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)