Islam: Another View Point
With Another Story
Any faith-oriented view, including theism, in the world's panorama of viewpoints, must hold up to close scrutiny. What happens, in particular, if multiple faiths point to a monotheistic or singular God? If the multiple viewpoints refer to the same God, in a consistent fashion, then there is no problem. However ... what does a closer look reveal?
The following information is simply observational. That is, this is less opinion and more a case of "what is." We offer this because sometimes the 'obvious facts' get lost in the blur of daily information.
What if the stories that support a monotheism are different to the point of conflicting. How many monotheisms can there be? Really, think about this! One God? Two or more divergent stories?
First, a conclusion, it is distressing to be put in a position that expresses a negative and thus a position that discounts some people's point of view. That essentially ends up discounting certain persons. If we wish to honor others, that is an emotionally uncomfortable perspective to hold to. Still, a basic point of logic upholds itself in spite of who we are and what our views might be. Our point then is this, two monotheistic views are compatible (in that Judaism and Christianity stem from a single root, this is textual and historical), one other is inconsistent with the first two (as noted below). That leaves us with two differing views.
The Hebrew text starting with the Torah goes back thousands of years (i.e., ca 3400 years ago). Within the first five books of the Hebrew Bible is an account of Abram who was called out of his former place, and instructed by God to go to a new home in a new land. The account of Abraham is famous and is told over and over again each year in synagogues and churches around the world. The Book of Genesis is clear on the lineage through Abraham and his wife Sarah. The House of Israel was God's chosen lineage, through Isaac and Jacob, to establish Israel. This was clearly written long ago. And further, the purpose of this House was to draw all nations (Gentiles) to God.
But today there are two stories for one Abraham. Hundreds of years after Moses was given the Torah, hundreds of years after Yeshua walked the earthen pathways of Israel, another person claimed a different story concerning Abraham.
Islam Provides A Different Story
The fact is, if Muslims read the Bible, they can see this difference. If they look objectively at their faith, they will see it is based on something that came later in time (derived during the 600's and compiled by ca 700 AD, thus some 2000 years after Torah and ca 2800 years after Abraham's time). Islam brought into existence a different story.
Islam is initiated by one who is considered to be a prophet. The Prophet puts himself above the role of Yeshua and claimed that through Ishmael (Ismail) a divine plan leads to what we know today as the Muslim monotheistic faith.
The Point is Simple: Only One Story Can be Correct
The Abraham (Ibrahim) of Islam is a latter story. The prophet appeared in an age when he could see, read, talk about the Hebrew text and speak to Jews and believing Gentiles. He could, and apparently did, read the New Testament (we recommend reading Dispelling Muslim Myths About the Gospel, by Doug Smith, to see how the prophet related to the New Covenant text [download pdf]), furthermore, both the Hebrew and Greek texts had been formalized, i.e.,, canonized in the same era as that of the prophet. He wanted the allegiance of Jew and Gentile as part of his faith—i.e., to something different from what the Bible had established over centuries of time.
Are The Differences Important?
Today, the annual ritual sacrifice made in Ishmael's name is essentially a reflection of the Jewish Temple practice. The story of Abraham and Ishmael is contrary, counterpoint of the story told of Abraham and Isaac. These are opposites. The Muslim story is the second version, not the first. Further, the replacement of Isaac's potential sacrifice is key to a foreshadow of the Jewish Messiah—this is an underlying purpose to the story originating in the Torah.
In place of Isaac, God provides a sacrifice ... a ram ... serving as a complete image of Messiah who comes as God's Lamb ... as a sacrifice for humanity's sins. What foreshadow is there in the parallel story of Abraham and Ishmael? This point may be debated, but the story of Abraham and Isaac transcends the Genesis account to look forward and be consistent with the remaining 65 books of the Hebrew and Greek texts (the Bible). That purpose is then consistent with the person of Yeshua (Jesus) and His purpose for being in the past, present, and future.
Practice or Covenant
Today, Islam circumcises its young males and in some cases females. But a quick study reveals that only the Hebrew Bible tells why circumcision is a divine instruction to set the House of Israel apart from other peoples (Genesis 16). Yes, Ishmael was circumcised and he too could have remained within the House of Israel, but he left, he did not stay with Abraham. That departure is a departure from the God of the Bible. And the Koran nowhere mentions circumcision or a purpose or a reason for it! None!
Muslims merely follow circumcision as a custom with no divine purpose. In reality, the practice was started by God through Abraham for a covenant with Abraham (see Genesis 16). Islam is separate from that covenant, spiritually, but the ultimate reason for the covenant does concern all Gentiles—including Muslims as well as all others. So why do Muslims circumcise their young? Perhaps because the prophet saw it practiced in his day.
Why does the Koran argue points with respect to Jews and Christians? These were the two prominent groups that in the mind of the prophet were 'competing' with his vision. But upon inviting Jew and Gentile believers to join him, he encountered refusal. And the words of the Koran reflect that tension. No such tension existed before the prophet arrived.
The prophet's followers appear to call Jews and Christians polytheists, perhaps because the God of Israel tabernacled among His people in the flesh. By tabernacle we mean a physical, flesh related presence for God on Earth (albeit for a short time, with purpose). There are thus three forms of God's presence. First as a transcendent being (inside and outside the universe). Second, a presence on Earth within the form of a human, and upon His ascension to heaven a third presence on Earth in spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit. But all three coexist as one, even now, not as three separate entities. Three manifestations of the one God, is not polytheism, but is a view requiring further study to see consistency in place of contradiction.
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God as Central Focal Point
But what of distractions from a focused monotheism? Each year at the Hajj, Muslims at Mecca make a circular walk around a central structure in the midst of the mosque. That structure holds a black stone which is described on a web page, as follows:
The Black Stone's Origin
There are also various opinions as to what the Black Stone actually is. Muslims say that the Stone was found by Abraham (Ibrahim) and his son Ishmael (Ismail) when they were searching for stones with which to build the Kaaba. They recognized its worth and made it one of the building's cornerstones.
Secular historians point to the history of stone worship, and especially meteorite worship, in pre-Islamic Arabia, and say that it is likely that the Stone is a meteorite. There is no way to test this hypothesis without removing and examining the Stone, which would not be permitted by its guardians.
There is no indication as to where this stone originated, but since it pre-dates the revelation of the Holy Qur'an and Muhammad's prophethood, and even kissed, it must stem from the time of Abraham since the Hajj traditions are traceable to the patriarch of monotheism.
Various opinions and no common knowledge of the stone's origin! The unknown origin and stone's material nature speaks to a diffuse understanding behind the practices of Islam. This is more confusing that clarifying, yet it's tradition at the very core of the Muslim world. But why? How is this a focal point to monotheism.
The Main Point
Muslims would answer us to provide their apologetic response to specific issues. There is asimple point in all that is written here... there are two different stories and Islam is not the first.
It takes a bit of study to discern which claims are true and relevant. For this reason we provide additional resources below. Further, studies in the Scriptures provide further clarity. The differences are enough to change minds about what came first.
One observation we make is the Biblical chronology speaks to competing forces through the end of the age. The apparent friction reflected against Jew and Christian in other world views may well play a factor as we go forward in time—and we wonder: might this include Islam's differing view? This warrants keeping a close watch as global events unfold.
We present the following references for your careful consideration:
Books to consider:
We recommend a reading of Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross. This presentation gives a historical background that many of us really need. First, the text makes separate looks and then compares Islam to Christianity. What does each of these faiths stand on. What is the root of each belief and what holds up to closer scrutiny.
More Than a Prophet: Reviews of this text seem to agree that this is an informative source that addresses key questions. Understanding the nature of the answers helps to discern key differences and assists in holding a constructive dialog concerning Islamic and Christian view points.
Links to web sites:
The scholarship and presentation at certain web sites differs greatly. These are simply presented here for your further consideration. What does impress us is that these web sites offer citations to published sources that add further credibility to the information provided:
Answering Islam: This web site offers a 'dialog' for considering issues relevant to Islam and to Christianity. Sources are cited and other supporting or useful links are supplied.
Video (YouTube) - Debate on Christianity and Islam: William Lane Craig vs Jamal Badawi
The Best Approach:
The most reasonable approach is: Consider that multiple (different) truth claims about a single topic cannot all be true. To discern, study, and figure out which claim is truthful—by identifying problems associated with other claims—reduces the field of view to reasonable claims and from there to what is factual information. Careful study assures that your conclusion is sound and proper.
Finally, the WindowView is an apologetic resource. In reality the topics of Change, Science, and the Harmony do point to something special that is occurring for you in this life. This realization leads to a choice about your future, an eternal future, and who God is. We believe that if you ask questions and keep an open mind and study the history and root of belief systems, that only one viable prospect will surface.