Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The True Shahada: Defended

A Response to “The True Shahada Indeed” – Part One

By Anthony Rogers


In an article entitled “The True Shahada”, I provided a comparison and contrast between John 17:3, a verse Muslims often see as supportive of their brand of unitarianism, and Islam’s Shahada, which Christians see as a blasphemous denial of the Father and the Son. A Muslim, who prefers to remain nameless – which would otherwise be fine except that in this case it seems calculated to save him (her?) from embarrassment once his underhanded tactics and criminal mishandling of my article was exposed – has provided a “response” to it called “The True Shahada Indeed”, and the reader is encouraged to read both my original article and the purported reply before continuing.

The Unlettered Muslim Apologist

Not content to merely conceal his own identity, my Muslim respondent, who gets my name wrong no less than nine times, starts off his article with an attempt to prevent his fellow Muslims from reading all of what I originally wrote, saying: “I would discourage readers to read his article…”, and judging from the quality of his reply, he appears to have followed his own advice.

I’m sure the reader can think of why Mr. Anonymous might want to dissuade his co-religionists from reading my article – indeed, several crucial remarks of mine are not taken into account in his “refutation” – but Mr. Anonymous attempts to mask the reason for his censorious remarks with the following justification (i.e. rationalization): “I would discourage readers to read his article rigged with mordant remarks and filthy invectives on Allah and Mohammad, peace be upon him.” I take it that he is referring here to the fact that at the end of my article I referred to Allah as an idol and to Muhammad as a worthless prophet. But what else did my anonymous acquaintance expect me, a Christian, to conclude? Was he expecting me to say: “Ashadu an la illaha illa-llah, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadun rasullu-llah”? Not any more, I would imagine, than I expected him to say in truth, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

The fact is, as I said in the article, these two declarations represent two fundamentally different and irreconcilable positions, both of which logically entail the falsity of the other. When the full implications of both confessions are brought out in relation to each other, it is quite impossible for either one to result in anything less than what those in the opposing camp would take to be disagreeable and even blasphemous. It is simply unavoidable: if Yahweh is God, then Allah is not (which means he is an idol); if Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father, then Muhammad is a false prophet (which means his worth as a prophet is precisely zero). The same holds when spoken from the standpoint of Muslims: If Allah is God, then Yahweh is not (hence?); if Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, then Jesus is not the only begotten Son of the Father (hence?). To hold either confession is to implicitly hold what is blasphemous to adherents of the other. My remarks simply make that fact explicit, which is the whole point of comparing and contrasting two views.

In fact, Mr. Anonymous unwittingly demonstrates my point by speaking of me throughout his article as a “Christolator”, as if to say that the Jesus I (and two billion others) repose in is an idol-god. Does Mr. Anonymous not think Christians would view this as a “filthy invective”? He also calls my belief, and by logical extension the belief of all Christians, “blasphemy” and “blasphemous”, not to mention that he mischaracterizes it as a form of pagan polytheism. Does Mr. Anonymous not think that such words constitute something Christians would perceive to be offensive to the truth and therefore reprehensible? Moreover, Anonymous also goes out of his way to speak of the blessed apostle Paul as a “false prophet”, giving the most limpid argument for this, as we will see, but what would a Muslim reply be if it didn’t include a “mordant remark” and attack on the apostle Paul? Now does all of this mean that Christians should not read his response? If we consistently apply Mr. Anonymous’ stated principle, then that is precisely what it means.  

As fault-ridden as the aforementioned is as an excuse for trying to dissuade people from reading the whole of what I originally wrote, nevertheless, I can’t help but find myself (somewhat) inclined to agree with Anonymous’ artificial and otherwise self-serving stricture. For if nothing can be read that contains “mordant remarks” and “filthy invectives”, then no Christian should read the Qur’an and, perhaps surprisingly, no Muslim should read it either. After all, not only is the Qur’an filled with assertions that contradict and impugn the Bible’s teaching about the true God, even using words that are hardly calculated to make Christians feel warm and fuzzy all over, but it is also filled with “mordant remarks” and “filthy invectives” directed at Muhammad by his non-Muslim contemporaries (calling him: a possessed madman, S. 15:6, 23:70, 34:08, 34:46, 37:36, 44:14, 68:2, 51; a tale-bearer and liar, S. 6:25, 8:31, 16:24, 23:83, 25:05, 27:68, 46:17, 68:15; 83:13; a forger and fabricator, S. 10:38, 11:13, 35, 16:101, 25:04, 32:3, 34:08, 43, 42:24, 46:08, 52:33; a innovator, S. 46:09; a confused dreamer, S. 21:05; and a magician, sorcerer, and one enchanted, S. 34:43, 38:4; etc.). If Mr. Anonymous’ principle means that my article must be relegated to the dust bin of history never to be read again, then the same goes for the Qur’an, and this is a price I would be none too pleased to pay.

Ask the Jews and the Christians

Next, after going on to provide his own truncated and jumbled up summary of what I argued, suggesting that my primary aim was to prove the deity of Christ, which, though important, was ancillary to the overall thrust my article, Mr. Anonymous sets the stage for his critique, laying out the Muslim view of Christ in the following words:

In the house of Islam there are no clouds of conjectures and doubts hovering above the head of this mighty “Son of Man” named Jesus, peace be upon him. For we read in Qur’an:

“…Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) An apostle of God…’ (THE HOLY QURAN 4:171)


“The similitude of Jesus before God is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be”: And he was.” (THE HOLY QURAN 3:59)

As the above comments remind us, Muslim apologists are often marked by a level of confidence that is not at all commensurate with the facts that are thought to warrant it. Here we have a Muslim who is overshadowed by storm clouds (of conjecture) declaring in table-pounding tones that the sky is clear.

Although it is perfectly legitimate to appeal to the Qur’an to define the official Islamic position on Christ – even though, let it be said, the Qur’an actually lends itself to more than one position – the above verses are poorly chosen examples to demonstrate that Muslims do not labor under “clouds of conjectures”. Consider just a few points from the passages he listed:

1. Surah 4:171

“…Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) An apostle of God…”

First, this portion of Surah 4:171 calls Jesus “the Messiah”, but the meaning of this title is nowhere explained in the Qur’an. The word and concept comes from the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and so without looking to them to explain the meaning of this title, one is left with nothing but conjecture and doubt.

Second, though translated Jesus, the Arabic text calls Him ‘Isa, which is not correct. The name Yeshua in Hebrew yields Yasou’ in Arabic. Muhammad, possibly mistaking a Jewish slur for Jesus as ‘Esau,’ falsely conjectured that ‘Isa was/is Jesus’ real name. (For more on this, see: “Is ‘Isa the True Name of Jesus?”)

Third, the all important words “no more than” do not even appear in the Arabic text of this verse; they are inserted into the English text to make it say what certain Muslims think it should say; in other words, these words are “no more than” conjecture. Consider how some other translations render the verse:

 “The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was a messenger of GOD” – Khalifah

“Verily Christ Jesus the son of Mary [is] the apostle of God” – Sale

And so, as far as this verse goes, there is a great deal of conjecture, and if we drop the added words, there is nothing that is said here about Jesus, apart from the fact that it gets His name wrong, that Christians would not agree with: “The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was a messenger of God.”  Of course Christians would point out that this is not all that can be said of Jesus, and they might just as well point out in this connection that the Qur’an also says more about Him, even in this very passage, where Jesus is also called the “Word” of God and a “Spirit proceeding from Him”.

2. Surah 3:59

“The similitude of Jesus before God is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: ‘Be’: And he was.”

As for this verse, we likewise find more room for conjecture.

To begin with, we may ask: Why was Jesus created after the similitude of Adam? It is evident why Adam was created in a special way, for there was no one else for him to be born to. Hence, Adam couldn’t come into existence through the normal process of procreation, but had to be directly created through God’s word ‘Be’. We also know why Christians believe Jesus came into the world through a special creative act of God; specifically, because Jesus, as the Word and Son of the Father, already existed, unlike all other descendants of Adam who are personally and spiritually brought into existence along with their bodies, and so the Holy Spirit, by-passing all human agency, created a body for Jesus in the womb of Mary, enabling the Word to become flesh and dwell among us. Furthermore, Christians believe that Jesus came into the world as a second Adam, in order to redeem Adam’s fallen children. Hence, through the virgin birth, the special creative activity of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was sanctified from conception, setting Him apart from all sin and impurity, thus qualifying Him to be an unblemished sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. All of this is the Christian answer, but since the Qur’an never tells us why Jesus uniquely entered into the world by God’s fiat, like Adam, Muslims are only able to cast about for one conjecture or another in their efforts to explain it.   

Second, if this verse was a revelation from Allah (through Jibril) to Muhammad, then why does it look more like Muhammad lifted a description of God’s method of creating from a Jewish paraphrase of the Old Testament, the sort of thing that Muslims like Mr. Anonymous would call conjecture?

It is well known, except perhaps to Mr. Anonymous, that much of what Muhammad heard came neither directly from God nor from the Scriptures, the authentic books handed down from the prophets, but from books that the Jewish people wrote with their own hands, such as the Mishnah, the Talmud, the Midrashim, and the Targums. Yusuf Ali comments:

“But the Jews in the Prophet’s time (and since) went a great deal by the Talmud, or a body of oral exposition, reduced to writing in different Schools of doctors or learned men….The Talmudists took the divergent texts of the Old Testament and in interpreting them by a mass of traditional commentary and legendary lore, evolved a standard body of teaching. The Talmudists are of special interest to us, as, in the sixth century A.C., just before the preaching of Islam, they evolved the Massorah, which may be regarded as the body of authoritative Jewish Hadith, to which references are to be found in passages addressed to the Jews in the Qur’an….There were also many Targums or paraphrases of the Law among the Jews….” (The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an, Appendix II, p. 290)

With that said, Mr. Anonymous is encouraged to compare this verse, and other verses from the Qur’an that have similar phraseology, all of which depict God creating by the word “Be”, followed by some equivalent of “and it is”, with the citation from the Jerusalem Targum that follows them:

“To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: When He decreeth a matter, He saith to it: Be’, and it is.” (Surah 2:117)

“She said: ‘O m Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: when He hath decreed a Plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be’, and it is!” (Surah 3:47)

“The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: ‘Be’: and he was.” (Surah 3:59)

“It is He who created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): the day He saith, Be’, behold! it is. His word is the truth.”  (S. 6:73)

“For to anything which We have willed, We but say the word, Be’, and it is.” (S. 16:40)

“It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, Be’, and it is.”  (S. 19:35)

“Verily, when He intends a thing, His Command is, Be’, and it is!”  (S. 36:82)

“It is He Who gives Life and Death; and when He decides upon an affair, He says to it, Be’, and it is.” (Surah 40:68)

And the Word of YHWH said to Moses: "I am He who said unto the world 'Be!' and it was: and who in the future shall say to it 'Be!' and it shall be." And He said: "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'I Am' has sent me to you." (Exodus 3:14, Jerusalem Targum)

Whereas the spirit of these words is in keeping with the Bible’s description of God’s creative activity as found in various places (q.v. Genesis 1; Psalm 33:6; et. al.), the precise phraseology bears greater and more striking resemblance to the above Targum. What is more, the Jerusalem Targum also confirms something that was said above, yielding the following: As the Word of God, Jesus is the one who spoke the world into existence, saying, “‘Be’, and it was”; but as a human being, Jesus was also a product of the divine Word ‘Be,’ by which the Spirit prepared a body for Him, enabling Him to take the form of a man.

3. The Son of Man

As if he wanted to make an already bad case worse, my unknown Muslim assailant even refers to Jesus as “this mighty ‘Son of Man,’” another title that is lifted from the Bible, though it isn’t used in the Qur’an. All the more then do we have to turn to the Scriptures in order to understand the meaning of this phrase; otherwise we are left with nothing but “clouds of conjectures”. When we do turn to the Scripture to get an idea of what this title means, we end up with a description that is as far from the Muslim conception of Jesus as one could imagine, but since the Qur’an doesn’t use this title, we may let Mr. Anonymous off the hook here.

Although there can be little doubt that the author(s) of the Qur’an often spoke in a fashion that denigrated Jesus, as Muslims do to this day, saying things that would reduce him to the level of a mere creature, the fact is that the Qur’an’s author (and/or redactors), who picked up words and phrases from Jews and Christians like a dog picks up fleas – that is, without understanding their full import – also spoke of Jesus in ways that revealed His divinity. If one looks to the Qur’an alone, its descriptions of Jesus leave room for a great deal of conjecture; when one turns to the Scriptures to illuminate their meaning, the deity of Christ shines through and drives the clouds away.

Confirming What Came Before In the Law and the Gospel

Confident that he has established the Muslim view of Jesus from the Qur’an, and for the sake of argument we may pretend that he has, for no part of my argument even turned on this issue, Mr. Anonymous goes on to say the following:

But the Christolator says, NO – “Jesus is God” discrediting the Last Testament. So, we show to them from their so called ‘Word of God’. (Reader would soon read my upcoming article proving logically that Bible, as a whole cannot be an inspired word of God)

At this point of time let me make it absolutely clear that when I witness Biblical verses to Christians I do so because they mistake it to be the Word of God. I do not. I do not consider Biblical verses, I use, to be any type of “Left over Islamic proof text.” As Anthony wrote: “…many Muslims believe that John 17:3 is a left over Islamic proof-text found in otherwise corrupted book.” (Emphasis mine)

Our proof text is Quran – Quran is our “Alpha and Omega”; the final authority. We only use Biblical verse because it helps us extricate millions of Christians carrying heavy yokes of associating partners to God – Almighty; POLYTHEISM.

Recognizing the inconsistency of Muslims who appeal to the Bible to prove their view over against Christianity, since this would commit them to accepting the authority of the selected passages even after they have been disabused of their false interpretations (or else be exposed for arbitrariness as I pointed out in the article), he proceeds to give a wholesale rejection of the Bible. Note how sweeping his denunciations are: the Bible “as a whole cannot be an inspired word of God”; “I do not consider verses, I use, to be any type of ‘Left over Islamic proof text’”; and, 3) “we only use Biblical verses because it helps us…”, not because it is “our proof text”.

Of course, even if this was his position and did account for why Mr. Anonymous, as a Muslim, appeals to the Bible, this wouldn’t account for the way many other Muslims, Muslims of repute, view and use select Biblical passages. Notwithstanding this, the fact is that Mr. Anonymous is simply being disingenuous here, shifting his ground momentarily in order to disentangle himself from the problem I raised. This can be seen by looking at just one of the many verses Muslims uniformly believe to be a prediction of their prophet in the Old Testament: Deuteronomy 18. If what my anonymous acquaintance said above were true, then he wouldn’t be able to claim that the Bible contains predictions for Muhammad, not in Deuteronomy 18, not in John 16, not anywhere, contrary to the Qur’an, various Hadith, and the uniform example of Muslim scholars and dawagandists. In spite of this, Mr. Anonymous exposes this little expedient for what it is in an article where he makes a foolhardy attempt to refute Christian apologist David Wood, saying:

“…no sooner did Moses, peace be upon him, a revered figure of the Bible, prophesied Mohammad’s prophet hood in Deuteronomy 18:18 than David, a Christian polemic, sought to refute Moses, peace be upon Moses.” (Deuteronomy Dissection).

As this quote shows, Mr. Anonymous dances from pillar to post, affirming certain passages of the Bible when it is convenient, but denying any and all passages when it isn’t. For Muslims like Anonymous, the authority and evidential value of something is determined by whether or not it agrees with their conclusion: if it supports their view, it is authoritative; if it doesn’t, then it isn’t. And so, far from escaping the charge of arbitrariness, Anonymous ends up giving us a prime example of it. He shows that when Muslims like himself say they submit to the authority of God, what they mean as showed by their practice is that they submit to whatever happens to strike their fancy, but that isn’t any submission worthy of the name.

Finally, as for Mr. Anonymous’ claim that Christians are polytheists, not only does he not try to prove this scurrilous accusation in his response, but the Christian confession of monotheism was firmly established long before Muhammad was even around to: call upon “the high flying cranes” (*/*); kiss a sacred stone (*); advocate the eternal coexistence of a womb (*), a book (*), a throne (*), and other things with his god; or swear and take oaths by what are nothing but created things, such as the heavens (S. 86:1), the stars (S.81:15), the sun (S. 91:1-2), the moon (S. 74:32), the wind (S. 51:1), the mountains (S. 52:1), the angels (S. 77:5), and even Muhammad (S. 15:72); et cetera. (*/*) In light of such facts as these, it is more than a little bit counter-productive to (baselessly) accuse others of polytheism. (As an aside, the foregoing appears to account for why Muhammad has Allah deny being the third of three, for the thirtieth of thirty would appear to be more like it. And that is a conservative estimate.)  

Preliminary Conclusion

In order not to weary the reader, I will break it off here for now. In Part Two, which really gets to the heart of the issue, I will look at Mr. Anonymous attempt to prove that John 17:3 does not contradict Islamic teaching, and in Part Three and Four I will address his claim that John 17:3 does not teach deity of Christ.

Given how badly he has argued so far, it might be hard to imagine that it can get any worse. But if his shoddy handling of his own Qur’an is any indication, then rest assured his handling of the Holy Bible is far worse and just as easily refuted.

Continue with Part Two.