New Book: History Is 'Entirely Incompatible' With Islam
An American Muslim who investigated the historical evidence for Islam and Christianity discovered an astounding truth: the evidence is "entirely incompatible" with Islam, while it supports the three greatest arguments for Christianity.
"It was not just that history did not support the traditional narratives of Islam, but rather that history proved to be entirely incompatible with Islamic origins," writes Nabeel Qureshi (emphasis his), author of the book No God But One: Allah or Jesus? A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam & Christianity. The book, released Tuesday, provides a deep investigation of the key differences between the two faiths and delves into the historical evidence (or lack thereof) for each.
Qureshi investigates five basic claims, each disputed by either side. He asks the question of whether there is enough evidence that "an objective observer" would conclude in favor of Christianity or Islam. The arguments for Christianity: that Jesus died on the cross, that his disciples believed he rose from the dead, and that he claimed to be God. The arguments for Islam: that Muhammad is a prophet of Allah, and that the Quran is inspired by Allah.
As the Quran is the "why" of the Islamic faith, I will begin there, and move to Muhammad. Then, I will dive into Qureshi's arguments for Christianity.
1. Is the Quran the word of God?
The Quran is more important to Muslims than the Bible is to Christians — so much so that burning the Quran invites anger and even violence, while no one riots when the Bible is burnt. Qureshi lays out five common arguments for the inspiration of the Quran: its literary excellence, its fulfilled prophecies, the miraculous scientific knowledge in the text, mathematical marvels, and the perfect preservation of the book across the centuries.
Most of these arguments come down to a subjective twisting of the Quranic text. Many so-called prophecies are quoted out of context, and the one clear prophecy was predictable and took too long to occur. The miraculous scientific knowledge is also used out of context, and relies on rejecting specific scientific statements which have been proven false. Finally, in order to argue for mathematical wonders in the text, Muslims have to reject the rules of Arabic grammar and discard entire verses from the Quran.
This draws the literary excellence of the Quran into doubt. Qureshi quotes the scholar Gerd Puin, an expert on the Arabic of the Quran: "Every fifth sentence or so simply doesn't make sense." At every turn, when a challenger would attack the literary excellence of the text, Muslims would redefine the test to protect it from scrutiny. In the end, this claim to literary excellence is subjective — it will not convince someone who does not already believe it.
Finally, the history of the Quran is fraught with mistakes. Qureshi tells the story of the Caliph Uthman (ruled 644-655 A.D.), who recalled all Quranic manuscripts, burned them all, and issued official, standardized copies. Records of dissenting Muslims persist to this day.
Also, when the Quran — which was originally oral — was first being written down, some chapters were nearly lost, and great reciters of the Quran such as Ubay and Abdullah ibn Masud (who was named by Muhammad as one of the four best teachers of the Quran) disagreed with the final written text. Some of the Muslim world still has Qurans with readings different from the best known version, which was promulgated in 1924 – the Royal Cairo Edition.
2. Is Muhammad the prophet of God?
The Shahada, or Islamic statement of faith, is one of the five pillars of Islam, and it declares, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger." Qureshi listed three main arguments for Muhammad's prophethood: his excellent life and character, Bible prophecies about him, and miraculous scientific knowledge.
As stated above, the claims to scientific knowledge are very problematic. One particular section in the Quran which Muslims argue to be uniquely ahead of its time deals with embryology — how a baby develops in the womb. Yet the terms in the verses are far from scientific, and the requisite knowledge long predates Muhammad: Aristotle's On the Generation of Animals is more scientific and detailed, and came 1,000 years before Islam. Also, the Greek scientist Galen shows a similarly nuanced scientific description clearer than Muhammad's.
The Bible prophecies that Muslims claim to be about Muhammad are clearly about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, when studied in context. In Deuteronomy 18, God promises to lift up "a prophet from among their brethren," which Muslims interpret as meaning "from the tribe of the brother of Isaac, i.e. Ishmael." But the text in question clearly refers to the Israelites, and the word translated "brethren" means "countrymen." Indeed, a section right before this promise explicitly differentiates between foreigners and Israelites. This verse promises a Jewish prophet, not an Ismaelite one.
Similarly, Muslims point to John 16:12-14, where Jesus says that he has many things to say to the disciples, but they cannot bear them. He will therefore send "the Spirit of truth" to them. The word for spirit of truth is parakletos, which Muslims claim is similar to periklutos, which means "the praised one," which is what Muhammad means in Arabic. The problem with this should be evident to any Christian — The Holy Spirit is not Muhammad, but the third person of the Trinity. The context makes this very clear.
Finally — and most importantly — the records for Muhammad's life are late and historically unreliable, but the image they show is not that of a virtuous founder. Qureshi takes only stories from one of the most reliable texts, the Sahih Muslim, to demonstrate this. When Muhammad learns of his prophethood, he becomes suicidal, something no prophet in the Old or New Testaments did upon seeing an angel.
Most strikingly, however, Muhammad embraced warfare, saying that "fighting is literally the best thing in the world." He led battles against unarmed cities, he allowed women and children to be killed in raids, and he even consummated his marriage with his nine-year-old bride Aisha at the ripe old age of 52. He allowed his men to have sex with female slaves, he declared women mentally deficient compared to men, and he said women are the majority of hell's inhabitants because they are ungrateful to their husbands. Those don't sound like the acts of a moral exemplar to Qureshi.
Next Page: But what about Christianity? Is the death and resurrection of Jesus historically reliable?