- And – of course – I have 4 copies of the Qur’an. (4 of them to pick up different translations into English and to get commentaries from Muslims on the meaning of the verses)
- Along with some Hadiths that seem relevant to what I want to talk about.
One thing that’s noticeable from the very beginning is that there are a lot of misunderstandings between Christians and Muslims. That should be no surprise, as there are misunderstandings between pretty much any two people let alone groups of people. Even different sects within Christianity and Islam have disagreements, let alone talking about between Christianity and Islam.
I also noticed that the rhetoric, at least in the books I read, tends to be ratcheted up. That’s no surprise there either – one’s religion is important and tends to not be taken lightly.
- In reading the conversions from Islam to Christianity, the things that stand out most to me are probably:The high cost of converting for the Muslim person – ranging from losing most (if not all) friends and family relationships to losing one’s life. And yet, even knowing these things can happen, people still make the change.
- The answer to why convert seems to be related to wanting something more. Wanting a personal relationship with God and finding that relationship with Isa (Jesus).
Before going any further –
I really don’t want to get into semantics and arguments over whether Isa and Jesus are the same person. For the sake of this series – let’s assume they are. I don’t make this decision arbitrarily. Rather, it’s because that has been the sense of the people who have actually gone through the thought process – the prayer process – and the life upheaval / ending process of actually converting.
For them – this wasn’t an academic exercise.
For them – this wasn’t a battle of words.
For them – this was the single most important decision of their lives.
For some of them – this was the last decision of their lives.
And feeling that Isa and Jesus were one and the same is what they went through. Many Muslims report seeing vision of Isa – including some of the ones I read. To them – this was and is the Jesus of the Injil (The Christian Gospel). For them – this is the standard from which I will write.
For you –
whether you be someone just interested in learning or if you are someone going through that life changing process this is the standard from which I will write.
I do this because it appears to be the standard from which God is operating in their lives and I feel this is what He’s trying to tell me to do. After all, who am I to change what I feel God is telling me?
I began writing this series in June of 2014. The research started long before that. I’ve been reading on the subject for a few years now. But it was only recently that I’ve really begun to put thought to keyboard.
So, let’s get started with a bit of an introduction:
In the Qur’an, Sura 68, verses 37-38 say:
[68:37] Do you have another book to uphold?
[68:38] In it, do you find anything you want?
Verse 37 is an invitation to explore other books beside the Qur’an.
Verse 38 asks if there is anything in that book that we may want.
When a Muslim reads the Qur’an, some things are learned about Isa. Not the same things that Christians learn, but Muslims will recognize that Isa is Jesus. So, when a Muslim reads the Injil (The Gospels of the New Testament) they also recognize that Jesus in the Gospels is the same Isa from the Qur’an.
The first question becomes then, If a Muslim reads the Bible,is there anything about Jesus of the Gospels that they will want?
Adding one more verse from the Bible, one that I like to use from Isaiah 1:18 –
Isa 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD
To put this into context, a context that both Christians and Muslims will understand, the surrounding verses are:
Isa 1:16 wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
Isa 1:17 learn to do right!
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.
Isa 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
Isa 1:19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the best from the land
Isa 1:20 but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Below is the very first Sura in the Qur’an –
[1:1] In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
[1:2] Praise be to GOD, Lord of the universe.
[1:3] Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
[1:4] Master of the Day of Judgment.
[1:5] You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help.
[1:6] Guide us in the right path;
[1:7] the path of those whom You blessed; not of those who have deserved wrath, nor of the strayers.
What we see then:
In the Bible we have an invitation to reason with God.
In the Qur’an we have an invitation to ask Allah for help.
So – let’s do just that.
One last bit of background –
While there are discussions and questions about the validity of the text in the Bible, historical analysis has found that no events have taken place which would show the events in the Bible are inaccurate. Analysis of ancient literature has also shown that there are enough very old copies of the Bible to show that it accurately portrays what first written – both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
As for the Qur’an – it accurately reflects from a point in time. Given that the Qur’an was given to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel,
and that it was transmitted orally while Muhammad was still alive, as well as still being delivered orally for a time after that, obviously the first written version came after Muhammad’s death.
In that sense, both the New Testament and The Qur’an are in the same position of being written after the death of the “Title” character. In the case of the New Testament, there are copies of the documents that were in existence during the lifetime of people who had actually experienced and knew Jesus. Had there been discrepancies between the New Testament documents and the events these people experienced, something would have been said. On top of that, both the Jews and the Romans had a vested interested in pointing out anything that would have pointed away from Jesus being God. That neither of these took place, evidence is provided that the New Testament is intact and correct.
Likewise for the Qur’an. According to Sahih Al-Bukari 6:510 – the written version as we know it today was put together by Caliph Uthman ibn Affan. The approximate date for this was the early 700’s. The process was to gather various sayings and fragments of writings. decide which were valid (when there were conflicts). and come up with the Qur’an that was to be used. There are some remaining discrepancies, especially as related to interpretation. The same situation exists, for example, between Catholics and Protestants. Or between Jews and Christians.
My point here is that while both sides can point to their list of issues with any of the Books, my goal isn’t to figure out whose interpretation is correct. My goal is to examine what is happening with the various books, in the condition in which they now exist. After all, these are the books that people are reading. Both Christians and Muslims “talk” to God. Christians, through The Holy Spirit. Muslims, generally through dreams and visions. Again, this is what’s going on today, so this is the point of view from which the examination will take place.
Having said that, rather than getting into a discussion of which one (or both) has been corrupted, I’d like to take a different approach. In both cases – at least in what I read, neither side is willing to agree to the other sides “experts”. That leaves it to us to determine.
Not to worry, rather than have to decide which of the people was right, we have God. As we saw above, in both The Bible and The Qur’an, He’s perfectly willing to reason with us, He’s willing to help us, all we need to do is to ask Him. Not to ask someone else, but to actually ask Him! He will answer someone who really really wants to know the truth.
I have one final (I think) assumption to go on. One that’s likely to not really make too many people happy, but let’s do it anyway because that’s how I feel I’m being led to do it.
Let’s assume that, no matter what you may think of Islam or Christianity today, let’s assume that Muhammad really truly wanted to know the same God as Christians and Jews before he received his first vision – before the Qur’an was even a thought in his mind.
After all, he wanted something better for his people – the Arabs. They had hundreds of gods, while the Jews and Christians had one. While that may not be the feeling today, given the tension between Jews & Christians and Muslims, and not even according to some of the Suras in the Qur’an, we will see that the early Suras and early history show it to be the case that his objective was one religion for all three: Jews, Christians & Arabs.
Obviously it didn’t turn out that way.
(At least not yet.)
But it does appear that was an objective.
Let’s make that our starting point – and go from there.
As I’m just starting – this could all go down in smoke.
but what if it doesn’t?
Among other things, what I’m planning is to actually go through the Qur’an. Not in it’s printed order, but in chronological order. (If you didn’t know – the chronological order is quite different from the printed order). That will give us a chance to see what was written against the approximate history of the time, and how it progressed over time. This will allow us to see when various things started to change, such as when Jews and Christians went from (a) being held in high regard and when they were known as God’s people and “people of The Book” – to (b) being infidels and the enemy.
I think these things are important.
Just as we see changes from the Old Testament to the New Testament in the way the God of the Bible deals with and interacts with His people, we should see the same thing in the revelations given to The Prophet over the course of time during which what turned into the contents Qur’an was given to him.
Hope you stay with me on this journey –
hope you (and I) continue to learn things –
But mostly I pray that you’re searching –
then you really do reach out to God –
ask yourself if something’s missing from your life –
reach out to Isa / Jesus –
ask Him to reveal Himself to you –
and find what He has to offer you –
a peace beyond understanding –
a personal relationship with someone who loves you beyond anything we could understand –
and who is waiting for you with hope for a better future.