They have forsaken the Lord (Part 5) – Robert’s Reply

Robert:
Bringing the heat huh James? 🙂
I guess I’m going to “bite” your format…

James: What or which apologist comment?

Robert: ” I do think that our dialog is fruitful as you have helped demonstrate that there are Muslim apologists that try to defend Islam intellectually rather than physically through terror.”

I take offense to the idea that I am some sort of “Muslim apologist”, I have nothing to apologize for in regards to Islam, as my thoughts and beliefs are what I believe are what Islam teaches.  These are the conclusions I came up with when I began my study almost seven years ago and they are the same conclusions today.

James: It’s funny that you mention this. You do know that the Qu’ran actually puts biblical scripture on the same level with the Qu’ran (see Sura 6:115, Sura 6:34, Sura 10:64, Sura 3:3 and others). If Muslims believe the Qur’an is true in its statement that nobody can change the words of God then errors in the Bible prove that the Qur’an is not from God and / or Muhammad endorsed an erroneous book. Also, everything in the Qu’ran would have to be viewed in light of biblical scripture since obviously the revelation of biblical scripture predates that of the Qu’ran. This is a serious logical problem for Islam and the implications of the above are huge when you consider that the bible and the Qu’ran, substantially, are diametrically opposed to one another.

Robert: I don’t mean any harm, but I have seen this argument from Christians before.  It never truly makes sense to try and legitimize ones scripture using another, because you almost always come up in error.  For instance:  6:115 refers to Muhammad (saw), 6:34 legitimizes the Prophet (saw) by reinforcing the point that God has sent messengers to every community and specifically recalling accounts of some earlier Prophets (saw) and alluding to others, 10:64 I don’t see your point in this ayah, 3:3 actually nullifies your point:

3:3 Step by step has He bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, setting forth the truth which confirms whatever there still remains [of earlier revelations]: for it is He who has bestowed from on high the Torah and the Gospel

One of the name of the Quran is the Fuqran which means the Criterion.  It’s a firmly held belief that the Bible as we know it is corrupted and while there is truth in it, there is much falsehood, we believe the Quran is the only perfect revelation and use it as the measure to weed out truth from falsehood.  The reference to the Torah and Injeel (Gospel) only alludes to the fact that there was such a thing revealed, however the Quran often reminds us that there is no such 100% accurate thing in existence today.  Hence the mention of the Quran first being revealed over a period of time (23yrs) that confirms what truth is left in the Bible and also pointing out what isn’t truth in the Bible.  The last part bear witness to the fact that the same Originator Originated the message.  The preservation of the earlier was left to man and they failed, the latter God said He would protect Himself, also in the Quran.

So in light of Islamic theology, I don’t understand your point.  We just bear witness that there were Prophets before and was revelation before, but it’s oft repeated in the Quran that much of that message and history has been distorted.  It would be foolish for one who is truly Muslim to accept the Bible whatever version you pick, and say it is all true, when the Quran specifically says it was tampered with.  Using that reasoning, I might as well have pork chops for dinner tonight!

James: Modern context? Overly simplified? I’m really not sure what you are trying to say here but giving an example of the “…western concept and by it’s [sic] design is made to look easy” comment might help me respond intelligently.

Robert: Modern context, is my allusion to the constant chain of revisions.  If it was correct the first time, there would be no reason for new versions.  Overly simplified is an allusion to pre-set doctrines and dogmas by denominations that pick and choose the scriptures from the church members and tell them how to read the Bible versus actually learning Greek, Latin, Hebrew, etc. and seeking out the original texts and formulating an individual position.  What I meant by “western concept” was the allusion to the myriad of differences in Christianity some very stark in contrast to Eastern Churches and philosophies at times.

James: Obviously, your claim of Qu’ranic original preservation is highly controversial; in fact, the Hadiths refutes this claim in many places; if you were interested I could corroborate this statement. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why you are more comfortable with marginalizing the Hadiths than some of your scholarly peers. You imply that the Bible has been “whitewashed” or revised; I would like to think that I’m somewhat knowledgeable about biblical history; can you give examples of this white washing?

Robert: Highly controversial to whom?  A:  The Hadith by all Islamic Fiqh’s are man-made recollections and are not considered holy in any regard.  The only true source of Al-Islam is the Quran.  No scholar disputes that, so we can play the Hadith game all day, Fiqh normally determines which are acceptable and which are not anyway.  Show me in the Quran where preservation is refuted and then we would have a debate.  Most scholars only use Hadith to clarify points, there are some collections that are considered “authentic” but what you will find from Muslim to Muslim is that reliance on Hadith is varied.  When I say the Bible has been “whitewashed” or revised, I meant exactly that.  We can talk Early Christianity and NT all day, but the mere facts and history bear witness to the truth that there was no such thing as Bible in either Jesus (saw) or the disciples time.   The first book(s) of the NT didn’t even appear in some of their lifetimes.  No one knows the authors minus Paul of course and then you have some books thrown in or out depending on the authority of the various Churches of the time until the matter was “settled” of course.  There are many Christian scholars like Paula Fredrikson and Bart Ehrman who have wrote extensively on the subject and are considered giants in this field.  I’m just a student, however based on research and study, it becomes quite obvious that after about a century of manuscripts being edited, revised, retranslated, thrown in, thrown out, that the only thing that one has left to believe that the original message and history survived is faith.  The oldest book Mark wasn’t even written until 80-100 CE and some suggest that it’s actually a part of a book called “Q”.  The other synoptic Gospels are based off of the Markan narrative, with the author of Luke actually admitting in the first chapter that he is recounting events as they were told to him ( i.e. not witnessed himself) for emperor Theophilis, if of course I remember correctly….I could have my Christianity Professor contact you for more info if you want, and btw, she’s a Christian in case you think I have something up my sleeve….My point is my sources are completely Christian when it comes to the history of the Bible, surely you can’t in your study say that the version of the Bible you use is exactly the same as a Christian of another denomination?  Last I checked the Catholics (correct me if I’m wrong) have more books than included in say the KJV or NIV.  I don’t know what version you use, so my statement is broad obviously.

James: Your assertion is loaded so my response will be loaded. There are over 5000 extant manuscript artifacts (also called codecs) of the bible; on the other hand, we don’t know how many total manuscripts of the Koran exist or whether they differ from the Qu’ran we have today because any manuscript evidence is hidden for unknown reasons; I mean, what’s to hide? If the Qur’an truly is uncorrupted, why does the Muslim world not publish the oldest Qur’an manuscripts? Why not start with the Topkapi and the Taschkent manuscripts? Incidentally, you could destroy every bible on earth and because of the redundancy of manuscripts available, we would still be able to arrive at the bible we have today with little effort so I’m not sure what you mean when you say that the “contextual arguments would be the same.” Nothing has changed in the Bible. When I want to understand a verse in the Old Testament or Tenakh, I simply refer to my Hebrew Lexicon since I have the original Hebrew per the manuscripts. Similarly, when I want to exegete any passage in the New Testament, I simply refer to my Greek lexicon.

Robert: I like loaded. 🙂  There are over 5000 manuscripts I agree, which are which?  Are they all repetitions of the KJV?  Do they include books like the Gospel of Thomas, Philip, etc.?  If not why?  Better yet, why aren’t those in the modern Bible?  As far as the Quran your right we don’t know who many Qurans exist, but we know where the oldest reside….In Turkey.  And all Quran’s from the oldest in Turkey to a copy I recently bought a year ago are in the same exact language as has always been: Arabic.  There is no difference in any Quran on the globe!  Takes alot to say that, but find a Muslim that would say otherwise.  That is why it is so easy for little old me to refute say someone in Saudi Arabia, because we have the same scripture letter for letter.  Our only difference is of course translation.  Arabic doesn’t translate into English well, so English translations vary from author to author, but all have the original Arabic on the right or left side of the page and footnotes to explain why they translated the way they did vice another author, however, If I were to learn Arabic completely then there would be no problems from Quran to Quran.  Arabic is still a spoken language and the tradition of Hafiz is still alive and well.  Now before you go there…certainly there is faith involved, Muslims can only physically prove that what we have as Quran today is the same as the time of Uthman and earliest copies exist from as early as the 640’s to 800’s, but none deny that every Quran in existence today is an exact copy of those.  So that gives skeptics roughly about a period of 50 years (and that’s being very generous) to suggest that somehow in the recording process something went wrong.  It’s interesting to note that all those present in the recording process was actual companions of Muhammad (saw) who were hafiz, i.e. memorized the entire Quran.  Furthermore, historians bear witness that the ability to memorize texts was a reliable source of communicating information that Arabs had mastered during that time and many Muslims master even today.  Most Mosques won’t even hire an Imam unless he is a Hafiz or a least has half the Quran committed to memory and can recite it verbatim.

Now, can any of the same be said of the Bible?  Is there such a thing as those that have the Original Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, etc. memorized?  If so, what texts?  From what time(s)?  Were any of the compilers of the NT companions of Jesus (saw)?  Were any even eyewitnesses?  My point is this, the margin of skepticism of the Quran spans at tops 50 yrs, the margin of skepticism for the Bible at minimum, is several centuries.  Add to the facts the lack of known authors, no eyewitnesses, no definitive text to compare to, etc….well you get the point…  Even if we were to say that the oldest Quran is dated around 1000 CE (and it’s not btw) I could still take my 114 Surahs in Arabic and match them against those from 1007 years ago and get a complete match.  If you took all the books included in the KJV for example and compared them to ??? 1007 years ago what would you get?  Was there even a definitive cannon then?  Is there even one now that all Christians around the world accept?

As you can see, I take great “issue” with your “nothing has changed” comment, history bears witness that a great, great, great, deal has changed, while the Quran love it or hate it has not.  That is why for the most part when Muslims debate one another we have to interpret and contextualize based of examples of previous Muslim societies including the Prophet (saw) and rely on history to discern between us, because we are reading the exact same scripture.  So almost every division in Islam has nothing to do with composition of the Quran, but merely politics and interpretation.  That is why Sunni, Shia, and others still pray in mixed congregations because while our views may differ our text is the same.  When was the last time a congregation of Baptists attended Mass on the regular?

James: I would argue that you are conveniently attributing historical events to Quranic verses to deflect the arbitrary nature of the verses. Ultimately, you have no rebuttal since unlike the Bible, the Quran fails to identify the historical context for the verses in question or for that matter most of the Quranic text.

Robert: I would argue that is purely an opinion.  You are missing the point.  The rules of scholarship/readership is different because we are talking about two different animals.  There is no deflection, the truth of the matter is, our religion cannot be discerned properly without looking at the Quran and Sunnah.  All scholars of Islam have to rely on the original Arabic and contextualize it based on Islamic history, because that is the nature of the revelation.  Some verses are allegorical, theological verses, some reference previous revelation and figures, some verses reference present history at the time, and some refer to future events.  So in order to decipher the Quran you have to have knowledge of the previous revelation ( i.e. Bible), you have to have knowledge of Islamic history at the time of Muhammad (saw), and the rest is faith i.e. belief in the day of judgment and ideology like God is One, etc. etc.  The problem is you keep comparing apples and oranges and calling them the same.  Yes, the are both fruit, but apples have their own specific make-up and so do oranges and that’s what makes them different.  Would you give a chimpanzee an autopsy to learn more about human composition just because they share a great deal of DNA that is similar?  Even Christians that rely on the Jewish texts fall into debate with Jews who say the Christians don’t understand their text.  Go to www.jewsforjudaism.com to see my point in action.

James: The verse you provide seems to convey that we should be able to read the Quran plainly without commentary, but obviously this is not the case. Anyone reading the Quran without any outside influences (with the exception of the social context of that day) would arrive at the same conclusions that I and number of people have. This is the reason why your explanations of the controversial verses are not that evident. It’s not that we don’t understand to selectively apply historical context; it’s that the text does not necessitate that type of exegesis. For example, there is nothing in scripture that tells us we must understand or limit the rules concerning the role of women in the church in terms of the historical context. Therefore, if I were to say that it only applies to the women of Paul’s day, this would be called eisegesis, since the text does not call for that. So, while I admire the fact that you have an answer for the controversial verses, the fact that your interpretation is not the most obvious for someone of my educational background is slightly worrisome.

Robert: Are you talking about 3:7?  If so, your reading it wrong.  The verse coveys the opposite, that one must be learned to grasp the entire text.  Because there is more going on than pick and choose a verse, that’s what many Muslims have been trying to say all along.  You have to know Arabic, Islamic history, etc. etc. in order to grasp the meaning of the Quran.  That is what the Quran says itself!  That is why Muslims are taught to seek ILm (knowledge) from the cradle to the grave.  And all Muslims are taught to learn Arabic.  The truth of the matter is without Arabic knowledge, or a very good translation with footnotes (and then not even) you can never truly understand the book.  That’s just the nature of the game and religion.  Then and only then can you properly exegete and even then you still need to be versed in Islamic history.  That is why this verse points out that there are two types of people who have knowledge concerning the Quran:  Those who actually study the Islamic sciences and those who may not but believe in the whole of the text knowing that it is consistent and needs to be studied.  The third person mentioned are the non-believers who pick and choose and ignore the composition, context, and necessary rules of the book and instead opts to arbitrarily decide what the Quran means, instead of listening to the book itself and actually enjoining in the Islamic Sciences that one needs.  This was my major point:  You have to be pretty much an Islamic scholar, seeking to be one, or relying on those that already are to understand the book.  That is why we have such councils and bodies that issue Fatwa’s and make rulings, for those that aren’t scholars.  But for the Christian it is not commonly taught to go seek out 5000 plus manuscripts, to learn several languages, read the works of the early church fathers, etc.  Many actually believe that what they have in English is the original complete work and that is so far from the truth.  Scholarship is not promoted (for good reason in my opinion) and many are taught to just believe.  Up until a couple of years ago, many Christians still believed Jesus (saw) spoke 15th century English until Mel Gibson came out with the “Passion” and even more still don’t know where the title of the movie originated.  Still many more believe that Leonardo Da Vinci’s relative is what Jesus (saw) actually looked like!  On and On and On…

James: I disagree with your assertion here; it’s impossible for a Muslim to arrive at your interpretations without extra-Quranic text. How would I know to associate Surah 9:29 to “the time when the early Muslim community was at war with the Pagan Meccans?” I mean, if I have to be a “sahabi” (companion of Prophet Muhammad) to properly understand any of the Surahs (as many Islamic scholars claim) then how can you claim that the context of the book is rooted in the book itself? The bible does not require such prerequisites.

Robert: Well your disagreement is noted.  You don’t believe me ask any Muslim scholar of your choosing and you would get the same formula:  Arabic + Islamic History.  That’s the course curriculum for Islamic Studies in actuality.  How would you know how to associate 9:29?  Islamic Studies.  No you don’t have to be a Sahabbah, but you have to know who they were and about them.  How can you claim the context is rooted in the book?  Because the book says so itself, see 3:7 again.  It clearly states the nature of the book.  The Bible doesn’t require such prerequisites?  Well, that’s your opinion, depends on the Christian scholar your talking to.  Most I read, say that you have to understand the history, language, and people to discern the Bible properly.  If not, there wouldn’t exist such Biblical Studies fields, two of which I’m pursuing: NT and Early Christianity.  I know your not suggesting that one can simply read the KJV or even the NIV, etc. and fully discern what a people who didn’t even speak English meant?

James: Every one of the eight items you listed is not necessarily coherent in the Quran but it is not my intention to go into details unless provoked to do such. My point in saying this is to simply dissent regarding the clarity of such theology in the Quran.

Robert: That’s your opinion, but I listed them based off my belief and understand of the actual coherency of the text, maybe that’s why I’m a Muslim.  But if you can prove otherwise, I would love to see….

James: Your first three sentences are very confusing; what are you trying to say? How is the context relative? What is a “standard of reasoning” and why should it differ unless the author of the Quran is achieving something special by using a non-chronological presentation? Also, you highlight a major weakness in the Quran, namely, its non-chronological presentation. Most literature that is displayed in such a way usually does more to confuse the reader than inform them. Order is essential to facilitate clarity, conversely, disorganization promotes confusion. Even movies directors that use the non-chronological format to mystify a trite plot have to eventually bring everything together in the end otherwise the presentation never truly conveys the intended and entire message. What scriptural method do you apply to the Quran than is different from the scriptural method of the Bible? Your very last sentence does not reinforce your previous sentences; in fact, it is really a “straw man”, as to my knowledge, no one in this thread has suggested that you should apply your knowledge of one scriptural domain to ascertain the meaning of another.

Robert: I’m not the one confused about the Book I base my faith off of.  What the Author is trying to achieve is best left up to the Author.  I have yet to meet a Muslim who didn’t think the Quran is clear.  We may differ on what that clarity means, but the root is consistent:  Belief in One God without partners or associates, submit to His will, live righteously and you will enter into paradise, live otherwise and taste the hellfire.  Seems pretty clear to me.  See 3:7…theres a part about searching for it’s “hidden meanings” what are you looking for?  Muslims would some the Quran up as clear as I have just did with the addendum that we are to believe that Muhammad (saw) is the seal of the prophethood and the messenger of God.

James: Unfortunately, I must dissent. In fact, I would suggest that the entire aggregate of Islamic knowledge is fodder for refutation including the fundamentals. No Islamic dogma has gone unscathed. Many skeptics have done so meticulously and I am willing to provide these refutation if asked or provoked to do so.

Robert: Please show me your proof.  For every scholar with a “beef” most likely non-Muslim, there is a Muslim scholar with a counter.   I would love to see the fundamentals of Islam that are fodder.  Show me what’s so refutable about belief in the One God of Abraham (saw), belief in Muhammad (saw) as His messenger, belief in prayer, belief in charity, belief in fasting, and belief and pilgrimage?  You may dissent our way of doing these things, you may dissent against our Prophet (saw), however these are the fundamentals or pillars of our faith i.e. on these things is the belief of the Muslim held up.

I would love to see you or the scholars you refer prove to me 100% why I shouldn’t believe in the One God of Abraham (saw), Muhammad (saw) as His messenger, etc. etc.  Should I believe in many gods, not pray, fast, give charity, or go on pilgrimage?  Why?

James: You still have not asked the question I recommended. Before providing all the details you have presented, it would have helped (and probably still will) if you asked the skeptic what evidence he/she is willing to accept as proof. What do you mean by “predisposed belief?” I will reiterate that I think our dialogue has been fruitful regardless of whether we know where to go from here or not.

Robert: OK, What evidence are the skeptics in this email willing to accept as proof?  What I meant by predisposed belief was the idea that there is much that my never be “proven” to the non-Muslim no matter what I say…it’s a form of pessimism.  If I weren’t somewhat true, you would be Muslim, and we wouldn’t be having this dialogue, although you and I both know, our disagreements won’t stop us, because this type of thing is like crack to us!

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