From email@example.com (Bob Kirk) Newsgroups: soc.religion.islam Subject: Re: The Christianity of the Qur'an Date: Thu Dec 12 16:25:25 EST 1996 Organization: Lambton College, Sarnia, CANADA Message-Id: <firstname.lastname@example.org> The Christianity of the Qur'an Uncovered - Part 3 There can be no denying the influence the Manichaean doctrines of Christ, and revelation had on Muhammed and his message in the Qur'an. However, as explained already, this relationship does not explain the entirety of the Christianity of the Qur'an. So far in the article, the Christian Church of Syria has occasionally been mentioned. On examination of this Church, and it historicity and doctrines, one can see clearly an explanation for the remainder of the Qur'ans ideas on the Christian faith. These are great, uncoincidental similarities which bear and follow an uncanny continuity throughout both the Qur'an, and Syrian religious thought of the time. The fear of judgement, the great reckoning, indeed the entire eschatological motive in general runs parallel through the book of Islam and Syrian Christianity of that time. Both hold these as the dominant motive for good works. For instance, Muhammed ceaslessly relates how Allah's punishments, thunderbolts, earthquakes, hurricanes would fall on those who are hard hearted and unmerciful, doing evil to others, and who do not submit to Allah. Examine the following: 'And in the hundreth year of Nahor, when God saw that men sacrificed their children to demons and worshipped idols, God opened the storehouses of the wind and the gate of the storm, and a blast of wind rushed over the whole land. It cast down the statues and the altars of the demons, brake together the idols and the altars of sacrifice, and heaped upon them great hills which remain to this day.(1) Compare with suras 41:15, 17:70, 29:39, 68:17ff, 2:268 etc. But the similarity between Syrian Christianity and the religion of Muhammed does not only agree in the general content of ideas, or expression, form and style of preaching, but in specific critical issues which show these aspects of Islam's Qur'an to be derived from Syrian Christianity. This third section of the article will attempt to present conclusive evidence which shows that Muhammed did not receive any of the Qur'ans ideas about Christ, or Christianity from God, but from a vague, non-intimate relationship with these Christians in the same region. Visions of Paradise. In the connection of study of the stylistic form of various passages from the Qur'an, it is noteworthy to examine perhaps the greatest preacher of the Syrian Church, Afrem (Ephraim the Syrian). Held in the highest esteem by both Monophysites and Nestorian Christians, Afrem discussed no subjects as partially and personally as those with eschatological themes, such as death, the judgement, and eternal rewards. There are many points of similarity between his sermons on these subjects, and in the like-minded sections of the Qur'an. From Afrems 'Hymns of Paradise' there can be no doubt about the relativity of these words on Paradise: 'I saw the dwelling-places of the just, and they themselves, dripping with ointments, giving forth pleasant odours, wreathed in flowers and decked with fruits...When they lie at the table the trees offer their shade in the clean air...soft winds stand before the blessed, ready to do their will. One of them wafts appeasement, another causes drinks to flow...In Paradise the winds give nourishment in a spiritual fashion to spiritual beings. It is a feast without effort, and the hands do not become tired.' Later, we also see a subtle reference to the virgins of paradise, in a reference to wine and the rewards for abstinance from it on earth: 'Whoever has abstained from wine on earth, for him do the vines of paradise yearn. Each one of them holds out to him a bunch of grapes. And if a man lived in chastity, they (feminine) receive him in a pure bosom and bed of earthly love.'(2) Compare these spiritualizations of sensual images to sura 37:45ff, 'But the true servants of God shall be well provided for, feasting on fruit, and honoured in the gardens of delight. Reclining face to face upon soft couches, they shall be served with a goblet filled at a gushing fountain, white, and delicious to those who drink it. It will neither dull their senses nor befuddle them. They shall sit with bashful, dark-eyed virgins, as chaste as the sheltered eggs of ostriches.' And, sura 76:15 'Trees will spread their shade around them, and fruits will hang in clusters over them.' Devotions. The Qur'ans instruction on devotional requirements/exercises is also strongly similar to those performed by Syrian monks and hermits (and to an extent also those of their Christian laymen) as expressions of their piety. For instance, night vigils, consisting of prayer recitation, were foremost among the monks, who would exercise their spirits by reciting the Psalms well into the night. The Qur'an, in sura 73:20 records that believers keep the vigil a third, or a half or two thirds of the night. This is striking to a Syrians (Pachomius) command to his disciples that they watch for half the night.(3) Similarly, another (Macarius) instructs that, 'half the night will be sufficient for your devotions. The other half is for the rest of your body.'(4) This nightly worship was composed of periods of recitation, coupled with bodily prostrations. It was often said that the most pious could be identified by their foreheads, bearing marks of continual prostration.(5) The Qur'an in sura 48:29 reads of believers, 'Their marks are on their faces, the traces of their prostrations.' These evidences strongly suggest a Syrian influence on Muhammed's knowledge of Christianity, which was tempered by Manicahean ideas on Christ himself, and revelation in general. But how did this come about? The Soul. First, let us examine the Qur'ans doctrine of the soul, namely that it sinks into complete unconsciousness after death, so that the day of Judgement 'comes' immediately after death. Though the idea has merit in its own right, at the time of the Qur'ans recitation, the idea only existed in the (Syrian) Nestorian Church in Persia. Previously, the Syrian church father Aphraates believed and tought that the soul existed in a deep state of sleep between death and the judgement.(6) But about 580 CE, that is, about 30 years before Muhammed appeared as a prophet, a man known as Babai the Great, one of the most prominent theologins of the Nestorian Church, had again advanced Aphraates theory that the soul could not function without the body (as the Biblical book of James clearly states some 500 years previous). Babai forwarded strongly the idea that the soul, though existing apart from the body was not a complete entity, and lacked knowledge and memory. In other words, the dead were unable to perceive the passage of time, as they were not possessive of cognizance until the Lord provided life to them again. Besides quoting scriptural passages to prove this theory (ie Genesis, James etc.) Babai cited the legend of _The Seven Sleepers_.(7) Of course, the story of the Fellows of the Cave (The Sleepers) appears in sura 18 of the Qur'an. This idea on the soul was not what was considered by 'mainstream' Christianity as a heretical innovation of the Nestorian Church, but was generally regarded as a current issue by them peculiarly and pressed to the forefront at the time. Babai was for a long period of time the actual leader of the Church, and his doctrine dominated the discussions of the Nestorians for centuries, even through the tenth century CE. Additionally, it is not until one of the latest Meccan suras that Jesus, or Isa (as he is known in the Qur'an) is mentioned. This name is apparently derived from the name Ischo, which was also prevalent in use in the Nestorian church. The Christian Arabs on the border of Mesopotamia, in Hira (with whom the Meccans were in especially vital contact) belonged to the Nestorian Church. I believe that this along with further evidences proves that Muhammed was influenced and received impressions which not only explain the similar reflections of Christ and Christianity in the Qur'an, but the entirety of his religious message. Though this relation explains a number of issues in Qur'anic Christianity, it by no means solves them all. Muhammed's relation to Oriental Christianity can be easily seen and traced (it can not be accidental, nor could it legitimately be from God, as the Nestorian Church was heretical to true Biblical Christianity). However, there is a definite level of unfamiliarity with which the author of the Qur'an relates the Christian belief to its listeners/readers, in spite of this clear relationship. For instance, as to the place of the person of Jesus in Christianity, it appears initially that the author only knew that Jesus was regarded by Christians as the Son of God. Also, he confused Mary the mother of Jesus with Miriam, Aaron's sister, and thus at first Jesus can be regarded as an Old Testament prophet. For instance, in sura 7:157 after Moses addresses God, we read, (god speaking to Moses and the Israelites) '... to those that shall follow the Apostle -the Unlettered Prophet- whom they shall find described in the Torah and the Gospel.' How is it that God refers to these Israelites in the desert the Gospel, which the Qur'an states elsewhere was given to Jesus? Also, the author seems to be completely ignorant of the Christian Sacraments, or religious festivals and ecclesiastical heirarchy. It hardly seems likely that the author would neglect to mention such things. However it seems that when the author did learn something new about the main doctrine of the Christian faith, namely the divinity of Jesus (possibly through Arab contacts with Christian Abyssinia), he vigorously attacked it as polytheism. Because of the continual incorrectness of the conceptualization of the Trinity in the Qur'an (ie sura 5:116 'Then God will say: "Jesus, son of Mary, did you ever say to mankind: 'Worship me and my mother as gods besides god'"') we must conclude that the information the author did obtain, was of the nature of being incomplete due to either an impersonal relationship with those who knew about and held the Christian faith, or a relationship (possibly close) with one who only had marginal information about Christianity (ie from persons whose religious knowledge was extremely incomplete). It is interesting here to make note that the syncretized doctrines of the Persians and Judaeo-Christians concerning the Holy Spirit as the mother of Jesus, were part of the Manicahaean doctrines. (Finally an explanation for this incorrect statement in the Qur'an which God should have known, had He written it?) On the other hand, the author was aquainted with the previously mentioned doctrines of judgement, good works, and retribution, as he reproduced in detail the interpretations of these doctrines which prevailed in the Oriental churches of the area at that time. At times, the author even employs a style and expressions which have clear Christian origins. I can find only one conclusion for why this general familiarity with specifics, and specific familiarity with generalities is apparent in the Qur'an. At one time it would seem, Muhammed must have heard and passionately listened to a Christian missionary sermon. This may at first seem as pure conjecture, but consider the following; The Qur'ans revelations often follow a fixed rhetorical scheme, with the following outline: 1. A description of the blessings of God as revealed in His providence, especially in the wonderful creation of man, and the life giving rain which brings about productive growth for the nourishment of man. 2. The duty of man, therefore, to serve God alone in faith and good works. 3. The judgement and retribution which shall come upon all who do not fulfill this duty.(8) Even since the days of the early Christian Church, this has been the prevailing style of Christian missionary preaching. We know that no Oriental church had as active a missionary program as that of the Nestorian Church, who established churches in Central Asia, India, and China. I believe that is is warranted to suggest that Nestorian monks from Mesopotamia or from Nejran (Persian conquered Yemen, 597 CE) may have in their travels visited Hejaz, with whom Christian Arabs maintained contact. As a matter of fact, tradition tells of a Christian preacher named Kuss ibn Sa'id who is said to have been Bishop of Nejran, but belonged to a tribe living in Hira in Mesopotamia, whom Muhammed is supposed to have heard preaching in the market at Okatz. (9)(10) Various opponents did not hesitate to accuse Muhammed of his 'revelations' being fraudulous, and coming from external sources. Sura 25:5,6, 'And the infidels say, "This Koran is a mere fraud of his own devising, and others have helped him with it"...And they say, "Tales of the ancients that he hath put in writing" At times, the accusations even seemed to indicate a specific individual, who had a poor command of Arabic. Sura 16:105, 'We know also that they say, "Surely a certain person teacheth him." But the tongue of him at whom they hint is foreign, while this Koran is in plain Arabic.' The scholar Henry Lammans has proved that there indeed were several Christians in Mecca, among whom were labourers from Syria. Is it a stretch to imagine that these 'common' men could not have elaborated much on what Muhammed had heard? Not intimately aquainted with the faith (laymen) they could only elaborate to the extent that they were educated, which for labourers may not have been much at all. In conclusion then, I believe that it can be faithfully and truthfully said that the Christianity of the Qur'an is clearly traceable in origin to the Manichaean/Gnostic ideas of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and revelation, and also to the Syrian (Nestorian) faith in general. If God had actually written what appears in the Qur'an concerning the Christian faith, it would not have included these traceable human originated ideas which were not and are not held by the vast majority of Christians in 650CE through the present. Further, the Qur'an does not simply accept these ideas across the board, but selectively accepts/rejects those ideas which disagree with its position. For instance, the Manichaean idea of Christ not sufferring on the cross (but another died in his place) was adopted. But the other half of the doctrine, the reason for that idea (that same Christ was one with the Divine, and the Son of God) if it was known, was adamantly rejected. Had God been 'guiding' those who formed these doctrines, He would not have guided them to produce partially correct/partially incorrect doctrines. He would have led them away from all false doctrine, as he did those in the time of Abraham. Their beliefs in other gods were removed by the Lord, through His direct and effective revelation of the truth, and the truth alone. God had worked via the process of revelation to the prophets since Adam (Muhammed believed in the same method), so why would He here use human guided, human driven syncretization, and often for the purposes of appeasing the masses by relaxing the stringencies of their faith? This is diametrically opposed to God's efforts as revealed to man since Adam. This will likely be my last contribution to this group for the forseable future. I am being called to direct my efforts elsewhere. I would like to thank Tor Andrae, author of the book 'Muhammed: The Man and His Faith' in his posthumous aid for this article. I would also like to thank those with whom I have discussed, debated, and even argued here, as we all search to grow closer to God, and do His will in our lives. John 14:6 'Jesus said to him, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.'(RSV) Amen. Peace in Christ, Bob Kirk -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Bezold, Die Schatzhole (Syriac und Deutsch), pp 132,134. 2. Migne, P. G., Apophthegmata syriaca., iii, pp 563ff. 3. Vie de Pachome, Annales du Musee Guimet, xvii, p 347. 4. Vertus de St. Macaire, ibid, xxv, p 167. 5. John of Ephesus, Patr. Orient., xvii, p 40. comp Al-nasranijja, p 178. 6. Aphraates (Bert), p 141. 7. Braun, O., Moses bar Kepha, p 145, (also the subject of a recent article appearing on this group by me). 8. Andrae, T., Muhammed: The Man and His Faith, p 126. 9. Ibid p 126. 10. Kitab al-aghani, xiv, pp 41ff; Abu Nu'aim, Dala'il al-nubuwwa, Hyderabad, 1320, p 28f.
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