Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Doctrine - The ways of Allah - Everyday life

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran treats regarding many aspects of everyday life, Here are three in particular, First is the issue of our speech.
"God likes not the shouting of evil words [evil being a matter of public talk] unless a man has been wronged; God is All-hearing, All-knowing." (Koran 4:147)
So, if you've been wronged, then it's OK to yell, curse, and verbally attach the one who wronged you?! God understands, your only human, and He sympathizes with you. Such permission is quite magnanimous and quite human in its nature. However, it is a far cry from God's command, "you shall be holy, for I am holy." (Leviticus 11:45) It seems that, in Islam, this command has been reduced to "be holy as Muhammad was holy." Such a verse seems more consistent with the writings of a man than those of God for they lack the element of self control and legitimize anger and wrath between men. Such a command seems at odds with the God who said, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth." (Ephesians 4:29) and who also taught us to be "quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger." (James 1:19)

Secondly, Muhammad treats on civil punishment.
"And the thief, male and female: cut off the hands of both, as a recompense for what they have Earned [for their doings], and a punishment exemplary from God" (Koran 5:42)
"And therein We prescribed for them: 'A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation'; but whosoever forgoes it as a freewill offering, that shall be for him an expiation. Whoso judges not according to what God has sent down -- they are the evildoers." (Koran 5:49)
Judgment and punishment, according to the Koran, is always harsh and severe. Here the cutting off of the hands of thieves and the like retaliation for wrongs committed against us. What is difficult for us, at times, is to separate the ideas of civil punishment from that of personal punishment. There is that punishment that is executed by civil authorities for crimes that have been established, and then there is that vengeance and punishment we demand when we have been wronged. However, in Islam, there is little difference between the two. Worse yet, these punishments are demanded by God. This means that any other form of punishment for thieves, other than cutting off their hands, is a violation of God's laws and the punishment God prescribed in His word-for-word recitation to Muhammad. Mankind is no longer permitted to pursue other punishments for theft for God has already spoken His will and His command. Furthermore, when it comes to personal punishments, Jesus taught us, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you." (Matthew 5:38-42) Quite a different spirit from that of the Koran.

Thirdly, there is the issue of gambling.
"O believers, wine and arrow-shuffling [games of chance], idols and divining-arrows are an abomination, some of Satan's work; so avoid it; haply So you will prosper. Satan only desires to precipitate enmity [strife] and hatred between you in regard to wine and arrow-shuffling [games of chance], and to bar you [turn you aside] from the remembrance of God, and from prayer." (Koran 5:92-93)
"They will question [ask] thee concerning wine, and arrow-shuffling [games of chance]. Say: 'In both is heinous sin; and uses [advantage also] for men, but the sin in them is more heinous than the usefulness.'" (Koran 2:216)
What is interesting here is the perception of Muhammad. Not everything the Koran teaches is lies and falsehoods. Muhammad also had a great perception about people and, while he did not make wine and gambling absolute sins, he recognized the potential for harm within them both. There can be some usefulness and simple pleasures found in moderate drinking and friendly games, but Satan will often try to use those occasions as opportunities to bring strife between us and, if he can get us to spend all our time in such pursuits, he can lead us away from our duties towards God and our fellow man. It reminds me of what Paul said, "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify." (1 Corinthians 10:23) Sometimes the question is not if something is a sin or not, but rather is it helpful and beneficial or not. This is often the harder of the two questions.

David Robison

Monday, May 02, 2016

Doctrine - Muhammad's rules on marriage - Divorce and Remarriage (Part 2)

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Along with rules on divorce, the Koran gives us rules pertaining to remarriage.
"Divorce is twice; then honourable retention or setting free kindly [put them away with kindness]. If he divorces her finally, she shall not be lawful to him after that, until she marries another husband. If he divorces her, then it is no fault in them to return to each other, if they suppose that they will maintain God's bounds." (Koran 2:229-230)
OK, so let me see if I get this right. A man can divorce his wife twice and then remarry her (apparently during the time of waiting while she is still in his possession). However, on the third time, he must wait until she gets married and divorced again from someone else before he can remarry her once more. Then he can divorce her three more time and the process starts all over again. Its not clear who this rule is meant to benefit, although the wife appears to be merely a pawn in the proceedings. What is most interesting regarding this law is that it stands in direct conflict to the law of God as delivered through Moses. "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man's wife, and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) Moses strictly forbade the remarriage to a woman whom one has divorces after she has been the wife of another man. Obviously Muhammad did not know about this law.

If, however, the husband divorces his wife angrily and then, after cooling down, decides to take her back, then he must make some offering for his anger.
"And those who say, regarding their wives, 'Be as my mother's back,' and then retract what they have said, they shall [must] set free a slave [captive], before the two of them touch one another [come together again]. But whosoever finds not the means [findeth not a captive to set free], then let him fast two successive months, before the two of them touch one another [come together]. And if any man is not able to, then let him feed sixty poor persons [men]." (Koran 58:4-5)
It's interesting that some of the possible offerings include freeing slaves, fasting, and feeding some poor people. As for the curse, "Be as my mother's back," Rodwell writes, "The Arabians had been accustomed, before the time of Muhammad, to divorce their wives with the words, 'thy backs be to me as the back of my mother.'" (J.M. Rodwell, The Koran, footnote 33.2)

Once a woman was divorced, she was then available for anyone to marry. Muhammad even allowed the marrying of one's adopted son's wife, once the divorce had been properly executed.
"So when Zaid had accomplished what he would of her [settled concerning her to divorce her], then We gave her in marriage [married her] to thee, so that there should not be any fault [a crime] in the believers, touching [to marry] the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished what they would of them [settled the affair concerning them]; and God's commandment must be performed." (Koran 33:37)
Zaid was Muhammad's adopted son. However, this verse was probably added by Muhammad to justify his desire to marry his adopted son's wife and to legitimize his marriage to her.

So how do these rules of divorce line up with the Jewish and Christian scriptures? Moses allowed a husband to divorce his wife by merely giving her a certificate of divorce. "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house." (Deuteronomy 24:1) However, Jesus tells us that, while God did allow this, it was never his intent. "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way." (Matthew 19:8) God hates divorce, especially by those who aught to know the truth. God condemned those of the Jews, who knew the laws of God, yet perpetrated divorce unjustly upon their wives. "'This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, "For what reason?" Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit... Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,' says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'and him who covers his garment with wrong,' says the Lord of hosts. 'So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.'" (Malachi 2:13-16) Jesus further taught that to divorce and remarry another woman, or for a divorced woman to remarry another man, caused them both to commit adultery. "but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." (Matthew 5:32) This does not mean that a divorced person can not be forgiven, or that a couple who marries after divorce can never find the blessing of God, but divorce is permanent, meaning that you can never completely remove the effects of you previous marriage. They will always be a part of you in some way and, for many, this inclusion of a third party into their marriage can become a constant source of sorrow.

Marriage is God's plan. Divorce is the results of man's hardness of heart. However, in my opinion, Muhammad failed to properly understand the divine nature of marriage and the restraints God recommends towards divorce. Divorce should never be simply because one desires to exchange his wife for another, as Muhammad permits. I believe that much of Muhammad's teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage came from his own carnal desires and his insatiable desire for women. In this he was not consistent with, nor conforming to, to what God had instructed in the past.

David Robison

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Doctrine - Muhammad's rules on marriage - Divorce and remarriage (Part 1)

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran provides for fairly liberal rules concerning divorce and remarriage. For the case where a man has married a wife but has yet to spend her dowry or to consummate the marriage act with her, there is a kind of "no fault" divorce provided for the couple.
"There is no fault in you, if you divorce women while as yet you have not touched them [consummated the marriage] nor appointed any marriage-portion [dowry] for them; yet make provision for them, the affluent man according to his means, and according to his means the needy man, honourably – an obligation on the good-doers." (Koran 2:235)
One thing that we must keep in mind is that marriage in the seventh century, and in Muhammad's case especially, was not like how we normally think of marriage. We marry, one man and one woman, for companionship, to raise a family together, and to share life until death do us part. In the seventh century, wives were more like property and there was often money, a dowry, involved in the arrangement of the a marriage contract. When we think of ancient families, especially that of Muhammad, we must think of a harem of of wives more than a single wife and partner. Wives could be "married" and brought into the harem, and remain there for some time until their marriage was consummated. This was most likely the case for one of Muhammad's wives who was only nine years old when he married her. She likely spent several years living with the other wives until her marriage with Muhammad was consummated by the act of sex. This limbo state of marriage was also useful to the man if at some later time he found someone he desired more and decided to exchange his wife for another.
"And if you desire to exchange a wife in place of another, and you have given to one a hundredweight [a talent], take of it nothing [make no deduction]. What, will you take it by way of calumny and manifest sin?" (Koran 4:24)
Here the only requirement is that the man give back the dowry to the wife as he sends her away. For Muhammad, divorce was quite permissible, as long as it was done in the right way. Another thing to note is that all of Muhammad's rules on divorce are man-centric. You never read about the woman who wants to exchange her husband. All the decisions, timings, and modes of divorce are left with the man. The woman has very little to do with the process other than to submit to it.

One of the more interesting part's of the rules of divorce is the requirement that there be a waiting period before actually sending the woman away.
"O Prophet, when you divorce women, divorce them when they have reached their period [at their special time]. Count the period [reckon those times exactly], and fear God your Lord. Do not expel them from their houses, nor let them go forth [depart], except when they commit a flagrant indecency [proven adultery]... As for your women [wives] who have despaired [no hope] of further [the recurrence of] menstruating [their times], if you are in doubt [regarding them], their period shall be [then reckon] three months; and [let the same be the term of] those who have not menstruated as yet. And those who are with child, their term is when they bring forth their burden." (Koran 65:1, 4)
Again, it is interesting to note that special provisions are given for those wives who have not yet started menstruating. This would mean wives generally below the age of thirteen. In the western world we find this quite objectionable, but it was not uncommon in Muhammad's day and does not automatically mean that wives of such a tender age were expected to participate in the marital act while they were still so young.

One reason for the wait was to give the man time to cool off and to reconsider his decision.
"When you divorce women, and they have reached their term, then retain them honourably [generously] or set them free honourably [put them away generously]; do not retain them by force, to transgress; whoever does that has wronged himself... When you divorce women, and they have reached their term, do not debar them from marrying their husbands, when they have agreed together honourably." (Koran 2:231-232)
While women were generally treated as property and had little involvement in the divorce decision or process, on fairness, the Koran stipulated that they be generously treated in their being sent away. At the end of the waiting period, the husband had a decision to make: either fish or cut bait. Meaning, either take his divorced wife back or send her away and, if he sends her away and she decides to marry another, he is not to stand in her way.

A second reason for the wait was to see if she is pregnant before sending her away. If the woman was found to be with child, the man may reconsider and keep her around, at least for a little while.
"Divorced women shall wait [the result] by themselves for three periods; and it is not lawful for them to hide what God has created in their wombs; if they believe in God and the Last Day. In such time [state] their mates have better right [be more just] to restore them, if they desire to set things right [desire what is right]. Women have such honourable rights as obligations [And it is for the woman to act as they (the husbands) act by them, in all fairness], but their men have a degree above them [the men are a step above them]; God is All-mighty, All-wise." (Koran 2:228)
It's interesting that it is the man's decision to either retain his pregnant wife or to send he away. While women have obligation to reciprocate to their husband should he decide to retain her, nevertheless, the wishes and desires of the husband are to be considered greater than those of the wife. How different from the state of Christian marriage as experienced in the early church. "and understanding that the virtue of man and woman is the same. For if the God of both is one, the master of both is also one; one church, one temperance, one modesty; their food is common, marriage an equal yoke" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter IV) In the early church, men and women were considered equal in marriage. Not so in Muhammad's religion. Men were always superior, and more important, than women.

More to come...
David Robison

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Doctrine - Muhammad's rules on marriage - Husbands and wives

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Much of what Muhammad wrote on marriage and family life grew out of his own marriage experiences, his polygamy, and his sexual apatite. Muhammad had strict rules over who could marry who.
"The fornicatress [whore] and the fornicator [whoremonger] -- scourge each one of them a hundred stripes, and in the matter of God's religion let no tenderness [compassion] for them seize you if you believe in God and the Last Day; and let a party of the believers [the faithful] witness their chastisement. The fornicator [whoremonger] shall marry none but a fornicatress [whore] or an idolatress, and the fornicatress -- none shall marry her but a fornicator or an idolator; that is [such alliances are] forbidden to the believers." (Koran 24:2-3)
Marriage was a blessing or a curse based upon you moral standings. If you were a fornicator, you were cursed to only marry fornicators or idolaters. However, if you were pure and faithful, you were blessed to marry a spouse (or spouses) who were likewise pure and faithful. For the fornicator, there was no compassion, no forgiveness, and no mercy towards their just deserts. They were to be severely punished, in public, with the faithful looking on. This was more than a civil punishment for a civil crime, it was a religious punishment for a religious crime.

How different the cause of fornicators, and the rules of marriage, that Jesus taught us. When Jesus met the woman at the well, He, being a prophet, knew what sort of woman she was. "He said to her, 'Go, call your husband and come here.' The woman answered and said, 'I have no husband.' Jesus said to her, 'You have correctly said, "I have no husband"; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.'" (John 4:16-18) However, instead of condemning her for her fornication and adultery, He leads her to saving faith in the Messiah. "The woman said to Him, 'I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.' Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am He.'" (John 4:25-26) Jesus always showed Himself to be "a friend of tax collectors and sinners!" (Luke 7:34) Instead of judging and condemning the sinners, He loved them and extended to them his mercy and forgiveness.

As to the rules of marriage, Paul teaches us, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?" (2 Corinthians 6:14-16) Such bonds would include the bonds of marriage. However, in giving these instructions, the restriction on marriage is not between sinners and non-sinners but believers and non-believers. These instructions are not given to punish the fornicator and reward the pure, but to safeguard the faith of the believer. We are not to marry an unbeliever because they are beneath us or they do not deserve the love of the pure, but that our faith may stand firm and that we might not grow weak in our faith through our marriage to an unbeliever. We all know what happened to King Solomon when he started marrying foreign, unbelieving, wives. "For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been." (1 Kings 11:4)

What is most interesting regarding this portion of the Koran is its timing. Rodwell notes that this first portion of Sura 2 was written in reference to the scandalous report regarding Muhammad's wife Ayesha. There had been a "rumor of improper intimacy between Ayesha and Safwan Ibn El Mottal, during Muhammad's return from the expedition against the tribe of Mostaliq, in which he was separated from her for an entire day, which she passed in the company of Safwan, who had found her when accidentally left behind." (J.M. Rodwell, The Koran, footnote 24.3) Muhammad was incensed that someone would accuse such things regarding his wife. It was in this state that he supposedly received another revelation from God.
"And those who cast it up on women in wedlock [defame virtuous women], and then bring not four witnesses, scourge them with eighty stripes, and do not accept any testimony of theirs ever;" (Koran 24:4)
No charge against a believing woman was to be received unless it could be corroborated by four eye witnesses. This included those who sought to besmirch his beloved Ayesha. Furthermore, he penned the following punishment against those who would such to such a woman as Ayesha.
"Surely those who cast it up on [through charges against] women in wedlock that are heedless [virtuous but careless] but believing shall be accursed in the present world and the world to come; and there awaits them a mighty chastisement [terrible punishment] on the day when their tongues, their hands and their feet shall testify against them touching that they were doing." (Koran 24:23-24)
It was in this context that he delivered his most biting rebuke to those who slandered Ayesha.
"Corrupt [bad] women for corrupt [bad] men, and corrupt [bad] men for corrupt [bad] women; good [virtuous] women for good [virtuous] men, and good [virtuous] men for good [virtuous] women" (Koran 24:26)
Those who accused Ayesha were corrupt men and they certainty did not deserve a wife as virtuous as Ayesha. They were corrupt and they deserved only what was also corrupt.

One again we find in the Koran where Muhammad claims to have received a word-for-word revelation from God that just happens to justify, validate, and vindicate himself and his present situation. How convenient for God to suddenly prophesy through Muhammad judgment against those who sought to tarnish the reputation of his wife. In no other account in the Jewish or Christian scriptures do we see a prophet prophesying to his own benefit or to justify his own feelings, situation, or conduct. Such self-serving use of prophesy does not befit a true man of God. In my opinion, such as what Muhammad prophesied is an abuse of any spiritual gift or calling he might have had, had he in fact had such a gift or calling.

David Robison

Friday, April 29, 2016

Doctrine - The religion of Allah - Prophets and their wives (Part 2)

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The wives of the prophets were instructed to live in a way as not to cause men to lust after them. To this end, they were instructed to be refined in speech and to remain at home where prying eyes could not see them,
"Wives of the Prophet, you are not as other women. If you are godfearing, be not abject [complaisant] in your speech, so that [lest] he in whose heart is sickness may be lustful [should lust after you]; but speak honourable words. Remain [abide still] in your houses; and display not your finery [do not go in public decked], as did the pagans of old" (Koran 33:32-33)
Even when others were to come and ask favors of them, the wives were to remain behind a curtain lest they should be seen by lustful men.
"And when you ask his wives for any object [gift], ask them from behind a curtain [vail]; that is cleaner [purer] for your hearts and theirs. It is not for you to hurt [trouble] God's Messenger [Apostle], neither to marry his wives after him, [for] ever; surely that would be, in God's sight, a monstrous thing [a grave offense]." (Koran 33:35)
It is important to remember that, in Muhammad's time, there was only one prophet, himself, and when he wrote concerning the prophet's wives, he wrote of his own wives. It seems at times that Muhammad was jealous regarding his wives and their affections towards him. So much so that he penned words from God to secure their fidelity and to prevent others from lusting after them. So strong was his jealousy and possessive nature that he even prohibited them from remarrying if he should pass away. It must also be pointed out that no such injunctions were given to any wives, prophet's wives or not, in the whole of the Jewish or Christian scriptures.

As for the rest of the believers, they were cautioned to treat the prophets with respect, courtesy, and discretion
"God and His angels bless the Prophet. O believers, do you also bless him, and pray him peace [salute him with a salutation of Peace]." (Koran 33:56)
"O believers, raise not your voices above the Prophet's voice, and be not loud in your speech to him, as you are loud one to another, lest your works fail [come to naught] while you are not aware." (Koran 49:2)
Of course, honor is important in all our relationships, however, the Christian scriptures teach us to honor everyone regardless of their status, position, or function. James warns us about showing partiality in our love, loving some while dishonoring others. He warns us that such distinction in love is sin. "If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the'law as transgressors." (James 2:8-9) However, Muhammad requires greater honor and love for himself over and above what one might show for another.
"O believers, enter not the houses of the Prophet, except leave is given you for a meal, without watching for its hour. But when you are invited, then enter; and when you have had the meal, disperse [at once], neither lingering for idle talk [engage not in familiar talk]; that is hurtful [cause trouble] to the Prophet, and he is ashamed before you [would be ashamed to bid you to go]; but God is not ashamed before [to say] the truth." (Koran 33:53)
What should we think of one who takes his own desires and requires them of us as if they were the words of God? Can one proffer any other example from the Jewish or Christian scriptures where a prophet required such of the people of God? Muhammad obviously did not understand Jesus' words when He said, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." (Mark 9:35)

David Robison

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Doctrine - The religion of Allah - Prophets and their wives (Part 1)

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Prophets hold a special place in the religion of Muhammad. In the Koran, Muhammad instructs the prophets, their wives, and the people on how they should act and treat each other. In the ecclesiastical system of Islam, the prophets were above the people as parents are above their children.
"The Prophet is nearer to the believers [Nearer of kin to the faithful is the Prophet] than their selves [then they are to their own selves]; his wives are their mothers." (Koran 33:6)
Oftentimes, when we thing of our different relationships, we think of them as being in different spheres of influence and intimacy. Setting aside our relationship to God for a moment, we can view our relationships in ever increasing concentric spheres where the closest spheres have greater influence over us and greater intimacy with us. At the center we have ourselves, then next comes our spouse, then our children, then our family, then the fellowship of believers, then those we share community and citizenship with, and finally the rest of the brotherhood of mankind. However, in Islam, next to ourselves, and sometimes of greater importance than ourselves, is to be the prophet, and greater than our family, even our mothers and fathers, is to be their wives (yes, wives plural). We are to see all our relationships as secondary to our relationship with the prophet and his wives. However, even Jesus, who came as a prophet and a savior, did not conduct Himself as superior to those whom He came to save but lived among them as their brethren. "For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, 'I will proclaim your name to by brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.'" (Hebrews 2:11-12)

It is also interesting that we know very little about the wives of the prophets and, even though some of then did have wives, their calling and ministry in God was not determined by who they married. They were wives and mothers, but their marriage to a prophet did not make them a prophet's wife and a mother to the people. Furthermore, God specifically warns ministers, teachers, and husband and wives not to allow the church to interfere with the life of the family. Paul, in writing about women in the church, says, "If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home." (1 Corinthians 14:35)  I believe this was written, at least in part, to prevent the church from coming between a husband and wife and from becoming a wedge in their relationship with each other.

In instructing how prophets, their wives, and the believers should live and treat each other, Muhammad gives commands to each of them. To the prophets, Muhammad writes,
"There is no fault in [blame attached to] the Prophet, touching what God has ordained for him [where God hath given him a permission] -- God's wont with those who passed away before [Such was the way of God with those prophets who flourished before thee]; and God's commandment is doom decreed [for God’s behest is a fixed decree]" (Koran 33:38)
This command, supposedly by God, was given in the context of a Muhammad marrying the divorced wife of his adopted son. One could argue that such a marriage was not forbidden by the ancient Jewish law since it only forbade marrying "blood" relations. "None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the Lord." (Leviticus 18:6) However, the very fact that Muhammad felt the need to record this in his Koran, and the fact that he spoke these words to justify his own actions, indicates that there was an innate understanding among the people that this was wrong. However, Muhammad writes to give special privileges to prophets in regards to their marrying and their sexual appetites.
"O Prophet, We have made lawful for [allow] thee thy wives whom thou hast given their wages [dowered] and what [the slaves] thy right hand owns, spoils of war [booty] that God has given thee, and the daughters of thy uncles paternal and aunts paternal, thy uncles maternal and aunts maternal, who have emigrated [fled to Medina] with thee, and any woman believer, if she give herself [up] to the Prophet and if the Prophet desire to take her in marriage, [a privilege] for thee exclusively, apart from the believers [above the rest of the faithful]." (Koran 33:49)
The average Islam believer is limited to four wives. However, the prophet is allowed three wives for whom he gives dowry, as many female salves as he wishes to take as wives, as many daughters from his near relatives as he might desire. and any other woman from among the believers whom would consent to live with him without requiring a dowry. This privilege is not granted to all believers but is a special privilege to prophets (it must be remembered that, at the time Muhammad wrote this, there was no other prophets, just him).

Was such a special privilege for Muhammad and other prophets truly revealed to Muhammad by God? Well, first off, we know that God forbade the marrying of blood relations and one could say this extends to your aunt's and uncle's daughters. Secondly, we know that, when it came to the qualifications of elders and others who oversaw the church, Paul required that they must be "the husband of one wife." (1 Timothy 3:2) Paul understood the dangers of polygamy and how it can hinder and compromise the standing and ministry of a leader before the people. This would make me question a later revelation, supposedly by God, that would resend and reverse the previous injunction by Paul.

More to come...
David Robison

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Doctrine - The religion of Allah - Varying grades of people

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Islam is a religion of grades, not the kind you get from tests, but grades as in levels; levels of authority, levels of favor, and levels of valuation before God.
"They are in ranks [varying grades] with God; and God sees the things they do." (Koran 3:157)
In Islam, God does not see everyone the same. Some are greater than others and some are positioned higher and lower in both favor and authority. Some He prefers, and some He prefers less. Your position in the ranks of God is determined based upon what you do as well as by what God wills.
"Those who believe, and have emigrated [fled their homes], and have struggled in the way of God with their possessions and their selves are mightier in rank [higher in grade] with God; and those -- they are the triumphant" (Koran 9:20)
Those who have emigrated refer, in part, to those who were forced to flee Mecca for Medina with Muhammad. Those who struggle in the way of God refer to those who have fought with Muhammad against the Medians and others who were enemies of Muhammad. They not only fought with Muhammad but they spent their own money and possessions in the fight. These are the ones who are mighty with God; these are the ones who are higher in rank then those who refused to fight.

One may also find themselves in a higher rank with God, and before the believers, by the will and appointment of God.
"It is He who has appointed you viceroys [made you the successors of others] in the earth, and has raised some of you in rank [by various grades] above others, that He may try you in what He has given you [prove you by his gifts]." (Koran 6:165)
Here, primarily, he is speaking of the prophets like himself. Muhammad often appears self-serving as he writes God's supposed revelation in the Koran. He repeatedly speaks in a way to enforce his importance and the need for people to believe in him and to obey here. Here He speaks of his higher grade than others as a prophet. Later on we will look at some of the special privileges he affords to himself and other prophets due to their higher grade.

What is striking is the dissimilarity between Islam and Christianity when it comes to rank and grades. Certainly there are some sects of Christianity that have highly developed hierarchies, but it is my belief that such systems are not born out by the Christian scriptures and are not part of the will of God for Christian believers or for His church.

The Christian scriptures clearly teach that God does not see people differently. There are not some He favors more than others and some He places above others in rank. In fact, if He did have a preference it would be for those who are lower in rank naturally than those who are higher. "For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar." (Psalms 138:6) Paul also reminds us that many of the early believers in Christ came from the lowest members of society. Many were poor, unlearned, and slaves. "For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." (1 Corinthians 1:26-39)

When God looks at people, He does not see men and women, rich and poor, high and lowly, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) When God looks at His creation, He sees just people and He treats them all alike. Peter was a man who was brought up to believe in differing grades of people. There were God's chosen people, the Jews, and then there was the rest, the gentiles. However, Jesus taught him a lesson and a new truth when he came to realize that God regards all people the same. "And Peter opening his mouth said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons." (Acts 10:34 Darby) God does not have favorites, there are not some He loves more than others. God loves all people and He sees all people the same. To God, there is no difference between the most highly exhaled person and the lowliest of the low, the are both just people.

In the Church, God has designed it to the the same, without distinction, classes, grades, and rank. God did not come to establish a hierarchy but rather a brotherhood. Jesus by His own words taught us that, "you are all brothers." (Matthew 23:8) Where there is a hierarchy of authority, it is flat, much flatter than we see in many churches today. When the church leaders met in Jerusalem to discuss the issue of circumcision, they wrote a letter to the whole church that opened, "The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren." (Acts 15:23) Here we see only three levels of authority: the apostles who were commissioned by Jesus to build His church, the elders who oversaw the churches, and the people who made up the churches. However, these were levels of authority, not of rank or grade. Within the church there are distinctions, but these are distinctions of function, not of title or position. It is interesting to remember that Paul never referred to himself as the "Apostle Paul" thus referencing his position or title, but as "Paul an Apostle" in reference to his function within the body of Christ. We must stop seeing ourselves as occupying various grades or ranks before God, as Muhammad believed religion to teach. Rather to see ourselves as God does, as people created by Him and equally loved by Him. We are not all trying to clime the ecclesiastical ladder, competing with each other for position and title, but we are all brothers and called to love one another as bothers. Let us do away with all distinctions and once again become the family of God in all its simplicity.

David Robison

Monday, April 25, 2016

Doctrine - The religion of Allah - A confession of convienence

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran places greater weight upon what one believes in their heart verses what they confess with their mouths.
"Whoso disbelieves in [denieth] God, after he has believed -- excepting him who has been compelled [forced to it], and his heart is still at rest [remain steadfast] in his belief [shall be guiltless]" (Koran 16:108)
This verse gives Muslims the permission to hide their true beliefs and motives, confessing what is not true, when they believe that the situation demand it and, when doing otherwise, would not be profitable, or might even be harmful, to them. However, Muhammad did not understand what Jesus taught when He said, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." (Luke 6:45) God makes no distinction between what one believes in their heart and what they confess with their mouth, for they are one in the same. What one confesses is what one truly believes.

The power of confession is shown in its efficacy in salvation. "For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." (Romans 10:10) In the heart, one believes and obtains righteousness before God, but it is in their confession that they find salvation, not just eternal salvation, but salvation in every area of their lives.

Jesus warned us about our confession, especially our confession regarding Him. "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32-33) This became the standard for christian confession through the early centuries of persecution, often resulting in the death of the confessors. Men, women, and children maintained their true confession of Jesus in spite of the hateful persecution by the mighty Roman system. Many of them persisting in their confession through torture and into death. However, it was through their confession that they glorified God and received for themselves the glory of martyrdom and their abundant entrance into heaven. It was unto this confession that Paul exhorts us, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing." (1 Timothy 6:12-14 NKJV) It is to this confession of God, even the confession that Jesus confessed on His way to death, that Paul calls us to hold fast and to maintain even in the face of difficulty and certain death.

As believers, it is not enough to only confess when it is easy or convenient. God is not looking for those who will follow and believe in Him only when the sun shines. God is looking for true believers, those who will confess the truth and their hope in God regardless of what the world may throw at them. This does not mean that one who denies God cannot find forgiveness through confession and repentance, but it does mean that those who trust in God ought to do so with their whole heart and as being "all in"; not having one foot in the Kingdom and one in the world. Such people are the true believers in God, not the believers of convenience that Muhammad teaches.

David Robison

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Doctrine - The religion of Allah - Relaxing the Law

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
While Muhammad claims that his Koran conforms and affirms to what was written in the past, there were some laws that God had previously levied upon mankind that Muhammad relaxed for his adherents. Among them were the dietary laws and the Jewish Sabbath. Pertaining to the moderation of the dietary laws under Islam, Muhammad writes,
"Say: 'I do not find, in what is revealed to me, aught forbidden to him who eats thereof except it be carrion [dieth of itself], or blood outpoured, or the flesh of swine -- that is an abomination [unclean or profane] -- or an ungodly thing that has been hallowed to [slain in the name of] other than God; yet whoso is constrained [forced partakers], not desiring nor transgressing, surely thy Lord is All-forgiving [indulgent], All-compassionate [merciful]. 'And to those of Jewry We have forbidden every beast with claws [an entire hoof]; and of oxen and sheep We have forbidden them the fat of them, save what their backs carry [what might be on their backs], or their entrails, or what is [the fat] mingled [attached] with bone; that We recompensed them for their insolence [transgression]; surely We speak truly [we are indeed equitable]." (Koran 6: 146-147)
Muhammad acknowledges the differing dietary restrictions for the Jew and the Muslim, however, he justifies such a change in law by the difference in the nature of the Jews and Muslims. For the Muslims, these bare minimum dietary restrictions were just and from God. However, for the Jew, their extensive dietary requirements were imposed upon them by God because of their insolence and their perpetual transgressions. The Jews were insolent, so God had to impose upon them stricter laws to keep them in check while, for the Muslims, they required only more moderate restrictions to ensure their piety and holiness before God.

So why the dietary laws in the first place? God tells us that these laws came, at least in part, to teach the Israelites the difference between clean and unclean. "This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten." (Leviticus 11:46-47) It was to live by this distinction that became the basis of their holiness before God. "I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean. Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine." (Leviticus 20:24-26) God had separated unto Himself the Jewish people and He required them to separate themselves unto Him. This they were to accomplish by living according to what was clean and abstaining from what was unclean. Therefore the law came not to punish them for their insolence but to teach them the difference between what was clean and unclean. The law was for instruction, not discipline.

This law, and its teaching, was ordained for but a period of time; its was to regulate God's people until a time of reformation; until the time of God's fullness. Then it would give way to to a law of grace. "But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." (Galatians 3:23-25) Now that Jesus, being the fullness, has arrived. The old ways and old forms have passed away. This include the distinction between clean and unclean foods. "'Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?' (Thus He declared all foods clean.)" (Mark 7:18-19) Jesus declared all foods to be clean. There remains no dietary restrictions for the men and women of faith. In Christ, all such laws of diet have been fulfilled and superseded by grace. Paul explicitly warns us, "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons... abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer." (1 Timothy 4:1, 3-5)  Had Muhammad understood this, he would have not sought to restore us again to the bondage of law and dead religion.

Pertaining to the law of the Sabbath, Muhammad writes,
"The Sabbath was only appointed [ordained] for those who were at variance thereon [differed about it]; surely thy Lord will decide between them on the Day of Resurrection, touching their differences [as to the subjects of their disputes]." (Koran 16:126)
Again, he blames the spiritual condition of the Jews for necessitating their obedience to the law of the Sabbath. Muhammad failed to understand that the Sabbath was not instituted for God's benefit, but for ours, and not for our discipline, but for our blessing. Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27) God rested on the seventh day, the Sabbath, and He invites us to enter into His rest and to rest with Him. The Sabbath is not a discipline but an invitation from God for mankind to participate in the rest of God. What a blessing to be invited into that rest that God enjoys.

The law of the Sabbath was to invite mankind into a physical rest. However, under the New Covenant, God has established a new Sabbath; a Sabbath not of physical rest but of spiritual and religious rest. On the sixth day of creation, God finished his work and rested. On the cross, Jesus said, "It is finished!" (John 19:30) and thus ushered in a new Sabbath, not one of the seventh day, but a perpetual Sabbath. "For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: 'And God rested on the seventh day from all His works'... He again fixes a certain day, 'Today,' saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, 'Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts'" (Hebrews 4:4, 7) There is now a new Sabbath and that Sabbath is "Today." Every day we live by faith, every day we trust not in our work but in the work of Christ, every day we do not work but believe, is our Sabbath day! Muhammad did not understand this new Sabbath. He did not understand that righteousness based on works had come to an end in Jesus Christ. He did not understand that the works of the law had been replaced by faith. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4)

David Robison

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Doctrine - The religion of Allah - Helping God

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Islam, as a religion before God, is a religion of reciprocity: you do something for Me then I'll do something for you. Many of us grew up hearing the proverb, "God helps those who help themselves." Islam expands on adds to it that "God helps those who help God."
"O believers, if you help God, He will help you, and confirm your feet [set your feet firm]." (Koran 47:8)
Interestingly, neither of these sentiments are found in the Christian scriptures or in the Gospel of Christ. The truth is that God helps those who cannot help themselves.
"For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:3-4)
The lesson of the Jewish scriptures, and the message of the cross, is that we are unable and incapable of keeping the Law. We are unable to help ourselves by doing what is right. Furthermore, by our inability to help ourselves we have become slaves to our flesh, to do its bidding, and we are helpless and hopeless in our attempts to free ourselves. Paul wrote of the time before his salvation saying, "For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do,.. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want... Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:15-16, 19, 24) God did not wait for us to help ourselves before He helped us, rather He helped us because He saw that we were incapable of helping ourselves. God did what we ourselves could not.

Furthermore, God helped us before we were able to help Him. Paul, speaking of the carnal mind, says, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,  8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:6-8) Not only were we unable to help ourselves, but sin within us kept us from being able to yield and submit to God, which are prerequisite to offering any help to God. We were unable to help ourselves and even more unable to help God. In fact, so far were we from being able to help God that we were, as slaves to our disobedience, enemies of God, and yet, God still came to save us. "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly... But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." (Romans 5:6-11) Once again, God did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Even today, God still delights in those who are unable to help themselves and help God for God is not looking for strong people but rather for people of faith. When Paul complained to God about a "thorn" in his flesh God responded, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9) The truth is that our help is not found in our strength but in our weakness. "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) God does not help those who help themselves, nor does He help those who help Him, but He helps those who reach out in faith in spite of their weaknesses. God helps those who trust in Him.

David Robison