"Why, O Prophet! dost thou hold that to be FORBIDDEN which God hath
made lawful to thee, from a desire to please thy wives, since God is Lenient,
Merciful?...'Haply if he put you both away, his Lord will give him in exchange
other wives better than you, Muslims, believers, devout, penitent, obedient,
observant of fasting, both known of men and virgins.'" (Sura 66:1-5).
The "forbidden" thing in question was Mary, a Christian slave
girl from Egypt.
In the Hadith, Mohammed is held up as living under the same rules as everybody
else: "Bukhari...from A'isha: 'The prophet did something and thus
permitted it for others, but some people still abstained from it. And
that came to the Prophet, and he went into the pulpit, and praised God.
Then he said, 'What ails these people who refrain from a thing I
have done? For by God, I know God better than they do, and I am more fearful
of offending him.'" (The Hadith, p. 82, Islam, John Alden Williams).
Yet as a matter of fact, he lived by a different set of rules than he laid
on them. Muslim men are allowed up to four wives: "And if ye are apprehensive
that ye shall not deal fairly with orphans, then, of other women who seem
good in your eyes, marry but two, or three, or four; and if ye still fear
that ye shall not act equitably, then one only; or the slaves whom ye have
acquired: this will make justice on your part easier..." (Sura 4:2).
Yet he collected wives like some folks collect postage stamps —
by special permit, it would seem: "O Prophet! we allow thee thy wives
whom thou hast dowered, and the slaves whom thy right hand possesseth out
of the booty which God hath granted thee, and the daughters of thy uncle,
and of thy paternal and maternal aunts who fled with thee to Medina, and
any believing woman who hath given herself up to the Prophet, if the Prophet
desired to wed her — a Privilege for thee above the rest of the Faithful." (Sura 33:49). His wife A'isha
said it all when she told Mohammed, "Truly thy Lord makes haste to do thy pleasure." (quoted p. 40,
The Emergence of Islam, Mostafa Vaziri).
Change or No Change?
The Bible and the Koran agree that man is not permitted to change the word of God, and that God does not change His decrees. The
Koran goes even further, boasting that no change can be made in the word of God:
"Before thee have apostles already been charged with falsehood: but
they bore the charge and the wrong with constancy, till our help came to
them;—for none can change the words of God." (Sura 6:34).
"And the words of thy Lord are perfect in truth and in justice: none can change his words: He is the Hearing,
Knowing." (Sura 6:115).
Yet Mohammed also accuses the Jews, who debated with him the concordance
between the Koran and the Law...of changing the words of God:
"Hast thou not remarked those to whom a part of the Scriptures hath been given? Vendors are they of error, and
are desirous that ye go astray from the way. But God knoweth your enemies; and God is a sufficient patron, and God is a sufficient
helper! Among the Jews are those who displace the words of their scriptures, and say, ‘We have heard, and we have not obeyed.
Hear thou, but as one that heareth not; and LOOK AT US;’ perplexing with their tongues, and wounding the Faith by their revilings." (Sura 4:48).
"O Apostle! let not those who vie with one another in speeding to
infidelity vex thee;— of those who say with their mouths, ‘We believe,’
but whose hearts believe not;— or of the Jews — listeners to a lie — listeners
to others — but who come not to thee. They shift the words of the law from their places, and say, ‘If this be brought
to you, receive it; but if this be not brought to you, then beware of it.’ For him whom God would mislead, thou canst in no wise
prevail with God!" (Sura 5:45)
"But for their breaking their covenant we have cursed them, and have hardened their hearts. They shift the
words of Scripture from their places, and have forgotten part of what they were taught. Thou wilt not cease to discover deceit
on their part, except in a few of them. But forgive them, and pass it over: verily, God loveth those who act generously!" (Sura 5:16).
Does Mohammed mean to say that they can try to shift the words of Scripture, but can't get away with it? Yet his followers
allege that they, and the Christians, have gotten away with it, having succeeded in corrupting the Bible, thus explaining
the many discrepancies between Holy Writ and the Koran. Or does he mean
you can get away with it with the Bible, but not the Koran? But one of
his transcriptionists, by his own report, got away with it with the Koran,
receiving a (later commuted) death sentence in return. Or does Mohammed
mean that, what man can freely do, God cannot do? But he says "none."
If Mohammed's intent is only to communicate that the words of a speaker who changes the words of God, are no longer the
words of God, one must wonder, why belabor the obvious.
Jonah and the Whale
Mohammed reports that Jonah was sent as an apostle:
"Jonas, too, was one of the Apostles,
When he fled unto the laden ship...
And we sent him to a hundred thousand persons, or even more,
And because they believed, we continued their enjoyments for a season." (Sura 37:139-149).
The "even more" were the Ninevites, as the Bible confirms. Jonah
was a Hebrew, sent to the great city of Nineveh: “So he said to them, 'I
am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and
the dry land.'” (Jonah 1:9).
But the Koran also says that prophets are only sent to those of their native tongue:
"And in order that He might speak plainly to them, we have not sent any Apostle, save with the speech of
his own people; but God misleadeth whom He will, and whom He will he guideth: and He is the mighty, the Wise." (Sura 14:4).
But the Ninevites did not speak Hebrew!
When Does Jesus Die?
Mohammed ibn Abdallah denied that Jesus died upon a Roman cross,
explaining instead that he was caught up to God: "No sure knowledge had
they about him, but followed only an opinion, and they did not really
slay him, but God took him up to Himself." (Sura 4:156). This is
repeated elsewhere, ". . .I was a witness of their actions while I
stayed among them; but since thou hast taken me to Thyself, Thou hast
Thyself watched them. . ." (Sura 5:117). In thus denying the reality of the Lord's crucifixion, Mohammed makes a prediction:
"There shall not be one of the people of the Book but shall believe
in Him before his death, and in the day of resurrection, He will be a witness
against them." (Sura 4:157).
This seems to project Jesus' death into the eschatological future, because many of the people
of the Book do not now believe in Him. But Mohammed shows no awareness
of any contemporaneously surviving prophet:
"Mohammed is no more than an apostle; other apostles have already passed away before him: if he die,
therefore, or be slain, will ye turn upon your heels?" (Sura 3:138).
If some prior apostle had not passed away, then what point is this verse making?
If Mohammed ibn Abdallah were a greater prophet than Jesus, as some
fatuously claim, why did he not expect the same extraordinary gift of rapture to heaven?
The Koran's teaching on Jesus places many road-blocks in the path of any
would-be harmonizer. Mohammed's attitude toward the people of the Book,
both Jews and Christians, hardened, as their unbelief became apparent.
First he turned to the Christians, then to the Jews, but was left
in the end friendless. Thus the Christians traverse the circuit from honored predecessors in the
faith to outright idolaters. There is no way to harmonize these differing attitudes.
Further divergence along this trajectory occurred after Mohammed's death, as his successors
were made aware the New Testament contradicts the Koran. The gospel
was accordingly taken out of the hands of the Christians, where
Mohammed thought it resided:
"But if the people of the Book believe and have the fear of God, we will surely put away
their sins from them, and will bring them into gardens of delight: and if that they observe the law
and the Evangel, and what hath been sent down to them from their Lord, they shall surely have their
fill of good things from above them and from beneath their feet." (Koran, Sura 5:70)
Notice that Mohammed shows no suspicion that the Christians don't actually have
the Evangel, which is what latter-day Muslims were obliged to claim, as
it was brought to their attention that the real-life Evangel contradicts
the Koran. The gospel thus disappeared, leaving the reader of the Koran
to wonder how the Christians might be expected to "observe" a lost
Muslims reconcile this conflicting material in a variety of ways.
Many believe Jesus never died. Others speculate along 'Da Vinci Code'
lines: one modern-day offshoot of Islam teaches that Jesus survived
the crucifixion, but was not caught up to heaven; instead he relocated to
India. Perhaps the next block-buster novel will connect the dots,
and give us Jesus the dead-beat dad, who fled all the way to India
to avoid paying child support for his poor little abandoned French
Biblically it is not possible for the Messiah to have died of old age,
or in a traffic accident, or a slip and fall in the bathtub. He must be
numbered among the transgressors: "And He was numbered with the transgressors,
and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
(Isaiah 53:12). To be "numbered with the transgressors" means
to be judged, by a competent authority, a transgressor of the law, as was Jesus.
The lack of clarity in the Koran about Jesus' fate, when ever He
died if He did die, or will die if He has not yet (there is no
resurrection, no joyful Easter morning in Islam; where there is no
cross, there is no crown), leaves room for a wide range of
interpretation and speculation amongst today's Muslims. The
underlying lack of clarity stems, it would appear, from the various
sources Mohammed ibn Abdallah cobbled together, without
understanding their differences. The docetic opinion that Jesus
cannot have died on the cross because death has no affinity with
Deity chafes uncomfortably, bound up with Mohammed's denial of
Jesus' deity, but there it is.
The tale of the 'Satanic verses' does not originate with foes of Islam,
but from early Islamic historians like Ibn Ishaq. Sura 53:19-20 reads as
follows: "Do you see Al-Lat and Al-Ozza, And Manat the third idol
besides?" As the Koran now stands, this is followed by ridicule of
the idea that Allah would have only daughters while humankind preferred
sons. At its first reading, though, Mohammed delivered these lines
next: "These are the exalted females, [or, sublime swans] And truly
their intercession may be expected". The blatant polytheism of these
verses met with controversy, and Mohammed later withdrew them.
Here's the story:
"Mohammed's softened attitude, which found expression in such actions
as occasionally inviting pagans to his home for food and drink, was conciliatory.
However, his promise that any who followed him would become his brother,
executor and successor, found no grounds for conversion among his clan,
so he decided to seek other solutions. The accounts in some early
traditions suggest that he came up with an extremely incautious plan to
offer as a compromise. To please the Quaraysh, he praised three of
their goddesses (in lines known as satanic verses). This concession
was a severe blow to his prophecy. Ibn Ishaq reports: 'When the apostle
saw that his people turned their backs on him and he was pained by their
estrangement from what he brought them from God, he longed that there should
come to him from God a message that should reconcile his people to him.'
[Ibn Ishaq, d. 150/767, The Life of Mohammed, the earliest biography of Mohammed.]
"Thus, verses 53:19-20 refer to the three female idols: al-Uzza, al-Manat,
and al-Lat. As the Koran suggests, the Meccans regarded them as daughters
of another male deity (to whom Mohammed referred as Allah). Tabari
(d. 310/923) a Sunni historian, indicates that, in the presence of worshippers,
Mohammed added, 'These are the exalted goddesses whose intercession with
the Deity (Allah) is to be sought.'
"Among his own followers, Mohammed was for a time suspect because of this 'undivine' remark, but his message
was nevertheless an attempt to bring him closer to his tribe. The attempt might have been an outgrowth of Mohammed's examination
of the psychological aspects of compromise Ibn Ishaq reports: 'When the Quraysh heard that, they were delighted and greatly pleased at
the way in which he spoke of their gods, and they listened to him, while the believers were holding that what their prophet brought them
from the Lord was true, not suspecting a mistake or a vain desire or a slip.'
"The implications of this gesture caused many Christians and Jews to believe that the sect had renounced its monotheism
and that Mohammed had reverted to his original polytheism. 'Mohammed temporarily yielded to the temptation to allow the pagan gods a place
in his religion. The move was in human terms a dramatic success. But it was not monotheism.' [Cook, 'Mohammed', p. 17]. The
impulse to engage in such a compromising exercise proved unsuitable to his prophecy. He was aggrieved. Ibn Ishaq reports:
"'Then Gabriel came to the apostle and said, "What have you done,
Mohammed? You have recited to these people something I did not bring you
from God and you have said what He did not say to you.' Satan had intercepted
something into his desires as he had on his tongue. So God annulled
what Satan had suggested and God established His verses.
"'"Are yours the males and His the females? That indeed were an unfair
division! They are but names which ye have named, ye and your fathers, for which
Allah hath revealed no warrant..."'"
(The Emergence of Islam: Prophecy, Imamate, and Messianism in Perspective,
Mostafa Vaziri, Ph.D., Chapter 1, Mohammed in Mecca, pp. 18-20.)
Only a Sinner
Mohammed was a self-professed sinner in need of forgiveness:
"'Walk righteously, sacrifice and be of good cheer,' he said, 'but none will enter Heaven on account of his
deeds.' 'Not even you?' he was asked. 'Not even I,' he replied, 'unless God smother me in forgiveness and mercy.'" (Hadith
quoted p. 95, An Introduction to the Hadith, John Burton, see Sahih
Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 70, Number 577.)
"Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: None amongst you can get
into Paradise by virtue of his deeds alone. They said: Allah's Messenger, not even you? Thereupon
he said: Not even I, but that Allah should wrap me in His Grace and Mercy."
(Hadith Sahih Muslim Book 039, Number 6764).
"Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah's Apostle saying. 'By Allah!
I ask for forgiveness from Allah and turn to Him in repentance more than
seventy times a day.'" (Sahih Bukhari, Invocations, Volume 8, Book 75, Number 319).
How dangerous can it be to imitate a man who, by his own confession, needs
to be smothered in forgiveness and mercy? How would you know whether what
you're imitating is one of those seventy-plus things for which Mohammed had repented?
Muslims insist on finding Mohammed's biography edifying and his life morally
exemplary. Purportedly God thinks so, too: "Verily you have in the
Messenger of God an excellent exemplar for him who looks to God and the
Last Day and remembers God often." (Sura 33:21, quoted p. 28, The
Heart of Islam, Seyyed Hossein Nasr). But to outsiders, the events of this
man's life break the mold of what we expect from a religious founder. When
did Jesus ever accept the gift of a slave girl, as Mohammed gratefully
accepted Mary, the Egyptian Christian slave? When did Gautama Buddha ever
mug a passing caravan, as Mohammed and his band proposed to do at Buwat?
The Koran even specifies Mohammed's share of the booty (Sura 8:42). Whatever
the merits of Gautama Buddha's religious innovation, you cannot call him
a common thief. While there were admirable moments in this man's career,
Mohammed was ultimately willing to use violence and trickery to achieve his aims.
When we see people in the third world who have set themselves up in
Mohammed's profession today, we call them 'war-lords.'
Aspects of Mohammed's life-style, such as polygamy, find precedent in the
patriarchs. The patriarchs are great exemplars of salvation by faith. Certainly
the Bible makes clear this is the ground on which they stand in claiming salvation:
“What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to
the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast
about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed
God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' Now to him who works,
the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not
work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted
for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the
man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed are those
whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is
the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.'” (Romans 4:1-8).
Those who want to follow the patriarchs into the Kingdom should join them
in clinging to Christ, not set them up as tutors in a works program they
never endorsed. Much less wise to follow the kings who openly violated
the law in multiplying wives: "Neither shall he multiply wives for
himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver
and gold for himself." (Deuteronomy 17:17).
A man cannot safely emulate Mohammed in marrying a child bride, a girl
beneath the age of consent: "At this time Mohammed married Aisha,
daughter of Abu Bakr, who was then ten or eleven years old. She was a beautiful,
delicate, and amiable young girl, emerging out of childhood and blossoming
into full womanhood. Although she was fully grown, she was still quite
attracted by amusement and play...In Mohammed, she found not only a sympathetic
and loving husband but also a compassionate father who was not at all offended
by her inclination to play games and amuse herself with trifles."
(Muhammad H. Haykal, The Life of Mohammed, pp. 183-184). Earlier sources
say that she was nine. She was still of an age to play with dolls: "Mohammed
had enjoyed playing with his own daughters when they were small and he
sometimes joined Aisha's games. One day, she remembered, 'the Prophet came
in while I was playing with my dolls...'" (Karen Armstrong, Mohammed,
A Biography of the Prophet, p. 157). You can go to jail for that! So why
play the perilous game of emulating a mere man, and a sinful man at that?
Need a biography of the prophet Mohammed?: