Friday, August 21, 2009

Islam 101 continued...

Hi, gals. I read your comments and I am very appreciative of them.

Yes, I am taking my time and being very deliberate in my studying. I'm going to write down the questions I come up with and pose the Islamic ones to the sisters at the masjid, and the Christianity-related ones to a local church.

The one thing that I have found odd is that I keep hearing "the Bible has been altered/corrupted/changed". My question is this: if the Bible has been corrupted, why did God instruct Mohammed/the people to ask the people who had read the Scripture before (meaning the Bible) if they misunderstood something in the Qu'ran?

Surat Yunus 10:94 --
YUSUFALI: If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee: the Truth hath indeed come to thee from thy Lord: so be in no wise of those in doubt.
PICKTHAL: And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers.
SHAKIR: But if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed to you, ask those who read the Book before you; certainly the truth has come to you from your Lord, therefore you should not be of the disputers.

These are three different translations of the Qu'ran. I doubt that God would instruct people to follow the truth of a "corrupted" Bible.

Second: All the different "versions" of the Bible aren't versions. Like the Qu'ran, they're different translations. Unless I totally miss my guess, we still have the original books of the Bible, so the translations are likely being done from the original, not from translations of translations of translations of the original. I don't know how the Catholic Bible or the Book of Mormon or any of that fit into this subject (or if these are the "versions" that the sisters have referred to), since I've never read them.

Third: Why would Mohammed edit the Qu'ran, if it were whole and true? From what I've read, Mohammed revised/edited the Qu'ran every year, not just adding things, but taking things out. This leads to my next question.

Fourth: Why would God supposedly give a commandment (for lack of a better word), but then take it back a little later? I'm forgetting the examples I read of this, but I'll make a note in the future if I find it again.

Fifth: Muslims claim that the Bible says nothing about Jesus being the Son of God, and that Jesus Himself never claimed it. If not, then what about the baptism of Jesus, where a dove flew from the heavens and God said "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."?

I know I've left out some things, but I'll continue with this when I remember. This is what I get for not writing things down. : )

I am trying very hard to be objective in my study, but most of my questions are Islam-related, since I have been a part of Christianity my whole life and have more knowledge and background on it.


  1. Yes there are a lot of issues that you will have to come to terms with.
    1.We know that the Hebrew bible was completed in its current form about 4 centuries before the time of Jesus, so it could not have been corrupted after this. Jesus affirms what is in it, and Islam considers Jesus to be a prophet.
    2. Translations of the Bible aren't really an issue as you stated. We have original language versions of every book in the Bible, although some books have copies from earlier dates than others.
    For the N.T. check out "The Text of the New Testament" by Bruce Metzger for the Torah specifically check out "Who Wrote the Bible?" by Richard Friedman. Both are good critical scholars not from an overly conservative or liberal perspective.
    4. I discussed this in a recent post on Islam on my blog. Why does the Quran institute different festivals and holy days than the ones in the Torah. Christmas and Easter aren't relevant to the discussion because they aren't in the Bible. Easter is a Christianized form of Passover, which was commanded in the Torah and Christmas is a Christianized pagan celebration of the equinox. Anyway, I am speaking about the Jewish Sabbath and holy days like in Lev. 23. Sarah on Save our Sunnah also did a post for me about why Muslims don't keep the sabbath with info from the Hadith and Quran.
    5. Jesus being resurrected from the dead was the whole reason the early followers spread his message and were also willing to die for it. Does the Quran expressly deny this? Most would interpret it this way. The term Son of God is used in the O.T. as well to refer to someone who has a special power given from God. A good book I read through recently on the early spread of Christianity is called "Reinventing Jesus" by Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace.

    The answers aren't always easy. I've been reading through the Bible and starting the Quran for my Ramadan project and have a lot of questions too. Like in the Book of Judges it seems that Jephthah sacrifices his daughter to Yahweh (Ch 11). Then the Levite in Ch. 19 allows his concubine to be raped to death and then sends 12 pieces to each of the Israelite tribes to show them how sinful they were.
    I guess I'll leave it at that, questions and lots of them.
    Maybe we can take turns blogging on specific questions that we have and sources that try to resolve them.

  2. Heather,

    I would like to enter a word of caution here, not only for you, but for anyone in a similar situatin to yours who might be reading this. At first glance, it may seem that the questions you are presently posing mostly have to do with Islam. However, there is a reason you were a bit afraid to go to that Islam 101 class - namely that in answering your question, given you're a Christian, the people at the mosque will basically end up questioning Christianity.

    (to be continued)

  3. I think you need to be prepared for that, especially since many Muslims have grave misconceptions about what Christianity actually teaches, ones that you will only catch if you know the Bible well. Perhaps you will want to have a policy of not talking about Christianity with them at all. What I am saying is, you need to be prepared in advance for what you will do if the conversation takes a turn in this direction.

    All that having been said, you have evidently been doing your homework about the Qur’an. I will admit that I did not happen on that very important issue you bring up myself while reading the Qur’an, but rather on a web site while I was looking for something else. But yes: there is that matter of how one could, in a Qur’anic context, turn around and talk about the Bible being corrupted, when the Qur’an says what it does in that verse you cite – and the Bible has definitely not been changed since the Qur’an was written. I do in fact do what that verse says, and I come up with very different interpretations of the Qur’an from the traditional ones.

    Catholics do indeed have a different version of the Bible from Protestants. For the Old Testament, Protestants use only the books contained in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), while the Catholic Bible has extra books in the Old Testament which are in some circles termed ‘the Apocrypha’ or ‘the deuterocanonical books’. The New Testament, however, is the same as in the Protestant version. The Book of Mormon is not a version of the Bible. It may contain some passages which are more or less direct quotes from the Bible, but it is a whole different book.

    We do not have the actual original manuscripts of the Bible, but we do have MANY copies of varying ages in what the present evidence shows to be the original languages, so that we can see what the text is, and whether it has or has not changed over time. For the New Testament, I use the UBS 4th edition, which is supposed to be the best critical edition of the Greek New Testament available today. I also have a non-Messianic Jewish Masoretic text for the Hebrew, because I want to learn to read it in the traditional way, and as far as I know, the tropes – indications in the text as to how it is to be chanted – are not marked in Christian critical editions of the Tanakh). Maybe Stacy knows a good Christian critical edition for the Tanakh?

    I have not ever come across any information in Muslim sources that would indicate that Muhammad edited the Qur’an, except for one sole verse (or maybe a small group of contiguous verses?) that was recited and which he in some way later concluded had not been from God, so he removed it. So I think you need to consider the possibility that this particular item might represent misinformation.

    When you talk about giving a commandment and taking it back later, are you talking about within the Qur’an, or are you talking about in the Qur’an vs. the Torah? Because the Qur’an does talk about making lawful some things that were not lawful in the Torah, I do not remember the exact words here, but I do recall that the Qur’an itself explains why it does this.

    But as far as the Qur’an itself giving one command and then taking it back… It seems to me that some people interpret the matter of how to treat non-Muslims in this manner. There are different things said about that in the Qur’an, and some Muslims take into account the chronology of the verses in question and conclude that some verses apply to a situation where Muslims are a minority, and others to situations where they are a majority. Where their position is weak, vs. where their position is strong with respect to non-Muslims.

  4. This is not a hermeneutic (interpretation methodology) that would normally be used in studying the Bible. In the Bible, we would take the entirety of the Scripture and allow the Scripture to interpret the Scripture. Let’s say, if we applied this type of hermeneutic to the Qur’an, we would come up with very different conclusions in the matter of how to treat non-Muslims than we would if we applied the methodology that is often used by Muslims.

    The questions I have about the Qur’an are more the ‘devil is in the details’ type:

    1. Why would God swear by earthly things in the Qur’an, if the Bible says that we always swear by things that are higher than we are – or, in the case of God, He swears by Himself, since He doesn’t have anything higher to swear by?

    2. Why would the Qur’an say that it is Ishmael whom Abraham was asked to sacrifice, rather than Isaac? That Ishmael was the child of promise, and not Isaac? Especially since the Qur’an itself is rife with references to God’s covenant with the Jews, who are descended from Abraham through Isaac and not Ishmael.

    3. Why would the Qur’an permit polygyny, when Jesus justifies His thesis that divorce is not permitted by referring a verse in Genesis that reads: For this reason, a man shall leave father and mother, cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? He is very evidently doing two things here: 1) taking this verse to be the definition of marriage, and 2) showing that we must take it very literally, so that deviating from it in any way will mean that what we are doing is not marriage, but fornication. He is also saying that divorcing one woman and marrying another is adultery. Does it make sense to say that staying married to one woman and then marrying another isn’t adultery?

    To put the matter another way, the Bible and the Qur’an probably do agree that this is the ideal: one man plus one woman exclusively for life. Neither would consider that to be anything but a real marriage, as long as both parties are the same religion. So that the Qur’an is not going to accuse the Bible of propagating fornication. Coming at the matter from the other direction, however, the picture is very different. From a Biblical standpoint, it appears that the Qur’an is at least condoning a lifestyle that amounts to fornication.

    4. What about the Qur’an’s take on whether it is permissible to marry a Person of the Book? Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether the rules are different for men and women, let’s consider the men. There are different schools of thought in this matter. The Shi’ites apparently do not permit permanent marriage (nikah) between a Muslim and any non-Muslim, but they do permit temporary marriage (mutah) with people of the Book. The Sunnis do not permit mutah, but they do permit Muslim men to contract nikah with women of the Book.

    My problem with that is that the women of the Book are in principle bound by the rules of their own religion. In the case of a Jew, it is pretty clear-cut. Marriage to a non-Jew is not permitted. The traditional Orthodox interpretation considers the marriage of a Jew and a non-Jew to be fornication, although at least the children are considered legitimate. The big problem, though, comes when the kids arrive. Traditional Jewish interpretations of the Law stipulate that it is the religion of the mother that determines the religion of the child. So that if a Muslim marries a Jew, his child will be Jewish according to Jewish law, which means his wife will be have an obligation to raise the child as a Jew.

  5. Likewise, in the case of a Christian, many Christians understand marriage to a non-Christian to be forbidden, unless the problem is that one party converted to Christianity after marriage. Then they are permitted to remain with their spouse. And the problem also becomes more complicated when the children arrive.

    There are Christians who believe that a child can be born a Christian. And among those, the interpretation is definitely that if even one parent of either gender is Christian, then the child is too. Among those who believe that no one can be born a Christian, there is still the question of what religion to raise the child in. There are some very conservative people who believe that it is the father’s obligation to provide religious education for his children, and there are others who believe that this obligation rests on both sexes equally, just as the commandment to children to honor their parents applies equally regardless of the gender of the parent.

    The point here is that a serious-minded, believing Jewish or Christian woman is unlikely to marry outside her religion in the first place, but even if she does, she will consider herself obligated by the laws of her religion to raise her children in her own faith. If a Muslim has to do with a supposed woman of the Book who does not feel this sort of obligation, she may well not be a real person of the Book at all, but rather an unbeliever. And then she would be forbidden to him anyway.

    So what I want to know is: why doesn’t the Qur’an take into account the rules of the Bible in these matters, and the fact that the women of the Book are bound by them?

    I’m sure I have more questions than just those, but this is what comes to mind at the moment.

  6. Stacy,

    1. What about the Septuagint? It appears that it is often used when the Tanakh is cited in the New Testament, and it does differ from the original Hebrew quite noticeably.

    2. I recall your mentioning elsewhere having attended a Christian school. I admit to being curious from your choice of scholars which one.

    3. Oops, no point 3.

    4. I’m told that the holidays underwent a certain evolution. I recall reading, for example, that at the beginning, they apparently even fasted on Yom Kippur! I admit to having been mildly curious myself whether Islam has a prescribed day of rest. What you say jives pretty much with what I have been able to find out.

    While we are on the subject of holidays and Christmas in particular, let me tell you a secret: equinoxes occur at the beginning of Spring and Fall. In the case of Winter and Summer, we have to do with a solstice.

    5. It is true that the Tanakh talks about ‘sons of God’ in the way you mention. Indeed, Jesus used such an argument to defend himself against a charge of blasphemy when claiming explicitly to be God’s Son (John 10). The fact remains, however, that the Gospels already contain a precise rationale (in Luke 1) for why Jesus is called the Son of the Most High, namely the manner of His birth.

    I admit to getting worried whenever I see titles like ‘Reinventing Jesus’. That sounds like something from the Jesus Seminar crowd. I view them as having prejudices of their own which IMHO disqualify them as credible witnesses.

    I admit that back in 2002, when I undertook – probably for the first time, actually – to read the Bible cover-to-cover (I had already read each book at least once before, but separately – not in order from beginning to end), being quite shocked at how pagan a lot of things that were described there were. I recall explaining it to myself at the time that God was speaking to them from where they were. He was taking for Himself a peculiar people who, like it or not, had up until that time been surrounded by paganism. He did not deal with them all at once, because they simply were not ready for it. They needed the Law first, because that was all their mentality would allow them to take in.

    The Bible really is a mirror. What we take from it is really going to be a reflection of who we are. Some time back, I read Deepak Chopra’s ‘How to Know God’, and it details a certain evolution that every religion goes through. For convenience, he details seven different levels. And it seemed to me that there is something that speaks to each of those levels in the Bible. And people who are at a given level are going to understand it in terms of their level.

    The funny part is that people who are at, say, level one, but in different religions, are going to see all the differences and be very much opposed to each other, while people who are at level 6 or 7 are likely to see the similarities and feel quite close to each other. Once they get beyond, say, level 4, they may well feel closer to other people at their own level in other religions than they would with people of their own religion who are at different levels.

  7. PS Another couple of good books pertinent to the matter at hand come to mind, both by Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun who is now not any particular religion, but spends the bulk of her time writing about spiritual matters. I have in mind here in particular 'A History of God' and 'Muhammad'. The first title is self-explanatory, the second is a biography.

    I know, these and the Chopra book are pretty out-of-the-box items for someone with a conservative take on the Bible, but hey, I must be out of the box if I'm hanging around on a blog entitled 'Non-Muslim Niqabi', right?

  8. Heather, Wanted to let you know I put on hijab today :)

  9. Caraboska-

    Yay! Hijab! So, how did it go?

  10. Very well actually. I stayed up all night last night and had Suhuur, and by the time I woke up it was just a bit too tight a connection to get to church, so I didn't go.

    But then I went out to a friend's later on in the afternoon, and noticed I was making an extra effort to be kind to people, greet them, etc. if it looked like they were curious. And then I arrived at my friend's place. She was surprised, but she liked it and even asked how I tied it :)

    She asked if I didn't want to take it off now that I was indoors and it was just the two of us - the only male around was her cat - but I explained that since I'm a Christian, it has a bit different meaning than if I were a Muslim, it has more to do with prayer, and there's the idea of praying all the time translating into full-time covering - had a college roommate who took that view.

    So, a positive experience. God willing I plan to continue, unless I find that it either ceases to be spiritually meaningful, or comes to have some unedifying spiritual meaning for me personally. So it will always be a bit of an experiment, because every day I'll be figuring out what this means for me, that I am covering my head...

    How have you been getting on the past couple of days?

  11. Very well, thanks. ^_^ I found a nifty new Muslim store here (it just opened, and is the only one in town), so I'm planning to go there on Friday, when she'll have a bunch more new stuff. I found a gorgeous blue velvet abaya with beautiful embroidery, so I think I might have to splurge and get it for "special occasions". : D

    Do you have a blog?

  12. Oh, cool beans! It ought to be easier now for you to get the sort of modest clothing you're after... I don't have a blog at the moment, because I haven't hit on the right concept for one yet, but Stacy keeps telling me I should start one :)

  13. @Caraboska, I'm going to get to your questions, but I think I'll just make it a separate post on my blog.

    Oh, the book actually has the full title "Reinventing Jesus-How the skeptics miss the real Jesus and mislead popular culture" so its actually a critique on pseudo-scholars like the Jesus seminar people.

    The school I went to was North Central University in MPLS. Its affiliated with the Assemblies of God. Most of the scholars are not overly conservative, but would be considered middle-of-the-road at least for early Israelite studies. I don't have as much background in N.T.

    Glad to hear that your covering experience went well.


    And for understadning aya/verses in quran // its is tafsir of ibn kathir wich is agreed upon the ijma of the muslims. It is the best and comprehensive one.

  15. I have nothing to add, really, except to second the reccommendation for Karen Armstrong. She has several books, all dealing with religion and the evolution thereof.

    Oh, I lie - Book of Mormon, not a version of the Bible, as has been stated. Now, Jehovah's Witnesses (I think it's them) have their own version of the Bible, edited heavily for their own purposes, of course.

    I'd also quibble with the 'different Bible' stance re: Protestants v. Catholics - the Protestants removed books they felt were less inspired(?) than the rest - the deuterocanon - from the OT, but in many Lutheran Bibles from the more 'old school' side of the tracks, those books are still there, simply in their own little section.

    The other thing is that caraboska should totally get her own blog. I find your answers wonderful to read. :)

    hmm...there was something else, but I can't recall what it was...oh well...

  16. Amber, I have probably heard this half a dozen times this week. The problem is, I don't have a concept. And it would be kind of silly to start with no idea where I'm going, run out of ideas and end up stopping after a week... Unless it's possible to just make a blog where I comment on other people's blogs, with links of course... Help!

  17. caraboska,

    Bow to the weight of our demands! :)

    You don't need to have a blog concept, necessarily. Lots of people just post random things about their lives (edited for privacy, as they feel appropriate).

    Sometimes they write about what they read - especially if they're reading theological material.

    And, people who have a lot to say in response to other people's posts will make their own blog posts, with links in the original posts comments.

    Obviously, if you don't want to have a blog, don't. I just think it'd be neat if you did. Then, you wouldn't have to just write in response to others, but write whatever comes to mind.

  18. Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem
    Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmathullah wa barakatuhu

    After all the learned and sensible comments made about your blog, all I can say is

    WOW !!

    Alhamdulillah I am so very very glad you are looking at Islam seriously. And I will make duaa that you find the path that is right for you.
    It is strange that I have a friend who was born into a Jordanian Christian family. I have known her for years - she is now a Muslimah and her initial path was rather like yours. What I'll do is write a blog about it (after I have asked her if it is okay, of course)
    I am sorry I have been out of touch for so long. I haven't been able to get on line and then it was the start of the blessed month of Ramadhan which is such a wonderfully spiritual time.
    I will stay in touch now I am back. Take care and I'll be thinking of you.
    Walaikum salaam and BIG hugs

  19. Hi,

    I have not read all the comments this morning, but I do want to throw in a few thoughts of my own here:

    1. The New Testament know, St. Peter, St. Paul, all the other apostles, etc, used the Septuagint (LXX) as their Scriptures. ALL the Old Testament Quotes referenced in the NT are direct quotes of the LXX. The LXX was the Bible in use by all the Old Testament Church (Jews) during time of Christ and the early Christian Church. The Septuagint is the Old Testament canon of the Orthodox and Catholic Bible. The Messianic passages/prophecies about Jesus are much clearer in the Septuagint than they are in the Hebrew Old Testament, which was edited well into the Christian era to refelct a bias against Christianity, as it was the Scriptures of the Jewish community AFTER the Chrisitan Church came into existence. In other words, the Old Testament Scriptures used by Christians up until the protestant reformation was consistently a translation of the LXX, and it was only the reformers to cut chunks out of the Old Testament Scriptures and started translating the masoretic text to use as the OT, instead, as they decided it would suit their own purposes better.

    2. Please, please, please investigate Orthodox Christiantiy. At least do some reading about it. But my advice would be, if you are taking questions to a Christian pastor, take those questions to an Orthodox Priest as well. For one thing, Orthodox Christianity is Middle Eastern Christianity, and you would be comparing two religions within the same culture if you are studying Islam. On the internet, good places to start would be

    Another good resources are the podcasts at

    I suppose my point is, if you are limiting your understanding of what Christianity is, and how Christians have historically worshipped and lived to the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations (I'm assuming from your post that you are protestant of some sort), then you are missing a huge chunk of Church history and life and it is good to be informed.