A Dialogue with a Saudi Muslim (2)

Part One may be read here. It introduces Mr. Soliman al—Buthe's Open Letter to Congress. James Arlandson responds today.

JA:

Greetings. I am finally getting back to you after a long time. I have been occupied with posting articles on various issues concerning Islam.

I must admit that when I got your response in Part One to my questions, I was a little disappointed. Your Open Letter to Congress has nothing to do with abstract theology, so I decided to dialogue with you. Most people want to know how to live to the fullest. They really do not care about these doctrinal disputes or differences.

However, I now attempt to reply to your theological questions and assertions, following your sequence of points.

Points 1—3

Is the Bible reliable and accurate?

Your first three points call into question the reliability and authenticity of the Bible. You say that Bible scholars admit that there are contradictions in it. You link to 'Sullivan County.' I am not sure who the webmaster is, but he does not seem to be a reputable scholar. In any case, these harsh critics of the Bible exist. This is the unpleasant part of the Enlightenment. When or if an equally demanding Enlightenment hits Islamic countries, the Quran will undergo such criticism  (see the very next section). However, I can find equally reputable scholars who say that the Bible is reliable and accurate. 

For example, these two high—level scholars from an earlier generation, F. F. Bruce, citing Sir Frederic Kenyon, conclude the following:

To sum up, we may quote the verdict of the late Sir Frederic Kenyon, a scholar whose authority to make pronouncements on ancient MSS [manuscripts] was second to none:

'The interval then between the data of original composition and the earliest extant evidence become so small to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scripture have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.' (Source)

These next two current scholars reach the same conclusion:

The overwhelming majority of the text of the Greek New Testament is firmly established. Where uncertainties remain, in no case is any doctrinal matter at issue. (D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. Zondervan, 2005, p. 30)

Is the Quran pure and uncorrupted?

By criticizing the Bible, you allow me to challenge the Quran. Muslims believe that it reached earth from Allah in an uncorrupted state and remained that way. However, plain facts contradict this belief. Here are only four examples.

First, this hadith from Bukhari (a highly reliable collector and editor of hadith) says that Uthman burned different versions of the Quran.

. . . 'Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. (Bukhari)

It is one thing to prepare the final version (if one exists of the Quran), but burning alternate versions? This is wrong.

Second, this hadith says that the Quran was recited seven different ways:

Allah's Apostle said, "Gabriel recited the Qur'an to me in one way. Then I requested him (to read it in another way), and continued asking him to recite it in other ways, and he recited it in several ways till he ultimately recited it in seven different ways." (Bukhari ; and see the longer hadith below this one.)

Would these seven recitations produce different version of the Quran? Other hadiths (see the linked articles, below) reveal that four different reciters spoke the Quran in different versions. Is this why Uthman was so anxious to burn the different versions? For more information see this article and this one

Third, a sound hadith from Sahih Muslim says that an entire sura (chapter), which had over a hundred verses, is missing from the Quran.

. . . We used to recite a surah which resembled in length and severity to (Surah) Bara'at [Sura 9, which has 129 verses]. I have, however, forgotten it with the exception of this which I remember out of it:" If there were two valleys full of riches, for the son of Adam, he would long for a third valley, and nothing would fill the stomach of the son of Adam but dust." (Muslim no. 2286; see the four hadiths above this one)

Fourth and finally, this is an interesting modern discovery: a 'buried' version of the Quran, found in 1972, during the restoration of the Great Mosque of Sana'a, in Yemen.

Since the early 1980s more than 15,000 sheets of the Yemeni Korans have painstakingly been flattened, cleaned, treated, sorted, and assembled; they now sit ("preserved for another thousand years," Puin says) in Yemen's House of Manuscripts, awaiting detailed examination. That is something the Yemeni authorities have seemed reluctant to allow, however. "They want to keep this thing low—profile, as we do too, although for different reasons," Puin explains. "They don't want attention drawn to the fact that there are Germans and others working on the Korans. They don't want it made public that there is work being done at all, since the Muslim position is that everything that needs to be said about the Koran's history was said a thousand years ago." (Source)

Why won't the authorities allow its publication? What are they hiding?

Please see this webpage that has many links to articles and hadiths on the corruptibility of the Quran. I wrote this article explaining that Muhammad borrows from the apocryphal gospels about events in young Mary's life (and, be analogy, in young Jesus' life) even though the Prophet of Islam claims explicitly that he received specific information from revelation alone (Sura 3:44). It is true that a few New Testament authors borrow a line or two from non—Christian Greek poets, but they never claimed that they got this information only from Gabriel or only from a heightened state of inspiration

Does culture influence sacred texts?

Next, you say in point no. 2 that 'the Bible was written by ordinary people who were influenced by the prevailing culture of their time.' Apparently, you believe that this is abnormal and calls into question the reliability of the Bible, as if culture taints it. You seem to imply that the Quran was not influenced by its prevailing seventh—century culture in Arabia. In reply, however, by criticizing the Bible in this way, I am permitted to point out the obvious about the Quran. The implication that the Quran has not been influenced by culture is simply not true. For example, Sura 5:38 says that the male or female thief should have his or her hand cut off. Ibn Kathir, a respected classical commentator, says the following about the gruesome punishment and its cultural origins:

Allah commands and decrees that the hand of the thief, male or female be cut off. During the time of Jahiliyyah [ignorance before Islam], this was also the punishment for the thief, and Islam upheld this punishment. (Tafir Ibn Kathir (abridged), translated and edited by Safiur—Rahman al—Mubarakpuri, Darussalam, 2000, vol. 3, p. 172)

So it seems, after all, that the Quran does not rise above its own culture, but retains a severe punishment.

Also, Muhammad raided Meccan caravans. He was following his culture, which engaged in this practice all the time. The Quran in the Medinan suras that often call for war reflects Muhammad's Sunnah, which in turn reflects seventh—century Arabia (see Sura 8 in its entirety, which deals with the Battle of Badr, merely another raid, but on a larger scale).

Point 4a—f

In these subpoints you ask a flurry of questions and throw in many terms and concepts. So this section of my reply is the longest.

What does 'begetting' mean?

Your challenges about this term rest on old ideas, not modern research. The Greek word at issue (see for example John 3:16) is monogenęs. Traditionally, this has been translated as 'only begotten.' However, new lexical research in the twentieth century on this word in the ancient Greek world concludes that the second half of the word (—genęs) does not mean 'beget,' but 'class' or 'kind.' Now when we add mon— back to —genęs, the word most accurately means 'one of a kind' or 'unique' or 'in a class by itself or himself.'

In relation to the Sonship of Jesus, the most accurate meaning reads: 'one—of—a—kind Son' or 'unique Son' or 'the Son in a class by himself.' This is why the translation called the New International Version (NIV) has in John 3:16, 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only [monogenęs] Son.' The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) has for the same verse . . . 'only [monogenęs] Son.' And the margin of the New American Standard Bible (NASB) reads: 'unique, only one of His kind' for the same Greek word.

Thus, the notion of 'begetten' is removed from the Sonship of Jesus, and so are the complications that you raise. Jesus is the one—of—a—kind Son who is in a class all by himself. He is not begotten, except possibly in the context of his resurrection and exaltation after his ascension, where the Greek verb is used (see Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5, 5:5). These verses quote Psalm 2:7, which describe a coronation, an apt analogy to the ascension of Christ. In any case, the New Testament teaches that he has lived eternally with the Father, without beginning. This is simple. This brings us back directly to the inspired New Testament, without having to appeal to and depend on later human opinions.

Source: Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 2000), pp. 1233—34.

See this webpage  that links to other articles on the issue of 'begotten.'

However, you seem to question the theology of some theologians and Christians ('mainstream Christians' is your wording). Perhaps you mean those in early church Councils (e.g. Nicea in AD 325), such as Athanasius, (d.  373), or more recently, the late Pope John Paul II (your point no. 4d); the members of the Council of Nicea seem to have understood monogenęs as containing the idea of 'begotten.' Therefore, I attempt now to explain the term in three steps, assuming, only for the sake of discussion, that concept 'begotten' really is contained in the Greek word.

First, words may take on different meanings and nuances in different contexts. For example, the word 'apology' in one context means an expression of remorse or regret, or an admission of error. Thus, 'I offer an apology for offending you.' But in another context 'apology' can mean defense. 'I offer an apology of my religion.' These two meanings (admission of errors vs. defense against errors) go in opposite directions, or at least they stand far apart from each other. This shows how fluid language and even one word can be, from one context to the next.

Second, this fluidity can be applied to 'begotten.' It can have different meanings or nuances, depending on the context. Down here on earth, 'begotten' has a temporal meaning. A man begets a son, who has a beginning. However, in the eternal realm, where God lives, the word takes on the quality of eternity. This means that the Father's begetting of the Son of God does not have a beginning. This unique relationship between Father and Son has always existed from eternity past and will exist into eternity future, according to the full teaching of the New Testament.

Third, you require me to explain the words of a much greater Christian and theologian than myself—Pope John Paul II. You quote him in your point no. 4d, and ask me if his words make sense to me. They do, and here is my explanation, tentatively.

You quote Pope John Paul II as follows:

"The virginal conception, by excluding human fatherhood, affirms that Jesus' only father is the heavenly Father and that the Son's being born in time reflects his eternal birth: the Father, who begot the Son in eternity, also begets him in time as a man."

If I understand this great man of God, he seems to create an analogy. (Note the word 'reflects,' as in Idea A reflects or is similar to Idea B.) It compares the Father—Son relationship in the eternal realm (heaven) and this same relationship in the temporal realm (earth). The eternal 'begetting' without beginning 'reflects' the earthly 'begetting' when Jesus takes on his humanity, by the Spirit of God, in the womb of Mary. In both contexts, the Father begets the Son. But all analogies are imperfect, so we should not take this one too far. Essential doctrines should not be based on them. It seems merely that the Pope discusses the Father—Son relationship in its unique and one—of—a—kind mode because it existed in heaven before Jesus was born of Mary, and it still exists in heaven after Jesus' ascension back into heaven after his resurrection.

These two realms (heaven and earth) resolve the alleged contradictions that you raise in the word 'begetting.' On earth it has a beginning. In heaven it does not have a beginning, but it is eternal, in the unique and eternal Father—Son relationship, according to the full teaching of the New Testament.

But please note: This quick comment on the late Pope's ideas is only tentative, not authoritative.

However, I believe that the idea of 'begetting' is excluded from monogenęs, so for me the complexities do not exist. Jesus is the eternal Son of God without beginning. He has always existed alongside the Father, sharing the same substance, essence, and being.

See my article on the Trinity, which links to many other articles.

Does the Quran have a mysterious mother?

Now let's throw a challenge about the Quran at you and your fellow scholars. By criticizing Christian doctrine, you allow me to challenge Islamic doctrine. What happens if we take a literal reading of some passages about Allah and the Quran? Does the Quran have a mysterious mother?  I have edited this excerpt from two colleagues at answeringislam.org.

Incidentally, the Saudi authorities have blocked this Christian site from entering the internet in your country. This is odd. If Islam is so awesome and it contains the Final and Best Revelation, then what is your government hiding from your fellow citizens? It seems that they would remain within Islam no matter what this Christian website teaches. The Truth of Islam would keep them in, so competition in the marketplace of ideas should not threaten the Best Religion.

In any case, Sam Shamoun and Jochen Katz write about the assertion in the Quran that Allah must have a wife or consort in order to produce a son or an offspring. They begin:

The Holy Bible often calls Jesus the Son of God and states that God is his Father, titles or expressions denoting a purely spiritual relationship between God and Christ. These terms have absolutely no sexual or carnal overtones whatsoever, i.e. they do not imply that God had sex with a woman (specifically Mary) who then gave birth to Jesus his Son.

The Quran, however, assumes that the only way for God to be the Father of Jesus (or of anyone else) is through sexual procreation, that God can only become a Father by having a wife with whom he has sex. This is the main argument of the Quran against believing that God has a Son.

The Quran emphatically states:

And they make the jinn associates with Allah, while He created them, and they falsely attribute to Him sons and daughters without knowledge; glory be to Him, and highly exalted is He above what they ascribe (to Him). Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth! How could He have a son when He has no consort, and He (Himself) created everything, and He is the Knower of all things. S. 6:100—101 Shakir

. . .

The argument looks like this, in modus tollens form [denying the consequent or the 'then' clause in premise one]:

(1) If Allah has a son, then he must have (had sex with) a consort or wife.

(2) Allah does not have a consort (i.e. this is impossible for whatever reason).

(3) Therefore the claim that Allah has a son is refuted.

Now let's apply the same (unsound, but valid) logic to the Quran and its mysterious mother. Shamoun and Katz continue

There are several places where the Quran makes mention of the "mother of the book" (omm al—kitab), and in one place the Quran even claims that this is where it originated:

God doth blot out or confirm what He pleaseth: with Him is the Mother of the Book (ommu alkitabi). S. 13:39 Y. Ali

Verily, we have made it an Arabic Qur'an; haply ye will have some sense. And it is in the Mother of the Book (ommi alkitabi) with Us,— high and wise. S. 43:3—4 Palmer

The mother of the book which contains the Quran is with God, an important point for our discussion as we shall shortly see. In another place it is said that the Quran's clear verses are actually "the mother of the book"

He it is who has revealed to thee the Book, of which there are some verses that are decisive, they are the mother of the Book (ommu alkitabi); and others ambiguous; but as for those in whose hearts is perversity, they follow what is ambiguous, and do crave for sedition, craving for (their own) interpretation of it; but none know the interpretation of it except God. But those who are well grounded in knowledge say, 'We believe in it; it is all from our Lord; but none will remember save those who possess minds. S. 3:7 Palmer

Hence, the Quran originates from the mother of the book and its clear verses are the mother of the book, which means that the Quran has at least two mothers!

Now if the logic of the Quran is true, then this means that the mother of the book has a spouse with whom she has sex. After all, how can she be a mother, or have any children, if she has no husband, no spouse? We can even reword Sura 6:101 in the following manner:

Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth! How could She (this unknown mysterious woman) be the Quran's mother if she has no consort...?

But since this mysterious woman does have offspring [the Quran], then she must have a husband, and here is where the real problem lies for Muslims: Since the Quran is believed to be the word of Allah, which makes him the source of the Quran, then this means that Allah is its father and the husband of the Quran's mother! And since Muslims believe that the Quran is the uncreated speech of Allah, then this means that its mother is also uncreated. The Quran cannot exist before its mother which means that if the Quran is eternal then so is its mother, also implying that Allah has always been married! After all, whose wife could the Quran's mother be if Allah is the only other entity that existed before creation?

Again, note the logic behind this:

(4) If the Quran has a mother, then the Quran must be an offspring.

(5) But if the Quran is an offspring, then it must have a mother and a father.

(6) If it has a mother and a father, then they must have had sex to produce the offspring.

(7) Suras 13:39, 43:3—4, and 3:7 say that the Quran indeed has a mother.

(8) Therefore, its mother and father must have had sex.

(9) Hence, the best candidate for the father and the mother of the Quran is Allah and an eternal mysterious mother with whom he had sex.

The readers should be able to see from our brief critique and examination why the Quran's claim that God cannot have children is seriously flawed. If God can have children only through sexual intercourse, by having a wife, then the Quran is in grave trouble [because of] this fallacious logic . . .

The Muslim will obviously contend that the expressions "mother of," "son of" are not being used in a physical, sexual sense, but in a purely metaphorical or spiritual sense, at least in these specific citations. The Muslim may argue that sexual activity is not necessary to be a child or parent in the sense intended by these various Quranic references. These terms can carry a broader range of meaning than merely the physical, carnal one and the context must therefore determine the specific application.

But this explanation only proves that the Quran is wrong and its reasoning is invalid. After all, if it is possible for someone to be a parent or child in a way that doesn't require sexual procreation, then this means it is also possible for God to be a spiritual parent without having to engage in sex or needing a physical wife. This basically means that it doesn't follow from the Quran's premises that God must have a wife or engage in sexual activity in order to be a father or have a son; and since he has no sexual relations and has no wife he cannot, therefore, be a parent.

The Quran's argument against God's Fatherhood or Christ's Sonship is flat out wrong  . . .

Here is the correct understanding, in a logically valid chain argument, which the Quran completely misses:

(10) If God is Spirit (John 4:24), then he did not have to have sex with a consort or a wife to be a Father.

(11) If Father God did not have to have sex with a consort or wife, then he has a nonphysical, spiritual, and eternal relationship with his offspring.

12) The Word of God says that God is Spirit.

(13) Therefore, he has a nonphysical, spiritual, and eternal relationship with his offspring—the Son of God, the blessed and holy Lord Jesus.

(Source)

My concluding comment on the entire excerpt: This is what happens when we take things too literally. The Quran does not literally have a mother who had sexual relations with Allah; in the same way the eternal Father was not required to have sex to 'beget' the eternal Son of God. Don't you think we should get away from an overly literal reading of our holy books, in many areas?

Why do millions of Africans leave Islam and convert to Christianity?

You write in point no. 4 that the complexities about the Sonship of Christ may drive some Christians 'into the fold of Islam.' In reply, however, this may be true for some people, but I do not believe that most ordinary people are concerned about abstract doctrines. Instead, they want to know how to live in peace, and this is what Islam is all about, isn't it?

This desire to live life without harassment may explain why six million African Muslims are leaving Islam and converting to Christianity each year.

To be blunt, Islam is a burdensome, severe, and harsh religion. The evidence for such an assessment? The following legal decrees, policies, and practices demonstrate it. They go outside of mere verbal assertions and mental beliefs and high—minded theology. Every one of them comes from the Quran itself, followed by chapter and verse.

* Anyone who accuses someone else of sexual sin must bring four witnesses; if not, the accuser gets eighty lashes (24:4);

* Husbands are a degree above their wives in status (2:228); reliable hadiths say that the majority of the inhabitants of hell are women due only because of their 'harshness and ingratitude,' not because of their numerical majority around the globe;

* A male gets a double share of the inheritance over that of a female (4:11);

* A woman's testimony counts half of a man's testimony because she may 'forget' (2:282). Reliable hadiths say this law is based on the 'deficiency of a woman's mind';

* A wife may remarry her ex—husband if and only if she marries another man, they have sex, and then this second man divorces her (2:230);

* Muhammad has special marriage privileges (as many women as he desires), which only he enjoys (33:50);

* A Muslim man may be polygamous with up to four wives (4:3);

* Muhammad gets twenty percent from his seventy—four raids and wars in ten years in Medina (8:1, 41);

* Muhammad bought off converts (9:60);

* Husbands may hit their wife or wives (4:34);

* Mature men may marry and consummate their marriage with prepubescent girls (65:4);

* Slavery is endorsed: Muhammad himself traded in slaves and owned black slaves; and Muslim men may have sex with slave—girls (47:4; 4:24; 23:5—6; 70:29—30);

* Sexual sinners must be whipped (24:2), and sound hadiths say adulterers and homosexuals must be executed (see below for the punishment inflicted on homosexuals);

* Critics of Islam and Muslims may be killed (33:59—61);

* The Quran endorses the massacre of Jewish men and pubescent boys and the enslavement of the women and children (33:25—27);

* Jihadists buy status in this life and in the afterlife (4:74; 4:95—96; 9:38—44, 86—87, and 111; 61:10—11);

* Polytheists in the Arabian Peninsula had to convert or die (9:5);

* Muhammad is the first to lunch his own Crusade  long before Europeans responded with their own (9:29).

This list is all about physical acts here on earth, not about abstract doctrines like 'begotten.' These acts and legal decrees can be measured and evaluated with our own eyes and sound reason, and how do they come out? Not very well, to say the least.

Further, it may be fairly asked: Did Jesus and his Apostles and the New Testament authors say or do these things? Not even close. Therefore, if a Christian wants to enter into 'the fold of Islam,' then that is his prerogative. But maybe this list will tell him that abstract doctrines per se do not harm or maim or kill people. But the implementation of this list does exactly that.

If you or the readers suspect that these verses have been taken out of context, you and they may click on the following articles that in turn have long and several supporting articles behind each item on the list:

Why I don't convert to Islam

Top ten reasons why Islam is not the religion of peace

Top ten reasons why Islamic law is bad for all societies

Top ten rules in the Quran that oppress women.

Does the Old Testament command some severe punishments? Yes, but go here to find out why they no longer apply in the New Testament.

Can someone even half—divine be killed?

Finally, you ask this question as if the answer is self—evident (point no. 4e). Indeed, this is easy to answer, but not in a way that satisfies Islamic doctrine. I see nothing in divinity that precludes the Ultimate Sacrifice, if and only if the Deity willingly and voluntarily lays down his life.

Jesus himself says that he did not come to earth to be served and pampered:

. . . The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

In these next two verses he says that he willingly lays down his life.

17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again (John 10:17—18)

Christianity does not put God so far up in heaven that he lives in a silver box or golden cage, isolated. It is risky to assert that God cannot do something. Limiting the limitless Deity is misguided. I believe that the Son of God freely choosing to step down into time and space is the most blessed doctrine in all of Christian theology. He did this out of his good will and his powerful love. I would never give up this miracle and historical reality. It benefits humanity greatly.

Thus, for me, there is nothing inherent in God's nature that blocks him from stepping down into time and space, showing us a better way and redeeming us and offering us the gift of eternal life with him. Nothing inherent in his nature? If someone has a prior belief that God could not do this, then what is his starting point for his belief? The Quran? But the New Testament says that the Incarnation happened. So we have two sacred texts that have competing, irreconcilable doctrines.

How do we break the deadlock? For me, the answer is found not in abstract theology, but in practical matters down here on earth. And the long list of policies taken from the Quran in the previous section and the four linked articles (that support the list) resolve the conflict and answer the debate, for me at least. If Islam and its foundation—the Quran—are harsh and excessive in practical matters, then why should I listen to the Quran in abstract doctrines? I don't listen to it.

Points 5 and 6

Is the Enlightenment perfect?

These two points indicate that there is a negative or a downside to the Enlightenment. You quote Robert Louis Wilken's book review of Bernard Lewis' Crisis of Islam. Maybe Islamic countries should avoid the Enlightenment, he says. In reply, no one says that the Enlightenment does not bring a backlash. The movement was huge and diverse. It has a sting in it, perhaps many stings. But I believe that the benefits outweigh the liabilities, especially in politics and plain, everyday life. The above list (see 'Why do millions leave Islam') explains how the Enlightenment can help Islam, in practical areas. We do not need revelations from a holy book that was too deeply influenced by his seventh—century Arab culture in its laws and policies. We can use sound reason to figure out, for example, how to divide an inheritance between a male and female, or why husbands should not hit their wives—at any time or in any circumstance, or why marrying and having sex with prepubescent girls is wrong.

Does Islam deal effectively with sexual sinners?

Next, you quote Dr. Albert Mohler, who laments a lack of church discipline and the aggressive homosexual agenda in America.

In reply, though I do not know Dr. Mohler, I have heard him on the radio. He is allowed to preach righteousness to society and influence public policy, especially church policy. But I can guarantee you that he would not advocate executing homosexuals. But the Prophet of Islam did this.

First, the Sunan Abu Dawud says that Ibn Abbas reports the following about early Islam and Muhammad's punishment of homosexuals:

 . . . 'If you find anyone doing as Lot's people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done' (no. 4447).

The next one below no. 4447 says that an unmarried man who commits sodomy should be stoned to death:

'Ibn Abbas said: if a man who is not married is seized committing sodomy, he will be stoned to death' (no. 4448).

Third and finally, in the hadith collection Mishkhat al—Masabih, a compendium that brings together other hadith collections, your Prophet prescribes the punishments of being burned to death and having heavy objects thrown on guilty homosexuals:

Ibn Abbas and Abu Huraira reported God's messenger as saying, 'Accursed is he who does what Lot's people did.' In a version . . . on the authority of Ibn Abbas it says that Ali had two people burned and that Abu Bakr had a wall thrown down on them. (Trans. James Robson, Prescribed Punishments, vol. 1, p. 765)

For more information on Islam's and Christianity's policies on homosexuality, go to this article.

I do not deny that the West has not reached moral perfection. The West indeed has its share of problems. However, you seem to believe that without the Enlightenment of any kind and with Islam's guidance in a society, problems vanish away. However, this webpage  has further links to homosexual activity in Saudi Arabia, the land of the two Holy Mosques (in Mecca and Medina).

To cite only one example from that webpage, on April 7, 2005, it was reported that Saudi Arabia sentenced more than 100 men to prison or flogging for 'gay conduct.'

On or about March 26, a Jeddah court, meeting in a closed session in which defense attorneys were excluded, sentenced 31 of the men to prison for six months to one year, and to 200 lashes each, for unreported offenses. Four other men received two years' imprisonment and 2,000 lashes. Police released more than 70 of the men not long after their initial arrest; reports in the Saudi press suggested that personal contacts with the government had intervened on their behalf. However, on April 3, police summoned the 70 men back to a local police station and informed them that they had been sentenced to one year's imprisonment.

Is whipping and imprisoning and executing sinners in order to force and impose external righteousness the best policy? 'If only we could catch and punish more sinners, then we could teach them a lesson! Then the others will straighten up! We could eliminate the problem! In fact, let's kill them after a judge orders their execution!' This seems to be the yearning of many Muslims whose ideas I read online or in print media. However, people need to change from the inside out. Forcing holiness on to people does not work in the long run and for everybody.

Conclusion

Mr. Al—Buthe, please consider this. You may believe that Saudi Arabia does not want nor need all of the Enlightenment (even Islam's own version—today—not a thousand years ago), but the long list of practical policies (see 'Why do millions leave Islam,' above) tells me two things:

(1) The Quran absorbed too much of its culture. If it improved on seventh—century Arabia, then it did not go far enough for a religion that claims universality.

(2) When a religion (church or mosque) becomes the government, it tends to oppress people. It is better to let people live in freedom, even if they abuse it. That is the lesson of history in the West. I admit that the West has gone too far in decadence, but if we cannot strike the perfect balance between freedom and limitations, then surely you agree that freedom is better than repression, don't you? Then the citizens of your country can breathe the fresh air of liberty without being harassed by religious police. The power and winsomeness of Islam would surely keep them on the straight and narrow.

This is Part Two of a multipart series. 

Part One may be read here. It introduces Mr. Soliman al—Buthe's Open Letter to Congress. James Arlandson responds today.

JA:

Greetings. I am finally getting back to you after a long time. I have been occupied with posting articles on various issues concerning Islam.

I must admit that when I got your response in Part One to my questions, I was a little disappointed. Your Open Letter to Congress has nothing to do with abstract theology, so I decided to dialogue with you. Most people want to know how to live to the fullest. They really do not care about these doctrinal disputes or differences.

However, I now attempt to reply to your theological questions and assertions, following your sequence of points.

Points 1—3

Is the Bible reliable and accurate?

Your first three points call into question the reliability and authenticity of the Bible. You say that Bible scholars admit that there are contradictions in it. You link to 'Sullivan County.' I am not sure who the webmaster is, but he does not seem to be a reputable scholar. In any case, these harsh critics of the Bible exist. This is the unpleasant part of the Enlightenment. When or if an equally demanding Enlightenment hits Islamic countries, the Quran will undergo such criticism  (see the very next section). However, I can find equally reputable scholars who say that the Bible is reliable and accurate. 

For example, these two high—level scholars from an earlier generation, F. F. Bruce, citing Sir Frederic Kenyon, conclude the following:

To sum up, we may quote the verdict of the late Sir Frederic Kenyon, a scholar whose authority to make pronouncements on ancient MSS [manuscripts] was second to none:

'The interval then between the data of original composition and the earliest extant evidence become so small to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scripture have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.' (Source)

These next two current scholars reach the same conclusion:

The overwhelming majority of the text of the Greek New Testament is firmly established. Where uncertainties remain, in no case is any doctrinal matter at issue. (D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. Zondervan, 2005, p. 30)

Is the Quran pure and uncorrupted?

By criticizing the Bible, you allow me to challenge the Quran. Muslims believe that it reached earth from Allah in an uncorrupted state and remained that way. However, plain facts contradict this belief. Here are only four examples.

First, this hadith from Bukhari (a highly reliable collector and editor of hadith) says that Uthman burned different versions of the Quran.

. . . 'Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. (Bukhari)

It is one thing to prepare the final version (if one exists of the Quran), but burning alternate versions? This is wrong.

Second, this hadith says that the Quran was recited seven different ways:

Allah's Apostle said, "Gabriel recited the Qur'an to me in one way. Then I requested him (to read it in another way), and continued asking him to recite it in other ways, and he recited it in several ways till he ultimately recited it in seven different ways." (Bukhari ; and see the longer hadith below this one.)

Would these seven recitations produce different version of the Quran? Other hadiths (see the linked articles, below) reveal that four different reciters spoke the Quran in different versions. Is this why Uthman was so anxious to burn the different versions? For more information see this article and this one

Third, a sound hadith from Sahih Muslim says that an entire sura (chapter), which had over a hundred verses, is missing from the Quran.

. . . We used to recite a surah which resembled in length and severity to (Surah) Bara'at [Sura 9, which has 129 verses]. I have, however, forgotten it with the exception of this which I remember out of it:" If there were two valleys full of riches, for the son of Adam, he would long for a third valley, and nothing would fill the stomach of the son of Adam but dust." (Muslim no. 2286; see the four hadiths above this one)

Fourth and finally, this is an interesting modern discovery: a 'buried' version of the Quran, found in 1972, during the restoration of the Great Mosque of Sana'a, in Yemen.

Since the early 1980s more than 15,000 sheets of the Yemeni Korans have painstakingly been flattened, cleaned, treated, sorted, and assembled; they now sit ("preserved for another thousand years," Puin says) in Yemen's House of Manuscripts, awaiting detailed examination. That is something the Yemeni authorities have seemed reluctant to allow, however. "They want to keep this thing low—profile, as we do too, although for different reasons," Puin explains. "They don't want attention drawn to the fact that there are Germans and others working on the Korans. They don't want it made public that there is work being done at all, since the Muslim position is that everything that needs to be said about the Koran's history was said a thousand years ago." (Source)

Why won't the authorities allow its publication? What are they hiding?

Please see this webpage that has many links to articles and hadiths on the corruptibility of the Quran. I wrote this article explaining that Muhammad borrows from the apocryphal gospels about events in young Mary's life (and, be analogy, in young Jesus' life) even though the Prophet of Islam claims explicitly that he received specific information from revelation alone (Sura 3:44). It is true that a few New Testament authors borrow a line or two from non—Christian Greek poets, but they never claimed that they got this information only from Gabriel or only from a heightened state of inspiration

Does culture influence sacred texts?

Next, you say in point no. 2 that 'the Bible was written by ordinary people who were influenced by the prevailing culture of their time.' Apparently, you believe that this is abnormal and calls into question the reliability of the Bible, as if culture taints it. You seem to imply that the Quran was not influenced by its prevailing seventh—century culture in Arabia. In reply, however, by criticizing the Bible in this way, I am permitted to point out the obvious about the Quran. The implication that the Quran has not been influenced by culture is simply not true. For example, Sura 5:38 says that the male or female thief should have his or her hand cut off. Ibn Kathir, a respected classical commentator, says the following about the gruesome punishment and its cultural origins:

Allah commands and decrees that the hand of the thief, male or female be cut off. During the time of Jahiliyyah [ignorance before Islam], this was also the punishment for the thief, and Islam upheld this punishment. (Tafir Ibn Kathir (abridged), translated and edited by Safiur—Rahman al—Mubarakpuri, Darussalam, 2000, vol. 3, p. 172)

So it seems, after all, that the Quran does not rise above its own culture, but retains a severe punishment.

Also, Muhammad raided Meccan caravans. He was following his culture, which engaged in this practice all the time. The Quran in the Medinan suras that often call for war reflects Muhammad's Sunnah, which in turn reflects seventh—century Arabia (see Sura 8 in its entirety, which deals with the Battle of Badr, merely another raid, but on a larger scale).

Point 4a—f

In these subpoints you ask a flurry of questions and throw in many terms and concepts. So this section of my reply is the longest.

What does 'begetting' mean?

Your challenges about this term rest on old ideas, not modern research. The Greek word at issue (see for example John 3:16) is monogenęs. Traditionally, this has been translated as 'only begotten.' However, new lexical research in the twentieth century on this word in the ancient Greek world concludes that the second half of the word (—genęs) does not mean 'beget,' but 'class' or 'kind.' Now when we add mon— back to —genęs, the word most accurately means 'one of a kind' or 'unique' or 'in a class by itself or himself.'

In relation to the Sonship of Jesus, the most accurate meaning reads: 'one—of—a—kind Son' or 'unique Son' or 'the Son in a class by himself.' This is why the translation called the New International Version (NIV) has in John 3:16, 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only [monogenęs] Son.' The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) has for the same verse . . . 'only [monogenęs] Son.' And the margin of the New American Standard Bible (NASB) reads: 'unique, only one of His kind' for the same Greek word.

Thus, the notion of 'begetten' is removed from the Sonship of Jesus, and so are the complications that you raise. Jesus is the one—of—a—kind Son who is in a class all by himself. He is not begotten, except possibly in the context of his resurrection and exaltation after his ascension, where the Greek verb is used (see Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5, 5:5). These verses quote Psalm 2:7, which describe a coronation, an apt analogy to the ascension of Christ. In any case, the New Testament teaches that he has lived eternally with the Father, without beginning. This is simple. This brings us back directly to the inspired New Testament, without having to appeal to and depend on later human opinions.

Source: Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 2000), pp. 1233—34.

See this webpage  that links to other articles on the issue of 'begotten.'

However, you seem to question the theology of some theologians and Christians ('mainstream Christians' is your wording). Perhaps you mean those in early church Councils (e.g. Nicea in AD 325), such as Athanasius, (d.  373), or more recently, the late Pope John Paul II (your point no. 4d); the members of the Council of Nicea seem to have understood monogenęs as containing the idea of 'begotten.' Therefore, I attempt now to explain the term in three steps, assuming, only for the sake of discussion, that concept 'begotten' really is contained in the Greek word.

First, words may take on different meanings and nuances in different contexts. For example, the word 'apology' in one context means an expression of remorse or regret, or an admission of error. Thus, 'I offer an apology for offending you.' But in another context 'apology' can mean defense. 'I offer an apology of my religion.' These two meanings (admission of errors vs. defense against errors) go in opposite directions, or at least they stand far apart from each other. This shows how fluid language and even one word can be, from one context to the next.

Second, this fluidity can be applied to 'begotten.' It can have different meanings or nuances, depending on the context. Down here on earth, 'begotten' has a temporal meaning. A man begets a son, who has a beginning. However, in the eternal realm, where God lives, the word takes on the quality of eternity. This means that the Father's begetting of the Son of God does not have a beginning. This unique relationship between Father and Son has always existed from eternity past and will exist into eternity future, according to the full teaching of the New Testament.

Third, you require me to explain the words of a much greater Christian and theologian than myself—Pope John Paul II. You quote him in your point no. 4d, and ask me if his words make sense to me. They do, and here is my explanation, tentatively.

You quote Pope John Paul II as follows:

"The virginal conception, by excluding human fatherhood, affirms that Jesus' only father is the heavenly Father and that the Son's being born in time reflects his eternal birth: the Father, who begot the Son in eternity, also begets him in time as a man."

If I understand this great man of God, he seems to create an analogy. (Note the word 'reflects,' as in Idea A reflects or is similar to Idea B.) It compares the Father—Son relationship in the eternal realm (heaven) and this same relationship in the temporal realm (earth). The eternal 'begetting' without beginning 'reflects' the earthly 'begetting' when Jesus takes on his humanity, by the Spirit of God, in the womb of Mary. In both contexts, the Father begets the Son. But all analogies are imperfect, so we should not take this one too far. Essential doctrines should not be based on them. It seems merely that the Pope discusses the Father—Son relationship in its unique and one—of—a—kind mode because it existed in heaven before Jesus was born of Mary, and it still exists in heaven after Jesus' ascension back into heaven after his resurrection.

These two realms (heaven and earth) resolve the alleged contradictions that you raise in the word 'begetting.' On earth it has a beginning. In heaven it does not have a beginning, but it is eternal, in the unique and eternal Father—Son relationship, according to the full teaching of the New Testament.

But please note: This quick comment on the late Pope's ideas is only tentative, not authoritative.

However, I believe that the idea of 'begetting' is excluded from monogenęs, so for me the complexities do not exist. Jesus is the eternal Son of God without beginning. He has always existed alongside the Father, sharing the same substance, essence, and being.

See my article on the Trinity, which links to many other articles.

Does the Quran have a mysterious mother?

Now let's throw a challenge about the Quran at you and your fellow scholars. By criticizing Christian doctrine, you allow me to challenge Islamic doctrine. What happens if we take a literal reading of some passages about Allah and the Quran? Does the Quran have a mysterious mother?  I have edited this excerpt from two colleagues at answeringislam.org.

Incidentally, the Saudi authorities have blocked this Christian site from entering the internet in your country. This is odd. If Islam is so awesome and it contains the Final and Best Revelation, then what is your government hiding from your fellow citizens? It seems that they would remain within Islam no matter what this Christian website teaches. The Truth of Islam would keep them in, so competition in the marketplace of ideas should not threaten the Best Religion.

In any case, Sam Shamoun and Jochen Katz write about the assertion in the Quran that Allah must have a wife or consort in order to produce a son or an offspring. They begin:

The Holy Bible often calls Jesus the Son of God and states that God is his Father, titles or expressions denoting a purely spiritual relationship between God and Christ. These terms have absolutely no sexual or carnal overtones whatsoever, i.e. they do not imply that God had sex with a woman (specifically Mary) who then gave birth to Jesus his Son.

The Quran, however, assumes that the only way for God to be the Father of Jesus (or of anyone else) is through sexual procreation, that God can only become a Father by having a wife with whom he has sex. This is the main argument of the Quran against believing that God has a Son.

The Quran emphatically states:

And they make the jinn associates with Allah, while He created them, and they falsely attribute to Him sons and daughters without knowledge; glory be to Him, and highly exalted is He above what they ascribe (to Him). Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth! How could He have a son when He has no consort, and He (Himself) created everything, and He is the Knower of all things. S. 6:100—101 Shakir

. . .

The argument looks like this, in modus tollens form [denying the consequent or the 'then' clause in premise one]:

(1) If Allah has a son, then he must have (had sex with) a consort or wife.

(2) Allah does not have a consort (i.e. this is impossible for whatever reason).

(3) Therefore the claim that Allah has a son is refuted.

Now let's apply the same (unsound, but valid) logic to the Quran and its mysterious mother. Shamoun and Katz continue

There are several places where the Quran makes mention of the "mother of the book" (omm al—kitab), and in one place the Quran even claims that this is where it originated:

God doth blot out or confirm what He pleaseth: with Him is the Mother of the Book (ommu alkitabi). S. 13:39 Y. Ali

Verily, we have made it an Arabic Qur'an; haply ye will have some sense. And it is in the Mother of the Book (ommi alkitabi) with Us,— high and wise. S. 43:3—4 Palmer

The mother of the book which contains the Quran is with God, an important point for our discussion as we shall shortly see. In another place it is said that the Quran's clear verses are actually "the mother of the book"

He it is who has revealed to thee the Book, of which there are some verses that are decisive, they are the mother of the Book (ommu alkitabi); and others ambiguous; but as for those in whose hearts is perversity, they follow what is ambiguous, and do crave for sedition, craving for (their own) interpretation of it; but none know the interpretation of it except God. But those who are well grounded in knowledge say, 'We believe in it; it is all from our Lord; but none will remember save those who possess minds. S. 3:7 Palmer

Hence, the Quran originates from the mother of the book and its clear verses are the mother of the book, which means that the Quran has at least two mothers!

Now if the logic of the Quran is true, then this means that the mother of the book has a spouse with whom she has sex. After all, how can she be a mother, or have any children, if she has no husband, no spouse? We can even reword Sura 6:101 in the following manner:

Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth! How could She (this unknown mysterious woman) be the Quran's mother if she has no consort...?

But since this mysterious woman does have offspring [the Quran], then she must have a husband, and here is where the real problem lies for Muslims: Since the Quran is believed to be the word of Allah, which makes him the source of the Quran, then this means that Allah is its father and the husband of the Quran's mother! And since Muslims believe that the Quran is the uncreated speech of Allah, then this means that its mother is also uncreated. The Quran cannot exist before its mother which means that if the Quran is eternal then so is its mother, also implying that Allah has always been married! After all, whose wife could the Quran's mother be if Allah is the only other entity that existed before creation?

Again, note the logic behind this:

(4) If the Quran has a mother, then the Quran must be an offspring.

(5) But if the Quran is an offspring, then it must have a mother and a father.

(6) If it has a mother and a father, then they must have had sex to produce the offspring.

(7) Suras 13:39, 43:3—4, and 3:7 say that the Quran indeed has a mother.

(8) Therefore, its mother and father must have had sex.

(9) Hence, the best candidate for the father and the mother of the Quran is Allah and an eternal mysterious mother with whom he had sex.

The readers should be able to see from our brief critique and examination why the Quran's claim that God cannot have children is seriously flawed. If God can have children only through sexual intercourse, by having a wife, then the Quran is in grave trouble [because of] this fallacious logic . . .

The Muslim will obviously contend that the expressions "mother of," "son of" are not being used in a physical, sexual sense, but in a purely metaphorical or spiritual sense, at least in these specific citations. The Muslim may argue that sexual activity is not necessary to be a child or parent in the sense intended by these various Quranic references. These terms can carry a broader range of meaning than merely the physical, carnal one and the context must therefore determine the specific application.

But this explanation only proves that the Quran is wrong and its reasoning is invalid. After all, if it is possible for someone to be a parent or child in a way that doesn't require sexual procreation, then this means it is also possible for God to be a spiritual parent without having to engage in sex or needing a physical wife. This basically means that it doesn't follow from the Quran's premises that God must have a wife or engage in sexual activity in order to be a father or have a son; and since he has no sexual relations and has no wife he cannot, therefore, be a parent.

The Quran's argument against God's Fatherhood or Christ's Sonship is flat out wrong  . . .

Here is the correct understanding, in a logically valid chain argument, which the Quran completely misses:

(10) If God is Spirit (John 4:24), then he did not have to have sex with a consort or a wife to be a Father.

(11) If Father God did not have to have sex with a consort or wife, then he has a nonphysical, spiritual, and eternal relationship with his offspring.

12) The Word of God says that God is Spirit.

(13) Therefore, he has a nonphysical, spiritual, and eternal relationship with his offspring—the Son of God, the blessed and holy Lord Jesus.

(Source)

My concluding comment on the entire excerpt: This is what happens when we take things too literally. The Quran does not literally have a mother who had sexual relations with Allah; in the same way the eternal Father was not required to have sex to 'beget' the eternal Son of God. Don't you think we should get away from an overly literal reading of our holy books, in many areas?

Why do millions of Africans leave Islam and convert to Christianity?

You write in point no. 4 that the complexities about the Sonship of Christ may drive some Christians 'into the fold of Islam.' In reply, however, this may be true for some people, but I do not believe that most ordinary people are concerned about abstract doctrines. Instead, they want to know how to live in peace, and this is what Islam is all about, isn't it?

This desire to live life without harassment may explain why six million African Muslims are leaving Islam and converting to Christianity each year.

To be blunt, Islam is a burdensome, severe, and harsh religion. The evidence for such an assessment? The following legal decrees, policies, and practices demonstrate it. They go outside of mere verbal assertions and mental beliefs and high—minded theology. Every one of them comes from the Quran itself, followed by chapter and verse.

* Anyone who accuses someone else of sexual sin must bring four witnesses; if not, the accuser gets eighty lashes (24:4);

* Husbands are a degree above their wives in status (2:228); reliable hadiths say that the majority of the inhabitants of hell are women due only because of their 'harshness and ingratitude,' not because of their numerical majority around the globe;

* A male gets a double share of the inheritance over that of a female (4:11);

* A woman's testimony counts half of a man's testimony because she may 'forget' (2:282). Reliable hadiths say this law is based on the 'deficiency of a woman's mind';

* A wife may remarry her ex—husband if and only if she marries another man, they have sex, and then this second man divorces her (2:230);

* Muhammad has special marriage privileges (as many women as he desires), which only he enjoys (33:50);

* A Muslim man may be polygamous with up to four wives (4:3);

* Muhammad gets twenty percent from his seventy—four raids and wars in ten years in Medina (8:1, 41);

* Muhammad bought off converts (9:60);

* Husbands may hit their wife or wives (4:34);

* Mature men may marry and consummate their marriage with prepubescent girls (65:4);

* Slavery is endorsed: Muhammad himself traded in slaves and owned black slaves; and Muslim men may have sex with slave—girls (47:4; 4:24; 23:5—6; 70:29—30);

* Sexual sinners must be whipped (24:2), and sound hadiths say adulterers and homosexuals must be executed (see below for the punishment inflicted on homosexuals);

* Critics of Islam and Muslims may be killed (33:59—61);

* The Quran endorses the massacre of Jewish men and pubescent boys and the enslavement of the women and children (33:25—27);

* Jihadists buy status in this life and in the afterlife (4:74; 4:95—96; 9:38—44, 86—87, and 111; 61:10—11);

* Polytheists in the Arabian Peninsula had to convert or die (9:5);

* Muhammad is the first to lunch his own Crusade  long before Europeans responded with their own (9:29).

This list is all about physical acts here on earth, not about abstract doctrines like 'begotten.' These acts and legal decrees can be measured and evaluated with our own eyes and sound reason, and how do they come out? Not very well, to say the least.

Further, it may be fairly asked: Did Jesus and his Apostles and the New Testament authors say or do these things? Not even close. Therefore, if a Christian wants to enter into 'the fold of Islam,' then that is his prerogative. But maybe this list will tell him that abstract doctrines per se do not harm or maim or kill people. But the implementation of this list does exactly that.

If you or the readers suspect that these verses have been taken out of context, you and they may click on the following articles that in turn have long and several supporting articles behind each item on the list:

Why I don't convert to Islam

Top ten reasons why Islam is not the religion of peace

Top ten reasons why Islamic law is bad for all societies

Top ten rules in the Quran that oppress women.

Does the Old Testament command some severe punishments? Yes, but go here to find out why they no longer apply in the New Testament.

Can someone even half—divine be killed?

Finally, you ask this question as if the answer is self—evident (point no. 4e). Indeed, this is easy to answer, but not in a way that satisfies Islamic doctrine. I see nothing in divinity that precludes the Ultimate Sacrifice, if and only if the Deity willingly and voluntarily lays down his life.

Jesus himself says that he did not come to earth to be served and pampered:

. . . The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

In these next two verses he says that he willingly lays down his life.

17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again (John 10:17—18)

Christianity does not put God so far up in heaven that he lives in a silver box or golden cage, isolated. It is risky to assert that God cannot do something. Limiting the limitless Deity is misguided. I believe that the Son of God freely choosing to step down into time and space is the most blessed doctrine in all of Christian theology. He did this out of his good will and his powerful love. I would never give up this miracle and historical reality. It benefits humanity greatly.

Thus, for me, there is nothing inherent in God's nature that blocks him from stepping down into time and space, showing us a better way and redeeming us and offering us the gift of eternal life with him. Nothing inherent in his nature? If someone has a prior belief that God could not do this, then what is his starting point for his belief? The Quran? But the New Testament says that the Incarnation happened. So we have two sacred texts that have competing, irreconcilable doctrines.

How do we break the deadlock? For me, the answer is found not in abstract theology, but in practical matters down here on earth. And the long list of policies taken from the Quran in the previous section and the four linked articles (that support the list) resolve the conflict and answer the debate, for me at least. If Islam and its foundation—the Quran—are harsh and excessive in practical matters, then why should I listen to the Quran in abstract doctrines? I don't listen to it.

Points 5 and 6

Is the Enlightenment perfect?

These two points indicate that there is a negative or a downside to the Enlightenment. You quote Robert Louis Wilken's book review of Bernard Lewis' Crisis of Islam. Maybe Islamic countries should avoid the Enlightenment, he says. In reply, no one says that the Enlightenment does not bring a backlash. The movement was huge and diverse. It has a sting in it, perhaps many stings. But I believe that the benefits outweigh the liabilities, especially in politics and plain, everyday life. The above list (see 'Why do millions leave Islam') explains how the Enlightenment can help Islam, in practical areas. We do not need revelations from a holy book that was too deeply influenced by his seventh—century Arab culture in its laws and policies. We can use sound reason to figure out, for example, how to divide an inheritance between a male and female, or why husbands should not hit their wives—at any time or in any circumstance, or why marrying and having sex with prepubescent girls is wrong.

Does Islam deal effectively with sexual sinners?

Next, you quote Dr. Albert Mohler, who laments a lack of church discipline and the aggressive homosexual agenda in America.

In reply, though I do not know Dr. Mohler, I have heard him on the radio. He is allowed to preach righteousness to society and influence public policy, especially church policy. But I can guarantee you that he would not advocate executing homosexuals. But the Prophet of Islam did this.

First, the Sunan Abu Dawud says that Ibn Abbas reports the following about early Islam and Muhammad's punishment of homosexuals:

 . . . 'If you find anyone doing as Lot's people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done' (no. 4447).

The next one below no. 4447 says that an unmarried man who commits sodomy should be stoned to death:

'Ibn Abbas said: if a man who is not married is seized committing sodomy, he will be stoned to death' (no. 4448).

Third and finally, in the hadith collection Mishkhat al—Masabih, a compendium that brings together other hadith collections, your Prophet prescribes the punishments of being burned to death and having heavy objects thrown on guilty homosexuals:

Ibn Abbas and Abu Huraira reported God's messenger as saying, 'Accursed is he who does what Lot's people did.' In a version . . . on the authority of Ibn Abbas it says that Ali had two people burned and that Abu Bakr had a wall thrown down on them. (Trans. James Robson, Prescribed Punishments, vol. 1, p. 765)

For more information on Islam's and Christianity's policies on homosexuality, go to this article.

I do not deny that the West has not reached moral perfection. The West indeed has its share of problems. However, you seem to believe that without the Enlightenment of any kind and with Islam's guidance in a society, problems vanish away. However, this webpage  has further links to homosexual activity in Saudi Arabia, the land of the two Holy Mosques (in Mecca and Medina).

To cite only one example from that webpage, on April 7, 2005, it was reported that Saudi Arabia sentenced more than 100 men to prison or flogging for 'gay conduct.'

On or about March 26, a Jeddah court, meeting in a closed session in which defense attorneys were excluded, sentenced 31 of the men to prison for six months to one year, and to 200 lashes each, for unreported offenses. Four other men received two years' imprisonment and 2,000 lashes. Police released more than 70 of the men not long after their initial arrest; reports in the Saudi press suggested that personal contacts with the government had intervened on their behalf. However, on April 3, police summoned the 70 men back to a local police station and informed them that they had been sentenced to one year's imprisonment.

Is whipping and imprisoning and executing sinners in order to force and impose external righteousness the best policy? 'If only we could catch and punish more sinners, then we could teach them a lesson! Then the others will straighten up! We could eliminate the problem! In fact, let's kill them after a judge orders their execution!' This seems to be the yearning of many Muslims whose ideas I read online or in print media. However, people need to change from the inside out. Forcing holiness on to people does not work in the long run and for everybody.

Conclusion

Mr. Al—Buthe, please consider this. You may believe that Saudi Arabia does not want nor need all of the Enlightenment (even Islam's own version—today—not a thousand years ago), but the long list of practical policies (see 'Why do millions leave Islam,' above) tells me two things:

(1) The Quran absorbed too much of its culture. If it improved on seventh—century Arabia, then it did not go far enough for a religion that claims universality.

(2) When a religion (church or mosque) becomes the government, it tends to oppress people. It is better to let people live in freedom, even if they abuse it. That is the lesson of history in the West. I admit that the West has gone too far in decadence, but if we cannot strike the perfect balance between freedom and limitations, then surely you agree that freedom is better than repression, don't you? Then the citizens of your country can breathe the fresh air of liberty without being harassed by religious police. The power and winsomeness of Islam would surely keep them on the straight and narrow.

This is Part Two of a multipart series.