Examining Islamic Teachings
ISLAM is the name of the religion founded by Muhammad in the beginning of the seventh century after Christ, making it the youngest of the world’s so-called “great” religions. The term Islam means “resignation” or “entire submission.” The sacred book of Islam is the Quran. It consists of 114 suras or chapters that have verse divisions similar to the Bible, except that these verse divisions are not at all uniform, while some versions do not have any verse division.
In examining the Quran, which is about the size of the Christian Greek Scriptures, one is struck with the absence of miracles or proof that Muhammad was indeed a prophet sent of God. When Moses, the first Bible writer and first prophet to be sent to the descendants of Jacob, went to Israel he was well fortified with miracles to prove his divine mission. See Exodus, chapter 4. Likewise, when Christ Jesus came, he performed so many miracles that all those who had not let themselves be blinded with selfishness had to admit that he was sent of God.—John 7:31; 10:37, 38; 14:11.
Muhammad, however, came with no supernatural proofs of his divine commission. Time and again his critics complained of this and repeatedly he told them that his work was not that of producing signs but merely to preach, and that his lack of signs was for the purpose of testing their faith. But what is faith without proof? Anyone could claim to be sent of God. Moses and Christ proved it by the performance of many miracles, but where were Muhammad’s miracles? He confessed in the Quran to having none.—See Suras 2:118; 10:38; 11:13; 6:109, Ali.
Yet many Moslems claim he did perform miracles. Repeatedly the claim is made by them that he split the moon, for which they cite as proof Sura 54:1. However, first of all note that this text does not state that Muhammad split the moon. And Muslim commentators on this verse, which speaks of the moon’s having been cleft asunder, state that it may have appeared as such to Muhammad and his believers in the valley of Mecca; that it is to be taken allegorically or that it may still be fulfilled in the future. (See Ali.) The Bible’s account of creation as well as of the Flood is amply attested in the record found in rocks, by the science of geology, but where is there any proof that the moon was ever split?
Others insist that Muhammad did perform many miracles and that these were recorded in the Alhadith or Hadis, the record of Muhammadan tradition, which was systematized in the third century of the Muhammadan era. Among the miracles that Muhammad was said to have performed, as handed down by tradition, are: “The trees and rocks and mountains used to greet him near Mecca. Once when the people were very thirsty Mohammed filled all their jugs by having water gush forth from between his fingers. A tree was called to testify to Mohammed’s divine commission. The tree came, tearing the ground until it stood in his presence. Three times it testified to Mohammed’s being the prophet of God.” According to Sir William Muir, some half million of such traditions have been handed down.
However, here we find the same difficulty in tradition contradicting the written record as we find in Judaism and in professed Christianity. The Quran simply does not allow for any miracles. Plainly it quotes God as saying, “We refrain from sending Signs, only because men of former years treated them as false.” (Sura 17:59, Ali) That explicitly does not allow for any signs. If Muhammad had performed signs, why rebuke his hearers for asking for them; why should they complain because of their being none? Yet that is what the Quran does. The written word is ever more reliable than the tradition handed down orally, and we are further compelled to that conclusion by the very fantastic nature of these purported miracles.
ABROGATION AND CANCELLATION
The Quran has been termed the Bible’s closest rival, it being the holy book for some 300 million Muslims who believe that it is uncreated and was sent down from the highest heavens and revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel in sections or suras. In view of the fact that the charge is often made that the Bible contradicts itself, Bible lovers will not be hasty in concluding that the Quran is self-contradictory.
But in the Quran itself we find admission of such contradictions in that it claims for itself the right of “cancellation” or “abrogation.” Muhammad’s critics had complained that he sometimes contradicted himself, and so he taught that whenever a subsequent revelation contradicted a previous one, the second canceled or abrogated the first. Thus we read, “None of our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten but We substitute something better or the like. Knowest thou not that God hath power for all things?”—Sura 2:106; 16:101, Ali.
Since both the former or the canceled verse and the one that came later and does the canceling or abrogating remain in the Quran it can easily be seen how there would be contradictions in the Quran. Especially is this possible in view of the fact that it is not at all certain when each sura was “revealed,” and therefore it cannot always be determined which is the abrogating and which the abrogated text.
Some modern Muslims object to all this and claim that what Muhammad referred to as being canceled or abrogated was not anything that appeared in the Quran but only such things as may have been written in the Tourat or the Hebrew Scriptures or in the Injil or the Gospel. However, to make such a claim is to deny the testimony of history, which shows why Muhammad was accused of being a forger, as well as to ignore the context in the Quran. Such a claim is made only by some modern Muslims, for the testimony of the most noted Muslim scribes and imams of times past is to the effect that both the texts canceled and those doing the canceling are in the Quran. Says the noted Razi, on Sura 16:99, 100: “The Commentators without exception hold that cancelation has its place in the present law.” And regarding Sura 4:14, which deals with the penalty to be inflicted upon unfaithful wives, Razi says: “The school of Aba Hanifa holds that the text [in the Quran] commanding imprisonment was canceled by the one commanding stripes.” Commenting on Sura 2:102, Razi states that a passage may be canceled and yet remain in the Quran. Other authoritative Muslim commentators that have expressed like views are Beidhawi, Jelaleim and Abdulla.
The Bible presents no such difficulties. When properly understood, it is found to be harmonious from cover to cover. This is what we should expect in view of its claim to be the Word of Jehovah God. Generally those who claim that the Bible contradicts itself do so only because they fail to distinguish between literal and symbolical language, or because they fail to take into consideration the context, or because they are lacking in objectivity.
One of the more striking contradictions found in the Quran concerns itself with freedom of worship. On the one hand there are a number of expressions favoring religious liberty, such as, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” And on the other hand, time and again expressions appear that indicate the direct opposite: “When the sacred months are passed, kill those that join other gods to God wherever ye find them; and seize them, besiege them, lie in wait for them with every kind of ambush: but if they shall convert, and observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then let them go their way for God is gracious.” And again: “Fight for the cause of God against those who fight against you: Kill them wherever you find them. . . . Fight therefore until there be no more civil discord, and until the only worship be that of God,” or “until the temptation stops.”—Sura 2:186-190, 212, 213; 8:12; 9:5, 124, Rodwell.
Modern Muslims claim that the Quran teaches freedom of religion and advocates only defensive warfare, but can such expressions as “kill those that join other gods to God wherever you find them,” “but if they convert . . . let them go their way,” and “kill them . . . until the temptation stops” be construed as either defensive warfare or permitting freedom of religion? The very Arabic word jihad disproves such a contention, for it means, “A religious war against infidels or Mohammedan heretics.” (Webster) Many, many Muslims were slain by other Muslims because of religious differences. Certainly that does not spell out freedom of religion.
In the light of the record made by history, nothing could be more fantastic than to claim that Islam believes only in defensive warfare. The facts show that after Muhammad gained power in Medina he organized marauding bands to attack the caravans of rival cities and that the first three were wholly unsuccessful. After he became a power in Medina, to which city he had fled as a religious refugee from Mecca, he authorized the execution of his critics; most notorious example being his execution of the Jewish tribe of Koraiza, some 700 men being beheaded in the market place from morning until night. True, these Jews had disaffected, but the religious motive is seen in that they were offered full pardon if they would give up their Judaism for Islam. Not one of them accepted this offer, although their failing to do so meant not only death for themselves but the selling of their wives and little ones into slavery.
Muhammad organized an expedition against Mecca, which promptly surrendered. After Muhammad’s death Islam was spread by the sword’s going into Europe, it being stopped by the armies under Charles Martel, son of Pepin and grandfather of Charlemagne, in France in 732. The last signal defeat suffered by Islam’s armies took place before the gates of Vienna in 1863. Vienna is a long way from Mecca! The destruction of many Armenians by the Turks in the twentieth century gives further proof that Islam did not limit its warfare to defensive wars. Truly it is fantastic in view of such a record to hold that Islam believes only in defensive war.
Endeavoring to justify Islam’s jihads Muslim writers point to the wars waged by the Israelites at Jehovah’s command. However, in no sense of the word can Israel’s wars be termed jihads. That they were engaged in at Jehovah’s command is to be seen by the fact that time and again the victory was due to God’s miraculous intervention. (Josh. 10:11; Judg. 5:20; 1 Sam. 17:47; 2 Chron. 20:15) Besides, their wars were not fought for the purpose of expanding the kingdom of Israel to a world power. Centuries before, Jehovah had promised this land to the descendants of Abraham, and, as the Sovereign ruler of the universe as well as the earth, he had the right to give the land to whomsoever he would. (Gen. 12:7) So we read that David extended the limits of Israel to its God-ordained limits and neither David nor Solomon launched any wars to exceed those limits.
Further, Jehovah God made it plain to the Israelites that they were serving as his executioners, and that they were to wipe out these nations because of their wickedness, that this was not being done because they were so righteous, and that if they would themselves become wicked then Jehovah’s vengeance would be directed against them. While they were Jehovah’s executioners, Jehovah applied his same laws to them, even as modern lands expect a policeman to obey the law. Jehovah wiped out a wicked world in the day of Noah with a flood; he wiped out wicked cities such as Sodom and Gomorrah by fire coming down from heaven; he destroyed Egypt’s first-born by means of a plague, and he could use the nation of Israel to destroy his enemies by means of human warfare if he so chose. God tolerates the wicked until his due time to destroy them.—Deut. 9:4-6; Rom. 9:22.
Further, Jehovah’s actions against the enemies of his people back there were prophetic of his coming judgments. That is why his ‘battle of the great day’ is termed Armageddon. (Judg. 5:19; Ps. 83:1-18; Rev. 16:14, 16) When Christ Jesus came he definitely made an end of all use of carnal weapons by God’s servants, saying plainly: “All those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matt. 26:52, NW) His followers engage in a spiritual war, using the sword of the spirit, God’s Word, and not carnal weapons. (2 Cor. 10:3, 4; Eph. 6:12-17, NW) They patiently wait upon Jehovah, for him to execute vengeance.—Zeph. 3:8; Rom. 12:19.
While what has been said in the foregoing may offend some, let it be noted that we cannot expect to arrive at the truth when we let our feelings rather than our reason govern our beliefs. God’s Word says, “Come now, and let us reason together.” (Isa. 1:18) That means to make comparisons, calmly and objectively weighing the facts and the arguments presented, and then being willing to pay the cost, for the truth will cost something. That is why we are counseled: “Buy the truth, and sell it not.”—Prov. 23:23.