This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also read the previous post in this multi-post article 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.In instructing Muslims to beware of Christians, Muhammad points out the many ways be believes Christians and Jews are wrong in their religion and in their approach to religious life. Here are some specific points of contention that Muhammad brings up in the Koran, many of which, as we shall see, were fair criticisms of Christianity in Muhammad's day.
"Say: 'Would you then dispute with us concerning [about] God, who is our Lord and your Lord? Our deeds belong to us, and to you belong your deeds; Him we serve sincerely [we are sincerely His]. Or do you say, "Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob, and the Tribes -- they were Jews, or they were Christians"?' Say: 'Have you then greater knowledge, or God [who knoweth best, ye or God]? And who does greater evil than he who conceals a testimony [witness] received from God? And God is not heedless of the things you do.'" (Koran 2:133-134)As religions calcify, they tend to view themselves as the owners of God and of religion. They are the ones who have a true revelation of God and they are the ones who know and worship the true God, All other religions serve a false god with false worship, service, and religion. We see this same attitude today among Christians when the question comes to, "Who is Allah?" Many view Muslims as serving a false God or another God that they serve. The thought is, "How can they serve the true God and not be part of our religion which is the true religion?"
The truth is that we do not own God but He owns us. He owns all of us regardless of our religion or beliefs. I believe that there are many who genuinely seek to serve and honor God in many different religions through out the world, although some do so in error and ignorance. I believe that many who worship Allah, do in fact worship our God as well, though perhaps not in knowledge or truth. The point is that we must never view ourselves as the limit of the knowledge of God or the reach of God and discount others simply because they are not of us.
"The Jews say, 'The Christians stand not on anything [lean on nothing]'; the Christians say, 'The Jews stand not on anything [on naught lean]'; yet they recite [both are readers of] the Book. So too the ignorant say the like of them. God shall decide between them on the Day of Resurrection touching their differences." (Koran 2:107)It is easy to discount the ideas and beliefs of others who disagree with us. So much division has come within the Christian church over difference in doctrine and practice, even though we read the same Book and serve the same God. The issue is not that we have differences but how we handle those differences. Are we still willing to accept and identify with those who disagree with us or do we require conformity as the price of our fellowship? If we believe that there is only one God and that there is a universal desire for humans to know God then we should be able to find value in all people and in all honest religions, even though we might not agree with them or count them as right. The same could be said of Islam today with their many divisions and factions and their fighting among themselves..
"And they say, 'None shall enter Paradise except that they be Jews or Christians.' Such are their fancies [this is their wish]. Say: 'Produce your proof, if you speak truly.'" (Koran 2:105)I sincerely believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, but I also admit that in many of the lesser particulars I could be wrong. Sometimes we project a belief that, apart from us, there is no salvation. We make conformity to us, to our beliefs and practices, the price of true salvation and eternity with God. Religion becomes the saving force rather than God Himself. Again, the same critique could be levied against Islam of today.
"People of the Book! Why do you dispute concerning Abraham? The Torah [Law] was not sent down, neither the Gospel, but after him. What, have you no reason [do ye not then understand]? Ha, you are the ones who dispute on what you know; why then dispute you touching a matter of which you know not anything? God knows [has knowledge], and you know not [nothing]." (Koran 3:58-59)As people, we have very short memories. For many of us, history is only a few decades old. We tend to view ancient history through the lenses of our recent history, seeing history as we tend to see the world today. As Christians we need to have a larger view of history and to remember that the faith we have received is the result of thousand years of revelation from God and service by men. Jesus told His disciples, "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor." (John 4:38) We too are sent into a world that has been prepared for us by others in hopes that we too will lay up additional preparations for those who follow. We must not discount what happens today just because it did not happen before nor force new ideas and practices to fit inside our own limited view of history.
"And when they were told, 'Believe in that God has sent down,' they said, 'We believe in what was sent down on us'; and they disbelieve in what is beyond that, yet it is the truth confirming what is with them." (Koran 2:85)
In the days of Muhammad, the Christian church, especially the church in the east, was stuck in history. Instead of looking forward to the new things God was doing, they focused on preserving what they had; that being their intricate doctrine, stale traditions, and layered hierarchy. This does not mean that we need fall prey to every new spiritual heresy or every flight of fancy, but neither can we assume that God will no longer surprise us with who He is and what He is doing. This does not mean that we should all embrace the revelation that Muhammad claims was from God, but neither should we close our minds and hearts in a false security that somehow we have it all and know it all. God is always doing a new thing; let us not miss it through our own complacency.
"They have taken their rabbis and their monks as lords apart from God, and the Messiah, Mary's son -- and they were commanded to serve but One God; there is no god but He; glory be to Him, above that they associate" (Koran 9:31)One of the great things the Internet has brought to us is the idea of disintermediation, or the removal of the intermediary. The Koran places only the prophet between God and man while the scriptures provides mankind with direct access to God both in prayers and in hearing His voice. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27) However, the church in Muhammad's day, and even today, add layer upon layer of clergy to stand between the believer and God. Even today, in some churches, instead of inviting people to seek God directly we instruct them to seek advice from a priest, ask prayer from a minister, and request a word from a prophet. In each case we are inserting men and women between the believer and God. This religious hierarchy obfuscates the true relationship between God and man that Jesus came to secure on our behalf.
"The Jews say, 'Ezra is the Son of God'; the Christians say, 'The Messiah is the Son of God.' That is the utterance of their mouths, conforming with the unbelievers before them [infidels of old]. God assail them! How they are perverted!" (Koran 9:30)
We will look at this criticism in full later on, but suffice it to say that this was a major objection for Muhammad and many Muslims today towards Christianity. For this criticism I say, "Guilty!" However, Muhammad's problem was his lack of understanding of what it meant to be the Son of God. Muhammad could only understand it in its natural meaning and was blind to its spiritual reality. Even today, Muslims view the idea of a Son of God only in its natural since; God taking a wife and having a family with sons and daughters. However, this is not at all what is meant by the term. The truth is that, even though we believe in the Son of God, we also believe Him to be God. We believe in one God who is also plural. The one God is also Father, Son, and Spirit. Three persons, one substance. We too, as Christians and Jews, all server one true and eternal God.