Habib J. Khoury
FrontLine • March/April 2006
An early twentieth-century Christian scholar in Islamic Studies, Dr. W. St. Clair Tisdall, observed, “Islam contains some noble truths mingled with much that is erroneous. Its strength lies in these truths, its weakness in its false doctrines and its imperfect moral system.” I must add that its weakness lies ultimately in the fact that Islam, despite its countless assertions to the contrary, is a man-made religion, not a product of divine revelation. Consequently, its error is enormous, and its seemingly incurable, devastating negative impact upon the human race at large, and upon Muslims in particular, has been and continues to be beyond any human measure.
Both Arabic Christians and Arabic Muslims use the Arabic pre-Islamic name “Allah” to speak of the Supreme Being. In Muslim theology, however, Allah is the most precious name of the Supreme Being, because it is not a descriptive name like the other “ninety-nine names of Allah,” but the name of the Supreme Being’s own presence. The Islamic concept of mankind’s place in the universe hinges on the notion that Allah is the only true reality. There is nothing permanent other than the Supreme Being. Allah is considered eternal and “uncreated,” whereas everything else in the universe, with the exception of the Qur’an, is “created.”
In addition, the Qur’an repeatedly describes the Supreme Being existing in absolute singularity, as is evident in Sura 112: “Say: He is Allah, Singular. Allah, the Absolute. He begetteth not nor was begotten. And to Him have never been one equal.” The Arabic word ahad is used in the Qur’an to indicate the singular existence of Allah, and the Arabic word wahid is used to deny him any partner or companion. Thus, the greatest sin in Islam is Al-Ishrak—assigning a partner to Allah. In contrast, the Old Testament negates this heretical notion: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me [the promised Messiah], Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee” (Ps. 2:7). Likewise, the New Testament asserts that the Christian God has a begotten Son: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son [the Lord Jesus Christ], that whosoever believeth in him [the Son of God] should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Indeed, Muslim theologians believe that the name “Allah” has existed since the time of Adam, asserting that their deity is the same one worshipped by Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus (Arabic Qur’an: ’Isa), Muhammad, and other prophets of Islam. According to Islam, Allah is the God of Abraham, and thus the Muslims claim to be followers of the same God of Judaism and Christianity. Theirs is the original religion of Abraham restored. For clarification purposes, and because I believe that the Muslim god is not one and the same as the Christian God, in this article I speak of Allah in the strictest Muslim sense, and I use the English “God” to refer to the Christian Godhead.
In a refreshing contrast, the God of the Christian Bible exists as Diversity within a Unity, as is evident in the Baptismal Formula: “baptizing them in the name [singular] of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit [three, plural]” (Matt. 28:19). While the three Persons of the Godhead are equal in essence, they are distinct as Persons. He is the Self-Existing Highest Complexity of all existence. He is the One and only True and Living God, existing eternally in three distinct and equal Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
However, the Allah of the Muslim Qur’an is said to be the Supreme Being whose existence consists of a Spirit that lacks internal diversity. Therefore, he is a god lacking the necessary self-existence as the Highest Complexity in the universe, possessing the simplicity of existence of the lowest of his creation, such as that of a stone.
Bluntly and blatantly, the Qur’an denies and misrepresents the foundational Biblical doctrine of the Holy Trinity. In Surat Almaidah (6:116), the Qur’an attacks a trinity made up of Allah, Jesus, and Mary. The Bible rejects such a notion too. The Old Testament clearly asserts that the Lord God is one: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). Likewise, the New Testament declares that there is only one God: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). However, in the Qur’an’s Surat Annesa’ (4:171), the “People of the Book” are admonished to reject the notion of a threein- one Deity. In addition, the Qur’an asserts that its Allah has no son, neither in Heaven nor on earth. It goes on to declare Jesus Christ (Arabic Qur’an: `Isa) an Apostle and a word of Allah. In the next verse (4:172) it claims that Christ, like the angels, is merely a servant of Allah. It admonishes its contemporaries to stop worshipping Christ, promising the reward of “the resurrection to Allah” to all who would heed the divine admonition.
Likewise, the Bible’s eternal Fatherhood of the Supreme Being, who eternally is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and who in time is the Father of all creation, is denied by the Muslim Qur’an. A Muslim is denied the heartwarming New Testament phrase “Our Father which art in heaven”! However, if the eternal Fatherhood of the Supreme Being is denied, as Muslim theologians do, then at time of creation the Supreme Being acquired a new role, gained a new attribute, and progressed into a new position, that of the Father of all creation. This line of thinking, though it does not seem to trouble Muslim theologians, strikes at the heart of the eternal and unchanging nature of the Supreme Being because it attributes change to Him and asserts for Him the possibility of becoming, similar to that nature of deity attributed to the pagan gods worshipped in Muhammad’s days. The notion of change, however, robs the Supreme Being of His eternally perfect nature. Indeed, the Supreme Being cannot credibly exist without His immutability, without His unchanging eternal perfections. If He acquires, gains, or progresses, then He is incomplete, short of total perfection.
Moreover, when his circumstances so dictated, “Mohammad did not hesitate to assert that Allah had rescinded His former revelation and had substituted another. This principle is made clear in Sura 2, v. 100, which dates from the early period in Medina: ‘whatever verses we cancel or cause thee to forget, we bring a better or its like. Knowest thou not that God [Allah] hath power over all things?’ But apparently Mohammad had already used this method of changing earlier revelations, or of giving them a new content by means of explanatory or restrictive additions [compare 16, 103].” Accordingly, it appears that the Muslim Allah moves gradually toward excellence—he must try more than once in order to do something right, to arrive at a better revelation, during Muhammad’s short prophetic life span. Thus, Allah cannot be held to a word which he once has spoken, for he is liable to change his mind; an eternally reserved prerogative of Muslim deity.
Therefore, it is only logical to conclude that a god whose nature is changeable, his mind also must be changeable. He is thus totally unreliable. Perhaps he is so much feared by Muslims because he is quite unpredictable. And, since Allah’s mind is changeable, who is to say that in the last thirteen centuries (a long time indeed for Allah to keep the same mind about any significant matter) he has not changed his mind about Muhammad; about a revelation given to Muhammad; about all of the revelations he gave to Muhammad; or even about Islam, Muslims, and the Qur’an altogether? Indeed, the doctrine of abrogation practiced by Muslim theologians for many centuries, speaks of the fact that the Qur’an represents Allah changing his mind about a considerable number of topics. It constitutes a major defect in Muslim theology, and certainly it should be a source of embarrassment to thinking Muslims.
In addition, Muslim theologians for some thirteen centuries recognized the Supreme Being as merciful and benevolent but failed to acknowledge love as one of His attributes. Allah is held by Muslims in such a transcendent awe that he is feared rather than loved, obeyed rather than endeared. The highest relationship to Allah that man on earth can have is to be a slave of Allah: “Say: ‘I will never disobey my Lord, for I fear the torment of a fateful day’” (Qur’an 6:15). Thus the Muslim Allah lacks the eternal agapé love of the Christian God, and he possesses no love for his Muslim followers and his Muslim worshippers. Indeed, unlike the Christian Triune God, the Muslim Allah is incapable of exercising self-giving love. Drastically, he chooses to hate: “Had it been Our will, We [Arabic plurality of majesty] could have given every soul its guidance. But My word shall be fulfilled: ‘I will surely fill Hell with jinn and humans all’” (Qur’an 32:13).
Rationally, however, love certainly demands an object, and eternal love demands an eternal object of love. The Christian God, being the eternal Diversity within the eternal Unity, exercises love eternally within Himself: “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). Love is eternally exercised among the three distinct Persons within the One God. Every Person of the Trinity is at once the Subject and the Object of God’s eternal love. He therefore is fully capable and willing to exercise selfgiving love toward mankind: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8; cf. John 3:16). Glory be to God, the Lover of my soul!
Lacking this eternal diversity, however, the Muslim Allah never can be rationally accepted as a loving god; though mercy and benevolence, attributed to him in Islam, are indeed two of the facets of Divine Love. He remains a defective, incomplete god, incapable of being the Supreme Being.
Furthermore, unlike the God of the Bible, the Qur’an states that its Allah is the author of and a participant in both good and evil. It is said that Allah “orders the practice of moral corruption” (Surat AlIsra’ 17:17), that Allah himself “practices deception” (Surat Annesa’ 4:143) and “cheating” (Surat AlOmran 3:55), and “causes people to go astray” (Surat Ibrahim 14:5). He is thus declared an evil and corrupt god, lacking the moral perfections of the Christian God. He is not the Holy God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, possessing moral purity and perfection of character. Such practices attributed to Allah in the Qur’an are attributed to Satan in the Bible. Therefore, the Muslim Allah is no friend of mankind; he is our adversary. He is the Angel of Destruction, being corrupt in nature, and totally unwilling and entirely incapable of granting salvation to mankind.
Conclusively, the Qur’an attributes extreme and absolute determinism to the Muslim Allah. Orthodox Islam asserts that all human thoughts, speech, and behavior, being good or evil, were foreseen, predetermined, and decreed eternally. Everything that happens among men is according to what was written in eternity. This, because Allah is The Irresistible (Arabic: Alqāhir) One (Qur’an 6:18) over all his creatures. This portrait of Allah has created much theological tension among Muslims as to the fitting place of human responsibility and accountability.
On the other side, His essence being absolutely Holy and Good (Isa. 6:3; 1 John 1:5), the Christian God is not the responsible author of sin; Satan, the fallen Lucifer, is. God is not temptable to evil and therefore He cannot be solicited to tempt us (James 1:13). He abhors corruption, always condemns it, and never participates in it. However, the Lord God has permitted sin to happen in order that His attributes of mercy, compassion, and their cognates would be manifested to His rational creatures granted the freedom of choice. Concurrently, His attributes of Holiness and Justice are accentuated in the face and in the presence of evil.
Therefore, the Christian God is the Friend, the Lover, and the Savior of mankind. He desires that none would perish but that all should come to repentance from sin (2 Pet. 3:9) and to faith in His Son Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:4–6). While sin is the result of the creature’s will and desire, certainly the Lord God Almighty could have restrained it. However, in His infinite wisdom He chose to permit, to punish, and to forgive sin. He maintains perfect moral purity, and He is fully trustworthy, utterly reliable, and infinitely loving. Unlike the Muslim Allah, the Christian God demands that His children would mimic Him (Matt. 5:48), striving toward doctrinal, moral, and ethical purity. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let the whole creation praise His Holy Name forever!
Dr. Habib J. Khoury, MA, ThD, is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Baptist Arabic Ministries Incorporated (www.bamius.org). This article is based substantially on materials used in Dr. Khoury’s one-evening seminar “Christianity versus Islam.”
(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2006. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)
- Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall, M.A., D.D., The Religion of the Crescent: Being the James Long Lectures on Muhammadanism (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; and New York: E. S. Gorham), 3rd revised edition, 1910, p. 9. [↩]
- No man-made religion can satisfy the human soul, can save man from his bondage to sin, or can rescue man from the eternal consequences of his evil deeds. Salvation is sourced and is delivered only by the Lord God Himself. [↩]
- Despite Muslim claims to the contrary, history has established for a fact that Allah and his unity are pre-Islamic concepts and terms that were well known among the Arabs before Muhammad. Some Muslims fantasize that the name “Allah” is an eternal combination of Arabic letters written on the throne of the Supreme Being, with each stroke and curve having its own mystical meaning. These claim that Muhammad received the revelation of this name and was the first to preach the divine unity among the Arabs by declaring the name “Allah.” [↩]
- Islam is commonly listed as a monotheistic religion. However, Orthodox Islam is at once pantheistic and deistic. Muslim theologians and philosophers hold to pantheistic views of Allah, making him the sole force in the universe; but the popular Muslim thought of Allah, largely due to the Muslim doctrine of determinism, is deistic. It is believed that Allah stands aloof from his creation; only his power is felt; and men are like pieces on a backgammon board with Allah the sole player. Indeed, Prophet Muhammad’s own concept of Allah was clearly deistic: Allah and the world are in exclusive, external, and eternal opposition. Allah himself has no entrance into the world, being confined to Heaven (a view incompatible with the infinity of the Supreme Being), and humans cannot have any true fellowship with Allah. [↩]
- It should be noted here that Muslim scholars insist that their Qur’an is uncreated, eternal, and that it perfectly expresses the mind of Allah, in the same Christian sense that Christ is the Word of God. Concurrently, these same scholars claim that the Qur’an is not identical to the essence of Allah. However, if the Qur’an is indeed eternal, then it is self-existent as Allah is said to be. This suggests that an eternal expression of Allah, which is distinguishable from Allah, may exist without being numerically identical to him. “Then does not this allow the very kind of plurality within unity that Christians claim for the Trinity? Thus, it would seem that the Islamic view of God’s [Allah’s] absolute unity is, by their own distinction, not incompatible with Christian trinitarianism. In other words, the basic Muslim logic of either monotheism or polytheism [which includes tritheism] is invalid” (Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2004], 2nd edition, p. 140). [↩]
- How Muhammad formulated this and other misconceptions of Christianity, in the absence of facts, is a matter subject only to speculation. See: William Montgomery Watt, Muslim-Christian Encounters: Perceptions and Misperception (New York: Routledge, 1991). There is no historical evidence of a single encounter of Muhammad with theologically trained persons from mainstream Christianity, and there seems to be no historical evidence that the canonical Christian Scriptures were translated into Arabic prior to or during the times of Muhammad. Also, the assumption that Muhammad ever visited Christian Syria, in the absence of evidence, is not plausible. However, there is no doubt that the Prophet of Islam believed the Christian Trinity to consist of Allah, the Virgin Mary, and their Child `Isa (Jesus). [↩]
- The Old Testament Hebrew word achad translated “one,” literally means “unity,” implying internal diversity. [↩]
- Tor Andrae, Muhammad: The Man and His Faith, translated by Theophil Menzel (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1960), p. 66. [↩]
- In Muslim theology, Allah has acted in many ways; but these actions do not reflect the divine character behind them. Thus Allah is not essentially good; but he is called good merely because he chooses to do some good things. However, if Allah causes evil, as the Qur’an indeed asserts, it follows that he should be called evil as well, which charge Muslim theologians refuse to make. [↩]
- The doctrine of abrogation states that when later revelations given to Muhammad from Allah contradict earlier revelations, the new revelation cancels the old one. This is known in Arabic Muslim theology as Annasikh Wa Almensoukh. [↩]
- For traditional Islam, being merciful and benevolent are acts of Allah’s will, not characteristics of his nature. At any time he can choose to be otherwise. Unlike the Christian God, there is no essence or nature in Allah according to which he must act. Thus, there is no moral law within Allah which would drive him to act morally. That is, Allah does not do something because it is right; rather, what he does is right because he does it. For example, it is said that Allah does not love those who reject the Islamic faith (Qur’an 3:32). In this case, hating is the right thing to do. [↩]
- Unlike the Christian God, Allah’s law in Islam is not the expression of his moral nature but of his arbitrary will. His word can be abrogated. His commandments are subject to change and improvement. [↩]
- A thinking person must wonder about Muhammad’s idea of the character of Allah when he named him The Proud, The All-Compelling, The Slayer, The Tyrant, The Deferrer, The Indulgent, and The Harmful. Such attributes cannot be reconciled with those of goodness and compassion without doing violation to the Quranic text itself. Thus, there is no real unity in Allah. While the majesty attributes of Allah’s power are repeatedly spoken of in the Qur’an, the net total of the moral attributes is found in two verses of the Qur’an. These refer to Allah, in the Islamic sense, as holy and truthful. Thus, Allah is void of moral purity. It is evident that Muhammad saw the Creator’s power in nature; but he never had a glimpse of His genuinely holy, loving, and just character. Consequently, Muhammad adopted a false idea of the nature of sin and its consequences. In this respect, there is a harmony and a unity between Muhammad’s lacking-in-morality Qur’an and deficient-in-morality Allah and Muhammad’s own outrageously immoral life. [↩]
- According to Orthodox Islam, Allah does not have a nature, a knowable essence; rather, he is Absolute Will. Muslim theologians claim that Allah is an absolutely necessary being, incapable of non-existence. However, if he is indeed by nature a necessary kind of being, then it is of his nature to exist. Also, he is claimed to be self-existent, uncreated, and eternal. All of these are said by Muslims to be essential attributes of Allah. Therefore, Allah must have a nature, an essence, because essence is the essential attributes or characteristics of a being. [↩]
- Some Muslim theologians pride themselves in the fact that Islam is an irrational religion. Thus, Muslims are taught to accept Islam without asking questions. While some concepts of Christianity are beyond reason, such as the incomprehensible nature of the Trinity and the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus, Christianity is certainly a rational, reasonable religion. [↩]
- When Allah is once called “The Holy” in the Qur’an (Sura 59), the term does not signify moral purity or moral perfection, as is evident in the writings of Muslim exegetes and Arabic lexicons. Al-Beidhawi, the most celebrated of all Sunni exegetes, commented on the term: “Holy means the complete absence of anything that would make Him less than He is.” This is a definition by negation, which can mean anything or nothing. Al-Azhari gave a similar definition, adding the Arabic term tahir as a synonym. In Muslim understanding, tahir simply means ceremonially clean, circumcised, and the like. [↩]
- This doctrine of absolute determinism is known popularly among Muslims with the Arabic words qadar, muqaddar, and maktoub. [↩]
- See Galatians 1:6–10 and Titus 3:10, 11. [↩]
- Read 1 Corinthians 5:1–13; cf. 2 Corinthians 12:20, 21, and Ephesians 5:11–21. [↩]