Saturday, March 05, 2016

History - The fictional stories of Muhammad - Abraham

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 Jewish scriptures give a concise and simple account of Abraham's, or Abram's as he was known them, departure from Mesopotamia. "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you'... So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran." (Genesis 12:1, 4) No other more detailed account of Abraham's life in Haran or the exact circumstances of his departure are recorded anywhere in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. The Koran, however, fills in the gaps, supposedly by direct revelation from Gabriel.

The story goes that Abraham learned to worship God alone, that being apart from idols and other gods, while his father was still an idolater. In the story God used the heavens and the Earth to convince Abraham to worship only God.
"And [remember] when Abraham said to his father Azar, 'Takest thou idols [images] for gods? I see thee, and thy people, in manifest error.' So We were showing Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and earth, that he might be of those having sure faith. When night outspread over him he saw a star and said, 'This is my Lord.' But when it set he said, 'I love not the setters [gods that set].' When he saw the moon rising, he said, 'This is my Lord.' But when it set he said, 'If my Lord does not guide me I shall surely be of the people gone astray.' When he saw the sun rising, he said, 'This is my Lord; this is greater [greatest]!' But when it set he said, 'O my people, surely I am quit of that you associate [joining gods with God]. I have turned my face to Him who originated [created] the heavens and the earth, a man of pure faith [right religion]; I am not of the idolaters [one who adds gods to God].'" (Koran 6:74-79)
This is interesting because, in other places, the Koran clearly states that Abraham was never an idolater.
"No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim and one pure [sound] of faith; certainly he was never of the idolaters [of those who add gods to God]." (Koran 3:60)
If Abraham was never an idolater, then there would have been no need to be taught about serving one true God, but the Koran teaches this again when, in another story, Abraham rebukes his father for worshiping other God and tells him that knowledge has come to him that there is only one God. Again the claim is made that Abraham learned to be monotheistic and that this knowledge turned him away from idolatry.
"And mention in the Book Abraham; surely he was a true man, a Prophet. When he said to his father, 'Father, why worshippest thou that which neither hears nor sees, nor avails [profits] thee anything? Father, there has come to me knowledge such as came not to thee; so follow me, and I will guide thee on a level [even] path." (Koran 19:42-44)
Muhammad tells us that Abraham's father rejected Abram's pleas and threatened him with violence. Because of this Abraham departed from his father and his land.
"Said he, 'What, art thou shrinking from [cast thou off] my gods, Abraham? Surely, if thou givest not over [forbear not], I shall stone thee; so forsake me now for some while [a length of time].' He said, 'Peace be upon thee! I will ask my Lord to forgive thee; surely He is ever gracious to me. Now I will go apart [separate myself] from you and that you call upon, apart from God; I will call upon my Lord" (Koran 19:47-49)
However, the scriptures make it very clear that Abraham left Haran at the command of the Lord, not to escape the violence of his father or his country men. In Muhammad's story, it was not only Abraham's father who threatened him, but also the people of the land, for Abraham mocked and destroyed their idols.
"Then he turned [went aside] to their gods, and said, 'What do you eat [do you not eat]? 'What ails you, that you speak not?' And he turned upon them smiting them with his right hand." (Koran 37:89-91)
"So he broke them into fragments, all but a great one [the chief of them] they had, for haply they would return to it. They said, 'Who has done this with our gods? Surely he is one of the evildoers.' They said, 'We heard a young man making mention of them, and he was called Abraham.'" (Koran 21:59-61)
"They said, 'Burn him, and help [come to the succor of] your gods, if you would do aught [anything at all].' We said, 'O fire, be coolness and safety for Abraham!'" (Koran 21:68-69)
"They said, 'Build him a building [pyre], and cast him into the furnace [glowing flame]!'" (Koran 37:95)
The scriptures give us no evidence that any of this ever happened; that Abraham mocked and destroyed the idols, that the people threatened to burn Abraham, or that his leaving Haran was do to the threats of his father and the people. This is all fiction added later by Muhammad.

There are two other stories relating to Abraham that Muhammad adds in his Koran. The first relates to Abraham's leaving his father.
"Abraham asked not pardon [forgiveness] for his father except because of a promise he had made to him; and when it became clear to him that he was an enemy of God, he declared himself quit [clear] of him; Abraham was compassionate [pitiful], clement [kind]." (Koran 9:115)
It seems contradictory to declare Abraham to be compassionate when we find him only reluctantly praying for the forgiveness of his father; praying for forgiveness out of duty and obligation only since he had previously promised to do so. A man of true compassion does not reluctantly pray for someone's forgiveness but prays from their heart with a genuine desire that the other may be forgiven. A man of true compassion prays for others even when they are enemies; prays for their forgiveness and for the graces of God to be upon them. A man of true compassion prays as Jesus taught us to pray. "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44-45)

The second story relates to how Abraham learned that God could raise the dead.
"And when Abraham said, 'My Lord, show me how Thou wilt give life to the dead,' He said, 'Why, dost thou not believe?' 'Yes,' he said, 'but that my heart may be at rest.' Said He, 'Take four birds, and twist them to thee, then set a part of them on every hill, then summon them, and they will come to thee running. And do thou know that God is All-mighty, All-wise.'" (Koran 2:262)
The only story we have concerning Abraham and birds is when Abraham made a sacrifice to the Lord and chased the birds away from the carcasses. "Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away." (Genesis 15:10-11) Perhaps Muhammad was just confused over the exact details of the original story. Anyway, we do know that at the time when Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son, he was full of faith that God cloud raise the dead. "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, 'In Isaac your descendants shall be called.' He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type." (Hebrews 11:17-19)

More to come...
David Robison

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