The Koran’s View of Judaism and Islam’s Claim to be the Only Authentic Abrahamic Religion
This part will address two things:
- Islam’s claim that it is the only true monotheistic religion and that its roots go back to Abraham.
- Islam’s statements about the Jews and Judaism that justify pushing Judaism aside and placing Islam in its place.
Introductory Note: Many commentators feel when Mohammed moved to Medina he shaped some his teaches to attract Jews to Islam. There was a large group of Jews living in the Medina area. Most particularly the prohibition against eating pork in the Koran was likely placed there to attract Jews to Islam. Unfortunately, Jews did not convert in large numbers and Mohammad’s view of Jews evidently swung 180 degrees. This is reflected in the many negative statements about the Jews in the Koran and his treatment of Jews at the Battle of the Trench and the subsequent Siege of Banu Qurayza where hundreds of male Jewish prisoners were slaughtered and their wives and children enslaved.
The foregoing should be kept in mind as the Surahs about the Jews are reviewed.
Part I – An overview
Koran contains an alternative Adam and Eve narrative that has them expelled from the Garden of Eden but retaining their basic good nature (not the fallen nature that Genesis reports).
The Koran also briefly recounts how Allah helped and protected Noah.
In Mohammad’s dreams, he is told that it was Ishmael (not Isaac) who was suppose to be sacrificed. Ishmael is the older son (and the fact that he is the child of a slave woman makes no difference). Abraham tells Ishmael about God’s command and Ishmael agrees and is prepared to be a sacrifice but is spared at the last minute and a ram is substituted. Because of this occurrence, Muslims sacrifice a ram once a year in Mecca.
Ishmael is sent to Arabia with his mother, the slave Heger, and they go to Mecca and set up a small Kaba shrine. Then Abraham comes and Allah helps him get a better, bigger rock. Heger and Ishmael at one point suffer from great thirst and Heger, by running between hills, finds and dams water for them to drink. After Ishmael marries Abraham disapproves of his choice, so he divorces and marries another wife that Abraham likes.
There is an ancestry narrative that puts Mohammed in Ishmael’s line of decent. Thus Mohammad is the direct descendant of Abraham.
Because Abraham came repeatedly to Mecca and because he installed a bigger Kaba, the city is called the city of Abraham. (Medina is called the City of Mohammad.. )
The foregoing shows that Ishmael, not Isaac, was the founder of the true monotheistic religion, Islam.
Back in Israel, Moses goes up the mountain and receives a book (not the stone tablets). Joshua enters the Holy Land and drives out most of the Cannonites. The land is settled. Saul then David and then Solomon become King. The nation falls into apostasy and is sent to Babylon captivity and restored under the Persians. The Arc of the Covenant is lost but the Temple is restored. The scene is set for the arrival of Jesus.
Part II – From the Koran itself
For Islam, Jesus is the most important prophet until Muhammad came. The Koran explains Jesus’ birth, his mission in life, his “death and resurrection”, and his relationship with Allah, etc. as follows:
1) The Koran says Jesus predicted (that is prophesied) the coming of Muhammad. Jesus said, “ I will send the Paraclete”. Christians feel this predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit. Muslim say this refers to the coming of Mohammad
This formulation aids Islamic theology in three ways:
- Inserts into Jesus’ statements a prophecy that Mohammad is coming which allows Muslim to point to a Biblical prophecy that predicts the coming of Mohammad just as Christians point to Old Testament prophecies as foretelling Jesus’ arrival.
- Redefines and redirects Jesus’ announcement (that the Holy Spirit will come to help mankind once Jesus goes to the Father) to an announcement that Muhammad will come to lead and help mankind, and
- Talks away one of the three person’s Christians see as being part of the Triune Godhead.
The foregoing works with Mohammad’s insertion of the angel Gabriel whenever the New Testament refers to the Spirit. For instance, Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit becomes Mary conceives by the Angel Gabriel who was sent by Allah.
2) Under Islam, all of Jesus’ miracles are performed through the permission and with the direct help of Allah. Jesus himself has no independent power to do supernatural acts. However, Islam also teaches Jesus is sinless, Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is the messenger of Allah, Jesus is in the ranks of the Righteous, etc. These formulations deprive Jesus of his divine status but nevertheless accords him a very high place.
Islam teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross but either feigned death on the cross or was replaced by another man that Allah caused to take on the look of Jesus. Some say that another man was Judas, who died in Jesus’ place and was thus appropriately punished. This theory says Jesus was taken up to heaven by Allah before the passion began.
Regarding the Resurrection, Islam teaches it never happened because Jesus never died on the Cross. This deprives Jesus of his status as a member of the Triune Godhead because as St Paul said the Christian’s “faith is in vain if Jesus did not raise from the dead”. Muhammad’s revelation, whether revealed by Allah or devised by Mohammad, did a very precise job of keeping Jesus in an important place as a prophet while assuring that he would not be considered part of the divine Godhead.
Note: Mohammad was probably not aware of the tremendous importance Jews attached to the title Messiah or Christ. The Messiah was to come from God to lift the Jews out of oppression and inaugurate a new order. If Mohammad had known this, it is unlikely he would give Jesus this August title.
3) Mary, the mother of Jesus, called Maryam by Muslims, was made pure so she would be a suitable mother to Jesus. She conceives by the Angel Gabriel and gives birth to Jesus under a palm tree after considerable birth pain. Mary is called by the Koran a woman of truth. She has been chosen by Allah before all other women. The Koran cuts Joseph out of the story, thus Mohammad breaks Jesus’ connection to the House of David which was a key factor in many Old Testament prophecies about Jesus.
The foregoing is carefully crafted (either by Allah or by Mohammad) to:
- deprive the Holy Spirit of his place in the Triune Godhead,
- deprive Jesus of his place in the Triune Godhead as well,
- deprive Mary of her position as mother of the God-man, Jesus.
However, in each case the Koran provides an alternative explanation that still honors the thought, idea, or person discussed but puts Islam’s perspective in a pre-eminent position:
- the concept of the Holy Spirit is honored by substituting Mohammad and Gabriel,
- the person of Jesus retains great respect and many titles, and
- Mary remains the most honored of all woman. Additionally, it puts Allah in the command position by saying he empowered Jesus to perform his miracles.
We saw Mohammad making an early overture to the Jews by prohibiting the consumption of pork and initially having Muslims pray facing Jerusalem, not Mecca, but when this did not trigger the mass conversion of Jews, Mohammad decided to slaughter hundreds of Jews following the Battle of the Trench. The direction of prayer changed but pork remained verboten.
Mohammad wanted Christians to convert “en masse” as well. He sent letters to both Christian and pagan leaders suggesting they convert (or at a minimum accept Islamic rule) in exchange for good relations with the growing Islamic state.
These leaders reacted in various ways: a few were deeply impressed saying if God really revealed all this to Mohammad, he will have no trouble sweeping all obstacle away, but most felt the entire basis of Mohammad’s claims were mere fabrications. They could not find any clear connection between the God of the Old/New Testament and Islam. The only authority presented was Mohammad’s recorded dreams and the revelations from Gabriel contained therein.
At this time, the small Islamic state had many Christian (either orthodox or heretical) areas or cities within a 500 or 1000 mile radius; this included the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire to the north which was headquartered in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). Additionally, the Byzantine Empire was in a lengthy war with the Persian Empire headquartered in modern day Iran. This war weakened both and allowed Islam, once it got organized, to attack and take all of Persia and much of the Byzantine empire as well. (However, this gets into the political and military side of Islam whereas our focus is on its claims vis a vie Christianity.)
Next: Christianity’s Intellectual Defense