Sunday, November 29, 2015

Koran - A new testament - Abrogation

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and you can read 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.
Muhammad, speaking in an attempt to bolster trust and faith in the Koran, said,
"What, do they not ponder the Koran? If it had been from other than God surely they would have found in it much inconsistency [many contradictions]." (Koran 4:84)
In other words, it is only because the Koran was given by direct word-for-word revelation to Muhammad that it is free from all contradictions and inconsistencies. However, is this a valid proof of its origin and divine nature? For there are any number of books that are consistent within themselves. For example, the Book of Mormon could be considered to be consistent within its own revelation. Are we to now accept it as being from God as well? Heretics through out the centuries have produced books describing their beliefs that are consistent and without contradictions when compared with themselves. Self-consistency is in no way a valid proof of divine origin but merely proof of a careful and articulate author. In fact, seeing that the Koran is the result of one author we should expect it to be consistent since Muhammad need only be consistent with himself.

That being said, the truth is that we do find inconsistencies and contradictions within the Koran itself. For example, consider this one example. early Muhammad writes,
"[Let there be] No compulsion is there in religion." (Koran 2:257)
And yet latter he writes,
"When you meet [encounter] the unbelievers [infidels], smite their necks [strike off their heads], then [till], when you have made wide [great] slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds [make fast the fetters]." (Koran 47:4)
"They wish that you should disbelieve [infidels] as they disbelieve [infidels], and then you would be equal [alike]; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate [fled their homes] in the way [for the cause] of God; then, if they turn their backs, take [seize] them, and slay them wherever you find them;." (Koran 4:91)
So which is it? Is it "No compulsion" or "slay them where you find them"? This contradiction and inconsistency exists multiple times within the Koran and to various degrees. Even Muhammad himself displayed this same inconsistency in his life. Philip Schaff describes his life in this manor.
"At first he proclaimed toleration: 'Let there be no compulsion in religion;' but afterwards he revealed the opposite principle that all unbelievers must be summoned to Islâm, tribute, or the sword. With an increasing army of his enthusiastic followers, he took the field against his enemies, gained in 624 his first victory over the Koreish with an army of 305 (mostly citizens of Medina) against a force twice as large, conquered several Jewish and Christian tribes, ordered and watched in person the massacre of six hundred Jews in one day, while their wives and children were sold into slavery (627), triumphantly entered Mecca (630), demolished the three hundred and sixty idols of the Kaaba, and became master of Arabia. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV, Section 42. Life and Character of Mohammed)
To explain such contradictions and inconsistencies, the Koran invokes the idea of abrogation.
"And for whatever verse We abrogate [cancel] or cast into oblivion [cause to forget], We bring a better or the like of it; knowest thou not that God is powerful over everything?" (Koran 2:100)
To abrogate is to cancel, revoke, or rescind. Some have justified God's revoking or rescinding former verses in that, previously mankind was not able to receive the fullness of God's revelation; so He reveals a little at a time; revealing more as they are more mature and more able to receive what God has to say. So was it that man was too tolerant and compassionate for them to hear the message to kill the infidels where they find them? Did God need to wait until their hearts were hardened and they became more intolerant before He could teach them to hate and to kill? Or was it God who changed and became more intolerant and less merciful towards those who believed different from the Muslims that He turned to command the Muslims to kill the Jews and Christians? Such abrogation, such contradictions and inconsistencies, is not worthy of a book that claims to be divine and the literal word of God.

More to come...
David Robison

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