Mr. Meherally desperately attempts to save the Qur'an from this obvious error. As usual, he gives us an eloquent essay, however, I think that he raises some issues that undermines the conclusion that he desires - that the Qur'an is the true Word of God.
An all-knowing God would be aware of the definition of the Trinity and would know that Christians DO NOT, and DID NOT, consider Mary equal to God or to Jesus Christ. Even Muhammad, if he did his homework, would be aware of the definition of the Trinity since the Council of Nicea (which Muslims incorrectly believe invented the concept) was held three centuries before his birth. Since an all-knowing God would not make such an error, how did Muhammad come to the incorrect conclusion concerning Christian beliefs in Mary?
Mr. Meherally gives us a catalog of various Roman Catholic beliefs and practices concerning Mary. I am not a Roman Catholic and I do not agree with many of the Catholic Church's teachings concerning Mary. However, the Roman Catholic Church DOES NOT consider, and has NEVER considered, Mary equal to God. In fact, many of the Catholic beliefs that Mr. Meherally cites came about during, and after, the Crusades - centuries after Muhammad's death! For example, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (that she was sinless) became official in 1854; the teaching of the Assumption of Mary in 1950; and, Mary was Proclaimed the Mother of the Church in 1965.
The majority of non-Catholic Christians in Arabia during the 6th century A.D. were Nestorians who, along with most other sects, also explicitly denied that Mary was divine. The Nestorians denied Mary even the title of "God-bearer" (Greek: theotokos) based on the teachings and philosophy of Patriarch Nestorius (of Constantinople). However, there may have been a small heretical community in Arabia that worshiped Mary, but they would have been a very tiny minority and DID NOT represent the majority Christian opinion - something that an all-knowing God would have known.
This gives us two possible explanations for this erroneous verse. First, Muhammad could have been in error concerning Christian beliefs because he accepted the beliefs of a small heretical group as representing the orthodox beliefs of Christianity. The second possibility is that, by claiming that Christians worshiped Mary as equal to God, Muhammad was setting up a "straw man" argument (an argument that is so obviously false that it is very easy to defeat) against the Trinitarian beliefs of orthodox Christians.
I find it very interesting that Mr. Meherally criticizes our Catholic brothers and sisters for venerating statues of "molten images" while he probably prostrates himself five times a day facing a black stone in Mecca! I also need to remind Mr. Meherally that when Muhammad attacked Mecca, he entered the Ka'aba and destroyed all images but he seemingly hesitated to destroy the images of Jesus, Mary and Abraham (see these quotations) that were possibly Christian icons. But Muhammad had commanded all his followers to prostrate towards the Ka'aba while in Medina and while it was still full of pagan idols.
Under the heading "answering-islam" and the subheading; Responses to Akbarally Meherally's site, Section B Part 6, the Christian critic who declares he is not a Roman Catholic and admits he does not agree with many of the Catholic Church's teachings concerning Mary fails to mention what are these "teachings".
First of all, please call me Andrew and also link to this site so that your readers can follow our discussion. Second, I am not a Roman Catholic, I am an Evangelical Christian, which means that I do not make any claims for Mary except those that she, and the Bible, make.
"I find it very interesting that Mr. Meherally criticizes our Catholic brothers and sisters for venerating statues of 'molten images' while he probably prostrates himself five times a day facing a black stone in Mecca!"
Clarification: The Almighty Allah has Commanded Muslims, through the Revealed verses of the Holy Qur'an, to face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque (which is in Mekkah), while praying. (2:149/150). If Allah had in His Infinite Wisdom Commanded Muslims to face in the direction of The Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza instead, Muslims would have done so without questioning. Submitting willingly with full faith and humility to the Will of Allah at all times is the Heart and Soul of Islam. However, Muslims do face the direction of Sacred Mosque while praying but they prostrate to no one but Allah Alone, in their prayers.
Are you sure that these instructions are from God? My problem with this answer is that it appears that God (who knows all things and is eternal) was confused as to which direction we should pray. The Qibla (the direction that Muslims face when in prayer) was originally towards Jerusalem - the same direction in which the Jews of Arabia faced in prayer [Bukhari 1.392]. When Muhammad failed to attract many Jewish followers, he switched the Qibla from Jerusalem to Mecca.
Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 8, Number 392:
Allah's Apostle prayed facing Baitul-Maqdis for sixteen or seventeen months but he loved to face the Ka'ba (at Mecca) so Allah revealed: "Verily, We have seen the turning of your face to the heaven!" (2:144) So the Prophet faced the Ka'ba and the fools amongst the people namely "the Jews" said, "What has turned them from their Qibla (Bait-ul-Maqdis) which they formerly observed"" (Allah revealed): "Say: 'To Allah belongs the East and the West. He guides whom he will to a straight path'." (2:142) A man prayed with the Prophet (facing the Ka'ba) and went out. He saw some of the Ansar praying the 'Asr prayer with their faces towards Bait-ul-Maqdis, he said, "I bear witness that I prayed with Allah's Apostle facing the Ka'ba." So all the people turned their faces towards the Ka'ba.
Apparently, Muhammad believed that God wanted him to pray facing Jerusalem and he did so for nearly 18 months - at least while he thought the he could convert the Jews to his religion. However, Muhammad preferred to pray towards the Ka'ba in Mecca which, during this point in time, contained 360 idols. We are supposed to believe that God told Muhammad:
"We have seen the turning of thy face to heaven (for guidance, O Muhammad). And now verily We shall make thee turn (in prayer) toward a qiblah which is dear to thee. So turn thy face toward the Inviolable Place of Worship, and ye (O Muslims), wheresoever ye may be, turn your faces (when ye pray) toward it. Lo! Those who have received the Scripture know that (this revelation) is the Truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do." (Sura 2:144)
This tradition and ayah raise some very serious problems:
1. Why would an eternal God change His mind? Did He do this to please Muhammad? Why would almighty God seek to please one man?
2. Why would God want Muhammad to bow towards the Ka'ba while it was filled with 360 Pagan idols?
3. If God wanted mankind to pray facing Mecca, what prevented Him from revealing this wish to the many Prophets of the Old Testament, or to Jesus? Can you imagine Moses, Daniel, or Jesus bowing to a black stone? I cannot.
4. If Sura 2:142 is correct:
"The fools among the people will say: What has turned them from their qiblah which they had? Say: The East and the West belong only to Allah; He guides whom He likes to the right path."
Does the direction which we face when we pray really make any difference?
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