Questions About Islam, Part I

“Hi Dr. Kaplan.  I hope you don’t mind that we’ve brought another student with us today,” said Matt.

“Of course I don’t mind.  In fact I know Hassan Taqizadeh. Glad to have you with us Hassan!  How is your father?  Is he still doing cardiac surgery?” said Ben.

“Yes he is sir.  He is well and sends his regards,” said Hassan.

“Dr. Kaplan, Hassan has some real concerns about the Islamic faith.  Could we talk about that today?” said Josh.

“Sure we can.  I’ve just finished reading the Quran for the first time and I’d love to talk about Islam,” said Ben.  “Hassan, is there a particular question that you have?”

“Yes, there is.  My greatest concern is how I can get to heaven after I die.  I’m not sure that I can accept what Allah says in the Quran about that,” said Hassan.

“My understanding is that the Quran teaches that a Muslim can get to heaven if his good deeds outweigh his bad deeds in Allah’s judgment.  Because a believer can’t know this before judgment day he lives with uncertainty all his life as to where he will spend eternity, whether in heaven or in hell.  This was true even for Muhammad.  But there is another way according to the Quran.  And that way allows the believer to know that he is going to heaven.  That way is to die fighting for Islam.  Is that what’s bothering you Hassan?” said Ben.

“Yes, Dr. Kaplan.  Can I read you 3 Quranic verses that speak to this?  I’m reading from surah 47:4-6,” said Hassan.

“[47:4]  If you encounter (in war) those who disbelieve, you may strike the necks. If you take them as captives you may set them free or ransom them, until the war ends. Had GOD willed, He could have granted you victory, without war. But He thus tests you by one another. As for those who get killed in the cause of GOD, He will never put their sacrifice to waste.

[47:5]  He will guide them, and bless them with contentment.

[47:6]  He will admit them into Paradise, that He described to them.”

 “Dr. Kaplan, can you understand why this upsets me?  According to the Quran the only sure way to be admitted into Paradise, heaven, is to die in the cause of God in a war against non-Muslims; Allah could have granted victory without war but he chose not to.  He uses war to test Muslims.  So if as I’m striking the neck of my enemy someone kills me my reward is guaranteed.  I will spend eternity in Paradise. It seems to me that these verses encourage war and killing by Muslims.  Would a religion of peace have such a teaching?” said Hassan.

“Hassan, I can understand why this upsets you.  I think there are a couple of issues that we need to address here.  One of them involves how the Quran is interpreted.  The second involves whether most Muslims know what the Quran actually says,” said Ben.

Josh spoke.  “The Quranic verses above seem very clear.  Isn’t there only one way to interpret them Dr. Kaplan?”

“I wouldn’t say that Josh.  Hassan, can you tell us what the doctrine of abrogation is?” asked Ben.

“Sure, Dr. Kaplan.  I’m going to read a verse from surah 2 and a verse from surah 9.  There are 114 surahs or chapters in the Quran.”

“2.256 Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.”

“9.29 Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

“Do you see how these 2 verses contradict each other?  The first verse says that nobody should be forced to convert to Islam.  The truth of Islam will make itself known.  This verse is compatible with a religion of peace.  The second verse says to fight those who do not believe in Allah, until they pay a tax, the Jizya, and are subdued.  So an imam who wants people to believe that Islam is a religion of peace may quote the first verse and then quote the second verse to promote jihad when speaking to a different group of people.  If someone asks ‘What about the first verse?’ the imam can say that it has been nullified by the second verse.  This doctrine of abrogation, also called nasikh,  can be used to deceive people and promote Jihad,” said Hassan.

“Wouldn’t a Muslim who studies his Quran see the contradiction here and wonder about it?” said Matt.

“Possibly,” said Hassan.  “But many Muslims don’t read the Quran and have no idea what is in it.  And the Quran itself has a few verses that even seem to endorse this doctrine of abrogation.  Let me read one of them.”

“2.106 None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?”

“So surah 2.106 can be used to justify verses that contradict each other, such as one verse proclaiming freedom of religion and another commanding that all unbelievers be subdued or pay a tax or worse,” said Hassan.  “Dr. Kaplan, do you think that a book with contradictions like these and additional text which even justifies these contradictions can be divinely inspired?”

“I don’t think so Hassan.  A God who transcends the universe and who is beyond time and who is all knowing could not contradict Himself.  And that is what Allah is doing in his Quran.  So the question is did the Quran come from God  or did it come from somewhere else?  Our God does not contradict Himself,” said Ben.

“That was what I was afraid you would say Dr. Kaplan.  I’m afraid that Allah is not God.  But the cost to me of denying Allah, of leaving Islam, could be huge.  I could even be killed,” said Hassan.  “But regardless of that I must know the truth.”

“Dr. Kaplan, couldn’t Islam be reformed?  Wouldn’t it be okay then?  I seem to hear increasing calls for  Islam to be reformed, on various news programs,” said Josh.

“The problem with that Josh is that the Quran would need to be rewritten to eliminate contradictions such as the one we’ve been discussing today.  If that were to happen then Islam would no longer be Islam.  Can you imagine an imam or mullah preaching to his people about the Quran being in error?  He’d be better off urging his people to change their religion.  And of course that is exactly what I pray for, that Muslims would become followers of Jesus, the Son of God.

“Jesus is the only way.  Let me quote a verse from the gospel of John.  Jesus is talking to his disciples,” said Ben.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 3:16, ESV)

“But Dr. Kaplan, isn’t that awfully arrogant?” asked Hassan.

“No Hassan.  It’s not arrogant because Jesus is God, and God is not arrogant.  It is exclusionary and it is meant to be.  Yet every person is welcome to come to Jesus.  God desires this,” said Ben.

“But how can a religion be exclusionary and at the same time welcome everyone?” asked Hassan.

“Hassan, God transcends the universe, is beyond time, and is all knowing.  He is also all powerful and He is good.  Such a God has provided a way of salvation for all people and this way is perfect.  That’s why it’s the only way.  That’s why it’s exclusionary.

“Everyone is welcome because God loves everyone and does not want anyone to perish,” said Ben.

“You said Jesus is God.  Jesus is in the Quran as a prophet but not God. Tell us how you know that Jesus is God, Dr. Kaplan,” said Hassan.

“Let me read you a passage from the Gospel of Matthew which is in the New Testament,” said Ben.

“And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.” Matthew 9:1-7 (ESV)

“Hassan, in this passage Jesus is explaining to his audience that what he just did proved that he is God.  I think this proof is pretty convincing,” said Ben.

“Hi, Dr. Kaplan.  I have a question too.  Remember me?” said Sarah with a chuckle.  “I’m your Jewish medical student who believes in Jesus.”

“I’m sorry, Sarah.  I didn’t see you back there in the corner.

“And Sarah, I remember that you raised a question last time that still needs to be answered,” said Ben.

“Yes, Dr. Kaplan.  It’s this: Why do Islamic nations nearly always hate the Jewish people and Israel?” asked Sarah.

“I’m going to give you the short answer today.  Islam is a false religion, inspired by Satan, who hates people and does not want people to love the true God of the Universe.  For that reason, Islam has Jew hatred as one of it’s core principles.  Satan wants to use followers of Islam, Muslims, to annihilate the Jewish people and Israel,” said Ben.

“Wow!” exclaimed Sarah.  “Can you explain that in more detail, Dr. Kaplan?” said Sarah.

“Yes.  Let’s plan to cover that at our next session,” said Ben.

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