Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Allah and Muhammad: Will the Real Servant Please Stand Up! Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

The Claim

The Quran makes itself out to be the revelation of Allah written in what is called the preserved tablet:

We verily, have made it a Qur'an in Arabic, that you may be able to understand (its meanings and its admonitions). And Verily, it (this Qur'an) is in the Mother of the Book (i.e. Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz), before Us, indeed Exalted, full of Wisdom. S. 43:3-4 Hilali-Khan

Nay! This is a Glorious Qur'an, in Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz (The Preserved Tablet)! S. 85:21-22 Hilali-Khan

Here is how the Islamic expositors interpreted this passage: 

in a tablet suspended above the seventh heaven preserved read mahfūzin from all devils and from having any of its contents altered; it is as high as the distance between the earth and the heaven and as wide as the distance between the east and the west made of white pearls — as stated by Ibn ‘Abbās and his father ‘Abbās (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Q. 85:22; bold and underline emphasis ours) 

Related to this fact is the belief that the Quran is uncreated by nature since it is Allah’s attribute of speech: 

“The Qur’an (Arabic: Reading or Recitation; often spelled Koran), the holy book of Islam, is regarded by believers as the true word of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. In its written form it is accepted as the earthly reproduction of an uncreated and eternal heavenly original, according to the general view referred to in the Qur’an itself as ‘the well-preserved tablet’ (al-lawh al-mahfu; Qur’an 85:22)…” (New Encyclopedia Britannica, Macropedia: Knowledge in Depth, Volume 22. [15th edition, 2007], pp. 5-6; bold emphasis ours) 

And since all of Allah’s attributes are eternal, having always existed as part of the essence of Allah, the Quran is supposed to therefore be an essential and intrinsic aspect of Allah’s very own uncreated being. Moreover, since it allegedly is the speech of Allah no Muslim can say that the Quran is something other than Allah. 

This is supposed to be the official, orthodox position of all of Sunni Islam as evidenced by the following Muslim creed: 

The Creed of al-Ash’ari is representative of the fully-developed creeds of later Islam: 

The substance of that on which the Followers of the True Way take their stand is the confession of God [Allah], His Angels, His Script [the Revealed Books], His Apostles [the Messengers sent by God], the Revelation of God and the Tradition [Sunnah] of the trustworthy related on the authority of God’s Apostle; none of these they reject. 

God is One, Single, Eternal. There is no other god. Muhammad is His Servant and Apostle. 

Paradise is a Fact; and Hell is a Fact. There is no doubt of the Coming Hour [the Day of Judgement]; and God will raise the Dead from their graves. God’s place is upon His Throne, as He has said. 

God has two Hands, as He has said – we do not question: in what sense? God has two Eyes, as He has said – we do not question: in what sense? God has a Face, as He has said. 

It is not to be said that God’s Names or Attributes are anything other than Himself. The Followers of the True Way confess that God has Knowledge as He has said. They assert the existence of His Hearing and His Sight. 

They believe that there is no good and no evil on earth except by the Will of God, and that all things are by the Will of God. They confess that there is no creator save God, and that God creates the works of men, and that they are incapable of creating anything. 

God gives True Believers Grace to be obedient to Him; He forsakes Unbelievers. He is well able to act for the salvation of Unbelievers; nevertheless He wills not so to act, nor so to grace them that they Believe. He rather wills them to be Unbelievers in accordance with His knowledge, forsaking and misguiding them and sealing up their hearts. 

Good and evil depend on the general and particular Decrees of God. The followers of the Way believe in His Decrees both general and particular, in His good and His evil, His sweet and His bitter. 

They believe that they are not their own masters for weal or for woe, save as God wills, for He has said so. Committing their affairs to God, they declare their dependence on Him in all circumstances, their need of Him at all times. 

They believe that the Koran is God’s Uncreated Eternal Word

They believe that God will be seen with sight on the Day of the Raising of the Dead; as the moon is seen on the night of her full shall the Believers see Him; but Unbelievers shall not see Him because they will be veiled from God. 

They do not brand any Muslim an Unbeliever for any grave sin he may commit, for fornication or theft or any such grave sin; but hold that such men are Believers inasmuch as they have Faith, grievous though their sins may be. Islam is the testifying that there is no God but God and that Muhammad is God’s Apostle, in accordance with Tradition; and Islam, they hold, is not the same thing as Faith [iman]. 

They confess the Intercession of God’s Apostle, and believe that it is for the grave sins of his people and against the Punishment of the Tomb. They confess that the Pool [where the Prophet will meet his Companions in the afterlife] of the Hereafter is Fact, and the bridge [over which the dead will cross] is Fact, that God’s reckoning with men is Fact, and that the Standing in the Presence of God is Fact. 

They discountenance argument and disputation concerning Islam. They do not inquire: in what sense? or: Why? because such inquiry is Innovation in Islam.

They believe that God does not command evil, but forbids it; that He commands good, and has no pleasure in evil, though He wills it. 

They acknowledge the Elders elect of God to be Companions of His Apostle as Fact; they cherish their virtues and eschew discrimination among them, giving priority to Abu Bakr, then ‘Umar, then ‘Uthman, then ‘Ali, and believing that they are the rightly guided Caliphs, the best of all men after the Prophet. 

They approve the Feast and the Friday Congregation and all gatherings for Prayer under the leadership of any Imam, be he pious or be he wicked. They believe in the precept of Holy War against polytheists. They approve Prayer for the welfare of all Imams of the Muslims and agree that they ought not to rebel against them with the sword, nor fight in any civil commotion. (The New Encyclopedia of Islam, edited by Cyril Glasse [Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Fourth edition 2013], Creed (Ar. ‘aqidah), pp. 125-126; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Here is where the problem lies for the Muslims. The Quran contains verses which are directly related to events in Muhammad’s life, such as his interactions with his wives, his followers, his enemies etc. Yet before we unpack the reason why this raises serious issues for the Muslim claim of the Quran being the uncreated speech of Allah, it is important that we first present specific examples from the Islamic scripture itself, which deal primarily with the circumstances that Muhammad found himself in, and some of the problems that he faced. This we shall do in the next part of our discussion.