The focus of this study will be to briefly examine the Quranic position on Christians, whether Christians are viewed as believers or blasphemers. We begin with an examination of the first Quranic verse in our discussion:
"And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender." S. 29:46
This verse addresses both Jews and Christians in general without making any distinction between the different sects of Christendom. This would obviously include Christians which believe in God as triune consisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit since orthodox Christians were the vast majority at the time of Muhammad and they are until this day. This would imply that the Muslim God is triune as well if indeed Muslims worship the same God of the Christians as claimed in this verse.
"Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." S. 2:62
"Those who believe (in the Qur'an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." S. 5:69
According to one source S. 2:62 was revealed to comfort a convert to Islam:
"Sulaiman said: 'I asked Muhammad about a people who followed a certain religion I was with. I told them about their prayer and worship. Right away Muhammad made this statement.' It is also said that when Sulaiman recounted to Muhammad the story of his people, Muhammad answered: 'They are in hell!' Sulaiman felt as though everything on earth looked bleak. Later this above verse was revealed, which made him joyful; it was as if a mountain had been taken away from him (see Asbab al-Nuzul by al-Suyuti on why Sura al-Baqara was revealed)." (True Guidance [Light of Life, PO Box 13, A-9503 Villach, Austria], pt. 5, pp. 17-18)
The Quran also claims that the true followers of Christ would triumph and prevail, and hence true Christianity would continue to exist until the Day of Resurrection:
"(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ." S. 3:55
"O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of Allah: As said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, 'Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah?' Said the disciples, 'We are Allah's helpers!' then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: But We gave power to those who believed, against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed." S. 61:14
Yusuf Ali's commentary, footnote 5448 says:
"A portion of the Children of Israel - the ones that really cared for Truth - believed in Jesus and followed his guidance. But the greater portion of them were hard hearted, and remained in their beaten track of formalism and false racial pride. The majority SEEMED at first to have the upper hand when they thought they had crucified Jesus and killed his Message. But they were soon brought to their senses. Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus in A.D. 70 and the Jews have been scattered ever since. 'The Wandering Jew' has become a bye-word in many literatures. On the other hand, those who followed Jesus permeated the Roman Empire, brought many new races withing their circle, and through the Roman Empire, Christianity became the predominant religion of the world until the advent of Islam..." (Ali, The Holy Qur'an, p. 1543)
The only form of Christianity that continues to prevail and that permeated the Roman Empire has been Trinitarian Christianity. Hence, if the Quran is right then Trinitarian Christianity must be true since this is the faith that has prevailed.
"Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, "We are Christians": because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. And when they listen to the revelation received by the Apostle, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth: they pray: "Our Lord! we believe; write us down among the witnesses. What cause can we have not to believe in God and the truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous?" And for this their prayer hath God rewarded them with gardens, with rivers flowing underneath,- their eternal home. Such is the recompense of those who do good. But those who reject Faith and belie our Signs,- they shall be companions of Hell-fire." S. 5:82-86
According to some commentators, these verses were revealed in relation to the Abyssinian Christians and their King, the Negus, who cried upon hearing the Muslims recite certain verses from Surat ul-Maryam and other portions that spoke of Jesus as being God's Word, Spirit and Servant. Interestingly, the Muslims omitted those verses that denied the crucifixion and divinity of Jesus. This is due perhaps to the fact that the Negus and his bishops were firm believers in Jesus' divinity and crucifixion, leading the Muslims to conceal those verses that would have been offensive to the king and his cohorts. Nevertheless, the Quran states that these Christians will enter Paradise, despite their belief in Jesus' divinity and crucifixion.
Abdullah Yusuf Ali states in relation to the preceding passage:
"The meaning is not that they merely call themselves Christians, but that they are such sincere Christians that they appreciate Muslim virtues, as did the Abyssinians to whom Muslim refugees went during the persecution in Mecca. They would say: 'It is true we are Christians, but we understand your point of view, and we know that you are good men.' They are Muslims at heart, whatever their label may be." (Ali, The Holy Qur'an, p. 268, f. 789)
"Qisis: I have translated as 'devoted to learning' following the Commentators. It seems to be a foreign word, possibly Abyssinian rather than Syriac, as the reference seems to be to the Abyssinian Christians. Their real devotion to learning and the renunciation of the world by the Monastic orders are contrasted with the hypocrisy and arrogance of the Pharisees and Scribes." (Ibid., f. 790)
Here is the story of what occurred after the Muslims fled to Abyssinia as recorded by Ibn Ishaq in his Sirat Rasulullah:
"When Quraysh saw that the prophet's companions were safely ensconced in Abyssinia and had found security there, they decided among themselves to send two determined men of their number to the Negus to get them sent back, so that they could seduce them from their religion and get them out of the home in which they were living in peace. So they sent 'Abdullah b. Abu Rabi'a and 'Amr b. al-'As b. Wa'il. They got together some presents for them to take to the Negus and his generals... Umm Salama d. Abu Umayya b. al-Mughira wife of the apostle said, 'When we reached Abyssinia the Negus gave us a kind reception. We safely practised our religion, and we worshipped God, and suffered no wrong in word or deed. When the Quraysh got to know of that, they decided to send two determined men to the Negus and to give him presents of the choicest wares of Mecca. Leatherwork was especially prized there, so they collected a great many skins so that they were able to give some to every one of his generals. They sent 'Abdullah and 'Amr with instructions to give each general his present before they spoke to the Negus about the refugees. Then they were to give their presents to the Negus and ask him to give the men up before he spoke to them. They carried out these instructions to the letter, and said to each of the generals, 'Some foolish fellows from our people have taken refuge in the king's country. They have forsaken our religion and not accepted yours, but have brought in an invented religion which neither we nor you know anything about. Our nobles have sent us to the king to get him to return them, so when we speak to the king about them advise him to surrender them to us and not speak to them, for their own people have the keenest insight and know most about their faults.' This the generals agreed to do. They took their gifts to the Negus and when he had accepted them, they said to him what they had already said to the generals about the refugees. Now there was nothing which 'Abdullah and 'Amr disliked more than that the Negus should hear what the Muslims had to say. The generals about his presence said that the men had spoken truly, and their own people best knew the truth about the refugees, and they recommended the king to give them up and return them to their own people. The Negus was enraged and said, 'No, by God, I will not surrender them. No people who have sought my protection, settled in my country, and chosen me rather than others shall be betrayed, until I summon them and ask them about what these two men allege. If they are as they say, I will give them up to them and send them back to their own people; but if what they say is false, I will protect them, and see that they receive proper hospitality while under my protection.'
".. The Negus asked if they (i.e., the Muslims) had with them anything which had come from God. When Ja'far said that he had, the Negus commanded him to read it to him, so he read him a passage from (Sura) KHY'S (i.e., Sura 19). The Negus wept until his beard was wet and the bishops wept until their scrolls were wet, when they heard what he read to them. Then the Negus said, 'Of a truth, this and what Jesus brought have come from the same niche. You two may go, for by God, I will never give them up to them and they shall not be betrayed.'
"When the two had gone, 'Amr said, 'Tomorrow I will tell him something that will uproot them all.' Abdullah, who was the more godfearing of them in his attitude towards us, said, 'Do not do it, for they are our kindred though they have gone against us.' He said, 'By God, I will tell him that they assert that Jesus, son of Mary, is a creature (lit. 'slave'). He went to him in the morning and told him that they said a dreadful thing about Jesus, son of Mary, and that he should send for them and ask them about it. He did so. Nothing of this kind had happened to them before, and the people gathered together asking one another what they should say about Jesus when they were asked. They decided that they would say what God had said and what the prophet had brought, saying, he is the slave of God, and his apostle, and his spirit, and his word, which he cast into Mary the blessed virgin.' The Negus took a stick from the ground and said, 'by God, Jesus, son of Mary, does not exceed what you have said by the length of this stick.' His generals round about him snorted when he said this, and he said, 'Though you snort, by God! Go, for you are safe in my country' ..." (Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad [Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1995], pp. 150-152)
The question that naturally comes to mind is why didn't the Muslims simply come out and say what they really believed about Jesus' deity and crucifixion since nothing they claimed in the above citation contradicts the Orthodox Christian view of Jesus? Christianity historically has always taught that Jesus is the slave of God (Acts 3:13; Philippians 2:7), his apostle (Hebrews 3:1), his Word (John 1:1; Revelation 19:13) and an eternal Spirit, or more precisely a life-giving Spirit since the Holy Bible makes a clear distinction between Jesus and the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).
This seems to suggest that the Muslims used deception in order to prevent the Negus from realizing the true teaching of Islam on the person of Christ. Had the Negus known their denials of Jesus' deity and crucifixion the king would have obviously been less favorably to their cause.
Although agreeing with the essential details, the Muslim author Martin Lings presents a slightly different version of the story. According to Lings:
"The royal interpreters translated all that he (i.e. Ja'far) had said. The Negus then asked if they had with them any Revelation that their Prophet had brought them from God and, when Ja'far answered that they had, he said: 'Then recite it to me,' whereupon Ja'far recited a passage from the Surah of Mary, which had been revealed shortly before their departure:
And make mention of Mary in the Book, when she withdrew from her people unto a place towards the east, and secluded herself from them; and We sent unto her Our Spirit, and it appeared unto her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: I take refuge from thee in the Infinitely Good, if any piety thou hast. He said: I am none other than a messenger from thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a son most pure. She said: How can there be for me a son, when no man hath touched me, nor am I unchaste? He said: Even so shall it be; thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. That We may make a sign for mankind and a mercy from Us; and it is a thing ordained.
"The Negus wept, and his bishops wept also, when they heard him recite, and when it was translated they wept again, and the Negus said: 'This hath truly come from the same source as that which Jesus brought.' Then he turned to the two envoys of Quraysh and said: 'Ye may go, for by God I will not deliver them unto you; they shall not be betrayed.'" (Lings, Muhammad, His Life Based on the Earliest Sources [Inner Traditions International, Ltd. Rochester, Vermont 1983], p. 83)
After the two envoys confronted the Negus with what the Muslims really believed about Jesus, they were brought into the king's presence:
"So when they entered the royal presence, and it was said to them: 'What say ye of Jesus, the son of Mary?' Ja'far answered: 'We say of him what our Prophet brought unto us, that he is the slave of God and His Messenger and His Spirit and His Word which He cast unto Mary the blessed virgin.' The Negus took up a piece of wood and said: 'Jesus the son of Mary exceedeth not what thou hast said by the length of this stick'. Meantime the news of what the Negus had said about Jesus spread among the people, and they were troubled and came out against him, asking for an explanation, and accusing them of having left their religion. He thereupon sent to Ja'far and his companions and made ready boats for them and told them embark and be ready to set sail if necessary. Then he took a parchment and wrote on it: 'He testifieth that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His Messenger and that Jesus the son of Mary is His slave and His Messenger and His Spirit and His Word which he cast unto Mary.' Then he put it beneath his gown and went out to his people who were assembled to meet him. And he said to them: 'Abyssinians, have I not the best claim to be your king?' They said that he had. 'Then what think ye of my life amongst you?' 'It hath been the best of lives,' they answered. 'Then what is it that troubleth you?' he said. 'Thou hast left our religion,' they said, 'and hast maintained that Jesus is a slave.' 'Then what say ye of Jesus?' he asked. 'We say that he is the son of God,' they answered. Then he put his hand on his breast, pointing to where the parchment was hidden, and testified to his belief in 'THIS', WHICH THEY TOOK TO REFER TO THEIR WORDS. So they were satisfied and went away, for they were happy under his rule, and only wished to be reassured; and the Negus sent word to Ja'far and his companions that they could disembark and go back to their dwellings, where they went on living as before, in comfort and security." (Ibid. p. 84)
In agreement, Ishaq records:
"Ja'far b. Muhammad told me on the authority of his father that the Abyssinians assembled and said to the Negus, 'You have left our religion' and they revolted against him. So he sent to Ja'far and his companions and prepared ships for them, saying, 'Embark in these and be ready. If I am defeated, go where you please; if I am victorious, then stay where you are.' Then he took paper and wrote, 'He testifies that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and apostle; and he testifies that Jesus, Son of Mary, is His slave, His apostle, His spirit and His word, which he cast unto Mary.' Then he put it in his gown near the right shoulder and went to the Abyssinians, who were drawn up in array to meet him. He said, 'O people, have I not the best claim among you?' 'Certainly,' they said. 'And what do you think of my life among you?' 'Excellent.' 'Then what is your trouble" 'You have forsaken our religion and assert that Jesus is slave.' 'Then what do you say about Jesus?' 'We say that he is the Son of God.' The Negus put his hand upon his breast over his gown (signifying), 'He testifies that Jesus, the Son of Mary, was no more than "this".' By this he meant what he had written, but the were content and went away. News of this reached the prophet, and when the Negus died he prayed over him and begged that his sins might be forgiven." (Guillaume, pp. 154-155)
We are left with several problems. First, instead of the Muslims simply deceiving the Negus and his bishops, it is now the Negus who is presented as deceiving his people by hiding his true beliefs about Jesus. That is if the Negus had come to denounce the sonship of Jesus since nothing stated in the above sources has the Negus explicitly denying this truth. It simply reports that the Negus placed his hand on the parchment, stating that he believed in "this" which the Christians took to mean that he affirmed their claim in the sonship of Jesus. Hence, the Negus could have been reassuring the Christians that he did believe in what they stated so long as it did not exclude Jesus from being the slave, Word and Spirit of God, statements that are thoroughly biblical in content.
Interestingly, Ibn Kathir provides evidence that the Muslims deceived the Negus in his commentary on S. 61:6 :
Amr bin Al-As said, "They [Sam- the Muslims] contradict your creed about Isa, son of Maryam." The king asked, "What do you say about Isa and his mother Maryam?" Jafar said, "We only say what Allah said about him, that he is Allahs Word, His Spirit and sent down to the honorable virgin who was not touched by a man nor bearing children before." An-Najashi lifted a straw of wood and said, "O Ethiopians, monks and priests! By Allah, what they say about Isa IS NO MORE THAN WHAT WE SAY ABOUT HIM, NOT EVEN A DIFFERENCE THAT EQUALS THIS STRAW. You are welcomed among us, and greetings to him who sent you. I bear witness that he is Allahs Messenger whom we read about in the Injil. He is the prophet who Isa, son of Maryam, foretold the good news about his advent. Live wherever you wish. By Allah, had I not been entrusted with the responsibilities of kingship, I would have gone to him, so that I could be honored by carrying his slippers and his water for ablution." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged), Volume 9 (Surat Al-Jathiyah to the end of Surat Al-Munafiqun), abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, London, Lahore; First Edition, September 2000], p. 620; bold and capital emphasis ours)
(NOTE: The translators of the above English edition of Ibn Kathir have translated the expression, "His Spirit" as "a soul created by Allah." This is a woeful mistranslation of the Arabic original which says, ruhu-hu, presumably aimed at obscuring the real meaning of the phrase.)
Suffice it to say nothing claimed by the Muslims or the Negus denies the biblical truth with the possible exception of the Negus' confession of the prophethood of Muhammad. Yet, even this acknowledgment does nothing to rebut orthodox Christian teaching since all that the Muslims claimed about Jesus on the authority of their prophet suggests that Muhammad's belief in Jesus was orthodox in nature. By failing to tell the Negus and his bishops all of Muhammad's teachings on Jesus such as the explicit denials of Christ's deity and crucifixion exposes their deliberate use of deception to win over the Christians.
Muslim Neal Robinson, in his comments on Nöldeke's chronology of the Quran, solidifies our charge that the Muslims were being deceptive:
... In their present state, all the suras which contain extensive references to Jesus also include a denial that God has offspring. It is possible that this is because these suras WERE REVISED DURING THE MEDINAN PERIOD. For example Nöldeke maintains that sura nineteen ORIGINALLY consisted of 19:1-33, 41-47 since these ayas all rhyme in -iyyan whereas ayas 34-40 end in the much more common -una frequently found in the Medinan period. This accords with the Muslim tradition that the emigrants recited part of this sura to the Negus of Abyssinia. What they recited was presumably the original nucleus WHICH LACKED THE STRIDENT DENIALS THAT GOD HAD OFFSPRING. (Robinson, Christ In Islam and Christianity [State University of New York Press, Albany 1991], pp. 32-33; bold and capital emphasis ours)
According to Nöldeke's chronological scheme the earliest statement is 19:33, the infant Jesus' reference to the day of his death and the day of his being raised. In the original version of the revelation - the version recited to the Abyssinians by the Muslim refugees from Mecca - this was probably the culmination of the story. The Abysinnians may well have understood it as referring to the crucifixion and the resurrection on the third day. The statement itself is, however, much less precise. It does not specify how and when Jesus was to die nor how and when he was to be raised. In view of 19:15, where similar things are said about John, it is perhaps the general resurrection on the day of judgement which is envisaged. In any case the very fact that similar things are said about John detracts from the uniqueness of Jesus. In short the statement sounds more Christian than it is. This is in character with the general tenor of 19:1-33 where the aim seems to be THAT OF APPEALING TO CHRISTIAN SENTIMENT without making too many concessions to Christian belief. (Ibid., p. 112; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Robinson's claims leave us with the following conclusions. Either Allah (or Muhammad) deceived both the Muslim refugees and the Christians by holding back those important parts of the so-called "revelation" which specifically denied both the deity of Christ and his crucifixion. Or, the Muslim refugees were already aware of Muhammad 's view of Jesus, but chose not to mention it to the Negus and his bishops. That the latter conclusion is the plausible one can be seen from the fact that the Muslim sources cited above claim that the pagan Arabs went to the Negus to inform him of the Muslims' view of Jesus. This means that the Muslim view was obviously in opposition to the view held by the Abyssinian Christians, which further implies that the Muslims were already familiar with the Quranic denial of the deity and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.
Another time where Muhammad seemingly withheld information in order to win someone's favor is in a purported letter that had allegedly been written to the Pope:
"In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, Most Merciful,
Peace be upon him who believes in Allah. I am of the faith that Isa (Jesus A.S.) son of Maryam (Mary) was the spirit of Allah and His word! ALLAH INFUSED HIM IN THE PIOUS MARIAM.
I believe in Allah and His books and His commands which He sent to me and which He sent to Ibrahim, Ismail, Ishaq and Yaqub (A.S.) and their descendants. I also believe in what was given to Musa and Isa (A.S.) and in other prophets by Allah! In faith and belief we do not differentiate in accepting any of the prophets. We are Muslims (meaning obedient to Allah). Peace be upon him who follows the guidance. (Tabari's History, vol. 3, p. 88)" (Sultan Ahmed Qureshi, Letters of the Holy Prophet [Muslim Education Trust (MET) Book Market, Maine Bazar, Lhrs; printed at Offset Press, n.d.], pp. 94-95)
The book goes on to claim that the Pope embraced Muhammad as a prophet, which then caused such a violent reaction amongst the people that they ended up killing their Pope. (Ibid. p. 95)
We once again find Muhammad withholding information, provided that both the letter and its translation are historical and accurate. Muhammad claims that Jesus was infused into Mary, implying that Christ preexisted. The titles word and spirit of God further confirm the fact that Muhammad viewed Jesus as a preexistent figure who was sent from the presence of God to become man while at the same time denying the deity of Christ. This portrays Muhammad as confused or a deceiver since he tailored the message to suit his purposes when it was convenient. Muhammad also claims that he believes in all the books sent by God as well as in the prophets that came before him. Yet, not once does he care to explain to the Pope the Quranic denial of Jesus' deity and crucifixion.
It bears repeating, such deceptive methods of concealing one's true beliefs are shameful to say the least.
Getting back to the subject of the Negus, the Hadith also mentions Muhammad's prayers for the Negus when the latter had died, even calling him a brother:
When Negus died, the Prophet said, "Today a pious man has died. So get up and offer the funeral prayer for your brother Ashama." (Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 217)
Narrated Abu Huraira:
that Allah's Apostle informed them (i.e. his companions) of the death of Negus, the king of Ethiopia, on the very day on which the latter died, and said, "Ask Allah's Forgiveness for your brother." Abu Huraira further said, "Allah's Apostle made them (i.e. the Muslims) stand in rows at the Musalla (i.e. praying place) and led the funeral prayer for the Negus and said four Takbir." (Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 220)
Narrated Anas ibn Malik:
The king of Rome presented a fur of silk brocade to the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and he wore it. The scene that his hands were moving (while wearing the robe) is before my eyes. He then sent it to Ja'far who wore it and came to him. The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: I did not send it to you to wear. He asked: What should I do with it? He replied: Send it to your brother Negus. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 32, Number 4036)
Another verse that some Muslim scholars have applied to the Negus includes:
"And there are, certainly, Among the People of the Book, Those who believe in God, In the revelation to you, And in the revelation to them, Bowing in humility to God: They will not sell The Signs of God For a miserable gain! For them is a reward With their Lord, And God is swift in account." S. 3:199
"Jabir b. Abdallah, Anas, Ubn Abbas, and Qatada said: 'This verse was inspired concerning the death of al-Negus, the Ethiopian ruler. Gabriel announced his death to Muhammad on the day in which he died. Muhammad said to his followers: "Get out and pray for a brother of yours who died in another land." They asked him: "And who is he?" Muhammad answered: "He is Negus." Then Muhammad prayed "Allahu akbar" four times and asked forgiveness for al-Negus. He also said to his followers: "Ask forgiveness for him." So the hypocrites [Muhammad's enemies] said: "Look at that man! He prays for a Christian Ethiopian infidel whom he had never seen before and who does not follow his religion." Muhammad said: "Of the people of Scriptures." Mujahid, Ibn Juraij, and Ibn Zaid said: "This verse was inspired to describe the entire people of the Book"' (see al-Qurtubi's commentary on Sura Al Imran 3:199)" (True Guidance, pt. 5, p. 78)
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin:
When Negus died, we were told that a light would be seen perpetually at his grave. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 14, Number 2517)
Ishaq also reports that Muhammad sent a letter to the Negus, inviting the latter to embrace Islam:
"The apostle sent Shuja' b. Wahb, brother of B. Asad b. Khuzayma, to al-Mundhir b. al-Harith b. Abu Shimr al-Ghassani, lord of Damascus... (T. via Salama. The apostle sent 'Amr b. Umayya al-Damri to the Negus about Ja'far b. Abu Talib and his companions and sent a letter with him... 'From Muhammad the apostle of God to the Negus al-Asham king of Abyssinia, Peace. I praise Allah unto you the King, the Holy, the Peace, the Faithful, the Watcher, and I bear witness that Jesus son of Mary is the spirit of God and His word which he cast to Mary the Virgin, the good, the pure, so that she conceived Jesus. God created him from His spirit and His breathing as He created Adam by His hand and His breathing. I call you to God the Unique without partner and to His obedience, and to follow me and to believe in that which came to me, for I am the apostle of God. I have sent to you my nephew Ja'far with a number of Muslims, and when they come to you entertain them without haughtiness, for I invite you and your armies to God. I have accomplished (my work) and my admonitions, so receive my advice. Peace upon all those that follow the true guidance.'
"The Negus replied: ... 'From Negus al-Asham b. Abjar, Peace upon you, O prophet of Allah, and mercy and blessing from Allah beside Whom there is no God, who has guided me to Islam. I have received your letter in which you mention the matter of Jesus and by the Lord of heaven and earth he is not one strap more than what you say. We know that with which you were sent to us and we have entertained your nephew and his companions. I testify that you are God's apostle, true and confirming (those before you). I have given my fealty to you and to your nephew and I have surrendered myself through him to the Lord of the worlds. I have sent to you my son Arha. I have control only over myself and if you wish me to come to you, O apostle of God, I will do so. I bear witness that what you say is true.'
"I was told that the Negus sent his son with sixty Abyssinians by boat, and when they were in the middle of the sea the boat foundered and they all perished.)" (Ishaq, pp. 657-658)
Besides the fact that this story cannot be verified seeing that most stories of Muhammad's encounters with local kings have been demonstrated to be fraudulent, according to Sahih Muslim this was not the same Negus that had granted the Muslims asylum from the Qurayshites and whom Muhammad prayed for:
Narrated Anas ibn Malik:
The Prophet of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) wrote to Chosroes (King of Persia), Caesar (Emperor of Rome), Negus (King of Abyssinia) and every (other) despot inviting them to Allah, the Exalted. And this Negus was not the one for whom the Messenger of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) had said the funeral prayers." (Sahih Muslim, Book 18, Number 4382)
In fact, Mahmoud M. Ayoub claims that some Muslim commentators believed that S. 3:199 was specifically revealed about the Negus:
"Like many early commentators, Wahidi refers to this verse to al-Najashi of Abyssinia. He reports on the authority of Jabir b. 'Abd Allah, Anas b. Malik, Ibn 'Abbas, and Qatadah that when al-Najashi died, Gabriel announced his death to the Prophet on the same day. The Prophet announced al-Najashi's death to his Companions, saying, 'Go and pray over a brother of yours who died in a land other than your land.' The Prophet thus went with them to al-Baqi', the cemetery of Madina, where he could miraculously see as far as Abyssinia. He looked at Najashi's bier and prayed over him. He begged God's forgiveness for him, and asked his companions to do likewise. But the hypocrites protested, saying, 'Look at this man praying over a Christian Abyssinian infidel whom he never saw, and who did not follow his religion.'
"Tabari reports on the authority of Qatadah that when the Prophet asked his companions to pray over al-Najashi, they protested, 'Shall we pray over a man who is not a Muslim!' When the verse was revealed they again countered, 'He did not pray facing the qiblah.' But God sent down, 'To God belongs the east and the west. Wherever you turn, there is the face of God' [Q. 2:115]." (Ayoub, The Qur'an and its Interpreters Volume II- The House of 'Imran [State University of New York Press, Albany 1992], p. 414)
Hence, we find that a Christian king who believed in the deity and crucifixion of Christ is praised as a believer and fellow brother.
(NOTE- For the documentation on the fraudulent nature of Muhammad's alleged encounters with political leaders, please read the following article on the hadiths regarding the story of Heraclius.)
"Those who believe (in the Qur'an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians, Christians, Magians, and Polytheists (wallaziina ashrakuuu),- God will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for God is witness of all things." S. 22:17
This verse makes a distinction between the Christians and the Polytheists (Arabic- ashrakuu- i.e. those who associate partners with God).
Yet, the following Quranic verses contradict the ones above by giving a totally uncomplimentary picture of Christianity, presenting the religion of Islam as vastly superior.
"The Religion before God is Islam (submission to His Will): Nor did the People of the Book dissent therefrom except through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them. But if any deny the Signs of God, God is swift in calling to account." S. 3:19
"If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to God), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good). S. 3:85
"Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than God; that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, God is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful." S. 5:3
According to these passages, no other religion is acceptable to God besides Islam. If this is so, then how can the Quran claim that Christians, Sabians and Jews who do good and believe in the last day shall enter Paradise seeing that they do not believe in the religion of Islam?
One way Muslims attempt to reconcile these passages with those that say men of other faiths such as Christianity and Judaism will enter Paradise is through the science of abrogation. According to this Islamic doctrine, Allah revealed certain verses only to be canceled out later by other verses. This is known as nasikh wa mansukh, "the abrogating and the abrogated." Typical of such a view is the following commentary by Muslim translators Hillali-Khan:
"... (V. 2:62) This Verse, (and Verse 5:69) mentioned in the Qur'an should not be misinterpreted by the reader as mentioned by Ibn Abbas... (T. At-Tabari Vol. I, P. 323) that the order of this Verse was canceled by the Verse 3:85... [i.e. after the coming of Prophet Muhammad... on the earth, no other religion except Islam, will be accepted from anyone." (Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali, Ph.D. Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Interpretation of the Meaning of The Noble Quran In the English Language, A Summarized Version of At-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir with comments from Sahih Al-Bukhari, p. 15, f. 2)
"This verse (V. 5:69) and (V. 2:62) should not be misinterpreted by the readers as mentioned by Ibn Abbas (T. At-Tabari, Vol. P. 323) that the order of this Verse was canceled by the (V. 3:85). And after the coming of the Prophet Muhammad... no other religion except Islam will be accepted from anyone." (Ibid, 183, f.)
"O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily God guideth not a people unjust." S. 5:51
This verse claims that Muslims are not to take either Jews or Christians as friends and protectors. Yet, in 5:83-86 the Quran claims that those nearest to Muslims are Christians who shall enter Paradise because they were men of learning and affection. Furthermore, the Muslims that had been commanded to flee Mecca to Abyssinia received protection from the Christian king from the Quraysh's attempts at persecuting them. Yet, according to this verse these Muslims were unbelievers for doing so, since they broke the command stating that they were not to seek protection from the Jews or Christians.
In fact, the Quran expressly forbids Muhammad from offering funeral prayers for unbelievers:
"And never (O Muhammad) pray for one of them who dieth, nor stand by his grave. Lo! they disbelieved in Allah and His messenger, and they died while they were evil-doers." S. 9:84
The reason why this particular "revelation" was given is rather interesting:
"Asbab al-Nuzul by al-Suyuti reveals that al-Bukhari and Muslim quoted Ibn Umar saying, 'When Abdallah b. Ubai died (he was the leader of the hypocrites of Mecca), his son came to Muhammad and asked for his shirt. Then he asked Muhammad to pray over his father. When Muhammad stood to accompany the son, Umar b. al-Khattab took Muhammad's garment and said: "O Apostle of Allah, do you pray over him while your Lord prohibited you from doing this?" Muhammad answered: "My Lord gave me the choice." He said: "Ask pardon for them, or ask not pardon for them 70 times" (Sura al-Tawba 9:80). "I will do it more than 70 times," Umar said: "But he is a hypocrite." Yet Muhammad prayed over him. So Allah sent down this verse. Since then, Muhammad stopped praying over the unbelievers.'" (True Guidance, pt. 5, p. 137)
Muhammad Asad claims the same thing but with a slight difference. Instead of the son, it is the person himself who makes the request to Muhammad before actually dying:
"... It is reported that when the life-long opponent of the Prophet and leader of the hypocrites of Medina, 'Abd Allah ibn Ubayy, was dying, he sent his son to the Prophet with the request that the latter give him his (the Prophet's) shirt, so that he might be buried in it, and that the Prophet should pray over him after his death. The Prophet took this request as a sign of Ibn Ubayy's repentance, and gave him his shirt and later led the funeral prayers over his body. When 'Umar ibn al-Khattab vehemently protested against this clemency towards the man whom all the believers had regarded as 'God's enemy', the Prophet answered, 'God has granted me a choice in this matter [a reference to verse 80 of this surah, 'whether thou dost pray that they may be forgiven or dost not pray...', etc.], and so I shall pray [for him] more than seventy times.' Several variants of this Tradition are to be found in Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i, Ibn Hanbal, on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas; Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Ibn 'Umar; Muslim, on the authority of Jabir ibn 'Abd Allah; and in various other hadith compilations. Since 'Abd Allah ibn Ubayy died some time after the Prophet's return from Tabuk, while verse 84 - most of this surah - was revealed during the campaign, it is clear that the prohibition expressed in this verse relates only (as the sequence shows) to those who 'are bent on denying God and His Apostle, and [who] died in this iniquity' - that is, to unrepentant sinners." (Asad, The Message of the Qur'an, pp. 275-276, f. 116)
It is interesting to find Muhammad, the alleged prophet of God, being corrected by Umar, one who was merely a follower and yet who knew enough to realize that it was wrong to pray for hypocrites who have opposed God till their death.
"It is not for the Prophet, and those who believe, to pray for the forgiveness of idolaters (mushrikiina) even though they may be near of kin (to them) after it hath become clear that they are people of hell-fire." S. 9:113
The Quran considers associating partners with God as the highest form of evil and also views Christians as idolaters and blasphemers for believing in the Trinity and the deity of Christ. This means that Muhammad's prayer for the Negus was a violation of these Quranic commands that forbade him from praying for unbelievers.
In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the son of Mary. Say: "Who then hath the least power against God, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every - one that is on the earth? For to God belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He createth what He pleaseth. For God hath power over all things." S. 5:17
They do blaspheme who say: "God is Christ the son of Mary." But said Christ: "O Children of Israel! worship God, my Lord and your Lord." Whoever joins other gods with God (innahu man yushrik biAllahi),- God will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. S. 5:72
They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them. S. 5:73
Christians are blasphemers or blaspheme (Arabic- kafara) God when they say that God is three or God is Christ and that Jesus is God's son. Yet, if Christians and Muslims worship the same God how can Christians be blasphemers? Either Muslims are blasphemers as well since they worship the same God, or this is a clear contradiction.
O ye who believe! surely, the idolaters are unclean (al-mushrikoona najasun). So they shall not approach the Sacred Mosque after this year of theirs. And if you fear poverty, ALLAH will enrich you out of HIS bounty, if HE pleases. Surely, ALLAH is All-Knowing, Wise. Fight those from among the people of the Book, who believe not in ALLAH, nor in the Last Day, nor hold as unlawful what ALLAH and HIS Messenger have declared to be unlawful, nor follow the true religion, until they pay the tax considering it a favour and acknowledge their subjection. And the Jews say, ‘Ezra is the son of ALLAH,’ and the Christians say, ‘the Messiah is the son of ALLAH;’ that is what they say with their mouths. They only imitate the saying of those who disbelieved (kafaroo) before them. ALLAH's curse be on them! How they are turned away. They have taken their priest and their monks for lords besides ALLAH. And so have they taken the Messiah, son of Mary. And they were not commanded but to worship the One God. There is no God but HE. Holy is HE far above what they associate (yushrikoona) with Him! They seek to extinguish the light of ALLAH with their mouths; but ALLAH refuses but to perfect HIS light, though the disbelievers (al-kafiroona) may resent it. HE it is Who has sent HIS Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, that HE may make it prevail over every other religion, even though the idolaters (al-mushrikoona) may resent it. S. 9:28-33 Sher Ali
This passage claims that not only are Christians polytheists (or of those who associate partners with God) and blasphemers (or disbelievers), but the Jews are as well. It even classifies the Jews and Christians as unclean! Yet, in S. 22:17 Christians are pictured as a group distinct from the Polytheists or those that associate partners with God. In light of this, what position should Muslims take in relation to Christians, do they view them as polytheists or not? If they are polytheists, then does this not prove that Muhammad sinned by praying for a polytheist like the Negus, going so far as to call this idolater a brother?
The following hadiths worsen the situation:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said, "The Jews and the Christians do not dye (their grey hair), so you shall do the opposite of what they do (i.e. dye your grey hair and beards)." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 668)
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The Jews and the Christians do not dye (their hair), so oppose them. (Sahih Muslim, Book 024, Number 5245)
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it. (Sahih Muslim, Book 026, Number 5389)
Muhammad's hatred for Jews and Christians stands out clearly. Muslims are told to oppose Jews and Christians by doing the opposite of what they do, and by not greeting them first along with forcing them to the narrowest part of the road. Muhammad even said that the reason why Muslims gather on Friday is to precede the Jews and Christians who gather on Saturday and Sunday respectively:
It is narrated by Abu Huraira and Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: It was Friday from which Allah diverted those who were before us. For the Jews (the day set aside for prayer) was Sabt (Saturday), and for the Christians it was Sunday. And Allah turned towards us and guided us to Friday (as the day of prayer) for us. In fact, He (Allah) made Friday, Saturday and Sunday (as days of prayer). In this order would they (Jews and Christians) come after us on the Day of Resurrection. We are the last of (the Ummahs) among the people in this world and the first among the created to be judged on the Day of Resurrection. In one narration it is: "to be judged among them." (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 1862; see also Numbers 1858-1861, 1863)
The Quran also accuses Jesus' disciples of unbelief seeing that they doubted God's ability to provide food for them from heaven:
"And when I inspired the disciples, (saying): Believe in Me and in My messenger, they said: We believe. Bear witness that we have surrendered (unto Thee) "we are muslims". When the disciples said: O Jesus, son of Mary! Is thy Lord able to send down for us a table spread with food from heaven? He said: Observe your duty to Allah, if ye are true believers. (They said:) We wish to eat thereof, that we may satisfy our hearts and know that thou hast spoken truth to us, and that thereof we may be witnesses. Jesus, son of Mary, said: O Allah, Lord of us! Send down for us a table spread with food from heaven, that it may be a feast for us, for the first of us and for the last of us, and a sign from Thee. Give us sustenance, for Thou art the Best of Sustainers. Allah said: Lo! I send it down for you. And whoso disbelieveth of you afterward, him surely will I punish with a punishment wherewith I have not punished any of (My) creatures." S. 5:111-115
The disciples' statement of unbelief inclined God to warn them that after he sent down what they had desired they would be punished most severely if they still chose to disbelieve.
Finally, the Quran makes food prepared by Christians lawful for Muslims, and even allows Muslim men to marry Christian women:
"This day are (all) things Good and pure made lawful Unto you. The food Of the People of the Book Is lawful unto you And yours is lawful Unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) Are (not only) chaste women Who are believers, but Chaste women among the People of the Book." S. 5:5
Yet, the Quran commands Muslims to eat food in which Allah's name has been invoked:
"Eat not of (meats) On which God's name Hath not been pronounced: That would be impiety. But the evil ones Ever inspire their friends To contend with you If ye were to obey them, Ye would indeed be Pagans." S. 6:121
Since Christians pray to the triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, invoking the blessing of God through Christ even while eating, this implies that the Muslim God is triune also. Otherwise, the Quran allows Muslims to partake of food offered by idolaters.
One narration even says that Muslims should not marry Christian women who profess that Jesus is their Lord:
Whenever Ibn 'Umar was asked about marrying a Christian lady or a Jewess, he would say: "Allah has made it unlawful for the believers to marry ladies who ascribe partners in worship to Allah, and I do not know of a greater thing, as regards to ascribing partners in worship, etc. to Allah, than that a lady should say that Jesus is her Lord although he is just one of Allah's slaves." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 63, Number 209)
Thus, these traditions make it unlawful to eat Christian food and to marry Christian women!
This brief examination of the Quran leaves a lot more questions than answers as to whether Christians are really believers and nearest to Muslims in affection? Or are they simply unbelievers who blaspheme God by associating partners with him? We will let the readers decide.
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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