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Friday, November 28, 2014
Whose god is it anyway?
I see several arguments that Allah is not the same god as the God of the Christian Bible and/or Hebrew Bible. Over the last couple days I ran across one Iraqi, IQ al-Rassooli, and his interview with the Glazov Gang. I'll be pointing to timestamps on Youtube as I go along.
Rassooli is, like me, an unaccredited scholar with a selfpublished book - in his case, Lifting the Veil. Unfortunately it's done by AuthorHouse, which is a scam. He'd have done better with CreateSpace. It seems that Rassooli started shopping his book in November 2000 when authors' solutions (so to speak) were more limited. But we'll leave that aside...
I always did find this line of argument to be semantic at best and No True Scotsman at worst. (UPDATE: I'll get to this in the sequel; don't hit that link just yet though.) But Rassooli is doing better than most - despite some missteps along the way. I am going to interpret his assertion thusly: given as expansive a view of Jesus's life and teachings as a Christian may reasonably hold - can Islam belong to that stream of tradition, or is it asking for a rewrite?
Rassooli starts by raising questions about the means of communication. Around the 5-6th minute he's arguing that nobody saw Muhammad and Gabriel converse. This is true; all the Prophet's companions saw was an epileptic fit. Such was noted by Christian antagonists from - possibly - the time of Trajan the Patrician as of 100 / 720 (now quoted in Theophanes). So the Prophet and his set of suras cannot simply be accepted on face; we must go back to the sources and compare them with each other. And also-so, this isn't a bad opening gambit for Rassooli himself.
At 6:30 Rassooli runs into his main problem - that he does not understand the Christian dogma sufficiently to tell us whether Islam belongs in that stream of tradition. Rassooli quotes sura 5, "we sent him the gospels (Injil) wherein was guidance and light and confirmation of the Torah that came before him". This translation is probably Rassooli's own with help from M. Muhsin Khan. Rassooli misunderstands the Injil. Injil refers to the Gospel in the Christian sense, of delivering the news (evangel) of true faith to the people. It is not a specific book surtitled "Gospel". Injil is certainly not a plural, and so does not refer to the four biographies of Jesus in the current New Testament. Injil is I concede (slightly) informed by Syrian memory of the "Diatesseron" harmony, which was indeed a single book - but the Syrians never confused the Diatesseron with a Book delivered to Jesus himself. As Tarif Khalidi has noted, it is more likely that the Muslims had in mind the full sum of Jesus's sayings in the oral tradition, which the Muslims subsequently took into the Hadith and recorded in the Zuhd literature. Rassooli has crippled his own ability to express his point properly.
9:00 - the Crucifixion and (more so) Jesus's death are denied in sura 4; but the Gospel assumes that Jesus knew of and accepted his death on the cross. From this, Rassooli expounds, the Qur'an is incompatible with the Christian message. Here Rassooli has a better case - again, he is so confused that he cannot properly state this case, but it's there. All the gospels (including Thomas 55 and, I think, the Egerton Papyrus) have Jesus predicting the Crucifixion, and these works interpret Jesus's career generally as a victory over death itself. That means that Jesus's prediction is contained in Divine Evangelia, data which God had divulged to Jesus in life. If you don't accept that prediction, you don't accept the Injil.
So I would say that Rassooli is right up to this point: if you accept sura 4, you have rejected all reasonable interpretations of Christianity; and if you call yourself a Christian, the only Muslims you may accept are those who reject sura 4 and all suras which relied upon sura 4. From mine own research that means you've rejected a lot of them - a lot of suras, and a lot of Muslims.
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