FAQs from Muslims and Christians
Answering and asking important questions of Islam and Christianity.
The Seven Deadly Questions of Islam
We begin with what the Qur’an says about the Bible; many verses actually confirm that it is God’s Word and has not been changed. Here are only a few for example:
- sura 5:43 ‘How come they to you for judgement when they have the Torah, wherein are contained the commandments of God?’;
- sura 5:44 ‘We [God] did reveal the Torah, wherein is guidance and light…’;
- sura 5:46 ‘We sent Jesus…confirming that which was revealed before him in the Torah, and We bestowed on him the Gospel wherein is guidance and light…’;
- sura 5:68 ‘[Jews and Christians] have no guidance until you observe the Torah and the Injil [Gospel]’;
- sura 4:136 ‘Believe in God and His messenger [Muhammad], and the Scripture which He revealed to His messenger [the Qur’an] and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime [the Bible]’;
- sura 10:94 ‘If you [Muhammad] are in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto you, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before you’;
- sura 6:34 ‘There is none to alter the Words of Allah’;
- sura 10:64 ‘There is no changing of the Words of Allah.’
If the Bible was corrupted, was this before or after Muhammad? If before, why would God tell Muhammad to refer to a ‘corrupted’ Scripture for guidance, and why does he say of the Torah and Gospel ‘wherein is guidance and light’ rather than ‘wherein there used to be before they were corrupted’? If after, why does the Muslim not accept the Bible, since current translations are all based upon manuscripts that predate Muhammad?
If it was corrupted, was this by Jews or Christians? Since neither were on speaking terms with each other (sura 2:113 ‘The Jews say the Christians follow nothing (true) and the Christians say the Jews follow nothing (true), yet both are readers of the Scripture’; (also see 5:82) how could they agree to change every single Bible identically? Why was there no record of this happening, and why did nobody try to stop it or hide authentic Bibles? The New Testament books were widely distributed as soon as they were written – the ‘Jesus Papyrus’ of Matthew 26, found in Magdalene College from the 1st century was found in Egypt. Presumably Matthew was still alive when it was written – so why did he not try to correct it if it had been tampered with? Why did the Christians not remove embarrassing stories like Peter’s denial of Christ (Matt 26:69-75) or Paul and Barnabas’ disputation (Acts 15:39)?
What is the Bible’s testimony of itself? ‘All Scripture is God-breathed…’ (2 Tim 3:16); Peter describes Paul’s writings as Scripture when some people were maliciously distorting his teaching ‘as they do the other Scriptures to their own destruction’ (2 Pet 3:16). ‘The Law was given through Moses’ (John 1:17) and Jesus said ‘Scripture cannot be broken’ (John 10:35). His words are ‘spirit and life’ (John 6:63) and He has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). How could anybody dare to add or remove portions of Scripture when faced with the warning in Rev 22:18-19 ‘If anybody adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anybody takes words away from this book of prophecy God will take away his share in the tree of life and the holy city….’
Significantly the early Muslim commentators (eg. Bukhari, al-Razi) all agreed that the Bible could not be changed since it was God’s Word and several centuries passed before Muslims (namely Ibn-Khazem, 1064AD) claimed that the Bible had been changed, when they carefully read the stories in the Qur’an and noted that they were different from those in the Bible.
The Qur’anic verses used to support corruption in the Bible have been entirely misused by Muslims. For example sura 2:42 ‘Confound truth with falsehood, nor knowingly conceal the truth’ was said to have come to Muhammad after two Jews were brought to him for judgement, having committed adultery. The other Jews wanted to test him to see if he, as a prophet of God, knew what was in the Torah. So he asked for a Torah and got a boy to read the punishments for disobedience. When the boy reached Lev 20:10 (‘if a man commits adultery with another man’s wife….both must be put to death’) the Jew accused of adultery slammed his hand over the verse so the boy could not read it (source: Abu Dawood 4449 (Arabic) or 4432 (English)). A far cry from corrupting the text of the Bible. Other verses say that a group of Jews used to listen to Scripture then change it – but (i) it was only a group, not all the Jewish people around the world, let alone in Mecca; (ii) they must have had the original genuine copies in order to have been accused of changing it; and (iii) they did not change the written text, they simply told Muhammad that it said things which were not there, in order to mislead him.
It is clear, then, that the Qur’an does not teach the Bible has been changed, nor did Muhammad. It is clear that the theory of Biblical corruption started in the 11th century by a Muslim polemicist, 400 years after the birth of Islam, and it is clear that this myth which has been proliferated through to the modern era, has not been sufficiently critiqued by Muslims and has no reliable historical foundation.
a. Sura 61:6 says ‘Jesus, son of Mary said, “I am indeed the Messenger of God to you, confirming the Torah that is before me and giving good tidings of a messenger who shall come after me whose name shall be Ahmad.”‘ Before you reply, ‘But nowhere in the Bible does Jesus talk about such a person!’ you will be told to look at John 14:16 ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you…’ The Greek word for Counsellor is parakletos (literally, one who draws alongside, as in a defence barrister in a court of law). Muslims claim that John originally wrote periklutos which apparently is Greek for ‘Praised One’. Not a single manuscript of John 14:16 or 14:26 (where parakletos is used again) has periklutos, thus one wonders how such a downright lie ever came to be invented. In the context of John 14, the Parakletos is to be with the disciples for ever (v16); He is the Spirit of Truth (v17) who is neither seen nor known by the world, but who lives inside believers; and He is the Holy Spirit who reminds the Christians of all that Jesus taught them (v26). Could any of these things relate to a physical human being, Muhammad?
b. ‘The LORD came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran with tens of thousands of holy ones’ (Deut. 33:2) and ‘God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran’ (Hab. 3:3). Muslims claim that Moses came from Sinai, Jesus from Seir and Muhammad from Mount Paran, and the ‘tens of thousands’ refers to one of his battles fought with ten thousand soldiers! Not only is the context clearly God and nobody else, but the interpretation is based upon a nineteenth-century geographer who apparently identified Paran with Mecca and Teman with Medina. That Paran is actually 1000km away from Mecca can be seen from the chronicles of the Israelites’ wanderings, e.g. in Deut. 1:1, also see Num. 13 – how could the twelve spies leave Paran (v3), go straight into Canaan and explore the whole country (v21-22), cut some grapes (v23) and bring them back to Paran fresh (v27) in a mere 40 days if they were travelling a total of 2000km?
c. ‘[The Jews] asked [John], ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.” Although Muslims reject the testimony of John 1 that Jesus was divine (v1, 2, 14, 18, 34, 49) they hold that the Prophet referred to is Muhammad. The origins of this Prophet go back to Deut. 18:15 (‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your brethen’) who is clearly identified to be Jesus in Acts 3:22. Of the differences between Moses and Muhammad, not the least is that Muhammad was not Jewish and yet the Prophet will be from their own brethren, i.e. ‘fellow Israelites’ (this excludes descent through Ishmael, Isaac’s half-brother, Gen 16:12 versus 17:19). Moses is far more comparable to Jesus than to Muhammad: both were born in poverty and there were plots to kill them in infancy (Ex 1:15-16, 22 v. Matt 2:13); yet both were rescued (Ex 2:2-10 v. Matt 2:13). Both were prepared for a period of forty units of time (forty being a biblical unit for preparation): Ex 7:7 v. Matt 4:1); both liberated their people from slavery (Exodus v. John8:32-36); water was subject to them both (Red Sea Ex 14:21 v. Sea of Galilee Matt 8:26); both spoke to God face to face (Ex 33:11 v. Matt 17:3), both had faces that shone after communing with God the Father (Ex 34:29 v. Matt 17:2); both died because of sin – Moses because of his own, Jesus because of ours (Num 20:12 v. Is 53, John 1:29, 10:15).
The Qur’an is mistaken in its portrayal of the Trinity as Mary and Jesus being two separate gods besides Allah:
- sura 5:116 ‘O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah?';
- sura 6:101 ‘How can He [God] have a child, when there is for Him no wife?’;
- sura 5:17 ‘They indeed have disbelieved who say: Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary’;
- sura 4:171 ‘Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son’.
This portrayal of Christians as believing that God took Mary as His wife and she and their baby Jesus became two separate gods is as offensive to Christians as it is to Muslims, although there is evidence that heretical sects banished to Arabia were teaching this, or something similar, at the time of Muhammad (known as the Maryamia or Choloridians).
When we say ‘Jesus is the Son of God’, we mean ‘He is the eternal uncreated Word of God, equal in every respect and fully divine’, unfortunately the Muslim hears in his mind ‘God had sex with Mary and she gave birth to Jesus’. Yet, Muslims, especially those who speak Arabic, should understand that ‘Son of God’ is a title, rather than having a literal human meaning. Helpful pointers include sura 2:177 in which the Arabic ibni-sabili literally means ‘son of the road’ but is translated ‘wayfarer’ – just as Jesus is not literally a physical son of God, so a wayfarer is not literally fathered by a road. Sura 85:22 is held by the majority of Muslims (Sunnis) to mean that the Qur’an is uncreated, existing with God since the very beginning. If God’s word the Qur’an is eternal and uncreated, why is it a problem that Jesus, God’s Word, should also be eternal and uncreated? Indeed there cannot be a time when God’s Word has never existed, since it is intrinsically a part of God. Interestingly sura 4:171 says Jesus is a Word from God and His Spirit, yet elsewhere the Spirit (Arabic ruuhim minh) is identified as being the very essence of God Himself (sura 2:253 ‘We supported [Jesus] with the Holy Spirit’, 12:87, 58:22).
In the Qur’an Jesus has attributes that no other human being has: He was born of a virgin (sura 21:91 – who was Jesus’ father according to the Qur’an?) and was sinless (sura 19:19). As a child He made birds out of clay and breathed life into them, yet the gift of life is something that only God can give (sura 3:49 – this story first appeared in the heretical Gospel of Thomas in the second century AD). He heals men who were born blind, cures the leper and raises the dead; He has knowledge of what is hidden in men’s houses (sura 3:49). He has the power to intercede (sura 3:45 – ‘one of those brought near to Allah’) yet only God can intercede (sura 39:44); He can forgive sins (sura 61:12), and He alone knows the hour of Judgement (sura 43:61)!
A Muslim will point out that in the Bible Jesus never explicitly says that He is God – it is true he never says the English phrase “I am God”, yet he certainly does teach about his divinity, in ways far more convincing. Whereby through all his teaching evidence is presented and He allows people to make up their own minds. The Bible categorically denies that there is more than one God (Deut. 6:4 ‘The LORD your God is One’ – this verse is quoted by Jesus in Mark 12:29; see also James 2:19). Yet the Hebrew word echad for one implies a plurality, e.g. it is used in Gen 2:24 (‘the two shall become one flesh’). God speaks in the plural e.g. ‘Let Us make man in Our image’ (Gen. 1:26) yet there is no ‘royal we’ in Hebrew. In Gen. 1:2-3 we see all three Persons of the Trinity in action, God, Word and Spirit, and in Matt 28:19 Jesus names these three Persons as one name – “go and baptise in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.
Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins, and since we sin against God alone, who has the authority to forgive sins except God (Mark 2:7)? Who other than God can demand that our love for Him must be so exclusive that all our other relationships seem like hate in comparison (Luke 14:26)? Since God instigated the Sabbath, only God can be the Lord of the Sabbath, yet Jesus uses this title for himself (Mark 2:28). Jesus passes judgement on our eternal destiny (Matt 25:32, John 5:22) and is with us forever (Matt 28:20). He said that He was the good shepherd (John 10:11) yet God is our shepherd (Ps 23:1). He is the light of the world (John 8:12) yet God is our light and our salvation (Ps 27:1). He applied the holy name ‘I AM’ of God (Ex 3:14) to Himself (John 8:58) – and was stoned for blasphemy. At His trial, when asked by the High Priest if He was the Son of God (a Messianic title, see John 10:34-36), Jesus replied, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ (Mark 14:62). This was a direct reference to Dan 7:13-14, in which the Son of Man is given all authority and all peoples worshipped Him. It was this unambiguous claim to divinity that was deemed sufficient grounds for sentencing Jesus to death. Although Muslims have a problem accepting that Jesus really did die (see Deadly Question 5) there can be no denying that Jesus was at the very least sentenced to die.
When a Muslim says that there can be no Trinity and no physical appearance of God, he is limiting God, since God is able to do all things (sura 5:17, 19). More than that, the Trinity means God can do so much more than a simplistic ‘one’ could, such as Allah who is described as Tawhid (one). In fact in sura 27:8 we read that God appeared to Moses in a burning bush (cf. Ex 3:2). Since the Qur’an tells us Allah, who is ‘Tawhid’ (one), spoke to Moses from within the burning bush, then it becomes a dilemma for the Muslim, because it means God in his entirety must be in that bush, because he is ‘one’ and ‘indivisible’. There is no such dilemma for the Biblical Triune God. Furthermore, if God can lower Himself to the extent of appearing as a fire, surely He can humble Himself to appear as a man (Phil 2:7) – after all, a human is much greater than a fire. The question then becomes not, how could God become a man, but why did He become a man?
Sin dishonours the King of Kings and since (according to Islam) we are God’s ‘slaves’ (sura 19:30) surely we must respect Him and accept punishment for dishonouring Him. It does not matter whether we have committed many or few sins – a small stone is just as likely to sink in the sea as a big one, because they both share a stony nature. In the operating theatre it does not matter whether the scalpel has been contaminated by one germ or millions, it is no longer sterile. The penalty for sin is death (Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 6:23) and God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19, Romans 3:4). Everything on earth must perish, and flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50); only God lasts for ever (sura 55:26-27). Atonement is therefore necessary because we are not good enough to earn a place in Heaven by our own merits.
God has decreed that the life of an animal is in its blood (Leviticus 17:10) and the institution of animal sacrifices is a visual aid given to understand atonement – without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). The question remains, how can the blood of a perishable lamb redeem a human, who is also perishable (Heb. 9:9, 10:1, 10:3) – perishable cannot inherit the imperishable. The only blood which truly has power to take away sins is imperishable blood, and if God appeared in human flesh He would have imperishable blood, which alone is sufficient to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
There are two important clues in the Qur’an to this. In Sura 5:27 we learn that Abel’s sacrifice (of blood, Gen 4:4) was accepted by God, whereas Cain’s sacrifice (vegetables, Gen 4:3) was not sufficient. Secondly in Sura 37:107 we read that Abraham’s son was ‘ransomed by a momentous sacrifice’, referring to the substitution by God of a ram instead of the boy in Gen 22:13-14. Why was it necessary for God to provide a substitute to save the boy’s life? More importantly, why was the ram described as momentous (Arabic al-Azzim – this is one of the ninety-nine Names of God in the Qur’an). How could a ram be greater than a human being, unless it was a representation of an altogether greater sacrifice to come, that of Jesus Christ? (Note: the Qur’an maintains that it was Ishmael, not Isaac who was to be sacrificed. When discussing this story do not get side tracked onto the issue of which of Abraham’s sons was involved since this is a red herring. It is far more important to ask why the sacrifice was needed, and why a ram is described by a word that is a title of God Himself?)
You will note the usage of both Qur’anic and Biblical verses. This is not because Christians believe the Qur’an to be authoritative, but to point out that the Qur’an only says part of the story, or a skewed version of the original story, yet you need the Bible to fill in the big gaps in Islamic theology. The much earlier and original Biblical narratives are uniquely capable of revealing the real path, and the full story, to how God forgives. If you just abide by Islamic theology, then you can never be sure if Allah will forgive. But if you abide by Biblical theology, then you can be sure that God will forgive you, not based on your works (your works can never be good enough to enter the presence of a holy, almighty God), but based on God’s work for you – that is God’s salvation through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. God took the punishment for you, so that you can live with God forever in Heaven. After all, if God is almighty, He is surely powerful enough, and able to do such a thing.
That Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead is beyond question from the Gospels (‘When they had crucified Him’ (Matt 27:35); ‘With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last’ (Mark 15:37); ‘When they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs’ (John 19:33); ‘The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you were looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here….He has risen from the dead’ (Matt 28:5- 7). The last passage is especially important for Muslims, who pay particular attention to things that angels say to humans. After all, a Muslim’s whole belief system depends on whether an angel really did meet with a man called Muhammad in a cave in central Arabia; there are no, or very few, eyewitnesses, with no written record of it for 200 years, which raises some serious questions.
Extra-biblical evidence for the reality of the Crucifixion includes the pagan writers Tacitus (‘Christus suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius’) and Lucian the Greek (‘Christians worship the crucified sage’), the Christian apologist Justin Martyr referred to the ‘Acts of Pontius Pilate’ (now lost, but must have chronicled the death of Jesus to have been referred to) and Jewish writers Josephus (‘Pilate condemned Him to be crucified and to die….’) and Babylonian Talmud (‘He was crucified on the eve of the Passover’). Early Christians used the Lord’s Supper and the Cross as symbols of their Master’s sacrifice (1Cor. 11:23) and were never in doubt about the reality of the Crucifixion, to the point of being willing to die for their belief in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Conventionally Muslims have maintained that a substitute man was crucified, but this opens a ‘can of worms’. Usually it was said to be Judas Iscariot (impossible since he committed suicide, Matt 27:5; Acts 1:18) or Simon of Cyrene (Mark 15:21, impossible since he came from Libya and would have looked very different from Jesus). Why was it even necessary to involve an innocent substitute? Why did the crucified man not cry out that a mistake had been made? Why did Mary recognise him as her Son (John 19:26)? Why would God deceive the disciples, who, the Qur’an tells us were inspired by God and believed in Jesus (sura 5:111), into thinking that Jesus had died and risen again, since this made them realise that Jesus truly was divine (‘declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord’ Romans 1:4-5). If Jesus was not God, this deception would have caused the disciples to worship another god, which is the greatest sin (shirk) known to Islam. How could God deceive godly men into committing the most ghastly sin imaginable – God is not a deceiver! A further problem is that if the man only appeared like Jesus, perhaps the Qur’an was not even given to Muhammad but to a man who looked like him. Finally, if the substitution theory was correct, if I committed adultery I could escape judgement by claiming that I was actually sleeping with my wife, but she merely looked like another man’s wife, and appeal to the Qur’an for a divine precedent.
The important thing about these criticisms and others is that they have been made by Muslims – particularly the medieval scholar Al-Razi, who wrote the ‘definitive’ commentary to the Qur’an and is perhaps to Islam what Luther or Aquinas are to Christianity. Since even senior Muslims have problems with sura 4:157, what can we say? The Qur’an talks about Jesus’ death in other places as a historical event, e.g. Sura 3:55 ‘Allah said, ‘O Jesus! I am taking thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me’ and sura 5:117 ‘I [Jesus] was a witness of them while I dwelt among them, and when Thou tookest me Thou wast watcher over me’. The Arabic word for ‘take’ (ta-waffa) in these verses means ‘death’ in every other place in the Qur’an where it occurs, e.g. referring to the death of Muhammad in sura 10:46 (‘…or whether We cause thee to die…’). In sura 19:15 God says to John the Baptist ‘Peace on him the day he was born and the day he dies, and the day he shall be raised alive’ and in sura 19:33 Jesus says, ‘Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised to life’. Since we know that John the Baptist has died (Mk 6:14-29), surely Jesus must have done so to speak in this way.
Sura 3:169 says ‘Think not of those who are slain in the way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are living’, meaning that the intended effect of those who killed people in God’s way was not achieved, as martyrs were remembered more as a result of their death than for their life. Sura 8:17 says that ‘it was not you Muslims who slew them, but Allah did it’ referring to a battle the Muslims fought and reminding them that God was sovereignly in control of the victory. Finally even the Qur’an admits that it is not impossible for Christ to have died – ‘Who can do anything against Allah, if He had willed to destroy the Messiah son of Mary?’ (Sura 5:17). The most consistent explanation of Sura 4:157 in the light of all these other verses is that the Jews were unable to boast that they had killed Jesus, because God was supremely in control in allowing His Son to die on a cross!
Examples of these claims include verses which talk about rain falling, and others which say that there is water underground – conclusion – the Qur’an is describing the water cycle. A comparison of verses in the Bible shows that the same ideas were around long before Muhammad. Another is a verse which claims that mountains are like tent-pegs and prevent the earth from moving. Geologists are quoted as saying that mountains have ‘roots’ below the ground that hold the earth in place, when in reality far from preventing earthquakes, mountains are actually built up as a result of seismic activity.
Perhaps the greatest amount written by Muslims in this field concerns the development of the human embryo. Many verses describe how we originate from a drop of semen that gushes forth (sura 53:46) from ‘between the backbone and the ribs’ (sura 86:7). Muslims claim that the totally false idea that sperm is produced somewhere in the region of the backbone refers to the site of embryological development of the testes which is close to the kidneys – although there is no possibility of this interpretation in the context. In fact the Greek physician Hippocrates taught 1000 years before Muhammad that semen passes through the region of the kidneys and spine. Other verses say that we develop in four stages – a drop of semen, a blood-clot, a piece of chewed flesh and a stage in which bones are clothed with flesh (sura 22:5, sura 23:13). In trying to identify precise points in human development that these stages relate to, Muslim scientists have totally overlooked the fact that Galen, writing at Pergamun in Turkey (Revelation 2:12) in AD 150 claimed that humans go through these four stages of development. Other examples could be given from the Qur’an and the Hadith (sayings of Muhammad) which have been manipulated to try to show them saying things which have only recently been discovered. In every single case it has been conclusively demonstrated that not only were these things originally taught by the ancient Greeks, but that they were actually well known to the people in Arabia at the time of Muhammad. Far from proving that the Qur’an is divinely inspired, they provide further evidence that it had human origins.
But why stop at Western society? One could argue that there are as many problems in Islamic societies as there are in Christian societies, except that these are often overlooked or hidden. For example, the vast majority of the countries at war or undergoing civil unrest are Muslim. Corruption in Islamic countries is rife. The position of women is far more restricted than in the West. Under Islamic law if a woman is raped she must bring four witnesses to testify to the crime in order to bring a case. If she claims she was raped but cannot produce four eyewitnesses not only is the case thrown out, but she could be flogged or even stoned to death for having effectively admitted in public to committing adultery. When statistics of violent crimes in the West are compared with those in Muslim countries and found to be much higher, is it because in Muslim countries they are not recorded because the necessary witnesses required by Shariah law cannot be found? Or is it because of the shame and honour culture; whereby, shameful behaviour is hidden, even when innocent people are being abused?
One could argue that polygamy was never part of God’s sovereign plan and it is impossible to fully take care of more than one wife equally (Gen. 1:27; 2:24; Deut. 17:17; 1 Cor. 7:2; 1 Tim. 3:2). Yet the Qur’an allows up to four wives (sura 4:3), and not only did Muhammad have at least nine wives, he used to sleep with all of them in one night (Bukhari vol 7, Hadith 142), including one who was 9 years old; setting a precedent that has allowed Muslim men to take child brides in some Muslim majority countries. Christians are commanded to love our wives as Christ loved the Church and gave His life for her (Eph. 5:25,33), whereas the Qur’an commands men to both beat their wives if they do not submit to them (sura 4:34 – Arabic word literally means scourge or beat hard), and treat them kindly; although how one beats and is kind at the same time is somewhat of a contradiction. One of Muhammad’s wives, Aisha, was only seven when he married her, consummated when she was 9, and another, Zainab, was originally the wife of his adopted son, but was forced to marry Muhammad when he admired her beauty. Another wife, Saffiyah, was a teen wife of another man, but once Muhammad killed him, he married her without waiting for the apportioned length of time dictated in the Qur’an. Much of this can also be described as ‘depravity’.
Many more examples could be given, but ultimately we want to introduce our Muslim friends to the teaching of Jesus, who really is the answer to resolving the ‘depravity’ we see in our societies today. A good question to ask as sceptic is: ‘what would happen to society if everybody followed Jesus priorities and principles, in comparison to Muhammad’s example?’ The results would be vastly different, and worth investigating. When considering any of these comparisons and questions try to avoid being distracted on issues of minor importance and keep looking towards the truest example and model for our time, because our salvation ultimately depends on how we answer these questions. A genuine Muslim enquirer will have many questions, but most of these are red herrings, false and preconceived notions, that prevents them from hearing about the good news of salvation through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. And if you are a Muslim reader reading this, consider the differences between the Muhammad of the Qur’an and the Jesus of the Bible. Once you have read about both, then make an informed decision on who is the best example today, and the only remedy for the ‘depravity’ we see in our societies?
We hope and pray you will ultimately believe in and accept the Lord Jesus Christ, the God who died for you, and took the penalty for your sins, so that you can be transformed to please Him, and have the assurance that you will live with God in heaven for all eternity. Do come on home.
- Sura 2:223 – women are a tilth for husbands
- Sura 2:228 – men have a degree above women
- Sura 2:230 – reconciliation after divorce can only happen after a woman has consummated another marriage to another man
- Sura 2:282 – a woman’s testimony is half that of a man
- Sura 4:3 – a man can have polygamous marriages, women are not permitted to have more than one husband. Women are to be treated equally, except if you are a slave girl.
- Sura 4:3b – ‘except what your right hand possess’ (Sura 4:24-25; 23:6; 24:34; 70:30; 33:50)
- Sura 4:129 – men are unable to treat wives equally
- Sura 4:11 – a woman’s inheritance is half that of a man’s
- Sura 4:15 – lewd wives/women are kept in their houses until death
- Sura 4:24 – It is permissible to marry already married slaves
- Sura 4:25 – if poor and lack self-control, slave girls are permitted for marriage
- Sura 4:34a – men excel women
- Sura 4:34b – righteous women are devoutly obedient to their husbands
- Sura 4:34c – corporal punishment of wives is permitted if the husband suspects wrong-doing, or rebellion
- Sura 4:128 – a wife has to work problems out peacefully, she has no other recourse
- Sura 5:6 – men are to purify themselves after being in physical contact with a woman; note this is not sexual contact, that is mentioned later on in the verse
- Sura 33:32-33 – Muhammad’s wives are encouraged to stay in their houses
- Sura 33:6 – Muhammad’s wives are regarded as the ‘mothers of believers’
- Sura 66:4-5 – Muhammad’s wives are threatened by Allah with divorce if they continue to upset Muhammad
What do you think? We conclude that the Qur’an does not elevate the position of women, rather it holds women in an archaic 7th century Arabic and Muslim malaise that is detrimental to the well-being of women today.
Claim 1: “Women are equal with men in Islam.” The verse utilized to support the claim is Sura 4:1 which states “Fear your Lord who created you from a single being and out of it created its mate; and out of the two spread men and women… heed the ties of kinship” Yet, utilising this verse to support equality is risky due to the misogynistic attitudes, edicts and treatment of women (both Muslim and non) in the following verses, culminating in the domestic violence verse of Sura 4:34; pointing to violence ordained by Allah.
Claim 2: “Islam ennobled Women.” Sura 33:35 is used to support this idea, which states “the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women…. The men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” It is the big equality verse employed by many Muslim Apologists. However, the surrounding verses paint a derogatory picture of how women are to be treated in daily life. Furthermore, verse 35 explains the condition of a woman in judgement before God, alongside men, but not their actual status in life. So what do the surrounding verses, which talk about a woman’s standing in life say about their ennoblement?
Let’s permit the Qur’an to speak for itself:
- Sura 33:32 provides stipulations on how Muhammad’s wives were to speak.
- Sura 33:33 encourages them to stay in houses, and obey Muhammad as they would obey Allah
- Sura 33:36 stipulates clearly that men and women have no choice in a matter when Muhammad and Allah decree it.
- Sura 33:37 unveils the story of Allah granting permission for Muhammad to marry his adopted son’s wife Zaynab.
- Sura 33:50-52 tells us of Allah’s provision for Muhammad to have extra privileges, meaning that he can take women who offer themselves, postpone whom he wishes and take those he desires.
- Sura 33:52 then limits the number of wives Muhammad can take on, except the slave girls he is attracted to.
- Sura S33:53a provides a clear picture of household rules given by Allah to help Muhammad. Muslims were not free to enter Muhammad’s house except when invited.
- Sura 33:53b reveals a rather antisocial Muhammad, whereby divine stipulations warn people not to sit around for social conversation in Muhammad’s house, but to immediately exit after a meal. The reason given is that it annoys Muhammad.
- Sura 33:53c informs us why Allah orders this; i.e. Muhammad is too shy to tell them.
- Sura 33:53d encourages gender segregation and division between men and women, whereby no man is to talk to Muhammad’s wives without a screen between them in place.
- Sura 33:53e advices people against annoying Muhammad, and sadly none of his young brides (which made up the majority of his wives) were to be married after his death; thus most of his teen and twenty year old brides had to remain as widows for the rest of their days.
So while Sura 33:35 is utilised by Muslim apologists to defend an ennoblement of women in Islam, in reality it is clear that only in judgement are they looked upon similarly, but in everyday life the surrounding verses reveal an attitude and treatment detrimental to the ennoblement of women, especially in light of the example of Muhammad.
In response, sura 4:19 might be put forth as an edict not to inherit women against their will. Yet, this verse begs the question of how ‘not inheriting women against their will’ measures up against other clear and more prolific verses allowing Muslim men to take slave girls, including married ones, which quite obviously would be against their will (sura 4:3, 4:24-25; 23:6; 24:34; 70:30; 33:50).
Sura 4:19 also exhorts Muslim men not to treat women harshly, by taking away their dowry – unless they have been ‘guilty of open lewdness’. There is always an exception in the Qur’an. Treating a woman kindly is provisional and dependent on a woman’s behaviour. In fact, the following verse accepts that men replace their wives, and in the context of these verses, the kindness referred to is to let the soon to be divorced wives keep their bride price for that marriage. Qur’anic kindness is never an unconditional kindness and love, as exemplified in Biblical edicts on how a man is to treat his wife, i.e. that of unconditional sacrificial love (Ephesians 5:25 based on God’s example in John 3:16-17). Sura 4:16 is also a rare verse which is overshadowed by others of corporate punishment (sura 4:34), imprisonment till death for the lewd woman (sura 4:15), obedience for a wife towards her husband (4:34), and easy divorce for men (sura 2:65; 4:20).
- Sura 33:50 – Muhammad could take women who offered themselves to him, but it was only a privilege for him; made lawful for him were also those his ‘right hand possessed’ (i.e. slaves of war); this is so there would be ‘no discomfort’ for him.
- Sura 33:51 – Muhammad was allowed to postpone or take on any wife he willed.
- Sura 33:52 – limits were then introduced concerning how many Muhammad could take, ‘except what his right hand possessed’.
- Sura 33:52 – Muhammad was allowed to have slave girls (‘what your right hands posses’), and there were no limits as to how many he could have.
- Sura 33:53a – permission was needed to enter Muhammad’s house and he was easily annoyed.
- Sura 33:53b – Muhammad’s wives had to stay behind a screen when a male companion came to visit, limiting the free mixing of men and women.
- Sura 33:59 –Muhammad’s wives, daughters, and women of the believers were then commanded to cover themselves, so as not to be abused. This is not necessarily a bad thing in regards to modesty, but it has been utilised to support the use of the hijab or niqab, gender segregation, and, unfortunately, in the minds of some Muslim pundits is the notion that an immodest woman is at fault if abused.
- Sura 65:1ff – Allah gives instructions on how to divorce wives; in fact, there are more verses in the Qur’an on divorce than on marriage, or the fair treatment of wives (sura 2:230).
- Sura 65:4 – implies that prepubescent girls can be married and divorced; a verse which has caused much contention and debate between Muslim scholars and the schools of Islamic law.
- Sura 66:1-2 – suggests that Muhammad be absolved from his oaths; even to his wives.
- Sura 66:4-5 – Allah threatens Muhammad’s wives with divorce for upsetting Muhammad.
What makes the above verses on Muhammad’s treatment of women, and Allah’s affirmation of it, so troubling? The answer is found in the Qur’anic injunctions to emulate Muhammad as a role-model, even for today. Consider the following verses:
- "He who obeys the Messenger (Muhammad) has indeed obeyed Allah..." (S. 4:80)
- “And Allah said: "Oh you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger.” (S.47:33)
- “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” (S. 33:21)
- And verily, you [Muhammad] are an exalted standard of character. (S. 68:4)
We conclude then, that to obey Muhammad, follow him as an example, and see his character exalted, means Muslim men today can:
- Take slave girls
- Be easily annoyed
- Have Allah aid them in their whims and desires
- Implement gender segregation
- Divorce fairly easily, and have Allah’s help if needed
- Be absolved of their oaths
- And threaten wives with divorce if they don’t absolutely obey.
In conclusion then, if Muhammad’s model of behaviour is implemented, then the evidence points to a very unsafe, fragile environment for Muslim women to move around and live in, especially if their husbands were to truly emulate the example of Muhammad. Which begs the question: Is Muhammad an example for today? The evidence speaks for itself, if women are to be protected from potential abusive situations, Muhammad cannot be a role model for today.
- Sura 4:19 “live with them honourably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good” [Muhsin Khan]. “Treat them kindly; then if you hate them, it may be that you dislike a thing while Allah has placed abundant good in it” [Shakir].
- Sura 30:21 “And among His signs is this: that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest and peace of mind in them, and He ordained between you love affection and mercy. Certainly, herein indeed are signs for people who reflect.”
There is a troubling trend in modern Qur’anic translations of the Qur’an, where verses have been translated to be as palatable for the Western mind as possible. The word ‘love’ appears in many current translations, and is reiterated across the internet throughout Muslim sites. Yet this is a dishonest rendering of the Arabic term. The Arabic term implies ‘affection’ and the word ‘love’ is nowhere to be seen.
Yet, what does a husband’s ‘affection’ and ‘mercy’ (sometimes translated ‘kindness’) to his wife mean, especially in light of verses on women described as their ‘tilth’ – a field to be plowed (sura 2:222-223), being beaten (sura 4:34), and easily divorced (sura 2:230, 65:1-6)? Added to this is Muhammad’s disturbing example (sura 33:32-59), of unfaithfulness (sura 4:3, sura 4:24), and the taking of slave girls in marriage, or in concubinage (sura 4:3,24; 23:6; 24:34; 70:30; 33:50), as well as Allah’s approval and encouragement of Muhammad’s unfair treatment of wives and women (sura 33:50-59). Assertions of ‘kindness’ are difficult to support when the overwhelming majority of verses prove otherwise.
The question must be asked, why would Allah call for ‘affection and mercy’ between a husband and a wife, when he stipulates punishment and threat in the rest of his edicts concerning how a man should treat his wife? (See sura 65:1-4; 66:1-6, and the many verses in sura 2 and sura 4). These contradictions and inconsistencies seem to have no solution when the whole of the Qur’an is considered.
An overwhelmingly pro-male impression hits you when you first read the Qur’an. Sura 43:70 underlines this trend by clearly only addressing men. It also alludes to rewards received by Muslims once they enter paradise. In both the Qur’anic and hadith descriptions of paradise, we read about male-orientated pavilions wherein abides heavenly virginal maidens for ‘the believers’. It is highly unlikely that ‘your wives’ would take kindly to such a reward.
Clever ways have been introduced to deal with the overarching pro-male atmosphere of the Qur’an. Take, for example, the Modernist Muslim scholar, Amina Wadud’s idea that “every usage of masculine plural forms in the Qur’an includes male and female.” But is this true? Well, the claim is testable by investigating the surrounding verses and Muslim interpretations of them. Let’s take two verses and apply Wadud’s hermeneutical (interpretation) method.
- Sura 2:21 tells ‘mankind to be pious’ (masculine plural form in Arabic), which to Wadud would include both men and women. We need to look at the surrounding verses to consider if both genders are included, or if just one gender is being addressed. A clue is provided just four verses later, in verse 25, where the rewards for the ‘mankind who are pious’ are described. One of those rewards are the: ‘Azwajun Mutahharatun.’ What, or who, are the Azwajun Mutahharatun? They are heavenly maidens awaiting the Muslims believers. Therefore, in this first application of Wadud’s interpretation, it simply fails. Let’s consider a second example…
- Sura 2:185 addresses the believers exhorting them to ‘whoever sights the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease… Allah… he has guided you” The ‘whoever’/’he’/’you’ are in the masculine plural forms. In fact, up to verse 186, it is clear all believers are being addressed; or so it seems. The plural is also used of the believers in v.187 ‘you’ and ‘they’ [m.pl], but here is where the idea that the ‘masculine plural forms includes both male and female’ fails. Sura 2:187 begins by saying “It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [emphasis ours]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.” The believers are quite obviously male. Thus, these verses are quite obviously being addressed to men, and men only.
A rebuttal might be, that 2 verses still don’t disprove Wadud’s premise. So we put to you a challenge; namely, we applied this same principle over and over again throughout the first four chapters of the Qur’an, and overwhelmingly came to the conclusion that the Qur’an (bar a few verses) is indeed, addressed to males, and only for males.
Yet, what about sura 33:35 – the famous equality verse. Islamic tradition aids us in explaining the rare bi-gender recipients of the Qur’an, which is found a few places scattered throughout. In order to understand the Qur’an and to find the historical contexts for Qur’anic verses, Muslims turn to what is called: ‘Asbāb al-nuzūl, i.e. the context of revelation.
The ‘Asbāb al-nuzūl details the story of why the Qur’an finally began addressing women. Following are two stories relating to gender inclusive verses:
- Um Salma also said, ‘O apostle of God, you always mention men and ignore women.’ Then the verse was sent down, ‘For Muslim men and Muslim women....’ (S. 33:35)." 
- "Um Salma, Muhammad’s wife said to him, ‘O, apostle of God, I do not hear that God has mentioned anything for the immigrant women.’ Then God sent down, ‘And their Lord has accepted of them and answered them, "Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you"’ (Sura 3:195).’ 
It seems Allah initially did not wish, or intend, to embrace women as recipients of his revelation; that is, until the women complained; and rightly so. Disregarding women is further substantiated by sura 2 and sura 4 in its guidelines to Muslims on divorce, then marriage, and on how to treat spouses, most of which are addressed to men. Consequently, the obvious overall impression of the Qur’an overwhelmingly points to a pro-male book, addressed to men, and for men.
 See FAQ 2, under GENDER, for more answers
 Leila Ahmed in ‘women and gender’, on page 72, comments on the male leanings of the Qur’an by saying:
‘the most important question the women asked Muhammad about the Qur’an was why it addressed only men when women, too, accepted god and his prophet. The question occasioned the revelation of the qur’anic verses explicitly addressing women as well as men (sura 33:35…) a response that unequivocally shows Muhammad’s (and god’s) readiness to hear women. Thereafter the Qur’an explicitly addressed women a number of times.’
 Jalal al-Din al-Misri al-Suyuti al-Shafi'i al-Ash'ari, also known as Ibn al-Asyuti Ibn al-Asyuti (d. 1505) the mujtahid imam, hadith master, jurist, Sufi, philologist, and historian, he authored works in virtually every Islamic science. In part I, p. 97, Itqan (careful consideration of the Qur’an)