Category Archives: FAQS

Nothing in Common

Question:

Many claim that since Islam has many things in common with other faiths that it must be a false religion that borrowed from those other faiths. Why does Islam share many common beliefs and practices with other faiths?

Answer:

One of the beautiful things about Islam, is that we are specifically warned about rejecting the truth merely out of spite or hatred.

“O believers! Stand firm for Allah and bear true testimony. Do not let the hatred of a people lead you to injustice. Be just! That is closer to righteousness. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what you do.” – Qur’an 5:8 (translation by Dr. Mustafa Khattab, the Clear Qur’an).

This is moreso true in this modern age of confusion where a popular, but unreasonable argument is being circulated. Among atheists and missionaries, is the argument that Islam must be false because it has within it, things in common with other faiths and other writings/ scriptures. Yet, the ayah above and the following clarify this for us:

“And they say, “Legends of the former peoples which he has written down, and they are dictated to him morning and afternoon.” – Qur’an 25:5 (translation by Dr. Mustafa Khattab, the Clear Qur’an).

That the Qur’an affirms pre-existing truths is sensible when one considers the view that the God of Islam is not a new God of a new faith trying to establish itself for the first time in the world. Consider the argument then, shall we absolve ourselves of monotheism (Tawheed) because other faiths also preach and believe in a similar monotheism to us? Should we:

  • forsake worship because other faiths also worship?
  • forsake the Qur’an because other faiths have scriptures?
  • forsake doing good because other faiths command doing good?

To most Muslims, that would seem like a silly idea, to distort our own faith to spite another faith. As the saying goes, would you “cut off your nose to spite your face?”.

Yet, this is what we find within the tri-theism of Christianity. At the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, the Emperor Constantine said according to Eusebius:

“And first of all, it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul. For we have it in our power, if we abandon their custom, to prolong the due observance of this ordinance to future ages, by a truer order, which we have preserved from the very day of the passion until the present time. Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.” – The Life of Constantine, Book 3, Chapter 18 by Eusebius.

Do not forget these words:

“Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.”

…and in so doing, they chose to forsake monotheism, cutting off their noses to spite their own faces in that very process. All praise is due to Allah that we do not find ourselves in a similar trap.

and Allah knows best.

Is Petra Islam’s True Birth Place?

For centuries Muslims have revered Mecca as the site of their holiest shrine, the Kaaba. However, in 1977 John Wansbrough, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook published books arguing for a radically different approach to Islam’s origins. Among other things, these revisionists contended that Mecca was not Islam’s birthplace, which they located somewhere in the Fertile Crescent. Though Crone and Cook later repudiated the theory advanced in their book, Crone at least held fast to the idea that Islam’s origins were likely in the Fertile Crescent, possibly in Nabatea.

Forty years later revisionism is still alive and well. Some scholars still promote the idea that the Kaaba was not originally in Mecca. Some say it was in or near Petra, while others refuse to speculate on the location. Their combined evidence was enough to convince popular historian and documentary filmmaker Tom Holland. Since Muslims everywhere pray facing Mecca, this view means they all naively face the wrong direction.

This short but elucidating paper by a Christian scholar, in refutation of Dan Gibson is quite informative and handy for Muslims engaging with Christians on this topic:

Click here to open or download the PDF file directly.

 

Unpacking Jay Smith: Topkapi Dating

In the past four weeks there has been a roll out of my latest video to the tune of more than 15,000 views. I recently began a series engaging with Joseph “Jay” Smith of Pfander, about his inconsistent, often erratic and usually dishonest claims. I would like to thank MuslimByChoice, SCDawah and EFDawah for uploading the video to their YouTube platforms.

Watch the video on MuslimByChoice’s channel:

 

Watch the video on SCDawah’s channel:

 

Watch the video on EFDawah’s channel:

 

The video is also viewable on our Facebook page:

 

I have been watching very closely the kind of feedback I’m receiving from specifically Christians who echo Jay’s material and the feedback has been quite surprising. There have been a lot more messages to Calling Christians over the last four weeks from Christians asking for more information. They usually come to agree that in this instance, on the dating of the Topkapi manuscript, that Jay is indeed incorrect though they would not explicitly state that he is intentionally being misleading. One common response was usually along the lines of, if he’s wrong in this case it does not mean he’s wrong in everything else he claims. To this I usually responded that this is one of his foundational and most oft-repeated claims, if a core claim is so obviously wrong, and we know he knows this information is incorrect, then how can we claim he is reliable in other areas?

and God knows best.

Is Part of the New Testament Lost?

Most believers in the tenacity of the New Testament would tell you the answer is absolutely “no”, but there is reason to disagree once one takes a look at the manuscript evidence. Today we’ll be taking a look at Mark 16, but not in the way you’re usually accustomed. As a quick recap, Mark 16 in the earliest Greek manuscripts, ends presumably at verse 8. Later manuscripts in Latin extend the ending up to verse 20. Let’s take a quick look at what these look like in the English language:

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Trans.: NIV, verse 8).

and…

9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Trans.: NIV, verses 9-20).

Both codices Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (B) date from the 4th century CE, roughly 300 years after Jesus (peace be upon him) walked the earth. They both end at verse 8. However, verses 9-20 can be found in codices Alexandrinus (A, 5th century CE), Ephraemi-Rescriptus (C, 5th century CE), Bezae (D, 6th century CE) and Washingtonianus (W, 5th century CE). You may be familiar with the claim of a longer ending, but there are actually five endings. In one of those five endings there is the case where the women then proceed from the tomb to a group of people who were with the disciple Peter. This ending can be found more notably in the Latin Codex Bobbiensis from the 5th century CE.

There is also another version where an addition is at Mark 16:14 which can be found in Codex Washingtonianus (circa 5th century CE) where it speaks of a more apocalyptic ending. In this ending Satan rules the world and the manuscript quite oddly says that due to Satan, God cannot rule the world…:

“This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits.”

The text in Koine Greek reads as follows:

οτι ο αιων ουτος της ανομιαϛ και της απιστιας υπο τον σαταναν εστιν ο μη εων τα υπο των πνευματων ακαθαρτα την αληθειαν του θεου καταλαβεσθαι δυναμιν

Moving on, the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek New Testament (the Greek text used for most of today’s modern translations) renders verse 8 as follows:

Καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου, εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις· καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπαν· ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ

It uses codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus as the basis for the above Greek version. Do note that the sentence ends with the word “gar” (γάρ), I’ll explain more on the significance of that word shortly. So what do the manuscripts read? We are looking at the ending of verse 8. Codex Sinaiticus reads as follows (here’s the link to view page online):

cc-2018-media-garSinaiticus

Folio 228 of Codex Sinaiticus

Codex Sinaiticus ends verse (and by extension the Gospel of Mark) 8 with the word “gar” (γάρ – do note the text is written in majuscule not minuscule Koine Greek so while the words appear to be different, they’re exactly the same). In majuscule Greek as we find in Codex Sinaiticus we will see γάρ written as ΓΑΡ. Codex Vaticanus reads as follows (here’s the link to view the page online):

cc-2018-media-garVaticanus

Folio 1303 of Codex Vaticanus

Verse 8 once again ends with the word ΓΑΡ (“gar”), and by extension the Gospel of Mark ends with this word. So what is the significance of the word “ΓΑΡ” (gar)? The word “ΓΑΡ” (gar) is a conjunctive. A conjunction is a word that combines two clauses, phrases or sentences. HELPS Word-studies states on the use of the word:

1063 gár (a conjunction) – for. While “for” is usually the best translation of 1063 (gár), its sense is shaped by the preceding statement – the “A” statement which precedes the 1063 (gár) statement in the “A-B” unit.

Do note, the Strong’s number for this word is 1063 and can be read here. In other words, ΓΑΡ (“gar”) is a word that combines two phrases, for example in the English we can understand it to operate like the word “and” or like the terms “because”, “therefore”, “due to”, “hence”, “henceforth”, etc. This means that the verse is essentially incomplete if it ends with a conjunction. Normally in a sentence when you read the word “because”, you expect something to be written afterwards.

  • they were afraid because…what?
  • they were afraid therefore…what?
  • they were afraid due to…what?
  • they were afraid hence..what?

When you end a sentence abruptly with any of the terms above, you necessarily expect a word or phrase to follow. Grammatically this is known as an anacoluthon (see the definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary):

syntactical inconsistency or incoherence within a sentence; especially : a shift in an unfinished sentence from one syntactic construction to another

In other words, verse 8 is an unfinished sentence. This explains why there were additional endings that were later developed and added to the text, because the way the verse ends is incorrect and suggests that something is missing. This ultimately brings us to our question, if the verse is grammatically incorrect and unfinished, it possibly means that something followed from the word ΓΑΡ (“gar”) and is now no longer evidenced by the earliest surviving Greek manuscripts some 300 years after Jesus (peace be upon him) walked the earth. One may argue apologetically that perhaps the verse was phrased this way for rhetorical effect. That is possible but unlikely due to the authors of Mark never having done this previously in the entire gospel. In fact, I’m not aware of any other instance in the New Testament where ΓΑΡ (“gar”) is used to end a sentence where nothing follows after it. Such an argument is also implausible because it is clearly grammatically incorrect to the point we have multiple endings having been added to it thus showing that readers correctly noted an error has been made.

In the English language, if someone wrote:

There was a boy with a cat. The cat was afraid because…

The cat was afraid because what? The sentence does not continue and so we don’t know. Therefore in either English or Greek, there is a mistake here and so we must ask what did the sentence originally contain and what words did it end with? Were there just a few words more, or many sentences after? How much have we lost? We cannot clearly determine the amount that is lost to us. It is then clear that the last words of the Gospel attributed to Mark are lost to us and therefore a portion of the New Testament is lost to us. Ipso facto, the theological beliefs of tenacity and the preservation of the New Testament are proven to be false.

and God knows best.


Author’s Post Publication Note:

In this article I assumed the A-B unit as the structure of the verse, however given that Mark 16:8 contains two sentences, the first sentence contains this A-B structure (emphasis mine own, taken from the NA 28 GNT online):

Καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου, εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις· καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπαν·

In this first sentence of Mark 16:8, we see this A-B formula in work. In the very next sentence, we do not see it at work:

ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ.

While this is a correct sentence in and of itself, if we only and absolutely take this sentence into isolation, it would be grammatically correct (there is disagreement on this and it is discussed below). However, when we take it into the context of the author’s normal usage of the term ΓΑΡ (“gar”) within this very verse, then it would break the pattern and thus establish itself as being against the norm and therefore in error.

Furthermore, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (scroll down) argues for a succeeding repetition [with the word ΓΑΡ (“gar”)] as the norm (emphasis mine own):

When in successive statements γάρ is repeated twice or thrice, or even four or five times, either a. one and the same thought is confirmed by as many arguments, each having its own force, as there are repetitions of the particle…

There is no argument for the second sentence of the verse, therefore it also breaks this norm. There is one more alternative (emphasis mine own):

b. every succeeding statement contains the reason for its immediate predecessor, so that the statements are subordinate one to another: Mark 6:52…

Again, there is no reason explaining the fear, thus breaking the norm again. Regardless of the apologetic arguments to defend the incompleteness of Mark 16:8, there is no sufficient argument to plainly excuse the break in grammatical norms for this specific verse, though I want to thank at least one individual with knowledge of Greek for trying.

Further Reading

As mentioned above, the same individual raised the point of “ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ” being a complete sentence and has argued it is perfectly reasonable to end a sentence with such a word. Though I did not argue the point that “ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ” was the start of a new sentence (as incorrectly stated by the person), they also argued that no Greek scholar would agree with my conclusions. It should be noted though that I am not the person that has made these conclusions. One noted scholar of Greek and the New Testament, Robert Gundry states in his book Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross on page 1009 that verse 8 in the autograph of the Gospel attributed to Mark was not a conclusion but the beginning of a new unit, “the rest of which is now lost.” He also clarifies that while there is at least one possible example for the word “γάρ” in ending a book, which is possibly the case in the thirty second treatise of Plotinus as edited by Porphyry (though many others disagree), it is rather the exception to the norm and he conclusively states that no other book ends with the word “γάρ”. It should also be noted that New Testament scholar N. Clayton Croy in his work, “The Mutilation of Mark’s Gospel”, also argues that the ending of Mark is incomplete at verse 8 and he also argues that this is in part due to the presence of “γάρ” which he notes is extremely rare and thus unlikely the author of Mark intended to end the Gospel with such a word.

As for the use of “ἐφοβοῦντο”, Collins and Attridge in their work, “Mark: A Commentary on the Gospel of Mark”, on page 799 states:

Some opponents of the thesis that v. 8* is the original conclusion of the Gospel have argued that the verb “they were afraid” (ἐφοβοῦντο) is incomplete as it stands and must have been followed originally by an object, an infinitive, or a clause introduced with the conjunction μή (“that … [not]” or “lest”). Apart from 16:8*, the verb “to be afraid” (φοβεῖσθαι) occurs eleven times in Mark. It is used with a personal object four times (6:20*; 11:18*, 32*; 12:12*). Once it is used in the phrase ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν (“they were very fearful”; lit. “they feared a great fear”) (4:41*). On one occasion it is used with the infinitive: “they were afraid to ask him” (ἐφοβοῦντο αὐτὸν ἐπερωτῆσαι) (9:32*). This verb is never used with the conjunction μή (“that … [not]” or “lest”) in Mark. It is used five times absolutely, as in 16:8*.

Post Publication Note dated 29.08.18, with a note for Further Reading on 06.09.18.

Angels and the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him)

Question:

Many critics of Islam claim that the way the Angel Gabriel interacted with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not in a way that occurred Biblically. This must mean that the “angel” which approached the Prophet, was not actually an angel but a demon.

Answer:

As always, our initial response to this claim should be that we as Muslims do not accept the Bible as a standard with which to judge the Qur’an. We understand that Christians do this because it is an authority for them, but for us as Muslims, it is not an authority for us and so we do not need to view the Qur’an through Biblical lenses. Perhaps someone might mention the “Ask the People of the Book” verse of the Qur’an, please see the link to it as appended which answers this argument.

As for the claim that no Biblical angel has been violent, Genesis 32 disputes such a notion. We read from the English translation of the Judaica Press, verses 25-31:

And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When he saw that he could not prevail against him, he touched the socket of his hip, and the socket of Jacob’s hip became dislocated as he wrestled with him. And he (the angel) said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking,” but he (Jacob) said, “I will not let you go unless you have blessed me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” and he said, “Jacob.” And he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have commanding power with [an angel of] God and with men, and you have prevailed.” And Jacob asked and said, “Now tell me your name,” and he said, “Why is it that you ask for my name?” And he blessed him there. And Jacob named the place Peniel, for [he said,] “I saw an angel face to face, and my soul was saved.”

We can establish from this text, that an angel physically wrestled with Jacob and dislocated his hip, thus violence was involved. However, some from the Christian faith argue that Jacob actually wrestled with God, however Hosea 12:4 (NIV) clarifies for us with certainty who Jacob wrestled with:

He struggled with the angel and overcame him;
he wept and begged for his favor.

From the first argument, another common claim is that no one has been afraid of an angel of God previously in the Bible, but this is also not the case. At the end of Mark 16, an angel (or angels if you prefer the other Gospels), in the form of a man greets the women who have come to the empty tomb and they leave with fear, see Mark 16:4-8 (NIV):

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

We know that the man (or men if you read the other Gospels) were angels, as John 20:11-12  (NIV) explicitly says so:

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

It should also be noted that when Moses (peace be upon him) was given the ten commandments and had to ascend Mount Sinai (as recorded in the Old Testament), those with him shook with fear due to the horn which was heard, which indicated they were to ascend the mountain. This is recorded in Exodus 19:16 (NIV):

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning. A cloud covered the mountain, and a very loud horn sounded. All the people among the tents shook with fear.

Another common argument that usually follows is that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) should have known from the outset that Gabriel (Jibreel ‘alayhi as salaam) was an angel of God due to his presence alone. The argument here being that when in close physical proximity to a holy individual, one should feel their holy presence. This is not always the case, notably the disciples did not recognize Jesus (peace be upon him) despite being in there presence, see Luke 24:15-18 (NIV):

As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

The same is the case with Mary Magdalene in John 20:11-14 (NIV):

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

It should be noted that she eventually recognized him. Regardless of this, in both examples above and in the example with Jacob, we do not see that they recognized that they were in the presence of angels or of a holy person, therefore the argument that merely being in the presence of angels should indicate who they are is not one from the Biblical tradition. Using these arguments is an indication that a person is not familiar with the Bible and so one should calmly and with sincere intentions, educate them of these things.

and Allah knows best.

The Qur’an on Communication

One of the more fascinating verses of the Qur’an is found in Surah 3, Verse 64:

“Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “O People of the Book! Let us come to common terms…” – translation from The Clear Quran by Dr. Mustafa Khattab.

In this passage, the Qur’an gives us a methodology to employ in da’wah, namely to come to a common agreement, or common terms from which a fruitful relationship can develop between Muslims and non-Muslims. Tafsir Maa’riful Qur’an comments on this passage:

“This verse unfolds an important principle of Tabligh (preaching) and Da’wah (preaching Islam). The principle requires that a person, who desires to carry his call to a group which holds beliefs and ideas different from his own, should follow a particular method. That method is to induce the group to unite only on what they both can agree to…”

This passage effectively harkens back to the very definition of the word “communicate”. To communicate is to literally have something common with other people, to share a common idea, thought or belief. As Prof. Adler would describe it, to communicate is to have a “meeting of the minds”. The Qur’an (and therefore God) is encouraging us to effectively and sincerely communicate with others about Islam.

This takes us to the 3 C’s of communication.

  • Confrontational
  • Conciliatory
  • Concessional

The Qur’an is not calling us to be confrontational (and therefore aggressive), nor is it calling us to be concessional (to give up our beliefs and stances) but to be conciliatory (literally, to form a bridge or to “come together”, again a “meeting of the minds”)

This is why it is important for Muslims to learn how to communicate properly when inviting to Islam, because it is a command from God. We should also then realize that a failure to live up to this standard is to reject a teaching from Allah. So what are some of the criteria for which a Muslim must live up to?

We are called to “avoid false statements” as found in Qur’an 22:30, the Qur’an also states in 49:11 –

“O believers! Do not let some ˹men˺ ridicule others, they may be better than them, nor let ˹some˺ women ridicule other women, they may be better than them. Do not defame one another, nor call each other by offensive nicknames. How evil it is to act rebelliously after having faith! And whoever does not repent, it is they who are the ˹true˺ wrongdoers.”

In conclusion, da’wah is not a game and should we want to effectively call to Islam, then we must obey the Qur’an’s guidance.

and Allah knows best.

1st Century Markan Fragment?

In 2012, during a debate with Dr. Bart Ehrman, Dr. Daniel Wallace proclaimed that there had been a discovery of a 1st century fragment of the Gospel attributed to Mark. Textual critics have been waiting for over 5 years to finally see a 1st century manuscript only to receive some bad news today. As covered on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, if the fragment published about in the The Oxyrhynchus Papyri Vol. LXXXIII, is the one Daniel Wallace claimed was from the 1st century (and this looks increasingly likely) then it should at least be known now that it actually dates from the late second to early third centuries CE:

markdating

The absolute silence from Wallace, Habermas, Evans and others who promoted a 1st century dating is palpable, they all seem to have gone silent with this recent news. Hopefully more information can be made available soon. Thanks to Peter Gurry for the scan of the journal’s page on the dating of the fragment.

and God knows best.

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