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Similarities End With Monotheism 

Islam and Christianity both practice a form of monotheism, although the maximal deity at the center of each religion bears little in common with that of the other.  Despite the impossibility that the capricious “Great Deceiver” of the Qur’an could be the same deity, the assumption by many scholars remains undeterred, as Muhammad was clear that his “Allah” of the Qur’an was also Elohim “Yahweh,” GOD of Abraham and Moses.  So, in other words, if Muhammad and the Qur’an represent something as factual, are we to accept it as authoritative or valid (Because Muslims believe he is the “perfect man”)?

It should come as little surprise, then, that the architects of these two religious systems–Jesus and Muhammad–are regularly juxtaposed and compared to make one socially motivated point or the other.  Competing and sometimes diametrically opposed narratives are heard, either attempting to promote peace and coexistence between the two or accepting outright the interminable and somewhat historically evidenced incompatibility thereof.

Not coincidentally, the clash of these cultures dominates current news in the wake of nearly uncountable terrorist attacks in Europe and North America–as well as amid a diaspora of displaced peoples from war-torn regions of the Middle East.  Subsequently, the admission and assimilation of (mostly) Syrian refugees migrating to Western, traditionally Christian nations is one of the hottest, most divisive debates in the public square and on social media today.  In the mostly secular camp—that recognizes no substantive difference between Christians and Muslims—there is simply no reason everyone cannot assimilate through diversity training, tolerance and multicultural awareness.  Conversely, anyone who studies either  religious system with any serious degree of critical thinking, understands the incredible challenge facing society when the balance is shifted—either at the local level or a more societal or national level.[1]

We are told that the atrocities evidenced only in Islam have nothing at all to do with Islam.  We are told that correlation is not causation.  We are told that Islam is a “religion of peace,” although, nowhere in the Muslim world is there EVER any modicum of peace and liberty in tandem for any sustained period of time.

There can be peace–as long as Islamic Law is dominant and intolerant of dissension in an autocratic or caliphate-rule.  There can be some aspects of liberty–as we occasionally see in Turkey, a “secular” democracy in name only. Turkey, the singular example of democracy in the Muslim world just witnessed hundreds of thousands of (many arbitrarily) stigmatized “Gulenists,” who in 2016 lost their jobs and livelihoods amid a relentless, “Stalinist” government round-up by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his operatives.  This witch hunt follows a staged coup (intended to give pretext to–in a designed crisis–justification for the abolition of all political opposition).    *President Erdoğan and his government continue to purge opposition in a “long-knife” wave of paranoia and propaganda against the imaginary forces of scapegoat, Fetullah Gulen, who actually lives in the U.S.  In addition to commandeering and suppressing news and free media, they use court action against the remaining free press in Turkey and are systematically stripping power from the constitutional court.  This is “democracy” in a 99% Muslim country (0.04% Christian).

In theory—as well as in accepted scholarship—the ethical/ moral bases for Judaism, Christianity and Islam are purported to derive from the same GOD, care of the same patriarch, Abraham, and the prophet, Moses.  It is widely accepted by historians and Christian apologists that Jesus, a Jew, studied and taught from the Holy Scriptures of Judaism (i.e., Torah).  Islam, conversely, has only arbitrary ties to the former faiths, and given by nebulous, questionable angelic revelation with surprising, if not fantastical, notions of Abraham’s arrival in a pre-extant Meccan civilization around 1500 BC.  Not only was Muhammed said to be illiterate, the circumstances under which this revelation came to him were dubious at best.  In addition, the chain of custody of this “perfect” and “final”(Qur’anic) set of decrees was by word-of-mouth only, and  it was only from a myriad of latter-written Qur’anic versions did an authoritative version arise—from dozens, if not hundreds of candidates—which is now regarded by Muslims as the sacrosanct, unchanged and identical words that were decreed by Allah, himself.  If Islam were to apply the same level of scrutiny to the obtainment of the Qur’an as they do the Bible and its authors, the Qur’an would be questioned for its veracity, and the Hadith would be written off entirely as an unsubstantiated and uncorroborated collection of stories written 250+ years after Muhammad died.

Whereas, defenders of Islam routinely undermine the integrity of authors and the timeliness of source materials in the Bible, the Qur’an and Hadith cannot be substantiated until centuries after the alleged life and time of Muhammad.  The earliest Qur’anic complete manuscript was from 800 AD, which is approximately 200 years after Muhammad would have received his “revelation.”  If Christians are not prepared to question alternative versions of history, then Muslims go unchallenged when they float myths, such as the assertion that there are complete copies of the Qur’an dating from the year Muhammad died.  It is not true.  Even the earliest fragmentary manuscripts of the Qur’an are all dated no earlier than 100 years after Muhammad died.   In 2015, however, it should be noted that fragments containing portions of Surah 18-20 found in a Birmingham, England museum were said to actually predate the years scholars believed Muhammad to have “received” them (which creates even greater problems to the modern Islamic historical narrative.[2]

Most academicians find it far easier (and safer) to just allow the Muslim scholars to believe what they wish, instead of risk life and limb to challenge them.  But, to be sure, egregious scientific errors exist in the Qur’an, and the following are only but a few:

“When he reached the setting place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring and found a people thereabout. We said: ‘O Dhul-Qumeyn! Either punish or show them kindness’” (Surah 18:86).

In referring to physiology, Surah 86:5-7 says that man is created from a gushing fluid that issues from between the loins and the ribs. Thusly, and according to this text, semen is created in the kidneys.

There are many historical errors in the Qur’an as well. The Qur’an says that the calf worshiped by the Israelites at Mount Horeb was molded by a Samaritan (Surah 20:85-87, 95-97). Yet the term “Samaritan” was not coined until 722 BC, which is several hundred years after the event in question. Thus, the Samaritan people could not have existed during the life of Moses, and therefore, could not have been responsible for molding the calf.[3]

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Surah 18:83-100 contains the story of Alexander the Great. According to the Qur’an, his power was given to him by Allah (84), which some Muslims contend is an assertion that he had the same prominence as a prophet. Yet, Alexander was a heathen whose drunkenness and carousing led to his death at age 33.  Additionally, this Surah credits him with building an enormous wall of iron and brass between two mountains, which was tall enough and wide enough to keep an entire army out. Alexander lived in the light of history, but nothing of this sort has ever been written.  In Surah 7:124, we find Pharaoh admonishing his sorcerers because they believe in the superiority of Moses’ power over theirs. Pharaoh threatens them with crucifixion. Yet, crucifixion was first practiced by the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians and then borrowed extensively by the Romans close to the time of Christ, 1700 years after Pharaoh!

There are many self-refuting contradictions in the Qur’an as well: The Qur’an states that the earth was created in six days (Surah 7:54; 25:59), but it also states that the world was created in eight days (Surah 41:9-12). In Surah 51:57 we find that Jinn (angelic-type beings) were created to worship Allah, yet in Surah 7:17 we find that the Jinn were created for Hell. In Surah 17:103 we are told that Pharaoh was drowned with his army, yet in Surah 10:90-92, upon admitting to the power of GOD, he is rescued as a sign to others. In Surah 4:157 we read that Jesus did not die, yet in Surah 19:33 we read that not only did he die, but he arose again! The interesting point in all of this is the reading of Surah 4:82 which reads, “Do they not consider the Qur’an? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancies.”[4]

We have strong evidence to refute a number of other claims in the Qur’an (such as Abraham’s link to Mecca or the Kaaba shrine[5], his confusion over the Jewish Patriarchal lineage[6], as well as his fundamental misunderstanding of the Trinity as a polytheistic form of human worship), but we simply will not have time to delve into all Islamic divergences from the true and living Word of GOD.  I will attempt to keep the evidentiary body contained and stay on-point with the fundamental  ethical and ideological disagreements between Muslims and Christians that threaten the peace and propose a prescription for aggressive apologetic dialogue.

Universalists would also have us believe that these religious and ethical frameworks are, indeed, nearly interchangeable and that  only “outbursts of  pugnacious particularism” driven by political agendas and “backed by forces of arms” can threaten the, otherwise, compatible systems.[7]

Given the aforementioned statements of commonality, there is much effort exerted by secularists, Muslim scholars, CAIR and some Christians to minimize differences and promote an ecumenical affirmation of (most of) each other’s foundational beliefs.  Some would say if this ecumenism were to successfully “blur” the lines between the religions, then there could be dialogue and peace.

Others completely reject this affront to their sacred teachings, in light of the bold and pronounced contradictions between Islam’s biblical revisionism and their wholesale rejection the preceding’s gospel message (sola fide, sola gratia, sola scriptura, etc.).

Islam isn’t just a “little bit” different from Christianity; it is inexorably incompatible—especially on a soteriological level—which is essentially the “sine quo non,” if you will, for most practicing Christians and Muslims.  If one takes the time to get beneath the topical, generalized similarities and down to salvific precepts, there is no denying the consequential ramifications of presuming there to be defensible agreement between the divine gospel message of biblical scripture with the Qur’an’s ideological and soteriological departures.

In short, salvation in Christianity requires redemptive grace by faith and denies works-righteousness to be sufficient on the presupposition that “ no one is holy, no, not one (Romans 3:10).”  Islam, conversely, believes that good Muslims are sufficiently holy.  Sharia is purely based upon works-righteousness and keeping the Sufi, by observing ritualistic cleansing and prayers  in a rigorous litany of atoning work.  In Islam judgment will be subject to  the “scales of justice” (i.e., as in, simply do more “good” deeds than “evil” deeds).  There is no concept of original sin, and each  person can please Allah through his own atonement, and if a (capricious) Allah feels like admitting one to paradise, then he is good-to-go.  Similarly, another way of tipping the “scales” under Islam would be to martyr oneself in an act of jihad.   There is no grace, no substitutionary atonement, no imputed righteousness; Each will stand before GOD in judgment, hoping that his works are sufficient.

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Ethical Derivations: Why Central Figures Matter

Similar to the narrative about the Muslim and Christian religious systems being similar, so too do we hear comparisons made between their central figures: Muhammad, the messenger of Allah (hence, Islam); and Jesus Christ, the Son of GOD, Messiah, and foundation of the Christian faith.

To say that Jesus and Muhammad are diametrically opposed is a colossal understatement.  In Muhammad’s sacred text, that he claims is from Allah himself, he commands death or dismemberment to unbelievers in no fewer than 109 Surah (verses).  Justin Imel:

Some ethical teachings of the Qur’an are quite different from those of the Bible. If a husband believes his wife may leave him, he is permitted to beat her (Surah 4:34); the Bible teaches that husbands should love and respect their wives (Ephesians 5:28-29). The Qur’an teaches that one call fight those who do not believe in Allah (Surah 9:29; 2:190-192; 4:74). The Bible teaches that we should love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), and Jesus was compassionate toward those who were lost (Matthew 9:36-38).

The Qur’an tells biblical stories differently than the Bible. When Moses wanted to see GOD, GOD showed himself to a mountain. The mountain crumbled and Moses fainted (Surah 7:143; cf. Exodus 38:17ff.). Mary gave birth to Jesus underneath a palm tree (Surah 19:23ff.), yet the Bible says nothing of a palm tree (Matthew 1:1 8ff.; Luke 2:lff.).[8]

We will begin with a synoptic glance at each central figure, touching only on their relevance and impacts—not on their numerous and well known biographical facts.

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Muhammad (570–632)

He is the prophet believed by Muslims to be the messenger of GOD’s final revelation to mankind. Muslims believe that the angel Gabriel, over a number of encounters, revealed the actual words of Allah himself.  Upon receiving enlightenment, began to teach in Mecca in 610, but persecution forced him to flee with his followers to Medina in 622. After several battles, he conquered Mecca (630), establishing the principles of Islam (embodied in the Qur’an) over all Arabia.[9][10]   Muhammad was a self-proclaimed prophet – a man capable of sinning and making mistakes, having both good and bad traits.  At times he was kind; at times he cursed and harmed many people.  The Muslim claim that he was the “perfect man” is not credible on any level, however.  Whereas Jesus was regarded by both faiths as pure and sinless, Muhammad acknowledged his sin and stated that he prayed for forgiveness up to 70,000 times a day.[11]  Muhammad was a man with a mixed record of heinous acts of violence and heroic acts of valor.  In addition to being a prophet, in his lifetime, he was also a camel herder, caravan raider, military leader, polygamist and pedophile (His fourth wife, Aisha, was six when Muhammad married her and nine or ten when the 53-year old consummated the relationship[12]).[13]

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Jesus Christ

(-AD 30), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, was a Jewish preacher and religious leader who is the central figure of Christianity, and is believed to be GOD in the flesh to most of  its adherents, who are called “Christians.” Jesus rapaciously studied scripture as a child and worked as a carpenter until beginning his ministry around the age of 30, when He taught thousands of followers from the Jewish Bible, including the Law of Moses, the oracles of the prophets and the majesty of GOD, the Father.[14]  Christians believe Him to be the literal Son of GOD, born of the virgin Mary and the awaited Messiah (Christ, the Anointed One) who was prophesied in the Old Testament.  He is, without equal, the most influential person in history, due in part to His unique birth, His astonishing power, His controversial teaching, His shocking death and His world-changing resurrection.[15]  Approximately 2.2 billion people claim the truths of the religion that bears His name.[16]

Islam, like Christianity, is not widely studied or well understood by its (~1.6 billion) followers.[17]  This might come as a shock to some, since Islam is heavily legalistic and focused on regimented prayer and recitation.  Most Muslims, however, get their “instructive” information from Imams and Clerics—who can mold the “truth” into any number of fashions that meet with their objectives.[18]  While most Muslims are required to recite surah (scriptures) from the Qur’an and litanies of prayers called “Salah[19],” few are either able or permitted to exegete the holy texts themselves.  If they did, they might be surprised with what they find.  And, like other cultic systems (i.e., Jehovah’s Witnesses), adherents of Islam are admonished to study the texts on their own, without “expert” assistance, lest they become “confused” and back-peddle in their faith.[20]

*In my study of heresies, I have found that no single cult can withstand critical academic scrutiny for this reason.  Subsequently, as a way for cults to attempt to thwart unwanted inquiry, they routinely engage in acts of intimidation or threats of retribution.  In the West, we now see any intellectually honest critique of Islam attacked by groups like CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) as “hate speech,” “racism” or the new catch-all epithet, “Islamophobia.”[21]

According to Nabeel Qureshi, a devout Muslim-turned-Christian, he was indoctrinated early-on in his family and Muslim community (“jamaat”) to recite Salah and apologetic evidence for the Muslim faith versus Christianity.  And, from my analysis of his book, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus,”[22] I would conclude that Nabeel had been well bred and schooled in a subset of Islamic religious tenets; however, beyond a deep cultural understanding and a narrative put forth by his elders, he was relatively oblivious to the contents of the Qur’an and Hadith, of which, he carefully outlines his process of discovery in his book.

Also in his book, Qureshi points out a number of troubling discoveries he uncovered over a three and a half-year period.  He makes compelling cases for believing the Biblical New Testament record—which was written by eyewitness accounts to the ministry of Jesus within 70 years of his death and resurrection—as opposed to Islam, where no corroborating account of Muhammad’s life would be written until more than two centuries after his death.

Additionally,  he forcefully lays out what he refers to as the “Islamic dilemma.”  Muslims who look at their faith honestly, with the same academic rigors with which they scrutinize Christianity, will find the following dilemma:  1) There is no historical foundation in Muhammad for a “real faith” commitment.  Intellectually honest scholars must either concede that the sources of their beliefs in Muhammad were written by people who did not witness the events,  hundreds of years following the events for any of it to be historically reliable; or  2) The historical foundation is accurate.  If they accept the Hadith’s account and  insist that the writings were reliable in depicting the life of Muhammad, then they are left accepting the unconscionable accounts of violence, sex slavery, and dehumanizing brutality—thereby, rejecting the notion that he was a prophet of GOD.[23]

In short, Islam contains just enough grains of veracity so that it appears to many as true.  The author(s) and scribes of the Qur’an coopted shreds of knowledge from the Torah, Talmud and reputable 7th-century sources, passing it off as their own.  Platonic and Hebrew thought, i.e., in the form of manuscripts, were now in wide circulation and regarded by the learned in Meccan culture as laudable, if not authoritative.  Similarly, Christianity was already 600+ years along by the time Muhammad was born, so the missionary message of the gospel was gaining in popularity and would have been accessible for easy plagiarism.

Because Muhammad was bent on conquest (despite insistence that it was peace he sought), we see evidence throughout the Hadith of his attempt to gain adherents by conforming aspects of his ideological treatise to those of local conventions (i.e., number of wives one could take)[24].  Although the maximally all-powerful deity, Allah, bears some isolated similarities to the GOD of Moses, the aggregate picture is not of the same being.  This will be covered in some detail in the next section, exposing the inexplicable disparity between GOD of the Bible and Allah.

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Expansion of the caliphate, 622–750 CE

One of the greatest challenges that Christians have is to sift through the warring factions of  rhetorical flourishing to get to the truth about the prophet of Islam.  Non-believers are attacked for even attempting a dialogue about Muhammad, and the majority of Westerners are contented knowing nothing—for fear of saying the wrong thing.  The truth is, we must know the truth, because Islam is here on our soil and in our classrooms, and we collectively don’t have the will as a society to say that it is harmful and antithetical to our way of life.  Best-selling author and critic of Islam, Robert Spencer, addresses the challenge of adequately  learning about Muhammad and Islam, lest the non-Muslim is chastised for stating facts about the man’s record.  He stated:

“For many in the West, Muhammad remains more mysterious than other major religious figures. Most people know, for example, that Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, that Jesu dies on a cross at Calvary and was raised from the dead, and maybe even that Buddha sat under a tree and received enlightenment. But less is known about Muhammad, and even that much is disputed. Hence, what follows will be taken solely from Islamic texts.  First basic fact: Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Abd al-Muttalib (570-632), the prophet of Islam, was a man of war. He taught his followers to fight for his new religion. He said that their GOD, Allah, had commanded them to take up arms. And Muhammad, no armchair general, fought numerous battles. These facts are crucial to anyone who really wants to understand what caused the Crusades centuries ago or, in our own time, what has led to the rise of the global jihad movement.  In the course of these battles, Muhammad articulated numerous principles that have been followed by Muslims to this day. Therefore, it is important to record some features of Muhammad’s battles, which can provide insight into today’s newspaper headlines – insights that continue sadly, to elude many analysts and experts.”[25]

Because entire books are devoted to the subject of Qur’anic contradiction, I am only going to focus on my favorite example  in this essay: Muhammad tells his followers that Jesus is just a prophet and simply a messenger, no more nor less than an apostle as we find in Surah 5:75 of the Qur’an:

The Messiah, son of Mary, was not but a messenger; [other] messengers have passed on before him. And his mother was a supporter of truth. They both used to eat food. Look how We make clear to them the signs; then look how they are deluded.[26]

Now, Muhammad also had many interactions (and conflicts with Jews), and he seemed to have adopted a rather strong aversion to what was being taught in the triune doctrine—i.e., as in the Nicene Creed.  He might have backed himself into a corner trying to strike a coherent chord with his Jewish and Christian audiences.  On one hand, Jesus was presented in the Qur’an as a credible and revered witness of GOD’s revelation.  According to Islam, he was said to be the  holy Messiah born of a virgin, but he was never crucified on the cross, nor raised from the dead.  But, he did ascend into heaven .  The Qur’an says to believe what he says and to read “the book” (Bible).  Muslims will tell you that everything in the Qur’an is to be observed and practiced, unless it is later “abrogated” by more recent revelation.[27]  Muhammad also said that Christians (oft-called “People of the Book.”)  have to judge by what they read in the Gospel, as stated in Surah 5:47:

“And let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the defiantly disobedient.”

James White has written extensively on this particular verse, because it clearly prescribes reading and trusting the revelation contained in the Gospel.  This is problematic for the Qur’an, because it then goes on to contradict the Bible in a number of places.  From this verse James argues the following points[28]:

  1. This verse approves of the Gospels as they are;
  2. Muhammad who authored the Qur’an did not know the contents of the Gospels to realize that his own teachings contradict the Gospels; and
  3. Muslims now seeing the contradiction between the Qur’an and the Gospels defend their faith by inventing the doctrine of biblical corruption

Here we are looking at only one example of  Qur’anic contradiction:  So, if one reads the Bible (as the Qur’an commands), and read the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:27 (ESV), Jesus says:

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Jesus refers to GOD as his father but Islam teaches that Allah is a father to no one.   In addition, Jesus regularly refers to himself throughout the gospels as the son, but Islam declares that Allah has no son.  Jesus claims that all things have been “handed over to me by my father,” and because the father has handed everything over to Jesus that belongs to the Father, then it follows that Muhammad, Muslims and everyone and everything else in life also belongs to Jesus.  This is not characteristic of  a mere prophet.

If there’s any doubt to what Jesus means here, then we can compare this first with another writer in the gospel, where Jesus says it again, according to John in 16:15 (ESV):

“All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

This is where Islam self-destructs because it presents a self-refuting dilemma.  Muslims are forced to either a)  reject the clear teachings of their own religion and believe the gospel message; or b) reject the gospel message and disobey their own religion.  Either way, the gospel is infallible and able to withstand every test that Islam can cast upon it.

Moreover, if Jesus owns everything, then Islam is false, because Islam teaches that Jesus was just a prophet, and a prophet could never claim to own everything that GOD owns.  Alternatively, if Muslims tell us that Jesus was wrong or that he was lying when he said that everything that belongs to GOD belongs to him, then Islam is false, because according to the Qur’an, Jesus was a prophet of GOD and spoke the truth.[29]

Certainly, the only way Muslims can answer the question of Jesus “holding and owning everything belonging to the Father” is  to claim that the gospel has been corrupted.  Jesus never said those words for if the gospel has been corrupted, then Islam is false because we’ve already seen the  Qur’an commands Christians to judge by the gospel I should also point out that according to the Qur’an no one can corrupt GOD’s word what does Surah 18:27 say?

Expansion of the caliphate, 622–750 CE

“And recite what has been revealed to you of the book of your Lord there is none who can alter his words.”

So, who can correct the word of GOD according to the Qur’an?  Can Christians corrupt it?  Can Jews corrupt it?  There is none who can alter his words. So if the gospel has been corrupted, then Islam is false, because the Qur’an claims that no one can alter Allah’s words.  So, when we analyze this dilemma in depth,  it destroys the credibility of Islam :  either the gospel is the inspired, preserved authoritative word of GOD and Islam is false, because it contradicts the gospel or  b) the gospel is not the inspired preserved authoritative word of GOD and Islam is false because the Qur’an claims that the gospel is the inspired preserved authoritative Word of GOD.

As David Wood, one of the web’s leading Christian debaters and polemicist for taking on Islam, so aptly summed it up with a priori, deductive reasoning:

“So if this (Bible) is the word of GOD, then Islam is false. If this (Bible) isn’t the word of GOD, then Islam is false. Either way, Islam is false. Therefore, Islam is false.”[30]

Another quote from David Wood expounds this point even further:

“…we see that Islam accuses GOD of one of the greatest religious deceptions ever. This should cause us to pause and think for a moment. Why would a religion that prides itself on its view of GOD proclaim that GOD starts false religions? Why would people who claim to respect Jesus suggest that he was a tremendous failure? It appears that Islam is so incredibly desperate to destroy Christianity, that it doesn’t mind destroying itself. In other words, Islam can only explain away Jesus’ death and resurrection by making GOD out to be a deceiver, which destroys the Islamic conception of GOD. This desperation only makes sense if Christianity is true, and if Islam was designed by Satan to keep people from being saved.”[31]

Same GOD?: Yahweh & Allah

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Allah is acknowledged by most Muslim scholars to simply be a variant of “Elohim,” which was a name for GOD, commonly used in the Hebrew Bible.  The etymological differences in modern parlance aside, the two names—Yahweh & Allah—are intended to refer to the same maximal deity, the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent originator of space and time.  However, the character and nature of GOD is depicted in highly disparate manners in the Christian Bible and Qur’an, respectively.  This will be addressed later  in this section.

First, we must acknowledge that all three so-called “Abrahamic” faiths share the common adherence to a monotheistic philosophy that drives their respective ethics.  Certainly, the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament is acknowledged by all three faiths.  Similarly, Hellenistic influences and Zoroastrianism were later infusions into the development of the societies that evolved with the foundational underpinnings of these respective religious systems.  But, is Allah really Yaweh?  First, we will start where we have unanimous agreement and undoubtedly, common ground: monotheism and resultant ethical systems.

Monotheism and ethics require each other, neither can be reduced to the other, nor is the one hostile to the other.  Their relationship is best characterized by the Platonic concept of the unity of virtues—the virtues reinforce each other, but each remains distinct and rests on the idea of GOD as paramount value concept.  Monotheism is not just the belief in a single GOD, but rather the decision to see “in GOD’s unity the unity of all that is affirmative—beauty and truth, life and creativity.”[32] The ethical imperative of monotheism is thus the boundless command to pursue GOD’s perfection, to bring out in ourselves all the good, and all the holiness, that we can.[33]

William J. Wainwright, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, uses two arguments to rationalize the pertinence of our Christian monotheism: the first begins with the recognition of GOD’s absolute sovereignty, and proceeds to show that there are good reasons for “ identifying moral facts with divine Commands.”[34]

Many objections have been raised throughout history to “divine command theory” and Wainwright responds with a philosophical case that leads to the assertion that anyone who believes that moral facts are objective has good reason to be a theist. Here Wainwright, much like Goodman and others find that the connection between monotheism and ethics is also compatible with a Platonist view of the world.

Philosophers both past and present have sought to defend theories of ethics that are grounded in a theistic framework. Roughly, Divine Command Theory is the view that morality is somehow dependent upon GOD, and that moral obligation consists in obedience to GOD’s commands.  This school of thought is foundational to all three Abrahamic faith traditions, although, Islam’s legalism varies from the legalism of the former’s, which we will explore in the next section.

Divine Command Theory includes the claim that morality is ultimately based on the commands or character of GOD, and that the morally right action is the one that GOD commands or requires. The specific content of these divine commands varies according to the particular religion and the particular views of the individual divine command theorist, but all versions of the theory hold in common the claim that morality and moral obligations ultimately depend on GOD.[35]  Here we do have some similarities between Islam and Christianity, such as: an all-powerful GOD, “absolute truth,” creationism” (Adam and Eve, but not original sin), “linear time,” eschatological significance,  and  all resulting in similar notions of “final judgment” and heaven/ paradise.

Divine Command Theory has been and continues to be highly controversial, which is what places Islam and Christianity on the same plane against its critics. It has been criticized by numerous philosophers, including Plato, Kai Nielsen, and J. L. Mackie. The theory also has many defenders, both classic and contemporary, such as Thomas Aquinas, Robert Adams, and Philip Quinn. The question of the possible connections between religion and ethics is of interest to moral philosophers as well as philosophers of religion, but it also leads us to consider the role of religion in society as well as the nature of moral deliberation. Given this, the arguments offered for and against Divine Command Theory have both theoretical and practical importance.[36]

In her essay, “Modern Moral Philosophy,” Elizabeth Anscombe (1958), the originator of the philosophical theories known as “Consequentialism,”[37] argues that moral terms such as “should” and “ought” acquired a legalistic sense (that is, being bound by law) because of Christianity’s far-reaching historical influence and its legalistic conception of ethics. For example, use of the term “ought” seems to suggest a verdict on an action, and this in turn suggests a judge. On a law conception of ethics, conformity with the virtues requires obeying the divine law. A divine law requires the existence of GOD, as the divine lawgiver.[38]

So, monotheism provides us a strong common thread between Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  But, where the aforementioned diverge is where significant problems occur, lest we as Christians do a better job at proclaiming the only objective truth—the exclusive “Sola Christa” path to salvation.

Accordingly, we have to be willing to avow that the nature and characteristics ascribed to Allah in Islamic teachings bear little resemblance to GOD of the Bible.  The following is excerpted from Daniel Janosik, Adjunct Faculty (Apologetics), Columbia International University, who perfectly states the dilemma:

“Some scholars want to emphasize the similarities between Yahweh and Allah, and point to a common belief in a monotheistic God who is Creator of all things, omnipotent and merciful. Both religions also claim that God has sent prophets to reveal His will and produce scriptures to guide our lives. However, Allah and Yahweh cannot refer to the same person for the following reasons. First of all, their attributes are different. In Allah’s monadic oneness his attributes stem from his powerful Will which, because it provides no basis for relationship, often promotes capriciousness. Also, since his power is more important than his other attributes, there is an unequal emphasis on power over his other attributes. In the end, a follower cannot know God or even be sure of the consistency of his attributes. On the other hand, because Yahweh is by nature a triune unity his attributes stem from his nature. The eternal relationship within the Trinity promotes love within the Godhead and extends to his creation. Also, since his attributes are based on his unchanging nature rather than his powerful will, all his attributes are equal and promote trustworthiness rather than capriciousness. This means that believers can know God and be sure of his attributes. Second, Christians understand the nature of God to be triune (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), which is the only way that Jesus Christ, as the second person of the Trinity, could die on the cross to pay for our sins. If Jesus were not God himself, then his death on the cross would be meaningless. However, Muslims deny that Jesus died on the cross and they reject the belief in his resurrection from the dead. Only a triune God, defined as one essence and three persons, could become incarnate and still remain God of the universe, and yet this is the God that Muslims reject. For them, Jesus cannot be God nor can God be a Father, for he cannot have a son. Therefore, if Muslims reject God as the Father of Jesus, then Allah cannot be the same as the God of the Bible.”[39]

Jurisprudence: East vs West

In his book, “Seeking Allah; Finding Jesus,” Nabeel Quereshi outlines an interesting, if not surprising dichotomy of ethical interpretations and learning styles across Eastern and Western cultures.  He sums it up as cultural challenges between East (honor-shame cultures) and West (innocence-guilt cultures).[40]  I had never looked at it as such a stark contrast between cultures, but it makes complete sense and  rings true: there are aspects to the culture that, in some respect, transcend the respective religious treatment of ethical situations.

Quereshi provides a lengthy explanation that I will quote verbatim from the book, as any paraphrase would potentially damage his first-person experience and witness:

“When my parents taught me to examine my beliefs, I was essentially expected to build a defense for what they had taught me. In [my high school “Theory of Knowledge” class], we were ostensibly doing the same thing — examining our beliefs — but in practice, it was the exact opposite. We were critically probing our beliefs, challenging them, testing them for weak points, pliability, and boundaries. Some students were even replacing them.

This difference between Eastern and Western education can be traced to the disparity that divides Muslim immigrants from their children: Islamic cultures tend to establish people of high status as authorities, whereas the authority in Western culture is reason itself. These alternative seats of authority permeate the mind, determining the moral outlook of whole societies.

When authority is derived by position rather than reason, the act of questioning leadership is dangerous because it has the potential to upset the system. Dissension is reprimanded, and obedience is rewarded. Correct and incorrect courses of action are assessed socially, not individually. A person’s virtue is thus determined by how well he meets social expectations, not by an individual determination of right and wrong.

Thus, positional authority yields a society that determines right and wrong based on honor and shame.

On the other hand, when authority is derived from reason, questions are welcome because critical examination sharpens the very basis of authority. Each person is expected to critically examine his own course of action. Correct and incorrect courses of action are assessed individually. A person’s virtue is determined by whether he does what he knows to be right or wrong.

Rational authority creates a society that determines right and wrong based on innocence and guilt.

Much of the West’s inability to understand the East stems from the paradigmatic schism between honor-shame cultures and innocence-guilt cultures. Of course, the matter is quite complex, and elements of both paradigms are present in the East and the West, but the honor-shame spectrum is the operative paradigm that drives the East, and it is hard for Westerners to understand.

This reliance on positional authority explains some characteristics in parts of the Muslim world that confound many Westerners, such as the continued practices of honor killings, child brides of six or younger, and blood feuds. For one reason or another, the prevailing sources of social authority in the regions deem these customs acceptable, perhaps even preferable. No amount of sheer reason is going to change these practices, nor will externally imposed prohibitions. The change will have to be social, internal, and organic.

But honor killings and blood feuds are generally not struggles for children raised as second-generation Western Muslims. We wrestle with the honor-shame principle that tells us, ‘It’s okay as long as you don’t get caught.’ If there is no dishonor, it is not wrong.”[41]

Clearly, there are significant ethical, sociological and behavioral paradigms that widen the chasm between the faiths.  Quereshi does lend some credence to the popular notion that “if we allow these foreign cultures to assimilate into Western societies, they will conform to our traditions, system of laws and generalized sensibilities.  This, of course, remains up for debate, as we see continuously the hardliner Muslims who refuse assimilation and insist on maintaining rigid observance of Sharia law, for example.  Whether we are a melting pot, a stew or a salad, depends upon whom you ask.  Quereshi continues his analysis by contrasting how second-generation Muslim Westerners are far more likely to assimilate and adapt to the local pro-democratic and free-speech paradigm:

“Of course, there is a highly developed notion of morality in Islam, so we must take care not to oversimplify the matter and assume that Muslims do whatever they wish if they believe they will not be caught. All the same, it is safe to say that guilt is less of a determining factor in the East than is shame.

Coming back to second-generation Muslim Westerners, it might now be easier to see just how difficult it can be to straddle these two cultures. When engaged in something less than socially acceptable, the young Muslim will be tempted to hide it and will begin to struggle with internal guilt. The natural Eastern tendency to hide shameful truths exacerbates the Western tendency to feel guilty.”

More broadly, the honor-shame paradigm is seen and felt in other ways, too, of course. For example, when Qureshi first started to seriously consider leaving Islam behind and becoming a Christian, he knew it would be devastating to his familial relationships. It would be viewed by family and the local Muslim community as betrayal of them and of Allah, bringing shame and dishonor upon them, not just him. However, “[T]hese costs are not considered consciously. They form part of the knee-jerk reaction against the gospel. I never said, ‘I choose to remain Muslim because it would cost my family if I were to follow Jesus.’ Far from it, I subconsciously found ways and means to go on rejecting the gospel so I would not be faced with what I would have to pay….”[42]

So, even if the cultural “honor/shame” vs “guilt/innocence” differences can be resolved or summarily “smoothed out,” we would still be left with the dichotomous religious underpinnings that do not dissolve away so easily. For example, we would need to look at each issue, one-by-one and determine how the respective faiths would respond to a specific ethical situation or dilemma.  Obviously, that would require vast time and research—to probably include polling and comparative , statistical analysis of outcomes and regression to determine probabilistic forecasting of future behavior.  Because, that depth of understanding is not prescribed at this stage of my research, I will just draw from pre-published works.

Accordingly, if we were to estimate just how close the Abrahamic faiths are in their approaches to ethics is to look at their responses to new issues. In fact, advances in medicine have produced a slew of situations, unheard of until recently and carrying with them great moral questions that call for solution—i.e., decoding DNA, gene repair, in-utero surgery, stem-cell research, genetic testing, euthanasia, and, of course, then never-ending debates over capital punishment and abortion.

Interestingly, the more significant division is likely to be between liberals and conservatives—across faiths, such that Muslim conservatives are more likely to agree with Christian conservatives, for instance, than their more liberal Muslim counterparts.  Each category of liberal/ conservative seems to define more times than not, a fairly consistent approach to a whole range of social and political issues. In other words, “liberals” belonging of different faiths are found to be more in tune with each other than with “conservatives” of their own faith in their response to the new ethical challenges.[43]

Aaron L. Mackler, Associate Professor of Theology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is an ordained Conservative Rabbi, a prolific author and a regarded expert in both the fields of Bioethics and Jewish law. Mackler finds significant common ground, particularly between Judaism and Catholicism. The two traditions are very different, and the challenges require responses that are not found ready-made in either. The moral deliberation in response is often a matter of judgment, in which practical reasoning must concretize the demands of general principles; and these principles, most notably, the stress upon the value and dignity of each patient, are shared by the two faiths in question.

Cynthia Cohen is Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, and Acting Director of the Ethics Center at Brandeis University, where she leads action/reflection research projects, and writes and teaches about work at the nexus of the arts, culture, justice and peace.[44]  In her writing, Cohen furnishes a close look at the response to one particular set of challenges, those posed by reproductive technologies, within the Protestant denominations. Protestant response must be viewed in the context of the function of marriage and the emphasis placed on procreation, areas where Protestantism differs from Catholicism, and from Judaism and Islam as well. While by and large, the use of the new technologies is not opposed, Protestant leaders are wary of the possibility that the new methods may be exploited to produce “designer babies”, and that is something that they will not accept. As Paul Ramsey put it, “Men ought not to play GOD before they learn to be men, and after they have learned to be men they will not play GOD.”[45]

Many on both sides of the world (like Immanuel Kant and  Nazeeh Abu Afash) have been dissatisfied with an ethics that is grounded in religion, and have suggested instead (with little success) an atheistic alternative.  History has proven this to be misguided idealism, as in the absence of absolute truth, we only have our individual consciences as the arbiter of good/ evil.

Subjective truths are unique to each and every individual and simply do not have the power to persuade the crafty and manipulative  human mind to comply with arbitrary laws and principles.  There will always be deep disagreement in an arbitrary morality.  Only pursuit of the singular objective truth can govern a free society, lest it be ruled by the iron fist (a la Communism).  Because of the incoherence we have described in Islam’s version of the “truth,” it does not hold together, and results in war and strife.  Societies that have followed the one truth set forth in biblical scripture permits free society to thrive.

Abu Afash, a  self-styled “Syrian Arab and Christian atheist” and former communist activist, considers the deity to be “an idea conceived by man when he came to realize the extent of his utter moral impotence, his total pain, and his total fear.”  He calls upon humanity to draw up its own account of moral and immoral behavior, and to devise its own solutions.[46]

Still, there are many who believe that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share significant moral ground and that common agreement should be able to be achieved, perhaps, without any real requirement to reconcile doctrinal disagreements.  Hamdani is well aware that the “foundational principles” of each of the Abrahamic faiths can be interpreted in an exclusivist, intolerant vein.  However, these scholars sharing the progressive worldview, believe that a liberal, tolerant reading of the tradition is no less valid, and it is the one that ought to prevail.

“There is in Islam a paradox which is perhaps a permanent menace. The great creed born in the desert creates a kind of ecstasy out of the very emptiness of its own land, and even, one may say, out of the emptiness of its own theology. […] A void is made in the heart of Islam which has to be filled up again and again by a mere repetition of the revolution that founded it. There are no sacraments ; the only thing that can happen is a sort of apocalypse, as unique as the end of the world ; so the apocalypse can only be repeated and the world end again and again. There are no priests ; and yet this equality can only breed a multitude of lawless prophets almost as numerous as priests. The very dogma that there is only one Mahomet (Muhammad) produces an endless procession of Mahomets.”

-G.K. Chesterton

Conclusion: What to Do About It?

In researching this vast and voluminous subject, I have discovered some interesting contrasts.  As surely as Christianity has its share of tepid, dilutionists, I was a bit surprised that anyone with a straight face could seriously approach Muslims with the type of progressive extra-Biblical bile that we see on our side of the fence and not expect assurances of futility.  But, not to be outdone, I found exactly that!  The following list of idealistic absurdities is, but, and outline of chapters for an upcoming book by Adis Duderija, “The Imperatives of Progressive Islam”  (Routledge, 2017), which alone is sufficient to prove my point about futility:

Chapter 1: The Poiesis/Creativity  Imperative

Chapter 2: The Epistemological Imperative

Chapter 3: The Imperative of Ethics of Pluralism

Chapter 4 : The Imperative of Islamic Liberation Theology

Chapter 5: The Human Rights Imperative

Chapter 6: The Search for the Ethical Imperative in Islamic Jurisprudence/Law

Chapter 7: The Gender-Justice Imperative

Chapter 8: The Imperative of non-Patriarchal Islamic hermeneutics

Don’t get me wrong, I hail them for trying; really I do.  You may call me cynical, however, because we have been trying to figure this out for 1,400+ years.  The book’s aspirational abstract is as follows:

This book brings together the scholarship of leading progressive Muslim scholars, incorporating issues pertaining to politics, jurisprudence, ethics, theology, epistemology, gender and hermeneutics in the Islamic tradition. It provides a comprehensive discussion of the normative imperatives behind a progressive Muslim thought, as well as outlining its various values and aims.

Presenting this emerging and distinctive school of Islamic thought in an engaging and scholarly manner, this is essential reading for any academic interested in contemporary religious thought and the development of modern Islam.

Islam will never go through a “reformation,” so you can set the popcorn aside and stop hoping.  Islam is also not going to tone itself down, nor is it going to pass through a progressive filter and come out the other side a smoother, softer and more tolerable version of Muhammad’s war ethic.  Sure, some Muslims—especially those who don’t know the Islamic texts—may concede a lighter fare.  However, it is nothing more than a symbolic gesture to try and assuage the frustrations of  global jihad and ISIS terrorism; ergo, it is time for Christians to unite in the ONLY viable approach we have for dealing with heresies:  Fight for the truth intellectually in the court of higher learning and academic inquiry.   Debate.  Write.  Witness.  Love.

IN HOC SIGNO VINCES.

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[1] Footnote: See refugee problem in Sweden: http://bit.ly/1Pn93r9

[2] By Jennifer Newton for MailOnline, “Koran Thought to Be the Oldest in the World Could Predate Muhammad,” Mail Online, August 31, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3216627/Koran-Birmingham-thought-oldest-world-predate-Prophet-Muhammad-scholars-say.html.

[3] “The Damnable Lie of Islam | Dr. Justin Imel, Sr.”

[4] Ibid.

[5] Hans Koenraad I.H.S.V, “Islamic Revisionism: Neither Abraham nor Ishmael Ever Went to Mecca,” THE DAWN AWAITS, June 16, 2016, https://thedawnawaits.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/did-abraham-or-ishmael-ever-go-to-mecca-2/.

[6] Hans Koenraad I.H.S.V, “THE QUR’AN DISQUALIFIES MUHAMMAD AS A PROPHET OF THE TRUE GOD,” THE DAWN AWAITS, June 16, 2016, https://thedawnawaits.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/the-Qur’an-disqualifies-muhammad-as-a-prophet-of-the-true-god/.

[7] Langermann, “Introduction to Monotheism and Ethics.”

[8] “The Damnable Lie of Islam | Dr. Justin Imel, Sr.”

[9] Elizabeth. Goldman, Believers : Spiritual Leaders of the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

[10] “Muhammad | Define Muhammad at Dictionary.com,” accessed October 29, 2016, http://www.dictionary.com/browse/muhammad.

[11] Silas, “Jesus or Muhammad,” accessed October 29, 2016, http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/founders.htm.

[12] Goldman, Believers : Spiritual Leaders of the World.

[13] Footnote:  The majority of traditional hadith sources state that Aisha was married to Muhammad at the age of six or seven, but she stayed in her parents’ home until the age of nine, or ten, according to Ibn Hisham, when the marriage was consummated with Muhammad, then 53, in Medina. This timeline has been challenged by a number of scholars in modern times.

[14] Charles R. Swindoll, Jesus : The Greatest Life of All (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008).

[15] Ibid.

[16] “World’s Muslim Population Will Surpass Christians This Century, Pew Says,” NPR.org, accessed October 30, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/04/02/397042004/muslim-population-will-surpass-christians-this-century-pew-says.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Nabeel. Quereshi, A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity : A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. ([Place of publication not identified]: Zondervan, 2014).

[19] Footnote: Salaat (also: “Salah”)  is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.  It is an Islamic ritual prayer.  There are five daily calls to prayer at which Salah are recited.

[20] Nabeel. Quereshi, A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity : A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. (Zondervan, 2014).

[21] Catrin Nye, “Islamophobic Tweets ‘Peaked in July,’” BBC News, August 18, 2016, sec. Europe, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37098643.

[22] Quereshi, A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity : A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Footnote:  In the Hadith, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 5, Number 268, Muhammed was reputed to have as many as 11 wives, despite teaching in the Qur’an that four was the limit—and only when taking in orphans. Narrated by Qatada: Anas bin Malik said, “The Prophet used to have sexual intercourse with all his wives one after the other during the day and night and they were eleven in number.” I asked Anas, “Had the Prophet the strength for it?” Anas replied, “We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men).” And Sa’id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven).

[25]  Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (Washington, DC; Lanham, MD: Regnery Pub. ; Distributed to the Book trade by National Book Network, 2005).

[26] “Surah Al-Ma’idah [5:75],” Surah Al-Ma’idah [5:75], accessed October 29, 2016, https://Qur’an.com.

[27] A. F. L. Beeston, “The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Isḥāq’s [Sic] Sīrat Rasūl Allah by Ibn Hishām, A. Guillaume,” ed. Ibn Hishām and A. Guillaume, The Journal of Theological Studies 8, no. 1 (1957): p218.

[28] James R. White, What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an, 2013.

[29] “Articles by David Wood,” accessed November 1, 2016, http://answeringislam.org/Authors/Wood/index.htm.

[30] David Wood, Jesus Owns Muhammad, YouTube (Acts17 Apologetics), accessed October 31, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFo1JesYylQ.

[31] “Deceptive God, Incompetent Messiah: What Islam Really Teaches About Allah and Jesus,” accessed November 1, 2016, http://answeringislam.org/Authors/Wood/deceptive_god.htm.

[32] Langermann, “Introduction to Monotheism and Ethics.”

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] “Divine Command Theory | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” accessed October 30, 2016, http://www.iep.utm.edu/divine-c/.

[36] Ibid.

[37] “Anscombe, G. E. M. | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” accessed October 30, 2016, http://www.iep.utm.edu/anscombe/#H6.

[38] “Divine Command Theory | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.”

[39] Daniel Janosik, “Is Allah of Islam the same as Yahweh of Christianity?,” Text, Columbia International University, (December 13, 2010), http://www.ciu.edu/content/allah-islam-same-yahweh-christianity.

[40] Quereshi, A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity : A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Langermann, “Introduction to Monotheism and Ethics.”

[44] “Cynthia Cohen | Brandeis University,” accessed November 1, 2016, https://www.brandeis.edu/ethics/about/bios/ccohen.html.

[45] Langermann, “Introduction to Monotheism and Ethics.”

[46] Ibid.

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