From (Bob Kirk)
Newsgroups: soc.religion.islam
Subject: Re: The Christianity of the Qur'an
Date: Thu Dec 12 16:25:29 EST 1996
Organization: Lambton College, Sarnia, CANADA
Message-Id: <58pt89$>

The Christianity of the Qur'an Uncovered - Part 2

This article continues the examination of the influence of various
syncretized belief systems on the author of the Qur'an and hence the
Christianity of the Qur'an. It has already been shown that Muhammed was
likely aware, but not intimately familiar with the Manichaean-Gnostic
ideas of the nature of the person of Christ, the prophets, and the Holy
Spirit, and also the Syrian presentation of the Gospel by various
missionary presences in that area.

There is no lack of proof to support the idea that a real connection 
existed between early Islam and these Gnostic sects. The followers of
Muhammed were frequently (and precisely in the traditions of the prophet's
war-like expeditions, or 'razia') called Sabians by his opponents, a word
which was the true common name for one of the Gnostic groups here
mentioned. This title can not have come from the Qur'an. The only
occasions that the Sabians are mentioned in the Qur'an, are as a
particular community distinct and different from the Christians, Jews and
'believers', or Muslims. It is highly unlikely then that this name would
have been applied by critics/opponents to the earliest Muslims as a
nick-name, having no foundation, and being a clearly distinct proper noun
from the pages of their (yet uncompiled) Qur'an. It is clear then that
the life (and teachings) of Muhammed had a certain relationship with
these Sabians.

The usage of a particular religious term - hanif - which was particularly 
employed by Muhammed in Medina, and in the later years at Mecca, points to
more evidence in the same direction. In the Meccan suras the words denotes
a 'monotheist', and is used to distinguish against the idol worshippers
(ie 98:4, 22:32, 10:15 etc). In sura 30:29, it is mentioned that the
natural religion points to belief in a single God, and this corresponds to 
the nature and disposition of mankind. 'So direct thy countenance to 
religion as a hanif, in accordance with those God-given predispositions 
which He has given man. Allah's creation can not be altered. This is the
true religion.' During the later period in Mecca, and above all, in
Medina, the word 'hanif' is usually employed in reference to Abraham,
where the Qur'ans author emphasizes the point that, 'Abraham was neither a
Jew nor a Christian, but a 'Hanif', a Muslim, one who did not belong to
the idol-worshippers.'(sura 3:60, 2:129).
Since Abraham is thus represented as a 'Hanif', but was neither a Jew nor
Christian, Muhammed must have viewed him (as he did not have the Torah 
nor Gospel) as a man who had followed the above mentioned God-given 
disposition, and had cut himself free of the worship of idols. The Christians
and Jews therefore, had no right to claim Abraham as their own, as he acted 
according to natural instinct, requiring neither the Torah nor Gospel to 
submit himself truly to God.
'Hanif' thus means for Muhammed, as indicated (in the majority of uses) 
one who is not of the idol-worshippers, yet is neither a Jew nor Christian,
attaching themself to one of these religious communities. The Arabic word
likely comes from the Syriac word 'hanpa' meaning heathen. On first glance
this seems to contradict, not confirm the statement on origin. How does
this word mean 'monotheist' when it first meant 'heathen'?
The Syrian Bible uses the word 'hanpa' for heathen in general, and in
ecclesiastical language for Greek heathenism in particular. The Christian
Syrians did not use 'hanpa' for heretics in general, but only for those
whose standpoint approximated some of the positions in Greek heathenism,
that they could be considered apostates from the Syrian church, and
Christian religion. Thus Mani's teachings, were plainly called 'hanputa',
heathanism. The Sabians were first called 'heathen' in works written after
the Arabic conquest, but evidence suggests that they were known by this
term at a much earlier date.
If Manichaeans and Sabians were therefore directly called 'hanpe', 
heathens, one can see how gradually in Arabic this term could come to mean
a monotheist who is neither a Jew nor a Christian. Muhammed however, seems
to understand the word 'hanif' to mean a man who seems to have come to the
understanding (through God given predisposition) of the existence of only
one God, and a faith (monotheistic religion) delivered to all peoples at
different times, through different prophets) yet who has not attached
themselves to any of the rites or laws of the Jewish or Christian 
This can hardly be disputed. Even the recognized Arabic scholar, N.J. 
Dawood, born in Baghdad, and a master of the Arabic tongue (as evidenced
in his translation of the Qur'an, and Tales from the Thousand and One
Nights) in his introduction to 'The Koran' writes, 'Impressed by Jewish
and Christian monotheism, a number of theists, or spiritual funda-
mentalists, known as hanifs had already rejected idolatry for an ascetic 
religion of their own (perhaps Manichaeaism, my comment?). Muhammed
appears to have been influenced by them.'(1)
Thus, the leading thought of the Manichaean movement had detached itself
from the sect which carried it, and as so many scientific and philosophic
ideas before and since, lost the indications of its origin as it was
syncretized into the new Islamic movement.

1. Dawood, N.J., The Koran pp 1,2.

Part 3
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