Is Jesus God because he was “worshipped”?

To worship or not to worship?

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

    In my numerous exchanges with Trinitarian Christians in discussing Jesus’ alleged divinity one thing that undoubtedly will not be missed is the notion that Jesus is given worship, hence making him God. At a glance the issue seems quite simple, at least to the uninitiated. God is the one who deserves worship and if Jesus is indeed given worship he must be that God. In reality, the issue is not as simple as that. In this article we will explore and dissect the main arguments that are usually propelled by Trinitarians in this regard to promote Jesus’ alleged deity. The following are some of the verses(from the KJV) that are often cited to prove that Jesus deserves our worship and as such is God:

Matthew 11:11

Rivalry between the early followers of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons)

    According to several reputed scholars  there was rivalry between the early followers of John the Baptist and Jesus. Matthew 11:11 is one passage that contains a clue to the tension that existed between the followers of Jesus and John. The verse reads as follows:

“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

After citing the above verse Clarik Williamson states, “We know that the Jesus movement was involved in a strong rivalry with John’s community until late in the first century.” [1] Though the literary evidence isn’t explicit, a close and critical analysis of the relevant texts such as Matthew 11:11 do reveal a tension between John’s community and Jesus’ as Cynthia Bourgeault states, “You have to read beneath the surface to see this of course — but just barely beneath the surface. The gospels all reveal a growing rivalry between the John and Jesus camps…”. [2] Also citing the verse in question is James L. Weaver who mentions the possibility of rivalry between the followers of the two personalities saying, “In the Gospels, we have echoes of possible rivalry between the disciples of John and Jesus(see Matthew 9:14 and 11:11).”[3] According to critical scholars the first part of the verse was probably uttered by Jesus and circulated popularly among both John’s followers and Jesus’. It is the second part of the verse which circumvents the first part which is most probably not from Jesus and is in fact an addition that was inserted later by those who did not like the idea of John being in anyway superior to Jesus. How does the verse put John on a greater pedestal than Jesus? Well, the first part has Jesus saying that “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist”. Jesus must necessarily be included since he too was born of a woman(Mary). That would mean that John in actual fact is greater than Jesus. This bit of information was obviously not palatable to those who saw Jesus as the epitome of perfection and the only sinless man to have ever walked the earth. But what were  they able to do since the saying was already in popular circulation? The clever plan was to add an extra bit to be attached to the existing saying that would usurp the superior position designated to John. Thus we have the part which can be traced back to Jesus, that is, “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” and the section that was added later, that is, “yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Benedict T. Viviano in the New Jerusalem Biblical Commentary states that, “Verse 11b may be an early Christian gloss”[4] However, thinking that they would resolve the issue they actually introduced further problems to it.

To avoid hell avoid women

An examination of Revelation 14:4

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons)

The first Muslim apologist to mention this verse as an argument against Christianity was Shabir Ally in a debate that he had with Sam Shamoun. In the debate the former cited the eminent theologian Prof. William Barclay after Sam Shamoun charged him with misrepresenting the text. Sam Shamoun came back and dismissed William Barclay’s interpretation as erroneous and offered his own instead. Shabir Ally rebutted saying that Sam Shamoun hadn’t read William Barclay and how then could he simply dismiss Barclay’s interpretation as erroneous. Some weeks ago I posed the verse to a Christian who goes by the nick name ‘madmanna’ on Paul William’s blog which prompted a rather interesting discussion between the two of us that later unfortunately turned somewhat stale.

In this article I wish to shed some light on the verse further and show that alternative views abound despite conservative ones that are taken for granted by those like madmanna. The verse in question reads, “It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,”. Echoing conservative interpretation of the text madmanna simply says that the verse is symbolic and metaphorical and should not be taken literally to mean that virgins without any experience in sexual intercourse in or out of wedlock are being spoken of here, but rather those who keep themselves spiritually clean from moral impurity and idolatry. Commentaries that can be cited to support madmanna’s position include Matthew Henry, Adam Clarke, Liberty Bible Commentary and others. Is there a consensus view among Christian scholars that the verse ought to be taken metaphorically or symbolically rather than literally? The answer is of course no. I have mentioned earlier that Shabir Ally cited William Barclay who propounds an interpretation that does not agree with madmanna’s or Shamoun’s stance. Barclay says:

Psalms 22

Is the crucifixion of Jesus predicted in Psalms 22?

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons)

     Most Christians believe that Psalms 22 is a prophesy that was fulfilled by Jesus Christ at Calvary when he was allegedly crucified at the behest of the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. The reason why Christians think that Psalms 22 foretells Jesus’ alleged crucifixion is because their New Testament makes abundant references to it as Daniel Estes says, “Psalm 22 is regarded as a messianic psalm because it is frequently quoted or alluded to in the New Testament narratives of the passion of Christ.”[1] Hence if  a Christian were to be asked why is Psalms 22 taken as a passage that prefigures Jesus Christ the typical answer that will be given is, “because the New Testament says so.” This is an excellent example of the kind of circular reasoning that missionaries and evangelists fall into as they try to prove their version of Jesus. In this article we will analyse some of the those relevant passages often used in missionary circles and see whether the Christian claim holds any water or not.

   Most frequently cited is the first verse which reads in English as, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Psalms 22:1). The relevant New Testament “citations” are Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46. Both places in modern versions of the Bible mention that Jesus cried out at the ninth hour the words, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”. At a simple glance both reports seem to correspond with one another verbatim, however upon further inspection we find that they do not exactly match in the textual witnesses available. In Mark 15:34 the transliteration in Greek variously reads, “ἑλωῒ ἑλωῒ λεμὰ σαβαχθανεί (Eloi eloi lema sabachtanei[Tischendorf]); Ελωι ελωι λαμμᾶ σαβαχθανι(Eloi eloi lamma sabachtani[Textus Receptus]); ελωι ελωι λιμα σαβαχθανι (Eloi eloi lima sabachtani[Byzantine text type]); ἐλωι ἐλωι λαμα σαβαχθανι (Eloi eloi lama sabachtani[Westcott/Hort]). In Matthew 27:46 the transliteration in Greek variously reads, ” ἐλώι ἐλώι λεμὰ σαβαχθανί (Eloi eloi lema saabachtani[Westcott/Hort); ἡλεὶ ἡλεὶ λεμὰ σαβαχθανεί (Elei elei lema sabachtanei [Tischendorf]); Ηλι ηλι λαμὰ σαβαχθανι (Eli eli lama sabachtani[Textus Receptus]); ηλι ηλι λιμα σαβαχθανι (Eli eli lima sabachtani[ Byzantine text type]). In a footnote to Matthew’s Eli, eli lema sabachtani Raymond E. Brown says:

“Variant ms. readings harmonize the form of God’s name in Mark/Matt so that both read Eloi or Eli. Similarly, there are attempts to harmonize the lama and lema difference, and witnesses in the Koine tradition read lima in Mark. The exotic sabachtani is written sabaktanei in Codex Vaticanus of Matt, sabapthanei in Vaticanus of Mark, and sabachtanei in Sinaiticus of Matt, sibakhthanei in Alexandrinus of Mark.”[2]

In the next footnote to the above Brown dismisses the variant Elei in Mark and Matthew as “an unimportant orthographic variant of Eli.” [3] What about Eli and Eloi and the other pervading variances? According to Brown the Eloi of Mark resembles Aramaic whilst the Eli of Matthew resembles Hebrew  and the lama of Mark resembles Hebrew whilst the lema of Matthew resembles Aramaic which has led some scholars to suggest a mixed Hebrew-Aramaic tradition that Brown says is not a necessary conclusion.[4] Brown also mentions that in Codex Washingtonensis of Matthew it reads Eli, eli ma sabachtanei. The following are the Aramaic and Hebrew renditions of Psalms 22:1/2 given by Brown[5]:

Mesoretic text in Hebrew: Eli, Eli, lama azabtani

Aramaic: Elahi, elahi, lema sebaqtani

Codex Bezae: Elei, elei, lama zaphthani

Life after Death: The Islamic Perspective

Life after death: The Islamic perspective

by Ibn Anwar

Death comes to us all. If there is one fact that no human being in human history can deny is that every man since the dawn of creation is absolutely subject to death. The Holy Qur’an emphatically reminds us of this inescapable truth in Surah al-Ankabut(29), verse 57:

كل نفس ذائقة الموت ثم إليناترجعون

“Every soul shall taste death: In the end to Us shall you be brought back.”

*The same reminder is repeated in Surah al-Imran(3), verse 185

No king or pauper can hide from the inevitable clutches of death:

اينماتكونوا يدرككم الموت ولوكنتم فى بروج مشيدة

“Wherever you are, death will come to you, even if you are in towers built up strong and high”(Surah Al-Nisa’(4), verse 78)

The exact time and hour of our demise is Allah’s prerogative as the Qur’an says in Surah al-Imran(3), verse 145:

… وماكان لنفس أن تموت إلا بإذن الله

“Nor can a soul die except by Allah’s permission…”

However, before we die every single one of us experiences life on earth. Life and death come in one package. Because life and death are inseparable opposites like the yin and yang symbol the former has a direct bearing on the latter. In Islamic doctrine the state of death and life after death that every individual will experience is directly affected by his or her way of living (deeds and misdeeds; good and bad choices) whilst on earth. This brings us to the question, “Why do we live?”

In answering this age old question ( i.e. what is the purpose of life?) the Qur’an says in no uncertain terms that we have been made to serve Him.

وما خلقت الجن والْإنس إلَّا ليعبدون

“I have not created the jinn and mankind except to serve Me.” (Al-Dhariyat(51), verse 56)

Serving God entails following His commandments and avoiding His prohibitions, that is, to do good and avoid evil. This life is but a temporary station in which we are to try our level best to generate as much good as possible and shun misdeeds. The Qur’an says:

… الذى خلق الموت والحيوة ليبلوكم أيكم أحسن عملاً

“He who created death and life, that He may try which of you is best in deed…”(Surah Al-Mulk(67), verse 2)

The Prophet s.a.w. is recorded to have said:

كن فى الدنيا كأنك غريب اوعابر سبيل وعد نفسك فى اهل القبور

“Be in this world as though you are a foreigner or passerby on a road and count yourself as a member of the grave.”(Bukhari, Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

Authorship of the Torah

Was it really Moses?

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons)

For centuries it was taken for granted within both conservative and orthodox Christian and Jewish circles that the first five books of the Old Testament were authored by Moses. Today, that attitude and belief has not changed in evangelist and conservative circles. The late evangelist Gleason Archer for example says:

“When all the data of the Pentateuchal text have been carefully considered, and all the evidence, both internal and external, has been fairly weighed, the impression is all but irresistible that Mosaic authorship is the one theory which best accords with the surviving historical data.” [1]

Disagreeing with the above designation Edward P. Blair states, “The Pentateuch nowhere clearly claims that Moses was the author of whole of it.”[2]

It was not until quite recently in history that the predominantly held view among Christian and Jewish scholars for Mosaic authorship of the Torah and the accuracy of details therein was seriously challenged. The German scholar Julius Wellhausen came to the scene in the 19th century(1876) and stirred the hornet’s nest  with his refined and elaborate ‘documentary hypothesis’ in Prolegomena to the history of Israel . Prior to him John Calvin questioned the literal interpretation of the creation story in Genesis:

“John Calvin, the greatest systematic thinker in the Protestant tradition, argued during the sixteenth century that Genesis I did not reflect the facts of physics and astronomy, but described the creation of the earth for the benefit of ancient Hebrew observers who had no understanding of science.” [3]

Torchbearers of knowledge in Islam

Female Scholars in Islam

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons) and al-Jamalullail

The transmission of hadith collections and even the compilation of new ones with very elevated isnads in the post-canonical era was an area in which women could excel. Because they often lived longer than men, women could become the most sought after transmitters of books. Major hadith scholars like al-Khatib al-Baghdadi traveled to Mecca to read Sahih al-Bukhari in the presence of Karima al-Marwaziyya (d. 463/1071, who had an especially elevated elevated isnad in the book, and Fatima al-Juzdaniyya was the main transmitter of al-Tabarani’s works. Until her death in 2008, Muslims students flocked to a small village in Yemen’s Hadramawt Valley to receive a hadith ijaza from the 105-year-old woman Safiyya al-‘Amdiyya.

Independent collections of hadiths by women were very rare; in the early period of hadith they were non-existent. But we know of at least two selections of hadiths from the post-canonical period compiled by women. A twelfth-century woman named Shuhda al-Katiba (d. 574/1178-9) put together a list of 115 hadiths that she picked from books she had been authorised to transmit, often with shorter isnads than the hadiths in the actual books themselves. The Musnad of Amat Allah Miryam al-Hanbaliyya of Nablus (d. 758/1357) has also survived until today.

(Jonathan A.C. Brown. Assistant Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle) [1]

In the time of the companions the beloved wife of the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., Aishah r.a. soared prominently over both women and men as Cambridge scholar Timothy J. Winter(now Sheikh Dr. Abdul Hakim Murad) and John A. Williams of College of William and Mary cites a Sunni source that says, “‘A’isha was, of all the people, the one who had the most knowledge of law, the one who was most educated, and compared to those who surrounded her, the one whose judgment was the best.'” [2] Both men and women are obligated to search for and acquire knowledge as the hadith of the Prophet s.a.w. says:

في مسند أبي يعلى الموصلي عن أنس عن النبي (ص) :  طلب العلم فريضة على كل مسلم

 وهذا الحديث وإن لم يكن ثابتاً فمعناه صحيح  

“In the Musnad of Abu Ya’la al-Mawsuli, from anas who relates that the prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.”

The meaning of this hadith, though the hadith itself is not well authenticated, is true.” [3]

Hence it is no surprise that many of the greatest minds in Muslim history were women. Winter and Williams make mention of Bint al-Kamal who lectured in Damascus to several leading scholars including the celebrated Muslim jurist/scholar and traveller Ibn Batuta whose journeys spanned more than 75, 000 miles (unsurpassed by any other until 450 years later in the Steam Age). Other reknown female scholars mentioned by Winter and Williams include Karima al-Marwaziyya (who was one of the most famous scholars during her time), Fatima bint al-Hasan, Shuhda the Scribe, Ajiba bint Abi Bakr (Bint al-Kamal’s teacher) and Umm hani who in Winter and Williams’ words “mastered all the great academic disciplines of her time including theology, law, history and grammar, before taking up senior lectuering positions in many of the great academies of Cairo.”[4]

One of the great scholars in the Shafi’i madhhab or school of thought is Imam Al-Suyuti who is described as “…one of the Friends of God and His Signs to creation, the Mujtahid Imam and Renewer of the ninth Islamic century, foremost hadith master, jurist, Sufi, philologist, Ash’ari theologian, and historian, he authored works in virtually every Islamic science.” [5] Among his numerous teachers and instructors were over thirty female scholars. [6]

The following is a rather long, yet non-exhaustive list of more than 259 Muslim female scholars excluding those from among the Prophet’s companions and their successors taken from the Oxford scholar Mohammad Akram Nadwi’s preface to his magnum opus Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam [7] *: