Following the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings in 2001, there has been considerable debate on Islam. Some argue that it is a religion that is used to justify acts of terror against Jews and Christians, while others argue that it is a religion of peace. I therefore obtained a copy of the Koran and read it.
The Koran, while acknowledging exceptions, does not generally view most Jews and Christians positively, and Muslims are not encouraged to trust them. The Koran uses three main arguments to justify this apparent distrust. In comparing the teachings of the Koran with those of the Bible, it seems that these arguments can be effectively addressed. It is my sincere hope that addressing them will lead to a dissolution of much of the distrust that has existed between these three religions, a distrust that has at times been allowed to fester into hatred with predictable results.
Today, we shall focus on the first of the three arguments. It results from the perception that neither the Jewish nor Christian religions formally accepted that Mohammed was God’s prophet or messenger. We shall therefore examine whether it is likely from the Jewish and Christian perspectives that Mohammed was a prophet sent by God. To make this determination, we need to start approximately 4,000 years ago with the patriarch Abraham.
According to the Biblical account, God called Abraham to be a father of many nations, inter alia, because of his commitment to passing on good cultural values to the next generation. Abraham and his wife Sarah were old and Sarah was barren, so Sarah allowed Abraham to go into her maid, Hagar, who conceived and bore Ishmael. When Ishmael was 14 years old, Sarah also conceived and bore Isaac. Sarah then asked Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away so that Ishmael would not share in Isaac’s inheritance.
Abraham was very disappointed since he loved his first-born; however, God promised Abraham that He would make Ishmael a great nation. God also made this promise to Hagar before and after she was sent away. Isaac later had a son called Jacob whom God later renamed Israel. When Jacob was 15 years old, Abraham died and was buried by both of his sons, Ishmael and Isaac.
For the next 2,000 years, the Israelites frequently engaged in irresponsible cultural practices and rejected God. God however remembered his promise to Abraham and frequently sent prophets to call them back to a relationship with Himself, and to encourage them to follow responsible cultural practices. Approximately 2,000 years after God called Abraham, Jesus the promised Messiah was sent.
God promised that He would make Israel a great nation, and sent prophets to them when they strayed from fulfilling their purpose. God also promised that He would make Ishmael a great nation. It is therefore not inconceivable that He would also have sent prophets to the Ishmaelites if they strayed from fulfilling their purpose. If we accept this reasoning, then the question that begs an answer is: was it likely that Mohammed was one of those prophets sent by God to the Ishmaelites?
Mohammed essentially encouraged the Ishmaelites to return to the religion of Abraham and worship one God, who was the God of Abraham, the Jews and the Christians. He also encouraged the Ishmaelites to adopt responsible cultural practices. He further admonished them to believe in the Jewish Torah and the Christian Gospels, and to believe in the Messiah Jesus who was born of the Virgin Mary. Mohammed also warned the people that there was a resurrection and a judgement where everyone’s eternal future would be determined.
Since what Mohammed preached is not inconsistent with what the prophets to the Israelites preached, it is conceivable that God sent Mohammed as a prophet to call the Ishmaelites back to a relationship with Himself. That Mohammed was not recognised as a prophet by Jewish and Christian religious leaders during his lifetime should not distract the Ishmaelites from pursuing a relationship with God. However a festering distrust of or hatred for another group of people does not encourage such a relationship.
Next week – the second argument.