The following article was excerpted from What Everyone Needs To Know About ISLAM by John L. Esposito (Answers to Frequently Asked Questions)
How is Islam similar to Christianity and Judaism?
Judaism Christianity, and Islam, in contrast to Hinduism and Buddhism, are all monotheistic faiths that worship the God of Adam, Abraham, and Moses-creator, sustainer, and lord of the universe. They share a common belief in the oneness of God (monotheism), sacred history (history as the theater of God's activity and the encounter of God and humankind), prophets and divine revelation, angels, and Satan. All stress moral responsibility and accountability, Judgment Day, and eternal reward and punishment.
All three faiths emphasize their special covenant with God, for Judaism through Moses, Christianity through Jesus, and Islam through Muhammad. Christianity accepts God's covenant with and revelation to the Jews but traditionally has seen itself as superseding Judaism with the coming of Jesus. Thus Christianity speaks of its new covenant and New Testament. So, too, Islam and Muslims recognize Judaism and Christianity: their biblical prophets (among them Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus) and their revelations (the Torah and the New Testament, or Message of Jesus). Muslim respect for all the biblical prophets is reflected in the custom of saying "Peace and blessings be upon him" after naming any of the prophets and in the common usage of the names Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Daoud (David), Sulayman (Solomon), and Issa (Jesus) for Muslims. In addition, Islam makes frequent reference to Jesus and to the Virgin Mary, who is cited more times in the Quran than in the New Testament.
However, Muslims believe that Islam supersedes Judaism and Christianity-that the Quran is the final and complete word of God and that Muhammad is the last of the prophets. In contrast to Christianity, which accepts much of the Hebrew Bible, Muslims believe that what is written in the Old and New Testaments is a corrupted version of the original revelation to Moses and Jesus. Moreover, Christianity's development of "new" dogmas such as the belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the doctrines of redemption and atonement is seen as admixing God's revelation with human fabrication.
Peace is central to all three faiths. This is reflected historically in their use of similar greetings meaning "peace be upon you": shalom aleichem in Judaism, pax vobiscum in Christianity, and salaam alaikum in Islam. Often, however, the greeting of peace has been meant primarily for members of one's own faith community.
Leaders of each religion, from Joshua and King David to Constantine and Richard the Lion-Hearted to Muhammad and Saladin, have engaged in holy wars to spread or defend their communities or empires. The joining of faith and politics continues to exist in modern times, though manifested in differing ways, as seen in Northern Ireland, South Africa, America, Israel, and the Middle East.
Islam is similar to Judaism in its emphasis on practice rather than belief, on law rather than dogma. The primary religious discipline in Judaism and Islam has been religious law; for Christianity it has been theology. Historically, in Judaism and Islam the major debates and disagreements have been among scholars of religious law over matters of religious practice, whereas in Christianity the early disputes and cleavages in the community were over theological beliefs: the nature of the Trinity or the relationship of Jesus' human and divine natures.
How do Muslims view Judaism? Christianity?
Both Jews and Christians hold a special status within Islam because of the Muslim belief that God revealed His will through His prophets, including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.
Say, We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us, and in what has been sent down to Abraham and Ismail and Isaac and Jacob and their offspring, and what has been revealed to Moses and Jesus and to all the prophets of our Lord. We make no distinction between them and we submit to Him and obey. (Quran 3:84)
The Quran and Islam regard Jews and Christians as children of Abraham and refer to them as "People of the Book," since all three monotheistic faiths descend from the same patrilineage of Abraham. Jews and Christians trace themselves back to Abraham and his wife Sarah; Muslims, to Abraham and his servant Hagar. Muslims believe that God sent his revelation (Torah) first to the Jews through the prophet Moses and then to Christians through the prophet Jesus. They recognize many of the biblical prophets, in particular Moses and Jesus, and those are common Muslim names. Another common Muslim name is Mary. In fact, the Virgin Mary's name occurs more times in the Quran than in the New Testament; Muslims also believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. However, they believe that over time the original revelations to Moses and Jesus became corrupted. The Old Testament is seen as a mixture of God's revelation and human fabrication. The same is true for the New Testament and what Muslims see as Christianity's development of "new" and erroneous doctrines such as that Jesus is the Son of God and that Jesus' death redeemed and atoned for humankind's original sin.
John L. Esposito is University Professor, Professor of Religion & International Affairs and Founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University. A former President of the Middle East Studies Association and Vice Chair of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, his most recent books include Unholy War: terror in the Name of Islam and What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam.
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Christianity vs. Islam
We highly recommend this video by an Arabic speaking scholar Nabeel Qureshi who knows both religions well:
Top of pageConsiderations of Orthodoxy
The term fundamentalist has come to be a pejorative term. However, it need not be. Fundamentalism is a synonym for orthodoxy. A religious fundamentalist is one who is faithful to the tenets of his religion.
It is common today to profess or practice a religion in ways that are not orthodox. There are, for example, nominal Christians, nominal Muslims, or nominal Jews, etc. They take on the label of the religion, but not the beliefs or practices. They may even attend worship services, but in their own mind reject many of the core beliefs.
To get an understanding of Christianity and Islam, we consider irrelevant what Sally and Omar may improvise about their respective religions. Anybody can make up their own religion, for example, by taking from the Bible whatever they want and tearing out the pages they don't want. But this is disingenuous, hypocritical, eternally dangerous—and is probably heretical to whichever religion one claims allegiance. On what basis does one claim to know more about the religion than the founders of the religion themselves?
We are interested in exploring here what the source documents say concerning these two major world religions, Christianity and Islam. That is, we will explore and compare the Bible and the Quran (plus the written traditions of Islam called the hadith).
As we compare orthodox (that is fundamental) Christianity and orthodox (fundamental) Islam, we hope to speak to a variety of audiences, including:
- Those people who sincerely want to learn more about these two religions. Most Christians know very little about Islam (the Muslim religion). Likewise, most Muslims have mistaken ideas about Christianity. Indeed, many people of both faiths do not even know enough about their own religion to validate its truth claims.
- We also are addressing those people who are under the false belief that all religions are equally valid, or that all religions lead to God. We will clearly show that Christianity and Islam are irreconcilable.
Let us say this also at the outset. As noted on our home page, our organization is dedicated to exploring God through reason and evidence. Many people, including Christians, Muslims, atheists (or whoever) resist using reason and evidence. "Don't confuse me with the facts!" If you are in this camp, you may be wasting your time—even made uncomfortable—by reading this article. But if you are seriously interested in pursuing truth, the following discussion should be extremely interesting.
Truth is discernible. At least, what is not true is discernible. Applying rules of logic, one can show that a truth-claim is not true by identifying arbitrariness or inconsistency in the claim.
We offer detailed references from the Bible, the Quran, and the Hadiths so that the interested reader can check the sources himself. We invite you to do so. By the way, we have had Muslims contact us over the years to suggest corrections to our article. We have made changes to the article when they have demonstrated that something should be changed. Thank you to our Muslim friends for you input.
Thehadith are written compilations ("traditions" or "reports") of the sayings and actions of Muhammad. Muhammad's example and authority are prominent in Islam. The hadiths (the plural is sometimes written with the "s" and sometimes not), along with the Quran, are meant to govern every aspect of life, including civil law. There are several collections of hadiths, but the one compiled by Bukhari (or "Al-Bukhari" or "Sahih Bukhari"), who lived 200 years after Muhammad, is considered very important, especially by Sunni Muslims. We will reference Bukhari primarily in our article, but will also reference the hadiths collected by "Sahih Muslim," who was a student of Bukhari.
Along with the reliable hadiths, a further source of accepted knowledge about Muhammad comes from the Sira (life) of the Prophet, a controversial biography of Muhammad composed by one of Islam's great scholars, Muhammad bin Ishaq, in the eighth century AD (roughly 100- 150 years after Muhammad). The Sira together with the hadiths make up the Sunnah—"the way of the Prophet." It is through Muhammad's personal teachings and actions—the Sunnah—that Muslims discern what is a good and holy life. Details about the Prophet—how he lived, what he did, his non-Quranic utterances, his personal habits—are indispensable knowledge for any faithful Muslim. The Quran, Sira, and Hadith together make up the Islamic Trilogy and form the perfect pattern of all Islamic behavior.
Some background for our non-Muslim readers might be helpful. There are several Muslim sects. Sunni Muslims represent about 85% of the world's Muslim population. The second largest sect is Shiite. There is disagreement among the various sects on some issues, not unlike theological disagreements among Christian denominations.
Note: One thing that is confusing to English speaking people is that the English spelling of Arabic words is not standardized! For example, Moslem is a variant spelling for Muslim. Quran is also spelled Qur'an or Koran.
The Quran is divided into 114 chapters called Suras (also spelled Surahs). A designation of, for example, 10:1 means Sura 10, verse 1.
The Bukhari Hadiths are divided into nine volumes, then various books, then hadiths by number. The numbering system is governed by the volumes, not the books. So, a designation of 5:416 means volume 5, hadith number 416. Bukhari is usually presented online in book order, so you might have to hunt for a few seconds to get the correct volume. It might help to use the following table. Here are the nine volumes, with the book number at which the volume begins being in parentheses: 1 (1), 2 (13), 3 (27), 4 (51), 5 (57), 6 (60), 7 (62), 8 (73), 9 (83). Sometimes the hadith are cited with Volume, Book and Number--which makes it easier to find. So 8.73.68 means Volume 8, Book 73, Hadith 68. The hadiths by Sahih Muslim are numbered consecutively, uninterrupted for the entire collection. Here are some sources for Islamic books online:
The Holy Quran (Here are 6 versions of the Quran side-by-side.)
Hadith Collection (Here are the most common hadith.)
In the Name of Allah (a non-Muslim version of the Quran with explanation of passages)
One source for the Bible is bible.gospelcom.net. One source for understanding the Muslim writings (from a Christian perspective) is www.answering-islam.org.
Top of pageSimilarities between Christianity and Islam
Christians and Muslims have some beliefs in common. We both agree that there is one God who created the universe and is sovereign in the lives of men. We agree that God is the source of justice and morality. We agree that his ultimate justice is dispensed via life after death in heaven and hell.
Fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims both consider such things as pornography and licentious living as pollutants to society. In fact, one of the reasons for the strong negative reaction to western civilization in Muslim countries is the influence of such practices emanating from the west.
But there are many things upon which we disagree. The points of disagreement touch on every important religious doctrine. Indeed, the disagreements are so severe as to be irreconcilable. We will look at these issues point by point.
Top of page Overall Tone of the Two Religions
Most Muslims are exceptionally gracious and peace-loving people. And Islam has elements of peacefulness in it. For example, Muslims point to Suras 109:6 or 2:256 which claim there is no compulsion in religion (compulsion), even though these passages are often interpreted in Islamic nations to mean that "there is no competition in religion" within their borders. Another passage is Sura 29:46 which says not to dispute with People of the Book (Jews and Christians) unless they do wrong. Also, Sura 41:34 instructs that one should respond to evil with doing good deeds to the evil doer. Others include Suras 2:190, 2:256, 5:8, 5:28, 5:32, 8:61, 29:46, 60:8, 109:6.
However, the message is inconsistent. Anyone who wants to commit violence has perfect justification for doing so from the Quran. While violence in the Quran is sometimes for self-defense; at other times it is open-ended aggression. Indeed, the peaceful passages were abrogated (Sura 2:106, 13:39, 16:101, 17:106, 22:52), i.e. superseded, by the violent ones, because the violent ones were written later, after Muhammad's move to Medina (from Mecca). There is nothing in the Quran comparable to Jesus' teachings to "turn the other cheek" and "to love your enemies."
Many passages in the Quran exhort Muslims to hate or kill or terrorize infidels (non-Muslims) wherever they find them. See Suras 2:190-193, 2:216, 2:244, 3:56, 3:142, 3:151, 4:56, 4:74 (beheading), 4:76, 4:84, 4:89, 4:91, 4:95, 4:104, 5:51, 5:32-38, 7:96-99, 8:12-15 (beheading, terrorism), 8:39, 8:57-60 (terrorism), 8:65-67, 9:5, 9:14, 9:20-30, 9:38-41, 9:73, 9:88, 9:111, 9:123, 17:16, 18:65-81, 21:44, 22:18-22, 25:52, 33:60-62, 47:3-4 (beheading), 47:35, 48:16-17, 48:29, 61:4, and 66:8-12. (Note: English translators of the Quran sometimes try to soften the true Arabic meaning of some of these passages. For example, to "fight" really means to kill in Arabic.) There are various versions of the Quran online so you can look these passages up.
There are dozens of violent prescriptive statements like those above in the Quran. Osama bin Laden in the now famous videotape discovered in Afghanistan in late 2001 is quoted as saying, "I was ordered to fight the people until they say there is no god but Allah, and his prophet Muhammad." These words echo language in the Quran itself. Such calls to violence are not mere distortions of the Quran by extreme radicals who twist the Quran for their violent ends; violence is an integral part of Islam. Violence is Muslim doctrine. Just as many Christians are ignorant of what is actually in the Bible, many Muslims are not aware of such passages in the Quran (or choose to ignore them).
Unbelievers in Islam receive persistent chastisement in the Quran. They are described as the "worst beasts in God's sight" and are to be eliminated (Sura 8:7 and 8:55). Muslims are instructed not to obey unbelievers (Sura 33:1) nor to make friends with them (Suras 3:28; 58:14-15, 60:1, and 60:13). Indeed, lying to non-believers is doctrine in Islam (Lying and Deception). These commands open up numerous questions about the duty of Muslims who live in non-Muslim countries or work for a non-Muslim boss. Is it any wonder that Muslims do not assimilate into western countries like other immigrants do?
After the attempted attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab the so-called "Christmas Day (2009) Underwear Bomber" several news outlets asked how a nice Muslim boy from a wealthy family could have perpetrated such an attack. Like all Islamic terrorists, the answer comes in the above passages right out of the Quran. Here is how Abdulmutallab describes the obligation of every Muslim:
"In late 2009, in fulfillment of a religious obligation, I decided to participate in jihad against the United States. The Koran obliges every able Muslim to participate in jihad and fight in the way of Allah, those who fight you, and kill them wherever you find them." (See Islam Pleads Guilty.)
But the Quran is not the only basis for violence in Islam. The example of Muhammad himself laid the foundation for violence via his deeds and commands, which are found in the hadiths. Eleven percent of the pages of the Bukhari Hadiths mention Holy War (jihad). Military jihad is a traditional and authentic part of Islam. (See Muhammad's Own Words.)
There are two meanings for jihad. One meaning is a personal spiritual aspect to kill sinful desires. It also means to use violence to spread the faith. Muslims are taught that those who fight and die in a jihad have their sins forgiven, and they are rewarded with a sensual and luxurious life in paradise. In fact, this is the only way they can be certain of going to heaven! See Suras 3:157-158, 3:169-171, 3:194-195, 4:74, 4:94-97, 22:58-59, 52:17-23, 56:10-38. Also see Bukhari 4:63, 72, 80, 85, 137, 175, 216, 266. So the killing of non-Muslims offers the religion's highest reward.
Here is a marvelous history of Islamic Jihad.
This video explains the Three Stages of Jihad.
Additionally, there is a credible tradition in Islam that says that there are three specific reasons someone may be killed: murder, adultery, or leaving Islam (apostasy). See Suras 4:89 and 9:5,12. For detailed documentation of this see articles on the Internet at www.answering-islam.org and search for "apostate." Bukhari 9.84.57 states. "Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him." At least one Muslim country, Pakistan, has a blasphemy law. This law says that anyone who insults Muhammad may be put to death. If you follow Islamic events around the world you will also regularly see other violent actions against converts to Christianity, such as this public flogging in Somalia.
Another example of the violence in Islam is the way it deals with a thief. Sura 5:38 says, "And (as for) the man who steals and the woman who steals, cut of their hands as a punishment for what they have earned, an exemplary punishment from Allah; and Allah is Mighty, Wise." Muslims do this even to their children. If a child were to steal out of hunger, a true Muslim would not show compassion and feed the child; they would sever his hand at his wrist to drive home the lessons of Allah.
Muhammad first claimed to have a vision from God in the year 610 AD. The first 13 years of his ministry were marked by peaceful preaching in the city of Mecca. During this period Muhammad seems to have been a well-meaning man who sought to oppose paganism and evil in his day.
However, in the year 623 he became a political leader in the city of Medina. With his political power came a new aggressive behavior. He attacked pagan caravans and used the sword to spread his religion.
Muhammad personally led or orchestrated 66 bloody invasions. Muhammad assassinated many of his opponents during his lifetime. One particularly famous event was his battle against the Quraiza Jews, where women and children were sold into slavery, and hundreds of captured men were executed. Even some of his own people were horrified. See Quraiza Slaughter.
There is a principle in Islam of "abrogation." This means that when there is a contradiction in the Quran, the later verses cancel out, or at least modify, earlier verses. Since the warring verses came during the Muhammad's later Medina period, they matter more than the earlier peacemaking ones. (The Suras in the Quran are in order from the longest to the shortest rather than in chronological order.)
According to Jihad Watch, "The Quran's commandments to Muslims to wage war in the name of Allah against non-Muslims are unmistakable. They are, furthermore, absolutely authoritative as they were revealed late in the Prophet's career and so cancel and replace earlier instructions to act peaceably. Without knowledge of the principle of abrogation, Westerners will continue to misread the Quran and misdiagnose Islam as a 'religion of peace'."
More on abrogation later.
Some will ask, "Isn't there a way to interpret these apparently violent commands in a peaceful way?" Well, here is how Islamic leaders from around the world interpret them:
Islamic Leaders Interpretations
The tradition of violence in Islam, which started with Muhammad, continues to this day. There is worldwide evidence that some Muslims kill or otherwise persecute people solely for being non-Muslims. This is well documented in Nigeria, Algeria, Sudan (where modern slavery is documented), Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Malaysia.
According to the organization the Voice of the Martyrs (website www.persecution.com or search for Voice of the Martyrs) 160,000 Christians are killed annually because of their faith—the vast majority being killed by Muslims. If Islam claims to be a religion of peace, why is there so much oppression in every Muslim country?
Islam is anti-semitic. This is adequately documented—see New Trends in Arabic Anti-Semitism and Anti-semitism. In the audio tape series listed at the end of this essay, Abdul Saleeb quotes from a PBS Frontline documentary called "Saudi Time Bomb?" According to the program, Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education textbooks contained, as of the year 2000, a most disturbing teaching. The teaching, which is from the hadiths (Bukhari 4:176-177) as taught by Muhammad himself, is required instruction for all middle school children in Saudi Arabia. The teaching which is entitled "The Victory of Muslims Over Jews," says:
"The last hour won't come before the Muslims would fight the Jews, and the Muslims will kill them. So Jews would hide behind rocks and trees. Then the rocks and trees would call, 'Oh, Muslim. Oh, Servant of God. There is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him.' "
Included with the text is a list of principles, including the following:
"Jews and Christians are the enemies of believers. They will never approve of the Muslims. Beware of them."
Yes, the Bible has its share of violence as well, particularly in the Old Testament. For example, God instructs the Israelites coming out of Egypt to take over the land of Canaan and kill all of the inhabitants. However, there is a clear difference from Quranic violence.
The Bible makes it clear that the Canaanite society deserved it as it was thoroughly polluted by their wretchedly evil practices, including the horror of child sacrifice. (Deuteronomy 9:1-6, 12:29-31, 18:9-14; 1 Kings 14:24; 2 Chronicles 33:1-9; Ezra 9:11) Thus God used the Israelites to administer specific justice, just as he later used other societies to administer justice against the Israelites (book of Jeremiah). For more on this, see How Can a Loving God Order People Killed elsewhere on our website.
Instances such as this in the Bible are each a particular limited circumstance in time, for a particular purpose established by God. But in the Quran, we encounter general commands to kill and destroy the enemies of Islam that are applicable for all times and places and people groups.
While there is indeed violence in the Bible, one thing is certain—Jesus had a non-violent message. While some people have betrayed the peaceful message of Jesus in history, the teachings of Jesus have a consistent tone of peace, service, love, and humility. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He never told us to kill anyone, and he disdained violence. His followers echoed this command for peace. Just a few of the numerous New Testament passages that can be cited are: Matthew 5:1-12, 5:43-44, 9:36, 19:30, 26:50-52; Mark 9:35; Luke 6:27-36, 9:54-55, 10:30-37, 22:49-51, 23:32-34; John 10:7-18, 13:1-17; Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 2:6-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:15, and 1 Peter 3:8-9. We encourage you to read these moving passages now, and then consider what the world would be like if everyone practiced the teachings of Jesus.
The New Testament is the final, and peaceful, revelation. There are no verses in the New Testament in which believers are called to kill their enemies. With the coming of Christ to bear God's judgment, the warfare of God's people as described in the Old Testament was converted to spiritual warfare in the New Testament (Ephesians 6:10-18). In their present warfare, Christians are commanded not to curse, but to bless their personal enemies, overcoming all evil wiith good (Romans 12:17-21). A Christian who harms an innocent person such as a non-Christian, etc., is acting contrary to the New Testament and Jesus' example. On the other hand, the Quran is the final authority for Muslims. Anyone who kills for the Muslim faith is acting consistent with the Quran and the example of Muhammad! See How the New Testament Changed Everything.
But what about the Crusades? See Games Muslims Play.
Jesus warned, "The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God" (John 16:2-4). While these words were spoken to his disciples, they have a powerful ring today.
There is nothing like the Christian concept of "love your enemies" or "turn your other cheek" (Luke 6:27-37) found in Islam. While Christianity says to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 19:19), the Quran instructs its followers not to even take Christians or Jews as friends (Suras 3:118, 5:51, 64, 60:1-3)!
Another interesting point is that the Islamic concept of charity is different from the Christian concept. Muslims are required to give alms to the poor, but only to the Muslim poor. In this way, the Muslim's remaining wealth is purified. The biblical concept of charity is not limited to any group. In fact, Jesus used illustrations that encouraged helping those outside the faith (Luke 10:30-37).
Islam is a religion of power and glory. Muslims find it hard to believe that Christians could worship Jesus, given his lack of political power and apparent defeat by the authorities. (They fail to acknowledge that Jesus was the ultimate victor as he conquered even death.)
Islam is more than a religion; it is an ideology with a clear sociopolitical agenda. There is no such thing as separation of church and state in orthodox Islam. Western notions of democracy and freedom are in opposition to orthodox Islam. Mankind must be controlled by Islamic law in total, and not be allowed to stray from the authority of Allah. Islam is thus a totalitarian utopian worldview. The fact that freedom of religion does not exist in Muslim countries is evidence supporting the view that Islam wants nothing short of domination through political control.
Islam must declare war on unbelief. Dr. Samuel Schlorff, an expert on Islam with Arab World Ministries explains that, "Muslims believe that Islam's destiny is to extend its control until the whole Dar al-Harb [which means 'House of War'—that is, the whole non-Muslim world] is subject to Islamic law in an Islamic state, and this includes the use of force." But since there is no pure Islamic state, Islam is considered to be at war against the whole world. See Sura 8:39.
Further, as explained by former radical Islamist, Hassan Butt, many Muslim preachers teach that since Islam is in a state of war against the globe, any Muslim is allowed to destroy the sanctity of the five rights that every human is otherwise granted under Islam: life, wealth, land, mind, and belief. In Dar al-Harb, anything goes, including the treachery and cowardice of attacking civilians.
An interesting observation made by R. C. Sproul on the audio tape listed below is that historically the more a society has used the Quran as a source of law, the more oppressive the state becomes. But the more a society has used the Bible as a source of law, the more freedom the society has demonstrated.
One commonly hears in the press that Islam is a religion of peace. This is true only in one sense—peace will come when all competing religions have been brought into submission to Islam (Sura 9:29). Muslims who say Islam is a religion of peace, can only say so by ignoring or rationalizing away its violent commands.
These issues explain why Muslim leaders around the world were so subdued in their condemnation of the 9/11/01 attack on America. Even in America, the common response was, "Yes, the attack was wrong, but....." It is what follows the "but" that is important in understanding their real views.
Muslims are taught that the Old Testament is like grade school; the New Testament is like high school; and the Quran is like college. Islam claims to be the final, most perfect religion. If so, why does it seem to revert back to unjustified violence even worse than the Old Testament? Sadly, Islam has a dark side, and there is no way to explain it away by appealing to context.
Violence in the Quran and Hadith
Here is a link to an article about one example of how and what children are taught in a mosque in Britain: Mosque Children.
Here is an article that goes into more depth comparing the violence of the Bible and the Quran: Religious Violence.
Here is a video of a former jihadist that compares Islam and Christianity. One is a religion of hate, the other of love. One is a religion of bondage, the other of freedom. One requires the follower to sacrifice for God; in the other God sacrificed for his followers. See Kamal Saleem.
Here are excellent websites that go into more depth on such topics as jihad, current events, history, etc.:
Religion of Peace
How Muslims Deceive
Muslims who commit aggressive acts of violence are acting consistently with fundamentalist Islam. Christians who might commit aggressive acts of violence are acting contrarily to fundamentalist Christianity.
Top of page Treatment of Women
In Islam, a man can have up to four wives at the same time (Sura 4:3). In addition, a man is given the right to beat his disobedient wife until she obeys (Sura 4:34, Bukhari 8.73.68). According the Quran, "Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made some of them to excel others...and (as to) those on whose part you fear rebellion, admonish them, and leave them alone in beds apart, and beat them." Note that in one popular English translation of the Quran the term "lightly" is placed after "beat them." But "lightly" is not in the Arabic. Here are six translations of Sura 4:34.
An example of Muhammad himself beating his wife is documented in the Sahih Muslim Hadith, number 2127. (Note, the Arabic word for beat is the same word as how you would treat a slave or a camel.)
Muhammad himself actually had thirteen wives, two concubines/slaves, and four women of uncertain relationships. Of note, a Sura conveniently appeared to give Muhammad an exception to the 4-wife rule (Sura 33:50). One of his wives was six years old when he married her, but nine years old when he consummated his marriage with her. (See Aisha.) This relationship with Aisha could be the basis for charges of pedophilia in non-Muslim cultures. See this link:
Islam and Paedophilia
Also of interest, Muhammad married his daughter-in-law Zainab (Bukhari 9.93.516-518). He arranged for his adopted son Zaid to divorce Zainab so he could marry her. The divorce was prompted by the prophet's admiration for Zainab's beauty. Faced with the refusal of Zaid to dissolve his marriage, Muhammad had another convenient revelation from Allah, which not only commanded Zaid to give up his wife to Muhammad, but also decreed that there was no evil in a father-in-law taking his daughter-in-law away from his own adopted son (Sura 33:36-38).
Sura 2:223 explains that "Your wives are your fields, so go into your fields whichever way you like." (Again, some translations cover up the clear implication of this passage.) Is this how husbands should think of their wives? Is this an example of the perfect divinely inspired revealed truth dictated from Allah to Muhammad?
Men are superior to women in Islamic teaching. (See Suras 2:228, 4:34. Note: English translations vary considerably here. For example, in 4:34 some use the term "superior," while others say that men are "maintainers" or "guardians" of women.) In Islamic law, a woman's testimony is worth half that of men because the female mind is considered deficient (Sura 2:282, Bukhari 3.48.826). Women are only entitled to inherit half of what men do (Sura 4:11).
Prostitution is common in some Muslim countries, especially Africa. Some Muslims justify prostitution by marrying the woman for the night, which seems to be okay as long as they stay within the limit of four wives at one time. Prostitution may be partly a result of the attitude in Muslim societies that men can do whatever they want, while women have limited rights.
Genital mutilation of women is a widespread practice in Muslim countries. In some countries 90% of women are so mutilated. (See the link at the bottom of the article entitled "Islamic Sexuality.")
The Quran and hadiths teach that it is morally acceptable to force women to have sex with their captors (Suras 4:24, 70:29-30; also Bukhari 8.77.600; 9.93.506; also Muslim Hadiths numbers 8:3371 and 8:3433). According to a reliable witness we personally know who grew up in Pakistan, rape is not prosecuted even today in the Muslim world in some circumstances, especially if the victim is a non-Muslim. Apparently at least some Muslims consider these passages as giving permission to rape. See organized gang rape.
Interestingly, Islam teaches that the majority of people in hell are women (Bukhari 1.2.28, 1.6.301, and 2.18.161). According to the prophet of Islam, "I looked at Paradise and found poor people forming the majority of its inhabitants; and I looked at Hell and saw that the majority of its inhabitants were women." This is an abominable idea to Christians.
Fundamentalist Christianity condones none of the above abuses of women. While Old Testament figures had multiple wives, this is seen as sinful behavior. Jesus insisted on the sanctity of marriage with one woman (Mark 10:5-12).
Two books of the Old Testament are named for (and are about) women. Women play an even more venerated and prominent role in the New Testament, especially in view of the low status afforded women in the culture in which Jesus lived (Matthew 5:32; 1 Corinthians 11:11-12; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:25-33.) There are 21 notable women mentioned favorably in the New Testament. While the Bible teaches different roles for women than for men, the New Testament elevates women in many ways. It teaches, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself."
Carrying out this teaching, Christianity throughout history has enhanced and protected women. For more on the cultural impact that Christianity has had on women, see Women.
For evidence of mistreatment of women in modern Islamic societies see Egypt.
Here is a link that is pretty comprehensive about this: Wife-Beating.
Top of page The Nature of God
Islam is set up to specifically oppose Christianity on every important doctrine. For example, Christianity teaches that God is a Trinity—one God revealed in three persons (or manifestations). Islam, however, vehemently denies the Trinity as blasphemy (Suras 4:171, 5:17, 5:72-75). Accepting the Christian view of God is the only unpardonable sin in Islam, and condemns one to hell. While Islam has a high view of Jesus, it denies his divinity or that Jesus was the Son of God (Suras 9:30, 10:68, 19:35, 43:81-83).
There is a law of logic called the "Law of Non-Contradiction," which says that two contradictory things cannot both be true. At least one of them has to be false. This point of tension regarding the nature of God between the two religions is so great that it is clear that at least one of them must be false. Either the Trinity is a correct description of God as Christianity proclaims, or it is a false description of God as the Quran proclaims.
Muslims, as well as others, who have not studied the evidence for the deity of Christ find it understandably hard to accept Jesus as both 100% man and 100% God. While we will not take the time to present the evidence in this article, the Geisler/Saleeb book (from the list below) has an outstanding discussion of the Trinity and the deity of Christ. We also have articles on our website that include discussions about the deity of Christ and about Jesus being God). Information can also be viewed about the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity on our website.
Christians do not take the belief in the deity of Christ on blind faith. The evidence itself has convinced many a skeptic. Simon Greenleaf, a professor of law at Harvard in the 1800's—a man who is considered the greatest authority on legal evidences in history—became a Christian after a thorough examination of the evidence.
Anyone truly interested in religion should examine the evidence for yourself. The evidence demands a verdict. If Jesus is truly who he claimed to be, we are under judgment.
It should be said here that Muslims hold some mistaken views of Christian doctrine. Contrary to several passages in the Quran, Christians do not hold to three Gods! The Bible makes it very clear that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; Mark 12:29; 1 Corinthians 8:4, 6). Rather, there are three aspects to God's nature—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Also, Muslims think that the Christian term "Son of God" means that God the Father had carnal sexual relations with Mary, producing Jesus. That is incorrect. The term Son of God is a symbolic term only, implying the unique relationship Jesus has to God.
There are other differences between the two religions as to the nature of God. To Muslims, God is distant and unknowable. His relationship to man is that of master/slave. He is not the personal God that Christians know and trust.
The God of the Bible is described as being love itself (1 John 4:7-21). The God of the Bible goes out of his way to find a single lost sheep (Matthew 18:10-14). And the God of the Bible opens his arms to offer comfort and assurance (Deuteronomy 1:31; Hosea 11:1-4; Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 11:25-30), as a father would for his children. This concept of God is absent in Islam.
Islamic theology holds that God is good because he causes good. But goodness is not part of his essence.
Another very important difference is that the God of the Bible is holy—that is perfect in all respects. He is perfectly moral, perfectly just, perfectly faithful, perfectly loving, all-knowing, etc. Another synonym for holy is pure (Hebrews 7:26).
But the God of the Quran does not always come across as holy. He changes his mind, changes his promises, and does not offer assurance of salvation. Allah is arbitrary (Suras 4:116, 5:18, 9:15, 25:51). Also, Allah deceives people (Bukhari 8:577 and 9:532). Compare this to the God of the Bible—with whom it is impossible to lie (Hebrews 6:18) or to treat people unfairly. The God of the Bible is not arbitrary, but rather is perfect in his justice. If you do a search of the words holiness or holy (bible.gospelcom.net/) as applied to God, you will see how dominant this concept is in Scripture.
Muslims today say that Allah is merely the Arabic word for God. While this is true, it is not the whole story. There is substantial evidence that Allah has roots in pre-Islamic paganism. There were 360 idols (gods) worshipped in Mecca at the time of Muhammad. The supreme god of the Quraish tribe (from which Muhammad came) was Allah. Muhammad's father's name was Abd-Allah, which means "slave of Allah." This supports the notion that the concept of Allah has its roots in pagan gods.
While not substantiated, some people say that Allah has elements of the pagan moon god, a dominant deity in pagan Arabia. To this day, the crescent moon is a symbol of Islam, and Muslims use a lunar calendar. (For more information search this website: www.answering-islam.org.)
The Quraish tribe had a custom of praying five times a day to Mecca, had pilgrimages to Mecca, and had a sacred month. These things are an integral part of modern Islam. Such practices also tie Islam to pre-Islamic paganism. Actually, Islam appears to be an amalgamation of paganism, Judaism, Christianity, other world religions, and a healthy dose of power politics.
In the modern world, Muslims recognize that Allah is not the God of the Bible. The evidence for that is the continual persecution of Christians in Muslim countries. Countries such as Malaysia have decreed that Christians may not even use "Allah" in their Bibles, books, or hymns. They often confiscate non-Muslim literature that uses the word "Allah." Why would Muslims take such a harsh view of Christianity if they thought they worshipped the same God as Christians?
See this link: Of Course Muslims and Christians Don't Worship the Same God
Those who say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God are incorrect. In the two religions, God is defined differently and has different and contradictory attributes. The views of God between the two religions are incompatible.
Top of page The Nature of Man
Christianity insists that man is fallen—that we are "dead in our sins"—that we are in fact incapable of standing up to a holy and righteous God. Islam, on the other hand, says that humankind is weak and forgetful but not fallen. Islam teaches that man is capable of righteousness—all he has to do is just do it. This marks a defining difference between Islam and Christianity. The difference has far-reaching implications.
First, examine the evidence. All of history is a testimony to the sinfulness of man. Examining ourselves, we only do good if it suits our mood. We certainly do not always love God above everything else, nor love our neighbor as ourselves. None of us keeps all of the Ten Commandments all the time. Parents do not need to teach a child to be bad (selfish or mean); it comes quite naturally, thank you. Everyone has a conscience, and if we are honest we must acknowledge how far short we fall of God's perfect standard. As a result, we must face the judgment of a holy God.
The Bible says that whoever stumbles at just one point of the law is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). An agnostic friend of ours, who considers himself to be a moral person once expressed doubt about his own sinfulness. We asked him this question, "If someone goes into a store a hundred times without stealing anything, but one time does steal something, is he guilty or innocent?" "Guilty!" he exclaimed.
So it is. We are all guilty and deserve punishment. But we are not just guilty once. We are all guilty all the time!
We never have perfect love, justice, or acceptance. We often live as if God does not matter. Our faith is continually subject to wavering. We constantly are inclined to trust ourselves rather than God. We are always subject to feelings of revenge, lust, hatred, jealousy, and covetousness. Selfishness dominates our daily lives. We stubbornly deny truth in favor of what we wish were true.
Hypocrisy is such an obvious problem that it is a common complaint toward even religious people. Our narrow-minded attitude is a perpetual trap for prejudice and indifference. While we are perhaps not as bad as we could be, sin touches every aspect of our lives. Sin is exceedingly sinful!
Interestingly, while Muslim doctrine denies man's sinful nature, the Quran agrees with Christian doctrine at least in one place, Sura 12:53: "And I call not myself sinless; surely [man's] self is wont to command evil, except those on whom my Lord has mercy." It sounds an awfully like the Bible, but Muslims seem to put no weight on this passage. Instead, they insist that Muslims gravitate toward the good.
Jerry Rassmamni, author of From Jihad to Jesus, asks, "If Islam gravitates toward good, as the Muslims claim, then why is it that in Pakistan, a Muslim country of 140 million, only one million file their tax returns annually? Why are the 'basically good' tax evaders prodding Pakistan's government into near bankruptcy and depriving Pakistan's poor of basic government programs? And why do the majority of refugees in the world spill out of Muslim countries? The perceived goodness of Muslims is an illusion."
In addition to its theological implications, the variant views on the nature of man have significant sociopolitical implications. As expressed by Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship ministries, "The Islamic worldview denies the sinfulness of man, which gives rise to utopian visions: If man is corrupted by society, then those who come to power can create the perfect society by strictly enforcing Islamic law."
Ironically, the Muslim view of man is not unlike communism, which is based on the notion that man is basically good, or at least can be perfected by government. But nation states based on such utopian concepts have always been failures and are particularly oppressive to its citizens.
The difference between Islam and Christianity on the nature of man is not trivial. If Christianity is correct on this point, the practices of Muslims are futile because their efforts will not get them into heaven. Only an acceptance of Christ's finished work on the cross as a substitutionary payment for our sins will get us to heaven. If Islam is correct, the whole purpose of Jesus' sacrificial death and resurrection was a useless sham.
Top of page Salvation
Islam, in Christian eyes, has an incomplete view of both the holiness of God and the sinfulness of mankind. Given man's sinful nature and the gap it creates between us and a holy God, Christianity teaches that man cannot earn salvation. God cannot just wink at sin. We need a savior who will bridge the gap and who will pay the penalty for us. Salvation is only in Christ's finished work on the cross that God considers our blemishes healed. This is what Christianity is all about.
As it says in the Bible, in the sight of a holy God all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:5-7). But God demonstrated his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). What wonderful good news!
But Islam denies all of this. It even denies that Jesus died on the cross at all (Sura 4:157)—this in spite of overwhelming evidence both from the Bible and from historical sources outside the Bible. It denies that Jesus conquered death by his bodily resurrection—an historical event acknowledged by rigorous critical scholarship (www.faithfacts.org/easter.html). Islam must deny these things because the religion is based on the idea that you can earn your way to heaven.
Christianity teaches that our salvation is a free gift through faith alone in Jesus Christ—and specifically not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:1-3; Titus 3:5-7; 1 Corinthians 1:29). Islam teaches that one gains entrance into heaven by your works in addition to faith (but not faith in Christ). These are clearly opposing positions.
Christianity insists that belief in Christ is the only way to heaven. Rejection of Christ dooms us to the eternal punishment we deserve as rebellious sinners. (Mark 16:16; John 3:16-18, 36; John 10:7-10; John 12:48; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Galatians 1:6-9; Philippians 2:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:22-23; 1 John 5:12-13.) While this may seem unfair in one sense, in another sense it is the ultimate in fairness. God provided a way for sinful man—who otherwise falls helplessly short—to be forgiven and to come into communion with him!
Because the Christian doctrine of salvation through Christ alone so often draws accusations of intolerance from non-Christians, it may be helpful to say a bit more about it. One thing that this doctrine does not say, is that those who have never heard of Christ are automatically doomed. It is also clear that it is not Christians who can judge, but only God. God alone can know the heart of each individual. God loves everyone, including non-Christians, and he wants everyone to come to the knowledge of a saving faith (1 Timothy 2:4). But it also clear through this doctrine that anyone who consciously rejects Christ is rejecting God's offer of reconciliation. In this case, one gets what he wants, an eternity without God.
Islam is equally exclusive in its claims, as it teaches that only Muslims will go to heaven (Bukhari 4:297, etc). Islam similarly insists that anyone who rejects their Allah and his apostles (that is, Muhammad) is condemned to hell. So, again, the two religions are at loggerheads.
While Christians believe that salvation is assured through faith, Muslims never have assurance of salvation (except probably through martyrdom in a jihad—Sura 9:20-22, etc). Islam teaches that at the end of your life, Allah weighs your good works against your bad works on a scale. In general, if your good works are adequate, you get to heaven (Sura 23:103). But even then it is not assured because Allah can let anyone in he chooses (Sura 9:15, 27). Muhammad himself expressed doubts about his own salvation (Bukhari 5:266, 9:131).
Man is sinful. As put by Jerry Rassamni, author of From Jihad to Jesus, "Although the [Islamic] law is verbose and enslaving, it is powerless to justify a person before the Almighty. No matter how many times a beast washes in the river, it remains a beast, and no matter how long a log soaks in the water, it will never become a crocodile. In the same manner, no matter what humankind does in its own strength, they remain sinners in the sight of a holy God."
Only Christianity offers a solution. God sent his only son Jesus to live the perfect life for us, and to suffer the punishment for man's sin. There had to be a sacrifice—punishment—for sins in some way, even though mankind proved his inablility to satisfy God's demands adequately. In this way God reconciled his demands for obedience while exercising his mercy toward sinful men. Only the Messiah, whom the Quran called perfect (Surah 19:19) is righteous enough to take away the sin of the world.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son—that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; and he who does not believe the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36).
To our Muslim friends we ask, How do you deal with your guilt? Through our conscience and the law we all know we are guilty before God.Do you really think that your Five Pillars will be sufficient before an all-powerful God to get you to heaven? External obedience to the law does not make a person spiritually clean.
If the Bible is correct, the only conclusion is that belief in the teachings of Islam does not lead to heaven but to hell.
Top of page Heaven
There is a difference between the two religions as to what heaven is like. The Muslim concept of paradise is a carnal, sensual place. Muslims in paradise will live in gorgeous palaces and will wear silk clothes. While alcohol is forbidden on earth, they will drink from rivers of wine, milk, and honey in paradise! Men will also make love to dozens of virgins devoted to sensuous enjoyments. (It is not clear what women get!!) See Suras 2:25, 4:57, 13:35, 36:55-57, 37:39-48, 47:15, 52:20-23, 55:46-78, 56:12-40, and 76:5-22. Also see Bukhari 4:466. See this link about the origin of the famous 72 virgins in heaven concept:
72 Virgins and Boys
This picture seems strange to Christians, who believe in a heaven unmarred by carnal things. The Bible says that the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking (Romans 14:17). In heaven people will not be married, but will be like angels (Matthew 22:30). And in heaven we will have resurrected perfect bodies—the pain and tears will be gone (Revelation 21:4). This perfect place of happiness is for men, women, and children equally.
Top of page The Quran
How much do we really know about the historicity of the Quran? Is the Quran that Muslims rely on today the correct one? We have already mentioned about Uthman's purge of variant Quranic texts. This occurred in the year 653, about 21 years after Muhammad's death. But here's another fact. According to Robert Spencer (in his book Did Muhammad Exist), "There are reasons to believe that the Qur'an took its present shape not in the seventh century but later or even much later. The Arabic alphabet in which the Qur'an is written did not yet exist in the early seventh century, so it is improbable that Muhammad's secretaries, if brought back to life, would be able to recognize a modern edition of the Qur'an as part of the holy text that was dictated to them in fragments during Muhammad's lifetime--that is, if such dictation occurred."
Muslims today are taught that the Quran is perfectly preserved, word-by-word, syllable-by-syllable, and letter-for-letter. Indeed, they think that the Quran is the actual, literal (and pre-existent) word of God. Muslims think so highly of the Quran, that one could say that they worship it. In this sense, all Muslims are fundamentalists. It has been said that the closest comparison to it in Christianity is Christ himself.
However, let us consider the evidence to see if this assumption is valid. The history of the Quran is most interesting. For the benefit of our Muslim readers, we will liberally document essential points from reliable Muslims sources.
Muhammad claimed to begin having revelations from God when he was 40 years old. It is generally believed that Muhammad was illiterate, which Muslims think is a testimony to the miracle of Quran.
People memorized things Muhammad said or they wrote them down on palm leaves, rocks, and bones (Bukhari 6:509). Bukhari also records that Muhammad allowed some variation regarding the recitation of the Quran (Bukhari 3:593, 601, 4:442, 6:514, and 9:640).
There was no organized manuscript of the Quran prior to Muhammad's death (Bukhari 6:509). Shortly after his death, it was noticed that some of the people who had memorized parts of the Quran were being killed in battle. Some verses did not survive as the people who remembered them died or verses were otherwise lost (Bukhari 4:62, 6:509-11, 527, 550, 552).
It does not seem to be known for sure how many scribes were involved in compiling the Quan. But these are four that were companions of Muhammad who were involved in the process: Masud, Salim, Mu'adh, and Ubai (Bukhari 6:521, 526). Even though these men were all authorized by Muhammad himself and each version was widely accepted, these versions were not identical. See this link: Ahadith Proof.
There is voluminous material about all of this, both in books and on the internet. Scholars from the Muslim world and non-Muslim world have much to say about this and debate it vigorously. Here are just a few examples:
Early History of the Quran
Video on What Got Left Out or Changed from the Quran
Variants of the Quran
Preservation of the Quran by Green
The Collection of the Quran
Muslims today are taught to accept the Quran without the benefit of scientific inquiry. This is in contrast to the Bible, which has been subjected to rigorous principles of scientific inquiry (see Bible). And, interestingly, it is in contrast to ancient Muslim scholars, who were willing to look more objectively at the Quran. Some of this history is related in a book edited by Pakistani author Ibn Arraq (born 1946) entitled The Origins of the Quran: Classic Essays on Islam's Holy Book. Arraq's book reports many accounts of ancient Muslim scholars such as this one by Abu 'Ubaid al-Qasim b. Sallam (AH 154-244, that is about 200 years after Muhammad):
Sallam was a scholar who studied under the famous masters of the Qufan and Basran schools, was renowned as a philologist, a jurist, and an authority on the Quranic sciences included in Kitab Fada'il-al-Qur'an. He claimed that many verses had fallen out of the Quran—indeed, that a lot of the Quran had been lost. For example, Aisha, the prophet's favorite wife, asserted along with Ubai Ibn Ka'b, one of Muhammad's closest companions, that the chapter of the parties (Sura 33) had at one time contained two hundred verses compared to the 73 in the current Quran. Aisha even claimed that Uthman altered the codices.
Another expert on Middle Eastern manuscripts was Arthur Jeffery. We quote here a statement in the book From Jihad to Jesus by Jerry Rassamni, who presents material from Arthur Jeffrey found in The Origins of the Quran by Ibn Arraq:
"However, if verses were dropped out of the Qur'an, it's also true that other verses were added, for the earliest Muslim commentators (e.g., Abu Bakr al Asamm, AH 313 or AD 925) openly attacked the Fatiha [Sura 1] as uncanonical. The Qur'anic variants were preserved by commentaries of numerous Muslim scholars during the early days of Islam. However, Muslim scholars have not attempted a textual criticism of the Qur'an since AH 322 (AD 934) when the canons were fixed by Wazirs Ibn Muqla and Ibn Isa, assisted by Ibn Mujahid. Those who persisted in using variant texts of the Qur'an, such as Ibn Miqsam (AH 362 or AD 972) and Ibn Shanabudh, were severely punished in order to bring an end to variant readings. The variations are preserved, however, in the Qur'an commentaries of az-Zamakhshari (AH 538 or AD 1143), Abyu Hayyan of Andalus of Andalus (AH 745 or AD 1344), and Ash-Shakawani (AH 1250 or AD 1834; and in the philological works of al-Ukbari (AH 616 or AD 1219), the philosopher of Baghdad, Ibn Khalawaih (AH 370 or AD 980), the savant of the Hamdanid Court, and the famous scholar Ibn Jinni (AH 392 or AD 1001)."
The following situation between Muhammad and another associate Abdollah b. Abi Sarh, should be interesting to our readers (sources: the Geisler/Saleeb book on the list below, page 157, also Kammuna.):
"On a number of occasions he had, with the Prophet's consent, changed the closing words of verses. For example, when the Prophet has said, 'And God is mighty and wise' ('aziz, hakim), 'Abdollah b. Abi Sarh suggested writing down 'knowing and wise' ('alim, hakim), and the Prophet answered that there was no objection. Having observed a succession of changes of this type, 'Abdollah renounced Islam on the ground that the revelations, if from God, could not be changed at the prompting of a scribe such as himself. After his apostasy he went to Mecca and joined the Qorayshites."
In fairness, Muslims dispute this account. But it raises interesting questions. The account seems consistent with the above links.
It was another man named Uthman who standardized the Quran. Incredibly, this man had rival texts of the Quran burned about 19 years after Muhammad's death (Bukhari 6:510).
The question must be asked, why did he do so unless the other copies were different? In fact, a few copies survived the burning and they vary somewhat from the Uthman manuscript. It is also seems clear that Uthman edited and selected Suras for his version. According to Alphonse Mingana ("Three Ancient Qur'ans" in The Origins of the Quran by Warraq), early Muslim scholars, Tabari and Yakut, separately documented that Uthman was called the "Tearer of the Books," thus confirming that there were many variants to the Quran. The alarmed Muslim population attached to Uthman the following stigma: "He found the Qur'ans many and left one; he tore up the Book."
Further, it may surprise some Muslims that none of the original Uthman copies are in existence today. The earliest one in existence is from the second century after Muhammad (the Ma'il copy in the British Library).
Contrary to popular belief, not all Muslims accept the same version of the Quran. While some accept the Uthman version, others accept the tradition of Masud, who was one of the four authorized compilers. This version has 150 variations in the second Sura alone compared to the Uthman text. Arthur Jeffrey's collection of variants between Uthman's text and the Masud text takes 92 pages in his book Materials for the History of the Text of the Quran (Bill, Leiden, 1937). (Search for articles on www.answering-islam.org or see the Geisler/Saleeb book p. 192).
Another interesting aspect to the Quran is that there were verses in the original version of Muhammad's Quran that have been abrogated, that is, eliminated from the text. In fact, the Quran itself justifies this practice (Suras 2:105-106, 13:39, 16:101, 17:106, 22:52)! Bukhari also recognizes this (3:170, 4:57, 4:69, 4:299, 5:416, 5:421, 6:8). This practice is unique among world religions.
Interestingly, there are apparently disagreements between Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims, as this Google search shows: Quranic Disagreements.
One famous aspect to the Quranic abrogations is the so-called "Satanic Verses." Sura 53:19-20 says, "Have ye thought upon al-Lat and al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other?" According to Bukhari, these three are known to be goddesses of the Quraish tribe. In fact, these three were daughters of pre-Islamic Allah. The original version of the Quran followed with the following words, which were subsequently abrogated: "Those are the swans exalted; Their intercession is expected; Their likes are not neglected." These words are idolatrous because there should be no intercession for pagan goddesses. It is particularly significant because Muhammad was speaking in the name of Allah for the intercession of pagan idols! For more on this including evidences from Muslim scholars, see answering-islam.org and then search for "Satanic Verses."
We refer the reader to this article as one of many that documents Quranic abrogation: Abrogation.
The question must be asked: If Allah cannot get it right the first time, is he really all-wise?
Modern scholarship is bringing new light to the Quran. The oldest Quran manuscript known was only recently discovered (1972) in Yemen. This text apparently has words changed and verses and chapters rearranged from the Quran that is available today. Complicating the issue, this old text does not contain the dots over the Arabic letters, which suggests some variant meanings of the words. In 2007 a German author Cristoph Luxenberg published a controversial work entitled The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran. Luxenberg claims that much of the original Quran was written in Syriac-Aramaic rather than Arabic, as most Muslims assume. Arabic was not a written language until after the Quran was first put to writing. Reading the Quran in Syria-Aramaic changes some important passages of the Quran. See Syro-Aramaic.
Muslims claim that the literary style of the Quran is evidence for its divine inspiration. But if that is a valid test, they would have to accept that the writings of Homer and Shakespeare as divinely inspired as well. But even Muslim sources recognize that the Quran is not always as eloquent as is claimed. The Iranian Shiite scholar Ali Dashti contends that the Quran contains numerous grammatical problems. He says, "The Quran contains sentences which are incomplete and not fully intelligible without the aid of commentaries..." (Geisler/Saleeb page 187-190).
The German scholar, Salomon Reinach, stated, "From the literary point of view, the Qur'an has little merit. Declamation, repetition, puerility, a lack of logic and coherence strike the unprepared reader at every turn. It is humiliating to the human intellect to think that this mediocre literature has been the subject of innumerable commentaries, and that millions of men are still wasting time in absorbing it."
Historian Edward Gibbon described the Quran as "an incoherent rhapsody of fable, and precept, and declamation, which sometimes crawls in the dust, and sometimes is lost in the clouds."
McClintock and Strong's Encyclopedia states, "The matter of the Qur'an is exceedingly incoherent and sententious, the book evidently being without any logical order of thought as a whole or in its parts. This agrees with the desultory and incidental manner in which it is said to have been delivered."
The German critical theologist and Semitic scholar Ernest Renan points out, "The book (the Qur'an) seems to us declamatory, monotonous, and boring. An uninterupted reading of it is almost unbearable."
The reader is invited to read the Quran for himself to see if the above comments are valid or not.
Even IF the Quran of today were a carbon copy of the one originally dictated by Muhammad, it does not logically follow that it is from God. Irrespective of the quality of today's copy, the internal and external inconsistencies in the Quran disqualify it as being from God.
We have already pointed out some of the mistakes in the Quran. The Quran itself says that if a book is found to have discrepancies, it could not be from God (Sura 4:82). In fact, there are many internal contradictions in the Quran. Here is a sample:
- The Quran teaches that on the one hand "no change there can be in the Words of God" (Sura 10:64, also 6:34). Yet the Quran itself teaches the doctrine of abrogation.
- The Quran claims that humans are responsible for their own choices (Sura 18:24). Yet it also claims that God sealed the fate of all in advance (Suras 10:99-100, 17:13).
- The Quran says emphatically, "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (Sura 2:256). Yet in other places it urges Muslims to "Fight those who believe not" (Sura 9:29).
- Sura 7:143 says that Moses was the first to believe. Sura 6:14 says Abraham was the first to believe.
- Suras 7:54, 10:3, and 11:7 say the earth was created in six days, but Sura 41:9-12 says it was created in eight days.
- The same Mary (Miriam in Hebrew and Arabic) is not both the mother of Jesus and the "sister of Aaron" who lived hundred of years earlier (Sura 19:28).
- In an apparent contradiction, the Quran denies the divinity of Christ, yet acknowledges that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary (Suras 3:37-45, 19:16-28, 66:12). The hadiths further acknowledge that Jesus was not touched by sin (Bukhari 4:506). An obvious question is: How could Jesus not be divine if he was born of a virgin and was free of sin?
Here is just a sample of external contradictions in the Quran:
- A famous passage in the Quran says that human beings are formed from a clot of blood (Sura 23:14). This, of course, is an inaccurate description of an embryo.
- A Samaritan could not have molded the golden calf in Moses' time (Sura 20:85-87, 95-97) because Samaritans did not live in Moses' time.
See Science and the Quran.
There are several things found in the Quran about Christian theology that are quite plainly wrong. Sura 5:116 says that Christians believe that Mary is God. Sura 9:30 says that Jews believe that Ezra was the Son of God. It confuses the angel Gabriel with the Holy Spirit (Sura 2:97,98 versus Sura 16:102). These statements are incorrect. There is no evidence that Christians and Jews ever believed these things. What seems to be the most likely explanation why things like this are in the Quran is that there was no Arabic translation of the Bible in the time of Muhammad. Muhammad picked up bits and pieces of Christian and Jewish theology from hearsay and gnostics, and was simply mistaken about it.
There are dozens of contradictions and inaccurate statements in the Quran. For further documentation, go to Contradiction or go to www.Answering-Islam.org and search for "contradictions."
Does the Bible have scientific and historical support? See Tough Questions.
See also Why the Quran is Not from Allah.
In summary, it is clear that Muslim belief in the word-for-word/letter-for-letter preservation of the Quran is incorrect. It is also clear that the claim of an error-free Quran is incorrect. The question we ask our Muslim readers is this,
What else have you been taught that may be incorrect?
Top of page The Hadiths
The hadiths are considered extremely important documents, but they are not considered letter-for-letter perfect like the Quran. According to Islamic sources, each report in the Bukhari and Muslim hadiths (also the Sunan Abu-Dawud Hadiths) was checked for compatibility with the Quran and the veracity of the chain of reporters back to Muhammad had to be painstakingly established. The hadiths are used, along with the Quran, to govern every detail of the life of the Muslim—down to toilet habits. (Don't face "Kibla," that is Mecca, when answering the call of nature—Bukhari 1:147).
Because of their importance to Muslim life, a critical review is necessary. There are clearly contradictions and errors in the hadiths. To give a sense of this, consider this hadith:
"Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, 'If a house fly falls in the drink of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the drink), for one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure for the disease.'" (Bukhari 4:537, and 7:673)
This practice is scientifically false. There is no evidence that a wing of a fly has a cure for a disease resting on its other wing. Also consider this passage:
"And if a man's discharge proceeded that of the woman, then the child resembles the father, and if the woman's discharge proceeded that of the man, then the child resembles the mother." (Bukhari 6:7)
Again, this analysis is obviously wrong scientifically. A child's traits are not determined in this way. A legitimate question is: In the search for truth, what can one expect from the religion of Islam?
There is a quite a bit of other material in the hadiths that falls in the category of just plain interesting. Consider this passage from Bukhari 4:516, which offers insight into the blind acceptance Muslims have for Muhammad,
"The Prophet said, 'If anyone of you rouses from sleep and performs the ablution [ritual washing], he should wash his nose by putting water in it and then blowing it out thrice, because Satan has stayed in the upper part of his nose all night.'" A footnote to the Yusuf Ali printed translation says, "We should believe that Satan actually stays in the upper part of one's nose, though we cannot perceive how, for this is related to the unseen world of which we know nothing except what Allah tells through his apostle."
Muslims sometimes point to the Old Testament dietary laws as comparable concepts from the Bible. But one difference is the Old Testament dietary laws have not been found to have any scientific errors. Further, the New Testament specifically overrides those cultural practices as no longer being appropriate (Matthew 15:11, 17-18; Mark 7:14-15; Acts 10:9-15; Romans 14:17).
For more information about hadiths, go to www.answering-islam.org and search for "hadith." A particularly interesting listing of hadith subjects can be viewed at answering-islam.org/Silas/indexintro.htm. Take the time to look at this latter link.
Top of page The Bible
Like the Quran for Muslims, the Bible for Christians is considered to be the "Word of God." But Christians do not mean exactly the same thing as Muslims when they use this term. Believers in the historic orthodox Christian faith believe that the Bible is "inspired" by God, and believe that the original manuscripts of the Bible are without error ("inerrant" or "infallible.") But they also accept the view that the Bible has come to us from human writers whose unique personalities and literary styles are evident. Christians also acknowledge that the Bible of today, while extremely faithful to the original texts, is subject to slight variances.
Muslims have been taught that the Bible has been grossly corrupted. Many non-Muslims wonder about this possibility as well. Therefore, it is appropriate to submit the Bible to rigorous scholarly testing. This is a vital exercise because the Christian faith rests on the reliability of the Bible. Let us just touch on a few points.
Yusuf Ali, the famous modern translator and commentator of the Quran, has said that the earliest date for an Old Testament manuscript is 916 AD. This is quite wrong. In 1947 there was a discovery of ancient biblical and non-biblical manuscripts now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. These manuscripts contain portions of or complete copies of every Old Testament book except Esther. They have been reliably dated from 250 BC to 68 AD (Dead Sea Scrolls).
In addition to the Dead Sea Scrolls, there are other manuscripts of the Old Testament that date before Christ. Yet it is the remarkably extensive discovery in the Dead Sea Scrolls that confirms that the modern day Old Testament has been unchanged since at least before the time of Christ.
The Dead Sea discovery verifies that today we are in the possession of the Old Testament that Jesus read and used. And Jesus himself testified as to the correct books of the Old Testament and to their accuracy. (Here are just a few of many examples: Matthew 5:17-18, 12:40, 13:14-15, 19:3-9, 23:35; Luke 16:31, 24:44; John 5:46-47, 10:35.) Jesus' testimony is an important substantiation that the Old Testament was consistently preserved up to his time. Absent any contrary evidence, the belief that the Old Testament has been reliably preserved is warranted.
The Dead Sea Scrolls also contain what many scholars believe are fragments of New Testament books, including Mark, Acts, Romans, 1 Timothy, 2 Peter, and James. The fragments are small enough that some scholars are skeptical. But the importance of the discovery is that it adds to already existing evidence that the New Testament was written in the first century. The modern Bible agrees with the earliest manuscripts, so we have an unbroken chain from very early in the Christian era.
While we do not have the original New Testament manuscripts ("autographs"), we do have over 25,000 ancient copies of New Testament manuscripts, or pieces thereof. Careful analysis by scholars can compare the various manuscripts and reproduce the originals with great precision. Only about 40 lines of text in the New Testament are in doubt, and these do not affect any Christian doctrine. See also on our site Why I Can Trust the Bible.
Since there are numerous extant New Testament manuscripts from hundreds of years before Muhammad which agree with the modern Bible, the Muslim charge that the modern Bible has been changed is a hollow claim. Thus, the Bible (Old and New Testaments) being read during Muhammad's time and hundreds of years prior is the same Bible we have today.
There is no longer any real doubt that the New Testament is what it claims to be—a reliable record of Jesus and his apostles written by eyewitnesses and interviewers of eyewitnesses of Jesus. We are convinced that the entire New Testament was written between 40 and 70 AD. (We recommend the final section of the Geisler/Saleeb book listed below as a good summary. Also a book by John A. T. Robinson entitled Redating the New Testament.)
In addition to the manuscript evidence itself, we have quotations from the New Testament from the early church fathers (from 97 AD to 325 AD). These quotations allow reconstructing all but eleven verses of the modern New Testament—even without any manuscripts themselves! This is significant to Muslims, since these attestations are from hundreds of years before Muhammad.
Yusuf Ali also said that the New Testament we have today is not the same as in Muhammad's time. Wrong again. The accumulation of evidence proves that the case is really closed in this matter. The New Testament has been reliably preserved through the ages.
A final charge by Muslims is that the Apostle Paul changed the message of Jesus. There is absolutely no evidence for this claim. Besides, there are simply too many well-attested ancient manuscripts for this to be even remotely possible. Further, Paul's message was both checked and approved by the original apostles (Galatians 1-2; 2 Peter 3:15-16)! By the way, the Bible is easier to verify than the Quran, because unlike the Quran there has never been any wholesale destruction of ancient manuscripts. The historical evidence is vast for biblical scholars as well as opponnents of Christianity to investigate. There is nothing hidden or swept under the rug.
Also significant for the Muslim is that the Quran itself has a high view of the Bible, indeed proclaiming it as without error! While this will be a bit tedious for our non-Muslim readers, we think it is important to document that the Quran does indeed support the Bible in key areas. The information was compiled by Dr. William Campbell and outlined in his book The Quran and the Bible in the Light of History and Science. Especially our Muslim readers are encouraged to obtain a copy of this book (See resource list below), or at least look up these passages:
- These passages show that the Torah was true at the time of Jesus: Suras 3:48-50, 5:44-49, 5:110, 19:12, 61:6, 66:12.
- These passages show that the Torah and the Gospel were true and unchanged at the time of Muhammad: Suras 2:91, 3:3, 4:162-163, 5:44-49, 6:154-157, 9:111, 10:37, 12:111, 35:31, 40:69-70, 46:12, 46:29-30.
- There are 24 passages in the Quran where Muhammad actually quotes or appeals to the Torah and/or the Gospel.
- 55 other verses say that the Torah or the Gospel are good. Some of these include Suras 3:187, 4:47, and 5:46-48.
- No one has ever brought forth a copy of the Torah or Gospel that differs from the one we have now.
- Sura 10:94 specifically says, "If thou wert in doubt As to what We have revealed Unto thee, then ask those Who have been reading The Book [the Bible] from before thee: The Truth hath indeed come To them from thy Lord: So be in no wise Of those in doubt."
See also: Suras 2:41, 2:136, 5:68, 2:285, 3:3, 3:70, 3:184, 5:44-46, 5:77, 6:34, 6:91, 10:34, 10:37, 11:110, 17:2-4, 17:14, 19:12, 19:30, 20:52, 21:7, 23:49, 25:35, 28:2, 28:43, 28:52, 29:46, 32:23, 37:117, 40:53, 41:45, 45:16, 48:23, 56:78, 57:25-27, 62:5, 98:4.
But the unjust deny the communication of Allah (Surah 6:33). Surely they who disbelieve in the communications of Allah, they shall have a severe chastisement; and Allah is Mighty, the Lord of retribution (Sura 3:4).
The logic is quite simple and unavoidable. The Quran says that the Bible was true at the time of Muhammad. The manuscript evidence unequivocally verifies that the Bible we have today is the same as the one in Muhammad's time (and before). So Muslims who say the Bible is corrupted are either mistaken themselves, or else the Quran is wrong. Since Muslims cannot accept that the Quran is wrong, the Bible must be accepted as reliable and true. And thus it is logically consistent for the Muslim to accept the Bible.
In summary, neither the Bible nor the Quran that we have today is identical to the originals. But both have been substantially preserved. There is no evidence that any important doctrine of either Christianity or Islam has been altered from the originals.
Let us summarize the evidence why the Bible can be trusted. There are four important approaches to considering the evidence for the reliability of the Bible:
- Manuscript Evidence. Regarding the New Testament, the evidence supports the view that all of the New Testament was written by eyewitnesses or other contemporaries of Jesus, and that it has been reliably preserved. There are no abrogations or destruction of manuscripts as there are in Islam.
- Archeological Evidence. Over 25,000 sites have been discovered that pertain to the Bible. As Nelson Glueck, renowned Jewish archeologist said, "It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference." This is really an amazing testimony for the Bible.
- Prophetic Evidence