The following is our partial response to the tirade authored by the belligerent Christian missionary Sam Shamoun, to be found here. This article will clearly establish Prophet Muhammad(P) as the true Prophet, insha’Allah. In the forthcoming papers, we will provide a detailed critique of the shoddy polemics of the missionary, together with a detailed examination of his false prophet Paul.
Magic Effect On The Prophet
Although we will address this polemic in detail in the subsequent papers, let us make one thing clear: Having magic worked upon a person does not make that person “demon-possessed”. There is no doubt that Christian missionaries like Sam Shamoun can only insult and malign Islam because they do not have a valid argument against it. But it is important for all Muslims reading this article to refrain from “returning fire” and insult the religion of Christianity, or making insulting caricatures of any of the characters in the Bible, despite the fact, that there are several stories in the Bible, which people can make hilarious parodies about. This is very important. And this is exactly what Answering Islam wants Muslims to do, so they can say, “There, look! See I told you, that’s how Muslims are!”.
Of course, there are several atheist websites which completely mocks Jesus(P) and create gross caricatures about him, but we will not link to them. Instead, we will respond with sound irrefutable arguments and dismantle the missionary’s deception, God willing.
The type of attacks the missionary has levelled against the Prophet(P) is not new. Rather, we read in history, that smutty Christians the likes of Shamoun have a long and horrific track record of accusing innocent people of being demon-possessed. One of the most blatant examples was the infamous Salem Witch Trials, in which dozens of innocent people were accused of being witches and demon-possessed and then executed by pious Christians. The Puritans who conducted these inquisitions concocted their own personal criteria on who was a “witch” or “demon-possessed”, and then made it the law.
This neo-puritan Sam Shamoun, does exactly the same thing with Prophet Muhammad(P). Nevertheless, Sam Shamoun is not fooling anyone, as many of his fellow Christians who have left his faith, have made a parody in which they expose this type of ignorant behaviour, in which Shamoun is engaged in.
There is not a single shred of evidence which would indicate that if a person has magic worked on him, he is “demon-possessed”, as Shamoun fantasizes. For the Muslim, the story of magic only increases his faith in Islam, because this shows how the forces of evil tried so desperately to attack the Prophet(P), yet, Prophet Muhammad(P) had unwavering faith, and by the help of God, they were defeated and sent into retreat, humiliated. Shamoun simply took this story and made his own disgusting caricature, based on meaningless unproven criteria such as the Bible. We will at a later time, address each and every one of his arguments point by point.
As you will soon see if we take the missionary?s phoney criteria, and apply it to the Jesus of the Bible, you will see that Jesus Christ was 1000 times more demon-possessed and evil than anyone, and the missionary will be forced to admit that his lord and saviour, was actually a “demon”. So do Jesus a favour, and refrain from such insults, which can easily be turned around against him.
Jesus Was Demon-Possessed
Let us ask a question: if you were walking home one day, and out of nowhere, Satan appeared to you, and said, “Come here and follow me, I want to take you somewhere”, would you go? Any true believer in God will immediately rebuke Satan right then and there, and shout NEVER! GO TO HELL SATAN! STAY AWAY FROM ME! Perhaps, they may even pick up a baseball bat and start swinging till the evil spirit runs away. Or run for their lives in the opposite direction.
But not the Jesus of the Bible. Shockingly, the Bible teaches in Mathew 4:5-8 that the devil appeared to Jesus, and asked him to go (mountain-climbing) with him, and instead of striking out against Satan right then and there, Jesus actually accepted Satan’s invitation, and together, Satan and Jesus went mountain climbing. Here are the verses in question, or better put, Christianity’s Satanic verses, Matthew ch. 4 vs. 8:
Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple,
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands, they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them;
The Bible does not say that there was any kind of fight or resistance on the part of Jesus when Satan appeared to him and invited him to follow him, therefore, we will have to assume that Jesus went willingly. Therefore, we see from this outrageous story in the Bible, that Jesus was clearly “demon-possessed”, so much to the point, that he took Satan as a comrade (wali) and a travelling partner. In addition to that, it is clear, that Jesus was NOT sinless. Answering the call of Satan, is a sin. This is simply an irreconcilable contradiction. This story is much worse according to Shamoun’s standards than simply having magic worked on a person, and then later God defeating those agents. Please keep in mind, that Muslims firmly believe in Jesus(P), but we do not believe in the man-made stories about Jesus(P) that we read in the New Testament.
It gets worse as Jesus was allegedly also suicidal. Jesus openly admits that he committed suicide on the cross in John 10:17-18:
For this reason, the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.”
A psychological analysis reveals that Jesus harboured suicidal tendencies. He saw the moral injustice and strife of the world he lived in, and felt that if he killed himself, he would benefit the world. Perhaps, he suffered from depression. Rather than jumping off a cliff, or slashing his wrists, or leaping in front a heard of roman chariots, he devised an elaborate plan of crucifixion, one which would be an appeal to gain the sympathy of others. and finally, in the end, Jesus committed suicide.
Will the Real “Demon-Possessed Prophet” Please Stand Up?
Let us move away from these “Salem Witch trial”-type inquisitions, in which Shamoun creates artificial criteria solely based upon his personal whims and blind Biblical indoctrination. Despite his 50+ pages of irrelevant and incoherent ranting, the missionary has not proved a thing. Instead, his article is a laughably desperate attempt to export his own personal prejudices to his readers. Although, you will find that the matter is quite simple.
We would like to raise the question, why would we indulge in such personal opinions, and baseless, subjective evidence when, OBJECTIVE VERIFIABLE EVIDENCE EXISTS? If such evidence did exist for Christianity, we are sure we would have seen it by now. But, let us assure you, that no such evidence exists for the Christian faith, and Shamoun’s 50+ page sham monster paper is proof of that. And that is a direct challenge.
Yes, we said objectively verifiable evidence. Therefore, the question begs, does such evidence exist for Islam? The answer is YES. And it will be clear, and undeniable.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, lets move on to the objective clear and concise evidence. But first, let’s remove these meaningless and dubious labels like “demon-possessed” and replace it with something more meaningful and less insidious, like “false prophet”. As it has been demonstrated in the following article, Christianity rests upon the truth claim of an alleged “prophet” who came after Jesus, Paul.
Let us now examine the religion of Paul and the religion of Prophet Muhammad(P) and we will see if these religions have the foresight of addressing the problems of today’s society, or do they lead to destruction. Before we begin, we would encourage everyone to read and understand the following article.
Our society is literally being eaten alive by these terrible vices of drugs like cocaine, marijuana, heroin etc. There is no need to go into detail at all of the destructive nature of these drugs, and the terrible toll it has taken on our youth and society. That is a given. We believe both Muslims and Christians, agree that these drugs, are the vices of Satan, and lead to destruction. Therefore, we need to ask: What do these two religions say about using drugs like cocaine, marijuana, heroin, ecstasy. etc?
As we have seen from the article and Ahmed-Slick debate, Paul’s religion (Christianity) allows for drug abuse such as cocaine, marijuana and heroin. There is no condemnation of these drugs at all.
Yet Prophet Muhammad(P)‘s Islam, unlike Paul’s Christianity, has completely forbidden all illicit forms of drug abuse. How can a false religion, or as the missionary puts it, a “demon-possessed” religion, condemn one of the evilest and luring poisons of Satan, his pride and joy, all the while God’s supposedly-true religion, Christianity, allows it?
That is the most asinine, lame-brained and monstrous statement anyone can make!
Therefore, the matter is crystal clear according to the evidence, as to who is the false prophet. That false prophet is none other than Paul. And the true Prophet is Muhammad.
There is no need to go further, but let us bring up a few more points. As we have seen from the debate and the article, Paul’s Christianity allows women and men to wear whatever they want, it is completely based upon the individual’s subjective taste. Prophet Muhammad(P)‘s Islam, of course, has a clear dress code which aids in preventing lewdness.
Paul’s Christianity allows men and woman to engage in all kinds of sexual behaviours except intercourse, Prophet Muhammad(P)‘s Islam forbids all sexual or non-sexual contact till marriage.
Here is thus the lifestyle which is promoted by Paul’s Christianity:
Men and woman walking around in tight fitted, skimpy outfits exposing much of their parts like that of Britney Spears, her style of dancing is also completely allowed, each one engaged in flirting and indiscreetly seducing each other (there is no condemnation in the Bible for any of this), and not only that, but engaging in several if not all sexual acts except for sexual intercourse, engaging in “mashing”, and all the free cocaine, heroin and marijuana that they desire. Please keep in mind, all of this behaviour as mentioned above, completely falls within the guidelines of Biblical moral conduct. No wonder we have a screwed up society.
Islam clearly forbids this destructive lifestyle. The reason why we used the word promotes instead of allows, is because, it is the nature for the average human being seeks the path of least resistance, although not all. If two ways are presented before the average human, he is going to pick the apparently easier path. Therefore, the average Christian would like to live within the guidelines of Biblical morality, and not create any “extra work” for themselves.
Christianity as compared to Islam appears to some much more attractive, due to the moral “freedom” which it offers. In many Muslim-Christian marriages, oftentimes the children chose to become part of Paul’s Christianity because they desperately desire to be on the cheerleading team at school, engage in dating, experiment with different types of sexual contact, drinking, drugs, wearing “Britney Spears”-type of dressing, nude or erotic dancing, all of which is well within the guidelines of Paul’s Christianity. Prophet Muhammad’s(P) Islam, on the other hand, crashes the party and sends everyone home.
It is said that many of these children at that age are not mature enough to see that they are being lured by the false apostle Paul, may Allah save us from this wickedness. This is because the “freedom”, which Paul’s Christianity offers, is a major marketing tool for his religion. You know the saying, “there is always free cheese in the mousetrap”.
In conclusion, we have spared Sam Shamoun’s prophet from derogatory terms such as “demon-possessed”. The truth has no need for such antics.
In addition to that, we want to extend this invitation to leave Paul’s religion and come to the truth of Islam.
Accept the truth of Islam, before it is too late. Come to Islam!
This is a continuation of our earlier discussion where we have talked about a rational approach to the prophethood of Muhammad. It is well known that the Prophet Muhammad(P) was victorious over all his opponents, to him and to his followers subdued many states and kingdoms, people entered Islam in large numbers and his call resulted in Islamic Caliphate and civilization for so many centuries. We also agree that God is Omniscient, Omnipotent and Wise.
So is it possible for the Most Wise to enable a liar to be victorious, assist him, aid him against his opponents and make the end result in his favour and his followers, although this liar continuously invent lies and forgeries against God claiming that He sent him, attributing to Him false religion and false laws and making all this God’s Words and inspiration, then this liar stays victorious and overpowering during his lifetime and after his death, while people are fooled by him accepting his lies and forgeries against God? Or does God’s Wisdom require that he is beaten in every battle and every field, and overpowered and defeated by everyone in every war and that he builds no state but God destroys it, so he dies conquered and overpowered as God does with all those who falsely claim prophethood, divinity or inspiration?
If we apply this to Muhammad’s claim of prophethood, we notice that he(P) made it clear that he is a prophet of God, inspired by Him and reciting His Words.
Moreover, Muhammad(P) made it clear that God aids him against his opponents and He was going to make him victorious over all, the Holy Qur’an says:
If any thinks that Allah will not help him (His Messenger) in this world and the Hereafter, let him stretch out a rope to the ceiling and cut (himself) off: then let him see whether his plan will remove that which enrages (him).1
The meaning is that if anyone thinks that Allah would not make Muhammad(P) victorious in this life and in the Hereafter, then let him do his best in fighting and opposing him (peace be upon him), and if he failed, let him stretch a rope to the ceiling of his house and hang himself on for Allah will inevitably aid His prophet.
Just imagine it. A man claiming prophethood and inspiration recites verses affirming that God helps him and will make him victorious over his enemies, and then he actually defeats all these enemies and becomes victorious over them in the end.
And imagine again. This man recites the following verse:
And if the messenger were to invent any sayings in Our name, We should certainly seize him by his right hand, and We should certainly then cut off the artery of his heart: nor could any of you withhold him (from Our wrath).2
Please read the verses again and ponder upon their meaning.
Here we have a man claiming he is inspired and sent by God and challenging that if he does not tell the truth, God will certainly destroy him. However, we see that God never destroyed this man, on the contrary, he supported and assisted him and made him victorious and glorious before all his opponents.
This means one of the following:
1) God does not exist in the first place.
2) God exists but He is ignorant for He is unaware of all these challenges spoken by this impostor.
3) God exists and is Omniscient, but He is impotent for He can do nothing about the challenges spoken by this impostor. So He sits and watches the promises and challenges of the impostor come true.
4) God exists and is Omniscient and Omnipotent, but He is unwise for He misleads people to the utmost, by swallowing the challenges of impostors while He can actually stop them. Not only that, He also executes all their promises with victory and glory for them.
5) God exists and is Omniscient, Omnipotent and Wise, and Muhammad is truly His Prophet whom He aided and supported.
So, choose for yourself!
So, we conclude that it is impossible of Muhammad(P) to lie regarding prophethood because we believe that God’s Wisdom necessitates that if he was an impostor, God would humiliate him. But this did not happen. On the contrary, God aided and supported him during his lifetime and after his death which is a decisive indication that he was a true prophet of Allah.
This decisive argument is irrefutable; for we believe that Allah’s Wisdom necessitates aid of true prophet and humiliation of false prophet, and we know that Allah supported Muhammad(P) and did not let him down, so he must be a true prophet.
In the light of this argument, we cannot accept the claim that Muhammad’s victory was due to worldly reasons for this would be a complete rejection of God’s Wisdom and Omnipotence. Moreover, it is well known that Muslims were markedly fewer in number than their opponents in all the wars they fought beginning with the battle of Badr till their wars with Persian and Roman armies, except for the battle of Hunayn.
Before the advent of Islam, it was very usual of a small number of Persian or Roman soldiers to attack a large populated Arab tribe, capture their men and enslave their women. During wars, large numbers of Arab fighters were often defeated by small numbers of Roman or Persian soldiers.
After the advent of Islam, the opposite was true; small numbers of Prophet’s Companions used to defeat large numbers of Roman or Persian soldiers, even though Muslim soldiers were poorly equipped. Roman and Persian kings were always amazed how their huge well-equipped armies were defeated at hands of Muslims despite their small number, weakness and lack of equipment.
Rev. George Bush (1796-1859) says about Muhammad(P):
He laid the foundation of an empire, which, in the short space of eighty years, extended its sway over more kingdoms and countries than Rome had mastered in eight hundred. And when we pass from the political to the religious ascendancy which he gained and consider the rapid growth, the wide diffusion, and the enduring permanence of the Mohammedan imposture, we are still more astonished. Indeed, in this, as in every other instance where the fortunes of an individual are entirely disproportioned to the means employed and surpass all reasonable calculation …
…we are forced to resolve the problem into the special providence of God. Nothing short of this could have secured the achievement of such mighty results; and we must doubtless look upon Mohammedanism in the present day as a standing monument of the mysterious wisdom of Jehovah, designed to compass ends which are beyond the grasp of human minds, at least till they are accomplished.3
This is in fulfilment of God’s Promise in the Holy Qur’an:
Already has Our Word been passed before (this) to Our Servants sent (by Us), that they would certainly be assisted, and that Our forces, they surely must conquer.4
We will, without doubt, help Our messengers and those who believe, (both) in this world’s life and on the Day when the Witnesses will stand fort.5
Allah will certainly aid those who aid His (cause); for verily Allah is Full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (Able to enforce His Will).6
And God’s ultimate promise:
Allah has promised, to those among you who believe and work righteous deeds, that He will, of a surety, grant them in the land, inheritance (of power), as He granted it to those before them; that He will establish in authority their religion- the one which He has chosen for them; and that He will change (their state), after the fear in which they (lived), to one of security and peace: They will worship Me (alone) and not associate aught with Me.’ If any do reject Faith after this, they are rebellious and wicked.7
This is markedly different from disbelievers who are made victorious and established in authority for their establishment and victory is not due to divine aid, rather it is due to frank material causes like wealth and power. None of them ever claimed prophethood, nor that Allah ordered them to worship Him alone. None claimed that whoever obeyed him would go to Heaven and whoever disobeyed would go to Hell. On the contrary of the one who claims inspiration from Allah, he is either a truthful prophet of Allah, so Allah aids him and makes him victorious, or he is an impostor, so Allah humiliates him and cuts him off.
This is the answer to those who may argue that Allah had established in the land many disbelievers and followers of false religions and made them prevail and succeed like Buddhists and Confucius.
Others may argue that Muslims nowadays are weak in comparison to other nations of disbelief, so how come Allah assists them?
The answer is that Allah made Muslims victorious over other nations when they adhered to it, so He humiliated people of disbelief like Jews and Christians. This is the case with the true religion of God, if its people adhere to it, follow its commandments and abstain from its prohibitions, God will aid them and make them victorious. But if they do not, He will not till they return back.
If a doctor prescribes a certain medication for a certain disease, then the patient does not follow the prescription and his illness does not improve, no one can blame the doctor in this case, nor claim that he is not a real doctor.
This is the case with our nation, if they do not follow the commandments and teachings of Islam, Allah does not aid or help them, as the Caliph ‘Umar said: “Allah has honoured us with Islam. So if we are to seek honour in other than Islam, Allah will dishonour us.”
In brief, it is the habit of Allah to aid and support His true apostle to the degree that no one can ever oppose this apostle. It is well known that He incredibly aided Muhammad (peace be upon him) like no other apostle, it is also well known that none falsely alleged prophethood but Allah exposed him, humiliated him and cut him off, and all those aided by Allah were true prophets like Noah, Ibrahim, Moses, Jesus, David and Sulaiman, for it is the habit of Allah to aid His Messengers and their followers.
In addition, teachings of all prophets of God are the same, for all of them command with worship of God alone with no partner, belief in the Hereafter and the Judgement Day, and with praise of Allah, chastity, honesty, truthfulness in speech and deeds, and they forbid idol worship, lewdness, lying, cheating, dishonesty, etc So, if someone claims prophethood and preaches the same teachings of all previous prophets for the sake of guiding people, we know he is one of them, i.e., a true prophet, the same way we recognize the doctor if he prescribes the same medications prescribed by all other doctors and his treatment leads to cure of diseases.
This is evident in the speech of Ja’far ibn Abi Talib to the king of Abyssinia:
“O king! We were plunged into the depths of ignorance, and we were idolaters. We used to eat corpses, to commit abominations, to severe blood ties, to neglect our duties of hospitality and neighbourliness, and to use only the law of the strong. That was our life until Allah raised among us a man, whose lineage, truthfulness, honesty, and purity we knew. He called us to the Oneness of Allah and taught us not to associate anything with Him. He forbade us the worship of idols and enjoined us to speak the truth, to be faithful to our trusts, to be merciful and to regard the rights of the neighbours as well as kith and kin, and to refrain from crimes and bloodshed. He prohibited us from committing abominations, speaking lies, devouring the property of orphans, and vilifying chaste women. He commanded us to offer prayers, to render alms, and to observe fasts. We have allowed what he has allowed, and have prohibited what he has prohibited. For this reason, our people attacked us and persecuted us in order to force us to abandon the worship of Allah and return to the worship of idols and to regard as lawful the evil deeds we once committed. When they had tortured and encircled our lives, until finding no safety among them, we have come to your country, and hope you will protect us from oppression while we are with you, O king!”8
This speech summarizes the teachings of Islam and shows that they agree with the teachings of all previous prophets and messengers of God. This is a very important issue, for it is inadequate to merely know that Allah sent prophets and messengers to people, it is more important to know why Allah sent these prophets and messengers. In other words, what did prophets and messengers of Allah preach and teach? It is nonsense to believe that Allah sent messengers without knowing the reason why they were raised among their peoples in the first place, and understanding the purpose of their prophethood. So, belief in prophets and messengers of God requires knowing the purpose of prophethood and Messengership.
We see that all prophets of God commanded their people with all that is good, and forbade all that is evil. When we compare Muhammad(P) with other prophets who preceded him, we notice that he preached the same they preached and forbade the same they forbade.
He(P) ordered to glorify God, exalt Him above having partners or rivals, establish His authority and worth of worship, attribute to Him all qualities of perfection and negate all qualities of imperfection from Him.
He(P) denounced the notion that angels are daughters of God and explained their real deeds and missions in both earth and heavens.
He(P) commanded with belief in all previous divine scriptures revealed on previous prophets and showed that they contained guidance as long as they preach monotheism and purity of faith, but once they got corrupted, they are no longer suitable for guidance.
He(P) brought evident and decisive proofs of coming of the Last Day and Resurrection.
He(P) commanded with pleasing God with best acts like offering prayers, giving alms, fasting and pilgrimage.
He(P) preached good deeds and manners like truthfulness, honesty, fulfillment of trust, kindness to relations, helping the poor and the needy, etc.
He(P) warned of association of partners with Allah, idol worship and disbelief.
He(P) prohibited blood shedding, adultery, alcohol drinking and usury.
Are these not the teachings of all previous prophets which were decreed by Allah since the Prophet Noah (peace be upon him)?
All this indicates that he(P) walked in the footsteps of previous prophets of Allah. Actually, his Message preserved and guarded previous messages that had been corrupted and altered, Allah says:
Thus have We made of you an Ummah justly balanced, that ye might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves.9
This is due to the fact that all prophets came to preach the same religion.
Sending Muhammad(P) after the corruption of the religion of the previous prophets is a mercy from Allah to mankind, for indeed He says:
We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures.10
The teachings which the prophets preached commanded all that is good and forbade all that is evil. Muhammad (peace be upon him) came as a preserver, a guardian and a witness to these teachings. The Holy Qur’an says:
Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour.
And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: my Lord bestow on them thy mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.
Your Lord knoweth best what is in your hearts: if ye do deeds of righteousness, verily he is most forgiving to those who turn to him again and again (in true penitence).
And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer: but squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift.
Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the evil ones; and the evil one is to his Lord (himself) ungrateful.
And even if thou hast to turn away from them pursuit of the mercy from thy Lord which thou dost expect, yet speak to them a word of easy kindness.
Make not thy hand tied (like a niggard’s) to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute.
Verily thy Lord doth provide sustenance in abundance for whom he pleaseth, and he provideth in a just measure. For he doth know and regard all his servants.
Kill not your children for fear of want: we shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin.
Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils).
Nor take life which Allah has made sacred except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, we have given his heir authority (to demand Visas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the Law).
Come not nigh to the orphan’s property except to improve it, until he attains the age of full strength; and fulfil (every) engagement, for (every) engagement, will be enquired into (on the day of reckoning).
Give full measure when ye measure and weigh with a balance that is straight: that is the most fitting and the most advantageous in the final determination.
And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the day of reckoning).
Nor walk on the earth with insolence: for thou canasta not rend the earth asunder, nor reach the mountains in height.
Of all such things, the evil is hateful in the sight of thy Lord.
There are among the (precepts of) wisdom, which thy Lord has revealed to thee. Take not with Allah another object of worship. Lest thou shouldst be thrown into Hell, blameworthy and rejected.11
Say: come, I will rehearse what Allah hath (really) prohibited you from: join not anything as equal with him; be good to your parents; kill not your children on a plea of want; we provide sustenance for you and for them; come not nigh to shameful deeds, whether open or secret; take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.
And come not nigh to the orphan’s property, except to improve it, until he attains the age of full strength; give measure and weight with (full) justice; no burden do we place on any soul, but that which it can bear; whenever ye speak, speak justly, even if a near relative is concerned; and fulfill the Covenant of Allah: thus doth He command you, that ye may remember.
Verily, this is my way, leading straight: follow it: follow not (other) paths: they will scatter you about from his (great) path: thus doth He command you, that ye may be righteous.12
Say: “My Lord hath commanded Justice; and that ye set your whole selves (to Him) at every time and place of prayer, and call upon Him, making your devotion sincere as in His sight: Such as He created you in the beginning, so shall ye return.”
Some He hath guided: others have (by their choice) deserved the loss of their way; in that they took the Evil once, in preference to Allah, for their friends and protectors, and think that they receive guidance.
O Children of Adam Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but wast not be excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters.
Say: who hath forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He hath produced for his servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He hath provided) for sustenance? Say they are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the day of judgment thus do we explain the Signs in detail for those who understand.13
These great teachings were preached by all the Prophets, and Muhammad(P) affirmed and displayed them in the best way. It is adequate when hearing these great teachings to believe in Muhammad(P) and know that he came to mankind with guidance and favour, commanding with good and forbidding evil, whether it is in words or deeds.
The missionaries in their latest alleged claim of contradictions in the Qur’an have certainly outdid themselves in their travesty of logic and idiocy.
To cite the missionary claim, word-for-word:
In the realm of the natural this is not possible, but for God it is possible; actually, it is not only possible, it is easy for God. It is rather ironic that, when discussing the identity of Jesus, the Quran says that Allah cannot have a son without a consort, but Mary can have a son without a consort, because all things are easy for Allah.
They have quoted Qur’an 6:100-101 as follows:
“And they make the jinn associates with Allah, while He created them, and they falsely attribute to Him sons and daughters without knowledge; glory be to Him, and highly exalted is He above what they ascribe (to Him). Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth! How could He have a son when He has no consort, and He (Himself) created everything, and He is the Knower of all things.”
This, they claim, contradicts the general nature of the following verse:
He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. Sura 19:19-21 Pickthall
Unfortunately for the missionary, an understanding can be reached if a little more thought can be put into their argument. The missionary has taken the understanding of these verses out of its intended context and is confusing Mary’s nature (since she is only human, and hence procreates) as a creation of the Almighty, with God Himself, who is the Uncreated. Certainly, God Almighty could have taken a “wife” and have “children” or have “children” without any consort whatsoever (nau’zubillahi min zaalik).
However, if this were to happen, it would mean that the Uncreated nature of God would be affected, as anything that is “procreated” by God (as the Qur’an argues in 6:100) is created. In other words, to expect the Uncreated to “procreate” children, whether with or without a “consort” (which would also be part of the Creation) is not only an affront against what God Almighty has told us about Himself, it is also a preposterous position only held by pantheists and the idolaters. It is most certainly not in conformity with pure monotheism or on how Islam understands divine transcedence.
“This is the first assertion of the Islamic creed that “There is no god but God” which the Muslim understands as denial of any associates with God in His rulership and judgeship of the universe, as well as a denial of the possibility for any creature to represent, personify or in any way. express the divine Being. The Qur’an says of God that “He is the Creator of heaven and earth Who creates by commanding the creature to be and it is…He is the One God, the ultimate… (2:117, 163). There is no God but He, ever-living, ever-active (3:2) May he be glorified beyond any description! (6:100)…No sense may perceive Him (6:103)…Praised be He, the Transcedent Who greatly transcends all claims and reports about Him (17:43).” In fulfilment of this view, the Muslims have been all too careful never to associate in any manner possible, any image or thing with the presence of the divine, or with their consciousness of the divine; and in their speech and writing about the divine to use only Quranic language, terms and expressions which, according to them, God has used about Himself in the Quranic revelation.”1
Hence, we say that the claim that:
S. 6:101 stands not only in tension to S. 19:21, but conflicts with several other passages as well.
is not only a premature conclusion from the missionary, but an obvious ignorance of the doctrine of tawheed and what Islam actually stands for.
Journal of the Society for Qur’anic Studies, Number 1, Volume 1, 2001
The Qur’an and the New Testament agree on a number of issues regarding Jesus Christ. Both books, for instance, stress that Jesus, who is called ” ‘Isa” in the Qur’an, was conceived miraculously by his mother Mary. He had no father. This is what the Qur’an says about the miraculous birth of ‘Isa:
When the angels said: “O Maryam! Allah gives you good news with a word from Him, whose name is al‑Masih, ‘Isa the son of Maryam, illustrious in this world and the hereafter and of those who are brought near [to Allah]” (3.45)
“And he shall speak to the people when in the cradle and when of old age, and [he shall be] one of the righteous.” (3.46)
“She said: “My Lord! How can I have a child when no man has touched me?” He said: “It is so [because] Allah creates what He pleases; when He has decreed a matter, He only says to it: “Be”, and it is (3.47). And He shall teach him the Book and Wisdom and the Tawrat [Torah] and the Injil.” (3.48)
The New Testament states the following in the Gospel of Matthew1:
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.”
“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, sayin: “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew, 1:18-21)
Both books also give details about miracles performed by ‘Isa though, again, not without differences. For instance, the New Testament makes no mention of ‘Isa speaking while still an infant in the cradle or his creation of birds out of clay:
“When All?h said: “O ‘Isa, son of Maryam! Remember My favor on you and on your mother, that I have supported you with the Ruh al-Qudus [Spirit of al-Qudus], [and made you] speak to the people in the cradle and when of old age; and that I taught you the Book and Wisdom and the Tawrat and the Injil; and that you create out of clay the figure of a bird by My permission, then you breath into it and it becomes a bird by My permission; and heal he who was born blind and the leprous by My permission; and that you raise the dead by My permission; and that I withheld the Children of Isra’il [Israel] from you when you came to them with clear proofs, but those who disbelieved among them said: ‘This is nothing but clear magic’.” (5.110)
On the other hand, the New Testament refers to miracles that are not mentioned in the Qur’an, such as that of ‘Isa turning water into wine:
“And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him: “They have no wine”. Jesus saith unto her: “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come”. His mother saith unto the servants: “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”
“And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them: “Fill the waterpots with water”. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them: “Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.”
“When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was (but the servants which drew the water knew), the governor of the feast called the bridegroom. And saith unto him: “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” (John, 2:1-10).
Given the fact that all forms of alcohol are proscribed in the Qur’an, the latter rejects implicitly the occurrence of this supposed miracle.
While there are obvious similarities between the picture of ‘Isa in the Qur’an and the Bible, the differences between both accounts are in fact substantial and by far more significant than the details they share. One such fundamental difference is that the Qur’anic ‘Isa who received revelation from All?h was human, whereas Jesus of the New Testament had a divine nature and origin and is referred to as “the son of God”.
Not surprisingly, Western historians and theologians have both shown great interest in Jesus of the New Testament. However, very little time and efforts have been invested in studying the Qur’anic ‘Isa. One obvious reason for this is the widely held belief that the Qur’an is nothing other than a freely edited version of the Bible, a view that implies that the Qur’an has no historical value. So, although historians have had a hard time trying to relate the Biblical Jesus to history proper, they never thought of seeking help from the neglected Qur’an.
The present study is an attempt to remedy this situation. We will examine particular so far unnoticed or ignored differences between the story of ‘Isa in the Qur’an and its equivalent in the New Testament. The first concerns the etymology of the word “Nazarene”. The ultimate aim is to unveil very important historical implications of this difference between the Qur’anic story of ‘Isa and its Biblical counterpart. We will also study the etymology of the word “Gospel” which is less complicated than that of “Nazarene”. Finally, we will mention the historical event which the Gospels misrepresent as the “last supper”.
1. The Etymology of “Nazarene”
In the Greek text of the New Testament,’Isa is called (Nazorios) or (Nazarenos), both of which are translated into English as “Nazarene”. Only the first form of the Greek epithet of ‘Isa is used in the Gospel of John (18:5, 18:7, 19:9) and in Acts (2:22, 3:6, 4:10, 6:14, 22:8, 26:9), and it seems preferred in Matthew (2:23, 24:71) and Luke (18:37) as well. However, Mark consistently uses the second form of ‘Isa’s appellation, (Mark, 1:24, 14:67, 16:6),2 which makes appearances also in Luke (4:34, 24:19). The first epithet is also used once in Acts (24:5) to refer to the Christians when Tertullus the orator accuses Paul of being “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes”.
According to the writer of the Gospel of Matthew, ‘Isa’s epithet, the Nazarene, is derived from the name of the town where he was brought up, or (Nazareth):
“And he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene’.” (Matthew, 2:23)
Indeed, while and are sometimes translated as “Nazarene”, at other times they are rendered “of Nazareth”.
The Matthean etymology of Nazarene has been accepted by some scholars (e.g. Pellett, 1962: 525; Davies & Allison, 1988: 281), but a linguistic difficulty with this etymology has been pointed out. Some researchers have indicated that while deriving from is not problematic, the same is not true of . In its entry for “Nazarene”, Encyclopedia Britannica states that the exact meaning of this latter title is “not known”. However, it has been claimed that, though difficult, it is not impossible for to have come from (e.g. Moore, 1920: 428; Davies & Allison, 1988: 281). Cullmann has also pointed out that the spelling of the name of the home town of ‘Isa varies in the written tradition so it is not really possible to rule out the derivation of from . He does, however, find it still unexplainable how “in Greek the unusual form maintained its position so consistently alongside the simpler form which was, after all, available.” (Cullmann, 1962: 523)
There are other convincing reasons to reject the claim that ‘Isa was known by a title that meant “of Nazareth” which is how Matthew understood the word Nazarene. Nazareth is first mentioned in the New Testament and there is no older independent record that mentions that particular town. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, the Talmud3, the Midrashim4 or Josephus5. The earliest mention of Nazareth outside the New Testament is from Julius Africanus (170-240 CE) which was cited by the bishop and historian Eusebius of Caesarea (d. ca. 340 CE). It is generally accepted that this absence of Nazareth from ancient historical records is due to the fact that it was a small, insignificant town (e.g. Pellett, 1962: 524; Moore, 1920: 429). The population of Nazareth is estimated from archaeological excavations to have been between 50-2000 at the time of ‘Isa (Theissen & Mertz, 1998: 165). This sounds quite possible. But then the obvious argument here is that if Nazareth was such an insignificant town then what sense would it have made to relate ‘Isa to it? After all, no person is introduced by relating him to a place that is equally unknown!
It is not only that ‘Isa could not have been related to an insignificant town such as Nazareth. The more fundamental problem lies in the very concept that ‘?s? could have been given a title after a city at all, even if it was a big and major city. Davies and Allison (1988: 281) have indicated that it was common custom among Jews to distinguish individuals according to the place of their origin. But then ‘?s? was by no means an ordinary person for this to apply to him. ‘?s? could not have been called after the city in which he was brought up or where he became known, because he acquired from the time of his infancy two unique titles after his unique, miraculous birth. It was inevitable that ‘?s? was called something that reminded people of his unique birth. This is indeed what the Qur’an tells us happened.
Accordingly to the Qur’an, the angels told Mary that her son would be known as “al-Masih” (the Messiah), “‘Isa” and “Ibn Maryam” (the son of Mary):
“When the angels said: “O Maryam! Allah gives you good news with a word from Him, whose name is al-Masih, ‘Isa the son of Maryam, illustrious in this world and the hereafter and of those who are brought near [to Allah].” (3.45)
In most of its occurrences in the Qur’an, “al-Masih” is mentioned in conjunction with ‘Isa’s second title, “the son of Maryam”. We will concentrate here on the title of “the son of Maryam” which occurs in the Qur’an as twice as al-Masih. While the latter is an equally important title, which is why it was used alongside “Ibn Maryam”, it is outside the scope of this study.
While naming him “‘Isa” and titling him “the son of Mary” and “al-Masih”, the Qur’an never refers to this Prophet with a title that corresponds to “Nazarene”, as the New Testament does, or relates him to a particular city.
‘Isa became known as “the son of Mary” from the time of his birth because he was conceived without a father. The nature of ‘?s? ?s birth would have made it inevitable that people used the title of “the son of Mary” when referring to him. The fact that ‘?s? had such very distinguished titles since his early days meant that there was no need at any later stage of his life to coin an epithet for him. Even when the news about his miracles started to spread there would have been no reason to give him a new title as his old titles already referred to the greatest miracle in his life. It would have been even more pointless to replace the unique title of “the son of Mary” with a general appellation that merely related ‘?s? to a certain place. Any person from that city could have been named after it, but only ‘?s? could have been given a title derived from the fact that he was conceived without a father. Furthermore, it just does not make any sense to suggest that ‘?s?’s followers in particular could have replaced the meaningful and distinguished title of “the son of Mary” with an unimpressive, inexpressive, blank and impartial title which merely related ‘?s? to a city, not to mention an insignificant one. The New Testament’s suggestion that ‘?s?’s title was “of Nazareth” is absurd.
But how can one explain the absence of ‘?s?’s historical title, “the son of Mary”, that the Qur’an reveals, from the New Testament? Well, it is not totally absent from the New Testament for it figures in a distorted form. The true title of “the son of Mary” is the origin of the false title of “the son of man” in the New Testament. But why this alteration? Indeed, what sense would it make to call someone “the son of man” when each and every man is a son of man? This title was intended to serve a more sophisticated purpose than simply referring to ‘?s?. Those who coined the term “the son of man” aimed at emphasizing what they perceived as the dual nature of ‘?s? as the son of man and the son of God. With “the son of man”, the inventors of this title implicitly stressed the second appellation that people gave to ‘?s?, “the son of God”. “The son of Mary” is really a unique epithet that referred and refers to ‘?s? only, but the inventors of “the son of man” were after something that refers to “the son of God” rather than to ‘?s?.
The combination of the New Testament?s claim that ‘?s? was known with the title “Nazarene” and the Matthean etymology of this word has yet another insurmountable problem. We have already mentioned that Acts 24:5, as well as later writings, use the plural word “Nazarenes” to refer to the followers of ‘?s?. Now, even if we assume for the sake of argument that there was some sense in calling ‘?s? a Nazarene, having lived in Nazareth, it would certainly not make any sense at all to extend this title to his followers who would have come from various places. Needless to say, the followers of a Nazarene, in the Matthean sense of this word, do not become Nazarenes themselves! Cullmann for one has noted that if Nazarene meant someone from Nazareth, as Matthew has it, then “it would certainly be unusual if [the Christians] were referred to as ‘people from Nazareth'” (Cullmann, 1962: 523). So, accepting the Matthean etymology of the word Nazarene as a title of ‘?s? is not really of much prudence as suggested by Davies and Allison (1988: 281).
In deriving Nazarene from Nazareth, the writer of the Gospel of Matthew cites a prophecy in the Old Testament:
“And he [Joseph] arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither, notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets. He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew, 2:21-23)
The Gospel writer has, in fact, been less than a reliable historian for the very simple reason that the prophecy that he cites occurs nowhere in the Old Testament! This false information undermines the credibility of the given etymology. Even neglecting the above problems with deriving Nazarene from Nazareth, this derivation still stands accused of having no foundation. There is really no reason to accept that Nazarene was derived from Nazareth rather than from a number of other possible origins (see, for instance, the possibilities compiled by Davies and Allison, 1988).
But there is another equally significant conclusion to draw from Matthew?s citation of a non-existent Biblical passage. Randel Helms (1989) has shown that the writers of the Gospels spared no effort in correlating Biblical passages with events in the life of ‘?s? to stress that ‘?s? was the fulfillment of those Biblical prophecies. But this attitude was so uncompromising that the history of ‘?s? was itself written in the Gospels to portray ‘?s? as the manifestation of those ancient Biblical sayings and prophecies. This suggests that in the case under discussion the reverse has happened. That is, as the title “Nazarene” was already in circulation, it was the correspondent Biblical passage that the Gospel writer needed to invent; and he did just that.
It is an acknowledged fact today that there is no evidence whatsoever linking the title “Nazarene” to the name of the town of Nazareth. There is also a very strong argument against such a derivation. Interestingly, the Qur’an has already implied some 14 centuries ago that deriving “Nazarene” from “Nazareth” is wrong as it gave a totally different etymology for “Nazarene”. Additionally, the Qur’an is absolutely clear that “Nazarene” was not a title of ‘?s? himself but of his followers. Even those researchers who thought of relating the word Nazarene to other than Nazareth worked on the wrong assumption that Nazarene was the title of ‘?s?; it never was (see also the discussion in ?10.5 in Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli (1999)). ‘?s? was also known only as “the son of Mary” and “al-Masih”.
The Qur’anic words that correspond to “Nazarene” and “Nazarenes” are Nasrani and Nasara, respectively. Both singular and plural forms of this word were not coined from or introduced into Arabic by the Qur’an at the time of its revelation. These words were already used to refer to the Christians. They did not mean anything else in Arabic. This fact is also reflected in the unique way in which these singular and plural forms of the same word relate to each other. Therefore, the words Nasrani and Nasara which the Arabs were already using when the Qur’an was revealed would have been, or developed from, older non-Arabic words. Had the name Nasrani/Nasara been used for the Christians in the Qur’an without any clarification, it would have been very difficult to trace back its origin and meaning. Fortunately, there are two sets of ayat6, each set consisting of two ayat, when combined together the meaning of the word Nasrani/Nasara becomes absolutely clear. This is explained below.
The word Nasara is mentioned in several Qur’anic ayat. Two of these ayat refer to the followers of ‘?s? with the phrase “those who have said ‘We are Nasara'”:
“And from those who have said “We are Nasara” We took their covenant, but they forgot a part of what they were reminded of, therefore We caused among them enmity and hatred to the Day of Resurrection; and All?h will inform them of what they were doing.” (5.14)
“Certainly you will find that the most vehement of people in hostility to those who believed [to be] the Jews and the polytheists. And you will certainly find that the nearest of them in affection to those who believed [to be] those who have said: “We are Nasara”, for there are among them priests and monks and for they do not behave arrogantly.” (5.82)
Defining the Christians in terms of their declaration of being Nazarenes stems in fact from a specific event which involved ‘?s? and his disciples and which the Qur’an relates in the following ayat:
“But when ‘?s? sensed disbelief on their part, he said: “Who are my Ansar [supporters] on the way to All?h?” The disciples said: “We are the Ansar of All?h. We believe in All?h and [you] bear witness that we are Muslims.” (3.52)
“O you who believe! Be Ansar [supporters] of All?h, as ‘?s?, the son of Maryam, said to the disciples: “Who are my Ansar on the way to All?h?” The disciples said: “We are the Ansar of All?h”. And a party of the Children of Isra’il believed and another party disbelieved; so We aided those who believed against their enemy, and they became the uppermost.” (61.14)
It is thus obvious that the equivalent of Nasara in the Arabic of the Qur’an7 is Ansar. The verb of “Ansar” is nasara which means “supported, aided, helped, sided with…etc”. So, “Ansar” means “supporters”. The above two ayat reveal the religious context and the specific meaning of the word “Ansar” when used to refer to the Christians. The term Ansar occurs in the context of calling the Christians the Ansar of ‘?s? on the way to All?h which means ultimately the supporters of All?h to Whom ‘?s? was calling people.
Similar use of the verb nasara occurs in several ayat in the Qur’an when referring to the believers in Prophet Muhammad. For instance, in the following two ayat the first states that by emigrating from their cities to follow Prophet Muhammad who himself had fled persecution, the believers “supported All?h and His Messenger”. Here also, the support given to the Prophet is considered support to All?h Himself, meaning support to the cause of All?h. The second aya encourages the believers to “support All?h”, so that All?h may support them:
“[Some part of the alms is due] to the poor who have migrated, who have been driven out of their homes and their belongings, seeking favor from All?h and [His] pleasure, and supporting All?h and His Messenger: these are the truthful.” (59.8)
“O you who believe! If you support All?h He supports you and plant your feet firmly.” (47.7)
It is obvious, therefore, that the term Nasara was developed from an original word, presumably Aramaic, that meant Ansar in Arabic and which would also have been used in conjunction with a name of All?h to mean supporters of All?h. By the time of the Qur’an the Arabic speaking population of the Arabian Peninsula were using the words Nasrani/Nasara as a name for the Christians. But they were totally unaware of what they really meant as neither of these words were from the Arabic of the time and because their historical background was unknown. The Qur’an revealed to the Arabs a secret that neither they nor their ancestors had any knowledge of. However, this was not a secret to only the Arabs, but also to all those Christians and Jews who had lost contact with the Injil, the Book that All?h revealed to ‘?s? and in which He named the Christians “Nazarenes” or “supporters (of All?h)”. This ignorance is attested to by the Gospel of Matthew itself which gives a false etymology of the word Nazarene. The writers of the other Gospels implicitly accept the derivation of Nazarene from Nazareth, as do the Christians in general who also accept the New Testament?s claim that Nazarene was ‘?s?’s title.
In the event described in ayat 3.52 and 61.14, ‘?s? reminded his disciples of the name/description that All?h had already given to his followers in the Injil. Therefore, when asking them who were “[his] Ansar on the way to All?h”, the disciples replied to ‘?s? that they were the “Ansar of All?h”.
It is notable that All?h describes all the followers of ‘?s?, not only those who were contemporary to him, as “those who have said ‘We are Nasara'” (5.14, 5.82). This is in fact a reference to the original event mentioned in ayat 3.52 and 61.14, indicating that any person who declares himself/herself as a Nazarene implies by this claim that he/she has taken the same oath taken by the disciples when they declared themselves before ‘?s? as “Ansar of All?h”.
It should be noted here that some writers have felt it necessary to suggest a religious meaning for the word Nazarene and not (only) relate it to Nazareth. Moore has cited a number of such suggested etymologies. For instance, he cites an old comment on Matthew 2:23 which states that “Jesus was called Nazaraeus not only because his home was in Nazareth, but because he was the Saviour, ‘Servator’, from nasar, ‘servare’, (Moore, 1920: 430). We have already shown, however, that “Nazarene” wasn?t actually ‘?s?’s but his followers’ title.
Now, how does one explain the erroneous etymology of Nazarene suggested in Matthew? It is certainly intertwined with the misconception of Nazarene as a title of ‘?s?. The writer of that particular Gospel, like the writers of the other books of the New Testament, authored his book decades after the time of ‘?s?. By then, the word “Nazarenes” was already a name of the followers of ‘?s?. But by that time many details of the religion of ‘?s? had already been lost due to the fact that the Injil was no longer accessible to most people. The historical background of the name of ‘?s?’s followers, Nazarene, was one piece of information that had become unavailable to most people, including the writer of Matthew. However, Matthew reckoned that the similarity between the term Nazarene and the name of the town of Nazareth was too close to be fortuitous. So, he simply surmised that Nazarene must have originated from Nazareth, the name of the town where ‘?s? is supposed to have lived.
We now know that Nazarene was never derived from Nazareth. We also know that the similarity between Nazarene and Nazareth was not a mere coincidence, something that the writers of the Gospels have also noted. This leaves us with the very appealing conclusion that it is in fact Nazareth the town which acquired its name from the word “Nazarenes” and not the other way around as suggested in the New Testament. If that little town was indeed insignificant, as commonly accepted by scholars, then it could very easily have acquired the name “Nazareth” being the town “of the Nazarenes”. This means that the town could have been mentioned in older sources under its old name. There is no evidence to support the suggestion of some researchers that the silence of ancient writings on Nazareth indicates that this town was only later established.
2. The Etymology of “Gospel”
It might surprise some that the four Gospels of the New Testament should get the etymology of the word Nazarene totally wrong in this way. It should be remembered, however, that there is so much misunderstanding and confusion in the Gospels. Ironically enough, there is widespread ignorance concerning the full meaning of the word “Gospel” itself! The Qur’an , however, does explain to us the meaning of this word also.
The English word “Gospel”, which means “good news”, is known to be a translation of the Greek (Euaggelion: pronounced Euangelion). Yet scholars have struggled to find a convincing etymology for this word in the context of Christian thought. The Qur’an , on the other hand, leads us to the answer to this question by telling us that All?h revealed to ‘?s? a Book called “Injil”:
“And We sent after them in their footsteps ‘?s? , the son of Maryam, verifying what was before him of the Tawrat and We gave him the Injil in which was guidance and light, and verifying what was before it of Tawrat and a guidance and an admonition for the All?h-fearing.” (5.46)
It is clear that “Injil” is the same Greek word, and thus means “good news”. The following aya explains why the Book of ‘Isa was “good news”:
“And when ‘?s?, the son of Maryam, said: “O children of Isra’il! I am the Messenger of All?h to you, confirming that which is before me of the Tawrat and bringing the good news of a Messenger who will come after me, his name being Ahmad”; but when he came to them with clear proofs they said: “This is clear magic.” (61.6)
This aya reveals that the Book of ‘?s? acquired its name from the fact that it brought the “good news” about the forthcoming commission of Prophet Muhammad. The name “Ahmad” in the above aya is one of the names of Prophet Muhammad; both names Ahmad and Muhammad have the same meaning of “the most praised one”.
Bringing the “good news” about Prophet Muhammad and confirming the divine origin of the Tawrat were the main goals of the mission of ‘?s?. The former was so central in ‘?s?’s mission that All?h named the Book that He revealed to ‘?s? after it. A Book whose name effectively meant “the good news about Prophet Muhammad” must have contained lots of details about him. This is indeed mentioned in the Qur’an :
“Those who follow the unlettered Messenger-Prophet whom they find written down in the Tawrat and the Injil, [who] enjoins them good and forbids them evil, makes lawful to them the good things and makes unlawful to them impure things, and removes from them their burden and the shackles which are upon them. So, those who believe in him, honor him and support him, and follow the light which has been sent down with him, are the successful.” (7.157)
“Muhammad is the Messenger of All?h, and those with him are firm against the disbelievers, compassionate among themselves; you see them bowing down, falling prostrate, seeking favor from All?h and [His] pleasure; their marks are in their faces as a result of prostration; this is their similitude in the Tawrat and their similitude in the Injil: like a seed that puts forth its sprout, then strengthens it, so it becomes stout and stands firmly on its stem, delighting the sowers; so that He enrages the disbelievers on account of them. All?h has promised those among them who believe and do righteous deeds forgiveness and a great reward.” (48.29)
It is worth noting that there is nothing in the four Gospels themselves that objects to understanding the word “Gospel” in those books as meaning a “book”. In King James? version of the New Testament, the word “Gospel” occurs five times in the Gospel of Matthew (4:23, 9:35, 11:5, 24:14, 26:13), six times in Mark (1:1, 1:14, 1:15, 13:10, 14:9, 16:15), and four times in Luke (4:18, 7:22, 9:6, 20:1). Odd it may seem, this word doesn?t occur at all in John! What concerns us here, however, is the fact that the fifteen occurrences of this word in the Gospels make it difficult to understand “Gospel” as a “concept” of some sort and suggest instead that the “Gospel” is a “thing”. Moreover, the fact that the “Gospel” is described twelve times as something that is “preached”, by ‘?s? ” himself (e.g. Matthew, 4:23, 9:35) or his disciples (e.g. Mark, 16:15; Luke, 9:6), strongly suggests that the word was seen by the authors of the four Gospels as referring to a “book”. In the remaining three occurrences of the word “Gospel” in the Gospels of the New Testament, Mark describes it as something that should be “believed” (Mark, 1:15) and “published among all nations” (Mark, 13.10), and mentions it in the very first sentence of his book: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark, 1:1).
The eighty occurrences of “Gospel” in the remaining books of the New Testament are more confused. The majority of cases, however, are in line with the use of the word in the three Gospels, with most occurrences describing it as something that can be “preached”. Other occurrences of the word “Gospel” include a reference in the book of Acts to “the word of the gospel” that the gentiles should “hear” and “believe” (Acts, 15:7).
It is obvious, therefore, that the word “Gospel” was at some point conceived as meaning or referring to a “book” and that it was later misused. In fact, the word “Gospels” has been used to refer to the first four “books” of the New Testament. In other words, the uses of the word “Gospel” in the Gospels themselves and the rest of the New Testament are in line with the Qur’an ic revelation that the term Injil, i.e. the “Gospel” in English, was actually the name of a book. That was the Book that All?h revealed to His Prophet ‘?s?.
3. “The Last Supper” or “A Table Spread with Food From Heaven”?
The terms “Nazarene” and “Gospel” are not isolated cases of the authors of the Gospels, like their peers who wrote the Old Testament, mixing true and false historical information. There are many other similar instances. One particularly interesting example of how the authors of the Gospels misrepresented the history of ‘?s? is that of the so-called “last supper”.
The four Gospels differ substantially in their detailed accounts of the event of the “last supper”. Contradiction between the Gospels, however, is not our concern here. We will confine ourselves, therefore, to their descriptions of how that supper was organized:
“Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him: “Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?” And he said: “Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him: “The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples””. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.” (Matthew, 26:17-19)
“And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him: “Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?” And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them: “Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water, follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house: ?The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?? And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared; there make ready for us”. And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them; and they made ready the passover.” (Mark, 14:12-16)
“Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying: “Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat”. And they said unto him: “Where wilt thou that we prepare?”. And he said unto them: “Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house: ?The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples??. And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready”. And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.” (Luke, 22:7-13)
“Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.” (John, 13:1-2)
This is another instance of the typical contradiction between Gospels. While Mark and Luke provide very similar descriptions of the event, Matthew and John come up with totally different accounts that contain nothing about the miracle mentioned by Mark and Luke.
The truth about this event was revealed by Allah in the Qur’an in the following ayat:
“When the disciples said: “O ‘Isa son of Maryam! Is your Lord able to send down to us a table spread with food from heaven?” He said: “Be fearful of All?h if you are believers.” (5.112)
“They said: “We wish to eat thereof and to satisfy our hearts and to know that you have indeed spoken the truth to us and that we may be of the witnesses to it” (5.113). `Isa the son of Maryam said: “O All?h, our Lord! Send down to us a table spread with food from heaven that should be a feast for the first of us and for the last and a sign from You, and give us sustenance, and You are the best of the Providers of sustenance.” (5.114)
“All?h said: “I will send it down to you, so whoever shall disbelieve afterwards from among you, surely I will punish him with a torment that I will not punish with anyone among the peoples.” (5.115)
Making a feast to descend from heaven, in response to a request from his disciples, is another miracle of ‘?s? that the New Testament never mentions. This is the real event behind the story of the “last supper” in the New Testament.
Unlike the Old and New Testaments of the Bible which are full of wrong, inaccurate and contradictory information, the Qur’an shows amazing accuracy and consistency. Two particularly interesting instances that illustrate this fact and which we have studied in this paper are the etymology of each of the words “Nazarene” and “Gospel” and their historical implications. The relevant information in the New Testament lacks accuracy and consistency, let alone being convincing. It is also impossible to reconcile that information with known historical facts. One result of all of this is distorting important aspects of the history of Prophet ‘?s?.
The Qur’an, on the other hand, offers an accurate etymology for each of the words “Nazarene” and “Gospel”. This Qur’anic information sheds the light on historical facts about Prophet ‘?s? that cannot be discovered from another source. This information and its historical implications are consistent with the rest of the Qur’an and well in line with established historical facts. We also saw how the event of the “last supper” in the Gospels is in fact a distorted version of a rather different event.
One significant fact about the different nature of the Bible and the Qur’an is that the more the Bible is studied the more its flaws become apparent, whereas the more the Qur’an is examined the more is seen of its infallibility. No better ending for this article than the following Qur’anic aya that stresses the above fact:
“Do they not ponder on the Qur’an? And if it were from anyone other than All?h they would have found in it much contradiction.” (4.82)
Cullmann, O. (1962). Nazarene. In: The Interpreter?s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, K-Q, New York: Abingdon Press, 523-524.
Davies, W. D. & Allison, D. C. (1988). A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospels According to Saint Matthew, vol. 1: Introduction and Commentary to Matthew, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark Limited.
Fatoohi, L. & Al-Dargazelli, S. (1999). History Testifies to the Infallibility of the Qur’an: Early History of the Children of Israel, Malaysia, A. S. Noordeen
Moore, G. F. (1920). “Nazarene and Nazareth”. In: F. J. Foakes Jackson & K. Lake (eds.), The Beginnings of Christianity, Part I, vol. 1: Prolegomena I; the Acts of the Apostles, London: Macmillan & co., 426-432.
Pellett, D. C. (1962). “Nazareth”. In: The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, K-Q, New York: Abingdon Press, 524-526.
Theissen, G. & Mertz, A. (1998). The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, translated from German by John Bowden, London: SCM Press.
Helms, R. (1989). Gospel Fictions, New York: Prometheus Books.
We use in this article the King James Version of the New Testament. [↩]
The Talmud (3rd-6th century CE) is the written record of both the Mishnah, which is the earliest rabbinical codification and record of the oral Bible dating to about 200 CE, and the Gemara which consists of records of discussions on the Mishnah. [↩]
The Midrashim (singular: Midrash) are rabbinical commentaries on the Biblical text dating from about 300 CE. [↩]
The Jewish historian Joseph ben Matthias, better known with his Roman name Flavius Josephus (37-110 CE). [↩]
The Qur’an calls its verses “ayat”. The singular of ayat is “aya”. [↩]
At the time of the revelation of the Qur’an there were a number of different Arabic dialects in the Arabian Peninsula. [↩]