Posts tagged ‘Gospel’

September 16th, 2011

The Genealogies of Jesus and Muslims

Muslims have asked me umpteen times about the genealogies of Jesus Christ. One of them persistently asked me recently, “can you answer the two geneologies [sic] of Jesus?” Like many Muslims I have encountered, my friend uses differences in Luke and Matthew’s accounts to dismiss Jesus Christ and the Bible.

One thing my friend balks at, while Jesus Christ has two genealogies, Prophet Muhammad has none in the Qur’an or the Hadith. So much for Muslims’ claim the Bible has been corrupted because it lacks mentions of Muhammad. Islam’s own sources fail them. So much for Muslims’ claim Islam is an Abrahamic faith. Muslims can’t even trace their beloved prophet’s lineage to Abraham. Even Islamic sources that were concocted centuries after the demise of Muhammad raise more questions about Muhammad’s genealogy than they provide Muslims with answers. There is even an unresolved mystery surrounding when Muhammad was actually born. Isn’t it about time they explain?

Authoritative Muhammad biographies claim Muhammad’s father, Abdullah, was married to his wife, Amina, the year before the year of the elephant. Muhammad’s paternal grandfather, AbdulMuttalib, was also married the same day to Hala.  AbdulMuttalib’s wife gave birth to a son, Hamza, the same year—the year of the elephant—Muhammad was born. Abdullah died before his son was born. Muhammad and Hamza were supposed to be the same age. Hamza was killed at Battle of Uhud in 625 CE when he was 59 years old, which was quite a discrepancy because Muhammad was supposedly to be the same age as Hamza. He died at the age of 63 in 632 CE. How did Muhammad end up 4 years younger than Hamza if he were born the same year as Hamza? Mark you; Muhammad’s father died the same year Hamza was born. Was Muhammad in his mother’s womb for four years? Instead of explaining these discrepancies, Muslims attack Jesus even when he has two genealogies that make perfect sense.

Muslims study the Bible in order to find ammunition to attack the Bible and true mission of Jesus Christ. Let us use their questions to bring them to the Light of the Gospel and a little dose of reality regarding Islam.

I enlist John Gilchrist to answer my friend’s Muslim question. You can read John’s entire answers HERE.

1.10     The Genealogy of Jesus in the Gospels

Muslim: The genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels give very different lines of descent. How do you explain this contradiction? Also, some of the women mentioned among his ancestors were very great sinners – how could the perfectly pure Son of God have been descended from such an impure ancestry?

Very often Muslim arguments against the Bible reveal little more than a serious lack of awareness of what Christianity is really all about. In answering these two objections Christians not only have an opportunity to clarify misunderstandings but also to witness to the Muslims who raise them of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It needs to be emphasized again and again that every Muslim argument against the Bible should be seen as an open door to witness to its essential message.

The Two Different Genealogies

The Hebrew line of Jesus’ descent is recorded in both Matthew 1:2-16 and Luke 3:23-38. There is no difference between these two records from Abraham to David but thereafter they diverge considerably. Matthew traces the line of Jesus’ genealogy through David’s son Solomon while Luke takes it through his son Nathan. From there on the two accounts are very different. Muslim writers have summarily concluded that they are contradictory and cannot be reconciled. The following points should be raised in reply whenever Muslims raise this issue:

1.   Every Child has Two Genealogies

It is hardly necessary to say that every man on earth has two lines of ancestry, one through his father and another through his mother. The one obvious thing about the two genealogies in the Gospels is that each is traced to a common source, David, and from there consistently to Abraham. What the two lines reveal, upon a close study of their context in each respective Gospel, is that Joseph, the legal guardian and registered father of Jesus (although not his natural father) was descended from David through Solomon while his mother Mary was descended from the same ancestor through Nathan. Thus there is no contradiction between them.

2.   Matthew and Luke Clearly State their Lines of Descent

It is not a convenient assumption that these two Gospel writers are recording the paternal and maternal sequences of Jesus’ ancestry respectively. Matthew makes it plain that he is recording the line of Joseph (Matthew 1:16) and throughout the first two chapters of his Gospel we find Joseph to be the central character. Each appearance of the Angel Gabriel recorded here is to Joseph. In Luke’s Gospel, however, Mary is always the central personality and only the appearance of Gabriel to her is mentioned.

3.   Luke Deliberately Qualifies his Genealogy

Luke himself states specifically that Jesus was the son, “as was supposed”, of Joseph (Luke 3:23) and it is in this little expression that the key to Jesus’ genealogy in his Gospel is found. Unlike Matthew he mentions no women in Jesus’ ancestry and, to maintain the general practice of outlining the masculine order only, Luke records Joseph as the supposed father of Jesus. He very carefully qualified Joseph’s role so that it would be clear that he was not recording the genealogy of Jesus through his representative father but rather his actual genealogy through his real mother Mary.
The Four Women Named in Matthew’s Genealogy

Muslim writers have often tried to discredit the absolute purity of Jesus as the Son of God by referring to the four women Matthew names in his record of Jesus’ ancestry. They are Tamar, who committed incest with her father Judah from which Perez was born as a forefather of Jesus; Rahab, the prostitute and Gentile woman who helped Joshua and the Israelites at the conquest of Jericho; Ruth, the wife of Boaz who was also a Gentile; and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah who committed adultery with David and from whom Solomon was born.

It is obvious that Matthew has deliberately named the very four women who disturbed the genealogy of Jesus by having moral or ethnic defects. He, clearly, did not think he was undermining the dignity of Jesus in doing so. Had there been any stigma attaching to such an ancestry he would assuredly have named some of more famous Hebrew women from whom Jesus was descended like Sarah and Rebecca. Why, therefore, did he specifically name the four women who supposedly unsettled the “purity” of his ancestry? The Apostle gives the answer himself. He records that, when the Angel Gabriel came to Joseph, he said of the child to be born:

You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

It was precisely for people such as incestuous Tamar, Rahab the harlot, Ruth the Gentile and Bathsheba the adulteress that Jesus came into the world. He descended from the holy portals of heaven and took human form in a sinful and decaying world so that he could save his people from their iniquities and make his salvation available to all men and women, Jew and Gentile alike. In another passage recorded in the same Gospel we find Jesus making his purpose very clear:

Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”. For I came not to call the righteous but sinners. Matthew 9:12-13

Jesus did not come to set an upright example for pious, religious people to follow. He came, primarily, to save all who turn to him from their sins and to make it possible for them to receive the Holy Spirit so that they might have power to live genuinely holy lives. Here it is obvious how effectively an argument against the Bible can be turned into a very good opportunity for witness. Whenever a Muslim challenges the Bible on a point such as this it is essential that we look not only for ways of refuting the objection but also for openings to share what our faith is really all about.

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June 17th, 2011

Interfaith Dialogue: Faith Shared’s Read this Qur’an Verse but Don’t Read that?

Sunday, June 26, 2011 is a day Muslims, Christians and Jews will gather together in worship services to read passages from the Qur’an, Torah and the Gospel. Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First are jointly offering this event dubbed Faith Shared. The main purpose of Faith Shared is to combat Islamophobia.

I strongly believe Faith Shared is an exercise in futility because its organizers do not acknowledge there is a problem in Islam. They think taking verses of the Qur’an out of their contexts for photo-ops would combat Islamophobia. We can only combat Islamophobia candidly if we distinguish it from Muslimophobia. Photo-ops wouldn’t do it. Only open and honest discussions away from places of worship would do it.

Here are verses (in red) of the Qur’an Faith Shared has suggested for congregants to read next Sunday:

  1. O humankind, We (God) have created you male and female, and made you into communities and tribes, so that you may know one another. (49:13) This verse only applies to Muslims. “O humankind” in the Qur’an is not always inclusive of all mankind. Faith Shared would like the world to believe so. This verse was revealed because a Muslim had insulted a fellow Muslim. More details HERE.
  2. Let there be no hostility except against those who practice Zulm (oppression). (2:193) This verse which organizers of this can only quote partially clearly shows Muslims are not supposed to turn the other cheek. So much for Faith Shared gathering with Christians and Muslims discussing nonviolence. The most prominent Sunni Tafsir says: (And fight them) if they initiate fighting against you whether you are in the Sacred Precinct or not (until persecution is no more) until there is not association of partners with Allah in the Sacred Precinct, (and religion is for Allah) and Islam and worship of Allah reign in the Sacred Precinct. (If they desist) from fighting you in the Sacred Precinct, (then let there be no hostility) you are not allowed to kill them (except against wrong-doers) except those who start the fight against you.

The Qur’an and the Hadith consider Christians who didn’t acknowledge Muhammad’s prophethood as enemies. In fact Christians are considered the worst of sinners because they associate “partners with Allah.” Sadly, this verse does not support the goal of Faith Shared.

3. There shall be no compulsion in matters of faith. (2:256)

This is one of the most misunderstood verses of the Qur’an. Do you know that it was revealed when Muhammad had very few followers? He cursed the first two Muslims who had apostatized and when he gained more power prescribed death for apostasy. You can find more details HERE.

4. Verily! Those who have attained faith as well as those who follow the Jewish Faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians—all who believe in God and the last Day and do righteous deeds—shall have their reward with their Sustainer, and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve. (2:62)

This verse is about “Christians” and Jews who had acknowledged Muhammad as a prophet. Here is what the commentary says:

The verse (Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews…) was revealed about the monks with whom Salman al-Farisi kept company. When Salman went to see the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, he informed him about their worship and striving. He said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! They used to pray and fast; they believed in you and bore witness that you will be sent as a prophet’. When Salman finished his praise of them, Allah’s Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘O Salman! They are of the dwellers of hell fire’. Allah then revealed (Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews) up to His saying (neither shall they grieve).

5. Correct and courteous words accompanied by forgiveness are better than a charitable deed followed by insulting words. (2:263)

Now that you have read Faith Shared suggested readings from the Qur’an that supposedly foster interfaith dialogues, please consider these Qur’an verses in three widely available and most notable translations:

3.85

YUSUFALI: If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good).

PICKTHAL: And whoso seeketh as religion other than the Surrender (to Allah) it will not be accepted from him, and he will be a loser in the Hereafter.

SHAKIR: And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.

4.101

YUSUFALI: When ye travel through the earth, there is no blame on you if ye shorten your prayers, for fear the Unbelievers May attack you: For the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies.

PICKTHAL: And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you.

SHAKIR: And when you journey in the earth, there is no blame on you if you shorten the prayer, if you fear that those who disbelieve will cause you distress, surely the unbelievers are your open enemy.

5.33

YUSUFALI: The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;

PICKTHAL: The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom;

SHAKIR: The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement,Surah 8:12: “God revealed His will to the angels, saying…I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers”

5.51

YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.

PICKTHAL: O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.

SHAKIR: O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.

5.59

YUSUFALI: Say: “O people of the Book! Do ye disapprove of us for no other reason than that we believe in Allah, and the revelation that hath come to us and that which came before (us), and (perhaps) that most of you are rebellious and disobedient?”

PICKTHAL: Say: O People of the Scripture! Do ye blame us for aught else than that we believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed aforetime, and because most of you are evil-livers?

SHAKIR: Say: O followers of the Book! do you find fault with us (for aught) except that we believe in Allah and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed before, and that most of you are transgressors?

5.60

YUSUFALI: Say: “Shall I point out to you something much worse than this, (as judged) by the treatment it received from Allah? those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped evil;- these are (many times) worse in rank, and far more astray from the even path!”

PICKTHAL: Shall I tell thee of a worse (case) than theirs for retribution with Allah? (Worse is the case of him) whom Allah hath cursed, him on whom His wrath hath fallen and of whose sort Allah hath turned some to apes and swine, and who serveth idols. Such are in worse plight and further astray from the plain road.

SHAKIR: Say: Shall I inform you of (him who is) worse than this in retribution from Allah? (Worse is he) whom Allah has cursed and brought His wrath upon, and of whom He made apes and swine, and he who served the Shaitan; these are worse in place and more erring from the straight path.

8.60

YUSUFALI: Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly.

PICKTHAL: Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not. Allah knoweth them. Whatsoever ye spend in the way of Allah it will be repaid to you in full, and ye will not be wronged.

SHAKIR: And prepare against them what force you can and horses tied at the frontier, to frighten thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them, whom you do not know (but) Allah knows them; and whatever thing you will spend in Allah’s way, it will be paid back to you fully and you shall not be dealt with unjustly.

8.61

YUSUFALI: But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things).

PICKTHAL: And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Lo! He, even He, is the Hearer, the Knower.

SHAKIR: And if they incline to peace, then incline to it and trust in Allah; surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing.

Muslims who are involved in interfaith dialogues need to explain the meanings behind these verses. I have deliberately left out the so-called “verse of sword” and a few others because the post is getting too long. I am not opposed to Christians having dialogues with Muslims as long as the discussions are open and candid.

June 15th, 2011

Islam’s Debilitating Public Relations Hemorrhage and Christian Rescue Efforts

Islam has faced a debilitating public relations hemorrhage since September 11, 2001. That dreadful day brought to the fore some manifestations of Islamic teachings, which led ordinary Muslims, Muslim civil leaders, scholars and civil rights organizations scampering to mitigate further damage to their religion. Some Muslims even enlisted non-Muslims’ help in this endeavor. Surprisingly, even prominent Christian clergies and scholars have inadvertently answered the Muslim call.

If you think some prominent Christian leaders in the West are confused about Islam, you are not alone. Faith Shared—a project of Interfaith Alliance—reflects some of that confusion. It has nationwide events scheduled for Sunday, June 26, 2011. Various churches are hosting worship services where suggested verses from the Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’an will be read. Faith Shared will provide suggestions on how to incorporate this program into hosting churches’ regular Sunday worship services “but communities are encouraged to choose readings that will resonate with their congregations.”

The purpose of this event is to combat “a pervasive and unsettling trend of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination, and rhetoric, as well as a general lack of understanding about Islam in America today.” Gathering together in these worship services is necessary “for faith communities to strengthen ties with each other.”

While I commend Interfaith Alliance for coming up with an idea of getting Christians, Jews and Muslims together, here are three problems:

  1. Muslim misconceptions about Christians and Christianity predate any Muslim’s (other than Prophet Muhammad’s) encounter with a Christian or Christianity and have nothing to do with Islam being misunderstood or Muslims being persecuted. Reading the Qur’an in worship service for photo-ops is not going to alleviate Muslims’ misconceptions of Christians and Christianity.
  2. Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of Interfaith Alliance claims “specific passages in each tradition can be and have been ripped from their historical/scriptural context and manipulated to promote division, nurture hatred, and even inspire violence.” There is no such thing as “historical/scriptural context” in the Faith Shared suggested Qur’an verses, which remotely come close to Faith Shared goal of Christians, Muslims and Jews strengthening “ties with each other.”
  3. A Sunday worship service is not a place to achieve this faith-shared goal. A better idea would be inviting Muslims to congregants’ homes for meals. Having discussions over a meal about these suggested texts, especially Qur’an verses, and their “historical/scriptural context” would have had significant effect.

Faith Shared and whoever advises them totally don’t get the Qur’an’s central theme. I will write a post explaining the meaning behind these verses and will go through the exegeses of each one of them to show how historically and contextually these verses were not intended for interfaith outreach. I will explore and expound on each verse using classical Islamic commentaries and Hadith. Interfaith dialogues are noble for promoting peace. However, Faith Shared’s idea is an interfaith dialogue riddled with ignorance.

Muslims’ intention in interfaith dialogues is about propagating Islam. Even Sufi Muslims want a dialogue to end with a non-Muslim converting to Islam. Sufi scholar Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani of Islamic Supreme Council of America says:

As for interfaith, I am not saying I care for it, I don’t. But if someone wants to make interfaith to make an introduction to Islam, it is OK. As long as they don’t become Christian or Jew or Zoroastrian, then it is acceptable. That is a way to tell people they are wrong and tell them their mistakes.

Rev. Gaddy laments “a general lack of understanding about Islam in America today.” Why is he doing public relations work for Islam, promoting it through interfaith dialogues when even Muslims have made their motives clear? Muslims use interfaith dialogues as a venue to stop Islam’s public relations hemorrhage. Many Christians are ignorant of that fact and come to Islam’s rescue. They perhaps confuse Muslimophobia with Islamophobia. Every followers of Jesus Christ ought to fight Muslimophobia but should leave Islamophobia to Muslims. For more information, please read HERE.