Hard Questions

frank, open and honest discussions

Constituents of the Muslim Faith- Part 1

with 11 comments


by Rasheed,

This is not a “My Book is better than yours” conversation. I am hoping, instead, for a mature and informative discussion of convergence and divergence of scriptures.

The decision on which scriptures to follow, is of course, a matter of personal choice and personal responsibility.

Following on from my previous post, I putting here, some of my thoughts and ideas about Islam. If you want to see Islam through a Muslim eye, then please read on.

In order of significance and authority, the primary sources of the Islamic faith are:

  1. The Quran
  2. Sayings of the Prophet, or ‘Hadith’
  3. Biography of the Prophet or ‘Seerah’

The Quran:

I, and All Muslims, believe the Quran to be the literal words of God as revealed to Prophet Muhammad through the angle Gabriel. The revelation took place over a period of approximately 23 years. The first revelation was in a cave in Mecca when the prophet was 40 years old, and last in Medina shortly before the prophet died aged 63.

The term word of God has a slightly different meaning from that adopted in Evangelical writings. Here literal means all the words were chosen by God and revealed to the prophet Muhammad who relayed them “exactly as he was taught by the angle Gabriel” .

I am hoping to write about the following aspects of Quran:

  1. Ownership of the Quran
  2. Style of the Text of The Quran
  3. Language
  4. The Teachings of the Quran
  5. Transmission of the Quran
  6. Can you show any Signs that this is a Book from God?
  7. Do you have answers to your critics?

As we progress in this discussion, other topics might also be added.

Ownership:
You may ask: What do you mean by saying “The Quran is composed of the literal words of God”? How is that different from the words of the Gospels?
Well, the word literal is very significant, because it means that no man has ever claimed to be the author of the Quran, not even prophet Muhammad. The book is understood to be God own words, chosen by HIM and delivered to the prophet whose only role was to recite them. He (the Prophet) has not claimed to have any input in the Book.

Style of the Text:
The Quran is narrated in the First person, with the speaker being God.
This is completely different from the Gospels, where it is made clear to the reader that, the writer is a particular person who is telling a story, or a person stating what he believes.

To demonstrate this difference, let us compare two verses concerned with the origin of the Quran and that of the Bible from the respective scriptures:

The Quran Chapter 39:

1- The revelation of the Scripture is from Allah, the Mighty, the Wise.
2- Lo! We have revealed the Scripture unto thee (Muhammad) with truth; so worship Allah, making religion pure for Him (only).
3- Surely pure religion is for Allah only. And those who choose protectors beside Him (say): We worship them only that they may bring us near unto Allah. Lo! Allah will judge between them concerning that wherein they differ. Lo! Allah guideth not him who is a liar, an ingrate.
4- If Allah had willed to choose a son, He could have chosen what He would of that which He hath created. Be He Glorified! He is Allah, the One, the Absolute

It is clear here and, throughout the whole book, that prophet Muhammad [pbuh] is not claiming to be the author of the text,

When you look at the beginning of the Gospel according to Luke, you will find a different definition of the text. You will find a text that belongs to Luke. It was Luke’s choice of words, and events to describe. He wrote:

The Gospel According to Luke [1:1-4]:

1- Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us,
2- just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
3- Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
4- so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

In fact, the canonical Gospels are similar in style and content to the third category of Scripture in Islam, i.e. “Biography of the Prophet” or “Seerah”,.

There are two non canonical Gospels (The Gospel of Thomas, and, the hypothetical “Lost Gospel Q”.) that have some similarities in style to the Muslims second category of Scriptures- “Hadith” -in that, they are composed of pure “Sayings of Jesus”.

Another feature of the Quran is that, it has no time-line. It navigates freely through time, and there is no chronological order. In many places, it refers to future events in the past tense, to imply certainty. There is no beginning or end to the book in the way you find in the Gospels or the Torah.

Other features of the Quran that are only demonstrable if you listen to the recitation in Arabic, for example the internal rhythm, the sound of the verse endings, the harmony of the sounds of individual letters and words. All of these features, are outside the scope of this discussion.

There follows a translation of the recitation in this video, from chapter 36:

[36:1] Ya Seen.
[36:2] I swear by the Quran full of wisdom
[36:3] Most surely you are of those sent
[36:4] On a straight path.
[36:5] A revelation of the Mighty, the Merciful.
[36:6] That you may warn a people whose fathers were not warned, so they are heedless.
[36:7] Certainly the word has proved true of most of them, so they do not believe.
[36:8] Surely We have placed chains on their necks, and these reach up to their chins, so they have their heads raised aloft.
[36:9] And We have set a bar before them and a bar behind them, and (thus) have covered them so that they see not.

[36:10] And it is alike to them whether you warn them or warn them not: they do not believe
[36:11] You can only warn him who follows the reminder and fears the Beneficent Allah in secret; so announce to him forgiveness and an rich reward.
[36:12] Lo! We it is Who bring the dead to life. We record that which they send before (them, and their footprints. And all things We have kept in a clear Register.

A final prayer:

“My God, Creator of heavens and earth, Knower of the seen and the unseen, I dedicate my work to you, seeking to earn your pleasure and hoping avoid your anger.

If I do well it is by your Grace alone, and if I erred, it is myself, and Satan that are to blame.”

Written by Rasheed Gadir

November 19, 2007 at 2:47 am

11 Responses

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  1. Wow, I really appreciate all of the time and effort you put into your blog, and the comparisons you made between the Bible and the Quran. I’m interested to read about the signs that the quran is the word of God
    thanks

    Love and Grace Ministries

    November 19, 2007 at 3:10 am

  2. can’t muslims partially believe in the quran?

    salahudin

    November 19, 2007 at 4:50 am

  3. Rasheed,
    Very informative post. I have a few questions and responses.

    If the Qu’ran is the literal words of Allah or God, why was the angel Gabriel needed as a middle man?

    How can you be sure Muhammad memorized this word for word? Could he not have inadvertently contributed to the Qu’ran by forgetting a word or two?

    How did the angel Gabriel establish that he came from God?

    You are correct about the Gospels style being a biography, but much of the Old Testament was God speaking. Much of the New Testament is in the form of letters to the early churches. The purpose of these letters was to remind the churches of things they would have already known. They were not introducing new teachings of Jesus, but reinforcing things many of these followers would have heard Jesus say himself. They also served to teach each new generation of followers.

    The Gospel of Thomas and Lost Gospel Q you mention are not accepted as being legitimate because I believe they were written far later and could not be attributed to Thomas, an apostle/disciple, or even any of the early Church fathers.

    Thanks for putting this together.

    Andrew

    http://seekingtheface.wordpress.com

    Andrew

    November 19, 2007 at 8:35 pm

  4. Many thanks Love & Grace Ministries, Salahudin and Andrew for your encouraging and kind comments.

    Your questions raise important issues that I hope to deal with shortly.

    I could not, unfortunately,find time today to try and answer some of the questions,(My friends here, seem to always ask the most difficult questions).

    Thank you all.

    Rasheed

    Rasheed

    November 20, 2007 at 1:52 am

  5. Salahudin,

    A person can believe in whatever he likes and call himself whatever he likes, but that does not necessarily make him what he claims to be. A Muslim is someone who unconditionally submits to God.

    Partially believing in the Quran also means partially disbelieving it. If a person disbelieves because he disputes the authenticity of particular passages, then he must provide sound evidence to support what he says.

    If, on other hand. someone dis-believes because he does not like what is said, or disagree with the content, whilst acknowledging that it is from God (your question was about Muslims), then in effect, that person is implying that he knows better, and that contradicts the creed of submission to God.

    God says in the Quran, to the Children of Israel:

    [2:85] Yet ye it is who slay each other and drive out a party of your people from their homes, supporting one another against them by sin and transgression? – and if they came to you as captives ye would ransom them, whereas their expulsion was itself unlawful for you – Believe ye in part of the Book and disbelieve ye in part thereof? And what is the reward of those who do so save ignominy in the life of the world, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be consigned to the most grievous doom. For Allah is not unaware of what ye do.

    Allah in this verse, warns those who partially believed in the Book (The Torah in this case), of severe punishment.

    Rasheed

    November 20, 2007 at 5:09 pm

  6. But Rasheed, how can human beings judge when someone is lying about their beliefs…? If they call themselves Muslims, then must we not accept them as such?

    As for your verse – the Quran is very ambiguous about everything and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a different translation and interpretation of that. For starters some would argue it is addressed to Jews only…🙂

    And what is sound evidence anyways? Sound evidence to one person is not sound evidence to another… unless people acknowledge a single basis or criteria for judging what is sound an unsound.

    For Muslims, that is the Quran itself… the “criterion”… but if the Quran itself is under debate, then obviously the Quran can not be criterion in that debate.

    So what criterion will you judge evidence to be sound or unsound?

    May I recommend human reason…? logic? those are absolutes which are common to all human beings. (Please don’t confuse this with relative human “rationalism”, which varies from culture to culture. I’m talking about the laws of logic…)

    salahudin

    November 20, 2007 at 5:36 pm

  7. Who determines what is universally accepted as human logic? Are we all logical beings? That’s a whole can of worms in and of itself…

    Andrew

    November 21, 2007 at 1:17 am

  8. andrew, it’s not a can of worms at all… i don’t think you have any idea what you’re talking about… or at least no idea what “logic” here means.

    salahudin

    November 21, 2007 at 4:10 am

  9. Salahudin

    1- You ask “What sound evidence?”: and then assume that the I requested evidence from the Quran, for disputing the authenticity of parts of the Book.

    I am afraid you invented the argument before attacking it. Nowhere, in my post, did I say I am looking for evidence from the Quran to prove/ disprove the authenticity of the Quran.

    You then falsely claim that Muslims always request evidence from the Quran and imply that we do not use logic: ill-informed and very patronising statements.

    You are, obviously, confusing internal debate between Muslims who all believe in the Quran, and that between people of different faiths.

    If you are being fair, and I think you were not, you would also notice that internal debate between followers of any religion will refer to their scriptures as a source of authority.

    Muslims have developed criteria for judging authenticity of transmission. It is called ‘Isnad’ meaning (Chain of narrators). if you did not hear about it, that does not mean it does not exist. If you knew about the existence of “Isnad” and chose to ignore it then your complaint about the Muslim’s standards of debate is deliberately misleading. The science of Isnad relies on checking the trustworthiness of a sources and has about 80 divisions and rules. You may debate the merits of ‘Isnad’ if you can, and I will listen to your arguments, but you can not ignore its existence.

    2- You also say that the Quran is very ambiguous: Another subjective, generalising statement, and you provide no evidence to support your claim.

    3- You say about the Quranic verse: “I would probably find different translations and interpretation for it”, well, why not find them first and then go on talk about their existence and significance. I read the verse in its original Arabic text, and I think the translation is accurate. If you know otherwise, please tell me where the translation went wrong – Don’t just assume things.

    You say “some would say the verse applies to Jews only”: Who are those ‘some’? What is their knowledge and standing? Is this not just a weasel word that means very little?

    4- You ask: “How can human judge if someone is lying about their belief?” Again a case of inventing an argument, then attacking it. I did not suggest anyone was lying, We are talking about a hypothetical case of someone who honestly say he believes partially in the Quran, and call himself a Muslim. I have yet to meet such a person. I do not know of any Muslim scholar, past or present, who says you can remain a Muslim and disbelieve part of what you consider accurately transmitted part of the Quran. If you know differently, please correct me.

    It is my view that you can not be a Muslim and worship two Gods, you can not be Muslim and disbelieve that Muhammad was a messenger of God. You can still call yourself Muslim, but all Muslim people that I know, will not consider you one. There are areas where Muslims do have different opinions, this is not amongst them.

    Every religion has fundamental tenets that define it. If you do not accept them, most adherents of that religion would consider you not to be a follower of that religion, regardless of what you think. If you believe Jesus never existed, or if you say you worship a tree and call yourself a Christian, most Christian will not consider you one of them. You can still call yourself whatever you want!

    Rasheed

    Rasheed

    November 21, 2007 at 4:10 am

  10. “I do not know of any Muslim scholar, past or present, who says you can remain a Muslim and disbelieve part of what you consider accurately transmitted part of the Quran.”

    Appeal to authority, to decide who is a muslim and who is not…? even if the person declares himself or herself so…?

    surely you can see this is at the very least… drowning in murky waters, if not outright controversial, regardless of how many scholars say otherwise.

    “You can still call yourself Muslim, but all Muslim people that I know, will not consider you one.”

    There is something in disobeying the first kalmah and then there is denying quranic verses…

    PS: sorry if that sounded patronizing to you, but can you blame me, after having been bumped about from one incoherent muhammad to another, i have only just discovered an intelligible person of my previous faith after a long time. So, yes, i pre-empted the common (and bad) counter arguments i usually get in these discussions.

    Again, I apologize for the seeming rudeness. It was not intended.

    salahudin

    November 21, 2007 at 4:55 am

  11. Apology accepted. Thanks

    Rasheed

    November 21, 2007 at 3:54 pm


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