Let’s set the context for the word according to Islam. Christianity, at the time of Mohammed, had eclipsed Judaism (of any form) as well as the religion(s) of Caesar. Which is saying a lot, because Caesar had armies to back him up. Big armies. Ask the previous tenants of Jerusalem about that. It took Team 2 (Christianity) about 300 years to accomplish both of these feats, but by the time of Constantine the Great (313 AD) the results were in. Most of the known world had fallen into the arms of the Church. But there were problems for Team 2 by the time Mohammed arrived around 620 AD.
The chief problem being the corruption that infected the Empire in the East. The Empire, if you remember, was now wedded to the Church. Given the material nature of Imperial Rome, Caesar’s influence had a negative impact on the sanctity of Holy Rome. Or rather, the state of Holy Rome as it resided in the East. It’s one thing when Caesar is a pagan and he is actively opposing you. It’s easy to recognize a threat outside your walls. But when the threat is inside, we tend to make excuses, or turn a blind eye. Eventually, we go blind in both eyes. Courtesy of Caesar.
Byzantium, the New Rome, corrupted the rulers of the Church in the East by way of influencing the appointment of bishops that were not necessarily suited to the task. But hey, they’re friends of Caesar, right? Well, OK! The leaders of the Church (in the East) went soft. They were ripe for the picking. And the pickers were on their way.
Just like in Old Israel, which was righteous in her ways under King David, things began to slip under his son, Solomon. Remember him? The one with 300 wives? A lot of whom were foreigners? Aliens to the faith. Pretty soon he was building temples for their foreign gods. Then he died, as we all do. The autopsy results were pretty straight forward. Estrogen overdose.
Under Solomon’s son Rehoboam, things got worse. He went from his father’s love of women to a worse fate, the love of money. And the illicit means to this end, high taxation. Predictable results—his subjects rebelled. The Kingdom was split. And both sides eventually fell. Meet the new boss, Nebuchadnezzar.
Things went south in Byzantium, just like in Jerusalem. And the Church of the East suffered for it. Because they had imbibed in the corruption of the Empire. Now the Church back in Original Rome wasn’t so materially lucky as their brothers in New Rome. But neither were they as spiritually unfortunate. Because they had no Emperor to fend off the Barbarians that were running rough-shod all over the place.
The only defense the Church had in the West (as they had no Imperial troops to defend them, materially) was their faith. Their only strategy was to convert these same Barbarians. Which they did, of course. Eventually these same converted Barbarians would help defend the West when Mohammed came calling. Which he would.
There was plenty of low-hanging fruit in the Empire of the East. And there were a bunch of hungry locusts to the south. They could smell the nectar. And so they came. In swarms. They reduced the Empire to nothing in 800 years. Today, there is almost nothing left of the Church, let alone the Empire, anywhere East of Eden. Or to the south. Or the west, in Mediterranean Africa. Only in the north, under the Russian Empire (and Russian Orthodox Church) was there resistance. And in Europe. Until today, of course. For Christendom has fallen in Europe today. The only question now is, will the Pope soon be a prisoner of the Sultan, just as the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem are?
Good question. And that’s the point. To determine if the success of Islam is due to its ability to meet and exceed the performance of Teams 1 & 2. And if not, to explain why it is still growing, with seemingly unstoppable momentum. Is it truth or violence that is the source of Islamic success?
Before we get to my five criteria, let’s pause to remember the formative state of all three teams. Here is a common factor: literacy. Remember, Mohammed was illiterate. That’s not a criticism. It’s simply a fact. A rather common one too. After all, before Gutenberg, who was literate? Almost no one. Apart from the Levites of Old Israel and the monks of New Israel, that is. Who had any books to read? Only those who had an institution that supported them in their task of copying the sacred scriptures of their faith. Nobody was writing novels by hand. Print on demand was quite a way’s off.
Mohammed received his theological ‘training’ in a far different manner than did Moses and the Apostles. They had direct contact with The Source of their knowledge. At least, if you can believe their books, they did. But Mohammed, apart from the ‘angelic’ voice he heard, only had the peripheral contact with those who adhered to either Book 1 and/or Book 2. That is to say, Judaism and Christianity. Being illiterate, and having no actual copies of Book 1 or 2 available in any event, he only knew of these other faiths from what he picked up in his interactions with the members of those caravans that criss-crossed the deserts of Arabia. Plus, his interaction with thousands of small pagan clans and tribes that populated Arabia.
These facts of geography and illiteracy will go a long way in explaining the theology and history of Islam, in its varied forms. Keep this context in mind as we now explore whether Team 3 can raise the bar beyond the successes of both Teams 1 & 2. In other words, will there be a Newer Testament that somehow completes the circle of these testamentary tomes? Will this be, as Mohammed claimed, the final Word? Let’s get down to work and see if Islam has what it takes.
1. Got a historical document? Well, yes and no. For just as Team 2 claimed the book of Team 1, as well as their own book, Team 3 has a similar claim. But with a twist. Here’s the root of the problem with Islam. Islam is directed by a belief in a book that says the author/source of the first two books (Moses and Jesus) were both true Monotheists, and that they were both true prophets of ‘Allah’. The Koran says ‘Allah’ was supposedly the same God as the God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
However, Mohammed then made the bold claim that the original words of both of these preceding prophets had been corrupted by their followers. Unfortunately, he never gets around to explaining exactly which parts of Book 1 and Book 2 are corrupted. And what their actual reading should be. But, as I’ve explained before, this theme of ‘corruption’ lies at the heart of Islamic aggression all throughout its history.
In the case of the Jews, there may have been a case to be made, if one assumes that Mohammed, in his interactions with the Jews he encountered in desert/caravan life seemed somewhat confused about themselves. On the one hand, their book said they were the Chosen People. But the facts of the day said otherwise, as they were dispossessed of a national home, and that their formerly-Jewish rivals (Team 2) claimed to be the New Israel. Team 2 not only had a national home, they had a supra-national Empire! Or so it seemed.
There would have been other Jews that Mohammed met. They would be the Talmudic rabbinic Jews, who explained their history differently than the remaining Karaite (Mosaic) Jews did. Mohammed may have been told by the Rabbis that the diaspora was actually a blessing, and that this was God’s way of sending His message all throughout the nations. (Never mind the obvious fact that the Jews could have sent out evangelists under Solomon. Which might have stopped God’s judgment as to her faithlessness. They evidently didn’t have the Mormon fervor).
The point of this digression is to explain both how Mohammed would have gained his knowledge (orally, from travelers) and how it would shape his view of the followers of both Moses and Jesus. Which would directly lead to his conclusion that their followers had corrupted the words of these predecessor prophets. Without knowing the words themselves. He may have been illiterate. But he wasn’t deaf. Or blind.
In a charitable spirit, here’s how I see this whole idea of Team 3 came about. Mohammed, in his varied contacts with both Christians and Jews (of any stripe), came to detect two things. One was that the Jews themselves had contradictory explanations of their current fate of being dispossessed and scattered throughout the earth. He heard one thing from the humbled Mosaic Karaites (who were still relatively numerous then) and another from the proud Rabbis of the Talmud. Members of Team 2 had a still-further take on the concept of ‘Israel’. Things didn’t add up. Simple math, Mohammed. Somebody’s lying.
On the other hand, Mohammed would have also been exposed to the rich Christian traders of the caravans bringing wealth into the seat of the Empire, in Constantinople. He’s likely to have had contact as well with their poor (and oft-times Christian) servants. Both of these Christian factions also had contradictions. In this instance, the disparity was not so much in the words of their scripture, but rather in their actions of their adherents. Mohammed probably couldn’t reconcile the treatment of the poor Christians (everywhere) with the actions of their rich yet supposedly fellow-believers who were busy supplying material wealth to fuel the decadence of the Empire.
In other words, he smelled the hypocrisy of the faith in the East. Faith was easy when the Emperor was in your camp. It wasn’t like living in Constantinople under Diocletian (in 300 AD), who would gladly toss you to the lions if you made the sign of the cross. No, in the modern world of Mecca of 620 AD, some things just didn’t add up in Mohammed’s mind. Neither of the local members of Team 1 nor Team 2 were able to present a unified front, in terms of either their history (the Jews) or practice (Christians).
Here is where, I conclude, that Mohammed himself went off the rails. He judged both groups of the followers of Moses and Jesus and came to a conclusion. That conclusion was congruent with one faction of both Christians and Jews alike. Here was Mohammed’s considered, and somewhat reasonable, conclusion—gimme the stuff!
Yes, Mohammed chose the material wealth of the world-today, over the spiritual wealth of the world-to-come. If you’ll bother to read the Koran, the description of Islamic Paradise is simply the same as a description of opulent and decadent earthly life. At least he was consistent.
Any cursory reading of the Koran will confirm the paucity of the spiritual-vs-material contemplations to be found in the Koran as compared to either the writings of Moses or the sayings of Jesus. Any historical reading of Mohammedan times will reveal that the primary evangelical activity Mohammed and his followers engaged in for the next few decades was the ambushing of caravans. And the division of loot.
This conclusion about Mohammed’s ultimate motivation, however, is totally apart from my belief in how he formed his religious views of the day. That is, by personal contact with members of Teams 1 & 2. And that the impressions they made on him may have helped to influence his ultimate take on the role of religion. That is, it was simply a means to governance. Power, dressed up as priesthood. My outlook is then buttressed by my reading of the Koran, where I have found numerous contradictions between the historical settings and timelines of both the OT and The NT versus the Koran. Suffice it to say, they are numerous and troubling, if one tries to accept the Koran as an historically accurate document. I’ll give you just a few examples, but refer to my book for a wider view of the severity of this problem of historic believability.
Check these problems to see the contradictions presented in the Koran, and which are not, evidently, the parts of Books 1 & 2 that were ‘corrupted’. They are, instead, corruptions within the Koran, which is highly ironic.
Here’s a sample of the historic problems in the Koran. There are no historic timelines cited, and very few dates given. Haman, the vice-regent of Persia (and nemesis of Esther and Mordechai in the OT), is named in the Koran as a member of Pharaoh’s court (in Egypt). Mohammed also seems to think that the Trinity of Book 2 consists of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and Mary. The Koran places the upbringing of Mary (in the Temple, from the age of three) as being under the care of Zechariah. We know from the traditions of Book 1 and 2 that Mary was under the care of Anna, the widow who also lived in the Temple. But she lived in the section reserved for women! Zechariah would never have been there!
There’s more, lots more. For example, in Sura 14:45, it says ‘We set out many parables to properly warn!’ Yet I’ve read it numerous times, and there are scant few parables in the Koran, and most are re-tellings from Book 2. Usually, they are somehow incongruent with the original. There’s more, if you want. Just read it and see. Bottom line, if the words of Books 1 & 2 were somehow perverted, is it because these books today have King Saul being told by God specifically not to take a bit of loot from the vanquished Caaanites? And that Jesus said ‘love thy neighbor’. Not ‘loot thy neighbor’? That’s enough. Let’s move on. Scorecard? Third place. No real history here. Not even enough to attract a Weiner-Dog. Let alone make him bark.
2. Got any accurate predictions or prophecy, any big miracles? No, it doesn’t. There’s only one big prophecy (from a guy who is self-described as the Final Prophet). That prophecy is the End of the World. Well, who can ever dispute that, until the end?
As far as miracles go, there’s nothing to report either, other than the endless caravan ambushes. The miracle, I suppose, is that anyone (other than the participants) has ascribed anything religious in nature to these activities. Bottom line, nothing to compare with the Ten Plagues, to the parting of the Red Sea, no Manna from heaven. No Ark of the Covenant slaughtering Philistines. No Resurrection, no Ascension, no feeding of the masses, no raising of the dead. Nada. Zilch. Scorecard? Not even close. A very, very distant third. Again.
3. Does it promise me any worthwhile reward? Any mercy? Well, yes. In a Jewish way, that is. Very Jewish. If you’re in with Mohammed, you’re in with Allah! Just like in the Talmud. Every good boy deserves favor, right? What if you’re not? Well, Dhimmi, pay the tax. Or die. If you continue to pay the tax (but never convert), I’m sure there’s some level of employment available in Paradise. Just make sure you pay till you get there. If you get there.
What about the Paradise for Muslims? What do they have to look forward to that they can’t have here on earth? What non-carnal thing awaits them? The Beatific vision? Nope. Why? Because Allah is totally inscrutable. How about adoption as a son of God? Nope. Why? Because Allah has no family. No father, no wife, no consort, no children. Well, how about the meaning of life, writ large? Forget it. That’s not for you to know. Ever.
Not to worry. You’ll get all the food, wine and sex you can stand. Unending amounts. Forever. Unless Allah changes his inscrutable mind. Which he could well do. But till then, it’s party time! That’s worth something, right? Forget all that contemplative stuff. Forget the mysteries of creation and the cosmos. Who needs it.
Score card time, fellah. In all fairness, depending on your appetites, this one is off the charts!
4. Got an unbroken lines of Kingship and/or Priesthood? Actually, no. Unless you’re thinking of the old Israel/Judah conundrum. Once again, Islam is mimicking the Jewish experience, where the kingdom (and worship) is split in two. Thanks, Rehoboam.
You can say that yes, there is an unbroken line, once the line has been broken. But just try to convince any Sunni that Ali was the true Caliph. Then ask any Shiite if Abu Bakr was the righteous successor to Mohammed. Then ask any Sufi if the real Caliph is here at all, in the flesh. Then, after asking these three questions, you’d better get moving, and fast, fellah, because you’re obviously an infidel if you have to ask such questions. Ergo, you must die.
I know you think I’m overstating the situation, and misunderstanding the nuanced reality of Islam, the religion of peace. All I can tell you is that you obviously have not read a single thing about the actual history of the many and opposed factions of Islam. Because if you had, you’d know that the single underlying theme to all of them is that religion is simply the path to governance in this crazy ‘civilization’ known as Islam.
Score card? Zero. Negative zero.
5. Got a believable and desirable Messiah (and destination)? Again, the answer is yes and no. It all comes down to what it is you desire. Again, the Muslims mimic the Jews. Do you want a muscular Messiah? One that crushes all opposition? Especially the hated Romans? Then the Talmud is for you, my friend. Mohammed and his buddy Allah will deliver the same thing. They will crush the Rum Millet.
But if you’re looking for a compassionate Messiah in a contemplative and infinitely-revealing Heaven, then maybe you’re a Mosaic Jew? At least, maybe a Jew who found this same desire in the Jew named Jesus? But don’t get me wrong—He is gonna kick some ass. But it won’t be those who’ve insulted Him. He’s forgiven them. Instead, it will be those who have insulted His Father, and especially, His mother. Think about it. Any guy will stick up for The Old Man. But only a good man sticks up for Mom.
Mohammed (and the Rabbis) have got something to worry about here. Because their Allah has no Son, and their Messiah has no Mother. And neither has an interest in you, as an adoptive child. Or even as an individual. There is no promise of family love in the Koran. Because there is no heavenly family.
Let’s get back to the concept of eternity. What are you Muslim’s going to do for all that ‘time’? Eat? Drink? Be merry? Oh, I almost forgot—slaughter your enemies? Again and again? Are you satisfied? Is this what you really want? Forever? Is that really it?
Just like the Talmudic Jews, the Mohammedan Jews want the same thing. Nothing spiritual, really. Carnality is fine. All the time.
Or did you want to know God, as a brother, and father? And to know your adoptive brother’s Mother, who for some reason, has an interest in you? By extension, do you then want to know all of your other brothers and sisters in the faith? And their stories too? Or do you still imagine that God will be spending all His time doting personally on you? Forget Abraham. Forget Isaac and Jacob, too. And Moses. And all the Apostles. And martyrs. And the little ones who lived humble yet holy lives. Are they, and their sufferings (which have surely surpassed ours by immeasurable amounts) of any interest to you?
Do you still think you’re the only one deserving of God’s attention? Or are you still a member of The Army of One? Just you and your Good Lord Jesus? Just remember, the only time Jesus spent on his individual lambs was when they had gone astray. Other than that, I think we were all supposed to be part of the flock. Together.
Bottom line, Point 5, for Islam is just like the Jews. It’s either off the charts, or it doesn’t even register. It all depends on the Messiah and Paradise you want.
There you have it. My practical take on the believability (and desirability) of each of the three main contestants for my allegiance.
What about my calculation on which Team I will place my bet on? The bet you all need to make before that damned clock stops ticking. For you, at least. No Energizer Bunnies here. The clock stops for each of us. And, then, for everyone. Even the Weiner-Dogs can agree with that. Everything is just a matter of time. The only question is, how much time have you really got?
You’re gonna have to decide soon, if you’re going to decide at all. Just remember though, the choice not to decide is also a choice in itself. It’s the choice not to ask for anything. No mercy, no forgiveness, no Paradise of any kind, no nothing. Is that what you want? Nothing?
If no, then weigh the evidence you have. Define your own criteria and examine the offers. Consider the cost. It’s the same in every instance. Your life. Your eternal life. What is it worth to you? Anything? Anything at all? Then don’t be an idiot. Make that bet. Because no bets means no winners.
The choice is (as Pascal recognizes) a little more stark than all or nothing. The bet doesn’t just involve paradise or lights out, there is also eternal torment. Three possible states: +1, 0, -1.
Islam is a winner in this world. Team 1 are freaks, Team 2 are cowards.
However I’ll place my bet on The God Of Beslan.
“The clock stops for each of us.”
Then the right thing to do is to assume that this life is all we have and to make the most of it, rather than to waste it praying to an imaginary being in the hope of having another life. Our chances of being born at all are trillions to one against, so we’ve already won the ultimate lottery by being here at all. Hoping for an even bigger lottery win is childish.
Swordfish has chosen -1. (He proselytizes his choice here.)
None so blind as those who just won’t see.
Option +1 of course would be the one to aim for. If you were to find a treasure map then why not take the chance to find the gold and silver and get rich? I like your thinking there Ianto – an insight rooted in Pascal!
I have wondered why the Trinity in the Quran is the Father, Jesus, and Mary. I guess that this is what happens when you get your theological information from caravans. Thank God for the printing press.
After Christ ascended, and the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, He is now able to dot on us individually because His Spirit can be within us. How can He not dot on us when He is within us? This is why He said that it is expedient for Him to leave so that the Comforter could be sent to them (John 16:7). Up to that point, Christ was not able to dot on them as well as He could when He was in them by His Spirit.