February 18, 2006
Why I don't convert to Islam (3)By James Arlandson
(18) The Quran orders warfare on Christians and Jews during Muhammad's first Crusade (long before the European ones).
Sura 9:29 says:
This verse that commands battle against Christians is all about theology and belief. It says nothing explicit about a real and physical harm done to Islam. Muhammad launched his Tabuk Crusade in late AD 630 against the Byzantine Christians. He had heard a rumor that an army was mobilizing to invade Arabia, but the rumor was false, so his 30,000 jihadists returned home, but not before imposing a jizya tax on northern Christians and Jews. They had three options: (1) fight and die; (2) convert; (3) or submit and pay the second—class—citizen jizya tax for the 'privilege' of living under Islam.
(19) The Quran orders warfare and death for polytheists who refuse to convert.
Sura 9:5 says:
This hadith leaves no doubt about Muhammad's mission in Arabia and his known world:
Dear Muslim emailer, this action by your prophet is intolerant, six hundred years after Jesus came and showed us acceptance. If people did not want to convert, then my Lord did not wage war on them.
(20) The Quran testifies against its own reliability and incorruptibility.
This holy book does this in at least three ways.
(A) Someone changed some 'Satanic verses' to polemical verses. Living in Mecca, Muhammad was discouraged because many in his tribe did not believe his message. He was heavily burdened for them and desired (note the key word) their acceptance of his monotheism.
Tabari the historian and commentator (d. 923) records the verses from Sura 53, which encourages the Meccans to receive intercession from their three main goddesses. He writes:
This (no longer existing) verse says that appealing to these three deities for intercession is approved by Allah, the high god. This last verse is not found in the Quran today (Arberry's translation, Sura 53, note 7), but it was replaced with a polemical verse:
Here the interpolator argues that human polytheists prefer the male child, whereas they consign to Allah female children. The interpolator uses the beliefs of the polytheists against them because they worshipped the daughters of the higher god. Why should only humans get sons? In seventh—century Arab culture, this was unfair to the deity.
Dear Muslim emailer who wants me to convert, though your fellow Muslim polemicists explain away this story based on the 'unreliability' of the sources, the truth of this incident, for me, cannot be doubted for the reason that prominent Islamologist W. M. Watt, who often defends Muhammad, offers:
(B) The Quran asserts that Satan cast words into every prophet while under inspiration. Allah is speaking and uses 'We' in Sura 22:52:
Haleem uses the word 'removes' instead of 'abrogates' or 'cancels,' but this does not help matters. Allah still has to change and correct his revelations. Remember, the Quran was revealed over a short period of time. So what is it about these revelations that Allah has to remove so quickly? The historian Tabari connects this verse with the Satanic verses. Muhammad 'wished' for the Meccans to convert, so he spoke the wrong verses in Sura 53. They were changed to 53:21 that is found in the Quran of today.
Further, what about Muhammad's insinuation that all prophets were influenced (at least once) by Satan while they spoke or wrote their revelations? Though I cannot speak for every religious tradition in the world that claims prophets, it is impossible to find these egregious falsehoods in great Biblical prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel while they were speaking under divine guidance. Though the last three prophets are not sinless (no human is), they do not speak out of inspiration from Satan while prophesying by the Spirit of God—not even once. If they did, they would be false prophets, and there were plenty of them walking around ancient Israel.
Allah through the Quran says that every prophet was inspired by Satan. Was Muhammad the prophet who channeled the Quran? This Satanic inspiration calls into doubt other revelations in the Quran, especially when he reveals the 'truth' about Biblical characters that differs so widely from the Bible, the true source (see no. 1).
(C) The Quran itself speaks of Allah abrogating verses, sometimes in the same sura or chapter and often in a short time.
Sura 2:106 says:
In the next passage Muhammad has to defend himself against accusations of forgery and lying. His defense does not say that Allah never changes a verse, but that the deity can do what he likes.
Sura 16:101 says:
Dear Muslim missionary, personally, I'm willing to give a sacred book some room for development, but these Quranic verses and traditions about Satanic verses (Sura 53:19—21), Satan's influence (Sura 22:52), and Allah's abrogations (Suras 2:106 and 16:101) are strange and excessively confusing, at least to me they are.
These back—up articles explain this confusion more fully. Which verses have been abrogated? Here is a partial list compiled from the hadith. This brief article explains the differences between the Bible's promise and fulfillment and the Quran's abrogation. This longer article also explains the differences. This article explains how Christ fulfills the Old Testament. See this page and look for 'Abrogation in the Quran.'
For more articles on the Quran's self—corruption, please see this page and click on any of the articles. Even the hadith says that the Quran has missing suras and verses.
For more information on the Satanic verses and the larger implications, see this article. Though discussing the Prophet's inconsistent stance on poetry, this article answers thoroughly the Muslim charge against the unreliability of non—hadith sources.
(21) The Quran shows Muhammad nervously taking refuge in Allah from dark powers and magic.
In light of this Satanic inspiration in reason no. 20, above, this aspect of Muhammad's life is troubling.
Sura 113, a short one, revealed in Mecca, says in its entirety:
The following hadith indicates that Muhammad believes that some sort of knots on the head is the result of Satan and witchcraft.
This hadith demonstrates that Muhammad was so deeply influenced by magic that he believed that he was having sex with his wives, but in reality he was not.
The highly respected conservative commentator, Sayyid Maududi, says that the hadiths on Muhammad's bewitchment are sound.
Dear Muslim emailer, it seems to me that I cannot reasonably disagree with Maududi on his prophet. He is right. Muhammad was bewitched. And this is not part of true Prophethood.
This article contrasts Muhammad's fears and bewitchment with Christ's commanding authority over Satan and dark powers. This short article cites many hadiths and a modern commentator. This mid—length article analyzes Muhammad's psychological instability. This article refutes some recent explanations or denials of Muhammad's bewitchment. Finally, this index page references several articles and rebuttals and replies.
(22) The Quran recycles events in young Mary's life that really come from apocryphal gospels, even though Muhammad claims that he received this information only by revelation.
First, Sura 3:44 says this about Muhammad's revelations concerning young Mary, describing men arguing over her:
The following passage from the apocryphal gospel says that divining rods were used to decide on the custody of young Mary. The passage describes some tumult among the candidates as well.
The apocryphal gospel says:
In both accounts, divination or divine signs (rods or lots) are used to determine who should take care of young Mary. Also, it is not difficult to imagine in both the Quran and the pseudo—gospel that a small crowd of men gathered, wondering who would win guardianship and then marry her. Both versions say or imply that they 'argued' over her. Muhammad simply changed some elements or received an altered version, as the story grew and evolved in the telling, from one century to the next. But the borrowing is unmistakable.
The second example is found in Sura 19 that is even named after Mary. According to verses 16—26, Mary traveled to the east and secluded herself. An angel came and promised her a son. She conceived miraculously, and during the pains of childbirth she cries out.
Sura 19:23—26 says:
This story of miraculous deliverance through a palm tree from above and a stream of water from below comes from Gospel of Pseudo—Matthew, or more fully, The Book About the Origin of the Blessed Mary and the Childhood of the Savior.
The apocryphal gospel says:
Though the small details differ, the broad outline of the pseudo—gospel and the Quran match up well. First, both share the same context: a nativity and infancy narrative—the beginning of the Messiah's life. Second, the Quran has Mary traveling; in the pseudo—gospel Mary (and Joseph and Jesus) also travel. Third, the Quran says that Mary heard a voice or command; the pseudo—gospel adds that the voice or command belonged to baby Jesus. Fourth, the apocryphal gospel says that a palm tree provided food from above, and a stream of water provided refreshment from below; the Quran says the same. Finally, both books recount this fiction as a miracle, when Mary (and Joseph) needed it most. Clearly, Muhammad did not learn this fiction from a manuscript in front of him. He was not a scholar, after all. But some borrowing is undeniable—for objective readers and seekers.
Dear Muslim emailer, did Muhammad really get this information about Mary from revelations? The same question could be asked about his source of information concerning young Jesus. The answer to both: Muhammad got this information from apocryphal gospels, not revelations. So what does his claim in Sura 3:44 imply?
This article serves as the back up. And so does this chapter written by highly qualified Islamologist William St. Clair—Tisdall of an earlier generation, who knew Islam and Arabic thoroughly. He provides details that demonstrate that the ultimate source of this Quranic fiction is Buddhist (scroll down to "Story of the Virgin Mary"). By the seventh century, Buddhism had impacted Persia and other points farther west.
(23) The Quran confuses the doctrine of the Spirit.
Islam borrows the language and vocabulary of Christianity, but the later religion alters them in small and big ways. This is true of the Quran's pneumatology (doctrine of the Spirit). The references to the Spirit are far, far fewer than those in the New Testament. In fact, the references in the Quran, below, are complete (or nearly so).
The Spirit in the Quran has similar functions as those in the Bible, but the Quranic Spirit's role is weaker and less defined. Specifically, the Quranic Spirit seems to be involved in creation (Suras 15:98; 32:7—9; 38:71—72). He helped Mary conceive Jesus (Suras 19:18—19; 21:91; 66:12). The Spirit appeared in the form of a man to Mary (Sura 19:18—19). He strengthened Jesus (Suras 2:87; 2:253; 5:110), and the believers (Sura 58:22). Jesus is called a 'spirit from God' (Sura 4:171; cf. 2:253). He inspired and revealed the Quran (Sura 16:102; 17:85; 26:192—193; 97:4). Finally, he is a witness or participates in some way in the Last Day (Suras 70:4; 78:38), warning of impending judgment (Sura 40:15).
Thus, the Quran's view of the Spirit overlaps somewhat with the Bible's (creation, conception of Jesus, and inspiration), but in other ways the Quran is confused and deficient (Jesus is a spirit; the Spirit appears as a man; his helping of believers is mentioned only once). But none of this confusion and deficiency matters, because traditional Islam erroneously reduces the Spirit to the archangel Gabriel. Why? A fully developed pneumatology wreaks havoc on a strict Unitarian doctrine of God.
Dear Muslim missionary, the Spirit lives in the Christian's heart, and this gift is too precious to give up.
This long article (the readers may scroll down to 'Who is the Spirit?') argues convincingly that the Spirit cannot be Gabriel without damaging other aspects of Islamic theology. This article briefly discusses the Spirit in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Quran (scroll down to 'Holy Spirit'). This one replies to Muslim polemics.
(24) The Quran says that Muhammad is only a human and mortal messenger.
Sura 39:30 was received in Mecca, and Muhammad is verbally separating off the true believers from the untrue. When Judgment Day comes, each side will see the truth because death will reveal it, even his own death:
Sura 41:6 was received in Mecca and uses similar heated rhetoric against the Meccan polytheists. Allah tells his prophet to 'say' these words to them:
He goes on to say that God revealed to him that God is One. The implication is that the polytheists must change their religion and beliefs.
Sura 3:144 was revealed after the Battle of Uhud in AD 625, three years after Muhammad's Hijrah or Emigration from Mecca to Medina. His army lost the battle in theory, but in practice he did not lose much materially, so he quickly recovered. But he asks his followers this question, predicated on his mortality.
Muhammad dies of a fever in AD 632. 'Narrated 'Aisha: The Prophet died while he was between my chest and chin' . . . (Bukhari).
(25) The Quran denies the divine and eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ.
One verse is sufficient as an example. Sura 9 is one of the last chapters to be revealed, if not the last one, and Muhammad's rhetoric heats up against Christians (and Jews). Recall that reason no. 18 cites Sura 9:29, which commands Muhammad to fight Christians. In the next verse he curses Christians who say that Allah has a son (verse 30):
As a reply to this curse, perhaps it is not unreasonable to quote some verses from the Apostle John, who lived and talked with Jesus for three years. John lived longer than the other apostles. In his days many years after the resurrection, he warned Christians of teachers who would arise and deny the Sonship of Jesus Christ.
Christians are to test doctrines by Christ's and the Apostles' standards. Based on this New Testament passage, what are Christians supposed to conclude about Muhammad's denial that Jesus is the Son of God? Muhammad's denial makes him look bad, standing in the light of these Biblical verses.
These verses are strong, to be sure. But the difference between Sura 9:30 and 1 John 2:22—23 is the context. In verse 29 Muhammad is commanded to fight Christians in real battles with real weapons. In contrast, with words alone John warns Christians about false teachers. He did not call Christians to arm themselves and to chop off heads.
Personally, I choose the Son of God (or he chose me) who was called to die for my and your sins, over and above a human and mortal messenger. I could never give Jesus Christ up by demoting him to a mere prophet or human messenger or watered down, distorted Islamic Messiah, who will return and break the cross.
Dear Muslim emailer and missionary, this is certainly one of the very strongest reasons in this entire list that I do not convert to Islam. I simply won't trade in the eternal Son of God for a human messenger who would drag all of society backwards.
For more Quranic confusion about Christ, go directly to the Conclusion of a long article that has a list of misinterpretations.
Dear Muslim emailer,
This list could continue (e.g. Muhammad's marriage with his 'ex' daughter—in—law Zainab). But at least you have an idea—many ideas—why I don't convert to Islam.
Though I do not wish to hurt your feelings, I have studied Islam long enough and deeply enough to have earned the right make these two statements:
(1) I do not believe that God sent down this book, the Quran. (2) I do not believe that Muhammad was a prophet of the God of the Bible, though the last half of your shahadah (confession of faith or First of Five Pillars) seems to demand this from me. I'm not sure where Muhammad got his 'revelations,' but I don't accept them.
However, you and your fellow polemicists are unwilling to give up trying to convert me and others. You and they follow two overarching strategies in order to counter a list like this one.
First, you and they quote the Old Testament and declare that it orders the execution of such sinners as adulterers. So who are Christians to complain? In reply, however, we Christians believe that God through Jesus Christ has fulfilled this inspired book which was relevant and advanced during its own time and culture. And we still read it for its timeless truths. (This article explains how Christians benefit from it.) But not every aspect is authoritative for us today, such as animal sacrifices and harsh punishments. Christ came to change the sinner from the inside out.
Second, with regard to prosecuting criminals like thieves (see no. 9), promoters of Islamic law try to show the "horrible" life and crime rates in the US (and the whole West) because western freedoms (supposedly) do not work. Then the promoters assert that sharia (Islamic law) is the best solution. But is this angle the best, and does it account for all of the facts?
This line graph on this short page at the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that violent crimes (e.g. homicide, rape, assaults, robbery) in America have decreased dramatically from 1994 to 2003. This line graph on another short page at BJS also depicts a dramatic drop in property crime (burglary, theft, and car theft) from 1994, though the rate has leveled off since 2002.
But what is the point of placing these two line graphs in this long list? To boast that America has reached moral perfection and has no room for improvement? Maybe the crime rate will increase (God forbid) in the next decade (or go down). The point is this: though many factors contribute to a drop in crime rates (or their rise), it is possible to see such a decrease without Islamic law. Sharia has nothing to do with the positive factors at work. Further, this means, therefore, that Islamic law is not needed to improve any society. Other, less brutal, means can be followed in order to lower crime and enhance the quality of life.
I hope that the reasons are now clear why I don't convert to Allah's religion. But will you stop sending me emails that ask me to convert? Probably not. At least I can reply to you with this long list.
Dear Muslim missionaries, it would be wonderful if you expended your energy on reforming your religion, instead of trying to convert me and others to it in its present form—though many theological reasons in this list say that I would not convert to Allah's religion even if it underwent massive, practical reform. But at least average citizens in Islamic countries would feel the warmth and glow of peace and love and freedom and tolerance, and at least they would not have to live under the tyranny of sharia and radical Mullahs and Sheikhs.
James M. Arlandson
James M. Arlandson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note on translations:
If you want to see the verses in other translations, three sites are available with alternatives. This one has multiple translations; this one has three; and this translation is subsidized by the Saudi royal family. I sometimes use it here, calling it Hilali and Khan, the two translators.