Is Allah the God of the Bible?

In an article on the Islamic newsgroup somebody wrote:

Even if the Qur'an is not from God I would not expect anything else.

Let me give you an illustration to make clear why.

Suppose you read two interviews with an important person [president of the US or whomever you fancy to imagine] in two different newpapers.

You read them closely and you find that they are mightily contradictory so that you start wondering if those statements really can come from the same source. But both claim that they had an interview with the President at the White House and that that is exactly what the President told them. But taken together they just don't make sense.

You do some research and find out that one of them really had an interview. But the other journalist was denied the interview. For some reason [pressure from the newspaper : you write this interview or you are fired or any other imaginable reason] he needs this interview, and comes to the conclusion that the knows enough about the President already to be able to make one up.

But obviously he has to make it look real. So he writes as if it is real. The president will refer back to his earlier successes, his earlier interviews where he said things to point out that he kept his promises, etc etc. just like a real interview MIGHT have been.

It is so skilfully done, one might not even have found the fraud if there hadn't been the real interview and the two just are so much at odds that they can't both be true.

Obviously, both the real and the fake one do write about the SAME President. The difference is not the topic, not the *claimed source* of the interview, the difference is that one *is* authorised by the President and the other is not.

Yes, the Qur'an talks about the same God. And it obviously takes great pains to connect this same God back to what he might have said if he had given revelation. Sure, both books are talking about the same God but the question is whether they are both from the same source. Is the God they are both talking about actually the source of both of them?

Well, Qur'an and Bible are very much similar in many things, just as the reporter who was denied the interview would be able from earlier sources, from good research, or even just from good common sense to make up something that would look pretty close to a real interview. But that doesn't MAKE it a real interview.

The God the Qur'an talks about is the same. And Muslims do worship this one and only Creator God. The question is not whether Muslims and Christians have the same God [there is only one Creator after all], the question is if their book is FROM this God which it claims to be from. Without question: The Qur'an speaks ABOUT God, but is it FROM God?

The TOPIC is the same, but is the SOURCE the same? The many unresolvable contradictions would deny it.

Now, the reporter doesn't even to be dishonest. Let me change the story a bit to accomodate it more to the situation as I think it could have been.

Let us suppose the reporter wanted an interview with the President but then he meets somebody claiming to be the aide of the President. "The President is unavailable at this time, but I am authorised to give you any information you need", he says.

So, our reporter is glad to not have to go home with empty hands and interviews the aide who is more than willing to give a lot of information and much of it even without being asked for it.

The reporter is honestly convinced he heard the most authentic voice of the President available to him at this time. The problem is, as one finds out later, that the person posing as the Aide of the President was a fraud. And all the reporter wrote was made up by him.

The reporter was honest, but the source was false. And obviously again, the source which is false but interested to be taken for true will make sure that things do sound thoroughly authentic. If he would claim absolutely impossible things he would be discovered immediately.

The prime question is:

or equivalently

Even though I did bring up in this article the question "If not from God, what then is the source?" this is not a question of great interest to me. If I can establish that it is not from God, I do care very little by what dynamics and means it actually came into existence. Other human information? Thoughts from Muhammad's subconscience? Demonic influences? A mixture of those three? Yet another source? That is all quite unimportant. If it is not God, then I don't believe it and don't care much what else it is.

This posting was only to make clear that the God of the Qur'an and of the Bible can be the same and obviously are the same, yet nevertheless it can be true that one is true revelation while the other is not.

Muslims obviously will ask the same question about the Bible. Muslims do not believe that it is from God in the exact form as it is today [that is what corruption is all about]. Many Muslims even believe that many of the books in the Bible didn't belong in there in the first place. So, your accusation is just the same as my explanation above. You would concede that the Bible talks about the same God as the Qur'an, but that God is not the source of the Bible and hence it has to have some other source.

Given that this scenario is your accusation, I hope that you Muslim reader will not be too offended when Christians do have similar thoughts about the Qur'an. Actually, there is no other alternative. Even if we do not clearly speak it out all the time, the consequence can only be: If it is not from God, then it is a (clever) fraud of some sort and has to have another source, well-meaning, subjectively honest maybe, but the source is something else, and it is rather irrelevant what exactly it is.

To come back though to the original question: I believe that those who say Bible and Qur'an speak about a different God, confuse "topic" and "source" or "topic" and "content". Because the content (description) is different one might say it is a different understanding of God. To a certain extent this justifies to say that it is a "different God".

Hearing a different description of God by Christians and Muslims, some come to the conclusion you must be talking about different entities and that is understandable. Others come to the conclusion that the entity is the same [because there is only one Creator God - and both both agree that there is only one and hence they talk about this same one] but because of the differences one of them must have false information. At least SOME false information even though much of it is the same and probably true information.

If I say "This house is painted red all over" and another says "This house is painted green all over" then there are two possibilities: Either we are talking about two different houses [two different gods] or we are indeed pointing to the same house [god] but one of us is giving wrong information.

But since *all we know about God* comes to us through some kind of "information" [written or oral], if the information is different, our (understanding of) God is different. We do worship God according to what our understanding is of him. Subjectively different understandings are different gods. If I hear of a red house my imagination lets me "see" a red house. If I hear about a green house I "see" a green house within my mind independent of the real color of the house. The houses I "see" [think of] are actually different. So different information about God produces within our mind a different "gods" and we do worship God according to the "god" we know about. In that sense, our gods are different. [In that sense, the "imagined gods" of the Muslims among themselves and the "imagined gods" of Christians among themselves are different since everybody does have a somehow different understanding of God.]

I hope these toughts help some of you to organize your thoughts on this rather important question [which I have been struggling with as well for quite a while]. Feedback is welcome.

Obviously the next step has to be the investigation of the two "interviews" or "revelations" for clues whether they are indeed informed by the correct source or whether there are evidences why one of them is not from the true God it pretends to originate from.

The following links should be helpful in this quest for truth:

  • Allah: Is He God?
  • Who is God?

    Another illustration might make even clearer the different ways people look at this question. Think about different artists painting a portrait of the same person. Some artists are realists who paint all the outward appearance detail for detail, another might be an intimate friend of the person he portraits and will use his knowledge of the character of his friend to paint a picture which is very much a true representation but more inspired by the inner reality than meticulous physical details. A third one is an abstract painter and not knowing the man at all he might put into this picture more about his own feelings and impressions in regard to this person than what the person really is.

    The Bible speaks of Jesus as God's live self-portrait given to us:

    The Biblical books then are "painted images" of God, of Jesus, of the prophets, ... by people like the second painter who paints a friend. Their deep experience and knowledge guided in addition by the Holy Spirity of God gives an accurate picture of the true character. For example, we learn much about the character of Christ in the Gospels but there is not one physical description of him.

    My impression is that the Qur'an is an image of God like a portrait made by an abstract painter, a person who did not really know God intimately but puts into this picture much that he thinks God should be like. Since our human reason and philosophical thoughts about God are relatively similar in many ways, this picture will appeal to many people who recognize their own thoughts about God in this portrait. But it doesn't mean therefore that it is true. It would only mean that many people think similar about God and like to view him the same way.

    And maybe the abstract painter has seen an old painting of the person which was damaged in many places, he had some true glimpses, but he had to fill in large parts by using his own imagination.

    Similarly, Muhammad was not able to read the earlier scriptures for himself, but he had heard from the Jews and Christians a good number of stories. He had therefore some memory of the true image, he used those memories and supplied by himself the other pieces that were missing and not available to him. This hearsay accounts for a good number of similarities on the surface, but the fundamental differences come from not knowing this God by personal relationship as the Biblical writers did.

    When we think about how something or somebody should look like (for example when reading a fiction book without pictures) our image of them is most often informed by our prior life experiences and might look very different from the image other people have when reading this same book and especially different from the image the author of the book had in mind when writing it. And that holds for biographies and history books as much as for fiction.

    In this sense, even though the above painter intends to paint the real person, since he is doing so without true knowledge of this this person he will paint something that he imagines it to be and this imagination is informed by the environment he grew up in and the world view that has made him the person he is.

    I think this illustration is the correct one to understand the position of Dr. Morey and others who write books like "Allah the Moon god" (*). They seek in the society of Muhammad for clues about their images and understanding of God and then (for lack of true knowledge) this will be the source for Muhammad's teaching about God. Given the very idolaterous background of Arabia at the time of Muhammad, so the reasoning goes, Muhammad realizes that multiple gods cannot be true, but nevertheless in his attempt to get rid of all the minor gods/idols the image that Muhammad paints about (the only) God is informed by his upbringing including the understanding about the gods his society was used to, especially the highest of these idols, the moon god. Dr. Morey sees Muhammad as taking the highest of those gods and declaring him the only one and destroying the lesser ones, but retaining many of the characteristics of this highest of the idols.

    I can understand the approach but I think it is not very helpful in the dialog and debates with Muslims. It is obviously not what Muslims believe. But he doesn't say Muslims believe this. He argues that this is the source but Muslims don't realize it.

    In fact, Muslims do exactly the same thing, when they claim that the source of doctrines like "the incarnation", Jesus being "the son of God", "the Trinity" etc are all pagan concepts brought into the church when Christianity spread from the Jews to the Gentiles. Muslims charge the Christians that they took pagan concepts and "baptized them" just as Dr. Morey and others charge that Muhammad brought the character of the Arabic moon god into his preaching of monotheism.

    As much as I think that this approach is unhelpful for dialog or even debate, I fail to see how the Muslims have a right to be outraged while they do the very same thing when looking at the Christian understanding of God.

    The above is obviously my Christian understanding when looking at the situation. The Muslim might take this analogy and say, that Muhammad didn't paint at all but that he was handed a photograph exactly representing the heavenly original.

    I might then again, accept that the preservation in great detail of the Qur'an could be likened to a photograph, but it is a photograph of the abstract painting above, an exact representation of an image that was not based on reality in the first place.

    Certainly a very carefully hand copied painting of the real image will be nearer to the truth than a exact photograph of a painting that was never true. And it can be shown that both Qur'an and Bible have their textual variants, there is no complete preservation on both sides, yet both are very well preserved and we can be confident that the text we have today is essentially identical to the original mauscripts.

    The fact that preservation says nothing about truth, and that there are books with false content which are meticulously preserved, and also knowing that both Bible and Qur'an can be shown to be well preserved, leads back again to the most important question:

    How do we know that the book you believe in (Qur'an or the Bible) was originally from God and represents the true image?

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