It is likely this practice represents the survival of pre-Christian devotion.
That Islam is itself not immune to the survival of pagan practices should
be apparent to TV viewers watching Shiite Muslim men hitting themselves
on the head with knives. Mohammed did not teach people to do this, they
were doing it long before his day: "So they shouted louder and slashed
themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood
flowed." (1 Kings 18:28).
As to Mohammed's assertion, "Thou knowest what is in me, but I
know not what is in Thee; for Thou well knowest things unseen!" it
contrasts directly with the Bible ascription of reciprocity: "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."
(Matthew 11:27). If Jesus spoke Matthew 11:27, then the speaker of Sura 5:116 is of necessity someone else.
Muslims describe their religion as 'tolerant,' pointing as proof to the
high praise the Koran gives to past prophets, including Jesus:
"Moreover, to Moses gave we 'the Book,' and we raised up
apostles after him; and to Jesus, son of Mary, gave we clear proofs of his mission,
and strengthened him by the Holy Spirit. So oft then as an apostle cometh to you
with that which your souls desire not, swell ye with pride, and treat some as
imposters, and slay others?" (Sura 2:81).
"Say ye: ‘We believe in God, and that which hath been sent down to us, and that which hath been sent down to Abraham and Ismael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes: and that which hath been given to Moses and to Jesus, and that which was given to the prophets from their Lord. No difference do we make between any of them: and to God are we resigned (Muslims).’" (Sura 2:130).
"Some of the apostles we have endowed more highly than
others: Those to whom God hath spoken, He hath raised to the loftiest grade, and to
Jesus the Son of Mary we gave manifest signs, and we strengthened him with the
Holy Spirit. And if God had pleased, they who came after them would not have
wrangled, after the clear signs had reached them. But into disputes they fell:
some of them believed, and some were infidels; yet if God had pleased, they
would not have thus wrangled: but God doth what he will." (Sura 2:254).
"And when Jesus perceived unbelief on their part, He
said, 'Who will be my helpers with God?' The apostles said, 'We will be God's
helpers! We believe in God, and bear thou witness that we are Muslims. O our Lord!
we believe in what thou has sent down, and we follow the apostle; write us up, then,
with those who bear witness to him'...Remember when God said, 'O Jesus!
verily I will cause thee to die, and will take thee up to myself and deliver thee
from those who believe not; and I will place those who follow thee above those
who believe not, until the day of resurrection. Then, to me is your return,
and wherein ye differ will I decide between you.'" (Sura 3:46-48).
SAY: We believe in God, and in what hath been sent down to us, and what
hath been sent down to Abraham, and Ismael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the
tribes, and in what was given to Moses, and Jesus, and the Prophets, from
their Lord. We make no difference between them. And to Him are we resigned (Muslims)." (Sura 3:78)
"And in the footsteps of the prophets caused we Jesus,
the son of Mary, to follow, confirming the law which was before him: and we gave him
the Evangel with its guidance and light, confirmatory of the preceding Law; a
guidance and warning to those who fear God..." (Sura 5:50).
"When He shall say: O Jesus! Son of Mary! call to mind my favor upon
thee and upon thy mother, when I strengthened thee with the Holy Spirit,
that thou shouldest speak to men alike in the cradle, and when grown up;
— And when I taught thee the Scripture, and Wisdom, and the Law, and the
Evangel: and thou didst create of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird,
by my leave, and didst breathe into it, and by my leave it became a bird;
and thou didst heal the blind and the leper, by my leave; and when, by
my leave, thou didst bring forth the dead; and when I withheld the children
of Israel from thee, when thou hadst come to them with clear tokens: and
such of them as believed not said, 'This is nought but plain sorcery...Remember
when the Apostles said — 'O Jesus, Son of Mary! is thy Lord able to send
down a furnished Table to us out of Heaven!' He said — 'Fear God if ye
be believers.'" (Sura 5:109-112).
"Verily we have revealed to thee as we revealed to
Noah and the Prophets after him, and as we revealed to Abraham, and Ismael, and
Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and Jesus, and Job, and Jonah, and Aaron, and
Solomon; and to David gave we Psalms." (Sura 4:161).
"This is our reasoning with which we furnished Abraham
against his people: We uplift to grades of wisdom whom we will; Verily thy Lord is
Wise, Knowing. And we gave him Isaac and Jacob, and guided both aright; and we had
before guided Noah; and among the descendants of Abraham, David and Solomon,
and Job and Joseph, and Moses and Aaron: Thus do we recompense the righteous: And
Zachariah, John, Jesus, and Elias; all were just persons..." (Sura 6:83-85).
"And remember that we have entered into covenant with
the Prophets, and with thee, and with Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, and Jesus,
Son of Mary: and we formed with them a strict covenant..." (Sura 33:7).
Why, they wonder, cannot Christians return the favor, and acknowledge Mohammed
as a true prophet of God?
To answer, let us perform a 'thought experiment.' Suppose I pen a fictional
work recounting Mohammed's death-bed confession. Suppose, according to
me, Mohammed at the end gasped, 'Gosh, I should have listened to Khadija's
cousin Waraqa, he was right and I was wrong. Jesus Christ really is God
incarnate!' Then he breathed his last, at peace with God and man.
He died, after all, trying to communicate, though they would not
"Ibn 'Abbas said, 'When the ailment of the Prophet became worse, he said,
"Bring for me (writing) paper and I will write for you a statement after which you will not go astray."
But 'Umar said, "The Prophet is seriously ill, and we have got Allah's Book with us and that
is sufficient for us." But the companions of the Prophet differed about this and there was
a hue and cry. On that the Prophet said to them, "Go away (and leave me alone). It is not
right that you should quarrel in front of me."' (Hadith, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 3, Number
What could he have wanted to leave as his final admonition,
other than 'I was wrong. Jesus is the way. Follow Him?' Or so goes
Who in the Muslim world would praise me as 'tolerant'? Should any major
publishing house take on this venture, mobs would embark on arson sprees.
Muslims would angrily shout, 'Mohammed never said that! You made it up!'
Precisely the point. A character named 'Jesus' pops up in the Koran, and
helpfully explains that the Muslims are right and the Christians are wrong.
The words He is made to speak do not correspond to any recalled by the
circle of His immediate followers as recorded in the New Testament. Nor,
given the centuries separating Jesus and Mohammed, is it likely these words
reflect any authentic historic tradition otherwise unrecorded. Should the
claim be made that these words were divinely revealed, this is precisely
the question. Those who believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God
are not likely to acknowledge the inspiration of contradictory information.
In the Koran, 'Jesus' is made, like a ventriloquist's dummy, to 'take back'
what He says in the New Testament. In the New Testament Jesus says, “Most
assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
But the Koran says,
"Infidels now are they who say, 'Verily God is the
Messiah Ibn Maryam (son of Mary)! Say: And who could aught obtain from God, if he
chose to destroy the Messiah Ibn Maryam, and his mother, and all who are on the
earth together?" (Sura 5:19).
How can 'I AM' be 'destroyed'?
Far from finding my fictional work 'tolerant,' Muslims would likely perceive
it as an underhanded effort to co-opt and to appropriate, or rather to
misappropriate, their prophet. This is what the Koran does to Jesus.
Mohammed's version of tolerance conforms all prophets to the same
paradigm. They all said the same thing: "No apostle have we sent
before thee to whom we did not reveal that 'Verily there is no God
beside me: therefore worship me.'" (Koran, Sura 21:25). Now
certainly it is true that all the prophets of the monotheistic
tradition were monotheists. But this standard of tolerance turns out
to be a bed of Procrustes. Did a prophet say something different,
something new? Lop it off. So far from accepting the great prophets
of the past, Muslims can only accept the radically edited versions
of what they said featured in the Koran. But really, who could not
be 'tolerant' in that way? 'I'll accept your prophets, if you allow
me to edit their words.' I could accept Lenin and Stalin, if Lenin and
Stalin are sock-puppets who must say whatever I make them to say.
The heavens through which Mohammed ibn Abdallah made his night
journey on a flying burro is a layer-cake, multi-level affair. The
Bible knows of three heavens: the aerial heavens, the starry
heavens, and the heaven of heavens. The Koran, following the Rabbis,
counts seven. Where do the seven come from, and why do they take the
form of consecutive levels built one upon the other?: